Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Now let's kick off today's column with Omniscient Oscar Maltby, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Ant-Man...
Ant-Man #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): With the threat of unemployment and the pressure of fatherhood looming, Ant-Man needs cash. Summarizing the plot of Ant-Man #2 would resemble superheroic mad-libs, if not for Nick Spencer's dense and joke-filled script. Jordan Boyd's colors lend a flat, almost cell-shaded quality to Ramon Rosanas' technically solid art, which seems a little sparse on detail. Spencer writes Scott Lang as a lovable mess, and you can't help start pulling for him as he frenetically bounces from wacky villain to wacky villain. Finally, a menacing final splash page provides a solid cliffhanger that'll ensure a returning readership. Simple but clear artwork and a script heavy on laughs make Ant-Man a book to watch.
Superman #38 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr. bring their first arc on the New 52 Superman to a close, one that has explored the very idea of what it means to be a "Superman" through the eyes of an outsider. With Ulysses’ motivation now revealed, Johns makes us question traditional notions of "good" and "evil." Of course, the majority of the issue is an almighty smackdown, with Romita’s often divisive style shining as the Man of Steel discovers a new level to his powers. It results in Romita getting to show off the solar aspects to the Kryptonian’s power source in spectacular fashion. The denouement sets up the next chapter with several twists, literally putting a new look on the character for a new era.
Saga #25 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Possibly surprising nobody, Saga remains supremely amazing as it enters its fifth arc. Back from their regular break in transmission, Brian K. Vaughan does what he does best and makes us wait a little bit for the resolution to his cliffhanger. Picking up three months after the last issue, mirroring our realtime break, he takes the opportunity to explore some of the backdrop to the ongoing conflict, possibly setting up some sympathy for Dengo, the robot who has absconded with Hazel and her family. After a stunning black and white opening, artist Fiona Staples gets to explore new horizons, from projectile-urinating dragons to delicate pre-war vignettes. The final shot, which introduces some exciting new characters, is indicative of the versatility of the artist. We’ve missed you, Saga: never leave us again.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Just when you think that Ryan North’s unlikely spin on the nutty heroine is a little too self-conscious for its own good, complete with running gags in the margins, Doreen “Squirrel Girl” Green suits up in the rodent equivalent of Iron Man armor. Sitting in the quirky territory between Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr’s Batgirl Goes to College and Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, and Chad Hardin’s Harley Quinn, it somehow seems entirely plausible that the one time Great Lakes Avenger could take on the threat of Galactus all by herself. It’s hard not to get caught up in the charm, especially with Erica Henderson’s art capturing a Saturday morning cartoon vibe, enhanced by Rico Renzi’s clevery retro color palette. A bafflingly enjoyable book.
Star Wars #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Jason Aaron and John Cassaday’s second issue might be even stronger than their first! Any doubts you have about this book should be erased because this one comes out blasters blazing and doesn’t let up for a second. Despite the overall Star Wars saga being known to most readers, Aaron is still able to deliver some dramatic tension between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader while also including details that maybe help contextualize the reveals that we know are coming. The Han Solo/Princess Leia dynamic is very strong with this one and Cassaday infuses the book with big action sequences that look like they were taken right from the silver screen. This is title is a must-read for Star Wars fans of all ages.
Nameless #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Grant Morrison is having a stellar year already with The Multiversity, one of his most complex projects to date, and it isn’t surprising that his reunion with the Batman Incorporated art team isn’t the most accessible of beasts. The intriguing premise is filled with shadow groups, significant symbols, dream logic, and space travel to save a dying planet, but there is a lot going on for a first issue. It’s difficult to follow at times, but for now they must be considered puzzle pieces for a greater whole. Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn’s art is sublime, a creepy mix of science and mysticism that takes Morrison into proper horror territory. This may be one to revisit as the series plays out.
Grayson #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Tim Seeley and Tom King produce an explosive climax for Grayson, as he has to work together with the Huntress and the Midnighter to stop a riot from taking place in Jerusalem. Structurally, Seeley and King do great work, particularly with the ongoing theme of Dick Grayson being a safety net for others, the same way that Bruce Wayne was for him. Stephen Mooney takes over the artwork from Mikel Janin in this issue, and his artwork is a little bit more inconsistent. He's got a photorealistic style which works for this book - it's just the page layouts wind up making the finished product looked a little cramped, also leading to the occasional wonkiness with the facial expressions. Still, Mooney makes the action sequences look superb, whether its Grayson leaping around a crowded concert or Midnighter throwing a handful of blades right at us, and Jeromy Cox's colorwork is electrifying. This is a great showing from all involved.
