Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with Jolly Justin Partridge III, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Daredevil...
Daredevil #15 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): How has this comic been as good as this for this long? Mark Waid, Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson, that’s how! Daredevil #15 picks up directly after Daredevil and Jubula Pride’s assault on the Shroud’s Alcatraz hideout in order to rescue Pride’s father, the Owl. They are quickly outmatched and beat a hasty retreat only for Waid ratchet up the stakes as soon as they hit the mainland as the Shroud reveals that he now controls every recording device and phone in San Francisco and has been collecting damaging intelligence on Matt Murdock since the beginning of the series. Waid makes Daredevil #15 feel like a breathless episode of television as Matt and Jubula scramble to salvage anything they can from the devastatingly underhanded attack from the Shroud all while attempting to connect with one another due to their respective unconventional upbringing. Samnee and Wilson, once again, deliver gold as they keep Matt and his new partner in constant motion, bounding through a sunny San Fran as well in and out of meticulous narrative collages. Believe the hype, Daredevil is and continues to be one of Marvel’s can’t-miss titles.
Justice League #40 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): While Convergence collects worlds, Justice League #40, the first installment in the upcoming :Darkseid War," looks to burn them to the ground. Geoff Johns, using the enigmatic New God Metron as a framing device and exposition machine, sets the stage grandly with a retelling of the myth of the New Gods as well as a capital-H huge recap of DC's Crisis cycle so far, aided by a stacked bench of artistic talent. For an issue that is largely exposition and table setting for the event to come, Justice League #40 feels big and important, mainly thanks to the recounting of the origins of Orion and Mr. Miracle. Johns even cheekily acknowledges the cyclical nature of DC event titles by setting up the Darkseid War as yet another collapse of the DC multiverse that Metron must witness. Add to the bigness of Justice League #40 are the artists handling each vignette throughout; Kevin McGuire, Phil Jimenez, Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Scott Kolins, Jason Fabok and Jim Lee. Justice League #40 may not be the most active of prologues, but the touchstones to the original Crisis cycle, the inclusion of the New Gods, along with the anthology feel of the artist’s pages is a must for readers looking for truly big DC fun.
Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery #0 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Collecting installments from Dark Horse Presents, this prelude to the second volume of Resident Alien takes us back to Harry’s first few days on Earth and sets the scene for things to come. While perhaps not an essential part of the story, it is expertly told by Peter Hogan and definitely fleshes out the characters and adds lots of context with the backstory. Steve Parkhouse’s artwork is pretty brilliant throughout, with fantastic linework, expressive characters, and gorgeous watercolors (I’m a sucker for the watercolors). If you’ve not been reading this series, this would be a great jumping-on point, as it really tells you everything you need to know in a non-expository way.
Convergence #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Jeff King is finally starting to explain some things with Convergence #4, but some out-of-left-field storytelling choices still make this an increasing case of too little, too late. King is really digging deep into the history of the DC Universe, as the Earth-2 Justice Society are basically analogues for the DC Universe's inception back in the 1930s and '40s. Yet these characters are basically ciphers, and King doesn't even spend much time with them, as he bounces around between the various cities at war, to an inexplicable detour featuring the Warlord and a group of captured time travelers. (It also doesn't help that one of the main twists in this issue could have been seen a mile away, thanks to someone's more-than-a-little-sinister sartorial choices.) Steven Segovia's artwork, however, is some of the best I've ever seen him do - it's very much in the DC house style, but it's got a bounce and fluidity that makes sequences like the Warlord's look strong. That said, what bugs me about Convergence is this - if you're going to have a big event like this, why not lead with your biggest characters? And if you aren't going to lead with your biggest characters, why not make a strong case to make your second-tier characters A-listers? Until Convergence does that, this is a swing and a miss.
Princess Leia #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Alderaan has been destroyed and Princess Leia's on the hunt for survivors in Mark Waid and Terry Dodson's Princess Leia #3. After saving a small cloister of monk-like Alderaanians, the crew touch down on the Alderaan enclave on Sullust. After the settlement discovers that Leia's ship was inadvertently harburing an Imperial spy, they attack. Unluckily for them, Princess Leia is a more formidable target than they had expected... This mini-series has been going from strength to strength, and whilst this third issue doesn't quite carry that lightning-fast momentum, it's still a fun ride. Combat sequences dominate the issue, showing how well Leia, Evaan and Artoo work together as a team. Although they eliminate threats quickly, calmly and quietly, Dodson's art tends to feel static in these busier panels. On the script front, whilst Waid's Leia and Evaan are well-realized, the Aldaraan enclave's leader is less so. Initially a paranoid fool, the so-called Preserver is all too-easily swayed to allegiance. Although black and white morals are somewhat of a Star Wars hallmark, it still feels a little cheap and lazy. A final battle involving Storm Troopers and the Rancor-like Rockrenders close out an enjoyable issue that just doesn't quite match the quality of its predecessors.
