Best Shots Reviews: SUPERMAN #47, PATSY WALKER A.K.A. HELLCAT #1, VENUS #1

"Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat #1" variant cover by Sophie Campbell
Credit: Sophie Campbell (Marvel Comics)
Credit: DC Comics

Superman #47
Written by Gene Luen Yang
Art by Howard Porter, Raymund Bermudez, Tom Derenick, Lee Loughridge and Hi-Fi
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Vanessa Gabriel
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Superman #47 jumps right back into the high-stakes action of the previous issue. Jimmy Olsen is critically injured by a Superman sand-clone, and now Clark must take on this higher-powered version of himself. In a monologue-driven battle with an aggressively evil version of himself, Superman has to be more brains than brawn.

Writer Gene Luen Yang gives us a play-by-play of what it's like to be a depowered Superman. This forces Supes to calculate his best moves, channeling the Bat-tactician within. There are some existential character moments that prove provocative and interesting, and a rare display for the brute of the Trinity. There is one in particular that solidifies why heroes should not kill, even if might serve the greater good. This character exposition is presented over incredibly kinetic, almost chaotic, panels of brightly colored costumes and meta-human brawls. This reads as overwhelming, at times.

Still, from battle to climax to resolution, the story beats are well-paced. This is largely due to Howard Porter's immense detail and fluid panel layout. Porter takes the action, movement, dialogue and emotion, and tightly weaves it all together creating a powerful pace that clarifies the bulky narrative. The opening pages of Superman's battle with his clone are a testament to Porter's powers of visual organization. His fight sequences are very clean and super-powered, feeding the extreme tone of the issue well.

Porter keeps the pacing, panel layout and narrative fully intact. So, when you slam into the softer lines of Raymund Bermudez, whose work is distinctly different in color and style from Porter, it is unfortunately abrupt. Bermudez's art is beautifully detailed, and would work wonderfully if the entire issue was done by him. But the contrast between Porter and Bermudez pulls you right out of the narrative. The art switches back to Porter for the final two pages, and works a bit better on the flip side given the aggressive unveiling of Hordr_Root's daddy issues. It is a satisfying reveal, particularly since this villain is typically reserved for Gothamites.

Even with a grand reveal and Clark's novel character moments, the story structure is your run-of-the-mill hero versus villain issue. Hordr_Root is not a particularly interesting antagonist, even if he is sharply antagonizing. He serves his purpose to drive our punchy protagonist, but not much more. The support and grit of Superman's "sidekicks" - the arena gods, Condesa and Jimmy - manages to be mildly endearing, even if they are entirely convenient. It's not disappointing, but it's not impressive either.

Superman #47 is a solid issue with some solid flaws. Its strength is in the art and pacing, its weaknesses are in the semantics. But the plot points presented here are necessary, and it is an enticing set-up for the next chapter. So, you kind of have to read it.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat #1
Written by Kate Leth
Art by Brittney L. Williams and Megan Wilson
Letters by Joe Sabino and Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Even if Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat #1 is not a fun as all heck comic book, it is still quite the coup for Marvel Comics. In 2015, Marvel started to make a concerted effort to make their books more diverse. From that decision we were treated to books like Captain Marvel, Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, and now, She-Hulk’s somewhat spin-off a.k.a. Hellcat. However, the debut issue takes that editorial decision to its best possible extreme; an all female creative team, the unicorn of superhero comic books.

Indie comic powerhouse Kate Leth, along with her totally game art team Brittney L. Williams and Megan Wilson, bring Patsy up from beloved co-star to full-fledged lead with a relatable and often hilarious first issue that is sure to capture the attention of readers of all ages. Patsy Walker may have been a Defender and even an Avenger in the old days, but if Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat #1 is any indication, her future as a solo lead looks big and bright.

At first, Patsy isn’t having the best of luck. In the span of a day, she loses both her job and her apartment, which looks suspiciously like a gross storage closet. Right from the jump, Kate Leth uses the characterization established in Charles Soule, Javier Pulido, and Ron Wemberly’s She-Hulk as a solid base, and builds up from there. Leth’s Patsy is energetic, kind, and quick to engage in some butt-punching if she needs to. But unlike her appearances in She-Hulk, Leth delves deeper into her past, making it a major plot point of this issue.

After defeating, befriending, and then moving in with a Nuhuman by the name of Ian who can move things with her mind, she is blindsided by a friend from her past who blindsides her once again with news that her former frenemy now has the rights to the romance comic books her mother used to write, and is now republishing them. Leth’s clever brand of humor is on full display throughout this debut, mainly in the boisterous voice of Patsy herself. This development gives a.k.a. Hellcat a uniquely meta touchstone to her original life as a romantic lead, and also gives her decision to start a superhero based business an extra sense of narrative importance aside from “It is fun to watch Patsy Walker try and run a business."

