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 Jiggy-With-It Justin Partridge, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Black Panther…
Black Panther #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): ”I am the scope. You are the rifle.”. Black Panther’s second arc kicks off with T’Challa having to make the hard choices in order to save his nation. Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates’s poetic and stirring style is still alive and well in the second act of “A Nation Under Our Feet,” but now he is presenting T’Challa with a harder, more ruthless edge and the title gains a whole new fire because of it. Penciler Chris Sprouse and inker Karl Story make their Black Panther debut with this issue, along with series regular Laura Martin. Their style, though not quite as flashy or innovative as Stelfreeze’s, melds well with Coates’ emotional script and the pair keep the action dynamic when the battle is joined. While the first act of this sprawling narrative had its ups and downs, Black Panther #5 starts the title’s latest arc off strong.
The Flintstones #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Using a classic sitcom set up, The Flintstones #2 offers up a witty send up of commercialism and religion. (Believe me, I’m just as shocked as you are.) Writer Mark Russell takes what could be a classic episode of the original cartoon in the form of a get rich quick scheme that Barney and Fred get roped into but morphs it into something much smarter as he skewers organized religion and consumer culture. Artist Steve Pugh and colorist Chris Chuckry also amp up the comedy of the issue, delivering well blocked sight gags and exaggerated reactions. While I never would have guessed that out of all the books on shelves The Flintstones would be the most satirical and affecting, I am very glad that it is, proving that even classic cartoon reboots can have something to say.
The Black Monday Murders #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): No one does world-building quite like Jonathan Hickman and his latest series may be his bleakest and most entertaining one to date. Melding a detective thriller tone and the metaphysical dread of a Clive Barker story, The Black Monday Murders is a grim look at the occult world behind the economy and an intrepid gumshoe pulled into it. Filled with intriguing factoids a la The Nightly News, Hickman’s own striking design work, and bloody digital art from artist Tom Coker and colorist Michael Garland, this issue reads like the best David Fincher movie never made as it draws readers in with mere hints at the larger world just below this debut’s surface. With engaging characters and a surely well researched plot, Image Comics has another hit on their hands with The Black Monday Murders #1.
All-New All-Different Avengers Annual #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): What started as a quirky character detail has grown into one of the most entertaining and fan-friendly annuals to date in All-New All-Different Avengers Annual #1. After a long day of superheroing, Kamala Kahn is shocked to find herself the star of several fan fiction stories. These pieces, which provide much of the annual’s makeup, are hilarious and well-rendered short stories from the likes of Faith Erin Hicks, Chip Zdarsky, Natasha Allegri, and many more. Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson also gets in on the fun, providing a truly great frame for the whole annual that brings together some of Marvel’s biggest fandom nerds. With plenty of shout outs to ships and a heap of good-natured ribbing, All-New All-Different Avengers Annual #1 is a delightful love letter to the new generation of Marvel fans.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; ’Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): This is writer Scott Lobdell’s second Red Hood and the Outlaws #1, and he has definitely learned from any past mistakes. Lobdell spends the majority of the issue focusing on Jason Todd, and aspects of his origin as well as his code of conduct, which skews just a shade darker than Batman’s. It’s a nice balance of background and establishing the character’s current position that feels like the perfect mix for a first issue. That said, sometimes scenes get a little convenient or a little played-out, like a bit involving a “techno-organic virus” or a scene where Red Hood refuses an order from Black Mask but still somehow makes it into the gangster’s good graces. However, these details don’t derail the story enough to cause the narrative to crash. Artist Dexter Soy, meanwhile, is a fine fit for the title. Soy makes Jason Todd look dynamic on the page when in action but his characters can seem a little stiff when they are just standing around talking. Luckily, Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 is better this time around, and hopefully only gets better from here.
Old Man Logan #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Last Ronin arc of Old Man Logan is already one of the most focused and aesthetically cohesive arcs in modern comics, and is helping to solidify Jeff Lemire as the definitive Old Man Logan writer, surpassing original series creator Mark Millar. Andrea Sorrentino's art for this series has been one of the best things about comics in 2016. While it certainly appears influenced by Frank Miller's art in the original Wolverine series, there really isn't a lot in comics quite like it – the highly stylized red and white silhouetted panels in particular are always memorable and always perfectly placed within more traditional panels. Where flashbacks can often be the bane of strong storytelling, Lemire's implementation of them, combined with Logan's backstory of a fractured timeline, make them essential in conveying the tone and narrative that this story delivers. Though antagonist Sohei's motivations seem a little murky, the rest of the story is superlative.
Deathstroke Rebirth #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): With a strong and unique story, as well as a compelling atmosphere, Christopher Priest's return to DC comics is a barnstormer. It stumbles from time to time with clunky flashback sequences, but overall creates a strange and suspenseful comic with a heightened sense of political intrigue. In a lot of ways, this comic feels like a Metal Gear Solid story, and this isn't just Slade Wilson's eyepatch talking. With just over 20 pages, Priest establishes and explores a world in which there are two levels of knowledge in geopolitical affairs – the knowledge of the people and the knowledge of the privileged. The heavy-handed philosophical musings about time and destiny never feel forced or awkward. Within the world of the comic, it all works. Slade is humanized in the issue to an extent, but never so much so that the reader forgets he is ultimately a villain. Carlo Pagulayan's artwork remains strong throughout, and his work on faces manages to bring a degree of sympathy to nameless extras that would otherwise be ignored. With the focus on inevitability and destiny, it is going to be interesting to see how this series progresses.
