Best Shots Rapid Reviews: WINTER SOLDIER #1, JUSTICE LEAGUE #34, More

Credit: Marvel Comics

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday column? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column by saluting the flag, as we take a look at the Falcon's big-time promotion in Captain America #25...

Credit: Marvel Comics

Captain America #25 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): There's a fun cheekiness to Captain America #25, as Rick Remender makes some funny metacommentary about how the new Captain America - Sam "The Falcon" Wilson - has already been long-spoiled by the marketing machine. That said, the beginning of this issue feels a little disappointing, as you know Sam will survive Remender's last cliffhanger, and the throwaway explanation does little to endear. Still, I like seeing Remender stretch his creative muscles - his Bendis-esque quippery between Spider-Man, Hawkeye and the Vision doesn't always work, but I appreciate him trying all the same. Carlos Pacheco does his best work since he joined the title, particularly the way he draws the Falcon falling down to earth. The real hook, however, is the epilogue featuring Stuart Immonen, which promises a traitor in the wings. A flawed issue, but there's more good than bad here.

Justice League #34 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): We’re finally back to the present after a Futures End tie-in, and the Justice League is just as fractured as we left it. With Captain Cold and Lex Luthor in the mix of everything, along with the still immature Shazam, it looks like Geoff Johns has a lot of interpersonal conflict for the League to get over. There were specific moments in the issue that shined: Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor handing out LexCorp humanitarian aid, the Flash helping new Power Ring Jessica Cruz, and Lex Luthor’s meeting with another major player at the end of the issue all stood out. The only problem was that each individual scene didn’t tie together well with the others. Considering the strength of each individual scene and the quality of the artwork throughout the issue, Justice League #34 still remains an enjoyable issue. It just doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is and spends more time setting up the next conflict than conveying a message.

Thor #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Before giving us a glimpse of the long-awaited new Thor, Jason Aaron sets up a new status quo: Odin is back, and he feels threatened by Freyja's authority as the All-Mother. Aaron writes a delightful Freyja who is so unswerving, she could be played by Dame Judi Dench. I like that Aaron spends minimal time introducing set pieces - the Warriors Three, Roxxon - and focuses on Thor Odinson's turmoil and the All-Parent struggle. Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson juggle two blue-saturated worlds - the ocean floor and the Moon's surface - and fill both with varied panel layouts and meticulous details, like Odinson's tattered cape. While we don't get the huge reveal we've been waiting for, Aaron gives us a seamless story with solid characterization and believable, catty dialogue.

Credit: DC Comics

Gotham Academy #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Have you found yourself missing Harry Potter? Becky Cloonan, Brendan Fletcher, and Karl Kerschel seem to think you do, and fans of the boy wizard are likely to find a good deal to enjoy about the set up for the first issue of Gotham Academy. Readers meet Olive, a second-year prep-school student, who is finding herself isolated in a world where she once enjoyed a place of acceptance. The story has a vaguely familiar but comfortable feel to it, but it's Hershel and McCain's combined efforts on art duties that makes every page of this issue pop. Kershel's sense of perspective creates some ominous and intense moments while McCaig brings the art to life by draping it in deep shadows and richly textured colors all the while giving other scenes a softer, lighter touch to create a more relaxed atmosphere. It's a fun first issue and one that promises more adventures to come.

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Spinning directly out of the final chapter of the Original Sin event, writer Ales Kot and artist Marcus Rudy place Bucky Barnes as the “Man on the Wall,” an intergalactic assassin who snipes problems before they happen. Their approach is an ambitious one for the debut issue of a cinematically recognizable brand, with Rudy’s heavily painted chaotic artwork alone marking this as something distinct on the racks. Yet while the concept is a solid one, and it’s scope is literally anything it wants to be, that same art can often obscure important details in a script that has trouble focusing on a single cool thing. A startling original take on what could have been a standard concept doesn’t alway work, but it can’t be faulted for lack of imagination.