For all its adorable cleverness, Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat #1 isn’t just all Wicked references and superhero financial hardships, it also comes with some vibrant and retro feeling artwork from penciler Brittney L. Williams and colorist Megan Wilson. Evoking a feeling not unlike the Archie comics of old, Williams and Wilson render a.k.a. Hellcat much like an older comic book filtered through the lens of Millennial nostalgia. Williams displays some tight grid work throughout this debut, but also adds manga inspired flair, like the super cute chibi version of Patsy that appears throughout, as well as the opening recap page that comes in the form of a guided montage of Patsy’s greatest past hits.

While Williams brings the energy, Megan Wilson brings it all home with some of the brightest colors I’ve seen in a long while. Wilson’s colors add yet another dimension to the Patsy Walker experience that makes it all the more palatable to its intended all-ages audience. However, you don’t have to be a child to appreciate good artwork, and Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat #1 has that in big, bright, beautiful spades.

“All-ages” is often looked at as a dirty word in comic book. “All female creative team” is, unfortunately, looked upon even worse. Fortunately Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat along with its intensely talented creative team kicks down the door of that kind of thinking and delivers a fun, fresh, and unexpectedly continuity heavy debut issue and fits in right along side the rest of Marvel’s new inclusive line of reader conscious titles.

Kate Leth, Brittney L. Williams and Megan Wilson go for the gusto with this debut issue. They seem just as dedicated as Hellcat to fighting the good fight, and doing it in the most fabulous way possible. Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat may not be for everyone, but for many, it is the breath of butt-kicking fresh air that they have been waiting for.

Credit: BOOM! Studios

Venus #1
Written by Rick Loverd
Art by Huang Danlan and Marcio Menyz
Lettering by Colin Bell
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Michael Moccio
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Our future is in the stars; at least, that’s the case in the future presented by Venus, where the major powers on Earth have entered into a new Cold War vying for resources on the other planets in our solar system. China claimed Mars, so the United States and its allies set its sights on Venus.

The plot, which is fairly straightforward, is the strongest aspect of writer Rick Loverd’s story: the stakes are easily and quickly understood after the goal is established early on. By securing those two crucial narrative points, Venus #1 will make readers start to care about its diverse cast of characters and their mission. However, the sometimes heavy-handed exposition and dialogue and a lack of three-dimensional characters muddles the plot, rather than building a steady, strong momentum.

The beginning of Venus #1 is by far the best, with Loverd and artists Huang Danlan and Marcio Menyz in perfect unison. Danlan’s visuals set the tone and pacing as we watch the crew hurdle towards Venus; the desperation and tension comes across clearly, panel by panel, as Commander Pauline Manashe struggles to take control of the Mayflower. Menyz’s coloring establishes the sleek look of the Mayflower’s interior and the fantastical unknown of the Venus environment, setting a distinct scene. We’re immediately invested in her survival, as well as the crew’s, because Loverd juxtaposed the crash landing with the inspirational take-off speech of the mission’s leader Captain Kincaid, who’s already dead. The hope of his words gives us everything we need to know about the current state of Earth and the importance of this mission’s success. With a clear goal to achieve, the surviving crew of the Mayflower becomes that much more compelling as they navigate setback after setback.

With civilians and military personnel on board the Mayflower, the tension became ever more subtle. Commander Manashe, while at the top of the chain-of-command, is one of the civilians; every time she made a decision, her military crew scrutinized her actions. The plot beomces more interesting because the potential for conflict increases. The crew has to deal with external problems, and Loverd plants seeds of internal conflict amongst the Mayflower’s crew. He masterfully placed many obstacles for the crew to overcome, which leaves him plenty to expand on in further issues.

Those obstacles would normally increase the tension of the story, but it gets obscured by the exposition to explain scientific technicalities. This detailing bogs down the progression of the plot. With a science-fiction story set in 2150, it’s natural to expect some explanation to help readers suspend their disbelief, but those explanations become overbearing as the narrative progresses. The majority of this issue revolves around Commander Manashe going about the ship, getting information about its state and how long until they have to move. That information is definitely important, but not important enough to take half of the issue.

No matter how strong its start, Venus #1 has the fatal flaw of not doing enough to introduce us to the protagonist of the story, Commander Manashe. The only thing we really know about her is that she’s a celebrated pilot who came out of retirement for the mission. It’s clear that with her in charge, the crew will butt heads as they try to survive. However, as Loverd focused exclusively on external conflict, we never got a chance to see what Manashe’s reasons for being on the mission were or what her thoughts were on what’s happening. We never saw a moment of doubt or something she had to overcome internally to push the plot forward, and that ultimately made her, and the crew as a whole, feel flat.

Venus feels more concerned about the mission itself rather than the people entrenched in it. Without that human element, the mission feels mechanical and sterile. We care more about the success of the mission because of its impact on the United States' government, not because we necessarily want to see the crew of the Mayflower survive. That’s where Loverd fails to fully build his momentum. We see one thing after another happen, but we don’t get the opportunity see Manashe and the other characters more in-depth, we don’t get to see their reason why. Without knowing more about the crew, it’s hard to fully engage with the characters and what ultimately holds Venus #1 back from its full potential.

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