Best Shots Reviews: CONVERGENCE #6, DARTH VADER #5, INJECTION #1, HARROW COUNTY #1, More

Marvel May 2015 solicitations
Credit: Marvel Comics

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with a whopping 22 Rapid-Fire Reviews for your reading pleasure! So let's kick off today's column with Regal Richard Gray, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Convergence...

Convergence #6 Preview
Convergence #6 Preview
Credit: DC Comics

Convergence #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The sixth chapter of Convergence is something on a conundrum for followers of the event, having been asked to not only forget the machinations of Telos, the “villain” of the first five chapters, but now invest sympathy in him as well. Yet after five weeks of spinning its wheels, the series finally seems to be going somewhere, albeit to a very familiar place of multiversal confrontation. Thankfully, the art is gorgeous, with Ed Benes and Eduardo Pansica cutting loose on the "New 52" versions of the characters, and several other cameos. A successive run of splash pages gives this book the epic scope it needs. It seems unlikely that Convergence will be remembered for much beyond bringing a few classic characters back, but perhaps that is all that it need to achieve.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Darth Vader #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Darth Vader's robot army descends on his would-be replacements in Darth Vader #5, another solid issue filled with Kieron Gillen's trademark wit and Salvador Larroca's meticulous and realistic artwork. Gillen's fingerprints are beginning to show on the new Star Wars expanded universe, and it's a very welcome thing indeed. After last issue's grotesque organic robots, this issue introduces lightsaber-wielding, electronically-augmented warriors whose powers mimic those of the Force without actually drawing from it. Psychotic protocol droid Triple-Zero and Doctor Aphra continue to provide the laughs while  Vader asserts himself against the equally cold-hearted Empire. Larroca still struggles to depict movement, although some nice blurring effects during the lightsaber battle apes the economy of movement present in the original trilogy's fight scenes and lets Larroca keep his characters relatively stable. Colorist Edgar Delgado completes the package with a sufficiently Star Wars-y palette of reds, black and browns. Another great issue of a consistently impressive title.

Credit: Image Comics

Injection #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The cardinal sin of storytelling Injection #1 falls prey to is that of withholding too much narrative information from the reader. While it’s more than okay - and encouraged - to keep characters in the dark, it gets incredibly frustrating when everyone except for you seems to know what’s going on. This is the major flaw with how the issue is framed by writer Warren Ellis, but it can’t be denied that even from limited information, these characters and this plot is incredibly interesting. Ellis taps into the best vibes from both Science Fiction and Fantasy, giving us a glimpse into a world that will for sure give us an emotional wallop once we understand better what’s going on. Artist Declan Shalvey and colorist Jordie Bellaire deserve praise for their artwork, as the character designs are simply exquisite. Panel breakdowns and zooming in on the characters for panels get repetitive at times, but overall their work - and Injection #1 as a whole - is solid.

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: Justice League International #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): If I could choose any Convergence book to win the “Most Fun” award, this would be it. After all, despite the drama of the battle hardened Kingdom Come Wonder Woman fighting the happy-go-lucky Ted Kord, writer Ron Marz is able to inject a good amount of humor and heart into this issue. It works that the real story of this issue isn’t the fight between these two worlds: it’s the fight Blue Beetle experiences in trying to stay true to himself when facing this uncompromising version of Wonder Woman and her team. Sometimes, meeting your future self can be tacky, by Marz is able to make it feel organic and heartfelt to the degree that it doesn’t matter if it’s a cliché for Ted to fight alongside his older self. By making this a character-driven story, Marz lends narrative weight to the issue and makes is really worthwhile to read.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Harrow County #1 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It seems like stories featuring witches are coming back in style, and Cullen Bunn is the latest writer to revisit this folk-inspired corner of the horror genre with this new series about an executed witch reborn as a little girl. Not too much is revealed in this debut, but a major theme seems to be the struggle between the girl’s innocent nature and the witch’s desire for revenge. Tyler Crook is the artist and his work is head and shoulders above what he’s been doing on B.P.R.D.; his gorgeous watercolor painting is an absolutely perfect fit for the setting and nature of the story. Highly recommended for people who like their horror more cerebral and creepy.

