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 Oblong Oscar Maltby, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Batgirl...
Batgirl #41 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Gordons collide as the new Batman visits the Batgirl of Burnside! Fletcher and Stewart weave the newest incarnation of Batman seamlessly into the main Batgirl story, but then again familial ties mean that this was an easier job than for most. Fletcher and Stewart continue to build Barbara's new life in Burnside with Frankie's new-found responsibilities as Batgirl's sidekick. Elsewhere, a tender father-daughter moment between Barbara and Jim leads to a shocking revelation, not to mention a heavy helping of guilt over Barbara's secret identity. Art-wise, Babs Tarr continues to render high quality action sequences filled with dynamism and drama, whilst her facial expressions perfectly capture emotion in an animated style. It's business as usual for Batgirl, and business is booming.
Daredevil #16 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): As Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Daredevil approaches its finale, they prove there is still room to shock, bringing Matt Murdock and the Kingpin face-to-face for a surprising deal. A perfectly measured pace, the creative team work seamlessly together to make this historic conversation between two men visually interesting, dynamic and oh so very tense. Yet Samnee drops the mic solidly one a single-page reveal of the "sacrificial" relationship between the two "devils," inspired by woodcuts and other classical art, Samnee and colorist Matthew Wilson have set an impossible standard that all others now have to follow. Never letting the momentum falter for a moment, Waid’s story is gripping, finally tying together some of the disparate threads of this entire run, ensuring that devotees will never feel a single moment of their time has been wasted.
Jem and the Holograms #4 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by C.K. Stewart; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Colorist M. Victoria Robado remains the unsung hero of Jem and the Holograms, with poppy color work perfectly suited to artist Sophie Campbell’s updated designs. Campbell and Robado do a stunning job bringing this month's two full-page musical numbers to life. The bubblegum pink palate for Jem and the Holograms versus the Misfits’ acid green lyrics perfectly capture their wildly different personalities without going over the top. Fans of Kimber and Stormer are in for a rollercoaster ride of emotion as Stormer decides their secret romance may be too much to handle, while their bands’ rivalry comes to a head with a scheme that harkens back to the cartoon’s over-the-top drama. Jem & The Holograms remains a must-read both for fans of the show and anyone else in need of a fun, campy romp.
Green Lantern: Lost Army #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): John Stewart’s origins are revisited in Green Lantern: Lost Army, but I don’t know if it’s for the best. While the military overtures make for good narration, it’s the same cliche-ridden stuff we’ve seen in tons of fiction that features veterans. So Cullen Bunn’s script amounts to war flashbacks and Stewart reconciling his present with his past while the other Lanterns question his reasons for keeping a possibly amnesiac Krona around. It’s not exactly riveting stuff, and even Guy Gardner’s Christmas Lantern doesn’t add any levity or excitement to the issue. Jesus Saiz’s art is nice to look at, but his colors have an otherworldly sheen to them that make the characters look a little too perfect. When Kilowog suffers an injury, it looks like color awkwardly overlaid on the art rather than something more organic. John Stewart is usually a great character, but he can’t help this one.
E is for Extinction #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Chris Burnham and Ramon Villalobos boldly attempt to return to the polarizing world of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's New X-Men with E is for Extinction #1, a psychedelic feast for the eyes with a quick-witted script. Magneto has won, and his cocky young protégés are preparing to enforce their will upon the world at large. Enter the original X-Men... Villalobos' peculiar texturization and grotesque facial designs evoke Quitely's work whilst avoiding becoming a hollow tribute act to add a distinctive flavor to a recognizable style. Atop the line-work, colorist Ian Herring's neon blue, pink and yellow tones combine with Villalobos' horror-influenced images to make the whole book look like the cover of an eclectic underground thrash album, which perfectly fits this issue's rebellious spirit. Elsewhere, the appearance of a dumpy Cyclops elicits a genuine roar of laughter. Plot-wise, Burnham keeps things simple, establishing the main conflict and introducing us to each side of the inevitable war. It's enjoyable stuff, but the art's the real draw here. All in all, E is for Extinction #1 is a solid introduction to Morrison's quickly dismantled status quo, offering up that world in an easily digestible and accessible package with a raucous sense of humor.
