Best Shots Reviews: STAR WARS - CAPTAIN PHASMA #1, HAWKEYE #10, GLITTERBOMB - FAME GAME #1

Image Comics September 2017 cover
Credit: Image Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Star Wars: Captain Phasma #1
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Marco Checchetto and Andres Mossa
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Gwendoline Christie’s chrome-domed warrior woman finally gets the showcase we wanted from The Force Awakens in Captain Phasma #1. Set during the last 10 minutes of the Starkiller Base, writer Kelly Thompson trades in the snappy banter of Kate Bishop for the terse and focused narration of Phasma, who is recording a final log of what transpired the day the base fell. But as we and Phasma know, she is at fault and in the cutthroat environment of the First Order, her superiors discovering that fact simply will not do. What follows are several scenes that display Phasma’s ruthlessness and guile in the face of adversity, which in this case is the planet literally crumbling beneath her feet.

Artist Marco Checchetto returns to the world of Star Wars with this #1, bringing along colorist Andres Mossa for a fiery, polished debut that gives us a new claustrophobic perspective on the finale of The Force Awakens. Set mostly in collapsing corridors and cracked landscapes, Checchetto and Mossa keep the action firmly focused on Phasma as she says cool under pressure, traverses the battle-torn station as if it were a slight annoyance, and serves gleamingly cold realness to her subordinates as she keeps her singular focus on bringing a “traitor” to “justice.” Laser focused, unrelenting, and equipped with an unexpectedly dry sense of humor Star Wars: Captain Phasma #1 is the exactly the kind of 'Expanded Universe' story we all want.

Though imposing throughout the lead up to The Force Awakens, Captain Phasma was dealt the rawest of deals once the film actually hit theaters. Reduced to the punchline of a callback gag, Phasma was little more than a cool-looking cipher on screen, but Kelly Thompson ain’t telling many jokes during this debut, and neither is Phasma. Using that blank slate provided by the film, Thompson hits the ground running with nimble displays of Phasma’s capabilities, showing why she has ascended above the rank-and-file Stormtroopers. Though not much is really revealed about her overall character, Captain Phasma at least allows her start living up to that super-cool costume and the talented character actress behind the mask.

Across every scene, Phasma is displayed a woman of Terminator-like intensity and drive, moving across rapidly expanding cracks in the surface of Starkiller with ease and barely flinching as the base’s interior explodes around her. Thompson takes it a step further than her steel on the battlefield by showcasing her cunning as well; building the entire plot around her attempting to frame another First Order officer for her forced lowering of the planet’s shield. Phasma is, after all, one of the baddies and Thompson leans into it hard, marking a welcome change from the wry goodness of Kate Bishop.

Artists Marco Checchetto and Andres Mossa also benefit heavily from the blank chrome slate that is Phasma and beef up her street cred as an legit threat in the Star Wars universe with splashy displays of her calm under pressure. Checchetto conjures a feeling not unlike his Punisher run with Phasma standing in for Frank Castle as she cuts a commanding figure through the din of battle. A lot has been said about Checchetto’s ability to render action and there is plenty of that to be found in Captain Phasma, but it also contains a moment of his and Kelly Thompson’s bone-dry sense of humor converging, giving the debut one of its best-looking moments.

As Phasma pursues her mark, providing a terse “official” account throughout the narration, the Resistance's bombing runs create a literal chasm between Phasma and the target, rendered as a gaping void thanks to Mossa’s inky colors and Checcetto’s jagged landscapes. Phasma simply leaps over the gap, hung in the shrapnel-filled air, snow delicately trailing her jump. She lands, cape dancing behind her in a hero landing that would bring a tear to Deadpool’s eye; “I continued my pursuit,” says the hardened narration provided by Thompson and placed by letterer Clayton Cowles. The Force Awakens may have made Phasma a joke, but Kelly Thompson, Marco Checchetto, and Andres Mossa are aiming to turn her into the breakout character we all knew she could be.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Hawkeye #10
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: 8 out of 10

Has the stress from Kate’s current case changed her character completely? She has gone from your favorite detective archer to party girl who makes out with her friends in what seems to be an overnight metamorphosis. With this unimaginable turn, Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero create a fun, emotional, action-packed issue of Hawkeye that proves the real Kate Bishop is irreplaceable.

The issue opens up with a much edgier and fashion-conscious Kate Bishop as her main focus shifts from punching bad guys to getting ready for a fun time at the club. Kate’s friends know there’s something wrong with her, but seem to mark down her change in personality as stress-related.

The Hawkeye creative team with these opening pages do an amazing job at shaping a new tone for this 'party girl' version of Kate Bishop. Writer Kelly Thompson creates a more posh-speaking Kate Bishop while artist Leonardo Romero establishes Kate’s edgier by giving her more makeup and thicker bangs. Meanwhile, colorist Jordie Bellaire, instead of adding the usual purple to the color scheme, creates an intense red-violet color for the club scenes, giving readers hints of clues that this isn’t our Kate Bishop - but instead, Madame Masque performing a deadly impression of our favorite teenage superhero.

