Best Shots Rapid-Fire Reviews: MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #1, CATWOMAN #9, ASSASSIN NATION #1, More

Uncanny X-Men: Winters End #1 variant
Credit: Ron Lim (Marvel Comics)

Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off this week’s column with Opulent Oscar Maltby, who takes a look at The Magnificent Ms. Marvel...

Credit: Marvel Comics

The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Saladin Ahmed and Minkyu Jung go back to basics with The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1, a visually gorgeous and accessible yet clunky reintroduction to the stretchy super-heroics of Kamala Khan. The real meat of this issue centers on Kamala’s father, as he discovers his daughter’s secret identity. It’s a well-realized relationship that portrays the conflict between protecting your own child and accepting their identity as an independent adult. Around it, Ahmed retells Kamala’s origin story, establishes her supporting cast and sprinkles in some goopy aliens. Despite the realism of Kamala’s family life, Ahmed’s dialogue favors function over form. He often propels the plot forward with simple statements that seem to forget the visual nature of the medium, flatly retelling Kamala’s origins under the conceit of catching up with an old friend. Aesthetically, Minkyu Jung’s artwork is as suited to action sequences as it is for quiet character moments. There’s a slight manga flavor to his work that perfectly suits Kamala’s super powers and intensifies the effectiveness of Ahmed’s drama. Ultimately, some weak dialogue in The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1 is eased by three-dimensional character relationships and the creative team’s stellar visual arm.

Credit: Joelle Jones (DC)

Catwoman #9 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): There’s more than a hint of Darwyn Cooke’s influence in this Catwoman one-off, as Ram V’s detour here sees Selina putting a team together for a heist in Villa Hermosa. There’s been a robbery, and someone Selina knows has lost some valuable jewelry, but she can’t get it back by herself. The assembling of a group all with special skills also recalls the Ocean’s movies, and there’s an attempt to inject this caper with a similar level of style in how John Timms depicts it. Talk of the cha-cha creates a running rhythm down one page, while a silhouetted fight sequence later on blends with the use of a countdown clock to show how pinpoint precise Selina can be in landing hits. Timms’ pointed art comes into its own within a few pages of the issue, looking sleek by the time their protagonist is formulating her plan. Though fun and a fitting Catwoman story, you can feel it hitting the expected beats, right down to the requisite mid-heist twist, one-by-one, even if it gets to each one in time with the rhythm.

Credit: Erica Henderson/Deron Bennett (Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment)

Assassin Nation #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Even before the story properly begins, Kyle Starks and Erica Henderson’s new Image series Assassin Nation gives you an idea of what its humor will be. It opens with a list of assassins, ranked in a league table, with names like David Bowie Knife. There’s a strong love of genre that comes through in Starks’ writing, as there was with the previous Die Hard riff Kill Them All, which moves from an interrogation to a botched assassination on Chekhov Gun’s life, which in turns leads to him organising a meeting between the best of the best – those on the aforementioned list. He’s looking to hire some protection more competent than his existing security detail, and who better than the world’s most excellent killers? If you expect this to go smoothly, you’re probably less aware than Chekhov’s Gun, but on the bright side it results in some glorious carnage executed by Henderson and Deron Bennett. Henderson’s eclectic character design makes for building quite the expressive ensemble, a factor which helps when the bullets starts flying. Even in the middle of the frenzy, her cartooning persists as some of the best of the best, a wonderful fit for a book about exactly that.

Credit: DC Entertainment

Wonder Twins #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Mark Russell’s sitcom-y approach to the Wonder Twins continues with the siblings learning about the prison industrial complex in the DCU. Here’s where we get to see a little bit more of Russell’s trademark satirization of real-world issues that just wasn’t present in the debut issue. It’s still an odd fit for these characters - it feels like Russell could have used any two aliens and this concept still would have worked - but the humor and characterization is starting to come together. Stephen Byrne continues his clean and expressive work. As long as he’s on this book, it’s always going to look good as he’s adept at rendering Russell’s penchant for talky scenes but still manages to punctuate the title with some solid action. Wonder Twins is definitely improving.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Uncanny X-Men: Winter’s End #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Sina Grace returns to the polar pages of Iceman with a one-shot that acts as a kind of epilogue to his time with the character. But like most of his work with Bobby Drake, there’s a slapdash, kind of scattered energy to the whole thing that might leave critics and readers alike a bit cold. While Bobby addressing some of his recent status quo changes head-on is refreshing, Grace’s framing device for the issue feels tacked on. For every meaningful bit of character work, we get some clunky plot machinations that serve only to get us to a joke or drag us to the next meaningful revelation. Nathan Stockman’s art remains as bland and uninteresting as the stakes of the plot, and some of his characters are flat out unrecognizable. A lot of people have found something to root for in Grace’s run with Iceman, and for those readers, there’s something of a cathartic ending here. But that said, this isn’t a finale that will win any of its naysayers over.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Calamity Kate #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Calamity Kate is the latest from Magdalene Visaggio, showcasing a much more refined storytelling sensibility than we’ve seen from her in the past. But for all of Visaggio’s good character work, the details of the world of her story are still a little sketchy and there’s a lack of narrative flow to some of the story. Corin Howell’s art also experiences a weird shift after the first third of the issue where her well-designed characters suddenly take on more simplified forms that takes some of the energy and resonance away from the book. It feels like this one needed a little bit more time to really come together. Calamity Kate is a book with a fairly simple and strong central premise that shows flashes of just how good it can be, but gets mired in some pacing issues and an art shift that doesn’t serve the story as well.

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