Greeting ‘Rama Readers! Pierce Lydon here, filling for our fearless leader David Pepose while he takes a deserved day off. We’ve got a smattering a reviews from the Big Two and a perfect 10/10 for a certain “bland” Image comic. We’ll kick things off with Justin Patridge’s take on Marvel’s Karnak #5.
Karnak #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Magister Karnak is faced with his theological opposite this week in Karnak #5. Taking place over the course of a single interrogation, Warren Ellis shakes his unflappable lead to his core by engaging in some razor sharp dialogue between Karnak and his subject, the Painter. Though Karnak has been like stone so far, it is nice to see Ellis taking him way out of his comfort zone with just a single conversation that inevitably ends in explosive violence. Artist Roland Boschi and colorist Dan Brown make that violence look incredible with a single page splash that literally splashes a person all over the walls of a cell and Karnak, spreading deep reds all over the page. Though probably the darkest current Marvel title by a long shot, Karnak #5 presents the other side of Karnak’s philosophy with engaging results.
Cyborg #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): DC has repeatedly tried to bring Cyborg to the forefront of their publishing line and that seems important now more than ever with his film debut on the way. But in a world of super men and billionaire detectives, can a robot man be compelling? John Semper, Jr. thinks so and he finds a way into Victor Stone’s life that readers haven’t necessarily seen before in his comics. Cyborg has always struggled to maintain his humanity but Semper goes deeper. Does Cyborg have a soul? It might all sound a bit too much like Bicentennial Man but it trades most of the schmaltz for a couple of quick bits of action. Semper’s dialogue is snappy, though a little overwrought at points. Paul Pelletier’s art is open and expressive, selling the internal conflict that Cyborg deals with in just about any interaction he has. The supporting cast is starting to get fleshed out as well and this stands as an intriguing start to the latest adventures of Victor Stone.
Chew #58 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): John Layman is a bad man who only wants to see you cry. And if you buy Chew #58, you’re only playing into his diabolical plans, because he and artist Rob Guillory have produced one beautifully poignant read. With fiery skywriting heralding impending doom, Tony Chu is faced with an impossible decision — eat the person you love most and save the world, or enjoy one last day knowing the end is nigh? Tony has always been a stubborn character, refusing to tie himself to the yoke of fate and destiny, and Layman gives this issue a level of tension and sadness, as you can sense Tony and Amelia’s unspoken guilt over what they each believe they must do. Thankfully, Guillory’s cartoony style keeps this tearjerker from being depressing or overbearing, and he and Layman do lighten up the mood with a fun action sequence that crescendos with Tony becoming a beet-powered Hulk. In many ways, this issue’s quiet sadness reminds me of the film Seeking a Friend for the End of the World — some lofty company for what’s easily been the best issue of Chew in a while.
Batman #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10) Storylines come to a head this week as the six part ‘Night of the Monster Men’ crossover kicks off in Batman. This first part sees Hugo Strange’s plan come to fruition just as Nightwing returns to Gotham and the Bat Family copes after losing one of their own in Detective Comics. Strange’s plan involves reanimated corpses becoming the Monster Men, and Riley Rossmo has created some truly grotesque designs. The issue displays them with an appropriate sense of scale as they tower over the streets of Gotham. Steve Orlando does a great job bringing all of the stories together, even if some of the finer points are glossed over, and he certainly delivers when it comes to bombastic action. If this is any indication, every member of the Bat Family will have a chance to shine.
Vision #11 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): You will be hard pressed to find a better comic on shelves this week than the penultimate issue of Vision. Tom King brings his entire narrative together by pitting the synthezoid against the combined might of the Avengers, framed by Roy Thomas’ immortal dialogue from Avengers #54 between Vision and his villainous creator Ultron. While King is effortlessly fulfilling his own prophecies, he grimly subverts them using the tragic fates of Virginia and Victor Mancha to send readers into the finale with their mouths agape at what they just read. Artists Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire are at the top of their game with issue eleven, rendering the climatic issue long set piece and the emotional gut punch back at the Vision’s home with equal power and grace. This series has been a critical darling since its debut, but Vision #11 elevates it from critical success to full blown masterwork.
