Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday column? Best Shots has your back, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's installment with Adventurous Aaron Duran, as he takes a peek at the latest issue of Detective Comics...
Detective Comics #38 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato continue to raise the bar on Detective Comics as Batman must now discover who is behind the "New 52" debut of Anarky and their possible connection to Mad Hatter, all while avoiding Bullock's itchy trigger finger. Manapul and Buccellato are drafting a densely layered narrative, yet never once boring the reader. Plus, there is something nice about a Batman that reads as an honest detective story, and one where he still has elements of the dangerous urban legend. Visually, Francis Manapul is at his strongest when presenting his page-long panels, each separate, but still telling one gorgeous final image. Not many artists can pull that design off and not make a reader feel cheated by a limited page count. This is an impressive installment that avoids the mid-arc slump, and one that Batman fans need to place at the top of their read stack.
Amazing Spider-Man #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): “Spider-Verse” has been a wild ride so far. This issue sees Dan Slott continue his assault on our senses with the busiest, most bombastic installment yet. Giuseppe Camuncoli deftly handles all the high-flying action, but the panels still feel stuffed and overcrowded. The cast is huge (and generally looks pretty similar) so it’s obviously no small task, but then maybe the title could benefit from parsing down the cast a bit. Slott’s dialogue is not at the level is usually is as he tries to balance the large cast, but the book does deliver some big moments (can you say Leopardon?) that keep it fairly entertaining.
ODY-C #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It’s the all-important sophomore issue of Matt Fraction’s most ambitious project to date. That mind-blowing debut issue is a hard act to follow, but with the aid of artist Christian Ward, Fraction proves that there’s far more to this odyssey than over-the-top pullout spreads and sprawling supporting materials. In fact, some of the problems that bugged me about the first issue have been ironed out here and while the story is still incredibly dense, it’s a lot easier to follow on first read. However, as much as I love Fraction, Ward is the star of the show, with his gorgeous layouts, and vibrant colors that give the story a dreamlike quality. Ody-C is a daunting but rewarding experience.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It’s hard to remember the last time the art and writing in a book was so perfectly paired. Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 is exactly that. North’s voice comes through the manic Doreen Green and perfectly utilizes Henderson’s cartoony, indie spirit. The coloring is flat in some scenes and could use a little refining here and there, but nothing to upset the pacing. Henderson’s acting with the characters make the pages pop and it’s easy to get lost in the comedy. The innocent and goofy nature of Squirrel Girl is exactly the kind of thing that varies the genres on the spinner rack and attracts new readers in the best possible way.
Batman Eternal #40 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): We’re nearing the end of Batman Eternal, and it’s shaping up for a big finale. Davide Furno and Paolo Armitano’s art really stands out here. There’s a grittiness to it that tows the line between a regular capes book and a noir title that really works for the smaller machinations of the script. Ray Fawkes digs into the rogues gallery’s characters here and it’s fun to see how they view each other even in terms of this tenuous alliance. Vicki Vale also gets a nice moment in this issue so while we don’t get to see every Batman Eternal player here, the story does move forward satisfactorily for the ones we do see.
Ant-Man #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Scott Lang is a man needing a second chance - or as a surprise friend states here, a seventeenth chance. Nick Spencer writes a pitiable, likable Scott who bungles conversations like Matt Fraction's Clint Barton. We sympathize as Scott tries to secure employment, but our hearts really melt when Cassie Lang enters the story. Spencer is skillful at not overdoing humor, and at addressing weighty issues like incarceration and parental rights after divorce. Ramon Rosanas' style is immaculate: characters are outlined with a single heavy ink line, and receive no hash marks of shading on faces. Beetle's outfit and Peggy's outfit and hair are exceptional work by Jordan Boyd. Writing this good is rare. Spencer introduces Scott's life perfectly with never an unsympathetic moment.
