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 Carnivorous C.K. Stewart, who takes a look at the latest issue of Marvel 2-on-One...
Marvel 2-in-One #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart, ‘Rama Rating 9 out of 10): Marvel 2-in-One isn’t the only reason Marvel just signed Chip Zdarsky to an exclusive contract, but it’s definitely the book to check out if you’re not sure why. Johnny and Ben jet through the Multiverse with Rachna and find themselves in the presence of Reed Richards once again in short order — a Reed Richards, that is. Zdarsky keeps up the goofy humor, but there’s a sense of unease that grows throughout the issue as Ben and Johnny begin to realize they may not like the other versions of their lost family they come across in their journey. Valerio Schiti’s art and Frank Martin’s colors keep this book vibrant and fun, and there are some particularly eye-popping visual effects that drive home the cosmic scope of the series. If you haven’t checked this series out yet, you should; four issues in, Marvel 2-in-One continues to be a consistently great read.
Detective Comics #976 (Published by DC Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): In the wake of Batwoman’s departure, is the Bat-Family falling apart? This week’s Detective Comics #976 explores the fallout of the trial of Kate Kane, as the family struggles to come to terms with her actions and what it will mean for the team Bruce Wayne was attempting to build. Tynion manages to introduce some surprising turns without them feeling unnatural — he has a refreshing grasp on the nuances of each of these characters, and his absence after issue #981 will be sorely felt. Artist Javier Fernandez and colorist John Kalisz bring a softness to Kate Kane that delivers much of the emotional impact of this issue; it’s almost palpable how much tension has left her since departing for The Colony. This is Tynion’s last arc on the series, and it’s shaping up to be a good one — it will be interesting to see how this week’s developments shake out.
Puerto Rico Strong (Published by Lion Forge; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Edited by Marco Lopez, Desiree Rodriguez, Hazel Newlevant, Derek Ruiz and Neil Schwartz, Puerto Rico Strong is a collection of contributions from creators including Vita Ayala, Fabian Nicieza and Alexis Sergio. While produced in response to Hurricane Maria’s devastating effects, the anthology’s opening story makes it clear this was not the first hardship faced by Puerto Rico. Through the various stories, it deals with contemporary struggles –– from large-scale aid-related crises down to more personal fears about being unable to contact a loved one –– and the country’s history, centering the people and culture of Puerto Rico. For those completely unfamiliar with the history, like myself, it can serve as a primer about the Taino, their gods and more, but it has purpose beyond being solely educative material as each creative team gets to represent how they see the country. From single pages of art through to longer, sequential stories, common themes and areas of focus arise, but this doesn’t come across as repetition. Instead, it reinforces a sense of community, illustrates a celebration of culture and serves as a reminder of what the world would be losing if it didn’t help Puerto Rico recover.
Mister Miracle #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Hell hath no fury that can match the Furies from Apokolips. Especially if you make them sit in the waiting room for hours on end. Mister Miracle returns with Barda ready to give birth. After a round of “who’s on first” with a valet, most of the issue takes place in a hospital room. Barda’s dealing the various stages of labor so Scott helps as much as he can –– including dealing with the Furies. While the first arc began with near-death, the second starts on the cusp of new life, which makes for some dynamite juxtaposition. Despite this difference, the series retains its wry and sardonic tone as it marries comedy and almost-tragedy. The mixture of these brought by Tom King’s script, in conjunction with Mitch Gerads’ imagery –– such as an early issue hand-holding –– convey a genuine sense of romance for Scott and Barda. The strength of their relationship has been one of the biggest highlights to this series and this could be the finest display yet, despite the book’s unnerving feeling that everything could be false.
Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #301 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Chip Zdarsky is exactly the kind of writer you want to do a time-travel story. There’s a lightness and fun to his writing that allows the comic to flow so naturally while still taking to account for some of the more boring details of time travel. In essence, readers are left with a story that features more than a few laugh out loud moments, some fun superheroing and somehow manages to squeeze in some possible recontextualizing of Teresa Durand, Peter’s possible sister. Joe Quinones’ art really helps things along. Zdarsky comics can get a little talky at times and if he’s not paired with an artist that can deliver on nuanced facial expressions, some of the humor gets lost. Thankfully, Quinones is a seasoned Zdarsky collaborator and he mostly nails this team-up of two Spider-Men, the only problem really being some clear struggles to vary up the panels a bit when Peter, JJJ and Teresa are in young Peter’s room. But overall, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man is a nice change of pace from the usual flavor of Spidey stories.
