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 the latest issue of the Amazing Spider-Man...
Amazing Spider-Man #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Baxter Building is now under the management of Parker Industries, and there's one member of the Fantastic Four that is definitely not pleased. Pitting the Webhead against the Human Torch, Amazing Spider-Man #3 actually succeeds more in its expansion of Peter Parker's supporting cast than with the perfunctory hero-on-hero fisticuffs. Dan Slott gives a fun new wrinkle to the Spider-Torch rivalry, as Johnny doesn't just try to beat the tar out of Peter in his own building, but they have to do so without revealing Peter's secret identity to his employees. Unfortunately, the fighting feels a little too short, with Peter being way too blase about some major property damage. But it's worth it, just to see all the familiar faces Slott is bringing back, with poor Clayton Cole trying his best to protect his workmates. Guiseppe Camuncoli dominates with the artwork, packing a ton of energy into Slott's densely scripted pages, and Marte Garcia deserves extra credit for his beautiful colorwork.
Justice League: Darkseid War - The Flash #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Rob Williams' script might have some potential, but even his premise can't outrun some clunky artwork in Justice League: Darkseid War - The Flash #1. Watching Barry Allen struggle as the new Black Racer is a decent hook, with some Galactus-esque questions about the necessity and ethics of death and a touching reunion with Iris West. Unfortunately, it devolves quickly into a standard chase sequence, without any of the tricks and turns that makes the Flash's footchases so fun. It doesn't help that as A-list as the main Justice League book is with its art team, Jesus Marino can't quite keep up, with his self-inked pages lacking speed and energy. (One page, featuring Barry chasing the Black Racer with his own scythe, is super-awkward with the Racer's expressions.)
Citizen Jack #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Sam Humphries' political yarn feels like almost a mirror image of DC's Prez, and while it feels a bit more ominious and immediate as we watch a bumbling idiot run for the White House thanks to some demonic empowerment, it's not quite as smart as it thinks it is. Humphries wastes no time to show us the rise and fall of Jack Northworthy, an almost professional waste of potential with nothing left to lose - and that desperation sending him towards the most powerful office in the free world. Unfortunately, Humphries' attempts to show what a moron Jack is fall flat, perhaps because his arc feels so similar to "Corndog Girl" Beth Ross. The real hook, though, is the demon Marlinspike, whose everpresent giggling and demonic claws show that something truly sinister is going on underneath all the laughs. Tommy Paterson, meanwhile, reminds me a lot of Steve Dillon, with a ton of comedy coming from his exaggerated, expressive characters, as Jack drives his snowblower down the streets of Minnesota wearing nothing but a bathrobe and a cowboy hat. While this is an imperfect debut, it's definitely got some potential as the election cycle heats up.
Batman and Robin Eternal #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): This issue is a bit of a slog, as Dick Grayson tries to get to the bottom of Tim Drake’s mysterious background while Harper gets some insight into Cassandra’s. Steve Orlando’s script is a bit choppy as he’s forced to jump around to cram in as much information as possible. He tries to mix things up with some action sequences, but it’s not quite as easy to follow and hurts the narrative flow of the book. And he’s got a team of artists joining him that just add to the harried nature of the issue. Separately, Scot Eaton, Ronan Cliquet and Steve Pugh could probably have put together an issue with visual cohesiveness, but together, the book just looks more disjointed. Weekly series always have a few clunker issues, but this is far from the worst of them.
Drax #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Drax is lonely. Ditched by his fellow teammates, the Guardians of the Galaxy’s very own big green barbarian decides to dust off his oldest feud and finally destroy Thanos. With a script from the unstoppable Cullen Bunn and future UFC fighter CM Punk, Drax #1 is a decidedly comedic offering that plays it too safe and struggles to find a compelling take on the character. On the visual side of things, Scott Hepburn’s artwork is chaotic. Drax grimaces and grins, his face taking on a Jim Carrey-esque elasticity which occasionally strays too far off-model and makes Drax look like a Bizarro-style version of himself. Despite the odd ugly panel, Hepburn’s artwork befits the title character as a dynamic force that explodes across the page. Dialogue-wise, CM Punk brings his penchant for in-ring taunts to the Guardians of the Galaxy’s very own big green barbarian, but the script never manages to break the surface of Drax's angry, honest and very literal exterior. There’s a few solid chuckles here, but overall, the unintentionally amusing and single-minded murder machine can’t carry his own ongoing series by himself just yet.
