Marvel Comics January 2017 cover
Credit: Marvel Comics

Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your weekly dose of pellets? Best Shots has you covered with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! We’ll kick off with Jolly Jon Arvedon, who takes a look at Justice League vs. Suicide Squad

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): With the true big bad only revealing himself in Issue #5, writer Joshua Williamson had the daunting task of wrapping up the entire Justice League vs. Suicide Squad event in a neat little bow with Issue #6. For the most part, Williams succeeded, though the pacing of the event as a whole ultimately made this final chapter feel a bit rushed. Naturally, the heroes were able to overcome the threat of Eclipso, which was to be expected, but it was great to see Killer Frost used so prominently in his defeat. Howard Porter’s art lends itself well to the story, with gorgeous layouts, but his linework is a bit inconsistent at times. The outlines and overall breakdowns are smooth and clean, but the details of the characters’ faces and costumes result in some rough compositions. Thankfully, Alex Sinclair’s vibrant color art helps detract from the minor nitpicks with the pencils and inks, as his glowing palette selection explodes off the page in the heat of the epic battle between the League, the Squad, and Eclipso. Overall, Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #6 is a fun, action-packed read, with plenty of implications for the upcoming JLA title. As a whole, though, the event ended with a bit more of a whimper than a bang.

Avengers #1.MU (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Writer Jim Zub and artist Sean Izaakse deftly juggle all of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in this extra-long one-shot, and while the plot is certainly not world-shaking, they do a tremendously effective job at showing the Avengers doing the kind of swashbuckling the Avengers do best. Sub’s script feels almost like two issues smashed into one, with the first half featuring the Avengers fighting the Controller and the Maggia before giving way to the out-of-left-field attack by the Monsters, but he balances the characters so well — and handles their voices so nicely — that it’s hard to begrudge him. And Izaakse is a real revelation here, evoking shades of Terry Dodson and Marcus To with his lushly inked style — his sense of body language is particularly superb with Spider-Man, from the way the Webslinger walks on walls and ceilings to the utter shock and defeat in Spidey’s eyes when he realizes the Monster invasion will definitely be scuttling his flight out of town.

Doom Patrol #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): After pulling the curtain back to reveal the basics of what’s going on last issue, Gerard Way and company continue trucking ahead with the main thread involving Casey, while letting the other plotlines run independently (for the moment). It’s an approach that worked on Morrison’s opening arc and makes sense that Way would operate in a similar way. Nick Derington and Tamra Bonvillain continue to make this a visual treat from the Ozu-style framing in the opening scene to The Negative Space involving a wide shot which depicts Larry and Cliff as essentially dots on the page, with the panel more concerned with the landscape around them. The Young Animal imprint is about pushing the boundaries and the team adheres to this ethos throughout. Every scene throws a new idea out there resulting in some expansive world building which will make you want to explore every direction suggested, but at the same time you’ll find it hard pressed to look away from the engrossing direction the book is currently heading in.

Justice League of America: Killer Frost Rebirth #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): One of the best aspects of Steve Orlando and Jody Houser’s primer on Caitlin Snow in Justice League of America: Killer Frost Rebirth #1 is that it drops the reader right in the middle of the story. Houser and Orlando don’t waste time on Killer Frost’s backstory and instead develops the character to where she needs to be for the next installment of JLA: Rebirth. This, of course, frees up room for Houser and Orlando to pepper the comic with plenty of great interactions for Caitlin between friend and foe alike. Artist Mirka Andolfo certainly softens Killer Frost as well with an art style that makes Caitlin look almost cherubic at times. Much like what has been done to Harley Quinn over the years, Mirka’s style lends a softer, more human, nuance to Killer Frost that round off some of the character’s sharp edges. In one issue, Orlando, Houser and Andolfo have been able to successfully reimagine and rebrand Killer Frost for the big leagues.

Ghost Rider #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): After Felipe Smith’s initial work with Robbie Reyes revitalized the concept of the Ghost Rider, this new volume can’t help but feel like a disappointment, and a large part of that is a result of how it appears to be disinterested with Robbie Reyes. He’s at the center of Ghost Rider #3’s biggest action sequence – a fight with Amadeus Cho - but outside of that, it spends just a single page with Reyes and his thoughts. Danilo S. Beyruth draws an appropriately explosive fight scene, but the layouts are standard and stand out as such in comparison to Tradd Moore’s previous work with the character. In addition to this, there are a good deal of panels where the faces and proportions of the characters seem drastically off. Amadeus Cho and Laura Kinney are great characters, but they’re pulling too much focus away from the titular hero and the ending of the issue suggests this problem will not only persist, but get worse, keeping the book in some unfortunate traction.

Kamandi Challenge #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Kicking off with a prologue by Dan Didio, Kamandi Challenge pays respect to not only Jack Kirby, the creator of Kamandi, but also DC Challenge, a round robin experiment from years before. This series will see 14 teams of writers and artists produce a portion of the series and then let the following team pick up where they left off and go in whatever direction they choose. Didio, Keith Giffen and Scott Koblish open with an ordinary day for Kamandi that fast becomes out of the ordinary. And while the letters page reveals Didio’s version would have involved Kamandi making friends with who he encounters, follow-up team Dan Abnett and Dale Eaglesham go in a direction which is drastically different. This idea of not knowing what’s coming makes the series thrilling, or at least makes the idea of what later issues can be thrilling because this issue is serviceable, but not more than that. It doesn’t fully capitalize on the idea that anything can happen because the prologue is about getting Kamandi into a situation reminiscent of Kirby’s work. Luckily Abnett goes in a wonderfully weird direction with his story which is able to quash some of that feeling. If the series is going to continue in this manner, then the only thing you can expect is that you won’t truly know what to expect.

