Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week's installment of your Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off today's column with Clobberin' C.K. Stewart, who takes a look at this week's issue of Runaways...
Runaways #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Massive jet lag, major jealousy, and a grandma with some deep, dark secrets: Runaways #5 has it all. As Gert struggles to deal with how much she’s missed in the two years that have passed since her death, Molly juggles familial loyalty and the painful confusion of having no way to help someone who means the world to you. Writer Rainbow Rowell’s handling of Gert’s depression over the consequences of her sudden return is especially touching and offers an emotional grounding point in an otherwise unrelatable situation; we’re never going to get dragged back from the past by our boyfriends, but Gert’s listlessness and pervasive unease with her lack of place and purpose humanizes a superhuman scenario. Artist Kris Anka and colorist Matthew Wilson continue to impress — Anka does some masterful character work, and the thought and care he puts into often ignored details like Molly’s bedroom and her very consistent and age-appropriately youthful wardrobe go a long way in creating a richer and more accessible world for readers.
Mister Miracle #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Big Barda’s got something on her mind. No, not any situation involving the New Gods — she thinks the condo needs redecorating, and it’s that conversation that is the beating heart of Mister Miracle #6. As Scott and Barda begin an invasion of New Genesis, the pair aim to reach Orion directly while Tom King, Mitch Gerads and Clayton Cowles use this as a chance to show off what they can do. King’s scripting of their conversation is jovial, but this is also an issue where two guards are dead before the eighteenth panel, so it’s not just banter abound. But there’s still a sense of playfulness that goes beyond the absurdist dialogue of Scott Free’s trial in Issue #4, baked into the language of the issue. Yet even the action here is stunning — traversing laser grids, monster-filled waters and guard-occupied hallways, Scott and Barda cannot be slowed down, and neither can this creative team. Each sequence flows together in a continuous fashion, but they couldn’t feel more different from one another, each playing with page space in a new way. Even as the walls are closing in around Barda and Scott, the incredibly creative team of King, Gerads and Cowles have never felt freer to be formally daring.
The Sword of Ages #2 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Richard Gray; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): If Gabriel Rodriguez never did anything beyond the artwork for Locke & Key, he’d still go down in comic book history as one of the greats. His debut effort as both writer and artist in The Sword of Ages has tried to tackle a lot of ideas, giving way to some unintended story confusion. Some of that follows the heroes into the sophomore issue, even if it a much more straightforward quest narrative this time out. However, Rodriguez seems to be bursting with ideas, his ideas tripping over each other on their way out to the panel, with scenes following each other in a chaotic succession. What can’t be faulted is the slick art, lovingly colored by Lovern Kindzierski, a mixture of classical iconography and fantastical creatures. The level of detail is staggering as well, with a multi-page battle in the underworld taking on Geof Darrow levels of chaos. Yet it all seems to be following a monomythic hero’s journey, and hopefully the raising of a sword in the final moments signals a singular forward momentum to come.
Old Man Hawkeye #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Micaleff; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It might not be adamantium, but there’s a familiar but compelling strong skeleton to the story of Old Man Hawkeye. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic future where the Red Skull defeated most of Marvel’s superheroes, things have an air of desperation and hopelessness for one Clint Barton, now dealing with the onset of blindness in his old age — not to mention a horde of evil redneck Jamie Madrox clones. There’s the familiar genre trappings at work here, that of revenge, the “one last job,” and the prodigal father trying to make amends before he kicks the bucket. While familiar, writer Ethan Sacks uses these tropes skillfully, and in conjunction with Marco Chechetto’s strong storytelling and facial expressions, further justifies the existence of this series. That said, it's when Sacks winds up stacking up his Marvel universe cameos - particularly in the back half of the book - that the book flounders a bit, as churning through valuable page real estate with familiar faces instead of exploring the truly interesting angle of an Avenger wrestling with mortality and his own enduring legacy. Calling in themes of aging and legacy in the face of superhero servitude, Old Man Hawkeye is a solid debut, but one that might excel further if it lets Barton do his own thing.
Paradiso #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Nobody said getting to paradise would be easy - and to be honest, no one said reading Paradiso would be easy, either. There's a singular, idiosyncratic voice that informs writer Ram V and artist Devmalya Pramanik's work, and for those who enjoy the weird post-apocalyptic sci-fi vibe this series is putting out, it'll be off to the races. But after the world-building that was done last issue, it feels like this series is still moving along in baby steps, as our hero Jack makes his way across the eerie husk of a technological city in search for both a precious artifact as well as entry to the city of Paradiso. Readers will also be scrambling to find their footing as not only are we following Jack's past and present, but a collection of side plots from other characters we're just starting to get to know. Pramanik's artwork, along with Dearbhla Kelly's colors, continues to be the real draw here, evoking great Image artists like Jerome Opeña or Sean Murphy. That said, this book may be a little too esoteric for those who want their storytelling to be a little more concrete, but there's still plenty of potential to Paradiso.
