Justice League #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): If you haven’t been keeping up with the Justice League, you might as well just jump in right here. This is some choice comic booking by Scott Snyder and Jorge Jimenez. And while it’s not what you might call a traditional jumping-on point, it’s the kind of book that will leave you wanting to know more. Some details to help sell you on it: Joker is driving Martian Manhunter’s body from the inside, a microscopic Batman and Lex Luthor battle inside Superman’s body, Batman survived being eaten by Superman’s immune system, the Flash is fighting against the Still Force (the opposite of the Speed Force) and none of that’s even mentioning The Totality or really anything about the plot. Snyder’s narration is perfectly purple and his dialogue is full of drama (even if some of the quips skew a little dad-jokey a times). Jorge Jimenez delivers a high-octane, action-packed issue that reminds us all why he’s one of DC’s premier artists. Jimenez has a knack for illustrating the big moments in Snyder’s script, and he pairs excellently to the epic scale of the story. This is the kind of big, ridiculous comic book nonsense that DC’s top superhero team deserves.
Tony Stark: Iron Man #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Ready Player Who? Put on your virtual reality mask and join Tony Stark’s eScape, as writer Dan Slott and artist Valerio Schiti deliver an energetic thrill ride with Tony Stark: Iron Man #3 — even if that particular roller coaster might feel a touch impersonal. Like Ready Player One before it, Tony Stark has invented a sprawling virtual reality world, complete with a scavenger hunt for beta testers looking for fame and riches — but with Machine Man outraged at the use of artificial intelligence for this cyberpark, there’s going to be sparks flying. Schiti does particularly interesting work by keeping the majority of this story’s visuals from the perspective of our unknown point-of-view character — that keeps the action feeling immediate, even if Edgar Delgado and Rachelle Rosenberg’s ultra-bright colors wind up making us feel more removed than immersed. That said, while Slott’s concept work is frenetic (and he does solid work characterizing Jocasta’s struggles as an android), this still only tangentially feels like a Tony Stark story, particularly since the jump from weapons manufacturer to NPC hunter feels a little bit of a stretch. The ideas are all there, but the characterization still feels a little ephemeral, which hopefully Tony Stark: Iron Man can correct soon.
Crowded #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The gig economy can be rough. Take Charlie, for example — she’s a young woman who has to hold down 12 jobs just to make a living, and on top of that, there are people who are trying to kill her. But thankfully, there’s an app for that, as Crowded finds Charlie under the protection of a rent-a-bodyguard named Vita. Writer Chistopher Sebela’s script teases details about this wider world, though the book’s real strength is in how well it digs into the two lead characters rather than hoping the concept is enough of a hook for readers to come back. From the opening page, Ro Stein, Ted Brandt and Triona Farrell’s character designs are distinctive, pairing bubble-gum pink with a Kill Bill shade of yellow, while contrasting how different Charlie and Vita’s lives are, especially their work lives. Putting these people in the same room and forcing them to find a way out together, and preferably alive, helps on a narrative level to build up tension and rhythm while also giving the book a unique color scheme which shifts as the mood of the proceedings changes.
Thor #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): It’s a cliche but when Jason Aaron’s Thor is on, it’s like a great metal song - heavy, heart-pounding and absolutely unrelenting. And much of the credit goes to Mike Del Mundo this issue. Because of his much more impressionistic style when compared of more traditional superhero artists, his pages can be hard to follow from a visual storytelling standpoint. At his worst, details blur together and overuse of certain foreground/background dynamic effects make the action harder to parse. None of that is present here. This might be one of Del Mundo’s best issues of interior art to date. His fight scenes are well choreographed. The smaller in between moments are packed full of some great acting. And he makes excellent use of framing to hold back on a couple of fun reveals. Jason Aaron is lucky to have him. But Aaron is no slouch either. This issue should go down as one of the most fun of his entire Thor legacy and one of his funniest issues since Wolverine & the X-Men. There’s a great balance of humor, action and the mounting threat of Malekith. Thor #4 proves that sometimes one comic book can have it all.
