Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for the fast column? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's edition of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off this column in the shadows, as Rob McMonigal takes a look at the latest issue of Justice League Dark...
Justice League Dark #24 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Constantine’s worst foe - himself - is on display in this psychological tie-in to the events of Forever Evil that shows off the best of J.M. DeMatteis’ writing abilities. Always at the top of his game when blending philosophy with the actions of superheroes, DeMatteis sends Constantine through a mental maze discussing the nature of evil and how it grows in the hearts of even the best-intentioned. He does an amazing job of winding the debate into the context of the takeover by the Crime Syndicate, weaving back and forth with the help of artist Mikel Janin. Janin does everything right here, from the Chibi Constantines to visualizing the concept of evil as a steadily growing cloud. This is how to do a crossover issue right.
Uncanny Avengers #13 (Published by Marvel Comics, Review by Scott Cederlund, ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Rick Remender and Daniel Acuña are playing in a giant, Marvel-centric toy box this issue as they fracture their team into smaller units and use them to add a bit of personal and emotional heft to their larger story. Whether it is Wasp and Havok's flirtatious moments between battling a Horseman of the Apocalypse, the cruel physical and emotional torture of Wolverine by his dead son or the unsuspected deviousness of the Scarlet Witch, this issue builds up the individual gravitas of these heroes story. While the plot takes baby steps forward, Remender has fascinating takes on these characters that are unique but fits in with what we know of them. Like his run on Uncanny X-Force, Remender has an almost Claremontian interest in these characters on a personal level that gets in the way of any forward momentum that the book has. This issue feels stuck in the same place this storyline has been since it began. Acuña's artwork, a rich, painterly style applied over a heavily inked base, continues to be rich and delicious. Acuña taps into Remender’s motivations for both the heroes and the villains, creating a dark labyrinth of humor, conflicted characters and twisted souls.
Justice League #24 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It’s been two years and 24 issues of Justice League helmed by Geoff Johns in the New 52 - and as much as things change they stay the same. If the New 52 was a modernization of DC properties, then Justice League are the still the biggest, flashiest summer blockbuster. Yet, Issue #24 is smack-dab in the middle of the bad guys winning. This is a different place then we were two years ago, but Johns and artist Ivan Reis and Joe Pardo so still bring that big punch! With the Big Seven MIA, readers are getting to see a few of the more obscure characters (Doom Patrol!) make their New 52 appearance. Justice League #24 might not be the deep, soul-searching, super book you’re looking for, but it is sure is a lot of fun!
Pretty Deadly #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): This lavishly illustrated book with death as its central theme starts off with a bang, earning its title. From the first pages, where artist Emma Rios draws a young girl shooting half the face off a rabbit, it’s clear the story will be balanced on a razor’s edge of cruelty and innocence. Writer Kelly Sue Deconnick’s range here is amazing, going from a poetic dirge about a woman who begs for death to shooting a person in a brothel and making them both work. Deconnick sets up mysteries but keeps it all together with the help of Rios’ realistic depictions. Using varied panel shapes and structures, Rios, a la Paul Pope, helps make this a comic that should be at the top of your pull list.
Aquaman #24 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It's been two years since Aquaman debuted as the surprise hit in the New52 and Geoff Johns brings us the penultimate issue of his run. Alas, I just can't shake the feeling that much will go unanswered. I realize such is the nature of serialized comics, but this buildup feels very rushed. To be fair, Johns is still able to pen a fun rampage under the seas in what is essentially a flashback issue. Paul Pelletier's pencils are the real highlight of issue #24. His Aquaman has a grandeur that really sells Arthur as the king of the seas. Better still, his work draws inspiration from panel composition and design from fantasy masters like Barry Windsor Smith, while still making the work his own. It's a shame the colorist didn't tone down the vibrancy to match Pelletier's pencils. Thankfully, Aquaman #24 still manages to entertain.
Iron Man #17 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It's taken awhile to get to this point, but Kieron Gillen finally delivers the goods with the conclusion of "The Secret Origin of Tony Stark." Similar to Scott Snyder's semi-retcon over in Batman, Gillen shoehorns in some new family secrets to the Stark clan, even if some of them stretch the limits of credulity, given how heavily Marvel has pushed the fact that Tony is his father's son. That said, I give Gillen a lot of credit for tapping into some lesser-known bits of Marvel lore, which could prove to be exceptionally ominous. Artist Carlo Pagulayan keeps this comic from dragging too much, particularly showing how expressive and likeable Howard and Maria Stark look. The one downside of this book? It took 10 issues to get to the big twist, and this issue isn't much more than that single beat. Still, there's a lot of potential here - here's hoping Gillen can mine it moving forward.
