Best Shots Reviews: MULTIVERSITY: MASTERMEN #1, SILK #1, DEADLY CLASS #11 & More

Credit: DC Comics
Multiversity: Mastermen #1 cover
Multiversity: Mastermen #1 cover
Credit: DC Comics

Multiversity: Mastermen #1
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Sandra Hope, Mark Irwin, Jonathan Glapion, Alex Sinclair and Jeromy Cox
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Some of the fun of Multiversity has been seeing alternate takes on our favorite characters and for the most part, Grant Morrison has delivered a consistently exciting array of stories that all bob and weave around each other. This installment sees Morrison checking in with the Nazi-ruled Earth-10 and the effects that this world’s Superman has as a weapon of tyranny. Probably unfortunately though, Morrison gets a bit heavy-handed with his criticism and cribs some of his third act from an “Inglorious” source, undermining the contextualization of the Freedom Fighters and Overman’s own internal struggle instead of underlining it. Jim Lee’s art sags under the weight of an army of inkers and fail to give the book any real consistency.

Morrison starts this issue on the humorous note but it quickly veers into more serious territory. Superman has (almost) always adhered to the idea of truth, justice and the American Way but when that last part is replaced by the idea of the Nazi Regime, things get a little dicey. Morrison attempts to show Superman (or in this case, Overman) as a paragon of good in order to give us a more suspenseful conflict with Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters. Switching the allegiances of characters on different worlds and having them punch it out is nothing new, but giving Overman a twinge of doubt about the motives and methods of the Nazis makes him a more sympathetic character and puts a wrinkle in the outcome. But Morrison is doing more than just playing with action figures wearing different costumes, he tries to make this a larger metaphor about the United States’ own foreign policy.

Unlike Superman: Red Son, which gave us a complete graphic novel to explore the idea of Superman landing in the Soviet Union, this issue is only 30 pages. That’s a lot less room to try to make a point and tie in to the larger Multiversity narrative. Morrison can’t show us everything so we kind of get the Cliff’s Notes through Earth-10’s Jimmy Olsen. The result is a book that moves at a pretty quick pace and forces readers to fill in the blanks themselves a little bit. Not only is Morrison trying to deliver on his metaphor but he’s also got to introduce us to this world and help us understand its dynamics. I don’t really think he did the best job with that. Too much relies on knowing some post-World War II world history because it plays on those expectations. The concepts aren’t complicated, but they're daunting for an uninitiated reader. Added to the fact that Morrison has a much larger indictment of the current American government in his sights, some of the narrative just gets lost as he sacrifices concept for clear execution.

At risk of riling some fans up, I don’t even know why DC bothers putting Jim Lee on their books anymore. (Obviously, I know why, but you know what I mean.) It takes four inkers to tackle this 30-page behemoth and it’s hard to blame the art on anything more than that. The worst parts of Lee’s work shine through, unfortunately. The faces are full of scratchy line shading and body proportions are all but thrown out the window it seems. But the panel-to-panel visual storytelling is solid, especially when working in more mid- to long-range shots. The final splash page is a great piece of work as well. Of all the artists to come out of that 90s Image revolution, I always thought that Jim Lee was one of the ones who actually improved as time went on. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see that when every time he’s on a book, it takes a village to get it done. It’s probably impossible to hurt the man’s reputation with fans but DC is hanging themselves with the long leash they’re giving him especially when they’ve gotten such incredible art from so many other artists during this Multiversity project. Frankly, it’s a disservice to the fans, as well as Lee and Morrison.

Mastermen isn’t the best book it could be. That’s a shame because with a few more pages I think Morrison could have really done something with it and given us a more nuanced ending. The one he writes is big and bombastic but I don’t think it help him achieve his goal. This issue also doesn’t do a whole lot to open up the larger narrative of Multiversity and while I’m all for insular storytelling, this doesn’t seem like the right place for it. I also think Morrison would’ve been better served with a more consistent art team. Obviously, we don’t know the circumstances surrounding this book, but the army of names that follow Jim Lee’s on every book he does are starting to become a regular occurrence.

Silk #1 by Dave Johnson
Silk #1 by Dave Johnson
Credit: Marvel Comics

Silk #1
Written by Robbie Thompson
Art by Stacey Lee and Ian Herring
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Move over, Spider-Man - there's a new webslinger in town. Buoyed by the striking artwork of Stacey Lee, Silk #1 is a strong entry into the life of Cindy Moon as she struggles to find her own path following Dan Slott's far-reaching "Spider-Verse" event. While there's still plenty of room for Cindy to grow as her own character, the artwork is so clean and engaging that it's hard to not to feel charmed.

