Best Shots Rapid-Fire Reviews: GRAYSON ANNUAL #3, MOCKINGBIRD #4, More

"The Spirit #12" cover
Credit: Dynamite Entertainment

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 Jousting Justin Partridge, as he takes a look at Grayson

Credit: DC Comics

Grayson Annual #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): A room full of heroes gather to ask the question, “Who is Agent 37?” — what follows is a pure delight. Written by Jackson Lanzing and Colin Kelly, who take full advantage of a bevy of talented artists bookended by the pencils of Roge Antonio and the colors of Jeromy Cox, Grayson Annual #3 is a rollicking, flirty and surprisingly poignant anthology about Dick Grayson, his inherent goodness, and his profound effect on all those around him. With stories ranging from his selflessness in the face of innocents in danger to a story about sexy vampires that is sure to launch the ship to end all ships thanks to John Constantine’s shamelessly hitting on Agent 37, Grayson Annual #3 is everything that made the title fun month-after-month, distilled into one fantastically entertaining annual.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Mockingbird #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Chelsea Cain writes a standalone story of Bobbi Morse investigating a pathogen that has infected her. Her search takes her to a secret science lab on the ocean floor, where she rescues a familiar face: Clint Barton, her ex-husband and the Avenger known as Hawkeye. The buildup to Clint's entrance is slow, but Bobbi and Clint's flirtatious banter quickly changes the tone from quiet mystery to intriguing caper. Rachelle Rosenberg's colors are superb, with vivid underwater hues and the eerie green ambience of a medical lab. While Kate Niemczyk excels at drawing the finest character details like Clint's hair and the zipper of Bobbi's outfit in a close-up view, her combat choreography feels somewhat stiff. When Bobbi and Clint kick and punch in a hallway, for example, their torsos look a little too rigid and upright, like they are posing instead of fighting. Still, Mockingbird is an entertaining spy story whose hero is always one step ahead of her peers.

Credit: Valiant Entertainment

Bloodshot Reborn #14 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Valiant seems to be all about inescapable death traps lately. Picking up directly after “The Analog Man,” Jeff Lemire teams Bloodshot up with a ragtag group of fellow nanite soldiers to fight a new deadly enemy, the fantastically designed Deathmate. The team lives, fights, dies, and then is healed to do it all over again the next day. Thanks to the expressive and gory art from Mico Suayan and David Baron, Bloodshot Reborn #14 transcends the deserted island story doldrums with style. Jeff Lemire also gives each of the new Bloodshots a recognizable time-locked gimmick and differing voice, but unfortunately they don’t last long enough to make a real impression. That said Bloodshot Reborn #14 is a fast-paced and blood-soaked jumping-on point for readers looking to sample what the title has to offer.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Black Panther #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There is no denying Ta-Nehisi Coates’ talent, but his struggle with monthly storytelling is made apparent with Black Panther #3. While the first two issues were lyrical, tightly-plotted, and full of heady ideas, the third issue stumbles to keep all the plates spinning as the divergent plots feel just that, despite Coates’ beautiful dialogue and narration. The thread of T’Challa struggling to keep his nation together is still fertile ground, but Shuri’s vision quest and the Midnight Angels’ building power reads too disconnected from the larger story right now. Artist Brian Stelfreeze and colorist Laura Martin are still at the top of their game with lithe action blocking and gorgeous colors throughout, despite being hindered by the exposition-heavy script. With its high-profile writer and talented art team, Black Panther has the potential to be one of the best books that Marvel is putting out right now, but the third issue fails to connect.

Credit: Dynamite Entertainment

The Spirit #12 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): “Lousy thugs! I should be studying for an economics exam!” There’s a whimsy that defines Matt Wagner and Dan Schkade’s The Spirit, with an extra-long introduction to the Crimson Tiger, as well as a big and bold finale to the Spirit’s battle against Mikado Vaas. Wagner channels that Will Eisner poetry with a rhyming sequence featuring the Tiger’s childhood, but it’s really Schkade’s artwork that nails this book, reminding me a lot of the Bruce Timm animated style. While there’s a fun, goofy charm to Wagner’s dialogue, there are some truly fun visual beats here, such as the Spirit water-skiing on a door as he attempts to stop a fleeing villain (and then doing a comically over-the-top backflip when he wipes out), while the splash page featuring Sammy frantically calling for help on a payphone feels like vintage Eisner with his level of detail and his cute placement of a title. While the colors by Brennan Wagner feel a little murky at times, this is a great showing from Dynamite.

Credit: Titan Comics

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor #3 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Slitheen will never win any favorite monster contests, but The Ninth Doctor #3 makes a very strong case for them. Along with perfectly capturing the voice and energy of the original Team TARDIS, writer Cavan Scott raises the forgettable alien race from walking punchline to legitimate threat with the tale of intrigue and betrayal throughout the higher castes. Artist Adriana Melo and colorist Matheus Lopes also bring a flirty kinetic vibe to the title with emotive hero shots of the Doctor, Jack, and Rose bolstered by rich colors and tightly-packed panel layouts. Titan Comics’ Ninth Doctor series started off on a slightly stiff note, but the third issue of the ongoing shows that this series can get loose and fun, just like its TV counterpart.

Credit: Valiant Entertainment

X-O Manowar #47 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Though promising answers about the new threat facing Aric, X-O Manowar #47 offers little more than empty spectacle. Starting with some truly great flashbacks rendered by Roberto De La Torre and Dean White, the new jumping-on point quickly devolves into explosion after explosion, failing to deliver on the narrative promise of the epic opening.Writer Robert Vendetti does a good job selling the scale and near invulnerability of the Torment, but does little to connect them to the larger story, aside from their interruption of Aric and Commander Trill’s latest showdown. Artist Joe Bennett, along with inker Marcio Loerzer and colorist Ulises Arreola, make the wall to wall action of this issue look fun enough, but their constantly screaming Aric and Michael Bay-like set pieces compare unfavorably to the grand opening pages. X-O Manowar #47 shows potential, but fails to live up to its own promises.

Credit: Titan Comics

Penny Dreadful #2 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Penny Dreadful may be off the air, but it is alive and well on stores shelves in its purest form. Crystallizing the look, tone and voice of the television show, writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns and artist Louie De Martinis deliver another prequel installment that heightens the tension of the Bram Stoker inspired narrative with creature feature scares. While Wilson-Cairns uses more characters and familiar situations from the original story to her advantage, De Martinis sets it apart from a by the numbers adaptation with more digital sketch like artwork and occult visual flair throughout, like peppering the edges of scenes with sigals and runes. Adaptations of television shows and movies as comics are a dime a dozen on shelves these days, but none of them capture the source material as lovingly as Penny Dreadful #2.

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