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 Judicious Justin Partridge, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man…
Amazing Spider-Man #792 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): “Venom Inc.” stalls a bit to fill out its numbers in Amazing Spider-Man #792. Raising the stakes by Venomizing a whole mess of villains and severing Eddie Brock’s connection to Venom, writers Dan Slott and Mike Costa do an admirable job of stacking the deck against Spidey and the new Anti-Venom, Flash Thompson. But actually getting there is kind of a slog as Costa and Slott send Flash and Peter off on a super-awkward side mission filled with groan-inducing banter, as most of the rising action is focused elsewhere and on other characters. This side plot also feels like a waste of artist Ryan Stegman and colorist Brian Reber, who open this issue with a pulsing and sketchy action sequence filled with flying webs and symbiote slime, only to settle into expository scenes that catch the eye only when Stegman delivers a hilarious facial expression. Though “Venom Inc.” has all the makings of a decently entertaining Spider-Man/Venom team up, Amazing Spider-Man #792 makes putting all those makings together a bit of a chore.
Detective Comics #970 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Escalation is the name of the game in Detective Comics #970. Now that Tim Drake is back in the fold, he is spiraling hard, thinking 10 steps ahead in order to put a system in place to “save” Gotham, while thinking little of the people he will hurt along the way. James Tynion IV continues to juggle the large cast of the book, providing several interesting points of plot for leader Batwoman and the book’s unexpectedly stirring pairing of Orphan and Clayface. Melding both humane dynamics between the team and a propulsive mystery centered around distrust of Batman and his Belfry team, Tynion continues to make a damn good case for this being one of the strongest Bat-books on the stands. Artist Joe Bennett, along with inkers Ricardo Jaime, Marcio Loerzer, and Salvador Regla and colorist Jason Wright, keep pace with Tynion’s peaks-and-valleys scripting, offering up splashy action such as in the issue’s opening highway chase as well as tense character interactions such as Tim and Stephanie’s arguments that make up the real meat of this issue. Tim Drake might be losing touch and the team may be headed for another breakdown, but Detective Comics #970 keeps the title going strong.
The Wicked + The Divine Christmas Annual #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The holidays are a time to come together and celebrate the good times. Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, and Clayton Cowles do so by bringing Kris Anka, Jen Bartel, Dee Cunniffe, Rachel Stott, Ludwig Olimba, Tamra Bonvillain, Chynna Clugston Flores, Carla Speed McNeil, Fernando Argüello, Brandon Daniels and Emma Vieceli aboard to help illustrate some bittersweet tales of love and loss set back in the first six months of the Recurrence. These are all welcome additions because they build on the bulk of the existing series, such as the depiction of Baal’s first time sleeping with Inanna. Like a bow placed on top of wrapping, this book is not required reading, but helps to tie everything together. Anka and Bartel’s tender work is perfect for the Ball and Inanna pairing and similarly, Stott’s inks involving Lucifer and Sakhmet imbues the scene with a tension that’s just waiting to be cut with a knife. While not all of the Pantheon appears, there’s overlap between characters that shows how their relationships have changed, driving home how much has really happened between the covers… of these comics.
Jean Grey #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Dennis Hopeless and Alberto Albuquerque juggle a cavalcade of psychics in Jean Grey #10, as the series leans into the upcoming resurrection of the O.G. Jean Grey. While Hopeless does some solid work as he wraps up young Jean’s fight against the Phoenix, his narrative can’t help but buckle a bit with so many guest characters, as he’s forced to burn page after necessary page accounting for characters that don’t add much to this particular issue. Albuquerque, meanwhile, reminds me a little of Tom Raney but with rougher inks — given that he’s got a lot of characters to incorporate (particularly Young Jean and Hope Summers, who look almost identical), he’s struggling a little here. That all said, Albuquerque’s take on the Phoenix Force is pretty incredible, but sometimes colorist Jay David Ramos loses some of rendering. While not the strongest issue in this team’s tenure, it ends on a strong cliffhanger.
Mister Miracle #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): It’s easy to speculate on how you’d spend your last days on Earth. What would you do and who would you spend time with? Tom King, Mitch Gerads and Clayton Cowles take a step further and question how Mister Miracle would spend his last nights as well. This scene, shared by Scott and Barda, is like much of the issue – intimate. King’s script adopts more of a vignette style, with a scene of traffic feeling never-ending while a walk through the park is fleeting. As with the previous issues, Gerads’ work is deserving of so many superlatives and here, the setting sun shows the versatility of his colors. Similarly, the moments of stillness are worth savouring in order to examine how Gerads constructs them. Working with King and Cowles, this issue’s nine-panel grid dictates the content, and in these cases, the creative team has to create a space in the first panel that works for the rest of the page, packing in every detail and nuance they can. Time appears to be inescapable, but Gerads makes the moments beautiful while they last.
Runaways #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Enter Molly Hayes — she’s a total delight. Remember that time she punched The Punisher right in the gut? Like I said, total delight. Of course, that was a long time ago, and she’s since moved on from being one of the Runaways — as Molly’s currently living with her kindly scientist grandma, it’s quite a surprise when Chase, Gert, Nico and Old Lace show up at Molly’s doorstep. Rainbow Rowell knows how joy can initially spring to the forefront when seeing old friends, lingering just long enough to see tensions arise (such as how Chase brings Victor Mancha’s head with him). While Rowell’s panel-to-panel pacing is strong, however, the plot would benefit from gaining a little more speed. Opening the issue with a moment of visual comedy, Kris Anka, backed up by Matt Wilson, tells a gag simply through where someone’s eyes are looking. Wilson’s colors bring a down-to-earth vibe, but with enough brightness to avoid seeming drab. They are reminiscent of the aesthetics found in Brian K. Vaughn’s original run, but overall the team has avoided trying to simply recapture that lightning in a bottle. Their approach has some issues, such as overarching pacing, but the potential is there to easily go the distance instead of coming up short.
Action Comics #993 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Dan Jurgens pulls double duty to deliver throwback thrills and structure in Action Comics #993. While the A-story is a big and weird tale of time travel centered around Booster Gold tracking down Superman as he travels back to the destruction to Krypton, the B-story is where Action finds a real charm and recaptures some of that old Superman family action of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Meanwhile, detailed in his expressive style, Jurgens introduces a thread of real-world intrigue into the title as Lois’ father is captured on a black ops mission and left to die in a foreign prison camp. While it is always entertaining to see Superman flung through time and subjected to Hi-Fi’s beautifully colored double-page splashes of fractured time, it is Action Comics #993’s down-to-earth moments that make this issue feel truly like a “Superman Family” book.
All-New Wolverine #28 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Sure, they might be hunting down a mystical weapon made out of rage that can kill them all, but I gotta say, All-New Wolverine is downright charming. Much of this comes from artist Juann Cabal, who’s got a vibe that’s somewhere between Jamie McKelvie and Barry Kitson — his action sequences feel dynamic, while a splash page of Daken meditating is a gorgeously mind-bending piece of work thanks to colorist Nolan Woodard. But even as the stakes for Laura get ratcheted up, Taylor really does an excellent job wooing readers thanks to the series’ makeshift Wolver-family, from Daken’s rakishness to Gabby excitedly imagining comic book covers featuring her brand-new codename (which I won’t spoil here, but it’s adorable). If you haven’t been reading All-New Wolverine, get on it now.