Writer Robbie Thompson smartly starts the comic off with some action, showing off not just how green Cindy is as a superhero, but also showcasing that she's a human underneath all that webbing. Not only that, but she's kind of awkward, and not in a loud Peter Parker kind of way - she's been a recluse for 10 years, so she's spouting off old pop culture references like Pokemon (or not knowing what Twitter is). It's an endearing page out of the Captain America playbook, and it's just enough, as Thompson spends most of this first issue recapping where Silk is in the Marvel Universe: fledgling superheroine, Fact Channel reporter, and "undefined" make-out buddy with Peter Parker. Indeed, it's the matters of the heart that are Thompson's strongest suits here, from a scene where Cindy bluntly reveals her roommate's crush (right in front of the crushee), or when Spider-Man not-so-subtly hints at a possible hookup. It's a surprisingly sophisticated angle for the almost childishly repressed Peter, and that adds a lot of tension with Cindy, as well.

But the real highlight of this comic is the artwork. Fitting right in step with the tidal wave of cartoony art in the wake of Batgirl, Spider-Gwen and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Stacey Lee is a revelation with Silk. Her characters are expressive and full of energy, and it feels like every panel shows a character who is coiled up and ready to spring into action. There's also a sublime beauty to the way that Lee draws Cindy in action, particularly the panels where Silk just closes her eyes, letting the city swallow her up as she swings through the air. That's the kind of acting that no amount of dialogue can convey - no matter what she's been through or how many years she's lost in her bunker, there's a freedom and a release when Silk puts on the webs. And the scenes where Cindy is on the phone with Peter - wow. There is so much tension, just based on the look on Cindy's face. She knows it's not a good relationship for her, but she wants it anyway. Haven't we all been there are one time or another?

That said, while this is a strong debut for Silk, it's not quite at the level of Batgirl and company just yet. Part of that is a necessary evil - Thompson does the right thing by introducing all of the various elements of Cindy's life, even if Dan Slott has already tread that ground in Amazing Spider-Man. But with all that recap, what we're really missing is a solid angle, a throughline that shows us what this book is going to be about. Batgirl, for example, tackles threats that reflect 20-something culture. Squirrel Girl, meanwhile, is a story about a goofball making good against people way outside her weight class. Even Spider-Woman, despite its rough opening arc, seems to be leaning towards street-level private eye work. Thompson alludes to a few things coming down the pike - Cindy's malfunctioning Spider-Sense, or the quest to find her missing parents (who, to be honest, don't feel particularly engaging at all) - but the character and the high concept isn't quite well-defined enough for people to know what they're really getting into.

But even without a rock-solid high concept, Silk does have a strong hook - the art. Stacey Lee is a great find for Marvel, and they'd be foolish to let her go. With her cartoony characters that show so much emotion, Lee elevates Thompson's script, making his bursts of characterization really crackle with energy. That alone makes Silk a book worth keeping an eye on - she may be finding her feet in the superhero world, but I have the feeling she'll be swinging with the A-listers soon enough.

Credit: DC Comics

Deadly Class #11
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Wes Craig and Lee Loughridge
Lettering by Rus Wooton
Published by Image Comics
Review by Kat Vendetti
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Tension has been high this arc of Deadly Class, as Marcus and company have to keep their relationships on the down-low while surreptitiously plotting their infiltration of Chester's house, lest their central role in Chico's disappearance is made apparent to Master Lin - or worse, Chico's father. Now in the midst of the explosive showdown, Marcus, Maria and Saya find themselves in a confrontation of their own as Rick Remender joins trained assassination with teenage drama in the chaotic conclusion to Deadly Class' second arc.

Deadly Class #11 wastes no time in progressing directly from the previous issue's cliffhanger, ascending further into the throes of the final battle while perfectly balancing the dual nature of these characters. Though they are killers, Marcus and his crew are still teenagers, and Remender uses that as an integral aspect of this arc: Saya using a single panel to eliminate her attacker in order to address her drama with Maria, who later on, amidst various corpses, tells Marcus that all she ever did was love him as he's holding a severed head in his hands, are highlights of Remender's and Wes Craig's impeccable union of murderous bedlam and teen angst. As Marcus, Maria, and Saya take turns in carrying the narration, Deadly Class #11 offers insight into their own respective turmoil that had been brewing in this arc, which they handle in their own individual ways as they realize and reveal what exactly they're fighting for - and what strings they had been pulling.

