Best Shots Rapid-Fire Reviews: SPIDER-MEN II #1, BUG! #3, WRESTLEMON VOL. 1, More

Bug! #3
Credit: Paul Pope/Paul Maybury (DC Comics/Young Animal)
Credit: Marvel Comics

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 check in with Kafkaesque Kat Calamia, as she takes a look at Spider-Men II

Spider-Men II #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Spider-Men II is the sequel to 2012’s miniseries, where Miles Morales of the Ultimate Universe teamed up with Peter Parker of the 616-Universe, but now that Miles is in the 616-Universe, is a sequel to Spider-Men necessary? Sadly, after reading this issue, I say no. What made the original Spider-Men so great was that it was the first-ever team-up between Miles and Peter, the first overlap between the 616 and Ultimate Universes – the story felt like an event. But this issue puts too much focus on the daily lives of Peter and Miles as the rest of the story convolutedly tries to explain how the original Spider-Men team up makes sense after the events of Secret Wars. I also didn’t find the chemistry between Peter and Miles particularly entertaining, as the issue opens up with a future scene of Peter resenting Miles for becoming Spider-Man, which makes it hard to invest in their dynamic as a team. The biggest strength of this issue is the return of original Miles Morales artist Sara Pichelli, whose expressive characters paired with Justin Ponsor’s colors makes every scene pop off the page. There’s a good balance between action and character moments allowing for some dynamic artwork - however, Spider-Men II #1 doesn’t work in a post-Secret Wars Marvel universe, and turns you away from the once-interesting question of “Who is the other Miles?”

Credit: DC Comics

Bug! The Adventures of Forager #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Taking a yak ride is just the start of Bug! The Adventures of Forager #3 as Lee, Michael and Laura Allred continue their Young Animal jaunt in which Forager gets answers he’s none too thrilled to hear. On one page, Forager seems to tumble through the panels, an effortless flow from Michael Allred, but no doubt helped by the rest of the team - including letterer Nate Piekos - and their synchronicity. It’s the type of page that shows what a team is capable of, but without a sense that they’re doing it purely to show off – it fits organically with the aesthetic of the series. As expected, Laura Allred’s colors pop regardless of what gets thrown at her and Lee Allred’s script never seems to slow down in adding new concepts and ideas to this narrative. Early on Forager remarks his stumbling through dimensions is getting monotonous, but he’s in the wrong, for this continues to be delightful, packed with substance and craft in equal measure.

Credit: Amancay Nahuelpan/Tyler Boss (Black Mask Studios)

Calexit #1 (Published by Black Mask Studios; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It sure seems like a lot of pop culture and media is prescient these days - that or more important now than ever. While a lot of these are the result of re-evaluations leading to alternative interpretations, Black Mask’s Calexit is directly tied to the current political climate. Instead of considering purely what brought us to this point Matteo Pizzolo offers a tale of where we could go. It’s overtly political from the get go and unflinching in how it handles that. Amancay Niuean and Tyler Boss deliver panels that are always changing perspective, eager to show more of this world and Richard Nisa’s maps give it a Jonathan Hickman-like quality. The world is harsh, but also insane – a place where a Wonder Woman cosplayer cops to the fact she’d punch a Nazi – and in that way, it’s like Southland Tales. The books released by Black Mask Studios usually have their finger on the pulse, this is no different. An oversized issue rich with story, Calexit comes out swinging, and it’s commendable that it throws so many punches and pulls none of them.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Hulk #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): In the last issue of Hulk, Jen’s favorite Internet chef, Oliver, turned into a monster during the taping of one of his shows. Hulk #8 deals with the aftermath of this event where Jen struggles with the idea of being a hero and saving the day – something that used to come very easily to her as She-Hulk. This issue is a bit of a slow burn, but does a nice job at developing Oliver’s character and making the reader care about his monster condition progressively getting worse. Mariko Tamaki’s biggest strength is with Jen’s inner monologue as she must assess to this monstrous situation with Oliver. That said, I wish this issue focused more on Jen’s inner turmoil. The series has done a great job of portraying Jen’s mental health up to this point, but Jen’s psychological narrative wasn’t as strong of a focus in this issue. Georges Duarte’s pencils have been a huge strength for this current arc of Hulk. He keeps the simplicity of Nico Leon’s art style, while portraying the emotions needed for a story about mental health. My favorite scene from Duarte is when Jen free-falls off a building showing the character physically and emotionally finally letting go and embracing the Hulk. Hulk #8 isn’t the strongest psychological issue compared to the rest of the series, but is still a good set-up to allow readers to feel invested in the current arc.

