Greetings, ‘Rama readers — ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Jocular Joey Edsall, who takes a look at this week’s Astonishing X-Men…
Astonishing X-Men #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10):One of the keys to why Charles Soule’s Astonishing X-Men is so good can be found in the previous issue, where he uses a character as a mouthpiece to bash the limitations of nostalgia. Astonishing X-Men #3 goes a step further, putting on a storytelling clinic of what should be utilized instead of circling back and retreading old grounds: building towards the future. Old Man Logan, Charles Xavier, and Angel each have incredible moments in this issue where they heavily being influenced by their continuity but each has further characterization built on that continuity, with Logan’s self-loathing and PTSD, Xavier’s darkness, and Angel’s light. The artistic team of penciler Ed McGuiness, inker Mark Morales, and colorist Jason Keith give this issue visual flair successfully barring some awkward depictions of Logan’s claws. This is an issue built on character and strong plot progression and manages to do both without sacrificing either.
Superman #30 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Writer Keith Champagne and a trio of talented artists deliver a strong conclusion to “A Moment Longer,” which pit Superman against the twin threats of Sinestro and his former thrall Parallax. It’s a real testament to Champagne’s work that up until rereading the credits to this book, I had thought it was Peter Tomasi behind the wheel — Champagne does a great job at picking up Tomasi’s themes of making Superman the best of us, as he manages to hold back the embodiment of fear thanks to a sliver of hope. Additionally, Ed Benes, Tyler Kirkham and Philip Tan do a great job at keeping the artwork as seamless as possible here — between all this action, such as Benes’ opening fight between Sinestro and a Parallax-possessed Superman, or Kirkham’s undulating space monster construct holding Superman in an ice cave, this book looks fantastic. This issue does fantastic work, and it is the highest compliment I can give to say that this doesn’t feel like a fill-in arc, but a story that works seamlessly within the rest of Superman’s run.
Kingsman: The Red Diamond #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There is a lot that Rob Williams and Simon Fraser are trying to do with Kingsman: The Red Diamond #1, and so you have to give them credit, even if the various pieces occasionally grind up against one another. On the one hand, you have almost Roger Moore-style James Bond action that keeps the introduction moving at a brisk pace with a roguish sense of humor, but that quickly gives way to super-spy Eggsy getting benched, forcing him to take a good look in the mirror to make sure his time as a Kingsman hasn’t made him the same sort of posh wanker he had despised growing up. (And that’s not even counting the weird, James Cameron-obsessed supervillain at the end of the book, as he murders a computer hacker while spouting some not IMDB-vetted trivia.) It’s a lot going on, and admittedly, Fraser also feels like a weird fit, not quite photorealistic enough to capture Taron Egerton’s likeness, but also a little too smooth to capture Dave Gibbons’ style. All in all, it doesn’t quite hit as hard as a Kingsman should, but with the movie soon in theaters, this is a decent tie-in.
Venomverse #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Venomverse #1 brings Eddie Brock to a world infested by the symbiote-slayers known as Poisons, where Brock’s only chance of survival is putting trust into the other Venoms of the multiverse. Venomverse is the type of comic book you can enjoy if you turn your mind off, and just revel in the series’ bombastic fun. This premiere issue is very similar to the event’s predecessor, Spider-Verse, except this time we aren’t dealing with heroes, but morally ambiguous characters. While the Poisons aren’t as well developed as the Inheritors from Spider-Verse, writer Cullen Bunn still makes this an enjoyable read through Eddie Brock’s interactions with the other Venom characters – especially his dynamic between a Venom-infused Peter Parker. Iban Coello’s pencils and Matt Yackey’s colors give a clean look for this action-packed issue, and does a good job with showcasing the differing Venom costumes with all the detail needed for a Venom suit. Venomverse should be a fun event if it continues to not take itself too seriously.
