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 Jolly Jon Arvedon, as he takes a look at Infamous Iron Man…
Infamous Iron Man #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Infamous Iron Man #1 is a book that seems to have come full circle from last year’s Invincible Iron Man #1. However, instead of following the exploits of billionaire playboy Tony Stark, this new series features a seemingly reformed Victor Von Doom, formerly Doctor Doom, ruler of Latveria and ruthless Marvel villain. The majority of the issue deals with Doom’s journey towards the decision to take up the now-absent mantle of Iron Man. We don’t know the full details of Tony Stark’s post-Civil War II fate, so there is a bit of missing context, but Stark’s new status quo comes off as both ominous and yet affords him a new and interesting dynamic with Victor. Oddly enough, this issue contained far less dialogue than your typical Brian Michael Bendis book. Still, less truly was more in this case, with plenty of character development and plot building. Alex Maleev’s art, particularly his inks, can be dark and heavy-handed at times, but his style is complemented by Matt Hollingsworth’s pastel-like palette selection. Ultimately, the visuals lend themselves well to this intriguing story of redemption for one of the former greatest villains in the Marvel Universe.
Superman #9 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Peter Tomasi, Pat Gleason and Doug Mahnke's touching tribute to Darwyn Cooke continues with Superman #9, as Clark and Jon team up with Captain William Storm to escape from Dinosaur Island. While this issue doesn’t quite meet the surprise twist of the last one, Tomasi, Gleason and Mahnke balance nicely between heartfelt family dynamics (watching Jon quietly freak out that he might never see his mom again is just too cute) and over-the-top spectacle (like Captain Cloud having his own pterodactyl that he can call on command). But ultimately, this book hinges on one thing: how the rest of the world sees Superman. And while we’ve become accustomed to Jon Kent’s wide-eyed enthusiasm, it’s touching - and a little heartbreaking - to see Captain Cloud realize that with the Man of Steel around, his world and his very way of life is “so far gone it’s not even in the rearview mirror anymore.” Admittedly, the actual antagonists of the issue are pretty thinly sketched - even if they are given some visceral life by Mahnke’s skilled art - but ultimately, the activities on this unexpected trip are less important than the father-son bonding we get to witness alongside it.
Star Trek: Boldly Go #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Major shakeups are afoot for the Kelvin Timeline in Star Trek: Boldly Go #1. Set after the events of Star Trek Beyond, this new series from Mike Johnson finds the crew of the Enterprise assuming new and very interesting roles throughout the galaxy. While the separation of the crew is a great hook for this first issue, Johnson does us one better with a major callback to the original series films and a final page cliffhanger that is sure to leave Trekkies gasping for the second issue. Artist Tony Shasteen and colorist Davide Mastrolonardo deliver screen accurate character and costume designs to anchor the series, but also have the opportunity to stretch their design muscles with the title’s two new starships, the Endeavor and Concord. Hot on the heels of another tremendous debut issue, Star Trek: Boldly Go #1 proves that IDW’s new Trek titles are forces to be reckoned with.
Doctor Strange #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Jason Aaron continues his weekday themed reintroduction of Doctor Strange’s rogues gallery in Doctor Strange #13. Trapped in the dream realm, Strange must survive the onslaught of Nightmare in order to save his mind as well as those of Wong and Zelma, both of whom have ventured into the unknown to save him. Aaron’s take on Strange has been a consistent high point, but throwing the newly depowered Stephen up against his deadliest foes makes this title all the more fun. Artist Chris Bachalo, backed by a full roster of inkers, and colors by the man himself and Antonio Fabela and Java Tartaglia, delivers more tightly packed and sumptuously drawn and colored pages, but it is his knack for visual comedy in the realm of dreams that really steals the show in this thirteenth issue. Armed with one of the weirdest cadre of foes in comics and a clever hook Doctor Strange #13 is another strong showing from a consistently strong solo title.
