Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Charismatic C.K. Stewart, who takes a look at the latest issue of Wonder Woman...
Wonder Woman #52 (Published by DC Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): With the incredible ACO on pencils and David Lorenzo on inks, it should come as no surprise that Wonder Woman #52 is an artistically ambitious book, with innovative layouts and intricate designs for the supernatural forces Diana and Aztek — Nayeli Constant, who it’s great to see again — are forced to team up again. There are times the art goes a little too hard, though; this is a book that works best in hard copy, where you have the full two pages at all time to take in as one whole experience. In close up it at times gets tough to follow. It’s fantastic to see Romulo Fajardo, Jr. coloring ACO’s work again as well, bringing such warmth and liveliness to Diana and delivering some stunning supernatural pops of color against the backdrop of a surreal magical realm. It’s a fun comic, though, and writer Steve Orlando is clearly having a blast with this opportunity. Better to go too hard than play it safe; Wonder Woman #52 is still an exciting and beautiful read.
Hunt for Wolverine: The Adamantium Agenda #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Can you imagine a Hunt for Wolverine tie-in being one of the best Avengers stories in recent memory? Tom Taylor and R.B. Silva stick the landing with The Adamantium Agenda #4, and it makes me want that team on another Avengers book, stat. With the classic Bendis New Avengers lineup — minus Captain America, and with X-23 subbing in for the deceased Wolverine — hunting down Mister Sinister and discovering a deep moral quandary instead, Taylor balances his characters nicely, nailing their individual voices and personalities (while somehow selling some very toyetic Iron Man armors for the gang to boot). R.B. Silva, at this point, is heir apparent to Stuart Immonen, with the same fluidity of motion, like Spider-Man giving Mister Sinister a big drop kick to the chin, as well as some gorgeous expressiveness, like when X-23 learns some major secrets of her past. While the ending itself comes across as a little abrupt, The Adamantium Agenda should be carte blanche to let Taylor and Silva work on whatever the hell they feel like next.
Black Badge #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Though they are often well-done comics, I don’t entirely understand comics about children as scaled-down adults doing full-scale adult things. The most recent offering, and the one I struggle with the most, is Black Badge #1. Written by the talented Matt Kindt, with art and colors from Tyler Jenkins and Hilary Jenkins, Black Badge follows four special ops scouts on what’s supposed to be a rescue mission for the United States government. It’s well-paced, with a creeping sense of dread and unease, and Hilary Jenkins’ color work is truly incredible with a muted, uneven quality that emphasizes the book’s gritty Mission Impossible: Kids vibe. The book’s entire premise, and the specifics of this issue, are off-putting, as is the art; there’s a roughness and inconsistency to Jenkins’ lines that feels appropriate to such a dark premise. As solidly executed as the book is, though, there’s not quite enough here to suggest the book will live up to the “a haunting look at foreign policy, culture wars and isolationism” its synopsis promises, at least in a way that necessitated kids equipped to kill for the state.
Superman #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Brian Michael Bendis delivers one of the more hopeful takes on the Man of Steel in his second issue of Superman, channeling that Christopher Reeve wholesomeness even as the world threatens to shake itself apart in the Phantom Zone. Additionally, while Bendis has always been a little bit scattershot as a plotter, he really makes this issue feel cohesive, even as he shifts between Superman and his new enemy Rogol Zaar (who battles another Reeve-era Easter egg that’s deeply satisfying). A lot of what makes Bendis’s more naturalistic storytelling work with such an iconic character is Ivan Reis’s artwork — instead of trying to chase Bendis’s style, Reis winds up going for epic shots rather than expressive ones, and so we get the best of both worlds as we watch Superman soar toward us, or watch Rogol stumble upon one of Krypton’s forgotten secrets. That said, there is a little bit of bloat towards the beginning of this book, with two double-page spreads that could have been used to fleshing out the story a bit further — for example, explaining why the Justice League are dropping like flies. Still, this is some stellar work from Bendis, and a comic that shouldn’t be missed.
Fantastic Four #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): After two and a half years, they’re back… sort of. This might be the return of the Fantastic Four book, yet Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli are taking their time in reuniting all the members of Marvel’s First Family. As a result, this issue will play as familiar for the readers of Marvel Two-in-One, as much of the focus is on Johnny and Ben dealing with how they’re getting on without Reed, Sue, Franklin and Valeria. Working with Elisabetta D’Amico and Marte Gracia, Pichelli’s art has a light and bright feel to it, as does Slott’s script, with this harmony ensuring a big character moment in the main story lands as intended. Though there’s a dissonance to be found with them taking their time in getting to the actual reunion –– riffed on by a self-aware Slott and Skottie Young in a one-page story –– and the back-up. Not rushing to bring them back together is the right approach, one taken with care, yet it doesn’t gel well with the Doctor Doom tale drawn by Simone Bianchi and Marco Russo, which speeds through resetting some of the Fantastic Four’s surrounding status quo.
Supergirl #21 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): What’s most surprising about this issue of Supergirl –– the series is returning now Bendis’ Man of Steel miniseries has established a new Super-family status quo –– is that Kara’s new costume doesn’t make an appearance despite being the focus of the cover. Following on from Rogol Zaar’s destruction of both the Fortress of Solitude and the bottle city of Kandor, Kara’s feeling the weight of loss and wants to do something about it. New writer Marc Andreyko’s script can be heavy on the exposition in putting her on her new path, but much of this interaction also displays a strong understanding of Kara’s character. The amount of destruction which paved the way for this creative could have led to a book with a rather dour atmosphere, but Kevin Maguire, Sean Parsons and FCO Plascencia choose not to lean into this. Maguire’s art here is far better suited by Plascencia’s palette than it was by Alex Sinclair in his Man of Steel issue. His Hal Jordan looks pudgy, but thankfully he draws a good Krypto.
Champions #23 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Having the Champions — a team that is in tremendous flux, given the absence of Miles Morales, the depowering of Nova, and the additions of Amka and Ironheart — in a battle royale with Man-Thing might not be the most exciting premise on paper, but you have to give Jim Zub credit for writing the heck out of it. Teaming up with artists Kevin Libranda and Francesco Manna, Zub makes Champions #23 an emotional, if somewhat chaotic read. Zub’s main focus is on Viv Vision, who grapples with her own buried fears after her short but particularly harrowing publishing history — the characterization is strong, but the cliffhanger for the issue is a little wonky, even if the abrupt handoff to Nova ends things on a good note. Libranda and Manna provide some solid, if somewhat unpolished, artwork to the mix — given the sheer size of the cast, it would be easy for the layouts to be muddled, but they do a great job with the kineticism of Man-Thing as he lunges for the team.