Credit: DC Comics

Flash #26 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): While Flash #26 undoubtedly opens with and culminates in strong moments, it seems that writer Joshua Williamson sacrificed parts of this issue to focus on what will likely be resolved in the next chapter of the arc. Unlike Flash #25’s well-paced dive into character histories, this issue slows down for character moments. Barry’s acceptance of Thawne’s offer to go to the Negative Speed Force and act as Reverse-Flash’s power supply in exchange for Iris’s safety would ordinarily make sense, but Barry’s blind faith in his adversary really has him come across more as dim than flawed. Flash’s time in the Negative Speed Force gives him a profound moment of embracing his identity over his heroic alter ego while artist Howard Porter delivers some of his best panels in the book with his depiction of the minimalist nightmare of his location. Despite some dragging issues and the occasionally oddly drawn face, this comic ends with the promise of an impressive confrontation in the next issue. It might make the arc stronger overall, but it hurts the issue.

Credit: Oni

Not Drunk Enough, Book 1 (Published by Oni Press; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Oni Press has collected Tessa Stone’s horrifyingly funny webcomic Not Drunk Enough in a beautiful single volume after a successful run on Kickstarter. Stone’s comic follows Logan, an unlucky technician who finds himself trapped in a house of horrors after a late-night repair call to a giant corporation goes terribly wrong. Stone’s art is charming and stomach-churning in equal measure - her character designs engaging and her monsters deeply unsettling. Not Drunk Enough is a campy, gory romp that leans into the standard tropes of the horror genre with impeccable comedic timing, and layers it onto a strange and emotional tale of fatherly devotion and corporate espionage. Stone’s colors are beautiful, creating a sense of dread and watchfulness and adding to the impact of the gore with vibrantly bright reds, and her lettering throughout is absolutely incredible. Stone perfectly captures volume and urgency in her layouts and meticulous writing, and the visual effects are beautifully rendered with a distinctive style perfectly suited to Not Drunk Enough’s off-kilter illustrations. Not Drunk Enough is a must-read for horror fans, and an incredible showcase of Stone’s talents as an illustrator and storyteller.

Credit: Gordon McAlpin

Multiplex: The Revenge (Published by Chase Sequence; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Gordon McAlpin’s long-running webcomic/sitcom Multiplex, following the lives of a beleaguered band of cinema staffers, may have ended, but now’s the perfect time to dive in and start catching up on its 12-year run. The Revenge collects over a hundred panels of the original webcomic, with additional material and notations from McAlpin to make the print volume worth your while. New readers will find themselves a little lost to start, but McAlpin has such a solid grasp of the characters that it’s easy to get a sense of the interpersonal dynamics at play in the Multiplex theater. The digitally rendered art is surprisingly soft and expressive at times, but the more traditional black-and-white spreads are McAlpin’s strongest work in this volume - particularly a hilarious sequence where the Multiplex gang battle it out over everyone’s favorite kart racing game. Some of the humor is a bit juvenile, and reads like in-jokes between friends that spiraled a bit too far, particularly gay jokes that never seem to go anywhere - notably a character turning into a flat gay stereotype after an encounter with two drag queens that seems exclusively played for laughs. The more human moments, however, such as the exploration of how difficult it can be to maintain a relationship when you’re partner is on the opposite end of the theological spectrum, are touching and thoughtfully done. On the whole, Multiplex: The Revenge is a light-hearted and entertaining read that manages to never devolve into punching-down edginess even if a few of its jokes miss the mark.

Credit: Rent-A-Thug

Wrestlemon, Vol. 1 (Published by Rent-A-Thug Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): If you’re looking for a fun read that transmutes all the stranger elements of Pokemon into something a little less unsettling than pocket monster death matches, look no further than Jeff Martin’s Wrestlemon on Comixology, or in print through DriveThruComics. As a parody graphic novel its name might be a bit on the nose, but Martin offers up an utterly endearing, kid-friendly tale about a young trainer named Jacey and her maybe-robot wrestlemon pal, Technico, as they pursue their dream of becoming wrestlemon battle main eventers. Martin’s choice to render the book in simple black and white gives him the freedom to go all-out with the action scenes - there’s almost too much going on in some of Jacey and Technico’s earlier tag battles, in a way that might have been muddied up in the bright, eye-popping colors you might have expected to see. Whether you’re a wrestling fan or a fan of the pocket monster genre, or maybe both, Martin keeps the story simple and fun to follow; it’s easy to pick up the wrestling terminology Martin borrows for Jacey’s world, and while the monsters might look a little too familiar, Martin does an excellent job matching them up with surprisingly appropriate wrestling counterparts. Sometimes you just want to read something cheesy and fun, and Wrestlemon absolutely delivers.

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