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 Jesting Justin Partridge, as he takes a look at Standoff tie-in Captain America: Sam Wilson #8…
Captain America: Sam Wilson #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Things get a bit slapstick in Pleasant Hill this month in Captain America: Sam Wilson #8, the penultimate issue of Standoff. As Sam, Steve, and Bucky search for Kobik through the ruined town, Baron Zemo has sent out his own search party, led by Kraven the Hunter. Writer Nick Spencer mines some genuine emotion out of the trio of Captains, but it’s his thudding attempts at humor with the gaggle of villains that make this issue feel a bit tonally off. While Spencer juggles the story’s tone, artist Paul Renaud keeps the action looking fast-paced and the leads looking handsome as they gain ground in the war for Pleasant Hill. Captain America: Sam Wilson #8 isn’t the most steady of penultimate issues, but with the end of Standoff in sight, Captain America: Sam Wilson is poised to become a very different title.
Legends of Tomorrow #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): While this anthology has little in common with the TV show of the same name, it shares a similar kitchen sink approach to the DC Universe. A home for some of the missing-in-action mini-series originally announced under DC You, there’s something for most punters in the four ongoing stories. The Firestorm story actually does bring Firestorm in line with some elements of the TV series, and the Metamorpho one is slowly emerging as an old-school adventure. Yet it’s the brilliant Keith Giffen concept of clean-up detectives in Sugar and Spice that is the winner, both mocking and revering crazy ideas like Superman Island that came out the 1950s Mort Weisinger era. His humor combined with Bilquis Evely and Ivan Plascencia’s delicately fun art could work as a standalone series. Similarly, Len Wein’s Metal Men comes into its own as the revival brings with it some surprising other returns to the DCU, perhaps being the kind of series that should have debuted five years ago.
The Walking Dead: The Alien (Published by Panel Syndicate; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): From Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin, this is not some fanfic homage by a talented creative team. Set in Barcelona, it immediately establishes itself as a vital companion to the titular behemoth because it’s the first time in TWD that we are afforded a global perspective of the undead epidemic. BKV has also found a continuity niche to exploit, which ties this standalone back to the regular series and almost heartbreakingly so. BKV is a refreshing break from Kirkman’s voice, but he’s not so original that this story feels aloof from its inspiration. Martin’s gorgeous monochromatic work flows the story smoothly from panel to panel, and when color is used, the contrast is as startling as the story it echoes. Fantastic work and not to be missed.
Karnak #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): “You are not a cheerful man to talk to.”. Karnak #3 is grim, stars one of the most nihilistic heroes I’ve ever seen, and yet, is an absolute blast to read. Warren Ellis melds his acerbic wit and heady philosophical ideas into this third installment delivering the best issue of this title to date and one that finally clicks, not only in plot, but in character. This third issue contains several star-making moments for Karnak; whether he is eloquently expounding on his existentialist beliefs or laying waste to a cult with only his voice, Ellis has turned yet another another C-lister into a full-tilt star. Also providing Karnak #3 a focused sense of visual energy, scope and characterization is artist Roland Boschi and colorist Dan Brown. Boschi’s Eduardo Risso like tendency to make the ugly beautiful just plain works for Karnak, all tied together by Brown’s rusty and earth-toned colors. If you like your comics with a hefty dose of ideas and more than a little gallows humor, then Karnak #3 is the comic for you.
Robin: Son of Batman #11 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Robin: Son of Batman #11 is crazy, but not the good kind. On the one hand, Ray Fawkes delivers some choice action with Damian taking his quest to recover his lost Year of Blood artifacts to Gorilla City, which is wonderfully rendered in Ramon Bachs’ Phil Hester-like blocky pencils. But, on the other hand, the whole plot with the Year of Blood artifacts and the ancient army that is after them is just too prosaic to follow or really enjoy. If Robin: Son of Batman was a book just of Damian being a little snot and kicking people in the face, it would be the comic of the year, but the dizzying continuity Fawkes is trying to build here really hampers the fun book that it truly could be.
