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 Rambunctious Richard Gray, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man…
Amazing Spider-Man #11 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Dan Slott’s current saga of a villainous Zodiac-themed cooperative seems to have been going on for a while now, and while this issue is very much a thrilling and jovially cheesy conclusion to that chapter, it’s also one that’s never had the same cache of the more classic Spider-Man villains to support it. What it does incredibly well is showcase Giuseppe Camuncoli’s blockbuster art, especially a gorgeous pin-up of Spider-Man, Mockingbird and the Living Brain dropping out of a jet. Slott almost trolls the audience when Scorpio glimpses the next year, rattling off hints of things that might come to pass in future arcs. The whole saga is buying time before the superior presence lurking in Spidey’s robot pal is revealed, which this issue leaves us in no doubt is just around the corner.
Justice League #49 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): ”Violence begets violence. Unless someone breaks the cycle. That’s usually me.”. Things are going from bad to worse in Justice League #49. As "The Darkseid War" barrels toward its endgame, Geoff Johns finally brings all the loose plot threads he’s been seeding throughout this title and the multple spin-off one shots in order to deliver a truly crazy and blockbuster penultimate issue. Artist Jason Fabok and colorist Brad Anderson are also bringing the pain with dense battle scenes and wanton destruction on a city wide scale as the League, Crime Syndicate, rogue Amazons, and gods both New and dark battle for the fate of the universe. If you want your superhero comic books big, loud, and with inter-dimensional stakes then Justice League #49 is exactly what you’ve been searching for.
Sex Criminals #15 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): People talk about characters having lives of their own, but Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky give us a great example of this in Sex Criminals #15, showing that titular characters Jon and Suzie can still change, and even transcend the premise of their entire book. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that everything’s crashing down on their heads, as Fraction ramps up the tension, as Sex Policewoman Myrtle’s theft of Jon’s psychiatry records comes to light. But what’s so wonderful about this book is how three-dimensional everyone is — even the bad guys have a glimmer of redemption, while seemingly nice couples crash and burn in the wake of perceived sexual inadequacies. Zdarsky portrays everyone with such a great sense of humanity, particularly when Myrtle tries in vain to tell a time-frozen Doc she doesn’t need him. If you haven’t been reading this masterful book, get on it.
Star Wars #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Taking back a black site prison is hard work in Star Wars #18. As Sana, Leia and Aphra fight their way through cell block after cell block, Han and Luke finally arrive as the cavalry but it may be too late. Jason Aaron is still getting some fantastic interactions out of the three leading ladies, but this eighteenth installment feels more like a table setting issue for the oncoming finale than an issue that provides any real development, aside from a teasing bit of dialogue from the arc’s big bad. Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan and Sunny Gho are still providing this issue a real sense of urgency, however its getting a bit tiresome seeing them detailing just corridors and empty cell blocks. Aside from the sluggish plot development, Star Wars #18‘s character work is still more than worth a passing glance.
Batman #51 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): There’s always a city. There’s always a signal. There’s always a bat. Bioshock references aside, the final issue of the Snyder/Capullo/Miki/Plascencia harkens back to the first issue of the title in order to deliver a stirring love letter to Gotham City and to send this incarnation of Batman out, not on a note of action, but one of hope. Snyder and Capullo slow things way, way down for his final issue and while some readers may bemoan its lack of incident, I found this issue to be a perfect finale for a title that put the city of Gotham into the forefront and allowed it to be just as rich of a character as Batman and his family. Though DC as a whole is headed for a Rebirth, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo can hold their head high after delivering a thematically rich finale to cap off a stellar run with the Dark Knight and his wonderful and terrible city of his birth.
Ms. Marvel #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): G. Willow Wilson ends Ms. Marvel’s clone-centric arc on a satisfying note. Kamala Khan's hometown is being wrecked by the army of mindless duplicates she haphazardly created, and unfortunately, her friend Bruno’s solution creates an even bigger problem. Kamala has been lacking mentorship for a while, and so including Captain Marvel is a nice touch here. Wilson's story about taking on too many responsibilities is relatable to all readers, but is especially valuable to younger readers. Meanwhile, there's no better recent example of culturally conscious writing than Aamir's wedding, as he worries about whether or not his bride-to-be can overcome their cultural differences. Nico Leon and Ian Herring draw intricate outfits at this fancy party, and every panel in the first half of this issue is packed with funny details. Wilson shows Kamala is a hero because of, not in spite of, her inability to do it all and Ms. Marvel inspires the next generation to be everyday heroes by caring for their communities.
Batgirl #51 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): After what felt like a fitting conclusion to the "New 52"/ "DC You" era of last month, Brenden Fletcher has the slightly more awkward task of slotting in his version of Batgirl into the pre-Rebirth world. It feels like the start of something new entirely, perhaps due to the newer art team of Eleonora Carlini, Minkyu Jung and Roger Robinson. It takes on the more heightened elements of a drama manga throughout the first half, albeit with some killer dynamic fight scenes in the second act. With cameos galore from Fletcher’s other DC titles, it’s most definitely setting up the team aspect to Batgirl’s future adventures, with Babs coming to a decision to take a lengthy trip. Handy hint: for those of you reading both Black Canary and Batgirl, it’s best to read this one after the former to get a bit of perspective on the various comings and goings of the supporting characters.
