Best Shots Rapid-Fire Reviews: STAR WARS #15, SUPERMAN/WONDER WOMAN #25, NOWHERE MEN #7, More

DC Comics January 2016 solicitations
Credit: DC Comics

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off today's column with Jumping Justin Partridge, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Star Wars...

Credit: Marvel Comics

Star Wars #15 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): "Vader Down" is finally over, Star Wars returns with yet another tale taken from the lost journal of Old Ben Kenobi. Its been a year since Obi-Wan saved Luke from water raiders, but still he is attempting to make the boy’s harsh life a little less grim, much to the consternation of his adoptive father. Jason Aaron nails not only the desolation and hardness of Luke’s homeworld, but the loneliness of Obi-Wan as he attempts to adjust to his new life as a hermit. On art and colors this month is the wonderful Mike Mayhew who makes the sands of Tatooine look gorgeous and all the characters look like matinee idols, despite their hard scrabble lives. Mayhew’s colors also give Star Wars #15 a vibrant sheen that hearkens back to the blockbuster colors of the first issues with John Cassaday and Frank Martin. These Obi-Wan-centric issues may seem slow at first glance but once again they provide a well constructed palate cleanser before Aaron kicks up a ruckus again with a new story arc.

Credit: DC Comics

Superman/Wonder Woman #25 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Peter J. Tomasi has long been a quietly consistent force in the DC stable of talent. With Superman/Wonder Woman #25, he kind of short-changes Wonder Woman but in the process he gives us a Superman story that cuts to the heart of the character. Diana wants the gods to save Clark’s life but he must prove himself worthy. And through their trials and temptations, we see the essential parts of Superman and a reminder of why so many people like this character in the first place. Doug Mahnke contributes some excellent artwork to the cause. The designs for the gods are well-formed and he guides us through the books with ease despite seemingly random transitions and costume changes. Thankfully, he stays in his lane with his character expressions and we don’t get any out of character looks from any of the cast. All in all, this is a solid issue that might be overlooked considering its lack of relevance to the DCU at large, but it's a reminder that you don’t have to do too much to make Superman a compelling character.

Credit: Image Comics

Nowhere Men #7 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It's been more than two years since the last installment of Nowhere Men, and besides a new artist on board, this series acts like no time has changed. That can be pretty jarring for even this book's biggest fans, but Eric Stephenson isn't trying to hold people's hands. Instead, this challenging book starts off with a nice and human hook, about the sort of resentment a child can have with a famous father. Once that lead-in is complete, Nowhere Men actually reminds me a bit of the X-Men, but with a paranoid conspiracy twist - there's a virus that can rewrite people down to their very DNA, but with great power can come great terror, whether it means transforming into a giant red monster or even losing your cellular structure and becoming an inky blob. New artist Dave Taylor is similar in style to Nate Bellegarde, and his storytelling acts as a nice platform for Stephenson's dense character work. Ultimately, you're going to want to re-read previous issues of this series as a refresher, but it's nice to see this thoughtful comic back on the stands.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Captain Marvel #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart, ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Rest assured, Captain Marvel #1 proves Marvel made the right decision in handing the reins over to Agent Carter vets Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas. Butters and Fazekas have a great sense of drama and narrative pace, and a strong grasp on who Carol is - a caring friend and a dedicated protector who’s itching for a fight, but knows just how far to push before it becomes too far. Her teammates, most of whom will be familiar to longtime Alpha Flight fans, aren’t given much depth in this premiere issue. But given how much Butters and Fazekas had to introduce it’s easy to trust we’ll learn more about Alpha Flight down the road. Kris Anka’s art and Matt Wilson’s colors are a great fit for Captain Marvel #1, feeling like a modern twist on vintage military recruitment posters that fits with Carol’s new position. Marvel has put together a strong team to carry on Kelly Sue DeConnick’s groundbreaking work, and Captain Marvel #1 provides a good jumping-on point to a new chapter in Carol Danvers's history.

Credit: DC Comics

Robin: Son of Batman #8 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Patrick Gleason is one of the best artists working at DC today so anytime you have a fill-in artist, there’s going to be some drop off. Ramon Bachs definitely has a different style than Gleason, opting to go a little bit more cartoony with his action sequences and character renderings. It still works for the book considering that Ray Fawkes's script isn’t too overly dramatic. This issue is a quick story that doubles down on what the concept of the book has been since the beginning: Damian doesn’t want to become the man his mother wanted him to be. So Fawkes and Bachs don’t really reinvent the wheel here but for new readers that are wondering what this whole "Son of Batman" thing is all about this a good primer. It’s a mix of action and humor that has real implications for Damian as he continues to evolve in the DCU.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Ms. Marvel #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): G. Willow Wilson concludes this arc by forcing Kamala to seek help from the last person she wants to: Bruno's girlfriend, Mike. Wilson develops Kamala and Mike as characters who love science, and it's their tech-savvy partnership that saves the day. Takeshi Miyazawa and Ian Herring draw an exciting six-page sequence where Kamala is in constant motion, whether sweep-kicking or leaping over trucks. I like how Miyazawa depicts conversations in wider panels where both characters interact with their environment instead of as static talking heads. Wilson tackles weighty subjects as we follow Kamala on a non-stop fun adventure.

