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 Punchy Pierce Lydon, who checks out the rejuvenation of Steve Rogers over in Sam Wilson: Captain America...
Captain America: Sam Wilson #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): We knew this was coming, but Steve Rogers has gotten his youth back. Unfortunately, it’s always a tall order returning a character to their original status quo when the effects have previously been considered irreversible. So just like the gun that wasn’t “a normal gun” way back in Ed Brubaker’s Captain America #25, we get an awkward Cosmic Cube-related plot that gives Steve Rogers his good looks back. Nick Spencer digs into some of the legacy of the shield and that’s the strongest part of this issue, though Daniel Acuna’s artwork is as effective as it ever was. The issue is a celebration of Cap’s 75th Anniversary ahead of his new movie and Joss Whedon, Greg Rucka, Tim Sale, John Cassaday and Mike Perkins contribute to a few fun back-ups.
Justice League of America #8 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Justice League of America #8 is a triumph. As the League’s double-pronged attack finally brings Rao to his knees, Bryan Hitch, playing writer and artist once again and doing both beautifully, shows us a fully formed and well-coordinated League, while also offering up a tense moral checkmate for Superman against Rao. Hitch’s script along with his hard-hitting widescreen panels delivers unto readers a bullet train of an installment, one that further raises the stakes for this title and its heroes. Justice League of America #8 is superhero comic books in its purest form and that is fun as all hell to read month after month. If you are looking for impossible feats, larger than life heroes, and end of the world stakes, all wrapped in a gorgeously cinematic package, then Justice Leaue of America is the book for you.
Daredevil #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): It’s never easy to follow up an acclaimed run on any character, but Charles Soule has taken it all in stride. His opening arc on Daredevil hasn’t done much to define the character, but the storytelling is solid. Blindspot’s narrative arc is familiar without being too hammy. The worst part is probably the goofy villain Tenfingers, who accounts for much the issue’s visual inconsistency as well. Ron Garney is a talented artist and I appreciate him stretching his talents to adopt a new style compared to his previous work. The book feels a bit like a throwback to the almost arthouse Daredevil runs of yesteryear rather than the generally clean-cut work we had grown accustomed to during Mark Waid’s run. This isn’t the best issue but it should instill some faith in readers who weren’t sure what was in store for Matt Murdock in the Soule era.
Jughead #5 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): You’ll be seeing double in this month’s Jughead #5. As Jughead continues to dig for dirt on Principal Stanger, his quest brings him and his friends to nearby Sunnyside, a town that the school head worked in before Riverdale. It is here that Chip Zdarsky deploys his most meta tale to date bas the Riverdale gang meets an adorable gender-swapped version of themselves and enlists their help for Jughead’s crusade. Zdarsky also gives us some doubles in this month’s dream sequence, which finds the Riverdale SuperTeens mixing it up with a robotic set of UltraTeens, a grimdark version of the Archie superheroes. While Zdarsky brings the duplicity, artist Erica Henderson and colorist Andre Syzmanowicz lean into the superheroics of the dream sequence with some well-blocked action scenes as well as some very clever character designs for the Sunnyside gang. Things may be getting darker in Riverdale, but Jughead is still at the top of its game in terms of quality.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Lunella Lafayette is only nine years old, but her struggle is one readers of all ages can sympathize with: do I protect myself from possible embarrassment and humiliation, or do I help a friend in need? Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder let Lunella avoid her activation as an Inhuman while realizing she is the only person who can rescue Devil Dinosaur from captivity. What's unexplained thus far in this series is Lunella's stark attitude against Inhuman transformation. Is she simply terrified of being different than the majority of people, or is antipathy towards Inhumans commonplace? While this premise of Lunella's world needs to be built out more, Natacha Bustos and Tamra Bonvillain make every panel a delight.
Aquaman #50 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): This 50th issue anniversary for Aquaman may be inconsistent, but I have to give Dan Abnett credit for trying to lend a fresh breath of characterization for Arthur Curry and his supporting cast. In many ways, Abnett is deeply channeling the compelling banter of The Flash TV show - but by virtue of having a static medium, there's no way for artist Brett Booth to really deliver all of Abnett's lines, which leads to an occasionally jarring read. Booth's cartoony style takes a little getting used to, but he winds up really leavening the sometimes staid Atlantis, and once Arthur gets to fighting a creature named Dead Water, the action looks incredible. That said, there are a few things that hold this book back: Abnett occasionally goes overboard with all the quips and jokes, which occasionally can feel grating, and while he gives a ton of voice to all of his other characters, Aquaman himself still feels a little too stoic for his own good. This is a disjointed but surprisingly decent showing for this often-overlooked book.
