Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off today's column with Jousting Jon Arvedon, as he takes a look at Justice League of America #1...
Justice League of America #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): After bearing witness to the formation of the unlikely team that is the new JLA in their Rebirth one-shot, Justice League of America #1 focuses on establishing core partnerships, or teams within the team, if you will. Writer Steve Orlando sets up what promises to be an interesting dynamic between Batman and Vixen, a budding friendship between Ryan Choi and Killer Frost, and a mentor/mentee relationship between Black Canary and the Ray. Then, of course, you have the fun wildcard in the form of Lobo to round out Orlando’s ensemble cast, who eventually come together to take part in their first real skirmish against the Extremists. And speaking of extreme, Ivan Reis’ pencils set the bar for aesthetics in Justice League books to explosive new heights, with stunning linework that graces the page with laser precision. Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, and Julio Ferreira’s inks compliment Reis’ lines, but Marcelo Maiolo’s color art is what truly brings the visuals to life, with a radiant palette selection heavy in fiery reds and oranges. All in all, it’s the creative team as a whole, firing on all cylinders, that make Justice League of America #1 a truly successful introduction to a team book; one that’s definitely worth hopping on while it’s still on the ground floor.
Spider-Man/Deadpool #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): For a comic whose entire premise is rooted in fan service, Spider-Man/Deadpool #14 turns the dial up to 11, as Nightcrawler makes a guest appearance to assist these partners-in-quips. And given that Peter and Wade are on the hunt for Itsy Bitsy — a clone spawned from their combined DNA — watching Kurt act as both confessor and fight coach makes for a fun read, anchored by Ed McGuinness's wonderfully fluid art and Joe Kelly's deft characterization. While I don't necessarily buy Peter's desire to kill Itsy Bitsy, Kelly plays his premise to the hilt, with Spidey's anger boiling over into some potentially homicidal territory. But honestly, McGuinness's artwork — particularly a sequence where Kurt launches himself in between the two agile title characters — is well worth the price of admission. Definitely a must-buy.
The Fix #8 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s current comedy-crime vehicle may have slowed down from a storytelling perspective, but The Fix can still lay out a surprise when it wants to. This was true for Pretzels getting shot in the previous issue, and it remains true when it comes to where that plot leaves off in this issue. Pretzels’ surgery gives the team a chance to show what his life’s been like, and it really shows Lieber’s talent. Pretzels ages over the course of the sequence, sometimes from panel to panel, and even if it isn’t a drastic jump, it’s evident that Pretzels has gotten older. This half leans into more emotional territory, leaving the bulk of the punchlines with the other half. For the moment it’s working and it’ll certainly be interesting to see if, and how, these plotlines come together.
Supergirl: Being Super #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): A lot of entertainment doesn’t really take time to slow down when tragedy strikes, and this rings true in the era of Game of Thrones where "anyone can die" and plot gets burned through at a staggering rate. The exploration of grief is something dealt with, but it’s rarely the sole focus which makes this issue feel so different as Kara processes the loss she suffers. Through this, the extended page count shines as Mariko Tamaki is able to decompress the narrative to elongate how long this passage of time feels and demonstrates her ability to work in different styles, which feels drastically different to the hyper-focused eye of her Hulk series. In the action, Joëlle Jones creates these large and powerful panels to convey the true scope of the chaos, while denser panels after the dust has cleared remain just as detailed, but chart the slight movements. Kara wasn’t Supergirl right from the get-go and spending this amount of time with her means that we get to know her instead of her superhero persona and as a result this is fast becoming one of the strongest Supergirl stories ever told.
Tank Girl: Gold #4 (Published by Titan Books; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Comedy in comic books generally focuses on dialogue-driven jokes and physical comedy. The way that Tank Girl: Gold has handled humor over the past four issues and in particular this issue is indicative of the way that the Titan Books incarnation of Tank Girl has handled the medium of comics. The comedy is in the way that writer Alan Martin and artist Brett Parson savage and subvert the medium as a whole. What often gets overlooked amidst the immediate craziness of Tank Girl: Gold is how much this series has doubled down on the character moments of its cast. Tank Girl: Gold #4 is the final issue of the second act of a three-series-spanning story, and imbues a sense of urgency in Tank Girl's quest to the past to rescue Jet Girl and Sub Girl. Without that heart, the comic would quickly devolve into self-indulgence. With it, and in particular as Tank Girl: Gold has a strong finish to a strong series, it creates something genuinely special.
