Greetings, 'Rama readers! Still reeling from Comic-Con craziness? Best Shots has the cure to what ails you, as we take on a lucky 13 Rapid-Fire reviews for your reading enjoyment! So let's kick off today's column with Perceptive Pierce Lydon, as he takes a look at the new issue of Batman and Robin...
Batman and Robin #33 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): After the opening issue’s battle royale, Peter J. Tomasi gets down to brass tacks. The loss of Robin has affected Bruce in ways that just about every other Batman book has ignored. Tomasi taps into that loss and channels it into an issue that reminds us how respected BRuce is amongst the Justice League and how much he values his family. The script is elevated to even greater heights by Patrick Gleason’s artwork. Bruce has been through the wringer and Gleason renders him with just the right amount of wear and exhaustion. Mick Gray’s excellent inking casts a palpable darkness over the narrative and John Kalisz’s colors perfectly capture the mood of each scene. “Robin Rises” is off to a great start, and this issue is the complete package.
Storm #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Storm has always felt conflicted about where she truly belongs: Is it with the X-Men as their team leader? Was it among the people of Wakanda as their queen? Or somewhere else entirely? While no longer a queen, being headmistress of the Jean Grey School has kept Storm so busy that it's been a long time since she's asked these questions, fully exhibited her powers, or lived among a human community. Greg Pak and Victor Ibanez have gifted us with a story where Storm gets to do all three. Storm's voice under Pak's pen is reflective, almost meditative as she manipulates the winds around her. You get the sense that though she feels the peril of protecting a village from an oncoming tsunami, she is enjoying this. Ibanez and colorist Ruth Redmond give us the most visually stunning opening sequence of any comic this year. Ibanez never skimps on details, from Rockslide's design to the wallpaper in the Jean Grey School. A panel where a whirlwind sends tanks and attackers flying is a visual treat. I love how Redmond colors Pixie's wings with a lifelike, translucent sheen. Pak has written a masterpiece of Ororo rediscovering who she is and what she cares about.
Superman #33 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr. continue the story of Superman doppelganger Ulysses and develop the reporter side of Clark's persona. Although this issue, like the one before it, does not seek to change the status quo within the world of Superman, it does continue to provide a sense of narrative stability for the reading audience outside of the comic. Apart from the contemporary costume design, there is a timeless quality to this story that makes it accessible for Superman fans of any generation. Romita, Janson and Martin's artwork is fresh, lively but not over-the-top and distracting at any point. The art makes it easy to follow the story while the various character expressions aptly convey the feelings of the new-to-Earth Ulysses and the empathetic Superman readers have grown to love.
Supreme: Blue Rose #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Many would argue, myself among them, that Alan Moore’s work on Supreme was the definitive story of the character and impossible to follow up. Erik Larsen’s recent attempt to do so is testament to this. Then along comes Warren Ellis with a new take on the myth that proves us all wrong. Taking a street-level view, the story centers around an out of work journalist tasked with investigating the legend of Supreme. So begins an enticing mystery that will sink its hooks in you from the very first page. Industry newcomer Tula Lotay is out to make a name for herself here. Her artwork is breathtakingly beautiful, with wonderful character designs, gorgeous inking, creative composition and dream-like colors. This is how you redefine a classic.
Amazing Spider-Man #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Spider-Man gets wrapped up in Original Sin in this one but his original sin doesn’t really seem to be his own. Dan Slott has always had a talent for tying together Spidey’s traditional superheroics with the somewhat more mystical side of the Spider totem, but adding more Spider-people to the mythology always seems like a gimmicky way to expand the universe. That’s not to say that Cindy Moon is a bad character but she’s nothing to write home about yet. Humberto Ramos gives us exactly what we’ve come to expect from him and in a less action-packed issue, he takes the time to do some decent expression work. This issue kind of comes out of left field. Hopefully, the end of Original Sin will get it back on track.
Batman Eternal #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): An old enemy of Batman makes his New 52 debut in this issue as Ray Fawkes and Dustin Nguyen continue their focus on Corrigan and Batwing. The key to these weekly issues has been the pacing and Fawkes doesn’t nail it down here. While the supernatural elements dominate most of his script, his little check-ins with Lt. Bard and Red Robin are too short to really be impactful. Dustin Nguyen’s work is always welcome in the Batman universe but even he can’t save the unfortunate character design that plagues the Joker’s Daughter. There’s a great sense of mood that Nguyen’s work exudes but the script is just too flimsy to take advantage of it. Unfamiliar readers will have to wait another week to potentially find out why the final reveal is noteworthy.
