Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday column? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off today's column with Jocular Justin Partridge, III, as he takes a look at Avengers: Ultron Forever...
Avengers: Ultron Forever #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): As Ultron is poised to take over box offices this May, Marvel has decided to remind us just how versatile the character can be within the pages of comics. Avengers: Ultron Forever, written by Marvel secret weapon Al Ewing, is a gloriously insane throwback adventure that cherry picks certain Avengers from the timestream and pits them against an Ultron that has finally conquered all. Ewing keeps the banter and action coming as this debut issue barrels toward its grim finale, but the pure lunacy of the plot and the characters chosen to make up the team will keep audience having fun long enough to not dwell on just how dark Ewing’s plot really is. On art is the legendary Alan Davis along with colorist Rachelle Rosenberg who both give Ultron Forever a retro look and feel. Davis’ inclusion in this mini-series adds a confident layer of legitimacy to Ultron Forever, which keeps it from going completely off the rails once the final page hits. Avengers: Ultron Forver isn’t perfect and its more than a little goofy, but still manages to be a fun read starring the future synthetic ruler of Earth’s cinemas.
Batman Eternal #52 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): It all ends here. One year of a weekly Batman series and we’ve been through the wringer. The final issue ends up being a relatively feel-good ending. Aided by a veritable army of artists, James Tynion IV’s script is a little saccharine, but it’s probably the only way that this story could end. The whole series has been about the enduring legacies inherent to the Batman mythos and there is one that stands above all: Gotham City. DC’s decision to use fictional cities allows them to take on a life of their own outside the page of the comic, and that’s a major strength for this title. All in all, Eternal has been the best of DC’s weeklies, but it never breaks through to truly legendary status because of a lack of cohesive execution on a week-to-week basis.
Spider-Gwen #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Lieutenant Frank Castle's on the hunt, and he's out to punish the Spider. Jason Latour and Robbie Rodriguez continue their stylish alternate universe take on Spider-Woman with Spider-Gwen #3. Following the Vulture's attack on Captain Stacy's home, Lieutenant Frank Castle follows with Spider-Gwen firmly in his sights. Latour's Punisher is truly a fearsome foe: clear-headed and ruthless. Rodriquez illustrates him as a human brick, a feral gas-masked beast utterly dedicated to taking Gwen down. Meanwhile, colorist Rico Renzi washes entire pages in a sickly green and pink hue, playing out the battle between Spider-Gwen, the Vulture and Frank Castle with pure shade. Clayton Cowles complements the overall feel with his letters. His dynamic sound effects ring out harshly from the point of impact, spraying the background with a graffiti-like visual expression of collision. Action-packed from end to end, Spider-Gwen #3 is easily the most thrilling issue yet, and that's without mentioning the poignant and heartbreaking climax.
Batwoman Annual #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Marc Andreyko caps off his run on DC’s most prominent lesbian character with a final face-off against Morgaine. The supporting cast makes this issue enjoyable at least, but it feels like Kate Kane has really gotten lost in shuffle over the course of Andreyko’s run. Georges Jeanty continues to deliver some consistently inconsistent artwork, but he’s able to give us a few flashes of worthwhile cartooning in the action scenes. The creative team ties a bow on this book with a schmaltzy closing bit, but any good will for this title has long been spent already, and any attempts to salvage the emotional core of the title comes across like putting lipstick on a pig.
Amazing Spider-Man #17 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): I like that Dan Slott isn’t a writer who does things just to do them. They’re always part of some larger plot. But since the end of "Spider-Verse," Amazing Spider-Man has felt a little stale. I’m not saying that I expected a follow-up that was bigger than that event, but I would hope for something more exciting than Ghost and whatever his motivations are with Parker Industries. There is some good character work between Peter and Anna Marie, particularly the way Slott side-steps some of the typical comic book soap opera tropes, but the super villain prison plot drags. Humberto Ramos’ artwork is effective but the story is a bit of a bore, making this issue one that most readers can probably pass on.
Earth 2: World's End #26 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The most frentic of DC's weeklies comes to an end, and I'll give the four writers some credit here - it's certainly bombastic. The pacing of Daniel H. Wilson's story is all over the place, and the eight pencilers on board certainly makes for a scattered read (although I can never complain about the book that gave the slick and cartoony Jorge Jimenez the kind of spotlight he deserves). Eddy Barrows and Eduardo Pansica are a nice opening act here, and while the internal logic of the story doesn't make a ton of sense, there's a finality and sense of scale - embodied by the Green Lantern's power recharge - that makes a paper-thin story feel a little bit epic.
