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 Jousting Justin Partridge, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Wonder Woman…
Wonder Woman #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): “Year One” continues this week with landfall in the world of men. Standing as a major slowdown from the action of the “The Lies,” Greg Rucka still finds heart in Steve Trevor’s return and in Diana’s first encounter with the outside world. Rucka even manages more easy humor in the misunderstanding of languages between Diana and the rest of the cast and another stirring explanation of her powers in the form of visit from the gods. Artist Nicola Scott continues to impress with her soft and emotive take on Diana and Steve; her smooth pencils bolstered by the vibrant colors of Romulo Fajardo, Jr. While light on action, Wonder Woman #6 furthers “Year One’s” standing as a heartfelt and mature look at the past of one of DC’s icons.
Black Panther #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): T’Challa is back on the road toward being a superhero this week in Black Panther #6. While still poetically written and continuing the compelling thread of exploring the facets of T’Challa’s life both on the throne and behind the mask, Ta-Nehisi Coates still can’t seem to make the overarching plot of Shuri’s time in the afterlife stick. In fact, this issue’s energy is quickly sapped away once she appears, despite Coates’ beautiful dialogue for her and Ramonda. Artist Chris Sprouse continues to be an adequate stand in for Brian Stelfreeze, backed by the inks of Karl Story and the rich colors of Laura Martin. Though the energy is somewhat lacking in Issue #6, Sprouse, Story, and Martin make the most of it with tight page layouts and impressive body language throughout. While the opening issues of Black Panther were explosive and kinetic, Black Panther #6 shows that the throne’s grip on this story may be slipping a bit.
Briggs Land #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Grace Briggs might have taken over her husband’s home — and his white separatist crime family — but there’s still plenty of work needed to get her house in order. Briggs Land #2 feels more like a reaction than a necessarily organic escalation to Brian Wood and Mack Chater’s stellar first issue, but there are some glimmers of genius to this subversive series’ sophomore effort. The highlight of this book is still with Wood’s characters, as Grace still has to maneuver around her three sons, who each have very different opinions about their mother usurping the family business. A scene around the breakfast table seems to simmer with danger and tension, particularly as Grace’s daughters-in-law already seek to challenge her authority. Chater’s artwork, meanwhile, lends this book a wonderfully seedy mood, although he does stumble a bit towards the end of the book, soft-selling a potentially perilous moment when Grace walks into what could be the lion’s den. That said, there seems to be a lot of potential to Grace as a tough-as-nails crime matriarch — hopefully Wood and company will drive forward with her rise to power, rather than keeping her on her heels for too much longer.
All-New X-Men #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): There’s no deaths or relaunches in All-New X-Men #13, but that doesn’t stop this comic from being one of the most important comics of the week. Writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Mark Bagley deliver a compassionate and human character piece featuring young Iceman as he tries to enter the dating scene as a gay mutant. For those who might have been worried about how Marvel would handle Bobby’s sexuality, you can breathe easy — this is really a beautiful bit of representation, with Bobby’s understandable nervousness giving the character a likability and sweetness that we haven’t seen in a long time. This kind of story also plays exactly to Bagley’s strengths as an artist, as he portrays the wide-eyed anxiety of Iceman, or Kid Apocalypse’s free-spirited moves on the dance floor, or a poignant splash page of Bobby instinctively icing up when a cute boy touches his hand. There are plenty of X-titles on the stands — heck, plenty of Marvel books on the stands — but if you have to pick just one, go for All-New X-Men.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): There’s nothing more heartening as a reviewer than to watch a creator grow and evolve over the years, and in that regard, both Scott Lobdell and especially Dexter Soy have really upped their game with Red Hood and the Outlaws. While this fight-heavy comic is fairly light on plot, in favor of Red Hood and Artemis doing the old-fashioned superhero fistfight before teaming up, Lobdell keeps the pacing quick and gives us enough characterization to get us comfortably into both of these characters’ heads. And maybe this is just because the book reminds me of Lobdell’s X-Men days, but Dexter Soy’s artwork is reminding me a lot of Joe Madureira’s frenetic and cartoony style — watching Artemis intercept a flying Red Hood with an airborne kick reminds me of some old-school Mortal Kombat, and he injects some almost Spider-Man-esque agility to the Red Hood as he bounces around the battlefield. While the dialogue can occasionally get a little bit wordy — and let’s face it, Jason and Artemis mend fences a little conveniently — Red Hood and the Outlaws #2 still brings some fun popcorn action.