Together, Craig and Loughridge effectively contribute to the turbulent nature of Deadly Class #11. Craig's panel layouts are haphazardly thrown onto each page, with scenes overlaying each other to feature the violence as Remender's script jumps between each character's role in battling Chester's gang. Loughridge's color palette frequently varies among panels rather than pages, utilizing the quickly paced fluctuations of each moment. There are dull grays when things go quiet before an immediate bright orange when they quite literally explode, and some panels are filled with blues and reds before the following are completely devoid of color as Marcus experiences just how twisted Chester is.

Remender elevates Chester into the final form of the formidable villain he had been building him up to be, taking him to new heights in Deadly Class #11. However, while Chester earns this development, his gang falls just under the mark. Though Chester's crude and erratic speech is warranted and characteristic, what little we've seen of his gang causes their vocal presence to be at times jarring. Their inexplicable monologuing, though inventive and distinctive, occasionally distracts from more significant narration: Maria's decision that she no longer has nor needs anyone to count on, for example, gets lost under one of Chester's goon's bizarre diatribe and would have read much more smoothly without. But when their speech fits into the scene, it works miraculously in painting them as truly obscene adversaries.

Marcus' resolution with Chester is deliciously bittersweet, delivering the kind of payoff that subverts one's usual expectations but is appropriate for the tension Remender had established for this arc, and we're left feeling unsettled in this brutal and unforgiving conclusion. As Remender wraps up Deadly Class' second arc and all its threads, he leaves us with the question of whether Marcus and his gang truly won in the end. Though the body count may be in their favor, the resolution begs to differ, and there's little time to ruminate on it before the consequences drive right into the next arc. It's satisfyingly discomforting, in the best way.

Credit: DC Comics

Batgirl #39
Written by Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart
Art by Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart and Maris Wicks
Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by DC Comics
Review by Oscar Maltby
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

After Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr's fashionable and refreshingly utilitarian new take on the Batgirl costume went viral late last year, Barbara Gordon has been a superhero renewed. Now, five issues in and with the whole of Burnside standing against her, have the yellow Doc Martens finally lost their shine?

Since arriving at her new home in Burnside, Batgirl's biggest enemy has been herself. She's struggled with an imposter, accidentally wrecked a beloved business and, if you'd believe two motorcycling cosplayers, even taken out a hit on herself. In her professional life, she's in hot water with her university for failing to recover the lost data her thesis hinged upon. In her private life, she's been dating a policeman with a vigilante grudge. Oh, and that's without even mentioning that Black Canary's sleeping on Barbara's sofa, after an errant Bat-explosive accidentally burned down their secret hideout.

The Spider-Man formula of “ordinary life can be just as hard as a superheroic one!” hasn't steered a young hero wrong yet, and it’s working as strongly as ever here. Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher's script opens with a bang, as an angry mob closes in on Batgirl as she pleads her case. Next, a staged robbery turns into an ambush after the dating app HOOQ puts out a $20 million hit on Batgirl. The overarching threat of this arc has been Barbara's own self-doubt, as a series of seemingly random problems have all conspired to damage her perception, both with herself and the citizens of Burnside. Whenever she tries to do good, all she's faced with is a metaphorical mirror carrying the message that Batgirl is the problem. As a big bad, this malicious reflection is a suitable and convincing threat that disarms Batgirl's strength of photographic memory and turns it into a weakness. After a cathartic reconciliation with Black Canary, Batgirl storms the HOOQ headquarters, coming face-to-face with a killer cliffhanger sheds some light on the misfortune of the past few issues.

Stewart and Fletcher's dialogue is a fairly accurate reflection of conversational form for a bunch of well-off characters in their early twenties, and everyone's own personal motivations shine through to provide purpose during less super-powered scenes. After all, Batgirl #39 is part soap opera, and Stewart and Fletcher aren't afraid to keep the costume stashed away in favor of Barbara's stormy personal life. It's a bold choice, but it works. Barbara's move to Burnside was supposed to herald a new direction in her life, with less focus on the bitter seriousness of Bat-life, so her insistence to not lose focus on her identity as Barbara makes sense.

