Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Righteous Richard Gray, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man…
The Amazing Spider-Man #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It’s difficult to see what the overall plan is for The Amazing Spider-Man at the moment, pinging from international adventures to more local slugfests. Even within the context of the growing Civil War II event this is incongruous, as Iron Man and Spidey literally put aside their differences to go search for Miles Morales. The main event is a fight between Spider-Man and Regent, a villain that writers Dan Slott and Christos Gage acknowledge is far too similar to the Super Adaptoid. It’s where this issue gets a little stuck: on one hand, it is full of classic elements, including the presence of Harry, Mary Jane, and hints at an imperiled Aunt May that all make for a throwback soap opera that’s right up Spider-Man’s alley. Giuseppe Camuncoli’s art is also blockbuster stuff, here getting to play with the entire set of Avengers and adapt Regent’s stance and power set accordingly. Yet on the other hand, those classic elements also feel a little too familiar, as if we are treading water for all those big events Slott teased at the end of the Zodiac arc.
Justice League #51 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): How do you follow a high-profile and sprawling run of comics starring DC’s best and brightest after the biggest fights of their lives? If you are Dan Abnett, you do it with a fun case-of-the-month issue that takes full advantage of the team’s dynamic and filter it all through the eyes of a grounded protagonist. With art from Paul Pelletier,whose work conjures comparisons to that of Alan Davis, Justice League #51 is equal parts an epilogue to Geoff Johns’ Justice League that never feels chained to expectations. Justice League #51 is a breezy, yet rich done-in-one story of the League grappling with some unforeseen consequences of their first bout with Darkseid. Abnett delivers a problem worthy of the League while displaying their relationships as a team well, but it is his inclusion of Tim Drake that makes this issue really stand out. Abnett sets Robin up as an eager yet unsure bystander at first, but quickly proves his mettle to each member of the team (his allowing Wonder Woman to borrow one of his Robin-arangs being a particularly great example) and even makes him an active participant in the problem solving, pairing him with the League’s other resident youngster, Cyborg, highlighting Tim’s keen detective mind, his selfless heroism, and his affability in just a few scenes. While not as bombastic as the previous 50 issues, Justice League #51 succeeds with solid artwork, an easy-to-follow plot that firmly connects it to the New 52‘s early days, and compelling characterizations.
Civil War II #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Tony, you just couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you? Civil War II #2 is all about escalation and all the while, it is hard to see any of these characters as the “good guys.” Though the dynamic and vibrant pencils and colors by David Marquez and Justin Ponsor shine yet again, Brian Michael Bendis’ script dispenses with the shades of gray and makes everyone but the Inhumans — the only characters with clear motivations — look like posturing jerks acting without much thought to the fallout. The argument could be made that Carol and Tony are acting this way because of their shared loss, but Bendis doesn’t do enough with the idea to make it apparent in the text, with Tony’s flippancy in crossing the Inhumans feeling particularly tone-deaf. After yet another dialogue-heavy standoff, the heroes are waylaid by another grim vision, which serves as the issue’s cliffhanger, something I expect will become one of this event’s trademark narrative tricks. The leads of Civil War II are barely holding on as sympathetic leads, and aside from a great scene of Medusa and Carol connecting as leaders and women and Bendis’ doing his level best to keep Karnak in step with Warren Ellis’ take on the character, Civil War II #2 is Earth’s Mightiest Heroes at their worst, hiding behind half-baked masks of grief and responsibility.
Scooby Apocalypse #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Given the success of titles like Afterlife with Archie, there’s a lot of potential in taking a post-apocalyptic twist on all-ages properties — but unlike the undead-infested Riverdale, Scooby Apocalypse hasn’t decided what kind of book it wants to be, leading to a scattered reading experience. Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis go heavy with the dialogue in this sophomore issue, which feels like a misstep considering how much exposition and set-up took place in the last installment. But beyond the fact that this feels like too much talk and not enough action, it feels like Griffen and DeMatteis are unsure of what they want Scooby Apocalypse to be — the banter between the gang isn’t funny enough to be a comedy, but this book has relatively few scares or action to take advantage of this dark high concept. The talking heads-style script also leaves Howard Porter with little to do — he seems game for the weird monsters and creatures in this script, but there isn’t enough of them to make this book feel justified.
