Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week’s installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with the latest with Miles Morales, as we take a look at this week’s issue of Spider-Man…
Spider-Man #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Who would have thought that a Spider-Man issue would also be a surprisingly nuanced and thoughtful discussion of race and body image politics? Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli do some nice work with Miles Morales literally dodging heat-seeking missiles in the heart of Brooklyn, but the real fireworks come from the teenage soap opera going on at their school, with Miles’ best friend Ganke struggling to contain his excitement for the newest superhero in town — Uncanny X-Men alum Goldballs. Not only is Goldballs' inclusion such funny commentary about teenage celebrity-hood, but winds up triggering some nice commentary not just on the immediately trusting nature of young friendships, but also about Miles and Ganke’s backgrounds, one as a kid who is black and Hispanic, the other as a kid who grew up overweight and Asian. Bendis made his career off how realistic his teens sounded in Ultimate Spider-Man, and it’s so great to see that sort of naturalism make its triumphant return here, with Pichelli’s artwork making these kids seem young and endearing. Honestly, this is definitely a highlight of the series so far.
Future Quest #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Action! Adventure! And a rousing reintroduction to the world of Hanna-Barbera! Just like they did with Flash Gordon, Jeff Parker, Evan "Doc" Shaner and Steve Rude have taken something old and made it new again. This isn’t solely for nostalgia’s sake. Some of the best cartoons of the 60s were Hanna-Barbera’s pulpy action series designed by none other than the legendary Alex Toth. Birdman, Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, the Herculoids and more provided a foundation of exciting cartoon programming that has stood the test of time. Jeff Parker seamlessly blends the worlds together by establishing the characters separately before slowly bringing them together. Add in a tragic backstory for Space Ghost and we’re off to an interesting start. Shaner and Rude bring an updated yet familiar aesthetic to these properties. They’ve clearly been influenced by Toth and makes no bones about it but bring their own twist to it with heavier inking than we’d see on TV. This is a great start to DC’s current foray into the world of Hanna-Barbera, and one that should leave fans hungry for more.
Archangel #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Legendary sci-fi writer William Gibson gets in the comic book game with Archangel #1, which teases out its time-travel plot with some beautifully moody artwork by Butch Guice, Tom Palmer and Diego Rodriguez. Gibson establishes the bleak futuristic setting nicely, and there’s a nice streak of malevolence to his villain, a vice president who has assumed his grandfather’s identity in 1945 — but the one downside is, Gibson’s pacing is also like a prose novel, which means we don’t get too much further than set-up here. But putting Butch Guice on this book is an absolute no-brainer, as he and inker Tom Palmer add so much shadow and weight to these characters, really establishing the reality of these characters’ situations. If you’re a fan of alternate history stories like The Man in the High Castle, you should definitely keep Archangel on your radar.
Superman/Wonder Woman #29 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Not even artist Jorge Jimenez can get Superman/Wonder Woman #29 off the ground, as “The Final Days of Superman” continues its slog. While the cover teases a Supergirl/Wonder Woman team-up, that’s actually not to be in this issue, with the Girl of Steel only showing up for two pages (and not even in the same scene as Diana). Instead, we get to see just more of the same, with Superman and Wonder Woman fighting an evil energy version of the Man of Steel, hitting him with tree trunks and synchronized punching. I feel for writer Peter Tomasi, who is given the thankless task of having to keep his story jogging in place, but the villain of this story has only the thinnest characterization amidst all this calorie-free fighting, down to him growling robotic lines like “protect—innocent—kill—enemies—” Even Jimenez, who I praise about as often as I can get, isn’t particularly well-served here — his action work is dynamic and powerful (and the only real highlight of the issue), but I feel this book proves he works best on a team book, where he’s able to show off a variation of character designs and styles. All in all, this penultimate chapter is about as skippable as it gets.
Civil War II #0 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Zero issues, am I right? As Marvel prepares to send its heaviest hitters into battle against one another, yet again, Brian Michael Bendis, Olivier Coipel, and Justin Ponsor set the stage for the upcoming event in true Bendis style with lots of dialogue and not much forward momentum. I’ve come to expect a certain bit of stalling when it comes to zero issues and this one is no different, but Bendis does lay out some interesting hints at the direction the event could be going, tempered with his trademark verboseness and firm handle on character, especially Carol Danvers, a character I was worried he wouldn’t handle that well in her new incarnation, despite having written Ms. Marvel during the original Civil War. Olivier Coipel and colorist Justin Ponsor make the most out of Bendis’ wordy script by spreading out scenes across both pages, allowing readers to fully drink in the sumptuous colors and Coipel’s amazing character work and body language. While this table setting issue is truly gorgeous to look at and contains a few juicy scenes for the major players of the upcoming event, you are better off waiting for the trade to experience Civil War II #0, as I can confidently theorize that you can skip over this installment completely and still experience the latest friend versus friend scrap for the moral high ground without missing a beat.
Jughead #6 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Its been months in the making but the final showdown between Principal Stanger and Jughead Jones delivers in Jughead #6. Eschewing the usual flights of fancy that he usually engages in, Jughead is forced to face reality and think way, way outside the box in order to derail Stanger’s final phase of brainwashing at the Riverdale High Halloween dance. Chip Zdarsky’s usual wit and penchant for bad puns is on full display again this month, but by leaving Jughead’s day dreams out this month, he brings the interpersonal relationships of the Riverdale gang into the forefront as they work in tandem to finally overthrow Stanger, making this arc finale feel more personal than any of the previous issues. Artist Erica Henderson continues to impress as a visual storyteller as well getting in just as many jokes as Zdarsky with just a few well-placed panels and truly funny facial expressions. Her dour five-panel grid of Stanger engaging in a slow clap and Dilton’s unexpected but now totally in canon dancing abilities being this month’s hilarious stand outs. As a single issue Jughead #6 works, but as the culmination of Zdarsky, Henderson, and colorist Andre Szymanowicz’s first (and only) arc in New Riverdale, its a satisfyingly funny and heartfelt conclusion to Jug’s first big adventure.