Archie #12 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Things get complicated this week in Archie #12. In the aftermath of Archie and Betty making up last issue, both Veronica and Sayid are on edge and rethinking their commitments to the now reconciled best friends. Though this issue could have been histrionic, Mark Waid takes the high road, focusing on Betty and her complex but deeply emotional relationship with Archie as well as displaying her selflessness as she races to save Archie and Veronica’s relationship. Artists Ryan Jampole and Thomas Pitilli, backed by the colors of Andre Szymanowicz, deliver a more exaggerated look for Archie this week, but one that keeps very much in tone with the heightened emotions of Waid’s script. Though relationships are strained in Riverdale, Archie #12 continues the title’s commitment to examining these characters with clear and heartfelt eyes.
Guardians of the Galaxy #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): This issue is like the Nilla wafer of comic books. It’s light. It’s airy. It’s enjoyable enough. But by the time you’re done, you’re still left kind of empty. Brian Michael Bendis is a master of decompression and this time I don’t mean it as a compliment. By trying to write around the events depicted in the main Civil War II book, Bendis can only give us the in-between conversations that these characters are having and he’s running out of things to say about this conflict. Thankfully, Valerio Schiti’s art is a saving grace, injecting the cast with a lost of personality that helps Bendis’ pacing. But Bendis’ script doesn’t utilize Schiti the best it could because it has him draw planet Earth for two pages so that Bendis can extend narration over it. If you’re keeping up with Civil War II, it’s safe to say that you can skip this one.
Nightwing #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): “Night of the Monster Men” spreads its terror across Gotham City in Nightwing #5. Though still frontloaded with exposition, this second installment of the crossover quickly moves the plot forward with two big set pieces and a healthy amount of detective work on Dick Grayson’s part. Steve Orlando continues to handle the Bat Family well, balancing both their inherent heroism and their frankness with one another. For example, Batwoman drops some hard truth on Batman this issue in the middle of a fight with a multi-headed gryphon. Only in comics, folks. Artist Roge Antonio and colorist Chris Sotomayor handle this second part of the crossover, and while their style isn’t quite as singular as Riley Rossmo’s, Antonio’s clean lines and Sotomayor’s moody colors keep this event at an impressive visual level. With fast paced development and plenty of action, Nightwing #5 keeps this crossover rolling merrily along.
Extraordinary X-Men Annual #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): This annual focuses on how the Terrigen Mists are affecting the X-Men’s day-to-day operations. The Mists are an immediate threat to their lives, so drastic actions have to be taken. Writers Ollie Masters and Brandon Montclare interpret this in different ways. Masters' story is a by-the-numbers prison break tale that sees Logan, Nightcrawler, Jean Grey and Magik breaking out Ruckus and Ramrod before the mists engulf the prison they’re in. There’s some fun character work but Masters’ plan isn’t terribly inspired and that makes the plot a little dull. Coupled with Carlo Barberi’s effective and inoffensive artwork, the story does little more than just exist. Brandon Montclare’s story is somewhat more enjoyable because it’s a bit more unexpected. Pairing Forge and Moon Girl together, Montclare has them putting together a rocket to the moon. Moon Girl really holds her own intellectually with Forge and their back and forth is fun. Artist Rosi Kampe and colorist Ian Herring are the stars though. Kampe has a great eye for shot selection that enhances the space that the story takes up, while Herring washes it all in blues and greens that really bring out the nighttime setting and the danger of the Terrigen Mists. This is a great little issue for completists and diehards, but there’s nothing really essential here.
Superman #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Superman gets a fun cool-down issue this week after the dizzying heights of the first arc’s finale. Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason take us through a day in the life of Superman and a night in the shoes of Clark Smith as he takes his family to the local town fair and experiences the sights, sounds, and food, and even manages a bit of superheroing - much to the hilarious chagrin of Lois. Artist Jorge Jimenez and colorist Alejandro Sanchez steal the issue with their anime inspired facial expressions and sumptuous colors, capturing both the joy of the Smith family outing and the beauty of small town life in the DC universe. Sometimes going small can make all the difference in the world, and Superman #7 stands as a prime example of that.
All-New Wolverine #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10) In the previous issue, Ulysses' inciting vision came to fruition, and All-New Wolverine #12 sees Laura deal with Old Man Logan’s actions in the immediate aftermath. Tom Taylor chooses to make this a confrontation that doesn’t hinge on violence. The subsequent conversation between the Wolverines is heartfelt as they both stand opposite someone that looks like another they once knew and cared for. It’s a refreshing change of pace for how often events and their tie-ins have heroes fight each other in lieu of talking. That said, Ig Guara still gets the chance to show off his skills, delivering a dynamic two-page spread, and the series’ humour is still present when appropriate, resulting in a wonderful conclusion to this arc.