Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your weekly pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week's Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off today's column with Kooky Kat Calamia, as she takes a look at Generations: Phoenix and Jean Grey...
Generations: Phoenix and Jean Grey #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Teenage Jean Grey meets up with her biggest nightmare – her older self — in this Generations one-shot. In her current ongoing series Jean’s fear of the Phoenix has been bubbling with every issue, and that fear spills into Generations as she’s forced to make one of the biggest decisions of her life. Does she stop her older self from becoming a monster? Writer Cullen Bunn makes this a very personal and emotional story for Jean by allowing her inner monologue to become the center of the book. Jean is having a hard time wrapping her head around the power of the Phoenix, but as she spends more time with her older self she sees a parallel in both of their insecurities. R.B. Silva’s pencils is a perfect fit for this book. It’s bright and expressive for the sunny setting of Jean Grey’s vacation spot. This setting contrasts the dark turn Jean is about to take as the Phoenix. Generations: Phoenix and Jean Grey #1 does exactly what you want with a book starring a telepathic superhero – it gets into her head.
Flash #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The start of a new arc, “Negative,” serves as a good jumping on point for fans curious as to what Barry Allen’s been up to lately and does a solid job of priming readers for what’s to come. Superheroes struggling with new or broken powers is nothing new but Joshua Williamson is really piling it on for Barry Allen. Not only did he learn that his actions as the Flash previously were hurting the people around him, now his powers legitimately cause rampant destruction wherever he goes. It’s a good enough hook that doesn’t devolve into just another battle of super speedsters. Instead, it delivers on the soap opera-styled drama that works so well for the beleaguered Barry Allen. And artist Carmine Di Giandomenico does everything he can to help the cause. Kineticism is paramount when you’ve got a main character who is so based around movement and speed. Di Giandomenico’s line work here is really strong because he utilizes different weights to communicate that energy. He takes some chances with perspective as well, not afraid to distend proportions to serve the action. Hi-Fi’s colors can be a tad too busy at times but overall, they work in tandem with the linework. This looks to be an exciting new chapter in Williamson’s run.
Superwoman #13 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Lana returns to her roots to discover the source of her abilities in a well-balanced issue that revels in Lana’s past while telling an intriguing story about her present. In Superwoman #13, Lana travels back to Smallville, and is overtaken by the power of Red Kryptonite, which is controlling both her and her old classmate Amos Aimes. In an ironic twist, the only person left to save Lana is none other than former class rival Lex Luthor. Writer K. Perkins does a great job at weaving Lana’s high school days to her present narrative as Superwoman. The Red Kryptonite is used as a tool to explore both versions of Lana, allowing the mystery behind Lana’s powers to finally start unraveling. This makes for a captivating story from start to finish. The cliffhanger of the issue was also a delight as it ties into another aspect of Lana’s history that sure will bring an interesting dynamic for the series’ next installment. Stephen Segovia’s pencils are solid for this issue giving a nice balanced look for both Lana’s high school days and superhero rampage. Superwoman #13 is one of the best issues in the series to date, celebrating Lana’s past while also looking towards the character’s future.
Hulk #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Hulk #9 continues to explore Jen’s struggles with her “inner monsters” as she must hunt former online chef, Oliver, who has just become a monster himself. Unfortunately, this issue feels repetitive and redundant when seen alongside the series’ previous installments, as writer Mariko Tamaki spends too much time expanding on Oliver’s personal life, information we’ve already received in previous issues. Meanwhile, the pencils by Julian Lopez and Francesco Gaston aren’t a good fit for this issue. The switch between two artists throughout the story is noticeable — the first half of the book is inked heavily giving the issue a darker feel, but when Jen turns into the Hulk at the end of the book the art becomes almost cartoony. There are even some panels where Jen and her assistant look like new characters because of the artwork’s inconsistency, which throws the whole book off and makes the story feel disjointed. Hulk #9 has slow plot progression, the artwork is inconsistent, and it lacks the great character depth presented in previous installments, focusing too much on side characters and not enough on the book’s main star.
SummerSlam 2017 Special (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by C.K. Stewart, ‘Rama Rating 9 out of 10): The sports entertainment event of the summer (not to be confused with the biggest event in sports entertainment) is just around the corner, and BOOM! Studios has delivered another WWE anthology special to celebrate. SummerSlam 2017 Special recounts iconic moments from SummerSlam pay-per-views through the ages, from Box Brown and Daniel Bayliss showing a group of friends coming back together through “Macho Man” Randy Savage and “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes’ battle at SummerSlam 1990 all the way to Aaron Gillespie, Selina Espiritu, and Jeremy Lawson offering an eerie take on Seth Rollins’ and Finn Balor’s history-making inaugural Universal title match last August. Even the New Day make an appearance, wrapping up what is hopefully only the first installment of Ross Thibodeaux and rob Guillory’s joyful and light-hearted “Optimistic Oddyssey.” Dee Cunniffe’s colors and Clay McCormack’s illustrations in “In the Mandible of Madness” are a highlight of the issue -- their work is grim and unsettling, perfectly suited to Ryan Ferrier’s insights into Mankind’s psyche in the hours leading up to his SummerSlam ‘96 battle against the Undertaker. SummerSlam 2017 is a fun mix of emotional tales and light-hearted romps, including Derek Fridolfs and Fred Stresing’s goofy short featuring The Bushwhackers and the Natural Disasters, and the variety of the stories collected is a great read for WWE fans looking to get in the SummerSlam spirit.
Loved & Lost: 9 Stories About Imperfect Romance (Published by A Wave Blue World; Review by C.K. Stewart, ‘Rama Rating 8 out of 10): Tyler Chin-Tanner pushes the limits of the Tennyson quote his off-kilter romance anthology draws its title from, offering nine tales that explore love stories that never quite work out. Romance is messy, dating is painful, and trying to navigate a fresh new relationship can result in growing pains that may lead you to decide all the hassle isn’t worth it with your potential partner. Chin-Tanner’s work in Loved & Lost is often awkward and uncomfortable to read, backed up by a variety of styles from artists that seem well-suited to the particular brand of heartbreak Chin-Tanner captures in each short. Ryan Alexander-Tanner captures the stilted body language of no chemistry in “Status Update,” and Tadd Galusha’s color work in particular in “Thaw” is deeply evocative, particularly his emotional flashbacks to the lead character’s military past. Not all the stories are hits -- “Perfectly Distilled” and “Team Spirit” are murky shorts with characters that almost border on parody but with no clear punchline. The bulk of Chin-Tanner’s work, though, and the work of the artists he partners with, is strong enough to make up for the anthology’s weak moments. Loved & Lost is available now through Comixology and Amazon, or the A Wave Blue World store.