The action here is unique and fun. At the issue's opening, Batgirl bundles an unruly resident into a sack. Stewart, Fletcher and Tarr add a final little flourish by having Batgirl tying the knot with a Bat-bola, making the final product look like a sack of presents left by Bat-Santa. It's an amusing little extra that adds a sense of lightness to what could have been an overwhelmingly dark scene. At the issue's climax, an especially inventive sequence sees Babs drive straight up a wall, before engaging a grappling hook and letting her Bat-Bike parachute back down to earth. It's just a little sequence, but it shows the kind of effort that Stewart, Fletcher and Tarr are putting into this book: even a simple ascent up a skyscraper's been retooled and given new life. It's a page as inventive as it is self-aware, as evidenced by the text from Dinah when Batgirl reaches the building's top: “Show-off. ;)”

If the artists at Disney responsible for Tangled and Frozen tackled a comic book, it would probably look exactly like this. Penciler Babs Tarr's style, which strongly emphasizes expression and body language over realism, hits just the right tone to carry this incredibly contemporary script. It can be tricky to start throwing around phrases like “start-up app developer” without inducing a hundred thousand eye-rolls, but Stewart and Fletcher hits drama so well it's just about excusable. Still, it's hard to shake the feeling that the almost constant references to the in-universe Tinder-alike HOOQ are going to horribly date this series for the future.

Elsewhere, colorist Maris Wicks' soft, pastel tones lend a warm and comforting feeling to the issue. Her colors are more akin to a slice-of-life indie comic than traditional DC fare, which makes Batgirl stand out among the glut of similar-looking cape books cluttering the shelves. Tarr inks her pencils in a uniform and neat style that makes each distinct figure pop from the page, while Jared K. Fletcher's inclusion of phone notifications among the standard dialogue balloons help highlight Batgirl's reliance on her omnipresent phone.

Batgirl #39 is a comic for the Vice generation, a fast-paced young-adult oriented title that puts equal weight on both sides of Batgirl's identity to provide a well-rounded window into the life of an incredibly well-realized character. Tarr's artwork plays well with Fletcher and Stewart's punchy script, and while it's almost too contemporary to stand the test of time, in the here and now Batgirl is a damn fine comic book.

Credit: Marvel Comics

She-Hulk #12
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Javier Pulido and Muntsa Vicente
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Saying goodbye is always hard. That goes double when you are saying goodbye to a book as special as She-Hulk. Charles Soule and Javier Pulido’s solo superhero sitcom was a dark horse title that become something of a minor phenomenon, both critically and with a fiercely loyal subset of fans. In a post-Hawkeye landscape, She-Hulk rode that wave of solo title momentum and became just a bit more than just a look into the everyday life of Jennifer Walters; it was funny, strange and offered a look that was wildly different from everything that sat next to it on shelves. While She-Hulk #12 marks the end of this series and the beginning of Jen’s adventures elsewhere, this final issue offers little in way of finale fanfare. She-Hulk #12 is simply the final issue in the arc presented in #1; no muss, no fuss, just an engaging story that is well told with great visuals and a dry wit. What better way to send Jen, Angie, Hei-Hei and Patsy off?

She-Hulk #12 brings the case of the Blue File to a resounding conclusion, finally detailing what exactly happened that day in North Dakota. The Blue File has long been one of Charles Soule’s trump cards for this series, using it both as a MacGuffin for the title and an inciting object for the plot. With this issue’s open set of scenes, which finally brings together Nightwatch’s secret origin and the exact role of all the baddies featured in She-Hulk so far, Soule finally lays it all out for us before quietly moving into his endgame. Pulido and Vicente have long been a high point of this series, and while this opening doesn’t have their usual visual theatrics, they still manage to impress as the issue quickly moves toward its conclusion. Pulido, once again, uses as much page space as possible when he can, turning a two-page splash into a large panel grid, with the main hero shot of Jen and her team dealing with the hell unfolding around them, while the bottom of the page are smaller establishing panels of tight action shots. Pulido even goes a step further with these smaller panels, transforming the last one into a kinetic transition shot by having Jen, quite literally, leap off panel through the negative space of the page into another set of upright panels. Pulido’s work might not be for everyone, but even his harshest critics would be remiss if they didn’t acknowledge his willingness to try all sorts of new things with the medium.

After laying it all on the line for the characters and audience both, Soule then moves into the true finale of the issue and the series as a whole - the showdown between Team Jen and Nightwatch. Of course, this being She-Hulk, this showdown isn’t your normal superhero throwdown, instead Soule structures it more like a House floor debate, and the scene is all the stronger for it. Soule takes his time scripting Nightwatch’s argument and Jen, Angie, and Patsy’s understandably angry response to it. This entire showdown simmers where other comics would have it boil over too quickly, and therein lies the appeal of She-Hulk in a nutshell. Charles Soule may be writing superhero stories, but She-Hulk never felt like a straight-up, by-the-numbers superhero yarn, so why should its final confrontation stop that now?

