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 Pleasant Pierce Lydon, who takes a look at Tom Taylor’s final issue of All-New Wolverine...
All-New Wolverine #35 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Tom Taylor’s run with Laura Kinney ends here and but arguably, it ended before this futre-set story began. Put simply, there just aren’t enough real stakes here to serve as a fitting send-off especially for a run that featured a lot of growth for its lead. Ramon Rosanas’ art is serviceable, not doing anything to hurt the script or really elevate it. But it’s a fairly thin script that plays the events here pretty straightforward — a big heroic moment failing altogether to give way to a much, much lesser heroic moment. It’s not asking the artist to do much more than get to the final page and that’s what we get. Diehard Laura Kinney fans might feel this is a satisfying ending, but this arc is one of the lowest in Taylor’s run.
Batman #47 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Tom King and Tony Daniel wrap up their nasty little detour to the Dark Knight’s wedding in Batman #47, and honestly — I kind of loved it. While the actual mechanics of Booster Gold’s time traveling get solved in a semi-convenient fashion, the road to getting there is just so amazingly bleak that fans of a certain acquired taste will be all about it. You can’t help but be haunted when you see the clownish time traveler Booster Gold emaciated and chained up in the caves underneath Wayne Manor, and seeing Bruce Wayne at his most selfish and evil feels more chilling than the recent DC Metal crossover. Sure, there’s some bits of melodrama that feel a little unvarnished for a talent like King — the “God, forgive me” refrain he gives young Bruce feels a little inorganic, even for his stylized voice — but the tone of the story works as such a fine counterpoint to Daniel’s more cartoony style. (Seriously, though, watching Daniel stretch himself artistically is also one of this arc’s finer moments — he wrings more emotion out of scenes like Booster’s encroaching insanity or Bruce’s horrified reaction to his parents’ deaths than you might expect.) This arc is certainly not for everyone — there are plenty of people who might say it’s too bleak, and they wouldn’t be wrong — but honestly, as far as dystopian detours go, I wholeheartedly endorse just how far Batman #47 has gone.
Flavor #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Smoother than chocolate and hotter than a jalapeno, writer Joe Keatinge and artist Wook Jin Clark breathe new life into all-ages fantasy with Flavor #1, taking the foodie recipe pioneered in Chew and transferring it to a whole new genre. It’s hard not to be charmed when you meet our heroine Xoo, as she and her adorable dog Buster race across a crowded street on a quest for truffles — yet while Keatinge starts with a healthy dose of action, he gets a little daring by tweaking the book’s tone later on, getting into some darker material like Xoo’s clearly ill parents or exactly how the law works in this city. Clark, meanwhile, is a real revelation — you’ll be dazzled by his expressive cartooning and his level of detail, which fleshes out this world magnificently and lends a sense of charm to Xoo and her extended family. (And extra props to Keatinge for bringing on culinary consultant Ali Bouzari as a credited member of the team, giving readers a nice palate cleanser interview in the back of the book.) If the rest of the series continues this strongly, consider Flavor a recipe for sequential art success.
X-Men: The Wedding Special (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 1 out of 10): Kitty and Colossus are getting married and as a gift (maybe?) to fans, Marvel slapped together this “Wedding Special” issue. In an era where putting the word “X-Men” on the cover is absolutely no guarantee that a comic book will sell, it’s hard to know who this comic book is actually for, besides Kitty/Colossus diehards (if those exist?) and Chris Claremont completionists. Chris Claremont and Todd Nauck tackle a dive back through Kitty’s entire history and land with the most important men in her life encouraging her to get married and it has about all the emotional resonance and storytelling flow of a Wikipedia article. Marc Guggenheim and Greg Land mire themselves in more mediocrity with a deleted scene that leads to the events seen in X-Men Gold #26. (I’d say more about it but honestly, I think I’ve said all you need to know.) Kelly Thompson and Marika Cresta round out the bunch with a story about Kitty’s bachelorette party that might actually work if it showed the actual party and not just Kitty running away to the bathroom and subsequently getting a warning from Callisto. None of the writers have anything meaningful to say about this union past the regular old relationship/marriage cliches. None of the artists are doing anything of note. This is the kind of wedding gift that should be returned.
Superman Special #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Man of Steel goes three-for-three with Superman Special #1, which brings together three solid stories which utilize three wildly different but ultimately successful art teams. For those still missing Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s run on the character, we get a bonus round with the main story, featuring Superman and Jon returning to rescue Captain Storm from Dinosaur Island. It’s a fun adventure story that feels cathartic on the anniversary of Darwyn Cooke’s passing, who left Storm on the island in his definitive Losers short story in DC: The New Frontier. Scott Godlewski does fine work stepping up to the big shoes Gleason left for him, with some gorgeous, lush inking that bridges their styles nicely. Mark Russell, meanwhile, writes one of my new favorite Superman lines in his backup story — while Bryan Hitch’s beautifully bombastic art feels almost at odds with the down-to-earth scale of Russell’s story, there’s a compassion to Russell’s Man of Steel that feels pitch-perfect. Finally, artist Kaare Andrews steals the show with writer Ian Flynn on a backup featuring the Atomic Skull — while the story itself gets a little by-the-numbers, Andrews makes the over-the-top Skull design achingly human, as a former crook just waking up everyday trying to finally make good. While the two backup stories seem to clash in terms of their stories and art, everybody here puts in great work, making Superman Special #1 a wonderful book to pick up.
Infidel #3 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell’s 21st century horror story hits something of a climax in this issue, and the tension is real and exciting. Their story explores a group of characters living in a building haunted by entities that feed on xenophobia. What stands out first and foremost is Campbell’s line art, specifically the acting done by his characters. As with many stories dealing with tough issues, there’s a lot information in characters’ conversations that goes unsaid. Campbell masterfully brings that body language and movement to the foreground with his paneling and his expression work. And then when he needs to up the horror ante, he’s able to change styles on a dime to fit the needs of the script and deliver something truly grotesque and otherworldly. Pichetshote’s concept is solid here too, but the commentary becomes more textual in this issue. That has positives and negatives. There’s no doubt as to what this story is about, but with so many groups of characters having versions of the same conversation, the naturalistic dialogue occasionally takes on a sort of unrealistic feel — kind of like when you hear a word too many times and it doesn’t sound like a word anymore, Pichetshote’s dialogue starts to feel so familiar that readers might gloss over some of the more subtle bits. But with two issues left, Infidel is a title that needs to be on your pull list.
New Challengers #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Scott Snyder, Aaron Gillespie and Andy Kubert spin up a Lost-style debut with New Challengers #1, which proves to be a potent launch that delivers more questions than answers. You might catch flashes of Christopher Sebela and Hayden Sherman’s Cold War run with this series, as we open up to a group of strangers waking up in a time and place they can’t even envision — that they’ve been snatched up from the jaws of death and given a new (but temporary) lease on life. There’s a twist near the end of the issue that’s also superb, but Snyder and Gillespie also do good work at introducing these new Challengers, showing off some of their more gristly ends before being drafted for reasons that are still currently unknown. Meanwhile, Andy Kubert and inker Klaus Janson do some of their best work in years on this book — Kubert’s layouts are some of the best I’ve seen him do in recent memory, and a brief flash of the Justice League makes me wish he could do a full arc on Snyder’s new flagship title. While some readers might be impatient for more clues, New Challengers is a promising debut executed with some supreme talent.