Greetings, 'Rama readers - ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered with this week's Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with Jumping Justin Partridge, as he takes a look at Black Panther...
Black Panther #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Poetic narration and Wakandan history dominate Black Panthter #8. Enlisting the Crew, T’Challa and Ta-Nehisi Coates send readers on a journey into the unknown in order to save Shuri once and for all. Though the resolution of one of the title’s long-standing plots doesn’t disappoint, it is Coates’ lenghty exploration of Wakandan folklore that bogs this issue down a bit, despite his usually beautiful voiceover from T’Challa. Artist Chris Sprouse, along with finishes by Karl Story and Walden Wong and colorist Laura Martin, is saddled with a lot of expository scenes, but make up for it with splashy and trippy tunnels of energy and stark flashbacks. Though still armed with a sharp script and heavy narrative themes, Black Panther #8 stumbles a bit on its own feet.
Batman #11 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10) While Mikel Janin, Hugo Petreus and June Chung deliver some fine artwork in Batman #11, Tom King's script feels a little too clever for its own good, with its slow pace and a newly homicidal spin on Catwoman making for an alienating read. Focusing on Selina Kyle, the sophomore installment of "I Am Suicide" largely ignores Batman, but knowing that Catwoman has a triple-digit body count, it's not tremendously surprising to see her throw a wrench into Batman's plan - and conversely, given her history, it also wouldn't be surprising to see her as a triple-agent, which makes King damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. While the story itself feels a little short, the artwork is strong, such as Catwoman and the Ventriloquist creeping through a labyrinth of pipes or the beautiful orange Chung uses as contrast in the flashback scenes. There's a mystery at the heart of "I Am Suicide" – at least, I hope there is – but it's going to take a lot of patience to get through this issue of Batman.
Amazing Spider-Man #21 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The "Clone Conspiracy" storyline has been heavy with exposition since the beginning. In many ways, the plot's combination of a zombie apocalypse, corporate intrigue, and clone-inspired naval gazing made this a necessity. In Amazing Spider-Man #21, there is again a focus on exposition, but strong character moments with the likable Scarlet Spider and Spider-Gwen establish this book as a solid addition to the event. Giuseppe Camuncoli's art is incredible with reintroducing Kaine, but Dan Slott and Christos Gage do entirely too much scaffolding to integrate him into the event. Giving him the Carrion virus adds a lot of stakes and urgency to everything Kaine does, but the writers collectively shrugging their shoulders when explaining why he isn't contagious takes a lot of steam out of it. It's flawed, but the focus on adding depth to Kaine and Gwen's motives saves it from being a forgettable tie-in. The sheer lack of Spider-Man in this core title is strange, and will likely outrage or depress anybody who is not a fan of the "Clone Conspiracy" so far. It won't do anything to convince detractors otherwise, but the focus on character makes this book work.
Ether #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Presenting itself initially as a story about an explorer stepping out into the multiverse and seeing what he stumbles across, Matt Kindt’s newest project Ether subverts this notion within a couple of pages. Instead Boone is well travelled when it comes to the Crossroads, the gateway that separates Earth from the Ether. Kindt also quickly establishes a murder mystery to be solved, but thanks to his and Dave Rubin’s in-depth world building of Agartha, it doesn’t feel like a warn-out trope, thanks to sentient bullets and snail speedways giving the book a rich texture from the outset. Boone feels like a character with a past rife for exploration as evidenced by the flashback that ends the issue, but the issue also establishes his current self as an explorer who never seems to lose, but also never seems to win anything. Much like Boone within the context of the story, the audience is pulled out of Agartha by the final page, but craving another visit as soon as possible.
Green Lanterns #11 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Evil ring-slingers are nothing new in the world of Green Lanterns, but thanks to some gorgeous artwork from Robson Rocha, this middle-of-the-road story still packs a nice punch. With the Phantom Ring in the possession of a mediocre egotist, Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz wind up having to prove themselves as Green Lanterns once more - and this time, on television. Sam Humphries has made this series about self-confidence and self-affirmation, with these two rookies having to own their superhero status (I especially love how Jessica is personalizing her ring), but he undercuts his premise with how transparently evil the Phantom Ring's wielder is. Thankfully, though, Rocha channels Ethan Van Sciver with his style, with ultra-expressive characters engaging in some top-notch action, such as the Phantom Ring's solution to a raging tornado. All in all, a strong showing.
