Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday column? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off with Melancholy Michael Moccio, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Justice League...
Justice League #41 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): This is, no doubt, Geoff Johns at his absolute best. The first chapter of "Darkseid War" will have you on the edge of your seat from the tantalizing first scene to the shocking last one. Johns’ powerful storytelling comes from the fact that we believe we know enough to guess what’s going on when the story starts, only to have the story build and build and build so that we’re shown exactly how dangerous a situation the Justice League really finds themselves. Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson are on point throughout the issue, which was absolutely necessary. Johns’ writing — no matter how splendid — wouldn’t have worked in the slightest without Fabok and Anderson lending their talents to rendering combat as explosive and meaningful as the narrative. This is an event you won’t want to miss and if Justice League #41 is any indication, this will be one of their best.
Secret Wars #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Jonathan Hickman has had two issues to show the Marvel Universe as it once was, and Battleworld as it was created in the eyes of Doom. Now, for this third issue, we get to see these two very different worlds start to interact. Hickman's focus on doctors Doom and Strange provide a neat counterpoint to one another, even if a less charitable reader might see Strange's complacence in Doom's new world order to be as character-assassinating as when Tony Stark was in charge of the superhero registration act. Still, it's very interesting to see Doom actually doubt himself in victory, and the return of some A-list characters will undoubtedly make you cheer. Esad Ribic's artwork continues to impress with his imagery, especially with Doom's palace and the Thor Corps, even sometimes his expressions look a little wonky. Still, three issues in, and Secret Wars is currently the best event book Marvel has done in years.
Green Arrow #41 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The Emerald Archer has taken up residence in the Emerald City, and Benjamin Percy and Patrick Zircher serve up a appropriately grungy mystery. The book obviously borrows a lot of the tone of the Arrow TV show, but that really works for it. Percy doesn’t do a great job of nailing the smaller moments in the script, but they’re passable. His Oliver Queen is likable enough. What works really well is the pacing. Percy and Zircher do a good job of rolling out the mystery and consistently building it throughout the issue. There isn’t even a ton of actual Green Arrow in the issue, but what it lacks in superheroics, it makes up for in intrigue. Plus, the few pages you do see Green Arrow aren’t wasted. The foggy tones of certain scenes and Zircher’s penchant for strong establishing shots help build the world around Oliver Queen. The artist’s instincts for laying out actions sequences are spot on, infusing the book with equal parts tension and fun.
All-New X-Men #41 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): In his penultimate issue helming All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men, Brian Michael Bendis reintroduces mutants like Karma and Boom Boom who have been long absent from X-Men stories. Their appearance serves more to bolster a distrust of S.H.I.E.L.D. than to focus on the characters themselves. When the young original five X-Men clash or even converse with the older guest stars, scenes are wrapped up abruptly. I like how Mahmud Asrar and Marte Gracia depict the interaction between Karma and Jean. Karma is drawn with subtle expressions that convey her suspicion. This issue assembles a sprawling cast for Bendis' conclusion, but doesn't give the older mutants adequate dialogue to fill out a compelling story.
Green Lantern #41 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Convergence has reverberated throughout the DC Universe and we’re starting to see the changes. Robert Venditti reintroduces us to Hal Jordan, but this time he’s a cocky, space-faring rebel without a cause, in the vein of Star Wars' Han Solo or Guardians of the Galaxy’s Star-Lord. The results are mixed, though. A Green Lantern without the normal “space cop” dressing is an interesting idea, but the execution leaves something to be desired. I think some of it might have to do with Billy Tan’s artwork. Maybe the new costume/look is to blame, but Hal Jordan has been a DC stalwart for years. Tan’s inability to convincingly render him is distracting and takes quite a bit away from what’s already a pedestrian script. The final page is ripped straight from Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope, but it sets the tone for this new era of Green Lantern. Hopefully, the execution will eventually match the potential here.
The Woods #13 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): A year has passed since the end of the first arc and writer James Tynion makes it clear that the Bay Point cast hasn’t been sitting on their hands. Tynion makes a smart move to reintroduce the characters as they appear to show their growth throughout the year and everyone’s characters have evolved differently. The timeeskip doesn’t feel awkward at all and we’re able to jump right back into the story. With Adrian gone, Tynion now turns to the rest of the planet to explore. Michael Dialynas does a great job aging these characters and updating their styles. One of the best parts about his visuals are how different he makes people look: from their body times down to their clothes, everyone’s personalities are clearly and elegantly represented. Much of The Woods #13 is buildup for the next arc, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that it’s great to catch up with these characters we’ve become so invested in.
The Midnighter #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): If you think that Midnighter is just “gay Batman,” Steve Orlando and ACO are out to prove you wrong. The debut issue does a good enough job of setting him apart from the caped crusader but not enough to really keep readers coming back for more. Aco’s art is effective when it doesn’t sacrifice clarity for style but unfortunately that isn’t often enough. Orlando’s narrative is fairly straightforward and affords Midnighter some decent character moments, but there’s some confusion about what makes him tick. What we’re left with is a character that’s somewhere between Batman and Deadpool, but there’s something vague about him that keeps him from really resonating. This isn’t a bad start, but it’s not a particularly inspiring one, either.