Star Wars #20 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): With another bookend journey into the secret diary of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars #20’s one-shot story of the knight turned hermit facing off against Wookiee bounty hunter and galactic badass Black Krrsantan is a stirring one. The fight, which takes up most of the issue’s page count, finally allows Kenobi to display his talents as a Jedi, lightsaber, Force powers, and all. Though Kenobi’s age have become an issue in a duel, Aaron handles his creakiness subtly, but effectively, as he fights to save a kidnapped Owen Lars from the bounty hunter’s interrogation. Mike Mayhew, as always, is a welcome presence on the title. His smooth, photo-real pencils and rich colors offering a stark, but tonally correct contrast between the high action, flashy set pieces, and inspired color choices of Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Sunny Gho and Java Tartaglia’s “Rebel Jail” work. While a full title Obi-Wan story arc would be a fantastic road for Jason Aaron to go down, Star Wars #20 still functions as an entertaining stand alone tale that connects just enough to the main story to not feel completely disposable while still offering a decent enough jumping on point for new readers before the kickoff of the next arc.
Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #8 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. Gilad Anni-Padda may be stuck in a cycle of death and resurrection in Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #8, but he is anything but insane. Writer Robert Venditti offers a taut juxtaposition of mysticism and science in this second part of his latest epic, as Gilad is killed again and again and again only to revive himself in the Sovereign’s sprawling death-maze. Though Gilad’s first death was the first installment’s cliffhanger, Venditti and his art team of Raul Allen, Patricia Martin, David Astruga and Borja Pindado turn the rest of them (and there are many) into stylish, almost cartoonish action beats that hit hard, but still read as entertaining and even funny as Gilad works toward escape with each trip to the afterlife. The art here reminds me of the work of Nick Pitarra and Jordie Bellaire onThe Manhattan Projects with much smoother edges, but the same vibrant colors. The team work in tandem with Venditti’s script to keep this eighth issue from devolving into something maudlin with all the death; in particular the sequence of Gilad’s marathon of being murdered which the art team renders as a tight 16-panel grid detailing his live-die-repeat struggle with repeated angles of him waking up on the table and his deaths. “Labyrinth” may have just started but has quickly proven itself, boasting a focused narrative and confident visuals, as an enthralling new arc for one of Valiant’s A-list players.
New Suicide Squad #21 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): A new artist is a welcome addition for New Suicide Squad #21, but it’s not enough to make up for some strange color choices and an even more off-color script. But if there’s one victory to be taken here, it’s that artist Gus Vazquez, making his return to the Big Two after a lengthy absence, comes in with a splash, with some clean and beautifully expressive character designs. Unfortunately, Vazquez’s details are largely smothered by Juan Ferreyra’s colors, which evoke a hazy, watercolor vibe that doesn’t fit with the tone of this book at all. But ultimately, this doesn’t distract much from Sean Ryan’s script, which rests upon a shaky foundation of stilted dialogue, including El Diablo quipping, “It’s about to get muy caliente up in this bitch.” While bits like Deadshot and Deathtrap’s budding bromance are great, it’s hard to get on board Ryan’s Purge-esque high concept, given that his main villain reads like a bad sketch of a coffee shop hipster. With only one issue left in this lackluster run, Rob Williams and Jim Lee can’t take over this book soon enough.
Astonishing Ant-Man #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Still teasing incarceration for Scott Lang at some point, Nick Spencer’s hapless hero takes on some of the elements of Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye as he teams up with no less than two ex girlfriends and a ragtag team of super villains to rescue his daughter. Written as a parody of the heist genre, complete with a “How to Do An Award-Winning Heist, in Twenty Two East Steps” playing out over as many panels, and artist Ramon Rosanas gets to have a bit of fun with every single one of them. Of course, it’s the conscious “Cue Ocean’s Eleven soundtrack” moment - featuring the collective 10 heroes and villains - that steals the issue for the coolest panel. It all goes exactly to plan about as much as anything Scott Lang does, and if it feels like this arc has been going on for a while, it’s because Scott’s life is one disaster after the next. Still a must-read.