Best Shots Reviews: SENTRY #1, DETECTIVE COMICS #983, MULTIPLE MAN #1, TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1

DC Comics June 2018 solicitations
Credit: DC Entertainment
Credit: Marvel Comics

The Sentry #1
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Kim Jacinto and Rain Beredo
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

“How do you measure a man’s life?”

At first glance, Jeff Lemire and Kim Jacinto’s Sentry has a lot in common with Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle. Nine-panel grid? Check. Relatively downtrodden lead character? Check. But in a lot of ways, this is just a back-to-basics approach for Sentry that brings him closer to the roots of his original miniseries. Rather than the embattled golden god that readers were used to during Dark Reign, the Bob Reynolds of Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s original Marvel Knights series has returned, and that’s a good thing. Anchored by Jacinto’s impressive artwork, Lemire explores the inner working of a superhero who must grapple with the fact that he might be more of a liability than he could ever be a force for good.

There are plenty of Superman analogues throughout comics history and there’s a reason that they keep popping up — Superman is the superhero. He’s the original. But if you can’t legally use ol’ Red Trunks, it’s not hard to create something close enough that allows a writer to explore certain ideas. In a lot of ways, Sentry is the perfect Marvel-fication of the Man of Steel. He’s massively powerful but his greatest enemy is himself instead of some wholly outside threat, and Lemire gets that across really well here. Bob longs for his heroic life, but he knows that what’s best is keeping Sentry, and by extension The Void, locked away in his memories. With the help of a special device, he’s able to relive those glory days again and again before snapping back to reality.

I like what Lemire does with that memory adventure as well. It plays like a short and sweet love letter to Superman, complete with references to the larger Super-family and the kind of feats we’ve come to expect from character who are so much larger than life. (I won’t spoil what happens to the Moon, but we can expect that it gets better.) It’s here that Bob gets to be the best version of himself. And it’s a powerful metaphor for how everyday people feel shackled by circumstance, unable to let their potential truly be realized.

Kim Jacinto is a great fit for this book. His art recalls Stuart Immonen and Geoff Shaw with a touch of Daniel Acuna. Jacinto does a great job getting the big action sequences across by opening up his paneling. As we shift from the nine panel grid on page one into the rest of the story, the layouts become more dynamic and less traditional. But as the Sentry gives way to Bob Reynolds, the paneling becomes more rigid. Bob’s life is very regimented as we come to learn and so we’re only able to see him in that view. In moments where he’s struggles with his station, the panels seem to jumble across the page a bit but he’s always trapped in those boxes. Then the “prison” of the nine-panel grid eventually returns to bring order to his life and outlook. It’s a really great use of paneling to convey larger story ideas and one that really backs up Lemire’s script. The expression work is spot-on, too, channeling some of that Immonen energy that I had mentioned earlier. Jacinto does an incredible job underlining Lemire’s work.

Has Marvel found their Mister Miracle? That’s a steep hill to climb, but honestly, maybe. Marvel has been unable to strike a good balance in their publishing line because of a dearth of books like this one. Heady, nuanced character examinations are the goût du jour in comics these days, and Sentry is a great fit for that kind of story, because there’s a lot of freedom to take the character in different directions. Lemire and Jacinto are building a very solid foundation for Bob Reynolds that may just see the Sentry into more modern-day relevance.

Credit: DC Entertainment

Detective Comics #983
Written by Bryan Edward Hill
Art by Miguel Mendonca, Diana Egea, and Adriano Lucas
Lettering by Sal Cipriano
Published by DC Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

”Welcome to the Metropolis that the rest of Metropolis forgets.”

Class struggles, murder mysteries, and Batman’s version of mentorship collide in Detective Comics #983. While the much-hyped team-up between Batman and Black Lightning somewhat disappoints in this issue, writer Bryan Edward Hill still graces this issue with plenty of engaging character moments and a true mystery at the issue’s center, all while turning a harsh light on Batman’s brand of “teaching” young heroes. Artists Miguel Mendonca, Diana Egea, and Adriano Lucas keep pace with Hill’s pathos-heavy script, rendering the issue with a classic look. Though Detective Comics #983 isn’t quite the “Brave and the Bold” two-hander the cover suggests, the issue stands as a capable and civically-minded debut, one that puts the “detective” back in Detective Comics.

“I’m sorry. But you are making him weaker,” says the new unnamed villain making their debut in this issue. They say this before setting off a bomb that kills a prominent pro-Batman blogger and injures The Signal, literally starting this arc with a bang. Though this new villain’s motivation might remind you of a certain clown’s from back in the Scott Snyder days, Bryan Edward Hill smartly differentiates this new baddie through context in other scenes.

