Best Shots Reviews: HAWKEYE #9, SUPERMAN #28

"Superman #28" cover
Credit: Ryan Sook (DC Comics)
Credit: Marvel Comics

Hawkeye #9
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Leonardo Romero and Jordie Bellaire
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Kat Calamia
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Hawkeye #9 throws Kate Bishop into the ring to help her teenage client save her father, a case that hits close to home as she deals with her own family drama. This is an issue that is full of Kate Bishop wit, but sadly only slowly progresses the series’ main plot between Kate and her father.

The fight club scenes are the most entertaining in the story as Kate uses humor as a defense mechanism to fight Clem, a man twice her size who has the ability to light himself on fire. During the fight Kate remembers the conversation she had with her father in the previous issue where he revealed that he had superpowers, and with this Kelly Thompson creates a hysterical scene where Kate tries to “activate” her abilities during the battle. This leads into a strong character moment where Kate uses her actual powerset of using her surroundings to defeat this powerful contender.

Leonardo Romero is a great collaborator for Thompson’s script as he perfectly portrays the balance of humor and action through his pencils in this fight club scene. Kate is constantly moving and dodging Clem’s attacks as she spews sarcastic remarks through her inner monologue and her regular dialogue in the ring. Romero truly shows the struggle Kate is having in the fight as he showcases the reality of fighting a man lit on fire. Kate must use her surroundings to create her own weapons instead of fighting Clem directly. Romero draws in small purple targets to help the reader understand Kate’s thought process and strategy during the fight.

When the issue is not focusing on Kate’s battle, Kelly Thompson switches the narrative to Kate’s friends trying to help Kate escape the fight club. The strongest voice in the friend group is Detective Rivera. Her tough love personality is a nice contrast to Kate’s 'go-getter' attitude. The other friends still haven’t found their voices so this creates for a slower narrative when Thompson switches to their point of view, but luckily Detective Rivera is the person to save Kate - creating a fun dynamic post-fight club battle.

This is a slower issue used to wrap up Kate’s current case, but the issue does pick up with its cliffhanger. It’s a bit ambiguous, but Thompson leaves the reader wanting more and gives promise that the Bishop family mystery will be continuing in more depth with the following issue.

Hawkeye #9 has its fun moments, but isn’t as strong as the previous issues in this arc. The story puts too much emphasis on Kate’s friends - characters who still need growth to hold their own story. This panel time could have been used to expand upon Kate’s father and his connection to Madame Masque, a story that could have paralleled stronger with the closing of Kate’s current father/daughter case.

Credit: Ryan Sook (DC Comics)

Superman #28
Written by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Art by Scott Godlewski and Gabe Eltaeb
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Joey Edsall
‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

Superman #28 is an issue that simultaneously has its heart in the right place while displaying little heart in its panels. It wants to mean something, but for all the reverence that writers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason put into the mouths of Clark Kent and Lois Lane throughout this issue, there’s an unintentional lack of realism rippling throughout the majority of the Kent family trip. As they spend the issue recounting facts - so, so many facts - about wars from World War II to Vietnam, it becomes easy to glaze over, and things that should never seem like just words on a page start to feel like exactly that. In the midst of this Scott Godlewski delivers noticeably grounded art that conveys humanity in a strong way, despite an occasionally awkward panel and an uncomfortable disconnected feeling with the narrative.

The issue opens with the Kent’s walking down the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building between a parted sea of political protesters, who, despite having mostly obscured signs, are clearly coded as left-leaning or right-leaning. Superman’s line about freedom being about “having a different opinion and not worrying about repercussions,” which is a fine sentiment, but removes the situation of any nuance. It all really leaves the reader wondering who this is for. If you want your Superman issue to be, for lack of a better word, woke, then why have everything so vague and topped with a toothless nicety? If you prefer your superhero comic books to be your escape from 2017’s political migraines, which is an equally valid preference, why include the scene at all? This is a issue rated for teens that is targeting teenagers and adults, but it gives them an elementary school message.

Immediately following this, the Kent parents begin their tour of a war monument while reading the history of the conflicts on the memorial’s plaques. This is a fine little back and forth between Clark and Lois, but when it ends and they begin elaborating on the Korean War with their son Jonathan, things get much more trying for the reader. The biggest issue is that people don’t talk the way Clark and Lois talk to Jonathan, and everything they say feels strangely unnatural. I’m not surprised that either of them are educated about the topic, but there’s just a void of emotion in what they say and the way they are depicted as saying it. The issue of lack of nuance pops up again, because despite the lengthy and technical explanation of war and police actions, there isn’t a mention of the Cold War to be found. Godlewski’s art is arguably showing the Kent’s at their must human and relatable, but when they speak the way they do it feels like there are twice as many extraterrestrials as there should be. Gabe Eltaeb’s coloring is solid throughout the issue, but he makes these nighttime panels the best in the issue with his use of light and shadow.

Then the family flies to Gettysburg and the parents start talking at the reader again, with Lois going as far as to reading and citing a specific website. The art is trying its hardest to make this scene mean something by doing some interplay between panels with ghostly overlays for the audience and cellphone picture screens. It all rings a little hollow until Jonathan says “I can feel their fear of dying in the air." It is a conspicuously heartfelt and emotionally resonant line in a comic lacking such moments, and as a result Superboy winds up being the only character that feels like an actual person throughout the comic, as he honors the dead but never stops being a child in his depiction through both art and script. The issue concludes after the Kent’s encounter another family who recount the tragic wartime death of an ancestor whose remains were never recovered. Later that night, Clark goes to recover and return the ancestor’s skeletal remains after a refreshingly human moment between him and Lois.

The issue isn’t bad in the sense that it’s offensive, it just doesn’t have much to it. Most of this can be attributed to the onslaught of informative lectures from two thirds of the book’s main cast. The information itself isn’t the problem, as that could be integrated into a issue given the proper execution, but it’s just so absent of any emotional connection. Readers will likely be skipping over lines because they realize the lines don’t matter and won’t provide anything that a quick Google wouldn’t provide. There just isn’t much to hold onto and readers are given no reason to care.

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