Face front, 'Rama Readers! I'm George Marston, and since regular column overlord David Pepose is deep in the throes of his philosophical exploration of time and space, I'll be your host this week! We're gonna kick things off right with a look at the ever exemplary Saga, with a review from Australia's favored son, Richard Gray. Excelsior!
Saga #23 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): In all of the sex, violence, and other fun stuff that makes this a book that remains in a class of its own, it’s sometimes easy to forget that it is being narrated by a character who is still a child while this epic plays out. It has never been more evident and heartbreaking than in this latest arc, one that sees Marko and Alana’s relationship on the rocks, but also classic pieces of Vaughan character development by revealing elements of Izabel’s past and sexuality. It’s also an amazing action issue as well, one where Fiona Staples delivers some of her finest work to date in images that easily swing between seductive, terrifying, comforting, and heroic. The only bad thing about this issue is that it’s the penultimate one before the crew takes its end-of-arc break.
New Avengers #24 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): All it’s taken to kick Jonathan Hickman’s New Avengers into high gear is a change of perspective, exploring Namor’s villainous Cabal and leaving the heroes behind. While it may seem like Namor is the focus of this dense, philosophically explorative issue, the real star is Dr. Doom, probably the character in all of Marveldom that Hickman writes best. Doom’s madness and majesty are in full effect, giving the ending of New Avengers #24 some much needed punch. In contrast, the scenes of Thanos’s lieutenants waxing sociopathic feel a little too mouthy, probably because those characters haven’t earned their pomp and circumstance. Still, solid art from Valerio Schiti and some great interplay between Doom and Namor make this one of the strongest issues in a while.
Superman: Futures End #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The man behind the mask is finally revealed! And the reveal is somewhat heartwarming. Regular Futures End readers will have already seen the reveal, but the reasoning behind it is solid. The world always needs a Superman but Lois Lane makes it clear to Shazam that the world needs him, too. I suspect that this is just the beginning stages of elevating the profile of a character that will be sure to hit movie screens in the next few years and if this is the approach DC’s going to take, I’m all for it. Lee Weeks’ pages are a dream. They perfectly capture the size and scope of the story and the impactful nature of the choices these heroes have made. Lois’ final words are “Finally, a story I look forward to writing” and it feel like Dan Jurgens is really expressing himself through her. If Lee Weeks is onboard for the next chapter, I am, too.
A Voice in the Dark: Get Your Gun #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Larime Taylor’s darkly comic tale of murder and talkback radio gets a second run, the first in what hopes to be a series of Locke & Key style minis. Returning to the core story’s strength of the anonymity of two killers conversing on live radio, Taylor builds up the tension nicely in this new arc that reveals a killer, but one that may not be alone in town. The first series was in black and white, and the shift to color, a creative and commercial choice, is like suddenly seeing a film version of a long-running TV show. Taylor’s clean lines are enhanced by the “watercolor” wash of Jay Savage, which adds texture and grit to the art. A book that hooks you in and holds you in place.
Batman Eternal #25 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): R.M. Guera is a welcome sight in Gotham City. The artist, who made his name on his grim n’ gritty collaboration with Jason Aaron Scalped, injects Eternal with the adrenaline it needs as Hush makes himself more known and the Bat family pulls together. James Tynion IV’s script builds on the plot and gives us some excellent characterization of the relationships between the Red Robin, Batgirl and Red Hood. And relative newcomer HArper looks like she’ll be a fit, too. Tynion’s Hush is malicious but seemingly unstoppable at this point and almost halfway through this series, it’s starting to look like Batman might fail. And that might be the best way to get readers to keep reading.
Booster Gold: Future's End #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Booster Gold is back and darker than ever, as he's literally tortured into New 52 continuity. Booster's creator Dan Jurgens tries to fit the character in but does so in a way that involves using his sister as a lamp in distress (to apply a term to a different context) and drags in the confusing idea of Booster jumping through time again. It's cute to see him reality hopping, including a nod to Earth-4 and being puzzled by Clark/Diana, but the manner of his return is totally off-putting. A plethora of artists, including Jurgens himself, contribute pages as the worlds change, but there's not enough separation in style to really make the conceit work. A rough start that doesn't look good for the future.
