Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with 17 Rapid-Fire reviews for your reading enjoyment! So let's kick off today's column with Draconian Draven Katayama, as he takes a look at Original Sin #5.1...
Original Sin #5.1 (Thor and Loki #1) (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): In this imaginative opener to a five-issue miniseries, writers Jason Aaron and Al Ewing unlock secret chapters of the history of Asgard and Thor's family. Thor angrily confronts his mother, Freyja, after discovering the existence of his sister and a Tenth Realm. Aaron and Ewing skillfully show Loki's own tense relationship with Freyja. Ewing's script humorously contrasts Thor's verbosity with Loki's sullenness. Artist Lee Garbett gives Freyja a sleek, battle-ready look, and Nolan Woodard's vibrant colors capture details as subtle as the glint of Thor's helmet. A battle between Asgardians and angels should be the dramatic highlight of the story, but the scene is too brief. Garbett's depiction of Asgard under siege is haunting despite being limited to one panel. Angela only appears here in flashbacks or visions, which is a major letdown. This is an entertaining, self-contained story that does not require any reading of Thor: God of Thunder, Loki: Agent of Asgard, or Original Sin.
Grayson #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): For many readers (like myself) who didn't take the time to reader the Forever Evil story arc, the premise for why Nightwing needed to be cancelled to make way for a new series for Dick Grayson is unclear. Unfortunately, this issue didn't provide much of a transition for Grayson from superhero to superspy. We do get tidbits about Grayson's new affiliate organization – Spyral – but the overall purpose behind the operation we see is never made fully clear as we're dropped into the middle of one of Dick's first spy missions. Visually, Janin's work is straightforward and very easy to read as it falls generally in line with conventional house style that most fans will enjoy as well. It's not a bad comic by any means, but it felt more like a mid-arc issue given the lack of narrative set up from what one might come to expect from an inaugural issue.
Spread #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Justin Jordan turns his hand to the post-apocalyptic sci-fi concept. A grotesque tumour-monster has grown across the earth and the enigmatic “No” must protect a baby that is the key to saving humanity. It’s a heck of a fun read, with tons of great action, but the plot is a little clichéd and filled with genre tropes. Jordan acknowledges this, though, and pays honor with his homage. Kyle Strahm’s artwork is the highlight of the issue — his visuals have something of a Paul Pope feel to them, which is the perfect fit for this grim world. He makes the protagonist look like he was carved from stone and he illustrates the crawling chaos of Spread in a way that would give Lovecraft nightmares.
Batgirl #33 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Batgirl's anti-Knightfall: The Crusade begins, starting a violent battle for Gotham City. Gail Simone shows just how far Barbara's been pushed recently and what the means for the character. After wrestling with her feelings for the life of the book, Barbara's perspective, anger and frustration are a mental bomb waiting to go off. We see some of that in the opening pages, where she attacks Huntress, and how that rage affects her going forward drives a lot of the drama. Fernando Pasarin, working with two inkers, handles the action scenes well, giving them a strong sense of movement. His figures so feel a bit thin across the board, however. This battle's been brewing for a while, and it's good to see it start here.
American Vampire: Cycle 2 #4 (Published by Vertigo Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): This fourth issue closes the first arc of American Vampire: Cycle 2 but don't think Snyder, Albuquerque and McCaig are slowing things down – so be sure to have read the previous three issues. Otherwise, the events and some of the characters might be a little confusing. We see immeasurable evil arrives at Pearl's doorstep in Kansas and sets her and Skinner on a run for their lives. Not only do Albuquerque present some horrific looking enemies for the American Vampires, it's interesting to see Snyder develop Pearl over the decades of her existence into "vampiric humanitarian" – a part of her long road to salvation. Meanwhile, Albuquerque and McCaig's artwork continue to push the boundaries of the natural and supernatural making this one the most visually captivating issues out this week especially as seen in their "vampiric sharknado."