Recalling the horrific circumstances that preceded his vigilante career, Nightwatch coolly states that all he wanted was to be a hero and to garner redemption in his doing so. Jen, cutting to the quick of the matter as usual, retorts that he only wanted a shortcut. In between the verbal sparring, Soule reminds the readers just how effective Nightwatch’s powers are as he hypnotizes Jen into attacking her friends, but for the most part, this entire final battle leaves out the battle part without ever sacrificing the tension or the catharsis that the die-hard audience surely feels at this point. We have spent 11 months getting to this point, and while some readers may take umbridge with the lack of knuckle-busting in this final showdown, for She-Hulk this is the perfect way to wrap it all up; a lively debate with a few scrapes capped off with a true redemption for one of the title’s most unlikely of characters. From the very first issue, Charles Soule seemed determined to deliver a singular comic experience, and with She-Hulk #12, he kept that promise up until the very end.

As the writer states in his farewell letter, this isn’t the last we will see of Jennifer Walters. She will be back on shelves soon in the upcoming A-Force and surely, at least at some point in the future, another solo series. Keeping that in mind, it is still hard to let She-Hulk go. Charles Soule, Javier Pulido, and Muntsa Vicente took a character and introduced her to a new legion of fans that were hungry for a title just like this one. She-Hulk was bold, different and a title that hit shelves at exactly the right time. She-Hulk #12 continues that streak of creative singularity and sends Team Jen off with a smile and a feeling that everything will be okay in their world. Someone once said that the best endings just feel like beginnings, and that’s what She-Hulk #12 delivers - an ending that could very well lead to something bigger and better for Jen. And that is exactly what she deserves.

Credit: DC Comics

Batman and Robin #39
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray and John Kalisz
Lettering by Carlos M. Mangual
Published by DC Comics
Reviewed by Brian Bannen
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

For a long time, Batman and Robin was a very dark book. Beginning with the villain NoBody and continuing through “Death of the Family” and ultimately “Requiem for Damian,” the book always had a gloom about it that was particularly difficult to handle as Bruce careened from moment to moment while grieving over the death of his son. Since Damian’s return, though, Peter Tomasi has injected a light-heartedness that is both unexpected and fun, and it continues in Batman and Robin #39.

While a superpowered Robin may be a hard pill to swallow for some readers, Tomasi’s grip on the character is anything but unconvincing. Take an brash, arrogant ten-year old, give him powers, and what does he do? Wrangle up some of his father’s enemies and deliver a stern warning to abide by the rules or find themselves cast into outer space. It’s this kind of character development that makes Batman and Robin such a solid read. Damian is still fighting crime, but using his own method of justice - especially now that he can’t be injured. There are hints, though, that Damian’s powers are not what they seem, and his reaction to these changes is heartbreaking. Tomasi captures the uncertainty of a boy trying to come to terms with his new self. This is a lesson to which everyone can relate, and to see such a confident character struggle humanizes him, if only for a short while because just as quickly, Damian is back to his usual self.

We know that Bruce is going to do everything he can to learn about Damian’s abilities (and he definitely tries), but Tomasi moves beyond the scientist and gets at the heart of being a parent.While the previous issue was action heavy, Batman and Robin #39 is about balance, particularly for Damian. As Bruce reminds his son, his powers “can and will betray” so he has to rely on instinct and training, two things which definitely seemed to have been pushed aside by Damian in the wake of his newfound abilities. But while this sounds like Bruce is containing his son, he instead does the opposite. Again, readers may find this new version of Batman difficult to imagine, but it’s clear that Bruce understands the best way to help Damian is not to inhibit him, but to utilize him - with clear boundaries, of course. And this father/son dynamic is at the heart of the book, even beginning with a cliche fishing trip (Alfred’s idea) in order to help the two deal with the major changes that have occurred since Damian’s resurrection.

But one thing that has stayed true with the character is his lack of amazement. Even when confronted with the Justice League Watchtower, Superman and Shazam, Damian just looks bored by the entire experience and this smugness is what makes him so enjoyable. Here again, Tomasi’s understanding of Damian is overtly prevalent in his apathy - his general ennui in the face of Earth’s top heroes in their orbiting base. His indifference to Shazam, specifically, gives the comic some of its best moments as Billy Batson does his best to impress a ten-year-old who could care less.