Ultimates #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Who’d have thought a character piece starring Galactus would be one of the best comic books out this week? Writer Al Ewing is joined by artist Christian Ward in Ultimates #6, a truly beautiful story of the newly-christened Lifebringer as he navigates celestial beings and defines his own place in the universe. Ward’s artwork is bold and colorful, but Galactus’ expressions show some of the sharpest linework I’ve seen from the artist yet. Concentric circles of bright magentas, yellows and blues punctuate this show-stopping artwork, but it’s a true testament that Ewing can keep up, with some wonderfully slippery arguments as Galactus takes down the Lords of Chaos and Order. Easily the best issue of this series yet, and perhaps a career highlight for both creators, as well.
Black Canary #11 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Fully embracing the German post-punk and art-rock elements that inspired it, this is a very art-led issue that drops some heavy hints of bombshells about D.D. past and that of her family. There are moments, especially as D.D. stands on top of a pile of distended and unconscious bodies, that Sandy Jarrell’s art takes on the qualities of later era Frank Miller, especially around the lips of the Bauhaus-esque Orato, who looks for all the world like one of The Dark Knight Returns mutants in his vampiric qualities. Lee Loughridge’s bold color choices bathe each page in a unique shade, giving even the rare static images a sense of movement. Leaving us on an intriguing cliffhanger, the comic with its own fictional band continues to be one of "DC You"’s most interesting experiments until the very end.
Spider-Woman #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The fourth installment in the "Spider-Women" crossover hits the midway point, but loses a little of the momentum that was gained in the Spider-Gwen and Silk issues. Set against Joelle Jones’ stylish artistic version of Earth-65 suburbia, an environment not too far removed from her Lady Killer title, Dennis Hopeless gives us a solid character-based piece where new mom Jessica Drew interacts with the spouse of her multiversal counterpart. Despite this, by the end of the issue there’s a sudden realization that nothing has actually been resolved or accomplished, making this the weakest entry in the crossover so far. It’s a shame, because Jessica is the most firmly-established character of the three, so this issue doesn’t have the same impact of the three issues that preceded it.
Superman/Wonder Woman #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): There’s a good concept at the heart of Superman/Wonder Woman #28, but this "Final Days of Superman" tie-in stumbles in the execution, particularly in the artwork. There’s been a tendency in this series to make the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship a little one-sided, with Diana coming across as a bit of a stereotype — and with her asking Clark “am I the last to know?” and “do you love me?” makes her come across as a little needy and submissive. But the other problem is that Peter Tomasi has to go over the same conversation again, that yes, Superman is dying, and there’s nothing we can do to fix it. Meanwhile, artist Ed Benes definitely misses the mark here — not only is there no drama to his Michael Turner-esque style, but an obligatory action sequence cutting between Superman versus Ulysses and Wonder Woman versus the New Superman being completely confusing.
All-New Wolverine #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Laura Kinney is an orphan who knows the pain of being abandoned. Tom Taylor writes a beautiful story linking Laura's friendship with the original Wolverine, Logan, to her current status as caretaker of Gabby, her young clone. We see Laura struggle with how to protect Gabby, and the emotional dialogue and tear-streaked faces make us sympathize with their predicament. Having Squirrel Girl as a guest star, however, offsets the heavy subject matter with her natural silliness and fun. Marcio Takara's clean lines capture every expression with precision, such as Laura's unimpressed face when Squirrel Girl makes a dramatic announcement. Colorist Jordan Boyd gives characters' eyes and facial features a stunning luminosity. All-New Wolverine is consistently one of Marvel's most thought-provoking and deeply affecting titles. Like Uncanny X-Men's Kitty Pryde and Magik or Runaways' Nico and Karolina, Laura and Gabby's sisterhood is a relationship readers will cherish.
Grayson #19 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Doctor Daedalus emerges in Helena’s stolen body, and heavy shadows with deep reds set a sufficiently enigmatic tone. The decades-long web of Daedalus is finally unraveling, and Dick just figure out he’s been misled in more ways than one. Being the unwavering acrobat that he is, he springs back onto his feet (and then onto a sweet Batcycle) to go save his friend. Writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing maintain Dick’s signature swagger and lithe dexterity giving way to an upbeat pace and authentic read. This is a highly dynamic issue, and artist Roge Antonio delivers exciting perspectives and crisp conflict. Colorist Jeromy Cox compliments the flow of the panels with contrasting blues for Grayson’s chase, and deep reds for Daedalus’s machinations. It all works very well together. Grayson #19 is a proper penultimate issue for the arc with an engaging stride and solid story structure.
International Iron Man #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): After a lackluster debut issue, International Iron Man #2 brings the action as well as deepening the intrigue. Once again bouncing from the past to the present, Brian Michael Bendis gives us a better understanding of Tony as a young man and how his chance encounter with Cassandra in his college days is coming back to bite him in the armored butt now as he tries to track down his biological parents. Though we still don’t get any real hints as to who they are, this second issue puts the narrative on a more stable foundation than the debut tried and failed to do. Alex Maleev and colorist Paul Mounts are given much more to do this time out with dynamic widescreen splash pages of exposition in the past and a kinetic armor vs. armor scrap in the present. Though it may have started on a shaky foundation, International Iron Man #2 looks to put this spin-off title on much more solid ground.