Best Shots Reviews: JUSTICE LEAGUE #46, DARTH VADER ANNUAL #1, THE GODDAMNED #2, More

IDW December 2015 cover
Credit: IDW Publishing

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 Victorious Vanessa Gabriel, as she takes a look at the latest issue of Justice League...

Justice League #46 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Justice League #46 is a tapestry of gods and chaos drawn gorgeously by artist Francis Manapul. Stitching this incredibly convoluted story together is no easy task, and Manapul touches every character with fine detail and a stunning use of color and contrast. The opening page showing the dichotomy of the Justice League men and their god identities is poster-worthy. And a certain well-loved Female Fury shows up, exquisite splash page style, complete with punchy dialogue courtesy of Geoff Johns. For all of its beauty, this elaborate story is not for the uninitiated. In addition, its density gives way to hollow character moments because there just isn’t enough real estate to flesh things out. It’s an in-between issue that will fit nicely once collected.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Darth Vader Annual #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): As Disney begins a new chapter of the cinematic Star Wars saga, Kieron Gillen and Leinil Yu continue to fill in the gaps in between the original trilogy with Darth Vader Annual #1, a special issue that effortlessly demonstrates the Dark Lord's terrifying yet honorable nature. The regal world of Shu-Torun has failed to fulfill their ore quota to the Empire, prompting Lord Vader to make an disciplinary trip to the planet. Naturally, he's walking straight into a trap... Plot-wise, Gillen writes a simple but effective story here that flexes all of Vader's muscles as a tactician, politician and warrior, while also making time for comic relief in the form of Vader's dark-sided protocol droids. Artistically, Leinil Yu takes inspiration from the world of high fantasy for the pomp and circumstance of new world Shu-Torun, while still keeping classic designs screen-accurate. A great jumping-on point for new readers, Darth Vader Annual #1 is a perfect microcosm of Gillen's excellent ongoing series.

Credit: Image Comics

The Goddamned #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Jason Aaron might be making headlines with his work on The Mighty Thor and Southern Bastards, but don't count out his work on The Goddamned. This may be the darkest thing Aaron's written since Scalped, and yes, I'm including his Southern-fried noir in Southern Bastards. After all, Aaron seems dedicated to painting a horrific picture of a post-apocalyptic wasteland using just his words. His protagonist, Cain, is particularly vivid when he recounts all the myriad ways he's tried and failed to end his life, and the way Aaron continuously one-ups the sense of depravity in this world rivals a book like Crossed. R.M. Guerra continues to outdo himself here, his work evoking Frank Frazetta through the lens of a Neal Adams or Bill Sienkiewicz. Not a book for the squeamish, but the tale of Old Testament justice is great for fans of action and horror.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Uncanny Inhumans #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Charles Soule reunites Medusa and Black Bolt to fight against their estranged son-turned-villain, Ahura. While loyal supporting characters surround the two leaders, this story is less about their development and more about Ahura's mysterious backstory. I like how Soule has Iso exercise her powers in two creative ways. Ahura's megalomaniacal monologues dominate the page time thus leaving Medusa and Black Bolt's grief to be shown by brief visual cues. Steve McNiven and Jay Leisten ace Medusa's pained expressions, but Sunny Gho and Java Tartaglia's repeated shade of purple in panel backgrounds makes the characters look like they're in a side-scrolling video game instead of a three-dimensional world. With not enough artistic details to form an immersive environment and not enough focus on Medusa and Black Bolt to elicit sympathy, this issue feels like an incomplete Ahura one-shot.

Credit: Marvel Comics

The Mighty Thor #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Dark Council grows by two members and Malekith’s war against the Light Elves advances on all fronts this month in The Mighty Thor #2. While this new series' first issue was all about reintroducing us to the new Goddess of Thunder, Jane Foster, Jason Aaron quickly starts to stack the deck against her in this second issue with the inclusion of the Enchantress and Loki into the book’s violent proceedings. Malekith and his Dark Council are the main antagonists, however Thor also has to deal with the increasingly despotic tactics of the All-Father and his dark brother Cul’s Thunder Guard. While Aaron steadily sets up villains to pit against Thor, artists Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson deliver more of the kinetic and vibrant artwork that has become associated with Jane Foster’s tenure as Thor, complete with sound effects drawn into the backgrounds; one of my favorite aspects of Dauterman’s work. It looks like Thor might be a victim of the dreaded numbers game, but if The Mighty Thor has taught us anything its that we should never count out whoever holds that hammer, regardless of the odds.

