Best Shots Rapid Reviews: GOTHAM ACADEMY #2, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #9, More

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Credit: Image Comics

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off with Pontificatin' Pierce Lydon, as he takes a look at the sophomore issue of Gotham Academy...

Credit: DC Comics

Gotham Academy #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It’s so hard not to like this book. The art is just that good. Karl Kerschl has created a world and characters that you can’t help but want to get to know more and more intimately. The Saturday morning cartoon style that he employs makes the book feel instantly familiar and really looks to lend itself to the mysteries that seem to be in store. Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher really improve upon the narrative in this issue. We’re getting a better sense of Olive as a character and they’ve provided a reason to come back for Issue #3. Can’t ask for more than that.

Amazing Spider-Man #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): What's better than one Spider-Man? A dozen Spider-Mans! Artist Olivier Coipel joins writer Dan Slott to kick off Spider-Verse in earnest. And it's a testament to the personality of Peter Parker and his spider-powered, multiversal entrouage that it's easy to not notice the admittedly convenient way that eight people with the same powers all happen to show up for the same bank robbery. Much of that has to do with each character having their own unique concept - and it also has a lot to do with Coipel drawing the holy hell out of his pages, really playing up his layouts to give Slott's sequences a chance to breathe. (And the sexual tension between Peter and Silk at the beginning? Superb.) Right now, there's a lot of set-up and not too much action, but it's all done so well that your spider-senses will be tingling for the next issue.

Credit: Image Comics

Tooth & Claw #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Anthropomorphic animals? Check! High fantasy concepts? Check! Sword and sorcery? Check and check! In what might be his greatest work to date, Kurt Busiek delivers a sprawling epic about the final days of magic in a world built on spells, and the last-ditch efforts of its mages to keep civilization from collapsing. The concept is grand, the storyline is gripping, the characters are fascinating, and the script is engrossing. Beyond the words, we’re treated to some truly incredible artwork from Benjamin Dewey and gorgeous colors from Jordie Bellaire that will make your jaw drop so hard you may need surgery. I use no hyperbole when I say this may be the comic of the year, and have no doubts about giving it a perfect score.

Green Arrow #36 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): DC’s cinematic and television universes will not cross over- but this rule apparently doesn’t apply to their comics. Since Andrew Kreisberg and Ben Sokolowski took over the title, the characters from Lemire’s run have been shuffled off to tropical islands and popular characters from the CW’s Arrow tv show have taken center stage. Even artist Daniel Sampere’s Oliver is looking a little more Stephen Amell. It’s fine (and common in our day and age) that the movies/tv shows dictate the direction of their source material, but what really derails this issue is the clunky exposition. Melding the two Green Arrow franchises puts restraints on Daniel Sampere to reflect the TV series and the writers to transform the comic into the CW franchise quickly so they can get on with the show.

Ghost Fleet #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The best $3.99 you could spend this week, this comic seems like homage to 1980s John Carpenter actioners. Donny Cates’s script grabs us by the throat from page two, and with minimal intervention, rides us shotgun with two out-gunned private security officers protecting a beefy tractor-trailer filled with God-knows-what. Intrigue, betrayal and mystery follow, along with a final splash page that could be envisioned as lead-in to an iconic Carpenter character. Artist Daniel Warren Johnson terrifically choreographs the action, his rough lines amping up the chaos of the chase. Lauren Affe’s colors help cement the book’s gritty tone, and Lincoln Hawk’s lettering so seamlessly infuses sound into each panel that all together it feels less like reading a comic and more like watching a movie.

Credit: DC Comics

Batman Eternal #31 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The unlikely team-up of Bane and Alfred alone is worth the price of admission for this one. Ray Fawkes gives us some truly spot on characterization for Bane and provides a good emotional arc for Bruce and Julia Pennyworth. The readers might know what's going on, but its hard to ignore how the characters react to the situation they find themselves in, and that’s powerful. Fernando Pasarin’s art is mostly very effective. There are some botched angles and expressions here and there, plus a few odd poses that might make readers do a double take but he nails the more important moments and enables this one to come out a winner.

The Humans #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): It’s “Planet of the Apes” meets “Easy Rider” in the new creator-owned series from Keenan Marshall Keller and Tom Neely. With biker gangs, beat poetry, hallucinogenic imagery, copious amounts of drugs and tons of sexual references, this love letter to 1960s counterculture is about as subtle as an acid blotter of smiley faces. There’s certainly some cool ideas in here, but it feels like nothing meshes together properly and the plot is just too thin to glue it all together well. Tom Neely’s artwork is the star of the show, though, with some creative layouts and composition, as well as trippy visuals that pay homage to alternative comics of the ‘60s. A entertaining debut that misses the mark slightly.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Death of Wolverine: The Weapon X Project #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Oof. Wolverine might be dead, but the tale of his demise keeps shuffling beyond this mortal coil. Writer Charles Soule and artist Salvador Larocca team up to focus on the new experiments of the Weapon X project, but the characters all feel so disposable it's hard to get invested. I typically like Charles Soule, particularly when it comes to his characterization, but like Inhuman before it, none of the new characters in this book are appealing, either in personality or power set. Larocca tries his best to make the comic feel tense and action-packed, but beyond the Starlord-esque mask he gives Sharp, the bland settings and uniform prison outfits sap a lot of his strength. Combine that with a final page reveal that is confusing (and unintentionally hilarious), someone needs to put the Death of Wolverine out of its misery.