New Avengers #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Robert Reed; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): With most of the team merging minds to control the supermech Avenger Five, Hawkeye and Songbird and Hawkeye have to defend AIM Island. Writer Al Ewing makes the most out of the way Avenger Five functions, as some of the underlying tension between the cast is brought to the forefront. The issue offers plenty of surprises, including the reveal of Avenger Two. The artwork by Marcus To, Juanan Ramirez, and colorist Dono Sanchez Almara keeps the issue lively, and the fight between Avenger Five and the American Kaiju is a blast.
Invincible #127 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Robert Reed; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Corey Walker returns to Invincible as Mark arrives home to find his daughter Terra having grown up a bit. Walker’s artwork really emphasizes the emotion of the story with a wide variety of facial expressions on display. Unfortunately, some of these appear a bit awkward, especially in the case of Mark. A highlight though comes near the end of the issue as Eve confronts Mark about their time apart. Walker perfectly captures the pain in her face, and colorist Nathan Fairbarin sets this character work against beautiful oranges and pinks suggesting a romantic sunset. Walker and writer Robert Kirkman keep the issue low in action as they give Mark’s return ample space to make an impact with the reader. One of the highlights of Invincible is the series’ ability to balance emotional beats with surprising plot developments, and the newest issue is no exception.
Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Robert Reed; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Poison Ivy joins up with Catwoman in the newest installment of her miniseries. Unfortunately, Amy Chu’s script doesn’t take full advantage of the guest star. While there’s something to be said for keeping the titular character at the forefront, Selina’s presence here ultimately feels superfluous as Ivy doesn’t ever really need her. Numerous artists worked on this issue, however the separate art teams create a cohesive look across the book. The climax sees some powerful displays of Ivy’s abilities, which is sure to keep fans of the character engaged.
The Astonishing Ant-Man #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):A handy jumping-on point for new readers, but there are few excuses to not be reading Nick Spencer’s ridiculously zany comedic melodramatic version of Ant-Man. The notion of the Hench/Lackey app, an ‘Uber for henchmen,’ has been a genius addition to the universe, one that could possible only work in this closed world. While parts of this issue do feel like they are elongating an existing arc, bringing Scott Lang up to speed with what the audience already knows, Ramon Rosanas’ art remains versatile and dynamic, introducing the throwaway arch-nemesis Plantman, killer fight scenes and casual visual comedy in the same breath. The Astonishing Ant-Man always threatens to topple over into being a poor-man’s parody of itself, but like the titular character, still finds ways of surprising us each month.
Action Comics #51 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Action Comics #51 throws a lot of stuff at the wall and unfortunately, not much of it sticks. While Peter Tomasi finds some real emotion in the interactions between Superman and Supergirl, as he attempts to gift his legacy, as well as the key to the Fortress of Solitude to his cousin, he keeps having to cut away from this interesting stuff to the much less interesting (and jumbled) villains of this arc. This story is already suffering from being fractured across the rest of the Superman line, but the awkward and inert scenes of the villains cause it to suffer ever more. Thankfully artist Paul Pelletier’s sketch-like pencils, along with Sandra Hope-Archer’s heavy inks and Tomeu Morey’s rich colors really sell the emotions of the Superman/Supergirl scenes and provide at least a bit of kinetic energy in the issue’s opening and sole action sequence. Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to pep up Action Comics this month.
Silk #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Silk never quite got the attention that she deserved, with Spider-Gwen casting a long shadow in their similarly-timed debuts. Yet Cindy Moon’s search for identity has been a far more solid lead than most debut characters, and this third chapter in the multiversal “Spider-Women” crossover (with Spider-Gwen and Spider-Woman) makes room for some character growth. A pure parallel Earth story sees Cindy uncover her doppelgänger’s secrets, sidelining the other Spider-Women for a moment. While it is quite literally all taking place within Spider-Gwen’s world, and suffers somewhat for being a small part of a larger story, Silk manages to stand a little taller against her more popular colleagues here. Tana Ford’s energetic art shines in this outing, especially her quick change during a chase sequence at the start, and Cindy’s discovery of her counterpart’s lair. The final page reveal is not just a joyful spin on a classic Spider-Man villain, but a pin-up worthy splash page of a character we hope to see much more of.