Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your weekly pellets? Best Shots has you covered with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off with Plentiful Pierce Lydon, who takes a look at the latest issue of Daredevil...
Daredevil #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto’s Daredevil bursts out of the gates full of all the wit and Catholic guilt you could imagine and it really feels like home for the character. While you can’t give Zdarsky too many points for originality, it’s impossible not to appreciate the voice he gives Matt Murdock. And Marco Checchetto really knocks it out of the park this issue. Zdarsky gives him a lot to do between the present day and some flashbacks, and Checchetto’s approach never wavers. This is strong character work all around, and it drives the book. It’s nice to have ol’ Hornhead back in the red tights with a creative team that fits him like a glove.
Green Arrow #49 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): While Green Arrow is winding down to its final issue, Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing hit the bullseye with their enhanced Count Vertigo, in a surprisingly emotional story has direct ties to Heroes in Crisis and Justice League: No Justice. The discombobulating nature of Vertigo’s powers allows Javier Fernandez and John Kalisz to cut loose, and they are arguably one of the rare art teams - alongside Trevor Von Eeden and Dick Giordano and Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo who understand the need to distort the reader’s perception when dealing with this villain. Recalling some of Elliot S. Maggin’s simple but powerful stories, Kelly, Lanzig and the art team convey all of Ollie’s frustrations and how close he has come to crossing the line in a handful of panels. As the final page indicates, Black Canary looks like she will have to make a choice that may alter the future history of Green Arrow.
Die #3 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Richard Gray; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Kieron Gillen and artist Stephanie Hans continue to go from strength to strength in the third installment of Die. What could have been a straightforward “D&D meets Stephen King’s It” trip takes time out from dragon slaying to focus on some of the places and people that the group passes through. A fantasy realm that mixes bits of Tolkien crossed with the First World War, much of this issue sees Ash conversing with what is effectively a NPC while she ultimately questions the value of reality versus fantasy. Inspired by Ellis and Cassaday’s Planetary, Hans is on point with the world-building: opening with a classic armor-plated dragon towering over a band of silhouetted heroes, Hans’ sense for delicate destruction bathes an entire landscape in the red of blood and a hybrid mix of heavy metal fantasy and trench warfare that’s a little closer to home. Like the best high concept series, Gillen and Hans may have drawn us in with their core characters, but hold us here with the world that surrounds them.
Old Man Quill #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): On the heels of Old Man Logan and Old Man Hawkeye, Ethan Sacks, Robert Gill, and Andres Mossa take the future of Marvel universe to the stars. Following a tragedy of galactic proportions, an embittered old Quill - looking for all the world like an alcoholic Kurt Russell, and probably quite deliberately - is reunited with older versions of Gamora, Drax, Mantis, and Rocket. The issue is largely one of “getting the gang back together,” providing Gill and Mossa ample opportunities to play with these familiar figure. The tragicomic vision of an enfeebled Rocket, complete with a zapping cane, is a great visual gag, even if the main narrative is a little bit Aliens. The literal crash-landing of an ending brings the series smack-bang into the rest of the “Old Man” universe, and it’s more the potential of a second issue than anything here that is likely to bring us back for more.
Champions #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Whatever you do, don’t let anyone spoil Champions #2 for you. Without giving too much away, writer Jim Zub delivers an exceedingly fun twist to Marvel’s heroes of tomorrow, one that juggles classic teenage melodrama with the crazy continuity of superhero comics. Artist Steven Cumming also acquits himself nicely here, balancing destruction and heartache with a deftness that you might not expect. In a lot of ways, Zub cements himself in the same pantheon as the criminally overlooked Avengers Academy or even classic Thunderbolts, laying down the groundwork for some potentially explosive complications down the line for this quickly expanding team. If this isn’t the most intriguing Big Two book of the week, I’m not sure what is.
Oberon #1 (Published by AfterShock Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Striking artwork wins out over sluggish pacing in Oberon #1, a new fantasy series by Ryan Parrott and Milos Slavkovic that feels just one step away from reaching its full potential. What does a young prodigy and an exiled King of the Fairies have in common? Right now, not a ton — Parrott spends a lot of time fleshing out his young heroine and his titular antiheroes’ status quos, but the overlap doesn’t feel particularly organic yet, making Oberon’s plan feel a little manufactured in the traditional urban fantasy mold rather than engaging. But artist Milos Slavkovic bursts onto the scene with aplomb, his smoothly designed characters seemingly floating on some incredible and otherworldly colorwork. Where Parrott and Slavkovic succeed best is in the fleeting glimpses of fantasy, which bodes well for this series moving forward — beats like a storm of magical books spinning in the air like a hurricane, or a radiant unicorn suddenly baring vampiric fangs, are both unexpected and eye-catching. With the conclusion of this issue marking a dramatic change of setting, things are only looking up for Oberon, even if this debut issue isn’t quite as spellbinding as one might hope.
G.I. Joe: Sierra Muerte #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Richard Gray; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): In many ways, this is the comic that Michel Fiffe has been working on for his entire career. The cult writer/artist of Copra and Image Comics’ Bloodstrike revival in 2018 turns his attention to the ‘80s franchise that refuses to die. Familiarity with the characters and background is not required - in fact, it might even be a detriment. Fiffe’s free-flowing style throws names and scenarios at us like they are every teenage margin doodle coming to life to form a singular narrative. Fiffe’s idiosyncratic pop art style of thick lines, ben-day dots, and clashing colors could only belong to this artist. The lighter details in some panels convey a sense of Fiffe pouring all of his energy into a singular burst of art, and what came out at the other end was pure unadulterated enthusiasm. In that sense, it really does feel like a continuation of Copra as much as it does an original G.I Joe joint.
Batman #64 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): “Tom King’s “Knightmares” isn’t finished yet but while it takes a quick hiatus, Josh Williamson steps into bring some Flash flavor to the dark corners of Gotham. Guillem March is onboard handling the art, and the creative team puts together a decent effort. Williamson’s work differs so greatly in tone from King’s that this almost doesn’t feel like a Batman book. That’s not so much a knock against Williamson as one against an odd editorial decision to set this before the “Knightmares” arc concludes, instead placing it directly in the middle. I like March’s work well enough as a match for Williamson, but some of his character proportions look off across the book. Thankfully, he props that up with some solid expression work. If you’re currently reading The Flash, you might have a better time with this one than if you’ve been a stalwart fan of King’s Batman.