Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let’s kick off today’s column with Mixed-Up Matthew Sibley, as he takes a look at Star-Lord #1…
Star-Lord #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): With his ride to roam the stars destroyed, Star-Lord is stranded on Earth which makes Chip Zdarsky the perfect candidate to tackle his tale after Howard the Duck showed how well he does with fish-out-of-water narratives. While not as consistently laugh-out-loud funny as that series, Zdarsky’s plotting makes for some mishaps due to the cast of characters. Who knew that Peter and Old Man Logan would make for such a killer pairing? Having worked together on Captain Marvel, it should already be obvious that Kris Anka and Matthew Wilson produce some beautiful work and that trend continues here. While not operating on as grand a scale as that series, their output remains vibrant. All of this means that Star-Lord has a strong foundation, is within the creative team’s wheelhouse and doesn’t suggest they’ll be going back over already covered ground.
Batman #13 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Part five of “I am Suicide” wraps up what has been a roller coaster of a story arc thus far. Tom King has taken Batman to Hell and back, and in Batman #13, the splatters of paint from each of the previous issues finally come together to form the beautiful painting King imagined. With Batman seemingly on the ropes, the purpose of each of the Dark Knight’s recruits is made clear, including Catwoman, who breaks Bane’s back. Mikel Janin provides stunning aesthetics to accompany King’s script, with crisp clean linework, meticulous detail, and dynamic layouts that match the intensity of the narrative beat-for-beat. June Chung’s color art is outstanding, as well, with a recurring tint of gold projected onto the imagery, like a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel the Caped Crusader has traversed. Despite the supposed happy ending for Selina and Bruce, though, it’s clear that the next time they see Bane, it won’t be the man they left broken in Santa Prisca, as the issue closes with him screaming out for “Venom!”
Invincible Iron Man #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): While other second issues from Brian Michael Bendis of late, most notably Jessica Jones and Infamous Iron Man, seem to be lacking compared to the first issue of the series, he bucks the trend here with Invincible Iron Man which continues to push forward with Riri’s journey as Ironheart and her relationship with Natalie in the past. Knowing Natalie’s been shot gives the flashbacks in the garage added weight, as does the sparsity of dialogue when it comes to the issue’s most emotional beat. This assortment of narrative threads means that Stefano Caselli has to switch between a variety of scenarios, handling these subtle beats just as well as the present-day action sequences. A lesser artist may have struggled with how many Iron Man suits are involved, but Caselli takes it in his stride, avoiding the danger of overstuffed panels. Marte Gracia does some subtle stuff with color, like the ever-present light from outside the garage when things are good which is in contrast to the drab hospital after tragedy strikes and life seems bleak. The majority of Bendis’ work on the various Iron Man titles has been strong up until this point and here he appears to have found a story he can dig deeper with, even more so than International Iron Man.
Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye #3 (Published by DC’s Young Animal; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Cave Carson and his daughter have a breakthrough under the crust of the Earth in the thrilling Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye #3. Gerard Way and Jon Rivera pick up directly after last issue’s kaiju infused cliffhanger and instantly get Cave, Wild Dog, and Chloe under the surface and making headway both in terms of character and plot. Though other Young Animal books are more surface level crazy, Cave Carson finds a manic energy, mainly thanks to Way and Rivera’s take on Wild Dog, underneath its pathos filled family plot. Artist Michael Avon Oeming and colorist Nick Filardi lean into that emotion and craziness with a winding double page splash detailing the Mighty Mole’s chase and a colossal worm fight with the pursuing monster. While the rest of the imprint’s output is more flashy, Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye #3 grounds, quite literally, its weirdness with great results.
Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): After an ominous opening scene, this big DC event quickly develops flaws of both the current Justice League and Suicide Squad series. One of which being overt exposition in lieu of dialogue with subtext, which means we move in fits and starts toward the titular conflict. Another is that it involves an artist, Jason Fabok, who fits the DC house style. While Fabok is one of the few with that style who developed it further to make it his own in other instances, here he’s relegated to standard paneling filled with medium shots and certainly isn’t helped by Alex Sinclair on colors giving his art such a static quality. With any luck, the bookends to this issue will quickly come into play and shake up the event, but if the paneling remains as rigid and Williamson’s dialogue remains at this level of nuance, it’s going to be a long six issues.
Bloodshot U.S.A. #3 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10: Bloodshot U.S.A.’s three-fronted assault on New York gets trippy in its third installment. Reunited with his former love turned nanite-infused killing machine Deathmate, Bloodshot must stake his life and sanity on ridding her body of the nanites and taking them into his own. While Jeff Lemire delivers a surprisingly emotional journey into the self with that plot, the rest of the event’s plotlines stay tense and appropriately big. Aiding in that big budget feeling is artist Doug Braithwaite and colorist Brian Reber, both of whom fill this issue with dense splash pages saturated in darkly metallic colors. Though it took a bit to find its feet in the beginning Bloodshot U.S.A. #3 puts the event back in the conversation of how good an event comic can be.
