Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let’s kick off this week’s column with a trip to Gotham, as we take a look at the latest issue of Batman…
Batman #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): There’s nobody in comic books who writes trauma quite the way that Tom King does it, and his epilogue to “I Am Gotham” reads as powerful and scarring in Batman #6. With the death of her brother lingering heavily on her soul, the superpowered Gotham Girl has decided to clean up Gotham City - but one snippet of her increasingly detached dialogue shows that this is a character that is as broken and lost as she is strong and invulnerable. In so doing, King winds up giving Batman himself a new role - as a character defined by loss and tragedy, now Bruce Wayne assumes the role of almost a spiritual healer, trying less to keep an all-powerful heroine under wraps and more of trying to spare someone of the overwhelming pain he carries. It’s a moody and broody sort of concept, one that is a little at cross-purposes with Ivan Reis’s clean-cut superheroic style - that said, seeing Reis on interiors is a treat no matter what character he’s working on, as he gives Gotham Girl a beautiful sort of choreography as she glides through the air (I love the innocence he gives Gotham Girl as she steals Colonel Blimp’s purple hat), while his shadowy and beady-eyed take on Batman really plays up the character’s “dark creature of the night” bonafides. All in all, Batman #6 is a strong finale to King’s opening arc, and one that heralds great things to come.
Daredevil #11 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Writer Charles Soule might have come up with his best villain yet in Daredevil #11, a comic that transcends the standard superhero fisticuffs and winds up delivering a chilling and thought-provoking dilemma on morality and art. It might sound counterintuitive that Soule waits so long to inject Matt Murdock into the story, but his hook is so striking that it doesn’t matter 0 when an immoral art collector charges tickets to show off a piece created with the blood of a serial killer’s victims, the ensuing legal drama gives Daredevil a moral quandary he might not be able to pound into submission with his fists. But in addition to the legal maneuvering that Soule sets up, he also introduces a grotesque new villain, who turns his victims into horrific works of art. (Artist Ron Garney sets a new bar for himself with some disturbing tableaus, with his scratchy art style occasionally evoking some modern-day Frank Miller 0 some high praise, indeed.) It’s tough to come up with a compelling high concept in today’s superhero landscape, but Soule makes Daredevil #11 one of the best books of the week.
Kill or Be Killed #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser build on the momentum of their debut issue with the darkly poetic Kill or Be Killed #2. Brubaker engages in some lengthy backstory here but its so well written and plotted it never once drags or feels compulsory, all boiling to a violent conclusion as Dylan takes his first life. Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser also continue to impress with their dusky, haunting pages. Using the divided page method in which the page is split into a stark white on the left with the narration and the art panels on the right, both Brubaker’s words and Phillips and Breitweiser’s art are given equal opportunity to shine through, making this issue all the more powerful. With razor sharp scripting and moody and beautiful artwork, Kill or Be Killed continues to be a title to watch.
Rise of the Black Flame #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Readers will experience the birth of evil first hand in Rise of the Black Flame #1. Firmly entrenched in Hellboy continuity, writers Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson present a somber look at the rise of the famous antagonist framed by a story of two police officers searching for a rash of missing children. Wastelands artist Christopher Mitten joins the Mignolaverse to deliver sketchy, gothic inspired panels that fit in perfectly with the tone of previous Mignola series. It also doesn’t hurt that regular colorist Dave Stewart is also on board, hammering home the look that readers expect from a Mignola joint. With its numerous touchstones to previous series and a moody eldrich mystery at its center, Rise of the Black Flame #1 is a rare example of a worthy prequel.
Moon Knight #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Marvel’s jam-session approach to Moon Knight continues to pay off in this seventh installment, as writer Jeff Lemire works with a trio of talented artists to delve deeper into the mysteries of Marc Spector’s life. For most other characters, diving in cold with three of Moon Knight’s split personalities might be considered too obscure for readers, but Lemire makes the rapid-fire shifts in location and perspective work for this story, making readers as disoriented as our hero. But it’s also a testament to the book’s editors, Jake Thomas and Kathleen Wisneski, for keeping this story pumping with the three artists involved - Wilfredo Torres handles the lion’s share of the art, with some solid but expressive pages as Steven Grant navigates the hassles of Hollywood and his own past as a psychiatric patient, but Francesco Francavilla’s taxi cab sequence with Jake Lockley is beautifully rendered with shadows and neon lights. James Stokoe’s late-stage inclusion is the only thing that feels a little abrupt, but his cartoony style lends such great flavor to the more realistic pages elsewhere. While there’s not a ton of plot progression here, Moon Knight #7 isn’t just about the mystery, but enjoying the journey with a cadre of creative talents.
