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 with Amazing Aaron Duran, as he takes a look at Convergence: The Question...
Convergence: The Question #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Greg Rucka and Cully Hamner play minimal lip service to the Convergence event, and in doing do, turn in one powerful ending to this two-parter. Rucka drafts an emotional tale of guilt and redemption as Renee, along with Batwoman and the Huntress, attempt to not only save their Two-Face, but their world. The dynamic of Renee Montoya and Harvey Dent would be strong enough, but Rucka tugs harder still with an honest and powerful meeting between Renee and her estranged father. But for all the human interaction, Hamner is penciling some fantastic action. Working with powerless heroes allows Hamner to really stretch his character design and draft fights scenes that read like an elaborate dance. Indeed, if Convergence: The Question #2 has one drawback, it is the painful reminder of what we lost with these characters and this creative team.
Secret Wars #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Well, all right. Johnathan Hickman and Esad Ribic kick off Marvel’s blockbuster event, Secret Wars, with style. Hickman shelves his worldbuilding tendencies to deliver a dense script that is full of action, intrigue and a boatload of Marvel heroes. It’s almost an antithesis to his careful plotting in Avengers and serves to move the story forward while also being entertaining, never sacrificing one for the other. Esad Ribic has been steadily evolving during his tenure at Marvel and his style is a great fit for a story of this size and scope. Not only nailing his character renderings, he is able to effectively juggle the large cast and the madcap action sequences that ensure. Two universes are colliding and while there’s a lot of potential for confusion down the line, Secret Wars is off to a big, fun, bombastic start.
Afterlife With Archie #8 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): "Do you believe in evil, Archie?" Betty asks. That’s a crucial question in Afterlife With Archie #8, in which the refugees from Riverdale must decide whether to keep a potential murderer in their midst. Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa slows down the pace, using a poignant conversation between Archie and the ghost of his best friend Jughead to gradually reveal the outcome and its aftermath. He excels at saying volumes about the characters with just a few lines of dialogue, and artist Francesco Francavilla matches him beat for beat with perfectly rendered facial expressions. In an intriguing turn, this issue also raises the possibility that Riverdale’s outwardly idyllic nature came at a high price. However, the best twist is reserved for the very end. It’s a fragile ray of hope in the darkness, but as this title has shown, horror is always just around the corner. While it’s not the most thrilling entry, Afterlife With Archie #8 is a rewarding and touching read.
Convergence: Superman #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): While some Convergence tie-ins are thinking with their fists, Dan Jurgens’ Convergence: Superman #2 takes the "Very Special Episode" route and delivers Superman and Lois Lane’s baby as well as a bizarro World’s Finest -style tale. After being kidnapped by Flashpoint’s Subject One and deposited in their version of the Batcave, Lois struggles to deliver her and Clark’s baby, while Superman and Jimmy Olsen do battle with Cyborg, Abin Sur, and Captain Marvel. Jurgens’ classic script and artwork gives this issue a decidedly throwback feel that taps into some deep seeded Superman nostalgia, while subtlely subverting the Batman/Superman dynamic by giving him Thomas Wayne as a foil. Though the story was just a lead up to the heartfelt final page, its hard to deny the power of a bare bones story about Superman just trying to do good by the people he loves.
Amazing Spider-Man #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There's still a little bit of post-event hangover lingering in Amazing Spider-Man, now that Dan Slott is bringing Peter Parker down to earth - him and Parker Industries with him. Fighting against Iron Man/Thunderbolts baddie the Ghost, this spin on Spider-Man and his "Amazing" friends puts a lot more spotlight on the scientists of Parker Industries, rather than the friendly neighborhood webslinger, even as it reminds me a bit of Slott's opening arc on the title, with Hobgoblin attacking Horizon Labs. Combine this with a storyline about Peter rescuing Aunt May and Jay Jameson from the Black Cat, and there's a lot going on here, but the herky-jerky nature of the script means that neither of these stories really feel quite as weighty as they should be. Artist Humberto Ramos looks fluid and bouncy, and aside from inconsistent faces among some of the women in the cast, he really makes this book feel kinetic. Ultimately, this isn't the strongest this book has even been, but even when it's idling, Amazing Spider-Man still operates at a higher level than most.