Darth Vader #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It is a lovely war on Shu-Torun in Darth Vader #18. While his companion, Dr. Aphra, is in Rebel hands, Vader is enlisting unlikely allies in order to finally put down the Shu-Torun uprising once and for all. Kieron Gillen’s walk on the Dark Side has been consistently entertaining, but this arc is starting to feel a bit sluggish as Vader advances but at a glacial pace. Artist Salvador Larroca’s heavy pencils are still a great fit for Darth Vader but this month he and colorist Edgar Delgado are given little to work with, aside from more character’s delivering expository dialogue and a sparse action scene as Vader’s drill-ship is lured into a trap. Next month’s installment looks to finally deliver on a long promised showdown, but first you’ll have to get through a bit of a lull in the form of Darth Vader #18.
Omega Men #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Tom King has a great mastery of Kyle Rayner's voice as the Omega Men launch a desperate battle on the planet Karna, but there's something missing in this Omega Men #10 that makes all the fighting feel a little numbing. On the plus side, watching Kyle struggle with exhaustion as he controls the entire emotional spectrum is a great bit, and the ongoing theme that there are no heroes in war is still a good one - but beyond that, I feel like this particular isuse doesn't really build more on King's greater narrative beyond a long, ardruous fight. That said, artist Barnaby Bagenda still does some great work here within King's enormous panel counts, and Hi-Fi does an admirable job filling in for Romulo Fajardo, Jr. in keeping this book's trademark color scheme intact. Fans of this series will love the way King characterizes his antiheroes, but this issue probably won't win any new converts.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Kudos to writer Ryan North and illustrator Erica Henderson for making Unbeatable Squirrel Girl such a consistently approachable title. Are you behind? Just starting? Have no fear: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6, the first issue in Squirrel Girl’s "Animal House" crossover with Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones’ Howard the Duck, is still for you. Howard fits perfectly into the campy, pun-tacular world North and Henderson have created for Doreen and her pals. North backs his humor up with some strong writing chops: the clever reintroduction of Kraven the Hunter from Unbeatable Squirrel Girl's first arc gives the tale a level of narrative consistency you might not otherwise expect from a plot whose central premise is “cosplay huntress seeks anthropomorphic victims.” With the added bonus of in-the-margins commentary from Zdarsky and some fun trading card art from Quinones, fans of Howard the Duck will find plenty to enjoy in this quirky crossover, as will anyone new to the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl universe.
Rick and Morty #12 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Oni Press’ Rick and Morty continues its hilarious and somewhat maudlin hot streak. This month, writer Tom Fowler delivers a rollicking adventure in the memories of a dead Rick, but while he keeps the action and jokes coming with the titular pair, it is the emotional fireworks he sets off between Beth, Jerry and Summer that really make this issue sing. Fowler really puts it all on the table for the family with a few gut-wrenching scenes of family discord and even a heartbreaking call back to one of the show’s most emotional moments. Artist C.J. Cannon and colorist Ryan Hill still deliver show accurate visuals, but venture a bit more into action-heavy scene blocking as Rick and Morty laser-blast and cartwheel their way through the memories of a time displaced copy of Rick. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, Rick and Morty is the real deal, and #12 is yet another example of its raw and hilarious commitment to telling great stories.
X-Men ‘92 #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): X-Men ‘92 got its start as a tie-in miniseries last summer, and swiftly earned enough traction to become one of the few spin-off titles to survive post-Secret Wars. Chris Sims and Chad Bowers created a miniseries event that was reverent of the animated source material, with enough twists to make it fresh for new and old eyes alike. This new on-going brings much of the same charm with it, complete with a fresh artistic take from Alti Firmansyah (whose faces are some of the most expressive I’ve seen in a comic book) and Matt Mills, but lacks some of the urgency of last summer’s arc. Part of that is going from a hard four-issue "expiration date" to an ongoing series - where the spin-off had to keep up a somewhat frenetic pace to wrap up its loose ends in time, Bowers and Sims now have the luxury of a slow build for what seems to be a much more involved plot. If you’re coming back from the miniseries, it make take an issue or two to adjust, but X-Men ‘92 #1 promises more of the campy, action-packed fun (and the occasional odd physical proportions - keep an eye out for some unusually strong thighs) of both its source comic book and the source show.