Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with an eight-pack of Rapid-Fire Reviews for your reading pleasure! So let's kick off today's column with Oblong Oscar Maltby, as he goes back to the future with Secret Wars 2099...
Secret Wars 2099 #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Holy shock! It's 2099, and Miguel O'Hara's hung up the spider-suit to play Nick Fury to the Avengers of the future. Peter David writes a serviceable team book here with a few tantalizing character quirks. The new Captain America 2099 takes center stage here, a stern and authoritative woman who only responds to “Captain” while in uniform. There's the suggestion that she's something a little more than human, and her “transition” phase as she clocks off for the day certainly suggests some Robocop-style trickery. Hercules provides the pathos with his predilection for Andre the Giant-style drunkenness, while Black Widow fills in the Wolverine role of nearly murdering everyone she faces. Will Sliney's artwork is filled with personality, squeezing the absolute best out of David's clunky dialogue, while Antonio Fabela and Andres Mossa inject just the right amount of neon primary color into the world of Marvel 2099. All in all, Secret Wars 2099 is intriguing fun, if you can stomach a few lines of dodgy dialogue.
Convergence: Blue Beetle #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Among the various timelines of Convergence, it hasn't been surprising that writers have continually come back to Ted Kord, the symbol of innocence lost when DC went dark during Infinite Crisis. So perhaps its fitting that a lighter, brighter Kord has come back to save the day in Convergence: Blue Beetle, which pits Ted, Captain Atom and the Question against the entire Legion of Superheroes. Scott Lobdell has stacked the odds heavy against our heroes, and yet puts them through their paces with humor and grace. (Plus, Ted getting a dog named the "Blue Beagle" is hilarious.) Artist Yishan Li is also a great find for DC, reminding me a lot of Stacey Lee with her manga-infused character designs. The action sequences look sharp, even if occasionally her linework looks a little brittle or her characters get a little out of focus. All in all, a surprisingly fun tie-in.
Fight Club 2 #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Obviously, the creation of this comic is a no-brainer. Chuck Palahniuk returns to one of his greatest creations, and while tone of this sequel is definitely in line with the original, these characters have not evolved - and that stagnation holds back this book. Ten years after Project Mayhem, Sebastian (formerly Jack or The Narrator) still harbors the same ill will for mundanity that he did before even though that’s exactly what his life has become. Unfortunately, his problems with his life read the way an angsty teenager imagines having "adult problems" and "starting a revolution." The narrative reinforces the oppressive, misogynistic society that it claims to want to tear down - in particular, leading lady Marla winds up as a character with very little agency. Her “voice” exists only to soothe an amalgam of male insecurities. The irony is that in wanting to "break free" from societal indoctrination, Fight Club 2 is indoctrinating in and of itself. But the ideas it puts forward are puerile at best. Don’t get me wrong, the art is gorgeous. Cameron Stewart is at the top of his game with incredible character renderings and inspired panel layouts. But that’s not enough to save this one. I am Jack’s shrugging shoulders.
Old Man Logan #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Judging first issues of a miniseries is hard - it's like judging the first 15 minutes of a movie. However difficult it may be, your gut can usually tell how the rest of the film will play out in those opening scenes. That being said, Old Man Logan #1 does everything right in getting the audience pumped up with the Clint Eastwood-like version of Wolverine. Although the missing elements in this story would dock it points as a solo issue, Brian Michael Bendis sets the tone and brings the audience back into the fold of the Old Man Logan universe seamlessly, and sets the expectations high for the following installment. Andrea Sorrentino is an excellent artist for the apocalyptic cowboy story and goes even further artistically than he did in DC’s Green Arrow series.
Convergence: Justice Society of America #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): This is the kind of comic that does exactly what it sets out to do, and literally not one step beyond that. Convergence: Justice Society of America #2 is a love letter to nostalgic fans who miss the adventures of Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, Kent Nelson and Carter Hall, as these JSAers battle an anonymous Qwardian robot and revel in the resurgence of their once-lost powers. Artist Tom Derenick is the star of the show here, as he really celebrates these Golden Agers as they hit debris and race to save civilians. (Inker Scott Hanna is also a godsend, giving Derenick's art a smoother quality, reminding me almost of Alan Davis.) That said, while the pictures are pretty, Dan Abnett's story is almost nonexistent - beyond a sentimental epilogue, there's not much in the way of window-dressing for this fairly self-indulgent fight comic. Longtime fans of the JSA will find something to like here, even if anyone else likely won't be convinced.
Material #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Love him or hate him, if there's one quality you should respect from Ales Kot, it's his willingness to push his own boundaries and to really reach for new storytelling angles. That's the vibe I get from Material, which has the weight and scope of a TV ensemble drama filtered through the ultra-deliberate lens of comic book art. Kot bounces around from a lot of avant-garde concepts, each with a ton of potential - Material touches upon everything from sentient artificial intelligence to improvisational filmmaking to waterboarding and the protests in Ferguson. It's a lot to unpack, and Kot is definitely taking his time, allowing readers to really savor the imagery that artist Will Tempest puts together. (Seriously, the color choices are pretty incredible.) That said, while this book feels ambitious, it's also the victim of decompression, and there are going to be plenty of readers who will find this book too self-indulgent to stick around. Still, there's plenty of Material here for Kot to mine, and I think that's going to pay dividends for loyal readers.
Inferno #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Inferno #1 is a strange beast. As part of Marvel's Secret Wars event, it sets the scene during a relatively dark period in the X-Men's history. Seriously, there were demons and scantily-clad Jean Grey clones. So from the beginning of Dennis Hopeless and Javier Garron's story, the tone slides into something closer to Jason Aaron's Wolverine and The X-Men than, say, a gothic opera. Hopeless' script is still tragedy focused on Colossus as he leads failed attempt after failed attempt (costing the world its precious few X-Men) to save his demonically-possessed sister. There is levity to the action with characters like Nightcrawler, Domino and Boom Boom cracking wise mid-battle. Even Garron's art is more like Amanda Conner than the original "Inferno" artists Marc Silvestri or Walter Simonson. This isn't to say the issue is bad, just unexpected as the alternate universe story reads more like Claremont's X-Men Forever than a dark and serious tome.
Convergence: Crime Syndicate #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): When I saw that the Justice Legion Alpha was squaring off against their evil opposites in Convergence: Crime Syndicate, I was definitely pumped. And in certain ways, writer Brian Buccellato does bring his own strengths to the project - but that said, there's something missing in the execution. Artist Phil Winslade brings a retro feel to this book - which winds up clashing badly, considering half this book is about a futuristic Justice League team. (It also doesn't help that the old-school designs of the Crime Syndicate make them feel unbearably goofy.) And this is a shame, as Buccellato seems to have some good ideas about the staging of his fight choreography - the ending in particular feels very well-paced - it's just that these were the wrong characters for this art style, so few of the big moments (like Wonder Woman punching out Ultraman) really connect.