Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off the last column of 2017 with Plentiful Pierce Lydon, as they take a look at Batman: Creature of the Night...
Batman: Creature of the Night #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): A Batman story in the vein of Superman: Secret Identity? That’s all anyone should need to say to convince you to read this book. This is a Batman story unlike any other that explores a lot of the reasons why people love and relate to the character. Kurt Busiek and John Paul Leon are completely letting loose, telling a story that feels instantly timeless. Leon carries the book on his back, rendering a “real-life” Gotham that has just as much personality as the ones we’ve seen before. His ability to shift between the technicolor '60s Batman sequences and the grittier reality of the story works incredibly well. You might think a Batman story that doesn’t exactly feature Batman would make for a dull read, but Leon’s ability to draw great performances out of his characters buoys the more tedious moments in Busiek’s script. The only real knock against this book is Todd Klein’s lettering which is fine for the most part, but his use of a computer font that’s practically unreadable for Alfred's handwritten notes in the book doesn’t work at all.
Thanos #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Readers are treated to a walking tour of the rise of Future Thanos in Thanos #14. Picking up directly after last month’s time-travel based cliffhanger, writer Donny Cates pulls back a bit and gives us in brutally beautiful detail through multiple splash pages from artists Geoff Shaw and Antonio Fabela exactly how Future Thanos came to rule and who exactly he had to go through to get there. As we see the heaviest hitters of the Marvel Universe go down, the creative team keep the literal and metaphorical hits coming as they show Thanos’s path of destruction that started from his birth and ended with him slaughtering the Celestials with the help of a gut-shot Black Bolt. But while the artwork keeps delivering wanton destruction drenched in richly vibrant colors, Cates’ pointedly poetic voice keeps the script rolling merrily along, even though the actual plot doesn’t really make much headway this month. A lack of forward momentum aside, Thanos #14 remains secure as an unexpectedly emotional and cosmically violent treat.
Doomsday Clock #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Scott Cederlund; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s sequel to Watchmen sees Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ characters making the jump from their own isolated narrative into the world of Superman, complete with face-to-face meetings with Batman and Lex Luthor. Depending on the fandom, seeing Rorschach and Ozymandias step into the DC Universe is either a dream come true or a nightmare made into reality. Johns and Frank seem to be preparing for both reactions, showing two worlds on the brink of nuclear or meta-powered annihilation. Little other than a thin boundary of a comic book page has separated these characters, and even that’s torn asunder here as universes collide and characters step out of one story into another larger grand narrative that’s been in progress for decades. Whether it’s a dream or a nightmare, Johns and Frank continue to deliver just enough meta-textual teasing to pique the curiosity of where this event is heading in future issues.
Bonehead #1 (Published by Top Cow Productions; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): If you like cyberpunk street gangs, parkour and comic books without any semblance of a plot, then Bonehead might be the book for you. On the surface, it actually looks kind of cool. But as we meet this world and set of characters already in progress, there’s very little to actually latch onto outside of some cool character designs. Bryan Edward Hill’s script is fairly straightforward - a kid does some future parkour for a video livestream and has to run away from the cops which leads him into conflict with another gang. But there is almost nothing in terms of character and story development so the book almost reads like grittier comic book equivalent of Jet Set Radio Future. The art isn’t bad, but Rhoald Marcellius is working firmly in the artistic confines of cyberpunk without putting much of his own spin on it. The result makes Bonehead a book that reads and feels like a retread of stuff we’ve seen before.
Amazing Spider-Man #793 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There's some interesting subversions of the tried-and-true Spidey tropes in Amazing Spider-Man #793, as Dan Slott and Ryan Stegman get to portray ol' Webhead trying to cut loose as he's possessed by Maniac's symbiote, forcing new Anti-Venom Flash Thompson to try to save the day. I have to give Slott credit for tapping into all the nitty-gritty continuity of the previous Venom books, even going so far as to recall a wrinkle from Cullen Bunn's run on the character that gives one previously sidelined side character a new lease on the action. Slott also gets to have his cake and eat it, too, showing the sinister and deadly potential of Spider-Man while take a dark spin on his ever-present sense of humor (particularly when the Daily Bugle doesn't buy that he's the real deal). Stegman's action choreography is really stellar here, from a dynamic opening sequence and a great Flash/Spidey fight - that said, the Maniac masks are hit or miss, sometimes looking awesome with their bared teeth, while characters like Spidey clash a bit. Still, there's a disjointedness with the actual storyline that holds "Venom, Inc." back - for example, Eddie Brock shows up several times, but it feels only like he's marking time. A solid book, even if this is one of the weaker Spidey-events in recent history.