Flash #24 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The Flash reverses the work of his opposite number in an issue that lacks the payoff a time-travel story needs to be successful. This arc from writer-artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato had potential to shake up Flash’s timeline, but Barry merely hits the Speed Force reset button, which felt flat to me. In the end, the deaths and pain we saw had no meaning, just a body count. Like the prior arcs, Manapul and Buccellato do great set-up work but can’t stick the landing. A positive pattern is the art, however, which continues to creatively use Flash’s powers to create stunning visuals, like time playing out across Barry’s body. Flash is worth reading for the art, but needs to find a strong story fast.
Indestructible Hulk #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Throwing the Hulk and Bruce Banner into the time stream might be the smartest thing Mark Waid has done with Indestructible Hulk. Instead of being a taut, deliberately paced epic, Waid instead revels in randomness, with this story being a bit of a comic book jazz riff, as the Hulk bounces from era to era and battles enemies ranging from Sandman to pirates to Fing Fang Foom. That said, the art does suffer a bit, as Mahmud Asrar gets benched after five pages, leaving Kim Jacinto to mop up the rest of the book. Jacinto's artwork is much more distended and unrefined, with his character faces coming off like a super-sketchy version of Humberto Ramos. Still, with Waid adding in some smart twists as Banner tries to save the timestream before his own history gets wiped out, Indestructible Hulk is a book that focuses on fun - and fisticuffs - above anything else.
Pathfinder #10 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): After some personal growth as wounds heal, Pathfinder #10 gets back to classic fantasy RPG action. Writer Jim Zub brings his revenge of Lamashtu to a head as the adventuring party find themselves lured into a perfectly crafted trap. Zub does a good job of capturing all the reasons we both play these games and read the comics. Pathfinder #10 has a strong balance between character interaction and intense combat scenes. Sean Izaakse feels right at home on the art. His designs are well proportioned and have just enough of the familiar to prevent the fantastic from dominating the panels. While an escape into the fantastic is what we want, it's nice to see a bit of ourselves in these characters. Like any real RPG group, Pathfinder has really started to gel in the past few issues and #10 is no exception.
Larfleeze #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Orange you glad you’re not Larfleeze, who finds himself besieged by the rest of the Orange Lanterns in another joke-filled issue that’s still keeping me laughing. Writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis get a lot of mileage out of Larfleeze’s stupidity, using his comedic misinterpretations to fuel a lot of the gags. The rest are tweaks at the nose of Gaiman’s Endless, as a planet of robots is infected by the sadness of a new character, Dyrge. While I still enjoyed artist Scott Kollins’ work here, it felt less defined than the past three issues. Some of the detailing and background work that made the comic fun visually was absent this time. This one is still a must-read for those who like their funnybooks funny.
Young Avengers #11 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): If it wasn't for a big status quo change for Loki, Young Avengers #11 could be considered oh-so-much filler. Thankfully, the Asgardian god of mischief undergoes a bit of a transformation to better suit his alter ego, Tom Hiddleston, even if the Tumblr crowds might have an aneurysm. Kieron Gillen adds some nice character moments (particularly Noh-Varr texting his exes), but the story moves so slowly this issue that it's hard to stand behind it. That said, Jamie McKelvie's artwork remains as sharp as ever, as his characters remain expressive, charismatic, and altogether gorgeous to look at. On the one hand, Loki fans shouldn't miss out on this comic, as it looks like it will mark a brand new status quo for the fan-favorite character - that said, the slow pacing and the abrupt changes don't make this a home run.
Uncanny #4 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It’s time for the big score, but Wheeler and his partner turn out to be the prize as this issue returns to the twists that made this series so appealing. Andy Diggle starts with a clever con and runs Wheeler through a heist that involves-of all things-a garbage truck. Just as things look good, Diggle again pulls the rug out from Wheeler, and it works perfectly. Given room to let the caper play out, artist Aaron Campbell doesn’t disappoint. He keeps the action flowing step by step, with detailed visuals, capturing every meter on a dashboard or the cars backed up on the expressway. He poses characters more than necessary, but they look great and stay expressive, as this story heats up to a boil.
Deadhorse #1 (Published by 215 Ink; Review Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): While I can appreciate throwing the reading into the middle of the action, sometimes we need just a little push. Deadhorse #1 has a strong opening and writer Eric Grissom does a good job of pulling you into the mystery. However, with the introduction of our main character, something gets a little lost. Although the mystery around the key and the box that must never be opened is fun, our hero is unbalanced in his design. The art by Phil Sloan has an amusing and exaggerated style that lends itself to the bizarre moments of the comic. But like the story, his art hits some bumps when tackling the nuts and bolts of storytelling. Still, there is something to Deadhorse #1 and has enough going for it that I'm willing to stick around for the next issue.