Best Shots Rapid-Fire Reviews: INHUMANS: JUDGMENT DAY, THE FLASH #39, SEX CRIMINALS #21, PHOENIX RESURRECTION #4, More

Marvel Comics January 2018 cover
Credit: Marvel Comics

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your weekly pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off with Carnivorous C.K. Stewart, who takes a look at this week's Inhumans: Judgment Day...

Credit: Marvel Comics

Inhumans: Judgment Day #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Mike Del Mundo and co-colorist Marco D’Alfonso’s spectacular artwork carries the day in this week’s debut of Inhumans: Judgment Day #1. From the beautiful, spectral gleam of the mysterious Primagen crystals that hold the Inhumans' last hope of survival to a spectacular unearthly spread of a triumphant Medusa, Del Mundo and D’Alfonso deliver a vibrant, incredible palette that translates well across the galaxy. From the Inhumans’ varied styles to the otherworldly uniformity of the invading Progenitors, Del Mundo pushes his artistic skill to elevate Al Ewing’s script to another level. Ewing does a solid job providing just enough context for the events of other recent Inhumans series to make Inhumans: Judgment Day #1 somewhat new-reader friendly, though a refresher look at the stellar Black Bolt wouldn’t hurt. This judgment comes easy, as this is a beautiful and emotional book worth checking out even if you haven’t been following the overall Inhumans arc as of late.

Credit: Carmine Di Giandomenico (DC Comics)

The Flash #39 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10: The impact that the final moments of Flash #39 has on you will depend on how much weight Gorilla Grodd carries for you as a reader - as well as how much you forget that the cover has Flash fighting his classic foe surrounded by letters that read “Grodd Is Back.” Despite this, much of what is between the cover and the reveal is generally solid, if a little prohibitive to newer readers. When the comic focuses on Barry and Iris, writer Joshua Williamson is at his best. It’s easy to become immediately invested in the two, as Flash shows Iris the intricacies of his life as a superhero. Iris’s demeanor gradually shifts from the opening of the comic as she learns more, a shift marked by colorist Ivan Plascencia’s brighter color choices. The lighter colors used in the happier moments between the two are the result of the extraordinary aspects of Flash’s life, like the Speed Force and the Watchtower. Artist Carmine Di Giandomenico’s work with action sequences is breathtaking but conversational faces hold some panels back. Williamson’s inclusion of the Kid Flash subplot is forgettable but inoffensive, but his handling of Grodd’s legion of followers and the gorilla’s introduction, however spoiled it may be by the cover, show a skill in building tension through a comic. Overall, it’s a solid comic that lays a lot of groundwork for the rest of its arc.

Credit: Image Comics

Postal #25 (Published by Top Cow Productions; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): As Mark finally discovers the dark secret of Eden’s origins, Laura finds herself plagued by nightmares and comes to a terrible realization — there are some sins that just can’t be eaten. Postal edges closer to an unsettling conclusion in Wednesday’s haunting Postal #25, and its ambiguous nature seems to be fitting end to a series that’s centered itself around the exploration of uneasy moral questions. Colorist K. Michael Russell does impeccable work this issue, creating broody, unsettling scenes even from moments framed by the usually warm and comfortable glow of a setting sun. Folks hoping for a cut-and-dry finale for Postal #25 may find themselves disappointed — with luck, the Mark and Maggie one-shots will provide a little more closure, but Bryan Hill, Isaac Goodheart, Russell, and Troy Peteri still deliver an impeccable story whose ambiguity suits the city of Eden’s complicated past.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Avengers #677 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): If Marvel’s constant stream of monthly events didn’t win you over, don’t expect their weekly ones to, either. Because as Avengers #677 demonstrates, they essentially have the same problem: pacing and framing. Jim Zub, Mark Waid and Al Ewing have to get the teams in place to do battle with the Black Order and the Lethal Legion, but it's all framed through Quicksilver’s insecurities around not being trusted. The focus on one character pulls us away from all the action that’s happening. It actually feels like we’re missing things. Plus Quicksilver's moping rings out of character compared to the impetuousness we’ve seen of him in the past — while he eventually goes AWOL on his own, the hemming and hawing to get there feels more like a way to pad out the pages than anything else. The art looks great, though — Pepe Larraz is well-suited for this event, imbuing it was a scale and fluidity that we usually see from guys like Olivier Coipel while also nailing a couple of smaller character moments. But overall, this book feels a bit light.

