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 Judicious Justin Partridge, as he takes a look at Captain America: Steve Rogers #3…
Captain America: Steve Rogers #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Nature versus nurture starts to shine through this week in Captain America: Steve Rogers #3. Picking up after the events of the first issue, writer Nick Spencer both complicates Steve’s mission for Supreme Leader Red Skull and starts to show the cracks in his new Hydra persona. Along with the events in the present, Spencer also delivers more compelling flashbacks to Steve’s “past” as his mother rises in the ranks of Hydra. Artists Jesus Saiz and Rachelle Rosenberg draw an interesting visual comparison between the events in the past and present with bright colors in the present and an almost greyscale type layer of color over the events in the past. Though the eventual face turn was something we were all expecting from the title, Captain America: Steve Rogers #3 adds a few new interesting kinks in Steve’s new villainous life.
Wonder Woman #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): There’s a powerful moment in Wonder Woman #3 that really showcases not just Diana’s humanity, but her importance as a symbol for women everywhere. Instead of having the perfunctory superhero beat-‘em-up, Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp have Wonder Woman holding her arch-frenemy, the Cheetah, who weeps over the curse laid upon her by her husband Urzkartaga. “He makes me, he makes me,” Cheetah cries. “Because he was not my first.” But Rucka knows that the victims of abuse never deserve it, and in so doing, makes Wonder Woman not just a voice of reason, but a hero for anyone who carries scars. Liam Sharp, meanwhile, evokes a style similar to Mike Deodato, Jr., heavy on shadow and striking poses, with his design of Cheetah flipping nicely between the hard-edged and the truly animalistic. That said, there will be those who will be turned off by Rucka’s decompressed pacing, and with the slow B-story featuring Steve Trevor, they wouldn’t be wrong. But ultimately, Rucka and Sharp zero in on what makes Wonder Woman such an inspiring character, making this one of the best issues she’s had in years.
Postal #13 (Published by Image Comics / Top Cow Productions; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): If you told me a story about the redemption of a white supremacist might be one of the best comic books this week, I’d have thought you were lying - but writer Bryan Edward Hill and artist Isaac Goodhart deliver a potent story full of character and action in Postal #13. After he receives the severed head of his brother, skinhead Rowan faces his past with pathos and introspection, and Hill gives this musclebound bruiser a surprisingly sympathetic character arc, with a twist you might not see coming. But it’s Rowan’s internal narrative that really sticks with you, as he vows to live no matter what, “because if I die, the guilt dies with me.” Anchored by the able colors of K. Michael Russell, Isaac Goodhart’s artwork has that solidness of composition similar to Pat Oliffe, and he’s able to play up dramatic moments like a severed head or a coroner’s office with just the right amount of shadows. If you haven’t been reading Postal, this is the perfect time to start.
Civil War II #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): The moral quagmire of Civil War II gets deeper in this month's #4. After last month’s stunner of an issue, Brian Michael Bendis does absolutely nothing with the fallout, aside from allowing artists David Marquez and Justin Ponsor a gorgeous two-page splash of the televised verdict with Miles Morales in the foreground. Even more damning is Bendis’ continuing to make both Tony and Carol’s positions even harder to get behind as they both think they have the moral high ground and still come across as needlessly bullish and unyielding. This month Carol gets her worst portrayal yet as she scoffs in the face of Tony’s calculations and detains a lowly accountant on no evidence whatsoever; not a good look no matter what side you are taking. Though Marquez and Ponsor still prop up this event with soaring and vibrant art, Civil War II #4 is two steps back after last month’s bold step forward.
Dark Souls #3 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Fira’s quest nears its end in Dark Souls #3. Writer George Mann, once again using the mechanics of the game series to his advantage, resurrects the wayward knight after last month’s deadly confrontation and sends her deep into a monster filled castle in order to rescue her companion Aldrich. Mann even provides a cheeky “Inventory” page at the end of story to deepen the lore of his story and keep the readers abreast of the tools the pair have acquired so far. While the monster slaying is lovingly rendered by artist Alan Quay, Mann also provides more teasing hints toward Fira’s past and her place in the larger game that is being played throughout the realm. Once again capturing the mood and tone of the fan favorite game trilogy, Dark Souls #3 is a dark trek into an entertaining world of swords and sorcery.
Nightwing #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Dick Grayson may be naturally light on his feet, but it doesn’t stop Nightwing #1 from stumbling out of the gate, as the one-time Boy Wonder’s first outing back in the black-and-blue is handicapped by a cavalcade of Bat-cameos and esoteric side characters. Tim Seeley has a good idea on paper, as the former super-spy has become a double agent for the Parliament of Owls, but there’s little tension to make this status feel truly dangerous, particularly when Dick tosses all sorts of snide comments at his evil handlers. Meanwhile, the plot feels unnecessarily choppy when Seeley has some perfunctory visits with Batman, Robin and Batgirl, while new character the Raptor feels like a run-of-the-mill, artificially badass version of Dick. That said, artist Javier Fernandez goes for broke with Nightwing's high-flying acrobatics — the action choreography looks great here, but he’s still a little shaky with the character designs, with Dick’s mask and costume accents looking weirdly thin compared to the rest of his body. While this installment has its missteps, there is plenty of potential to the art and premise — here’s hoping Nightwing’s creative team can dig deep and find it.
