Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off with Courageous C.K. Stewart, who takes a look at Detective Comics #975…
Detective Comics #975 (Published by DC Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Detective Comics #975 touts itself as the start of The Trial of Batwoman, but it swiftly turns into a trial of the Bat-Family’s deepest values. James Tynion IV’s strength is his understanding of who each of these characters are, and his willingness to reflect on the full legacy of each of them in a way that feels sincere and human. These are larger-than-life characters brought together to do extraordinary work under outrageous circumstances, but in dealing with the aftermath of Kate’s actions their focus is narrowed to a fine point of their personal relationships with Batwoman and what the consequences of shunning her from their lives would be. Martinez, Fernandez, and Anderson deliver pitch-perfect moody art, and the close up shots of Kate as a child are particularly striking for her piercing, emotional gaze. This team has done excellent work on Detective Comics, and this week’s issue promises another compelling arc.
Lockjaw #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): What a good boy — and what a great comic. Writer Daniel Kibblesmith and artist Carlos Villa bring together an unlikely odd couple in Lockjaw #1, and as cuddly as the Inhumans’ teleporting dog might look, it’s his new sidekick who winds up stealing much of the show. While Lockjaw gets some cute moments with Karnak before embarking on a mysterious quest, Kibblesmith scores an absolute home run with his portrayal of Dennis Dunphy, the superhero formerly known as D-Man. As Kibblesmith rightly notes, the “D” stands for depression, and it’s hard not to feel some empathy for this directionless but clearly well-meaning goof, particularly when his own sister lets it slip that she thinks he’s suicidal. Villa, meanwhile, does some wonderfully expressive work, and goes a long way towards selling Lockjaw as an endearing character, given that his motivations and goals can be a little tougher to parse out without dialogue. While D-Man might outshine his canine compatriot, consider me sold on Lockjaw #1.
Abbott #2 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Saladin Ahmed’s supernatural mystery Abbott #2 continues to impress. Ace reporter Elena Abbott can’t seem to catch a break in any facet of her life in this week’s issue — she faces down both deadly spectres and dodges career-threatening bureaucrats, only to wind up staring down a former lover with a dark past in her quest to uncover the truth of the string of gruesome murders plaguing Detroit. Jason Worde’s moody colors are impeccable; they feel appropriately dated and never dull, and he and artist Sami Kivela manage the gorier moments of Abbott #2 in a way that’s rightfully horrifying but not overwhelmingly disgusting. Letterer Jim Campbell does great work as always, particularly in his ability to indicate soft asides or emphasis while keeping dialogue easy to read. Abbott is an eerie and compelling mystery that will stay with you long after reading.
Silencer #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There’s a very John Wick kind of vibe to Silencer #2, and while you could definitely make the case that this series isn’t the most original thing in the world, I find it harder to argue with Dan Abnett’s detailed world-building and John Romita, Jr.’s incredible action sequences. So much of what holds new characters back is the fact that they feel threadbare and underdeveloped, so seeing Honor Guest slide seamlessly back into her life as an assassin keeps the pace moving briskly, as we see how the Underlife cleans up messes and keeps its hired guns armed. While I still think the actual designs are a little half-baked — Honor’s weird visor and a bad guy made of living blood being two examples that stand out the most — the action sequences are brutal as hell, as we see Honor get trashed around some exploding cars with some real force. Granted, there’s still bits in this series that don’t quite add up — in particular, why Honor or the reader should care about her lame, boring husband — this series is really starting to grow on me.
America #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart, ‘Rama Rating 7 out of 10): The most disappointing thing about America Chavez’s first solo run is its lost potential — no matter what else America is an important book, and it’s unfortunate that Gabby Rivera was never quite able to translate her clear passion for bringing a queer Latina superhero to life into the format of a monthly comic. This week’s finale issue moves at a breakneck speed to wrap up the remaining loose ends for Rivera’s run, and the rough pacing makes the book almost anticlimactic to read. The art is gorgeous, particularly Jordan Gibson and Chris O’Halloran’s vibrant colors, but never quite enough to make up for a script laden with the exposition needed to close the loop in the run’s finale. If America #12 is somehow a reflection of Marvel’s flaws, it’s in Marvel’s assumption that a comic book is the only way to bring new writers on-board. America #12 may not end on the best note, but Rivera still brings such charm and passion to America that it would still be great to see her given another shot in a YA novel or even a graphic novel in the future.
Long Lost #4 (Published by Scout Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It’s difficult to overstate the momentum that Long Lost has been carrying since the debut of the strange comic from writer Matthew Erman and artist Lisa Sterle. While the series has been consistent in its equal dedication to creating a frightening atmosphere and to establishing Piper and Frances as unique and relatable protagonists, Long Lost #4 sees the series tying in a level of consistency in its world with the strange occurrences that have been following the main characters. When the two are in a restaurant with their aunt, one of the other patrons keels over and violently coughs up something at once organic and foreign, and as the issue closes Erman makes the world of the comic larger and more interconnected than it previously felt. Sterle’s art is a visual treat throughout, as characters pop against moody backdrops. Her ability to convey emotions through facial expressions makes the already strong dialogue of the issue even more believable. Long Lost #4 capitalizes on the gradually increasing level of intensity to a point that seems poised to become explosive within the next two issues.
Unbelievable Gwenpool #25 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10: With hundreds of comics coming out every week, it’s easy for some characters to feel disposable. And when you’re a spinoff of a spinoff like Unbelievable Gwenpool, well, it’d be easy to write her character off. But writer Christopher Hastings and artists Gurihuru do something I’ve never seen before with their final issue on the series — they don’t take their book’s closure lying down, giving this character a dignity and intelligence that lets Gwen Poole snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. With Gwen herself knowing she’s only down to a handful of pages before the end, Hastings gives this heartfelt finale a real tension and sense of loss — but at the same time, we also get to see Gwen succeed beyond her wildest dreams, not just taking out heavy hitters like Dormammu and Magneto, but by recognizing her own impact on readers now, in her upcoming trade, and years from now in circulation. Gurihuru’s artwork, meanwhile, feels as consistent and cartoony as ever, particularly emphasizing the bittersweet moments as Gwenpool says goodbye. For a character whose high concept felt as dubious as Unbelievable Gwenpool, Hastings and Gurihuru find a fantastic way to send off their character, in one of the single best series finales I’ve read in quite some time.
Justice League of America #25 (Published by DC Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart, ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Steve Orlando seems determined to go out with a big bang as his JLA run wraps up, but Justice League of America #25 feels too small to contain the full cosmic and philosophical scope of what Orlando is attempting to do. After the sudden introduction of Aztek, to the team, Batman and Black Canary quickly depart to the apocalyptic landscape of Angor to help Dreamslayer attempt to revive his world. The focus on Black Canary and her perspective on the ethical questions posed by the potential redemption of Angor with or without Lord Havok are fascinating, but the intense conversations aren’t quite enough to keep you wondering what the rest of the league is doing this whole time and just when we’ll get to see them again before Orlando’s run concludes. Mendonca, Jung, and Vines do an excellent job on pencils and inks giving the myriad realms the JLA visits a fantastical feel, but Chris Sotomayor in particular delivers excellent colors that make Angor feel truly otherworldly. Justice League of America #25 is a solid issue, but sets a quick pace that will remind you the clock is ticking on this current incarnation.