Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Mischevious Matthew Sibley, who takes a look at the latest issue of Runaways...
Runaways #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): While Rainbow Rowell, Kris Anka, Mathew Wilson and Joe Caramanga have opted not to match Brian K. Vaughan’s breakneck plotting in bringing back the Runaways, they retain the assured sense of character that was so evident in the original run. The issue presents itself initially as an examination of Nico and Karolina’s relationship, only to split its time as Gert and Victor go on an adventure of their own. This could have led to both stories feeling incomplete, but Rowell is a writer who has a real strength in panel to panel pacing, packing as much as she can in. Matched with Anka and Wilson, the twin tales look absolutely beautiful, especially the locale which Gert and Victor visit. That’s something which is equally true when taking in the couture choices from Anka, one of the best artists in comics when it comes to fashion. Put simply, the issue looks great, everyone sounds as they should, and even 12 issues into the run, it’s hard to believe exactly how strong this team’s reunion has been.
Catwoman/Tweety & Sylvester #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Gail Simone and Inaki Miranda take an unlikely high concept and turn it into a sprawling tour of the DC Universe in Catwoman/Tweety & Sylvester #1. Granted, there’s still some weirdness to iron out — having a coven of witches betting on cats versus birds isn’t something that feels organic to any of the title characters, and I would argue that Black Canary deserves every bit of a title card as any of the other characters involved. But once the MacGuffins are in play, Simone’s pacing is fun and action-packed — Catwoman and Black Canary sparring for the sake of every cat- and bird-themed character in the DCU is a smart take, particularly once Simone blows up the cast exponentially with Wildcat, Hawkman, Starfire, Raven and more. That said, Tweety and Sylvester feel like weird fits to the equation, often feeling ancillary to the actual story. Miranda’s artwork is solid given how many characters he has to fit in, sometimes evoking Andy Kubert or Otto Schmidt, but it’s Eva De La Cruz’s colors that really help seal the deal with the nighttime vibe. Like Lex Luthor/Porky Pig, I’m still not 100 percent convinced Looney Tunes characters needed to be in this story, but that doesn’t keep Simone and Miranda from delivering a fun one-off superhero romp.
The New World #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): While its pacing suffers a bit following its giant-sized debut issue, The New World is still the best book you can buy this week. Writer Ales Kot’s dystopian twist on star-crossed lovers feels vibrant and tense, as Kirby and Stella have to make some quick decisions about the future in the middle of a reality show TV raid. This opening sequence is dynamic and hard-hitting, with some superb visual pacing that makes up for some slowness as the script catches its breath toward the end — but if there’s one word I’d use to describe Tradd Moore’s artwork, it is relentless. From Kirby and his dad driving their car through an exploding garage door or noxious green smoke surrounding Logan Maximus after he tases his prey, Moore is earning a spot in the same league as a Frank Quitely or a Geoff Darrow. (Colorist Heather Moore also deserves a ton of praise, making The New World feel fluorescent and bright despite its dystopian premise.) Honestly, few comics are as brash and bold as The New World, but damn if this isn’t one of the most exciting books on the stands.
Extermination #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): In the wake of Cable and Bloodstorm’s deaths as well as Iceman’s abduction, Ed Brisson and Pepe Larraz really turn up the heat on the X-Men. Brisson turns in a great script that’s filled with all the melodrama and angst that is the lifeblood of a good X-Men book, and he’s actually made me a believer with this one. The plot is pretty straightforward, but it’s paced really well, and that lends a much-needed sense of urgency to the action. Pepe Larraz makes a star turn in this issue, using every weapon in his artistic arsenal to bring Brisson’s script to life. There are some very inspired choices made with silhouetting in a few panels and Larraz’ acting is on point. I had some quibbles about there not being enough motion communicated in Larraz’ last issue, but those are all resolved here. This creative team is clicking and this book is starting to live up to the hype.