Batman Eternal #26 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Despite some really great moments in this issue of Batman Eternal, they ultimately don’t outweigh the failures. For any readers unfamiliar with Tommy Elliot and Hush, the quick and haphazard explanation of the depth of his relationship with Batman will feel overly rushed without the emotional impact it deserves. This is the core problem of the issue, but another significant part comes from our dashed expectations with Stephanie. At a moment that seems her triumph, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV dash our expectations in what feels more like an attempt to be clever than have the story progress. It didn’t help that Juan E. Ferreyra and R. M. Guera’s pencils and inks felt misshapen and out of place with most of the other art we’ve seen on the run. Overall, while there are several great moments — especially when the family rallies around Batman in an incredibly inspirational way — they ultimately fall short compared to the rest of the issue.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Uncanny Avengers #25 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): AXIS begins not with a bang, but with a sickly thud in Uncanny Avengers #25. Rick Remender reunites with Daniel Acuna, but the result can't help but feel a little anticlimatic, particularly after the high-flying heroics that have defined this series for so long. Remender pits the Scarlet Witch, Havok, Rogue and Magneto against the Red Skull, but there's nothing to Acuna's fight choreography that really stands out. Additionally, the Scarlet Witch may have a lot to say about Magneto and her upbringing, but the narrative doesn't really grab you. The conclusion is interesting in its banality - it's a change of pace to have a big event begin with someone getting bludgeoned to death with bricks - but there's not much of an emotional beat here. Here's hoping the threat of Onslaught helps rejuvenate Marvel's most promising Avengers team.

Action Comics #35 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Who needs Superman? In the latest issue of Action Comics, Clark Kent and Lois Lane duke the question out in point/counterpoint op-eds. On one side, Clark Kent says that the world doesn’t really need Superman; on the other, Lois Lane turns the question on its head and says Superman needs the world. In a very smart way, Greg Pak is able to bring some new life in this old question and create a story that’s part emotionally exhausting, incredibly pensive, and sincerely human. Artists Vicente Cifuentes and Scott Kolins do a great job in making Superman look distinctly vulnerable and human, which fits, considering the subject matter of the story: when we see Clark Kent, we see Clark Kent and we don’t end up just waiting for him to change back into Superman. Despite these successes, there are points in which the issue drags and it lacks a certain immediacy, so we never feel that urge to turn the page quickly to find everything that happens next. It’s still definitely an issue to read, especially for anyone still wondering “Who needs Superman?”

Credit: Image Comics

God Hates Astronauts #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): One of the more original books of the year has the difficult task of following an outrageous first issue, and it doesn’t alway live up to the task. Writer and artist Ryan Browne momentarily takes us away from the space farmers and King Tiger Eating a Cheeseburger to give us the origin story of the Anti-Mugger, who does what he says on the tin until the final twist in the tale. Or possibly tail given the animal-human hybrids that make up this book, rendered straight from the headspace of Browne in mind-bending detail. The art, including several vintage style ads for “Minternets” (the mint that gives you the power to surf the Internet with you mind), is just as fresh and original as the first issue, but is lacking some of the pace and energy that made the first one so special. Undoubtedly still one to watch.

Godhead #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): There is something very interesting happening on Mogo. Godheads #1 is the coming together of the great celestial pillars of the DC Universe - Green Lantern and The New Gods. A brain trust of creators is orchestrating an epic in outer space with a concept that is clearly established in this first issue. The story shakes off the dust of recent Green Lantern stories and adds an interesting new dynamic when dealing with the New Gods universe; both extraterrestrial yet vastly different in tone. A team of five artists worked on this first act and mixing up the styles depending on the location of the story works well here. Godhead is a visually engaging first act and something different for long-time Green Lantern fans.

Men of Wrath #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Jason Aaron sure does like to write gritty crime comics set in the deep South. Well, they do say to write what you know, and this series is actually inspired by real life events in Aaron’s own family history. That being said, the premise itself isn’t really all that unique nor gripping, being centred around themes of family feuds and vengeance, which have been explored countless times. The characters themselves seem rather interesting, though, and Aaron puts together a pretty strong script, with some nice dialogue. Ron Garney’s artwork is suitably hardboiled and fits the story well; his depiction of the protagonist reminds me strongly of Steve McNiven’s Old Man Logan. All in all, this has potential, but Aaron is at risk of repeating himself.