Supergirl #19 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The world can move pretty quickly, but Supergirl #19 makes time to sit down and chat. This issue works as a standalone story focusing on Lee Serrano, scripted by Steve Orlando and Vita Ayala, though it fits within Orlando’s ongoing narrative. Lee was saved by Kara when Cyborg Superman came to town and the Girl of Steel continued to be there for them afterwards, useful because Lee is non-binary and was grappling with trouble at school and how to come out to their parents. The story is handled with an intense level of care by Orlando, Ayala and Jamal Campbell, emphasizing compassion above all else; a perfect fit for a series in the Super-family of books. Campbell’s art has a light yet warm touch to it which works for both the kinetic quality of Kara’s superpowers as well as the stillness when she just listens to Lee and offers her the simple comfort of a hand on their shoulder. While a story about how a superhero can impact one specific person is nothing new, a high level of craft ensures that Supergirl #19 soars.
Postal: Laura #1 (Published by Top Cow Productions; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating 7 out of 10): This final one-shot in the Postal universe (though not the final story set in Eden) is less about Laura and more about the legacy she’s left behind for new mayor Mark and his partner Maggie. There’s no real sense of closure here; for every loose end that feels tied up it seems as if another knot untangles itself. It is interesting to see Mark and Maggie step into their new roles, though, watching them struggle to help build something new for Eden and themselves without falling into the same tragic cycle Laura left for them. Isaac Goodheart’s art and K. Michael Russell’s colors keep Eden moody and discomfiting — there’s a tension in every page that feels inescapable, where even the “good” moments feel too fragile to hold on to for very long. There’s not much here that feels particularly satisfying or final after the finale of the main Postal series earlier this year, but fans of the Edenverse will likely enjoy this all the same.
The Flash #42 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The Flashes are at war, but unfortunately, even with all the lightning rattling around Central City, Joshua Williamson’s narrative behind this event lacks a real punch. With that all said, The Flash #42 feels like a pretty standard boilerplate story and it delivers it with all the self-importance but none of the fun that makes superhero comics so iconic. Williamson does draw parallels between Grodd and Barry Allen that are interesting if you squint, but the story just rehashes the same “obsession” narrative that we’ve seen played out before. Dan Panosian is an interesting fit for a Flash book because his lines have a lot of weight to them. So he’s able to turn in a great looking Grodd, but his speedsters feel leaden and slow. He also uses a Zip-A-Tone effect throughout the book that’s baffling because it looks so out of place. The Flash #42 is here for the diehard Flash fans but otherwise there’s not a ton to really sink your teeth into.
Doctor Strange #387 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Donny Cates’ Marvel tenure hasn’t been very long, but he’s already displayed a deep understanding of what makes these characters work. With Strange reeling from the events of Damnation, the not-always-great Doctor could use a little help from his friends. We already know that Wong and his team are on their way and closed out the last issue fighting a flame-skulled Strange so Cates gets to show us exactly how things went to... well, hell. Nik Henrichon handles the art on this one and despite his thin lines, his characters have a lot of presence. The unfortunate side effect of the story taking place in a literal hellscape is that the colors can start to look a bit too consistent - with pages being taken over by reds, yellows and oranges. But when Henrichon is able to introduce competing colors and better contrast, the art really sings. Regardless of your feelings about Damnation as a whole, it’s clear that Cates and company are still doing exciting work with Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme.
Cold War #2 (Published by Aftershock Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): “After I finish this, I’ll have to die all over again and hope my soul knows the way home.” Christopher Sebela and Hayden Sherman’s Cold War is exactly the punch in the mouth that comics needs right now. It’s Sherman’s artwork that will stand out first and foremost — a deft reimagining of ‘80s Frank Miller through a 2000AD sci-fi lens. To say that almost feels reductive, though. With Sherman handling every aspect of the art including coloring and lettering, Cold War has a singular vision that oozes the kind of visual harmony that collaborative teams can only dream of. While the art does stand alone, it’s an incredible vehicle for Sebela’s writing here. Vinh, the “grandma” of the group of survivors, takes center stage here as Sebela explores her backstory through the lens of the war and sci-fi tropes he’s playing with. Sebela’s conceit is clever in that it allows him to stretch those tropes to their limit without them feeling overwrought. Flashbacks and backstory are served by the characters’ Memtech helmets that allow them to see their past memories played out. And we get to see how Vinh’ past influences her demeanor and approach here. All of these characters hoped for something better but she finds herself stuck in the same rut she thought she left behind. Coupled with Sherman’s visceral artwork, this issue stands as a chilling examination of the lengths we’ll go to to change our station.