Best Shots Rapid-Fire Reviews: STAR WARS #17, GRAYSON #18, SUPERMAN: LOIS & CLARK #6, More

Valiant Entertainment March 2016 cover
Credit: Valiant Entertainment

Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let’s kick off today’s column with Jumpin’ Justin Partridge, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Star Wars

Credit: Marvel Comics

Star Wars #17 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Never send a man to do a woman’s job. Star Wars #17 finds our favorite blaster-toting royal Princess Leia recruiting the very woman she put away, Doctor Aphra, in order to take back the prison from the mysterious bounty hunter that has overtaken it. Jason Aaron gives Leia, Aphra and Sana Starros plenty of hero moments as they throat-punch their way through a gang of vicious Imperial prisoners in order to get to the control room. If this seventeenth issue has a weak point, it is Aaron’s B-plot which finds Luke and Han having to take smuggling jobs in order to replenish the Alliance funds Han lost. Compared to the exciting action of the women’s story, it comes across as very silly, and an unwelcome distraction from all the badassery happening back at the prison. Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan heap tons of tension into Star Wars #17 with rough pencils and bold color choices; the scene of Leia and Sana being trapped in a darkened corner of the prison, facing down felons is a particular stand-out. While Han and Luke bumble around space, Leia, Sana, and Aphra are looking to blast fools and drink blue milk, and they are all out of blue milk. That is the Star Wars book that I want to read, and that’s the one we largely got this month.

Credit: DC Comics

Grayson #18 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10) A fill-in issue does the Spy Wonder no favors, as writers Jackson Lanzing and Colin Kelly along with artists Roge Antonio and Geraldo Borges deliver a messy battle at the heart of Spyral. There have been so many threads tossed around by Tim Seeley and Tom King in previous issues of Grayson, but Lanzing and Kelly try to pick up all of them at once, making for a issue that is bewildering and difficult to follow. Indeed, Dick Grayson himself doesn’t show up until the fourth page, and then they jump back to yet another byzantine sequence featuring more backstory with Spyral. (And that’s to say nothing of a gratuitous Midnighter cameo, where his characterization feels like it’s been boiled down to just wanting to punch things and make innuendo about Grayson.) The early fight sequences of this issue are also dangerously spread out, leaving readers nothing to grasp on to — there’s some solid character designs in this book’s second half, but they’re all with tertiary characters.

Credit: Titan Comics

Assassin’s Creed: Templars #1 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): With Ubisoft holding out on publishing a new Assassin’s Creed game this year, fans of the series are going to have to look at media like Assassin’s Creed: Templars to engage with new material. The series doesn’t offer anything remarkable, but it’s nice to see a window into the Templars in a more recent era—the roaring ’20s, to be exact. The series follows Darius, the son of a disgraced Templar, who’s sent to China in an effort to remedy the corruption in the Templar’s activities there. Along the way, he encounters the Black Cross, a Templar charged with stemming corruption within the order. Writer Fred Van Lente makes a smart decision with this route in answering a question fans have wrestled with the Templars throughout the series: who guards the guardians? He’s certainly set up an interesting storyline; however, without Val Lente grounding the series by giving a more thorough context of world events—and events going on in China at that time—it’s hard to gauge the importance of Darius’ mission.

Credit: DC Comics

Superman: Lois and Clark #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Dan Jurgens puts together some nice soap operatics in Lois and Clark #6, but ultimately, the heroes of this book continues to be Lee Weeks and Scott Hanna, who provide one of the more striking artistic tag teams of the entire DC catalog. While young Jon Kent still feels like a plot device more than a three-dimensional character, Jurgens’ characterization of Lois and Clark are still strong, and adding a child to the mix adds a lot of tension — when Clark is busy saving lives and battling supervillains, what happens when his family is kidnapped? Weeks adds so much expressiveness and strength to his characters — even a short sequence like Clark struggling to pick up a single sound in a city of millions is handled with nuance and grace. Admittedly, this book’s C-plot feels entirely disconnected from this book, and like I said before, Jon still is a bit of a blank slate compared to his deeply personable parents. That said, the art alone should make this book worth your time.

