Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday column? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with Oscillating Oscar Maltby, as he takes a look at Jeff Lemire and Ramon Pérez's first issue of Hawkeye...
All-New Hawkeye #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Jeff Lemire and Ramon Pérez brazenly attempt to follow Matt Fraction and David Aja's ground-breaking and not-quite-finished run on Hawkeye with All-New Hawkeye #1: an ambitious and visually distinctive issue that offers an all-too fleeting glimpse into both the past and present of Clint Barton. Lemire competently juggles Hawkeye's abusive past with an in-progress battle with Hydra, but it's Pérez's artwork that's the real highlight here. Pérez renders Barton's childhood in brooding watercolors that ooze style and atmosphere; a panel of panicked violence is literally smeared in a blotchy blood red. It's such a different style to the purposefully minimalistic look of the present day that the pages are barely recognizable as from the same hand. When combined with the low panel count, the dueling time frames mean that there isn't much meat to either story, but All-New Hawkeye #1 is such a joy to look at that you probably won't mind.
Detective Comics #40 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Even as the capstone to five-part Anarky arc, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato’s Detective Comics is another perfectly crafted entry. The Anarky arc succeeds in an amazing balancing act that incorporates super heroes, down and dirty detective work and the sort of problems plaguing our own society into a wonderful story. The wrap-up with Bruce and Alfred on the roof might feel too much like a sitcom device, but it works with so many story threads present in only 20 pages. The real highlight of the Manapul and Buccellato partnership is the art. Their contributions to Detective Comics have seen some of their best art and #40 is no exception, with that double-page spread at the end that mixes their blue and purple palette with the stark red and white cut-outs.
Rat Queens #9 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Kurtis J. Wiebe and Stjepan Šeji? elevate a typical magical fracas into a superb character piece with this week's installment of Rat Queens, a book that's as endearing and beautifully illustrated as it is action-packed and occasionally crass. While some magical creatures are threatening to destroy the town, Wiebe brings halfling Hannah back to some important flashbacks, including the death of her mother as well as a sexy rendezvous with her significant other. Šeji? really nails the balance between sexy and expressive, giving this book a guilty pleasure vibe it hadn't had before. Granted, people just trying to get into this series might have a hard time figuring out who is who and what is what, but Wiebe's coarse dialogue makes these saucy characters even more engaging and fun than ever.
Princess Leia #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): The last of the Aldaraanian Royal family comes face-to-face with the problems of pomp and circumstance in Princess Leia #1, the next chapter of Marvel's continued exploration into the Star Wars universe. As the Rebel Alliance celebrates the destruction of the first Death Star, Princess Leia finds herself disrespected by the boots on the ground and considered a liability by the leaders of the Rebellion. Frustrated, the Princess enlists Evaan, a headstrong Alderaanian X-Wing pilot, in a plot to protect her own kind. Mark Waid's characterization of the princess herself is faultless; effortlessly finding the sweet spot between Leia's icy outward shield and the warm intelligence of her unguarded self. Terry Dodson's artwork is simple yet striking, whilst Jordan Bellaire colors in a warm and bold palette that feels appropriately Star Wars-y. Add in a hilarious appearance from Admiral Ackbar and you've got yourself the best comic book of the week.
Swamp Thing #40 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Charles Soule brings this chapter of Swamp Thing to a close, and he hews closely to Swampy’s roots to send him off. Soule introduces a more meta angle that plays off the now-famous Alan Moore opening from “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” Comics are all imaginary stories, but the characters do tend to take on lives of their own. Alec Holland has transformed over the course of this run from a reluctant hero to a confident leader, someone that is seemingly in charge of his own destiny, and Soule gives him that privilege. Jesus Saiz delivers fine work on the art side, rendering the many avatars of the Green with aplomb and communicating the dire straits that they all find themselves in. Pacing issues hamper the overall effect of this one because of page constraints and Soule’s decision to put his meta narrative front and center but this is a solid conclusion to a generally well-regarded run.
