Best Shots Reviews: MS. MARVEL #1, BATMAN & ROBIN ETERNAL #7, EXTRAORDINARY X-MEN #2, More

"Star Wars: Vader Down #1" variant cover
Credit: Marvel Comics

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 Ongoing Oscar Maltby, as he takes a look at the newly relaunched Ms. Marvel...

Credit: Marvel Comics

Ms. Marvel #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Jersey City comes under threat from the alienating horror of urban redevelopment in Ms. Marvel #1, a spirited first issue that pairs teenage relationship drama with its own brand of superhero care in the community. New artist Takeshi Miyazawa's manga-styled linework combines a traditionally American pace with kinetic action and elasticated figures, accompanied by previous Ms. Marvel artist Adrian Alphona's hyper-detailed background work and expressive characters for the issue's last 9 pages. Narratively, G. Willow Wilson's script has the romantic focus of an Archie comic book, with a refreshingly diverse and well-realised cast in a comfortably all-ages format. Although teenage drama is the order of the day here, Wilson still manages to sneak in some solid action when a redevelopment company unlocks its potential for supervillainy. Needless to say, if Batgirl and the rebooted Archie suit your tastes, there's loads to love in Ms. Marvel #1.

Batman & Robin Eternal #7
Batman & Robin Eternal #7
Credit: DC Comics

Batman and Robin Eternal #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Genevieve Valentine and Alvaro Martinez join the fray in this issue and they introduce some interesting building blocks and new character dynamics that readers should be wary of. With the impending Robins War, it’s intriguing to see the Robins start to split up and do their thing. Valentine makes it clear that the Robins each have their own interpretation of Batman’s overarching approach to to any given situation, but she also shows us how the relationship between Batman’s wards is supposed to be symbiotic. Despite the fact that these characters are all working toward a similar goal, the seeds of discontent are starting to be sown. Alvaro Martinez handles the art in this issue and his work exemplifies the kind of artist you need for this kind of project: one that can get you from page one to page 20 without distracting from the narrative. Of course, that also means that he’s doing every little to wow the reader, but considering this was an issue built around interpersonal relationships and building the mystery, it’s nice to have an artist let those aspects of the script take center stage. His linework is more refined that Paul Pelletier, but definitely doesn’t have the strength that Tony Daniels’ does. The result is a fairly utilitarian chapter in the Eternal saga, but at least it’s a quality one.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Extraordinary X-Men #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Extraordinary X-Men #2 is three pages of a great issue, unfortunately the path to those three pages are a slog to get to. Jeff Lemire sends us out on two major high notes. One being the reveal of a newly returned (and retro-costumed) Mr. Sinister, and the second being that this team’s new base is some where in the depths of Limbo. That is some big, fun stuff to send us into next month with, but much of Extraordinary X-Men #2's page count is still filled with dry world-building and characters on the verge of accepting the call to adventure. Thankfully artists Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba and Edgar Delgado make it all feel a lot more energetic than it actually is with very expressive character rendering and kinetic action staging. Maybe next month Extraordinary X-Men will be the blockbuster X-book we all expected it to be, but for now, it's only scratching the surface of its potential.

Action Comics #46 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): While Superman may not be a character known for his anger Action Comics #46 shows that even the best of us are capable of rage. After stumbling upon Wraith’s nefarious experiments, Clark is infected by her Black Mass and slowly starts to succumb to its influence. Greg Pak once again shows us the human side of Clark, but this time instead of focusing on his inherent goodness, he focuses instead on his long buried rage, which makes Action Comics #46 interesting despite the transitional nature of its plot. Action Comics #46 also looks a bit unhinged thanks to artist Scott Kolins’ rough-hewn and somewhat ill-defined style, a jarring change of pace from the tight visuals of Aaron Kuder. While not an altogether horrible installment, Action Comics #46 feels like a bit of a stumbling block amidst a consistently solid crop of issues.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Star-Lord #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Unlike many of the post-Secret Wars reboots, Sam Humphries’ Star-Lord is quite literally a new beginning. Which is actually part of the problem here, in a tale that updates (or perhaps retcons) the story from 1976’s Marvel Preview #4. Taking us all the way back to “Year One,” we meet a hotheaded kid desperate to get into space, his attitude holding him back from being anything more than a mechanic in the space program. It’s an odd move - this title could rightly be called Star-Lord Junior, ultimately telling a story that didn’t need telling, treading the same ground that J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot did with a young Kirk. The draw here might actually be Javier Garron’s art, a lively mix of animated expression and complex and delicate ship designs, gorgeously colored by Antonio Fabela and Frank D’Armata. Here’s hoping we catch up to date with contemporary Quill after this initial arc is through.

