Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday rapids? Best Shots has you covered, as we kick off today’s column with the latest issue of Darth Vader…
Darth Vader #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Writer Charles Soule and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli deliver a strong outing for the Dark Lord of the Sith in Darth Vader #4. Pitting a lightsaber-less Vader against one of the last Jedi holdouts, Soule ratchets up the stakes by putting Vader in a surprisingly vulnerable position, forced to repair his shattered armor with the remains of a guard droid, literally propping himself up on a borrowed cybernetic leg. But while Soule tees up the story, it’s Camuncoli that really makes this book a showstopper, adding in a visual vocabulary for Vader that we haven’t seen elsewhere, as we see the rage in his eyes as he calls the Jedi recluse Kirak out for battle. Occasionally, some of the moments don’t translate as well for a static medium like comic books - there’s a sequence involving Vader using Force telekinesis that would have definitely killed in a film or TV show - but by and large, this is a no-frills fight book that will definitely have fans of the Sith Lord cheering.
Batman #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): As “The War of Jokes and Riddles” rages on in the pages of Batman #28, writer Tom King continues his balancing act between what’s been both a slow burn and an emotional roller coaster, steadily moving a number of pieces into place for the inevitable climax, with no shortage of casualties along the way. The highlight of the issue is a Mayweather vs. Pacquiao-esque battle between DC’s two most notorious assassins, Deathstroke and Deadshot, who - at this point in the Dark Knight’s career - are in an entirely different weight class (“But these were the best mercenaries in the world. And I was a year away from kicking a tree,” Batman says, calling back to Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s “Batman: Year One”). Nevertheless, King’s Batman still manages to achieve a Rocky Balboa-sized victory, but it’s merely one small battle in the ongoing war. Aesthetically, King’s visceral narrative is complemented by Mikel Janin’s stunningly clean linework, with meticulous detail in every panel, from the smallest facial expressions to the grandiose Gotham cityscape. And once again, June Chung’s color art manages to transcend the medium, particularly in the double-page spread that sees the Caped Crusader attempt to pick up the pieces of Deathstroke and Deadshot’s battle, all while engulfed in a red-hot cascade of blazing fire. When all is said and done, Batman #28 probably won’t be the biggest game-changer in “The War of Jokes and Riddles,” but much like war itself, every battle is an essential part of the outcome, and this issue is no different.
Seven to Eternity #8 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Seven to Eternity has always had a weird all its own. Unlike fellow Image alum Saga whose storytelling oddities always seem like highly improvised jazz, writer Rick Remender has always made his comic books seem more baroque, with a sense of narrative and thematic grandiosity and meticulous craftsmanship. This extends to the artwork, which James Harren has drawn and Matt Hollingsworth has colored to seem unmistakably foreign while never appearing messy or disjointed. Taking a break from the twist of Adam Osiris’s defection to at least temporarily aid the Mud King, this issue follows what Adam left behind along with Adam’s daughter as they still pick up the pieces from the fifth issue. The balance of action and character-based drama is impressive throughout, as Remender’s storytelling remains as consistent and gripping as ever, despite the distance from the main protagonist. The downside is that this is a comic that is aggressively alienating to new readers, even more than this series usually is. Following every issue preceding Seven to Eternity #8 gives readers the required insight into the alien world that Remender has written and artist James Harren has drawn. It isn’t a completely negative way to tell a story, but this issue has a larger barrier of entry than most. It is a series that likely performs better in trades than in individual issues, which is a shame because this sprawling story has an unrelenting pace and is frequently a top book of the weeks that it comes out.
Black Bolt #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): There is a nostalgic quality to Black Bolt #4, and not in the sense that Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward are trying to cheaply cash in on anything. It’s deeper than that, and down to the presentation of the comic itself. It genuinely feels like a mid-’80s comic book, a trait that is indebted to both its panel layout and Ahmed’s writing. If there is a narrative thread that ties this series together, it's that there are things within your control and things beyond your control, and even though it may seem like we are the ones governing over that line, we are not. Ward’s art is, of course, a huge factor in that, as it is still one of the best elements of any comic book in 2017. The comic book rotates between the oppressive atmosphere that has been standard since the first issue and a heartfelt examination of Crusher Creel the Absorbing Man, and even manages a few genuinely comedic panels when it emerges from its flashbacks. While the exposition-heavy nature of this issue seems to come at an odd time in the overall series’ narrative, the exploration of street-level villain Creel in such a sympathetic yet fair light makes this one of the best issues of the series so far, even before it emotionally wrecks readers in its final panels.
World Reader #5 (Published by Aftershock; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Sarah the “world reader” comes face-to-face with the unexpected killer of worlds in this powerful issue that delivers revelations, deep monologue, and emotional punches. The pacing for this series has been phenomenal, and World Reader #5 is no exception. The mystery surrounding the death of these planets isn’t dragged out, and it’s a pleasure to see the series dig deeper into Sarah’s world reading abilities with every new installment. Juan Doe’s psychedelic coloring is one of the biggest highlights for the book, and is a great fit with Jeff Loveness’ interpersonal, ethical and psychological narrative. World Reader continues to be a great character driven mystery, which respects its audience by giving just the right amount of questions and answers in every issue.