Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Jousting Joey Edsall, who takes a look at The Sentry...
The Sentry #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): In the wake of writer Jeff Lemire’s awesome Black Hammer series, it’s hard to think of anybody better at the helm of one of Marvel’s more memorable turn-of-the-century creations. With Lemire’s strength as a writer focusing on a character’s internal history, The Sentry #1 benefits from this approach, both because of the interesting directions that previous writers have taken the character, but also because Lemire uses his story to give the character’s past greater weight. In order to survive in our world, melancholy everyman Bob Reynolds enters a virtual world where he becomes The Sentry, where he fights against his alter ego, the villainous Void. The Sentry exists as a character that highlights the archetypes and stories of decades-gone superheroes, so using the concept of a virtual world captures some of that, but Lemire makes the stakes in it feel real through the complicated emotions of his hero. Artist Kim Jacinto and colorist Rain Beredo deliver the perfect artistic performance for this sort of story, with their work highlighting the grit and age of the comic’s focal character. It’s well-paced and has a strong ending that shows that The Sentry is going to be a wild ride from this creative team.
The Terrifics #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Superhero teams are meant to come together over the course of a series — that’s just what they do! Yet when The Terrifics #5 starts, its four heroes are divided by panel borders. Each has a quadrant of their own in Doc Shaner’s wonderfully expressive pages, with Mr. Terrific and Phantom Girl soon running tests together across the top half of the page while Plastic Man and Metamorpho have their own personal problems running below. Jeff Lemire’s scripts have been decompressed thus far, taking their time in getting the team together, but the dynamic inventiveness of the idea goes a long way to making the book stand out, especially when contrasted to the rest of the New Age of Heroes. The brightness by way of Shaner and colorist Nathan Fairbairn helps as well, as their more Silver Age sensibilities have more pop to them than the house style approach of former series artist Ivan Reis. Though it doesn’t all come together just yet, there’s still not enough going on within the pages no matter how much playfulness they’re brimming in, and an artist change for the next issue will likely mean yet another adjustment period.
Venom #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): With Eddie Brock teaming up with Miles Morales, Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman present a one-two spider-punch in their third issue of Venom. While the storyline as a whole can’t help but feel a bit decompressed in terms of pacing — the issue’s one noticeable drawback — Cates and Stegman do a great job at introducing a well-known guest star into the book without stealing too much spotlight away from Venom himself. (And to the team’s great credit, they do a superb job portraying Miles as a headstrong and emotional kid, reckless enough to take on a symbiote in combat but out-of-his-depth enough to organically fall in line under Eddie’s unorthodox command.) Not only does Stegman’s portrayal of Venom and Miles look superb, but he, inker JP Mayer and colorist Frank Martin also do some exceptional work with much of this issue taking place in the rain, giving the setting some texture and angularity that adds so much to the book. While Cates’ explanation of a symbiote dragon-god feels a little truncated in this issue, the concept is wild enough to keep readers interested — in general, Venom’s sterling high concept work along with its strong characterization has given this series some surprising legs.
The Flash #49 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Joshua Williamson and Howard Porter are turning in some truly terrific stuff with The Flash #49, as Barry Allen and Wally West’s fraying relationship reaches a breaking point — with the Justice League helpless to do anything about it. With the two Flashes battling over how to rescue Wally’s kids from their post-Flashpoint erasure, Williamson does a great job at establishing a global sense of scale as Barry and Wally race across the planet, leaving even Superman in their dust, with their combined velocity making short work of even a Green Lantern barricade. It’s also a spectacular showcase for Porter, whose use of lightning-streaked energy just looks fantastic here — it’s also just a thrill to see the seminal JLA artist tackling the League again. What’s more, Williamson actually treats readers to not one, but two special twists — while the first one makes sense from a storytelling perspective, the second one might be more of an acquired taste, as Williamson multiplies the mythology of the Speed Force in ways that might feel a little clearer as the story goes on. Still, “Flash War” feels like the biggest and most ambitious Flash storyline since, well, Flashpoint, and definitely should not be missed.
Multiple Man #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Taking off with an inconsistent start, Multiple Man #1 is a frustrating comic that suffers from an identity crisis. Writer Matthew Rosenberg hints at strong themes through his exploration of the Jamie Madrox at the center of his series as a different self than the Jamie Prime iteration, and while that would account for the titular character’s behavior, his characterization makes Jamie largely unlikable. Where the character seems written with an intent to be youthful and aloof, unfortunately his quips come off as somewhat immature and affectatious. Madrox never seems like a real person, but not in a way that seems intentionally aligned with the identity-based themes that are embedded into the character’s entire concept. While the action sequence near the end of the comic has an undoubtedly cool and memorable conclusion, it takes up too much time and breaks the flow of one of the comic’s stronger sections. Artist Andy MacDonald seems to struggle with catching up with the tonal whiplash of the comic, and while his comedy-focused panels are good, they highlight the shifts throughout the comic. Colorist Tamra Bonvillain brings a sleek depth to the visual presentation, but it isn’t enough to help a comic that seems fractured from the onset.
Detective Comics #983 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): With James Tynion IV having finished up his lengthy run on Detective Comics last month, you might expect the arc that follows to be an opportunity to wind down before Gotham gets thrown into disarray once again. Instead writer Bryan Edward Hill gets off to a rapid start, as Duke has an explosive run-in that lands him in the hospital. The proceedings happen very quickly, the speed with which Hill’s script moves to detonate this, and later involve others including Black Lightning, means the story never has the chance to settle into a particularly assured tone. There’s a noir vibe in places –– Miguel Mendonça, Diana Egea and Adriano Lucas bathe a sequence in orange-red and blue like Francesco Francavilla would –– though it gets overridden elsewhere by a more generic style of storytelling, both artistically and narratively. There’s plenty of potential story on display, but little chance to dig into the more interesting avenues as it all gets swept up in the rush, as if it needs to be sped through in order to get everything packed into the space Hill’s been given for this arc before the next team takes over.