Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday column? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off today's column with Rapscallion Rob McMonigal, as he takes a look at Edge of Spider-Verse #2...
Edge of Spider-Verse #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): With Gwen power comes great responsibility, as another look into an alternative world finds Peter Parker's one true love behind the mask. Jason Latour packs as much as possible into the plot and script, showing Ms. Stacy having similar struggles to 616's Peter as she tries (and fails) to balance her powers and a normal life. Gwen's inner turmoil is clear, and the echoes in the sound effects with her drumming skills in Mary Jane Watson's band(!!) are cleverly linked. Robbie Rodriguez's linework is very fluid yet angular at the same time, giving a strong sense of movement and kinetic energy, making Gwen's movements echo the original web-slinger. With some remarkable character changes, this What-If will leave you wanting to see more of Gwen's world.
The Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of Counter-World #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Grant Morrison is two for two with Multiversity, as he and artist Chris Sprouse give Doctor Fate more juice than he's had in years, as head of the pulp hero brigade known as the Society of Super-Heroes. Between his world-weary Immortal Man, his youthfully enthusiastic Atom, and his demonic Green Lantern Abin Sur, Morrison makes his heroes feel both human and larger than life. (Sadly, Lady Blackhawk gets the short end of the stick in terms of characterization and spotlight, this book's one major flaw.) Chris Sprouse's artwork is totally killer here, particularly with his pterodactyl redesign of Parallax or his Doc Savage-infused Doctor Fate. He also does a superb job at world-building, making this feel like this very well could be "our" Earth. If you pick up one haunted comic book this week, make it this one!
Deadly Class #7 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Issue #7 picks up in the wake of Chico's death and the students' return to King's Dominion following their murderous debaucheries in Las Vegas. In large part, writer Rick Remender slows the pace of the overall story down to allow readers the chance to see how each of the students is dealing with the fallout from their escapades in addition to seeing how future conflicts will stem from their indiscretions. Artist Wes Craig's ability to shift perspective from panel to panel creates a much more dynamic reading experience, which helps keep this issue from feeling like a bland filler, especially when combined with Lee Loughridge's colors that transport readers back to the garishness of the late 1980s.
Deadpool Bi-Annual #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Sea World really is evil, as the newest special issue featuring Deadpool shows in a fun story with a few kinks. Paul Scheer and Nick Giovannetti dredge up Brute Force, a team of nanobot-infused, hyper-intelligent animals to terrorize the theme park analogue, making for perfect satirical, fouth-wall breaking satire. Deadpool slices up/teams up with the critters to stop the greater threat. A few lines ("Guess my swords aren't dolphin-safe") shine out amongst the unstopping patter. Salva Espin's not bad at visualizing the gags, but doesn't exaggerate as much as he could and gets stuck doing a lot of talking head work to ensure readers understand the obscure characters and admittedly predictable plot. It's an enjoyable joke comic for those who like 'em light.
Batman and Robin: Futures End #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Batman and Robin continues to be one of the best books that DC is putting out month in and month out. With the “Robin Rises” arc in full swing, we glimpse the future which shows us a new Robin, though it’s not who you might expect. Ray Fawkes puts Bruce’s obsession with finding his son on full tilt here. Damian is nowhere to be seen but he hangs heavy over this story, fueling Bruce’s every action and defining his relationship with this new Robin. Dustin Nguyen turns in his best issue in recent memory, perfectly choreographing an intensely brutal fight scene. This book oozes emotion and it’s a great addition to the web of Futures End.
Shutter #6 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The first arc of Kate Kristopher's story comes to a close with this week's issue of Shutter, bringing with it a ton of villainous intent, action and suspense. Confronted with mohawked jackals, dinosaurs and some crazy monster of an ancient age, Kate and her brother must use sword and shotgun to survive the day. Joe Keatinge's writing is fast-paced and straight-forward here, guiding the book to a solid cliffhanger while also shedding some light on different aspects of the story. The art by Leila del Duca is masterful as always, and especially here, where she really gets to shine on a few gorgeous spreads. The entire team is really hitting their stride now, so here's to hoping they can hold onto that momentum until December, when the next installment drops.
