Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Then let’s get set with Best Shots, who are cooking up your Rapid-Fire Reviews! Get started with Melodious Matthew Sibley, who takes a crack at Astonishing X-Men #2…
Astonishing X-Men #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Charles Soule and his hastily assembled band of X-Men take a dive into the Astral Plane, while Professor X and the Shadow King have a little chat. Soule jumps between these locations and the real world and that serves to dig further into the dynamics of the team in a way that accomplishes far more than banter could, giving Psylocke and Angel more time to talk, as well as Rogue and Gambit. Mike Deodato, Jr. and Frank Martin handle the art for this issue and it feels like their strongest work in a while, mainly due to how well they lay out both their standard pages and the two-page spreads. Their characters can still feel static at points, but it’s less of an issue here than their recent tenure on other books like Invincible Iron Man. Focusing on mining character relationships, this creative team cements Astonishing X-Men as one of the top-tier "ResurrXion" titles.
Dark Nights: Metal #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): For anyone that’s been finding recent events and crossovers lackluster, know that Dark Nights: Metal comes out swinging in a big way, for reasons including (but not limited to) a Justice League Voltron. The reunion of the dream team that is Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, FCO Plascencia and Steve Wands, it all starts with an extended sequence of the Justice League facing off against Mongul, and Capullo renders it beautifully. His style became more defined over the course of their Batman run and here his Justice League seems even better than it did in “Endgame." Snyder’s script takes a while to get to what Dark Days set up, but what precedes the furthering of that plot is grin-inducing and it’s a treat to see superhero spectacle that feels this polished from a creative team this strong.
Southern Bastards #17 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Southern Bastards continues to be a fascinating animal, as writer Jason Aaron and artist Jason Latour not only continue to show the rest of the industry where the high bar truly rests, but they do so without giving us a single likable character in the bunch. Ever since the series original heroic protagonist Earl Tubb met his untimely end, Aaron and Latour have followed up the series with his killer, Coach Boss, mixing together the organized crime family dynamics of The Godfather with the high-stakes world of high school football. And watching these two masters at work is pretty incredible — even a scene of Boss and Sheriff Hardy as they talk about crime and justice over a lonely gravestone delivers some crackling dialogue as they recognize just how entangled they are together. Latour, for my money, might be the greatest working cartoonist in the Big Three today, imbuing every page with such drama in his gnarly, angry characters. If you haven’t been reading this book, do it now.
Superman #29 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It’s courage versus fear in the pages of Superman #29, as part one of “A Minute Longer” pits the Man of Steel against the DCU’s resident face of fear, Parallax, who we learn is responsible for the disappearance of a number of children in Metropolis. However, while we, the omnipotent readers, are able to piece together the Parallax puzzle early on in the narrative, writer Keith Champagne takes a page from the Caped Crusader, giving us a Superman who’s forced to play detective in order to unravel the mystery that, given his own fatherly duties, hits Kal-El rather close to home. Champagne’s characterization of Superman hits all the right notes based on what Tomasi and Gleason have given us over the past year, but from an artistic standpoint, Superman #29 doesn’t soar quite as high as past issues that have featured Doug Mahnke on pencils. Aside from perhaps some superfluous crosshatching, Mahnke’s linework appears no less crisp and clean than usual, but a three-man inking team leads to a noticeable and at times distracting contrast in weight and depth, as well as some odd facial expressions in certain panels. Fortunately, Wil Quintana and Tony Avina’s gorgeous color art helps to soften the blow, and although the lack of consistency in the sequentials is what ultimately prevents Superman #29 from achieving greatness, it still packs a powerful punch.
Silver Surfer #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): I’m not ugly-crying at Silver Surfer, you are! Writer Dan Slott pulls on the heartstrings hard this week, and artist Mike Allred is along for the ride, as this series goes deeper than it ever has before for the star-crossed romance that is Norrin Radd and Dawn Greenwood. What starts as a sequel to Slott’s innovative time travel story becomes something much more poignant and bittersweet, as we get to watch the Surfer and Dawn live their lives out in a universe beyond universes, where even the Power Cosmic gets rendered by the Allreds in almost computerized blocks rather than the standard Kirby crackle. But in so doing, Slott will prove to many readers that they didn’t know what they had until they lost it — watching Norrin and Dawn make their final goodbyes as an old couple might put a lump in your throat, but for my money, it’s what happens to Toomie, the Surfer’s sentient board, that’ll do you in. Combine that with a veritable firework celebration from Allred, including a double-page splash of half the Marvel Universe, and you’ve got yourself a real winner.
