Greetings, ‘Rama readers - ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews - so kick off with Jaunting Justin Partridge, as he takes a look at the space-noir of Rocket…
Rocket #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Rocket Raccoon stars in the Ocean’s Eleven-themed space opera you didn’t know you wanted in the debut of Rocket. Dejected and recuperating from the recent “flark up” on Earth, Rocket only wants to crawl into a bottle and drink himself back into good spirits. But an otter from his past (yes, you read that right) has a job for him, and again Rocket finds himself back in the game and pulling jobs for the right reasons. Al Ewing, who does a stellar job of melding noir, science fiction, and comedy, plays this whole thing fairly straight allowing the somewhat bananas story and concept to sink in fully. All in all, this first issue reads like a Gregory McDonald Fletch novel in space and that’s quite alright by me. Artists Michael Garland and Adam Gorham commit fully to the visual trappings of each genre being played with here, filling narration heavy homage pages to Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser with multi-colored aliens and dingy cosmic bars that look pulled right out of the pages of 2000 AD. Filled with sass, crime, and dames that are also otters, Rocket #1 is a silly but deceptively competent return to the life for our favorite gun-toting furball.
All-Star Batman #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): “He’s an absurd human being, is the truth...bloody absurd. And I love him for it.”. All-Star Batman continues to surprise as Scott Snyder and company give us a superheroic pirate adventure starring Alfred Pennyworth and yes, you read that correctly. Framed by a Miami crime war between the ancestors of infamous pirates and some of Gotham’s hardest crime bosses, Scott Snyder uses the aforementioned hook as steady scaffolding for an exploration of Alfred and his relationship with Bruce, both personal and working. Snyder even entices the reader further with a neatly packed bait-and-switch flashback into the men’s history. American Vampire co-creator Rafael Albuquerque is back on the scene and delivering his trademark shifty and propulsive style, but he is supported by the secret weapon that is Jordie Bellaire who layers All-Star Batman’s Miami with a muggy Michael Mann-esque color scheme that is more than appropriate. He has often teased it but now Scott Snyder has gone full Batman: The Animated Series in a way that only he and the artists can deliver.
Secret Warriors #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Daisy Johnson gathers a team of Gloriously Inhuman Basterds to Make Hydra Afraid Again in the breath of fresh Secret Empire air that is Secret Warriors #1. Capitalizing on the dark horse success of Kingpin, writer Matthew Rosenberg now turns his eye and knack for propulsive dialogue to Daisy and her plan to gather an underground resistance to fight Hydra after being walked into a meat grinder by Supreme Leader Rogers. Though Rosenberg’s dialogue is often hilarious and is given a neat MCU cadence thanks to some title cards from Clayton Cowles, his script carries a sharp edge to it as it confronts nationalism and racism head on with panache and gravitas. Artist Javier Garron and colorist Israel Silva play to the back of the house with garishly colored splashy set pieces and tense spy drama like interactions soaked in sterile looking florescent lighting. Mobilized, angry, and chock full of great character moments (Karnak meeting Moon Girl will leave you snorting like a dork), Secret Warriors #1 is the right team for the right time in today’s dark and divisive comics landscape.
The Fix #9 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Did you know Nick Spencer wrote books other than Captain America? For all the controversy he’s courted for his Secret Empire work, it’d be easy to forget about his Image book The Fix - and boy, would you be missing out. This book is Spencer at his best, and this is even considering this issue starts off with a lengthy recap and takes a weird detour that ends in a masturbation joke. But there’s a specificity and level of deliberateness to this book that makes The Fix one of the strongest creator-owned titles on the market. Much of this comes from artist Steve Lieber, whose commitment to just how stupid and egotistical corrupt cop Roy is just brings the humor to new heights - but even underneath all the fun acting, there’s such a strong craftsmanship to his layouts and compositions, allowing Spencer to pack in that much more dialogue and development into his pages. And that allows The Fix its own unique voice, as Roy winds up going from being in paradise to getting a lesson in Hollywood economics from the star of the television show, The Horny Grandma. Is it puerile? Certainly. But it’s also certainly well-plotted, making The Fix one of the most bankable Image titles around.
