Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with Miraculous Michael Moccio, as he takes a look at Bluebird's first flight over in Batman Eternal...
Batman Eternal #42 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): For all intents and purposes, this is a solid comic to start off Harper’s debut journey as a legitimate superhero. Even though the story read too quickly as things resolved without too many obstacles – especially since Harper seemed to build her own solution out of nowhere – it still felt like Harper earned her chance to be the hero and owned it. The team did a great job in making Harper feel like us, the reader, and what’s possible when a “normal” civilian enters into Batman’s world of capes and cowls. Though we aren’t anywhere closer in figuring out who’s the master architect to this grand plan, you’ll be satisfied that we’re finally nearing the point where Batman finds Spoiler in Catwoman’s club, which only serves to make us that much more excited for the next few issues to come out.
Amazing Spider-Man #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): While "Spider-Verse" hasn't always wowed me in terms of its stop-and-start pacing, I feel like Dan Slott has found his rhythm with Amazing Spider-Man #13. There's a lot packed into this issue - not surprising, given the enormous cast - but what I like most is how Slott gives so many of these characters important beats, such as Otto Octavius learning of his eventual demise, or Peter and Uncle Ben providing a great counterpoint between Spider-Man's "power and responsibility" ethos versus Marvel's general "feet of clay" philosophy. Giuseppe Camuncoli, meanwhile plays around with his layouts to accomodate all these various Spider-Men, and the use of vertical panels and double-page panels makes for a dynamic read. Sure, this book is busy as ever, but this is a highlight of the "Spider-Verse" saga.
Wonder Woman #38 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Decades-old superheroes sometimes need a creative twist to breathe new life into their heroic narratives; however, it’s essential that the core of these characters remain intact. In this issue, however, Wonder Woman – that spirited pillar of Amazonian strength – continues to flounder in the various roles put upon her, from god of war and Amazonian queen to Justice Leaguer and significant other to Superman. Ultimately, the story attempts to do too much in a short period of time to show Diana’s struggle to find balance in her life, and it results in a rushed and unsatisfying story. Artistically, it was a little hard to reconcile certain panels wherein Diana often appeared to have the body of a Victoria’s Secret model and the face of a teenage girl – a clear departure from the previous team’s depiction. With its unfocused story and incongruent art, readers may be better served waiting this one out.
Superior Iron Man #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Megalomaniacal Tony Stark has evolved Extremis to turn San Francisco into a “crime-free zone,” which rhymes with “police state.” Not only is the public unbelievably adoring while ignoring his Putin-esque machinations, but Superior Iron Man’s problem is a lack of meaningful conflict. Sure, there’s Daredevil, but Stark’s become so all-powerfully unfettered that resistance from any front is laughable. I would prefer some internal struggle with the “real” Tony somewhere in there trying regain control because it feels like the Superior Spider-Man conceit minus the Achilles’ heel, and hence a character with little reason to root for. Unfortunate, too, as it’s the artwork that saves the book, with Yildiray Cinar’s pencils reminiscent of Brooks and Bagley and Guru-eFX’s colors bringing a vibrancy to an otherwise bleak story.
Batman and Robin #38 (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 is the best Bat-book going. Peter J. Tomasi writes an issue full of introspection and meditation. Damian Wayne is back, but there’s something different about him. It’s not just his powers. His resurrection has led him to value his life a bit more, and that leads him on a very solitary journey. Tomasi plays the father-son dynamic especially well in this issue by having Bruce give Damian space in a way that only Batman can, and their relationship continues to be the heart and soul of this book. Patrick Gleason’s art is sublime. He curates a perfect balance of action, comedy and dramatic tension that brings out the best in Tomasi’s script. This team is truly one for the ages.
Penny Dora and the Wishing Box #3 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Sina Grace and Tamra Bonvillain create an elaborate, inviting world: everything from Penny's sunny neighborhood to her striped purple sweater is depicted in careful detail. Grace's art is the best we've seen yet: a dream sequence is made even more jarring and whimsical by the use of inventive panel layouts. However, there's still a nagging sense that Penny is stuck as a victim in her own story, reacting to events out of her control. The focus on supporting character Elizabeth makes the plot feel less protagonist-driven. Michael Stock highlights the mixture of trust and rivalry that children feel toward their best friends. Penny Dora has only just begun to unpack its eponymous lead's personality, but Stock succeeds in continuing an enjoyable, unpredictable story.
Justice League #38 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Talk about momentum – even though we’re a few issues into this arc, writer Geoff Johns is able to immediately refresh our memories of what’s at stake and why we should be at the edge of our seats anxiously turning to the next page to find out what happens next. From the writing, to the art done by Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson, everything is pretty much on point with this issue in terms of the overall quality and the synergy of this team. Despite the convenience of some plot points, the twists and turns Johns puts us through are both well done and make sense with character motivations. At the end of the day, despite the fate of billions hanging in the balance, this is a fun story where you get excited with every page from beginning to end.
Black Widow #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): In “The Kill List,” Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto continue to show readers that not only is Natasha a badass killing machine, she’s also human and capable of overestimating her own abilities. Better than a presenting a strong female lead, Noto and Edmondson present Black Widow as a complex protagonist. In this issue, we follow Black Widow as she travels around the globe systematically hunting down the agents of Chaos and attempts to work her way closer through their network to its very heart. Like every issue before, Noto’s sense of pacing lends a cinematic quality to this issue that keeps the story moving at a clip. Likewise, the painted style he employs imparts a breezy feel to each panel that doesn’t overburden the eye while still looking beautiful and well-constructed. Without a doubt, Black Widow continues to be one of the standout titles for Marvel NOW.
