Greetings, Rama readers! Ready for some rapid responses to this week's latest releases? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of Rapid-Fire Reviews! We've got a ton of books for your reading enjoyment, including the latest from DC, Marvel, Image and Dynamite. Want more? We've got you covered there, too, over at the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, let's kick off with the latest saga of the Children of the Atom, with X-Men: Schism…
X-Men: Schism #2 (Published by Marvel Comics, Review by Scott Cederlund; Click here for preview): “Schism” implies that there’s some kind of division coming in the pages of the many X-Men comics but in the two issues of this series so far, Jason Aaron is writing a bromance book, where Cyclops and Wolverine spend as much time extolling their admiration for one another as they do glaring at each other, ready to butt heads. There may actually be a chemistry here that’s stronger than any romantic relation either character has ever had as the world seems to be rallying against the mutants and they continue to muster their kind to their island refuge Utopia. Aaron wants to play up the feeling of respect between the two characters, but it comes off forced as he doesn’t let either character do anything in this issue other than stand around and talk about how they want to be in the fight. For an X-Men comic book, the multitude of X-Men making minuscule, single-panel appearances are the least interesting part of this book. Far more fascinating and mysterious is Kade Kilgore, the 12-year-old billionaire who is the newest Black King of the Hellfire Club. He and his own Ben 10-like gang of school kids take on intergalactic aliens, double-crossing them even as one of cutest but scariest members of his crew wears her “Hello Kitty” T-shirt. Kilgore’s crew get more to do in a few pages than any X-Man does in the whole book. Maybe if Aaron gave them more to do, this issue would feel like more than a filler to stretch this story out into five issues. With being given nothing to really draw, Frank Cho’s art is unenergetic and dull, and his Cyclops is anemically thin, living frighteningly up to his “Slim” nickname. Cho takes the opportunities he can with Kilgore’s scenes to have some fun but the rest of the art is pretty renditions of people posing and standing around talking about how they feel.
Wonder Woman #613 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman): This series has been such a mixed bag that I’ve approached each issue with caution. However, Wonder Woman #613 stands as one of “Odyssey’s” best chapters, as it advances the story in some unpredictable ways. We knew the Morrigan sought to corrupt Diana and use her to “cleanse” mankind, but this issue reveals how they almost — almost — succeeded. It also explains exactly why the former Wonder Woman was hidden from the world and the crucial part she plays in the Morrigan’s plan. The reveal is satisfying and surprising, and it makes up for some of the clichés that have overshadowed previous issues. The story revolves around a fierce battle between two worthy warriors. One has the advantage of superior strength; the other of exceptional compassion. Don Kramer’s pencils have been consistently pleasing, but I preferred fellow artist Travis Moore’s contribution, especially the livelier facial expressions. Moore is responsible for some of this comic’s most exciting and memorable scenes. Though “Odyssey” has required a considerable amount of reader patience, it’s encouraging to see the story fulfill some of its promise.
Kirby Genesis #2 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Scott Cederlund; Click here for preview): While there have been other comic books that have paid homage to Jack Kirby, I can’t think of many that are crafted as a love letter to the King. That’s what Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross and Jack Herbert are doing, creating a comic that reaches for the grandiosity of Kirby’s creations even as they successfully avoid feeling like they are just riffing on decades-old comics. Like he does in Astro City, Busiek finds a wonderfully human point-of-view to view these stories in. For this issue, it’s through retired Sgt. Jacob T. Cortez, whose daughter has been transformed into a Kirby superheroine. Breaking the fourth wall, Cortez tells us about his daughter and the boy-next-door. Among all of these gods and monsters, Busiek focuses on a couple of kids who are in love even if they’re innocent enough not to recognize it. Where Astro City is completely structured around those kind of more personal stories, they are brief moments in Kirby Genesis #2 as so much of the book is a menagerie of characters running, jumping, flying, fighting and looking heroic and godly. While Cortez and his daughter ground the story, most of the book is filled with completely unrelatable characters. Ross and Herbert take those scenes, though, and give them that Kirby touch, filling the pages with some wonderfully outlandish images. Even if we have no idea who these characters are, they are instantly recognizable as Kirby’s characters and that tells you immediately who they are. They may not be Asgardians, New Gods, the Fantastic Four, the Inhumans or the Eternals but they’re Kirby types, brought to life and defined by the designs in their armor or how they arch their backs as they fly through the air.
