Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday rapids? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's edition of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off today's proceedings with Juvenile Jon Arvedon, as he takes a look at Batman #18...
Batman #18 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): As the "I Am Bane" story arc continues to play out in the pages of Batman #18, writer Tom King not only ups the ante on the action, but he also gives us a more intimate look at the parallels between Bruce Wayne and the boy that would one day call himself Bane. The juxtaposition of the two children, both enduring similar tragedies, and the exploration of how it shaped each of them is incredibly profound, adding a beautiful new dynamic to the relationship between Batman and Bane. However, King’s excellent script would be far less impactful if not for David Finch’s outstanding sequential art, serving as a stellar visual representation of the aforementioned parallels thanks to the abutment of panels featuring both Bruce and Bane’s respective journeys from tragedy to triumph over their past. Once again, Danny Miki and Jordie Bellaire make a dynamic duo, with Danny’s inks and Jordie’s colors adding gorgeous depth to Finch’s linework and bringing the aesthetics to life. With Bane seemingly being outsmarted by Batman and Catwoman as the issue comes to a close, it will be interesting to see how the villain responds as the arc begins to wind down. Still, regardless of the eventual outcome, Batman #18 is an integral piece of Tom King’s compelling Dark Knight puzzle.
Doctor Strange #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Jason Aaron teams up two of the finest physicians in the Marvel Universe, as Doctor Strange teams up with the Mighty Thor this week. With these two vastly different characters in their shared natural habitat - namely, an operating room - Stephen Strange and Jane Foster are a fun team, thanks to writer Jason Aaron's deep familiarity with both heroes. This story also works nicely because we don't necessarily get bogged down by standard superhero fisticuffs - watching Jane do super-speed brain surgery or watching Strange literally consume black magic tumors makes for a gross but thrilling read. Artist Chris Bachalo keeps his pages tight and intimate in this chapter, making the visuals flow quickly - his take on Mr. Misery makes for a great Doctor Strange villain, all ooze and tentacles and menace. This team-up proves to be exactly what the doctor ordered.
James Bond #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Volumes 1 and 2 of Dynamite’s James Bond left some big shoes to fill, but Benjamin Percy, Rapha Lobosco and Chris O’Halloran make a damn fine go of it in the latest James Bond #1. Keeping the character in line with the blunt, but witty Bond of the Ellis era, Percy goes big and sleek for his opening; pitting Bond against cyberterrorists and hopping to exotic locales like the French Alps and the Shinjuku District of Tokyo. Artist Rapha Lobosco, whose pencils look like a stylish cross between Howard Chaykin and Eduardo Risso, keeps pace with Percy’s brisk script and along with the radiating colors of O’Halloran, he distances the new volume from the previous ones with plenty of his own singular panache. If you are unsure of this new volume, just think of it as a new director and production team taking over the returning cast because James Bond #1 is too fun to just dismiss outright.
The Dregs #2 (Published by Black Mask Studios; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Lonnie Nadler, Zac Thompson, Eric Zawadzki, and Dee Cunniffe’s hypnotic and harrowing noir continues in The Dregs #2. After a daring escape from the upper crust meat harvesters prowling the streets, Arnold is back on the streets and back on the case and slowly losing his mind. Nadler and Thompson’s script is clearly inspired by classic noir but finds other inspired sources to pull from like Albert Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus.” The Camus work also inspires the issue’s clever main set piece in which Eric Zawadzki and Dee Cunniffe build a tight circular double page maze detailing Arnold’s drug fueled decent as a profile of Arnold pushes a rock around the outside of the panels around the page. Though The Dregs started strong, it's only gotten stronger, as this creative team delivers another poetic and engaging installment.
The Clone Conspiracy Omega #1 (Published by Marvel Comics, Review by Kat Calamia, ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): After a lackluster final chapter with The Clone Conspiracy #5, I expected this epilogue issue to do a better job at wrapping a rushed and crowded storyline. This issue was split into three stories: the direct aftermath of the events of The Clone Conspiracy, a prelude to Ben Reilly’s new book, and a story teasing the Norman Osborn event coming to Amazing Spider-Man. Sadly all three of these stories were underwhelming, and the artwork felt rushed. The first story had a similar problem to The Clone Conspiracy #5, in that there were too many plotlines Dan Slott and Christos Gage were trying to wrap up with not enough room to tell them. This made the weight of the emotional scenes with characters like the Rhino feel out of place. Cory T. Smith’s pencils give a similar tone to Jim Cheung’s art style from The Clone Conspiracy mini-series, but Smith’s pencils feel less refined, with less detailed facial expressions. The second story focuses on Ben Reilly’s villainy, but still doesn’t give the character enough depth to feel like a fully realized villain. Mark Bagley’s pencils are the cleanest out of the stories, especially with character close-ups. The last story, which ties into the next Spider-Man event, was the most interesting to me, even if it was the shortest. The story takes a good look at Kingpin and Spider-Man’s relationship, and shows what lengths Spider-Man will take to destroy Norman Osborn. Sadly, the artwork wasn’t the strongest, this was especially noticeable with the little amounts of line work on Kingpin’s white suit making the character’s proportions feel off. Overall, The Clone Conspiracy Omega doesn’t redeem the underwhelming ending of this Spider-Man event.