Batgirl #46 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Batgirl’s strength is its consistency of character, style and charm. Still, a cohesive voice and vision should not amount to predictability, and that's what we've got in Batgirl #46. Babs takes on a local gang of the Burnside, and while that is a perfectly believable narrative; the action sequences, dialogue with the antagonists, and her team-up with Spoiler borders on outright canned. Writers Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher manage a few clever one-liners, but then there are some that are not so clever - drumming home the lack of nuance. The saving grace here is Babs Tarr’s adorable and expressive art, and her version of Spoiler in action is pretty great. You won’t be disappointed, but you might be kind of bored.

Credit: Image Comics

Huck #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig are delivering some beautiful artwork, but Mark Millar's story in Huck is still dragging. Two issues in, it still feels like Huck's story has only progressed a handful of scenes, and to make matters worse, Millar hasn't really delved in any deeper into this gentle giant's characterization. What makes Huck do the things he does? Does he have any weaknesses, physical or otherwise? Thankfully, while the script feels light, the artwork is gorgeous - Albuquerque and McCaig remind me a lot of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato's masterful work on Adventure Comics way back when, with the artists really painting Huck's small-town home with a Norman Rockwell-ian bent. They have some fun ways for Huck to get from place to place, but we already established this in the first issue. Huck is a book with some serious potential, but Millar needs to push harder for that good will.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Squadron Supreme #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): One of my biggest complaints with the WWE is sometimes the wrestlers that are set up as the good guys do horrible, villainous things in order to achieve their goals. Squadron Supreme #1 is the comic book version of exactly that. Writer James Robinson drops us in the middle of the new Squadron’s crusade against Namor the Sub-Mariner, and even though Robinson has his characters bend over backwards to justify their actions, the entire action of the comic comes across as if the heroes are the villains and Namor is only fighting to protect himself and his people. Artist Leonard Kirk, along with colorist Frank Martin and inker Paul Neary, doesn’t come across much better either, as most of the action scenes are overstuffed and too busy, while the establishing and reaction shots look rushed and ill-defined. The Squadron Supreme may have been heroes on their own respective worlds but here in this debut, they look and act more like the villains.

Credit: DC Comics

Batman: Europa #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Batman: Europa #2 pairs off two of the greatest enemies in all of comics and forces them into a twisted dynamic duo that is entertaining as hell to behold. Writers Matteo Casali and Brian Azzarello keep Batman and the Joker pinging off each other long enough to not kill each other while working in tense tandem to figure out who poisoned them and set up the great game they are both embroiled in. Artist Giuseppe Camuncoli renders this second issue in matte-like pencils and flatted colors that make this look more like an old Legends of the Dark Knight run than a brand-new miniseries (not necessarily a bad thing in my book). Batman: Europa might still be in early days, but even this early, its making a splash that is sure to draw the attention of Bat-fans all over.

Credit: IDW Publishing

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Star Trek: Starfleet Academy is a series that does everything right - except how to tell its own story. Based on the J.J. Abrams-verse, this series absolutely nails the tone of the hit movies - in particular, artist Derek Charm does some of the best likenesses I've ever seen in a comic book, as he's able to distill each actor but still maintain fluidity and expressiveness. It's great stuff, but while writers Mike Johnson and Ryan Parrott get the cadence and tone of these characters' voices, their plotting could use some work. There's some fun soap operatic stuff going on, such as Spock and Uhura on the rocks, or a Vulcan trainee begrudgingly competing in an extracurricular team, but there's not enough in the way of stakes - or even anything visual - going on here. The result is a lot of talking heads, even by Star Trek standards. The artwork looks great here, but hopefully the story will catch up soon.

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