Best Shots Comic Reviews: Fraction's ODY-C #1, ARKHAM MANOR #2, Final Issues of SUPERIOR FOES, NEW WARRIORS

Interior from Ody-C #1
Credit: Image Comics

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Still feeling that Thanksgiving dinner? Well, Best Shots has an extra helping of holiday cheer, along with plenty of pellets for your leftovers! So let's kick off today's column with Lugubrious Lan Pitts, as he takes a look at Matt Fraction's latest, ODY-C...

Credit: Image Comics

ODY-C #1
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Christian Ward and Dee Cunnife
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Image Comics
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Ancient mythology and superhero comics have always had this correlation between them, and sometimes actually merge from time to time. When ODY-C was announced at last year's Image Expo, I found myself beyond excited for something that spoke to me as a comics fan, but also as a Greek mythology enthusiast. For something that was billed as a gender-swapped "Odyssey" in space, it hits all those notes hard, even as the challenging, experimental vibe of this book can induce some narrative disconnect.

What surprised me the most was that rather than the witty style Fraction has leaned into the past few years, most of the dialogue between characters in ODY-C is actually written in a prose style. That's certainly different from what I expected, and I would imagine easier to work with since most of the Odyssey isn't exactly chock full of actual dialogue between characters. Fraction doesn't just take Odysseus' lines and switch them to fit his story, but actually gives you an idea of who Odyssia is. He's also added bits of sci-fi elements sprinkled throughout, such as the sebex, which isn't really explained but will be expanded upon later, as Fraction states in the letter to his readers at the end.

There are also parallels here that I hope we get to see explored later on. True, Fraction has to take some liberties here so the pacing isn't bogged down. He is sticking to the Cliffnotes version of this storytelling for now at least it seems. The way how he handled the Helen of Troy analog was borderline risque, and looking forward to see how that all goes down. Part of me wishes he had done a retelling of "The Illiad" instead, just for a more action-oriented story. There are a ton of more mythical creatures lined up along the way, so hopefully Fraction and Ward get to the best parts soon.

What I enjoyed was how the very idea of this version was how seamlessly it transitions from sea warfare to dog fights in this alien galaxy. The design and schematics of the ins and outs of the ODY-C and how it functions are just wondrous and fascinating to see. Yet along the way, I felt this disjointing feeling while reading about Odyssia and her crew. The scenes I felt I took the most away from was the Olympians themselves, discussing Odyssia's fate, and the battle scene at the end with Odyssia displaying her warrior ways. Coincidentally (or not) I felt the same way about Pretty Deadly where you're presented with a strong visual appeal, but the story feels drowned, and any sort of connection I wanted with Odyssia is faint.

And that's where we get into Christian Ward's designs and visuals here. Odyssia and her warrior crew are reasonably armored with a Greek aesthetic and nothing too flashy. Though the designs for Odyssia and company are something else entirely with strong and otherworldly appearances. Then of course you have the gods themselves looking like beings from a Tarsem Singh production. Poseidon looking like she's made of the tide herself, and Hermes having an almost bird-like look to her, but meshed with a rollergirl in space-age go-go boots.

It's all a lot to take in, but you find yourself poring over the details immediately after you've finished reading. The genderswapping of most of the characters is an awesome touch and adds a certain element that makes the whole issue unique. It's not a lazy ploy just "what if...?" scenario, it gives this universe a completely different social environment. The treatment of Zeus is also something to latch onto, now being the Mother-Father. Some characters kept their original sex, which is fine as well, and I hope we get to see the Pantheon as a whole, instead of the selected few, if not just to see how Ward has designed them.

ODY-C is far from boring or unentertaining, and definitely fills the void that Saga fans might be looking to fill for their hard sci-fi needs while it's on hiatus. There are some parts that stick with you after you've put it down, but some might want to do an instant re-read just to be sure they've got it all, because there is a lot going on here. Fraction has proven himself a marquee name in recent years, but ODY-C gives him a chance to show off a newer, different and unproven side of his creativity.

