Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with a sweet 16 Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with Maniacal Michael Moccio, as he takes a look at the second issue of Convergence...
Convergence #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): We’re two issues into Convergence and it’s already clear that things won’t even begin to make sense until we get nearer to the end. Where writer Jeff King lacks in building context for us, he more than makes up for it in giving these characters a clear direction. Even though we’re as lost as they are in figuring out exactly what’s going on, King takes steps in this issue to create clear objectives for the survivors of Earth 2 to meet and that’s helped wonders in building up moments. Regardless of the overall plot, there were specific scenes from the issue that took the spotlight. Thomas Wayne and pre-Flashpoint Bruce Wayne meet, with Earth 2 Dick Grayson on the sidelines, and the poignancy of this meeting sent this issue above and beyond expectations. Hopefully the coming issues will continue to improve the story and give these characters the opportunity to deliver the emotional impact we all know they can accomplish.
Ms. Marvel #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Love is in the air in Jersey City and G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel run continues to deliver teen angst with aplomb. Kamala Khan is a character that impossible not to root for. Her youthful energy and relatable problems are a refreshing change of pace from an increasingly dour, event-driven superhero slate. Takeshi Miyazawa is adept at handling everything Wilson throws into the script, from the rollercoaster of emotions that is teenage courtship to the action-oriented superhero moments. Miyazawa’s art incorporates many manga influences that allow the tone of Wilson’s script to shine through and seamlessly blends the “weirder” elements into the slice of life ones. Ms. Marvel is more than deserving of a spot on your pull list every month.
Convergence: Justice League International #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The creative teams for some of these tie-ins have been a surprise. This one sees DC tapping Ron Marz and Darkhawk co-creator Mike Manley for a JLI tale that really leans on Blue Beetle and is ultimately, probably better for it. Marz does some nice character work with the always-likable Ted Kord that fleshes out his role on the team and the team’s dynamics while setting him up for a satisfying heroic turn. Like many other Convergence artists, Manley’s art exists mostly to be a vehicle for the narrative and not to be the real draw of the book. To that end, it succeeds. Manley never overreaches, and while the panel layouts are fairly standard and some of the expression work could be a little tighter, the story gets told clearly and efficiently.
Archie vs. Predator #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Riverdale gang has been shaking things up for a while now and Archie vs. Predator #1 is the latest example of that welcome trend. While this story has some of the hijinks and gags you’d expect, there are also jokes with a surprisingly frisky tone, spicy one-liners and a fight that ends in a broken nose and bloodshed. On an exotic beach getaway, Archie and his pals bicker, flirt, break hearts and backstab with no idea they’re being hunted. Alex de Campi’s sharp, entertaining script has just the right amount of edge. Fernando Ruiz’s illustrations tip a hat to classic Archie style while being contemporary, and he conveys danger effectively. Jason Millet’s vibrant colors and Rich Koslowski’s inks really make each panel pop. Funny and fresh with a dose of creepiness, this issue is a winning start to another intriguing Archie series.
Convergence: Green Arrow #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Out of all the Convergence tie-ins this week, I'd say that Convergence: Green Arrow might be the most interesting, thanks to some artwork that skews high above the norm. Artist Rags Morales and colorist Nei Ruffino have two very singular styles, so it's interesting to see how they interact with one another. For pages like the opening splash, Ruffino gives Morales some wonderful depth, but admittedly the daylight scenes feel a little too bright and cheery (and I don't know what is up with Connor Hawke's robe costume. Oof.). All in all, this short story written by Christy Marx is ambitious, and tries to pack in a lot of stuff that feels quintessentially "Green Arrow" - you've got him fighting against white supremacists, philsophizing about life under the dome, and having his past sins catch up with him when Ollie meets his long-lost son, Connor. While it's occasionally a little rough around the edges or abrupt with the storytelling, this book looks and reads good.
