Greetings, 'Rama readers — ready for your Thursday reviews? Then get ready and strap yourselves in for Best Shots' Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off with Sassy Scott Cederlund, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Superman...
Superman #19 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Scott Cederlund; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are trying to pull a fast one over us and they’re doing a pretty good job at it. As “Superman Reborn” continues, each new revelation is quickly followed by a new mystery. The last issue of the crossover revealed that Mr. Mxyzptlk was behind so much of the troubles in Clark, Lois, and Jon’s life, and in this issue, Clark and Lois have to race to find Jon or lose him forever. Tomasi and Gleason’s big, bold story beats turn this search for a missing son into the highest-stakes version of Chutes and Ladders. Gleason, inker Mick Gray, and colorist John Kalisz deliver twisted thrills as a jealous fifth-dimensional imp tries to strike at the heart of Superman using candy canes and board games. And as if the reveal of Mxyzptlk from the pre-New 52 universe showing up wasn’t enough for this comic, Tomasi and Gleason build up to one final last-page reveal that wonderfully rings true in a DC comic-booky way. Superman #19 shows that this Superman creative team still has some tricks that they haven’t shown us yet.
Mighty Thor #17 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Everyone’s favorite bird people the Shi’ar and their gods are facing off against the Asgardians, and if you were looking a good old-fashioned beatdown, you’ve come to the right place with Mighty Thor #17. Jason Aaron gives us a look at what got this whole fight started, and it’s about what you might expect. But mostly, he puts aside the narrative to let Russell Dauterman go in on some fight scenes. Dauterman has risen quickly through the ranks and it’s easy to see why — his character work is a joy to behold, the fight scenes are well choreographed and impactful, and he throws a little bit of style at readers with some off-kilter page layouts that work exceedingly well as the book progresses. Colorist Matt Wilson and letterer Joe Sabino deserve credit for tying together the total package expertly. Specifically, the sound effect work blends seamlessly with the art, adding to the already impressive line art. Mighty Thor might be off in its own little cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe, but it’s definitely one of the most bombastic books on the stands.
Super Sons #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): DC’s Rebirth has been built on hope and optimism and nowhere is that more evident than in titles like Super Sons. Robin and Superboy couldn’t be more different but they work well as a team. Peter J. Tomasi has experience writing them both and has their voices nailed down. (He’s arguably the definitive writer for both.) While the stakes do seems fairly low, the main draw is the interplay between the characters. Damian’s natural snarky tendencies are out in full force around the younger Jonathan and it’s legitimately a lot of fun. And Tomasi has artist Jorge Jimenez to thank for really making the script sing. Jimenez is a master at facial expression, really imbuing the characters with real emotions in ways that a lesser artist might not. It’s small flourishes like Damian sticking his tongue out while he’s concentrating or the tears in Jon’s eyes when he comes across a dead body that make the book. Super Sons might have taken a long time to get started but it’s been more than worth the wait.
Archie #18 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Artist Pete Woods heads to Riverdale this month in a wonderful jumping on point for Archie’s new arc. Veronica Lodge is back in town and eager to pick up where her and Archie left off, but she quickly finds that might not be so simple. In the series’ expectedly hilarious way, Mark Waid keeps the jokes and emotional development flowing throughout, focusing on Archie and Ronnie’s stalling relationship and giving us sweet and hysterical sideplots of a potential Betty/Dilton pairing and Jughead being “hired” by the Blossoms to find out why their dad is hiding money from them. Pete Woods’ sketchy, emotive style fits Archie like a glove. In his first showing, Woods’ absolutely nails Waid’s sense of humor and renders our favorite Cool Teens with their hearts and personalities on their sleeves. When Archie is on, it is really freaking on, and #18 exactly that level of great.
The Wild Storm #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The Wild Storm has lost a bit of its sheen in its sophomore issue. Three shady-as-hell parties, IO, Skywatch, and Jacob Marlowe, are all after The Engineer, Angela Spica, and though Warren Ellis gets to display his finely honed sense of wit, much of this issue is just him moving the characters to where they need to be for the next installment without much fanfare. He does however give artist Jon Davis-Hunt as few sizable bits of silent storytelling in order to show off his clean, detailed style. But just when the issue starts to fly, the muddy colors of Steve Buccellato lessens its ascent. While Ivan Plascencia’s efforts heightened Davis-Hunt’s pencils, Buccellato’s clash with the panels, giving them a coppery, almost brass look. A far cry from the bleeding edge look of the debut issue. Its early days for The Wild Storm so growing pains are to be expected, but here’s hoping the title finds itself looking and reading smoother next month.
Captain America: Sam Wilson #20 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): There’s been a lot of uproar about Nick Spencer’s run on both Captain America titles. The two titles side-by-side show what Steve Rogers, even in his Kobik-induced altered state, can get away with, versus Sam Wilson’s constant uphill battle for legitimacy. It’s commentary on the state of the world and the state of comics, and navigating that has been a tightrope walk for Spencer, whose best-laid plans and intentions have been interpreted a myriad of ways. This issue draws a clear parallel to the events that happened in Ferguson. While Sam gives a carefully worded response to the events publically, he is clearly at odds with himself in private. That’s the kind of self-reflection that’s been missing elsewhere in the title. But there’s still a disconnect in Spencer’s messaging, underlined especially by Rage’s fate. Who is left to take Sam Wilson to task? Paul Renaud turns in one of his better issues. His art still strikes me as a less dynamic Daniel Acuna, but it works well here. Captain America: Sam Wilson is one of the more challenging books in Marvel’s line, and that’s a good thing, even when the book's narrative and message find themselves at odds.
