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 Jumpin' Joey Edsall, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Spider-Man...
Spider-Man #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Perhaps the most impressive thing about Spider-Man #12 is the way that it knows exactly what its readers want to see, teases it out, and then doesn't deliver it in this particular issue while simultaneously leaving readers completely satisfied. The big draw of the Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen's crossover is the development of a relationship between Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy. Brian Michael Bendis is acutely aware of this, as the story opens in medias res with the two characters kissing completely devoid of context - yet the remainder of the issue consists of Miles telling his friends the details that lead to this moment. With Miles' father disappearing while on a mission for Maria Hill, it's up to Miles to jump dimensions to save him. The lead up to the dimension hop is good, but Civil War II is such a stain on so many of Marvel's stories that several lines of dialogue are wasted trying to bury it. But Sara Pichelli's artwork is a feast for the eyes in every panel of this issue, reaching glorious heights when the dimension hop happens, with Justin Ponsor's coloring being just as much of a standout. The second Miles winds up in Earth-65, everything feels more urgent, more important, and the artwork is astounding, with the abundance of neon giving this New York a noticeable Blade Runner vibe. It would have been easy for Bendis to rush the initially revealed kiss into the conclusion, or to make some subversion to account for it, but the fact that Gwen is only revealed in the final panel makes everything feel more confident, making this is a solid first chapter.
All-Star Batman #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The boys are back in town. The latest arc of All-Star Batman sees “The Black Mirror” creative team back for another round of Batman action. Scott Snyder has talked about pairing his artists with specific villains in order to get the most out of both of them. Here, Jock puts his take on Mr. Freeze and the results are chilling. There’s a little left to be desired from Snyder’s plotting. Freeze’s plan is a little convoluted, with the jargon kind of getting in the way of selling the threat. That said, Snyder almost just writes the book like prose and that works for the story. And Jock kind of just goes wild on the page. His Freeze is unnerving and sinister almost effortlessly and there’s a lot of energy in Jock’s layouts. Because of the blues and whites that are employed by colorist Matt Hollingsworth (a symptom of the setting, not necessarily an artistic choice), the book does start to look a little stale at points, but that’s kind of just a pitfall of setting the ice-themed villain in a land of ice. The real MVP is letterer Steve Wands, who packs pages with text when needed but never makes the pages feel overwhelmed. He deftly works around Jock’s penchant for not leaving enough negative space when Snyder’s waxing poetic and really holds the book together. “The Cursed Wheel” back-up features Francesco Francavilla’s gorgeous art and flat coloring that brings a noirish detective tone to the proceedings. All in all, it’s good to see all these talents in one place again.
God Country #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart, ‘Rama Rating 9 out of 10): God Country is a gorgeously illustrated modern tall tale, blending elements of sweeping science fiction with smaller scale family drama in this week’s captivating first issue. Writer Donny Cates introduces us to Roy and Jane Quinlan, recently returned to Roy’s childhood home to care for his ailing father. After a devastating supernatural storm ravages the town, the Quinlan family finds themselves turning to Quinlan family patriarch Emmett to stave off the mysterious beasts left behind in the storm’s wake. Together, artist Geoff Shaw and colorist Jason Wordie do an incredible job bringing the Quinlans’ rural hometown to life - you can smell the dust in the air, hear the rain pounding down, serving as a grim backdrop for Roy and Jane’s struggles with Emmett’s illness. Shaw and Wordie have created a beautiful world to accompany Cates’ intriguing premise, making God Country a title to watch this year.
Jughead #12 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): An innocent bet leads to some maximum Reggie in Jughead #12. After a semi-friendly game of Riverdale-inspired Mario Kart, Jughead and the rest of the cool teens find themselves “loyal” subjects of Reggie who is now king for a day after winning the game thanks to an ill-timed throw of a digital bomb. Ryan North’s scripting continues to aim for peak charm as he deploys gags like Betty’s ongoing concern with gender roles and Veronica having a budget just for hiring hunks for any and all purposes. Artist Derek Charm is also still throwing in on the fun with plenty of uproarious visual gags like Veronica’s virtual license plate reading “Veronicar Fueslodge” amid his defined pencils and his sunny colors. Finding strength in silliness Jughead #12 is another winner for everyone’s favorite burger lover.
