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 Confident C.K. Stewart, who takes a look at the final issue of Justice League: No Justice...
Justice League: No Justice #4 (Published by DC; Review by C.K. Stewart, ‘Rama Rating 9 out of 10): “Insane is relative.” Well, Cyborg got that right. Justice Leage: No Justice #4 is a totally bonkers interdimensional adventure that ties up the miniseries and handily sets the stage for both the upcoming Justice League #1 and its two upcoming sister series, Justice League Odyssey and Justice League Dark. Artist Francis Manapul and colorist Hi-Fi do a stellar job with the massive, eerie Omega Titans; Hi-Fi’s pops of blue and purple emphasize the surreal, supernatural nature of the threat the League is facing, and the artwork is what truly makes this story feel larger than life. Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Josh Williamson all have credits here, but the story feels cohesive and, while not straightforward, surprisingly easy to follow given the plot and the very large cast. The tenor of the writing feels a little like a Justice League Unlimited episode, with high stakes and a sense of wonder about what kind of mysteries a universe that birthed incredible superheroes can hold. This is a fun, if weird, read, and a great way to prepare yourself for the new directions these characters are taking in the coming months.
X-Men Red Annual #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Tom Taylor continues to impress with his terrific characterization of the newly resurrected Jean Grey in X-Men Red Annual #1. In a lot of ways, using Jean as a point of view character is a particularly shrewd move for Taylor, as he’s able to comment on a lot of ways that the X-Men have changed since the hoary days of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men — and how, in certain ways, to correct the ways the franchise has fallen off track. In so doing, Taylor is able to wring a lot of emotion watching Jean reunite with various members of the team, including Rachel Grey, Old Man Logan, or the original Logan’s cloned progeny X-23 and Honey Badger, which proves to be one of the more understated but sweetest moments of the issue. (And he somehow ties up the forced feud between the X-Men and the Inhumans to boot!) Pascal Alixe’s artwork, however, is a bit more of an acquired taste — it’s like Leinil Francis Yu mixed with Mike Mayhew, which might come across as almost too realistic for a team with such a mishmash of designs as the X-Men. That said, Alixe’s artwork pairs nicely with Chris Sotomayor’s colors, so this issue still feels energetic. If you’re only reading one X-title, you should definitely make sure it’s X-Men Red.
We Are the Danger #1 (Published by Black Mask Studios; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): For a story about a battle of the bands to happen, there must be more than one band. As such, We Are the Danger starts by putting one together, in direct conflict with another. Julie, having just moved from the Philippines, makes friends with Tabitha who invites her to a gig. While it initially seems like Tabitha has stood Julie up, it turns out she’s part of the band playing, although this doesn’t last. Written and illustrated by Fabian Lelay, it’s an issue of two halves, first dealing with Tabitha’s falling out, secondly about her and Julie putting a new band together, but there’s little characterization on display when it comes to who joins. Claudia Aguirre’s coloring leads to a bright spot during the opening gig, a rush of high intensity, but this initial set is the issue’s high point. Lelay goes through the motions, and while the pair at the center get some sweet moments –– including one that emphasises Julie’s upbringing –– it’s an awfully thin issue in terms of substance. A lot happens, but not a whole lot that’s new.
Man of Steel #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): After two short stories involving the Man of Steel (although some would consider them false starts) Brian Michael Bendis’ time at DC begins properly with the release of this full issue, the first of six in the miniseries. Some of his tendencies have come with him from Marvel, namely his plot decompression, but it serves as a more sufficient introduction to how he writes Superman than those initial stories. The first few pages are in service of setting up Rogol Zaar, but the bulk of the issue is dedicated to Clark on the job, as both superhero and reporter, dealing with the latest in a spree of arsons. Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Alex Sinclair handle most of the issue’s art –– Jason Fabok delivers the final two pages –– and they get plenty of space to show the character in all his glory. Bendis’ trademark dialogue patterns make an appearance but with an appropriate rhythm in addition to strong characterisation of Clark throughout. Bendis is still setting a lot up, not yet digging into the meat of his story, but this suggests he has a confident handle on where Superman is heading under his pen.
Star Wars - Lando: Double or Nothing #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): A question I asked myself after walking out of the recent Solo movie was whether or not the acclaim surrounding Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian was based on the character, or Glover’s own charm mixed with his uncanny impersonation of Billy Dee Williams — but with Star Wars - Lando: Double or Nothing #1, I’m starting to think it might have been the latter. Writer Rodney Barnes works overtime trying to channel Lando’s unique rhythm and language, but without that roguish delivery, a lot of the chemistry between he and his trusty droid L3-37 doesn’t quite translate. Artist Paolo Villanelli also does a decent job nailing Glover’s likeness, but the rest of the artwork feels a little underbaked in terms of inking as well as Andres Mossa’s colors. With the visuals underwhelming, the story doesn’t fare much better — Barnes nails Lando’s desire to wheel and deal for that paycheck, but the plot doesn’t feel particularly firm, outside of an obligatory dogfight with a pack of TIE Fighters. Solo diehards looking for a Lando fix will likely be right at home here, but anyone else might need some more convincing.
Judge Dredd: Under Siege #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): After his incisive remixes of The Flintstones and The Snaggletooth Chronicles, you might be surprised by how low-key Mark Russell and Max Dunbar’s Judge Dredd: Under Siege is, but once the political commentary starts flowing, this comic starts to reach a sharp balance of in-your-face action with an actual message. If you’re a fan of Karl Urban’s Dredd film, you’re gonna love Dunbar’s artwork, which has a sharp sense of composition and an early Joe Madureira-infused design — it’s very different from the iconic Bolland work you might associate with the deadly lawman, but it really looks fantastic. (I do wish, however, that colorist Jose Luis Rio went a little moodier with the colors, which I think can sap a little bit of the, uh, dread from this book’s tone.) Russell, meanwhile, starts off with some fun political critique about an illegal football ring, but the middle of this book is largely just a firefight — it’s well-paced, but given his previous work you might be waiting for some more commentary, which eventually arrives toward the book’s back end. There’s a lot of potential for this series — particularly with the art — and I’m already excited to see what’s next for Judge Dredd: Under Siege.