Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with Boisterous Brian Bannen, as he takes a look at the 50th issue of Batman Eternal...
Batman Eternal #50 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Brian Bannen; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Taut, gripping, and fantastic, Batman Eternal #50 sees a Batman on edge, a city in ruins, and a mastermind revealed. James Tynion IV pens a tight narrative which breezes by so quickly that you hit the last page before you realize it. It’s painful to watch Batman as he careens from villain to villain in his desperate attempt to hold a crumbling Gotham together, but the buildup to the climax is excellent. The frenetic pace of the comic draws you in and keeps you until the last page where we learn who is behind the chaos in Gotham. Alavardo Martinez provides the art in the issue, and he knows how to draw an angry Batman offset with clean sketchings of his supporting cast. We haven’t seen Batman this defeated since “Knightfall,” and everyone remembers how that series ended. Unfortunately, I don’t see Tynion or Scott Snyder providing any less brutal an ending the Dark Knight.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): While some of the pacing slows down Doreen Green's misadventures, Ryan North and Erica Henderson still make Unbeatable Squirrel Girl a riot to read. From the hilarious Twitter-esque catch-up page to Doreen literally beating up a supervillain by having squirrels shoved into his mouth, this comic is easily the funniest Marvel is printing today. North also makes for some very smart ideas, considering Doreen is just the Aquaman of squirrels, as she creates a super-strong battle suit made out of... squirrels. Henderson's artwork sells every gag, particularly a page where Doreen flies into a rage at having one of her trading cards ripped by Whiplash. The only downside? A subplot featuring Doreen's roommate, Nancy Whitehead, which just hurts the momentum of the book, slowing us down from what we really want: a showdown with Galactus. Still, a great book that you need to be reading.
Batgirl: Endgame #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): In this silent issue, Batgirl fights against hordes of zombie-like infected Gothamites while trying to save a bus load of refugees for this "Endgame" tie-in. Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher’s story is a nice reminder that Bab’s isn’t part of the Bat-family because of some trauma in her past, but instead because of her need and ability to help people. The lightness in her actions is shown in her emoji-heavy shorthand and her poise as she zips around the riots. Even her interaction with a young girl trapped behind the city’s barriers is symbolic of what the character means in the larger context of the title’s target market. Bengal’s art is an excellent complement to the main title’s tone by capturing the lighter, cartoony, style and adding a sped up, slick, and frantic feeling to Batgirl’s rescue efforts in Burnside.
Frankenstein Underground #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It’s difficult to take the oft-trod Frankenstein canon and derive a tale with some semblance of originality, but Mike Mignola does. His monster is eloquent and of conscience, weary from being hunted and harassed around the world for nearly a century and a half. Even without the guest appearance, the Hellboy-ish tenor is immediately noticeable, and with the B.P.R.D.’s Marquis de Fabre seeking to add the titular creature to his personal beastly menagerie, this series’s purpose serves as the induction of the horror classic into Mignola’s established universe. Ben Stenbeck is a master at role reversal—humanizing the monsters while demonizing the human antagonists—and with Dave Stewart’s moody colors adding a befitting depth to each scene, it’s an engrossing beginning to the series.
Princess Leia #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Mark Waid and Terry Dodson successfully meld the distinct flavors of the original Star Wars trilogy and the much-maligned prequels in Marvel's Princess Leia #2, another pacey and exciting installment of the so-far excellent miniseries. Searching the galaxy for the last surviving Alderaanians, Princess Leia heads to Naboo, where she seeks out an isolated cloister of dedicated musicians who perform in ignorance of their planet's fate. Waid carefully sprinkles in prequel settings and species to the so-far OT-focused Marvel Star Wars line, and Dodson stylizes Princess Leia #2's surroundings and inhabitants in a mixture of both. Dodson also puts his own distinctive mark on the Star Wars universe by drawing Leia in a style reminiscent of Carrie Fisher without attempting a perfect likeness. His well-composed backgrounds teem with life, evoking the ramshackle hustle-and-bustle that makes the Star Wars universe so effective. Combined with a solid story of action and intrigue, all of the above makes Princess Leia #2 one fantastic read.
E8GHT #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The influence of Lost on this series is obvious in the way it deals with shipwrecked survivors lost in a world – and timeline – outside of their own. Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson construct an intriguing mystery as we attempt to figure out the ways in which the past, present, and future come together in the strange world of the meld – a contact zone between the three aspects of linear timeline. Sent back on a mission to kill a Nazi officer, Joshua finds his prey firmly established as the second-in-command to a ruthless dictator hot in pursuit of the rebels who rescue the man out of time. Artistically, Albuquerque’s art is just as good as ever; however, I really enjoyed the way he differentiated the past, present, future, and the meld in set tones. In a story where the reader jumps in and out of the time stream, this artistic choice proves a wise one.
