Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your weekly pellets? Best Shots has you covered with this batch of Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Jaded Justin Partridge, who takes a look at Silver Surfer: The Best Defense...
Silver Surfer: The Best Defense #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Jason Latour brings the Power Cosmic to a Western-style tale of revenge and ruin in Silver Surfer: The Best Defense #1. Rendered in his own craggily dynamic style and metallic, eye-bracing colors, Latour drops us in the wilds of space where a young offspring of Yondu is attempting to get off a backwater planet, using loot left over from a Roxxon space mission as his down payment. Unfortunately for him, the item is highly sought after, and unfortunately for the planet at large, Galactus as marked it for dinner. Blending pulp and operatic science fiction, Latour really nails the tone and vibe of older, more serious Silver Surfer tales, delving into Norrin’s relationship with the Big G and the universe at large. Better still, Latour finally gives us a pretty clear idea of what this new incarnation of the Defenders will be Defending against; a runaway “train” of destruction, conducted by a mad Celestial. These Best Defense lead ups have been hit-or-miss, but Silver Surfer: The Best Defense #1 is a definite win thanks to Jason Latour’s stellar artwork and his well-researched take on the Sentinel of the Spaceways.
Batman Annual #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Bruce Wayne’s stalwart butler gets a moving, engaging love letter from Tom Taylor in the third Batman Annual. Graced with a sketchy, but emotive style by Green Arrow artist Otto Schmidt, Taylor really shines on Prime-Earth, delivering a heartwarming and poetic tale centered around Alfred Pennyworth and his tireless, and sometimes cheeky pursuit of supporting The Batman and the man under the cowl. Building to a simple, but glorious reveal (that is far too good to give up here), Taylor continuously pulls at the heartstrings while also making this a very fun one-and-done Batman experience. While I would have a loved a bit more action sequences from Schmidt, whose Green Arrow fights have impressed from the start of his tenure, the pair gel very, very well as Schmidt’s expressive, detailed style just amplifies the emotion and humor of Taylor’s script culminating in a truly great Annual. Batman purists and casual fans alike will find a lot to love about Batman Annual #3 thanks to its accessibility, its emotion, and its innate understanding of Alfred Pennyworth and his commitment to Bruce Wayne.
Avengers #11 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): After his bombastic first arc on the series, writer Jason Aaron doubles down on the world-building of the Marvel Universe in Avengers #11. Following the bombastic 700th anniversary issue, Aaron and artist Ed McGuinness jump from corner to corner of the Marvel Universe — in particular, what’s most engaging is the increasing geopolitics of the series, as Black Panther’s new role as “King of the Avengers” does not necessarily sit well with the world’s global superpowers, exemplified in Russian superhuman Ursa Major’s belligerent responses to diplomacy, or the shadowy, backroom dealings of a resurrected Agent Phil Coulson. By placing the Avengers’ dealings against the rest of the world stage, Aaron enriches the setting his characters inhabit, making it feel real and lived in, where anything can happen. That said, while the big picture stuff looks great, some of the smaller details feel a little fishier — namely, an interlude of Thor and She-Hulk going out on a date doesn’t quite crackle, resolving itself a bit too neatly for my tastes. McGuinness, meanwhile, makes the most of what could be considered a “bottle episode” — you can tell Aaron is doing McGuinness a kindness with his script structure, giving the artist a lot of two-panel pages to ease his work. For a so-called “quiet” issue, Aaron and McGuinness do a lot to build investment into the Avengers, leaving this reviewer excited to where the title will wind up going next.
