Best Shots Reviews: SUPERGIRL - BEING SUPER #2, REVIVAL #47, DOCTOR WHO: THE 3RD DOCTOR #5

Image Comics February 2017 cover
Credit: Image Comics
Credit: DC Comics

Supergirl: Being Super #2
Written by Mariko Tamaki
Art by Joelle Jones and Kelly Fitzpatrick
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

"You are strong in so many ways, Kara. Stronger than you know."

Reading as the spiritual successor to Superman: Secret Identity and the first arc of Ultimate Spider-Man, you'd be hard-pressed to think of a DC book as charming and naturalistic as writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Joelle Jones' Supergirl: Being Super. Utilizing their expanded page count to the fullest, this creative team doesn't fell into the trap of instant and frenetic superhero action - instead, Being Super is a coming-of-age character piece first and foremost, not just showing Kara Danvers struggling with her powers, but also with the trials and tribulations of being a teenage girl.

After last issue's slow burn, Takada throws us into the thick of things early, as Kara is thrown into an active earthquake scenario even as her powers have begun to flicker uncontrollably. It's a great way for this future Supergirl to get a taste of heroism, but Tamaki also keeps the challenge level high, twisting the knife with an unexpected tragedy that fuels the rest of the book. Similar to The CW's Riverdale, a death in a small town will send emotional ripples everywhere, and there are shades of the classic Christopher Reeve Superman as Kara wonders why she has all the power, but was unable to save a person she loved.

But the real masterstroke of Being Super is that Tamaki s able to use her page count to paint a beautiful picture of Midwest Americana, from Kara's taciturn farmer father to her bubbly mother dispensing good old-fashioned wisdom. Even scenes with Kara eating at her favorite diner (who hasn't enjoyed a second dinner as a teenager?), or trying to outrace her sadness with boy bands and super-speed makes for a poignant but altogether believable world. Whereas Kara's TV counterpart works hard to tackle feminist issues for a wide national audience, Being Super almost feels like a more natural narrative about being a girl at a certain time of her life. And with this verisimilitude, this Kara comes off as extremely likable while also having some real and personal challenges to overcome.

Joelle Jones is also a big reason why this book feels so real and down-to-earth. While some of the action sequences occasionally look a little distended with the wide-mouthed expressions, Jones casts a spell on readers with her beautifully realized set designs. The old shed, the diner, Kara's room, these are all places that have been designed with deliberateness and love, and absolutely grounds this series to a world that I think we can all recognize. Jones' character work is also superb - she is really fantastic for Tamaki's quieter, talkier scenes, letting Kara's sadness often do the heavy lifting even where dialogue can't. And once things start to shake up with some otherworldly intervention, Jones and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick really crank up the alien quality of it all, the sheer disorientation that comes when you can barely recognize the images in front of you.

There are plenty of good comic books out there; in fact, plenty of great ones. But with the monthly hustle of superhero comic books, I think it's easy to fill your shelves with content that doesn't withstand the test of time. But I think Supergirl: Being Super might be one of those rare storylines, the kind of story that helps define a character in a way that stays evergreen for a long time. With beautifully realized characterization and designs, Supergirl: Being Super is a tremendous treat to read.

Credit: Image Comics

Revival #47
Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton and Mark Englert
Lettering by Crank!
Published by Image Comics
Review by Kat Calamia
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

All good things come to an end, this is especially fitting for a series about the cycle of life and death. Revival’s five-year run concludes with an action-packed and emotional finale that ties the series’ loose threads into a perfect bow.

Revival isn’t your average “zombie” tale. The revivers aren’t mindless monsters from the afterlife. The title instead focused on the bond between local police officer Dana Cypress and her sister Em Cypress, a pregnant Reviver. In Revival #47, Tim Seeley allows Dana and Em’s relationship to take center stage to bring a rewarding emotional ending to their story - showing that life and relationships can be messy. The time Dana spent with her sister as a Reviver still wasn’t enough to take away Dana’s guilt for ignoring Em while she was alive. It was only death that brought them closer together, and allowed Dana to be the big sister Em deserved. These sisters don’t get a fairy tale ending, but that’s what makes their relationship so satisfying - it felt real.

Throughout the course of the series, Dana has been mourning the relationship she never had with her sister. She uses these raw emotions to track down Em’s killer, Lester. Revival #47 brings Lester and Dana’s story to a rewarding close. Seeley uses these characters’ relationship to showcase the process of Dana’s mourning. When Dana found out that Lester killed Em she was overtaken with rage, and ready to kill Lester. We see these same feelings emerge during this issue's final battle, but once Dana is fully able to mourn her sister this is when we see her able to forgive Em’s killer. The reader can view Dana’s character arc as a narrative of navigating the complicated emotions of mourning a loved one, which comes full circle with her relationship with Lester.

Lester was the perfect villain for a story about life and death, and this is beautifully showcased in Revival #47. Lester is an old man who wanted to live an eternal life, and killed a young college student to do so. He spent a chunk of his life trying to figure out how to live forever, and at some point he stopped living all together. His fear for death caused his hunt for life to consume him. Lester is as much as an important character as the Cypress family. The mystery of who killed Em was a big focus for the comic, and created the rural noir tone Revival was known for. The series gives Lester a true and interesting motive for killing Em, and Revival #47 brings this complicated villain’s story full circle in a satisfying conclusion.

