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 Perrier-Drinkin’ Pierce Lydon, who takes a look at X-Men: Grand Design - Second Genesis...
X-Men: Grand Design - Second Genesis #1 (Published by Marvel Comics Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Ed Piskor’s X-Men history series is back with a look at the era from Giant Size X-Men #1 through the Dark Phoenix Saga. While Piskor’s approach does strip some of the emotional resonance away from Marvel’s greatest superhero soap opera, it does help readers navigate the various retcons that have happened over the years, allowing for a chronological understanding of the X-Men that the comics themselves are hard-pressed to provide. For some, that might seem like a slog, especially without all the flair that makes comics, and especially Claremont’s X-Men run, so much fun. But Piskor’s emotive art and inventive layouts really help the summaries feel more like a story than homework. Grand Design continues to be a really fun take on the X-Men.
Wonder Woman #51 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8t out of 10): Writer Steve Orlando hits the ground running with his first issue of Wonder Woman, a slice-of-prison-life story about redemption and forgiveness told from the perspective of one of Diana’s foes. The Mayfly has every reason to be angry, both at the world and the Amazing Amazon — but having Diana visit her incarcerated enemy to understand and empathize with her is a savvy take, and one that really emphasizes Diana as a compassionate hero instead of just being a battle-hardened warrior. Artist Laura Braga and colorist Romulo Fajardo, Jr. also does strong work with Diana and Mayfly, giving them an expressiveness and sense of emotion that is needed for a book that doesn’t coast on action. The minor downside? Orlando’s premise is ambitious, but the years-long timeframe of the story is a little hard to register over the course of 20 pages, even as he and Braga work hard to include Diana’s various costume changes over the years. Regardless, this might be the best issue of Wonder Woman in years, so don’t miss out.
Bone Parish #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): There’s a new drug on the street, and it’s unlike anything else. It goes beyond seeing things — take it and you’ll live what you hallucinate. Ash packs a punch, as illustrated by Bone Parish’s first scene, wherein Cullen Bunn, Jonas Scharf, Alex Guimarães and Ed Dukeshire show the effects of someone’s trip, the drab reality around them and where they believe themselves to be. This issue is heavily tied to process, moving from a dealer named Dante to his supplier, the world of this book becoming established as the hierarchy is made clear to readers. This formalism built into Bunn’s script helps the issue function as a solid pitch of what the rest of the series will be about, though doesn’t give Scharf and Guimarães a chance to show off their artistic chops. A gruesome page towards the end of the issue hints at the darker effects of Ash, but aside from that and the opening scene, the issue is conversation-based. It sells the concept, establishes the story of the world, but delivers the narrative in a plain fashion, with little chance for experimentation or page layouts which shake up this dispersal of exposition.
Mr. and Mrs. X #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): If you enjoyed, Kelly Thompson’s Rogue and Gambit, you’re going to love this. Thompson’s proven herself very adept at character work, and Mr. and Mrs. X is no different. In fact, it’s the best superhero wedding issue you’ll get this year. There’s a certain breeziness to Thompson’s script that plays really well to Oscar Bazaldua’s strengths as an artist. This is a light, fun romance/adventure comic and Bazaldua really underlines those qualities. However, he does have a tendency to give characters very similar faces (especially women) and oversimplify his backgrounds, which really takes away from understanding of space in each scene. Frank D’Armata also turns in an uneven coloring job that noticeably lightens the skin tone of characters like Storm and Bishop. Despite those missteps, Mr. and Mrs. X is a fun romp through the more romantic side of the X-Universe that also keys into some fun bits of continuity including the appearance of of a long-lost Excalibur character.
The Flash #51 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Iris West narrates the heartwarming epilogue of writer Joshua Williamson’s “Flash War” and gives reminds readers why Wally West is so many fans’ favorite Flash. The sense of loss is palpable - we’re watching a superhero grieve in a way that only a superhero can, racing across the globe like a human tornado. Artist Scott Kolins turns in some really solid work. His expressions sometimes come across a bit wonky, but he’s able to tap into the emotions of the script. And I’m a fan of his off-model takes on the other heroes, namely Batman with his exaggerated mask — it gives this corner of the DCU its own flavor, and I appreciate that. What’s really impressive here is how Williamson wings this arc right into the upcoming Heroes in Crisis event without it feeling shoehorned in. The Flash #51 is a quiet issue, but it puts a satisfying cap on this arc before moving forward.
The New World #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10) The New World looks stunning. Sure, the issue depicts a dystopia, an America ravaged by nuclear devices, but Tradd and Heather Moore are the ones depicting it, so it’s a vibrant, visual experience. The newest book written by Aleš Kot comes out swinging, nearly three times the typical length of a single issue, meaning the creative team (including flatter Yesflat and letterer Clayton Cowles) have all the space they need to properly build this story up, never having to rush through a story beat to ensure it all fits within the page count. After quickly establishing the basics of what led the world to this point, New California is where they lay their scene. Stella is a Guardian, a star of America’s most important reality show, one where criminals are hunted down live on air. Kirby is a terrorist, first seen in the process of disrupting a broadcast, and their fates seem destined to become entwined. This is achieved through recurrent layouts, so the two stories seem mirrored, connected via a consistent presentation. Later on, there’s some slight divergence on display, but what persists is how well realized this world feels in each panel. This is an audacious, bold and striking debut.
Amazing Spider-Man #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Two issues in, and writer Nick Spencer and artist Ryan Ottley are already making their mark on Amazing Spider-Man. They go a bit lighter on the relationship drama and play up the superheroics to great effect. There’s definitely a bit of deja vu happening here with regards to Parker’s latest run-in with one Dr. Curt Connors who has “the Lizard under control” for now, and a twist that feels about 22 years old. But this book is a ton of fun. Ottley’s energetic Spidey practically flies off the page, and Spencer’s quips strikes the perfect Parker balance between funny and groan-worthy. This series feels notably lighter than what we saw even in Dan Slott’s status quo-changing run, but it’s clear that it’s a great time to be a Spider-fan.
Doomsday Clock #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): The countdown to midnight trudges on as Geoff Johns, Gary Frank and Brad Anderson make a minimal amount of progress from where the last issue left off, with Batman under Joker’s “care,” as they also take a step backwards in time in order to detail Mime and Marionette’s tragic past. To the team’s credit, they make heavy use of match cuts in order to transition between the two periods, but the explicit structural connection doesn’t help the events build to anything substantial. This incremental progress in terms of plotting means that by the issue’s end, the halfway point in the maxiseries, it’s still yet to prove why all these events deserve such decompressed attention. Frank’s artwork looks as good as expected –– how much detail he can pack into a nine-panel grid is exceptional –– but Johns’ script feels gratuitous rather than gripping. It’s an ultimately hollow reading experience that turns disappointing when taking the delays which have already affected the series into account, as it’s going to be a while before they’re able to work on something more intriguing.