Using Jefferson Pierce as an avatar for his thesis, Hill takes the solid foundation and main point of the previous run, that Batman is strengthened by his Bat Family, and gleefully inverts it, presenting Batman as a “brand.” Jefferson’s inclusion also adds a really compelling comparison between Black Lightning's brand of heroism in the inner city to Batman’s now expansive and more uptown version of keeping Gotham safe. My only complaint with this issue is that idea isn’t fully developed just yet, we only get teasing glimpses of Jefferson on the streets of Metropolis and a quick recruitment scene between him and the Bat, but the seed is there, and hopefully it grows into something truly special as the arc goes on.

And while Hill brings the mystery and more street-level vibe, artists Miguel Mendonca, Diana Egea, and Adriano Lucas double down on it giving Detective Comics #983 vintage spinner rack action tempered with modern-era emotionality. Take for instance the scenes in Metropolis. Smartly cutting between Jefferson as a teacher and as a hero, Hill lays out his entire characterization for Jefferson for the audience as well as giving us a taste of what he deals with as a hero. Better still, the art team also makes great use of the duality of Black Lightning, cutting between the classroom and the rooftops of Metropolis as he lays out his mantra on teaching while it plays out in real time during a hostage negotiation.

Mendonca, backed by the tight inks of Egea and the vibrant, crackling colors of Lucas, really makes sure this scene hits as hard as it can, both in terms of emotion and action. This makes the scene overall really effective as it not only gives the issue a spike in terms of action, but it also exemplifies the kind of emotional tone this arc will be inhabiting. There is a cost to being a superhero, and sometimes you can’t save everyone. Jefferson Pierce knows that and he deals with it every day, both out of and in costume.

With an eye on character, a compelling thesis, and a genuine mystery to solve at its core, Detective Comics #983 can comfortably be called a success. By using James Tynion IV’s previous run as a foundation and coming to the table with a strong intentions and character, Bryan Edward Hill, along with the steady hands of his art team, delivers a powerfully human debut issue, one that makes great use of the all-too-often ignored street heroes and their struggles in an out of uniform. DC heroes may often come from the skies, but Detective Comics #983 shows that even amid alien invasions and Crisis events, the streets have heroes, too.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Multiple Man #1
Written by Matt Rosenberg
Art by Andy MacDonald and Tamra Bonvillain
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Review by C.K. Stewart
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Multiple Man #1 is one of the most hotly anticipated Marvel debuts of the summer, but unfortunately, the issue doesn’t quite live up to the excitement that’s been building around it since the announcement earlier this year. Today’s debut issue isn’t bad, but isn’t very exciting either despite featuring a man’s return from the dead, time-travel mysteries to prevent (or hasten) scientific discoveries, and a late-night invasion by several characters you’d never expect to turn up unannounced in the X-Men’s living room.

For its flaws, however, Multiple Man #1 is an easy book to jump into. Rosenberg drops readers right into the action, deftly offering just enough context for Jamie’s absence to get readers up to speed before the plot kicks into gear. Fans of Rosenberg’s other work will have no issue following along here, regardless of their familiarity with Madrox as a character with a long history. That said, there’s something about Multiple Man #1 that just never quite lands: there’s a snappy rhythm to the dialogue, but there’s also a sameness to it that makes everyone sound somewhat interchangeable.

Andy MacDonald, meanwhile, has a unique visual style well-suited to a Rosenberg script, but the issue often also winds up feeling somewhat flat and static. There are often fine details missing in facial expressions in the background that could go a long way towards building more emotional levels throughout the issue; instead, between the dialogue and the linework, there winds up being a pervasive sort of detached disinterest. It’s your Twitter timeline when suddenly everyone only wants to use lowercase and no punctuation: line after line of things that could be funny or sad or somewhere in between, without the visual cues or body languages to help you work out what’s what.

Even Tamra Bonvillain’s colors don’t often pop the way they typically do, though she has a keen eye for where to drop in vibrant pops of the fantastical, and her use of color and shadow is exemplary. The lettering and the sound effects throughout this issue are also standout work: Travis Lanham is an incredible letterer. A starburst to indicate voices through glass, the tail of a bubble weaving through vials as they fly through the air; Lanham adds clever, subtle details throughout that really help add character and voice to the dialogue. The visual effects — blaring alarms, the sound of rattling repetitive gunfire or glass shattering — are particularly well-executed here, from the vibrant colors that make them pop to the strong lines and shapes.

