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 Regal Richard Gray, as he takes a look at the second chapter of the “Spider-Women” arc in Spider-Gwen…
Spider-Gwen #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The second chapter of the “Spider-Women” arc is ostensibly an attempt for Silk and Spider-Woman to find their way home from Spider-Gwen’s Earth-65, but large parts of the issue serve as an excuse for writer Jason Latour to let Jessica Drew run amok on a parallel Earth. It’s one of the most fun mash-ups since the "Spider-Verse" arc that kicked off their friendship, but the real joy of this issue is watching Jessica and Gwen’s dad George bond over the concerns of parenthood. Even separated from her own newborn by a multiverse, Jess remains the optimist, and it’s a uniform that suits her. Bengal steps into the shoes of Robbie Rodriguez, holding true to form for the series, but also getting to play around wth alternative universe versions of familiar Marvel characters. Despite being a part of a much larger crossover, this month’s Spider-Gwen remains a complete adventure for the hero, but sets up some mystery for the next chapter in the pages of Silk.
Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Our favorite foursome meet their worst nightmare in this week’s issue of Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as Michelangelo, Donatello and Casey Jones square off against pre-teen terror Damian Wayne. While this issue is a little shorter on content than some of the previous installments, James Tynion IV continues to deliver with the crowd-pleasers, as Damian absolutely tears through the Turtles, evoking the same sort of carnage from his first appearance by Grant Morrison. Ultimately, though, the real hero of this issue is Freddie Williams II, who might have delivered his best issue yet — a dominant image of Damian crouching over the Bat-computer looks striking as he’s ready to leap into action, and a panel of Batman and Robin diving into the fray Arkham City-style is about as dynamic an image as you’ll see this week. That all makes up for some occasionally dialogue-heavy expository scenes, not to mention a slightly limp subplot featuring Leonardo’s mutagen wearing off. Still, between the bursts of action and the undeniably fun cliffhanger, this is still the title to beat at DC Comics.
Moon Knight #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Nothing is what it seems in Moon Knight #1, and that’s what makes it so interesting. Drawing on the long and sordid history of the character, writer Jeff Lemire delivers a wholly new take on the Fist of Khonshu, a character who has lately been defined by new takes and ideas. Lemire has plenty of them this time around and all of them add a new layer of intrigue and drama to the title. Also thanks to artist Greg Smallwood and colorist Jordie Bellaire, Moon Knight feels more cinematic than ever thanks to Smallwood’s energetic page layouts and Bellaire’s grimy yet rich color scheme. Moon Knight has had his fair share of #1‘s here lately, but this one looks to stand out above the rest thanks to yet another fresh, yet studied, take on the character.
Goldie Vance #1 (Published by BOOM! Box; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): What do you get when you set Veronica Mars in a Florida hotel from the 1960s? Goldie Vance, a charmer of a debut issue that follows in the already big footsteps of Lumberjanes and Giant Days. It’s a real testament to writer Hope Larson that such a potentially weird premise — teen girl resort staffer who happens to “donate” her time as a detective — and sells it so effortlessly, utilizing all the great hotel angles to tap sources, break cases and, in one memorable sequence, even challenge a drag racer on his own turf. Meanwhile, Brittney Williams delivers some career highlights with her character designs — every character in this book looks cartoony and endearing, and it’s largely thanks to her and colorist Sarah Stern that this book feels so light and engaging. While there are a couple of bumps in the road — the introduction feels a little loose, and Goldie susses out the culprit behind a necklace theft a little too quickly — this book is definitely one to watch.
Constantine: The Hellblazer #11 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): John Constantine in the City of Angels is a glorious punchline that writers Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV run with in this interlude issue, with the Hellblazer’s wry observations about the differences between New York and L.A. forming much of the backbone of the dialogue. Between the angel Gabriel running a never-ending party, and Deadman body-hopping to convince Constantine to return to the beleaguered N.Y.C., it’s an issue that completely understands the comedic aspects of the titular character’s foot in each realm of reality. Travel Foreman’s distinctive style provides a point of difference to Riley Rossmo’s claustrophobic New York, a much more delicate and defined set of figures that positively glow. Foreman and colorist Ivan Plascencia also get to cut loose on cartoony figures in Constantine’s view of Orange County, with jibes against craft beer sitting alongside creatures that feel at home outside the gates of an unnamed theme park. It’s a filler issue in many respects, but a sharp journey through the darker side of the DCU, setting up a bigger confrontation awaiting the anti-hero.
Star Wars: C-3PO #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): This book knocked me flat, and that was the last thing I was expecting. Writer James Robinson and artist Tony Harris, they of DC’s Starman fame, toss C-3PO onto a violent, inhospitable planet along with several other extremely likable and handy droids, as well as one First Order protocol droid with information vital to the Resistance. While that is the bare bones of the story, writer James Robinson makes it so much more as the droids bond and sacrifice themselves for one another in a stirring, yet harrowing trek across the planet’s surface. Harris also delivers some truly strange, Heavy Metal-like backgrounds, creatures, and action sequences, acting as both artist and colorist on this debut. Though I expected a breezy tale starring one of Star Wars’ comedic lead, what I read was so much more, and so much better, than I ever could have hoped.
Xena: Warrior Princess #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): There’s some solid storytelling in this new volume of Xena: Warrior Princess, but it comes after a choppy introduction and a steep learning curve for anyone but diehard fans of Lucy Lawless’ iconic character. Genevieve Valentine jumps back and forth between time periods, which can make what should have been a straightforward issue seem a little difficult to follow at times — but after an abrupt cliffhanger, this issue does pick up, as Xena and Gabriella befriend a pair of young children who have taken to thieving to survive. It gives some needed warmth to Xena, since Valentine is otherwise preaching to the converted — if you don’t know who the Warrior Princess is, you’re likely going to be lost. While artist Ariel Medel’s layouts aren’t necessarily the most striking, his character designs of Xena look great, reminding me a bit of Mahmud Asrar. While the story occasionally gets a little murky with the time jumps and flashbacks, there’s some potential here.
Batman/Superman #31 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): While they may be butting heads at the box office, Batman/Superman #31 delivers an emotional and thrilling tale of the World’s Finest facing down Superman’s mortality. New series writer Peter J. Tomasi not only gives us some fantastic team up action, wonderfully rendered by Doug Mahnke, inker Jamie Mendoza, and colorist Wil Quintana, but also shows us the deeply seeded respect and friendship between the two heroes. Moments like Alfred sincerely thanking Superman for his service and Superman asking Batman if he would slow down, even in the face of death convey a real sense of emotion for this thirty-first issue and highlights the long standing professional and personal relationship between the two titans. Though audiences have had their fill of the versus aspect of Batman and Superman’s relationship, Batman/Superman #31 shows that they are at the strongest when they work together.
The Dark and the Bloody #3 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Shawn Aldridge’s horror series begins to offer some answers to some many questions, in particular what happened on Iris’ tour of duty and the possible motivations of his son’s mysterious friend Ayah. By virtue of it being an issue of exposition, some of the forward momentum is put on hold and The Dark and the Bloody is forced to spin a couple of its wheels this month. Nevertheless, there are still more questions than answers, with the supernatural undercurrent opening up even more puzzles on the Middle Eastern side of the tale. Scott Godlewski gets to (literally) spread his wings on the new locale, along with a spooky backwoods shaman, but maintains his clear line-art throughout the entire issue. Aldridge has now maneuvered us into a spot where we know there’s a sense of foreboding, but we don’t know exactly what it is yet.