Usagi Yojimbo: Senso #5 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It’s the final, climactic, showdown, as Usagi faces off against the last alien walker in a giant Usagi Gundam! It’s an action-packed issue, filled with stunningly illustrated robot battle scenes that make Pacific Rim look amateurish. When the dust settles, Sakai delivers some heart-wrenching pages that actually brought a tear to my eye. It’s OK, though, because the epilogue includes a wonderful surprise that provides the missing link between the Usagi saga and its futuristic spin off, and the final page will make long-time fans giddy with excitement. Stan Sakai has experienced some terrible adversity recently and it’s testament to his skill as both a cartoonist and a storyteller that despite this he’s delivered what may prove to be his magnus opus.
Action Comics #38 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): While the sci-fi/horror fusion high concept of Action Comics may clash wildly with the usual aesthetics of Superman, at the end of the day, Greg Pak, Aaron Kuder and Jae Lee battle valiantly to sell it. The result is a strange mixed bag - on the one hand, having interdimensional telepathic fear parasites invading Smallville with corpses is certainly a change of pace for the Man of Steel, but given how Superman has been struggling for a consistent direction since the relaunch, this feels too soon for this kind of tangent. Still, Pak nails the characterization, particularly a blood-curdling loss of control on Clark's part, and Kuder and Lee both produce some expressive, well-crafted art. (I almost wish Lee's creepier style had been used in the entire arc.) A mixed bag, to be sure, but the execution does trump the off-putting high concept.
Wolverines #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10):Leaving cynicism at the door, the Death of Wolverine and the current follow-up, Wolverines, has the potential for an emotional and entertaining run. Charles Soule handled the actual death with heart and believability. Wolverines #1 sort of brings the family together in order to save themselves, and in a strange way, honor the man before. Sadly, this first issue is far too disjointed to work as a proper prelude (or even epilogue). Instead, it reads like a series of notes set to artwork. Nick Bradshaw's pencil work is not the strongest we've seen. With some static linework, the panels lack the energy a book like this requires. Still, there is some depth to what works, thanks to some strong inking by Walden Wong. We might get to a strong story in time, but as it stands, Wolverines is off to a rough start.
Green Arrow #38 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Awesome Bryan Hitch cover aside, the long-awaited team-up between Green Lantern and Green Arrow comes across as almost an afterthought. A lot of this has to do with Andrew Kreisberg and Ben Sokolowski's characterization of the Emerald Archer, which isn't just one-note - it drains all the energy out of the book. (It doesn't help that Kreisberg and Sokolowski have to burn half their book going through subplots.) The result is the actual team-up isn't particularly exciting, including Green Lantern giving Ollie a dayglo jumpsuit. Daniel Sampere's overuse of letterbox panels hampers the already middling action even further. The hard-travelin' heroes deserve better.
Shadow Show #3 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): This issue of Shadow Show contains two separate Ray Bradbury-inspired shorts. First up is a tale by journalist Sam Weller, which recounts the first time he interviewed his hero. It depicts Bradbury as a charming and charismatic man who loves both his life and his career. What makes it special, though, is a pure Bradbury twist in the tale that makes the story blur the lines between fiction and reality. The artwork by Mark Sexton and Michael Spicer makes the encounter feel even more magical. The second story by Harlan Ellison is a thrilling piece of prose, but therein lies the problem: the text has just been lifted from the original collection and not been adapted at all. To me that feels like a cop-out.
Angela: Asgard's Assassin #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): I love the verbal sparring that Kieron Gillen brings with Angela: Asgard's Assassin #2. Even if Angela knows of her true heritage on Asgard, that doesn't mean she has to like it, as she and her birth mother, Freyja, trade barbs at the All-Father's expense. While the jump to action is slightly abrupt, having Angela kidnap her own infant sister lends some great urgency to this comic. While Phil Jimenez lends a Perez-ian flair to his ornate pages, for my money, Stephanie Hans blows this book out of the water with her gorgeous painted imagery. It may be just a little hard for some readers to follow, but stick with it, for both the art and the attitude.