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 Rickety Richard Gray, as he takes a look at the sophomore issue of Poe Dameron…
Star Wars: Poe Dameron #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It’s perhaps a bit of a running gag that the obvious hero of Poe Dameron is constantly being outshone by his fellow characters, and while Charles Soule writes him as a Han Solo style rogue, it’s the explorer Lor San Tekka that steals every scene he is in. Indeed, Soule wisely spends most of his time on Dameron’s pursuer, recognizing that Star Wars villains are usually more interesting than their heroes. Phil Noto’s art is gorgeous, of course, perfectly recreating the pre-The Force Awakens universe with new vessels and modified versions of familiar ones. His mastery of facial lines makes Tekka seem like he is actually twirling his moustache, even when he isn’t actively doing do. This particular issue goes pretty deep down the canonical hole, at one point directing readers to one of the prose novels to see how a story came to be, but at least that demonstrates how closely the Star Wars story group is watching everything that happens.
Green Lantern #52 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): While the actual villains he’s facing feel a little nondescript, there’s some surprising tension in the final issue of Green Lantern before DC’s "Rebirth." Writer Robert Vendetti’s got some nice pacing going on, as Hal Jordan has to face a group of opportunistic lawmen known as the Gray Agents — but the real threat isn’t this gang of clearly underpowered mercenaries, but that Hal might lose himself to the power of Krona’s gauntlet. But Vendetti’s dialogue works really well here, as Hal reminds me a lot of Nathan Fillion: “Let my crew go, and we’ll call this whole thing an unfortunate mistake. Otherwise things are going to get real on-purpose, real fast.” Billy Tan’s artwork, while not necessarily my favorite in terms of character design, gets the job done nicely in terms of presenting all this action, particularly a moment where Hal gets to “pop the top” with the Gray Agents’ big bruiser. Given that Hal Jordan’s status quo is about to change dramatically, this isn’t a must-read, but it’s a decent way to clip off this era of erratic Green Lantern stories.
Renato Jones: The One% #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): I don’t think I have ever read an issue as incendiary as Renato Jones, but, holy cow, am I glad I have now. Introducing readers to an efficient and calculating new avenger called the Freelancer, writer/artist and jack of many, many trades Kaare Kyle Andrews filters themes of classism, avarice and revenge through the lens of a dynamic and intensely engaging de-construction of the modern superhero origin. The Andrews we get here is a creator possessed by a new, white-hot political fire as he shines a light on the ugliness behind the affluent as well as drawing attention to the rapidly evaporating middle class all wrapped in a gorgeous and kinetic debut issue that wows as much as it makes you angry at the gross displays of power and greed that the Freelancer is raging against. Renato Jones: The One% #1 is beautiful, engaging, and very, very pissed off. Comic books can be powerful weapons of satire and that is exactly what this debut is and why its just so damn good.
Batman/Superman #32 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): "The Final Days of Superman" continues to limp along in Batman/Superman #32. As the DC Trinity continue to track the imposter Superman, their search runs them afoul of the Great Ten as they enter China’s airspace and catch a fleeting glimpse of the much-ballyhooed Chinese Superman. Peter J. Tomasi gets the thankless job of writing yet another inert tail-chasing issue that brings the heroes no closer to their goal or the readers any closer to any sort of conclusion. Artist Doug Mahnke’s usual bombast is replaced by a rush looking set of panels, over-inked by a bevy of inkers and squandering the usually vibrant colors of Wil Quintana. Though its always a treat to see DC’s lesser known worldly superheroes to pop up, there isn’t much else to enjoy about Batman/Superman #32, yet another go-nowhere installment in the supposed swan song for the "New 52" Superman.
Amazing Spider-Man #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Dan Slott’s new arc begins here, and it’s a fine return to form for the webslinger. Everything is designed to elicit the classic days of Amazing Spider-Man, with Peter, MJ and Harry hanging around a charity event when troubling starts brewing. The real joy of this issue is their interplay, but also the friendly rivalry between Tony Stark and Parker, resulting in some terrific one-liners and pun sparring. Some of this is conveyed visually through Giuseppe Camuncoli’s playful art, who is adept at both dynamic action sequences and subtle character expression. A brief exchange between Peter and one of Stark’s familiars has more comedic timing going on in one panel than some books do in their entire run. With a renewed media hype around Spider-Man, this is exactly the companion book the character needs right now.
Bloodlines #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): DC’s revival of this 1990s crossover event covers some already established ground in this issue, already starting to feel like it is treading water in its second outing. We begin to see the powers of each of the leads emerge here, but beyond their initial appearance, J.T. Krul is not yet taking the opportunity to go beyond that superficial moment in time, stretching out this origin story into at least another issue. V. Ken Marion’s clean but stylized line art captures the extreme masculinity of the decade that inspired it, but the purple demonic creature that emerges as Faith’s power is one of the more impressive pieces of art on display, and a dream sequence is a wonderful example of a dramatic layout. In the debut issue, Krul really gave us a sense of the world his characters inhabited, and it’s disappointing that this issue is incremental in its progression. However, one gets the feeling that everything at the moment is a slow build waiting to explode.
The Punisher #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): "Problem is, that down there? That ain’t Frank. That’s the Punisher. Ain’t no talkin’ to the Punisher.” Truer words were never spoken about Frank Castle, who bursts back onto the Marvel monthly scene in a hail of blood, bullets, and bodies. Writer Becky Cloonan casts Frank as a mute, Jason Voorhees-like death machine as he decimates a new upstart drug ring, much to the chagrin of the hardened vice cops staking out the new players. Cloonan does a fantastic job with the neo-noir setting, and surrounds Frank with rich characters and more than a little morbidly cool weirdness, like a new antagonist who collects his foe’s faces after death — it reminds me of the seminal Garth Ennis War Zone and that’s always a good thing. Also, drawing more comparisons to that mammoth run, Steve Dillon returns to the world of Punisher and its like he never left at all. Dillon’s stoic and lantern jawed Frank cuts a beautifully gory swath of destruction through the grimy warehouses and darkened back rooms aided by the flat, but evocative colors of Frank Martin. I was excited about this new debut issue, but now, I’m just straight-up terrified of Cloonan, Dillon and Martin’s Punisher.
Unfollow #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Guest artist Marguerite Sauvage slays in Unfollow #7, a sharp done-in-one story about a celebrity heiress with a dark history. Writer Rob Williams starts us off with all the trappings of sex and vapidity, but we quickly learn there’s more to Courtney Redford than reality shows and fashion walks. There’s a stylishness to the sadism, as Williams takes a little bit of Point Break and a little bit of Captivity, showing why it wasn’t her kidnapping that drove Courtney to her current state, but how she got out. But it’s Sauvage that really makes this book worth reading, from her super-smooth linework (and surprisingly sexy character designs) to her masterful layouts and her use of red, white and gray. The only downside to this comic is that it’s so self-contained that if you’re looking for more information on Unfollow’s 140, you’re going to have to go online to put the pieces together. But as far as done-in-ones go, you could do a lot worse than Unfollow #7.