Justice League of America Rebirth: Vixen #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Mari McCabe has plenty of superpowers to call upon, but her greatest might be the artwork of Jamal Campbell in Justice League of America Rebirth: Vixen #1. While the bones of this story feels like superhero 101, writers Steve Orlando and Jody Houser give Mari some interesting wrinkles - particularly her coterie of assistants and managers who act as the human foils to Vixen's animal-powered action. But the real superstar here is artist Jamal Campbell, who not only portrays Mari with a smoothness that at times evokes Steve McNiven, but also busts out some amazing colorwork for when Mari switches up her powers. Admittedly, Orlando and Houser's backstory and villain feel a bit hollow, but there's some clear potential to this character, and the art makes Justice League of America Rebirth: Vixen #1 a comic to take a look at.
Inhumans vs. X-Men #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): It's hard to tell if Inhumans vs. X-Men #2 is an explosion or simply treading water. It certainly isn't as impeccably structured as the first issue was, but it's not without substantial high points. Unlike the laser-focus of last issue, this book jumps right into action, only coming up to breathe in its final pages. As difficult as the art is to follow in these sequences, it winds up being the strongest point of the comic in various places. When the action begins, Leinil Francis Yu treats readers with an incredible splash page of a defiant Medusa, which might go down as a definitive image of the character. Through a series of quick melee scenes, Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule's get the narrative to where it needs to go when they transport the Inhuman Royal Family to Limbo, presumably to account for the unnamed Inhuman civilians not getting involved in the conflict, and when they bridge a fantastic sequence with Laura Kinney and Angel into the reintroduction of Eldrac. #2 isn't necessarily bad, but it doesn't have the intricate plotting and stellar pacing that made the first issue so enjoyable.
Motor Crush #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart, ‘Rama Rating 9 out of 10): With no bike, no crush, and a megacorporation on the look out for her alter ego, Motor Crush #2 protagonist Domino Swift kicks off this month’s issue with seemingly no place to go but up. Unfortunately, “up” only points her in the direction of a figure from her past who would rather Domino take another long drive off a short pier. Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr, and Cameron Stewart have created a cast of deeply relatable characters that make the gleaming, deceptively beautiful corporate dystopia of Nova Honda feel as if it’s just up the road rather than a distant and unreachable locale. Stewart’s layouts and Tarr’s illustrations continue to impress, particularly in the way Tarr captures the high speed races that feature prominently in Motor Crush. With gorgeous art and a well-paced story that offers up a bevy of unexpected revelations and intriguing new twists, Motor Crush #2 easily lives up to the high bar set by last month’s debut.
Justice League/Power Rangers #1 (Published by DC Comics and BOOM! Studios; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Unfortunately, the first installment of Justice League/Power Rangers leaves a lot to be desired. Even for a hero versus hero match-up like this, the Rangers' rush to fight Batman and the Flash feels unmotivated, hampered by a lack of individual characterization between the group. This might be due to the rushed pacing of Tom Taylor’s story that zips from conflict to conflict and smacks against the final page like a brick wall. Unfortunately, the art by Stephen Byrne stumbles as well, with the characters looking flat on the page with so much of the book colored in washed out dark tones. The action, both the character’s actions and the construction of the panels, doesn't quite have the energy this book needs to succeed - a problem for a comic where more than half of the characters do karate.