Credit: DC Comics

Telos #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): This is one of the most frustrating titles out from DC at the moment, because the Multiversal possibilities post-Convergence were literally endless. Yet instead we continue to get the secret origin of a character who didn’t demand this much attention in the first place. Jeff King also squeezes in Telos teaming up with a rejected version of the Guardians of the Galaxy, complete with its own gun-toting product of an experiment (although this one’s a rabbit, and not a raccoon, to be fair). The art is serviceable, and at times very slick, but there’s so much chaos happening at once that it all kind of blurs into one noisy collective. References to Brainiac’s database of “seventy-five years of history of the Multiverse” are cute, but a series like this needs something more than a string of Easter eggs and a vague promise of a character arc.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Vader Down #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Star Wars and Darth Vader titles have been so perfectly in sync that this first event feels entirely organic in its scope. Jason Aaron’s simple premise, that Vader has crash-landed on a remote planet and every Rebel is scrambling to take the opportunity to end him, is a clever move. Mike Deodato’s art is nothing short of epic, especially given that much of the second act is a thrilling dogfight between Vader’s TIE fighter and several squadrons of X-Wings. Vader has been mostly seen in imposing poses since Empire Strikes Back, and here Deodato pleasingly recalls the moment the Sith Lord closing in on Luke in the closing moments of the original film. Perhaps the only drawback for this issue is that as an establishing issue, this only gives us the introduction in an extended form, hinting the bigger story to come.

Credit: DC Comics

Batman: Europa #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): One of the most curious outings of the week, especially given how careful the main Batman title has been to use the Joker sparingly. Taking its title from the German setting, there’s an immediate sense of urgency as the Dark Knight discovers both he and his computer system are stricken with a deadly virus. Part of it is an excuse to pit Batman against some classic villains, including a gorgeously rendered Killer Croc, but sometimes old school is the best school. The showstopper is Jim Lee’s art, which has been of a very particular fan-pleasing style for quite some time, and it’s wonderful to see him cut loose on a very different BD-inspired approach to pencil and inks, with the latter washes still feeling wet even in the digital format.

Credit: Marvel Comics

The Mighty Thor #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): “The flesh may be weak, but the thunder is strong!” Thus Jason Aaron gives us the perfect one-line summary of Jane Foster’s tenure as The Mighty Thor. As Jane battles for her life in a chemotherapy suite, Malekith aims to ignite a war between the realms with his villainous council. The Mighty Thor #1 feels like a culmination of Aaron’s time with the God of Thunder as he weaves in characters and plots from his previous arcs into this bigger, and more personal, story for Jane. Artists Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson once again wow with The Mighty Thor #1, giving equal attention to the quieter and more narrowing moments as they do the big action set piece of the issue, Thor saving a crashing space station. While functioning well as a rebooted solo series The Mighty Thor #1 also rewards long time readers of Jason Aaron’s tenure with the character and sets it up for a more personal fight beyond the usual trolls and villains.

Doctor Fate #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): I’m just about ready to give up on this book, which pits the new Doctor Fate against the Egyptian god Anubis. Unfortunately, Paul Levitz’s scattered script is entirely flat, bouncing between the helmet, the medical troubles of the lead character’s father, and the hodgepodge of Egyptian mythology. Not only that, but the characters are bland, and Khalid is the worst kind of hero: a completely unlikable one. Sonny Liew’s art remains the same scratchy cartooning that we’ve see for a few issues. But it has no solid foundation and even the character renderings vary too much across the book. Any progress he might have made in refining his storytelling abilities is impeded by the overwhelming flooding happening in the narrative. Pairing Levitz, a storied but mid-tier writer, with a virtually unknown (not to mention ill-fitting) artist on a property with very little name recognition was a mistake.

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