Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for this week's Rapid-Fire Reviews? Best Shots is already way ahead of you, so let's cut to the chase with the latest issue of Marvel's FF...
FF #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): "Love my Tong." Matt Fraction's absurdist family dramedy doesn't skip a beat with Mike Allred's absence, as Joe Quinones ably picks up his idiosyncratic artistic baton. From a Moloid's heartfelt (but also hilarious) confession to little quirks like Medusa's hair still twitching even when it's out of her head, this comic makes you genuinely laugh out loud. Fraction's pacing also is fantastic, as he's able to pepper in those weird little family moments amid a satisfying conclusion to the feud between Miss Thing Darla Deering and the Yancy Street Gang. Combined with some great physical comedy from Quinones, this might just be my favorite issue of FF yet.
Before Watchmen: Comedian #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jose Camacho; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Brian Azzarello stumbles into the conclusion of the last Before Watchmen series. He managed to send the impulsive character into the ugly world of '60s espionage. Unfortunately, even six issues did not allow the Comedian to develop past his Watchmen infamy. Out of all the artists doing Before Watchmen, I believe J. G. Jones stayed closest to Dave Gibbon's original Watchmen art, capturing the original series' paranoia and gloom. Other than making the Comedian a more notorious and tragic character, however, only completists will rejoice.
Jupiter’s Legacy #1; Published by Image Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10: Does the possession of great power always demand great responsibility? The millennials of Jupiter’s Legacy have the currency of superpower and fame at their disposal, but they also exist in the shadow of their forbearers’ perfection. When your parents have literally saved the world, do you try to follow in their footsteps or settle for nightclub VIP sections, groupies and endorsements? The juxtaposition of two very different generations – one idealistic, the other understandably jaded – makes for an absorbing first chapter in Mark Millar and Frank Quitely’s new series. Quitely does not disappoint with his signature illustration style, and the character work here is distinctive and powerful. Jupiter's Legacy #1 is an efficient introduction that establishes interesting players and conflicts, and asks big questions about how mighty beings should intervene when things fall apart. Superman #19 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Superman #19's biggest problem is shared by the majority of the "WTF" gatefold-covered books, in the fact that the big cliffhanger is also telegraphed on the front of the book — we know what's coming, but we have no more pages to see what's coming next, so it's a slightly backwards way to advertising next month's issue. Which is a shame, because Kenneth Rocafort's artwork is really hitting its stride, particularly in a sequence with the Sunturions. For some, Scott Lobdell's writing might be jarring as he jumps from a super-powered intro to a soap operatic middle and end, but I found it to be actually kind of fun, albeit with some awkward dialogue to buoy the lighter tone. Not a bad book, but also not nearly as satisfying as that cover would imply.
BPRD Vampire #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): The trail of Hecate takes Agent Anders to Czechoslovakia and a lot of explanation as this miniseries still lacks enough energy to be engaging. With a few adjustments this could easily be the first issue, as everything we need to know (and more) is told to the reader via a Communist agent partnered with Anders. Mike Mignola’s dialogue is heavy on exposition from start to finish, wasting the talents of co-writers/artists Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, who are relegated to drawing backgrounds, character reaction shots, and a lot of trying to make two people talking interesting. Ultimately, however, I feel like Anders, who screams he was expecting, “Vampires…not history lessons!” This series needs to get to the point quickly in Issue #3.
New Avengers #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jose Camacho; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): This issue had the makings of a big reveal, yet somehow flopped. The issue settled on paraphrasing the previous chapters. Namor best sums it up when he says “Those are no answers. It's gibberish.” Don't get me wrong, so far Jonathan Hickman's New Avengers is very intriguing, philosophical at times, and this issue is small bump in an otherwise great run. Steve Epting's art is inventive, as he's constantly juggling a cast in constant dialogue. He knows when to focus or pan out to optimize the desired effect. This issue is a good starting point to join the series but does very little for established fans.
East of West #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): A post-apocalyptic alternate-history sci-fi western featuring the four horsemen of the apocalypse and forces trying to bring about the end times. Jonathan Hickman really doesn’t do things by halves. As always, this high-concept story is packed with enough ideas for half a dozen different series. It’s a fascinating and gripping story, packed full of action, with twists and turns in abundance. The only drawback may be that there might be a little too much going on at times, which may put some readers off. Nick Dragotta’s linework has a nice and clean aesthetic to it, which suits the sci-fi landscape perfectly. His character illustration is second-to-none, with great model work and highly emotive facial expressions. This is an epic in the making.