Towards the end of the issue, Kelly Thompson switches the narrative to the real Kate Bishop as she is being held captive by Madame Masque’s goons. This is where we see the regular Hawkeye aesthetic reestablished - Bellaire switches the background colors to a neon green while Romero returns to using the purple targets to pin point Kate’s escape plan. It’s here that Kelly Thompson creates a fun team-up between Lucky the dog and Kate, while also adding a powerful emotional beat between Kate and her father for a nice cliffhanger. This scene thickens the Bishop family drama, while also giving the necessary plot progression this arc needed.

Hawkeye #10 refocuses the story onto the Bishop family mystery with a creative narrative choice that shines the spotlight onto Madame Masque. Up to this point, Masque has been playing puppeteer behind the scenes, but now comes out of the shadows to literally take over Kate’s life. With this issue the team does a great job at giving a fun new narrative for the arc’s main villain, while also giving readers panel time with the Kate Bishop we know and love, leading to a well-balanced issue that allowed the team to stretch their creative muscles by keeping regular Hawkeye readers on their toes.

Credit: Image Comics

Glitterbomb: The Fame Game #1
Written by Jim Zub
Art by Djibril Morissette-Phan and K. Michael Russell
Lettered by Marshall Dillon
Published by Image Comics
Review by Matthew Sibley
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

It’s Friday night, and actress Farrah Durante is attending a charity fundraiser. But before the evening is over, 40 of Hollywood’s brightest stars have been slaughtered by a demonic being possessing Farrah. By Saturday morning, a makeshift memorial has been put together outside, made up of bouquets of flowers for the dead. Come Sunday, it’s time for Kaydon Klay, the babysitter to Farrah’s son and one of the last people to talk to Farrah before this fateful weekend, to step in front of the cameras. And as much as she wants to be famous, she never thought it’d be because of this.

Glitterbomb burst onto the scene last year, a biting exploration of Hollywood and its exploitation of its talent. The four-issue miniseries followed Farrah, a veteran of Tinseltown who’d already been put through the wringer for years, and found herself linked to a Lovecraftian entity that helped her get revenge on the people that wronged her. The whole creative team is back for another miniseries, but with a new protagonist in Kaydon Klay, a teenager who aspires to be famous, but would have preferred it be because of her talents and not proximity to the woman who killed so many. The Fame Game opens with a reminder of the previous miniseries’ final events, how quickly the game itself moves and that for all the differences between Farrah and Kaydon, Hollywood sees them both as commodity all the same. This is made clear by how quickly an agent pushes Kaydon in front of the cameras while simultaneously leaning on the excuse of it being too soon for him to be saying anything. And all this happens before the start of the school week and return of the Lovecraftian entity.

With this opening issue to the miniseries comes an overwhelming intensity, the sense of getting swept up in the news cycle without solid footing - right from the start Kaydon’s bombarded with questions from the press she couldn’t have possibly prepared for. Yet for how quickly this opening sequence moves, Jim Zub’s script sets up a slow burn narrative, formally different from the previous miniseries’ debut. Steadily building tension, instead of surprise of when things turn gruesome being the prevailing sentiment attached, it’s suspense, which it effectively weaponizes, with the audience waiting to see who’s most deserving of the entity’s wrath and how the creative team pick up the pieces of the continuing narrative. Farrah’s demise was a shocking turn of events, but the way the narrative unfolds here feels like a logical extension, the themes and setting persisting while allowing for a new viewpoint to it all. For the most part, it’s as good a fit as it was last year, but the dialogue between Kaydon and her mother feels broader than Zub has been in the past and makes for a minor stumbling block that can easily be overcome as they dig deeper.

With the writing remaining largely consistent, Djibril Morissette-Phan has only improved as an artist. His eye for composition is well-attuned, pages with a higher panel density still pop without sacrificing sequential storytelling and are enhanced by the smaller panels feeling more detailed than they were last year. While the Hollywood setting at large is the same, the shifting perspective of the miniseries to a protagonist that attends school means that a new cast needs to be sketched out and this detail helps to flesh out Farrah’s classmates beyond a sea of faces. That said, K. Michael Russell puts Farrah in a red shirt, that stands out in a sea of blues and greens and works in unison with the eyelines of Morissette-Phan’s eyelines, as if everyone’s locked onto Farrah, even if she can’t meet the gaze of the press’ cameras, as she walks past and only some are trying to hide it. A couple might be focused on her in the hope of understanding what happened with Farrah, like the returning Detective Isaac Rahal, and with her, meaning her friend Martina, but the majority are looking to treat her words and experiences as commodity.

Concerning this series’ backmatter, Holly Raychelle Hughes’ essay is brief, but focuses on the relationship between a talent agent and their talent that once again goes to prove that there are certainly elements of this narrative that are fictional, but these have been grafted onto an unpleasant truth, a systemic issue. It’s not even been a week and Kaydon’s already one of the most important names for the news cycle and the industry. While not necessarily empowering, there’s a transgressive slant to the narrative that’ll likely have you hoping the supernatural horror wins out over the real-world horror.

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