Dark Knight III: The Master Race #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The World’s Finest stand together one last time in DKIII: The Master Race #6. Weakened by synthetic Kryptonite rain, Quar and his acolytes are beaten back by the armored Batman and Superman, with help from the citizens of Gotham and Commissioner Yindel’s assembled police force. Though the unexpected team up of Batman and Superman provided this series a fantastic cliffhanger ending last issue, Miller and Azzarello play this issue a bit too safe heading into the finale with most of the plot focused on the larger battle, peppered with narration. Art team Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson, and Brad Anderson keep the large scale battle moving with plenty of fast paced panel construction and even a big visual callback to the original series with an EKG monitor line dominating the final pages. Though a bit too focused on the larger picture instead of specific characters, DKIII #6 still sets the series up for a suitably epic and bittersweet finale.
Archie #13 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Exiled from Riverdale by her fuming father, Veronica Lodge is back on her own in Archie #13 - that is, if Cheryl Blossom has her way. Serving as an interlude of sorts following last issue’s big upheavals, Archie #13 also gets a change-up of a different sort, with Joe Eisma joining as the series artist. And boy, was that an excellent pick - Eisma has had a lot of practice drawing teenage characters over in Morning Glories, and there’s a surprising amount of heart to his angular style, particularly during a scene where Archie struggles to live a life without Veronica in it. Writer Mark Waid, joined by freshman comics writer Lori Matsumoto, gives Veronica a great amount of pathos now that she’s been uprooted yet again, giving some texture to a character that can easily be seen as one-note - that said, however, Cheryl in comparison is still a little predictable, with her malevolent turn coming as no surprise. Still, with an energetic new artist on board, Archie continues its must-read status.
Black Panther #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): T’Challa’s assembled a Crew — now it’s time to bring the ruckus. While Black Panther has always been a worthwhile read, it’s been firing on all cylinders since Zeke Stane was added as a main cast member. He’s helped to show that the prose like dialogue evident in the first four issues is a Wakandan trait over part of Coates’ style and that’s proven further here. Each member of the Crew has a manner of speaking that’s distinctive from the rest and a discussion about a slur shows they have different viewpoints as well rather than being carbon copies. While Shuri’s plot is moved forward slightly, like Tetu and Zenzi’s, it receives a reduced focus as the action comes to a head for T’Challa. Here Sprouse delivers a thrilling sequence where despite the number of characters involved, it never feels unfocused, and Martin’s colors are as stunning as ever, a fire gives off a burning intensity in an issue that indicates full speed ahead.
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #1 (Published by DC Comics/Young Animal; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): So far, Young Animal has had the creators involved going wild from the outset. Both Doom Patrol and Shade the Changing Girl jumped into the swing of things, while Cave Carson is a slower burn. By the end of the book, it’s just as wild and psychedelic as the aforementioned series, but it puts focus on Cave’s family and a tragedy it’s subject to. You may be unfamiliar with Jon Rivera, but this issue will make you glad that Way uncovered such a strong creative mind who’s able to balance standard drama with far-out concepts. However, Michael Avon Oeming should be a name you recognize and the family-focused scenes deliver that expressive and bold style he perfected on Powers. But it’s the scenes involving the Cybernetic Eye and out-there concepts where he and colorist Nick Filardi get a chance to go wild and swing for the fences. In short, another strong debut for the imprint — bring on Mother Panic next month.
All-New X-Men #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): For everyone who has bemoaned the perceived downward trajectory of the X-Men as a franchise, I offer you the antidote to your antipathy: All-New X-Men, which continues to be a beautifully realized and deftly characterized look at the first generation of Xavier’s students. Laid up with a broken leg, writer Dennis Hopeless pits Scott Summers against his most daunting foe yet: cabin fever. For an obsessive master tactician, having limited mobility and no clear mission is a maddening prospect, and Hopeless absolutely nails what makes Scott tick, as he tries valiantly to suss out a potential threat brewing in the Beast’s lab. And it’s clear that artist Mark Bagley has keyed into Hopeless’s story nicely, picking up that endearing, down-to-earth vibe, particularly as Scott seems to shrink into himself when Hank scolds him for his “erratic” behavior, but he also nails the quiet superheroic moments, like Scott putting on his battle visor. While it might not have the flashiness of an event book, All-New X-Men isn’t only the best X-Men book on the stands — it stands in the running for one of the consistently best Marvel books on the stands, period.
