Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your weekly dose of pellets? Best Shots has you covered with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off with Ostensibly Oscar Maltby, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Thors...
Thors #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Vengeance is the word of the day for Doom's blonde and brawny police force in Thors #2, as Beta Ray Bill falls afoul of the serial killer who targets Jane Fosters from every corner of Battleworld. Writer Jason Aaron writes this litany of Thors as brash and vindictive bullies. It's difficult to shut out recent rumblings in the real world as we see the Thors brutalise random designated evil-doers; “We should run.” “It won't matter,” says one solemn Hulk to another, a simple community terrorized by a bloodthirsty police force. Despite the unlikeable protagonists, Aaron's script has a solid mix of humor and gravitas, never letting us forget the inherent outlandish nature of the premise, while still making us care about the boisterous lugs with slivers of their fierce comradeship. There's a killer fight in the issue's centre between Ultimate Thor and Aaron's recently disgraced incarnation of the Odinson, capably handled by artist Chris Spouse. Elsewhere, Sprouse's artwork is technically solid. His characters are expressive and his Thors are about as muscle-bound and handsome as they ought to be. A tantalizing cliffhanger rounds out Thors #2, an issue that seems to have a split personality. Luckily for us, both sides are equally enjoyable.
Batgirl #42 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The great thing about Batgirl #42 is how Babs Tarr’s art continues to impress this deep into her run as artist on the title. Channeling the same kinetic spirit as Brian Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim, Tarr is able to transform simple action beats into character-rich moments for Batgirl. In Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher’s interpretation of the titular character, the woman behind the mask is usually more interesting than Batgirl herself. It’s a shame that so little time is spent with Barbara over Batgirl in this issue. In wrapping up the story from Batgirl #41, there wasn’t a lot of space given to Babs’ personal life behind the mask. However, the few beats given to flashbacks of Barbara’s relationship with her father where actually handled deftly, and feature an almost manga-like quality that keeps this book light and fun.
Sex Criminals #11 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Maintaining narrative momentum after a long hiatus is one of the more difficult things to achieve in comics, but Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky make it look easy with Sex Criminals #11. Told in a series of interlocking vignettes, Team SexCrimms kick off this new arc with Jon and Suze jetting off to Miami in order to track down other people with their abilities using a homemade sex detector. Fraction and Zdarsky’s usual "balls to the wall" humor is on full display here in Sex Criminals #11, but this new jumping on point also displays the raw emotion that has made Sex Criminals such a wonderful tight rope act since the very first issue. It doesn’t matter if this is your first time or your eleventh time hanging out with Jon and Suze, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky live to satisfy and that’s precisely what Sex Criminals #11 does as it returns to dirty up our comic shop shelves.
Daredevil #17 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It’s been a long while, but Wilson Fisk is finally back on the scene and drifting heavily into the orbit of Matt Murdock and that never once has ended well for either of them. Daredevil #17, the penultimate issue of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s mammoth run with the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, beats with a frantic pulse as the Kingpin and other now classic Daredevil villains close in on Murdock and present him with a next to impossible choice. Mark Waid handles Fisk and Murdock’s great game deftly, mainly by never dwelling on the pages and pages of established history that the characters already have and simply presenting this new showdown as the Waid and Samnee version of it. And, True Believers, it is a knockout. Waid and Samnee’s Daredevil may be ending soon, but Daredevil #17 shows that this run isn’t going down easy for the audience or for Matt Murdock.