Ragnarok #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Fan-favorite Thor writer Walt Simonson returns to the characters for which he is best known, to tell the ultimate story of the Norse gods. This is not the oft-told story of the great battle that ends the pantheon, though. Instead, this is the story of what happens after the fall. The issue features tons of interesting new characters, an intriguing plot, strong character development, and more action than you can shake a hammer at. Simonson’s artwork here is just spectacular. He starts out with classic, highly detailed line art to recap the final battle, before switching to a more dynamic style with lots of Kirby influence for the main narrative. This is the Norse god story that fans of Simonson’s Thor have been craving.
100th Anniversary Special: The Avengers #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Set 100 years after The Avengers were founded, this strange tale stars a ragtag group of heroes fighting to survive in a Badoon-infested Earth. James Stokoe provides fans with a deliciously bizarre story that is nothing but fun from the opening splash to the very last panel. The issue is peppered throughout with hilariously quirky editor notes and references to issues that don’t (yet) exist. Stokoe’s characteristic art style is on full display here and the pages are filled with unbridled creativity, squishy/organic environments, Kirby-esque technology, fantastic character designs, inventive sound effects, and hallucinogenic colors. It’s hard to believe that this comic actually exists, but I’m really glad it does. It’s the best Avengers story that I’ve read in years!
Batman #33 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Who is the mask: Bruce Wayne or Batman? That is the riddle that Scott Snyder and company have been asking readers in the year-long event in Zero Year. With this issue being the finale or Batman's New 52 origin, we get a better idea of who Bruce/Batman is as a whole for this generation, as well as establishing his relationships within Gotham. Snyder gives Riddler and Batman a finisher worthy of the hype and wait. Here, Riddler isn't some schmuck with a cane and derby; he's a legitimate threat, and is treated as such. Capullo strikes all the right chords with cinematic action scenes and even a quieter moment centered around Alfred that's almost out of Dark Knight Rises. The issue is spread thick with iconic imagery that will surely be around in reader's minds for a while.
Daredevil #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Although this issue is an Original Sin tie-in, the connection is only lightly touched upon in the beginning as a catalyst for this issue's primary conflict, which makes it easily accessible for any reader. The story deviates from the norm as Mark Waid has Daredevil searching for his mother to learn the truth about the type of man Battling Jack Murdock really was compared to how Matt now remembers him. Javier Rodriguez does a fine job of depicting Daredevil's sonic powers through various page and panel designs, and his use of colors is particularly strong in those scenes from Matt's memories of his father. The only drawback to what is an otherwise fine issue is how detached it feels from the rest of the previous issues given the absence of characters such as Kristen or Foggy, who have been regulars up until now. But some journeys can only be traveled by one's self as the younger Murdock knows all too well.
Skullkickers #29 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): This is not the comic for the Jedi among you, as adventure and excitement abound in the final installment of the "Dozen Cousins and a Crumpled Crown" story arc. The moment readers have been waiting for arrives as the Wartyke (aka Dwarven Jagger) takes the fight to the Glacier Giants. Jim Zub sets aside ample time in this issue to let Eddie Huang and Misty Coates flex their muscles in a multitude of explosive and colorful fight sequences that are just plain fun to read. When combined with Zub's knack for the play-by-play voice over, readers will no doubt encounter that same sort of humor that has helped generate this series' loyal following from the beginning.
Wolverine & the X-Men #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): This issue is a mess. All the good will that Jason Latour and Mahmud Asrar had built over the last few issues is squandered as we come to an entirely disappointing conclusion. Latour beat us over the head with the idea that “the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves” with regards to Quentin Quire. He might have been able to hit some of the more emotional beats between Quentin and Idie but the artwork is terribly inconsistent and well below the level of quality that we’ve come to expect from this book. But that’s what happens when you have five artists trying to complete one issue. At the end of this one, the payoff is nonexistent and with Wolverine’s death looming, one has to wonder how much longer this book will last.
Groo vs. Conan #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Who would win in a fight, Groo or Conan? It’s a silly question and Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragonés deal with it in an appropriately ridiculous way. What starts as a simple crossover, suddenly breaks the fourth wall and becomes a real-world commentary on urban development. This theme then passes back into the story and somehow everything comes together. The Groo parts of the issue are illustrated in Aragonés’s inimitable madcap style, while the Conan parts are illustrated in classic Buscema-style by Thomas Yeates. These two disparate styles mesh together seamlessly, to make for some incredibly eye-catching panels. Longtime Groo fans will find a lot to love here, while Conan fans may a little lost. Newcomers will be left scratching their heads in confusion.