Justice League of America #21 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Compassion and understanding win the day to mark the return of Aztek in Justice League of America #21. Largely focused on the Ray as he returns to his hometown of Vanity, writer Steve Orlando takes the opportunity to not only bring back one of his favorite classic DC characters to the fold, but also to knock Ray down a peg or two. As the two begrudgingly team up to take down a gang, Orlando briskly moves through the new Aztek’s origins and uses her as a avatar to hold Ray responsible for his kinda selfish attitude toward being a Leaguer, making her appearance more than just an empty cameo. Artist Stephen Byrne keeps the action bathed in golden light, but still focused on the characters, amplifying Orlando’s pathos-heavy script, while also delivering a few choice bits of action choreography to round out all the emotions flying around alongside the heroes. Though not nearly as focused as I would have hoped, as the script keeps cutting back to the frigid relationship between Killer Frost and Ryan Choi, Justice League of America #21 is still a worthy return for Aztek as she stands as a worthy addition to this new JLA.
Despicable Deadpool #291 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Despicable Deadpool continues to be one of my favorite "Marvel Legacy" titles, as Gerry Duggan and Scott Koblish capture frenetic action with a madcap sense of humor, as Deadpool pulls a triple-cross as he's caught between his best frenemy Cable and his maniacal clone Stryfe. (As evidenced by a hilarious splash page of all three characters shouting each others' names.) Duggan plays up Deadpool's subversive streak beautifully in this book, particularly the grandiose pomposity of Stryfe being played against the genuine silliness of him killing and dressing up as a surgeon (explaining that "the regular doctor had to call in sick - for the rest of his life"). Koblish, meanwhile, draws Deadpool with a mean wiriness that provides a nice contrast with the impossibly muscled Cable and Stryfe, playing up the character's mean streak that lets him keep up with these time-traveling telekinetics. While this issue certainly doesn't reinvent the wheel, there's a slyness to Duggan and Koblish's work on this series that makes Despicable Deadpool a not-so-guilty pleasure issue after issue.
Action Comics #994 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Things go from bad to worse to possibly time-destroying in Action Comics #994. On the run from the combined forces of a time-displaced Krypton, Superman teams up with Booster Gold and Skeets as they attempt to travel back to the present and make sure that this new “reborn” Krypton stays just a shadow in time. Of course, since Booster is involved, things quickly go pear-shaped as Superman is confronted with a divergent timeline that finds his people surviving… and has him leading Krypton into that age of prosperity across the universe. Writer and artist Dan Jurgens, along with finished inks by Art Thibert, Trevor Scott, Johnny Desjardins, and Joe Prado, and eye-grabbing colors by Hi-Fi, continues to ride a wave of nostalgia with his epic scale, heartfelt emotion, and kinetically old-school pencils; think of this story as Doctor Who-by-way-of-’80s Superman. While I would have loved a bit more time delving into Lois’s investigation into her father’s capture, Action Comics #994 still brings the old-school thrills and fun that I really want from a Superman title.
Moon Knight #190 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Three issues into Max Bemis’s Moon Knight, and all the pieces aren’t exactly coming together. Bemis’ plotting isn’t very impactful. A lot of that has to do with how much everything is undercut with humor - a tactic that might work if the jokes landed. Instead, the dialogue comes off as juvenile and grating, completely undermining whatever threat there’s supposed to be in this book. There is some good on the page, though. Jacen Burrows’s art is really clean which generally helps the flow of the story. But the script is so pedestrian that he doesn’t get anything exciting to draw. Moon Knight is a character with a lot of potential, but it’s being wasted here.