Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Portentious Pierce Lydon, who takes a look at Mister Miracle…
Mister Miracle #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): “We’re all bound by something.” Tom King explores the interpersonal dynamics of the New Gods with a scalpel, slicing through the hardened sci-fi exterior with an incisiveness that reveals the heart that beats at the center. So we have the trial of the century happen in Scott Free’s apartment. He and Barda picked up a veggie tray for the occasion. In the wake of the High Father's death, King digs into the relationship between Orion and Mister Miracle as they both deal with loss in their own ways. Orion wants justice (and on some level, someone to punish) while Scott dives deeper into his depression - the one thing he seems to have trouble escaping. The mundanity of the setting seems so absurd but the tension contained on these pages is palpable. Mitch Gerads art practically leaps off the page. This might be some sort of grand cosmic trial. But it’s every fight you’ve ever gotten into with your family. King and Gerads have taken the heady, out there space drama of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World and translated it into something infinitely more relatable and urgent and important to the present. Mister Miracle is a pure force of nature disguised as a comic book.
Star Wars #38 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca join forces again, taking over for Jason Aaron on the flagship Star Wars title. While not as a big a triumph as Darth Vader felt from the outset, Gillen nails the most important building block with his handling of the core trio of Han, Luke, and Leia, as they travel to Jedha (or what’s left of it after the events of Rogue One) in their search for a new base, while the Empire are there in search of kyber crystals. This link to the movies grants an immediate sense of furthering the mythos over just inching closer to Empire Strikes Back. Where the issue falters is with Larroca’s art. When dealing with armor, technology and locations, he can create textured images, but his photo-referenced expressions often skirt the uncanny valley. This may be a feature of Larroca’s style rather than a bug, an issue not likely to be rectified. Gillen might know where he wants to go, but Larroca could easily be what holds him back.
Batman Lost #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jon Arvedon; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Batman Lost is a love letter to lifelong Batman fans. Writers Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Joshua Williamson take us on a trippy ride through the Caped Crusader’s illustrious history, expertly blending the old (“The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” “Dark Knight, Dark City,” etc.) with Bruce’s recent imprisonment in the Dark Multiverse. Like much of Metal thus far, Snyder’s “Court of Owls” plays a prominent role in the narrative, but even more intriguing are the revelations of Barbatos. He’s played the role of a dark guardian angel of sorts, carefully ensuring that every aspect of Bruce’s life was to his liking, right down to the iconic bat crashing through his window. Artistically, it’s all hands on deck, with pencilers Doug Mahnke, Yanick Paquette, and Jorge Jimenez, inker Jaime Mendoza, and colorists Wil Quintana, Nathan Fairbairn, and Alejandro Sanchez each lending something unique to the story. Their contrasting styles perfectly encapsulate the back-and-forth dynamic of the plot, and the avant-garde panel layouts add additional layers of brilliance to the already surreal atmosphere. A Metal-induced acid trip through the Dark Multiverse, Batman Lost is a journey those invested in DC’s overarching event can’t afford to miss.
Ms. Marvel #24 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Leading into "Marvel Legacy," Ms. Marvel is trying to stop a runaway train, which quickly becomes an analogy for the events going on in Kamala’s own life. This adventure with Red Dagger turns into a breaking point for Kamala where she feels like Jersey City doesn’t need Ms. Marvel, and that it’s time for a change of scenery. Ms. Marvel #24 doesn’t break any new ground but dives deeper into the conflicts introduced in previous issues, exploring Kamala’s decision to take a break through G. Willow Wilson’s masterful use of inner monologue. Artist Diego Olortegui, a newcomer to the series, does a solid job following in the stylistic footsteps of previous artists as Ian Herring’s coloring keeps the visual tone consistent. Ms. Marvel #24 could have been a straightforward one-and-done adventure about Ms. Marvel saving the day, but the team’s exploration of the parallels between Ms. Marvel’s adventures and Kamala’s personal struggles that gives the issue substance.
The Normals #6 (Published by Aftershock Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The Normals #6 marks the final issue of the series, but sadly leaves too many open doors to feel like a truly satisfying finale. Jack’s soul searching about whether leaving his family is the best way to protect them makes this a solid end to a story arc. But with The Normals’ publication future in doubt, it’s disappointing to have a book about family not put a total focus on every member of the family in its potential series finale, something the series did well up to this point. Dennis Calero’s pencils and Adriano Augusto’s colors give a nice moody tone to the series that works well with the issue’s character moments, but the book’s mixing of shadows and bright colors makes the action sequences hard to follow, especially in the issue’s opening scene. The Normals #6 might have been a solid cliff-hanger for an on-going title, but falls short as a miniseries finale.
