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 today's column with Ostentatious Oscar Maltby, as he takes a look at Convergence: Superman...
Convergence: Superman #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The world's most famous over-wear returns as DC throws us back to 2011 with Convergence: Superman #1. Trapped in Gotham City at the time of Brainiac's great city abduction, Clark battles for good sans his powers whilst a pregnant Lois keeps Clark in the loop as his Oracle. When the dome opens and Clark's powers return, the pre-Flashpoint Gotham immediately comes under the scrutiny of the dark and twisted denizens of the Flashpoint universe. Dan Jurgens writes a solid classic Supes here, embracing the “bash all the action-figures together” spirit of the crossover whilst also providing some choice character moments for the Flashpoint “heroes” and the happy Super-family. Lee Weeks provides some stellar artwork, especially in the contrast between the old timey strong-man look of Supes and his frail Flashpoint counterpart. Visceral action and a killer cliffhanger round out one of the best Convergence books this week. Good stuff.
Howard the Duck #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The follow-up to Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones’ debut isn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as the first issue, but it still stands up as one of the best examples of humor in capes comics today. The creative team’s completely absurdist approach to the characters and their world is a nice change of pace from general superhero overdramatics. Howard the Duck is Marvel’s most lovable curmudgeon, and it’s his personality that really shines through this book. Joe Quinones keeps the visual gags coming and delivers a good dose of action in this outing as well. Quinones’ character work is particularly strong. His adept expression work helps sell Zdarsky’s jokes and enables them to land despite the fact that they are sometimes a little bit out there.
Jupiter’s Circle #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It doesn’t matter that they save the world. In Herbert Hoover’s America, the superheroes of Jupiter’s Circle are as confined by the same rigid social rules as everyone else. At least one of them is carrying a secret that, in 1958, would be disastrous to reveal publicly. It’s an especially precarious time as the FBI is trying to persuade the world’s greatest heroes to work in partnership with the federal government. Writer Mark Millar crafts a suspenseful story with impact and one heck of a cliffhanger. It’s fairly easy to get into even though it acts as a prequel to the Jupiter’s Legacy series. While it might help to have some familiarity with the latter, it isn’t necessary in order to absorb the events in Jupiter’s Circle #1. Wilfredo Torres’ crisp, classic art seems tailor-made for the era in which the story is set and Ive Svorcina’s understated colors have a vintage appeal. Though the concept has familiar elements, this series is off to an explosive start that will leave readers impatient to read Issue #2.
Convergence #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The first installment of DC’s summer event, Convergence #1, is everything you have already seen before. Literally, this exact plot was in Crisis on Infinite Earths and Countdown: Arena. It’s the same sort of convoluted idea and unrecognizable characters that have kept new readers out and the same fans barely satiated. It's fine that things get rehashed from time to time - it’s just that Convergence #1 doesn’t offer anything unique. Lobdell and King’s script puts the piece where they need to be to get this story started and that’s it. The artwork from Jason Paz and Carlo Pagulayan are an adequate choice for the title and are able to deliver the stories notes without being visually alienating to an audience used to modern superhero comics.
All-New Hawkeye #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Ramon Perez is the biggest reason to buy this book. All-New Hawkeye is, by far, the best work he’s ever produced for Marvel. But the technicolor ink-washed flashbacks in this issue aren’t as strong as the first one. The present-day Hawkeye scenes are great though. Overall, there’s been little to no artistic drop-off from the Fraction/Aja run on the character, but when it comes to the writing, Jeff Lemire’s script leaves something to be desired. The flashbacks are a pretty heavy-handed framing device that does little to really say anything new about Clint Barton. The book definitely continues in the modern Marvel tradition of telling self-contained, character-driven stories but the goal of juxtaposing the flashbacks against Clint’s present-day adventures is unclear at this juncture.
Convergence: Harley Quinn #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): If Convergence is an excuse for some old-fashioned smackdowns, then the pairing of Harley Quinn and Captain Carrot is one of the more inspired. However, in Steve Pugh’s first outing on the pre-Flashpoint version of the character, there’s simply the set-up and it’s one filled with surprisingly tender pathos. Harley comes closest to being cured and “happy” in a “normal” life before the interference of Telos. Phil Winslade’s art captures those crazy days way back in 2011, lovingly capturing the femme fatale trio of Harley, Catwoman and Poison Ivy. Anybody who missed the old Harley Quinn will love the final pages, and the promise of next month’s “Rabbit Season”, but this first issue struggles to maintain interest and incorporate Convergence into the plot as well.
Darth Vader #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): “Ever been to Geonosis, Lord Vader?” Kieron Gillen’s take on the famous Sith lord has been a few things so far, but this fourth installment ventures into tragedy, intermingled with his usual sharp wit and eye for characterization. Vader’s personal crusade finds him and his villainous rabble scouring the scorched planet of Geonosis searching for a droid army and shaking away memories of his past life. Gillen doesn’t overplay his hand with this bit of connective tissue for Vader, instead he merely uses it to add a sad savagery to Vader’s actions this issue as he, along with Aphra and her mechanical death droids Triple Zero and BT, encounter a weird perversion of the Geonosian queen and the battle droids that Anakan Sykwalker battled a lifetime ago. Salvador Larroca and colorist Edgar Delgado match the intensity of the script with creepy renderings of the Geonosian/battle droid hybrids coupled with darkly charming character action. Darth Vader #4 might not be the most uplifting read this week, but that doesn’t make it any less rewarding of one.
Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Gail Simone is writing Barbara Gordon again and, thankfully this issue deviates slightly from the other Convergence tie-ins to be released this week. Oracle is the champion of this city but the presence of the Thanagarians throws a wrench in her plans. The narration is a little overwrought - I think that giving us Barbara’s every thought is counter-productive when her plan remains completely unrevealed by the issue’s end - but the character interactions are honest. Jan Duursema’s artwork gets worse and worse as the book goes on, though. For a tie-in that’s so focused on its characters, Duursema can’t seem to decide what they look like and that draws attention to other weaknesses in the art such as the lack of visual flow. These inconsistencies pile up and mar an otherwise inoffensive event tie-in.
Spider-Woman #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): I’m really starting to like this Jessica Drew. A huge departure from what we’re used to seeing from the character, Dennis Hopeless’ take on Spider-Woman has a lot of heart. It tread a lot of the same territory as Charles Soule’s recent She-Hulk run, but it never feels like a straight rip. Hopeless is aware of Jessica’s relatively low profile the last few years. While putting her up against a bunch of Z-listers might seem like a slap in the face compared to the work she was doing when Brian Michael Bendis was writing her, it helps ground the character and make her someone you can root for. Javier Rodriguez, meanwhile, delivers some linework that is efficient but varied. He delivers a few standout moments but mostly hangs back to allow the plot and exposition to drive the book. He’s a talented artist that recognizes the strengths of the book and his role as part of a team. It’s the creative team’s synchronicity that makes Spider-Woman such a great read.
Convergence: The Question #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Maybe the best part about the Convergence tie-ins is the return of so many creators to characters that they’ve previously excelled with. Greg Rucka returns to Gotham this time and brings Renee Montoya with him, pitting the Question against an even more disturbed Two-Face. The issue is pretty light on any actual plot, opting to maintain the formula set by some of the other tie-ins, but we do get to see the effect the overarching event is having through a different lens. Rucka also reintroduces a character that many readers will be happy to see him return to. Cully Hamner’s art is fairly strong. His Two-Face leaves a little to be desired but I’m sold on his work with Renee Montoya and Huntress. Hamner’s work isn’t very flashy but it gets the job done, resulting in one of the strongest Convergence tie-ins out this week.
Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Artist David Marquez shines as a storyteller, and with Justin Ponsor’s colors and Cory Petit’s lettering working so symbiotically, the beauty of the visuals almost make up for a mediocre series finale. But the great build-up to this issue, with Doom and Hydra allied and the former out to extract the very essence at the heart of a Spider-Man, is completely undone by a deus ex machina explained away with nothing more substantial than “Huh. Who knew?” I’m all for Miles Morales being amazing, superior, and even ultimate, but what he achieves in this chapter is so easy that it rends the elastic of disbelief, and Bendis doesn’t end this series so much as hurry the reader out the door, checklisting closure along the way.
Convergence: Batgirl #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): This comic has it all - if by "all" you mean "mammary gland"-punching, surprise tackles mid-potty break, and a hamster that may or may not be eaten by Cassandra Cain. Despite the deep fanbase that Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain and Tim Drake might have, Alisa Kwitney and Rick Leonardi's story's only real appeal is its unintentional humor value. Kwitney's story bounces around from Telos' world to a Gotham trapped under the dome (but somehow acting in a way more civilized fashion than, y'know, stories like No Man's Land have already proven). The inappropriate dialogue and story beats (like Steph and Cass fighting over whether or not to eat their pet hamster) in this story aren't just jarring, they're hilarious, and that winds up overshadowing some super-sketchy artwork by Leonardi and inker Mark Pennington. (When Catman kicks Stephanie, for example, the background completely vanishes, leaving them floating on aqua green nothingness.) It's a shame, because there is a handful of interesting lines here, particularly when Kwitney correctly sees costumed crusading as a sure-fire way to escalate conflicts. This comic may be memorable, but it's for entirely the wrong reasons.
Avengers World #19 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Many of the current Avengers books on the stands have succumbed to high-concept navel-gazing, but Frank Barbiere and Marco Checchetto hit the sweet spot by keeping Avengers World down to earth. Barbiere continues to steal the show as he makes Sunspot the next great Avenger, tackling AIM's Scientist Supreme with a combination of solar-powered super-strength and stock-enhanced corporate bonuses. Peppering this script with some very likable moments - Hyperion, for example, is a much sweeter figure than I've ever seen him, now that he has to teach his "children" about the birds and the bees, and watching Roberto learn how to fight from his father is instantly resonant - the script flows nicely, giving artist Marco Checchetto the perfect opportunity to make Sunspot look absolutely killer. Utilizing just the barest of lines along Roberto's silhouette, Checchetto makes this one of the best-looking fight comics this side of Luther Strode. While the other Avengers books might be crossing time and space before Secret Wars, Avengers World delivers a much, much more satisfying reading experience by staying closer to home.
Heart-Shaped Hole (Published by Hang Dai Editions; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Dean Haspiel draws a love story that feels larger-than-life with Heart-Shaped Hole, a collection of occasionally adolescent, always action-packed vignettes featuring Billy Dogma and Jane Legit. Billy and Jane don't just feel, they express emotions so big they sweep entire cities, and there's a wonderful visual metaphor to each of Haspiel's stories (in particular, the heart-shaped hole that drives Billy to sadness after he and Jane temporarily split up). Billy and Jane aren't the type of lovers who just let things go, but instead they "sweat ecstacy" and cause laser beams to fire from their eyes. Occasionally, sometimes Haspiel's dialogue can run a little cringeworthy - having any character say "let me kiss the smile between your thighs" comes off kind of gross, no matter what the intention - but Haspiel's big, brawny characters and bright color palette make this a worthwhile read at MoCCA this weekend.