Best Shots Reviews: NICK FURY #3, THE WILD STORM #5, CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #18, COLOSSI #3

Marvel Comics June 2017 solicitations
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Nick Fury #3
Written by James Robinson
Art by ACO, Hugo Petrus and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Robert Reed
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

From luxurious casinos to secret moon bases, Nick Fury is back on another mission. Nick Fury #3 sees the super-spy drawn to the deserts of Mexico, where he must protect a criminal from his would-be assassins. James Robinson’s snappy dialogue gives the story some real energy as artists ACO, Hugo Petrus, and Rachelle Rosenberg continue to dazzle with their artwork.

One of the main criticisms of Nick Fury has been the lack of depth or character development for the main protagonist, and unfortunately that does continue a bit here. Readers do learn a little more in this issue, such as the fact that Nick Fury, Jr. is still working on his flirting, and that he’ll make a fool of himself for the sake of his safety and the mission’s success - but there’s nothing really substantive or surprising.

At the same time, Robinson is clearly channeling a James Bond vibe with Nick Fury (including a playful jab at the way Bond likes his martinis), and the earlier Bond films weren’t particularly well known for their character development either. Still, if the series plans to have life beyond this initial arc, it would be nice to get inside the lead’s head every once in awhile. Robinson does introduce a potential supporting character here in Melod?a Dias, a member of the International Court of Justice. Dias and Nick share some flirtatious banter towards the end of the issue, and it’s nice to see Nick Fury, Jr. have someone to bounce off of beyond the villains in the book.

The art by ACO, Hugo Petrus, and Rachelle Rosenberg is still the primary draw. ACO juxtaposes a lot of smaller panels with large splash pages, echoing the confines of the train travelling through wide-open spaces. His linework is impeccable, cleanly capturing the detail in each panel that is necessary to convey they story while also leaving room for Rachelle Rosenberg to dazzle with her palette choices. Inker Hugo Petrus adds to the cohesive look, utilizing thin ink lines that emphasize the almost surreal cleanliness of the book’s design. There are places where inks are used more heavily, such as when Nick dusts himself off after ridding himself of an enemy on the roof of the train. Here some heavy shadow falls across Fury’s face, and the image itself is reminiscent of many western movie posters, with Fury standing broad-shouldered and the blazing sun behind him. It’s a stunningly cool image.

Rachelle Rosenberg still uses the vibrant palette she’s been using throughout the series - however the color choices and the desert setting that the train is passing through result in a different effect. On the moon, a pink sky creates a truly psychedelic impression. In the desert, the pinks and oranges capture the oppressive heat of the sun that fills the air. It’s impressive that Rosenberg can achieve these wildly different moods within the same palette, allowing the series to feel visually cohesive from one issue to the next without getting mundane or losing the vividness of earlier issues.

Nick Fury #3 is another stellar issue in the fledgling series. While some of the deficiencies in character development of the earlier issues have persisted, the issue still fully displays the strengths of the series. James Robinson’s dialogue pairs extremely well with the artwork by ACO, Petrus, and Rosenberg, creating a snappy and fun ride. This isn’t a series that you’ll reread for the plot machinations, but it’s one that creates an effect on the reader with its cool factor.

Credit: DC Comics

The Wild Storm #5
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Jon Davis-Hunt and Steve Buccellato
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by DC Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

We are five issues into DC’s ambitious WildStorm reimagining and it is finally starting to get going. Though Warren Ellis’ initial offerings were either a chilly sort of tease or action showcases, The Wild Storm #5 gets some of our major players interacting and jars others into finally being characters. Taking a surprisingly emotional turn, Ellis uses the intrigue and meticulously laid out action of the first four issues to inform the connections our cast makes this month. In doing so, they finally read like more than names checked off a wiki and re-downloaded back into the modern comic scene.

Though Steve Buccellato’s colors still add more cloudiness to the artwork than I would like (my kingdom for Ivan Plascencia!), he and Jon Davis-Hunt refocus their efforts well to the more character-centric and dialogue-heavy #5. Using the same rigidly effective layouts and spartan, closely focused panel construction, Davis-Hunt and Buccellato’s workmanlike pages sell both the painfully normal and mind-alteringly weird world of The Wild Storm, adding a new depth to their work by making their art extend an open palm instead of a closed fist. We still have nineteen more issues and an unknown amount of spin-offs to go in this world before all is said and done, but The Wild Storm #5 shows that it plans to occasionally think emotionally instead of just clinically and cynically.