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: Aquaman #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): For anyone still thinking any version Aquaman is lame, let this be the final evidence to the contrary. Though this issue, like the other Convergence books, primarily revolved around an extended fight scene, writer Tony Bedard is able to make it worth the read. Even though it’s Aquaman’s Convergence book, it doesn’t ever feel like he’s actually going to win - at least, not until the end where Tony Bedard earns the drama of Arthur stabbing his adversary in the neck with his hook. Cliff Richards and John Rauch are able to make blood-soaked heroes look entirely badass without it looking hokey at all. Some of the best visuals of this book come from the action, especially when Deathblow’s the one handing it out. The major thing this book suffers from resonates with most of the other Convergence books so far: it’s doesn’t seem to answer the ‘so what?’ question and tries to end on a dramatic look off to the distance without conveying much of anything.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Silk #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The unique pencilling style of Annapaola Martello makes its Marvel debut while writer Robbie Thompson explores Cindy's anxiety with help from the Fantastic Four in Silk #4. Martello's unique takes on the Thing and Spider-Man certainly stand out, although her faces sometimes seem a little wonky. Still, a gorgeous splash page that depicts Silk standing on the palm of Galactus provides an impressive showcase for an interesting new artist. Thompson begins Cindy's journey of introspective healing this issue, thanks to a meddling Spider-Man and the “always keen to cure” nature of Reed Richards. Thompson maintains the book's solid pacing, filling the gaps in Cindy's past with traumatic memories and adding a fun little romance sub-plot with Johnny Storm. Silk #4 is lighter on action than past issues have been, but when the characterization is this solid, it hardly matters.

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: Shadow of the Bat #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Brian Bannen; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Wetworks finds itself outmatched and outclassed by Batman and Azrael in this second and final issue of Convergence: Shadow of the Bat. The Wetworks team chases Bruce and Jean-Paul around a stationary aircraft carrier being handily beat by the world’s greatest detective and his violent stand-in, both of whom prove that pragmatics and planning win out over brute force and gung-ho violence. But this makes the paper thin conclusion all the more troubling. Larry Hama has to find a way to make the group come together to defeat Telos, but the reasoning is so contrived that the finale is laughable. Hama does what he can under a time crunch, and the story definitely echoes that, but the results were never in doubt and thus the conclusion lacks any lasting punch.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Rebels #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Don’t judge this issue by the poor choice of modernist cover that is more 1970s than 1770s. What makes this historical fictionalization of America’s first militia, Vermont’s own Green Mountain Boys, so engaging can be attributed to several key ingredients: natural sounding dialogue from Brian Wood, well-plotted and dynamic action sequences from Andrea Mutti, and great tone-setting colors from Jordie Bellaire. It’s an intriguing bit of voyeurism into the birth of our nation through the lives of those directly involved, both on the front lines and those left to tend the hearth. The cinematic feel of each scene lends a sense of each issue being an episode of a slow-burning TV show, eschewing outrageous depictions of war’s horrors in favor of deeper character development. It’s a standout in the historical comic genre.

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: Green Arrow #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Although Convergence: Green Arrow #2 isn’t anything special, but it is a testament to writer Christy Marx working well with the restrictions of Convergence’s story requirements. Marx has done a fine job with what she was given, in the way of reviving some anachronistic characters and forcing them to duke it out. However, while Marx has managed to give Green Arrow and Black Canary fans a concise story, there is little flair or bonuses to make this story any fun to read. Simply put, it serves its purpose and that's about it. Something is also lacking in the illustration department as well. Rags Morales' pencils seem remiss of any of the exciting details that were in his earlier work like Action Comics. The coloring was also very bare, relying strongly on gradient backgrounds and solid color fills which might have bleached Morales’ artwork.

Credit: Image Comics

The Mantle #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): If your reaction after reading The Mantle #1 isn’t yelling “Yes!” while continuously snapping, I’ll have to assume we read different books. Writer Ed Brisson does everything right when it comes to the story and world building in this issue. He quickly gives us everything we need to know to understand the current situation and runs with it. Brisson gives us enough information to anticipate and engage with the story; ultimately, the ending is predictable, but that doesn’t stop it from being an incredible moment. Throughout the story, Brisson subverts tropes left and right, giving us women characters that support each other and are allowed to be both strong and intelligent. While Brisson only gives us a glimpse of these characters, he makes sure that our protagonist’s motivations are clear by the end of the issue. Ultimately, it’s the dialogue — which was a tad clunky and congested at points—and the artwork — which felt too muted — that stops this from being a perfect start to a new series.

