Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off with Melodious Matthew Sibley, who takes a look at Avengers: No Road Home...
Avengers: No Road Home #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): As the weekly’s penultimate issue, Avengers: No Road Home #9 builds towards the final stage of the confrontation between Voyager’s selected heroes and Nyx. Paco Medina delivers a fight that’s cleanly composed even when panels are thrown askew by the sheer force on display and there’s no tangible background to do the heavy lifting of coherent geography and blocking. Under the collective pen of Al Ewing, Mark Waid and Jim Zub, their narrative shows no signs of slowing down from the fast pace that has characterised the series thus far, but all the more impressive is how it continues to keep things moving while still having moments of introspection throughout. Hercules’ narration is an example of internal character focus, but the most surprising one in the issue is where Conan and Vision converse about what it is to be human and what is to die. It’s a moment that stands out for how peculiar it is, and not just because Crom’s Barbarian is in conversation with a synthezoid from the Marvel Universe, but because it’s the kind of idiosyncratic material that helps to stand out.
Batman #68 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Serving as a brief interlude in the ongoing “Knightmares” story, Batman #68 serves as a spiritual sequel to Batman, Superman, Catwoman and Lois Lane’s double date, in this case showing off what might have been for the World’s Finest Bachelor parties. Writer Tom King does a great job giving readers a tonal palate cleanser this issue, with laughs a-plenty as Selina and Lois having a night of interstellar beverages and Superman robot stripteases in the Fortress of Solitude, while Bruce and Clark have the most painfully awkward night in possible. Artist Amanda Conner is the perfect fit to spearhead the ladies’ night, while Dan Panosian, John Timm and Mikel Janin are placed in strategically to pitch in in a way that rarely stands out or derails the storytelling. Showing some much-needed humanity amongst the craziness of Batman’s life and the DC Universe as a whole, this interlude proves to be one of the highlights of Tom King’s latest arc.
Web of Venom: Cult of Carnage #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Carnage is making a big comeback in the months to come, but fans of the crimson killer will likely be woefully disappointed in this chapter of the story. Frank Tieri’s plotting feels like an awkward attempt at doing a Twilight Zone-esque story in the Marvel Universe (a fact that lampshaded in the actual dialogue). Danilo S. Beyruth’s art shows flashes of promise, but the shot selection and character posing is feels amateur at best. Furthermore, Andres Mossa’s coloring is muted and dull, failing to elevate the line art at all. In the right hands, a Carnage story can be really exciting and adaptable across many different genres. Unfortunately, Tieri and Beyruth aren’t up to the task.
Orphan Age #1 (Published by AfterShock Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart, ‘Rama Rating 9 out of 10): There’s no shortage of media about children left to fend for themselves in the aftermath of catastrophe — the book you’re remembering from your childhood is “The Girl Who Owned A City,” by the way — but fewer follow-up what happens when those children become adults themselves. In Orphan Age #1, out this week from Aftershock, writer Ted Anderson explores a world 20 years out from a world without adults: a world where children with no one to guide them are now raising children themselves in Dallastown, a settlement on the outskirts of the former bustling metropolis that finds itself in the path of a religious crusade. Oprhan Age #1 maintains an uneasy youthfulness throughout, elevated by co-creator and artist Nuno Plati’s pensive art and efficient but emotive style where a just a few lines on a character’s face can pack the punch of more detailed, hyperrealist art. This is a world of folks trying to do better without anyone left to really tell them what better is (or isn’t), and Anderson and Plati knock the debut out of the park.
Captain Marvel #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Kelly Thompson has demonstrating a strong understanding of both Carol Danvers’ character as well as Rogue’s, so it should be no surprise that their confrontation within this issue only exemplifies that further. It’s all part of Nuclear Man’s nefarious deeds of course, and while their battle harkens back to the time when Rogue took Captain Marvel’s powers, it stays true to the theme of this arc – bodily autonomy and fighting for control against those that wish to subjugate. It’s a perfect theme for a book whose lead was once impregnated against her own will, and even if it’s not an explicit reaction to that story, it shows how well Thompson incorporates feminist ideas into her work. As with the rest of the arc, Carmen Carnero and Tamra Bonvillain deliver high-quality artwork that crackles, showcasing their lead character’s potential as well as how the rest of the team set about fighting the good fight. The pair have also created a strong look for their post-apocalyptic setting and have an understanding of the space they’ve built, knowing how to maneuver through in both action and dialogue.
Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It kind of makes sense that Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson’s Marvelous X-Men has the clearest direction fo the Age of X-Man titles. We’re beginning to see the effects of this status quo on the main X-team and we get a sense of how the X-Tracts and Studio X are a part of the narrative. As X-Man’s control is wavering, Nadler and Thompson are honing in on the things that make the X-Men the X-Men and that’s a strong choice. I like Marco Failla’s art a lot here, too. He doesn’t try to do too much with his layouts but gives us good acting from all the characters. It’s a bit of a wordy book because the writers are trying to communicate a lot of ideas but Failla keeps his work open enough for Joe Caramagna’s letters to not feel too claustrophobic. This is a very strong second outing for this creative team.
Superman #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): We get an explanation of Superboy’s jump in age here but this issue is indicative of a lot of Bendis’ bad habits and it exposes a weakness of his, namely that he just doesn’t write Jonathan Kent very well. Ivan Reis and Brandon Peterson’s art offers something of a liferaft to readers looking for something that works in this story but Bendis’ explanation and the flow of his dialogue leaves a lot to be desired. Characters talking over one another and interrupting each other works well on television but it doesn’t always have the same effect in comics. This doesn’t feel as much like a chapter in a story as an illustrated recap page.
Age of X-Man: Apocalypse and the X-Tracts #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): The Age of X-Man event has been a mixed bag as a whole, in part because the various miniseries felt a little unfocused. Some of the other series have fixed that, but Tim Seeley’s Apocalypse and the X-Tracts is scattered at best. There’s not a clear sense of time as the narrative jumps from scene to scene and the characters’ goals are obfuscated by Apocalypse’s fake deep philosophizing. Salva Espin’s take on these characters is lifeless and poorly designed. It’s hard to know who this series is for, what it’s setting out to do and how it really relates to the rest of the titles and that’s definitely a bad sign for an event mini.
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): After letting it simmer in the background of the first arc, Tom Taylor finally has Aunt May sit Peter down in order to discuss her cancer diagnosis on the eve of her first chemotherapy session. Though instead of focusing just on the conversation, the issue picks up towards its end, instead being interested in how Peter reacts immediately after. He opts to get out into the open air only to stumble onto a high-speed chase. It’s a welcome distraction for him, yet feels unnecessary as a reader. Where the story goes is sweet and touching, with Peter living up to the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man moniker, but it pulls too much focus away and it’s easy to long for an issue that was just a heart to heart conversation between Aunt and Nephew. Yildiray Cinar’s linework has a moodier vibe to it than the sleekness of the previous issues by Juann Cabal, so it’s curious as to why Taylor’s script doesn’t opt to wring out as much emotional potential as possible from the issue’s initial premise. Even with the understanding this isn’t the story’s end, the book almost seems scared with dealing with what it’s set up.