Spider-Woman #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Marvel’s house style strikes again. After a lackluster first arc, Spider-Woman is back with a new artist, a new costume and a new status quo. Javier Rodriguez’s artwork definitely fits in the Paolo Rivera/Marcos Martin style that made Daredevil a hit and has since been tweaked to fit characters like She-Hulk and Hawkeye. Clean, efficient linework and effective, purposeful inking without too much reliance on computer-generated lighting effects give this book a lot of life. Even Dennis Hopeless’ writing approach is cut from the same cloth as the aforementioned heroes’ books. Jessica Drew is on her own for the first time in a while and this is a story about her, not her involvement with the Avengers, so Hopeless is sure to quickly establish her voice and her approach to crime fighting. The tone and the unique little hook in this arc is sure to engage readers new and old.
Project Superpowers: Blackcross #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Warren Ellis revives Dynamite’s Project Superpowers franchise with an enthralling supernatural thriller set in a remote town called Blackcross. This debut centers around a series of bizarre deaths and strange events that are steeped in mystery and contrast wonderfully the with bright and shiny glamour of the series that spawned it. Colton Worley’s artwork is dark and gritty, with heavy inks, subtle colors, and a grim realism that makes the gripping story feel even more dramatic and engrossing. It’s great to see Dynamite taking more risks and breaking away from the franchise mold lately, it really seems to be paying off for them. This reboot breaths new life into a franchise that had become tired and cliched.
Nameless #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham's "the Exorcist meets Apollo 13" saga - their words, not mine - continues. Nameless #2 seems to be more of setting up the scene rather than racing ahead with this series' main storyline, but diehard Morrison fans won't mind. There's some interesting potential, having the weirdness of black magic cast against the cold nothingness of space, but right now, this comic feels more like mood than anything else. (Although there's a great Hannibal Lecter-esque bit with a scientist who's gone crazy in the void, and I love the sigils painted on spacesuits.) Burnham in particular sells some of the creep factor in this book, especially near the end, as he basically portrays a blood orgy in space. That all said, because we're introducing the space factor in this issue, we miss out on the inherent coolness of Morrison's protagonist, a sort of magic version of the thieves of Inception. Still, the artwork is superb, and chances are, you won't want to miss out on the setup for the rest of Morrison's crazy vision.
Batman Eternal #48 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): This certainly doesn’t feel like a book that’s ending in four issues. In the midst of Hush’s takeover of the Batcave, Kyle Higgins throws in a prison break and we’re seemingly no closer to an ending than we were last issue. Batman Eternal has definitely been a wild ride, but one that seems like it will be so much more clearly defined by an effective conclusion, making issues like this one frustrating. I understand the need to build tot the final moments, but this feels like piling on just for the sake of it. Fernando Blanco’s art works for this issue and by virtue of effectively telling the story, it’s definitely ahead of many of the other artists that have worked on Batman Eternal. But for this issue, there’s nothing to get particularly excited about - fatigue is definitely setting in.
Big Man Plans #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Eric Powell and Tim Wiesch deliver a bloody and relentless tale of revenge and retribution, featuring a little person who tires of being mistreated by the world and one day snaps, in a big way. Fans will be familiar with Powell’s intoxicating mix of crime, horror, and black comedy from The Goon, but adding Wiesch to the mix seems to have made the story even more brutal and funny than we’ve become accustomed too. Powell’s gorgeous yet grotesque style is on full display here, with luscious inks, pencil shading, watercolors, and lots of wonderful experimentation. It’s violent, vicious, and not for everyone, but Big Man Plans #1 is hell of a fun read.
Blood Queen and Dracula #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The concept: Take Vlad Dracul’s (a.k.a. Dracula) story and place him 50 years forward in time from the moment he made his deal with the Devil to become a vampire to ward off the Turkish forces. Now, the Ottomans continue to rule while a new player enters the arena: The Blood Queen, a figure draped in rumor and mystery given her penchant for bathing in the blood of virgins, not to mention an equal thirst for power. Both characters find their footing in real-life historical figures, and it makes for an interesting high concept. The only problem? The story doesn’t really go anywhere as it focuses a large part of its attention on establishing Dracula; however, readers picking up this book will have trod this territory numerous times over, doing little to advance the plot. Background details were often sparse in the art, but the art was clear and told the story cleanly. Overall, the concept of the book has potential, but the first issue doesn’t do enough to capture the reader’s full attention.