Ex Con #3 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The interest on Cody's debt to a crime lord just increased to a killer rate as this noir series from writer Duane Swierczynski advances in complications but still trips over an unlikeable protagonist. Swierczynski just can't make Cody interesting enough-we've yet to see a reason to care if he dies. Artists Keith Burns (lines) and Aikau Oliva (color) really do a great job of making it feel like the late '80s, right down to the boxy cars and bad clothing choices. Burns' style is loose but tightly controlled, able to detail clearly or go abstract, like showing blood platelets in mid-air. Oliva's shading choices enforce Burns' work well, making this a great looking book that's still having trouble finding a voice.

Credit: Valiant Comics

Bloodshot #25 (Published by Valiant Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): This celebratory quarter-century milestone featuring six short stories does nothing to shake up the status quo. The artwork by Larosa, Garcia and Barrionuevo is a welcome change from Rosado’s cartoonier style in Issue #24, but the stories feel clipped and incomplete, with nothing really at stake. An unremarkable bunch, best in show is Duffy Boudreau’s “The Gang’s All Here,” even if it’s the “Almost Got ‘Im” episode of Batman: The Animated Series under a different wrapper and afflicted by too-heavy inking. And Peter Milligan’s “The Glitch,” starts off promising before devolving into a Cinemax movie with soft-core porn sensibility, yet it has one panel that may have long-lasting significance to Bloodshot’s future, if not sanity. If you skip this issue, you won’t be sorry.

Rocket Raccoon #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): I could write this entire pellet with the words "I am Groot," but that would kill the joke even further than Rocket Racoon #5 already has. Telling a story from Groot's perspective, Skottie Young takes a risk with this story - and unfortunately, it winds up coming off more grating than anything else. Without pesky dialogue to have to worry about, Young revels in his artwork, which is still as energetic and over-the-top as it's ever been, complete with octopod sci-fi pirates, floating castles and a giant space cyclops. Young's expressiveness is definitely the highlight of the book - Groot especially comes off as endearing as he begs Rocket to take him on his latest adventure - but it's undercut by a jumpy narrative that feels all the more threadbare with its three-word script. Only diehards need apply here.

Terrible Lizard #1 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Taking inspiration from his current Godzilla run, Cullen Bunn tells a tale of a world overrun by kaiju. Despite the title, though, the Godzilla-esque monstrous T-Rex is actually a good guy, who was dragged into our world through “science” and bonded to the first thing he saw—a teenage girl. The result being a humorous, all-ages title that is reminiscent of the old Godzilla Saturday morning cartoons. Drew Moss’s artwork is big, bold, and cartoony, with tons of vibrant colors and dynamic action sequences, which helps to make the series feel fun, fresh, and exciting. I’m interested to see where this series goes, as the Godzilla franchise has become so dark and serious that it’s about time for a lighter take on the concept.

Credit: DC Comics

Green Lantern #36 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10):Godhead moves into Act 2 as the Hal Jordan and most of the ring-slingers lick their wounds and plan their next move. That move being to enlist the aid of Sinestro and his corps. I always enjoy Sinestro when he uses his ego rather than his ring again Jordan and to that end, Robert Venditti writes some enjoyable moments in Green Lantern #36. Francis Portela's art is functional, if not all that dynamic during action scenes. Still, his facial expressions and body language are well defined during more personal moments. Something that plays to the tone of this issue very well. However, this is meant to be the next big step in Godhead and to that end, the comic reads slow. There is little sense of urgency in the issue. Instead it reads like the calm before the storm, again.

Spider-Verse Team-Up #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Two more stories are here to expand the Spider-Verse story, and they’re both a bit saccharine and feel extraneous. The first by Christos Gage and Dave Williams brings into play a potential deus ex machina. Gage has some fun with Spider-Ham but using Ben Reilly’s eternal optimism as a get out of jail free card make this one feel light. The art by Dave Williams is effective but not his best, combining with the writing for a fairly pedestrian outing. The second story is by Roger Stern and Bob McLeod and features Spider-Man Noir and Six-Armed Spidey tracking down a new totem. Stern lays the sentimentality on thick, finally giving Peter Parker a happy ending. McLeod’s art is exactly what you’d expect from the veteran, but it does nothing to elevate the script. Overall, this is a weak outing.

Fairy Quest: Outcasts #1
Fairy Quest: Outcasts #1
Credit: BOOM! Studios

Fairy Quest: Outcasts #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Paul Jenkins introduces his shadowy fairy tale featuring Red, a impulsive Little Red Riding Hood; Woof, her cautious lupine companion; and Fablewood, a land ruled by a callous dictator. I like the humor Jenkins milks from Red and Woof's opposite personalities: imagine the X-Men's Hank McCoy baby-sitting Runaway Molly Hayes. Humberto Ramos and Leonardo Olea's watercolor-like saturated brush strokes make Fablewood's foliage alive with purple glow. Ramos' most impressive feat is making one character's extraordinarily long hair (guess who?) loop and drape panels like streamers. The dialogue is too jam-packed and the plot archetype is familiar - two unlikely companions fight the system a la Divergent or Shrek - but Ramos and Olea make it so pretty, we enjoy seeing this new world unfold.

Penny Dora and The Wishing Box #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Holidays can be a magical yet isolating time for children whose loved ones are absent or don't share the same level of excitement. The star of this all-ages comic is Penny, an easygoing girl who shares a simple life with her mom and their cat, Iggy. I like how Michael Stock captures the anticipation a child feels while decorating a Christmas tree or thinking about opening presents, and contrasts it with Penny's mom's pragmatic vacuuming the moment the present-opening is done. Tamra Bonvillain's colors are magnificent, especially the bright, glossy wrapping paper Iggy gets tangled in. Sina Grace's every detail, from quilt patchwork to a teddy bear's fuzzy fur, make this a gorgeously illustrated, thoroughly enjoyable mystery that kids and adults alike can appreciate.

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