Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews — let’s kick off with Platitudinous Pierce Lydon, who takes a look at the finale of Death of the Inhumans...
Death of the Inhumans #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10) Sometimes less is more and that has almost always been the case with the Inhumans (outside of rare breakout stars like Ms. Marvel). The ending of this mini is a little bit abrupt but in ending, Donny Cate and Ariel Olivetti have created a new beginning for the Inhumans. What Cates does so masterfully is close out this chapter while also allowing for a way forward. His character work with Black Bolt is really strong, owing mostly to the “Inhuman Sign language” that he uses to give the character a voice on the page. Ariel Olivetti has really shied away from the digital-laden work that marked his career a decade ago and the evolution is welcome here. His work is a lot more visceral and it really brings out the emotions in the script. Even if the Inhumans aren’t your thing, this is a mini worth checking out as it seeds their next chapter.
The Green Lantern #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): “Floozle Flem doesn’t catch you… you catch Floozle Flem.” With that, welcome Grant Morrison back to writing an ongoing book at DC, reinventing a major character and probably blowing some minds while he’s at it. This time around, he’s working with Liam Sharp, Steve Oliff and Tom Orzechowski to spin Hal Jordan into a new direction by focusing on the space cop aspect of being a Green Lantern, though as he’s writing this is anything but a straightforward police procedural. They start with a couple of other Lanterns on their beat, before setting up a couple of extraterrestrial miscreants on their way to Earth. They get right into their take with an in medias res approach, one that’s more indebted to 2000 AD than traditional superhero comics, with Sharp and Oliff leaning right into this vibe to produce some stunning work, though they could stand to tighten up the anatomy – Hal’s proportions look as if he’s sucking in his stomach when in costume. From alien lifeforms and far-off planets to a quieter moment with Hal observing the sky, it is distinctive; a relic from a bygone era that feels fresh all the same.
Dead Rabbit #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Killer character design notwithstanding, Gerry Duggan and John McCrea’s Dead Rabbit can’t help but feel like a derivative one-last-job kind of crime book — but to their credit, for a comic that would likely be DOA in any other hands winds up being a fun and exciting romp. With his wife in the hospital, the criminal formerly known as Dead Rabbit has to put on his mask for one more stickup — but if time hasn’t been kind to this ex-bank robber, things get even more complicated when the ravages of time screw up his wheelman’s escape plan. Duggan and McCrea build this issue up to a crescendo with an off-the-rails car chase — McCrea deserves plenty of kudos for making the sequence look kinetic, giving the scene some extra tension. Still, beyond a cool-looking mask, there isn’t much to the concept yet that makes Dead Rabbit stand out, especially among sharp and interesting crime fare at Image like The Fix or any of Ed Brubaker’s work. Not a bad book, but not a bullseye just yet.
Spider-Geddon #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): As Otto would say, “the die is cast!” in the the war against the Inheritors in Spider-Geddon #3. Writer Christos Gage, working from a story from Dan Slott, is making the larger cast work for him, giving each lead a defined personality as they take the fight to the enemy. The splitting of the groups in the issue’s opening pages is a little tiresome, but Gage recovers nicely, dovetailing them all into a true ensemble and then raising the stakes by revealing a traitor in their midst. Artists Carlo Barberi, Todd Nauck, Jose Marzan Jr, and David Curiel also impress thanks to their defined artwork of the large cast. Each Spider is given outstanding detailing by Curiel’s colors, Barberi’s expressive pencils and body language, and Nauck and Marzan Jr’s delicate inking. Books with big and largely identical casts can kind of be a crap shoot (see some early Spider-Verse issues for examples), but this art team handles it really, really well, stocking the pages with clear action and wonderful renderings of fan-favorite Spiders.
Justice League #11 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10) While “Drowned Earth” might look like a waterlogged zombie story to his point but Scott Snyder really ups the ante in this issue. The League is scrambling to do all the damage control they can while trying to face this threat and Snyder gives the spotlight to Aquaman and Mera, allowing him to explore the League’s character dynamics in interesting ways. (Though, the standout team-up has got to be Batman and Jarro... I’m only slightly kidding) Francis Manapul does the real heavy lifting with an absolute barnburner of an issue. This art is unstoppable and Manapul doesn’t let the watery setting overwhelm him. Not only do we get iconic looks from these heroes, Manapul plus out all the stops with his settings, action choreography and coloring. If you like over-the-top, constantly evolving adventure stories, you need to be reading “Drowned Earth.”
