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 the Man of Steel triumphant, as we take a look at the latest issue of Action Comics...
Action Comics #49 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It's a week of big continuity changes at DC Comics, but the biggest of the bunch has to be Action Comics #49, which rejuvenates the Man of Steel into something at least resembling his former self. After months of slumming it as a street-level superhero, you can't help but share some of Superman's enthusiasm to take to the skies and kick some serious butt. Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder's story is less engaging when it focuses on the threat of Vandal Savage and his superpowered descendants, and more intriguing when it opens itself up to new interpretations of Superman's trademark abilities. Instead of supervision, he can sense energy transmissions - instead of super-strength, he blows things up kinetically. Could Pak and Kuder be making a secret case for an Electric Blue Superman on the horizon? While his take on Superman embracing his abilities looks superb, Ardian Syaf's artwork does feel a little inconsistent with three inkers attached, and the colors by Tomeu Morey and Wil Quintana unfortunately emphasizes some of Syaf's blank backgrounds. Still, this comic does portend big things for Superman, and for many readers, that will be enough.
Spider-Man #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Even on this world, Miles Morales can’t catch a break. Plopping readers right into the middle of Miles’ new status quo, Brian Michael Bendis shows us a typical day in the life of the neighborhood’s newest Spidey and it isn’t much different from what we’ve seen before. Miles is still trying to juggle a personal life, his school work, and his heroics and doing a less than great job with it. Back on artwork are Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor, but this time the smoothness of the Ultimate universe is long gone, and in its stead is a rougher, more volatile set of panels grounded by a deeply muted color scheme. While Miles hasn’t been in the 616 universe long, his title is already setting itself apart from the globe-trotting adventures of Peter Parker with a more street-level, classic Spider-Man yarn.
Velvet #13 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting remain consistent as ever with Velvet #13, proving that there's no such thing as an unlucky number when you've got talent on your side. Templeton out-Bonds James Bond with her gunplay and her pulp gadgets - a winged stealth suit and holographic tech being just two fun wrinkles in this moody, action-packed thriller. But Brubaker isn't just content with mindless violence - spy literature is always about secrecy and shifting loyalties, and Brubaker adds in tons of twists and turns about the playing field Templeton is standing on. Steve Epting's artwork is lushly inked and beautiful with its atmosphere - there's a smokiness to his backgrounds that just ooze with ambiguity, while Damian Lake looks like a malevolent son of a gun who just desperately deserves a bullet. If you're interested in watching a team of comics creators operating at the top of their game, look no further.
Midnighter #9 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Midnighter might have finally met his match as Amanda Waller and her Suicide Squad have allied themselves with Midnighter’s erstwhile father figure in this month’s ninth issue. Steve Orlando makes the most of the extended cameo of the DCU’s newest movie stars and even throws in a harrowing fight scene with the squad’s newest asset Afterthought, who functions as a sort of enhanced evil version of Midnighter. Keeping the action intimate and hard-hitting are artists Aco and Hugo Petrus both of whom keep the style and punches coming as they break up pages with tiny inset panels of certain important visuals amid the chaos of Midnighter’s newest mission. Both artists work are neatly tied together with the out-there colors of Romulo Fajardo, Jr. who fully commits to the violent and weird tone of Midnighter. Midnighter has been on a crazy winning streak lately and thankfully, this month’s ninth issue keeps that run alive.
Captain Marvel #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Carol and Alpha Flight live through a Ridley Scott like nightmare this month in Captain Marvel #2. As Abigail Brand attempts to smooth things over with the race of aliens that attacked in the first issue, Carol and her team delve deep into the bowels of the mysterious Kree ship to find some answers. Writers Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters do an admirable job of selling the tension and alien unease of the derelict ship before and after all hell breaks loose, while still keeping the cast bantering all throughout. Kris Anka’s pencils this month look like they’ve gone full Michael Avon Oeming as his sharp angles are tempered with rounded faces and hard line work throughout. Matthew Wilson’s colors also take full advantage of the grimy and dark setting, making the most of the sparse sources of lights and the alien architecture that surround the team. Carol may have a new job, but that doesn’t mean that alien weirdness just stopped following her around, but this month, the weirdness is hitting a little closer to home than she might have expected.
Kennel Block Blues #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Ryan Ferrier and Daniel Bayliss team up for an eccentric prison drama in Kennel Block Blues, which features a penitentiary filled with anthropomorphic animals. It's a strange high concept, for sure, but Bayliss dives into the weirdness with glee, as new dog Oliver is so far in denial that he hallucinates his very own musical numbers, even as the hardened criminals of Jackson State Kennel are less than amused by his antics. Ferrier isn't all about the laughs, though - even though Bayliss has a lot of crazy-looking designs (hipster burnout dog Super Amazing Fantastic Charlie being a highlight), it's all grounded in the bleak landscape of the kennel, which has its own gang dynamics. ("Them's the Cats, man. You don't mess with them. 'Specially Pickles.") Ultimately, this debut issue is less about progressing any story, and more just setting up the weird world of Kennel Block Blues - and while this series' main hook is simply its off-the-wall aesthetics, there might be something deeper to this book's pedigree.
Batman & Robin Eternal #18 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10) While Action Comics' strength resides in the return of Superman, resting solely on continuity changes does not a good story make. Unfortunately, that's the main gist of Batman & Robin Eternal #18, which gives a new wrinkle to Harper Row and Cassandra Cain's origins, but little else. Writer Ed Brisson is given the unenviable task of delivering all this exposition, and while he tries his damnedest to include a little bit of action in a flashback featuring Batman fighting David Cain, this comic is all about telling us things that are happening to other people, rather than digging deeper into the character of Batman or his crusade for justice. Scot Eaton does decent work with Batman's scenes, as the more shadowy sequences lend themselves well to Wayne Faucher's inks. Unfortunately, the present-day scenes featuring Batman's proteges is almost entirely info-dropping, and it falters further when Allen Passalaqua takes over for this book's final three pages. Ultimately, the need to wrap things up makes this comic feel less like a story and more like a Wikipedia entry.
Howard the Duck #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Sometimes you get a book that is so weird and so disorganized that you could only expect it to crash and burn. Howard the Duck #4, however, bucks the trend, with a story that varies from being funny to overstuffed to action-packed. Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones deliver a book that twists and turns like a roller coaster, and like any good amusement park ride, you can't help but think it's fun. Pitting Howard against the Stranger and Galactus, Devourer of Worlds, Zdarsky delivers some surprisingly great action, as Howard gets to silver up on the Power Cosmic. (It doesn't hurt that Quinones makes Howard the Silver Duck look tremendously stylish - honestly, the colors and the expressions look really sharp here.) It's almost enough to forgive a little bit of confusion as Zdarsky keeps adding more and more people to the cast - the Silver Surfer, Galactus and a wannabe Herald of Galactus are all great, but once you start adding in the Thing, the Guardians of the Galaxy and even the Collector himself, it gets to be a little much. Still, a surprisingly great installment.