The last issue of Revival brings readers on an emotional roller coaster, but uses action to evenly distribute the story. Mike Norton balances the action and emotion perfectly with his pencils. A great example of this is with the battle between Weaver Fannie - the Amish assassin - and General Cale. Their battle represents the height of the war created by the reviver phenomenon. Norton does a great job at setting up the stakes for the battle, while also using great facial expressions showing the emotional impact the two ladies are going through while fighting to the death.

This issue is bloody because of the war waging in the town, but also for the symbolism blood carries. Mark Englert does a beautiful job at using red coloring throughout the issue to symbolize blood. It represents the war that has been created because of different ideologies, but also the blood that connects Em and Dana as a family; or to go even further, the blood that connects the human race.

Revival #47 is a bittersweet ending that brings action, great closure to character arcs, but most importantly, it brings plenty of emotion. If you've been following Revival over the years, this issue will pull on your heartstrings. It’s not an easy accomplishment, but Revival creates a satisfying conclusion for longtime readers.

Credit: Titan Comics

Doctor Who: The Third Doctor #5
Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Christopher Jones and Hi-Fi
Lettering by Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Published by Titan Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

It's an end of an era for the Doctor Who brand as Paul Cornell takes his final bow with the franchise with the fifth and final issue of Doctor Who: The Third Doctor. Though Cornell’s final hurrah with Jon Pertwee’s incarnation, Jo Grant, and the Brigadier is a fun flight of fancy that melds the lunacy of comics and classic '70s Who in a wonderfully propulsive finale, it also contains Cornell’s poignant meditation on his time in the TARDIS. This extra bit of heart gives this finale issue a nice bit of pathos peppered across the cheeky science fiction action.

Cornell still has the best possible partners in penciler Christopher Jones and colorist Hi-Fi. As Cornell’s script is steadily ramping up to its endgame, Jones and Hi-Fi keep the pace in kind with trippy, full bodied pencils and richly saturated colors that capture the hazy, yet vibrant look of old BBC serials. While we may not see Cornell’s name attached to Who stories again for the foreseeable future, Doctor Who: The Third Doctor #5 keeps Cornell’s legacy with the franchise intact and sends him into new frontiers having done right by the franchise that made his name.

Forming an uneasy alliance with the Master, the Doctor, Joe, and the Brigadier take the fight to Salamander as his evil plot enters its final Parliament storming phase. Armed with the “micro machine” aliens and an unstable time vortex, Salamander absconds to 1868 with our heroes and an entire building of enslaved scientists in tow. While this series started with explosions and military action, Cornell downshifts considerably for the finale, opting to make this more a battle of ideals than one of technological might; a real highpoint of Doctor Who storytelling as a whole.

Salamander plans to dazzle the members of Parliament with his future tech and be installed into a position of power in order to safe guard the Earth from alien (read: Time Lord) interference. Of course, Earth being the Doctor’s favorite planet, he can’t very well stand for this, but instead of a intricate set piece of daring escape, Cornell allows Salamander and the Doctor to spar verbally on the chamber floor, highlighting Cornell’s character work and the franchise’s overall non-violent take on science fiction.

Bolstering this refreshingly intellect focused narrative are the emotions at play due to this being Cornell’s final licensed work. After the plot comes to a tidy conclusion and the Master, of course, beats a hasty retreat after the day is saved, the Doctor and Jo settle into a heartfelt conversation about their future together and the importance of change and growth. Though it is a wonderful understanding of the Third Doctor, post exile with the universe once again at his fingertips, its hard to not hear the writer’s clear intent behind them. Paul Cornell may have made his name with Doctor Who, but he has other stories in him and like the Third Doctor, he’s ready to forge his own future beyond the familiar.

Keep both the energy and tone of this series firmly on track are the team of Christopher Jones and Hi-Fi. Throughout this series, Jones has delivered all sorts of psychedelia and groovy action, but like Cornell, he plays it close to the chest this time around, highlighting the strangeness of Salamander’s Lex Luthor like battle armor and mechanical snakes amid the stuffy 18th century setting. This sell showy approach to the art also highlights Jones handle on character interaction. Once again keeping the characters looking like their screen counterparts, Jones and the sparsely bright backgrounds and primary colors of Hi-Fi focus the emotions of the characters and strengthens Cornell’s low-key finale vibes.

While it may not be as witty or as action packed as the previous issues, Doctor Who: The Third Doctor #5 still stands as a confident thesis for the franchise’s offbeat yet engaging style of storytelling, and is another strong showing from one of Titan’s most consistently cool art teams. As a fan, I have to admit, it is sad seeing Paul Cornell leave the TARDIS and head for other characters and IPs. That said, I am glad to have gotten the stories I got from him and even more so that his last foray stayed true to both the content and tone of the Doctor Who that fans want. So long, Paul Cornell; thanks for all the fun, and for The Third Doctor #5.

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