Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week’s installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Klondike-Explorin’ Kat Calamia, as she takes a look at Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man…
Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1 brings this classic hero back to basics as New York’s friendly neighborhood superhero in a solid premiere focusing on Peter and his supporting cast. Chip Zdarsky nails the dialogue in this issue with great comedy spread throughout the story establishing an old school Spider-Man feel to the series. The strongest aspect of the issue is the bond between Human Torch and Spider-Man, as Zdarsky perfectly showcases their playful relationship as Johnny pokes fun at Spidey retelling his origin story for the millionth time. Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1 revels in Peter’s interactions with his supporting cast, but the villain plotline sadly falls flat. The mysterious Stark phone hack slows down the story as these scenes are too exposition-heavy to fully enjoy. The artwork by Adam Kubert is also a weaker component of the issue. The character line work is a bit messy, and clashes with the more detailed backgrounds. Overall, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1 introduces a promising story for nostalgic Spidey fans who’ve missed the “friendly neighborhood” aspect of the character, but the premiere issue proves that there are still some kinks to work out before the series can truly become great.
Super Sons #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The relationship between Damian Wayne and Jonathan Kent is truly one of the best things to come out of “Rebirth,” and DC is better for having Super Sons as part of their publishing line. Being the son of the two biggest superheroes in the world can be pretty daunting even if neither of them will admit it. Through this dynamic writer Peter J. Tomasi is able to explore the struggles of adolescence as well as the evolution of Batman and Superman’s relationship. The result is a book that’s funny and heartfelt. And that comes through despite the absence of Jorge Jimenez. Artist Alisson Borges proves themself a very worthy successor, putting their own spin on the cartoony, slapstick direction that Jimenez established. Super Sons is one of the most genuine and resounding books on the stands right now and it definitely deserves a place on your pull list.
Archie #21 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Archie #21 continues the life-changing arc “Over the Edge” as Mark Waid gives a spotlight to the community of Riverdale as they receive phone calls about the fate of a beloved character. In this issue, Waid does a good job at showing the normal lives of characters like Jughead and Veronica being turned upside down by one phone call – a call so devastating that Jughead, the man with a never-ending stomach, doesn’t finish his hamburger at Pop’s. This phone call story element works well to build tension for the reveal of the mystery character’s fate, but Waid has too many pages focusing on Riverdale’s mundane hijinks. This causes the issue to lose momentum from the overall message of how lives can change in a blink of an eye. The pencils by Pete Woods are solid for the issue, but there are moments where characters need more detailed facial expressions to better convey the urgency of their situation. Archie #21 mixes normal hijinks with emotional storytelling in a slightly unbalanced part two for “Over the Edge.”
America #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): America weathered a couple lackluster issues, but comes roaring back to life here. Rivera tones down some of the trademark quirkiness in her writing, trading sass and one-liners for some genuine emotional stakes - and she’s finally got a vice grip on who America is. The plotting is admittedly still a little bit obtuse but it’s becoming more streamlined as we move forward, indicating that Rivera may be playing a bit more of a long game than we realize. Ming Doyle and Joe Quinones remain two of the best artists in the business but I still don’t think their art flows well together. That said, their individual work is really strong. And despite a team of three different colorists (Jose Villarrubia, Jordan Gibson and Quinones) the palette is remarkably consistent which helps tie the differing artwork together. But it’s clear - this is Gabby Rivera’s America, and we’re just living in it.
Superman #25 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Twenty-five issues in, and Superman still isn’t losing steam. The “Fade to Black” arc wraps up in bombastic fashion, and what a long, strange trip it’s been. Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have been winding up readers with Kent family drama since the first issue, pitting father and against son, and the stakes have never been higher for a book that has put family at the core of its conceit. That’s what makes this book work so well. It doesn’t try to do too much. It creates threats that help underline the themes of the title rather than try to twist a Superman title into something that it isn’t. Of course, it helps to have Gleason and Doug Mahnke on the art side of things as well. Their complementary work sells not just the conflict, but the idea that things are back to normal when Gleason takes the reins again. It’s a really clever way to split the pages especially since Mahnke excels when drawing the darker threats brought on by Manchester Black and the Super Elite. DC should be doing whatever they can to keep this creative team together because it feels like there's absolutely no stopping them now.
Iceman #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Writer Sina Grace assured readers that in exploring Bobby Drake’s new status quo, we’d see the hero having some hard conversations with various characters that have come in and out of his life. Of course, that includes the various women he’s dated and perhaps none is higher profile than Kitty Pryde. Grace’s general approach remains the same as the debut. Ice puns? Check. Have a big conversation get sidetracked by superhero business? Check. But it’s the content of the conversation that’s lacking. Kitty’s own queerness is kind of an open secret for X-fans - but more than that I think her advice betrays the metaphor at the heart of the X-Men. For her to suggest that he needs to have a conversation with his parents means potentially opening himself up to even more of his parents’ bigotry. Because the fact is that queer folks’ biological families are not “all [they’ve] got.” Their chosen families, the people they surround themselves with on purpose, are bonds that are just as strong. But maybe the writing is already on the wall for this book. We already have a new art team. Pencillers Edgar Salazar and Ibraim Roberson render the world of the story with more realism than Alessandro Vitti did in the debut but it's all very utilitarian and generic. They don’t hurt the story but they don’t elevate it at all either.
Shirtless Bear Fighter #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): “Sometimes God makes a mistake… and makes a man… too much of a man.” Writers Jody LeHeup and Sebastian Girner team up with artist Nil Vendrell to create Shirtless Bear Fighter, which is pretty much as self-explanatory as it gets — man lives in the woods, punches bears, wears no shirt (and as his giant pixelated junk surprisingly suggests, often no pants, as well) - in a comic that’s half Chuck Norris jokes and half ‘80s action homage. LeHeup and Girner throw in non-stop action movie tropes to giggling effect, reminding me a lot of the old-school Hot Shots movies as we learn about a mountain man who was raised by bears… only to be betrayed, and fight them forever more. What sells this book is Vendrell’s bouncy and kinetic artwork — from SBF jumping out of his (sigh) Bear-Plane, or SBF suplexing a grizzly, or a flashback of baby SBF (complete with giant pixelated genitals), every page goes over-the-top in its quest for laughs. The real question, of course, is whether or not this creative team can sustain this pastiche of ‘80s action tropes without beating a dead horse (or in this case, bear). But as far as debuts go, Shirtless Bear Fighter winds up being worth its weight in maple syrup and flapjacks.
X-Men Gold #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): X-Men: Gold is trying so hard, y’all. And it finally feels like it’s starting to turn the corner. Marc Guggenheim digs into his cast here to varying degrees of success. His work with Rachel Summers is actually pretty interesting. Her role on the team is somewhat ill-defined past the team needing a powerful psychic but she’s a character with a lot of weird history. With another “don’t call it a reboot” of the Marvel Universe on the horizon, it looks like she could play a bigger a role than we know. Kitty is still in gung-ho leader mode and it’s all pretty good fun. She’s always been so capable that putting her in charge just makes sense. The strangest bit of the book has to be the Storm/Gambit interaction. Even when he makes mistakes, Remy isn’t really lacking in confidence, and Storm is not the type to kiss someone as a means of inspiring them. It’s an odd moment that I don’t think works in this context. RB Silva is back with some decent linework, but it looks like inker Adriano Di Benedetto drops some of the details here and there. The result is that faces are just straight missing details while other stuff (like two adorable pugs in the foreground of a splash page) are almost hyper-rendered. A bit more consistency from the art team would go a long way as the narrative starts to find its legs.