Best Shots Reviews: MOON KNIGHT #4, LONE RANGER/GREEN HORNET #1, SOLARMAN #1

"Solarman #1" cover
Credit: Scout Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Moon Knight #4
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Greg Smallwood and Jordie Bellaire
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Robert Reed
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

With its first arc nearing conclusion, Moon Knight #4 continues the journey of Marc Spector and company to stop Seth. With art by Greg Smallwood and Jordie Bellaire, and a script by Jeff Lemire, the newest issue in the fledgling series doubles down on the madness, asking readers just how far they are willing to go in their belief of Marc Spector.

Moon Knight has been a deliberately-paced series, keeping an intimate focus on Marc and his fellow escapees. Jeff Lemire continues that trend as Marc’s group is whittled down by the agents of Seth. This issue focuses on the past shared between Marc and his love Marlene, ensuring that the heart of the story remains clear even as the world rapidly shifts around the characters. Gena also becomes a bit more prominent in this issue, her diner becomes a refuge of sorts until Khonshu comes calling for his avatar.

Gena had previously been unable to see the world Marc was experiencing, though a brutal encounter between Marc and a police officer causes her to realize what is happening. Or perhaps she is only pretending to 'buy in' as a means of keeping Marc “rational.” Lemire leaves that door open in the readers’ minds, furthering the theme of reality as a subjective experience rather than an objective one. For some fans, that enduring confusion may cause some frustration, as each issue further blurs the overall picture. In a way, that is the point, as readers are asked to trust Marc and his reality with the same faith that he puts in Khonshu.

Greg Smallwood’s artwork is superb. Not only is the linework itself beautifully detailed, but there’s clearly a vision going into the layout and pacing of the artwork. A standout of Smallwood’s layout design is a double-page spread designed to evoke the hourglass that Khonshu speaks of while also tightening the focus on Marc and Marlene reconciling the gaps in their memories, visually tying together the war versus Seth and the character moments that make the series such a powerful read.

Jordie Bellaire’s palette in Moon Knight #4 is suitably eerie. While Bellaire used olive tones in the series before, their use as night in this issue creates a surreal sense of dread. When Marc, Marlene, and Gena enter Gena’s diner, Bellaire uses a more natural color scheme, giving a sense of safety and normalcy to the reader.

Moon Knight #4 is another fantastic issue in the young series. Jeff Lemire, Greg Smallwood, and Jordie Bellaire allow the book to question at every level whether what Marc sees or the Marvel Universe is real, or if it even matters. The creative team is clicking on all cylinders, with the art and words complimenting each other to serve the issue. And just when it seems that the story might be getting repetitive, a final-page reveal calls everything into question.

Credit: Dynamite Entertainment

The Lone Ranger/Green Hornet #1
Written by Michael Uslan
Art by Giovanni Timpano and Pete Pantazis
Letters by Troy Peteri
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Before there were multiverses and shared universes, there were the adventure serials and the teasing connection between two of its biggest heroes, the Green Hornet and the Lone Ranger. Now Dynamite Entertainment revitalizes that connection with The Lone Ranger/Green Hornet #1. Written by well-known pulp scribe Michael Uslan and drawn by the steady hands of Giovanni Timpano and Pete Pantazis, this team-up debut is a poignant and surprisingly modern feeling exploration of the Reid dynasty and the men behind the masks. Though the two heroes don’t share the page in this first issue, The Lone Ranger/Green Hornet #1 is solid emotional groundwork for what could be an unexpected hit for Dynamite Entertainment.

The year is 1936 and Dan Reid, Jr., disturbed by his son Britt’s apathy, seeks out the council of his uncle, John, the retired crimefighter known as the Lone Ranger. Michael Uslan, no stranger to these characters and the genre as a whole, really digs into these scenes, much to this debut’s strength. Though possibly reading as dry or maybe even boring to some, Uslan takes the time to not only establish the familial connection between Dan and John, but also to deftly set up the former lawman as a mentor for young Britt as the men discuss what it means to have a cause and the passion for fighting for what’s right. Though slow going and exposition heavy, these early scenes between the older men are vital to the title’s success and provide a strong framework for the rest of the title.

Cut to a year and a half later and Dan Reid, Jr. has died and young Britt Reid is now the Editor-In-Chief of The Daily Sentinel and is growing increasingly frustrated at the corruption choking every aspect of his city. It is here that The Lone Ranger/Green Hornet #1 truly takes off. Uslan, employing clever cross-cutting between the present and John’s prime as the Lone Ranger, starts to layer into the story the myriad of problems that John, Britt, and Kato will be facing, all while building to Britt’s eventual adopting of his heroic persona under the watchful eye of John Reid. Problems, which include the insidious German American Bund who are holding incendiary rallies and taking to the streets to oppress minority groups, give this issue an unexpected ripped from the headlines like charge as the Bund’s politics are, unfortunately, all too familiar to today’s comic reading audience. The last thing I expected from this debut was a healthy dose of social commentary, but now, having read it, it is refreshing to see that Michael Uslan has more on his mind than just a disposable adventure story with this series.