Nightwing #17 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne are truly an underrated duo. But Tim Seeley is exploring more than just their caped crusades with Nightwing #17 — he’s exploring their relationship as brothers. Damian plays off Dick’s Nightwing rebranding as building a foundation to eventually take over as Batman but the reality is that he misses Dick and doesn’t want his potential new family to replace him. Tim Seeley’s character work is really strong which is good because Deathwing is kind of a snooze. Evil mirrors of heroes have been done to death, but the bright spot of this issue is the reveal of an old foe. Javier Fernandez’s work is mostly a great fit for the book. There’s a lot of meaningful expression work on display but sometimes his choices of shot forces that strength out of focus. The thing that hurts the books the most are the lack of distinct backgrounds, forcing colorist Chris Sotomayor to fill space with some odd purples and yellows that don’t blend well with the book. Overall, it’s a good book for Nightwing fans and fans of the Damian/Dick relationship, but others might not get as much out of it.
Star-Lord #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Peter Quill continues his streak of no-break-catching in Star-Lord #4. Chip Zdarsky, having fully endeared Peter to us, sets about doing the same thing for Edmund and in large part, he succeeds. The issue opens with a sepia toned flashback to his days as the “Silver Bandit” and then continues with a tragic recount of how he got his heist gear. Trust me, its a lot funnier than it sounds, but its nice to see some emotional range from Zdarsky amid the comedy. Kris Anka and Matthew Wilson are still playing to the back of the house in the best possible way, serving up heaping helpings of beefcake along with amazing costume design, sharp hued colors, and all sorts of snappy panel layouts that propel the action. Star-Lord still hasn’t attained Must Read status for me just yet, but it continues to be a solid and sexy romp with a real handsome idiot.
Coady and the Creepies #1 (Published by BOOM! Box; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): No matter how you slice it, “struggling ghost drummer trapped in a terrible lie to protect her secret and her sisters’ band” doesn’t read like the makings of a light-hearted romp at first glance, but Coady and the Creepies #1 takes a premise that seems spooky and existentially dreadful on its face and spins it into a surprisingly fun debut. Writer Liz Prince and illustrator Amanda Kirk have created a quirky world reminiscent of your favorite campy horror movies of the ‘80s. Kirk’s style and Hannah Fisher’s color work perfectly capture the Creepies’ playful punk rock aesthetic, giving the book a distinctive off-kilter visual appeal. The dialogue can get dense in some panels, though, making it a slightly unwieldy read at times when Prince goes heavy on the exposition, but for most of the book Prince does an excellent job developing distinct voices to match the distinct styles Kirk and Fisher have given the Castoff sisters. Coady and the Creepies #1 is a fun read and a miniseries worth following for its four-issue run.
Ms. Marvel #16 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Ms. Marvel #16 reminds readers that the series’ supporting cast are more than background characters with an issue focusing on Doc.x, the ultimate internet troll, targeting Kamala’s friends. Doc.x continues to make things personal as he threatens to expose Ms. Marvel’s secret identity as well as expose her friend Zoe’s sexuality to the school in the most embarrassing way possible. Ms. Marvel #16 does a great job at weaving Zoe and Kamala’s narratives together, creating a fresh story about secret identities/masks in the technological age. This issue shows how much Zoe has grown as a character, showcasing her bravery as she decides to tell Nakia about her romantic feelings, thinking about Nakia’s reputation before her own. This act of selflessness helps Kamala reevaluate her strategy against the internet troll and her approach she’s been taking as a hero. Takeshi Miyazawa art style caters to this story perfectly. Miyazawa’s pencils bring the emotions needed in this heavy issue, especially in the scene where Zoe expresses her feelings towards Nakia – the pencils highlight how difficult it was for Zoe to have this conversation. Overall Ms. Marvel #16 is one of the series’ strongest issues to date, fleshing out Kamala’s supporting cast while in the process creates a menacing villain for the arc.
G.I. Joe #3 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Its a two-guitar attack for the heavy metal fun of G.I. Joe #3. Keeping his crazy train on the rails, writer Aubrey Sitterson ups the stakes for both teams of Joes as Roadblock and his team start a battle royale with the Dreadnoks while in Greece, Jayne and Gung-Ho’s cover is blown and they must fight their way through the new fledgling hordes of COBRA. Sitterson tempers his wall-to-wall action with some nice banter between the characters as well as some very interesting developments involving IDW’s resident cosmic baddies, the Dire Wraiths. Artist Giannis Milongiannis and colorist Loven Kindzierski lean into the dual set pieces and really sell their manga-inspired styles with cheeky reaction shots, bold single color backgrounds, and plenty of dynamic fight blocking. Couple all that with the creative team’s commitment to making the team more diverse with this issue’s debut of the Nia Jax-like Samoan brusier Salvo, and you have a G.I. Joe title worth paying attention to.