Convergence #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): This is probably the most entertaining issue of Convergence yet, due in part to Andy Kubert’s artwork doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Jeff King’s plot is still of questionable quality but at least the character dynamics at play are becoming fun to watch. Maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome but I’m starting to warm to these Earth-2 heroes and their plight, even if it does seem a bit too insular considering that we’re supposed to be spanning an entire multiverse. Dick Grayson’s opening narration almost serves as an indictment of the whole event culture that’s cropped up around Big Two comics and that’s very interesting. DC has a track record for including meta-messages in their books (even if they themselves are the ones being criticized), so it’s hard to ignore Grayson asking “...is there no point in any of this chaos?”
Convergence: Nightwing and Oracle #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The problem with many of the Convergence titles is that they are fishing for a nostalgia that doesn't exist for expired titles. The exception to this, however, might be Convergence: Nightwing and Oracle #2. Gail Simone is synonymous with Oracle and is a master of writing in the voices of the Bat-family members. Convergence: Nightwing and Oracle #2 feels like Simone returning to her roots and giving a proper send-off to that Barbara and the rest of the New 52 maligned Gotham residents. Jan Duursema was a great choice as artist for the book and doesn’t miss an action beat or an opportunity for Babs to glare at her opponent. The downfall in this issue is that some of this might be like heavily trodden territory for long time readers. As opposed to other Convergence tie-ins, Convergence: Nightwing and Oracle #2 actually, for once, felt like going home.
Ant-Man #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): And so the first arc of Marvel’s newest Ant-Man series comes to a close with a satisfying and emotional issue. As Scott battles the newly resurrected Darren Cross, Dr. Sondheim races to save Cassie's life as her body rejects her newest heart transplant. Writer Nick Spencer keeps the quips quipping throughout the issue’s climatic battle, but smartly aims for a more heartfelt tone as Scott grapples with the decision to remove himself entirely from Cassie’s life in order to keep her out of harm’s way. It's somewhat soapy stuff, especially after four whole issues of Scott actively trying to connect with Cassie, but Spencer still handles it nicely, giving Scott Lang a fully formed emotional core beyond the House of Cards jokes. While this heavier plot tugs at the heartstrings, inevitably that means you lose some of the comedy which has become standard in the pages of Ant-Man. Issue five might be the least funny of all the issues thus far, but what it lacks in comedy, it more than makes up for with pathos. Lang may think he’s D-list or worse, but Ant-Man continues to cast him as a compelling leading man starring in a solo title that understands his value and narrative weight.
Roche Limit: Clandestiny #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Roche Limit is one of those books that might be a little too ambitious for some, but the sheer style and atmosphere makes it worth the adventure. Whereas Michael Moreci's first volume had a little bit of a 2001: A Space Odyssey vibe, this second installment - Clandestiny - reminds me a lot more of the Alien franchise, as we meet intergalactic badass Sasha, who walks off a space shuttle crash with nothing more than a blast rifle and a mission to kill. Unlike the urban mystery of the first volume, there's something more visceral here - unlike the city, where danger could be hiding in the shadows, this is a wasteland rife with mysteries that could come out and swallow the entire cast. Artist Kyle Charles brings a scratchier, almost Frank Miller-style vibe to his weathered characters, and I absolutely love the otherworldly purples that colorist Matt Battaglia washes this world in. Like the first volume of Roche Limit, this is a challenging book, but it's well worth jumping in.
Convergence: Speed Force #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Convergence: Speed Force #2 features a superpowered turtle named Fastback, but that still isn’t enough to save it from feeling frivolous. Writer Tony Bedard places Wally West and his family in harm’s way by pitting them against the Flashpoint Wonder Woman but, unfortunately, this issue never feels like it gets fully off the ground. The fight between Wonder Woman and Wally never really feels like it has genuine stakes nor does her Amazons attack on Gotham feel like anything more than page filler. Bedard scratches the surface of Wally’s insecurity and his regret for placing his kids in danger, but Convergence: Speed Force #2 moves too fast and is far too concerned with the battle for him to gain any real traction with it. The Convergence tie-ins so far have skewed away from being just fight books, but regretfully, Convergence: Speed Force #2 feels like exactly that and nothing more.