Detective Comics #951 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Shiva and the League of Shadows play their deadly opening gambit in the harrowing Detective Comics #951. As Batman and Batwoman struggle to pull Orphan out of her aggressive downward spiral, the League starts a two fronted attack on Gotham. Once again employing his fine mixture of rising action and personal stakes, James Tynion IV pushes the Bats to their limits, both professionally and personally yet again. Artist Christian Duce, whose pencils here look like a harder edged Phil Hester, and colorist Alex Sinclair match the intensity of Tynion’s script while playing up the human elements of the story like Kate Kane’s warm smile and Batman’s fatherly haughtiness. The League of Shadows may be a myth, but the Bat-Family is finding out just how real and deadly focused they are in Detective Comics #951.
Hulk #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Everything is better when Patsy Walker shows up. Or at least normally. If anything demonstrates the change in Jen’s character, it can be seen here in her interaction with Patsy compared to their encounters in Soule’s run a few years back. In more street-level orientated books, you might expect a team-up should another hero appear at this point in an arc, but Mariko Tamaki eschews this idea in favour of retaining the focus on Jen and her interior state. Unlike the previous issues, this means the mystery gets lost for a decent sized chunk of the book. It’s also a more conventional book in terms of layouts from Nico Leon – there’s a couple of pages which fit the aesthetic of the book prior, but there’s a greater number of recognisable layouts utilised by many artists. Perhaps this is to show how Jen is gradually making progress, but it would assuredly be disappointing if the series was going to lose one of its most distinct qualities.
Teen Titans #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It's a titanic teenage team-up in Teen Titans #5. As the Demon’s Fist and the Titans square off one last time, Damian appeals to their better nature, and from that something new is born. Though Ben Percy’s dialogue comes across a bit hokey, the plot and themes of teamwork shine through this first arc’s finale like a signal fire and cast the son of Batman is an appealingly human light for the first time in a while. X-Men: Legacy artist Khoi Pham, inker Wade Von Grawbadger, and colorist Jim Charalampidis adapt well to the cold and stony setting as well as the issue’s main dust up which Pham frames as kinetic panels spreading across multiple pages. It has been far too long since the words “Titans, GO!” have been spoken in the pages of DC, but Teen Titans #5 makes it count for something again.
Great Lakes Avengers #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The fifth installment of GLA feels a lot like an '80s Saturday morning cartoon — and that’s a good thing. Since their inception, the D-list heroes of the Great Lakes Avengers have been little more than a punchline, but the current shift in tones for popular comics like Squirrel Girl have allowed Zac Gorman and Will Robson take an earnest stab at the franchise. Gorman’s script doesn’t take jabs at the ridiculously powered team and instead lets the humor arise from the characters surrounding them and the art. The balance to Gorman’s more thoughtful tone is Will Robson. Robson’s characters are brash and kinetic to look at, even if they dominate the frame a little too much. His style fits snuggly between a friendly anime and The Real Ghost Busters, but doesn’t feel like it will stay with the reader. Although missing the charm of some of Marvel’s other lighter tone books, Great Lakes Avengers #5 is a winner.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #15 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The second chapter of “Quest for Hope” goes big in the latest installment of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. Though writer Robert Venditti has a lot of irons in the fire, like the budding Green/Yellow Lantern partnership and the separate personal missions of Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner, he keeps it all moving at a decent clip and keeps them clearly separated so reader’s aren’t overwhelmed with the sheer amount of plot. Artist Ethan Van Sciver returns with the proper scope needed for a story this big. Backed by the luminous colors of Jason Wright, Van Sciver provides the issue a few dynamite splash pages along with his high flying action throughout. Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #15 may have a lot of plates spinning at once, but at least it makes it look fun as they spin.
World War X #3 (Published by Titan Books; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): World War X has been a well-structured and cinematic story since it's opening issue. While it still holds the sense of intrigue that made the first two issues so interesting, it takes a mild stumble in this entry. While the jumps in narrative location and chronology are initially a strength, by the second half of the comic it seems to be arbitrary jumps that take some steam out of the story. Peter Snejbjerg's art is mostly good, with particular standout panels involving crowds and action. His aliens are particularly well drawn as they have been since debuting. Some of the closeups look a little off, but it's never distracting. Overall, World War X #3 keeps the ball moving and manages to keep the interest in the overall mystery at a relatively high level. This issue might not have been as strong as the previous issues, but it is filled with a sense of something big on the horizon.