Best Shots Rapid-Fire Reviews: AQUAMAN #3, ALL-NEW WOLVERINE #10, SNOTGIRL #1, More

Marvel Comics July 2016 solicitations
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Brad Walker (DC Comics)

Aquaman #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Dan Abnett pushes Aquaman in a more bureaucratic direction as Arthur and Mera head to the United States White House to meet with the President. When Abnett digs into the bureaucracy, it feels real, like a scene you might see in House of Cards but it’s not terribly interesting and that’s because we know so more information than the characters do. He tries to balance this with N.E.M.O.’s recruitment of Black Manta gone awry, but the fact of the matter is that this issue just doesn’t pack much of a punch. That’s certainly not artist Doug Briones’ fault, though. The whole issue is well-rendered despite there not being too much going on. The panel choice and pacing is effective and Briones doesn’t take many chances. But that’s to be expected with a script that’s mostly just characters standing around talking.

Credit: Marvel Comics

All-New Wolverine #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): There are quite a few Wolverine's living under one roof. Laura Kinney, her younger clone Gabby, and her actual wolverine Jonathan have recently added Old Man Logan to their home. As characters with some of the darkest backstories in the Marvel Universe, it's refreshing to see how they all play off of one another in comedic moments. This reaches its zenith when a pair of burglars enter Laura's apartment through a window, leading to a wonderful moment of laughing Wolverines – is there a worse home to rob? The story takes an interesting turn when Old Man Logan reveals that he knew Laura and Gabby in his timeline. This leads to a conversation about how his timeline isn't necessarily the destiny of the people he knows in the 616. It works beautifully as a microcosm of the themes that Civil War II explores, but does so in a completely fresh way. It is great writing. The art is stellar with penciler Ig Guara, inkers Bob Wiacek and Victor Olazaba, and color artist Jon Rauch all working in tandem. An early splash of Ulysses's vision is both surreal and horrifying, and looks a lot like a transformation mask sequence from Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. This is a tie-in worth checking out even if you aren't following the core series.

Credit: Image Comics

Snotgirl #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): What begins as a twee story about anxiety and fickle female friendships takes one hell of a turn in Snotgirl #1. Written by Seconds and Scott Pilgrim cartoonist Bryan Lee O’Malley, this new debut from Image works well within O’Malley’s wheelhouse of youth slang and tight, dry humor, but takes a refreshingly dark turn once it heads into its finale. Artist Leslie Hung and colorist Mickey Quinn fit in well with the title’s high fashion aesthetic with lithe character renderings and sleek costumes for all involved, but it is their take on the mercurial emotions of the cast that really steal the show. Snotgirl #1 delivers everything you want from a Bryan Lee O’Malley book, but also gives you something unexpected to hook you in deep, making it so much more than another story about millennial angst.

Credit: Archie Comics

Betty & Veronica #1 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Betty & Veronica #1 is the very picture of ‘trying too hard.’ Though stocked with seriously gorgeous interior art by Adam Hughes, his script bends over backward to be clever and funny but misses more marks than it actually hits. Though the decision to make Hot Dog the narrator of the story provides a few solid laughs as does his poking fun at verbose comic scripting in the form of a pin up, his dialogue in the main story rings hollow and reads more like a sub-par Joss Whedon impression and less like the chippy voices of Waid and Zdarsky over in the other 'New Riverdale' titles. There is potential in Betty & Veronica #1 thanks to Hughes’ beautiful artwork and occasionally solid punchlines, but until he learns to reign in his own ham-fisted “cleverness," Betty & Veronica could be the first misstep of the Archie Comics line.

Credit: DC Comics

Hellblazer: Rebirth #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Simon Oliver's Hellblazer: Rebirth #1 is at its best when it's moving its plot forwards. Over the course of the issue John Constantine is established as being only tangentially a part of the DC pantheon of heroes, which is ultimately where he always belongs. His world of demon fighting is pretty far removed from the typical existential threats to the DC universe. While Oliver's basic, self-contained plot is entertaining and has a fantastic conclusion, it suffers in finding Constantine's voice. Every line seems constructed with the purpose of making him a gritty anti-hero, and it wears thin pretty quickly. There's a welcomed cameo by Swamp Thing about halfway through to plead Constantine's case to Wonder Woman and Shazam. Swamp Thing being the closest thing DC's stable has to Constantine's ally makes sense. Aside from the shared history, they are both black sheeps of the DC family. Overall, it works as a good, if not completely compelling starting point. Moritat's artwork is solid throughout, with faces being particularly strong. It's not a bad comic, but it doesn't give much indication of where the series as a whole is going to go.

