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 today's column with Plentiful Pierce Lydon, as he takes a look at the latest issue of All-New All-Different Avengers...
All-New All-Different Avengers #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): These might not be your parents’ Avengers but that doesn’t mean they can’t show you a good time. Mark Waid and Adam Kubert are tasked with combining a couple different generations of Marvel heroes into one cohesive unit and while the early returns have been slight in terms of drama, they’re still a lot of fun. Waid hasn’t really nailed down the dynamic between the stalwarts and the teen heroes, but he’s getting there. He leans on Miles Morales to bridge the gap, a role that makes sense for the young Spider-Man, but it’s still a bit stilted. Adam Kubert is a known commodity in the comic book world and he delivers work that’s befitting an Avengers book. The action is high octane and the renderings are strong. I wonder if the layouts could have been improved to really take this book to the next level but for fans of fast-paced, fun superhero action comic books, this one is a winner.
Midnighter #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Midnighter #7 is the incredibly kinetic and emotionally charged conclusion to the first arc. Midnighter’s visceral face-off with Prometheus is a testament to the grit and guile of the character, and the adventurousness of Steve Orlando and Aco’s storytelling. Aco’s fiercely detailed lines and precise panel layout make for an overwhelmingly gratifying visual experience, and, quite frankly, couldn’t be a better match for the tone of this title. While the issue is wholly engaging and full of energy, the narrative transitions from flashback to battle to conclusion play out abruptly, which may cause the reader to take a beat or two to recalibrate. Shaky segues aside, Midnighter #7 is a strong example of a compelling issue, and continues to be one of the best titles in the DC roster.
Star Wars #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): "Vader Down" continues to barrel along in the pages of Star Wars #13. However while previous installments have been about reestablishing Darth Vader’s menace, Star Wars #13 brings some much-needed levity to the crossover. This month Jason Aaron gives us a hilariously violent showdown with Han Solo, Chewbacca, , R2D2 versus Dr. Aphra and her murderous droid companions as they fight over the unconscious body of Luke Skywalker. While Star Wars #13 ends on a truly scary note, everything up until that point is bound to draw at least a few chuckles out of readers. Back on art is artist Mike Deodato and colorist Frank Martin, Jr., who continue the visual tone started in the Vader Down one-shot in Star Wars #13. Star Wars #13 might contain more than a few laughs, but something tells me that this levity is going to be short-lived come next month.
East of West #22 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Robert Reed; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out 10): Picking up in the aftermath of the previous issue, East of West #22 is an action-packed issue delivered completely in visuals. Jonathan Hickman keeps the issue almost completely void of dialogue and artist Nick Dragotta lets loose as enemy forces try to assassinate one of the world leaders. Dragotta’s art is absolutely stunning and the layouts allow the beats of the action to breathe appropriately, preventing the issue from feeling unsatisfying. Frank Martin’s color choices, particularly the use of reds and blacks, add to the drama of the proceedings. After the setup of previous issues, East of West #22 is a welcome adrenaline rush for the series.
Robin War #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): There is an awful lot happening in the pages of Robin War #1. Writer Tom King does his best to keep it all straight, but that may be a bigger task than he realizes. The Court of Owls are attempting to orchestrate a large-scale culling of the Robin movement in Gotham City, and in doing so they have pulled the original Robins into its orbit. Why, we don’t exactly know yet, but for some reason it involves making Dick Grayson Nightwing again. Though Robin War is penciled by a cadre of talented artists, each who have a firm handle on action scene blocking, the story of Robin War #1 still feels like a hastily put-together story with the express purpose to get a bunch of kids punching each other. Fingers crossed that this event reveals itself to be much more once the crossover issues start rolling out.
