Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with Parochial Pierce Lydon, as he takes a look at the All-New Captain America #1...
All-New Captain America #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): “Hell yeah!” That’s all I could think while I was reading this comic. Sam Wilson is the new Captain America, and everyone should be on notice. Rick Remender does an excellent job transitioning from Steve to Sam with an opening narration that nails down Sam’s character for the uninitiated. From then on out, this book is non-stop fun. There’s a some great action with Steve kind of talking Sam through a mission but of course things go awry and Sam quickly establishes himself as a capable Cap, even if he isn’t going to do everything the same way Steve would have. Stuart Immonen’s art is perfect at capturing Sam’s remembrance of his upbringing and really brings to life the parallels between Sam and Steve. His work also helps sell probably the best gag in the book because of the way he angles his shots. Here’s hoping we’re stuck with this Captain America for a long time to come.
Batgirl #36 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): This is how you reinvent a character. By basically doing everything in contrast to the rest of the Bat-titles, DC has put together what is easily their best book and what is unequivocally the best take on Barbara Gordon since Batgirl: Year One. Babs Tarr is the real star of this book. The youthful energy of her cartooning is refreshing and the colors by Maris Wicks really bring this book to life. Pitting Batgirl against the motorcycle-riding, sword-swinging Jawbreakers, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher are writing a Barbara Gordon who actually feels like a real person, and they avoid being mired in the rest of the DC Universe’s malignancies. This is an instance where the insular nature of the book works to its advantage, a method that Marvel has been using effectively for a couple of years now (see: Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Daredevil). Thankfully, DC took some notice, and the approach is working for them as well.
Wytches #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There is little time to breathe in Wytches #2 as the characters deal with the events from the debut issue. Scott Snyder does a great job of ramping up the scares, but in doing so at such a pace, we've lost some of the dread that made the first issue such a shot in the arm. (That said, it's fun to watch Snyder play with flashbacks and jump scenes in a way he's yet to fully embrace.) It's rough, but still enjoyable to watch a writer stretch their legs. Jock's art is as strong as ever, with his almost manic pencil work creating a wholly unearthly feel to a title that's already unsettling. With a lot of focus placed on the tight close-up, Jock brings these characters uncomfortably close to the reader. And while the colors by Hollingsworth are solid and enhance Jock's lines, the color palette felt unbalanced. Still, this is a highly entertaining slice of horror that fans can and should embrace.
AXIS #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Things get more complicated in this spiritual successor to Avengers vs. X-Men, as Rick Remender pares down his cast considerably for the fifth issue of AXIS. With the quippy Spider-Man and Nova as his main characters, this issue focuses more on the inverted heroes of AXIS, as they're quickly done away with by the Falcon and his now-evil compatriots. While the actual mechanics of this cast shuffling feel a bit too convenient - and aren't particularly visual - Remender does redeem the book by the end with the X-Men cutting loose, now that they're led by a reawakened Apocalypse. Terry Dodson's artwork feels fairly bland in this book, with a couple of occasional moments of panache, like Rogue gleefully kicking the Falcon in the side, or Nova tearing across the skyline with Spider-Man in tow. Five issues in, however, AXIS hasn't managed to cross the inversion line from disappointing to exciting.
Batman #36 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The devil is in the details for Batman #36. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are crafting the great tragedy in their second entry with the Joker and what sets it apart are the tiny details. Whether it is a link of chain, a buzzing fly, or rictus grin, Snyder and Capullo are really gelling together as a team by this point in their Hall of Fame Batman run. Snyder has been orchestrating the Clown Prince of Crime comeback in the other bat-books he co-writes which frees the story up from exposition baggage (that slowed down previous arcs). Greg Capullo is meticulously crafting the details of Batman's environment. Although it might seem like a small gesture, it adds a unique texture to each panel that distracts the eye like a live environment might.
Thor #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Jason Aaron pens an issue that has both the reader and the new Thor trying to understand the hows and whys of the hammer. It's a fun approach as it furthers both the character and reader. But Thor #2 is no mere recap on what the worthy does once they wield the weapon. This is truly a trial by fire, or ice in this case - while the Goddess of Thunder dispatches with the ferocity of her predecessor, Aaron provides her a voice that's far more jovial in the face of all her strangeness. That being said, the big star of this issue is Russell Dauterman. His panel design is almost surgical in its layout. That attention to detail brings an energy and vibrancy to the page that could have easily overshadowed by heavy colors and shading. Thor is never once lost in the massive Frost Giant battles. It's a simple trick, but one that reinforces to the reader that this mystery Goddess is more than worthy.