Wonder Woman #52 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): No one would blame you for nodding off during this one. If Wonder Woman’s origins weren’t exhausting enough, tying her up in Greek god family drama doesn’t make it any better. Meredith Finch tries to put a bow on this one before we get to Rebirth but there’s nothing but monologuing and melodrama. A failed attempt to make a statement about the concept of love rings particularly hollow and it feels like any meaningful work with Wonder Woman was done ages ago. Miguel Mendoca’s art is serviceable. It does seem like her draws the same woman each time with different faces but his pacing and sense of scale works for the title. There’s nothing to sink your teeth into with this book and that’s how it’s been for some time. The Finches were heralded as a saving grace for Aphrodite's agent, but their time ends with a whimper.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #5 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Though it has been a while since Sabrina the Teenage Witch has graced store shelves, the latest issue of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina shows that that time away hasn’t diminished its power one bit. After a brief and welcome recap page, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa hits the ground running delivering a stacked issue detailing Sabrina facing trial by the Church of Night for Harvey’s intrusion in her initiation ritual and subsequent death as well as her unholy alliance with Madam Satan who is still masquerading as her school’s drama teacher. While the vintage horror of this series is still very much in play and used to great effect by Aguirre-Sacasa, he also takes full advantage of the rich "Archie Horror" character set as well as touching on themes of racism, both in the mundane and the witching world. Artist Robert Hack also once again fully leans into the EC Comics aesthetic of the series rendering lurid yet tasteful depictions of teen witches engaging in profane rites as well as sudden and shocking bloody violence with care and teasing restraint, leaving much to the imagination while still filling the pages to the brim. While the wait for this issue may have gone on a bit too long, this creative team makes sure that this issue feels and reads well worth enduring its absence.
Spider-Woman #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): In this penultimate chapter of the "Spider-Women" crossover event, Jessica Drew confronts her alternate earth counterpart, secret agent Jesse Drew. Joëlle Jones, Lorenzo Ruggiero and Rachelle Rosenberg make a formidable artistic team as they illustrate a Drew vs. Drew brawl. Most of the action takes place in Jessica's apartment, and I love Rosenberg's color choices, from light streaming onto a seafoam green wall to a sunset gradient background. Dennis Hopeless continues the story of an evil Cindy Moon's schemes, but what makes this issue compelling is Jessica's moral compass contrasted with Jesse's selfishness and Spider-Gwen's impulsiveness. The "Spider-Women" event showcases how different Jessica Drew, Cindy Moon and Gwen Stacy are, and how fun their teamwork can be.
Black Road #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Brian Wood and Garry Brown deliver some nice grittiness and atmosphere with Black Road #2, a bleak historical romp that quickly hooks readers in with its odd couple protagonists. Magnus the Black is a wonderfully terse brute of a lead, and having him protect a young girl named Julia provides a nice foil to get him to open up a bit. (It also doesn’t hurt that Julia is a budding badass in her own right, tagging Magnus with a crossbow bolt to the leg, while rising to the challenge when she’s called upon to perform her first execution.) Wood’s story takes its time, trusting that you’ll warm up to his characters rather than an overarching plot, and he’s right — it’s all about character moments, like watching Magnus recall his first time on the battlefield, or even small moments like the look of understanding when someone calls Julia a “Jewess.” But it’s Garry Brown’s artwork that seals the deal, elevated with pitch-perfect cool colors by Dave McCaig. Brown has an old-school sturdiness to his work, with some great cinematic compositions to his panels that are punctuated by some beautiful expression work, like the look on Julia’s face before she crossbows her hulking protector. If you’re into medieval action, now is the time to start a journey on Black Road.
Old Man Logan #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino produce some quality action with Old Man Logan #6, pitting the Ol’ Canucklehead against the threat of the Reavers. In a lot of ways, Lemire seems to be channeling the movie Taken in this issue — while it’s a weird premise that Logan is standing as a guardian over young Maureen, who will grow up to be his future wife, the idea of watching this once-and-future Wolverine diving into the fray to protect a group of children is simple but compelling stuff. But the real highlight is Andrea Sorrentino, who produces some of the most high-octane action I’ve seen from him yet — watching Logan stagger through a hail of bullets to disarm Bonebreaker, only to get nailed at close range with a grenade launcher, is about as hardcore a moment as you’re going to see in a comic this week. Ultimately, there’s not a lot of heavy thinking to do with this comic, but it absolutely scratches the action hero itch.
Alex Paknadel and Artyom Trakhanov's Turncoat #3 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Turncoat is easily one of the most interesting looking books on the stands these days. An alien-infused noir story that so many cues from the great noir films and comics that have come before it, but Jason Wordie’s otherworldly color palette gives Artyom Trakhanov’s gritty linework a completely different feel. It feels like someone on drugs described sci-fi noir to Dan Hipp. Meanwhile, Alex Paknadel narrative turns will keep readers guessing. He doesn’t reinvent the wheel but he is willing to take some chances, using Marta as a foil against the world she inhabits. Overall, this is a hidden gem in BOOM!’s publishing line that deserves more attention.