Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week's installments of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off today's column with Masterful Michael Moccio, as he takes a look at this week's issue of Batman and Robin...
Batman and Robin #39 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): If all of DC Comics was erased from the face of the Earth and only Patrick Gleason’s art from this issue remained, it would still be perfect. Artists Gleason, Mick Gray, and John Kalisz continue to astound with how we’ll they’re able to pull off all the visuals of this issue. From going into space, to having scenes in the dark, and everything in between, everything is rendered beautifully and Gleason is particularly on point with facial reactions that go along perfectly with writer Peter Tomasi’s humor. Tomasi’s writing during this arc continues strong, giving us hints that Damian’s powers might not be as permanent as Damian believes. It’ll be great to see the next issue as Damian fights shoulder-to-shoulder with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Shazam as a guest of the League.
Ms. Marvel #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Is it possible to die from a comic book being too cute? Ms. Marvel may be a usable case study for that this week, as she goes head-to-head against Loki at her school's Valentine's Day dance. G. Willow Wilson writes a comedy of errors you'd expect in any high school drama, but adds in some real magic, when Loki spikes the punch bowl with truth serum. This comic has some hilarious moments, like Kamala shouting at Loki, "This guy is not in high school!", but also tempers it with some super-sweet panels, like Kamala's friend Bruno trying to muster up the nerve to ask her out. (Or Kamala reacting to his secret admirer note with surprising receptiveness.) Artist Elmo Bondoc takes a little getting used to at first, particularly with Ian Herring's colors sometimes getting a little out of control on the first few pages, but Bondoc's expressiveness soon makes it obvious why he was tapped for Marvel's most up-and-coming book. Kamala's team-up books are always a treat, but it's ultimately because Wilson has made her such an endearing character to follow.
MPH #5 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Mark Millar’s grittier take on speedsters ends here, and it’s a satisfying finale to such an action-filled and intense series. Chevy gets his MPH-fueled Reverse-Flash on, Roscoe and Rosa take the battle to him seemingly all over the world, and the F.B.I. solves the “Who is Mr. Springfield?” mystery. I liked the twist in the latter’s resolution, even if the very end is a little far-fetched. Still, Duncan Fegredo’s artwork adds even greater energy to an already kinetic script, so much that each panel doesn’t play like frames from a movie as much as you feel you’re being whisked along with the action. It’s a terrific issue that I would have rated higher if it hadn’t been undone by the too-perfect ending.
The Multiversity: Mastermen #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): There is no question that Grant Morrison’s Multiversity is polarizing and, with Mastermen #1, what’s more polarizing than Nazi Superman? Morrison creates the perfect foil for the dated Freedom Fighters with the Nazi–tinged version of the Justice League. The story itself manages to perfectly and succinctly unveil this alternate world, its characters, and Overman’s issue without relying on a full miniseries. The shame here is Jim Lee’s pencils. They seem anachronistic regarding the subject matter and are, frankly, a little sloppy-looking in the details. Perhaps an artist with a more retro look would have been a better choice over Lee’s blockbuster style. Although I don’t think anyone can argue that Lee didn’t nail Hitler struggling through a difficult bowel movement while reading Superman comics.
Legendary Star-Lord #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): There's nothing new under the sun, especially when it comes to creative endeavors, but it's a little disappointing how similar "The Black Vortex" crossover is to another recent Marvel event - Avengers vs. X-Men. With that crossover still in many readers' minds, it's hard to explain why the Beast in particular would submit to a device that makes him all-powerful (and all-crazy). Sam Humphries' script leads into a free-for-all for the rest of the issue, and that leaves me conflicted - it's absolutely reminiscent of prior event comics, but beats like Storm swordfighting with an all-powerful Gamora are great, as is Iceman calling Drax "Oscar the Grouch." ("I have not yet begun to unleash the Grouch!" Drax replies, in the best line in the book.) The artwork by Paco Medina is also strong, sometimes evoking Nick Bradshaw with his expressiveness. That said, between the thin plot and the fact that we've already seen this story before, it's hard to be anything but begrudging to Legendary Star-Lord #9.
Batgirl #39 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Aesthetically, this book hits all the right points. Babs Tarr and Maris Wicks are the stars of this issue - not only is it great that Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher have written such a diverse cast, the art team renders it beautifully and ensures that the population of Burnside reflects the world in which we live. It’s nice to see Barbara start to question herself, especially since it feels like she’s consistently successful. Stewart and Fletcher make great use of Dinah in this issue as a tool to give Barbara a reality check while still giving Dinah her own agency. It’s great to see a cast of characters who are committed to supporting each other despite the rough times. And if that ending is any indication, things are about to get rougher in Burnside for Batgirl!
