Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off today's column with Jumping Jake Baumgart, as he takes a look at Batwoman: Rebirth...
Batwoman: Rebirth #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV’s Batwoman: Rebirth #1 is essentially a condensed highlight reel of the character with clues to future stories peppered throughtout. However, the story- everything from script to illustrations- is elegant and lyrical. Although, like a lot of the Rebirth titles, there isn’t a story to speak of in the first issue, the writers glide through Kate Kane’s life and weave a first issue that’s both light on exposition but gives t new readers all the pieces to the titular character they need. Steve Epting channels the most memorable creator on Batwoman, J.H. Williams III, in his layouts and rendition of Kate Kane but retains his signature style. Of the most recent spate of Rebirth titles, Batwoman: Rebirth #1 is a welcomed return to form for the character and an exciting jumping-on point for new fans.
The Clone Conspiracy #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): After four issues featuring one-time Scarlet Spider Ben Reilly's cloning operations, The Clone Conspiracy #5 creates for a chaotic ending that lacks many of the character's — and this series'— redeeming qualities from previous installments. Writer Dan Slott misses an opportunity to show Ben Reilly as a morally gray character. Instead, Ben is just a bad guy twirling his mustache as he watches the world crumble to his image. His master plan brings for an overstuffed story, but luckily we have great character moments from Gwen Stacy scattered throughout the issue. Gwen gets a more tasteful ending compared to her women in refrigerators moment from the classic “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” story arc, and Slott provides a small, but fun, interaction with her Spidery counterpart. This issue could have been even stronger if Slott focused on these type of moments with other characters, like J. Jonah Jameson and Anna Maria Marconi. The emotional beats in their character arcs feel more forced. Jim Cheung’s artwork does a great job at delivering the small character moments, but sadly his pencils feel as overwhelming as the story. The intense red coloring and bland backgrounds make the issue even less appealing. The last part of The Clone Conspiracy suffers from a jammed packed narrative and a slightly ambiguous ending, but the character moments between Gwen and Peter shine throughout the issue.
Batman #17 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): After the jaw-dropping (or perhaps neck-snapping) conclusion to the previous issue, Batman #17 starts off with a bang as writer Tom King manages to keep the momentum alive. However, keeping it alive nearly comes at the expense of the life of one of the Caped Crusader’s cohorts. It isn’t someone you would expect based on Issue #16’s closing page, though. In fact, it doesn’t take long for us to learn the fate of Batman’s son and former wards, as King cleverly leverages the greater DC Universe – Superman, to be specific – to progress that particular plot point. Much like the first arc, David Finch continues to excel on art, with crisp clean linework and tight crosshatching that lay the foundation for beautiful compositions, such as the double-page spread featuring the Dark Knight perched broodingly on a rooftop. Of course, Finch’s aesthetics are rounded out by Danny Miki’s precise inks, and Jordie Bellaire’s stellar palette selection. Overall, King does a great job furthering the plot as the I Am Bane arc continues to unfold, and it ends with our first look at the menacing, masked man from Santa Prisca, himself, setting the stage for what promises to be an explosive next issue.
WWE #2 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Becoming the WWE heavyweight champion was supposed to be one of the best moments of Seth Rollins’ life and career - so why does it feel more like a punishment than a privilege? WWE #2 follows Seth from his not entirely above board championship win through his ill-fated feud with the Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar. While Rollins remains unrepentant about the backs he’s stabbed to get where he is, Dennis Hopeless’ dialogue and Serg Acuna’s artwork turn the somewhat one-dimensional television iteration of Rollins into a surprisingly relatable not-quite-protagonist. Acuna’s character design skills do an incredible job selling the story, as Seth shifts through the panels from a bright-eyed and excited young first-time champ to an exhausted Authority member chafing under the “guidance” of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Filled with clever puns and spot-on interpretations of some of wrestling’s most iconic figures, with an added bonus of a short but powerful Ultimate Warrior tale from writer Aubrey Sitterson, illustrator Ed McGuinness, and colorist Marcio Menyz, WWE #2 easily keeps the series’ streak of strong issues alive.
Doctor Strange #1.MU (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Chip Zdarsky wades into the world of magic in Doctor Strange #1.MU. Set during the latest Leviathon incursion, Strange finds himself outclassed and then roped into a monster hunt with the braggadocious Googam, Son of Goom, a Jack Kirby monster who thinks Strange stole a conquest from him. Zdarsky’s refined take on Strange is on par for the recent runs, but his side characters like the constantly yelling Googam and a hilariously concerned Spider-Man give this story exactly the kind of wit we expect from the Star-Lord scribe. Artist Julian Lopez, inker Scott Hanna, and colorist Frank D’Armata adapt well to Strange’s world of magic and monsters, making this look like a rough hewn old school Strange tale peppered with impressive comedy beats. Though the side cast pop a bit more than the leading man, Doctor Strange #1.MU still stands as a fun diversion from the main event.
