Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Rapid-Fire Reviews? Then let’s kick off this week’s column with a look at this week’s Uncanny X-Men...
Uncanny X-Men #15 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Salvador Larocca deliver their best issue of Uncanny X-Men to date this week, as Scott Summers has a personal stake in his latest mission - and loses a surprising amount in the process. Rosenberg gets to play with a lot of Marvel’s toys in this issue, with a great guest appearance from Captain America, but it’s Cyclops and Wolverine’s dynamic as they square off against a renegade Hope that winds up yielding this issue’s biggest surprises. (Let’s just say that Rosenberg’s script is half 1990s fist-pumping fan service that leverages X-Men lore rather than trying to reinvent it, half the visceral brutality of his Punisher run.) Larocca is also finding his stride here, with some great-looking action sequences (including a particularly iconic look at a battle-damaged Wolverine) as well as some effective expression work as Dark Beast starts to plot. Don’t miss this stellar installment.
Rocko’s Modern Afterlife #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): There is a lot going on in Rocko’s Modern Afterlife #1, but it’s to writer Anthony Burch and artist Mattia Di Meo’s credit that this series actually winds up living up to the modernity in its title as well as the afterlife. On the one hand, we have a zombie outbreak taking place in O-Town, but the other, we have Rocko dealing with all sorts of 21st century problems, from his best friend Heifer becoming a YouTube streamer to delivery drones breaking his windows to outlasting an apocalypse with quinoa and meditation. The latter themes actually wind up outweighing the titular zombies, but it feels ambitious - Di Meo in particular really nails the ravenous O-Towners, even as sometimes the panel designs get so cartoony they can be hard to follow. Still, this story really clicks into place by the final third, with Rocko and Spunky on a quest that feels pretty epic for a homebody wallaby. A terrific debut.
Die #5 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The party puts their plan into action at the same time as the creative team of Die reveals what this series is really about. The result is a bold narrative gambit that would be impressive in its own right but unfolds in utterly gorgeous fashion as a result of the inimitable work of Stephanie Hans. Kieron Gillen’s script takes everything that the previous four issues have built up and uses the audience’s understanding of all this to shatter expectations about where this series could go next, after Glass Town becomes yet another battleground of the world. An attempt to draw Sol out, the issue is climactic from the start, yet the big reveal manages to up the ante even further. The chaos is imbued by Hans with the power of a raging fire, making it more than wanton destruction. The weight of it registers, the same of which also applies to the party’s decisions. Their actions pay off all the strong character work already put in, while still driving further conflict and pulling this first arc as well as the wider intentions of the series into even clearer focus.
Young Justice #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Young Justice may have a winning cast and some top-tier artwork, but its greatest villain proves to be decompression with its latest issue. With the team trapped in Gemworld, writer Brian Michael Bendis throws even more dialogue at readers than usual in his opening pages, but because he jumps back and forth between his trapped heroes and the politics of Amethyst, the meat of this issue feels like it's jogging in place. Bendis's subplot featuring Superboy and Impulse fares much better, given that the action is clearer and the two characters are already the most likable of the bunch. That said, Patrick Gleason and John Timms proves to be an effective match in terms of juggling these story threads, but even they have some issues fitting some of the more panel-heavy pages together. There's a lot of potential on display in Young Justice, but the storyline needs a little bit of tightening up to win over new fans.