Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your pellets? Best Shots has you covered with the latest Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off with Pleasant Pierce Lydon, who takes a look at the latest issue of Action Comics...
Action Comics #987 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): “The Oz Effect” starts here, and this is a pretty utilitarian starting point. Dan Jurgens’ script lays the foundation of who Superman is and why he does what he does, which makes Oz’s opposition make all the more sense. But the scale of the story feels really small compared to what it feels like it should be. That might be because the truly big stuff will rear its head in Doomsday Clock, but even the big reveal of Mr. Oz’s identity in this issue feels a bit stunted. Viktor Bogdanovic’s art is very much in the vein of Greg Capullo (aided, perhaps, by them sharing an inker in Jonathan Glapion), but he doesn’t have the same deft hand with expressions. His characters often look stiff and posed rather than fluid and kinetic. From a narrative perspective, the visual storytelling works, but it's not setting the world on fire. Altogether, this is kind of a neutral beginning. It doesn’t really give us anything new, but it reminds us why the story is at this point in the first place. It’s a decent base and a quick read, but not quite a must-read yet.
Hulk #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): In this issue of Hulk, Jen comes face-to-face with Oliver for a final battle with her favorite chef-turned-monster. This encounter leads Jen to analyze what it means to be a Hulk. Writer Mariko Tamaki makes a smart narrative choice by using Jen’s rereading of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as the backbone of the issue’s story as she compares the monster from that novel to her own personal narrative. This is especially prevalent because Oliver is essentially the monster Jen fears she is becoming. For the ending of this arc, Tamaki does a seamless job at making everything come full circle as Jen watches an unconscious Oliver deal with the same tragedy she did after the events of Civil War II - he was almost killed by a monster, but this time the monster was Jen. Julian Lopez on pencils has a darker approach compared to previous artists on this book, but Lopez’s heavy inking works for this narrative as Jen explores some dark themes. Unfortunately, the artwork switches halfway through the issue to Francesco Gaston’s pencils, who has a cartoonier style - making the issue feel a bit inconsistent. Hulk #10 is a solid ending to this arc as it brings back Jen’s psychological narrative in full force.
Mister Miracle #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): New Genesis might be a participant in an everlasting war, but Tom King and Mitch Gerads find time for more than just fighting. Moving into territory familiar to fans of The Omega Men, Scott and Barda, under the instructions of Orion, are repelling the relentless threat of Parademons and having to meet with Granny Goodness. Now in a land of Jack Kirby’s creation, Gerads alternates between brightly coloured moments of respite and more intense periods of action, continuing to work within a spatially-dense nine-panel grid. Whatever’s really going on with Scott’s mind remains to be seen, the sense of unease growing stronger as it becomes further entwined with the events of the war, but King avoids an overly melancholic tone by finding the sardonic humour in Scott and Barda’s interactions. This issue feels even more rhythmic than the last, through Clayton Cowles’ word-balloon placement enhancing the more melodic segments, as the inclusion of more characters and aspects help it to build further momentum and hint at what’s really going on without throwing the audience off its relatively stable footing.
Teen Titans #12 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): This issue is not your traditional Teen Titans issue. It’s a Metal tie-in that focuses on Robin and sees him team-up with Green Arrow, Harley Quinn, and Clayface to traverse the Riddler’s labyrinth. And despite sidelining the Titans right from the start, it’s still a lot of fun. Damian Wayne has come such a long way and when written well, he can be one of the best characters on DC’s roster. Benjamin Percy puts him squarely in his element, matching wits with an Edward Nygma who has been powered up by the Batman Who Laughs. Mirka Andolfo’s characters are so well-rendered that she makes this an easy read. Her panel structure and page layouts are very strong as well. The lettering in this book is really busy and the pacing could used a punch-up but overall, this is a satisfying tie-in despite the lack of the Titans.
Ms. Marvel #22 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Ms. Marvel #22 opens up with Kamala in a slump as she realizes that people are starting to hate her - even her friends. Continuing from last issue, Josh and Kamala have a really interesting hero/villain dynamic, but their relationship is pushed to the side to focus more on Lockdown. Sadly, Lockdown isn’t an interesting villain without Discord by her side, and is easily defeated by Kamala and the citizens of Jersey City. (It doesn’t help that by the end she just comes off as a whiny girl who didn’t get her way.) On the flip side, this issue also puts a spotlight on the Jersey City community members who want to help Ms. Marvel. This was a good concept to have, but was far too separate from Kamala’s narrative as they didn’t really get to interact with her directly. The artwork was a better element of the issue, Marco Failla’s pencils have been very consistent throughout this arc. He does a good job at conveying an expressive mix of action and character moments with this issue. Ms. Marvel #22 was a bit of a letdown as the conclusion to an otherwise great arc. The issue focuses too much on Lockdown and the community, and not enough on the emotionally driven rivalry between Kamala and Josh.
Superwoman #14 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The previous issue of Superwoman ended with an “evil” Lana Lang coming face-to-face with Supergirl, setting up for an epic battle between the two Superwomen - which would be great, except Superwoman #14 skips this beat completely. The issue opens up with a magically healed Superwoman, who is now working with Supergirl to save Lana’s former classmate, Amos Aimes. This is not a bad issue of Superwoman, it’s just disappointing. The last issue gave this story so much potential, but K. Perkins doesn’t use this set up to her advantage. The team-up between Lana and Kara just comes off as dull because the story doesn’t give any reason for these two characters to grow a connection. Maxima is randomly thrown into the issue just to cause conflict, but her character doesn’t even connect to the current Supergirl series, but instead a story presented in Supergirl’s "New 52" era. The issue’s saving grace is Lana’s connection with Amos. Her childhood friend is really the person who pushes Lana to believe in herself - a role that may have better suited Supergirl if their relationship was explored more here. The artwork by Stephen Segovia is the issue’s strongest aspect. Segovia’s pencils felt very clean, which made for some conveying action sequences. Superwoman #14 tries to juggle too many characters, and fails at exploring the most important story element - the relationship between Lana and Kara.
Detective Comics #964 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Detective Comics #964 focuses on two stories - Clayface’s continuous fight of man versus monster, and Spoiler exploring Anarky’s Utopia. Both these narratives don’t really fit together, and neither really progresses the series’ plot further. Clayface’s story feels a bit repetitive, and would have benefited a full spotlight issue because with this Clayface feels more like an afterthought. The main story is between Spoiler and Anarky, and Stephanie’s motives continue to feel really out of character as she randomly kisses Anarky, a guy she just met and has no chemistry with. Batman breaks up this moment, and their interaction makes Stephanie quickly realize that Anarky’s Utopia is not the vision she has for Gotham. Sadly, Detective Comics just doesn’t know what to do with Stephanie Brown. I get that Stephanie is lost without Tim, but the series relies too much on their relationship - Stephanie has proven time and time again that she is more than Robin’s girlfriend. She needs a journey of her own, especially if the series is giving her this much panel time. The pencils by Carmen Carnero are solid, and is one of the better aspects of this issue, but there are still some panel layout problems. The inconsistent use of scenes being spread out onto two pages became hard to follow. Detective Comics #964 is a very slow burn, and sadly doesn’t do any justice for the characters the issue spotlights.