The Wild Storm #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Due to the running timer on the covers, The Wild Storm always reads as building to its conclusion in a deliberate way. Each interaction plays as essential to the series’ endgame, as players like Jenny Sparks and Angela Spica gradually get pulled into contact with one another; a restrained sequence bolstered by Jon Davis-Hunt’s formalism and precision. The way the artist makes use of a three-tiered page –– flirting with, but not committing to a nine-panel grid –– connects the characters within the same space without it being a permanent decision, appropriate once you see what leads to the conversation starting. The second half of the issue is more dynamic, without being radically different in approach. Davis-Hunt moves to make use of longer panels, becoming more playful when it comes to perspective while colorist Brian Buccellato does wonders with how the shadows overpower the space. Both approaches work within the same issue because of a general aesthetic consistency and writer Warren Ellis’ decision to grant each individual attention, using what best suits the current narrative. Some might perceive this as evidence of the book’s glacial pacing, yet it is really proof of the team’s precise craft.
Infinity Wars #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Another issue, another dose of Infinity Stone shenanigans, but writer Gerry Duggan’s storytelling is really leaden with Infinity Wars #2. There’s some solid work with Gamora, and I like what Duggan does in elevating her as the one person in the galaxy who is actually capable of defeating Thanos. But despite that, the issue is a mess, with the heroes seemingly trying to keep the Stones away from Gamora but ultimately doing a terrible job of it. Some of the confusion comes from Mike Deodato’s work, which isn’t bad from a purely aesthetic standpoint - for my money, he draws an excellent Thanos. But Deodato’s extraneous panels ruin the flow of his pages. In some cases, his choices to add additional gutters causes the panels to read opposite the flow of the page. Too much style over substance really undermines some solid cartoonings from him and distracts from the narrative. This event has already worn out its welcome.
Pearl #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Brian Michael Bendis’ voice used to feel at home in a street-level setting, with a naturalistic cadence and rhythm so energized and meaty that you’d be content reading that for pages, even if it led to the actual story progression slowing down as a result. That the meet-cute between two tattoo artists which kicks off Pearl feels forced and strained is a worrying sign, because not only does result in the dialogue being a chore to read, but the sluggish narrative of this installment is unengaging as well. Drawn by notable collaborator Michael Gaydos, there’s talk of Pearl’s action causing major fallout, just little evidence of this visually or narratively. Gaydos gets little to work with beyond Bendis’ sole action beat, told in an unusual mix of green and red, which even then is light on actual action. This is accompanied by an early Batman story from the pair, Janice Chiang and Patricia Mulvihill, a thin pastiche of Citizen Kane right down to the mystery of Rosebud. In both instances, you wish they would stop just mindlessly talking and start saying something real instead.
Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #308 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Chip Zdarsky may have a reputation as a goofball, but he can tug at those heartstrings with the best of them. With Chris Bachalo in tow, Zdarsky kicks off a sad sack Sandman story that’s shows the most important part of superheroics: empathy. Flint Marko is dying, and Peter seeks to help his embattled foe as much as he can. It’s a very quiet issue that ruminates on how we take stock of our lives when the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be getting brighter and brighter. Zdarsky frames the story through Marko’s life flashing before his eyes but it may not just be his past. There’s something else, too. A forgotten history? A misremembered future? We don’t quite know yet. But Marko’s final words will resonate with anyone: “I could’ve done better. Been better.” And Chris Bachalo is a fun fit for this story. He doesn’t get to be quite as dynamic as we've seen him before, but it’s hard not to love his characters, especially the craggly lines of Marko’s slowly deteriorating face. This is a somber start to an intriguing story. Hopefully, we’ll get to see a lot more from this creative team.
Batgirl #25 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): This isn’t the most polished anniversary issue of Batgirl, but Mairghread Scott and Marguerite Bennett deliver a nice one-two punch with their short stories, featuring Batgirl grappling with the aftermath of Batman and Catwoman’s cancelled wedding. Scott sets up the scene nicely as Batgirl mourns the death of one of the Joker’s victims, which dovetails nicely into Bennett’s interlude with Barbara spending a quiet night with Dick Grayson talking about romance and a superhero’s fleeting time. Artist Tom Derenick wrings a lot of great emotion out of Scott’s story, while Dan Panosian just plays up how familiar and safe Barbara and Dick feel around each other, even when they’re just hanging out in a hotel room. It’s a low-key kind of sentimentality, but it rings true for these characters and makes you root for them. That said, the two stories at the back of the book, by Scott and artist Paul Pelletier, as well as Paul Dini and Emanuela Lupacchino, feel way too much like meat-and-potatoes superheroing given the naturalistic first half of the book — in particular, it’s a shame that letterer Deron Bennett winds up having to switch caption styles in Scott’s second story, further separating us from Babs as a human character. Still, there’s some diamonds in the rough here, but less is definitely more for Batgirl #25.