Magneto #17 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Oh man. Cullen Bunn and Gabriel Hernandez Walta continue to impress with the latest issue of Magneto, which is a great representation of the demons Erik Lensherr has repressed, not to mention the kinds of crushing decisions he has to make as the leader of Genosha. This is the kind of book that plays well to Bunn's strengths, as he's able to utilize Erik's past as a Holocaust survivor to supply all the horror he could ever need - it's horrifying to see a shapeshifting Nazi butcher skulking around Genosha, and Walta's hard angles and expressive characters make for some beautiful visuals (aided by Jordie Bellaire's wonderful use of red to pop against the gray and beige backgrounds). While some of the plot points feel a little well-worn, the execution makes for a very satisfying issue.
Convergence: Superboy #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Here’s a prime example of a book that’s definitely not as good as it’s cover. Fabian Nicieza and Karl Moline team up on a reintroduction of the ‘90s Superboy that pits him against the characters from Kingdom Come. Moline’s art is competent and clean - there’s very little opportunity for him to take any chances, but that serves the story well in this case. Sometimes the best thing an artist can do is let the narrative be the star. The problem with almost every Convergence tie-in issue so far is that every character has the same problem (powers don’t work in the dome) and every issue ends just about the same (dome is lifted, powers come back, time to fight someone). Unfortunately, that makes for a dull story for now, but one that promises to improve by its end.
Bloodshot Reborn #1 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Only a couple of years into their relaunch and Valiant are already rebooting/reimagining all of their titles, which probably isn’t a good sign. Sadly, not even the incredibly talented Jeff Lemire can make this ‘90s comic-explosion refugee interesting. Almost quarter of the issue is spent on a overwhelming infodump that attempts to relay the character’s convoluted backstory, then the rest is filled by pointless exposition with no solid plot, insipid characters, and no interesting hooks. Mico Suayan’s artwork is just generic and uninspired—sure it’s pretty to look at, but it’s nothing special and it looks like every other “dark” superhero comic on the shelf. Only recommended for the most die-hard Bloodshot fans.
Convergence: Aquaman #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): If there is one thing a reader can take away from any version of Aquaman, it is this, the king of the seas is a born hero. That hasn't changed in Convergence: Aquaman #1 as we look into life under the dome with harpoon-hand. Tony Bedard has a good handle on a monarch disposed from his home, his people, and his love. It's a shame the issue needs to rush towards the conflict. As the examination of Aquaman's mental health after losing his connection to the sea is interesting. The real strength of the issue comes from artist Cliff Richards. His composition reveals an Aquaman with true presence and power. Yet, there is a shallowness in Arthur's eyes that hint at his loss, without delving too far into the melodramatic. Finally, the use of deep shadows and inks to create a visual connection to Aquaman's past makes this one of the better-looking DC books this week.
Thor #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The plot thickens as the battle rages between Thor and Destroyer. Jason Aaron is doing a bang-up job of maintaining the mystery the woman under the helmet, without losing the stronger narrative within Thor's internal monologue. Thor throws down against Asgard's greatest weapon, the human persona inside she continues to wonder if she can keep it up. When both sides of Thor decide they shall not fall, well that's just straight up awesome. Russell Dauterman continues to impress with his wildly imaginative panel design and eye for chaotic (but not distracting) battle scenes. Make no mistake, Thor #7 is a brutal book with two powerhouses trading blows. But like all that have came before, bloodied and bruised, this Thor refuses to fall. Sharp and clean colors by Matthew Wilson only add to the fantastic elements of this issue. This is one heck of a run.
Convergence: Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): So far, Convergence has been an interesting way to revisit those elements in DC’s history that time or The New 52 neglected. However, there doesn’t appear to be anything inherently nostalgic about the Azrael age of Batman. There isn’t a throwback to old themes or setting; short of the costumes, this is just regular, modern-day Batman story that lacks any punch. So, since the nostalgia factor doesn’t work, we’re left with a pretty bland Batman story. Like a fresh coat of paint, the story could have been saved by some fun or dynamic artwork. Unfortunately, the partnering of penciler Philip Tan and colorist Elmer Santos is awkward at best. Tan’s art definitely fits that 90s Batman vibe but the modern coloring doesn’t do the pages justice. The combination of artist and colorist on this issue makes all the characters look like wax figures.