Animosity: The Rise #1 (Published by Aftershock Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Animosity: The Rise is a strange beast that is neither fish nor fowl — it’s a one-shot based on a truly fantastic book that I absolutely love, but as a prequel, it comes a little too early in the flagship title’s shelf life, having neither the humor nor the heartfelt protagonists to anchor this narrative down. Much of this is because Juan Doe subs in for series artist Rafael de la Torre, and while his hard-angled style really plays up the creepiness of rats eating humans alive or a vampire bat hanging ominously in a hotel closet, the art style doesn’t quite have the versatility of the main series, which would alternate between humor and horror with equal aplomb. Additionally, writer Marguerite Bennett doesn’t have a strong character to really hook us in the way that Jesse and Sandor did — this book instead focuses more on the animals’ takeover of society, but undercuts it by focusing on human characters that don’t engage. There’s still some great one-liners here, like a seagull shouting about getting thumbs, but newcomers should read the main series first.

Teen Titans #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Damian Wayne has always been a character hounded by the history of his family, but he’s also been a character which has confronted it when required like in Batman Incorporated. Both of these observations resurface here as Damian looks to take the rest of the Teen Titans out of Ra’s Al Ghul’s sights. In a similar way that Titans has focused on Wally West, Teen Titans has been primarily focused on Damian and as such the rest of the team have found themselves stuck on the sideline for a great deal of the story thus far. This approach does result in having enough to space for a well-staged fight scene between Damian and another character, but means it also lacks the interaction one might expect from not only a team book, but a teen team book. Khoi Pham’s work may not be as stylistic as Jonboy Meyers’ earlier issues, but it’s pointed and this is enhanced by Wade von Grawbadger’s sharp inks and Jim Charalampidis’ colors which are muted without erring on the side of bland and homogeneous shades. It’s entertaining enough, but it would be even more so if the rest of the Teen Titans were given more than they currently have to do.

Divinity III: Stalinverse #2 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The cracks in the worldwide Soviet Union are starting to show in Divinity III: Stalinverse #2. Focusing on the awakened Ninjak and his new ally Harada, the pair work in tandem to try and awaken the dormant Divinity and reset their skewed timeline. Though Matt Kindt, Trevor Hairsine, Ryan Winn and David Baron have created a chilling alternative history for this third installment, its focus on other Valiant mainstays like Ninjak and Harada is a bit of a let down, considering that this is suppose to be Abrams’ story. That stumbling block aside, Divinity III is still a slickly produced and timely event that keeps the trilogy crackling along despite its wandering focus. Armed with Russian-themed variants of Valiant heroes and a well-researched background, Divinity III continues to show what can happen when event comics have more on their mind then just empty action.

Spider-Woman #15 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Dennis Hopeless and Veronica Fish have some more curveballs up their sleeves with the latest issue of Spider-Woman, which takes the already emotional aftermath of Jessica losing her BFF, the Porcupine, and amps it up even further. Veronica Fish’s artwork fits in perfect lockstep with Javier Fernandez and Tigh Walker’s previous issues, with such an expressive and bouncy style that makes all of her characters look charming and engaging and makes the strobed action effects pack a punch. Meanwhile, Hopeless does a great job portraying Jess’s anger at the loss of her friend, and the absolute joy that comes when an unexpected supporting character makes their entrance at just the right moment. It’s hard to describe Spider-Woman #15 without too many spoilers, but if you thought the death of the Porcupine had a lump in your throat, seeing the tender interlude at the end of this book is well worth the price of admission.

Bloodshot U.S.A. #4 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Bloodshot’s latest mission comes to a close in the final issue of Bloodshot U.S.A.. As Bloodshot is reunited with his lost love Magic, his rag tag team of allies are having trouble holding the line against the nanite-infected population of New York as the fight reached a fever pitch. Jeff Lemire keeps the action moving at a decent clip and its nice to see him pulling so many threads together from the previous arcs into this story. That said, the resolution to the story is a bit lackadaisical and the final pages place Ray in a place we have seen him end up before. Artist Doug Braithwaite and colorist Brian Reber take full advantage of the chaos of this finale issue, playing up the din of battle and the mass of enemies pushing against the assembled heroes. Though it isn’t exactly a perfect finale Bloodshot U.S.A #4 stands as a fine example of how big Valiant is willing to go. 

G.I. Joe #2 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Writer Aubrey Sitterson, using the foundation of the solid debut, expands G.I. Joe outward by following the splintered groups on their various missions and then instantly complicating those missions as they progress. For example, Roadblock and his crew butt heads against the Dreadnoks for the fate of inner China as Lady Jayne and Gung-Ho come across an old enemy during the course of their undercover mission. Artist Giannis Milonogiannis and colorist Lovern Kindzierski continue their anime inspired take on the title, which pays dividends during the issue’s many action beats. Melding spycraft and military action in a slickly entertaining package, The Crown Jewel of the Hasbro Universe continues to live up to that lofty title.

Dark Souls: Winter’s Spite #3.3 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): An insane noble and a ballroom filled with the undead await Andred as his journey continues in Dark Souls: Winter’s Spite #3.3. Captured by the forces of the Mad Duke, Andred finds himself once again captured in the frigid land as he searches for the Nameless Warrior in order to reclaim his stolen weapon. While mostly a table-setting issue, writer George Mann makes a meal out of the Mad Duke’s domain and Andred’s focuses attempts to wrest himself from his grasp. Artist Alan Quah also mines a great deal of horror out of the new setting, especially in the aforementioned ballroom scene that is stocked wall to wall with the deadly undead and given an ashy greyscale tone thanks to the colors of Komikaki Studios featuring the work of Sean Lee and Kevin Liew. The table is set and the pieces are moving but in Dark Souls: Winter’s Spite #3.3 the winter is anything but a wonderland.

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