Amala’s Blade #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Every assassin is haunted by their kills, but Amala literally is visited by those she’s dispatched as her own employer sets out to kill her in this opening to a fast-paced mini-series. Amala is an engaging character who has lots of promise and mystery, as writer Steve Horton cleverly refuses to reveal everything about her. I love the ghosts, who work like a Greek Chorus and give Horton a lot of storytelling possibilities. Michael Dialynas uses a style that gives the world of Amala a tough edge, with lines that do not look like they were perfected by digital editing. This one might get overlooked because of its steampunk-related sitting, but Amala’s Blade should be in the pull list for adventure comic fans.
Talon #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): After last month's big reveal of the man pulled Calvin Rose's strings, this action-packed series keeps piling on the thrills. James Tynion IV isn't redefining the industry with any big new ideas, but his pacing works fine as he throws in a number of antagonists for Talon to face. Artist Guillem March is still the main appeal of this book, with gorgeous, Kubert-esque characters that move dynamically (even if they are occasionally a bit distended) — Calvin's mid-air acrobatics are some of the slicker visuals I've seen at DC lately. While the introduction of Bane is too little, too late after the Dark Knight Rises, there is a wrinkle to his return that left me very intrigued. Tynion has definitely got me in to see what happens next.
Deadpool Killustrated #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jose Camacho; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Reading Deadpool comics is like riding a rollercoaster at a theme park: there's a vague attempt at a storyline that is just an excuse to have fun. While the art is over the top and the Merc's signature quips are there, Cullen Bunn's plot is too distracting. To put it bluntly, it raises too many silly questions about “ideaverse” travel. Kudos to Matteo Lolli's versatility; he was able to mix classic and Marvel characters convincingly. As this miniseries comes to an end, it gives way to yet another chapter of Deadpool antics. Hopefully, the end means that brighter things are on the horizon.
The Darkness #112 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Jackie’s daughter takes center stage as she tries to figure out what’s going on outside the house in a set of fairy tale vignettes that would leave the Brothers Grimm blushing in the first of a two-part story. Writer David Hine shows off the cleverness of Hope as she works to solve the mystery of why her father’s allies are turning against them. The idea of “you cannot change the story” echoes Jackie’s own machinations that have altered his universe. Given the job of making gruesome stories even worse, Jeremy Haun delivers, with some amazing visuals (including a Big Bad Wolf full of spiders) that swirl within a darkness that seems to grow with each issue. The Darkness is becoming a favorite comic each month.
A+X #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): This may be a comic with two stories in it, but the first one is so good, that alone is worth the price of admission. Zeb Wells absolutely nails a Beast/Iron Man team-up, as Hank and Tony snipe and snark at one another over intellect, ego and drinking problems (Tony with alcohol, Hank with his own experiments). Dale Keown looks great as well, really channeling that Barry Kitson cleanliness that is both expressive yet allows for big bursts in action. Chris Yost's Thor and Iceman team-up is fairly predictable, even though Iceman does get a cool moment at the end — I'm not sure if the world is ready for the dark, Granov-meets-Pixar aesthetic of Orphans Cheeps, but I give Marvel props for trying. Still, Wells and Keown's story is so pitch-perfect and such a great yet unexpected team-up that all other flaws are easily forgiven.
Judge Dredd: Year One #2 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Dredd’s first year on the streets is anything but standard, as disgruntled juves develop deadly psychic abilities and a rift begins to appear in time and space. Matt Smith weaves a fascinating tale, with an intriguing plot, great dialogue, and plenty of high-octane action. Simon Coleby illustrates the story in stunning fashion, with highly detailed linework and some gorgeous inking with lots of heavy blacks, which give the story a gritty feeling that fits the streets of Mega-City One like a glove. If you’ve been looking for a way to get into Dredd, then this story is a perfect jumping-on point. As a lifelong 2000 AD reader, this reviewer can assure you that this is very much the real deal.