Greetings, 'Rama readers — ready for your Thursday pellets? Then buckle up and get ready for Best Shots' Rapid-Fire Reviews, kicking off with Mordant Matthew Sibley as he takes a look at the anniversary issue of Action Comics...
Action Comics #975 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): It’s a good thing that Action Comics #975 is an oversized issue, because without the back-up provided by Paul Dini and Ian Churchill, this crossover would have come to a narrative halt. The main story from Dan Jurgens, Doug Mahnke, Jamie Mendoza and Rob Leigh sees Superman and Lois chasing down the Clark Kent-sized thorn in their side that will presumably have answers about their son Jon’s disappearance. While the issue gives an answer as to who that Clark Kent is, it’s done through a lengthy series of splash panels and by the time they finish playing out, there’s no time for the characters to process it as another cliffhanger needs to be established. Mahnke and Mendoza certainly make the splashes feel larger than life, but like the opening arc of this series which was basically a punch-up with Doomsday and nothing else, it becomes boring fast. Detailing the back-up would spoil the big reveal so I’ll avoid doing so, but Dini has a far bigger sandbox to play in, making for the more entertaining portion of this issue.
Inhumans vs. X-Men #6 (Published by Marvel; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10):Inhumans vs. X-Men appears to have had one major shift for in mind as it sloppily concludes. The moment that justifies this entire story existing comes at the character-breaking expense of Emma Frost, who entered the crossover at one of her most interesting points. After Medusa immediately stops fighting and agrees to destroy the mists when she finds out about the atmospheric issues surrounding it, Emma uses Sentinels that she had reprogrammed to hunt Inhumans to decimate the Ennilux. For a character who has witnessed mutant genocide first-hand, it seems odd that Scott Summers' death would push her to attempt an act of interspecies slaughter, and the contrivance of "Well, if you had spent 30 seconds talking to me in the first issue, we wouldn't have had to fight" is frustrating. The biggest positive is that Lenil Francis Lu manages to deliver a consistent stream of vivid panels ground otherwise chaotic scenes. The sense of an arc down the line with supervillain Emma Frost gives the finale a powerful sense of foreboding, but it makes this feels more like a set-up for the Inhumans and X-Men Prime books, which is a shame. IvX started out as something really special, but the finale doesn't quite stick the landing.
Green Valley #6 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Max Landis is a writer that has these out-of-the-box pitches, and that’s certainly true of Green Valley, which debuted as a medieval tale and now encompasses dinosaurs. Another concept gets thrown in in this issue and similar to, Paper Girls, a lot of the fun stems from seeing how the pieces fit together. Landis has developed that cast through the first half of the series so that conversations don’t have to happen between the same static band of characters each and every time. When characters converse, his dialogue has a rhythm do it, but it doesn’t become overindulgent to the point that it overwhelms the page and masks the art. Which is a smart choice, because Giuseppe Camuncoli succeeds in efficient page composition throughout. An early money shot contains no dialogue, but the low angle shot creates scale and through the addition of Cliff Rathburn’s inks and Jean-Francois Bealieu’s colors, the page is sharp enough to speak for itself.
Captain America: Steve Rogers #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): On the way to “Secret Empire,” Captain America: Steve Rogers marches on to the beat of a drum which sounded foreign when it debuted last year, but has incrementally become attuned to something that might not always be outstanding, but is always interesting. Steve’s activities in this issue are relegated to his actions back in 1944 when he and Bucky set off in pursuit of Baron Zemo. Rachelle Rosenberg’s colours in this sequence again shade the characters in an almost-gray. They’re there in the scene, but not as real as the tangible trees and sky which run warm red and pink. Meanwhile, Baron Zemo’s in the suburbs, after something particular and this is where the scripting of the issue lets the side down, as the back half includes four pages which are essentially the same with regards to what information they convey, and it seems redundant to pad the book in this way instead of digging further into other scenes.