Spider-Woman #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Dennis Hopeless takes Jessica's solo adventure on an undercover spy turn, and it's a lot of fun. Hopeless' unrushed pacing allows readers to accompany Jessica as she explores a mysterious small town and meets its inhabitants. The internal monologue is funny and relatable, and highlights Jessica's ability to improvise. Javier Rodriguez draws great faces, and his detailed vintage cars and retro fashion look lifelike. Rodriguez's best moment is a two-page spread showing how Jessica escaped her captor. I love Muntsa Vicente's colors, which are vivid and highly contrasting without being garish. If you like the feel of recent Batgirl and Kate Hawkeye's Bishop stories, you'll enjoy this issue.
Rocket Girl #6 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): After a long hiatus, DaYoung Johansson and company return with all of the visual energy that made Rocket Girl a fan favorite. Amy Reeder is an expert in bright, glossy colors: an altercation between DaYoung and a shady character pops with contrasts like lime green hair and neon purple lipstick. Reeder draws chaotic action scenes well, alternating between close-ups of angry faces and wide aerial views in rapid succession. Brandon Montclare's dual-timeline story is a bit hard to follow. It's not clear where the story is going, and DaYoung seems oddly calm about being stuck in 1986. Rocket Girl needs more focus on its central conflict before it can be as gripping as its beautiful art.
Convergence: Batman and Robin #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Pre-Flashpoint Gotham gets a visit from '90s villain team the Extremists in Convergence: Batman and Robin #2, a formulaic and hackneyed tale with some classically solid artwork. Ron Marz delights in playing Jason Todd off of the angsty Damian Wayne, although he has them reluctantly working together by the issue's end. Luckily, Batman sums up their relationship at the issue's end with a contrived speech about love and togetherness that makes Bats come across like a patronising teacher. Supes inexplicably flies in for the last two pages just to make Bruce feel bad about being an orphan, and the whole world groans. On a more positive note, penciller Denys Cowan certainly knows his way around a fight scene, although his detailing is inconsistent and, in the case of the issue's double-page spread, too sparse. All in all, unless you're a diehard fan of some obscure Justice League Europe villains, Convergence: Batman and Robin #2 is one to avoid.
Convergence: Harley Quinn #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Harley Quinn has rapidly become one of DC Comics' most popular heroines with her potent sense of humor, but I'd argue that Steve Pugh might just have perfected this formula. With Harley's innate sense of the absurd, Convergence might be the perfect event for her, as Pugh and artist Phil Winslade come up with a darkly comic throwdown between the Clown Princess of Crime and the costumed cartoon character known as Captain Carrot. Pugh's introduction - featuring an ominous warning of "Rabbit Season" - hits right at Harley's sweet spot: Yes, she's funny, but she's also lethal as hell, and her sense of humor can be just as creepy as the Joker himself. Winslade seems to really get this dichotomy, as you can see the twisted glee in Harley's eyes as she engages in violence and destruction. The end of this book feels a little abrupt, which can lead to some confusion, but this is the kind of Harley I want to see more of.
Sword of Sorrows #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): If you're a diehard Dynamite fangirl, this is a book that's going to be right up your alley. The problem is, I'm not sure how many people are going to be well-versed enough in all of Dynamite's various licensed books to make Sword of Sorrows a success, even with Gail Simone's name attached to it. Like an all-female Expendables featuring heroines as varied as Red Sonja to Dejah Thoris to Irene Adler to Jana the Jungle Girl, there's a lot packed into this book - so much so that Simone's plot borders on incoherence, because she's constantly introducing new characters in new settings, a necessary evil when you have to tie together this many disparate characters. While he has a few missteps with his panel layouts - a page featuring Vampirella is the big offender - on the whole, Sergio Davila does some strong work with the visuals here, particularly selling a sequence of Jana racing away from a rampaging tyrannosaurus. Basically, if you're in this book for the premise alone, chances are the clunkiness with the pacing isn't going to throw you - but for those who aren't sure about Sword of Sorrows, this might be a case of information overload.