Greetings ‘Rama Readers! Pierce Lydon here! Our fearless leader David Pepose is off to destinations unknown so he left me in charge. We’re kicking things off with a look at Joshua Williamson’s latest chapter of The Flash!
The Flash #48 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): “Flash War” continues and Joshua Williamson turns the melodrama up to 11 with an issue that’s extremely well-paced. For events like these to work, readers have to understand the stakes. But for readers to enjoy them, the creative team has to introduce those stakes without tipping off a possible solution. While this isn’t the most action-packed issue in Williamson’s run, it deftly handles Wally’s grief and how that puts him into conflict with Barry. Their relationship is really at the core of the modern Flash mythos and Williamson isn’t afraid to dive right in. He combines simple and straightforward ideas about loss with big emotions and that’s a great combination. Howard Porter turns in some great work as well imbuing his pges with the crackling energy that has become the trademark of Speed Force-related books. But without as many action set pieces to lean on, Porter also doubles down on the emotionality of the script. It’s a great decision that makes “Flash War” one of the better superhero arcs of the year so far.
Wolverine: The Adamantium Agenda #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): If X-Men: Red wasn’t terrific enough for you, Tom Taylor delivers an amazing stealth Avengers book with R.B. Silva in Wolverine: The Adamantium Agenda. While the newly resurrected Wolverine does play a role in this story, Taylor and Silva do a superb job riffing on Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers lineup, with Iron Man, Spider-Man, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage going undercover to ensure no one uses Logan’s DNA for evil. Taylor’s banter between the team is impeccable - Tony and Peter trading science puns is such a great moment - and his pacing is brisk and engaging. Silva, meanwhile, comes out of the gate swinging, making an excellent case of who Stuart Immonen‘s heir apparent should be at the Big Two - Silva has that same sense of bounciness to his characters, making the action feel energetic and exciting. It’s easy to overlook tie-in books like this (particularly since there are so many of them tied to the return of Wolverine), but Adamantium Agenda is legit fantastic.
Man of Steel #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10) Brian Michael Bendis’ time with Superman thus far has seen him examining his relationship to Metropolis and inversely, how the city itself perceives him. Coming to the miniseries’ midpoint, he begins to look farther afield, starting with a near silent sequence where Rogol Zaar breaks into the Fortress of Solitude. Pencilled by Ryan Sook, the menace of the villain is abundant even as the cavernous location around him, looms over, diminishing his presence in the panel. Despite this jolt of energy to kick off the issue, Bendis doesn’t speed massively in the wake of it. His decompression is still readily apparent –– Jason Fabok’s page once again moves dreadfully slow as the reveal of whatever warrants these flashbacks is further dragged out –– suggesting this would have been better as a smaller miniseries, like the recently concluded No Justice. There’s a strong emotional core to this instalment, as Clark has the chance to process what Rogol Zaar has done due to the pacing of the issue, but it’s not likely to land unanimously because of how incremental everything leading up to it has been.
Death of Love #5 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Death of Love might be one of the oddest ducks I’ve seen come out of Image in quite some time, but despite (or perhaps because of) its minor flaws, the series has really charmed the hell out of me with each new issue. While unlucky-in-love “Nice Guy” Philo finally comes to terms with his own inadequacies, writer Justin Jordan and artist Donal DeLay are at their best when they crank up the chainsaw-versus-Cupidae action, blending together violence and humor in a way that feels truly unique. That said, the mythology itself feels a little over complicated and there’s an earnestness to the resolution that can feel a little telegraphed, but Jordan and DeLay make up for it with moments that’ll genuinely surprise you with laughter. Winning points with the sheer uniqueness of its high concept, Death of Love is a book that punches surprisingly out of its weight class.
Hawkman #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): What’s most impressive here is that Robert Venditti and Bryan Hitch seem to be tackling Hawkman’s origins head-on. He’s a character with so many varying iterations that trying to parse his backstory is something of a chore so Venditti tries to lay it out as simply as possible. But he still acknowledges that convoluted history and Carter Hall exploring himself works well as the foundation of the story. That said, the story still feels a couple of beats away from being really great. A superhero coming back to investigate his own origin errs a bit on the generic side. Bryan Hitch is obviously an incredible talent and he actually makes this winged wonder look pretty cool. Despite being known for originating the “widescreen” format so prevalent in comics today, Hitch dials that back a bit and proves very effective at communicating small moments and gestures. Hawkman isn’t soaring just yet but this issue is an indication that he’s making his ascent.
Marvel 2-In-One Annual #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Chip Zdarsky is more than just a funny guy. He writes Marvel 2-in-One with a pathos that’s necessary for the Fantastic Four and for Doctor Doom most of all. Some of the really earnest Doom stuff here does border into cheesy, self-parody but on the whole, this is a really effective issue that reveals more about the most recent “Secret War” and provides more insight into how Doom and Reed are two sides of the same coin. Declan Shalvey handles the art on this issue and his character renderings are stellar even if his background and layouts leave a little bit to be desired. With Dan Slott’s FF on the horizon, we can only hope that he picks up on some of the big ideas that Zdarsky is playing with here because they are pushing things forward while maintaining classic dynamics.
Marvel Rising Alpha #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Marvel’s “Marvel Rising” initiative is aimed at younger readers but it’s so poorly executed that I can’t imagine they’d even be interested. Devin Grayson is a talented writer but might still be finding her sea legs after some time away from comics. With Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel already starring in their own mostly all-ages appropriate books, Grayson’s plot involving a girl who can bring manipulate electricity to bring video game characters to life just feels kind of rote. The Marvel Universe is a really cool place! Why isn’t she showing us... any of it? Georges Duarte’s work is a great fit for this kind of story, though. Coupled with Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors, the art is bright and the paneling making for an easy read. Duartes tells the story well. It’s unfortunate that he doesn’t have more of a story to tell. Diehard fans might be interested in this book but otherwise, there’s not much here.