Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for today’s Rapids? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Melodious Matthew Sibley, as he takes a look at Civil War II #6…
Civil War II #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Brian Michael Bendis has always excelled when working with characters he created. Here he gets the chance to put the spotlight on Miles Morales as he and the rest of the Marvel Universe deals with Ulysses’ vision that pertains to the young Spider-Man. Rather than following last issue’s lead and ramping the action up further, the heroes take pause as both sides start to break down. This allows for a wonderful moment between Miles and Steve Rogers, the other key figure in the vision, and there’s another one later featuring solely Miles which is just as poignant. As per the rest of the event, it's stunningly illustrated by David Marquez and Justin Ponsor. While it’s a welcome change from the original that Civil War II hasn’t become an all-out brawl without time for character, this feels too late for the event to be having the conversations where both sides are well and truly given equal weight.
Teen Titans #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): In a flashback to Damian Wayne’s 13th birthday celebration from DC Universe: Rebirth #1, Teen Titans #1 begins by fleshing out that brief sequence. Aside from Alfred, we learn that Damian is celebrating alone, and Benjamin Percy does an excellent job creating sympathy for the often divisive Robin most remember reading from Grant Morrison. However, that sympathy is short-lived as we jump to the present, picking up right on the heels of Teen Titans: Rebirth. From here, Damian’s quintessential bravado is on full display as he attempts to convince Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy and Kid Flash that they need to assemble a new, better iteration of the Teen Titans. Speaking of short-lived, it’s unfortunate that this is Jonboy Meyers’ final issue, because his slightly cartoon-like art style works exceptionally well for a story featuring a team of teen heroes. Color artist Jim Charalampidis also does a stellar job, employing a rich, vibrant palette that really brings the story to life. As the issue concludes, we’re left with an assembled, albeit reluctant team, and we’re given a look at what sort of threat awaits our young heroes. It’s a perfect set-up issue, and sets a nice pace for the remainder of the story’s progression.
Seven to Eternity #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Rick Remender has a habit of writing protagonists with familial problems, mainly daddy issues. But who can complain when the books are this gorgeous? It’s a treat just to have Jerome Opeña on a book again having not seen any of his work since Rage of Ultron, another collaboration with Remender featuring a twisted family. The issue blends an extended flashback that builds upon Adam’s experiences with the world and his father from when he was a lad with the present day story where he begs Mud King to spare his family. Even before action ensues, Opeña uses his framing to highlight power in the scene like when the King has Adam in the palm of his hand. Rus Wooton’s lettering helps the world-building as the various balloons utilised represent different aspects while Hollingsworth uses a palette which blends similar colours in close proximity. If you’re familiar with Remender’s work, you’ll notice some familiar elements, but it’s still compelling in this new world.
Ms. Marvel #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Kamala Khan's latest adventure takes her far away from recent superhero infighting and a rift with her best friend. While staying with relatives in Karachi, Pakistan, she connects with important parts of her cross-cultural identity but still feels lost. Without being heavy-handed, G. Willow Wilson guides the reader on Kamala's journey of accepting how she feels about herself and about her hometown, Jersey City. We see the emotions of Kamala, new character Kareem, and others communicated transparently by Mirka Andolfo and Ian Herring's artistry. Andolfo makes the story flow like an anime: every panel, whether it's a street view, bedroom, or close-up of two characters conversing, serves the story and shows us Kamala's thoughts and comfort level in the moment. Wilson writes a story so personal and vulnerable yet universally appealing.
Suicide Squad #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Starting with a new story arc titled “Going Sane,” Suicide Squad #5 deals with the aftermath of General Zod’s unexpected rampage. Rob Williams’ characterization of Task Force X’s key players is a major selling point, especially his depiction of Amanda Waller. The perpetually headstrong Waller’s desire to induct Zod into the Suicide Squad creates an interesting dynamic, as she and Rick Flag butt heads over conflicting ideals in a tension-filled exchange, while Harley Quinn’s impulsiveness takes an ominous turn as she seems just a bit too interested in a “corrupted cosmic prison.” The back-up story explores the origin of Hack, who was introduced in the previous arc. While her powers are intriguing, the manner in which she got them feels a bit contrived (like being bitten by a radioactive computer). The art in this section by Stephen Byrne is visually appealing, but his slightly animated style seems to clash with the story, and with Jim Lee’s intricate, sharp line work in the primary plot. The pacing of the book is done a disservice by the abrupt tonal shift between the two narratives, but it’s still an enjoyable read, with a great cliffhanger for the main story.