Teen Titans #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): If there’s one thing better than seeing this new Power Girl in action, it’s seeing her get along so well with Wonder Girl, and that the primary focus is on the positives of their budding friendship. It’s girl power to the max at its best. Despite Scott Hepburn’s sometimes awkward line art that overexaggerates facial expressions, it ultimately works with colorist Dan Brown to make visually dynamic spreads throughout the entire issue. Writer Will Pfeifer is able to balance between all the characters very well – it’s just sometimes hard to feel like the story finds its footing when it bumps around to different plot points after every few pages, as the scenes are almost too short. Overall, there’s a lot of potential in this new budding Teen Titans team, and hopefully the new Power Girl is here to stay because she adds a whole new element of reality to the inexperienced super team.
Magneto #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Gabriel Hernandez Walta is one of Marvel's best-kept secrets, as he conjures up a bleak, haunting issue of Magneto, as the Master of Magnetism stages a bloody last stand in the ruins of Genosha. There's a sharpness to Walta's linework that's perfect for this series, particularly bits like the air sparking around Magneto as he downs a vial of mutant growth hormone to enhance his powers. Writer Cullen Bunn also gets some nice moments in here, such as Magneto creating a painful brace to walk out of Genosha, or even channeling Michael Fassbender as he bellows to S.H.I.E.L.D., "Where were you when my people died?" (Combine that with turning a helicarrier into a giant fist, and it's a superb beat in an already superb comic.) The only downside? This comic's abrupt twist at the end, which doesn't come with much in the way of set-up. Here's hoping Bunn can justify it next issue.
Batman/Superman #18 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Greg Pak takes Superman and Batman's bromance to a new level this week, as the Man of Steel's hidden nemesis goes after "the one who understands you the best... the one you'll miss more than any other..." Greg Pak's twist in this issue is a decent one, even if it might feel a little goofy in retrospect. While there are some missteps in the dialogue - and a wholly unnecessary fist-fight with Supergirl - what works about this comic is some of the reveals here, including the twisted bullets this unseen enemy is using. Adrian Syaf is the real highlight of this book, channeling that Kubert style to make for some very dynamic beats. It's an imperfect read, but one that ultimately hits more than it misses.
Guardians of the Galaxy #23 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Brian Michael Bendis and Valerio Schiti send the Guardians into their next arc with class. While the “Planet of the Symbiotes” arc might feel a bit overlong, the conclusion is satisfying in that it gives context to the symbiotes’ presence in the Marvel Universe and effectively explains their characterizations over the years. Flash Thompson’s upgraded Venom opens the door for new possibilities moving forward and the Guardians knowledge of the Klyntar will surely be advantageous. By explaining one small part of the Marvel Universe, Bendis has made it so much larger. Schiti’s artwork is exemplary as well. By taking a more animated approach, Schiti is able to sell the team’s trepidation at being on a planet full of the very organism that was trying to kill them issues earlier. The all-new look for Venom is exciting as well, and helps cement Flash’s place as a warrior of the cosmos.
The New 52: Futures End #38 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Futures End, as a whole, has been a lackluster entry in the history of DC’s attempts at a weekly series. Blame it on the inconsistent quality of the artists, the uneven pacing between exposition and climax, or just the general ambiguity of the title and where it wants to go. The title has ebbed and flowed and installment definitely ebbed. Not even a giant Joker/Batman robot can inject excitement into this single issue. It’s just not enough to save to story. Artist Andy MacDonald’s smaller panels never break out of looking like quick thumbnails, lacking a certain crucial refinement. It feels like the story’s architects used this issue to lay the ground work for whatever is coming next. There wasn’t much in the way of big narrative moments, just going through the motions.
All-New X-Men #35 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There is a ton going on in All-New X-Men #35, and it's a marvel that artist Mahmud Asrar can pack Brian Michael Bendis's talky script together and make it all look this good. Bendis bounces from character to character as he reunites four out of his five original X-Men, as Jean Grey teams up with Miles Morales and the Ultimate X-Men. There are some nice moments here, like the Jean Greys psychically hijacking a mind-controlled Beast, and watching two Icemen bicker among themselves is nice. Ultimately, though, the density of characters makes some of the pages feel a bit forgettable (although Asrar does excel in packing together the big crowd pages) - for example, Miles Morales only gets a couple of lines, and Storm and Kitty are blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameos. Still, the art looks good, and this is a more action-heavy, ambitious script than I've seen from Bendis in awhile.
Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Three #17 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The team for Injustice has obviously never heard of the phrase “the sky’s the limit,” because they’ve gone way out into space with how big this story has gotten. The best part is, it’s still such an enjoyable, character-driven read that when the impossible happens, you go with it. That’s what happens in this all out brawl between Batman and Superman’s forces in the Tower of Fate. It’s so gratifying to see Superman and Batman duking it out and though some fights like Catwoman’s and Batwoman’s end way too quickly, Harley Quinn easily makes up for it as she steals the spotlight with the best lines in the issue. This issue felt too short, simply because it was primarily a fight, but the last page will absolutely make you wait in eager anticipation for #18 out next week.