Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday column? Best Shots has you covered, with this week’s installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let’s kick off today’s column with Rambunctious Robert Reed, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Spider-Man…
Spider-Man #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Robert Reed; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out 10): Brian Michael Bendis’ talent for writing realistic dialogue stands out in Spider-Man #3 as Miles Morales is berated by his newly arrived grandmother, who steals his phone and otherwise puts the brakes on his budding superhero career. Sara Pichelli provides life to the proceedings; her character work prevents the issue from feeling like “talking heads.” There’s a great moment where Bendis and Pichelli both shine, as Miles turns towards his closed door and he looks ready to yell back at his grandmother, but instead Bendis supplies captions, showing Miles’ fear and agitation. The Ms. Marvel crossover hinted at on the cover is fun, though readers may be disappointed at the lack of action this issue.
Superman #51 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Peter Tomasi and Mikel Janin show some great characterization in the pages of Superman #51, but the big downside to this new creative team is that the Man of Steel hasn’t had a second to breathe before his status quo has been overturned yet again. Taking a liberal page from the All-Star Superman playbook, this issue is largely expositional, as Superman grapples with his own mortality and explains his situation to those nearest and dearest to him. Tomasi gets all the voices down pat, and Mikel Janin actually winds up being an inspired choice, using a clean, Barry Kitson-esque design for Superman (that especially looks great with Lois Lane). The big downside for this book isn’t even the creators’ fault — that it still feels like DC is playing continuity musical chairs with Superman, a character who absolutely just needs to go back to basics and quit reinventing the wheel, particularly not with a high concept that, so far, seems a little too familiar to one of the most iconic Superman stories of the last 25 years.
Archie #7 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Everybody comes to Pop’s this month in Archie #7. As Reggie continues to cozy up the Mr. Lodge, Archie is hard at work trying to come up with some plan to reveal Reggie as the creep he is, and get back into Mr. Lodge’s good graces. Which brings him back into the company of his best friend Jughead and under the wing of Riverdale’s premier secret-keeper, Pops. Mark Waid once again endears us to Archie as he struggles against his own innate sense of right and wrong and displays that famous Archie clumsiness during a particularly hilarious scene of his short-lived job at the local paper. Artist Veronica Fish along with colorists Andre Szymanowicz and Jen Vaughn also nail the emotion and humor of the new series for another month, further proving that they may not have the name recognition of an Annie Wu or Fiona Staples, but they still deliver extremely engaging pages and keep the tone at a consistently high standard.
Spider-Women: Alpha #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Very much a prelude issue to a larger event, writer Robbie Thompson and artist Vanessa Del Rey bring together two breakout stars of Spider-Verse with new mom Spider-Woman, as she joins Silk and Spider-Gwen for brunch on the latter’s Earth-65. Hampered somewhat by required reading of all three series, this event kick-off doesn’t catch readers up so much as let existing ones enjoy a bit of banter between the three heroines. It’s gentle fun, with the exception of a lightweight Super-Adaptoid fight and a shadowy spider-figure watching them from a creepy distance, one that pushes the event’s narrative forward in the final pages. Del Ray’s art is an acquired taste, her disproportional approach to anatomy jarring with the equally stylized art of the three series. An interesting multiversal premise that makes good use of the strong trio of women Marvel has run with over the last year, but that event doesn’t feel as though it has quite started by the end of this issue.
Justice League: Darkseid War Special #1 (Published DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Let it never be said that Geoff Johns does anything small. Focusing on the female side of the cast and drawn wonderfully by artist Ivan Reis and colorist Alex Sinclair, Justice League: The Darkseid War Special #1 weaves the epic origin of Grail while Jessica Cruz is giving aid by a surprise returning character to escape the purgatory of her power ring. While a bit long-winded, and most likely inaccessible to those who haven’t been following "Darkseid War" so far, Johns still delivers a crazy and big feeling story that is steeped in Wonder Woman lore; a welcome change of pace from the posturing men that we usually see in stories like this. Though probably a bit too inside for the casual comic reader, this special one-shot still brings it when it can and sets Justice League up for some huge developments in the future.
