Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Powerful Pierce Lydon, who takes a look at the latest issue of Thanos…
Thanos #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Is it too soon to call “Thanos Wins” a modern classic? I don’t think so. There have been a number of frankly forgettable Thanos stories since ol’ Wrinkle-Chin showed up in the post-credits scene of indie film sensation Marvel’s The Avengers in 2012. But with “Thanos Wins,” Donny Cates and artist Geoff Shaw have managed to recapture the esoteric charm of Thanos Quest and Infinity Gauntlet and remind readers why the Mad Titan is one of the most intense villains in Marvel’s stable. That said, this ending might fall a little flat for some readers, as Cates penchant for ornate narration takes some of the punch out of the big showdown between the two titans. Additionally, Shaw’s choice of shots as the young Thanos makes his final gambit are a little less than compelling. But in the end, Thanos isn’t the only one who wins - Cates, Shaw and, most importantly, the readers do, too.
The Flash #44 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Barry Allen may not be everyone’s favorite Flash, but Joshua Williamson continues to make a great case for him. “Perfect Storm” has been a somewhat uneven arc, but the finale will hit you right where you live, framing the action with Barry’s letter to Iris as he heads off to face certain death at the hands of Grodd and the Negative Speed Force. It’s a little schmaltzy, but it's a perfectly Barry Allen story: he’ll save everyone even if that means sacrificing himself. But Williamson and the other Flashes have other plans, and we get a gorgeous splash of all of them racing to save the day. Carmine Di Giandomenico is at the height of his powers here (with some serious help from colorist Ivan Plascencia). The struggle with Flash comics is always being able to communicate the speed and motion that is inherent to the character on the page, but Di Giandomenico’s characters crackle with life even when they’re standing still. Plascencia’s colors are striking, practically leaping off the page and they go a long way to helping readers distinguish the different characters. Heading into Flash War, Williamson has readers right where he wants them, and that’s great news for Flash fans.
Crude #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There’s a really dark and oppressive mood that surrounds Steve Orlando and Garry Brown’s Crude, which is a Taken-style revenge story of a Russian soldier who goes on the hunt for his son’s killer at a dangerous oil refinery town. Of course, it does take a little while to get there — Orlando’s story has brief flashes of brutal violence, as we see the costs that violence has exacted on protagonist Piotr’s soul, while his son Kiril gives Crude a brief streak of idealism and inclusivity as a polyamorous, bisexual character. Brown, meanwhile, gives a moody, scratchy feel to the whole book, reminding me a bit of Michael Walsh — he seems to revel in the craggy features of his central character, mixing light and shadow to make even casual conversation look dramatic. But that all said, decompression absolutely saps Crude of its momentum — Orlando bounces between time periods so quickly that it’s easy to lose track of the characters and settings, while the actual refinery itself only appears in a double-page spread at the end of the book. While the slow pacing drags this debut a bit, if Crude can commit to its central concept in future issues, though, Orlando and Brown’s story might catch on beyond its tough guy tropes.
Detective Comics #978 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): James Tynion IV and Javier Fernandez are ambitious as hell with Detective Comics #978, a high-stakes escalation of Batman’s ongoing war with the Colony, but despite the two creators’ best intentions, there’s a little bit of clarity lost in the execution that will hold up even longtime readers. Still, you can’t fault Tynion for swinging for the fences — this issue is full of shifting loyalties and double-crosses, as Batman and Batwoman circle each other after Colony soldiers were caught shooting up mobsters — meanwhile, Tim Drake and Ulysses Armstrong are engaging in a chess match of plotting and detective work, which culminates in the return of a long-brewing big bad to the DC Universe. That said, Tynion and Fernandez sometimes stumble in getting all the information they need across — after a striking, multi-paneled double-page spread, I still can’t figure out when Tim Drake was injured enough to require crutches for the rest of the book, while the leap in logic for Tim to figure out Ulysses’ plans feels more than a little too convenient. Still, while the road getting there might be bumpy, the conclusion feels weighty and fun, making Detective Comics a book that’s still worth your while.
X-Men: Red #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It’s clear to see why Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar’s X-Men: Red has jumped to the top of the pile of X-titles. The metaphor that is at the heart of the X-Men is as strong a core conceit as ever, and framing that with the real world reactionary politics that we see on the news everyday is a great way to draw strong parallels between the mutants and other marginalized groups.Taylor’s character work is pretty breezy and that keeps the more political side of things from being too heavy-handed. Still, it feels like we’re running in place a little bit with the plotting, and it’d be nice to see the story pick up a little bit. Asrar’s artwork, however, is as strong as ever. The double-page prison break scene is an obvious standout, but I really like the choices he makes here overall. There is a tendency for the backgrounds to look a little lackluster when paired with the dull browns that accompany much of the coloring, but that feels like a nitpick in the context of a title that features strong character work on both the art and writing sides.
Robocop: Citizens Arrest #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Just from a design standpoint, Robocop already feels like a dated concept. So Brian Wood and Jorge Coelho clearly have their work cut out for them when it comes to updating Paul Verhoeven’s man-turned-machine. They land somewhere in the realm of Black Mirror’s technological cyncism - the idea that the more people are reliant on their devices, the less human they become. Ina way, it’s a perfect direction for a property in which a man is literally melded with a machine. By retiring the original chrome crusader, OCP ostensibly makes everyone a Robocop with the help of an app called R/Cop that rewards citizens for reporting crimes correctly. It’s a solid foundation to build upon but its delivered with a workmanlike push to the end of the book that maybe does too much to remind you of the aforementioned Netflix program. The characters are ciphers and the morality of the book is so clearly black-and-white at this point that it’s hard not to feel underwhelmed. Coelho’s art gets us from page to page in a purely utilitarian manner. He’s not reinventing the wheel here because there’s no need to. Robocop: Citizens Arrest takes the franchise in a somewhat obvious direction that works even as it retreads ideas we’ve seen elsewhere and doesn’t totally tap into the paranoia surrounding law enforcement as much as maybe it could.