Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for this week’s pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Pasty Pierce Lydon, who takes a look at the final issue of Doctor Strange: Damnation…
Doctor Strange: Damnation #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Hell yeah, that’s how you wrap up an event. Damnation has had some minor bumps along the way, but at the end of it all, it was a fairly well-done event that never overstayed its welcome. Nick Spencer and Donny Cates kept things moving at a good clip and the resolution is really fun. This is a reminder of where both of these writers are at their best: taking the piss out of epic but sort of silly superhero set-ups. There are some legitimately funny moments in this book that really make it sing. Rod Reis deserves a lot of credit for his work on the art side of things as well — he’s got a little Sienkiewicz in his linework that helps elevate some of the crazier parts of the premise. His coloring, meanwhile, is impeccable — it would be easy to let those reds and oranges really overwhelm the book, but Reis comes at it with more muted tones that give the book a great texture that Szymon Kudranski and Dan Brown echo seamlessly in the epilogue art. Damnation is a delight right down to the last panel.
The Flash #45 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Joshua Williamson and Christian Duce deliver a heartbreaker of an epilogue in The Flash #45, which nimbly checks in with the various members of the Flash family after their showdown with Gorilla Grodd. Based on the cover, you might not be surprised to see that Barry Allen’s supporting cast outshines the Fastest Man Alive through most of the book, particularly as we see pre-Flashpoint Wally West’s tearful reunion with his aunt Iris. But even the rest of the Flashes, like New 52 Wally’s relationship with Avery, or Godspeed’s quest for redemption, all have solid hooks, as does a quick beat of what exactly Barry listens to on the run. Christian Duce’s characters look a little bit bulky when they’re in costume, but thankfully most of this issue just lets him work on his characterization, which evokes bits of Barry Kitson and Marco Checchetto. All in all, some very solid work that acts as a strong palate cleanser before “Flash War” begins.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers 2018 Annual #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): BOOM! Studios treats readers to a smorgasbord of stories from across Rangers history in this week’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers 2018 Annual. Main series writer Kyle Higgins serves up a great opening volley with artist Marcus To, as they showcase the trust and camaraderie amongst the Zeo Rangers — the story is very bittersweet, and when Higgins delivers a sharp twist at the end of the story, repeat reads will only get more bleak. Artist Dylan Burnett steals much of the show with a story with writer Anthony Burch for Power Rangers: RPM — not only do we get to explore some moral ambiguity with Burch’s story, by Burnett has a sharp angularity that really makes its presence felt. Simone Di Meo follows suit nicely with a Ninja Steel story that feels fluid and kinetic, despite some overrendering with his faces. Adam Cesare and Hyeonjin Kim also deliver some surprisingly creepy work with their Power Rangers in Space story, which feels the most menacing of the bunch. Caleb Goellner and Patrick Mulholland’s take on Power Rangers SPD feels like the most by-the-numbers of the storylines, in part because it establishes the one trend that hampers the annual as a whole: for a guy who’s supposed to be a big threat to the Rangers, Lord Drakkon gets beaten a lot. Ultimately, this is a great entree to Higgins’ Shattered Grid event, and shouldn’t be missed by Power Rangers fans.
Exiles #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Exiles #2 feels like exactly what was missing from the first issue. Saladin Ahmed still has a tendency to overwrite a little bit, but his grasp on the characters is becoming much, much clearer. All the stuff with Lil’ Wolverine and his cartoon world plays a lot better than one might expect especially when juxtaposed with the other characters (a post-apocalyptic Kamala Khan, in particular). Ahmed’s Valkyrie definitely doesn’t read like her MCU counterpart, but she works in a campy, Silver Age Thor kind of way. Javier Rodriguez does some really inventive stuff surrounding how the characters get shunted between worlds, and his narrative clarity is much better this time around. With a lot of the set-up out of the way, it’s clear the creative team has a lot more room to breathe, and that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, the overarching plot is doing little to compel me, but the character work is strong enough to keep me onboard for now.
The Terrifics #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Joe Bennett’s art is really what stands out in The Terrifics #3, especially in the action scenes. But it’s still hard to find anything really substantial to latch onto in Lemire’s story, and the book’s momentum grinds to a halt when he does almost any character work. This remains an odd group of characters to throw together, and while the play on the Fantastic Four is part of their charm, they seem to lack the cohesion or significant interpersonal drama to really drive the book. But Bennett shows up here — as with most artists, he does some great things with Plastic Man, but he lets Metamorpho shine, too. Those two characters really steal the spotlight from Mister Terrific and Phantom Girl. The Terrifics sort of feels like it’s building up to a big mystery around Tom Strong, but Lemire is taking a painfully boring route to get us there.
Black AF: Widows and Orphans #1 (Published by Black Mask Studios; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Old-school comic book wisdom would tell you to treat every comic like it’s someone’s first. That usually means spending a couple pages recapping previous events, or at least reintroducing characters so that new readers don’t have to play as much catch up. With a new superhero universe, this seems like a given, but Black AF eschews this advice altogether, to the great detriment of the book. It’s pretty standard superhero fare once you can parse it, but there’s no sense of setting, characters don’t get names until pages into the book, and it’s unclear whether or not the threat is really much of one. Kwanza Osajyefo and Tim Smith 3’s story feels like a first pass at something that needed significant punching up to turn into a unique and effective work. Smith 3’s artwork feels similar. The body language of his characters is half-baked, and the backgrounds are practically non-existent. Black has a really interesting premise, but work like this really dulls its shine.
Doom Patrol #11 (Published by DC Comics/Young Animal; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): They say better late than never — and honestly, while Doom Patrol #11 might lose a bit of its momentum since it missed the entirety of the Milk Wars crossover, Gerard Way and Nick Derington bring a lot of meta craziness to their big climactic issue. In a lot of ways, it’s very bold the way that Way gives so much spotlight to the villain of the piece, an IP hero whose real-world legal battles have made him a malevolent non-entity — but there’s other fun beats here, like how Way designates his modern take on Robotman as “fan fiction,” or the strange-but-somehow-convincing riposte he gives critics who might have been weirded out by Casey’s dalliance with her man-cat Lotion. Derington’s artwork, meanwhile, is unimpeachable — he continues to be the best thing Doom Patrol has got going for it, with his ultra-clean character designs working smoothly with his dynamic page layouts. While the timing of this book could have been better, later readings will prove this arc of Doom Patrol sticks the landing.