X-23 #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): If a writer must riff on something, would it kill them to pick something better than Kindergarten Cop? X-23 #6 is a single-issue story that further proves Mariko Tamaki has the individual voices of Gabby and Laura down, plus their combined dynamic, but the lightweight narrative feels out of place after where the previous arc went thematically. Gabby has gone undercover as a student in order to investigate deliveries of genetic research equipment. Laura’s in tow, posing as a gym teacher, and so while they’re not technically together for the bulk of the issue, their attempted incognito communications are what keep the issue moving as they work through the case in their own ways towards its underdeveloped conclusion. Similarly disappointing is how Georges Duarte and Chris O’Halloran render this story. Their characters are caught in the uncanny valley by way of how digital they seem. While the softer color scheme works in the parts where they lean into a pastel look, it otherwise leads to circumstances where compositions are flatter than intended. Put simply, it’s an issue without depth, and hopefully the next issue will get the book back on track quickly.
X-Men: Red #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): To Tom Taylor’s credit, even as X-Men: Red conclusion draws nearer, he’s still finding way to add additional wrinkles to the work’s subtext. This issue opens with “Jean” delivering a monologue about all the havoc that humanity hath wrought and how that means it is time to make way for homo superior. The explanation for this, revealed later in the issue, relates to our current moment in such a way that’s blunt yet effective, and relevant to this series’ larger point. Rogê Antônio’s work is cruder than the artists which have preceded him when it comes to the level of overall detail, though his expression work is strong. From the first page’s full-body image of Jean to a later panel of Namor with arms folded, there’s some wonderful acting involved in the issue which helps to sell the more static first half. As a result, this issue plays like the first half to a grand two-part finale, complete with cliffhanger, with Taylor giving enough forward momentum towards the big confrontation without having to burn through plot in order to get there. It’ll be a shame to see the book go, but hopefully everything’s been set up to let it leave on a high.
Batman #58 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10) While Tom King’s Batman run has a larger game plan in mind, certain installments like this issue can feel a bit slight. King’s moving the chess pieces in this issue, tying the Penguin to some recent events in the book and using Shakespeare’s “The Phoenix and the Turtle” as running narration to frame the book. This is almost more atmospheric setup than plot building, however, and that’s where digging into King’s references can leave the reader a bit unsatisfied. This particular Shakespeare poem has many different interpretations, and it’s hard to tell right now what King expects us to glean from the work’s inclusion. Mikel Janin and Jordie Bellaire turn in some solid work though. I usually feel like Janin’s characters can be a little stiff but this seems a lot more natural and organic. This is certainly due to Bellaire’s color giving the book an intense moodiness with a palette that really leans on cooler colors.
Doctor Strange #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Might, magic, and a shocking return make for substantially fun issue in Doctor Strange #7. Hot on the trail of his former pupil Casey Kinmont, Strange switches things up a bit thanks to his new alien friend Kanna’s uncanny ability to meld magic and tech. Waid’s time on Strange thus far has been really impressive thanks to his grounded, heartfelt take on the characters along with him finally tying up loose ends from 2010 run on the series. It also doesn’t hurt that this issue has a cliffhanger to die for. Artists Javier Pina and Andres Guinaldo, along with an army of inkers and colorists, also continue to hold their own with Waid’s character-focused action. Almost oversaturated by colors and heavy inks, the pair’s artwork might seem a little overproduced for the more expository scenes, but it really holds the eye throughout and jibes very well with the magical mystery tone of the arc. Doctor Strange might not be the first title you think of when you think Mark Waid, but his tenure with the character just continues to improve.
Sideways Annual #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Seven Soldiers of Victory get a little Super in the Sideways Annual. With all hope lost in the battle against the Sheeda, Sideways makes a last ditch effort to gather reinforcements and stumbles upon Jeans-And-Boots Superman, from all the way back in the New 52’s Action Comics! Though the story, credited between Dan DiDio, Will Conrad, Cliff Richards, and a guest-starring Grant Morrison, gets a little too heavy handed for its own good, the story of an inexperienced hero gaining inspiration from a team-up with Superman is one of DC’s most tried-and-true stories, and it really works here, even amid all the dark multiverse mumbo-jumbo and speechifying monsters. The artwork also deftly conjures the constant motion of Rags Morales’ early days on the New 52 Action, throwing the characters into battle after battle, led by Superman’s heavy-hitting haymakers. Breezy, strange, and filled with cult classic characters, the Sideways Annual might be this week’s diamond in the rough.
Infinity Wars #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10) Infinity War has been a weird little event, and Gerry Duggan has done a good job recontextualizing the Infinity Stones in the wake of well, everything. But this team-up with Mike Deodato Jr. is really losing steam. Every step forward in the plot feels like two steps back, and the age-old fallback plan of “Don’t worry, there’s totally another version of the weapon that’s been defeating us that we can use” shows up here. It’s a little exhausting. Deodato, for his part, turns in some gorgeous pages in between some uninspired ones. He doesn’t always consistently give us great characters or expression but he’s definitely able to deliver on big moments. (Loki and the Celestials is a serious standout page.) Duggan has kept readers on their toes, but it’s starting to feel like diminishing returns as Infinity Wars heads to its conclusion.