Credit: DC Comics

Detective Comics #973 (Published by DC Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The final issue of the Fall of the Batmen arc falls a little flat in this week’s Detective Comics #973. Tynion’s script moves at a rapid pace, made a little confusing to read at times with some panel layouts that are interesting but take a little getting used to. Jesus Merino does an excellent job with the body horror elements of Clayface, particularly his transformation, but quiet emotional moments feel flat and lack any real punch - even in the book’s climactic and startling final panels. The creative team does do an excellent job managing such the Bat-Family’s massive cast, from the immediately recognizable artwork to Tynion’s grasp on their distinctive individual voices. There are some other outstanding character threads looming that don’t really have time to get much play in this issue, particularly the First Victim’s identity and motives, and the idea that missing pieces are more compelling than what should be a gripping Clayface storyline is what keeps this issue from being fully great on its own.

Credit: Image Comics

Sex Criminals #21 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Breakups are hard. But now Sex Criminals is back, and everything is fine. Or at least that’s what Jon tells himself. It’s only been six months since he broke up with Suzie, his partner-in-sex-crime. But writer Matt Fraction and artist Chip Zdarsky make their inevitable run-in with one another as simultaneously endearing and embarrassing as you might expect. But underneath the deeply funny check-ins with each character (in particular, Orderly Dewey going undercover as a bank teller is dangly, deeply hilarious) is a truly arresting current of depression and sadness - even the villainous Kegelface can’t help but freeze in front of an ex-fling. Watching Jon and Suzie sleepwalk through life is haunting, reminding us that breakups can be like cauterizing a wound - the lack of sensation is just another reminder of what you’ve lost. And so much of this is due to Zdarsky’s artwork - while he revels in the comedic moments (the look on Suzie’s mom’s face while she and her friends explore their “deltas of Venus” is screamingly funny), he more often nails the humanity to these characters, the subtle smiles and forlorn looks. So maybe things aren’t fine - but Sex Criminals continues to be a delight. Buy this book - you’ll be grumped if you don’t.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Phoenix Resurrection #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): With Phoenix Resurrection, it almost feels like Matthew Rosenberg is doing the anti-event book - while there’s the obligatory action sequences, Rosenberg seems more at home during the quiet moments of this series. Take, for example, Jean’s fiery strolls down memory lane, as we see unsettling images of life and death filled with X-Men Easter eggs - it’s a weird, ominous way to tackle the return of a fan-favorite character, but it’s also the right choice, given Jean’s past as a world-razing killer. But to me, even with continuity-mining beats like the X-Men battling the ghosts of their deceased comrades-in-arms, the best part about this book has to be Rosenberg turning expectations on their head when Old Man Logan steps up to face the Phoenix, as the only living X-Man who truly loved Jean as an adult. Artist Ramon Rosanas, meanwhile, does some solid if somewhat bloodless work here, but he’s really at his best when he’s able to get a little more sketchy in his art – his cliffhanger page of the Phoenix staring at Logan is particularly ominous. All in all, Phoenix Resurrection continues to be off-kilter for an event book, but I’m eager to see if that untraditional approach winds up paying off.