Warren Ellis has always been a writer that succeeds on “moments.” His Moon Knight run is a great latest example. The Wild Storm #5 is another, but instead of being his usual kind of theatrical or violent, he applies this moment-to-moment thinking to the characters interacting instead of punching each other apart or trying to outplay them in the game of universal politics.

The amazing women of the series again take most of the main focus as Zealot continues to follow the bloody trail of Spica and the wild C.A.T. (Covert Action Team) while the Engineer and the anomalous Adrianna simply talk like human beings. Like I said, it isn’t the usual kind fare we get from Ellis, but The Wild Storm is taking more than a few cues from his, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire’s Injection, which does a fine job of balancing organic characters and strangeness. This series is a bit more, shall we say, corporate than Injection, but that isn’t a bad thing at all - especially when it takes the time to ground both the emotions and major players of this strange stylish world.

Both the Engineer Angela Spica and legendary black-ops agent Michael Cray benefit heavily from this new pathos-filled direction - and it’s about bloody time. Cray, who has been largely on the fringes, comes dangerously close to stealing the whole damn show with a meaty B-plot of him taking one last job to hunt down Spica to distract from his terminal brain tumor - only to realize how duplicitous his smiling boss Craven can and has been. This side plot is also given hefty gut punches of context for Cray as Ellis, Davis-Hunt, and Buccellato deliver a whirlwind origin story for Cray that gives you everything you need to know about his horrific service record condensed into 14 tiny panels.

Jon Davis-Hunt and Steve Buccellato aren’t given much by way of action this issue, but that doesn’t mean that they are resting on their laurels. What issue #5 lacks in propulsion, it more than makes up for in emoting and neatly segmented interactions. This comes across best in the scene of Angela and Adri having coffee.

As the two women connect as explorers of a sort and victims of circumstance as Adri reveals her origins in “The Bleed,” the first mention of the WildStorm staple, Davis-Hunt stages it much like an intimate one-act play, giving each woman equal standing in the conversation, ample panel room to detail their reactions, and providing a chilly ominousness in Adri’s memories of her “death.” I give Buccellato some grief for not being “clean” enough, but his warmth of color really shines in this particular scene and in the Cray flashbacks as well. He shifts well from contemplative voids and bleak hot pinks in the Adri/Spica scene to flatly haunting opaques in the Cray sequence. While it still isn’t as sleek as it should be, Jon Davis-Hunt and Steve Buccellato are still willing to head in whatever direction the series plans on taking.

Adri tells Spica this issue that “the truth is probably weirder” and the weird truth of The Wild Storm #5 is that it leads with its heart instead of its head this month. Warren Ellis, Jon Davis-Hunt, and Steve Buccellato have already done the hard part of establishing this world. Now, the harder part of establishing the people in said world can begin and by the looks of this fifth issue, that work might not be as hard as we might expect.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Captain America: Steve Rogers #18
Written by Nick Spencer and Donny Cates
Art by Javier Pina, Andres Guinaldo and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Robert Reed
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Steve Rogers addresses the world as Hydra continues its takeover in Captain America: Steve Rogers #18. With a tense script by Nick Spencer and Donny Cates and artwork by Javier Pina, Andres Guinaldo, and Rachelle Rosenberg, the newest issue in the series takes a look at some of the larger ramifications of the series on the world and just how some of Marvel’s other rulers respond to the new changes.

The issue mainly revolves around Steve Rogers addressing the United Nations. The plot comes to a head when the Black Panther appears in the issue, interrupting Steve’s address. In contrast to the previous issue, Captain America: Steve Rogers #18 is concerned with the effects of Hydra’s takeover around the globe, and so it’s nice to see the matter of Marvel’s fictional countries addressed - in particular, Wakanda. Considering that Ta-Nehisi Coates has T’Challa struggling with identity and leadership in his own book, it’s nice to see a return of the man who once plunged the world’s economy just to foil one of his foes. Whether by intent or serendipity, T’Challa is having a bit of a moment in the world right now, and it’s nice to see him get such a strong showing in an event. It will be interesting to see how he serves as an antagonist for the villainous Captain America moving forward.

Bookending the issue is Namor, another of Marvel’s monarchs. Namor reflects on his past with Steve Rogers as members of the original Invaders, up through the present where he now finds himself at odds with one of his closest friends and allies. It’s an interesting choice, and it contrasts Wakanda’s endurance with Atlantis’s fall. However, Namor’s inability to keep Hydra at bay isn’t actually shown in this issue, but instead simply acknowledged, leaving readers to search out other books in the Secret Empire crossover to fill in the blanks. While the point of a crossover is to invite readers to explore other books, it’s unfortunate when cases like Captain America: Steve Rogers #18 occur and the emotional core of the issue requires knowledge of events that happened elsewhere.

