Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with a blast from the past, as we take a look at Marv Wolfman's return to his seminal characters in Convergence: The New Teen Titans...
Convergence: The New Teen Titans #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Marv Wolfman returns to the characters that he made famous with Convergence: The New Teen Titans #1. This trip to nostalgia-ville shows that Wolfman knows these characters inside and out, as he leverages the dynamics between each member of the team to its fullest potential. Nightwing and Starfire, for example, bicker as newlyweds over the use of lethal force, while Beast Boy quietly worries about his pal Cyborg, whose enhancements are beginning to fail under Telos' dome. Thanks to colorist Jeromy Cox's flatter colors, Nicola Scott feels like she could be right at home with a George Perez-ian style that is big on expressiveness as well as lots of smaller panels. Fans of old-school Teen Titans will have a lot to like about this book.
All-New X-Men #40 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): This issue acts as an epilogue for “The Black Vortex” crossover that has consumed both the X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy, and in typical Bendis fashion, it’s a pretty breezy read with a couple of big soap opera moments throughout. The big one, as I’m sure you heard, is Bobby Drake coming out as gay, or rather Jean Grey overstepping a lot of personal boundaries and flat-out telling him that he’s gay. In a pretty quick scene, Bendis robs Bobby of any sense of agency and tokenizes him to serve the larger story. This is not how creators should handle representation. The rest of the book is just fluff to set up the next arc and a character moment between Angel and X-23. Frankly, it’s a dull, uninteresting read. It’s clear what the focal point of the issue was supposed to be, and Bendis totally boots it. Mahmud Asrar’s work here isn’t the best we’ve seen from him, but it falls in line with what we’ve come to expect from most collaborators on All-New X-Men, strong character renderings and good expression work to help sell the personal drama. But overall, this book is just treading water until the next big bad rears its head.
Deadly Class #12 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Kat Vendetti; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Things get even worse for Marcus and his gang after the last arc's not-so-tidy resolution, and Deadly Class #12 wastes no time in exploring the repercussions. Remender expertly raises the stakes and subverts expectations right from the get-go, crafting scenes that thrust us into chaos at unsuspecting moments. He evokes a tangible guilt in Marcus, who ruminates on everything that led him here, while Maria steals the show in combating Chico's family and addressing her own pain. Craig's art conjures a frantic energy and emotional range, and Loughridge's colors illuminate this issue's explosive closing pages; with all they and Remender have in store, this team doesn't hold back and deliver a fierce start to Deadly Class' third arc.
Convergence: The Flash #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): If there was one issue of Convergence tie-ins so far that captures how to tell a great, self-contained story within an event like Convergence, this would be it. Writer Dan Abnett perfectly executes an engaging beginning that completely engrosses us in Barry Allen’s life under the Dome. There were incredibly smart narrative choices: seeing Barry being outran when trying to center himself captures just how helpless he and the other powerless heroes in the dome feel. The scene where he gets the Speed Force back was done well due to artist Federico Dallocchio, who masterfully breaks down the panels and pages to make the transition from non-powered running to powered running feel like a cannon being shot. When Barry finally runs again, you’ll feel it, and when comics can create such empathy between the reader and the protagonist, you know you’ve stumbled upon something worthwhile.
Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex Omega #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): This was a much stronger ending than I expected to see from "The Black Vortex." Early issues saw a pretty formulaic approach to this crossover, but Sam Humphries nails the landing for a satisfying conclusion that leaves our characters and the circumstances that surround them changed. Kitty Pryde’s narration feels really spot-on and ironically, it’s that kind of thing that’s missing from the current slate of X-books. Ed McGuinness and Javier Garron’s art really enhances the script and credit is due to Marte Garcia for an inspired coloring job. The characters and settings were drawn well, but it’s the coloring that ties them all together and gives readers a sense of the scope of this story.
