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 Pastel Pierce Lydon, who takes a look at Black Panther vs. Deadpool #1...
Black Panther vs. Deadpool #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10) This is a madcap Deadpool 'Vs.' story that leans in on how overwrought the concept is and honestly, that makes it delightful. It’s zany in all the right ways and for the most part writer Daniel Kibblesmith’s jokes land. It’s gloriously self-aware and borrows perfectly from the tone of the films without getting too grating and without forgetting continuity. A big reason that it works is Ricardo Lopez Ortiz’ art (especially combined with Felipe Sobreiro’s colors). Ortiz takes advantage of the cartoon physics of the world of this story. I love how expressive characters are even under a mask. Big Two comic books don’t often have a sort of punk rock aesthetic to them but Ortiz is combining some of the grit and style of a guy like Jim Mahfood with the comedic beats of someone like Genndy Tartkovsky. This is a tried and true Marvel formula at this point but Kibblesmith and the art team make this one is a win for Marvel.
Wonder Woman #57 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): With the Justice League Dark scattered and on the ropes thanks to the mystical threat of Hecate, writer James Tynion IV and artist Emanuela Lupacchino deliver some surprisingly human moments amidst the chaos in Wonder Woman #57. Bouncing across the various magical sites of the DC Universe, Tynion shows how the rest of the JLD are faring against a possessed Wonder Woman - in particular, Tynion and Lupacchino’s sense of chemistry between Constantine and Zatanna is a high point of the book, especially when we learn about some potential shifts to Constantine’s status quo. Additionally, some of the other rabbits Tynion is able to pull out of his hat yield some emotional moments, which is good, since some of the other interludes featuring Swamp Thing, Deadman, Man-Bat and Detective Chimp feel a little bit more plot-focused than character-driven. Some of this might have to do with Lupacchino, and who well she sells the more human characters’ emotions - she does a lot of the heavy lifting in getting us to feel invested. Given how many different balls the creative team has to juggle, The Witching Hour could be a real mess, but chapters like Wonder Woman #57 show plenty of promise to this wild high concept.
Dead Kings #1 (Published by AfterShock Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The opening issue of Dead Kings feels intricately conceived and thoroughly lived-in to an extent that rivals modern titans of worldbuilding Seven to Eternity and Coda. Whereas there is a warmth to those two worlds despite their bleak premises, writer Steve Orlando, artist Matthew Dow Smith, and colorist Lauren Affe have opted instead to present readers with something cold. Orlando crafts something interesting in his narrative through the dual protagonists of Sasha, who strives for something tangible, rescuing his brother from a work camp for “social degenerates,” and Maria, who has less concrete goals but a more concrete backstory of characterization - she was one of the greatest warriors her country had before it discarded her. While Sasha’s set-up feels very traditional, his pairing with Maria adds enough nuance to make the story feel distinct. All of this is undoubtedly helped by Smith’s art and Affe’s coloring. While Smith is adept at crafting the more outlandish panels, it’s his lonely and more isolated art that serves the issue best. Through repeated panels of a single character, it conveys a lot of emotion. Affe’s color choices adding to the richness of the world can’t be overstated, either. There’s a loneliness in her blue and purple hues and heavy dark shadows that ends up making brighter panels, like one in the midpoint with an all-white background, feel more impactful. Overall, Dead Kings #1 manages to deliver in its story and in the intrigue to the world it introduces, and it's obvious that both of those are at the forefront of the team’s creative decisions.
Spider-Girls #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10) Writer Jody Houser and artist Andres Genolet team up Annie Parker, Mayday Parker, and Anya Corazon for this Spider-Geddon crossover limited series, and the result is a surprisingly lean, effective story. Focusing on the Renew Your Vows cast first, Houser gives the Spider-Family a really entertaining dynamic that has a lot in common with Emma Stone and her parents in Easy A - kind of easy-going and jokey but slightly embarrassing. Houser nails the simple setup, gives us the necessary exposition and delivers it about as naturally as possible plus her characters feel distinct. There’s a nice touch where Annie’s internal monologue gives us information that we can’t really otherwise get from the page like the fact that Mayday’s voice sounds sad in one scene that helps bring the story to life. Andres Genolet has a few moments where he doesn’t nail some Spider-people body language, but by and large this is a really good issue for him. I love his take on the Vulture Gang, and I really enjoy his linework especially when it comes to the fight scenes. He comes across as a bit of a cross between Sean Gordon Murphy and Olivier Coipel in terms of mixing good design with expressive character work. Spider-Geddon has been a murky mixed bag overall, but Spider-Girls is a bright spot.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Macro-Series: Michelangelo #2 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Writer Ian Flynn and artist Michael Dialynas pit Michelangelo against everything he’s even known in the double-sized Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Macro-Series: Michelangelo #2. With the Turtles having saved a group of orphans during a city-wide attack, they find themselves faced with a difficult choice - leave the children to fend for themselves, or watch them be indoctrinated as Splinter’s next generation of ninja warriors. Flynn’s pacing moves slowly at first, with the necessary exposition still dragging the momentum of the narrative throughline. However, once Flynn’s story is set up - particularly with a wrenching moment of Leonardo getting humbled in a way he cannot defend against - the story picks up, particularly when Dialynas is able to cut loose with high-speed ninja action. The fight choreography here is spectacular, and while Dialynas’ maskless turtles can’t help but look a little disconcerting, everything clicks when Mikey is in his orange mask throwing down with the sensei who trained him. Still, the $8 price tag on this book might raise some eyebrows, but if you’re a Turtle fan with some cash to burn, you can’t go wrong here.