Credit: DC Comics

Arkham Manor #2
Written by Gerry Duggan
Art by Shawn Crystal and Dave McCaig
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

A lot of good will has been built up for many Batman concepts over the years. Every one of the Bat’s various rogues has their fans. Almost all of them have at least one defining story. But there is no piece of the Batman mythos so ubiquitous through various mediums as Arkham Asylum. With DC doubling down on Bat-related content, the asylum is a perfect setting for another Gotham-tinged mystery. But good will can only get you so far. Gerry Duggan and Shawn Crystal offer up an interesting (if somewhat bizarre) concept in the debut issue as the events of Batman Eternal force Wayne Manor to become the new Arkham. But while other recent launches have used Batman to help frame the rest of their books (Gotham Academy, Gotham by Midnight), this one fully embraces the Caped Crusader, and it’s to its detriment.

On the surface, this book is definitely well executed. Bruce having to undercover as an inmate in his own home is quirky twist on the usual set of Batman stories. But by placing Bruce front and center, we aren’t given any other characters to latch on to. Sure, the usual who’s who of rogues is present, but they feel secondary to the plot and to the book. Duggan has a talent for humor and it comes through better here than it did in Issue #1 (specifically, Mister Freeze’s dialogue), but some of the jokes are a bit too hammy. It doesn’t cop to what we’re used to from a Batman book. That might be a good or a bad thing depending on how seriously you take your Bat-books (which, hopefully, isn’t too seriously. I mean, “man dresses up as a bat to fight crime” isn’t the most serious concept to begin with), but it’s definitely a bit awkwardly placed. I wouldn’t call it a tonal issue overall. The humor just comes in contrast to some of the other elements of the book. The humor coupled with Duggan’s usage of Bruce as a main protagonist make this one some sort of lighter Batman book, and I’m not sure that was the goal.

Shawn Crystal is the real star. His work is dark and mysterious, two descriptors that are almost obligatory for a good Batman book. His linework is infused with a lot of motion, and by using hatching and cross-hatching to create the lighter shadows, he’s able to avoid the tendency in modern comics to digitally impose lightning effects on a scene. This also allows for the dark black inks to be entirely black instead of washed in a light source, providing greater contrast to Dave McCaig’s incredibly effective color work. The art is why some of the lighter elements in the writing don’t play as well. In a title with brighter colors that wasn’t trying to balance humor with the setting’s “serious house on serious earth” reputation, they might. That’s not meant to be a knock on Crystal and McCaig at all, though. I think, on some level, Crystal’s art help prop the script up by grounding it in familiar imagery, even if the plot is a little batty.

The problem with Arkham Manor is that is doesn’t have its own identity yet. Sure, the setting is unique but the story hasn’t played out all that differently from any story that you might find in Batman or Detective Comics. I assumed that a book focused on Arkham would place more of an emphasis on the villains and we haven’t really gotten there yet. Their presence is used more for color than anything of substance. But the art is really great and fans looking for the next big thing to come out of DC should be paying attention to Shawn Crystal’s work. Hopefully as the book progresses, the writing will start to match the art in terms of quality.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #17
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Steve Lieber and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

This guy, right?

I could just as easily be talking about the cagey criminal Boomerang, or the guy currently writing him: Nick Spencer. Under his pen, Superior Foes of Spider-Man has been a lot of things. It's been clever. It's been hilarious. It's been engaging as hell. It's also been super-late, and plagued with inconsistency and strangled momentum as a result.

But what the hell. It's the last issue. And I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a damn good one.

Even though Superior Foes has been plagued with delays for the past few months, Spencer sticks this landing like the last issue came out a week ago. There's a charming, self-deprecating sense of self-awareness that makes forgiveness easy, as even on the first page Boomerang says, "Why does this stuff always have to be so convoluted?"

But the faithful will certainly be rewarded in this issue, as Spencer goes off on a dense, hilarious wrap-up of the crew that was not quite the Sinister Six. Using his brains and a few doses of "Chameleon serum," Spencer ties together all (well, most) of his loose ends, adding tons of laughs alongside his rock-solid artist Steve Lieber. Bits like seeing Boomerang grinning under a variety of aliases, including a buxom waitress, are just golden, and seeing the hapless Mach VII get suckered into taking the heat for Boomerang is punctuated with arrows saying "Abner" and "Still Abner."