Star Wars: Poe Dameron #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Charles Soule is quickly becoming the unsung hero of Marvel’s Star Wars line. After handling another dashing leading man in Lando, he returns with a story starring Star Wars’ newest space boyfriend, Poe Dameron... and I am happy to report it is fun as all hell. Poe Dameron #1 finds the best pilot in the galaxy given a mission by General Leia to gather a squadron and find Lor San Tekka, the mysterious character Max Von Sydow played in The Force Awakens. While buoyed by connections not only to the new film canon but the new novel canon as well, this debut’s real strength is Soule’s intensely charming take on Dameron. He has swagger, he’s kind, funny, and above all, he’s a pure hero and Soule takes full advantage of all these aspects, on top of a diverse cast and more than a few BB-8 moments. Add to that the photo-realistic panels and colors of Phil Noto and you have a debut that is more than just a bland tie-in attempt; it’s a fun and fresh entry into the new Star Wars canon.
Rough Riders #1 (Published by Aftershock Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Both the plot and pacing of Rough Riders #1 reads like an American version of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and that’s not a bad thing. The quick and dirty pitch for Rough Riders is Batman and the Outsiders meets turn of the century icons like Harry Houdini and Jack Johnson, but Adam Glass’s script is enough fun and excitement to keep a reader intrigued for a second issue. Theodore Roosevelt is the American icon we all wish we were: brave, complex, driven and never without a quick witticism. With the comparison to the Dark Knight intact, artist Patrick Olliffe’s style here is perfect mesh between ‘90s-era Neal Adams and modern-day Tony Daniel that only misses a few details that don’t distract from the story too much. With an abrupt ending, there was very little to dig into here in the first outing, but Rough Riders #1 is still a lot of fun.
Detective Comics #51 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Bruce Wayne may be back in the cowl, but there are still plenty of stories to tell with Jim Gordon. Detective Comics #51 finds Gordon drawn back into military life as an incident from his days in Afghanistan has come back to haunt him and leave the bodies of his former unit in its wake. Writer Peter J. Tomasi carefully sets the stage for this globe-trotting murder mystery, but still keeps the action and Gordon’s investigation feeling street-level, even as he transplants Gordon into an active war zone. Aiding in that feeling of street level storytelling is the artwork of Fernando Pasarin, along with inker Matt Ryan and colorist Chris Sotomayor, all of whom deliver detailed, realistic-looking pages that remind me more of an indie comic detective story and less like a superhero comic, which is a welcome change of visual pace. Though DC is headed toward a "Rebirth," it is nice to see that the classic titles still have milage left in them.
The Discipline #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): With a first issue troubled by an almost misogynistic approach to a sexual relationship, the issue doesn’t start well with Melissa, still dripping with an unidentified monster’s bodily fluid quipping, “I don’t really know what came over me.” Unfortunately, Milligan crosses the fine line between mystery and malice, the “next level” of Orlando’s initiations now involving threats of familial assault, along with drugging Melissa and forcing her to experience naked shame in public. Any pretense of using his female lead as anything other than a male fantasy falls away in this second issue, robbing it of its impact or any chance of subtlety or character development. Leandro Fernandez’s art is one of the saving graces of this otherwise disturbing book, lovingly keeping his figures in shadow and giving the issue the magical fantasy elements that the narrative misses the mark so completely.
New Suicide Squad #19 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): I’ve got to give credit where it’s due, and after a pretty shaky introduction, Tim Seeley and Juan Ferreyra are two for two with a consistently decent issue of New Suicide Squad. This issue is all about the carnage, as the Squad winds up being trapped in a castle filled with mercenaries looking to kill them for what is essentially video game points. It’s not the deepest premise in the world, but Seeley juggles his cast nicely, whether it’s Cheetah callously letting an ally bit the bullet, el Diablo laughing nervously when Harley Quinn gets a homicidal glint in her eye, or Deadshot meeting his new best friend, the gun-growing Deathtrap. Ferreyra’s artwork, meanwhile, is growing on me some — his pencils remind me a lot of Roger Robinson, but the painted colors still feel way too pretty to evoke such a dark and distressing high concept. Still, this series has kept its momentum, and that’s nothing to turn up your nose at — at least not until Rob Williams and Jim Lee take over.