Credit: DC Comics

Secret Six #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): It's full-on magical warfare as the Secret Six take on Superman for the fate of Black Alice! Gail Simone has thrown a lot of plot at the wall for this "House of Secrets" arc, but unfortunately the finale devolves into chaos before delivering a huge anti-climax. As the Six close in on the final alabaster columns, Scandal Savage and Ragdoll finally attempt to put an end to Black Alice before all the world is enslaved by the elder gods waiting behind the gates. However, Alice has been dead since her fateful car accident and then the story...just ends. It's a jarring ending, especially after the craziness that proceeded it and one that proves frustrating coming from a usually tight writer like Simone. Thankfully Simone’s witty character interactions and Dale Eaglesham and Tom Derenick’s team-centered pencils keeps the issue from being a total wash. The Secret Six are known for being wild cards, but unfortunately this tenth installment goes off the rails.

Credit: DC Comics

Silver Surfer #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Silver Surfer and Dawn are back, and this time they aren’t just protecting the Earth, but all its culture as well. In his most Doctor Who-inspired script to date, Dan Slott returns our heroes to Dawn’s hometown however, it isn’t all movies and belated holiday celebrations. An alien race called the Hordrax are attempting to steal every word of every book, every note of music, every frame of film, and every work of art from the whole of the Earth resulting in a showdown between the power cosmic and every protagonist of every story! Dan Slott doesn’t overthink this new number one nor does he drench it in the previous volume’s continuity. He deftly reintroduces readers to Dawn, as well as her family, and then promptly throws the leads into this new zany yet delightful adventure. The Allreds are once again back handling the art and colors, and once again the main source of Silver Surfer’s charm and energy. Mike’s pop art pencils convey the emotions and kinetic energy of the story in equal measure and along with Laura’s slightly too bright colors, Silver Surfer #1 is another win for this team. This new debut is the best kind of entry point into the series for new readers, yet familiar enough to keep readers who have been around since the first #1 satisfied.

Credit: Valiant Entertainment

Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #3 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Artist Raul Allen continues to dominate with Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #3, but even with this spectacular, moody artwork, you can't help but feel like Robert Venditti's script feels a little insubstantial in this installment. The issue starts off with a nice hook - namely, watching the Eternal Warrior break free of his torture rack, dismembering demons in his wake - but once he's escaped, the non-stop action can't help but feel a little exhausting. But did I mention how awesome Raul Allen is? His use of silhouette is probably my favorite part of the book, and the mood that he conjures up with this hellscape looks superb. (Watching hellrats lick the Eternal Warrior's wounds is just a great touch from both the writer and artist.) All in all, this book starts off strong, but it could use some work sticking the landing by the end.

Credit: DC Comics

Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Pamela Isley turns over a new leaf in Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death #1, but a middling script and an overreliance on puerile eye candy causes this issue to wilt. Poison Ivy tries to settle in to her new job at Gotham Botanical Gardens, much to the discomfort of the Gardens' ageing Lead Scientist. Although writer Amy Chu sets up a potential villain here, the conflict of the issue revolves around a disagreement between Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. Harley and Ivy as BFFs is a well-established team-up that works well, but Chu doesn't do anything new with the pairing to justify spending the bulk of the issue on Ivy and Harley playing off each other. There's great potential in a Poison Ivy book, but it needs a hook. Technically, Clay Mann's idealised aesthetic is technically excellent, although he's brought enough cheesecake here to make you feel thoroughly sick of it. Colorist Ulises Arreola works well with Mann's artwork, bringing a bright palette of oranges and greens to emphasize flesh and plant alike. Despite its visual appeal, Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death #1 struggles to offer a decent reason to read.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Uncanny Inhumans #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Charles Soule uses the formula of a J.R.R. Tolkien book's appendix: go as deep as possible into the arcane history of one or two characters. In this case, it's Ahura, son of Inhuman monarchs Medusa and Black Bolt, and Kang the Conqueror, a time-traveling classic Marvel villain. I love the attitude and look Soule and Steve McNiven give to the two most intriguing cast members, Iso and Reader. However, the emphasis on Ahura leaves the core cast feeling out of place in their own series. In the spirit of the X-Men Origins books, this feels like an Ahura origin issue. McNiven and Jay Leisten's careful line work is ornate on Randac and Attilan soldiers' uniforms. It is curious and unexplained why Uncanny Inhumans chose to focus on such obscure and encyclopedic lore.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Dragon Age: Magekiller #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Four targets have been marked for death by the Tevinter Imperium, but what happens when one of those targets is your former love? This is the struggle that Marius must face this month in Dragon Age: Magekiller #2. After being duped by the head of the Imperium, Tessa and Marius are forced to take the contract and do the job they were both born to do. However, after disposing of three of the four, Marius is faced with his former lover Calpernia, a major player in the Dragon Age universe, and the job gets infinitely more complicated. Greg Rucka continues his workman like approach to the high fantasy world of this franchise and even goes a step further to connect Magekiller to the game franchise in big ways. Carmen Canero’s pencils, Terry Pallot’s inks, and Michael Atiyeh’s colors continue to impress, especially in the sequence displaying Marius and Tessa’s methodical attacks on the three targets, however, the final action sequence fails to land as hard as the one in the first issue especially when compared to the murder montage of this issue. All and all, Dragon Age: Magekiller #2 continues to be a treat for Bioware fans and for those looking for a grounded fantasy tale.

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