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The thing about Boomerang is that everything comes back to him - even people who he'd rather have stay away - as this series maintains its rep as the best superhero humor comic. The creative team of Nick Spencer (words), Steve Liber (linework) and Rochelle Rosenberg (colors) continue to exploit every joke possible, whether it's Silvermane's repeatedly getting Shocker's name wrong or the physical comedy of a Mach VII in a china shop. At the same time the plot weaves the characters together for a reunion no one expected - or wanted. There's less of Lieber's visual gags this time, which is a shame, but the one we do see will keeping you lingering to catch all the little illustrations. This comic's survival remains one of the most "superior" things at Marvel.
Batman Eternal #14 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): James Tynion IV takes a step back in the latest installment of Eternal by beating his readers over the head with themes of natural order and cycles. But he does make strides with Lt. Bard that do a lot to change the dynamic of this book. Natural order might be something that is in Gotham’s DNA, but change is not. It will be interesting to see how the latest development is handled by the writing team. Jason Fabok returns on art to render a gruesome set of scenes featuring the Penguin. I don’t love some of the stylization of his backgrounds because I think it takes away from the tone but on the whole, the work is solid.
Captain Marvel #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Marlene Bonnelly; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Captain Marvel is a self-proclaimed “woman of war,” and don’t you forget it! With the mystery surrounding the planet Torfa and its settlers finally unraveling, Carol has taken it upon herself to be their champion — even though they might not want her to be. Though this issue may stall in some places, DeConnick has done an excellent job of creating believable tension between both individual characters and their respective groups. Add to that a completely unforeseen plot twist, and you have a truly enjoyable installment full of adventure, betrayal and plenty of bruised egos. With Lopez’s clean, expressive art and perfectly moody colors, this story is quickly becoming one of my favorites of Carol’s. Our favorite blonde pilot set out to find herself in the vastness of space and, given how much her attitude and moral compass has developed over the span of just a few issues, it seems she’s already accomplishing that.
New Suicide Squad #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Restarting the series at #1 right after the cancellation of the previous series seems to suggest something was not working - a revamp was needed with a new team of characters and a #1 to freshen up a lagging title. Then how do you explain New Suicide Squad #1? Not much is changed - Harley and Deadshot are all still there, and are joined by Deathstroke, Manta and walking redundancy Joker’s Daughter. Even the premise of the book is exactly the same. The real shame here is the art by Jeremy Roberts. Clearly a student of the '90s Image-era of comics, Roberts can draw some mean gritted teeth and cheekbones, but the action looks so stiff it’s as if they took photos of action figures were being thrown on the floor. Sure, a failing title could always use a shot in the arm, but New Suicide Squad #1 isn't it.
The United States of Murder Inc. #3 (Published by Icon Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Oeming continue detailing Valentine Gallo's journey through his first – and disastrous – days as a "made" man in a mafia-driven world. The young Mafioso and his bodyguard Jagger Rose attempt to uncover the mystery behind who set them up as patsies for the murder of a U.S. senator, and it becomes clear is an inside job. I particularly liked Oeming's approach to laying out the conference call scene; it may be jarring for some, but it was an interesting choice. Overall, USMI #3 is a fast-paced issue with lots of twists, turns, and unique page layouts, so new readers would do well to be current before wading into this issue.
Lumberjanes #4 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Lumberjanes are out hiking, and things are starting to get hairy… literally. Between Yeti sightings, suspicious boy scouts, and a testosterone-addled camp leader, the gals are having a rough time. Writers Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis have crafted another charming issue with these highly-likable characters, while still engaging the reader in a little dialogue about social issues. That's something sorely missing from comics. Artist Brooke Allen does her part with lovely illustrations of the singularly diverse, incredibly expressive cast of characters. It's wonderful to see a new book like this with such a high level of representation. Lumberjanes is a premise that could have easily become over-wrought, bogged down in all the issues it wanted to address while trying to also have an enjoyable plot, but the creative team pulls it off with aplomb. There are some pacing issues that still need to be worked out, but this book remains a solid read for any comics fan.
Detective Comics #33 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Francis and Manapul and Brian Buccellato are not able to keep up the momentum of the last two issues in this one. There are a couple of great moments between Bullock and Batman, and I like how this creative team makes mention of the events of Eternal because it helps ground the story in that continuity. But outside of our two main players, the writers aren’t able to do much to make us care about the support characters and their subplots. The art is par for the course with this team, but it lacks the standout moments that were on display last issue. Detective Comics #33 is missing the wow factor of recent issues, but it’s still an above-average installment in this arc.