Jessica Jones #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Following up on an astounding first issue, Jessica Jones digs into the past like a private eye should and it pays off in some ways, while causing the issue to stumble in others. While the art from Michael Gaydos and Matt Hollingsworth is just as strong as last month’s and Brian Michael Bendis’ dialogue is still sharp, the characterisation is questionable. It’s true this book has the feel that Alias did, but Jessica seems like the character from that series' early issues rather than the one she was by the conclusion, much less the stable mom she’s become over the following decade. Admittedly we don’t have all the context for this status quo, but we have pieces of the puzzle and at the moment, the puzzle doesn’t look right, which is made all the more frustrating by the tender flashback that opens the issue and has the Luke and Jessica dynamic you’d expect from the pair.
Kill or Be Killed #4 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Dylan finds himself falling further into the abyss in the conclusion to the first arc of Kill or be Killed. The devil inside him does its best to break out on a subway journey, and not only does he have to contend with this, but also his affair with Kira, a deteriorating relationship with Mason and further vigilante justice gone wrong which all serve to stack the odds against him massively. Sean Phillips is going the extra mile to deliver clean and evocative pages which feel like an homage to David Mazzucchelli, a feeling that’s only bolstered by Elizabeth Breitweiser’s colors making the setting dour, much like Batman: Year One’s Gotham. As a conclusion to the arc, it sets David down a path he’ll find it hard-pressed to return from, while also setting up characters and narrative arcs for the future which are sure to haunt Dylan just as much as the demon on his back.
Star Trek: Waypoint #2 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Star Trek: Waypoint #2 does a fantastic job presenting everything fun and poignant about the franchise. The first story, a “Star Trek: Gold Key” story from writers Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore, artist Gordon Purcell, and colorist Jason Lewis is a action-packed and slightly wonky continuity-wise tale focused on the more rough and tumble aspects of Starfleet life. However, it is the final story, “Legacy” from Sam Maggs, artist Rachael Stott, and colorist Mark Roberts that truly makes this second issue soar. Maggs, Stott, and Roberts deliver an emotional and surprisingly funny tale of the only woman to die under Kirk’s watch, but more than that the team explores an unsung hero of the original series and her immense joy at her life and career. By balancing both fun and pathos Star Trek: Waypoint #2 is a great example of the lasting power and emotional scope of this property.
Spell on Wheels #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Our trio of witches encounter a magic siphoning house party in Spell on Wheels #2. Kate Leth, picking up directly after last issue’s cliffhanger, delves into the trio’s power sets a bit more this issue as well as pitting them against their first honest to goodness antagonist as they continue to track down their missing relics. Artist Megan Levens’ costuming is still very much on point with this second issue, but the house party setting allows her to display her knack for visual comedy and engaging crowd scenes, made even more eye catching thanks to the rich colors of Marissa Louise. By expanding the cast’s capabilites and pitting them against Buffy the Vampire Slayer-like problems of the week, Spell on Wheels #2 continues to be an arcane and female-focused delight.
Rick and Morty: Lil’ Poopy Superstar #5 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It's prom night for Summer and Mr. Poopybutthole in the finale of Rick and Morty: Lil’ Poopy Superstar. Writer and artist Sarah Graley ends this silly, yet emotional side story with the same kind of cutesy artwork and sharp comedy that takes full advantage of the canon of the television show. At the same time, this finale isn’t just another breezy and funny jaunt with Summer and Poopybutthole. Graley also allows for some much appreciated growth for both Summer and Rick as they come to terms with their own places in each other’s lives and how they can work to better their relationship in the future. Though not a particularly earth-shattering finale, Sarah Graley delivers a final and hefty dose of heart and comedy.
Angel City #2 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Dotty’s investigation gets a little more personal in Angel City #2. Writer Janet Harvey delves a bit deeper into Dotty and Francis’ friendship while wading her deeper into her investigation which is quickly putting her in the path of some of the era’s heaviest mafia hitters. Strengthening the historical bedrock and the emotions that made the debut so entertaining, Harvey doubles down on both to make this second issue another strong outing for the sunny feminist noir. Artist Megan Levens and colorist Nick Filardi also give this second issue an interesting visual duality, jumping from black and white flashbacks to Dotty’s past to vibrant legwork as Dotty infiltrates a middling studio to get closer to one of her suspects. Though a bit slow going in the start Angel City #2 keeps the title deeply rooted in cinema history and the mystery genre.
Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #2.11 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): The Doctor gets a sword-swinging new companion in Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #2.11. Focusing mainly on the incredibly entertaining origins and life of Julie D’Aubigny, who was actually a real opera-singing, girl-romancing French folk hero, writer Robbie Morrison gives Julie a rollicking introduction along with a terrifying introduction to the arc’s antagonists, the Cabinet Noir, even before the titular Time Lord shows up. Artist Mariano Laclaustra starts this arc off with a clean visual slate, moving away from the cartoonish look of the previous issues and opting instead for a sleek, almost indie comic book visual set throughout. With an intensely fun new companion and smooth new look Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #2.11 starts this new story off on a very strong note.