Batman Eternal #32 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Hush continues to stay one step ahead of the Bat in this one and the situation is starting to feel similar to “Zero Year.” Writer Kyle Higgins forces Bruce between a rock and a hard place because of Hush’s infiltration and he’s cutting him off from all of his resources. With the city about to be entirely against him, hopefully the Eternal creative team is able to provide a fresh take on the man versus the city that is his life. Of course, it takes a bit of dubious suspension of disbelief to get us there, but nobody is perfect. I guess the World’s Greatest Detective can miss the clues just like any of us. Jason Fabok turns in a good outing in this issue. His art here is much grittier than what he’s doing on Justice League, but obviously the darkness suits the tone of the story.
Superior Iron Man #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): This is a gorgeous introduction to a new status quo for Tony. Tom Taylor has Tony in San Francisco enhancing select members of the populace into physically superior specimens. I like how Taylor contrasts Tony's self-absorption with the responsibility-mindedness of three familiar characters: Pepper, She-Hulk, and Daredevil. Taylor's dialogue flows smoothly and delivers conversation clinchers, particularly Daredevil's, without forcing humor. Yildiray Cinar uses height and perspective to give added athleticism to Daredevil's leaps and poses. Cinar's She-Hulk may be one of the best depictions of the character. Most impressively, Tony's new armor colored by Guru-eFX is near blinding in its metallic gleam. Taylor is writing the unique story where we will be rooting for the protagonist's foils - Pepper and Daredevil - to keep him in check.
The Kitchen #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Reuniting their powerhouse artistic partnership from Mara, Ming Doyle and Jordie Bellaire give these panels a warm, vintage halftone-dot newsprint look. Ollie Masters introduces us to Kath, preserver of her incarcerated husband's street-level business dealings, as she teaches her sister Raven and friend Angie to handle the business of their incarcerated husbands. Bellaire interjects variety amidst the earth tones: I like the dirty pistachio green of the convenience store awning and the hopeful teal of Kath's station wagon. Doyle heightens tension by utilizing different angles: a close-up of a gun firing jumps to a bird's-eye view of the characters looking at the result. If you like the gritty tone of the movie Drive or the show The Americans, this creative team has your pick.
Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Al Ewing's new story starts off serious and then unexpectedly gives us rapid-fire comedic moments: a villain dressed somewhat like The Princess Bride's Westley refers to one of his goons as "Henchman #3." Ewing's humor reaches career-defining levels in a hilarious scene where Peter Parker gives a rambling, pathetic apology to Luke Cage. Luke Ross makes both set pieces and action scenes look good, from the detailed facade of the Gem Theater to when Sam Wilson punches and kicks a roomful of thugs. I especially like Rachelle Rosenberg's colors in an early close-up of Sam's ruby goggles, and the clothing of new character Soraya Khorasani. Showing Sam and Luke Cage as cruel and cold is a fun inversion, and Ewing writes it well.
Klarion #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): A promising debut is squandered in Issue #2 of Klarion. Trevor McCarthy’s art goes from ambitious to incredibly messy. The unconventional page layouts don’t lend themselves to telling the story efficiently and effectively (a criticism I’d level against a lot of J.H. Williams III’s work as well) which robs the book of any narrative consistency. Ann Nocenti is continuing the beat the “technology versus magic” drum, but it rings kind of hollow. None of the jokes land and despite his background, Klarion doesn’t seem the type to be some sort of Luddite. Additionally, the supporting cast feels very one dimensional which makes it tough for readers to really latch onto any part of this story.
She-Hulk #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): A great book, and a great conclusion to the trial of Captain America. She-Hulk dazzles with its plotting this week, as Charles Soule uses his legal expertise to craft a compelling closing argument for the legacy of Steve Rogers, with She-Hulk squaring off in some courtroom combat with Matt Murdock - better known as Daredevil, the Man Without Fear. What's great about this issue is that while it's very dialogue-driven, artist Javier Pulido makes this book a true art book, making each of his pages look cinematic and immaculately designed. (Seriously, his use of shadow in the black-and-white flashbacks? And Muntsa Vicente's use of color to make Steve's blue eyes pop? Ugh, gorgeous.) The one downside to this is that it's a little dialogue-heavy, although Pulido and letterer Gus Pillsbury do great work balancing it all out visually. Case closed: This book is the real deal.