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 Masterful Matthew Sibley, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Star Wars: Poe Dameron...
Star Wars: Poe Dameron #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10) One of the most enthralling things about Star Wars is how visiting a new planet means a whole new world to discover. Thanks to Kaddak having multiple levels, Phil Noto creates a new world with a multitude of rich environments. Here Level 72 has a harsher, colder blue lighting in comparison to Level 42 which feels lighter. His colors are dynamic, emphasized more by Charles Soule’s use of flashback within the issue which are somewhat desaturated to show this. Taking the emphasis off Poe, this issue continues to flesh out Terex’s past. Again, it manages to help contribute to the timeline after the Battle of Jakku, but Soule manages to get some nods to The Force Awakens in there as well, making for a strong entry in a series which appears to have found itself a niche of being the book: gradually
Wonder Woman #12 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10) With the world now aware of Diana, Greg Rucka, Nicola Scott, Romulo Fajardo, Jr. and Jodi Wynne show us what she can really do. An early two-page spread features a healthy dose of Diana the Amazonian Warrior, but also an image that would be fitting for a Disney princess. It and a moment that shortly follow are simply delightful. Much like Darwyn Cooke, Scott’s Wonder Woman is almost always smiling and as such is true to her character. Rucka also stays true to the essence of Wonder Woman in the second half, where she needs to drop the smile and get some answers. Throughout this, Diana is compassionate and diplomatic which illustrates how well Rucka is able to mix multiple tones together without any of them feeling at odds with another. Simply put, Wonder Woman is a book filled with character, both in subtext through actions and the expressions given to them by Scott, so it makes sense that you can look at any page and find something to talk about.
Daredevil #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): After defining runs by names like Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Waid, Charles Soule has been steadily making his mark on the Man Without Fear. In Daredevil #14, Soule manages to deliver one of his hardest hitting tales to date, as the titular hero attempts to rescue Blindspot from the cryptic and creative killer, Muse. Muse’s “studio” is a regular little shop of horrors, with brains, bodies, and blood serving as home décor. In fact, we even see a “mural” showcasing the lifeless corpse of Tenfingers, a nice callback to Soule’s first arc. What truly takes this bone-chilling book over the top, though, is Ron Garney’s gory, noir-esque artwork. His style lends itself perfectly to this story of crime, action and unspeakable horror, such as Blindspot having his eyes gouged out for the sake of Muse’s latest masterpiece. Matt Milla’s color palette, heavy on blacks, whites and reds, further enhances the harrowing tone of a book that redefines what you should expect from a Daredevil story.
Black #3 (Published by Black Mask Studios; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): A daring heist by the Project and an all-too-familiar backstory give the third installment of Black an emotional core wrapped in thrilling comic book action. Writer Kwanza Osajyefo delivers a confident two-fronted assault on readers this month, bouncing effortlessly between the tragic conversation between series lead Kareem and the heat-powered Cole and frantic action as the rest of the Project as they storm the Mann Company. Series artist Jamal Igle also adapts well to this two-pronged approach, presenting a grounded, realistic look for the flashbacks and dynamic, indie comic flair for the issue’s prolonged action sequence. With an eye for prescient topical storytelling and slick action sequences, Black #3 continues to be a fun, unapologetic and socially-minded experience.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Writer Robert Vendetti and artist Ed Benes deliver a powerful installment of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, as Hal explores the depths of an Emerald afterlife. This issue is largely fan-service, but it's also a crucial reminder for fans who might have forgotten why they love the Green Lantern mythos so much — seeing fallen Lanterns like Abin Sur, Katma Tui and Tomar-Re express their thoughts for the living is a particularly heartfelt move, and Vendetti injects this with a shot of hope as Kyle Rayner gets to bring Hal back from beyond. Ed Benes is in fine form here as well, his rendered style showing some surprising deftness for such a talk-heavy script. While the tension is a little diminished since you know Hal's return was never in doubt, this might be the best Green Lantern issue since “Rebirth.”
James Bond: Hammerhead #3 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): It's Bond versus a Q-Branch asset and a whole platoon of henchmen in the action heavy James Bond: Hammerhead #3. While writer Andy Diggle has been nailing the jargon filled spy story for this new spin-off, his scripting is a bit too bombastic for its own good; the best comparison would be Hammerhead is the grim Timothy Dalton era to the Ellis/Major/Masters’ title’s slick Craig films. All sorts of plates are spinning by the time this issue reaches its breathless conclusion, but readers will be too enamored with Luca Casalanguida’s blocky pencils and Chris Blythe’s inky colors to fully engage with it. The art team far outshines the lingo-heavy script when they should be working in concert, but if you like your Bond with plenty of self-serious action, then Hammerhead #3 is the book for you.
Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Pink #5 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10) In the penultimate issue, writers Brendan Fletcher, Kelly Thompson and Tini Howard bring the fight to Verto on a larger scale than previous issues. Offering a couple of surprise story beats along the way, it would be a satisfying conclusion to Kimberly’s story within this miniseries, but instead the creative team offer up an exciting prospect for the impending and final issue. In the chaos of the brawl, Daniele de Nicuolo gets to draw everything from Putties to Rangers to Zords, and with colors from Sarah Stern, it looks as vivid as you’d expect from a franchise built around protagonists who wear differently colored suits. Another nice touch is Ed Dukeshire’s lettering as the sound effects on the page are corresponded to the character whose actions are cause for said sound effect. The issue’s plotting is tight, even when it’s establishing what’s to come in Issue #6, and provided that issue has the same qualities as this one, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Pink is guaranteed to be an excellent companion to the main series, if not better.
Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #14 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Eternal Warrior is faced with his emotional final trial in Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #14. Writer Robert Venditti delivers a suitably epic finale for his latest arc, allowing Gilad some much needed emotional catharsis with his eldest son set against the backdrop of the pair facing a demon horde in order to deliver another demon’s head to the arc’s antagonist, Humongous. Not exactly the most subtle, but Venditti does a great job melding the outlandish with the emotional, giving Gilad some much needed peace. Artist Robert Gill and colorist Mike Spicer also do a great job balancing bloody action with grounded emotions, delivering bloody splashes of violence and dreamy heartwarming scenes of the Warrior’s family made complete by the rustic colors of Spicer. With big visuals and big heart Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #14 ends Gilad’s trials on a satisfying note.
The Flash #12 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Barry Allen's greatest strength isn't his super-speed, but his relationships with his supporting cast, and it's his dynamic with young Wally West that makes for a particularly compelling issue of The Flash. While Joshua Williamson's overarching plot featuring the Shade, Hope O'Dare and a possessed Iris West feels somewhat perfunctory, his grasp of Wally's voice in particular is fantastic. Like the old Flash comics of yesteryear, watching Barry treat even a life-or-death situation as a teachable moment is very fun (especially for fans of the Flash TV show, where Wally and Barry have a similar dynamic), and watching Wally try to guess his mentor's secret identity is very endearing. Artist Davide Gianfelice, however, is a bit more inconsistent across the board — sometimes his characters look bouncy and expressive, while in some action sequences they look overrendered and even gloomy. If the art can catch up to the characterization, The Flash will wind up at the front of the pack where it belongs.
Steven Universe 2016 Special (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): BOOM! Studios presents a sweetly entertaining anthology in the form of the Steven Universe 2016 Special. Centered around Beach City’s most delicious destination, The Big Donut, a myriad of diverse talent deliver charming stories starring Steven, the Gems and other fan-favorite Beach City citizens. Though smartly centered around a central setting, the creative team makes the most of the cast and the kind of stories fans want to see, ranging from the chaotically fun “Food Fight” and the heartfelt “The Big Donut Contest.” Written and illustrated by the likes of Katie Jones, Rii Abrego, Sara Talmadge and Queenie Chan, every story either tugs at your heartstrings or illicits a few chuckles, culminating in a beautiful and focused anthology that is perfect for longtime fans or those looking to see what this Steven Universe business is all about. Like a perfect dozen donuts, Steven Universe 2016 Special is a satisfying treat from a consistently entertaining property.
Action Comics #969 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The “Men of Steel” story arc continues to unfold in Action Comics #969. Seemingly taking a cue from Marvel’s Civil War II, the story thus far has focused on precognitive justice, with the Godslayer apprehending Lex Luthor for crimes of genocide that have been foreseen but not yet committed. At this point, it’s pretty hard to gauge what writer Dan Jurgens’ endgame is. For some, that’s a good thing because it keeps you guessing. However, Luthor doesn’t feel like a sufficiently sympathetic character for this story to be as strong as it should be. From an artistic standpoint, though, there’s plenty to appreciate, with Patrick Zircher laying out a beautifully clean framework to house Arif Prianto’s glowing, picturesque color art. The final splash page of Superman taking flight, with fists clenched and cape flowing, is absolutely stunning, with Zircher delivering a definitive rendition of the Man of Steel. Still, despite the outstanding art and solid dialogue, the slightly underwhelming plot ultimately holds Action Comics #969 back from being a more compelling issue.
Britannia #4 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Antonius’ past and present collide in the rousingly strange conclusion of Britannia #4. Peter Milligan wastes little time blasting through this final installment, drawing together narrative threads that he introduced in the first issue and putting a violent, monster-filled bow on Antonius’ investigation in far off Britannia and delving deeper into the otherworldly religion that has crept across the realm. Artist Juan Jose Ryp and colorist Jordie Bellaire keep the tightly blocked sword and sorcery tone going strong for this final issue, complete with rich browns, luminescent greens and fiery yellows poured across each page. Though it started as a strange detective tale set in a bygone era, Peter Milligan, Juan Jose Ryp and Jordie Bellaire’s Britannia #4 ends the series on a solidly strange and entertaining note.
Inhumans vs. X-Men #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10) The X-Men come out swinging under the shared pen of Charles Soule and Jeff Lemire as this newest Marvel event ramps up. In the aftermath of Death of X, Emma Frost has been positioned by the pair to be both cunning and in control, putting her at odds with Beast who learns what she’s been planning regarding the Inhumans. This part of the issue is a confrontation driven by words over actions, providing a comparison between intercut sequences highlighting how prepared the X-Men are as they deal with notable threats on the Inhuman side. Death of X was there to fill in the gaps, but Inhumans vs. X-Men #1 is putting the pedal to the metal right from the get-go. Having Lenil Yu on art means that characters get these grand moments when it’s their story beat to tell or act out and makes motion a necessity on the page. When arguments get more tense, he pushes in tighter on the character’s faces so we can be in their headspace. If this issue is any indication, we’re already in the trenches, and this battle is going to be
Shadows on the Grave #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The comic industry’s leading purveyor of horror returns with the moody Shadows on the Grave #1. Written, drawn, and lettered by Richard Corben, this debut delivers all sorts of macabre tales ranging from an ongoing adventure story to several Tales from the Crypt-style one-acts involving zombies and living marionette dolls. Though Corben’s scripts can be dry and a tad verbose, his artwork is still very sharp, detailed in stark black and white in order to hone that detail. Each story benefits both from Corben’s tight, engraved-looking pencils and the absence of colors, which gives the debut an silent movie quality. Drenched in creepy moods and vintage horror visuals Shadows on the Grave #1 is a must for horror hounds and Richard Corben completists.