Convergence: Infinity, Inc. #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The kids are sort of alright in Convergence: Infinity, Inc. #1. Writer Jerry Ordway introduces us into this tie-in with Jade, Alan Scott’s granddaughter and our lead, pining for the company of her JSA family and frantically trying to hold together her Infinity, Inc. family. Convergence: Infinity, Inc. directly taps into Pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths DC nostalgia yet succeeds in translating these characters into the modern comics landscape; making Infinity, Inc. feel like a well oiled cast of characters instead of just a mish-mash of separate personalities. Ordway keeps the characters engaged and propulsive through this debut as they all struggle to make peace with their new, powerless existence. Some are comfortable, while other characters, specifically Brainwave, Jr., son of one of the JSA’s greatest foes and Inc. member, have retreated into numbing routines. Adding a youthful energy to Ordway’s teen-centric script is artist Ben Caldwell along with colorist Veronica Gandini, both of whom render Convergence: Infinity, Inc. less like a Bronze Age romp and more like a hip superhero drama. Caldwell’s character design for the entire team is gorgeous, even when they aren’t in costume and he even gets to display his eye for action scene construction with a few well-placed flashbacks to the glory days. The world may have forgotten who Infinity, Inc. was, but Convergence: Infinity, Inc. #1 is a solid debut and reintroduction for one of DC’s forgotten stables.
S.H.I.E.L.D. #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Credit where credit is due - I wasn't a huge fan of S.H.I.E.L.D. the last time I reviewed it, but with Mike Choi on art and the Scarlet Witch as a guest star, this series clearly has a few more tricks up its sleeve. Someone's gunning for mystics, and with this issue, writer Mark Waid really strikes a nice balance between the heroes of the Marvel Universe and the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents of the Marvel television show. (In particular, I really like the way that Fitz tries to explain away the Scarlet Witch's probability powers, and the twist of mystical firearms is great.) With this in mind, Mike Choi might be the best artist this series has had - he's able to keep the superheroes clean and on-model, but he also nails the likenesses of the TV actors, which makes the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally stand out in their own book. It's clear this book has figured out how to crack the code to make it work - here's hoping that future artists can learn from Choi's example.
Past Aways #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): This sophomore issue of Matt Kindt’s new sci-fi series is an intense thrill-ride through super-science and high-concept action-adventure. It’s like Grant Morrison meets Philip K. Dick, with a beautiful blend of intoxicating ideas, incredible world-building, gripping plot, a fascinating cast of characters, and incredible dialog. Sure, the stranded-in-the-past time travel things has been done before, but it’s the way that Kindt tells the story that makes this so enjoyable. At first I was disappointed that Kindt wasn’t handling art duties, but Scott Kolins was definitely a great choice of artist here. He brings a big, bold look to the characters from his superhero comic work that just screams “fun” and fits of tone perfectly. Jump on the series now, before it's... too late (get it?).
New Avengers #33 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Jonathan Hickman begins to explain the secrets behind his Avengers run, and while die-hard fans will enjoy picking apart the hints and clues to this issue, plenty of others will be frustrated by the lack of clarity here. Hickman shows us what Doctor Doom and Molecule Man have been up to, how they have been driving forward the Incursions that have doomed the Marvel Universe. Yet hidden inside this thicket of continuity and nods to Beyonders, Ivory Kings and Mapmakers is a nod to Hickman's overall theme - if you can't win, how do you make it so you don't lose? Mike Deodato creates a stretched-out and shadowy take on Doom's hidden agenda, and with colorist Frank Martin, he's able to conjure up a hopeless shadow game. The problem is, this is a lot to be asking readers to try to make sense of - to call this book self-indulgent may be putting it lightly. Like I said before, those enjoy reading the tea leaves to try to anticipate writers will have a field day, but this is more work than it is fun.
Convergence: Justice Society of America #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Unfortunately, all of DC’s Convergence has (and probably will) suffer due to shoe-horning in the connective tissue for the event. That being said, Dan Abnett does an excellent job of capturing the tone of the source material here- which has eluded many of DC's Convergence titles. Abnett has balanced the voice of these geriatric super heroes from their days as supporting characters in Infinity Inc. while not dating the heroes like Geoff Johns was able to avoid in his JSA run. Artists Tom Derenick and Trevor Scott are a great fit for the title and put out some great looking art as their contribution. Without trying to cram too much story into a single issue, Convergence: Justice Society of America #1 is not a victim to the debilitating Convergence story device. Readers get a glimpse into these characters and who they are before getting dragged into the motley summer event.
New Avengers: Ultron Forever #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Man, this is easily the most fun Marvel book you're probably not reading. Al Ewing continues to dive deep into Marvel lore - deeper than almost any writer I can think of at the moment, to be honest - to remix the Avengers and create a world-beating team. Combine this with some fluid and lush artwork from Alan Davis, and this feels like an old-school winner from the days of yore. Pitting Ultron against a team of Avengers from throughout the timestream really rewards longtime readers with some fun twists, like an immortal Thor enduring unbelievable punishment thanks to Hela's curse, or the Hulk's mutation manifesting in a bizarre and unpredictable way. The action here is non-stop, and the kind of referencing to the history of the Marvel universe is user-friendly rather than insular. If you're a fan of the pre-Bendis Avengers days, this is definitely the book for you.