Cyclops #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Greg Rucka's excellent Cyclops ongoing hits its first stumbling block with issue #5, which sees Scott and his father taking on a team of bounty hunters to escape the planet where they've been marooned since issue 3. There isn't anything particularly wrong with the issue - the pacing is solid, and the "father and son learning from each other" vibe is in place. It just feels a little ho-hum, like a filler episode of a great TV show, all moral and no real conflict. That may have a lot to do with fill-in artist Carmen Carnero, whose work lacks Russell Dauterman’s charm. Carnero’s layouts are clean, but a little safe and boring. In fact, "safe and boring" sums up the entire issue more than efficiently.
Red Lanterns: Futures End #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): This one is a bit shmaltzy but Charles Soule does introduce a few cool ideas. (The least cool of which is definitely the loss of Guy Gardner’s mustache.) Guy is a Blue Lantern now and he’s getting rid of all the Reds by having Bleez take on their power rings. Considering the end of the book, it’s odd that he even goes that route. Jim Calafiore’s art is as strong as his past issues. I’m a big fan of his constructs, and his visual storytelling prowess keeps the book going along at a nice pace. Come for the art and stay for the inevitable inspirational line about the power of hope.
Project Superhero (Published by ECW Press; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Written by E. Paul Zehr with illustration by Kris Pearn, this book is primarily a work of prose fiction in the form of a diary whose story focuses on its adolescent female protagonist, Jessie, and her pursuit of her passion for superheroes – Batgirl in particular. On the whole, this story will likely be more appealing to upper-elementary aged readers, but there are some elements that older readers may appreciate here and there as well. The clever scientific facts Zehr weaves into his story alongside actual correspondence from fan-favorite, Kelly Sue DeConnick along with other exceptional women of note (Olympians Clara Hughes and Hayley Wickenheiser to name a few) add a unique twist to this "feel good" story. Pearn's illustrations are reminiscent of Mike Kunkel's well-loved style, and I often found myself wondering how well this story might have worked fully rendered in comic form. Overall, it contains a "feel good" message that reinforces the reality that superheroes are for everyone.
Guardians of the Galaxy #19 (Published by Marvel; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The middle chapter of the “Original Sin” tie-in, finally revealing the fate of Nova Corpsman Richard Rider, is a necessarily awkward beast. With Quill still tied to a chair, Gamora hears some elongated exposition whether she (or we) want to or not. While we can’t fault Brian Michael Bendis for milking the tease, the nature of the “live die repeat” battle might be pushing the friendship a little too far. On the other hand, Ed McGuinness is in his element, blending iconography from the Abnett and Lanning run in a fan-pleasing potpourri of awesome. So many questions are still left unanswered, as is the nature of serial drama, it’s just a shame that this particular story feels like its been stretched a bit too much in the center.
Aquaman and the Others: Future's End #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Mera and Atlantis have turned on Aquaman, but there are Others who will help him in a shipwreck of a tie-in. Finishing his two-part story, Dan Jurgens pits scorned Mera alongside the resurrected Atlan, creator of the items that give the Others their powers. There's no ambiguity in this fight, as the reader gets to pick either Aquaman or the team with a genocidal former King. Ending with a throwaway death and Arthur stepping aside while Atlantis's new symbol is a surface dweller just makes matters worse. Sean Chen's layouts are good, with an extremely thin pencil style that gives the characters a realistic took. He tries to keep the tension up, but can't save terrible dialogue and plotting of Jurgens that sinks the book.
Flash: Futures End #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): The Flash and his creative team are really buckling under the weight of their own story. There are holes in the speed force that are causing Barry Allen to die but he has to kill Daniel West to save Iris and Wally. But it feels like too drastic an action for Barry to take. Robert Venditte hasn’t really ramped up the necessary desperation to get us to that point. If this is what DC needs to do to justify Wally West’s inclusion, I don’t know if we need it. It doesn’t feel natural. Brett Booth is not a great fit for this book. Whenever he has to draw characters in motion (which is pretty often, let’s be honest), they look oddly elongated and out of proportion. All of his characters have the same wide-eyed expression with inexplicable lines on their faces. Booth’s turned in some good pages in the past, but he just makes a bad comic even worse in this issue.