And the twist of the hidden villain of Superior Foes? Mm. Perfection.

The second half of this comic, meanwhile, derails the storyline almost completely - but in the best way possible. The thing about breaking the rules is that it works best when you actually know the rules, and Spencer knows exactly what he's doing. Have to short-change your story in order to give a denouement for the rest of your cast? Eh, the Sopranos cut to black. Don't have room to talk about what happened to Beatle or Overdrive? As Spencer says, "I guess in the end, it was a bit of a mixed bag." It's pitch-perfect, and that's not even including funny beats like Silvio Silvermane getting painted up like he's in KISS, or the Mets logo on Fred's shirt saying "Meh." Hi. Larious.

While some of the usual caveats may apply - it's still super-late, and there's no making up for the momentum Spencer and company have lost with all these delays - and some might see this conclusion as too cheeky for its own good, I think that this conclusion really distills the charm of Superior Foes of Spider-Man. It's funny, it's all over the place, and it's not afraid to admit its own rough edges. If only more books could be similiarly flawed.

Credit: Image Comics

Rasputin #2
Written by Alex Grecian
Art by Riley Rossmo and Ivan Plascencia
Lettering by Thomas Mauer
Published by Image Comics
Review by Kat Vendetti
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Rasputin was poisoned, beaten, stabbed, shot, and thrown in a river before he met his end. Where the premiere issue of Rasputin lured us in with his poisoned wine, Rasputin #2 pulls us right into the throes of the next phase of his murder, picking up immediately where the last issue left off.

What’s fascinating about Rasputin is how Alex Grecian breaks down Rasputin’s assassination into brief, singular moments and uses them to frame the events of Rasputin’s past that will ultimately lead to his death. It’s a formula Grecian continues to utilize from his first issue, and it’s executed enormously well. The pieces of Rasputin’s past that Grecian writes are a direct reflection of where we find Rasputin in the present, with each phase of his murder transpiring abruptly while his flashbacks take the center stage. And as they unfold at opposing paces, both past and present converge at the same concept — whereas Rasputin #1 gave us the death of his father before returning to the present-day Rasputin seated with his father’s ghost, Rasputin #2 features the young Rasputin meeting the man who will become his murderer, before bringing us back to the older Rasputin laying bloodied under that same man’s boot.

This issue is almost entirely devoted to the past, giving a more extensive string of events than we had in Rasputin #1. Grecian separates these scenes into two distinct segments: a raucous bar fight in Pokrovskoe, before Rasputin’s quiet transition to Verkhoturye. This flashback continues the trend of being a stunning visual experience; Riley Rossmo’s initial spread of Pokrovskoe shows us all we need to know about where Rasputin is at this point in his life, and the proceeding events are mostly silent as Rossmo imbues his panels with movement and energy.

Ivan Plascencia colors these scenes in complementary hues, setting the background in lively reds and oranges, while Rasputin stands out from the crowd in shades of the same cyan of his healing powers that Plascencia occasionally also puts in Rasputin’s eyes. His colors in the following segment are consistent with those in Rasputin #1, giving Verkhoturye the same icy mood so that this chapter is a cohesive extension to the first, while also contrasting with the energy of the first half of this issue to drive it towards Rasputin #2’s conclusion.

This series is as much about Rasputin’s life as it is about his death. Grecian structures this story beautifully, using a younger Rasputin to build pathos so that we feel something profound as we witness the final moments of his life, while Rossmo and Plascencia lend to a book that is as brilliant to behold as it is to read. Though the quick succession of events in this issue cause it to experience the same brevity that Rasputin #1 was prone to, this issue includes additional dialogue that aids in balancing out the pace. And still, there is so much said in such few words, and what results is a story that builds powerfully before it brusquely ends, leaving us longing for the next installment. Visually breathtaking and masterfully scripted, Rasputin is already proving to be not one to miss.

Credit: DC Comics

Catwoman #36
Written by Genevieve Valentine
Art by Garry Brown and Lee Loughridge
Lettering by Sal Cipriano and Taylor Esposito
Published by DC Comics
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Continuing from last issue, we see more of a grounded Selina Kyle, dumping her skin-tight catsuit and whip for more of a sophisticated attire, but still carries her street-smart savvy. It's only the second issue in of this new beginning by Genevieve Valentine and Garry Brown, but it's also the most it's actually felt like a Catwoman book in quite some time. True, the days of jewel heists seem to be a bit passe now, but Selina Kyle is all about showing you who is going to run this town tonight.