Avengers #675 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The Earth has moved! Where to? Nobody knows yet, but the mystery imbues Avengers: No Surrender with an initial burst of momentum. From the collective pen of Mark Waid, Al Ewing and Jim Zub comes the start of a weekly storyline that pulls the various Avengers teams together. As such, much of the issue is indebted to gradually involving each of the teams, from the main Avengers (previously written by Waid) to Zub’s Unity Squad. Even Red Wolf and Hawkeye –– who used to be in Occupy Avengers –– play a part. It’s a massive cast, but don’t worry, there’s a who’s who attached. Handling the art for the first month are Pepe Larraz and David Curiel who ensure the threats at hand, like a tidal wave about to submerge San Diego, have a sense of urgency about them. Curiel’s colours are crisp and help keep the myriad of characters identifiable, but Larraz’s anatomy is less consistent, some of the angles picked for panels doing them no favours. It is primarily a set-up issue, but the various threads being established feel cohesive enough at this moment to suggest it’ll hold together for now.
Star Wars: Forces of Destiny - Rey #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Richard Gray; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The premise behind the Forces of Destiny series could be more timely, chronicling a series of moments that highlight the strength for the female characters in the Star Wars universe. Unfortunately for writer Jody Houser, the Rey issue comes saddled with the secretive constraints of the current trilogy. All this issue manages to do is retell a moment from early in The Force Awakens in which Rey first meets BB-8. About the only point of difference is the appearance of a few more creatures in between the panels, so think of this as a George Lucas style Special Edition. Arianna Florean and Adele Matera’s art matches the all-ages approach of the accompanying online video series, bringing a lively cartoonish quality to a familiar sequence. This is a great series, but it’s a shame that the character that the target audience would most identify with right now gets the equivalent of a 20-page Little Golden Book.
Superwoman #18 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Time’s up for Superwoman as K. Perkins brings “The Midnight Hour” arc - and the series - to a close, with an issue that looks inwards, as Lana and the robotic Midnight find themselves trapped in Lana’s head with no immediate way out. With Perkins for the last hurrah is penciler Max Raynor, inkers Jamie Mendoza and Scott Hanna, colorist Hi-Fi and letterer Carlos M. Mangual. Half of the issue takes place in what’s essentially nothingness, and so Mangual’s contributions must be noted for making dialogue and thoughts seem like whispers disappearing into the ether. The other four ensure that Lana takes her leave with the series’ signature art, both crackling dynamic and attentively emotive. Demonstrative of how superhero books can bring the action and smaller displays of feelings in equal measure. Perkins’ scenes move briskly along, and as much the way the issue ends is a fitting conclusion for the series, this is the kind of concept that could’ve worked for more than just one issue.
Invasion From Planet Wrestletopia #1 (Published by Suspicious Behavior Productions; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Even if you’re not a diehard wrestling fan, you should absolutely pick up Invasion From Planet Wrestletopia #1 to see a bear wrestle (and win). This bonkers book follows the rise and fall of pro wrestler Rory Landell and the promo that accidentally causes an intergalactic incident. Smarks will delight in all the clever winks and nods they can pick up, and fans who know Dwayne Johnson better than Rocky Maivia will still have plenty to enjoy in this delightfully strange tale from writers Ed Kuehnel and Matt Entin. Artist Dan Schkade and colorist Marissa Louise lean all the way into the over-the-top aesthetics of old school pro wrestling with strong lines and vibrant colors, particularly for the space-faring portions of the book. Invasion From Planet Wrestletopia #1 is a must for wrestling fans, but such a delightfully weird debut issue that anyone can jump right in and expect to have a fantastic time.
I Am A Hero Omnibus Vol. 5 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Justin Micallef; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Kengo Hanazawa’s I Am A Hero finds itself in the ugliness of isolation; separating itself from other zombie narratives by subverting all tropes of the lone, rugged band of survivors in favor of focusing on those who already considered their lives worthless pre-outbreak. Kengo Hanazawa’s characters, already rotting from within thanks to the pressures of masculinity, conformity and workplace responsibility, are forced to gradually accept and overcome their shortcomings in the face of a zombie apocalypse. Take our main character Hideo, for example — cowardly and selfish, Hideo was the furthest thing from a hero, but with everyone he found threatening in his everyday life suddenly becoming zombie food, Hideo is able to rise above his own mediocrity in the face of the apocalypse. Even ancillary characters, such as a dysfunctional couple we see on holiday, represent the horrors of loneliness and isolation, as their disintegrating relationship mirrors the oncoming threat of the zombie horde. Meanwhile, Hanazawa’s art continues to match the tone of the story perfectly as well, able to craft facial expressions that elicit the sudden jolt of terror one gets when turning on their front facing cameras. I Am A Hero is in a class of its own, able to terrorize through monsters and modernity alike.