The X-Files #11 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The second part of “Contrarians” delivers a suitably weird and wry finale to the X-Files ongoing’s jaunt into Mulder’s father’s past. Writer Joe Harris brings his X-infused tale of alternate history to a head as the ramifications of Mulder’s father and the Cigarette Smoking Man’s 1987 mission to Nicaragua literally haunt Fox in the present day. Though it doesn’t have nearly enough Scully for my taste, Harris’ script still brings the strange in a fun way. Artist Greg Scott and colorist Wes Dzioba provide a nice balance between the strange and mundane as they detail the flashbacks in heavy grey hues and the present day normally but with a jovial eye catching ghostly presence cutting through the everyday setting. The X-Files revival series has gotten really great at delivering these short, but effective story arcs, and this issue is yet another solid example of their consistency.
Superman #18 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Since the start of “Rebirth,” the “Reborn” story arc has been brewing. Now, in the pages of Superman #18, all the waiting finally begins to pay off as co-writers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason start things off with a bang, revealing that someone has managed to escape from the grip of the enigmatic Mr. Oz. From there, we transition to a beautiful family dinner between Clark, Lois, and Jon, but Tomasi and Gleason waste little time before once again dialing up the mystique and intrigue surrounding the Man of Steel, his doppelganger, and his past. In addition to co-writing duties, Gleason is also on pencils, but the additional responsibilities do little to detract from his gorgeous linework. The slightly animated style lends itself well to the touching family moments but still feels perfectly at home when things begin to heat up in the latter half of the story. Mick Gray’s deep black inks complement Gleason’s lively style beautifully, but it’s John Kalisz’s vibrant color art that truly makes the visuals pop, especially in the panels that incorporate a good deal of negative space. Superman #18 is an incredible introductory chapter to the “Reborn” story arc, setting an emotional and ominous tone for what’s to come, and definitely leaving you wanting more.
Green Hornet: Reign of the Demon #4 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): A thrilling team up and a macabre reveal lift Green Hornet: Reign of the Demon out of the doldrums of its middle issues just in time for a rousing finale. Writer David Liss puts all his cards on the table which include German sleeper agents, brainwashed attack zombies, and pulpy action throughout. His endgame hums along as Green Hornet, Kato, and the Swashbuckler systematically dismantle the Demon’s plan to pull the city into chaos by eliminating the police force. This finale issue also proves to be artist Kewber Baal and colorist Adriano Augusto’s finest hour as the pair throw themselves into the constant masked action with dynamic panel layouts and lush colors. We may have hit some valleys in the previous issues but Green Hornet: Reign of the Demon #4 gives us a decent enough peak as it takes its final bow.
Motor Girl #4 (Published by Abstract Studio; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Motor Girl’s narrative blends hallucination with reality in this tale about UFOs. Motor Girl #4 continues to follow Samantha, a war veteran with PTSD, as she slowly deals with the psychological trauma of being held a prisoner of war. The most powerful moments in this issue are the small reactions Samantha has as she starts dealing with her trauma. Motor Girl #4 opens up with Samantha lying in her bathtub with a bottle of Jack in her hand, nursing an excessive headache after receiving head trauma during her time in war. This scene leads to a flashback of Samantha being held captured and being abused. Terry Moore is slowly revealing Samantha’s past by giving small scenes about her experiences in every issue, making Samantha’s psychological journey even more powerful. This is also showcased in Samantha’s interaction with hired hitman, Victor. As she sees the man sitting alone in the middle of the desert, her brain switches back to soldier mood. She believes the man has a bomb strapped around his body. She gets paranoid with the man who we later learn is connected to the bigger UFO story, allowing the audience to speculate which parts of Samantha’s narrative is real or part of her hallucinations. Motor Girl #4 is a well done, slow-paced issue building the psychological narrative, and the black and white art by Terry Moore brings a necessary moody tone. Motor Girl is a unique story that focuses on psychological trauma, while also giving a view of the possibility that we aren’t alone in the universe.