Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week’s installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Mighty Matthew Sibley, as he starts us off with Doctor Strange…
Doctor Strange Annual #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Katheryn Immonen puts Doctor Strange through the ringer as he reunites with estranged spouse Clea and must contend with a multitude of emotions that come bubbling to the surface. Immonen weaves these emotions into a resonant arc while the B-plot allows Leonardo Romero an opportunity to emulate Ditko’s work with the good Doctor from the 1960’s as well as prove he and Jordie Bellaire are a winning combination. There’s also an intriguing tease for Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme from Robbie Thompson and Jonathan Marks Barravecchia where Yao, the future Ancient One, joins what is essentially “Magician’s Eleven.” In both of these tales, the art and colors elevate this pair of safe but well-told stories, and should satisfy anyone looking for a piece of Strange to hold them over until the movie’s imminent release.
Teen Titans: Rebirth #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10). It’s style over substance and a fair amount of kidnapping in Teen Titans: Rebirth #1. Ben Percy presents an extended roll call for the new incarnations of the Teen Titans, cleverly displaying each personality and power set one by one as Damian, ever the drama king, takes each of them out in turn to assemble his team. Though this course of action is very much on-brand for Damian, the issue offers not much else than an extended introduction of the characters, their back-stories, and powers. Artist Jonboy Meyers’ chaotic style fits in perfectly with the volatile heroes, as does Jim Charalampidis’ rich colors, but both are only given so much to do as Percy has the Titans waylaid just as soon as things get interesting. While the idea of Damian assembling his own version of the Titans is a great hook, Teen Titans: Rebirth #1 unfortunately doesn’t give us much sense of what that will look like aside from the unexpected call to arms.
Surgeon X #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Thanks to an art team shepherded by legendary comics editor Karen Berger, the production values of Surgeon X are high even by Image’s lofty standards, but this series is lacking the human touch to give its sci-fi world deeper meaning. Writer Sara Kenney conjures up a world where disease has run rampant and medicine has become more hamstrung than ever, but she takes so much time building this world that she’s never able to focus on the real hook — namely, a vigilante who deals in healing people, not punching them out. The character of Rosa doesn’t quite move the needle beyond vaguely irritated, while her supporting cast feels too tacked on to add sympathy. That said, artist John Watkins and colorist James Devlin immediately give us a seedy and dangerous atmosphere, striking a balance between styles like Danijel Zezelj or Phil Hester. Coming in at an extra-long length, if Surgeon X can give us a reason to root for its protagonist rather than its medical dystopia, this could be just what the doctor ordered.
Ms. Marvel #11 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Kamala Khan is mad as hell and she’s not going to take it anymore in Ms. Marvel #11. Though the plot of Kamala staging a fake crime with Canadian ninjas in order to open Basic Becky and Carol Danvers’ eyes to the dangers of predictive justice would be enough to make this issue a good one, G. Willow Wilson pushes it into great territory with plenty of emotional fallout from the earlier issues. Here Wilson unmoors Kamala and forces her to take a hard look at her actions and how they affect those closest to her as well as her career as a hero, pushing the character into compelling and unfamiliar waters. The artistic combo of Adrian Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa, tied together by the steady hand of colorist Ian Herring, also continues to impress as they meld visual comedy, emotion, and action in one beautiful package. Civil War II has had untold fallout throughout the Marvel Universe, but as Ms. Marvel #11 proves, the personal cost is always the highest one to pay.
Deathstroke #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Deathstroke proves itself to be a non-linear, cinematic, twisted family drama this week as Slade encounters Rose. The groundwork is in place from the issues prior allowing Priest to focus on the parent-daughter relationship. When this comes to a head, Priest inserts a choice flashback which flows seamlessly in the narrative reminding you this is the writer who pushed Black Panther to his limits at the turn of the century and he’s had a decade to refine his technique further. With all of this in mind, the real superstar of the issue is Jeromy Cox whose colors breathe life into each scene, be it an apartment as the sun rises while Slade lurks in the shadows or the vibrant sidewalk where the action takes place. All in all, Deathstroke continues to be a sprawling narrative told through tight episodic installments
Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics/BOOM! Studios; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Pulp and science fiction collide in Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes #1. Tied closely to the intricate continuity of the original Planet of the Apes franchise by offering a divergent take on Escape from the Planet of the Apes which finds Cornelius and Zira falling through a hole in time and space, writers Tim Seeley and David Walker present an interesting if a bit convoluted alternate origin for the hero and the well known protagonists of the Apes films. While Walker and Seeley’s script does its best with the heavy narrative lifting, artist Fernando Dagnino and colorist Sandra Molina offer up moody pages of action that suit the tone of the series very well. Though probably best suited for diehard Edgar Rice Burroughs and Apes franchise fans, Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes #1 still stands as an interesting narrative mash up between two unlikely titles.