Credit: DC Comics

Justice League of America #23 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Neil Edwards’ artwork is the standout of Justice League of America #23, as he delivers an issue that visually might make Mark Buckingham proud. And considering the slight storybook tinge to the proceedings, it's fitting that the book looks a little bit like Fables. However, that comparison is ultimately to the book’s detriment. As the League rallies to strike back against the Queen of Fables, Steve Orlando’s script serves only to get us to the final reveal (another dip into Alan Moore’s toy box that I’m sure he appreciates) and not much else. The characters seem to be moving in slow motion dealing with this latest threat and Killer Frost’s internal strife is far from compelling comic booking. There’s clear room for improvement, especially the inventive way Orlando has Vixen rejoin the fold. But this roster still hasn’t consistently gelled, and it shows.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Thanos #15 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): There’s scarcely a dull moment in Thanos #15. What is most impressive is that writer Donny Cates infuses so much energy into the comic’s narrative without relying on a single fight scene, and yet it feels like more full of motion than the most action sequence-stuffed superhero comics. This is due to Cates’s superb maintainance of the mystique of Thanos, which really makes the reader feel as if they are reading a character cosmically more important than a human — to the point where the interesting reveal of the far-future Ghost Rider actually feels completely arbitrary, taking away from the fascinating dynamic of Thanos and King Thanos. Artist Geoff Shaw wastes little time showing off in a full page splash of Ghost Rider’s Penance Stare, and throughout the comic Shaw’s playing with shadows dances beautifully with colorist Antonio Fabela’s dusk and sundown tones. With a final page reveal that will delight Annihilation fans, this is a comic that will be equally appreciated by series fans and newcomers alike.

Credit: Archie Comics

Jughead: The Hunger #3 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Things start to heat up for Jughead Jones when he reunites with his high school chums from Riverdale — especially when they’re all packing silver bullets. Teaming up with inker Bob Smith and colorist Matt Herms, artists Pat and Tim Kennedy really warm up to the ominousness of Jughead’s new life as a teenage werewolf in the book’s first half, as we meet Jug’s evil werewolf cousin Bingo. Frank Tieri writes Bingo’s origin as just gory enough to gloss over any complications, and there’s enough malice in Bingo’s voice to grab readers’ attentions. That said, Tieri’s subplot with monster hunter Betty Cooper can’t help but slow things down a bit — the premise is solid, but the addition of characters like Bo and Elena Cooper feels like an inorganic fit with Betty’s character concept to this point. Still, when the fireworks begin, Tieri and artist Joe Eisma do some nice work, with the black comedy of the werewolves cutting circus vigilantes literally at the knees, and the look on Archie’s face when he thinks he might have killed his best friend is superb. When we meet Reggie’s pack of werewolves, it might be the most fluid I’ve seen Eisma’s work yet. While still trailing behind some of Archie Horror’s more standout offerings, there’s been enough of an upswing since Issue #1 that I would definitely consider getting another helping of Jughead: The Hunger.

Menthu: The Anger of Angels (Published by Black Inc! Imprints; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): “Kemetic People’s Elbow, fool!” There’s a wild sense of humor to Menthu: The Anger of Angels, a sprawling superhero smackdown filled with angels, demons, and a refreshing lack of self-seriousness. In some ways, writer Hannibal Tabu is channeling old-school Spawn with his Egyptian-themed superhero who is caught in a byzantine war between Heaven and Hell — but every time a reader might get overwhelmed with the mythology, he brings things back down to Earth with a one-liner (“Less chat, more Gat!”) or a well-timed realization (like how does Menthu see with a beak right in front of his eyes, anyway?). Artist Robert Roach brings an intense indie sensibility to his black-and-white artwork, but beyond a few splashes of flat color here and there, one can’t help but wonder if a full color rendering might have given Roach’s deeply detailed action sequences a bit more depth — additionally, Roach’s lettering occasionally comes off as distracting during the more sound effect-heavy portions of the book. But there’s a real energy and enthusiasm to both the story and the visuals that makes Menthu: The Anger of Angels a fun romp off the traditional beaten path.

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