The Fix #5 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber have such a clear working voice together that The Fix really isn’t about the scam — it’s about the journey we make along the way. As corrupt cop Ray has to weasel his way out of what could be a career-ender after he royally botches his bodyguard detail of a teenage starlet (who he happened to get supremely drunk beforehand), Spencer still maintains the pace of this darkly comedic book as he introduces “The Kid” — a.k.a., the Mayor of Los Angeles, a deliciously deviant millennial slacker who alternates between making nice for the camera and drawing genitalia on his late father’s painted portrait. Lieber plays up this largely straight-faced comedy with perfection, before ratcheting up the (admittedly guilty) laughs with an over-the-top portrayal of pantomimed cunnilingus. This comic might give you a little bit of whiplash at the end of the issue, as Spencer suddenly launches ahead with some important plot progression, but this creative team’s distinctive comedic style makes The Fix a can’t-miss series.
Spider-Man #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): So I haven’t necessarily been Brian Michael Bendis’s biggest fan over the past few months. But you know what? He absolutely deserves credit for a book like Spider-Man #8, which, while still decompressed, has a solid foundation in Miles Morales’ likability and characterization. Confronted by Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, Miles has the sort of embarrassed expressiveness that you might see in any teenager who’s been accused to smoking pot or sneaking booze (or in Miles’ case, swinging around in a spider leotard). But Bendis leavens all this with some potent familial bonds, as Miles alternately rages at his grandmother for siccing a private eye on him and melts when he learns his mother tried to call off the investigation. Artist Nico Leon is also a great catch for this book, bringing a similar cartoony sensibility as Bendis’ Civil War II collaborator, David Marquez. While this book does seize and jerk a bit in pacing when Bendis has to swerve into the greater Civil War II, the character work and the art make Spider-Man #8 worth a read.
Faith #3 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Faith and Archer attend a cameo-filled convention this week in Faith #3. Writer Jody Houser once again captures the spirit of fandom as well as highlighting their importance to fans of all stripes. Houser also again takes full advantage of the Faith/Archer pairing, providing more snappy dialogue and a fun villainous challenge for Valiant’s premier power couple. Artist Pere Perez and colorist Andrew Dalhouse continue to further the light tone and smooth pencils and colors of the title with expressive character models and densely packed con backgrounds. Marguerite Sauvage returns to give this third issue an emotional burst of style in the form of one of her patented dream sequences. Though Faith and Archer are still recovering after their first fight, Faith #3 puts them back in each other’s good graces with a breezy jaunt through the world of comic conventions.
Dark Souls: Legends of the Flame #1 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The latest Dark Souls offering from Titan Comics finds strength in the anthology format. Framed by an ongoing story set in in a burning shrine from writer Tom Williams and drawn by original series artist Alan Quah, Legends of the Flame #1 presents three tales of death and woe inspired by the deep lore of the game franchise. Though the straightforward dark fantasy of the main series was a success, the anthology format of this new #1 allows all manner of stories to shine through, like the bloody bait and switch of George Mann, Piotr Kowalski, and Brad Simpson’s “Crossroads” or the epically depressing “The Labyrinth” by Dan Watters and Nick Percival. With three gorgeous standalone stories and a strong ongoing thread connecting them, Dark Souls: Legends of the Flame #1 is a strong example of having your cake and eating it, too.