Credit: Valiant Entertainment

A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong #5 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Things get straight-up adorable this month in A&A #5. As Armstrong starts the legwork to find his missing wife, writer Rafer Roberts finally allows Faith and Archer, Valiant’s new power couple, to go out on a proper date. What follows is a genuinely sweet, pop culture-infused tale of two people connecting that is somewhat undercut by a goofy incursion of hoodlum wearing shark costumes. Artist Mike Norton, along with the colors of Allen Passalaqua, accentuates the emotion of the issue with rounded expressive pencils and flattened, but tone-appropriate colors. Though it is only their first proper date A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong #5 makes me curious to see what the next one will look like and just how painfully cute this pair can get.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Weird Detective #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Sebastian Greene’s life gets complicated this month in Weird Detective #2. While the debut issue succeeded with its grand connections to the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, writer Fred Van Lente downshifts this month to throw a wrench into Greene and Fayez’s investigations in the form of a consolidated task force that puts the kibosh on Greene’s supernatural hunches. Though the politics of policing takes center stage this month Weird Detective #2 is still packed with plenty of the strangeness that made the first issue such a fun read. Artist Guiu Vilanova and colorist Mauricio Wallace adapt well to the action-light script with more interesting panel layouts and fantastic monster-filled visuals. Though it isn’t nearly as Cthulhu-flavored as the debut issue Weird Detective #2 still revels in its own weird brand of humor and Lovecraftian pulp tone.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Spider-Man #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Spider-Man #6 both benefits and suffers from being penned by Brian Michael Bendis. On one hand, all of the character's voices and the overall tone of the book feel completely in line with what is going on in the core Bendis-written Civil War II books. On the other, it doesn't contain much plot. There's some typical Spider-Man secret identity intrigue with Jessica Jones being hired by Miles Morales' grandmother to trail her grandson, but there really isn't much urgency to that specific plotline. The comic comes close to touching on some really heavy and profound themes of race when Tony Stark meets up with Miles to give him some Civil War II exposition. That is a mostly redundant conversation until he describes Captain Marvel's actions as "profiling". It is a veryspecific word to use, and Miles picks up on it, asking if he is "using the word profiling because I'm not white". Tony says he isn't and the issue is dropped apart from a brief conversation about profiling between Miles and his father. At 19 pages, the comic could have made that central Tony-Miles conversation crunchier. With the exception of a very awkward first page close-up, Nico Leon's art is strong in the issue, and is particularly striking in terms of perspective with a panel where Jessica Jones is spying on Miles. Spider-Man #6 is a good tie-in, but a bad Spider-Man book, and that’s hard to get past.

Credit: Ian Bertram (Dark Horse)

House of Penance #3 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): House of Penance continues to be a classic exercise in dread this month. Peter J. Tomasi ratchets up the body count and the dark drama of Sarah Winchester’s life as she struggles with the ghosts that haunt her nights and the duplicitous people that haunt her days. Artist Ian Bertram and colorist Dave Stewart also do their fair share in the proceedings combining the constant banging of the sound effects with grisly artistic flair throughout. Nowhere is this felt more than in the bloody entrails that seep into panels when Sarah is starting to lose her grip and the blood-soaked visions that Sarah has, reminding her of her “war” against firearms. Deliberate and grim, House of Penance #3 once again establishes the title’s dominance as one of Dark Horse Comics’ premier horror stories.

Credit: David Finch (DC Comics)

Batman #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There’s a lot to like in this script. It’s an origin story for Gotham and Gotham Girl but even more so it reminds readers why Batman is an inspiration to be a better version of themselves. There’s some good juxtaposition between Bruce’s inciting incident and Hank’s but Tom King really lays on the unavoidable poetic musings about Gotham City on thick. At some point, enough is enough. David Finch’s work in this issue is really strong as well. There are some moments that really feel like Batman, the best of which has to be his sedan splitting to reveal a Batcycle and Bruce atop it suddenly in full costume. How does it work? No idea but it totally doesn’t matter. The big bad is one that it feels like we haven’t seen in a while and that bodes well moving forward. Batman may be good at inspiring heroes but will he be able to ensure their safety? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Darth Vader #23 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It is the beginning of the end for Darth Vader. Writer Kieron Gillen starts to tie all his pieces of the series together with a climatic battle between Morit and Vader on the hull of the broken Executor, more Dr. Aphra one-liners, and the reveal of a game changing secret from series antagonist Cylo. Artist Salvador Larroca and colorist Edgar Delgado once again sell Vader’s steely resolve in the face of danger and even give this month’s issue stellar two-page splash of Morit and Vader squaring off on the hull with a vast starfield and ship debris peppering the background. With a darkly funny script and high personal stakes for Vader himself, Kieron Gillen and company look to send the Sith Lord off on a high note.

Credit: Nathan Fox (Dynamite Entertainment)

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers Vol. 1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Soaked in cosmic weirdness and drawn by a murderer’s row of artistic talent, Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers Vol. 1 is the best kind of Jack Kirby adaptation. Written by Nathan Fox and anchored by the pencils of regular series artist Nathan Fox and colorist Brad Simpson, this collection of six issues brings one of Kirby’s lesser known creations to a whole new audience while at the same time never diluting its out of this world weirdness. In fact, this collection and its myriad of creatives like Jim Mahfood, Nick Dragotta, and Tradd Moore lean into the work’s trippy visuals just as much as Fox leans into Kirby’s bombastic voice. Armed with a breakneck pace and truly insane visuals Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers Vol. 1 keeps the spirit of the King alive and well.

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