Wonder Woman #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It’s fascinating that, in many ways, Wonder Woman has had her very book stolen from underneath her by her foe-turned-frenemy, the Cheetah. But it’s to Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp’s credit that Barbara Ann Minerva is such a compelling figure as the cursed bride of Urzkartaga — she’s been tricked, abused, lied to, coerced into murder and mayhem thanks to a demigod who, in a smart twist by Rucka, secretly fears the women he seeks to enslave and control. Yet I wouldn’t count Diana out just yet - her reunion with Steve Trevor is defined more by what is unsaid, their long history and shared dynamic making spoken dialogue unnecessary. Sharp opens this book with some beautiful layout tricks, such as panel borders turning into prison bars for Diana to break, and he absolutely sells Cheetah’s barely contained anguish, although his inks do get a little hazier and less focused towards the issue’s conclusion. Still, a heroine is only as good as her villain, and Rucka and Sharp have made a fantastically sympathetic one with the Cheetah.
Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #2.9 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Artist Rachael Slott returns to the TARDIS for a tale involving an interdimensional haunted house in Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #2.9. After bringing along Hattie for his promised one trip, the pair find themselves stuck in a constantly shifting mansion beset by ghosts. While George Mann’s tale of maze like house is great fun, his scripts take on a whole new energy when penciled by Rachael Slott. Mainly due to her keen understanding of Peter Capaldi’s impishness and body language, which is on full display here in this issue. With smooth pencils, dynamic character work, and flatted yet evocative colors from colorist Alexandre Siquera, Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #2.9 is a warmly fun return for one of Titan Comics’ most consistent Doctor Who artists.
Spider-Woman #11 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Amidst the many things happening in the current Civil War II conflict between superheroes, one is deeply personal to Jessica Drew: her ex-boyfriend, Clint Barton, just killed her good friend, Bruce Banner. Even more complicated is that Jess's best friend, Carol Danvers, instigated the messy chain of events that led to Bruce's death. When Jess confronts Carol, we see Jess's anger and frustration captured perfectly by artists Veronica Fish and Rachelle Rosenberg. Fish contrasts Jess's aggressive body stances — crouched and ready to punch — with Carol's stoic, almost flippant demeanor. Rosenberg introduces a new grey and black color scheme for Jess's undercover costume, which stands out against beautiful backdrops of purple ambient lighting and green energy blasts. Through excellent fight choreography and biting dialogue, Spider-Woman #11 illustrates how Carol's lack of empathy can destroy even the closest of friendships. Under Dennis Hopeless's pen, Jessica Drew is one of the most realistic and riveting protagonists in the Marvel Universe.
Rick and Morty #18 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Oni Press’ Rick and Morty continues to find humor in the most morally compromised places. Writer Kyle Starks and artist CJ Cannon deliver a cleverly constructed look into Rick’s latest business venture - intergalactic drugs - while also presenting some choice sharp barbs toward Jerry and more heart wrenching looks into Morty and Rick’s complicated relationship. Though Kyle Starks’ scripts have gotten increasingly complex and darkly hilarious, credit should also be given to artist CJ Cannon and colorist Ryan Hill, both of whom have vastly improved throughout this series. Cannon’s pencils have leveled up from sketchy impressions of the show’s visuals to stylish but not slavish pages all his own, made even better by Hill’s reliable color palettes. Ending with an appropriately inappropriate “Pocket Mortys” tie-in back up from Mac Ellerby, Rick and Morty #18 continues to be the best possible extension of the Adult Swim hit.
Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor #5 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Titan Comics’ romp through the Classic era of Doctor Who comes to a thrilling Jack Kirby inspired conclusion this week in The Fourth Doctor #5. Writers Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby deliver another taut and clever installment of the series as the Fourth Doctor faces down alien gods and the new body of the Medusa in order to keep the future safe from her withering gaze and insatiable hunger. Artist Brian Williamson along with the colors of Hi-Fi give this issue a fast paced momentum and larger scale as the Doctor is dwarfed by the towering Kirby-esque gods, while also continuing the title’s propensity for screen accurate character models. By capturing the wit, charm, and high concept storytelling of the Tom Baker era, Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor #5 ends another worthy chapter in Titan Comics’ ever-expanding Who canon.