Giant Days #2 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): This quirky collegiate tale improves upon its debut issue in all areas. John Allison takes a simple premise - friends who all get sick at the same time - and gives each of the three protagonists a funny subplot. Daisy, a previously overlooked character, receives the most amusing writing when she takes cold medicine that turns out to be something much more potent. Whitney Cogar's eclectic palette gives Giant Days energy, especially when decor like the pharmacy's green wall contrast with Susan's muted clothes. One of Lissa Treiman's best pages shows the progression of Esther's sickness in sequential panels without relying on exposition. Despite the lack of an overarching conflict or mission to unite the three main characters, Allison's story entertains.
Convergence: Green Lantern/Parallax #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Grab your parachute pants & Sega Genesis, 'cause it's always 1994 for the citizens of Convergence: Green Lantern/Parallax #1. After going insane and slaughtering the entire Green Lantern Corps, Hal Jordan was about to remake the universe in his image during 1994's Zero Hour event. In our world, the heroes of the DC Universe stopped him, but in Convergence, his mad plan ended thanks to one of Telos' super-power suppressing domes. Naturally, the dome soon disappears and so does Hal's sanity, causing him to come into conflict with Kyle Rayner and the whole city of Electropolis. Tony Bedard writes a melodramatic script here, with a front end full of mournful soliloquy and heavy-handed exposition, as well as some fun and fast-paced action at the issue's climax. From Paul Mounts' bright colors to Ron Wagner's classically super-heroic pencils, the whole creative team's in full '90s-throwback mode for Convergence: Green Lantern/Parallax #1. The question is, is that what you really want?
Superior Iron Man #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): There are some interesting bits conceptually to this issue of Superior Iron Man, even if Tom Taylor revisits some fairly retreaded ground. The idea of an amoral modern-day Tony Stark squaring off with an A.I. based on brainwaves from his heroic past. The thing is, we've already seen Tony dig back into an A.I. from his past, thanks to Matt Fraction's run on Invincible Iron Man. Still, Taylor has some fun twists in this narrative, including Tony Stark's all-encompassing self-loathing, which gives our antihero the opportunity to stand a chance against, well, himself. Yildiray Cinar's artwork is clean but not particularly flashy - which works well for the classic armor he's drawing - while Felipe Watanabe is a bit more scratchy towards the tail end of the book. Ultimately, this isn't a bad book, but it doesn't go far enough to make it a particularly good one, either.
Convergence: Suicide Squad #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Here comes the Kingdom! The deadliest villains in pre-Zero Hour Metropolis square up to the greying gods of Kingdom Come in Convergence: Suicide Squad #1, but not before Amanda Waller assembles her team... Frank Tieri's script largely focuses on set-up for the next (and last) installment, but it's the kind of absorbing political and criminal intrigue that makes you forget there's such a thing as a worthwhile fight scene. Tom Mandrake's grimy pencils complement Tieri's dark story, inking his own work with a thick and shadowy line to reflect the less-than-perfect nature of the team. During one particular sequence, Mandrake messily scribbles the boundaries of the panel with harsh lines, as if he himself was so shocked by the violence inside he couldn't stop his hand from shaking. Elsewhere, Sian Mandrake's evocative grey colors provide a musty, seedy edge to Tom's pencils and Tieri's script, adding one last finishing touch to an absorbing and delightfully dark comic book.
Archie vs. Predator #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): To be honest, I’ve never really understood the appeal of Archie, but the idea of seeing a Predator picking off these annoying kids one at a time sounded too silly to ignore. Sadly, this debut is a bit of a tease, as there’s no real hunter-killer action to be had. Alex de Campi’s take on the Riverdale gang is pretty humorous, though; not quite full parody, but rather tongue-in-cheek. The artwork is pretty standard fare for an Archie comic and follows the in-house style that they’ve been using for decades. However, it is pretty cool to see the Predator drawn in this cartoony style and it will create a great juxtaposition once things start to get gory.