Spider-Woman #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10: Can this really be the same Spider-Woman we met eight issues ago? While this title started off as rough as any book at Marvel could - with a bizarre tie-in story and artwork that ran counter to the book's pro-female aspirations - Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez have turned this ship around, creating a beautifully rendered conclusion that winds up taking a surprisingly sensitive stance on domestic abuse. As she infiltrates a city filled with the exes of supervillains, Hopeless's Jessica Drew is as about as composed as a superhero as Matt Fraction's Hawkeye - but whereas Hawkeye always limps away to fight another day, there's something transformative here, as Jessica beats her opponent through something way stronger than venom blasts: empathy. Rodriguez's artwork is stellar, really playing up dramatic moments and never shying away from some fairly brutal violence. I can't stress enough how much of an improvement this comic has been the past few issues - get it now.
Action Comics #41 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): For anyone who hasn’t been keeping up with the current storylines involving Superman, Action Comics #41 is a great jumping on point. Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder make a compelling enough story and give us enough information to bring us up to speed fairly quicker. There are a couple of great scenes that capitalize on how human Clark feels right about now, which is a refreshing take on his character. That human quality shines through, especially in Kuder’s art, where Clark feels more emotive than usual, like when he’s picking up kids or introducing himself to someone new. However, it’s the ending that really seals the deal as to why we should be hooked on Action Comics in the future: Pak and Kuder give us a glimpse as to what’s putting Clark and his neighborhood in danger, posing the question to us if this depowered Superman will be enough.
Bat-Mite #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Exiled to Earth, Bat-Mite enters into the DC Universe trying to convince people Batman is his sidekick. Bat-Mite #1, while mildly charming at some points, simply fails to deliver any substantial humor or reason for us to continue reading. Writer Dan Jurgens doesn’t give us enough of Bat-Mite to feel invested in him as a character. It just isn’t enough for Bat-Mite to act ridiculous for us to be convinced the story is worth the time and money to get through it. Corin Howell’s art is great for Bat-Mite as a character and the overall tone of the book, but when characters like Batman show up and start fighting, it just doesn’t mesh well. Batman and characters like him end up feeling clunky and static in the panels, which doesn’t make for a fluid reading experience. All in all, the best character in Bat-Mite so far is Batman, and since he only shows up for a couple of pages, that’s fairly indicative of how Bat-Mite will survive on his own.
Superior Iron Man #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): After nine issues of trying to justify the corruption of Tony Stark, Tom Taylor and Yildiray Cinar's Superior Iron Man goes out not with a bang, but with a whisper. This is a fight comic with little stakes and a weak twist at the end, as Tony Stark beats up on a cybernetic duplicate consciousness - it's hard to really care about it, though, since you know that no matter what, some Tony is going to come out of this a-okay. (And Pepper Potts' jab at the end of the book comes so abruptly that it's impossible to believe in any sort of lasting repercussions, especially with Secret Wars coming.) Yildiray Cinar's artwork looks dramatic when he's able to really lock in the shadows, such as Tony's armor pouring on him or Pepper shaking her head in defeat - but there are other moments that look pretty goofy, like Tony creating a big, bulky Hulkbuster suit. Thank goodness Tony has an opportunity to reboot following Marvel's latest event.
Batman Beyond #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The ending of Batman Beyond #1 more than makes up for the clunky and repetitive dialogue and the sometimes awkward art. Thrust into a world he doesn’t know, Tim is just as lost as the rest of us and literally everyone else feels like a more interesting character than him. Not a lot happens in Batman Beyond #1, but Matt McGinnis and the surprise character appearing at the end of the issue shine as highlights. Dan Jurgens takes advantage of Terry’s absence to make Matt a more three-dimensional character — even though Matt’s only in a couple pages, we can clearly feel his loss and regret that Terry died and passed the suit along to Tim. Most of the issue beats us over the head with Gotham’s current situation, and much of the dialogue feels like it’s only there to take up space. It doesn’t help that the artwork from Bernard Chang feels so inconsistent. Chang does a great job drawing faces and humans, but when it comes to something like the Batsuit, it just looks too angular and out of place to really have Tim Drake inside. Overall, the buildup during the first issue wasn’t done as well as it could have, but the ending promises an improvement in future issues where the story is concerned.
Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Four #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Brian Buccellato may not have been the original architect of the Injustice: Gods Among Us comic book, but he can certainly deliver the emotional punches necessary to make the big moments meaningful. Buccellato writes an amazing Barbara Gordon, especially in this issue as she makes the choice to try and regain the use of her legs for the use of the resistance. As Batman’s backed into a corner, the story organically moves forward as the Amazons storm Metropolis and put Wonder Woman in a difficult position. It’s amazing to see all the different elements of the DC Universe at play. Bruno Redondo and Rex Lokus on art really deliver in making those meaningful scenes mentioned earlier look dramatic in the best way. There are very clear definitive moments in the issue and they’re some of the best in a while from Injustice.