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: Superman: Man of Steel #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Brian Bannen; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Convergence: Man of Steel has promise in the dire situation it leaves its title character in. At the end of the previous issue, John Henry Irons was left defeated and literally broken. But five pages in, an easy solution is found, so the drama evaporates in place of a battle between Gen 13, the Parasite, and Steel’s niece and nephew. This leads to an anticipated team up between all parties and rushed conclusion that ends with the cliched “battle is just over, but the war has just begun” quote. None of the characters is likeable enough to root for, even though Louise Simonson is clearly on Steel’s side, so you don’t really care who wins. I’ll admit that the new Steel status quo has a lot of potential, and that Steel saves the issue from being a complete waste, but I don’t have faith in the changes lasting beyond Convergence.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Howard the Duck #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Chip Zdarksy gives us exactly what we’d hope for in a Howard The Duck book, and that’s just one of the many reasons that he’s an international treasure. It’s an outing that begins with the titular little pond-hopper being mugged at gunpoint by Aunt May, and ends with a villain obscure enough that even the book suggests we head to Wikipedia. It’s a laugh riot, and one of the most fun books on the market at the moment. Joe Quinones’ art is the right balance of just enough realism and rubber banding cartoonery, although the backup story illustrated by the amazing Jason Latour (Southern Bastards) might just score all the big points this month. A must read for any comic book fan with the requisite amount of funny bones.

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: Catwoman #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): There’s a certain excitement that comes about when the Kingdom Come superheroes facing younger, alternate versions of people they once knew. Writer Justin Gray does a phenomenal job at balancing the natural rapport between any Batman and any Catwoman, while still letting this unique pairing feel fresh. While the contents of the issue are fairly enjoyable, there’s nothing really in Convergence: Catwoman #2 that makes you feel engaged beyond the buy-in from the Convergence event itself. Artist Ron Randall does a great job with breakdowns to make everything flow, but his line art feels too stiff to get the dynamism we’d expect from Kingdom Come Batman’s force and Catwoman’s grace, especially in the spreads. In the long run, it’s Catwoman’s final fate that detracts from the rest of the issue - it just didn’t feel earned and seemed to serve only to increase the angst level for the Dark Knight.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Ms. Marvel #15 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): What more can we ask for from a writer than to write a compelling and engaging character-driven story while also laying down some truth about the world. Writer G. Willow Wilson does exactly that as Kamala has to escape this situation from Kamran’s betrayal. As the action unfolds, Kamala wrestles with the questions of whether or not she’s at fault for what’s happened - in that deft move, Wilson not only stays true to the character but also presents a parallel narrative to abusive situations to assert that survivors aren’t at fault. Kamala’s growth throughout the issue feels natural, which is a testament to how skilled Wilson is at writing fight scenes that both push the plot forward and give characters a chance to evolve. Takeshi Miyazawa and Ian Herring are totally on point throughout the entirety of the issue in terms of art. Miyazawa isn’t afraid to get creative with camera angles and Herring adds a wonderful dimension in rendering powers with his colors. All in all, Ms. Marvel would have been hard-pressed to find a better ending before Secret Wars than the one the creative team presents.

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: Supergirl: Matrix #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Let me preface this review by saying I’m not inherently opposed to irreverent humor, but Convergence: Supergirl: Matrix #2 takes it so far that it just becomes unpalatable. Ambush Bug is less of a humorous element than he is an annoyance and distraction from the narrative. It could just be the character or it could be writer Keith Giffen - either way, Ambush Bug’s breaking of the fourth wall and continuous spackle jokes were just stale. It didn’t help that literally all of the male characters had some kind of vocal critique for Supergirl and Lady Quark, and that Supergirl’s method of overcoming that criticism is beating the crap out of her Lex Luthor. The one major highlight of this book is the dynamic between Supergirl and Lady Quark when they weren’t fighting. Overlooking Supergirl’s and Luthor’s erratic and distracting hairstyles, the art otherwise remained solid, even if the inks from Joseph Silver seemed too thick at points. Ultimately, when Ambush Bug, in the second to last panel, asks “Ain’t I a stinker?” it’s hard to know whether or not he was referring to himself or the comic he was inhabiting.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Captain Marvel #15 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): There's little in the way of fighting in Captain Marvel #15, but that's not to say that this beautiful, mournful issue isn't heroic in its own way. After months guarding the galaxy, Carol is back on planet Earth - and she's just missed the death of her mentor and friend, Tracy. Inspired at least in part by her real-life aunt, Kelly Sue DeConnick writes a story filled with sadness, love and hope, as we essentially get a eulogy for Carol's best friend. David Lopez's artwork is expressive and his compositions are actually quite smart, drawing back from scenes of immense pain. Lee Loughridge's colors, however, seal the deal, really playing up the otherworldly nature as Tracy essentially gives her own final speech. While some may argue it's a little saccharine, it's a book that'll leave a lump in your throat, and it's the best possible way to end Captain Marvel before Secret Wars.