Action Comics #991 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Dan Jurgens’ “The Oz Effect” is starting to catch up to what readers already kind of know about the DCU and it’s a little had not to feeling like the plotting is just biding time for Doomsday Clock to begin. We do get to see Jor-El show off his Kryptonite vision power but besides that we end up with more of the same - some monologuing that Clark has trouble believing and then a blue flash that can only mean one thing at this point. It’s not necessarily poorly written, but there’s a severe lack of dramatic tension. Viktor Bogdanovic’s art still plays like a poor man’s Greg Capullo, and while he can’t seem to get Clark to stop grimacing, he does do some decent facial expression work elsewhere in the book. Action Comics #991 is worth your time if you’re fully invested in this arc specifically, but there’s nothing here that can’t be summed up quickly on a recap page.
Generation X #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): What makes Generation X so special is that writer Christina Strain can find the time to mention how annoying it is that Quentin Quire can pull off speedos without taking up vital space that’d be better served otherwise. Instead, her story is more of a check-in issue, as Strain not only furthers the relationship between Morph and Hindsight, but also finds time for Nature Girl and Eye-Boy, then Bling and so on, even finding time for the currently underground Monet. Strain, along with her collaborators Amilcar Pinna, Felipe Sobriero and Clayton Cowles, have seemingly reached a point in their collaboration where they all understand how the others work best – a scene featuring Bling, for example, makes use of off-kilter angles, but Pinna frames the scene in such a way that there’s clear space for Cowles to letter with ease. That structuring, on a panel-by-panel and page-by-page level, is what makes this book so solid; baked in its dynamic is a creative team and foundation sturdy enough to supporting everything being shaken up without the fear it’ll come crashing down.
Superwoman #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): As Superwoman nears its conclusion, K. Perkins does a fine job of tying up the loose threads of Phil Jimenez’s initial story while still telling a strong superhero story of her very own. An electricity-radiating Lois shows up at the Steelworks, informs Lana and the others that Midnight took Steel, currently trapped in the void. While it doesn’t take long for the trouble at hand to reach Metropolis, Perkins packs a lot in. A scene where the group works to ascertain the true nature of what’s going on showcases how well everything has been building over these 16 issues. That kind of narrative build makes it all the more disappointing the series is nearly done because it means Stephen Segovia, Art Thibert, and Hi-Fi won’t be able to help take it to even greater heights. That same scene has an intricate visual pacing to it, diving in with numerous panels on each page only to pull back to a wider view with a splash page and new information. On a macro level, this rings true for what follows as they get to play with geometry of Metropolis and truly drive home what Lana and the gang are up against.
She-Hulk #159 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): "Marvel Legacy" introduces a name change and, sadly, a loss of direction as Jennifer Walters goes from Hulk to She-Hulk once again. Mariko Tamaki’s series offered a realistic portrayal of Jen suffering with PTSD after her confrontation with Thanos. Unfortunately, this thread isn’t touched on at all in this issue, stripping away a lot of the series’ emotional substance. Tamaki has always had a strong grasp on Jen’s voice, and Jen’s inner monologue remains enjoyable, but the rest of the plot falls flat as the introduction of obsessive She-Hulk superfan Robyn fails to make a lasting impression. Jahnoy Lindsay’s pencils with Federico Blee and Chris Sotomayor on colors matches Tamaki’s script with its simplicity. The combination just makes the story feel underwhelming. She-Hulk #159 gives Jennifer Walters a fresh start with Marvel Legacy, but loses the emotional punch of Tamaki’s earlier issues with the series’ transition from Hulk back to She-Hulk.
Port of Earth #1 (Published by Top Cow; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There’s a lot of potential in the concept behind Port of Earth - what if aliens came to Earth and wanted to open a spaceport? Well, obviously, there would need to be a highly trained police force to protect it. That’s where the Earth Security Agents come in. The strength of this book comes from Zachary Kaplan’s concept and Andrea Mutti’s art entirely so far, though it’s not without its flaws. While Mutti’s visual sensibilities work for the book, the color palette is a overwhelmingly gray to the point where any color at all really feels like an afterthought and it hurts the book. For his part, Kaplan doesn’t get to show off much. Most of the issue is set-up and exposition that is heavily propped up by Mutti’s art and vision of the world. Kaplan's bits of dialogue work for now but the main characters are still blank slates for now. Port of Earth has an intriguing premise that might be enough to get readers back for Issue #2, but it’ll need to pick up the pace if it has any hope of hooking them beyond that.