Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off with Jaunty Justin Partridge, who takes a look at Avengers: No Road Home...
Avengers: No Road Home #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10: Monica Rambeau takes center stage in the punchy Avengers: No Road Home #7. After breaking through into the Hyborian Age, the Queen of Night looks to reclaim her power and put this new weekly team of Avengers in the ground once and for all. Too bad for her Spectrum and the berserker rage of Conan the Barbarian stand in her way. Essentially an issue-long fight sequence, the writing staff keeps the pace pretty brisk throughout, scaffolding the whole thing with some in-depth narration from Monica. It feels a bit like a downshift from last week’s expansive introduction of Conan, but the Avengers fighting forgotten Greek gods still has some legs. That said, artist Paco Medina’s pencils look a bit ill-defined in this issue, especially in the quieter scenes of Hulk, Hawkeye, and Rocket in the Nightmare Realm. The fight scenes still have a real energy to them, amplified by Jesus Aburtov’s vibrant colors, but the rest of the issue could have used a bit more sharpness. Regardless, No Road Home continues to be a trip worth taking for fans of old-school superhero action.
Martian Manhunter #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): When awards season comes back around, Riley Rossmo deserves all the accolades. Martian Manhunter is, simply put, a book that looks wholly unlike any other. But it’s not just Rossmo’s personal style that bleeds through the pages. He’s adept a communicating the plight of the Martian Manhunter with subtle body language and impressive paneling. Ivan Plascencia’s colors bring out the alien nature of this story as well, giving life to the seemingly always-shifting visuals. And Steve Orlando’s no slouch either. This book is a rare examination of character who is too often marked by his stoicism and not by his relatability. It’s understandable that a book like this that seems to almost purposely obfuscate the whole story to force you to hone in on the characters themselves might not be for everyone but it remains one of the most exciting and forward-thinking books in DC’s publishing line.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch #1 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Sabrina Spellman gets a charming new debut in the return of her Archie Comics solo series, Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Blending both her Chilling Adventures and her more classic teen tales, writer Kelly Thompson delivers the best of both worlds. We start with a little light horror with Sabrina facing down a Wendigo, only to cut to the beginning of the day were Sabrina struggles to adjust to “mortal” life. Thompson’s knack for relatable and engaging female leads really shines here, both in her characterization of Sabrina and her supporting cast. Artists Veronica and Andy Fish also play up Sabrina’s dual lifestyles, aiming for a more “Tales from the Crypt”-like tone in the opening, but settling into fun, grounded “cool teen” visuals as Sabrina meets her new classmates. Not to mention their character model of Sabrina looks curiously like the one Netflix just unleashed onto our screens. If you have been wishing for more Sabrina stories, but less of the “Chilling” sort, then Sabrina the Teenage Witch #1 is the book for you.
Age of X-Man: X-Tremists #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): “All pain is only temporary, okay? No hurt lasts forever.” Psylocke’s statement in Age of X-Man: X-Tremists #2 is a fitting one, given that it’s delivered by someone whose job involves erasing memories. The greatest strength of Leah Williams’ script is how much work she puts into complicating the viewpoints of the team and observing the ensuing fallout of the self-believed good guys. She really digs into this via Psylocke and Blob after they have a brief conversation about his romantic feelings towards her, and how that particular can of worms can’t ever be sealed back up. Running parallel to this is how Nezumi is being treated as a captive, the issue even finds time for her to espouse her own belief on the situation that the X-Tremists have her in. Georges Jeanty is an artist that’s spent a long time in the Whedonverse, but here in the Age of X-Man, inked by Roberto Poggi and coloured by Jim Charalampidis, he’s delivering some of his most nuanced artwork. Together, they’re utilizing a look of soft linework and colors that goes hand in hand with Williams’ exploration of this world; seeing how dystopic this so-called utopia is when you really think about it and looking past how it appears on the surface.
Justice League Odyssey #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10) It might be too easy to compare Justice League Odyssey to Dan Abnett’s run with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy but I’m going to do it anyway. Abnett’s shown a penchant for an action-packed space soap opera and this issue’s got that in spades. The cosmic side of the DCU can sometimes feel small when it’s largely being explored through the lens of the Green Lantern Corp but by adding some variety to this cast, Abnett’s able to give us spacefaring adventure that feels a little bit more grounded and in some ways hearkens back to Starfire and Cyborg’s Teen Titans roots. Will Conrad is a great collaborator for Abnett, delivering the action and emotion in equal measure. Justice League Odyssey might be the rare Justice League title that’s actually flying under the radar.
Amazing Spider-Man #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The newest entry in Nick Spencer and Humberto Ramos’ latest Spider-Man arc “Hunted” still feels like it’s locked in to building a foundation for this event. And that robs the narrative of a lot of momentum. There’s plenty of Spidey swinging around a cadre of animal-themed villains and we come to understand a little bit more about what’s going on. But Spencer’s narration brings the plot to a crawl and coupled with a slightly off his game Humberto Ramos (who’s done no favors by some relentlessly dark coloring), it’s hard to find anything to really latch onto. Of course, in the moments when Ramos does look like himself, we’re treated to the expressive, dynamic work that we’re used to. However the overall package feels a bit light as this story doesn’t have the scale that we’ve seen from past events.