Green Hornet: Reign of the Demon #2 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Kato and the Hornet are caught flat-footed in Green Hornet: Reign of the Demon #2. Continuing his grounded, crime comic book-inspired take on the exploits of Britt Reid, David Liss again delves deeper into these characters and gives the story a new layer of political intrigue as Britt’s civilian life as a radio mogul is brought into the narrative fold. Artist Kewber Baal and colorist Adriano Augusto unleash Kato during this second issue, pointing his deadly limbs toward the Demone in the issue’s exciting and richly colored opening scene. The pair also make the quieter moments and settings like Britt and Kato’s tense meeting with the deputy police commissioner and the dingy lair of the Demone pop thanks to engaging character expressions and intimate blocking. With one foot firmly on the side of noir and the other in classic serial storytelling Green Hornet: Reign of the Demon #2 continues to be a story worthy of the crime comic icons.
Reggie and Me #2 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): It's a different verse, but one same as the first in Reggie and Me #2. Again diving into Reggie’s troubled childhood and ending on a button that seems oddly similar to last issue's, writer Tom DeFalco mines more pathos from Reggie’s past and comedy from his dog Vader’s cheery narration. However, he does little to advance the story in a significant way or move beyond what worked in the debut issue. Artist Sandy Jarrell and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick continue to lean into the Steve Leiber-like look of the series, all squared jaws and Silver Age homages made complete by the naturalist colors of Fitzpatrick. Though it doesn’t quite pack the punch of the first issue, Reggie and Me #2 still keeps the spark alive for Riverdale’s resident misunderstood supervillain.
Wonder Woman #14 (Published by DC Comics; Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott’s “Year One” arc comes to a close and it’s been a fun little ride. It’s interesting to see how this revised origin story will inform Diana moving forward, and it puts the events of Rucka’s other arc in a different perspective. Watching one arc break the character down while this one builds her up allows readers to get a fuller view of just who Diana Prince is. And this issue is pretty jam-packed. Diana’s big face-off with Ares is clever, fun and uniquely something that only Wonder Woman can handle. Rucka has been good about creating threats for Diana that feel uniquely hers and don’t stray into the path of other heroes. In doing so, readers get a better understanding of her mythology and that makes the character an easier sell. A big help on the front is also Nicola Scott’s gorgeous artwork. Rucka sets up what should be truly iconic moments and Scott absolutely nails them. It’ll be sad to see Scott leave the book knowing that hers is a definitive Wonder Woman. “Year One” is definitely a highwater mark for the character over the past few years, and this arc will go down as one that is repeatedly referenced for years to come.
Motro #3 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Motro’s long, strange trip continues in the third issue of Ulises Farinas’ genre mash-up epic. Seeking an ancient map and following a wayward Frog Wizard’s prophecy, Motro leads his crew and adoptive family into a frozen tundra to face down a vicious ice dragon. Farinas and co-writer Erick Freitas’ script continues to read like a hazy poem with flowing speeches and cartoonish picograms marking which character is speaking when. But the real star of Issue #3 is Farinas and colorist Ryan Hill’s over-the-top fantasy visuals, in particular the packed design of the ice dragon, which looks like it was ripped right from an Incan monument in a museum. Though the dream-like tone might cause some readers to lose the overall plot, the sumptuous visuals and unexpected bits of flair make Motro #3 another dream state worth following.
Dungeons & Dragons: Frost Giant’s Fury #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): IDW Publishing once again captures the frantic fun of Saturday night game nights with D&D: Frost Giant’s Fury #1. Picking up directly after the party’s daring escape from Ravenloft in the previous miniseries, writer Jim Zub supplants our heroes in the frozen wasteland of the Spine of the World. Though their circumstances are dire, Zub continues the same sharp banter and nicely escalating action throughout. Zub even brings another class and race to the table top in the form of the jovial and deadly Saarvan the Scout, a Dragonborn who saves the hides of the cast from a group of Ogres. Giving this debut a well designed and kinetic set of pages is artist Netho Diaz and colorist Thiago Ribeiro. Taking design cues directly from the core handbooks, Diaz adapts well to the sparse settings, allowing the characters to stand as visual focal points as they leap into battle across dense layouts. Capturing the energy of a well plotted campaign is no easy feat but Frost Giant’s Fury #1 is so fun you can practically hear the dice roll.