Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's edition of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with the best there is at what he does, as we take a look at the first issue of Death of Wolverine...
Death of Wolverine #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Charles Soule and Steve McNiven team up for a strong first outing of Death of Wolverine, which doesn't progress far in plot but looks absolutely gorgeous. McNiven is one of Marvel's most striking talents, particularly during a sequence where Logan walks through a field of murdered adversaries. Together with Soule, they present Wolverine almost like a horror movie villain, particularly the "Jaws"-esque way he pulls some fleeing goons under the water. (There's also some great bits as Mr. Fantastic tells Logan of all the ways he could die now that his healing factor is gone.) The only downside is it feels like kind of a short read, pacing-wise. That said, even with his healing factor shot, this is the best Logan has looked in quite some time.
Green Arrow: Futures End #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Out of all the Futures End tie-ins, Green Arrow might be the best of the bunch, perhaps because Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino are able to really throw a curveball in the main storyline. Lemire's plotting is probably the best I've ever seen it on this book, with smart twists like Naomi serving as Dart, Emiko as the teen Green Arrow, and a whole gang of wannabes called the Vertigo Cult. Andrea Sorrentino presents Ollie and his friends with darkness and gritty realism, and in particular makes Deathstroke look menacing and armored. Action, ideas, lasting impact - as far as tie-ins go, Green Arrow feels right on target.
Captain America #24 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): A taste of things to come? Perhaps. Falcon really gets a chance to shine in this issue and once again prove why he’ll be Captain America in a few short months. Arnim Zola’s plan is revealed and Rick Remender continues to keep the stakes high. Remender takes a fairly classic approach to Arnim Zola’s dialogue that makes his back and forth with Falcon a joy to read. Carlos Pacheco and Paul Renaud share penciling duties and they work together fairly well. They absolutely nail Zola’s rage and they deliver some stand out action sequences. Dean White’s coloring has a few missteps but it’s solid on the whole. Captain America is continuing to shine, even with only a shell of its main character.
Names #1 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The premiere issue of Peter Milligan's newest book is a lightning-fast set-up for what promises to be an enthralling series anchored in high finance and murder. After the alleged suicide of her husband, protagonist Katya quickly finds herself on a hunt for answers - and she's bringing her kick-boxing skills and a big knife with her. The issue moves quickly, lending itself to the sense of urgency felt in the plot. Milligan does a great job with the initial character-building, leaving the reader with a solid foundation for individual personalities. Artist Leandro Fernandez does an excellent job with the varied action sequences, which are full of dynamic poses and uniquely skewed perspectives. Much of the book has this strange, distorted view, especially when the shadowy villains appear on the page. Overall, this is a great first issue, leaving readers engaged and wondering what secrets will be uncovered next.
Detective Comics: Futures End #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Clearly, whatever happens five years from now sends Batman down an even darker path. Teaming up with the Riddler to break into Arkham Island (created by a fully pardoned Edward Nigma), Batman offers himself as the sacrificial lamb to Calender Man. Detective Comics: Futures End #1 lacks the thematic and dialogue depth that's been a signature of writer Brian Buccellato. Still, the comic manages to stay entertaining, if a tad shallow. The various artists on the issue fit the various tones of the book, with Fabrizio Fiorentino standing out in the short flashback. In the end, this issue reads like a competently made if hastily drafted What If? comic. Like much of Futures End, this event installment of Detective Comics promises much, but delivers very little.
Alice Cooper #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Believe it or not, there was a time when both theatrical rock and comics were considered counter-culture. Something for parents to fear and condemn. Alice Cooper #1 is very much a product of a time long past, which is something that writer Joe Harris could have played upon. Instead, the reader is presented with a very by-the-numbers “album summons the devil” comic that just feels tired and a little sad. The art by Eman Casallos is bright, vibrant, and incredibly expressive. But like Harris' writing, plays it safe with its stylistic homage to classic EC comics. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything bad with this comic, but nor is there anything all that good. It's the same story we've ready before, usually from KISS. Even fans of the Godfather of Shock Rock might want to think twice.
Action Comics: Futures End #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): This is a real back-to-basics Superman story, and its strength lies in the fact that it’s incredibly focused in the story it’s trying to tell. We follow a Superman-like figure that gives three people, who are at a cross roads, super powers and a choice in what to do with them. Each learns a poignant lesson at the end and writer Sholly Fisch does a great job in keeping the dialogue grounded and inspiring, so when those lessons are delivered they feel meaningful and touching. Moreover, artists Pascal Alixe, Vincente Cifuentes, and Pete Pantazis are on point with the art, making each encounter with these three situations look and feel unique and distinct. Despite the fact that the impetus for the story — the origin of this Superman-like figure — is a bit too convenient, the issue still stands as one of the best one-shot issues in a while.
Rocket Raccoon #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The artwork for this series is absolutely dazzling, and the dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny - even with a thin plot, Skottie Young still manages to impress with Rocket Raccoon, one of the most technically proficient books Marvel is printing today. Young draws one of the most off-the-wall space dogfights I've ever seen, and his expressive characters really draw you into this book. (It's also great watching Rocket oscillate between being kind an average Joe and an interstellar fugitive whenever the mood suits him.) The one downside, even in spite of Young's energetic, cartoony artwork? The plot feels pretty thin, particularly since the side characters don't really hold a candle to our lead. Still, you're only doing yourself a disservice if you miss out on Rocket Raccoon.