Jughead #10 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Awkward dates and magic combine in Jughead #10. Ryan North, building on the fun introduction for Sabrina last issue, sends Juggy and Sabrina out on a fancy date that quickly turns south due to Jughead’s intense awkwardness and his constant reaching out to his friends for an out. North organically builds Jughead and Sabrina’s now rivalry while heaping magic based gags onto the reader the whole time. Derek Charm continues the title’s streak of exaggerated character models and vibrant colors, but also stocks the issue with comedy set pieces that truly sell the title’s brand of humor. Though Jughead’s brush with dating was fun while it lasted, Jughead #10 puts him in a teenage witch’s crosshairs to deliver laughs and all sorts of fun.
Chew #59 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The end is nigh in Chew #59, and John Layman and Rob Guillory are making sure this is a finale you’re going to remember. While this series started off as a loopy street-level comedy, Tony Chu’s story has become more global, more dramatic in scale, and Layman has his hero make an almost unthinkable choice in order to keep the world spinning. Without giving too much away, the conclusion of this issue is a real heartbreaker, with longtime cast members dropping like flies — but the ultimate decision that Tony makes feels in keeping with his character, that he’s a straight-laced, by-the-book cop who values the greater good over his own well-being, no matter how much it hurts. Guillory is in fine form here as well, with his cartoony figures contorting into almost impossibly sad figures, which upon a second read helps highlight the twists to come. The real question now is, can Layman and Guillory now stick the landing with their final issue, with this big a twist hitting? Only time will tell, but it’s a bold and fitting way for these two storytellers to close out their epic run.
Wonder Woman #9 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): This issue of Wonder Woman is the penultimate chapter of ‘The Lies’ story arc, which has unfolded throughout the odd-numbered issues of the series thus far. The assumed big bads of the arc, Cadulo and Urzkartaga, have been defeated, so writer Greg Rucka plays upon a brief plot point from a previous issue, hinting that someone behind the scenes is pulling some strings, which could spell trouble for the Amazon Princess. The highlight of this issue is the emotional and heartfelt exchange between Diana and Steve Trevor. This sequence ties up the remaining loose ends regarding the "New 52" Superman, and leads to an extremely satisfying payoff in the form of a kiss between Diana and Steve. Artist Liam Sharp has yet to disappoint in this series, and continues to deliver picturesque visuals, such as the incredibly meticulous double-page spread where Wonder Woman greets a crowded mall full of her admirers. Let’s not forget color artist Laura Martin, either, whose intense and luminescent palette glows on every single page. What this issue lacks in action, it certainly makes up for in solid character development, story progression, and outstanding imagery.
Transformers: Revolution #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Thundercracker and his faithful dog Buster take on the Dire Wraiths in Transformers: Revolution #1. Directly tying this one-shot into the main Revolution event, writer John Barber delivers a breakneck plot for the ex-Decepticon as he and Marissa Faireborn face down hordes of newly transformed Dire Wraiths who have infiltrated the White House. Though the plot is fun enough, it is Andrew Griffth’s artwork that causes this one-shot to stumble a bit. While backed by sharp colors from Thomas Deer, Griffth’s pencils come across as too busy and hard to follow, especially during the packed action sequences. Transformers: Revolution #1 may not be ground-breaking, but it is an entertaining enough jaunt with fun characters and constant action.