Gotham City Sirens #25 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Wendy Holler): Sirens #25 has no right to work, but its technical flourishes and commitment to tone make it a really neat read. This comic tackles the central problem of a team-up where the team is mostly villains: "Why stay together?" The issue opens with a quotation from Tennyson's In Memoriam, specifically the "Nature, red in tooth and claw" bit. The reference is an intro for Poison Ivy's point of view and also a nod to her emotional state. When the issue opens, Ivy's been betrayed by both Catwoman and Harley, and that's the kind of loss that's surely worthy of a good sulk and some epic Victorian poetry. The central question of the issue is what Ivy should do with Harley, and Ivy's amoral approach to both vengeance and friendship is fun. There's no real doubt or tension about what Ivy's going to choose, but the presentation is engaging enough to make the journey worthwhile. All of the panels in the comic are made of vines, for example. Like the Tennyson reference, this is an over-the-top gesture that somehow works. The art by Andres Guinaldo provides a number of really nice beats to the story, like seeing Clayface in a cell or the extended images of plant metaphors. JD Smith's colors are also thematically perfect, like when matching the red of Ivy's hair to the red of Harley's outfit. While Peter Calloway's writing isn't subtle, it shows a willingness to revel in the worldview of his subject, and that's the kind of enthusiasm that wins reader buy-in. Sirens is presenting an arc where the plot is really just an excuse for character study, and thus far the end of the series feels like an affectionate and extended farewell to three iconic DC women.
Kato #11 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Deniz Cordell; Click here for preview): There’s quite a bit to like about this new issue of Kato (the Kevin Smith version of the character), which starts a new story arc, and is immediately accessible to those who don’t know Kato from Tonto from Speedy. Writer Ande Parks makes sure we immediately get a sense for who this new Kato is, and creates an interesting, sympathetic voice for her. The story cuts between Kato’s technologically induced nightmare and Britt Reid’s attempts to locate her. The latter story does not overwhelm the former, and what makes it work particularly well is that the focus of the Reid storyline is Kato, so her presence is a constant in the book even when she’s not on the page. When the story opens, we see Kato on the run, and being confronted with a series of personal revelations that gradually tear her apart – the sense of overwhelming guilt that the character feels powers much of the rest of the story. Lee Ferguson’s art is sharp, and Rainer Petter’s uses different color washes to delineate between the two storylines. The action is given a clarity of motion and purpose, and the geography is never confused. The goal of the story is to test and extend this new Kato’s character to a breaking point, forcing her to live in a constant hell – and the manner in which it develops the character and shows her internal strength is a great asset to the story. I’m looking forward to part two.
Elephantmen #32 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Deniz Cordell): Yes, I know this issue came out some time ago, but I wanted to quickly draw attention to one of the features that rest within its grand pages. Yes, there is the top-billed Elephantmen story, which is a fine and dandy homage of Robert E. Howard and (particularly) Roy Thomas – written with care by Richard Starkings, and drawn with great strength by Axel Medellin. But beyond that, there is an excellent additional feature called Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Lettering Comics I Learned From “Conan The Barbarian #5” in which Starkings – brilliant letterer that he is, takes the reader through the aforementioned “Conan” story, providing annotations and thoughts on the lettering throughout. It’s an extremely thoughtful delving into an element of comics that may go underappreciated at times – and for anyone interested in lettering, either as an art or a career (or both) it is essential reading. There are also small inserts depicting Starkings own lettering work, showing how each “lesson” in Conan can be seen in his work. The points are simply and elegantly made, and are as much an appreciation to the art of lettering as they are a primer in how-to. There’s a second Elephantmen story in the book, also from Starkings and Medellin which looks appropriately dark and dour, given the more violent, fascist bent of the story – which, naturally, is anti-fascist in tone and intent. The writing and art are incredibly strong in both stories, and they’re highly recommended, but that feature where Starkings lays the basics of his craft out for all to see is terrific. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!