While I've been digging this new approach, this issue here both builds and slows down the pacing at the same time. What we have here is Selina going around breaking bread and new deals with the rest of the organized crime families in Gotham. This is the most you've seen of Gotham's seedy underworld as organized and dangerous - as it should be - in a long while. I keep thinking this almost has a vibe of Catwoman treated under the Vertigo label. It's complex without being too overbearing and complicated and doesn't insult the reader's intelligence. There's a great scene at the very end with Selina confronting the supposedly new Catwoman, even though the reveal was a bit of a non-surprise, the dialogue between the two is a sort of allegory for the new direction of the book. It also gives Selina this moment of reflection and her evolution to where she is now and what her big game plan should be.

The last issue may have had a small Batman cameo, but here it seems Selina is purely on her own. She's had a rough start since the New 52 launch, but this could be where Catwoman finally hits its stride. Better late than never, right? While Valentine is laying out this arc, this issue feels a bit sluggish in the middle with the heavy political environment of Gotham's mob scene. I appreciate the involvement with Black Mask more, as he's really the one person from Selina's past that could work as an arch-nemesis, or at least gives a face to her troubles here. It's a slight hiccup, but with what Team Catty has laid down so far, I can't help but be on board for the rest of this.

Speaking of team, Garry Brown is a noir monster here, giving Gotham tons of shadows, making it one hell of a murky city. Now some shots have less detail than other, but that makes the page less cluttered and makes sure your eyes only go to where Brown wants them to. True, it leaves some characters without a face here and there, but it's a non-issue in the long run. If there's one character Brown was made to do though, it is Black Mask. He gives ol' Roman here a terrifying appeal and a perfect foil for Selina's grace and beauty. Colorist Lee Loughridge again gives this new look nice flatted tones that goes well with Brown's linework and shapes and elevates the scenery that much more.

This really is a Selina Kyle book more than a Catwoman, but how long can they keep the two entities apart? Someone has already taken up the mantle of the Cat, but will Selina ever don it again? Well, we know she will eventually, but it's the build up that's been presented thus far that should keep you coming back. Catwoman hasn't forgotten its roots, but isn't afraid to do some replanting so new fruits can grow along the older vines. DC has had some shake-ups with other Bat-related books, and this might not have "bat" in the title, but it should be mentioned in the same breath as some of the best rebranding recently done.

Angry Birds / Transformers #1
Angry Birds / Transformers #1
Credit: IDW

Angry Birds/Transformers #1
Written by John Barber
Art by Livio Ramondelli, Marcello Ferreira, Nikos Koutsis
Lettering by Chris Mowry
Published by IDW Publishing
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10

IDW are no strangers to the left-field crossovers, and on first glance this seems like the kind of late night idea that is born of the kind of boredom and frustration that comes from trying to get through ‘one more level’ of the popular app-based game. Instead, Angry Birds/Transformers is merely a tie-in to promote the new game of the same name, now available on mobile devices everywhere. It’s a natural fit, as who else would the miniature gamers turn to for promotion than the people who have found a plethora of new ways the last few decades to sell us toys.

Plotting is necessarily pretty thin on the ground, with the classic Transformers (not the newer movie versions) losing their Allspark (again). It winds up on Piggie Island, and what was once a battle between the forces of the Deceptacons and the Autobots becomes a new kind of all-out war between the (deep breath) Autobirds and the Deceptihogs. Lovers of puns should be prepared to Starscream in delight, as writer John Barber hits the (Optimus) Prime of fowl words.

It is difficult to take this book too seriously, and nor is it intended to be, but it is also hard to treat it with any great respect either. It’s not the first time that non-narrative characters have been sandwiched into a personality-driven story (Pac-Man has been dining off the '80s for years), and indeed the Angry Birds games and cartoons have been developing a kind of franchised story around their creations for years. Yet most of this issue is simply an excuse for the birds and the pigs to become Transformers, and to set up the rest of the series. It’s a caper pure and simple, and if that’s good enough for you, there’s certainly some mindless fun to be had in parts of it.