Lex Luthor/Porky Pig #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Even a pig’s got to bring home the bacon. Unfortunately for Porky Pig, that leads him right into the preying gaze of Lex Luthor. Mark Russell brings these characters together in a satirical tale that’s quickly become typical of him, finding plenty of ways to rightfully take digs at Silicon Valley, cryptocurrency and Martin Shkreli-type pharmabros. The main story is a far cry from the back-up by Jim Fanning, John Loter, Paul J. Lopez, andWes Abbott which stars Porky as an office-supply salesman in the classic Looney Tunes look, a style which Lex Luthor seems out of place in. Conversely, the main tale –– with art by Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy, Andrew Dalhouse –– retains more of a house style in which Porky doesn’t seem at home in, despite many attempts; the one major drawback of the otherwise successful issue. The jabs aren’t necessarily subtle, nor offer a grand thesis, but the punching up allows for a consistent string of gags, all the while making it clear that Porky’s new-found success is bound to come crashing back down like an unwanted stock sooner or later.
New Mutants: Dead Souls #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): This mini had an slow start but Matthew Rosenberg and Adam Gorham manage to bring it home - the New Mutants feel like the New Mutants again. There is a lot to keep track of in terms of what’s going on (especially if you don’t understand Karma’s powers/relationship to her brother), but centering the book around Magik does give it a good anchor. I don’t want to spoil too much, but the Transmode virus has heavy implications for this team moving forward. Depending on how you feel about the Technarchy/Phalanx, that’s pretty exciting considering all that’s going on in the X-Universe these days. And the virus lends itself to some of the best visuals that we’ve gotten from Gorham in this series. His style tends to be a little sketchy and inconsistent but that actually works with the black and yellow of the Phalanx and allows him to lean in on some Bill Sienkiewicz/Bret Blevins weirdness in his pencils. At its conclusion, New Mutants: Dead Souls stands as a love letter to the New Mutants, and a new beginning for them.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Shattered Grid #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): With Shattered Grid, Kyle Higgins wraps up the latest Power Rangers event by channeling a lot of the reality-shifting sagas of classic Marvel and DC Comics. Lord Drakkon, for example, feels like Thanos circa the Infinity Gauntlet, an omnipotent being brought down by his own all-too-human feelings of insecurity; meanwhile, the Rangers’ do-or-die assault on a dangerous tower (not to mention the wiping out of multiple worlds) evokes the original Crisis, while Tommy’s heartfelt reunion with an amnesiac Kimberly can’t help but make you think of Geoff Johns’ reunion of the Flashes in DC Universe: Rebirth. (And the continuity-shifting cliffhanger? Pure Zero Hour.) But with a cast as sprawling as the Power Rangers of multiple generations, it makes sense for Higgins to use familiar frameworks to put this story to bed, and to his credit, he’s able to wring some genuine emotion amidst all the chaos. Artists Daniele Di Nicuolo and Diego Galindo, meanwhile, struggle with some of the frenetic crowd scenes, but once they’re able to have a more intimate story with Tommy and Drakkon, the flow picks up. Surprisingly, there’s a quietness to Shattered Grid #1 you might not expect, but it’s a strong showing from Higgins and company.
Hunt for Wolverine: Dead Ends #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): If there’s a major positive can be derived from this one-shot, it’s how concisely it manages to sum up the most relevant aspects of the four-preceding miniseries under the Hunt for Wolverine. Though on the other hand, that could just as easily be because those miniseries were largely inconsequential. For anyone who didn’t read any of them, Charles Soule’s scripting in the first half is effectively a recap. Iron Man and Daredevil arrive at the X-Mansion in order to chat with Kitty Pryde about what their teams found out in their respective miniseries. For those that did, all this half serves to do is reestablish what you already know. The second half is more action-packed, and thus a better fit for the sleekness that Guru-eFX’s colours bring out in Ramon Rosanas’ art, though the trouble that ensues only exists to set up Return of Wolverine, furthering dragging out the return of Marvel’s most famous Canadian. Dead Ends’ vagueness about what’s to come is an ineffective story hook, as the build-up and teasing seems never-ending.
The Beatles: Yellow Submarine (Published by Titan Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): No music? No problem — despite the original Yellow Submarine being a Beatles musical, Bill Morrison does a heroic job working to translate this trippy story into the silent medium of comics. First and foremost, Morrison’s take on the unique visuals of the 1968 film feels spot-on, and the way that he’s able to fit so many crazy images and wrangle them onto a page is pretty incredible. That said, of course there’s something missing without that uniquely auditory segment of the film, like the mania of the Blue Meanies or the sheer force of the Flying Glove — but for the Beatles themselves, you can still hear their iconic voices, especially when Ringo and John reunite for the first time. Beetles fans will definitely not want to miss out on this loving tribute.