Black Hammer #4 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Jeff Lemire delivers origin stories and awkward family dinners this week in Black Hammer #4. Framed by a look at the early career of Abraham Slam, Lemire pits the hidden heroes of the series against their toughest foe to date, someone from the outside. As Abraham and his date struggle through dinner, Lemire cranks up the tension and deception as everyone plays their parts to the best of their abilities, some a bit more reluctantly than others. Artist Dean Ormston and colorist Dave Stewart adapt very well to the shifting time frames of this issue, rendering the rollicking action of the past with vigor and sepia toned color schemes while the action in the present takes on a sickly mundane look lit by warm natural lighting. Though the central mystery of the series is still shrouded, Black Hammer #4 shows that its real strength lies in its characters.
Death of X #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): While the first issue filled in the story points the Inhuman and X-books have been teasing over the course of the past year, Death of X #2 provides context for some of the changes to the status quo that happened during the eight-month time jump that preceded All-New, All-Different Marvel – like why Beast is with the Inhumans. The conflict is taking its time to build, but it’s appreciated that neither side wants to go to war before they’ve exhausted all the pacifist options available. Lemire and Soule do a good job with stressing this, but also continuing Cyclops’ character arc. Sadly, the issue is hampered by some inconsistent art. While the locations are vivid and Kuder conveys a strong sense of motion, the faces of some characters, particularly Crystal never look quite right. In spite of this, the issue is compelling enough in building the unity of the two sides in preparation of a future issue making it fall apart.
Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen #4 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The penultimate issue of Titan Comics’ latest Doctor Who events adheres to the idea that it is always darkest before the dawn. Writers George Mann and Cavan Scott place the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors and their companions in increasingly dire situations as the Twelfth Doctor is confronted with Rassilon’s diabolical endgame, setting this series up for a truly insane finale issue. Artists Ivan Rodriguez and Walter Giovanni, with ink assists by Nelson Pereira and Rob Lean, pack the issues with pages and pages of action and even a bit of nice scale work in the Tenth Doctor scenes, capped off by the eye-catching colors of Nicola Righi. Though things look bleak for the Doctors and their companions now, Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen #4 promises plenty more action and out there science fiction before this series has had its final say.
Astonishing Ant-Man #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The verdict is in —Astonishing Ant-Man #13 sticks the landing and provides a fitting send-off for Spencer and Rosanas’ run on the title. Scott Lang’s trial heats up as members of the supporting cast are brought in to testify, and comes together with the Cassie plot which has been bubbling in the background since the series started back in 2015. While the latter has occasionally taken the main focus, here it reaches a crescendo. Joining it with Scott’s plot highlights the father/daughter relationship which has been driving the book from the outset and Spencer gets chance to pay it off with the optimistic charm the book has always been stuffed with. Both Rosanas and Schoonover’s art is great as always and while they don’t get a chance to deliver a truly inventive sequence in terms of paneling, it’s crisp and clean as ever, no doubt helped by Jordan Boyd and Wil Quintana’s colors, which are just as bright as the ending.
Weird Detective #5 (Published by Dark Horse; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Weird Detective comes to a satisfyingly bananas conclusion this week with issue #5. As Sana is exposed to the truth in regards to her partner, Greene is faced with a monstrous figure from his past who he must stop in order to put an end to the killings gripping the city. While Fred Van Lente delivers plenty of insanity and banter throughout, it is the emotional core of the series, the relationship between Greene and Sana, that provides the true cap for this comedic tale of monsters and madness. Artist Guiu Vilanova and colorist Mauricio Wallace send this issue off with plenty of the tentacles and sickly green and yellow colors that made the series just a visual knockout from the start, but like Van Lente’s script, it is their expressive character models that truly shine through. Reveling in craziness from the very start, Weird Detective #5 is an ending befitting of Dark Horse Comics’ strangest hit series.