Two artists share illustrative duties on this book, with Livio Ramondelli taking on the darker and more traditionally action-oriented introduction of the Transformers fighting in space. As the sixth page is literally split down the middle with a cross-dimensional rift, Marcello Ferreira’s cartoony art emerges and this is where the book settles into its natural groove. It’s light and energetic, with colors that pop, and is in keeping with the visual tone of the games. The Angry Bird/Transformer hybrid designs are actually kind of cute, and it will be interesting to see if the more serious artwork is incorporated alongside the cartoons (much as Dark Horse did with Groo Vs. Conan recently).

Yet when all is said and done, Angry Birds/Transformers is fairly disposable, an ad built around a slender plot. One of the few saving graces that this isn’t the last book of the series is that the next issue is being billed as “Age of Eggstinction” or “Over Hard”, and if those quality of jokes are maintained throughout the four-issue mini-series, then we expect to be precisely as pun-ishing as this debut issue was.

Credit: BOOM! Studios

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes #1
Written by Michael Moreci
Art by Dan McDaid, Jason Wordie
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Prior to the 1960s, French author Pierre Boulle was perhaps best known for his 1952 novel Bridge on the River Kwai, and its Academy Award-winning film adaptation. Yet it was La Planète des Singes, the simple story of space explorers who visited a planet where the roles of apes and humans were reversed, that spawned no less than eight films (and counting), two television series, and countless other media. The Planet of the Apes franchise dates its comic book history back to at least the 1968 film, the most notable of these being the black and white Marvel film adaptations of the 1970s, and later Malibu in the 1990s. Yet it is BOOM!’s license that has most recently taken up the mantle and run with it, straddling the lines of both classic and reboot continuities.

Despite the title, the six-issue Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is in fact set prior to the film that shares its name, acting as a bridge between it and the earlier Rise of the Planet of the Apes. While not acknowledging that “rise” and “dawn” are effectively the same words, writer Michael Moreci begins at the fledgling stages of the ape communities, and some of the more immediate after-effects of the “simian virus” that has wiped out large chunks of humanity, and the marauders that have cropped up in place of law and order.

Like the film that shares this comic’s name, Moreci’s story focuses on a handful of individuals, rather than taking a top-down approach. Somewhere in the 10 years prior to the film, Malcolm went into the wilderness looking for a cure for his wife Rita’s growing virus. Yet at the same time, Caesar’s growing empire is starting to show its cracks with rival factions. If it sounds familiar, it’s because the film covers much of this ground, at least thematically, and at least some of the elements here are just rearranged versions of the operatic screenplay from Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver screenplay. The character focus remains strong, but from where all the pieces are sitting now, it’s hard to imagine that there are huge amounts of ground to cover between here and the start of the film.

Dan McDaid’s art does a good job of approximating the look of the cinematic world, pleasingly creating distinctive faces amongst the apes and various minions. Jason Wordie’s colors bring distinct palettes to the two narratives. For the humans, it is a colder array of purples and blues, suggesting the stark nature of their existence and their decay of their humanity. For the apes, it is a more organic color scheme, full of rich browns, greens, and oranges. Entropy is a theme from the start of the book, and it is unique to see that represented in a color scheme and twinned with its opposite.

In many ways, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an extended scene that feels like it was excised for running time at the start of the film, but it does provide a richer level of detail about this emerging world. This works best as a companion piece to the films, as it was intended, and is most likely to work even better when it is collected as one piece at the end of the run.

Credit: IDW

Shadow Show #1
Written by Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella
Art by Charles Paul Wilson III, Jeremy Mohler
Lettering by Robbie Robins
Published by IDW Publishing
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

In 2012, a volume of short stories billed as Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury was released. It contained 26 works from writers that had been inspired by the author of such works as The Illustrated Man and Fahrenheit 451, and a fairly impressive list of contributors that included Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Margaret Atwood, Alice Hoffman, and Audrey Niffenegger, to name but a few. Now IDW has decided to bring those stories some visuals by adapting them into comic book form in this five-issue mini-series.

