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 Ostentatious Oscar Maltby, who takes a look at The Savage Sword of Conan...
The Savage Sword of Conan #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Cimmerian turns swashbuckler in The Savage Sword of Conan #1, a retro tale of sword and sand from Gerry Duggan and Ron Garney that also serves as a welcome change in scenery from Marvel’s usual output. Adrift at sea and on death’s door, Conan the Barbarian is saved by a gang of pirate slavers. He soon makes them wish they hadn’t. Duggan favors narration to build his world, harking back to Conan’s literary origins while flexing his descriptive muscles. It’s a little flowery, but it’s hard to fault when it works as intended. Throughout the issue, Garney’s pencils add a sense of fluidity and motion to Duggan’s action-packed script. Visually, colorist Richard Isanove’s watery style and muted palette work together with Garney’s loose scratchy inks to evoke the sea's tumult. Capping things off, Scott Oden provides the first chapter in a 12-part novella for the issue’s back-up feature. It’s a solid slice of fantasy prose that adds value to an already robust package. All in all, The Savage Sword of Conan #1 is a generous heap of skull-cracking adventure.
Superman #8 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): If you think it can be hard living up to your parents, imagine what it’s like when they’re Superman and Lois Lane. That conundrum is what’s rattling around in Jon’s head as he recounts more of his time seeing the universe with his grandfather in Superman #8. Brian Michael Bendis also considers this from Clark’s perspective, with his short, staccato captions belying the rage the Man of Steel feels over missing his son’s entire childhood. This entirely human reaction at this superhuman instance is an angle that justifies the aging up of Jon, despite his relative newness in continuity. Ivan Reis and Brandon Peterson split the art duties on this issue, with Joe Prado and Alex Sinclair’s respective inks and colors endeavouring to provide a uniform look to the full issue. Their effort is not entirely successful, if only because Reis has really stepped up his game while working on the series and really captures that tension of Clark’s emotions. Peterson gets some larger scale pages as he pencils Jon’s retelling of events, but his character models seem less articulate and nuanced than Reis’.
Friendo #4 (Published by Vault Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It’s rare to find a book that reinvents itself the way that Friendo seems to on an issue-to-issue basis - and it’s rare to find a book that actually gets away with it, too. What started off as a quirky story about a twisted A.I. friend in an even more twisted L.A. has given way to a story that indicts the corrosiveness of capitalism, the never-ending consumption we kill ourselves and each other over, and the senseless violence we use to numb ourselves to the insanity around us. There’s something dark and unsettling about Alex Pakhnadel’s script, like the Filth meets Transmetropolitan - watching Jerry balloon in size and trudge his way through unlikely celebrity is a bleakly funny trek, even as the tables seem to turn at a moment’s notice. Artist Martin Simmonds helps this series thread the needle with its unorthodox tone, delivering some characters that are inherently screwed-up, but with sublime bits of comedy like the Cremator spending a day at Disneyland. Friends don’t let friends skip out on Friendo.
Ironheart #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Eve L. Ewing and Luciano Vecchio’s sophomore effort with Ironheart proves to be an effective one, as both creators have really caught their stride with the adventures of Riri Williams. With the first issue front-loading readers on what they need to know about Riri, Ewing’s script is able to breath more here, giving Vecchio enough breathing room to draw some really breathtaking shots of Riri in the Ironheart armor, tapping on a window of a hospitalized friend with some lushly inked style. While the initial soap operatics aren’t quite as engaging as one might hope - Ewing’s instincts are smart, trying to build up Riri’s supporting cast, but I’d argue it might be putting the cart before the horse as far as Riri herself is concerned - Ewing’s pacing is strong, and her action choreography feels a lot more grounded and dynamic even compared to just last issue. Ironheart is some solid superhero storytelling, and one that looks to be getting better with each new installment.
Justice League Dark #8 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It’s hard not to admire James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez Bueno’s sense of ambition in Justice League Dark #8. From Zatanna literally eating demons to absorb the power of hellfire to Swamp Thing and Etrigan eying each other for a fight - or Man-Bat smoothly making the jump from man of science to amateur mage - this issue is the opposite of decompressed, and that not only raises the stakes of the story, but makes the storytelling feel like a bonafide event. While occasionally Martinez Bueno buckles a bit under the strain of Tynion’s densely-packed scripts - a 16-panel grid in the shape of a vase being one example - it’s still hard not to be impressed by the fact that they’re even trying to pull off such an audacious page. With lots of big moments with an ever-expanding cast of characters, Justice League Dark is an exciting team book that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Avengers: No Road Home #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): When making a sequel, there are two possible paths: go bigger in terms of scale or go for a more character-focused approach. The follow-up to Avengers' "No Surrender" opts for the latter, with Voyager putting together a smaller team in order to stop a threat relevant to Olympus and Hercules, the Prince of Power. Also along for the journey are Hawkeye, Hulk, Rocket Raccoon, Scarlet Witch, Spectrum and Vision, with Al Ewing, Mark Waid, and Jim Zub returning as co-writers. Paco Medina also returns, inked by Juan Vlasco and coloured by Jesus Aburtov, delivering big, page-spanning panels that contribute to a widescreen sensibility without having to eschew character acting due to the distance of the perspective. While this first issue, much like its predecessor’s, exists to set up the various threads going forward, what No Road Home has over No Surrender’s debut is that the spectacle doesn’t overshadow these characters. Most exciting is the dynamic between Hulk and Hawkeye, though Vision’s arc appears to have the most emotional potential, with the issue’s reader-friendly approach and contextual backmatter making it clear where all these characters are at even if you haven’t caught up with the team’s previous tale.