Greetings ‘Rama readers! Pierce Lydon here, filling in for regular editor David Pepose. We’ve got nine quick reviews for you today at Best Shots and I’ll kick things off with a look at
Nick Fury #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Nick Fury Jr. is a character who hasn’t yet endeared himself to fans but James Robinson and ACO are looking to change that. On the surface, this is another noir-flavored heist comic but things go awry pretty quickly and Rachelle Rosenberg’s Lisa Frank-esque coloring goes a long way to elevating this script. Put simply, stories like this aren’t “supposed” to look like this. But the creative team has thrown caution to the wind, pushing the psychedelic leanings of Jim Steranko’s run with the original Nick Fury to their limits and producing a book that looks unique. It’s a really quick read, with Robinson getting the hell out of ACO’s way and letting the artist rock through multiple double page spreads. Marvel says that artists aren’t the ones selling books but ACO is the main draw here and it’s easy to see why. Hopefully, Robinson can build out a memorable enough story that this one isn’t lost to the dollar bins.
All-Star Batman #9 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Robert Reed; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): The “Ends of the Earth” arc comes to a close with the fantastic All-Star Batman #9. Writer Scott Snyder is reunited with "Black Mirror" collaborator Jock and expert colorist Lee Loughridge. The story that has been building finally comes to a close as Batman faces the man pulling the strings: Ra’s Al Ghul. The artwork throughout the issue is simply sublime, as Jock expertly shows off the hand-to-hand combat between Bruce and Ra’s. The final issue is not without its twists as well, and Snyder still finds a way to inject some humor from Alfred. The issue’s backup story, “The Cursed Wheel,” also comes to a conclusion, adding a wicked twist to Duke’s development. The haunting artwork by Francesco Francavilla doesn’t hurt either. It will be interesting to see how Snyder intends to utilize the reveal here in future issues and just what it all means for Batman’s newest partner.
Ms. Marvel #17 (Published by Marvel Comics, Review by Kat Calamia, ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Ms. Marvel #17 is a solid ending to one of the titles’ best story arcs to date. The sense of community is a great strength for the series, and this concept truly shines in this issue. Ms. Marvel works with her online community and Jersey City to defeat the villainous internet troll Doc.X proving that, “Most [people] aren’t awful. Most of them are just waiting for a chance to do the right thing.” This idea is also showcased in the opening of the issue where the school reacts to Zoe’s leaked messages to Nakia. There are a few people who use this to target Zoe, but after the students see Zoe hurting they come as a group to comfort her. Takeshi Miyazawa does a great job at bringing this community theme to life with his artwork. His pencils really shine during the high school and the gaming scenes with great focus on characters’ facial expressions. This series is always at its strongest when utilizing its supporting cast, and this arc of Ms. Marvel does this in stride. The story seamlessly weaves a great commentary on technology, identity, and community, while also providing an interesting twist on the superhero secret identity trope.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 11 #6 (Published by Dark Horse; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The fact that Season 11 is proving to be the best stretch Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic books is no small feat, especially since it has been built on the back of a premise that could have ended disastrously early on. When Buffy tackles social commentary, it tends to lose sight of the intense emotional relatability that the characters have. Not only does writer Christos Gage avoid any such pitfalls, but does so in a way that seems effortless. The characters never break for the sake of the plot, and throughout the course of the sixth issue sees them react with the full weight of magical being internment and genocide weighing on them. Artistically, Rebekah Isaacs is consistently strong throughout. Isaacs attention to showing the physical toll that fighting takes on Buffy is particularly interesting. This arc has really been incredible both for fans who have been following the franchise’s comic books and for fans of the show interested in jumping in.