Unfortunately, the artwork by Javier Pina and Andres Guinaldo is inconsistent, at times even within a scene. The narrative draws readers to not only the Wakandan borders, but to Paris and China, allowing for cameos from characters that Nick Spencer developed back in Avengers World. Pina and Guinaldo transition between these settings and the United Nations fairly well, however not every image lands.

Though the pair handle Namor’s somber contemplativeness well, when T’Challa interrupts Steve’s press conference, Rogers appears to age almost 40 years, gaining jowls and an aged brow. It’s seemingly a mishap, trying to capture the rage and surprise of the situation, but it doesn’t hit the mark and becomes a distraction during the scene. These inconsistencies and omissions in the artwork and story hamper what might have been an excellent issue.

Captain America: Steve Rogers #18 provides a great overview of Hydra’s global conquest and a nice appearance from Black Panther - but the issue’s emotional depth lies with Namor’s loss, and it’s unfortunate that Nick Spencer and Donny Cates didn’t play into that a little more here. For readers following the event or this series, picking up this issue seems a no-brainer. For those who aren’t, there are frankly better entry points.

Credit: Vault Comics

Colossi #3
Written by Ricardo Mo
Art by Alberto Muriel, Stelladia
Lettering by HdE
Published by Vault Comics
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Colossi is a delightfully strange book that builds a huge world through the smallest details. Last week’s Colossi #3 finds the book’s protagonists with a surprising new ally and even more surprising new foes, and no closer to finding their way back home.

Ricardo Mo’s curious sci-fi tale follows the plight of commuter shuttle driver Carmen and the passengers of Shuttle 34. Mo and the creative team of artist Alberto Muriel and colorist Stelladia build a fascinating world from the outset that seems familiar and brand-new all at once. The shuttle passengers are precisely the sort of folks you’d expect to run into on your own morning commute in a bustling metropolis - businessmen, sweet and adorable older married women, even a nun - but Carmen and the passengers of hovering space-age Shuttle 34 are from a world in a future far from our own, or maybe another world altogether. After their shuttle gets sent through a wormhole, they find themselves in a similarly familiar world of gigantically different proportions.

Muriel’s art and Stelladia’s warm, muted colors make Carmen’s world seem comforting and familiar. It’s the proportions of Muriel’s illustrations, and the brighter, ghostly palette Stelladia brings to the revelation of Shuttle 34’s true foe, that make this alternate world begin to seem like a threat. Colossi #3 opens with close-up comforting moments as some of the shuttle passengers lounge around, taking advantage of a hot bath for the first time since their trials began or relaxing under the stars in a classy convertible.

For a moment it seems as if they’re safe and sound, but Muriel pans out to reveal the the truth of their situations - the bath is in the second story of a dollhouse, the car is parked next to a half-eaten chicken drumstick. One passenger is perched on the shoulder of Jessica, the young girl whose dollhouse they’ve taken up residence in. They’re cheerfully discussing their divergent histories over an encyclopedia, and Mo uses small moments to both confirm to Shuttle 34 that they’re in a new world altogether, not just mysteriously tiny, and also to confirm how different Shuttle 34 is from our own time.

Throughout, Colossi #3 feels like an engrossing and playful take on B-movie tropes. A surly businessman who falls to his knees upon discovering the sandwich he wanted to snatch is covered in ants the size of rats could have been Charleton Heston, and it’s easy to hear the succinct opening lines that summarize the plot so far read in Rod Sterling’s dulcet tones. Mo is a talented writer who, with Muriel and Stelladia, has built a world that’s unapologetically weird without explanation. We don’t need to know where Carmen’s shuttle came from, or what year it is where Jessica lives. We need to know what the menacing spirit possessing people from the Shuttle and Jessica’s town is, and Mo builds the threat with slow creeping dread that makes the moment you see the ghostly creature up close feel like a true jump scare when paired with the ghostly blues and purples Stelladia uses on Muriel’s eerie, misshapen faces. The sound effects in this scene will make your skin prickle with goosebumps.

There’s only one issue left in this four-part miniseries, making this month’s issue an excellent time to catch up. Colossi #3 is a gorgeously-illustrated installment in a miniseries that blends mystery with sci-fi, horror with comedy, and creates an unusual story perfect for fans of weird series like The Twilight Zone or even campier fare like Are You Afraid of the Dark?. The story of unsuspecting bus passengers who find themselves chased by malevolent spirits seems like precisely the kind of thing the Midnight Society would bring to the campfire, and Colossi #3 delivers on all of the spooky surprises you would want, managing to deliver surprisingly real bumps in the night in a visual medium.

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