Batwing: Futures End #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): It looks like Batman Incorporated is still up and running five years into the future. Luke Fox has come into his own as a leader and Batwing, and while that was great to see throughout the issue, nothing else in the issue really stands out. It’s confusing throughout the first three quarters of the issue as we follow international villains being led by a new player in organized crime. Without provided context, writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti lose the opportunity to fully engage us in the story and instead lean on the fact that all these villains look pretty cool. The reader isn’t privy to all their history and why these criminal leaders act the way they do, which makes the ultimate plot feel too contrived and easy for Batman Incorporated to triumph. It also didn’t help that this issue didn’t feel important to the larger context of the five years later world, which made the few aspects that stand out feel just as mediocre as the rest of the issue.
Steven Universe #2 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The newest issue of Steven Universe is fresh and light, full of childhood wonder and parenting debacles. Writer Jeremy Sorese sets the stage with Steven wanting to enter a bicycle race. Things don't go smoothly for our protagonist, however, as we see the Crystal Gems struggle to find and save him. The art by Cole Engle is stunning, the coloring in particular. Pink is the predominant tone, with splashes of blue and green that make for a strange contrast that works. That unique choice, coupled with the traditional bold linework of the comic, make for a great visual experience. The story on the whole is as fast-paced as the race it depicts, and ends before you know it. Luckily, there is an adorable back-up story by Josceline Fenton as well as a sneak peek of Uncle Grandpa to keep you occupied for a little while longer.
Grayson: Futures End #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 1 out of 10): How can Grayson be such an out the gate surprise hit, only to crash so very fast? Told through a series of flashbacks, Grayson: Futures End #1 continues the unsettling trend of showing how many ways DC can kill off Dick Grayson. (It's not a spoiler, that's page 1). Writers Tom King and Tim Seeley turn in what might be one the most uneven and unenjoyable origin stories of all time. Penciler Stephen Mooney is all over the page with character design. His proportions lack any real cohesion, while his facial expressions never match the tone of the moment. His inks do little to help in balancing his line art, what does help is far too late. It's rare to read a book that's this mean, unbalanced, and poorly executed from one of the major publishers. Rare and a real shame.
Cloaks #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Like stepping into a David Blaine special or the movie "Now You See Me," writer Caleb Monroe introduces us to a young street magician and hustler, Adam. Monroe quickly gives Adam a basic backstory (grew up in foster care) and personality (confident yet untrusting). The crowds that are wooed by Adam's tricks don't realize he's pocketing and pawning their jewelry to donate money to his former group home. I wish the rest of the story was as relaxed in pace as the excellent flirty exchange between Adam and a mysterious cute admirer. Mariano Navarro's art pushes this book to the top of the must-read pile: each character's face is shaded with care, and a full-page sequence of acrobatic leaps down a building is impressive. This miniseries deserves more than four issues to slow down the pacing. Monroe and Navarro spin a fun mystery around a suave, intriguing protagonist.
Swamp Thing: Futures End #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): For anyone even vaguely familiar with the Swamp Thing mythos, this is a great read simply because of the scale of the story told. Writer Charles Soule brings us to each of the different kingdoms as Swamp Thing goes on his quest to eradicate the Rot. The story never seems to drag, even though the issue is primarily exposition and dialogue, and it pulls us into the plot as we figure out Swamp Thing’s plans. Artist Jesus Saiz makes each kingdom unique in composition and design, which makes the journey—especially to those not as familiar with Swamp Thing—feel explained and in context. Although the climax of the issue only lasts several pages, it remains the highlight of the issue as Alec Holland reveals an item that could be important in the future. There’s nothing special that goes on in this issue and we’re left wondering exactly how it’ll fit in the grander scheme of the plans for the DC Universe, but it was still enjoyable.
Uncanny X-Men #25 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Ugh. We're three issues into "The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier," and this arc feels like the sloppiest one since the relaunch. First off, Xavier's revelations? They have nothing to do with Cyclops, with the school, really with anything. The outrage felt by some of the characters feels as forced as this impromptu reunion. Half of this issue is flashback, but neither Xavier nor uber-mutant Matthew Malloy feel particularly compelling or fleshed-out. The art by Chris Bachalo is hyper-rendered and scratchy, but there's no mood for him to evoke with this script, and so his frenetic layouts just feel like they're trying to distract us from a threadbare plot. It's not even a retcon that serves the franchise - it feels like it's stalling. Clearly some secrets just aren't worth unearthing.
Batman Eternal #21 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): This one is a bit of a filler with a reveal that would be bigger if it wasn’t so easy to guess based on future solicitations. Kyle Higgins’ scripting serves really only to get us to the ending and have the Architect reveal his motivations a bit. The title “Succession Plans” does have some interesting implications, though. It’s definitely possible that Eternal takes Alfred out of the game, allowing for his daughter to take over. Jorge Lucas is on art here and his pages look terrible when colorist Brett White washes them in red. His character work is also very inconsistent in the early goings. But he hits a certain stride in the second half of the book with the action between Batman and The Architect. This chapter almost feels extraneous, but it’s not the worst this title has been.