Wasted Space #8 (Published by Vault Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Is it weird that Wasted Space feels almost more like Guardians of the Galaxy than the actual Guardians themselves? Writer Michael Moreci and artist Hayden Sherman wring a lot of strong characterization out of a planetside detour with this issue, as they explore forgiveness, redemption, and how exactly you move forward from your transgressions. Moreci balances Billy’s Star-Lord-esque sense of humor with some strong monologues, utilizing the sci-fi landscape to tell a particularly poignant (and accessible!) story about owning one’s misdeeds. Sherman, meanwhile, brings a wonderful sense of drama underneath his sketchy linework — there’ll be people who don’t buy into his scratchy panels, but I think stylistically he’s coming from the same place as a Frank Miller or a Jason Latour. A wonderful character piece as well as a great jumping-on point for new readers, Wasted Space is not living up to its name with this installment — quite the contrary, this feels like essential reading.
Invaders #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Namor’s looming war on the surface gets even more personal in Invaders #3. The construction of his human-killing missiles are almost complete, but before Namor can launch them, he must tie up every loose end on the surface — including the kindly family that took him in during his bad old days. While the first two issues burned slowly, Chip Zdarsky really starts to pick up the pace here, speeding up the ticking clock of Namor’s attack along with more of the fantastic interplay between the Invaders. Artist Carlos Magno and colorist Alex Guimaraes lean into the more realistically skewed visuals with heavy costume detailing and grounded staging complimented by Guimaraes’ rich colors. Though it may not have the star-spangled action of the previous Invaders volumes, this third issue keeps the mystery and wartime intrigue of the team alive and well.
Heroes in Crisis #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): I’ll admit it — this issue of Heroes in Crisis left me cold. It’s not to say that Clay Mann, Travis Moore and Jorge Fornes don’t acquit themselves nicely with the art, but writer Tom King’s script can’t help but feel a little too scattered for my tastes, particularly since he’s running out of time to stick the landing on his grisly murder mystery. Neither of the two major plots for this issue really add up, and this might be a biproduct of the previous issues’ structure — Wally West continues to mull over his lost wife and children, while Harley Quinn and Booster Gold duke it out again, this time with Batgirl and Blue Beetle on ringside. It feels a little too repetitive from what has come before, and the execution feels a bit hazy — Booster and Harley’s rematch ends on such an abrupt stalemate, while the explanation of her recent nursery rhyming doesn’t quite justify the conceit. Still, King conjures up some beautiful imagery with Wally, which Maan executes beautifully — this issue may read better in retrospect (or in trade form), but Heroes in Crisis #7 feels like a rare misstep from an imminently solid writer.
Marvel Rising #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): It’s time for Marvel’s youngest and brightest to enroll in the school of hard knocks in Marvel Rising #1, an airy and positive team book firmly aimed at a younger audience. Nilah Magruder’s script is a word-jammed throwback to classically styled comic writing, peppered with notes from the editor and running commentary narration. Characterization is strong and consistent throughout, and Magruder indulges in some memorably imaginative onomatopoeia (SCURT) in action sequences. The issue predominantly focuses on a tour of Empire State University. There’s an almost edutainment feel as Squirrel Girl, Spidey, Ms. Marvel and Inferno extol the importance picking the right major (in full costume, no less!) The wordy script and dull subject matter drag down the pace here, before picking back up thanks to possessed car jousters and the introduction of the miniseries’ villain, Morgan Le Fay. The tone is light throughout, with low stakes and an emphasis on prodding the younger audience down the correct educational path. Roberto Di Salvo’s artwork is fluid and emotive, effectively communicating both Morgan LeFey’s disconnected brand of villainy and Squirrel Girl’s manic enthusiasm with long and sharp strokes. Meanwhile, Rachelle Rosenberg colors Di Salvo’s pencils with bold blues and reds that do the job without subtlety. As part of a bigger multimedia push and considering an intended younger audience, Marvel Rising #1 is a fun little start to an imaginative and upbeat tale. However, if you’re older than a teenager, there’s not much here for you.
Dial H for Hero #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The newest Wonder Comics debut turns out to be the weakest yet, despite a promising start. Joe Quinones’ art in Dial H for Hero dazzles from the first page, with clean linework and bright colors that make it all the more terrifying to watch the light leave someone’s eyes. This someone is Miguel, who’s just suffered a swimming pool-related injury — thankfully, Superman’s able to save the day, which allows Sam Humphries to frame this first issue around Miguel writing to the Man of Steel, explaining how he’s spent the rest of his life risking his neck trying to match the rush he got that day. This is an interesting conceit to craft a younger protagonist around, but it’s not developed enough to say the issue has a strong thematic spine. Yet the dialogue drags even further establishing Miguel’s current living situation, as well as setting up his encounter encounter with a girl named Summer. If nothing else, it feels like Quinones is really pushing himself, and the second half of the issue is home to some of his more impressive pages, when someone finally has to Dial H for Hero.
Hulkverines #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Greg Pak knows why you’re here — to see Hulk, Wolverine and Weapon H get into some fisticuffs, whether they be amongst themselves, against the Leader, or against everyone else in their way. So he wastes no time, as when this issue first shows Clay and Logan, the former is already diving towards the latter, both have their claws extended already. The middle portion of a three-issue story, Hulkverines #2 builds off some developments from the previous Weapon H series, but the basic conceit of the series allows it to function without prior reading. That series was aided by Guiu Vilanova’s scratchy linework, but here Morry Hollowell and Chris Sotomayor share the colouring duties, and both have their own approaches. Hollowell continues with the earthy palette and general stylings they utilized on Weapon H. Sotomayor’s work makes Vilanova’s look more like 3D models. As a result, these pages have a smaller level of articulation to them, and the brawling looks less fluid than intended. It’s an odd aesthetic choice that would sabotage the flow of the whole book if Pak’s script didn’t keep it moving. Like his take on this Hulk, it lacks nuance, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun.