Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off with Joking Justin Partridge, who takes a look at the DC Nuclear Winter Special...
DC Nuclear Winter Special #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): DC Comics delivers a powerfully entertaining Christmas gift in the form of the DC Nuclear Winter Special #1. Set after all manner of nuclear calamity, Mark Russell and Mike Norton serve as our hosts with a framing story featuring Rip Hunter stalling a group of Silicon Valley cannibals with tales from the DCU. And most of these stories are rousing successes. Some, like Jeff Loveness and Christian Duce’s Flash story, are a bit overly dour thanks to the concept, but these few missteps only heighten the emotional power of tales like Steve Orlando and Brad Walker’s Superman One Million story, Jackson Lanzing, Colin Kelly, and Giuseppe Camuncoli’s Batman 666 story (which makes a great case for a 666 ongoing), and Tom Taylor and Yasmine Putri’s soaring Supergirl tale. And those are only the tip of the iceberg! Every once in awhile, these DC anthologies will surprise you, and I am glad to see that the DC Nuclear Winter Special #1 rises above it’s bleak premise and delivers some truly great holiday superhero stories.
Daredevil #612 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): With the final issue of the Death of Daredevil, Charles Soule wraps his run on Daredevil not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with a cheat — a cheat that, despite a handful of poignant moments, isn’t enough to not retroactively sink his final arc. It’s a shame that, given the extended page count that Soule and artist Phil Noto are given to work with, the actual underpinning of the whole story is a fantasy — so while there’s a fleeting thrill to seeing Matt Murdock beat the mysterious Vigil or finally topple the Kingpin as Mayor of New York, it’s all completely invalidated pages later. The one saving grace to this is that Noto really sells the big moments of this script, from an embattled Kingpin fuming in his office, to a courtroom filled with masked heroes. (And to be clear, while Soule’s macrostory is disappointing, he finesses some good moments here, particularly with the stellar one-liner, “I cannot see the light. So I will be the light.”) But ultimately, there are plenty of other stories out there that won’t be a bait-and-switch — Matt Murdock might not be dead, but he still deserves a better send-off than this.
Quincredible #1 (Published by Lion Forge; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime universe continues to grow with this week’s Quincredible #1, a street-level New Orleans superhero story. One of the strengths of the Catalyst Prime line is its consistent expansion into new types of superhero stories, keeping well-worn superhero paths fresh with new voices and characters. Quicredible #1 Quin, a tech-savvy high schooler gifted with invulnerability in the meteor showers that followed the events of Catalyst Prime: The Event. Unfortunately for Quin, all he knows to do with his powers is survive local bullies — until another hero offers him some useful advice in the wake of a community rally gone awry. Writer Rodney Barnes teases a deeper, darker political conspiracy against Quin’s coming-of-age tale, and while it’s intriguing, the rapid-fire introduction of Quin, his genius, his powers, and a Kingpin-esque power broker makes this first issue feel a bit rushed. Selina Espiritu and Kelly Fitzpatrick are a strong artistic team though, particularly Fitzpatrick’s colors with light-based hero Glow. There’s a lot of promise in Quincredible #1; even if there’s a lot going on, it’s all pretty interesting, and it’s worth keeping an eye on the series to see how things shake out as Barnes has more space to develop all the threads he’s introduced in this week’s debut.
Justice League Odyssey #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):There are so many reasons that this series shouldn’t work as well as it does: it’s an unlikely combination of heroes, and a Multiversal McGuffin that could be exchanged out for just about anything, and the well-publicized behind the panel shenanigans that led to the scrapping of some issues. Yet writer Joshua Williamson’s exploration of the Ghost Sector and the planets coming out of Colu is as exciting and new as the worlds of Dark Knights: Metal. Artist Philippe Briones and colorist Jeremy Cox step in to replace Stjepan Šeji?, and do a solid job of blending their art with the groundwork laid down by Šeji?. It’s appropriate given how different these worlds are from each other, which in this issue go from the mean streets of future noir to the frozen wastelands of a crash site. More than that, Williamson leaves us on a series of cliffhangers that feel as though their consequences will have wider impact than the immediate drama.
Amazing Spider-Man #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Amazing Spider-Man brings the heart and humor in its 10th issue. Neatly divided between a Spider-Man/Black Cat team-up to take down Odessa Drake’s new Thieves Guild and Mary Jane taking part in a companions of super-heroes support group, Nick Spencer finds a nice middle ground between screwy superhero action and genuine pathos centered around the women in Peter’s life. Artists Humberto Ramos and Michelle Bandini, along with the inks of Victor Olazaba, and the colors of Edgar Delgado and Erick Arciniega, lean into Spencer’s balance between action and emotion moving from the tightly blocked underground action of the fight scenes to the hazy flashbacks of the support group (those latter scenes getting added extra visual comedy with the pixelated blobs over each person’s faces). Amazing Spider-Man got off to a rocky start with its first arc, but issue #10 shows a writer who has gained a real purchase with the character, backed by artists who get the title’s visual tone well.