The first cab off the rank is Joe Hill’s “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain,” a story that blends childhood, memory, and the notion of loss into a beautiful piece of fiction. Gail, now an elderly woman, reflects back on the time she and childhood friend Joel made a remarkable discovery on a beach, and their excitement at showing a creature to the world. Of course, things go wrong, and there are some questions left lingering by the end. More than anything, we are left with an unspeakable loss that is difficult to quantify.

The format of a comic book is sometimes even more effective than prose in capturing that fractured nature of memory. After all, we are presented with a series of images and words, and our brains are doing the rest of the work in trying to make motion, or simply make sense, of the presentation. Memory is a bit like that as well, with surface fragments linked together by the narrative that we tell ourselves, one that creates our own past and personal stories. In this first issue of Shadow Show, childhood memory rationalizes loss with the fantastic, suggesting that either memory can be a cheat, or that the wondrous will become the mundane if enough time has passed.

The storybook quality of Charles Paul Wilson III and Jeremy Mohler’s art is a perfect accompaniment to the dreamy story behind them. The young Gail and Joel’s round faces are caricatures of children, already suggestion that it isn’t quite real. The pastels used for the 1940s sequences suggest the optimism of youth, and it is telling that the major change-up in the story is quite literally foreshadowed by a giant darkened silhouette. The bookend pieces, set closer to the present day, are largely framed in black, with only a few cracks of light peeking through the shadow.

“Every thought I have is colored by what I learned about these things from reading Ray Bradbury,” muses Hill in an afterword. This was clearly a piece that inspired Hill, who explored loss and childhood extensively in his excellent and award-winning Locke and Key series. Jason Ciaramella does a capable job of distilling the 30-page short down into fewer comic book pages, while retaining the core truth of the piece. While it would have been nice to see these all represented as a single companion volume to the original stories, it will be curious to see these very personal stories unfold in words and pictures over the coming months.

Pellet Reviews!

Credit: DC Comics

Gotham by Midnight #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Ben Templesmith’s moody and gothic style is incredibly well-suited to the world of Batman and Gotham, and this book provides him with an excellent vehicle for demonstrating his aptitude for creating the right kind of atmosphere for the supernatural side of Gotham City. Yet, hidden amidst the rainy, dream-like quality of Templesmith’s art is Ray Fawkes on writing duties, as he introduces readers to the GCPD unit assigned to all things supernatural. Although we are once again in another “Bat book,” it’s impressive how little Fawkes even uses Batman – an altogether smart move that allows this new cast to stand on its own rather than ride the Batman’s coattails. My only concern – a small one – is that the characters border on being supernatural procedural stock types. Still, it’s a great read and one to look forward to next month. Additionally, editor Mark Doyle deserves recognition for recognizing the marketability of all things Batman, and yet, pushing mainstream comics a little further away from the literary "fast food" it enjoys through challenging readers to try something a little different from the norm.

Amazing X-Men #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): James Tynion IV packs a lot of emotional weight into this one-shot: Anole faces his fears of rejection, and Northstar and Nightcrawler breach a new level of honesty between them. Tynion accurately captures the multifaceted nature of Anole's insecurities: what it's like to feel like an outsider not only because of sexuality, but appearance. Anole's scorn at Northstar's presumption of relatability is educational. Rachelle Rosenberg brings illusion sequences to life with fittingly psychedelic yellows and purples. Rosenberg and Jorge Jimenez's first panel of Washington Square Park in the final scene is breathtaking. Like Bling! and Karma, Anole's experiences as a gay teen have been embarrassingly ignored. Tynion gives Anole long-overdue focus and agency in this moving story.

ODY-C #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Matt Fraction and Christian Ward set loose on breathing new life into the age of antiquity with their science fiction retelling of Homer's classic, The Odyssey. Fraction's adaptation presents readers with some notable overhauls, which include "re-gendering" the characters as women and shifting from the Mediterranean to outer space; yet, it still leans heavily on its source material for inspiration. Likewise, Ward's influence from non-comic outlets such as the Cirque du Soleil is evident in the otherworldly coloring and fluid line work. The one aspect of the comic that often took me out of the story was the sometimes-stilted dialogue and captions that didn't consistently feel organic to or gel with the visual storytelling (I suspect it was an attempt to maintain a classical tone for this ultra-modern retelling). Additionally, the exposition didn't always aid readers in keeping character identities straight, which required additional rereading. Overall, ODY-C #1 is an ambitious book that, in spite of some initial shakiness, challenges readers familiar and unfamiliar with its literary antecedent, and that’s a welcome pursuit.