Superior Spider-Man #33 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): “Spider-Verse” has proven to be a lot of fun so far, and this issue is no different. Eight different Spider-people team-up against a common foe (spider-energy vampires?) and Christos Gage proves once again why Otto Octavius is such a great Spider-Man. The book starts out with full-throttle action but Gage is able to pull it back with a great emotional touch to it. In all the bombast, it’s become easy to forget that Otto is still very solitary, alone even in a crowded room of alternate Spider-Men. Giuseppe Camuncoli has been missed on the main Spidey title but he gets so much to draw that it makes up for lost time. The action and comedic timing is stellar. Camuncoli is able to tap into what makes each Spider-Man unique and that’s no small task. Superior Spider-Man continues to live up to its name with this one.
Justice League: Future’s End #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): It’s safe to assume that the Future’s End tie-in issues are suppose to leave readers asking “How did things get this bad?!” or “What has become of my favorite characters?!” This issue is nothing like that. Justice League: Future’s End #1 chooses a well-trod path instead of going for the strange. Giant supervillain gulag prison break? Pretty sure that was in Kingdom Come. Giant naked blue guy evaporating people and talking about how god-like he is? Straight out of Watchmen. Writer Jeff Lemire isn’t offering anything outrageous here and instead serves up the greatest hits of other famous DC stories. Artist Jed Dougherty’s interiors might be the saving grace, with pages that are reminiscent of the best of Phil Jimenez (even if they do seem out of place with the current roster of Justice League artists). Justice League: Future’s End #1 isn’t mind-blowing, earth-threatening or even worth the event.
Jim Henson's The Storyteller: Witches #1 (Published by Archaia; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The beginning of this comic unfolds beautifully - with a unique and lovely water-colored pages as well as lucid prose. Writer and illustrator S.M. Vidaurri does an excellent job laying out complex, full-page spreads, woven with narrative. The colors are vibrant, and the story is familiar and enchanting. However, after awhile the flowery speech becomes more of a distraction than anything, and the light-colored text becomes art to read at points. It seems like a tale that normally would take half of this space to tell, but was stretched out to fill a whole book. The slow, lingering pace does not make for the most engaging of reads, though the visuals should be more than enough to hold your attention. Recommended for the visually oriented.
Batman Eternal #24 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Spoiler gets the focus of this issue and it does wonders to show us her origins and ease some of her familial tension but it does little to add to the overarching Eternal story. We now know that Steph is a capable superhero but in capes comics, that’s a suspension of disbelief that we bend to all the time for the sake of story. Ray Fawkes’ scripting isn’t terrible. It’s just a bit pedestrian. Andy Clarke probably wasn’t the best fit for a teenage superhero caper, but he still proves capable here. There are definitely a few wonky expressions (par for the course when most artists have to draw children, sadly) but storytelling-wise, this is a solid, if unspectacular, issue.
The Wicked + The Divine #4 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Without a doubt, artists Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson deliver an exceptionally polished comic that makes some bold decisions with character design and otherworldly colors that pop off the page. Unfortunately, some of the key characters in this issue just felt flat. Baal comes across as a stereotypical all-too-cool rock star, and while he is somehow able to charm Laura, there is nothing discernible why readers will find him appealing. Given his prominence throughout first two-thirds of the issue, it's a noticeable flaw. Writer Kieron Gillen's depiction of Lucifer, however, is far more dynamic, and this issue reinforces why she is turning into such a fan favorite as he continues to play upon the Milton-esque notions of a flawed and tragic Satan figure that has fascinated readers for generations. Given the number of moving parts and the complexity of Gillen's narrative, it might prove more satisfying for new readers to wait until the trade is released before jumping on board to get the most out of this new series.