The Legacy of Luther Strode #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Don't get me wrong - I love fight comics. And Tradd Moore is a force of nature. But The Legacy of Luther Strode #2 leans a little too heavily on the over-the-top combat, which was fine to set the stage in the first issue, but is lacking someting a little more substantial in this sophomore effort. With Luther's antagonist in this issue speaking only in Russian, Justin Jordan's script is a super-fast read, resulting in the same thing we got last month - Luther Strode covered in blood and kicking the crap out of someone. Unfortunately, we still aren't given a ton of insight into what Luther's plans are, and if you don't know who Petra and Delilah are, you may be a bit lost. The silver lining here is that Tradd Moore's artwork is spectacular, with some crazy choreography (including Luther tackling the Gardener while covered in blood). That said, Moore can only hold our attention for so long without more to the story.
We Are ... Robin #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): We Are ... Robin is a little formulaic in its execution, but the concept might have some legs. Lee Bermejo, Jorge Corona and Rob Haynes have created something that is meant to be an edgier take on Marvel’s “Carol Corps,” and it succeeds on that level. It might even have more potential because the Robin name has more cache with readers than Carol Danvers ever has. Lead character Duke Thomas is a solid everyman lead that readers can’t help but have some sympathy for. Corona and Haynes deliver exciting fight scenes complete with good choreography and fluid motion that crackles with energy. Where the book stumbles is with its dialogue and lack of a meaningful antagonist. I really want to care about what’s going on but these teenagers sound a bit contrived and it’s too early to tell how his book fits into the overall scheme of the Bat-books.
Uncanny Avengers #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It took five months, but Uncanny Avengers is finally cooking with gas. As the Avengers Unity Squad barrels toward the gaping maw of Secret Wars, Rick Remender finally delivers on the promise of an all new, all powerful Uncanny Avengers. Though Quicksilver and the Vision stand apart as the issue leads, the whole team finally coalesces in explosive and compelling ways. Rendering the explosions beautifully, as per usual, is artist Daniel Acuna, who pulls double duty as artist and colorist. Acuna has been one of Uncanny Avengers high points for a bit now, but in this quasi-finale, he swings for the fences just a bit harder with the Unity Division’s showdown with the High Evolutionary. Look no further than Acuna’s specter filled Doctor Voodoo panels to see exactly what I’m talking about. Though the future of the Avengers Unity Squad in the post-Secret Wars landscape is uncertain, Uncanny Avengers #5 sends things out with more than a few bangs.
Gotham By Midnight #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It may be blasphemous to say so, but Gotham By Midnight actually hasn't suffered with the loss of headlining artist Ben Templesmith - Juan Ferreyra might not be as well-known or as flashy as his predecessor, but his style also opens this book up to a much larger audience who might not have vibed with Templesmith's challenging, scratchy style. Evoking sort of a dark Disney cartoon, Ferreyra's artwork works in concert with Ray Fawkes' script, rather than competing with it - and that provides a great entree for a supernatural procedural, as Jim Corrigan and company deal with a ghost whose story actually winds up echoing those of the overworked Wall Street drones. While new readers may still find a learning curve in terms of figuring out the deal with the supporting cast, this book winds up being much more fun now that it's simplified its style.
The Shadow #100 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): This overstuffed anniversary issue has so many different creators and styles that there is likely something for everyone here - no small feat given the Shadow's long history. For my money, Francesco Francavilla's opening story is far and away the best of the bunch, utilizing the artist's masterfully retro style for a character that absolutely begs for that 1940s pulp style. Michael Uslan also has a jet-black comedic story featuring not just thinly-veiled allusions to Bruce Wayne's parents, but also Orson Wells prior to Citizen Kane. Fans of Howard Chaykin will be happy to see more of his art on the Shadow, and artist Stephen Scott does a damn fine riff on Eduardo Risso's style with a story with Victor Gischler. With so many different tones and styles, chances are you will find one story that isn't to your liking, but thanks to the range of this book, you're almost guaranteed to find one that's worth the price of admission.
The Infinity Gauntlet #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There's the book I was hoping for! In my initial review, I recognized that this concept has potential but that Gerry Duggan and Dustin Weaver take way too long getting us to any of the compelling details of their story. Fortunately, this one has what was missing. Weaver’s art takes a massive step forward because there’s a lot more emotion and a lot less meaningless action than in issue one. Duggan’s script combines fun and intrigue in ways that the first issue couldn’t, partly because it was missing the real lynchpin of the cast - Nova. While the post-apocalyptic setting might feel very familiar to readers, the idea of a new mighty Marvel family that are all part of the Nova Corps is one that has me jazzed to see where this story goes. It’s not a perfect book. I think it still has some issues with pacing. And Duggan is clearly playing the long game in terms of the Thanos payoff but we’ll get there. For now, this book has made a significant improvement.
