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 Justice-Seeking Justice Partridge, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Doctor Strange…
Doctor Strange #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): “The Last Days of Magic” comes to a rousing and emotional conclusion this month in Doctor Strange #10. Jason Aaron, still employing a wry voice for Strange even when his back is against the wall, forces him into a team-up with the thing in the cellar in order to finally put an end to the Empirikul’s holy war. Aaron also delivers a whopping amount of heart with its Doctor Who-like beat of Zelma, Wong and the rest of the civilians Strange has helped coming to his aid when he needs it the most. The magic lunacy of the final battle is given beautiful and sprawling life by Chris Bachalo, an army of inkers, and the colors of Bachalo and Rain Beredo with the monster in the cellar and its doll like face being the issue’s visual standout. Doctor Strange #10 puts a bombastic cap on the title’s first arc and sets up for very interesting things down the line.
Aquaman #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Perhaps it’s not surprising that Aquaman might be quickly overlooked amongst all of DC’s spotlight on "Rebirth" and the Suicide Squad film, but with politics also in full swing, it feels like Dan Abnett and Philippe Briones’ take on Arthur Curry might be the most interesting superhero book on the stands. In a world of clashing extremes, it’s a very nice twist for Abnett to have Aquaman be the Charles Xavier-esque presence who wants to bring people together rather than have them tear each other apart. Yet with someone trying to start a war between Atlantis and the surface while Arthur surrenders himself to U.S. custody, there’s a fun mystery and tension bubbling up, which threatens to boil over when Mera breaks her husband out of the clink. Briones, meanwhile, reminds me a lot of Paul Pelletier in terms of his character designs - his panel-to-panel compositions aren’t always the flashiest, but panels like Commander Murk fighting underwater Special Forces shows he’s got some serious potential. While this book occasionally drags with its subplot - a shadow villain group called N.E.M.O. can’t help but seem a little goofy in this post-Pixar world - I think still waters run truly deep with this run of Aquaman.
Daredevil Annual #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): While gorgeously rendered with wavy pencils and innovative layouts from Vanesa R. Del Rey and colorist Mat Lopes, Daredevil Annual #1 wastes a team-up with the underused Echo. Writer Charles Soule introduces a nice sound-based potboiler for this annual, pitting Echo against an onslaught by Klaw, but whiffs the opportunity for an emotional reunion for Matt and Maya. Ending the annual is a grim exploration of the mind of Melvin Potter from Roger McKenzie, Ben Torres, and Miroslav Mrva that seems a bit needlessly dark even for this new title and its return to the gritty Daredevil tales of old. Annuals are usually the place for creators to stretch their legs and try new things, but Daredevil Annual #1 offers nothing new and stands as a fun, but flawed one-shot.
Jughead #8 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Chip Zdarsky’s time in Riverdale ends with a heartfelt reconciliation and a jaunt into Mr. Weatherbee’s past in Jughead #8. Though the resolution between Archie and Jughead from last issue and the poignant flashback for Weatherbee is a nice bit of pathos from the writer, the rest of the issue reads as surprisingly flat. The wry wit and wordplay that made Zdarsky’s run with the title such a fun affair is missing during this final issue. What isn’t missing, however, is the “aw, shucks” tone of artist Derek Charm’s pencils; his cartoonish artwork still fitting in very well in Riverdale as is his slightly exaggerated emotions and blocking. While it doesn’t quite illicit the same belly laughs as the earlier issues, Jughead #8 is still a fine enough ending note for Chip Zdarsky’s time with Jughead and company.
Kill or Be Killed #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Kill or Be Killed, the latest Image Comics debut from Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser, happily plays with conventions and goes places you wouldn’t expect. What starts as a story about a man taking the law into his own hands quickly warps into something much more complex and much more human. Brubaker opens the issue with a bloody bang, one that is gorgeously rendered by deft hand of Philips and the bold colors of Breitweiser, but then settles into a darkly funny tale about a loneliness, depression, and possible mental illness. Backed by confident and moody artwork, Kill or Be Killed #1 zigs when you expect it to zag in the best way and stands as another strong debut issue from a consistently great creative team.