Uncanny Avengers #24 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Uncanny Avengers has been in hangover mode since the fallout of their battle with Kang. Rick Remender hasn’t been able to capture the excitement that was so prevalent and gives us a talky set-up issue that’s designed to recenter the focus on Havok, Rogue and Scarlet Witch. The plotting (more like the plodding, am I right?) is stale and even the eventual reveal feel anticlimactic. Salvador LaRocca is a talented artist in his own right, but he isn’t the best fit for a book featuring a trippy astral projection/dream sequence. There’s no danger in his lines here. The best artists in this volume have been able to make the book feel like anything could be just around the corner and the writing was able to deliver on that suspense. I get that it’s hard to follow-up such a huge, sprawling epic. But right now, Uncanny Avengers is not as good as it could be.
Red Hood and the Outlaws: Futures End #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): While the whole "weird future" element of Futures End barely plays a factor here, you've got to give some credit to Scott Kolins for making this business-as-usual story of the Red Hood look fantastic. (Well, besides one weirdly codpiece-focused panel, that is.) Writer Scott Lobdell gives Jason Todd a nice new M.O., leaving a red shroud over his future victims' faces. While Lobdell gives us a lot of action - all of which Kolins portrays beautifully, particularly a panel where Jason is piloting a gunship - the stakes just don't feel too high. We're not afraid of Jason dying, and Roy is stuck servicing the main Futures End plot, and Starfire is MIA. Not a particularly ambitious read, but it's decently entertaining.
Sirens #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): George Perez has written a genre-bending, time-hopping adventure with fun confrontations between characters but not enough character development. Perez opens with a Viking expedition set in the Dark Ages and quickly segues to a spaceship orbiting Earth, the Roman Empire, and the Wild West. Perez and colorist Leonardo Paciarotti have taken painstaking care to detail costumes, such as a gladiator's plume and the scales on armor. Perez's script is packed tightly with continuous dialogue, but only two characters, Highness and Miss Bishop, are given more than cursory development. It's clear that Perez's focus here is world-building. Perez's story is laudable for its spotlight on human trafficking, but I hope future issues give detailed looks into each Siren's unique personality.
Uncanny X-Men #26 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Bendis takes an overdue time-out from the drama of Cyclops and the older X-Men to return focus to the younger crew: Christopher, Benjamin, Fabio, Eva, David and the Stepford Cuckoos. It's been many issues since these newer characters had their fair share of dialogue. It is refreshing to see Bendis write Christopher and the Cuckoos as critically thinking young adults, not just pawns on Cyclops' mutant revolution chessboard. Kris Anka's fuchsia red tones are beautiful, especially in a panel where Cyclops vents his anger. Anka is a master colorist, with the glossy sheen of Black Widow's costume being a standout example. By shifting center stage away from Cyclops' individual turmoil and onto the emerging maturity of diverse teen characters, Bendis finally returns to writing a more inclusive, broadly appealing story.
Batwoman: Futures End #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Alice Kane spends the entire issue hunting down her sister and lamenting their current relationship. The only redeeming part of the book might be the glimpse of their supernatural superteam, which includes Etrigan and Clayface. (There’s a Justice League Dark that I could be into.) Writer Marc Andreyko struggles to put together any semblance of a plot and the result is an ill-fitting send-off for a beloved character. Artist Jason Master is serviceable, but at times his action is too choppy and uneven. It hurts the pacing of an already poorly paced book. People were invested in Batwoman because she helped fill a need for diversity and the book was one of high quality. Now, she’s a vampire, and the shift from critical darling to anonymous DC dreck is complete.
All-New X-Men #32 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Poor Jean Grey. Not only is she stuck in the wrong time, but now she's stuck in the wrong universe. Bendis continues to write All-New X-Men as the funniest and most lighthearted of X-titles, with a humor that borders on campy. While Jean's interaction with Miles Morales is fun to read, the real stars are artist Mahmud Asrar and colorist Marte Gracia. Stunningly vivid panels outnumber average ones, with a pack of football players about to trample X-23 being a highlight. Asrar is one of the rare artists who can draw subtle emotions in facial expressions just as well as panoramic action scenes, such as X-23 catapulting from a bridge. Bendis deepens this teen cast as capable characters who face every obstacle with resoluteness and creativity.