Wolverines #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Wolverines #7 is essentially a Mystique comic, but admittedly it's a decent one. While Charles Soule does a great job when focusing on Raven and Shogun's power games, you can't help but wonder why the rest of the cast doesn't get that same level of spotlight. It would be of great use to see how the other characters from Logan’s life are dealing with the loss of Wolverine. However, Kris Anka’s art is on point. Anka has a great away of exaggerating the character’s faces so their identity doesn’t get lost in the large cast. Wolverines' concept about the mercenaries that were tied to Logan in life is a great idea - it just seems like there is wasted potential in seeing how the Canucklehead influenced these people.
Mandrake #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): There's some potential behind Dynamite's new Mandrake comic, although it's still got some kinks to work out of its act first. The thing that will make or break this book is the artwork by Jeremy Treece, who will likely get a lot of comparisons to Chew's Rob Guillory for his cartoony, angular style. That said, you get the sense that Treece's exaggerated features would play well to a comedy, and that expectation will only disappoint you (especially when you compare it to Darwyn Cooke's cover) - there are few chuckles in Roger Langridge's script, which focuses on Mandrake hosting a charity magic show while agents across the globe steal mystical items. Langridge takes a risk by spending a third of his book on the magic show, rather than focusing on the emotion that we sensed in the first silent pages. Seeing Mandrake's greatest defeat is where the real magic is, and hopefully Langridge can use that to pull a rabbit out of this hero's hat.
Justice League #39 (Published by DC Comics; Reviewed by Brian Bannen; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Justice League #39 brings the “Amazo Virus” arc to a close, but not neatly. Geoff Johns has so many threads to tie up that the comic is too heavily packed. The solution to the stopping Patient Zero is delivered without much finesse and so the book seems more concerned with setting up future storylines than in giving this one a solid finale. There are bright spots, though. Captain Cold is quickly becoming a fantastically developed character, and Jason Fabok’s art is a thing of beauty. Wonder Woman has never looked more powerful or ferocious, and every character is drawn with impeccable attention to detail, even if the visuals are truncated to fit the amount of story Johns wants to tell. Overall, the build up to this climax was better than the execution.
Magneto #15 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Magneto is a Marvel book that is consistently overlooked, which is a shame because it's one of the best books Cullen Bunn is writing these days. There's a fierce poetry to Magneto's narration, as he defiantly asks us, "If the prisoner believes he is a free man, who's to say he's not?" The violence that Bunn stages here - portrayed beautifully by Gabriel Hernandez Walta, one of Marvel's best-kept secrets - straddles the line between jailbreak and horror, and it hums with Magneto's righteous fury. The plotting has a few hiccups - we didn't really need a cameo from the Marauders, for example - but Bunn more than makes up for it in other areas, such as S.H.I.E.L.D.'s plan to create its own Cerebro to track mutants. Don't let this comic slip through your fingers - it's fantastic.
Batman Eternal #46 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Reading and reviewing almost every issue of Batman Eternal has been a stark reminder that comic books will break your heart. Each interesting concept that has been broached by the Batman Eternal creative team has (mostly) been marred by poor execution, and the plot is starting to feel more like a wild goose chase than a compelling narrative. Tim Seeley gets to pull back the curtain on Ra’s Al Ghul a bit but the result is frustrating. If readers weren’t already fatigued by the long arc, the creative team really seems to be dragging out the conclusion. Batman Eternal has routinely been criticized for inconsistent artwork but this issue takes the cake. The art team consists of three different line artists! And while their styles don’t exactly clash, the transitions between them make for an uneven reading experience.
Silk #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Cindy Moon's new series shares superficial traits with Batgirl - transitional life stage, eidetic memory - but trumps with how deeply the reader gets into Cindy's head and understands her uncertainties. I love Robbie Thompson's first-person running narration. It feels authentically tentative, as Cindy awkwardly learns how to socialize after being alone for ten years. ("What's Twitter?" she asks.) Stacey Lee's art is clean with razor-sharp lines, and filled with tiny, personal details, like the star dangling from Cindy's pen, her roommate's nose piercing, and Rafferty's freckles. My favorite panel is Silk atop a ledge with a beautiful hazy sunset background by Ian Herring. Thompson weaves the mystery of Cindy's missing family into an effective hook and heartstring puller. A moving story with crystal clear direction and visual energy.
She-Hulk #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): She-Hulk has been a critical darling for most of it’s run, but Charles Soule and Javier Pulido can’t seem to stick the landing. The creative team offers up no real satisfying conclusion, just the idea that Shulkie’s work is never done. It’s a nice sentiment, but with Secret Wars on the horizon, what is it worth? Pulido’s art is definitely the main draw on this one but even it seems a bit light. Pulido always puts the focus on his characters but there’s basically no background in any of these pages save for Muntsa Vicente’s bright coloring. She-Hulk debuted with a bang, but it goes out with a whimper.
Teen Titans #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): So much is going on in Teen Titans and yet it’s hard to find a reason to really feel invested in these characters. It feels like writer Will Pfeifer is focusing way too much on the idea of the plot - going bigger and bigger with time travel and almost apocalyptic events happening - and not enough on the characters. They don’t feel like real heroes during this issue; Red Robin, Wonder Girl, Bunker, Beast Boy, and Raven all just feel like they’re going through the motions. The dialogue and exposition detracted from the momentum of the issue, which made going from page to page feel languid. This is a shame, too, because Kenneth Rocafort’s pencils remain one of the highlights of the Teen Titans book, since Rocafort makes everyone look so cool.