Lobo Annual #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Out of all the villain-centric comics Cullen Bunn has been writing these days, Lobo has always seemed like the runt of the litter, with his new redesign not lending itself well to the over-the-top space biker madness that made the Main Man such a hit in the first place. Yet with more pages to burn with this annual, Bunn produces a decent showing here, as Lobo stalks one of the universe's most dangerous criminals: Sinestro. Two of Bunn's three main sequences work well - watching Lobo hunt and trap wayward Sinestro rings is a great bit, while his head-to-head battle with Sinestro himself is nice crossover fodder for two of DC's spacefaring titles. Penciler Robson Rocha, along with inker Guillermo Ortego, aren't the cleanest artists in the world, but they do add some grunge to this pretty boy Lobo's expressions, especially a wicked grin he flashes after he's given the Sinestro Corps the slip. That said, there's a little bit of fat around the middle here, with a jailbreak sequence that feels particularly thin in terms of plot or deliberateness. This won't redefine Lobo as a character, but it's nice to see him have something worthwhile to do.
Lazarus #18 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Forever Carlyle moves from the boardroom to the battlefield as a rival family, Hock, encroaches on Carlyle territory. Greg Rucka is convincing at writing the Carlyles' desperation and the fragility of an oligarchy. Rucka develops our newest favorite character, Michael Barrett, into a smart but unsure scientist who is thrust into an unfamiliar world of privilege. Michael Lark's art is in top form: Forever does an impressive somersault off a four-story building, with Santi Arcas' textured blues and greys framing the scene. I like how the dialogue shows the tension between characters and moves along at a rapid pace. What holds this issue back is our disinterest in Casey and Forever's lack of a worthy opponent. Rucka sets the benchmark for an intriguing near-future dystopian story.
Star Wars #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Ram Rating: 8 out of 10): Artist Simone Bianchi is a welcome sight no matter what the title is, but his Star Wars #7 pages are a particular delight. Functioning as a stand alone tale before the next arc kicks off, writer Jason Aaron presents us a talk from Obi-Wan Kenobi’s long self-imposed exile. Goons, under the direction of Jabba the Hutt, are collecting steep water taxes from the local moisture farmers and Old Ben Kenobi is struggling not to interfere. Aaron structures Star Wars #7 much like an operatic old western and Bianchi details it as such; almost as if this issue is Unforgiven by way of Heavy Metal. While Stuart Immonen is the much ballyhooed name joining Star Wars for the next arc, I hope, for all our sake’s that this isn’t the last time we see Simone Bianchi playing around in a galaxy far, far away.
The Flash Annual #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Van Jensen has a decent idea here with The Flash Annual #4, but it stumbled somewhere between conception to execution. The Flash has traditionally had teams of villains - just look at the Rogues - but the Acolytes of Zoom are suffering from some severe Inhumans syndrome, with cookie cutter powers and designs that are definitely not going to last the test of time. Jensen's structure is a smart choice, as he introduces each member of the team, as Eobard Thawne pulls a Professor X and recruits them one by one - they seem like decent enough people, but none of them have a strong enough core concept in either characterization or power set to justify the read, and it's predictable from the beginning that they've all been set up by the Flash's most ruthless foe. Artist Bong Dazo has some cool moments here, such as Eobard tearing through a pack of conquistadors like a black wind - he reminds me a bit of a Joe Quesada, but he's also held back by some muddy coloring by Andrew Dalhouse. While this may be a good primer for Jensen's next arc, this doesn't really seem like a must-read.
Southern Bastards #10 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): If there's a more visceral and unsettling comic book out this week, I don't wanna know what it is. Jason Aaron and Jason Latour weave up a dark day-in-the-life issue featuring Esaw Goings, football player and head goon for Coach Boss. This is about as bleak a comedy as you'll ever find one, as Esaw is paid a visit from the most unlikely of people: a preacher. But as the title of this comic says, Esaw has a whole other gospel that he shows this holy man, as we get a nice refresher on the comings and goings of Craw County's seedy underbelly. Jason Latour's artwork is cartooning at its finest, from the decidedly NSFW opening page to the details in Esaw's face shaking into an unholy grimace as he fires an automatic rifle at nothing at all. That's the symbolism here - Esaw violent nihilism that doesn't go anywhere beyond breasts and the almighty "f*ck you." The best crime comic on the stands continues to impress.