Hawkeye #21 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Finally, Matt Fraction and David Aja's penultimate installment of Hawkeye is here, as Clint and Barney prepare their building to weather a siege of tracksuit mobsters. Continuing the innovatively styled dialogue he made a name for himself with, Fraction's script is light on words but big on impact. Plot-wise, Hawkeye has always been a a title focused on simplicity (as the prologue blurb states: “He lives in a building. Bad guys want the building.”), which provides a breath of fresh air in the sometimes convoluted world of modern comics. As ever, Aja's European influence comes through strong in tiny but emotive panels. From the stoic gaze of Gil's dad to Barney's dejected frown, Aja brings exactly the amount of gravitas that Fraction's script demands. Hawkeye #21 is a bitter-sweet beginning to the end of Clint Barton's most stylish solo run.
Batman Eternal #44 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Batman Eternal returns to being extremely frustrating this week. Ray Fawkes’ script is dull and uninspired. The pacing jumps between a couple different sets of characters but doesn’t give anything of substance. Batman yet again gets no answers as he is less detective and more serial interrogator. Artist Aco in particular goes off-model with several of the characters, with Harper Row and Stephanie Brown coming off as almost unrecognizable. (He also doesn’t exactly stretch Batman’s iconography, as his big moment is yet another shot of Batman breaking through some glass.) This one is a bad effort all-around that really shows the worst of the weekly comics format. It’s repetitive, unnecessary and boring. Hopefully, we get some consistency as this behemoth lurches toward its end.
Ms. Marvel #11 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): G. Willow Wilson effectively ends her second arc on Ms. Marvel with Kamala Khan fighting against the cockatiel-headed maniac known as the Inventor. What works about this book is the engaging sense of humor Wilson brings to her heroine ("I think you're a bird," she glares at her foe, who frowns hilariously thanks to artist Adrian Alphona). While the shapeshifting superheroics are great, Wilson tries to tie together her conclusion a little too neatly - it's harder to take Kamala seriously when she can just call the Jersey City Police Department to serve as the cavalry. Alphona continues to kill in this book, however, with loads of great sight gags, like Kamala's frizzed-out, electrified hair, or the expressions he gives the Inventor. An imperfect landing, but it's still one of Marvel's most consistent books.
Postal #1 (Published by Top Cow Productions; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): While the premise of Postal is a haven for criminals on the lam, the real draw of this series is its central character. Matt Hawkins and Bryan Edward Hill take a big risk with Mark, the local postman, whose world view is absolutely linked to having Asperger's. On the one hand, that creates a flawed yet sympathetic protagonist - both when he pines over the local waitress, and especially when everyone calls him a "retard" (even his own mother calls him "the strangest f*cking thing I've ever made in this world") - but it also overshadows some of the crime elements of the book. (And admittedly, it's a little tougher to swallow that Asperger's also makes Mark a natural detective. But who knows, Hawkins and Hill may sell this in future issues.) Isaac Goodhart's art is low-key but conveys the expressiveness of this town well, ramping up the tension throughout. All in all, this is an intriguing first issue that bears further watching.
Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: Black Vortex Alpha #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): In this oversized opener to a crossover event, Sam Humphries uses the same lighthearted, funny tone he uses in Legendary Star-Lord. However, Humphries juggles many more characters here, and it's unclear whom readers are supposed to follow as the narrative lead: is it Peter Quill? Or Storm? The villains feel interchangeable and underdeveloped. Ed McGuinness, Marte Gracia and Marcelo Maiolo create beautiful, purple-tinged worlds. McGuinness draws great clothing details, such as Brother Blood's tattered shirt. Humphries writes entertaining dialogue, especially Iceman and Rocket, but the story lacks a unifying thread: the time-displaced X-Men subplot isn't linked to the Black Vortex. Humphries and McGuinness do show their hefty talent, but the overall story meanders and never provides a convincing hook.
Action Comics #39 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Greg Pak's Action Comics has been an interesting corner of the Superman universe. While his stories are generally more insulated from the larger DC Universe, they are steeped in Superman's own personal continuity. This issue is no different, forcing Clark to take inventory of his fears, his past failures and his closest relationships. The result is something heartwarming and hopeful that works well without getting too saccharine. Scott Kolins and Aaron Kuder team up on the artwork. Kolins produces the issue's more traditional comic book work, but it's Kuder's moody, wistful flashback/nightmare sequences that steal the show. Superman fans yearning for some old-school Kryptonian action will want to check this one out.