Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, as we tackle this week’s books! So let’s kick off with Kickboxin’ Kat Calamia, who takes a look at the latest issue of Hulk…
Hulk #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Hulk #6 marks the last installment of the series’ first story arc as Jen Walters unleashes the Hulk. The first five issues of the series felt like a slow burn as these issues built up tension, and with Hulk #6 this story method is proven to succeed as Jen embraces her built-up anxiety in an emotional battle between her and Maise. This story showcases a different type of Hulk — one driven by fear instead of confidence — and yet Jen winds up embracing this as a strength to save Maise from herself. Hulk #6 showcases some of the art team’s best work yet. The issue’s visuals are driven by action giving a nice balance to Mariko Tamaki’s psychological narrative. Nico Leon did a great job at designing Jen’s new Hulk. I was very impressed with the movements and posture Leon portrayed for the character, showcasing the Hulk’s anxiety. Overall, Tamaki continues to create an important emotional dialogue with Hulk #6 as Jen Walters starts to figure out what type of hero she wants to be, embracing the consequences of her trauma.
Wonder Woman Annual #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): On the week of her solo film outing, Diana gets four short and sweet stories to write home about. This quartet all have a very specific goal, from Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott’s depiction of when Diana first met Batman and Superman to Michael Moreci and Stephanie Hans’ picturesque tale of a sparring match in Japan. All these tales’ art is phenomenal – in Vita Ayala’s story of a tension-filled trial, Claire Roe and Jordie Bellaire use heavy linework and blacks in a way that avoids feeling oppressive despite the setting and while David Lafuente’s work in Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing’s “The Last Kaiju” may initially feel a stark contrast to the prior work in the issue, it fast reveals itself to be elegant for the heart-warming story being told.
Secret Empire #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): If Secret Empire has one thing going for it, it’s that the pacing is precise. Even as more threads get strung together, to the point where it’s not easy to quickly sum up what’s going on, Nick Spencer never spends too long away from them or too long on them to distract from others. The background colors of Andrea Sorrentino help to separate these sections, which is immensely useful because the rest of his work here could use an actual colorist to set apart the elements of a scene. Sorrentino’s choices may assist with tone, but when compared to Rod Reis’ opening pages, they can’t help but feel undefined by comparison. The sheer number of things going on means that Spencer isn’t getting as bogged down in the moral quagmire that Secret Empire is as he did at the start, or at least he isn’t explicitly as it remains an implicit part of the text, however, as it ropes in more and more characters in ways that may not seem “in character” or through easy ideas such as brainwashing, it seems less like a game of chess where the pieces move as expected, and more like someone playing with action figures, being used in whatever role is necessary for the plot.
Teen Titans: Lazarus Contract Special #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Leave it to Christopher Priest to not only script half of this latest crossover, but to bring it home, and back to where it began in such a way that it astutely circumvents the issues of previous “Rebirth” crossovers - namely the lack of consequences. Slade Wilson’s rushing through the Speed Force in an attempt to bring back his son, Grant, while the Titans and Teen Titans look to stop him and deal with the fallout of his alterations. A lot of this crossover has been concerned with events in the past, and Priest’s non-linear style allows this issue to feel seamless instead of sluggish. It’s an issue that’s heavy with emotion and timelines, but also dense with characters and story. Despite this, Paul Pelletier clearly knows a story with this many moving parts can’t appear perplexing on the page and his composition keeps the issue racing towards its conclusion, which while it essentially ends three times, indicates the fallout of this crossover is bound to have real repercussions.
Cable #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): James Robinson and Carlos Pacheco drop us into the world of Cable with little in the way of explanation for, well, anything. I like the idea of being dropped into a story that’s already in progress, but that feels like it runs a little bit counter to Cable’s military background. So the character ends up doing a bunch of stuff, but the reader is kinda left wondering what they’re reading because they get zero context for his actions. Carlos Pacheco’s art works well for the story. He tones down Cable’s generally over-designed look considerably but keeps the time-traveling gunman extremely recognizable. Overall, everything in the story works together but it feels like a story with the pages that might inform the reader as to what is actually going on completely missing. This is not the best way to deliver a debut issue.
Motor Girl #6 (Published by Abstract Studio; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The UFOs have crashed landed as Terry Moore digs deeper into Sam’s time in the military, as well as her psychological hallucinations. While government agents come face-to-face with an alien spaceship, Sam witnesses a ray of light, which triggers a memory from her time in war that proves to be the series’ most powerful scene to date, as we learn the secrets behind Sam’s imaginary gorilla friend Mike. Flashing back to a harrowing scene of Sam discovering a young boy strapped to a bomb, we realize Mike is a figment of Sam’s imagination as she deals with her guilt from her time in war and her fear from being a POW. “He’ll keep me safe then,” she tells the boy, just before they’re covered in rubble. “And I’ll bring him back.” Moore on writing and art duty perfectly weaves in the symbolism needed for this storyline. Sam’s war scene is gut-wrenching because of Moore’s use of imagery. Motor Girl #6 is a great character-driven issue helping the reader better understand Sam’s state of mind.
Generation X #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): With this issue, Christina Strain finally clues us into her direction for the title, but the road to getting there is a snooze. While we don’t often get to see characters like Bling, Nature Girl and Eye Boy in other X-Men titles, this book makes it abundantly clear why: they’re honestly pretty boring. Quentin Quire is the main draw and folk that like to see him angsting about will have some fun, but even that schtick has gotten old. Amilcar Pinna is the kind of artist that I want to see drawing this weirdo cast - unfortunately, this is a fairly safe, by-the-numbers issue, and the warped panels and forced perspective just feel out of place. This is nothing like the Gen X that came before it — and it didn’t have to be. But readers hoping that Strain and Pinna could capture some of the outsider appeal of that title would be better served to look elsewhere.