Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday column? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's cut to the chase with Plentiful Pierce Lydon, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man...
Amazing Spider-Man #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Writer Dan Slott really steps up his game here, turning in the best issue of Amazing Spider-Man in about six months. This book is firing on all cylinders. Artist Humberto Ramos turns down some of his tendencies to over-exaggerate his figures, and he’s able to refocus his usual kinetic energy into the pathos of this book. Slott does excellent character work between Peter Parker and Anna Maria Marconi, as Peter begins to really understand more about one of his greatest enemies. A tense moment between Peter and Captain America also sets up some exciting possibilities for Venom’s eventual return to Earth, and while Electro may only be included here because of his obvious ties to the webslinger’s current movie offering, it’s clear that we’re getting a new and exciting take on Max Dillon.
Batman Eternal #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The chains are really starting to move in Eternal. Writer Tim Seeley is joined by artist Emmanuel Simeoni in this explosive installment. We’re starting to see how gangster Carmine Falcone’s presence is sending Gotham’s underworld into panic and turmoil. Batman sees the larger picture at play but Professor Pyg and Penguin don’t understand that they’re being played. Eternal is changing the landscape of Gotham quite literally, and it’s exciting to watch. Emmanuel Simeoni isn’t the most polished artist of the bunch contributing to this series, but he doesn’t do a bad job keeping the tone of the book consistent. His action scenes are very strong as well, even if his anatomy is somewhat off at times. This is comic books as a big-budget action thriller, a much-needed respite from more tedious world-building.
Wolverine and the X-Men #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Writer Jason Latour’s rededication to his initial themes was refreshing in the last issue of Wolverine and the X-Men, and it continues to some extent here. Quentin Quire is starting to realize the dilemma that Evan/Apocalypse presents and begins questioning Edan Younge’s true motives regarding the Phoenix. The problem is, you can only have characters asking questions for so long before you start needing answers. Mahmud Asrar’s art looks really great; he does tend to draw Quire and some of the other characters a little younger than other artists do, but he remains consistent so it isn’t too distracting. This issue is a little anti-climactic, but as it keeps marching forward, Latour is at the very least giving himself a chance to do something memorable. Whether or not he ultimately does is entirely up to him.
Forever Evil #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Like a lot of finales to the big events in comics, Forever Evil #7’s strengths are not in the story itself, but the status quo in the fallout. The issue features a few too many Mortal Kombat-styled finishing moves and final desperate moments that could have used a beat to linger on for impact. David Finch’s artwork stands out but suffers from everyone having the same face, which is problematic for an issue with so many characters getting their 15 seconds of fame. The highlights are in the small things: who lives and who dies, who gets spun off and who gets to be in the Justice League. Forever Evil #7 might be satisfying when reading the whole series, but feels too much like a preview book of DCU moving forward on its own.
Daredevil #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Mark Waid makes the Owl the scariest he's ever been in the latest issue of Daredevil, as he and artist Chris Samnee continue to produce rock-solid work as Matt Murdock struggles to adjust to San Francisco. Not only do Waid and Samnee kill it with the claustrophobic reintroduction of the Owl, but they excel with Daredevil's fight against the Shroud, with one great panel featuring Matt's radar sense - followed by a wrecking ball of a punch. Combine this with some nice soap operatic subplots featuring the fate of Matt's one-time law partner Foggy Nelson, and there's a lot for invested readers. The one downside? There's not a whole lot of spark for new readers, which is strange, given Daredevil's new locale. But for the devoted, this book continues to be a devilish delight.