Red Wolf #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Nathan Edmondson and Dalibor Talajic saddle up for Red Wolf #1, an unashamedly traditional Western book that struggles to offer a unique and fresh take on dusty material. As both the sheriff of a town called Timely and a proud member of the Cheyenne, Red Wolf protects those who do not respect him. Nathan Edmondson hits all the classic beats of cowboys and Indians here, serving up a violent world of mistrust and bigotry before throwing it all to the wind in time for the cliffhanger. Narratively, it's a serviceable first issue that relies on stereotype to carry its thin characterization. Likewise, penciller Dalibor Talajic's average artwork lacks detail but is otherwise technically proficient. Colorist Miroslav Mrva's tones of gray, brown and beige are appropriately dusky given the setting, but they struggle to capture the reader's imagination and interest. All in all, Red Wolf #1 is a standard and somewhat forgettable take on a very unique Marvel property.
Harley’s Little Black Book #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Harley’s Little Black Book presents her exploits from a first-person perspective that is as cheeky and eccentric as you might expect as she heads across the pond to London in a freighter crate to “save” Wonder Woman. Amanda Conner is a master of her craft. Her voluptuous lines and playful expressiveness are a delightful fit for Harley Quinn’s inner monologue. There’s a few pages of pencils and inks by other artists that slightly disappoint. That’s mostly because it’s not Conner, and her style is so distinct. Despite the mild inconsistency of the visuals, the narrative and charm of the characters remain fully intact. The character voices are remarkably well-defined. The chaos and blunders that are inevitable when Harley shows up play out as background entertainment to the wildly entertaining dialogue. Who knew Harley is a total Wondy fangirl? And of course, Diana is as gracious as ever about it. It’ll make you smile.
Rocket Girl #7 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder's time-hopping tale returns with its energetic art but still suffers from confusing plotting. The story follows DaYoung Johansson, a young jetpack-wearing police officer who has traveled back to 1986. While two scientists berate DaYoung in the past and two detectives investigate a shady corporation in the future, DaYoung shows no urgency to deal with either her time travel or the corporation. Only in the last seven pages does the excitement pick up when DaYoung intervenes in a hostage situation. Contrasting the unenthusiastic plot are Reeder's eye-catching colors and perfect capture of characters in motion. Tallchief's flowing robe as she paces and DaYoung's stare down of Annie are highlights of Reeder's visual storytelling. Reeder's art is exceptional, but Rocket Girl doesn't feel like it is building towards any climax.
Totally Awesome Hulk #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The wild and directionless angst of the Hulk has always seemed a decidedly teenage superpower, and now it has a decidedly teenaged hero wielding its gamma-powered force! All-star team Greg Pak and Frank Cho introduces us to Amadeus Cho: The Totally Awesome Hulk. Fuelled by food and raging hormones, the seventh (or eighth, depending on your metric) smartest person in the world makes for a dynamic and humorous protagonist thanks to Greg Pak's purposefully juvenile script. Frank Cho contributes some beautifully detailed pencils that often border on cheesecake but also carry oodles of personality. The dynamic between Amadeus and his much more responsible younger sister gives us a reason to care, while Amadeus' reckless attitude towards his new-found powers fits the Hulk's concept. The Totally Awesome Hulk #1 is a great-looking and funny book from a top-notch creative team.
Batman Beyond #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): You can change up the artists and you can shake up the status quo, but sometimes there's just something to be said about a superhero actually enjoying being a superhero. It's that jolt of optimism that gives Batman Beyond a much-needed second wind after the oppressiveness that dominated its post-apocalyptic first arc. But now that Brother Eye is gone, Tim Drake finally gets the opportunity to stretch his wings (both literally and metaphorically) on his own terms. Stephen Thompson tags in for Bernard Chang for the art this issue, and it's a surprisingly smooth transition, thanks to the colorwork of Marcelo Maiolo keeping the weird, sickly tone of Neo-Gotham intact. After its bleak and confusing opening arc, Dan Jurgens and company are starting to bring Batman Beyond back to its more charming roots.
All-New Inhumans #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The superhero world and the political landscape of the Marvel universe collide to great effect in All-New Inhumans #1. Facing down a roving ecological disaster in the form of the Terrigen cloud, Princess Crystal and her team of NuHumans attempt to traverse the political landscape while still keeping as many of their brethren safe as they can. Writers Charles Soule and James Asmus delicately balance the superhero action with genuine political intrigue as Crystal and her team juggle their responsibilities as heroes and as dignitaries of the new Inhuman regime. Pair that with the kinetic and expressive pencils of Stefano Caselli and the rich colors of Andres Mossa, and you have a debut issue that delivers the goods action-wise while also keeping important themes of statecraft and identity at the forefront.
