Best Shots Rapid-Fire Reviews: ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS #9, ACTION COMICS #52, More

"Southern Bastards #14" cover
Credit: Marvel 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 Joyous Justin Partridge, as he takes a look at the latest issue of All-New All-Different Avengers

Credit: Marvel Comics

All-New All-Different Avengers #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Avengers are always at their best when they operate as a family unit, and now the All-New All-Different Avengerss team are finally getting to that sweet spot. Framed around some truly sassy and hilarious narration from Jarvis, the new team is once again faced with a malfunctioning Vision, but now have an extra helping hand in the form of the new Wasp, Hank Pym’s long lost stepdaughter Nadia. Mark Waid keeps the pace quick as the team and their newest possible recruit deal with a confused and very deadly Vision, kinetically rendered by series artist Mahmud Asrar and colorist Dave McCaig; providing a vibrant visual dynamism to the title and quickly becoming my favorite current Avengers art team. While Nadia proves her worth to the team in a trial by fire, Waid also quickly and succinctly delivers Nadia’s origins with a well-deployed single splash page, once again displaying Asrar and McCaig’s talents, detailing her training the Red Room which is bolstered by more fangirl exposition on Pym’s first wife from Kamala Kahn, who’s vast knowledge of the 616 more than likely rivals Waid’s own. Though it took a bit to get there, All-New All-Different Avengers #9 shows not just a team, but a family, thanks to a script that genuinely cares about their connection and an art team that keeps them looking consistently great.

Credit: DC Comics

Action Comics #52 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): We are now six issues into the mammoth "Last Days of Superman" crossover and we still don’t have much to show for it. While Peter J. Tomasi mines some nice and in character interaction from Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman, he is still hobbled by having to once again spin the wheels of this plot in order keep the story spread thin across the Superman line. Though the thin narrative is the most damning misstep of Action Comics #52, the complete waste of the Clark from Superman: Lois and Clark is yet another black mark on a title that keeps limping along as this crossover drags on and on, seemingly forever. Artists Dave Eaglesham and Scot Eaton along with colorist Wayne Faucher do what they can with the inert script; the dynamic showdown between Clark White and the energy-soaked Superman impostor is a prime example, and as a longtime JSA fan, it’s always a treat to see Eaglesham’s name on a DC book. That said, even his involvement, Faucher’s rich colors, and Tomasi’s genuine effort can’t save this fundamentally flawed crossover.

Credit: Archie Comics

Archie #8 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Archie has always been defined by its zany small town hijinks, but Mark Waid and Veronica Fish inject some real emotional stakes into this latest issue. With Archie seeing Veronica Lodge on the side, what’s a tycoon like Hiram Lodge to do? Watching Veronica and her father spar over Riverdale’s favorite teenage klutz starts off comedic and then quickly becomes a test of Archie’s character — a test that both he and Waid pass with flying colors. This story also continues to prove Veronica Fish’s mettle as the successor to Fiona Staples — she’s able to knock out comedic bits like Archie walking around with a trophy stuck to his head, but she also nails the drama of Archie painfully having to decide between Veronica and his father’s pride and his family’s livelihood. All in all, this might be the single best issue of Archie yet.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Southern Bastards #14 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): “Earl Tubb… you’re my Vietnam.” The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree in Southern Bastards, as Jason Aaron and Jason Latour deliver a powerful issue featuring Earl’s daughter, wayward ex-Marine Roberta Tubb. In many ways, this issue mirrors Earl’s return to Craw County from the first arc, except that Roberta isn’t nearly as somber as her old man — she’s more than willing to kick ass and take names, even if it makes her about as well-liked as her late father. Jason Aaron’s script has all the right amount of grit and ugliness, but with a great amount of potent one-liners, and Jason Latour’s angled, gnarly linework and beautifully washed-out colors makes Craw County look like a spoiled hellscape. This issue is a great jumping-on point, as Roberta Tubb may just be the hero that Craw County needs right now.

Credit: Valiant Entertainment

4001 A.D.: X-O Manowar #1 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The Summer of 4001 A.D. is underway and while the core title has just begun, the first of many tie-in one shots, 4001 A.D.: X-O Manowar #1, looks to fill the gaps in the 4001 A.D. narrative. And, it succeeds with a grim look at the world directly after New Japan’s ascent. Writer Robert Vendetti, along with the smooth pencils of Clayton Henry and the colors of Brian Reber and Andrew Dalhouse, deliver a downer of a one-shot that shows us how the world reacted to New Japan’s departure and the origin of the lone giant X-O armor that sat dormant for thousands of years. Though not as explosive or as essential as we were led to believe, 4001 A.D.: X-O Manowar #1 is still a nice bit of gap filling to add context to Valiant’s latest event.