Super Sons #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): As the arc title “Planet of the Capes” and issue title “The Kids are all Fight” indicate, there’s a real sense of playfulness to this arc which makes for one of the most enjoyable outings involving the Teen Titans since Rebirth started. Laughs are aplenty as Damian has been heavily aged and Peter J. Tomasi runs with this idea, furthering the notion of Damian as the more experienced superhero with Jon as the fresher face, letting this crash together with the team dynamics of the Titans as they all try to stop Kraklow. Tomasi adeptly handles the Titans’ involvement and allows them to have an impact without losing the feeling that this is still Damian and Jon’s series. Jorge Jimenez’s work is crisp and filled with expression, popping on the page with the help of Alejandro Sanchez’s colors. It’s solid superhero storytelling with the boundless energy of a young cast to give it that extra spark.
The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows presses the break on Mary Jane’s intense Venom story to put the spotlight on series villain Normie Osborn. Normie Osborn is not your average young boy – he doesn’t like birthday cakes, he’s a C.E.O. of a big corporate company, and he’s a super villain. But sadly, his odd personality and supervillain motives aren’t explored enough in an issue that gives him so much panel time. It’s not until the end of the issue, when he reacts to Spiderling and Spider-Man hugging each other, where we see true motive and emotion from Normie – and at this point, it’s too late for us to care. The strongest aspect of the issue is the back-and-forth between Normie’s narrative and Annie’s story with her father. Writer Ryan Stegman is able to showcase their different upbringings and how this effects both Normie and Annie’s personalities. It was also nice to see some bonding time between Annie and Peter since the last couple of issues put more focus on M.J. Nathan Stockman on pencils does a great job at following up on Stegman’s art style, which was previously established at the beginning of the series, allowing Ryan Stegman to smoothly transition into full-time writing duties. The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #10 misses a few beats with Normie Osborn’s characterization, but is a fun filler issue when focusing on Peter and Annie’s father/daughter dynamic.
Wonder Woman #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Having sped through story beats in the last issue, Shea Fontana gets a chance to slow down as Diana cares for Etta Candy following the bombing. It gives Fontana yet another chance to demonstrate Diana’s compassion for others, and she mixes this in well with an attack that comes later in the issue, allowing enough time to focus on Diana and Etta before throwing them into a fight. Taking over art duties for the remainder of the run is David Messina, colored by series regular Romulo Fajardo Jr., giving the issue a feel and tone that’s in keeping with what has come before. Messina’s art can be lacking in definition at points, but their flow of action is strong – a sense of heft combined with a sense of knowing when to push closer and when to take a step back, tracking the movements made as they do. As the midpoint of the run, there’s still a feeling that Fontana’s hindered by having such a short time for her run, but if the remaining two issues can retain the pacing found here, it’ll end strong.
Motor Girl #8 (Published by Abstract Studio; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Motor Girl #8 is a solid issue that delivers an emotional punch with Sam’s psychological narrative, while adding nice bits of humor with its alien plotline to keep the tone well-balanced. Up to this point, my biggest disconnect with the series has been with the alien mystery, but luckily this issue moves the plotline along with the government agents finally coming face-to-face with the alien named Bik. Yet Sam’s psychological narrative remains the strongest aspect of this book, as Moore digs deeper into Sam’s memories of the battlefield. Moore’s art further showcases signs of Sam’s PTSD, giving her a thousand-yard stare in both her flashback on the battlefield and during the car ride home with Libby. Combined with another interesting psychological layer as we learn Sam doesn’t want to get the surgery to help her recover, Motor Girl #8 better progresses the series’ alien story, and continues to create a captivating psychological narrative for our Marine veteran.