Credit: DC Comics

Green Lantern #35 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Green Lantern #35 isn't anything we haven't seen before - and what I mean by that is an entire open field of blown-apart Corp members. This issue picks up where Godhead left off and, although a unique lead in, this feels a little but more like the same ol’ Corp problems. Robert Venditti, one of the architects on Godhead, pilots this issue and lays the ground work for the next major development but leaves nothing engaging in the wake of the first part. Artist Billy Tan has a great handle on the Corps universe, and the artwork's modern edge fits in nicely with the past decade of GL artwork. Tan’s panels have a cinematic feel that lend itself to the epic scale of the coming crossover.

Nailbiter #6 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): What a fantastic interlude for an already fantastic series. Writer Joshua Williamson cleverly adds to the mythology of Buckaroo, Ore., as a crazed woman decides she wants to give birth to a serial killer. It's a smart concept, and it allows Sherriff Crane and Alice to grow as supporting characters. Artist Mike Henderson gives Buckaroo a scratchy sort of feel, as if any of these seemingly normal characters could snap at any moment, and colorist Adam Guzowski really gives this comic some great mood. Not only is Williamson's concept smart, but his conclusion is great, too. This is an example of a one-off comic done right.

Blood Queen #5 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Elizabeth tries to get to the root of a soil issue, but finds a toxic scheme instead as this series ramps up the intrigue. The plot of Blood Queen always had a lot of potential, and by this fifth issue, Troy Brownfield really shows his skill at weaving intricate plots, layering the dialogue with hidden clues and veiled threats. What's significant though is that artist Fritz Casas is finally contributing visuals that enhance Brownfield's words instead of working against them. Characters react more clearly to threats, body language gives hints to feelings, and there's a depth to the faces that was lacking early on. With the art catching up to the plot, this has a lot of potential for the Game of Thrones fan set.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Silver Surfer #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The great strength of Dan Slott and Michael Allred's Silver Surfer is that it's easy to jump into, and that gives this quirky jaunt some real power. Pitting the Silver Surfer against Warrior One ("The Ultimate Soldier!") is as bombastic and goofy as it implies, and it works well with Allred's pop-art style. (Slott gives all the best lines to Warrior One, by the way, including a bit where he says he will die in his bed. "Because a Warrior One wins every battle he's in!") The script itself does have a bit of a stop-and-start quality with the pacing, as the fisticuffs don't necessarily mesh well with Dawn's "are we there yet" road trip antics, but all in all, this is a solid book.

Detective Comics #35 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Looking for a great, accessible Batman story without catching up on every issue of Eternal? Newcomer writer Ben Percy distills all the great elements of a Batman story and gives it to us in full force: an overworked Bruce Wayne that’s feeling the stress of his work, a high-stakes situation where there’s a mystery to be solved, and an immediacy to the story - Batman has to solve what’s going on or else many people will die. Artists John Paul Leon and Dave Stewart both make this look like an authentic Batman story as well: muted, earthy, and dark colors and a gritty feel to the entire work. This marks a really great opening to what will hopefully be more work from Percy.

Guardians 3000 #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Dan Abnett returning to write a Guardians book may be cause for celebration, but these aren’t the galaxy protectors you’re probably looking for. Taking the original 1969 team back into action, perhaps on the strength of Yondu appearing in Marvel’s monolithic motion picture, the small group of warriors fighting a war against time itself feels like ground Abnett (with former partner Andy Lanning) covered in his modern Guardians of the Galaxy run between 2008 and 2010. The in-your-face art of Gerard Sandoval makes the characters (sometimes literally) larger than life, and never feels incongruous with Abnett’s tone. It’s the kind of book we thought we wanted, but might be better served as a one-shot or mini-series. That said, it’s 31st century setting gives it limitless potential, and is something we’d like to see carry on in the future.

Lobo #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Having replaced one of their most notorious characters with a younger and less offensive character of the same name, DC decided to declare that the Lobo we all know and love was just a pretender all along. It seemed like an odd editorial decision, but seeing that they recruited the amazing Cullen Bunn to handle this new series, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, though, there is very little of Bunn’s unique voice on display here; the plot is bland, the dialogue is insipid, and the characterization is non-existent. Similarly, the artwork by Reilly Brown and Nelson DeCastro is unremarkable and flavorless. Sadly, with this flaw-filled debut issue, the Main Man has officially been fragged.

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