Teen Titans #9 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): It's the cool kids versus the drama geeks this month in Teen Titans #9. The cool kids, in this analogy, being Cassie and her S.T.A.R. labs team, while Tim and his feels-filled squad occupy the other end of the spectrum. Writer Will Pfeifer does a decent enough job differentiating the two teams and their motivations, but the breathless and constant exposition that flows from both sets of teams comes across as droll toward the issue’s end. The real star here is Kenneth Rocafort, along with colorist Dan Brown. Rocafort’s sleek and manga inspired visuals give Teen Titans #9 a palpable energy that the script sorely lacks, as well as a cast filled with gorgeous, ready for primetime superheroes. Teen Titans #9 may read a bit stilted, but with dynamite visuals in hand coupled with colors that leap off the page, it is difficult to write off the Titans completely.
Ninjak #4 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Matt Kindt puts the brakes on Ninjak's current situation to give us the origin of the mysterious and razor-haired Roku. Tonally, this is a massive change from the Ninjak norm. Matt Kindt and Clay Mann, with help from Marguerite Sauvage's story-book styled panels, tell a solid story of one woman's rebirth into warriorhood; building a compelling character on the blank slate of Roku. Mann captures the folksy charm of the goofy yet imposing Oni in intricately detailed panels that ooze atmosphere. Elsewhere, back-up story The Lost Files chronicles the beginning of another of Ninjak's foes, Kannon. Less complete than the main story, this first part is an intriguing opener. Ninjak #4 is a much-needed palette cleanser from the book's inconsistent first arc, and stands as the strongest single issue of the entire run so far.
Korvac Saga #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): "The Korvac Saga" is a classic story that has been adapted in various animated series, but in the context of Secret Wars it’s mostly an excuse to throw the original Guardians of the Galaxy against a version of The Avengers. Dan Abnett crafts Baron Michael Korvac, who has the Guardians to protect him from a “disease” causing people to see the world for what it really is before turning into monsters. It’s a slow burn, flipping the script on the rival Avengers and Guardians, with the former being the would-be antagonists. Yet it’s undoubtedly hampered if you don’t have a passing familiarity with the characters or their significance. Otto Schmidt’s lively art gives a youthful edge to the book, with the emergence of the first monster something out of a Sam Keith nightmare, but also balances it with the delicate grace of a soap opera at other times. There’s a sense that it is part of a bigger story about Doom, so if you are picking and choosing Secret Wars stories, this might be one that will build to something bigger later.
Frankenstein Underground #4 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Its not exactly a bold stance, but Mike Mignola can write one hell of a monster comic. Frankenstein Underground #4 deftly continues Mignola’s saga starring one of horror’s most iconic monsters. Mignola fully devotes himself to the penny dreadful format of Frankenstein Underground, offering familiar touchstones to the Creature’s extensive past canon while still further developing his own epic on that foundation. Artist Ben Stenbeck and colorist Dave Stewart deliver yet another gothic inspired issue that fits perfectly in the vein of Mignola’s visual style. Frankenstein Underground #4 may not be the flashiest monster book on shelves right now, but it most certainly is the most satisfying and as the lore gets deeper, so will audience’s enjoyment.
The Flash #41 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Post-Convergence, I was hoping that The Flash would bring some velocity into the next story arc, but it’s little more than a brisk walk. And while it makes sense, what with the comic now significantly echoing the show — Henry Allen’s in prison for murdering his wife, Barry has a lead that his pop’s innocent, and Zoom and Thawne are central to the plot — and therefore able to attract more of the show’s demographic, I just wish the slow burn didn’t feel so formulaic or cliche, particularly the ridiculous ease of an Iron Heights prison break. Brett Booth’s artwork is surprisingly dull and uninspired for most of the issue, except when he’s drawing action scenes, which are dazzling and kinetic. Still, Zoom’s coming. And Hell’s coming with him.
Deep State #7 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Justin Jordan and Ariela Kristantina dive deep into paranoid fiction with Deep State #7, as Branch and Harrow are on the run from a compromised Control which knows how to push anyone in any direction they choose. It's a little loose in the concept, but think of Zola's algorhythm from Captain America: The Winter Solider with a persuasive bent, as Branch dodges danger from every corner, ranging from a jilted college friend to a texting driver plowing through her coffee shop. Kristantina's ultra-thin linework is actually perfect for an issue like this, since there's this creepy element of the world actually being out to get Branch. While Jordan's script does feel a little on the familiar side, it's fast-paced and gives Kristantina plenty of opportunity to show some action. All in all, while this book likely won't linger in your minds for too long, this is an exciting and action-packed issue.