Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday rapids? Best Shots has you covered, with 20 Rapid-Fire Reviews for your reading pleasure! Let's kick off this week's column with Plentiful Pierce Lydon, as he takes a look at this week's issue of Batman Eternal...
Batman Eternal #21 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): All right! Now we’re getting somewhere! With the Red Hood and Batgirl’s little escapade basically wrapped, James Tynion IV gets to focus his plotting on now-Commissioner Bard, Batman and Alfred Pennyworth as a couple of villains make themselves known and we see Bard’s true colors.There’s definitely a bit of a “Batman isn’t that dumb, is he?” moment, but it helps reel readers in to tune in next week. Jason Fabok turns in some great art that’s a more seamless transition from Emanuel Simeoni’s work than we’ve seen between artists on this title. The gaggle of creators has definitely led to some inconsistency in this book but this one hits a sweet spot in terms of writing and art that definitely ups the ante.
Cyclops #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Stranded on an alien planet with his dying father, young Scott Summers kind of acts like a jerk, but Greg Rucka uses that frustration to create a teachable moment between father and son. This book continues to have a lot of heart, and if Corsair succeeds at being a father to Scott where Professor X may have failed, we might have the beginnings of a sea change in the X-Universe. Carmen Carnero is a name I’m unfamiliar with, but she steps right into Russell Dauterman’s shoes without missing a beat, delivering the same expressiveness and energy that we enjoyed in the first three issues. She also gets a boost from Chris Sotomayor’s playful color palette, which underscores some of Corsair’s wit. All in all, a great turn by this creative team.
Saga #22 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Kat Vendetti; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It’s no surprise that Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples once again deliver an enthralling and heart-wrenching chapter with Saga #22. The seeds that had been planted are moving swiftly this month as Alana and Marko come head to head in their progressively disparate lives, while Prince Robot IV deals with family issues of his own. Vaughan crafts each confrontation with a visceral honesty that Staples brings to life in each character’s gestures and expressions, and together they methodically weave this story so that all their threads will converge at just the right time. Saga #22 brings us one step closer with this foreboding and heartbreaking chapter as Vaughan and Staples give us everything we want in a story, but never in the way we expect.
Justice League Dark #34 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Deadman's alive but all of Nanda Parbat is about to die at the hands of the Pantheon, as writer J.M. DeMatteis continues to guide the team in a new direction after the fallout from Forever Evil. Working as he typically does to put the spotlight on the lesser-known characters on a team, DeMatteis gives Deadman a nice heroic quandary that resolves without padding and redeems the character from some of the New 52 tarnish. The dysfunction of the Dark team, however, is wearing a bit thin. Andres Guinaldo really nails the art here, making the Pantheon feel vaguely Mythos-inspired without being a slavish copy. His Swamp Thing morphs like a changeling based on need and emotions shine through on characters' faces in a well-rounded book.
Wolverine and the X-Men #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Vendetti; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Wolverine takes Storm on a date to the World in this issue, and while the setting (and fewer artists on board) provides for some interesting visuals, it hinders the pacing of this book. Awkward time-jumps move us too quickly through the story to care about any of the events and people met along the way, and what little development there is only concerns Wolverine and Storm rather than the Jean Grey School at large. There are some good ideas here, like setting the story in a Weapon Plus facility and making Storm a queen – they remind us “there is no escape from life,” but as a whole it isn't developed enough. Wolverine and the X-Men #8 is a decent interlude if you’re a fan of Wolverine and Storm’s relationship, but it’s not required reading.
Harley Quinn #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Much like Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s sublime Power Girl run from a few years back, Harley Quinn #10 focuses on a series of short trials that stop her from living a “normal” life. In this case, Harley beating the living snot out of her fellow underground roller derby Skate Club members (or having it beat out of her). Sure, there’s a gratuitous beach shot in which all the derby girls, Harley included, go skinning-dipping, but derby is hard work. Marco Failla’s art vaguely recalls Conner’s without aping it, giving the book the right balance of Saturday morning cartoon and comedy-realism. Harley Quinn is a pure joy as a self-referential comedic anti-villain, and an antidote to the far too serious superhero operas that it shares its universe with.