Batwoman #2 (Published by DC Comics; Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): This book is not shaping up at all. We’re three issues into the Marguerite Bennett/James Tynion IV/Steve Epting run and we don’t have much to show for it. Exposition is really the name of the game in a story that introduces a ton of characters that we’ve never seen before in addition to a secret history for the main character and Bennett and Tynion really lean into it. Steve Cox gets credit for figuring our how to lead the readers eyes with caption boxes while not blocking any essential parts of the art. There are a ton of words in this one and that’s something we’ve seen from Bennett before. I don’t think the book is better for it. It’s kind of a slog, save for the fight scene in the middle of the book. Steve Epting’s art is mostly what you’d come to expect from an artist of his caliber but he does make a few odd choices here and there. There are lots of shots of Batwoman from behind, almost like you’re playing a third-person video game rather than reading a comic. Thankfully, he gets to show off a bit in that fight scene though when the script stops choking out the art. Hopefully, this book can rally once we get away from this secret history story.
Moon Knight #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Robert Reed; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): At this point, not much can be said about how stellar this run of Moon Knight has been. The artwork by Greg Smallwood and Jordie Bellaire is simply impeccable, especially in the way they can bounce back and forth between Moon Knight’s supernatural battle with Khonshu and Marc’s brutal, real-world encounter with Bushman. Jeff Lemire handles the villain extremely well; Bushman has often felt cartoonishly evil or a racist caricature (and sometimes both), but Lemire gives him a vicious efficiency that fits with his mercenary background. Marc’s present conflict with Khonshu is one of the series’ trippiest sequences, and that’s saying something considering the space pyramids in prior issues. In this scene, Jordie Bellaire uses a narrow, high-contrast palette that visually emphasizes the conflict between the hero, Marc, and the villain, Khonshu. Moon Knight has been a beautiful, horrifying epic thus far, and it will be exciting to see how it all concludes next month.
Royals #2 (Published by Marvel; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Has Medusa mentioned that she’s dying in Royals #2? The number of times that some variation of that exposition is dropped throughout the course of the issue takes what should be one of the most important plot developments for the Inhumans of the past decade and robs it of emotional resonance. Medusa can be brave without being flippant about dying. As the Inhumans soar through the cosmos they encounter a Chitauri swarm. The fact that it is described as a more dangerous threat than the Annihilation Wave and then disposed of over the course of a single issue really banks on the reader’s recollection of that event being vague at best. The closing moments of the issue are noteworthy and have the emotional honesty and intrigue that shows Al Ewing’s writing at its best, with the reveal that Black Bolt has been Maximus in disguise being a slight redemption for the hiccups of the issue. Artists Jonboy Meyers and Thony Silas are the standouts of the issue with breathtaking art for any panel involving the distant future and for a vivid splash of the Chitauri swarm.
Super Sons #3 (Published by DC Comics; Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Between Superman and Super Sons, Peter J. Tomasi is running circles around other superhero writers right now. Not only is he bringing added depth to Damian Wayne and Jonathan Kent, he’s doing so by embracing everything that makes superhero comics fun. Jon and Damian are great characters to pair together because they couldn’t be more different. Plus their age difference and obviously, vastly different power sets make for unique worldviews that affect the situations they find themselves in. Tomasi never plays favorites and has a balanced approach the script that really works. And Jorge Jimenez just absolutely makes this one sing. Jimenez has the physical comedy present in all of these scripts down to a science and he’s still able to deliver really effective fight choreography as well. And I can’t say this enough, but he actually draws children that look like children. That’s huge for a genre that has seemingly very few artists that can do this well. Super Sons needs to be on your pull list if you’re into solid, over-the-top fun in your capes comics.
The Amory Wars: Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Reviewing The Amory Wars comics is a daunting task. As a series, it carries with it enough multimedia elements and extra-textual necessity to rival the .hack franchise. As an entity that exists in a vacuum, The Amory Wars: Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV #1 is convoluted and inaccessible, but with strong characterization and wildly interesting interplay between its two primary plots. The problem is that 2017 is so far away from the previous Amory Wars comic books, let alone the Coheed & Cambria that it represents, that this is ultimately only going to be for the diehard fans who memorized their lyric booklets in 2005. By that benchmark, the comic is a success and one that will leave fans ecstatic. While there are stray panels that seem like they belong in different comics, Rags Morales art style works with the space opera unfolding in the issue. Chondra Echert's writing is the real star of the issue, with remarkably clever transitions between story threads and a recurring motif of divinity through dialogue, as well as the aforementioned strong characterization.