Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has a six-pack of Rapid-Fire Reviews, ready for your reading pleasure! So let's kick off with the latest from DC Comics, as we take a look at Batman/Superman #21...
Batman/Superman #21 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): With DC's biggest icons getting some status quo upheavals, Batman/Superman is less of a team-up and more of a brawl. In certain ways, this illustrates the differences in how the Bat-Office and the Superman office work at DC - Greg Pak, who is deeply in the know about Clark Kent's comings and goings thanks to his work on Action Comics, focuses more on the largely depowered Superman, as he makes his way through Gotham and winds up running afoul of the new Batman, Jim Gordon. Gordon, however, gets a bit of short shrift in the characterization department, which makes sense, given that he's being rebuilt from the ground-up by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo - Pak just doesn't have as much to draw from. Still, Clark's moments of vulnerability are nice, and he has a meeting with Alfred that stirs some emotion despite us knowing Bruce has to be alive somewhere. Ardian Syaf's artwork looks decently dynamic, but he too also struggles with the robotic Bat-suit. Not a hugely auspicious issue, but not a bad one, either.
Ghost Racers #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Ready... set... fire! For the inhabitants of Battleworld, there's nothing more exciting than a night at the Ghost Races. In the appropriately-named Killiseum, Ghost Riders of past, present and future race for glory. But this hellish competition is masterminded by the psychotic Arcade, who's grown sick of current Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes' winning streak... Felipe Smith's script moves at a lightning pace, dedicating the majority of the issue to the race itself. The dialogue works, but this isn't an ambitious book, and there's nothing substantial here to get your teeth into. There's a race. Robbie wins. Arcade is evil. Juan Gedeon's artwork has a heavy manga influence, which works well for fluid, fast and furious race sequences, but less so for a godawful redesign of Arcade. In more successful design work, Gedeon's takes on the Ghost Racers are inspired, each one sporting a familiar but distinctive fresh look. An absolutely stellar Francesco Francavilla cover adds a gorgeous final flourish to Ghost Racers #1, a shallow and ultimately inconsequential comic book that still manages to be a hell of a lot of fun.
Descender #4 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Driller is a killer, and he may be my favorite supporting character in comics these days. Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen rocket Tim-21 and his companions towards their next threat in Descender #4, which gives a bit more context to the new allies in Tim's world. Driller has to be one of the more endearing characters in an Image book lately, as he knows he's not the sharpest bot in the shed, but he makes up for it with his size and willingness to fight. Dustin Nguyen's use of whites and pastel colors make for an engaging read, particularly as Tesla has a flashback of her mother dying in robotic mayhem. There are a few beats where the story drags - ultimately, I'm still not quite sold on how spectacular Tim is, or the intrigue surrounding his dreams - but by and large, this is a beautifully drawn comic with some very fun characters.
Gotham Academy #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Some added focus and a new artist brings top marks to Gotham Academy, as Maps Mizoguchi teams up with Damian Wayne for a magical mystery. Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher's narrative really improves thanks to its focus just on Maps, as Olive is M.I.A. for this issue. And that's not a bad thing - Maps has an energy and a point of view that's a lot more fun and interesting than Olive's moodiness. In other words, it makes sense that the excitable Maps would go on adventures, and it's nice to see the potential love connection she has with Damian. It also doesn't hurt that the plot is a bit more straightforward - the two are locked together by a magical quill, and that quill is causing plenty of ruckus around the school. Mingjue Helen Chen is a revelation on this book, with her painted, cartoony style really playing up the whimsy and emotion of these characters. (And the way she draws Maps' fantasies are hilarious.) Definitely a high point for this book.
Spider-Gwen #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It's time to grab your baguettes and don your berets, 'cause here comes the Black Cat! The Mary-Janes have been summoned to support their successful ex-bandmate's concert, but when Felicia Hardy and the Black Cats take the stage, so to do an army of bloodthirsty ninjas. Well, why not? After the emotional weight of last issue, Jason Latour has sharpened Gwen's wit, offering up wisecracks by the truckload against the neon pink, black and blue spotlights of Felicia's concert. Visually, Robbi Rodriguez offers up another slice of fluid and eye-grabbing action alongside a beautiful double-page spread depicting Hardy's origins, colored in a saturated orange reminiscent of French animation. Latour fully establishes this universe's Matt Murdock as a truly contemptible villain, as well as introducing a misguided but sympathetic Felicia Hardy. Spider-Gwen #5 is another flawless issue of one of Marvel's best titles, so let's just hope Gwen and company return unscathed when Secret Wars comes to a close.
Death Sentence: London #1 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Because superheroes are such a long-standing trope, it's tough to really excite readers, particularly if you're not working with name-brand properties. So it's pretty impressive that Montynero and Martin Simmonds manage to grab reader interest with Death Sentence: London, which looks at a world knocked off its axis thanks to the outbreak of G-positive superhumans. Montynero's best scene features undercover cop Jeb Mulgrew, as the government winds up unleashing a demonic solution to the G-positive problem. Martin Simmonds' artwork reminds me of a cross between Tony Harris and Phil Noto, feeling both realistic and painterly at the same time. While people who haven't read the previous Death Sentence series might not get the full context behind the rise of Weasel as a London hero or what the deal is behind Verity's (super-cool) powers as Artgirl, this is an intriguing start for this sequel.