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: Suicide Squad #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Honestly, there couldn’t have been a better premise for the Suicide Squad Convergence books than Amanda Waller bringing her whole, bad-ass self to the table to take on something as insurmountable as Kingdom Come Green Lantern’s New Oa. Unfortunately, writer Frank Tieri buckles under the weight of the large cast of characters. What could have been an issue exploring the wonderful nuances of Amanda Waller quickly deflated into a long, drawn out, and ultimately meaningless fight scene. Tieri earns neither Waller’s ending nor the issue’s, as everything feels totally pointless as Tieri focuses more on the twists and surprises rather than the characters. It doesn’t help that Tom Mandrake’s art is so tonally grim and gritty that it becomes a chore to work through, and that Sian Mandrake’s muted colors add to this effect. Aside from the few triumphant moments throughout the issue, Convergence: Suicide Squad #2 misses the mark.

Credit: Image Comics

Mythic #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Sometimes, $1.99 comics are a bargain; other times, you get what you paid for. For Mythic #1 you get what you paid for. The story revolves around a team of three individuals who work to keep the magical balance of nature in check. Writer Phil Hester brings together tropes from across genres, but doesn’t add anything new or particularly captivating to make it his own. We’ve read stories again and again about how science is man’s attempt at explaining the mythical; we’ve read stories again and again about a group of individuals keeping the precarious balance. The successful ones have fully realized characters we become invested in; unfortunately, Hester relies too much on the idea of the story to keep us hooked, so by the end of Mythic #1 you’ll still have no idea who Nate, Cassandra, or Waterson are or what their motivations are. While some elements of the story - particularly Waterson’s character - are interesting, it just wasn’t enough to feel invested in it by the issue’s end.

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: Green Lantern/Parallax #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): As someone who didn’t grow up reading Hal Jordan become Parallax when it first came out, these two issues were a fascinating look at what Jordan was like during these years. Writer Tony Bedard capitalizes on the fact that Kyle Rayner still new to the game and has hope for the Parallax version of Green Lantern. What sets this Convergence title apart from the others is that it’s a long read - you’ll feel like you got your money’s worth with this. Part of it is due to the fact that Rayner goes back and forth between the cities, but it’s also because Bedard is able to push enough emotion into the story to make you feel something. Unfortunately, these emotional instances are few and far between. this renders the main crux of the issue - namely, the conflict between the cities - feeling largely unimportant, despite the characters constantly referring back to it. At the end of the day, you’ll come to see Parallax wreak some carnage, but you’ll stay for Kyle Rayner.

Credit: Oni Press

The Auteur: Sister Bambi #1 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): If you feel like Garth Ennis has lost his edge and David Lapham just isn’t doing the trick anymore, then Rick Spears has created the perfect comic for you. Now entering its second volume, The Auteur is a sharp-witted parody of the movie industry that pulls no punches and is hilariously offensive. It’s the sort of story where you will read a scene and laugh, then feel a little guilty and bad about yourself. Series artist James Callahan uses a style very reminiscent of that employed by Rob Guillory on Chew; it's cartoony and quirky, which acts as a counterpoint to the oftentimes gory and grotesque imagery. If you are looking for something edgy and different, then this is definitely worth checking out.

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: Superboy #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): As a twenty-something, I’d like to think that I still have a good memory of what it felt like to be a teenager. One of the best parts of Convergence: Superboy #2 is how well writing Fabian Nicieza captures being a teenager, especially a teenager like Superboy eclipsed by the shadow of Superman. This isn’t an issue about the fight between Kingdom Come Superman and Superboy, it’s about Superboy overcoming his own feelings of inadequacy. Of course, the fight is fairly well done, especially due to the art team. Karl Moline, José Marzán Jr., and Hi-Fi do a splendid job rendering the fight, especially in the double spread page. Overall, they were quite consistent in artistic quality, despite some inking during the lab scenes that made it feel too cartoonish and tonally inconsistent with the rest of the issue. Between the emotional growth Superboy undergoes and the great art seen throughout the issue, Convergence: Superboy #2 becomes one of the best Convergence books so far.

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