The New 52: Futures End #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): There's an overwhelming sense of gloom to The New 52: Futures End; one that makes me feel like no one is particularly having fun with DC's cast of characters. The creepiest scene in this book features Firestorm, as Ronnie Raymond holds his partner Jason Rusch hostage in the Firestorm Matrix, as Ronnie tries to flee his culpability in the death in Green Arrow. It's a dark, twisted premise for what was once an actual hero - and while it certainly grabs your attention, I can't exactly say it's something most readers are going to be happy about. The rest of this comic is exposition and just a hint of mystery - Frankenstein and Red Robin help draw readers into this pessimistic new world, while the tattooed mogul Mister Terrific fills us in on a time-displaced Batman Beyond's journey. Dan Jurgens and Mark Irwin's artwork provides a surprisingly upbeat, old-school vibe against all this smothering atmosphere, even as Hi-Fi tries to make the colors darker. This is a seemingly important book, but not a joyful one, making The New 52: Futures End more of a chore for completion's sake than a book that stands on its own two feet.
Batwoman #31 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Artist Jeremy Haun is really coming into his own on Batwoman. It seems that the longer he draws it, the stronger his work is getting. And we’re finally seeing him really nail facial expressions and renderings, an aspect of his art that has been plagued by inconsistencies in the past. But writer Marc Andreyko’s plotting is lagging behind. It seems for every couple of steps forward this book makes, we take another one back. His work with Kate and Maggie is strong, and Kate’s willingness to help with the custody battle is right in line with her character and their relationship. But the Wolf Spider plot we thought was getting somewhere ends up lacking in excitement. There’s a potentially interesting reveal at the end, but it’s too early to tell how important that will be.
Uncanny X-Men #21 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Brian Michael Bendis really withholds a lot in Uncanny X-Men #21, and instead of being intriguing, it’s just frustrating. We can see many of the machinations of the plot at work, but without anything coming to a head on the page all we’re left with is mysterious masked characters and cliffhangers. Bendis employs what’s become a classic move on his part: end a scene just as things really get going. And that’s how he treats the issue as well. Chris Bachalo’s art is stellar as always. I particularly love the way he illustrates Magneto’s power set (which might be a clue that ol’ Buckethead is getting more of a handle on his abilities?).But for all the gorgeous art, big explosions and Beast’s stars and garters, we don’t actually learn anything that was worth an entire issue. This one will pad out the trade but leave X-Men fans a bit wanting as a single issue.
Batman/Superman #11 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Batman, Wonder Woman, and Steel seek a cure for Superman among his deadliest enemies in the Phantom Zone as the “Doomed” crossover continues. Despite seven line artists and a coloring studio taking art chores, this one flows well, with only Diana’s face and body shape suffering a bit in the otherwise steady layouts. The most impressive part of this issue is how writer Greg Pak keeps the focus on Bruce’s relationship to Clark while still keeping the explosive action and overall plot going; a theme of this series dating back to the first arc. Superman’s presence changes life for those around him, making them either better people or driving them insane in their quest for vengeance, in this solid piece of a larger story.
X-Men #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Like a well-written TV show, the strength of X-Men is its small cast. Unlike the sprawling array of characters in All-New X-Men, X-Men's Storm, Rachel Grey, Psylocke, Jubilee and Monet are able to have more in-depth dialogue and express their very different personalities. While the story continues with last issue's mystery shooter who injured Primal and Sprite and is now hunting Jubilee's adopted son Shogo, the real story and brilliance of this book is the tension between teammates. A snubbed Rachel elicits our sympathy when she refers to Storm as "Her Highness Ororo Munroe." The highlight of Brian Wood's writing is Monet, who offsets Psylocke and Rachel with doses of attitude, and gives Rachel a good ribbing over her telepathic skills. Artist Clay Mann and colorist Paul Mounts are so talented, they make the floor of the Jean Grey school's basketball court look gorgeous. A fun backup story has Hellion leading Rockslide, Anole, and Broo in combat training. Wood has created an enjoyable corner of the X-Men world far removed from the Original Five or Cyclops. If you want character development and teammates who share everyday life together, X-Men is the title to read.
