Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off today's column with Punchy Pierce Lydon, as they take a look at the latest issue of Wonder Woman...
Wonder Woman #20 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): “Godwatch” continues in this issue, and while there isn’t a lot of Diana in this issue, it’s clear why people have rallied around Greg Rucka’s runs on Wonder Woman. The writer has created a deep cast of characters that are easy to care about. This isn’t just a superhero story. It’s one about family and sacrifice. Veronica Cale will stop at nothing to get her daughter back, and that means involving the witch Circe. They say “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” and that is entirely true here as Veronica’s gambit is particularly vengeful. But the real star of the book is artist Bilquis Evely. In fact, of Rucka’s collaborator’s in the "Rebirth" era, I think she is the best. She renders her characters consistent and thoughtfully. She’s able to deliver big moments even in small panels but then really let loose when a double-page spread calls for it. Wonder Woman has never looked better than it does at the tip of her pencil. This is a slower issue than many others during this run, but it’s stuffed full of really intense, human moments that are communicated perfectly through the art.
Black Panther and the Crew #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10) People who’ve read Ta-Nehesi Coates’ Black Panther and the complementary World of Wakanda should know that he has adopted a slower, more novelistic pace to his writing and that’s consistent here as well. Black Panther and the Crew begins in 1957 before finding Misty Knight on the streets of Harlem in the present day. It tackles ideas that Nick Spencer’s been grappling with Captain America: Sam Wilson, and ones that Coates has tackled in his prose, but in a more conversational manner. That’s par for the course with Coates, so while artist Butch Guice may have an explosive opening sequence, the bulk of the issue sees him making Harlem feel lived in, working with Scott Hanna to create an area of a city that feels well-realized and unique. So it’s more of a slower debut, Black Panther and the Crew isn’t just about the characters in the title, but also the world they work in. Harlem’s a big place, so it’s going to take a while to sketch it all out.
Motor Crush #5 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Starting out with some home truths, Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr reveal the circumstances that led to Domino being rescued by her adoptive father, Sully, in Motor Crush #5. For a series that has been vibrant thus far, the use of black and white for these flashbacks is striking, and the vibrancy is made up for tenfold in the present day when the Dark Rider resurfaces. The history unknown until now is expectantly poignant, but the creative team avoid wallowing in misery. The rest of the issue recalls what would be considered a classic Flash story with the emphasis on family and high-octane speed that continue to build as the issue races to the conclusion which is equal parts unexpected, fitting with the series and a drastic change to the landscape of the series moving forward.
X-Men: Blue #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The time (or dimension? It’s not entirely clear) displaced original X-Men get wrapped up in a plot that’s almost a straight lift of Uncanny X-Men #101, featuring Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut. But this is the first time that we’ve really gotten to see the kids involved in something that isn’t a giant larger plot. Cullen Bunn has the X-Men just going on an adventure and that’s a welcome change of pace. Plus things are a little different this time around. Beast is into the mystic arts. Jean is the leader of the team. With some slight changes, what was old feels new again even if the plotting and twists are somewhat well-trodden territory. Jorge Molina is the right artist to bring this team to life. There’s a youthful exuberance in his linework that really buoys the action. Elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, artists have a lot of trouble rendering convincing teenaged characters but Molina doesn’t run into that problem in this issue. Plus his redesigns for the villains plays pretty well on the plage. We haven’t seen this flavor of X-Men story in a while and it’s a welcome change of pace.
Justice League of America #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The conclusion of this opening arc sees the return of Ivan Reis to the series as the JLA faces off against the Extremists. Up until now, the series has been unable to lock down a consistent feel, and part of that is due to the numerous artists that have been involved with this arc. Reis’ return helps to alleviate this issue as best he can, providing a sense of bookending, but even with some consistency in place, the book isn’t soaring just yet. Part of that could be down to the way that the team members are isolated from one another for a chunk of the issue. It’s an intriguing team for writer Steve Orlando to have put together, but there’s not really a chance to see how they all work together in action here. This could have allowed for some thrilling action, which Reis would have been sure to deliver upon with how stunning his work is when the pages are opened up, but he’s unfortunately given no such chance here, even if Marcelo Maiolo’s color contributions are crisp. While I still prefer this book to its sister Justice League title, Justice League of America hasn’t done enough to define itself as the better team book of the two.
The Wicked + The Divine #28 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): In his weekly newsletter, Kieron Gillen said that WicDev #28 was all about the party and it may first appear as that, ending the night of an end-of-arc bomb drop, but it also includes a series of smaller revelations. These aren’t always new information for us - some of them are instead revelations for specific characters which ensure that the series is never getting too comfortable with its standings. It’s always a treat to see Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson depict a godly party and it pops in every panel, even when the issue gets more talky. And that’s before Sakhmet’s sequence demonstrates what this team can do with black pages. In the wake of The Darkness a few issues prior, the series has been more reserved, as the gods deals with a sense of ennui baked into their impending mortality, and these revelations not only make us wonder where the series will go now, but what led it to this point. These gods may be omnipotent beings able to dole out punches and kicks in equal measure, but it’s fast become more interesting to consider if they’re really omnibenevolent as well.
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Annie May Parker may be settling into her spider-powers, but can she make the cut at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters? The answer to that question makes Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #6 the series’ best issue to date. While X-fans will likely thrill at Gerry Conway's X-Men team, which mixes retro cast members like Jubilee and '90s-era Cyclops with swerves like Wolverine and Jean Grey having a baby (!!!), there's some fun humanity at the core of the story, as Mary-Jane doesn’t want to ship Annie off the the school, all while trying to wrap her head around the mutant world presented in front of her. Mary Jane’s confused feelings are perfectly portrayed through the facial expressions provided by Ryan’s Stegman’s artwork, who also give off a nostalgic feel as he showcases the X-Men’s classic costumes. Combined with a fun twist on Annie's precognitive powers interacting with Cerebro, The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #6 is a strong story for the Parkers, but is also a great team up between the Spider-family and classic X-Men.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #18 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): In Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #18, writer Robert Venditti continues to expand upon the integration of the Green and Yellow Lanterns – a plot point that feels as though it’s been the driving force of the series for nearly 10 issues. While Venditti has managed to keep things fresh thus far, the bickering between the two Corps has the potential to become tiresome should it continue much longer. Thankfully, a truce born out of mutual respect between Guy Gardner and Akrillo seems to indicate that the in-fighting will be put to rest, at least for the time being. From a visual standpoint, the book is aesthetically pleasing, although penciller V. Ken Marion doesn’t quite manage to escape from the shadows of Rafa Sandoval and Ethan Van Sciver, who typically handle the art on this title. Even Dexter Vines’ inks and Dinei Ribeiro’s colors feel softer and less impactful that what we’ve come to expect from the series. In any case, the story still manages to satisfy, particularly with the return of an unexpected character in the closing pages of the book, which will presumably follow suit with issue #17 in bringing Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps out from its largely self-contained bubble and into the greater depths of the post-Rebirth DCU.