Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your weekly dose of Rapid-Fire Reviews! Best Shots has you covered, with seven bite-sized pellets for your reading pleasure. So now let's kick off our column with the Man of Steel, as we check out the 50th issue of Superman...
Superman #50 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): There's a great beat in Superman #50 where Gene Luen Yang cuts to the heart of what could make for a great Superman story - namely that choices have consequences, and gifts have responsibilities, and only a man as great as Superman would take his powers and use them for something other than violence. Unfortunately, it's bogged down in a flurry of action as well as an inexplicably Christmas Carol-esque series of visions, as as Yang is joined by a quartet of artists who don't quite mesh together. Much of Yang's ideas would have worked had he settled on one of them - Vandal Savage has surprisingly compelling reasons to conquer, for example, and Clark showing empathy to one of Savage's children is a fun beat, but there's little setup for much of it, because Yang has to jump ahead to something extremely different. (That said, Patrick Zircher does great work on his sequence, and while I feel like Howard Porter's inks could sometimes use some refining, he does some fun action beats.) However, with a story as scattered combined with an ending as convenient as this one, this book still needs some improvement.
Spider-Woman #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): If there's any comic I wish I could trumpet to the masses this week, it has to be Spider-Woman #5, a powerful, wonderful, important look at Marvel's premiere superhero mom. Dennis Hopeless has said that this run on Spider-Woman was inspired by his wife's pregnancy, and watching Jessica silently freak out over how much her world has been rocked by her newborn is funny, endearing and ultimately enthralling. Jess misses free time, her independence, even her superheroic career - but Hopeless captures her path from being a skittish new mother to her return to the costumed life with sensitivity and nuance. Javier Fernandez adds a world of emotion in Jess's eyes, really utilizing every opportunity for physical comedy, like Jess opening diapers with her teeth or silently imagining all the ways the babysitter could kill her child. If you pick up one book from the Big Two this week, make sure it's this one.
James Bond #5 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Though it may not contain another perfect fight scene like last month’s issue James Bond #5 is still very much a thrilling issue of comics. After making a daring escape from the burning deathtrap he was stuck in last month, Bond is back on the warpath, albeit a bit more tired and worse for wear than he was last month. Warren Ellis’ droll wit once again shines brightly throughout issue 5 (Moneypenny giving Bond a taste of his own flirty medicine is a particular standout) as does Jason Masters and Guy Major’s firm, hard hitting handle on action sequence blocking. As this first arc barrels toward its conclusion it once again proves itself to be one of Dynamite’s consistently entertaining and well put together series, armed with strong characters and consistently beautiful artwork.
International Iron Man #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): International Iron Man is a very strange beast. On one hand, its very interesting seeing Brian Michael Bendis tackling the young, carefree days of Tony Stark’s youth along with his Daredevil compatriots Alex Maleev and colorist Paul Mounts, who, once again, do some tremendous work here especially in the issue’s final action scene. But, like most Bendis books, it isn’t without its frustrations, which this month takes the form of a sparse bookending of Tony in the present day. I understand the need to connect the story that Bendis wants to tell to the current Marvel landscape, but I’m not really sure that it needed to be presented this cold, with barely any hint of why Tony has been laid out and why he’s even in Bulgaria. International Iron Man #1 may look great, but I need just a little more to go on before I can fully endorse its narrative going forward.
Robin, Son of Batman #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Ray Fawkes and Ramon Bachs jump into the groove on Robin, Son of Batman nicely with this issue, particularly with Bach's super-cute take on Damian Wayne. Bachs is very different than the ultra-slick Patrick Gleason, but his cartoony style actually makes me wish his next assignment was a Shazam! book - he never forgets that Damian is a kid, and so he gives the action sequences here a nice bit of humor, given how short but arrogant this kid is. Ultimately, Ray Fawkes' story feels a little undercooked, with Damian racing to Al Ghul Island to discover someone has stolen items from the Year of Blood vault - that said, he's setting up some nice beats through the women in Damian's life, including his mother Talia and his former partner NoBody. But given that Bachs has Patrick Gleason to follow up on, I'd say this book has acquitted itself admirably.
All-New X-Men #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): While I was less than a fan of the flagship X-title over in Extraordinary X-Men, Dennis Hopeless is two for two this week with All-New X-Men #6, which evokes a lot of Ultimate Spider-Man thanks to Mark Bagley's thoughtful pencils and Hopeless's commitment to portraying real, three-dimensional voices of this book's teenage cast. As the team fights to stop the Blob from rampaging across Paris, Hopeless pulls a neat trick by constantly switching to each character's internal monologues - while inexperienced readers might do a double-take upon the first jump, it winds up being an effective tool, humanizing each character and giving them some really meaty inner drama to deal with, such as Beast being scientifically outpaced by this new world or Wolverine and Angel grappling with a breakup. Bagley impresses with the beautiful fight sequences here, aided by some beautifully energetic colors by Nolan Woodard. While the end of the issue does veer into the realm of graphic violence, beyond that one misstep, this is the best X-title you aren't reading.
Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): What happens when scary camp fire stories come true? That’s the question that Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems will have to ask themselves. Written by Josceline Fenton and drawn by Chrystin Garland, with colors by Leigh Luna, this first issue of four really captures the personalities and family dynamic that has made Steven Universe such an emotional cult hit for Cartoon Network. The story also feels like a tale that you could see on a regular episode of the TV show, which, in terms of tone, is the best possible outcome for this new miniseries. The Steven Universe license has delivered many fantastic issues for Boom! Studios and its imprints and Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems #1 continues that streak with fun, family oriented style.