Midnighter #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart, ‘Rama Rating 10 out of 10): Steve Orlando does a masterful job balancing action and emotional turmoil in this week’s Midnighter #6. One of the greatest strengths of DC’s Midnighter reboot has been Orlando’s ability to turn a hyperviolent archetype into a truly three-dimensional hero. For the past six months we’ve followed the Wildstorm alum on a journal of both personal discovery and villain hunting, culminating in a shocking twist this month that will leave you desperate to reread earlier issues and find any clues you missed. Orlando and artist ACO are a perfect action team: with sharp writing and frenetic panels, each sequence looks and reads as if it would translate perfectly into a summer blockbuster. Midnighter #6 is easily one of this week’s strongest offerings, and remains one of the strongest titles to come out of DC’s recent slate of new series.
The Vision #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): With The Vision #1, Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta introduce us to a bold and disturbing interpretation of the Vision that has as much to say about the struggles of everyday familial life as it does the struggles of robots (well, synthezoids) living amongst humans. Tom King’s script haunts. There is nothing human about the Vision, his wife and their two children, and their new found home in suburbia is equally as alienating. King’s cold and clinical dialogue breaks apart marital life, baring the pointlessness of petty bickering, the unease of living amongst paranoid neighbors and the worries that come with sending the kids off to a new school. When the book’s restrained facade is broken by the horrors of home invasion, the sudden outburst of violence is starkly horrific. Visually, Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s family of Visions resemble crash-test dummies, carefully curated to seem harmlessly human while lacking the imperfections of the real thing. White and pupil-less eyes stare blankly from almost every panel, while Jordie Bellaire’s palette of earthy orange, red and green brings to mind an idyllic autumnal day, while also underlining the muted nature of the script. All in all, The Vision #1 is a truly unique, fresh and genuinely affecting comic book.
Uncanny X-Men #600 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Brian Michael Bendis uses this anniversary issue to put forth a new status quo for the X-Men, and it works to some degree. The issue’s biggest strength is the art, which flows nicely between different styles as each vignette calls for a bit of a different feel. Frazer Irving, Chris Bachalo, Sara Pichelli, David Marquez, Stuart Immonen, Mahmud Asrar and Kris Anka all get an opportunity to show off a bit, and the issue works as a nice retrospective on Bendis’ collaborators. But the plot is really slow, and Bendis’ decompressed storytelling method doesn’t always jive with the action. An intervention/trial for Beast frames the issue, but it’s been so long since we had a “normal” issue of any of Bendis’ X-books that there’s very little impact (and it’s even worse if you’ve already read a book like Extraordinary X-Men). Bendis revisits one of the big reveals from his run (Iceman’s sexuality) and still insists on inserting Jean Grey, but he’s able to salvage things this go-around. Basically, you’ll want to stay for the art, but the issue itself is mostly a bore.
Justice League: The Darkseid War - Superman #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 1 out of 10): Francis Manapul is a known commodity to many fans for his effusive, inventive art style, but none of that skill translates to his writing. The concept at the core of this issue (Superman with the powers of a New God) should work really well, but Manapul is not interested in writing anything with any sort of nuance. Instead, his narrative is uneven and poorly thought out. He tries (and fails) to tug at readers’ heartstrings, and basically reduces Superman to a musclebound oaf with zero charisma. Bong Dazo’s art isn’t a fit for the Man of Steel, either. His body proportions are strange. His layouts are standard but forgettable. His renderings aren’t consistent with how other artists draw these characters, and there’s a distinct lack of understanding how to communicate tone and scope through visuals. He might have gotten stuck with a bum script, but he doesn’t do himself any favors either.
Doctor Strange #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): If Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo hooked you with their debut issue, then consider this one reeling you in. After giving us an overview of Strange’s world, the creative goes smaller as Strange deals with a case of mind maggots and some missing magic. Aaron lets us explore the Sanctum Sanctorum and the book almost feels like a mystical Marvel version of MTV Cribs. Aaron and Bachalo are able to create worlds within worlds while also giving us some more insight into Strange's personality and mission. Aaron gets to flesh out Strange’s assistant Wong a bit as well which brings some additional levity to the script. I still don’t love Bachalo’s coloring, however; it still makes some pages look muddy with his use of reds and browns, but the quality of his linework is staggering. No one else draws like Bachalo, and not many books look quite as good as Doctor Strange.