4001 A.D.: War Mother #1 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The debut of the War Mother throws a lot of weirdness at the wall, but thankfully, it all feels normal in the wasteland of 4001. Though he doesn’t develop the titular warrior past her heroism, writer Fred Van Lente gives readers plenty to chew on with the world around her which is filled with sentient weapons and a paradise that can grow technology. Artist Tomas Giorello, whose work looks like a cross between Mike Deodato and John Romita Jr., fills the page with all sorts of Heavy Metal inspired details like hanging vines draped across ancient tech and snarling eyeless monsters backed by the rich colors of Brian Reber. While the War Mother doesn’t quite earn the obvious comparisons to Imperator Furisosa quite yet, 4001 A.D.: War Mother #1 is a solid debut for Valiant Entertainment’s newest heroine.
Mycroft Holmes #1 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): In an unlikely turn of events, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a comic book about Mycroft Holmes. In an even more unlikely turn of events, it’s really charming. Co-written by Raymond Obstfeld and with expressively sketchy pencils by Joshua Cassara, Mycroft Holmes #1 presents the often stuffy elder Holmes brother as a rakish and cheeky roustabout who is draw into an steampunk-inspired mystery that threatens the Crown. While the central mystery is only teased with the hilariously gory opening destruction of the British Museum, Abdul-Jabbar’s take on Mycroft is wickedly funny and engaging, as is his verbal sparring with his famous younger brother. Though Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writing a story about a Victorian rouge might sound like a gag, Mycroft Holmes #1 shows that his scripting and sense of humor is anything but a joke.
Jonesy #5 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Sam Humphries might be better known for his work at Marvel and DC, but he truly shines best with his work on Jonesy, which adorably throws its main character into the deep end of the pool this month as she tries to strike up a love connection with her celebrity crush. Artist Caitlin Rose Boyle and colorist Fred C. Sterling are the true heart and soul behind this book, which throws a dash of psychedelic color to the endearing Cartoon Network/Bryan Lee O’Malley-style artwork of Jonesy and her world - the level of detail here is hilarious and impressive, ranging from a mini-board game featuring Jonesy and her crush, or just the insane amount of memorabilia cluttering up her room. While you can probably see the twist coming from a mile away - which might be this book’s only flaw - there’s an element of truth to Humphries’ story of being blinded by adoration. Either way, if you haven’t been checking out Jonesy, this could be love at first sight.
Penny Dreadful #3 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Titan Comics’ Penny Dreadful continues to be a top-notch adaptation. Once again expanding on events only hinting at in the television series, writer Andrew Hinderaker takes readers on a violent and tense journey through Africa to explore the relationship between Sir Malcolm and Sembene and to detail Sir Malcolm’s first brush with the supernatural in the wake of his son Peter’s death. Artist Louie De Martinis’ artwork continues to impress with oversaturated Africa vistas and bits of visual flair throughout, keeping the title firmly locked within its own visual tone and penchant for detailing. Though Penny Dreadful #3 doesn’t advance its own plot forward by much, this installment is still a must-read for fans clamoring for a bit more time in its grim world.
Monika Vol. 1: Masked Ball (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): An up-and-coming politician, a missing girl and an obsessed artist; these are just some of the elements in play in Monika Vol. 1, a new thriller from writer Thilde Barboni and artist Guillem March. Mixing the tone of Italian giallo films and the intentional haziness of a 70's erotic thriller, Thilde Barboni presents a taut, but sensual mystery as the titular Monika delves into a world of masked balls filled with the rich and powerful in order to find her missing sister. While that may sound simple, Barboni’s script is anything but, delivering twists, turns, and a dreamlike approach to this story. Artist Guillem March renders Barboni’s script with a sumptuous energy and eye for steamy details without ever skewing into the lurid. With Milo Manara like pencils and a script that would make Brian De Palma sweat, Monika Vol. 1: Masked Ball is a steamy addition to any bookshelf.