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 a send-off to Marvel’s Not-So-Jolly Green Giant, as we take a look at Civil War II: The Fallen…
Civil War II: The Fallen #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Checking in with those closest to Bruce Banner, Civil War II: The Fallen is a fairly hit-or-miss remembrance of the late Hulk, but thankfully, writer Greg Pak and artist Mark Bagley succeed where it counts most. The best parts of this issue is a scene featuring Bruce’s ex-wife Betty - Pak gives a wonderful justification for their romance, saying that deep down, Betty was always just as mad as Bruce - as well as a moment featuring Skaar and the Warbound, who bring a somber sense of family to the issue, as well as Bagley’s beautiful rendering of a silent page of She-Hulk weeping in her hospital bed. That said, other characters feel tacked on, like Iron Man, Dr. Strange, and surprisingly Rick Jones, and pages of a holographic Bruce talking about his hidden financial assets feels both overly convenient and unnecessary. Still, Pak reminds us why he was such a crucial Hulk creator with "Planet Hulk," and fans of that run will find lots to enjoy here.
Superman #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The battle against the Eradicator goes lunar this month in Superman #5. Writers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason continue the fight with plenty of science fiction weirdness and some well-timed maternal instinct as Lois Lane joins the fray with a stolen suit of Bat-armor. Artist Doug Mahnke provides the issue dynamic blocking and rounded character designs, accentuated by Jamie Mendoza’s heavy inks and Wil Quintana’s rich colors. This art team also continues to make a throwback character like the Eradicator look fresh as they tweak his design with streaming energy flowing from his coal black body. With strong themes of family at its core and slick superhero action gracing the surface, Superman #5 is another winner for the House of El’s new solo title.
Star Wars: Poe Dameron #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It’s a jailhouse shuffle in Star Wars: Poe Dameron #5. Writer Charles Soule offers a nice two-pronged approach to Poe’s latest predicament and the escape of a Hutt gangster from a prison planet. As Poe and his crew languish planetside, BB-8 and the rest of the droids from Black Squadron’s fighters work in tandem to lower the prison’s defenses from the orbiting station. While fun in parts, the story as a whole still lacks the charm and humor that made Poe such a scene-stealer in the first place. That said, Phil Noto’s art still looks as polished as ever, and even manages a few nice beats of silent storytelling as he follows the droids. Though the idea and concept is strong, Poe Dameron #5 still feels a bit limp.
The Backstagers #1 (Published by BOOM! Box; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): James Tynion IV’s latest creator-owned series puts you in the room where the magic of theatre happens happens. The Backstagers #1 is a charming look at what sort of fun and mischief happens behind the scenes as new kid Jory joins a ragtag group of stagehands and builders to fight to keep the show on the rails even if the actors don’t know or even appreciate it. Tynion perfectly captures the feeling of belonging that comes with high school theater while peppering in all sorts of whimsy and humor throughout. Aiding in that whimsy is artist Rian Sygh and colorist Walter Baiamonte, whose Steven Universe-inspired pages amp up the humor and strangeness while still looking quite adorable. With heart and chutzpah to spare, The Backstagers #1 soars as a sincere love letter to the unsung heroes of the theater world.
Batman #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): After last month’s misstep, Batman #5 comes roaring back with a dynamite issue. The final showdown between Gotham and Batman completely delivers thanks to Tom King’s wry, but hard-hitting scripting. But while King, David Finch, colorist Jordie Bellaire and an army of inkers bring the pain with a constant barrage of attacks and even a Justice League cameo, King redeems Gotham Girl for the final push and drops some huge hints as to the direction the next arc will take with terse narration. Even Bruce’s faithful butler Alfred gets in on the action with a drolly hilarious opening salvo that is sure to delight longtime readers. Though the first arc displayed some growing pains, Batman #5 is every inch the blockbuster that this title deserves to be.
Black Widow #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): There’s a fun continuity twist with Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Black Widow this month, as we learn that Natasha was more responsible for Tony Stark’s transformation into Iron Man than we ever knew. (You can breathe easy, though, knowing that she’s not Tony’s mom.) Waid and Samnee do a great job at leading readers through what seems to be a low-key story, only to trip us with a couple of fun twists later on. While previous issues of Black Widow have felt almost claustrophobically tight with the page layouts, Samnee’s art feels much grander and more sweeping in this issue, such as a panel of Iron Man flying through the city that cuts across a double-page spread. Colorist Matt Wilson, meanwhile, lends such tremendous energy to the book, ranging from a red monochromatic flashback to the cool lighting when Tony confronts Natasha. This isn’t a game-changing issue, and the conclusion feels a little convenient, but all in all, Black Widow still continues to impress.