Star Wars Adventures #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): IDW’s first installment of their all-ages Star Wars Adventures hits comic shops this week, and while it might not necessarily appeal to an older demographic demanding more sophisticated, more “serious” storytelling, the bright artwork of Derek Charm and the fast pace of writer Cavan Scott will likely be more than enough to take young readers to a galaxy far, far away. The main story, featuring Rey’s quest to rescue the jellyfish junkboss Unkar Plutt, starts off with plenty of action, which Charm delivers with a Bruce Timm-like flair — that said, Scott’s story does start to trail off as it moves to its cliffhanger, and admittedly, his dialogue feels a little self-consciously juvenile compared to the polish of The Force Awakens. The backup story, featuring artist Jon Sommariva, is equally kinetic, telling a story about Obi-Wan Kenobi matching wits with a galactic thief, but Scott’s story feels slightly convenient, even with Sommariva’s fantastic character designs and choreography. That said, if you’re looking for more adult Star Wars fare, there’s a whole line of ‘em over at Marvel — and when it comes to young readers, Star Wars Adventures may be more their speed.
Black Bolt #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Narrative isolation has been among the greatest assets to Saladin Ahmed’s impressive Black Bolt run, but to get the titular character out of his most recent predicament, that has to be partially sacrificed. Lesser writers would have stumbled on Lockjaw’s entrance to the story, passing information on the other relevant Inhumans’ adventures, or the opening Black Bolt origin flashback, the last of which features guest artist Frazer Irving delivering a characteristically stellar four pages. Not overshadowed in the slightest, artist Christian Ward again exceeds his already outstanding work on the series, with this being his best artistic showing to date. From the first issue, this series has been a visual cornucopia, and this issue showcases Ward’s skill with dynamic action sequences. Ahmed’s storytelling is effective enough that the sheer amount of hand-waving in this issue’s plot doesn’t send up any red flags on the first read through, and the ending satisfyingly answers the nagging questions of the morality behind ancient Inhumans creating the jail in the first place.
Astro City #47 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Who’s a good boy? When it comes to Astro City #47, we’re the ones getting a treat, as writer Kurt Busiek teams up with Battlepug creator Mike Norton to present G-Dog — half-man, half-dog, all superhero. What could have been just a dumb gag becomes an endearing and engaging read, as we meet a wannabe criminal who has his entire life turned around when he steals a corgi named Hank… as well as a magical amulet that occasionally fuses the two together, Firestorm-style. Busiek has said this story is based on his own experience as a dog owner, and it’s that characterization — such as Hank instinctively turning his master into a superhero to protect the rest of the human “herd” — that makes this book such a must-read. Norton’s artwork fits in that unassuming Astro City mold — it’s not flashy, but instead supremely solid, with a wonderful sense of acting and expressiveness. If you’re a dog lover and a fan of superheroes, take yourself out for a walk and get Astro City #47.
Generations: Iron Man/Ironheart #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Generations: Iron Man/Ironheart #1 gives a different take for the Generations lineup by sending Riri Willaims into the future instead of the past. But sadly this issue doesn’t use Riri and Tony’s meet-up to its fullest advantage, lacking heart and purpose compared to the other Generations titles. It’s nice to see a good future for Riri where she’s known across the galaxy, but this doesn’t directly tie into any current storyline going on in the main Invincible Iron Man title. Additionally, while many of the other Generations books have young heroes seeing their predecessors for the first time in ages, the interaction between Riri and Tony feels hollow because it’s feels exactly like the dynamic they already have in every issue of Invincible Iron Man. That said, the coloring by Marco Rudy, Dean White, and Paul Mounts was my favorite aspect of the issue. The blue colors worked really well to depict this future world. But even with the solid, more consistent coloring the multiple pencilers made the issue feel uneven. Generations: Iron Man/Ironheart has a few nice goodies with the appearances of The Next Avengers and Sorcerer Supreme Tony Stark, but this still isn’t enough for the book’s $4.99 price tag.