Doctor Who - The Tenth Doctor #2 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The slower pace of the first issue gives way to a barrage of technobabble from the Time Lord, as he and his companion Gabby flee from fear monsters, as writer Nick Abadzis perfectly capturing actor David Tennant’s way of delivering a wibbly wobbly line at rapid pace. Mostly running (running, running, running - one time we had to hop!) and exposition, it’s like the classic serialized Doctor Who that stretched a resolution out over four episodes - this one unfortunately has the burden of delivering the lion’s share of information to the audience. Still, Elena Casagrande’s art captures the right tone, although there are some scenes where the Doctor crosses into another world that don’t look entirely finished. Even so, in the spirit of the best episodes, this leaves us wanting more.
Red Lanterns #34 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): That’s how you end an arc. Charles Soule, Alessandro Vitti and Jim Calafiore go for the jugular in the final issue of “Atrocities.” If you’ve been following Guy Gardner’s group of wayward rageaholics during Soule’s run, you’ll no doubt be saddened by the deaths that take place. But Soule is able to deliver Guy Gardner’s redemption with class and grandiosity. Vitti and Calafiore continue to be excellent fits for the world of the Red Lanterns. The emotion is palpable and threats are all too real to our protagonists. Even though the action never lets up, both artists are up for the task. Red Lanterns continues to be an underappreciated gem that’s been flying under the radar for too long.
Uncanny Avengers #23 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Rick Remender gives us a brief respite to set up the next chain of events, but it’s a bit of a lame duck issue. Rogue’s breakdown seems childish for a character that’s matured so much over the past few years, and Immortus’ “love will see you through” speech to Havok and Wasp is some of the most heavy-handed, indulgent writing I’ve seen in this series yet. Sanford Greene doesn’t have a consistent polish to his art, so characters go from looking half-asleep on one page to incredibly well-rendered on the next. Dean White’s coloring, while effective, seems almost wasted on such a ho-hum script. Understandably, all stories need to come down, especially after such a huge battle to save the universe. But this one feels empty.
Wayward #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Skullkickers scribe Jim Zub delivers an action-packed coming-of-age story about a girl who moves to Japan and stumbles on an underworld of supernatural horrors. The premise takes inspiration from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but has a life all of its own, highlighted by interesting characters and an enticing mystery. Steve Cummings provides some gorgeous artwork that has a charming all-ages feel to it. His character designs are endearing and there’s some great composition in the action scenes. The eye-popping color job from John Rauch and Zub tops things off, especially how they play with color to illustrate the protagonist’s supernatural abilities in key scenes. A delightful debut issue that be sure to please fans of Buffy and Manga.
Silver Surfer #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Welcome to Norrin Radd's Nightmare! Only Dawn can save the night as this amazingly drawn comic continues to be held back by other issues. Working with Dan Slott, Mike and Laura Allred put on the usual visual clinic, whether it's throwing the Hulk off-panel at the reader so only his feet show or turning a chunk of the comic into two-page spreads cut into thirds, Sunday-Newspaper style, to follow the dual action sequence. Unfortunately, the pairing of Dawn and the Surfer still hews too closely to Dr. Who - a quirky girl looking for more is thrust together with an alien who has a soft spot for humanity. There's also the matter of Hulk's crassness and Dr. Strange's stereotyped dialogue. This is a fun but flawed comic.
Sundowners #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): In Sundowners, Tim Seeley proposes that superheroes may be delusional mad men rather than saviors. It’s an idea that’s been done before and there’s not much new brought to the table here. There’s no real hook and the plot isn’t very memorable. Jim Terry’s artwork has a very uneven quality—there's some really impressive panels, but then there’s the occasional stinker and some odd facial expressions. Sean Dove’s colors are probably the highlight of the issue, which little worrying. Superhero deconstruction has become so commonplace that there just doesn’t seem to be much new or interesting to explore. Sundowners just feels like more of the same recycled Alan Moore and Warren Ellis ideas that are so popular these days.
Aquaman #34 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Jeff Parker and guest artist Carlos Rodriguez toe the line between silly and sublime with Aquaman #34, as the sheer potential of Parker's villain makes this a flawed but worthy beat-'em-up. "I'm like the greatest aquarium ever built in one being," Chimera helpfully tells us, as he shocks, inks, tentacles and otherwise out-fishes the King of the Seas. Rodriguez's artwork reminds me a bit of Paul Pelletier, but while he draws a great Aquaman, he can't hide how goofy Chimera's bugged eyes and lamprey-esque mouth look. Parker gives Chimera all the coolest beats, but the key exposition is trampled by two pages drowned with gold by colorist Rain Beredo. Not a bad entree to Aquaman because of the action, but the execution is still flawed.