Corpus: A Comic Anthology of Bodily Ailments (Published by Nadia Shammas; Review by C.K. Stewart, ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Living with a chronic illness or disability is exhausting — not just the bodily elements, but the tiresome nature of constantly having to explain yourself and your capabilities, or being lectured about why you should stop talking so much about your body and mind what they can or can’t do. That’s what makes Corpus: A Comic Anthology of Bodily Ailments so powerful: editor and curator Nadia Shammas has collected more than three dozen powerful stories from a rock star roster of talented creators to explore the reality of ailments physical, mental, and medical — from the day-to-day impact on your physical and mental health to the inescapable impact on your checkbook. Categorizing its stories by physical, mental, and medical issues, the division makes sense for the type of content but does make the tone of the book a little uneven, sometimes with a jarring shift to darker horror genre tales to more light-hearted looks at medical incidents. It’s tough to avoid in any anthology, and the often heavy subject matter makes it particularly tough here. Standouts in the anthology include Mady G’s “Body and Mind,” a beautifully colored exploration of exploring gender while living with mental illness, and “Light Reflected” by writer Stephanie Cannon, artist Emily Pearson, and letterer Micah Myers, which explores the impact of transplants on both the organ recipient and the donor. At times, Corpus is a difficult read, but it’s compelling and profoundly personal, and absolutely worth your time.
Fantastic Four Wedding Special #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Marvel Comics cordially invites readers to the imminently charming Fantastic Four Wedding Special! Split into three separate tales of Alicia, Ben, and Alicia’s villainous stepfather The Puppet Master getting ready for the big day, writers Gail Simone, Dan Slott, and Fred Hembeck deliver uproariously funny and heartwarming F4 tales. Simone, Laura Braga and Jesus Aburtov’s tale of Alicia Masters’ superpowered bachelorette party is the real standout here, thanks to Simone’s truly hilarious script and Braga and Aburtov’s engaging, occasionally beefcakey artwork. Slott and Mark Buckingham’s story downshifts a bit into more classic looking and down-to-earth fare as Ben Grimm ventures to ask the Puppet Master for his blessing. Cartoonist Fred Hembeck then brings it all home for a comic-strip like story of the Puppet Master airing his frustration about the upcoming nuptials. All three tales are charming in their own right (through none reach the heights of a drunk Crystal and She-Hulk smashing “puny self-esteem issues”), taking what could have been a rote anthology into a fun entry into the F4’s new canon.
The Batman Who Laughs #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart, ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): One of the most dangerous and unsettling villains of the Dark Multiverse returns in this week’s The Batman Who Laughs #1, out this week from DC Comics. Writer Scott Snyder delivers a contemplative and melancholy perspective on the Dark Knight, up to a point — the final moments of this issue don’t wholly undercut Bruce’s thoughtful contemplations of his childhood and the ways Gotham grinds down its less fortunate residents, but leave this series teetering precariously on a fine line between something emotionally compelling and a par-for-the-course “shocking and gritty” superhero tale. Artist Jock delivers skillful work, but it’s colorist David Baron and letterer Sal Cipriano who really shine — Baron’s muted colors and Cipriano’s lettering for the Joker and the titular villain add an ephemeral, dreamlike quality that are well-suited to the sense of uncertainty that Snyder is building. The Batman Who Laughs #1 is a solid first issue, but the big shock factor moments aren’t particularly surprising, and feel a little more like an unfinished “What If” one-shot. If you’re a Snyder fan or itching to see Batman go head-to-head with the Batman Who Laughs once again, you’ll have a good time, but this one may be worth waiting for in trade format.
Murder Falcon #3 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Daniel Warren Johnson delivers a drum solo in Murder Falcon #3, even if this third installment already feels a little repetitive to what’s come before. Jake and Murder Falcon reunite with the band’s old drummer in this chapter, but the backstory feels both a little over-explained — Johnson already told us with much more subtlety the reason behind Jake and the band’s breakdown over the past two issues — and somewhat redundant, as Jimi’s relationship with her sick father doesn’t quite resonate as heavily knowing Jake and Anne’s similar backstory. That said, while the reunion-weapon-smackdown structure of this chapter already feels a little played out after last issue, Johnson is still a demon on pencils and inks, summoning up the fury and energy of a kaiju classic, but taking great care to illustrate the rhythm of this music-driven story — no small feat, and one that shows that even if the big picture of Murder Falcon still feels a little hazy, the actual innovation he brings to each page still makes this series worth a look.