Rick and Morty #16 (Published by Oni; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Morty learns the true cost of altruism and Summer runs off with a pick-up artist version of the Doctor in Rick and Morty #16, and those aren’t even the funniest things to happen in this issue. Writer Kyle Starks, along with a bleakly hilarious back-up story from Marc Ellerby, goes full-tilt crazy with this first part of this ongoing story, delivering consistently rising action and bitingly funny dialogue all while keeping to the show’s format of grounding the science fiction with real world emotion. Artists CJ Cannon and Ryan Hill also keep in step with the look of the show, but expand the scope of the visuals out just a bit more to keep it from looking like just a straight adaptation. Packed with laughs and sharp one-liners, Rick and Morty #16 makes a strong case for being the best comedy title on shelves this week.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder continue the adventures of Marvel's youngest genius superhero by addressing bullying. Lunella Lafayette is enduring taunts from her new classmate, Mel-Varr, a Kree boy with an agenda against Inhumans. Montclare and Reeder show Lunella rising above Mel-Varr's antics and remaining a superhero to her community. The positive story is bolstered by Natacha Bustos and Tamra Bonvillain's expressive art. When Lunella and Mel-Varr are forced to work on a group project together, their disdainful glares at each other are drawn to hilarious perfection by Bustos. Bonvillain's bright palettes turn an ordinary classroom into an energetic space bursting with visual variety. Montclare and Reeder don't shy away from showing Lunella's anger, but Lunella's resolve to help others makes her a role model young readers will love.
Detective Comics #937 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez continue their hot streak with Detective Comics #937, which focuses on Batman and his escape from the Colony. While this series has previously been defined by Tynion’s masterful characterization of the members of the Bat-family, this issue focuses on the Dark Knight himself, establishing Batman as a scary and ruthlessly resourceful combatant, while also leveling up General Jake Kane as a formidable adversary with a clear sense of purpose. Alvaro Martinez, meanwhile, continues to impress, with a really economic sense to his layouts that allows Tynion to expand his script when necessary without harming the visual flow of the story. Indeed, if there’s anything holding Detective Comics #937 back - and I use the term “holding back” pretty loosely, since this is still unequivocally a great book - is that this issue doesn’t give Martinez the opportunity to wow us with his cool layout tricks, with a video sequence of the Colony in action feeling a little too small to feel visceral. Still, Detective Comics remains the best book of the "Rebirth" era, and is definitely not one to miss.
4001 A.D. #3 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partidge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The final push in the war against Father may have doomed New Japan. As 4001 A.D. roars toward its conclusion, writer Matt Kindt delivers one hell of a checkmate as Rai finally confronts his creator and puts him to the sword with the help of some quick thinking by Lula and an army of dissidents. However, while Rai’s war may be over, Father’s death causes the technological paradise of New Japan to plummet, setting the title up for a huge cliffhanger next month. Artist Clayton Crain still delights with his neon soaked action scenes and large scale space vistas, tempered with interestin Syd Mead-inspired designs and emotive character renderings. Though jam-packed with rousing action, 4001 A.D. #3 is one of the few event comics that dolls out science fiction violence, but also goes out of its way to show the cost of that violence, which continues to set it apart from other frothy bombastic events.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Just because something is a necessary evil doesn’t mean it’s any less evil, as Robert Vendetti and Rafa Sandoval continue their thankless clean-up in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. Between Hal Jordan turning into an energy gauntlet-wielding renegade and the Green Lantern Corps being jettisoned outside of our dimension, it makes sense that Vendetti has a lot of legwork to do to return this once-heralded franchise back to its status quo, but it doesn’t make this issue feel any more fresh or engaging, as Hal makes a pretty vanilla arrest in space, while Sinestro and his fear-slinging Corps make yet another return to menace the galaxy. (The Green Lantern Corps of this title also make their return, but in a four-page epilogue that’s largely unconnected with the rest of the story.) Rafa Sandoval evokes a bit of Mike McKone’s style with his art, and a brief shot of John Stewart and Guy Gardner looks expressive, but beyond group shots of the Sinestro Corps, there’s little to hook us in with. The one positive here is that Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps are now in a position to tell better stories, but it’s given up a lot of ground to get to this point.
Mockingbird #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): In this standalone story, Chelsea Cain takes Bobbi Morse through a zombie-infested S.H.I.E.L.D. facility to find a cure for the virus that has infected her and granted her mysterious abilities. Despite the ominous premise of zombies, Bobbi accomplishes her goal without encountering a single challenge or obstacle. It feels more like Bobbi had a walk in the park than a life-threatening situation. While the story could use more tension, Ibrahim Moustafa and Rachelle Rosenberg's colorful art makes Mockingbird a pleasing read. Rosenberg gives each area of the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility a distinct look, from a bright yellow exam room to an eerie, dim secret lab. Bobbi Morse fans will enjoy seeing their heroine take center stage, but Mockingbird is more of a quiet look at Bobbi's thought process than an exciting superhero story.
Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #2.11 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Functioning as both a new jumping on point and a deep dive into the unseen history of the Time War, Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #2.11 is everything great about the series wrapped in one gloriously insane issue. Si Spurrier, focusing on companion Alice, throws her into the thick of the Time War alongside the prickly but noble War Doctor and a few other surprising companions as he starts to tie together the threads of the mystery he has been seeing through his series while delivering some truly out-there science fiction weirdness. Artist I.N.J. Culbard and colorist Marcio Menys provide this issue a visual blast from the past as Culbard’s blocky pencils and Menys’ rich colors harken back to the IDW days. Simply put, Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #2.11 is a treat both narratively and visually, and should be enjoyed by as many people as possible.