Eternal #2 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): William Harms' script is a little too unhurried and dialogue-heavy before finally establishing its premise on the fifth page: someone inside New Life, the corporation that conducts cloning and rules over this dystopian society, is helping those who are bombing cloning facilities. Harms raises a question that would fit in a Captain America comic: is it worth fighting injustice when your entire society wants the injustice to continue? It's unfortunate that no potential protagonist, particularly Gail, is developed in depth. I love Stefano Simeone and Adam Metcalfe's striated TV footage and a van speeding into an explosion. Harms, Simeone and Metcalfe create a dystopian world that feels real, but the characters inhabit it without revealing any undercurrents to their personalities.
Avengers World #17 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): I love Jeff Dekal’s cover, and I can’t condemn the terrific interiors by Marco Checchetto and colors by Adres Mossa. Looking pretty, though, is the only thing this saccharine-laden Valentine’s Day nod has going for it while filling space between what happens on the first and last pages. No meaningful conflict, nothing at stake, just a narrative bludgeoning that Sam Guthrie loves Izzy “Smasher” Kane so much, and to prove it, he’ll have the Starjammers take him across the galaxy to be with her as the Shi’ar take her back to Chandilar. The dialogue seems written with a studio audience in mind, and with Corsair declaring his crew has arrived “…on a mission of love,” he’s a space pirate as imagined by Nicholas Sparks.
Batwoman #39 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 1 out of 10): Despite DC’s push for diversity in their line with their upcoming slate of books, they’ve pushed one of their most visible queer characters to background. Batwoman has gone from a fairly prominent member of the Bat-family to a supporting character in her own book in favor of a ragtag group of B-listers that are a sad excuse for a super-team. Andreyko has shown flashes of competence during his run, but this book is overstuffed with characters and gaudy soap opera style relationship dynamics that are a total bore. Georges Jeanty’s artwork is lifeless and dull at best. At worst, you’d be hard-pressed to tell if some of the characters are even human.
Nova #27 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It's Carnage in Carefree... literally! Gerry Duggan and John Timms continue their tale of exposed identity and human vulnerability in Nova #27, as Nova finally shakes off the effects of his concussion to take care of the pesky crimson symbiote and finally fix his busted helmet. Carnage is very rarely depicted as anything less than a quip-happy psychopath, but Duggan proves he can be more than a one-note character by exploring how the good/bad alignment inversion of Axis affected Cletus Kasady's fragile mind. Elsewhere, in a sequence reminiscent of the time Scooby Doo met KISS, a quick and random cameo from thrash metal legends Anthrax cement the Saturday morning cartoon feel of this incarnation of Nova. Aided by inker Roberto Poggi, John Timms' chunky artwork continues to excel in dynamic and fluid action-sequences, although some of his faces still seem a little flat. All in all, a fast-paced script and animated pencils make Nova #27 a rock-solid issue of a quality run.
Earth 2: World’s End #20 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): As the battle for Earth 2 is coming to a close, it’s hard to feel anything other than anxiety for it to finish. With the end in sight, it’s definitely cool to see how far the Parliament can be pushed, what the World Army is going to do about all these refugees, and how Huntress and Batman are going to get what they need. Earth 2: World’s End is at the point where it feels like the end of a long marathon and you just want to get through with it to move on to your next 26.2-mile run. That’s not to say that this is a bad issue, as each individual story thread continues to have its own merits. By far, even though Dick Grayson has a minimal role in Earth 2, he and Ted Grant’s story is by far the most interesting because of how well the writers are able to hone in on smaller problems during the end of the world. Hopefully the writing team can take that essence, where we still remember to care about these characters as people and not just pieces in this grand cosmic war, and finish strong.
Uncanny X-Men #31 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The cover of this issue is totally misleading, but the story inside is as solid as any in Brian Michael Bendis’ run. In my review of the last issue, I admonished the writer for echoing sentiments and ideas that readers were overly familiar with at this point. But I think Bendis used that issue to frame this one. Eva gets probably one of the biggest moments in the whole run, singlehandedly solving the problem of Matthew Malloy in mere pages and sticking one to Scott Summers in the process. Some readers might be resistant to the “easy” route that Bendis takes here, but I think in essence he’s using this as an opportunity to show why the X-Men generally don’t take the easy way out. And that could lead so some interesting wrinkles as his run closes. Chris Bachalo has been the gift that keeps on giving on this book. His character designs are overly stylized but incredibly familiar. His expression work helps sell the quieter moments in the book but they are perfectly balanced with some big action sequences as well. As empty as the last issue felt, this issue is filled to the brim with excitement and some uncertainty about what’s in store for our favorite mutants.