While Michael Uslan’s script aims for more than just thrills and chills, artist Giovanni Timpano and colorist Pete Pantazis help it along with plenty of panache. Fitting it nicely with the tone and look of the smooth covers provided by John Cassaday and June Chung, Timpano’s pencils, at first glance, look almost identical to the cover art, albeit with a bit more stylish flourishes. For example, in the scene of Dan and John first meeting, Pete Pantazis colors each panel with a distinct sepia tone to highlight the look of the bygone era. Timpano then blasts away that old time look with a rousing pair of pages of the Lone Ranger in his prime that Pantazis colors with that same sepia tone, but instead repeating himself, he uses the Ranger’s costume, his horse Silver, and certain scenes to drench the page in color, giving these flashbacks a decidedly modern look when stacked against the previous scenes. Timpano’s smooth pencils and Pantazis’ inspired colors are a great boon for The Lone Ranger/Green Hornet #1 and though they don’t deliver a full tilt set piece in this debut, their work here shows that they are more than capable to do so when they are eventually called to.

With its eye set on social commentary and armed with a strong connection between its leads, The Lone Ranger/Green Hornet #1 is a debut with both brains and heart. Michael Uslan, Giovanni Timpano and Pete Pantazis deliver an unexpected treat with the debut, one that rises above its marquee team-up to present a comic that is more than just spectacle and vintage adventure storytelling, though it does have its fair share of those as well. The Lone Ranger/Green Hornet #1 gets you in the door with the promise of a team-up for the ages but leaves you mulling over emotional and political themes you couldn’t possibly have predicted.

Credit: Scout Comics

Solarman #1
Written by Joseph Phillip Illidge and Brendan Deneen
Art by N Steven Harris and Andrew Dalhouse
Lettering by Marshall Dillon
Published by Scout Comics
Review by Robert Reed
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Once a Marvel creation written by none other than Stan Lee, Solarman fell by the wayside — but with Solarman #1, featuring a script by Joseph Phillip Illidge and Brendan Deneen and artwork by N. Steven Harris and Andrew Dalhouse, Scout Comics pulls the hero forward into the modern world. In a market crowded by superheroes, Solarman #1 makes its moves based on the talent of its creators and the depth of its lead, Ben Tucker.

In a brilliant move, Illidge and Deneen introduce Ben Tucker as he voice records a message while running from some of his peers. His post, and the narrative captions throughout, are filled with the confrontational arrogance that one would expect from a teenager. This is a guy who gets his kicks from leaking some of his peers more private pictures across social media but worries that he’ll be arrested “like a common criminal.” Ben Tucker isn’t only not-perfect, he’s little bit of a prick, and that dimensionality makes him more relatable.

By making Tucker a hacker, writers Illidge and Deneen also create an organic way to move the plot along. This is a kid that has the world’s information at his fingertips, so when the narrative requires readers to visit a space station, it’s easy enough to do it through a backdoor access to security footage. This allows the issue to feel more organic, and less like a through-the-motions world-building exercise.

One thing that holds the issue back, though, is the lack of time for any supporting cast. Ben’s confidant, Jenny, appears for just a few short panels, and it’s hard to decipher just what their relationship is to one another. There’s something to be said for mystery, but it felt like she could have been fleshed out a little more in the banter between the two.

The art style employed by illustrator N. Steven Harris utilizes realistic environments with some exaggerated facial expressions and poses, adding a heightened sense of drama to the characters. When Ben turns to face his would be attackers, he does so with a masochistically gleeful smile – you can read it in his face that he expects to be beaten, but he’s going to enjoy it anyway. Harris’ dynamic linework is heightened further by Andrew Dalhouse’s coloring. The palette itself remains more naturalistic, but Dalhouse uses various tones and shading to give the proceedings a bit of flare, especially when the superpowers begin to show themselves.

Solarman #1 takes a different approach when telling an origin story. Rather than an earnest do-gooder, Joseph Phillip Illidge and Brendan Deneen present a more nuanced character in Ben Tucker. And while there isn’t much of a supporting cast to speak of at this time, the lead character is intriguing enough on his own. The artwork by N Steven Harris and Andrew Dalhouse does a great job balancing the tone of the more personal moments with the grander events that are in the background here, but are sure to burst into the front in future issues.

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