Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Rapid-Fire Reviews? Best Shots has your back! Let's cut to the quick with Rockin' Richard Gray, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Star Wars...
Star Wars #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):It’s been a two-month wait since the bombshell revelation about Han Solo’s wife, punctuated by a sidebar about the interstitial adventures of Ben Kenobi, but Jason Aaron doesn’t miss a beat. You can almost hear Harrison Ford’s voice as Han Solo placates Sana while trying to explain the situation to Princess Leia, and it’s a testament to Aaron’s writing that he can continue to capture their voices so authentically. Luke’s attempts at returning to the Jedi order are less compelling, as there is a sad sense of inevitability around it, and parts of this issue do feel like they are treading (ankle deep at least) in water. Stuart Immonen’s artwork is divine, adding authentic details to every aspect of the familiar universe, all leading to a corker of a final splash page that will have us counting down the days until the next chapter drops.
Black Canary #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Brenden Fletcher and Annie Wu’s reinvention of Black Canary comes literally screaming out of the first page, and is relentless in its pace and excitement this month. Taking a trip along the fury road, the often wordless action sequences are sublimely balanced with some vital character clues about Dinah are her recently late (but not quite so late any more) husband. Fletcher lets Wu take center stage in some totally punk aesthetics, with Lee Loughridge’s colors playing with purple, orange, and a decent helping of Ben-Day dots that feels as though Dinah is ripping apart the panel with her cries. More than this, we finally get some more information about the true nature of Ditto, and how Canary’s powers are tied to the diminutive guitarist. One of DC’s finest out right now.
Archie #2 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The new Archie continues to delight in a second issue that plays out like an episode of an especially good teen TV drama. Writer Mark Waid and artist Fiona Staples are proving themselves to be experts at taking familiar aspects of Archie stories — like the title character’s constant bungling — and presenting them in fresh, genuinely interesting ways. They’re also beginning to give the players surprising depth, as demonstrated in a great scene in which Betty kicks a guy out of her room after he gets a little too hands-on. But the big news is that there’s a new girl in town, and while she doesn’t have any lines, she makes a big impression on Archie and the reader in general. It’s just a matter of time before her presence shakes things up in Riverdale, and I can’t wait to see how Waid and Staples stir the pot in this excellent relaunch.
Wonder Woman #43 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): The penitent Donna Troy has broken free from imprisonment on Olympus, and it's up to Diana to retrieve her. David Finch takes a break from Wonder Woman for a month, leaving Ian Churchill to illustrate Meredith Finch's laborious script. Finch often uses an entire paragraph of dialogue when a single line would have done the job; a page of Donna walking the streets of London is especially over-wrought, as she spouts words and words of “woe-is-me” monologue to recap plot that is already well established earlier within the issue. Art-wise, Churchill draws a respectably fearsome take of Donna and Diana, maintaining David Finch's excellent new costume designs. Despite his solid work with body language and panel composition, Churchill's characters seem to be permanently pouting; Wonder Woman's portrait shouldn't look like it belongs at #duckface. Finch and Churchill finally kick up some sort of momentum with a sudden and explosive post-Flashpoint debut for '80s Wonder Woman villain Aegeus, but it isn't enough save an otherwise forgettable issue.
Runaways #3 (Published by Marvel; Review by C.K. Stewart, ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Runaways #3 marks a solid turning point for Noelle Stevenson ans Sanford Greene’s Secret Wars spinoff, proving Stevenson understands the original series and is more than capable of updating it for the disjointed universe of Battleworld. A scene with Bucky and Valeria in particular drives home Doom’s callous disregard for the young lives of his Institute for Gifted Youth, as tiny Valeria brags about a lost tooth to Bucky immediately after dispatching another character to kill her former classmates. Though Greene’s art is sometimes inconsistent (particularly with bigger characters like Sanna and Skaar from page to page) he does an excellent job of capturing how young the cast is with facial expressions and body language, Molly especially. This tie-in is finally hitting its stride with Runaways #3, but may still be best enjoyed in a collected volume.
Robin: Son of Batman #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): While I like Nobody as a character for Damian to play off of, Patrick Gleason’s writing is a bit stilted in this one. the bickering and subsequent fighting between the two lacks any real tension because we’re only in #3. The art in the fight scenes is similarly statuesque because Nobody just isn’t very interesting visually. On the whole, a lot of Gleason’s action sequences felt off because of his choice of angles and panel composition. The introduction of a true big bad at the end of the issue should help balance out this book. Gleason is a very talented creator who takes a step back here in writing and art. Hopefully, though, it’s just a minor hiccup.
Rat Queens #11 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but a long delay means that Rat Queens has some major catching up to do. Four months after the last issue, Kurtis J. Wiebe's bawdy band of women warriors still remain as charismatic and fun to read as ever, but their actual circumstances are a little difficult to follow. There is a lot of intrigue surrounding Hannah and her father, which Wiebe will likely expand upon in future issues - unfortunately, it feels like a lot of this story revolves around the Rat Queens' pasts, and after a lengthy break like this, it might take a few reads of some of the previous issues for readers to get back up to speed. Tess Fowler's artwork is at its best when we watch the Rat Queens embrace their larger-than-life attitudes (Hannah bursting into an empty bar by calling everyone "bucket-f*ckers" is a great moment), but sometimes her panel layouts feel a little distant. Still, if nothing else, this issue shows just how enduring these characters can be - hopefully this series' schedule will bring the love back on track.