Heroes in Crisis #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10):For a mini-series that has ostensibly set itself up as a mystery, there’s been a fairly on-rails stylistic approach so far. In this issue, writer Tom King gives us a bit more time in the Sanctuary and explains exactly where Booster Gold was at the time of the massacre. Revisiting a story that’s already been (chaotically) explained by Harley is emblematic of the series to date: there’s a whole lot of drama but no particular hurry to get anywhere. It makes the one potentially interesting arc of Lagoon Boy all the less impactful, a semi-tragic story without room for us to build any connection with the relative unknown. Clay Mann bookends the issue with the familiar 9-panel grid motif, but Tomeu Morey shines on most of the interior art, including a sure to be iconic image of Wally and Roy. There’s probably still a desire for most readers to find out what happens next, but if they are anything like this issue then they certainly have no sense of urgency.
The Warning #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Richard Gray; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10):Edward Laroche’s debut issue of a new series sets up a hell of a lot of elements, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to a lot of story. The fragmented scenes, swinging from existential contemplation to stone cold military action, are designed as a showcase for Laroche’s own art work. The layouts are cinematic, and the way in which Laroche positions characters in relation to each other provides some of the best depth of focus seen in a modern comic. Brad Simpsons’ colors play with light in a dynamic way, such as a brief cutaway to the ethereal glow of California. It’s just that while there is a potentially good story here, about a unnatural occurrence being revealed to be an alien invasion, Laroche doesn’t spend any time pursuing it. In fact, by the end of the issue it’s not entirely clear what any of the disparate characters or threads mean either individually or together.
The Flash #59 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The world of the Flash just keeps getting bigger and weirder in The Flash #59, part two of “Force Quest.” Joshua Williamson has been playing the long game on this title and issue #59 might be the most explicit example of this. Here we find Barry returning to Gorilla City, where he faces with half of the truth of the “Forces,” a set of Green Lantern Corps-esque powers that govern the Speed Force and other essential energies. It is a really neat idea and builds nicely off the recent Justice League story “The Totality,” but I worry about how this will come across as someone who just wants a straightforward Flash story. Williamson still has a nice handle on Barry (though he is still a touch too “sad boy” for my tastes) and his extended cast, but I worry about gilding this super-speed lily a bit too much with a “Flash Corps.” However, Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona, Scott Hanna, and Tomeu Morey’s is undeniably great and really nails the classic kineticism of The Flash along with some expansive splash pages of Gorilla City and it’s inner laboratories. The Flash #59 looks great and is super weird, but that might not be enough for certain readers.
Marvel 2-in-One #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Marvel 2-in-One comes to a close with closure, wit, and more than a little classic Fantastic Four action in the twelfth and final issue. Though the FF is back in a big A-list title right now, Chip Zdarsky’s oddball, but sincerely fun Marvel 2-in-One kept the flame of the First Family alight, and this 12th issue is no exception. Centered around a long-overdue reconnection of the Storm siblings, complicated by the return of the tratorious Rachina Koul and the Mole Man, Zdarsky works hard to not only wrap up his own hanging threads but provide closure for the newly returned and readjusting FF. The result is a moving, truly funny tale. One that provides a nice bookend to the FF’s absence and return. Ramon K. Perez also finishes this series out with more tremendous displays of the family’s powers and their titanic foes. I know his sketchy, indie comic style isn’t one that readers would normally associate with the FF, but I think time will be very kind to his tenure on this title as it provides a neat alternative to the “big budget” look of the main title. I am sad to see Marvel 2-in-One go as it was a consistently great and engaging take on a classic Marvel title, but I am happy to see it ended in such a sweeping and fun way thanks to Chip Zdarsky and Ramon K. Perez and their clear love of the Fantastic Four.
Old Lady Harley #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): A plugged-in Batman and an army of Azrael bots are just some of the more outlandish elements in the continuation of this Old Man Logan parody. It’s as much of a tonal whack job as its lead character, but writer Frank Tieri manages to find a balance between an engaging dystopian future and the self-aware satire that Harley Quinn is known for. Case in point is Inaki Miranda and Eva De La Cruz’s art in the Arkham Home for the Criminally Insane Retirees, where we see Clayface being mistaken for a Jello dish, a fragile Eggy, and a half-deaf Catwoman in a fur hood. What could have been a throwaway gag of a series continues to intrigue with hints about the fate of Nightwing and monochromatic flashbacks to Joker/Harley’s last ride. In a market saturated with the Clown Princess Of Crime, this one stands out from the crowd.