Ninjak #19 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Ninjak and the Eternal Warrior go undercover with varying results this week in Ninjak #19. Writer Matt Kindt continues his strange and chuckle-inducing buddy cop tale as Colin and Gilad track their prey, the Fakir, to Las Vegas and end up tangling with another Ninjak antagonist, Silk. Kindt is spinning a lot of plates with this arc, like the roiling past thread of Colin’s growing Deadside tumor and how that connects to the current story, but his banter between the two heroes and his constant forward momentum make it look easier than it really is. Artist Khari Evans and colorist Ulises Arreola heap detail onto each page, like heavy ink-work and well-blocked action seqeuences as the pair send Ninjak and the Eternal Warrior to the depths of a unknown dimension to a posh Vegas hotel lobby. Coupled with a Valiant Universe-centered backup story, Ninjak #19 continues the title’s streak of strange and entertaining action stories.
Kim & Kim #2 (Published by Black Mask Studios; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Last month’s premiere issue of Kim & Kim marked a stellar debut from writer Magdelene Visaggio with an issue so strong that even an “okay” follow up would still have been a good read. Fortunately, Visaggio, artist Eva Cabrera, and colorist Claudia Aguirre prove they’re not only talented but consistent with the incredibly funny and heartfelt Kim & Kim #2. Visaggio is a great writer with particularly impressive comedy chops. Gags from the first issue are revisited but feel like sly winks and not dull retreads, and Visaggio’s sense of timing paired with Cabrera’s expressive faces and shocking pops of color from Aguirre manage to make even Kim D’s foray into necromancy an exhilarating joyride. Kim & Kim remains a must-read title for the summer; this team has created an impressively rich and vibrant world in just two issues, and it will be interesting to see if they're able to give it a similarly satisfying conclusion with just two issues left.
Everafter #1 (Published by Vertigo Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Everafter is a profoundly odd comic book, but not in the way you would like it to be. Writers Dave Justus and Matthew Sturges introduce readers to the Shadow Players, a group of Fables tasked with protecting the Mundy world from magical threats of all nature. Though set in the Fables world and even featuring the son of Bigby Wolf and Snow White, the spy action tone clashes wildly with the original series and never quite lands. Artist Travis Moore and colorist Michael Wiggam provide some solid enough pages, in particular the opening splash page of the Player facing off with zombies, but even their solid artwork is not enough to distract from the uncharacteristically action-heavy tone of this new spinoff.
The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane #4 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Lamont Cranston sees a shrink and takes the fight to the Red Empress this week in The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane #4. Though Matt Wagner’s blocky, vintage style artwork still impresses, there is something off about his scripting. Chock full of exposition, Wagner can’t seem to get out of his own way when it comes to delivering smooth A-to-B plotting. That said, his Shadow is still very much on point, especially in the scene where he stalks and strong arms a petty embezzler for information or when he infiltrates the Empress’ steam ship using varying methods of pulp heroics. Its just a shame that we had to sit through a dry therapy session and clunky exposition in order to get there.
Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor #5 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Team TARDIS gets to the bottom of the superpowers plaguing San Francisco this week in The Ninth Doctor #5. Writer Cavan Scott, still with a firm handle on Nine, Jack, and Rose, delivers a fast paced wrap-up for this jaunt through the Bay area, complete with a juicy cliffhanger in the form of a surprise return from a fan-favorite classic character. Artist Adriana Melo and colorist Matheus Lopes fill the issue with plenty of high flying action, including a soaring splash page of Rose enjoying her newfound powers. The pair also make a meal out of several scenes of characters reacting to one another, including one of Rose admonishing the Doctor as he recoils from her jabbing finger. Though we are headed back to the past next issue, Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor #5 made the most of its time in the present.