The Wicked + The Divine #27 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Despite sporting a cast that is so large it could be unwieldy, The Wicked + The Divine #27 works less as a character piece and more as almost narrative strobe, a sort of dance party of various characters and arcs that might not make a ton of sense without context, but is still beautiful and engaging to behold. From Baal and Minerva's almost Batman-and-Robin-esque battle against dark forces to Persephone's furtive texts to Baphomet, there's a rhythm that writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie are playing with that allows them to jump in and out of story after story, giving us just enough stylishness to make the otherwise abrupt pacing feel smooth as silk. Gillen's use of eight-panel grids is a risky storytelling move, but it winds up being a deft way to check in on such a large cast. Meanwhile, McKelvie, along with colorist Matt Wilson, is looking as polished as ever — there's a real smoothness and naturalism to his ultra-clean characters, but it's great to see him continually evolving his style (such as a fun beat of Baal tossing Minerva through the air to avoid a malevolent bug-cloud). Comics' coolest pop pantheon continues to impress with The Wicked + The Divine #27.
Superwoman #8 (Published by DC Comics, Review by Kat Calamia, ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Superwoman #8 ties into the current Superman event “Superman Reborn” a bit too soon, leading into a confusing conversation about the importance of Lois and Clark in the Multiverse. This conversation between Lois, Clark, and Lana would have been more beneficial after exploring the mysteries of DC Rebirth a bit further. Even though it feels like this story was told too soon, there are some good moments between the Super trio that makes the issue worth reading. Lana gets understandably upset, feeling like a puppet to the world because of Lois and Clark’s connection to the Multiverse. Lana is fearful that anything she does won’t make an impact in the grand scheme because there’s a chance the Multiverse will change again. This issue brings up a very interesting concept that Lana is the key connection to the past – which makes sense for the character since she has always been the connection to Clark’s past. This showcases the importance of Lana’s character in the DC universe, but sadly an ambiguous ending pertaining to Lana’s powers left me disappointed and unsatisfied. As for the art, a recurring problem in Superwoman is the series’ panel layouts – having too many panels on a page and making the book feel crowded, but Jack Herbert and Stephen Segovia’s artwork is some of the neatest I’ve seen from the series. This issue brings improvements to the Superwoman series, but it still feels like the reader doesn’t have enough information about “Superman Reborn” and the DC Rebirth mystery to fully enjoy the story.
Lady Killer 2 #4 (Published by Dark Horse; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Lady Killer is a series that mixes the domestic life of an average '50s housewife with the world of killing. In Lady Killer 2’s penultimate issue we see the normally level-headed housewife/trained assassin Josie Schuller struggle to keep a balance between her two polarizing identities. This balancing act has always been the most intriguing aspect of the Lady Killer series, and now with this issue Josie is forced to make a decision between keeping the mask she wears with domestic life or to fully embrace her true self as an assassin. Josie’s struggle for balance is perfectly showcased with Joelle Jones’ pencils. A great visual personifying this struggle is in the scene where Josie kills a showgirl, and only nearly escapes the crime scene – this is very out of character for our A-list killer. When assassinating the showgirl, Josie is wearing a slimming black dress, but when converting into an “innocent” domestic woman, she messes up her hair and slumps her body into a blanket — creating for the perfect alibi. Josie uses domestic expectations to her advantage. Lady Killer 2 #4 hits all the right notes needed for a penultimate issue — it builds up the stakes for a hopefully explosive finale.
Jessica Jones #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): When this series kicked off last October, the big shake-ups to Jessica’s status quo seemed incredibly dramatic back when we didn’t have all the pieces of the puzzle. Since then, we’ve become able to fill in the gaps and as this arc has gone by, the questions have shifted to wondering about what comes next. By the end of this issue, it should be applauded how Brian Michael Bendis is able to walk some stuff back, such as Jessica’s set-up incarceration, while also ensuring that there are consequences. This issue isn’t just about Jess, of course, also checking in on Luke Cage and others, and that way, there are echoes of Bendis's Daredevil run in how he’s utilizing the cast of characters. As much as it carved a niche for itself, Jessica Jones continues to feel like another issue of Alias in part due to Michael Gaydos and Matt Hollingsworth’s consistency. They shine in this element as much as they did back in the early 2000s and have brought some new flourishes with them here, like the explosion of color when characters get hit, marking the impact.