Credit: DC Comics

Constantine: The Hellblazer #12 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The penultimate issue of the current series of Constantine: The Hellblazer starts to wrap up some of the threads that have been dangling for the better part of the last year, as the titular magician tries to retrieve his boyfriend’s kidnapped kids from hellish regions. Confronted by Papa and Neron, both looking for some payback, it’s a surprising downer of an issue, and a reminder that one of the attractive elements to this character is that he takes the knocks with the wins, even if it damages the people around him. Eryk Donovan sort of approximates the look-and-feel of series artist Riley Rossmo, and while his less-realistic approach to anatomy may not be for all tastes, it still feels like a cohesive look when taken together with the rest of the series. Another case of an issue building us up for another chapter, but with plenty of mystical throw-downs to keep us entertained as we head to the finale.

Credit: Marvel Comics

The Vision #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): This is a frustratingly beautiful break in the main narrative: frustrating because we were left on such a crushing moment, but beautiful because it is still one of Marvel’s best books on the market. It begins in flashback to the early days of the Vision/Scarlett Witch romance, with guest artist Michael Walsh offering a point of visual difference in his delicate version of the Vision’s memory. At times heartwarming, it is just as swiftly emotionally crushing when writer Tom King falls heavily into Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? territory. Walsh maintains the balance between sterile and warm with his nostalgic art, given a sense of continuity by Jordie Bellaire’s presence on the retro color spectrum. What always hits home with this book is how the main characters interpret their own emotions, and this issue gives some explanation as to how a simple act could lead to the uneasiness and horror that permeates the rest of the series.

Credit: DC Comics

Earth 2: Society #12 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): I’ve enjoyed the comparatively streamlined adventures of the alt-DC universe of Earth 2, but Dan Abnett and Iban Coello don’t quite stick the landing with this penultimate issue, which feels like it’s setting up an additional arc that feels unlikely to happen. There’s a lot that Abnett is able to tackle here — an environmental ticking time bomb, a great rhetorical takedown of Power Girl, questions about the righteousness of the now deified Green Lantern’s power - but not enough space to fit it all in, leading to a scattered, sometimes too-conveniently plotted read. But Earth 2’s strength since the "DC You" launch has always been its artwork, and Iban Coello proves to take the baton from Jorge Jimenez nicely, with a fluid and animated style. With only one issue left in solicitations, it’s doubtful Earth 2: Society will live up to its potential, but the sharp art and low-calorie action may prove enough for some readers.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Silk #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Despite being a major keystone in the entire "Spider-Women" crossover saga, Cindy Moon/Silk had felt like a bit player in her own book so far, yet this issue sees Robbie Thompson wrestle a little more control of his character. It’s a shame then that this issue also feels like it is in a holding pattern, with the decompressed nature of the event necessitating lengthy conversations of Cindy explaining her actions (and those of her doppelgänger) to other heroes. The art of Tana Ford is a delightful change from other mainstream fair, with particular free interpretation being had on the loose nature of Silk’s webbing as it appears to ooze from her fingers. With two issues to go in the arc, we feel no closer to the conclusion than we did at the end of the previous chapter, even if the stakes are higher than even for one of the increasingly forgotten heroes of Spider-Verse.

Credit: Valiant Entertainment

A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong #3 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): All the jokes in the world don’t mean much unless you have genuine heart to back them up. Thankfully A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong #3 has both to spare. As our titular duo fight their way through trash monsters and nurse their hangovers, Bacchus has escaped the bag and is now attempting to turn the whole world into his own personal kegger. Writer Rafer Roberts keeps the action and jokes coming at a decent clip, yet takes the time to develop each characters emotional state, tempering the humor and insanity of this first arc with emotion and clear character motivation. Artist David Lafuente still draws this title like a madman, spreading his manga inspired pencils across the page and adding a bit of visual flair by laying tight panel grids over what look like multiple single page splashes, giving an extra level of detail thanks to inker Ryan Winn and made complete by the cartoonish colors of Brian Reber. Though Archer and Armstrong have long been a staple of the Valiant Universe, this new title makes them read, feel, and look better than ever.

Credit: IDW Publishing

Back to the Future: Citizen Brown #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): This is a little bit of an oddity. While the main Back to the Future comic book series continues to spin tales of alternate timelines, Citizen Brown is a fairly straight adaptation of the Telltale Games episodic video game that was updated last year. On the one hand, Bob Gale and Erik Burnham’s slightly compressed version of game logic is a fun read, perfectly at ease in the existing Back to the Future world and true to the voices of the original characters. On the other, it’s still an existing story being shifted into a different format, and so far it offers few surprises for those who have already dipped into the game. Nevertheless, Alan Robinson’s art is energetic and authentic, instantly evoking the familiar Hill Valley set-pieces with a 1931 facade. A nice companion for fans, or a more straightforward alternative for non-gamers.

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