Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your 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 Boy Wonder himself, as we take a look at the latest issue of Robin: Son of Batman...
Robin: Son of Batman #9 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Bringing Damian Wayne back to Gotham proves to be a shrewd move by Patrick Gleason, who delivers the most fun issue of Robin: Son of Batman yet. While I'm sure it was fun to cast Damian as an over-the-top globe-trotter, Gleason is much more effective showing Damian come to terms with a now-amnesiac Bruce Wayne - there's a splash page that riffs off Batman and Robin that is truly heartbreaking, as Damian looms over his sleeping father, saying "I am truly alone." With that emotional base established, Gleason's later weirdness still feels nice and grounded, whether its Damian taunting his garishly-designed opponents or a duo of tech-wielding newbies known as O.H.I.O. Combine that with a heartfelt reunion with an old friend of Damian's, and you have yourself an energetic and fun comic book.
Silver Surfer #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Dan Slott and Mike Allred pretend the Silver Age never ended with Silver Surfer #2, a purposefully cheesy all-ages adventure that harkens back to a narratively simpler time whilst retaining a modern pace and sense of humor. Mike Allred has always excelled in his depiction of the cosmic, and his instantly recognizable art jumps with life and character here. From Norrin's saucer-white eyes to Jack Kirby-like alien constructs, Allred's designs perfectly suit Slott's silly script, which sees the Surfer and his companion Dawn face off against a Ben Grimm possessed by a forgotten power from the Surfer's homeworld, Zenn-La. Slott's reinvention of the Surfer as a planet-hopping alien with a human companion makes the Doctor seem positively human. He wrings multiple belly laughs from the premise, as Norrin fails to understand our proclivity for bacon and eggs in the morning and our interest in expectant mothers. Slott strives for accessibility over economy of words, never afraid to let his characters exclaim the obvious. It's the furthest thing from naturalistic, but Slott's penchant for entertaining dialogue means that the overtly verbose only adds to the issue's tone. As a kid, my first introduction to the solo adventures of the Silver Surfer was the abysmal 2003 ongoing. The younglings of 2016 are much more fortunate.
Sex Criminals #14 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): There's an earnestness to all the incisiveness behind Sex Criminals #14, as Matt Fraction grapples with the challenges of not trying to sex-shame a book that is unequivocably about the sliding spectrum of sexuality. But ultimately, there's a real celebration of lust and carnal knowledge in this issue, as Fraction bounces (ahem) between Jon and Suzie checking each other out, or Sex Cop Myrtle possibly getting in a little too deep (really?) with one of her contacts. It's a very wholesome kind of issue, because all of these characters feel so three-dimensional and fully realized. That's in no small part to Zdarsky, who doesn't shy away from expressive characters or even surprisingly expressive dick pics. (Another note: Zdarsky's use of color is even more masterful, giving this book a real sense of energy, even beyond a hilariously meta conversation between the creators halfway through the book.) Sex Criminals is the type of book that keeps stretching and growing - artistically speaking - and that makes it one of the most forward-thinking books on the stands.
Extraordinary X-Men #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): There's an alchemy that happens when you've got the right creators on the right property telling the right story - but unfortunately, all the components seem to blow up in our faces with Extraordinary X-Men #7. Jeff Lemire starts off with a decent hook - what happened to Nightcrawler after Secret Wars? - but winds up handicapping the story with bland action for the rest of the team, not to mention a very heavy-handed, kind of tone-deaf conclusion. It doesn't help that Victor Ibanez doesn't quite feel like the right artist for this sprawling team book - his character designs feel mushy and awkward, and they don't do the team's new costumes any favors. While Lemire has some decent imagery as Jean Grey and Storm travel through Nightcrawler's memories, ending it with a Holocaust-style death pit (in Germany, no less) feels a big misstep. Ultimately, if one of the X-Men's most beloved characters gets reworked in this off-putting a manner, it doesn't bode well for the rest of the Children of the Atom.
Archie #6 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Mark Waid and Veronica Fish's Riverdale High feels vibrant with interesting characters representing different ethnicities, activities, and fashion. I like how Betty finds a kindred spirit in Sayid Ali due to softball, and Toni Topaz takes charge when an injury occurs. Waid skillfully takes Reggie, whom we could easily write off as a one-dimensional brute, and unpacks his jealousy of Veronica's doting father. Fish's detailed settings heighten our immersion in Riverdale, from Reggie's trophies to the decorations in the ice cream parlor. Fish's ability to contrast characters' emotions is remarkable: see Veronica go from laughing out loud to wistful in two panels. Archie hits the sweet spot of complex relationships and unpredictable fun.
Snowfall #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Joe Harris and Martin Morazzo bring an ecological twist on the "freedom fighter or terrorist" mythology of V for Vendetta in Snowfall, an intriguing debut that will bear more watching. This first issue is all about setting up this dystopian world, where climate change has all but annihilated any form of precipitation - and that makes the snow-wielding White Wizard a symbol of deadly rebellion. Granted, while Alan Moore celebrated V's actions as a force against a dystopian world, Harris feels a bit more thoughtful than that - there's a crisis of conscience coming for his lead, and that can lead to some interesting wrinkles. But ultimately, the main hook fo this book has to be Martin Morazzo and Kelly Fitzpatrick's artwork - I love the imagery of the White Wizard, and there's a real verisimilitude to this world that is only a few decades removed from our own. The unspooling of plot might make this book a slow burn - or is it a slow chill? - but there's something to Snowfall that could make it a standout read.