There are moments where the visual elements come together perfectly — a panel of the Beast illuminated by a vibrant red alarm is a great moment, and the entire page has some of the best panel composition of the full issue. It’s an interesting storytelling concept that gets repeated elsewhere in various forms to lesser effect, in turn encapsulating some of the issue’s overall stumbles. It’s incredibly difficult for any creator to develop such a distinctive and consistent style, but easy for that style to start feeling like a template, and that’s almost what happens here.

Multiple Man #1 builds to an exciting final battle that hints at an extremely compelling overall arc for the series. But the tone of the issue is so flat throughout that it’s difficult to tell if this climactic moment is dramatic or scary or funny; an all-out, furniture-bashing brawl in the living room comes across as just another day at the office for the X-Men, punctuated by deadpan jokes that make it tough to know how anyone really feels about this situation at all, Jamie Madrox included. Unfortunately, it makes it tough to feel strongly one way or another about this debut, too.

Credit: DC Entertainment

Teen Titans Special #1
Written by Adam Glass
Art by Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques and Sunny Gho
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

With the Justice League enjoying a long-awaited renaissance, it’s not surprising that DC Comics is now setting its sights on relaunching another one of their crown jewel franchises, the Teen Titans. But in terms of this particular new status quo, what’s old feels, well, old again — and I’m not certain that’s writer Adam Glass’s fault. To his credit, Glass and artist Robson Rocha do turn in a solid trifecta of superhero stories featuring Robin, Red Arrow and Kid Flash, but those looking for a drastically different — or reimagined — Teen Titans may feel let down.

Structurally, Glass and Rocha are taking baby steps with their new team, showing us a day in the life of Damian Wayne, Emiko Queen, and Wallace West. And to Glass’s credit, he makes sure to include at least one memorable, cool moment in each of these stories, whether it’s teasing Damian overstepping his father’s one rule, Emiko giving herself a most unorthodox counteragent to a fast-acting poison, or Wallace squaring off against the Suicide Squad. Given Glass’s previous tenure with Harley and her gang of criminal lunatics, Kid Flash’s story is the one that generates the most sparks (and not just because of Harley copping a feel on pre-Flashpoint Wally West, telling him “way to keep it tight”), because it feels the most unexpected. (Glass also feels like a natural with Wallace’s powers, allowing him to banter back and forth while dodging knives and demonic fire blasts.)

Rocha, meanwhile, delivers some strong work, even if sometimes Daniel Henriques’ inks can feel a little inconsistent (particularly with Robin, the lead of the book). Like Glass’ writing, Rocha excels the most with Kid Flash and the Suicide Squad, with the action feeling particularly clean and engaging. In a way, there’s something reminiscent to Mike McKone’s style, from when he helped redefine the Teen Titans over a decade ago — it’s not a bad space to be playing in, even if Rocha isn’t the main artist on the title moving forward. Sunny Gho’s colorwork feels particularly restrained, which I don’t think is a bad thing here — the rendering gives Rocha’s linework just enough weight without overwhelming it, and lends a consistency amongst the three vignettes which I think helps bind their overarching stories together.

But like I said, it can’t help but feel like there’s something missing — and I’m not sure that’s necessarily on Glass, who dramatically reshaped the Suicide Squad during the New 52. Some of that is just based on the character foundations of the team — Damian Wayne, for example, has always felt like a weird figurehead for a Teen Titans team, because his precociousness has been so hard-wired into his mannerisms that it’s hard to relate to him on a purely youthful and enthusiastic level. Additionally, pairing him and Emiko feels like too much of one thing, while Damian and Wallace’s chemistry has had chances to coalesce in previous books and hasn’t come through yet. But Glass’ themes also feel a little underwhelming — the idea that adults just don’t understand isn’t particularly new, and because the events of No Justice were already a little nebulous, it doesn’t lend a whole lot of reasonable motivation for these three Titans to… well, “shake things up” isn’t quite accurate, but “reorganize” might be a more appropriate turn. But at the end of the day, a franchise like the Teen Titans can’t help but have editorial oversight — and so it feels like this middle-of-the-road tack is by design rather than a bug.

I understand the impulse to go back to meat-and-potatoes superheroing, and Glass and Rocha do that well with Teen Titans Special #1 — but I’m not sure if caped comfort food is necessarily what will bring this superteam back to its former glory. There’s a darker, edgier vibe to this special that I’m not convinced will follow the book in further installments, but one can’t help but wish there was a stronger point of view and a more ambitious high concept at the core of this new series. Glass and Rocha do effective work in establishing the fights and personalities of these characters, but despite Robin saying the Teen Titans are going to be throwing out the rulebook and taking a new approach on crimefighting, this solidly constructed first installment still can’t help but feel a little retrograde.

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