Convergence: Batman and The Outsiders #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): In a pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths Gotham City, Batman's broken away from the cold and harsh Justice League to assemble a decidedly more Bat-friendly team of heroes. Katana, Geo-Force, Black Lightning, Metamorpho and Halo are the original Outsiders, and this first issue of their Convergence tie-in marks the welcome return of an optimistic and caring Batman. Bruce is more "World's Greatest Detective" than Dark Knight here, and it's a refreshing change of pace to see Batman genuinely worrying about his partners' well-being instead of brooding about their lack of obedience. Writer Marc Andreyko explores the effects of the power-robbing dome on the lives of the heroes under it, giving Metamorpho and Katana some quiet moments of contemplation and character development. Visually, the Outsiders are a cavalcade of embarrassing costume design - it was the '80s, after all. Still, it's wonderful to see the ol' black on yellow back on Bats' chest and colorist Gabe Eltaeb has busted out his entire paintbox to match penciller Carlos D'Anda's period-accurate costumes. Despite the solid character work here, a few too many splash pages make Convergence: Batman and The Outsiders #1 a quick read. It's great fun while it lasts, though.
Thrilling Adventure Hour Presents Beyond Belief #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Based on The Thrilling Adventure Hour stage show-cum-podcast, this paranormal comedy injects fun into the typically dour paradigm that defines tales of poltergeist chasing. Frank and Sadie Doyle are the Nick and Nora Charles of ghostbusting, complete with glibly flippant dialogue and an unquenchable thirst for gin, and they don’t fight spectres so much as talk them off the ledge. There are two stories in this issue, and though the second — highlighting how charming Sadie is and how the couple became such — deserved to lead off, neither is overly complex in plot. But that’s fine because it’s the banter, humor, and chemistry that keeps the reader engaged. Phil Hester’s stylings are perfect for the tone, pairing perfectly with inkers Eric Gapstur and Ande Parks.
Inhuman Special #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): There's a lot of potential with both these characters and these creators, but Inhuman Special feels like a swing and a miss. Part of it is just endemic with the cast of Inhuman - characters like Dante and Iso and Flint and Naga are basically ciphers against Spider-Man's all-consuming quippery. Jeff Loveness is funny, but that only really suits Spidey, and even that wears a little thin. Part of it is that there's very little common ground established between Spidey and the Inhumans, and another part of it is that the threat of the Red Raven... doesn't feel like much of a threat. The other thing that hobbles this comic is that Ryan Lee's artwork is a little too scratchy and distended for this bright of a team-up - he'd be great on a horror book, but seeing his Invaders, for example, his Bucky looks like an old man rather than a teenager. There are some decent one-liners in here, but ultimately the execution doesn't justify the crossover.
Convergence: Green Lantern Corps #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): If your heart doesn’t go out to Guy Gardner after reading this issue, there’s really not much else that could convince you to feel for the guy. Sure, in the past Guy has been the butt of people’s jokes, especially given that he has a history of being the person everyone else tolerates. David Gallaher and Steve Ellis do a great job humanizing his struggles of self-worth and why he acts the way he does — when he interacts with the kids in his charge and the other members of the Green Lantern Corps underneath the dome, Guy reveals how deep his internal struggles go. The ending of the issue falls to the wayside as the confrontation between Guy and Hal just doesn’t pack as much of a punch as it could have. With the impending threat of other worlds at their doorstep, Guy going off to fight it without his power ring ultimately feels more ridiculous than poignant.
Hulk #15 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): I've been enjoying the Hulk for awhile now, and I have the feeling that as a collection, this issue will probably fare a bit better as one chapter of a whole, rather than as a standalone comic. Seeing part two of the Doc Green/Red Hulk battle starts off great, as Bruce Banner's life literally flashes before his eyes - that said, the overall concept feels like it's staying a little past its welcome, as we watch two gamma-irradiated beings beating each other up without a ton of characterization to show for it. It makes sense - Gerry Duggan already got to that stuff last issue - but it makes for a less tasty read without it. Mark Bagley's style is big and bold, and while the size of his characters means he doesn't have to draw a lot of backgrounds, the amount of debris looks great. A minor step back, but with the last issue in sight, I think bigger things are coming.