Amazing Spider-Man #1.3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): “Learning to Crawl” was supposed to fill in the gaps a bit regarding the Peter’s early days, and while it does fill in specifics, the story is a complete snooze. Considering Slott’s track record, that’s a surprise. There’s some decent humor here, but nothing worth caring about. A shoddy Spider-Man/Peter Parker analogue and lack of a gripping plot can’t overcome by even Ramon Perez’s art. The fight sequence between Clash and Spidey is beautiful on all artistic fronts, but the rest of the issues feels joyless. “Learning to Crawl” is unoriginal and it has no heart. It’s basically the opposite of the main Amazing Spider-Man arc.
The Life After #1 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Joshua Hale Fialkov is back at Oni Press with a stunning high-concept series about the afterlife, or rather, the life after. Part fantasy, part sci-fi, the story features an relatable protagonist, whose mundane life gets turned upside down one day, beginning an intriguing mystery that will grip you tightly and leave you desperate to find out what happens next. Gabo has been an artist to watch for a while now, but he really steps up his game here and provides some of the best artwork of his career thus far. With great character designs, incredible linework and gorgeous colors, this book is just a joy to behold. Don’t let this one pass you by, it’s the most promising series debut since Saga.
All-New X-Men #29 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Brian Michael Bendis is starting to write in circles with all the time travel surrounding these X-Men. Young Xavier’s plot is finally revealed in full, and the X-Men (current and future) are forced to deal with its implications. Bendis gives himself an out in the whole “Beast can’t get the original X-Men back to their time” plot if you’re paying attention, but young Xavier’s fate leaves the ending of this one almost too open-ended. It’s getting to be a little exhausting. Stuart Immonen’s pencils are as strong as they’ve ever are especially in the big fight sequences but it’s dragged down by Marte Garcia and Jason Keith’s oppressive coloring. All-New X-Men is losing some of its luster. Someone should call Doc Brown and get these kids home.
Star Slammers #4 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Mind games abound as the reader's perceptions are taken for a spin when a Star Slammer is captured in the beginning of writer/artist Walt Simonson's second arc. Reprinted with new colors by Len O'Grady, this is Simonson at the top of his game. Intricate detailing dominates from the first pages on, as we see countless wires keeping the Slammer in check followed by pathways filled with military vehicles and personnel, all drawn towards a gaping maw rally point. Visual tricks abound until we learn it's the result of a "gamer" playing with minds, a great concept executed perfectly when things go inevitably wrong. With bold lettering from John Workman wrapping up amazing story and art from Simonson's '90s material, this is highly recommended.
Adventure Time Banana Guard Academy #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Banana Guard has depleted the city's supply of turnips, leaving all other food items to go to waste. It's up to our enterprising Princess Buttercup to come up with a solution. Unfortunately, opening up the Banana Guard Academy to all citizens that wish to serve might not have been her most genius idea to date. Written by Kent Osborne and Dylan Haggerty, this new miniseries has all the trappings of a fun and whimsical journey through the Land of Ooo. Many fan-favorite characters are given small spotlights and backstories, and the overall tone of the book fits in snugly with the rest of the franchise. Artist Mad Rupert illustrates the familiar world with ease, throwing small stylistic changes here and there, and showing good use of line variation as well. An excellent addition to the pastel perfection of the Adventure Time family.
Death Vigil #1 (Published by Top Cow; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): A man dies trying to be a hero and ends up in a war against evil in this new horror comic. Writer/artist Stjepan Sejic shows his extensive time working with Ron Marz, with this series having a similar feel to Witchblade. The issue balances action with needed information, helped by having a great battle sequence, some good character moments between Sam (now known as Digger), Bernadette (aka the Reaper), and a smart-mouthed raven. Sejic's art hovers on the border of being digitally over-processed, but the layouts are varied and strong, and there's strong use of color to set the mood and highlight the ethereal nature of the forces at work. This one has potential for horror fans looking for a new book to try.