Superman #17 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): If nothing else, the past 16 issues of Superman have proved that writers Patrick Gleason and Peter J. Tomasi are crafting stories that don’t focus primarily on the Man of Steel, himself, but rather him and his family. However, Superman #17 feels entirely like an issue of Superboy. In fact, the Big Blue Boy Scout doesn’t appear once in this issue, save for a cameo by Clark Kent in a single panel on the last page. Still, even if this doesn’t feel quite like a Superman story, Tomasi and Gleason still manage to put together a compelling narrative - one that feels far more chilling than previous issues, as Jonathan and Kathy find themselves lost on a frighteningly psychedelic trek through the woods. The eerie tone is further accentuated by Sebastian Fiumara’s gritty, textured linework, which lends itself brilliantly to the story. Likewise, Dave Stewart’s dark palette selection and the painterly quality of his finishes help play to the Stranger Things-esque atmosphere of the tale. On the whole, the story certainly pays off, but a slightly deceptive cover and overall lack of Superman keep this issue from standing as tall as some of its predecessors.
Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! #15 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Patsy is fighting a reality-warping cold and the personification of her greatest fears in Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! #15. In a more low-key affair than the recent issues, writer Kate Leth delivers another charming problem for Team Hellcat and a guest starring America Chavez to tackle. But while her jokes and the art team’s cheeky, slightly meta pages continue to endear themselves to readers, Leth manages to sneak in more relatable themes of anxiety and parental withholding into the overall plot. Penciler Brittney L. Williams and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg continue to be the best possible fit for Leth’s witty yet heartfelt tone, filling the pages with adorable turns like Jubilee being reduced to a tiny stature and a bold caption proclaiming “FOOLHARDINESS!” when Patsy leaps into the fray. Though its lately been hampered by the dark clouds of the Civil War, Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! #15 gets the title back on the sunny and funny side of life.
God Country #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Donny Cates’ God Country #2 falters with a dialogue-heavy issue that fails to capture the impact of the series’ impressive debut. After vanquishing a demon and rescuing his family with an assist from the magical sword Valofax, Emmett Quinlan finds himself face to face with another deity chasing after the sword’s power. Geoff Shaw and Jason Wordie’s artwork is as gorgeous as ever, particularly the purples and reds Wordie uses to depict displays of Valofax’ supernatural power. The dialogue doesn’t quite live up to their work though -what should be an emotional conversation about the devastating impact of memory loss reads as bland exposition revealed in a conversation between two strangers as the conflict between the Quinlan family that drove the first issue seems to take a backseat. Emmett’s Alzheimer’s is essentially in remission when he wields the sword, and his understandable desperation to keep it in his possession and retain his memories in the face of godly intervention offers an intriguing premise from Cates that will keep God Country a book to watch for me in the long run. After the emotional torrent of the debut, however, this month’s dry follow up is a bit of a disappointment.
Mother Panic #3 (Published by DC’s Young Animal; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Violet Page comes face-to-face with both sides of Gotham’s “freak beat” in Mother Panic #3. Jody Houser continues Violet’s rigidly focused Count of Monte Cristo like vengeance on those who wronged her in her past, but complicates matters by placing both Batwoman and fledgling supervillain Gala in her way. While seeing Mother Panic take on both a Bat and her own supervillain directly is good, Houser sweetens the pot by delivering teasing glimpses to Violet’s painful origin and having her straight up yell at Batwoman after Page saves a group of women from burning to death in Gala’s deathtrap. Keeping in lock step with Houser’s inflexible character is artist Tommy Lee Edwards. His tight blocking, intricate design, and theatrical panel construction plays up the more exaggerated elements of the story and highlights the striking design of Mother Panic’s costume and her precise fighting style. Mother Panic hasn’t shown a lot of its cards just yet, but issue three shows that House and Edwards definitely have a vision and direction.
U.S.Avengers #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Al Ewing continues to be one of Marvel's most talented and overlooked writers, taking a team of lesser-known heroes and making them, well, U.S.Avengers. Don't know who Pod or Iron Patriot are? No problem, as Ewing deftly introduces his characters and makes for some fun power set combinations (Cannonball and Squirrel Girl, anybody?) — and in particular, his kleptocratic bad guy, the Gold Skull, has some of the best lines in the book ("You know what I love about people? They make excellent pets."). Along with Ewing's fun use of continuity and characterization is Paco Medina and Carlo Barberi tag-teaming the art — Barberi is a bit more angular and less refined than Medina, who is beginning to remind me of classic Howard Porter's clean, lantern-jawed style, but the two play off each other nicely, with each character having their own unique body language and fighting style. While the end of the arc feels a
Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye #5 (Published by DC’s Young Animal; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Cave and his compatriots are hip-deep in trouble in the fifth installment of CChaCE. Delving deeper than he ever has before into the culture of the underground civilization, writer Jon Rivera gives readers a well-constructed, albeit lengthy bit of world building. But while that might make some reader’s eyes glaze over, Rivera’s character work, particularly in the nobly unhinged Wild Dog and the dynamic between Cave and Chloe, keeps the esoteric plot afloat. And speaking of esoteric, artist Michael Avon Oeming, along with the rich colors of Nick Filardi, lean into the more weirder elements of the book, like the insane Muldroog architecture and trippy bits of background flair that follow certain characters through the story. Though the world is still a bit tough to crack, Cave Carson #5 still has plenty of character to keep it interesting.