Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Punchy Pierce Lydon, who takes a look at the latest issue of Hawkeye…
Hawkeye #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Matt Fraction and David Aja’s defining run on Hawkeye looms large over any new book that bears the title, but Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero’s focus on Kate Bishop looks to be just as important. Most importantly, this book is really, really fun. Thompson has nailed down Kate’s voice - a mix of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars - bring a levity to the proceedings that involve mind control, kidnapping and torture. It’s a detective story in the way that only Kate Bishop could be a detective - overturning every object and opening every door in her pursuit of the truth. Leonardo Romero is a really great fit for the book, too. This isn’t your typical musclebound superhero story and Romero doesn’t treat it like one. His lines are simple and clean, there’s a good use of negative space on the page that helps put the focus on the characters and their expressions, and that expression work really helps to sell the dialogue and Kate’s running narration and by the end of the book it’s almost impossible not to “hear” her voice exactly the way that Thompson intends. This is a really locked-in creative team building on a character who has a lot of potential. The stakes feel a little low, but they’re telling a good story, and that’s always got to be a team’s first priority.
Superman #16 (Published by DC Comics; Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10) Patrick Gleason and Peter J. Tomasi’s Superman has been one of the best books on the stands since “Rebirth” began. But the “Multiplicity” arc has seen them stray from the strengths of the book. This arc riffed on some of what Grant Morrison was doing with Multiversity and I applaud these creators with taking a big idea and running with it. But there’s a bit of inevitability in the plotting that makes the finale a little lackluster. Essentially, their first plan just kind of works and wraps up everything nicely (despite a slightly inconsequential death). It’s not the worst ending but it’s not particularly satisfying, either. Tony Daniel handles the art on this one and his character work is still really solid. The fight scenes could have been choreographed a bit better but I can’t really fault Daniel too much when all the characters in the fight are slight variations on each other and the villain is just one giant alien. “Multiplicity” was an interesting experiment for this creative team, but here’s hoping they get back to doing some of the more grounded work that defined the early part of their run.
Jem: The Misfits #2 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Patridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): The Misfits stop being polite and start getting real in the beautifully raw Jem: The Misfits #2. Focused on Stormer and her journey from bullied kid to the fiercest member of the Misfits, Kelly Thompson tells a story often overlooked in comics; one of body shaming and its effect on a personality. Presented in various flashbacks centered around the first day of filming for the Misfits’ reality show, Thompson takes us from Stormer’s rough youth to her genesis as a song writer, all the while treating her bullying with dignity and showing how she learns to accept herself for the amazing Misfit she is. Thompson’s script is given the perfect artistic translation thanks to artist Jenn St. Onge and colorist M. Victoria Robado. The pair’s cartoonish style and lush colors don’t shy away from the anger and triumph of the themes Thompson is presenting in the script and instead makes this precisely the kind of comic book parable those of all body types need much more of. The Misfits might be defined by their rivalry with the Holograms, but Jem: The Misfits #2 proves that this title is primed to be a title about much more than musical adversaries.
Midnighter and Apollo #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The stakes are high for the world’s greatest couple as Midnighter and Neron finally come face-to-face in this week’s penultimate issue of Midnighter and Apollo. With Extraño’s magic guiding him, Midnighter takes on Neron to free Apollo in a gory battle that seems to leave all three men battered and without direction as the issue ends on an intriguing cliffhanger — the candle Gregorio gave to Midnighter literally hangs in the balance, its last inch dripping in a simple yet ominous final panel. Orlando has done an impressive job continuing to raise the stakes from issue to issue, keeping the story moving at a rapid clip but never complicating the plot to the point where six issues seems like it won’t be enough to tie up loose ends. The panel layouts lack some of the ingenuity of previous issues, and Blanco’s action scenes here seem static without the novelty of Midnighter’s fight computer to add Midnighter’s signature visual pops. But there are some impressive single- and double-page spreads through the issue, and an intimate scene between Midnighter and Apollo that showcases the softer emotional touch that Blanco’s art brings to the series. Midnighter and Apollo #5 remains one of the strongest series running right now, but if the promise of Midnighter punching the devil in the face wasn’t enough, this week’s issue features an added bonus as Warren Ellis takes to the backmatter to discuss the upcoming WildStorm imprint. Come for the punching, stay for the WildStorm.