Patrick Gleason brings this disinterest to life in the many ways he depicts Damian. He has a firm handle on eye rolls and complacent smiles, but can just as quickly spin the character so he looks gleeful as he rips apart a tank or carries the Bat-Signal through the darkened streets of Gotham. Visually, there’s a lot to love about Batman and Robin #39, all of it colored with John Kalisz’s solid palette, especially when Damian confronts his father’s enemies in a darkened warehouse, lit only by a solitary flare.

You can’t help but feel Bruce is trying to teach Damian a lesson, if even a painful one, but Tomasi still isn’t showing all his cards. Bruce’s change in demeanor is fun, but the man’s a strategist. His plans have plans. So while the comic presents itself as a series of father/son bonding moments, I get the sense that Bruce is leading Damian into a place where he can learn to respect his powers, but not rely on them. Regardless, the final page - showing Robin, Batman, Superman and Shazam heading off to fight a creature attacking Japan - gave me chills. The one lesson Damian hasn’t really learned yet is how to fight as a team, particularly a superpowered one, so my guess is the next issue will give us just that.

The comic has an occasional hiccup in its transitions, but this is minor compared to everything it offers. By moving away from the grittiness found in other Bat-books, Batman and Robin has given itself a uniqueness that makes it both enjoyable and compelling. And by giving the comic a temporal focus in the father/son relationship and Damian’s attempts to deal with his new self, Tomasi has found a strong balance between action and story, and one that is brought to life through Pat Gleason’s art.

Credit: Marvel Comics

All-New Captain America #4
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger and Marte Gracia
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Marvel has made some big headlines in the last year with its revamping of its main "trinity" of Avengers - Tony Stark has become an anti-hero, the new Thor is a woman, and Sam Wilson has taken over the role of Captain America. But what's fascinating about this switch-up is the meta-commentary that has made its way into these characters' storylines. Are these new characters worthy of the mantles held by their predecessors? And if they don't possess the raw power of their forebearers, will they make up for it in sheer scrappiness?

For a character like Captain America, that's a tall order. Take away the Super-Soldier Serum and the military training, and all you've got left in Steve Rogers is the inability to quit. But in many ways, Rick Remender makes it seem all the more heroic when Sam Wilson - a man with almost no powers, unless you count the fearsome attribute of bird telepathy - wields the mighty shield. Sam doesn't have inexhaustible endurance, doesn't have the super-strength to shrug off the Armadillo's haymakers, doesn't even have the clearness of vision, the unassailable assurance of right and wrong that Steve Rogers did. Instead of a vague, hazy ideal, Sam has a much more concrete figure driving him forward: he won't let his best friend down. Not wearing these colors.

That's the undercurrent that truly elevates All-New Captain America, as Sam races to stop Baron Zemo from detonating a series of bombs that will sterilize mankind. Remender immediately makes Sam an endearing, likable character, as he recoils at the everyday horrors of the slums of India. "What good are you, 'super hero'?" Sam chastises himself. "Hand the blind man your rations. Pretend it makes any of it better." And that's important, because the rest of the issue is a breathless race forward, as Sam bounces from fight to fight - he takes on Armadillo, Cobra, Crossbones and Baron Zemo all in the span of 20 pages (and that's leaving room for Misty Knight to take down the Viper). That's a lot of fighting in one comic, but Remender knows how to pace the action sequences, showing not just new ways for the one-time Falcon to use his wings, but to show he's willing to take a hit for any innocents around him.

The artwork here is also a real highlight. Stuart Immonen really cranks up the speed in this comic, particularly with characters that thrive on movement, like Armadillo revving up into a ball or Cobra crawling all over Sam as he chokes him out. (Not to mention the way the shield moves - Immonen makes it look like a wrecking ball coming straight at you.) What's great about Immonen as an artist is that he also knows how to pace his pages effectively - Remender writes plenty of six-, seven-, even nine-panel pages, and Immonen never skips a beat. Colorist Marte Gracia really makes this book his own, especially with the way that he utilizes the color red to not only emphasize our hero, but to make the green and brown tones of his adversaries pop off the page.

What's particularly impressive about All-New Captain America is the way that Rick Remender anticipates his critics, the people who think that Sam Wilson isn't fit to fill Steve Rogers' boots. Instead of screaming into the Internet maelstorm, he leans into these readers' misgivings, and gives a fitting response: Sam himself isn't sure if he'll be able to do Steve Rogers proud. He's not as strong, not as fast, not as smart - and that means he's got to be twice as resolute. If that doesn't make him fit to be the All-New Captain America, then you don't know what the character truly represents.

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