Star Trek/Green Lantern: Stranger Worlds #1 (Published by DC Comics and IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10: The Federation-Green Lantern Corps joint venture continues in the surprisingly dry Star Trek/Green Lantern: Stranger Worlds #1. In the latter half, Mike Johnson’s script sings with a swashbuckling team up between the crew of the Enterprise and Hal Jordan against the machinations of a Sinestro led Klingon Empire. However, the comic’s first half is hamstrung by a lengthy recap to the previous Spectrum War, cutting the energy of the story off before it can truly begin. Angel Hernandez and Alejandro Sanchez’s artwork gives this debut issue a sleek and shiny look, one that suits the space-faring adventure of the latter half very well. Though a tripped up by a wordy opening Star Trek/Green Lantern: Stranger Worlds #1 is still worth your attention just for the team-up alone.
Occupy Avengers #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): David Walker and Carlos Pacheco’s Occupy Avengers isn’t your standard superhero read, but instead more of a Butch-and-Sundance buddy-cop adventure. While Marvel might bill the tales of Hawkeye and Red Wolf as a politically minded Avengers saga, it’s actually a bit of a misdirect - there’s a quick mention of stolen water here and there, but the real strength of Occupy Avengers is the characterization, the instant chemistry that the laid-back Hawkeye has as he cracks jokes alongside the stoic Red Wolf. (And kudos to Walker for actually having a Z-lister like Hydro-Man yield an actually fun action sequence.) Pacheco, meanwhile, gives this book an extra-solid foundation with his artwork, with some ultra-clean designs paired up alongside some energetic action sequences, like Hawkeye getting an unexpected rescue from a speeding car or even smaller moments like Clint and Red Wolf being tied up back-to-back. While plenty of superhero fans might turn up their noses at the comparatively small stakes of Occupy Avengers, if you sleep on this book, you’re going to be missing out on a surprisingly fun read.
Aquaman #13 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Act two of “The Deluge” finds Aquaman being confronted by his fellow Justice League members on his own home turf (or rather home surf), Atlantis. Dan Abnett has been slowly building towards an all-out war between Atlantis and the surface world since the beginning of this run, so it’s great to finally see the payoff, even though, as Arthur says, “both sides are being played by a third party,” in the form of N.E.M.O. From a continuity standpoint, it’s hard to gauge the timeline of this issue since Jessica Cruz is still seemingly part of the Justice League. Still, it’s the hard-hitting Aquaman action that serves as the major selling point, and this plays out beautifully thanks to Scot Eaton’s pencils, Wayne Faucher’s inks, and Gabe Eltaeb’s colors. Eaton’s Aquaman is imposing as ever, a king on a mission, far removed from the campy Silver Age stereotype. Faucher and Eltaeb go on to transcend the framework laid out by Eaton, bringing stunning depth and emotion to the final compositions. As the issue ends, it’s clear that the battle has only just begun, and the next issue promises to introduce a grave new challenge to the King of Atlantis.
X-Files X-Mas Special 2016 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Fox Mulder is visited by three spirits in the chilly X-Files X-Mas Special 2016. Series writer Joe Harris delivers a weird dream-like spin on A Christmas Carol as Mulder is faced with his Christmas memories while Scully investigates a most unconventional Christmas pageant. Thanks to the oversized issue, Harris’ script is allowed ample room to breathe and offer fans an interesting look into the character’s feelings about the season. Penciler Wayne Nichols and colorist Sebastian Cheng make this special look screen accurate with plenty of dramatic flair throughout the issue like the extended cameos from the show’s past as the three ghosts. Christmas comes but once a year and this year IDW Publishing delivers unto us a compellingly strange gift in the form of X-Files X-Mas Special 2016.
Black Panther: World of Wakanda #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): In the wake of Secret Wars, Ta-Nehisi Coates has done a stellar job of utilizing lasting impacts of prior events that have shaken Wakanda. Here, Roxane Gay chronicles how Aneka and Ayo’s relationship runs parallel to events like Namor’s flooding of Wakanda and the invasion during Infinity. It’s a story dealing with these grand entities causing strife in the nation, but remains focused on the pair’s relationship, their trysts are trying as they have to also uphold their responsibilities as part of the Dora Milaje. Alitha E. Martinez depicts the aforementioned tragedies in an unflinching manner, but succeeds in placing Aneka and Ayo at the forefront of the panel in the majority of panels where possible. Roxane Gay may have found her feet within the comics industry even faster than Coates, and with him in tow as consultant, World of Wakanda is wonderful as a companion piece to Coates’ series, but works just as well as a standalone.
Pathfinder: Worldscape #3 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The pulpy campaign continues in Pathfinder: Worldscape #3. Centered around the deeply religious and pure of heart cleric Kyra, Erik Mona’s script takes us deeper into the Worldscape to reveal the duplicitous nature of its citizenry, its brutality, and the heroes that are taking a stand to make it a better place. Jonathan Lau’s sketchy and highly expressive pencils sells the emotions of the characters very well, along with the densely violent city streets. Lau’s pencils are made complete thanks to Omi Remalante’s rustic colors, giving this whole issue the yellowed look of a well-read player’s handbook. The world of Pathfinder is a vast one and Worldscape #3 shows just how much fun it can be when it goes just a bit bigger.