Serenity: No Power in the ‘Verse #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Mr. Universe once said “Can’t stop the signal," perhaps one of the most relevant phrases to Firefly. Even after it’s early and unfortunate cancellation, it managed to get a movie follow-up and a slew of comics. This most recent series builds on the threads left behind from "Leaves on the Wind," with Chris Roberson taking the helm alongside resident Whedonverse artist Georges Jeanty. The character dynamics are just as banter-filled as what’s come before, but some newer ones develop, like River and Emma, the daughter of Wash and Zoe. It’s a little slower in setting up the main narrative of the miniseries, but lays the thematic foundation for it to build upon. While Jeanty’s art is hit and miss when it comes to faces – characters either share the same face between themselves or have managed to contort their face into an expression that shouldn’t be possible – the locations and general framing are just shiny.
The Hellblazer #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Constantine gets the lay of the land thanks to Map in The Hellblazer #3. Though Simon Oliver finally gives readers an understanding of the forces John is facing and makes good use of Map, a mainstay of the Vertigo era, the main plot suffers a bit due to his long check ins with the rest of the cast. Moritat’s art also loses a bit of its edge this time around, the smooth, yet grounded artwork of the first two issues replaced with an almost cartoonish look that clashes with the hard scrabble tone of the script. John Constantine may be in the weeds at the moment but The Hellblazer #3 starts to show its hand, despite having too many cards at the moment.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): While Lunella Lafayette has been researching her mysterious Inhuman powers that let her switch bodies with Devil Dinosaur, a more pressing concern is her classmate, Marvin. Marvin is a young Kree runaway who's been bothering her while harboring a crush on her. Lunella's response is inspirational and even instructional to younger readers: without any apology or reservation, she tells Marvin that he needs to leave her alone. Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare also make it clear that Marvin's consequences of running away from home are not Lunella's responsibility. All of the characters have distinct looks thanks to Natacha Bustos' clean lines and Tamra Bonvillain's bright, glossy colors. Bustos draws proportions exceptionally well. In every panel, Devil Dinosaur appears to be a believable size compared to other characters. Lunella has yet to explore the significance of being an Inhuman, but Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur stands out as a fun all-ages story with a confident, driven protagonist.
Bloodshot U.S.A. #1 (Published by Valiant Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Bloodshot nanites go stateside with disastrous consequences in Bloodshot U.S.A. #1. Building on both recent event titles and the Bloodshot ongoing title, writer Jeff Lemire blankets New York in the nanite virus to give Unity, Ninjak, and the gang of Bloodshots one hell of a problem to solve in this fast paced opening issue. Artist Doug Braithwaite and colorist Brian Reber deliver harrowing splash pages of the destruction those that are infected are wreaking throughout New York, tempered by expressive character shots peppered throughout the wall to wall action. Instantly accessible but still standing as the latest in a long line of Valiant Entertainment events, Bloodshot U.S.A. #1 is a fiery and grand start to the latest Bloodshot epic.
The X-Files: Origins #3 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Mulder and Scully’s lives are intersecting long before they even meet in The X-Files: Origins #3. While Jody Houser and Matthew Dow Smith continue to explore the anxiety and mistrust of adults that the pair are experiencing in a heartfelt way, both of their plots are starting to feel like two halves of a whole instead of two separate short stories. This looming interconnectedness gives the title the same conspiratorial charge as the original series. The pencils of Chris Fenoglio and Corin Howell keep the stories firmly in line with the cartoonish look and feel of the title, but never cross into being over the top, even when the emotions of the characters run high. With its dual storylines and focus on the feelings of its characters The X-Files: Origins #3 continues to rise above expectations.
Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #2.14 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The penultimate issue of The Eleventh Doctor’s second year violently draws together the threads of this epic story. Si Spurrier has already set the pieces in motion, now he is taking them off the board one by one as Alice and the Doctor face the Doctor’s crimes from the Time War in the form of poisoned space gods and the Squire, who has been revealed as a terrifying Dalek sleeper agent. Artist Simon Fraser and colorist Gary Caldwell have delivered exciting action in the title thus far, but the design of the Squire and the swirling mass of the Malignant this issue pits our heroes against some truly scary foes for their second year. The walls are closing in for the Doctor in The Eleventh Doctor #2.14, but rarely has his desperation been this fun to read about.