Amazing Spider-Man #16.1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Reviewed by Brian Bannen; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): After the world-jumping events of “Spider-Verse,” Gerry Conway looks to provide a more grounded tale about mobs, corrupt justice, and a police officer trying to stay on the right side of the law. Gerry Conway writes a great Wraith, but the split narrative with Spider-Man leaves both characters vying for attention. The comic would have been much better focusing on Captain Yuri Watanabe’s search for justice, but the fact that she appears in a Spider-Man comic means that the webslinger has to make his presence known. Unfortunately, Peter Parker is more of a distraction in the issue which works better as a springboard for a standalone Wraith series. But on the plus side, Carlo Barberi draws some slick and polished action sequences which make for some very sharp visuals. The return to a simpler story is refreshing, but the narrative focus needs some sharpening to create a more fluid story.
Superman #39 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Superman #39 has a plot that we have seen more than a few times; Superman loses his powers for a finite period of time and is forced to experience life as a mere mortal. While we have seen this before, it still doesn’t stop writer Geoff Johns from cutting to the emotional core of who Superman is, both in and out of the costume. Here Johns does a great job displaying Clark’s inherent goodness and Superman’s willingness to put other’s safety above his own, even without his powers. John Romita, Jr. also acquits himself nicely to the dialogue heavy script, opting to render everything in close, tight panels while Supes is still powerless and then pulling out into wide, cinematic shots when his powers are restored. Superman losing his powers isn’t anything new, but Superman #39 shows us a Kal-El that has rarely looked more human.
Loki: Agent of Asgard #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Even though much of this issue of Loki is recap, there's a certain deliberateness to Al Ewing's script that makes this comic one of Marvel's more underrated gems. With Loki kidnapped by his older, eviler counterpart, King Loki, we're treated to an explanation of how - and why - King Loki eventually wins the day. (It's a great bit about destiny and self-fulfilling prophecies, showing that all-too-relatable insecurity that drives this antihero.) Lee Garbett, meanwhile, draws some potent, expressive artwork, with a great sequence of King Loki literally slipping free from his panels to travel in time. And with some unexpectedly hilarious panels - "Actually It's About Ethics in Hammer-Wielding" is the funniest thing I've read in ages - and this is a strong showing from Ewing and Garbett.
Giant Days #1 (Published by BOOM! Box; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): John Allison's new limited series feels like a quirky, playful TV sitcom: there is no central conflict or obvious plot foreshadowing, only lots of fast-paced dialogue and quips. Allison introduces three college freshmen who live in neighboring dorm rooms: Daisy, Esther and Susan. While we immediately get a sense of Esther and Susan's personalities, Daisy is relegated to the background, which makes scenes of heavy dialogue feel unbalanced. Lissa Treiman and Whitney Cogar give Esther the most memorable style: her outfits feel true to character, and she shows an array of facial expressions, from insecure to incensed. While clearly aiming to tell a lighthearted story, Allison writes three characters who intrigue us with their eccentricities and their realistic friendship dynamics.
Silk #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Cindy Moon is the newest Spider-hero to grace the skies of New York, but that doesn’t mean she has it easy. The second installment of her solo title finds our heroine struggling to adjust to a neighborhood that has long since forgotten her, as well as going toe-to-toe with a dormant Hydra murder-bot. That’s just a typical Thursday for Spiders, right? Robbie Thompson’s script keeps things moving at a brisk pace, balancing Cindy’s personal woes with high-flying action, keeping Silk #2 firmly entrenched in Spider-Man tropes of old. Stacy Lee’s artwork also gives Silk a younger-skewing look that sets it apart from the rest of the Spider-titles. There were more than a few panels that looked like they were straight from a Brian Lee O’Malley book, and that is more than fine by me. Silk still has a lot of ground to cover before it becomes a true blockbuster title, but the potential is on full display in this second issue.
Batwoman #40 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): The real shame in Batwoman #40 is seeing the sharp decline Kate Kane has taken from strapping soldier to whimpering teenager. Heartbreak, especially with hypnosis from Nocturna, can be a devastating thing - it’s just hard to believe that someone like Batwoman would remain such a victim for so long in her own title. Even in her penultimate issue, Kate does not rise about the abusive nature of her relationship with Nocturna but instead spends the majority of the story victimized while costars expound exposition. Jeanty’s pencil’s are refreshingly unique at times but miss the mark too frequently though out the issue to be a redeaming quality. Falling down isn’t what makes Batwoman #40 a weak outing, it’s that it never stands back up.
Robyn Hood #8 (Published by Zenescope; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): There are some very good things happening here, but it feels like there are beats missing. Pat Shand interweaves two concurrent events: Robyn is tracking the Cabal, a mysterious cult that is conducting human sacrifices, while Marian has her first date with Sam. Robyn's inner monologues are engagingly written by Shand, and Robyn and Marian's authentic conversations continue to be the highlights of Robyn Hood. Unfortunately, the Cabal fails to hook us with any complex personalities or motivations. Roberta Ingranata's repetition of Avella's exact body position in two consecutive panels, even if intentional, looks stilted and anticlimactic. I like Ingranata's detail of Avella's tattoos on her back when she lifts Marian. Robyn and Marian remain two well-written characters despite fighting unworthy opponents.