Uncanny Inhumans #0 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Charles Soule and Steve McNiven catch us up to the goings on of the Inhumans in speedy fashion, delivering a zero issue that is new reader friendly and doesn’t feel wholly tedious. Black Bolt is an exciting character and Soule gets to explore some of the range of emotions he feels and relationship dynamics he has despite not really being able to speak. Steve McNiven, meanwhile, is the perfect artist to bring Uncanny Inhumans to life. McNiven is a modern master and his lines are imbued with gravitas as soon as you see them. For the stoic King of the Inhumans, that a great match.
UFOlogy #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): James Tynion IV and Noah J. Yuenkel set their new sci-fi story in a Wisconsin small town, where the snowy winter augments the eerie quiet. I like how Tynion and Yuenkel set up the teen protagonists, Becky and Malcolm, as foils with equally caustic personalities. The writing excels when Becky sidesteps numerous characters who steamroll her decision-making. Matthew Fox, Adam Metcalfe, and Jillian Crab create ghostly classrooms and countryside. The effect is like if more somber Ms. Marvel characters wandered into a Silent Hill game. Fox's close-ups of the teacher capture conflicted emotions particularly well. However, except for the second panel of page 20, Malcolm's face and sideburns are drawn too similarly to Becky's face and hair. This book intrigues with its paranormal indie flick feel.
The New 52: Futures End #48 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): And, so this is how the world ends, not with a bang, but with a thud. Those expecting some grand revelation during the finale of Futures End will be sorely disappointed as DC’s grand weekly experiment comes to a close with an issue that made just about as much sense as the 47 that preceded it. New leading man Tim Drake is greeted in the opening moments by a vision of superhero utopia that is quickly revealed to be yet another one of Brother Eye’s falsehoods. The real world is still in shambles and nothing done thus far has been able to avert that future, despite the group of DC mainstays that whisk Tim and Mr. Terrific to safety and have been waging a secret war against the machine. This group, which includes the Atom Ray Palmer, have been monitoring the timestream and awaiting the perfect time to strike, which apparently is after this issue comes to its abrupt end. Which if you think about it, that’s the perfect analogy for Futures End as a whole; a slew of talent working toward a common goal that is, in the end, unattainable and disappearing just when things are starting to get interesting. Farewell, Futures End, we hardly knew ye.
Uncanny Avengers #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same for Uncanny Avengers. Writer Rick Remender still seems committed to keeping this team from coming together as well as ripping their world-views apart while they meander through their separate adventures. This time around at least we are treated to a lengthy action sequence between the siblings Maximoff and their possible genetic twin, Luminous, but that still isn’t enough to distract from the needlessly grim plot centered around the genocide of the so-called “gene junk” of Counter-Earth. Artist Daniel Acuna, once again, comes out ahead with his well-paced rendering of the Maximoff family scuffle as well as a fascinating take on the Vision possibly finding love in this issue’s opening moments. Uncanny Avengers is still treading some very dark waters, but this third issue may be hinting that the series as a whole is lost at sea.
Sinestro Annual #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): I mentioned in the last issue of Sinestro how the artist involved was eating his Wheaties, but this annual, now it's time for writer Cullen Bunn to level up. This annual actually provides a superb starting point for anyone wondering what the deal is with this yellow ring-wielding horde. Some of the stories, like the origins of New God Bekka or Corps historian Lyssa Drak, are wonderful tales - one is about the perils of overwhelming love, while the other is a naive young woman's descent into madness and murder. Some of the others - like Dez Trevious - have cool undertones, but are undermined by some weirder stylistic choices, like a culture of alien ninja assassins. The art team here also is superb - Daniel Warren Johnson dominates with his Bekka story, Victor Ibanez makes Lyssa Drak look appropriately eerie, and Andy Kuhn gives a wonderfully jagged line to Arkillo. A strong showing here.
Guardians Team-Up #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Writer John Layman and artist Otto Schmidt prove it's easy being green. Guardians Team-Up #4 is one of those great Marvel books that features a pairing that, in retrospect, seems like a total no-brainer - in this case, Gamora and She-Hulk. Layman takes a clever spin on the two's visual similarities, as of course the Marvel Universe would confuse two super-strong green-skinned superheroines. Schmidt has some very funny moments in here with his gorgeous, cartoony style, particularly when She-Hulk effortlessly holds a drugged Gamora back by simply pushing her by the forehead. There's a great, conversational tone that Layman brings to this issue, and it makes Gamora and She-Hulk both seem incredibly likeable, even though they lead some very, very different lives. While occasionally Schmidt's compositions feel a little distant - the last panel, for example, doesn't quite hit as hard as it could - this is easily one of the best issues of the week.