Vampirella #0 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The new volume of Vampirella gets a trippy and unsubstantial 25-cent zero issue this week. Writer Paul Cornell gives up little in this zero issue aside from some vague post-apocalyptic trappings and a moody reintroduction for our leading lady as she is brought into this new world and made aware that her storied life (Read: other Vampirella runs) have been made the stuff of prophecy. While Cornell’s script is a tough nut to crack, artist/colorist Jimmy Broxton does his best Bernie Wrightson impression and runs away with the issue, filling the page with either bleak snow covered tundra or moldy gothic tombs in which the sheen of Vampirella’s boots gleam like a blue-black moon amid the pale webs and stone walls of her crypt. Though it gives little impression of what the actual story is going to be about Vampirella #0 still attempts something new without saying much at all.
Kaijumax #1: Square One Marketing Edition (Published by Oni Press; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Like a dummy, I missed Kaijumax the first time around, but thankfully Oni Press has me covered thanks to its new Square One Marketing campaign which re-releases the first issues of certain titles, like the Eisner Award winning Kaijumax, for the unbeatable price of $1. Now that I am somewhat caught up with the rest of the world, I can comfortably say that Zander Cannon’s first introduction into the world of federal tokusatsu prison is still a great one as it melds kaiju movies and Japanese TV like Ultraman into a funny and surprisingly dark story that also manages to throw in a bit of satire aimed at the racist policies running rampant in federal prisons. Though I still have a full “season” and a half to catch up on, Oni Press did me and others who missed out a great service with its Square One Marketing push and the $1 edition of the stellar Kaijumax #1.
Bullseye #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): In Bullseye’s world, there are no good guys, and writer Ed Brisson captures this perfectly. Not only does Bullseye leave a literal bloodbath in his wake, but even the informants and FBI agents in this book are dirty and violent. This tone separates Bullseye #1 from the other villains on the comic rack. Artist Guillermo Sanna matches the gritty, gory storytelling with a style that’s proficiently shaky and sketchy. Guillermo’s art gives the reader a feeling of rising tension even when Bullseye isn’t around. The second story by Marv Wolfman and Alec Morgan relies a lot on its predecessor for tone. Wolfman is able to bring to story back to a boil after a stale motorcycle chase and Morgan can keep up with Sanna in the cringe-inducing viciousness of Bulleye and his peers. If you were missing the darker corners of the Marvel Universe, this book is for you.
Jem and the Holograms Outrageous Annual 2017 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Holograms and the Misfits get an adorably meta annual in the aptly named Jem and the Holograms Outrageous Annual 2017. Employing the “Exquisite Corpse” structure given a slightly jarring life by the myriad of artists rendering the story, series writer Kelly Thompson casts the two bands as different factions in a cheeky space opera with plenty of sass and a moving romantic subplot. While Thompson’s plot pulls in a large number of characters with ease and continually charms, its the artwork that both helps and hinders this annual. Artists like M.J. Barros, Gisele Lagace, Jason Millet, and Savanna Ganucheau all impress on their own, but their styles clash a bit too wildly for the story they are all drawing to completely gel visually. That stumbling block aside, Jem and the Holograms Outrageous Annual 2017 stands as a sunny testament to the power of music and stories.
Ghostbusters Annual 2017 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Ghostbusters from across the franchise get a chance to shine in the positively stacked Ghostbusters Annual 2017. Written by series point man Erik Burnham, colored by the steady hand of Luis Antonio Delgado, and illustrated by a full bench of talent like Doctor Who’s Rachael Stott, X-Files: Origins’ Corin Howell, and Ghostbusters regular Dan Schoening, each team of ‘Busters across the country gets fun and accessible episodic stories, bookended by a rousing tease for the incoming series’ crossover with the Paul Feig team. For fans its a neat showcase for their favorite squad, but for new readers, myself included, its a fantastic jumping on point and almost audition for what IDW has to offer in terms of proton slinging. Filled with slick art and plenty of sass, Ghostbusters Annual 2017 is a top-to-bottom blast.