Credit: DC Comics

Superman #36 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr. bring readers up to the crucial point in their first arc together, juxtaposing Superman against Ulysses in their continued exploration into what it means to be a "Man of Tomorrow." Issue #36 won't say anything new to regular readers when it comes to the values Superman espouses and the value he places on free will; however, Johns does strike the right tone and balance for Superman, and he continues to deliver a story those same fans should enjoy for those very same reasons. Meanwhile, Romita Jr.'s art in this issue is well-paced with some nicely composed panels contrasting the two supermen. The backgrounds did fluctuate a bit moving from hyper-detailed depictions of various cityscapes to relying on Laura Martin's colors to fill in during the fight scenes between Ulysses and Superman. Still, he does well with carrying the emotions of the characters, and like Johns, JRJR delivers a traditional Superman story that offers readers something familiar and yet, still enjoyable.

Trees #7 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Lilith Wood; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Trees #7 plays to the strengths of writer Warren Ellis and artist Justin Howard. This issue brings back some of the quickness and excitement of the story’s first issue, and lives up to the series’ potential. With some more awkward, slower-moving issues now behind him, Ellis cuts quickly from subplot to subplot as the mystery of the trees thickens. With Ellis focused on piecing together the action, Jason Howard carries much of the story’s emotional weight with his scratchy, filamentous lines that throw everything into sharp relief. Whether he’s illustrating the giant alien trees, the interiors of shabby rooms or the faces of characters, Howard provides a subtlety that Ellis’s dialogue sometimes fails to deliver.

Credit: Marvel Comics

New Warriors #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Justice's association with the New Warriors often relegates him to a "Junior Avenger" status, but Yost and Burnham give him amped-up powers here on par with more famous heroes. Justice's characterization is almost humorously consistent: during climactic battle, he calmly tells the antagonist, "You've been misled." Other characters fade to the background, though: Sun Girl speaks only one line, and Mark Sim says nothing at all. Redmond's colors, particularly Sun Girl's signature outfit, again prove to be one of the most defining legacies of this book. While this series finale skimps on conversation between team members, Yost's assembly of new (Mark) and deepened (Sun Girl, Hummingbird) characters is one of the most creative, oddball, and entertaining superhero teams. I hope they return, together.

Robyn Hood #4 (Published by Zenescope; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): A new artistic team takes over with this new arc, and it looks great. Tony Brescini's style is very reminiscent of Olivier Coipel's fluid, sketch-like ink lines. I applaud Brescini for drawing each character with an athletic, realistic look that is free of pandering. Pat Shand weaves in a pleasing amount of humor: Robyn and Red's personal conversation on the subway prompts other passengers to inch away. Shand strikes the perfect balance of downtime and action, keeping our interest when Marian gets ready for roller derby and when Robyn shoots arrows at monsters. Unlike the average superhero comic, we see Robyn and Marian solidly as relatable people with everyday interests. This new beginning surprises with strong character development, outstanding art, and a clear direction.

Memetic #2 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Lilith Wood; ‘Rama Rating; 3 out of 10): Memetic #2 tells the story of a destructively fascinating image, but fails to fascinate. This mash-up of social media culture and the zombie apocalypse genre adds up to less than the sum of its parts. Eryk Donovan’s art style of cartoonishly large heads on small bodies suggests wit or at least fun, but James Tynion’s wooden dialogue makes every character seem dimwitted. Tynion writes jokes that fall flat and serious scenes that are tone-deaf to the point of being unintentionally funny. At the beginning of Memetic #2, one character is traumatized after watching his brothers tear apart his mother. In the process of supposedly comforting him, the man’s boyfriend says, “You’re the only one who I’ve ever felt like myself around.” This makes no sense for how people behave, and the story goes downhill from there.

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