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 the latest in DC’s Rebirth, as we look at the newest issue of Justice League…
Justice League: Rebirth #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Bryan Hitch delivers a solid teaser trailer for DC’s premiere super-team with Justice League Rebirth #1. While his brisk pacing occasionally comes at the cost of characterization, Hitch’s larger-than-life artwork deftly balances between end-of-the-world threat and the general optimism of DC’s Rebirth line. Hitch also brings a level of poetry to this book’s introduction, with the behemoth known as the Reaper being juxtaposed by Clark Kent musing about why Earth was the only planet to repel threats such as Starro, Rao and Darkseid. While the finale of this issue, featuring the introduction of new team members Superman and Green Lanterns Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, feels a little abrupt and convenient, Hitch has some fun bits in here, like the Flash clearly favoring one Lantern over the other, or Cyborg using Boom Tube technology to rescue civilians. This book feels fairly short, but a great indicator of the fun to come.
Amazing Spider-Man #15 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Dan Slott and Christos Gage's "Power Play" arc has been a mixed bag, and in its final moments the cracks really begin to show. This comic has some genuinely great moments, but paints by the numbers to get there. Far and away the best moment of the entire issue, and ultimately the arc itself, is Mary Jane Watson equipping the Iron Spider suit, assisting her ex Peter and boss Tony Stark in the final confrontation with Regent. The dialogue up until this point has mostly existed as a means of moving the narrative forward, and as such many of the lines felt like they could have just been bubbled into another character's mouth with little consequence. When MJ joins in the fight, however, the characters click and for the first time in a while, Spider-Man sounds like Spider-Man. That moment coupled with a solid Peter Parker and Miles Morales moment still isn't enough to bring this issue above a rushed and overly condensed plot with an uninspired antagonist. Despite the occasional awkward panel, Giuseppe Camuncoli has really impressive art for action sequences, and Marte Gracia's coloring is striking, adding a noticeable kinetic energy to the panels.
The Fix #4 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Fix loses just a touch of its momentum with this issue, now that Spencer has gotten a lot of the heavy lifting with his characterization out of the way. While Roy took a page from the Boomerang playbook as a shifty ringleader, his partner, Mac, feels a little bit more of a sad sack, as he tries to make nice with his girlfriend, a loan shark that is looking for payment, and a mean-ass drug sniffing beagle named Pretzels. Nick Spencer goes fast and furious with the gags here, and while not all of them necessarily hit, beats like Josh waiting in an elevator all morning for Mac are hilarious, and even moments like Josh officiating a dog wedding elicits a chuckle for originality. Steve Lieber, however, remains consistent as ever, selling the humorous bits while also showing a surprisingly creepy side during a menacing in-flight conversation. While not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as previous installments, The Fix #4 still has the goods.
Superman #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It’s perhaps no surprise that Clark Kent would grow up to be a great father, but it is a surprise that it’s this much fun watching it happen. Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason bring the heart back to Superman by reintroducing the character through the same lens that many of us first met him: through the eyes of a starstruck child. It might have taken a little while for them to warm up, but Tomasi and Gleason are making young Jon Kent into a very likable character, one who is both exhilarated and terrified about this brave new world of superheroism he’s been thrust into - even from the first panel, it’s hard not to want to comfort him when he asks Superman, “Are you turning me over to the Justice League?” Much of Jon’s newfound charisma is tied to Gleason’s artwork, who doesn’t just nail the fluidity of his action sequences, but the true warmth in Superman’s eyes as he brings his son out on the job with him. Colorist John Kalisz also deserves some special props here, with his bright colorwork making the action really pop off the page. If you haven’t been reading this series, you should correct that sooner rather than later, because while Superman might be an iconic superhero, he seems to be an even more compelling dad.
Invincible Iron Man #11 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Finally something happened in Invincible Iron Man, but still it might be too little, too late. Quickly wrapping up story threads, Brian Michael Bendis puts a hastily tied bow on the story of the Techno Golem, but, of course, leaves the door wide open for her eventual return as the heroes gear up for infighting. We are also treated to quick, unsatisfying check-ins on both Mary Jane and Riri, both of whom still feel like mere set dressing, when they should feel like leading ladies. Mike Deodato and Frank Martin are given a big double-page splash, which they knock out of the park, but their talents are still wasted on page after page of exposition. Invincible Iron Man #11, as an eventual part of a collection, will stand as a well-produced finale of a complete arc, but as a single issue, it still leaves much to be desired.
Kim & Kim #1 (Published by Black Mask Studios; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Kim & Kim #1 has it all -awesome lady leads, high-flying action, and even an inter-dimensional shape-shifting squid person! Written by Mags Visaggio, rendered in flowing, anime-inspired pencils by Eva Cabrera and colored with a pop-punk palette by Claudia Aguirre, this debut issue charms with its pithy banter and vulgarity. While the humor and main concept is pretty apparent from the jump, this debut also offers up some pretty solid world building as Visaggio layers in compelling looks at this down-and-dirty world of space bounty hunting through the jokes. Armed with two leads that are sure to become fan favorites and a firm understanding of the kind of story it wants to tell, Kim & Kim #1 is a fantastic debut from Black Mask Studios.