Wolverine #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): You know what will kill Wolverine? It won't be his lack of a healing factor - it will be getting ground into the dust by predictable stories. Paul Cornell writes "The Last Wolverine Story," which to spoil no one, winds up not being the last Wolverine story at all. The plot is very typical "face your fears" mantras, all of which we've seen ad nauseum the past few issues. (Gimmicks like alt-universe Thors and sentient spheres do little to distract from the threadbare themes.) Artist Paul Woods reminds me a bit of Mike McKone with his style in this issue, and there's a lot of energy to his fight scenes, even if his main double-page spread looks hilarious with Logan fighting in his skivvies. Combined with two forgettable extra stories, this comic doesn't even give Death its due.
Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #2 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Joes take the fight to Cybertron in the second issue of a crossover that makes amazing use of toy-company characters. Co-writing with John Barber, Tom Scioli brings the Kirby-infused insanity of his independent work full-force on this one. Odd angles that defy traditional perspective, viewing a shooting from a hole in the victim's chest, and a semi-automatic crossbow for Scarlett are just a few of the visual treats that accompany a script that takes the whole invasion and attack as seriously as a non-fiction war comic. The juxtaposition of a precision operation against a gigantic robotic dinosaur puts the improbability of the situation front and center, allowing Scioli to up the ante of ridiculousness without feeling overblown in a comic that's unabashedly Silver Age.
All-Star Western #34 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Scott Cederlund; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Sometimes you just have to be happy with an ending. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray create a pitch-perfect closing to Jonah Hex’s story, never backing away from the desperado he was while acknowledging that he does not need to be that outlaw forever. They are reassuring us that it is okay to move on. We all have to let go sometime. Hex may no longer have his signature scar thanks to a trip to the future, but Darwyn Cooke reminds us that he was so much more than his disfigurement. Cooke takes us on one last ride through the Wild West, where a man’s name and reputation was the only real currency worth anything. With this final issue of the series, the name Jonah Hex becomes a legend, while the man Jonah Hex gets to let go of his burden.
Low #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): There's a bleakness that cuts through Low, one that makes hope seem that much more potent - and makes degradation seem that much more inevitable. There are shades of Saga in the way that Remender and Greg Tocchini drop us into a lurid, back-alley sex session, as Mark takes out his sadness over losing his sisters through drugs, whores and police corruption. Tocchini's pencilwork reminds me a lot of the aforementioned Saga's Fiona Staples, but his colors are like the psychedelic shades of Dean White. The atmosphere and emotions conveyed by Remender supplant the world-building, which might not make this best place to start - that said, the artwork alone makes this a good selling point to check out the last issue as well.
Guardians of the Galaxy #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): This issue promises to answer the question Brian Michael Bendis has been avoiding since the start of his run: namely, how did Peter Quill and Thanos escape the Cancerverse, and where is Nova Corpsman Richard Rider? The framing device of Quill strapped to a chair by an angry Gamora is initially jarring, but this soon gives way to a primarily flashback heavy issue with Star-Lord back in his DnA era costume and helmet. Ed McGuinness is at the top of his game in an epic smackdown with Thanos, as every moment with Nova is beautifully realized art. It’s all a big tease in the end, with the story only halfway through, but it’s the beginning of an end to a journey that started almost half a decade ago.
Pop #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The central idea in Pop is that pop singers are grown in a lab and programed to appease consumers for some nefarious reason (I’m guessing the Illuminati is involved). The story is enjoyable, but feels like a hodgepodge of ideas and a little “been done before.” Curt Pries may have been better playing this one straight, as the satirical elements fall a bit flat, particularly the Justin Bieber parody. Jason Copland’s artwork gives the story a sort of gritty look, and his loose linework reminds me somewhat of Matt Kindt’s style. The character designs seem pretty solid, but one of the bad guys is the spitting image of Casanova Quinn, which is a little odd. There’s potential here, but it feels like something is missing.
Bodies #2 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Crime is timeless when it reaches across the ages as this ambitious mini-series deepens while juggling four very different detectives. Writer Si Spencer advances the plot and really shows how different our investigators are, despite all being cops in their time periods. A closeted man fights lies while a crooked one builds his. A woman who retains memories searches for truth while a woman feared for her religion searches for meaning. Combined with four line artists whose styles reflect their time period, ranging from grimy Jack the Ripper London to an apocalyptic wasteland that's stark and clear, there's a real sense of grounding for the reader. This level of craft isn't easy to pull off, but the mystery is compelling and recommended.