Hey there, ‘Rama readers! Pierce Lydon here! We’ve got eight quick reviews for you today and we’ll start things off with a look at Invisible Kingdom from our jet-setting Best Shots captain, Dastardly David Pepose.
Invisible Kingdom #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward delivers a breathtaking debut in Invisible Kingdom, an otherworldly trip into religion, consumerism, and the poor creatures caught in between their mammoth gears. Following rebellious freighter Grix and religious pilgrim Vess, Wilson criss-crosses between the two stories with genuine dynamism, teasing the inevitable collision between these two women as they find themselves in the midst of sinister forces much bigger than themselves. Wilson’s worldbuilding is also on point here, particularly the mythology behind the blind religious sect Vess seeks out. Ward, meanwhile, is turning out some (inter)stellar work here, with his fluorescent colors and incredible sense of detail making these alien worlds feel vibrant, claustrophobic, beautiful and dangerous at the same time. Despite its title, Invisible Kingdom’s pedigree is immediately apparent from just first glance, and is a debut you do not want to miss.
Aquaman #46 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10) Despite not having memory of who he really is, Aquaman nonetheless steps up as any hero would in the climax of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Robson Rocha’s first arc. The reason for doing so comes by way of Caille’s reunion with her mother Namma, a confrontation of godly proportions. As a result, the issue is rendered in a similar fashion by Rocha, Daniel Henriques and Sunny Gho. They make frequent use of large, page-filling visuals that convey a full sense of everything going on without sacrificing the flow and momentum of the narrative penned by DeConnick. Conversely, she keeps the key elements of this instalment paired down in order to give her collaborators all the space they need. Henriques’ sharp lines for the surroundings of the location makes for a contrast with the more curved line work that the trio of characters consist of and Gho turns salt in a dynamic artistic force. The sheer scale of it in turns earns the reverberations it causes throughout the ocean by issue’s end, the way this tale appears to be expanding is a thrilling way to up the ante in an arc that’s already of high quality and of its best issue yet.
Age of X-Man: Nextgen #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): With all of the debut issues out of the way, the Age of X-Man minis really feel like they’re starting to pick up the pace. Ed Brisson and Marcus To up the intrigue in ways that feel really organic especially as we understand more of the world surrounding this school. And Glob Herman remains a delightful (and delightfully weird) POV character. So while the debut issue might have traded in a lot of school-setting tropes that felt a little overwrought. Brisson is able to go deeper here than he could before. To’s work is especially strong, delivering great expression work that helps underline some good character interactions. Nextgen is rounding into one of the best books in the "Age of X-Man.”
High Level #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10) The second page of this issue centres on the character of Minnow. Barnaby Bagenda and Romulo Fajardo Jr.’s splash page places her directly in the middle of Thirteen and Akan’s conversation regarding getting her home to High Level; she’s at the centre of this story. The idea behind the composition is blunt much like the rest of the book which operates with broad theming and characters that fill roles within the narrative because they need to more than being fleshed out. As such, the issue follows a trajectory of reluctance to bonding that sets the pair on the path towards High Level. Rob Sheridan attempts to imbue it with some emotion by way of what gets lost along in the process, but the aforementioned stock characterisation prevents it from landing. The bright side is that the series reunites artist and colourist following their rich and textured collaboration on The Omega Men. Other page filling images, one while on the road and another from up high, offer a glimpse of the larger world, suggest more depth than the plotting, that there might be something worth seeing on the horizon and are the main reason to stick around despite a mediocre start.
Age of X-Man: The Amazing Nightcrawler #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Seanan McGuire and Juan Frigeri’s The Amazing Nightcrawler keeps chugging along and mostly stays in the same lane as the debut. Kurt Wagner is a great character to have play a sort of “lawful good” role even in a world that is so clearly broken. McGuire pushes him to his limits in this story while also showing the lengths at which people are willing to go to for love and connection with other people. It’s a great turn for the book that adds stakes to what might’ve seemed like a fairly boilerplate story at its outset. Juan Frigeri acquits himself fairly well this issue as well though he does make some paneling choices that work against the story - cutting off character’s mouths in a panel where they’re still talking, for instance, feels like an odd choice especially when you aren’t communicating much information with their eyes. But overall, he gets us from beginning to end smoothly.
Firefly: Bad Company #1 (Published by Boom Studios; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Even in the truncated first season of Firefly, Christina Hendricks’ Saffron fast became one of the more memorable recurring characters, even if we never got the chance to learn that much about her. Josh Lee Gordon attempts to rectify that with this one-shot that runs through her life, and even finds a way to loop back into the wider narrative being told by Greg Pak in the main series. Drawn by Francesco Mortarino, Vincenzo Federici, Giuseppe Cafaro, Moy R. and Gabriel Cassata, the art changes with her, the first portion being softer than the scratchiness that depicts the murkier end of Saffron’s tale. Due to how much time the issue observes, it doesn’t get that large an opportunity to dig into a specific moment in Saffron’s character, instead opting to track her from being a kid with an ailing father through to when she becomes a companion. Gordon’s script is at its best dealing with the second half of that description as it shows her intending to take greater control of her life. It’s a reminder of how engaging an element she can be in a story, and hopefully this means she’ll be involved in Pak’s sooner rather than later.
Justice League #20 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Part of what makes Scott Snyder and Jorge Jimenez’ Justice League so fun is the feeling that they’re getting away with something. It starts with the energy and fully realized worlds that Jimenez is able to conjure. As the heroes are introduced to a future utopia, it’s really on Jimenez to communicate the awe and sometimes distrust of what they’re seeing. Thankfully, he knocks it out of the park and colorist Alejandro Sanchez helps him out with some truly sublime coloring work. But Snyder’s script is impressive as well. Deftly taking us around this world, this isn’t a very action-packed issue but Snyder manages to increase the tension, foreshadow what’s coming and provide some very fun character moments. (If you don’t instantly love Jarro-Robin, you’ve lost your sense of wonder.) Justice League is bonkers in all the right ways.
Jesusfreak (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The idea of a kung-fu-action Jesus has a perverse sort of appeal, but the actual execution of Jesusfreak by Joe Casey and Benjamin Marra feels surprisingly sedate, preaching to the choir rather than drawing in any new converts. Marra’s artwork is gorgeous in its ‘70s cinema style, and the psychedelic elements the book occasionally dabbles in are the highlights of the story for sure. But for the most part, Casey’s writing perplexes — for a story with Jesus literally fighting a lizard person, his examination of Jesus accepting his destiny feels exceedingly low-key. Fans of Casey or Marra will likely dig this book, but it never gets the controversial momentum its title promises to really get its shine.