Howard the Human #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Flipping the script on the “duck out of water” concept of Howard the Duck, writer Skottie Young puts hard-boiled human Howard on a world full of animals. A comical take on a Raymond Chandler-esque plot - where Toomes is a literal vulture, the feline femme fatale is Black Cat, and Kingpin is a gorilla - it’s a bit like reading Blacksad under the influence of heavy hallucinogens. Mahfood’s art, on the other hand, is impeccable. What looks like a young Donald Sutherland is fed through a melee of ninja monkeys, and the inclusion of the blind Mouse Murdoch might just be genius. It’s a near miss of a one-shot, and a golden egg of an opportunity was missed here to see Howard cavorting amongst the otherwise clueless inhabitants of Battleworld. It just makes us miss the few months without Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones’ Howard the Duck all the more.
Doctor Fate #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Doctor Fate tries to be DC’s answer to Marvel’s successful Ms. Marvel relaunch, but really trips itself up in finding its identity. Doctor Fate has always been a character of massive intrigue, but never really stood out amongst the rest of DC’s lineup because of a lack of an actual rogues gallery and some confusion as to what’s actually going on with that helmet. Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew attempt to craft a narrative that mirrors the classic “hero’s journey,” but their lead so stubbornly refuses the call for three issues that it’s tiring. Liew’s art is is simplistic and utilitarian, but he doesn’t have a knack for strong character redesign, so the book lacks any real style. Maybe with more time Doctor Fate will come into its own, but these creators are an awkward fit for the property.
Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders is one of the more intriguing concepts to come out of Secret Wars. Al Ewing and Alan Davis reimagine their little section of Battleworld as a Judge Dredd-esque dystopia. The problem might be that it’s so short. In two issues, fans unfamiliar with some of these characters won’t have much reason to root for them. Worse than that, there isn’t a lot happening here. The heroes don’t actually do much of anything. Alan Davis' artwork is effective as a bit of a throwback to ‘80s Marvel. His linework is efficient and clean, allowing Ewing’s script to take center stage. But despite a strong concept, the execution betrays his recent run of strong showings across different titles.
Justice League #43 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The latest installment of "Darkseid War" is the solid, big action comic book that you would want from the greatest heroes in the DC Universe. Geoff Johns touches on each thread of this sprawling story, but only for a moment - while the pacing might be a little bit breathless, you can't help but be excited once Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor meet. These individual snapshots are wonderful character moments for both heroes and villains alike (especially Lex Luthor and Superman). Jason Fabok is astounding here and charges even the smallest panels with a blockbuster vibe. The degree of menace Fabok is able to convey through Kalibak might be the first time that the character was ever actually frightening. Although the focus could be tightened a bit, Justice League #43 still has some of the best scenes of "Darkseid War."
Loki: Agent of Asgard #17 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Combining a smart premise with perfect characterization, writer Al Ewing may be Marvel's best-kept secret, as he gives the God of Mischief a fantastic send-off in Loki: Agent of Asgard #17. With the world gone in the wake of Secret Wars, the only thing that's left is their stories - and their keeper, Loki. But Ewing winds up taking this relationship between storyteller and audience and turns it on its head, presenting a really striking examination of theology, philosophy and personal destiny. Meanwhile, artist Lee Garbett draws some of the best characters I've seen him do in his career - he's really perfected his inking style, giving Loki a lushness and an impishness that the character truly deserves. While this may be a bit esoteric for new readers, those who have been following Loki over the past five years will find so much to enjoy here. Evil may be done, but mischief will always have legs. If not one of the best books of the week, it just may well be the smartest.
Teen Titans Go! #11 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): If the mustachioed cover didn't give it away, Teen Titans Go! #11 is easily the best and funniest book DC Comics has put out this week. Merrill Hagan will sell you on this just based on the high concept alone, as Cyborg tries to grow a mustache, which winds up hijacking his armor and taking over his body. The gags come fast and furious, whether its artist Jeremy Lawson drawing Cyborg's embryonic trash-stache, or Starfire imagining herself riding a space dolphin while presenting a resplendent pink mustache/goatee combo. (Raven might get the funniest line in the book, after she tricks Cy into cleaning Titans Tower: "What do I know about electronic beards? Why would you listen to me?") The only drawback for this comic book is an unnecessary backup by Sholly Fisch and Dario Brizuela, which features the team at Raven's family reunion. While the backup isn't nearly as funny as the lead-in story, Hagan and Lawson make Teen Titans Go! #11 a must-read.
Welcome Back #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Christopher Sebela and Jonathan Brandon Sawyer's new miniseries introduces Mali, a twentysomething searching for a fresh start after leaving a horrific family situation. Sebela writes solid narration as Mali shows her ambivalence towards her roommate and boyfriend. The story gets a little bit confusing when it switches rapidly between Mali's scenes and another character's. The series' premise — assassins who perpetually reincarnate and hunt one another — is intriguing, but the best moments are of Mali's inner turmoil, not the conflicts with her adversaries. Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and Carlos Zamudio go the extra mile with characters' outfits and accessories, from the buttons on Mali's messenger bag to Miss Vos' stylish bodysuit. Welcome Back expands the spy vs. spy genre with struggles millennials can relate to.