Empress #4 (Published by Marvel/ICON; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):The momentum of Mark Millar’s latest is almost too much at times, having rarely paused in the fourth months since its launch. The few brief pages of reverie in the issue’s opener are shattered by a laser blast, and it’s literal escapism after that moment. There are times when there is so much happening at once that even Stuart Immonen’s meticulous artwork can’t make sense of what is occurring from moment to moment, and there’s already a nagging feeling that each issue will be various shades of washing, rinsing and repeating a concept. Yet like Millar’s Starlight, there’s a throwback to the matinee serials that inspired it, and the dramatically weighted cliffhangers that bookend each of the issues are par for the course. It was never meant to be incredibly deep, but there is a profundity to the simplicity of the premise.
Green Arrow #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): After a solid debut, Green Arrow has a little bit of growing pains in this transitory chapter. That’s not to say this is a bad comic, per se, but Benjamin Percy is tasked with giving us a lot of exposition here, bouncing from Ollie’s brush with death after being ambushed by the assassin Shado, or Black Canary thinking about how she will avenge her new boyfriend’s death, or sidekicks like Diggle and Henry checking in (and seemingly tapping out) in the face of Ollie’s financial (and nearly physical) destruction. But artist Otto Schmidt proves to be the sharpest thing in Green Arrow’s quiver, with some truly beautiful artwork anchored by a painterly palette. (In particular, a page of Dinah on a rooftop transcends some semi-cliche text thanks to how expressive Schmidt’s cartoony art looks, while a hallucination of Ollie falling from Heaven to Hell is truly evocative work.) It’s hard to penalize this book too much, with Ollie’s progression being a bit of a necessary evil - and with art this spectacular, you can’t really say you’re wasting your money. Count on Green Arrow ramping up in a big way with future installments.
Strange Attractors #2 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The great work is just beginning in Strange Attractors #2. While the debut issue was all about the science at the heart of the series, writer Charles Soule downshifts slightly to show us the human-centric side of Spencer and Heller’s work, both in the main story and the back-up, as the pair perform mundane tasks in service of the city. Though Soule’s script takes a more grounded approach to the heady ideas, artists Greg Scott and Soo Lee, along with colorists Art Lyon, Matthew Patz and Felipe Sobreiro, still inject plenty of emotive style into the issue, like the return of the blazing complexity map vision that we saw in the debut. Though the debut issue soared by using paranoia and deep thinking to its advantage, Strange Attractors #2 puts a human face onto the science and the series is all the better for it.
Civil War II: X-Men #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Tie-ins get a bad rap, but Cullen Bunn's latest offering manages to synthesize the best parts of Civil War II with the qualities that make a classic and compelling X-Men story. It's a shaky start, with the once threatening Brood being reduced to a throwaway exposition fight, and with Andrea Broccardo's art not doing Logan or Nightcrawler any favors, but then it slows down the action and increases the dramatic, steady stream of dialogue that X-Men handles best. Bunn is able to make these conversations and arguments feel organic. It never feels like the characters are saying what they say because it helps sell more of the core series, but rather because that is what these characters would say regardless. The discussions surrounding Magneto are particularly poignant. The theme of your old self vs. your present self, whether a person can change, and whether or not it's right to judge somebody based on past actions is not new for the character, but the different viewpoints and perspectives all make a degree of sense. Nightcrawler is given some of the best lines in the entire issue, culminating with "God does not trade in uncertainty." The opening and occasional artistic hiccup aside, this is a good X-Men book that feels like it's building toward something meaningful.
Superman: Coming of the Supermen #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): “This journey has come to an end…but nothing has been resolved.” Neal Adams could be summing up his own mini-series with that quote, a largely inconsistent retro story that ends on an incredibly nonsensical piece of comic bookery. Freewheeling from a Lex Luthor with a fit of the giggles, through bumbling villains and a puppy protector, it reads more like an unhinged train of thought than a finale. Indeed, it often fails to follow an idea from one panel to the next, as if large slabs had been excised on a whim. Adams’ classic art style is one of the few highlights of a comic that reduces Darkseid to stammering incompetence, and barrels towards a non-ending of conclusion that would have had as much impact five issues ago as it does now. The last page makes you wonder if the whole thing is a parody, with a baffling Luthor coda that feels lifted from another book entirely.
Spider-Woman #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Only the unflappable team of writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Javier Rodriguez could take a one-shot story about cannibalistic Canadians and turn it into a Civil War II tie-in. Jess takes to the ski slopes to investigate the Wendigo with her eclectic crew, but it soon slides into a Twilight Zone of a scenario set against the backdrop of Marvel's current "big event." An issue with one of the more gruesome undercurrents in recent Spider-Woman history, with wide-eyed reactions to bloody cleavers that recall classic EC Comics days. Rodriguez plays with a color palette that wouldn't look out of place in something Francesco Francavilla would produce. His art reaches a hyper-apex about the midway point, on a page divided into 20 panels depicting a rapid-fire action sequences. As always, some of the best moments are in the merry bickering between Jess and Carol "Captain Marvel" Danvers, showing that it is possible to have kick-ass action and genuine friendship shown in the same book.
3 Floyds: Alpha King #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): A comic based on a beer of the same name is an unlikely prospect for success, but this metal-as-anything salvo from Brian Azzarello, Nick Floyd and Steve Bisley is a twisted and irreverent biker epic with a Lobo-esque lead who is anything but a hero. The brewer-cum-Alpha King is urged to rescue his damsel and take down the Rice King, but it’s really an excuse to revel in the chaotic. Bisley’s distended bodies grace almost every page, and as they casually pile up with each passing scene, one can only laugh at how over the top it is. The product placement is surprisingly subtle, save for a rousing call to brew “a beer that will inspire armies” towards the end, but it’s all in the spirit of ridiculously good fun.