Sinestro #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Dale Eaglesham has been sorely missed in comics over the past few years and he’s a perfect fit for Cullen Bunn’s Sinestro, a book about a tyrant’s reclamation of power. Sinestro is one of the most interesting villains in the DC Universe and arguably, Hal Jordan’s most worthy foe. Eaglesham’s artwork is eye-catching and powerful here, allowing Bunn to back up Sinestro’s claims to the Corps he started. But the soldiers don’t all fall in line and despite Sinestro’s inherent villainy, we’re privy to more noble motivations. Like Loki, the fun is finding out if Sinestro’s intentions are true or if there is something bigger at play. This is probably Bunn’s strongest work for the Big Two to date and he has a more than capable companion for this space caper in Eaglesham. Sinestro is a book to watch, especially considering the implications it could have for not only the other Lantern books but the DC cosmic universe at large.
American Vampire: Cycle 2 #3 (Published by Vertigo Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): When Skinner Sweet is scared, long-time readers know that something bad is about to go down. In American Vampire: Cycle 2 #3, writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque dial up the tension and pace as Pearl learns the Grey Trader has come to town and he's gunning for her. I continue to find Albuquerque's panoramic flashback spreads are great examples of visual storytelling where the lettering almost isn't needed to communicate those key plot points to the reader. Meanwhile, Dave McCaig's colors continue to evoke the coldness of the dead while capturing the fiery heat of the hellish nightmares readers encounter – from the demonic May to the beast Skinner encountered underground. Yet, Pearl learns some of the most powerful weapons the Grey Trader possesses are far more subtle than mere brute force as she encountered with May. Once again, American Vampire proves to be one of those "must read" issues for Vertigo and horror fans.
Supergirl #31 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Guy Gardner and his Red Lanterns are desperate to reach Judge before Atrocitus, but the locals prevent them from really getting anywhere. The best bit in this book comes when Supergirl finally tracks Judge down but it’s not exactly the throwdown you might expect. Writer Tony Bedard is clearly trying to up the stakes for this crossover as we approach the end, but outside of Judge’s, uh, judgment of Kara, there’s not a lot of latch onto. This issue also features a bunch of different artists who manage to keep is fairly consistent throughout (a rare accomplishment) but artist Y?ld?ray Ç?nar absolutely steals the show with the flashback sequence. “Red Daughter of Krypton” is a solid crossover so far but we need to see the marquee matchups soon or it will start to drag.
Adventure Time #28 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Ryan North and Jim Rugg team up for what sort of plays out as Adventure Time meets Ghostbusters. The opening is a bit overwhelmingly dialogue-laden, but North turns on the charm after a few pages, teaching us how ghosts work in the land of Ooo and having Princess Bubblegum team up with Anti-Ghost Princess, the warrior princess. Rugg is a great fit for this world and the page that features the ghosts escaping is an excellent combination of composition and color. Eric M. Esquivel and Phil Jacobsen follow-up the main story with Part 2 of “Jelly Wars,” a fun little romp between the Strawberry and Grape Jelly Kingdoms infused with Adventure Time’s trademark humor and kind of sappy, happy ending. BOOM! Studios continues to publish quality all-ages comics and all comic book fans should be paying attention.
Black Canary & Zatanna: Bloodspell HC (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): What a great read. A book that's long been in development, writer Paul Dini and artist Joe Quinones will knock your socks off with a fantastic story that's equal parts narrative magic and irresistible girl power. Dini makes the slightly goofy plot go down smooth by establishing Dinah and Zatanna as friends and colleagues first, with some great anecdotes (especially featuring Zatanna's first time fangirling out at the Justice League Watchtower). The chemistry between the two characters is enhanced by some truly expressive artwork by Quinones, including gags like Black Canary's disguise making her look more like the busty Power Girl than her usual black leather-corseted self. The book's one flaw is it feels like it's missing a twist, as the hardcover ends a bit abruptly - the full script in the back, while a boon for process junkies, can feel like a swerve to people who were otherwise enjoying this book. Still, this comic book odd couple has definitely been worth the wait.