Civil War II: The Accused #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): There's a subtextual implication in Civil War II: The Accused #1 that is one of the more interesting aspects of the entire event. Hawkeye is the perfect hero to have the public rally behind because Hawkeye is on their level. He has no superpowers, so it makes sense that the non-powered public would heavily lean in his favor. All of this is conveyed in one panel early on, but never explored to the fullest of its potential in this noticeably long issue. Therein lies the problem with Civil War II: The Accused - there is just so much that it could be saying and exploring, from high-profile celebrity trials to the application of lethal force, but it instead plays its story safe and steers clear of the controversial and divisive. Marc Guggenheim wrote a solid and acceptable story, but with the length of the issue there was so much opportunity to broaden the scope. Ramon Bachs and Garry Brown carry art duties in the issue and do a good job of juxtaposing the moody noir of Daredevil's nightly activities with Matt Murdock's brightly-lit courtroom affairs. This clash is at its peak in a panel where Murdock is immersed in shadows, but his glasses are shining bright as he communicates with Evelyn Stanzler from the Department of Justice, who is standing in the light. It is one of those wonderful moments in comics where you can take out all of the dialogue and see an entire narrative in a single panel.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): While I thought the previous installments of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps were a bit of a slog, as Robert Vendetti and Rafa Sandoval had to work to bring not one, but two titles back to their original status quo, it’s heartening to see this creative team go through such an upswing here. With the Green Lantern Corps back in our universe, as well as the Sinestro Corps gearing up for a major push, Sandoval absolutely nails the artwork in this issue, with some beautiful moments like John Stewart gazing over the ramshackle shelters on the Planet Mogo with the weight of the entire world on his shoulders, or Hal Jordan giving a Sinestro Corpsman a sassy grin before he wallops him with an 18-wheeler. Vendetti’s storyline here doesn’t reinvent any wheels, but after all the heavy continuity lifting he’s been doing lately, watching Hal do some old-fashioned swashbuckling or having John, Guy Gardner and Kilowog have some minor soap operatics isn’t necessarily the worst idea in the world. This comic right now remains undecided about its direction, but the familiarity, action and striking artwork make Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #2 infectiously fun.
Lone Ranger/Green Hornet #2 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Dynamite Entertainment’s dynamic team-up continues its historical hot streak. Michael Uslan, once again integrating rousing Western-inspired flashbacks and a pulpy revisionist history, finally gets Britt into the mask and into the fight as he learns just how deep the Cavendish Gang’s evil goes. Uslan also cuts to the chase when it comes to the Hornet’s arsenal, delivering origins for his gas gun and the Black Beauty that are weaved into the narrative in a way that doesn’t feel shoehorned. Artist Giovanni Timpano and colorist Pete Pantazis again deliver more John Cassaday inspired visuals with heavy shadows, bold colors, and dynamic blocking throughout. With a tone that straddles the line between classic and modern, Lone Ranger/Green Hornet #2 stands as another well-constructed installment for the heroes of yesteryear.
All-New All-Different Avengers #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The Vision stands at a moral crossroads in this month’s All-New All-Different Avengers. While Mark Waid does an admirable job of adapting to the colder voice of the synthezoid and positioning a hefty moral quandary at the feet of Vision, this issue really just stands as a long lead up to a cliffhanger; the very picture of table setting as we surely won’t get a resolution until after Civil War II is done and dusted. Original series artist Adam Kubert returns along with colorist Sonia Oback, but unfortunately they aren’t given much to do as the Vision flits through time. Though this issue stands as a neat look into the Vision’s own personal war amid the larger conflict, All-New All-Different Avengers #13 is all set-up and little follow through.
Suicide Squad Most Wanted: El Diablo and Boomerang #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Two of the most interesting characters from the Suicide Squad film get some spotlight this week, with Suicide Squad Most Wanted: El Diablo and Boomerang #1. Writer Jai Nitz gets another crack at the character he helped create, El Diablo, with a story that has a solid foundation in highlighting Chato’s past as a gang member. While there’s some potential as Nitz contrasts the shadowy Suicide Squad with the seemingly above-board Checkmate, there are a lot of deviations to his script, including a brutal metahuman gang beating ordered by Amanda Waller, that make it a little difficult to follow the throughline of this story. Artist Cliff Richards ironically is at his best with the Waller scenes, evoking a bit of Mike Deodato’s shadowiness, but he stumbles trying to make characters like El Diablo or Uncle Sam look cool rather than hokey. The second story, written by Michael Moreci, flows much more seamlessly, with some very funny bits like the Squad asking themselves whether or not they unconsciously decided to ditch Captain Boomerang during an operation. While the villains of the piece do feel a little underdeveloped, Moreci has fun with Boomerang’s acerbic personality, and artist Oscar Bazaldua shows some deep potential with his angular character designs. Bringing together a team of overlooked talents to explore two overlooked characters, Suicide Squad Most Wanted: El Diablo and Boomerang #1 is definitely a title that bears watching.
Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #2.8 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): “The Twist” comes to a heartfelt conclusion in this month’s The Twelfth Doctor #2.8.. Writer George Mann succinctly wraps up the central murder mystery at the heart of the story with a patented Doctor speech, showing once again that he’s at least five steps ahead of the side-characters at all times. At the same time, Mann displays more of the trademark optimistic problem solving in wrapping up the Foxkin plot, showing again that intellect and romance will always win out over brute force and cynicism. Artist Mariano Laclaustra along with assists from Fer Centurion and Agus Calcagno and colorists Carlos Cabrera give Mann’s speech heavy script a hefty dose of style in the form of perspective warping splash pages that sell the Doctor’s widespread message of peace very well. Not all problems must be solved by punching, and Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #2.8 embodies that philosophy.