X-Men: Blue #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Put simply, this book is a joy. Cullen Bunn is adding layer upon layer of new mystery to this X-Men squad and really preparing readers for what feels right now like big payoffs down the line. And the more he keeps writing this team, the better a handle he gets on the dynamics of these characters. 2017 is really the year of having Jean Grey in the spotlight and Bunn puts her leadership qualities on display. Bunn’s Bastion gambit is a clever little twist on the character and it means that he’ll be a thorn in these X-Men’s side in stories to come. These kids are learning that the world is a moral grey area and their actions fall into that. How can they remain heroes when it seems like everything is pulling them the other way? Jorge Molina is really just killing it on this book. His cartooning is pitch-perfect for the story that Bunn is telling. His Sentinel designs are an excellent modern update. His page layouts are clear and concise, but he’s not afraid to mix things up a little to keep them from looking stale. And the amount of information that he’s about to communicate with his expression work only enhances the script. Ray Anthony-Height deserves mention, too - while the transition between the two artists' pencils isn’t exactly seamless, his work still fits the tone of the book and flows well out of Molina’s pages. If you’re an X-Men fan and you aren’t reading X-Men: Blue, are you really an X-Men fan? It’s that good.
Bug!: The Adventures of Forager #1 (Published by DC Comics; Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It’s an all Allred affair on Young Animal’s latest foray into funny books and this time they’re dipping their toes into Jack “The King” Kirby’s Fourth World saga! What’s really fun about this issue is that it just kind of drops you in and let’s the story take you where it may. There’s a certain Silver Age-y feel to the proceedings and Laura, Lee, and Mike Allred are a perfect fit for that kind of story. Kirby stories are almost always bursting with imagination but still have a relatable core. That’s what the Allreds are able to craft here. For those unfamiliar with the history of these characters, there might not be as much in it for them. It’s a bit scattershot, but that’s infinitely more fun if you know what’s going on. And that’s to say nothing of Mike Allred’s art. The man is pretty much a picture of consistency, bringing an indie comics edge to characters from one of the greatest epics in the history of the Big Two. Young Animal has been great about broadening the edges of the main DCU in meaningful and interesting ways, Bug! is no exception.
Ms. Marvel #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): After an intense arc with villain Doc.X, Ms. Marvel shifts gears and focuses on supporting character Bruno Carrelli as he adjusts to school life in Wakanda. Ms. Marvel #18 sadly misses a lot of opportunities for a psychologically-driven story about living life with a disability. While one would think readers’ reunion with Bruno would focus on his personal narrative more, G. Willow Wilson’s script winds up getting sidetracked by its focus on its Wakandan setting, making Bruno’s physical struggles post-Civil War II feel more like an afterthought. (It also simultaneously makes us wish Bruno’s story could have been weaved through previous issues of the series, rather than dropping us into the deep end with one standalone issue.) Artist Francesco Gaston is a new contributor to Ms. Marvel, and with the help of recurring colorist Ian Herring, does a consistent job with the artwork for this one-shot story. His pencils match the expressive style of pervious artists on the series. Overall, Ms. Marvel #18 does a good job at giving an opportunity to explore one of Kamala’s supporting characters, but with Bruno’s emotional arc only touching the surface, the issue can’t help but feeling a little bit like filler.
Black Cloud #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): After a strong first installment, Black Cloud succumbs to the sophomore slump, with its scattered plotting feeling more threadbare thanks to a drop-off in the art. Last issue, artist Greg Hinkle and colorist Matt Wilson stole the show, bouncing from gritty flashbacks to eye-popping colors against black-and-white backgrounds to some particularly ingenious character designs. But Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon’s script doesn’t have that same spark this second time around, and given how coy they’re playing the actual narrative, that doesn’t bode well for this book - if our lead character Zelda barely has any idea of what’s going on, how are readers supposed to follow her? While Latour and Brandon tease the ideascape that Zelda is trying desperately to reenter, there’s still so much in the dour real world that doesn’t play to Hinkle or Wilson’s strengths - Hinkle is a skilled cartoonist, but his sense of design is far superior, and this results in a book that doesn’t catch a spark while it’s loading us up with sparse bits of exposition. There’s the potential for something good with Black Cloud, but the creative team needs to quit beating around the bush and solidify its premise and execution if it wants readers to stick around.
America #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Miss America continues her journey toward self-realization in the stylish-but-jumbled America #3. Writer Gabby Rivera downshifts considerably in the first half of this new installment, letting readers in on America Chavez’s childhood as she attempted to glean a family and culture from various families and groups around this world. This stuff is truly top-notch and allows Rivera to reveal a new softer side of America, one stripped of all her tough guy posturing. However, once the dimension hopping starts back up America #3 starts to feel put upon and forced and that’s only exacerbated by Rivera’s choppy, feverishly paced scripting that quickly leaves readers behind and cares little about them catching up. The art, however, is still as gorgeous as ever as Joe Quinones, Joe Rivera, and Jose Villarrubia are joined by Stacey Lee and Jordan Gibson, giving the art the same slickly-rounded look, but with an extra level of detailing this issue. While still packing the same day-glo-colored punch with the art, America #3 is still a solid read, though a bit more scattered than I would like.