Credit: Marvel Comics

New Avengers #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): ”And here it is, your moment of zen.” New Avengers has always been fun, but never has it been this much fun. Firmly locked on the road to Civil War II, this eighth issue finds Sunspot’s team pulling a daring extraction of Rick Jones, the infamous Whisperer who has been leaking S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secrets. Al Ewing’s script shines throughout with pithy banter and a strong handle on these characters as a team who, by now, has literally been through hell dimensions together. In addition to the dialogue, Ewing injects a stirring bit of Marvel history into the issue with Clint deciding to turn on S.H.I.E.L.D. based on his long history with Rick Jones. New Avengers #8 also benefits from a new art team in the form of Marcus To along with colorist Dono Sanchez Almara. To’s pencils focuses the title’s manic energy and finally allows the action scenes to look like tight, fun set pieces instead of splashy, scratchy hero shots. Don’t sleep on this title, or you might just regret it.

Credit: Valiant Entertainment

Bloodshot Reborn Annual 2016 #1 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Valiant Entertainment continues to be comic books’ most accessible superhero imprint. Framed as the recently declassified files of Bloodshot before his resurrection, Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes and Michel Fiffe offer up four entertaining tales starring the nanite-infused super-soldier. Each story is entertaining in their own way — even the ones not starring Bloodshot himself — but most importantly, each story is free of continuity and easy for any reader just browsing the shelves and looking for a new series to enjoy. Each tale is also rendered gorgeously from the likes of Kano, Joe Bennett and Ray Fawkes and that is just to name a few. Bloodshot Reborn Annual 2016 #1 is like reading a beautifully curated intro to Bloodshot's regular title, and stands as yet another example of Valiant Entertainment’s dedication to delivering accessible and fun comics.

Credit: DC Comics

Cyborg #9 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): There’s a smart idea at the heart of Cyborg #9, which asks the question of whether or not you can legislate someone who’s just as much machine as he is a man — but ultimately, the execution of this Shazam!-errific issue winds up getting hobbled by too much exposition and not enough twist. Writer David Walker channels a bit of Civil War into this issue, with Victor facing off against Shazam!, as the government has voted to detain people with cybernetic augmentation. Unfortunately, Walker winds up stretching out the naval-gazing about this act, as the by-the-numbers fighting with Shazam is punctuated by conversations with the rest of the Justice League about the inevitability of this act. (There’s a moment with Superman that’s almost eye-rollingly clueless, even for the Big Blue Boy Scout.) Artists Felipe Watanabe and Julio Ferreira deliver a solid, if unremarkable outing, evoking bits and pieces of Ivan Reis and Howard Porter — but given the amount of talking in this issue, the fisticuffs never really leave much of an impact.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Hyperion #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): There is real potential in a story like Hyperion #1 but unfortunately the elements introduced in this first issue mix like Friday night and homework. The first installment find’s Marvel’s Superman homage on a cross country trip with a runaway hipster and an evil circus after them. Although the narrative runs smoothly, Chuck Wendig has definitely stacked the deck against himself in making this many foreign elements work and for the first issue they all really fall short. This is especially the case with the titular character gets so little time to shine. The shining light here is artist Nik Virella who keeps the story grounded with a style that’s somewhere between Ramon Perez and Charlie Adlard. Although it isn’t time to give up the ship, Hyperion #1 really starts things off at a disadvantage.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

The Shadow Glass #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): What The Shadow Glass lacks in its weak start makes up for the momentum-driven ending that creates a large enough sense of urgency to check out the next issue. Writer Aly Fell starts off the issue with heavy exposition, before leaping forward two weeks, then leaping forward 20 years, resulting in an incredibly fast pace that makes it hard to become invested in the story until we encounter the protagonist Rosalind, a tomboyish Elizabethan girl. From there, Fell does a great job at revealing information throughout the story: by the end, readers will know enough to starting anticipating Fell’s next moves and how Rosalind will react to the situation she’s been put into. The best part about this book that makes it more than just your average comic is the artwork. Fell does double duty as the artist, to great effect. His detailed style works perfectly with the setting, capturing the elegance and grandeur of the it perfectly.

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