The Sheriff of Babylon #1 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): If Baghdad noir wasn’t a literary genre before, it is now. Former C.I.A. operations officer-turned-writer Tom King lays the foundation of a complex whodunnit that happens after Baghdad’s fall, one that involves an American who has been training the Iraqi police force, a beleaguered veteran Iraqi police officer, and a coldly calculating and upwardly aspiring Iraqi female kingpin. The disparate personalities are intriguing enough, but they’re even more captivating when laid bare through an engaging and interwoven storytelling style that artist Mitch Gerads masterfully executes with frugal panel layouts, muted colorings, and terrific use of body language to convey beyond the minimalistic dialogue the weight that each character bears. It’s Fargo meets The Wire, and I defy you not to read it and be hooked.
Spidey #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Not the radical reboot that Ultimate Spider-Man was in 2000, instead it’s a back-to-basics approach from writer Robbie. Thompson, returning the wallcrawler to his teen years and all the complicated angst that comes with that. It’s a double-edged sword, as for every person who will be relieved to get a break from the complex melodramas of superior spiders or seeing Parker Industries as a job creator, there will be others who feel as though Spider-Man has long since left this kind of story to his small-screen animated counterparts. Yet Spidey is fun, and even if it is retreading older ground, it’s done with gorgeous art from Nick Bradshaw, who brings a refined elegance to a cartoon world of retro-danger. The intended audience here is also much younger, leaving the other books to the cynical older readers, and this one for kids of all ages.
Batman & Robin Eternal #9 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It's taken them years to do it, but DC might just have cracked the code when it comes to putting out awesome weekly comic books. James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder's Batman and Robin Eternal works so well because of the way it allowers writers like Hacktivist alums Jackson Lanzin and Collin Kelly to bounce the various Robins off one another and see what sparks fly. As a result, this series becomes more focused on the characterization than on the overarching conspiracy plot - and that's exactly how it should be. It's great to see Dick Grayson taking the lead as the family leader, while Jason Todd is a consummate troublemaker, and Tim Drake turns out to be as ruthless and pragmatic as Batman himself. The fight choreography by artist Roge Antonio is also very strong, reminding me a lot of the smoothness of Ed McGuinness but without the exaggerated physiques. Combine all this with the introduction of a supporting Bat-character that's long been in limbo, and you've got yourself one entertaining comic.
The Vision #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Despite what the cool logic of the Vision and his synthezoid family would have you believe, this book is filled with heartbreaking emotions. Even with the distance created by their matter-of-factness, what some might see as horrific is actually the reality of families across the world who are seen as different by their neighbors. Perhaps the most topical of books amidst a media culture that is increasingly teaching us to fear the "other," as different as the Vision clan might seem to us, spending time with them comes with the realization that their actions are based on their own concept of devotion. Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s suburban vista could have stepped straight out of filmmaker Sam Mendes‘ view of American suburbia, with Jordie Bellaire’s colors an autumnal mix that indicates a transition period. By the end of this issue, we are also presented with a mystery, showing just how complex this simple story can get.
Johnny Red #2 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Garth Ennis’ revival of the Johnny Red character throws us straight into the dogfights of World War II this time, with a lavishly detailed dogfight from artist Keith Burns gracing the title pages. For war story enthusiasts, like the millionaire Iverson who bookends the story as the reader’s avatar, it’s this attention to the small details that should earn this book the admiration of comic book fans and historians. Yet due to the nature of some of this detail, it’s only going to have limited appeal to wider audiences, with the narrative tipping into history textbook on more than one occasion. Make no mistake: this is still a ripping yarn of seat-of-your-pants action, fast fists and even faster women, but the titular Johnny Red still remains enigmatic, and audience allegiances will be mostly determined by their familiarity with the original creation at this early stage in the new series.