Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your weekly pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off this week’s column with a look at the latest War of the Realms...
War of the Realms #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Event comics are no easy task, and with War of the Realms #2, it’s a testament to writer Jason Aaron and artist Russell Dauterman’s skills as creators that this fragmented but crazy story is able to read as well as it is. In many ways, Aaron is being called upon to serve two masters, and if he isn’t able to necessarily succeed at both, he’s doing a great job juggling — he not only has to pay off years of Asgardian intrigue that he’s been building in his Thor series, but he also has to find a suitable way to bring in the rest of the Marvel Universe (while also not bringing them together too well, or else they shrug off this otherworldly assault). Aaron mostly does this well, with some great sequences of Captain America, Punisher and Wolverine taking out Frost Giants and Dark Elves, while a new twist featuring the Valkyrie proves to be the hardest-hitting parts of the book. Dauterman does a terrific job in keeping this stuffed-to-the-gills script feeling manageable, with some bits — like the Punisher shooting Elves — winding up looking funny as hell, while the final page conclusion looks incredibly harrowing. A great sophomore effort from an exceptionally ambitious event.
Electric Warriors #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Steve Orlando has flirted a bit with mainstream DCU continuity in Electric Warriors, but with his final issue, he dives in with both feet — a gambit that will either win over fans unsure of this series’ place within the general publishing line, or will detract from the standalone characterization and worldbuilding Orlando and artist Travel Foreman had so iconoclastically established. To me, while the secret of Orlando’s twist villain certainly played towards fan service, I really enjoyed Ian Navarro’s violent reunion with his brother Oscar, with Oscar creating a suit of armor composed entirely out of words — a great design touch on Foreman’s part. But while the lengthy epilogue wraps a nice bow on the unique and sometimes bizarre world that Orlando and Foreman have created, I wish there had been more moments with some of their more compelling characters, like Deep Dweller or Serene, rather than let DC’s oldest staples take so much of the spotlight. Still, this audacious series has read and looked like nothing else in the Big Two stables, and those who haven’t read it have missed out.
Mary Shelley: Monster Hunter #1 (Published by Aftershock Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):A series as stylized as Mary Shelley: Monster Hunter lives or dies by its command of tone and the merit of its art. For the most part, both wind up being a success. Artist Hayden Sherman delivers an impressive and unique visual experience throughout, and balances the delicate line between the whimsy of the set-up and the horror component of the execution. It’s in that element of dread that writers Adam Glass and Olivia Cuartero-Briggs are at their best as well, with the final moments of the comic being noticeably strong. Unfortunately, the set-up to get there is a little longer than it probably should be, and for as well-written as Mary and her sister are, some of the other characters are a little weaker. Still, Mary Shelley: Monster Hunter #1 is a fun gothic romp, and with the brunt work of its exposition out of the way, it’ll be interesting to see where it progresses.
Spider-Man: Life Story #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Chip Zdarsky’s alternate “Spider-Verse” continues into the ‘70s with Spider-Man: Life Story #2. Much like the opening issue, Zdarsky continues to take huge events in the Spider-canon and twist them into highly dramatic and evocative new tales. This time around we see his version of the Future Foundation, a truncated Clone Saga, and the debut of Harry Osborn as his own Goblin. I wish these stories would have a bit more time to breathe within an issue, but Zdarsky’s new takes on these classic stories is still an engaging read. Mark Bagley also continues to impress with expressively classic Spidey action and staging, but the colors this time around are a bit too dark for my taste. Some of Frank D’Armata’s choices really nail it, like the smoky, dominating red lighting scheme of Studio 54 and the eerie green backlighting of Miles Warren’s clone lab, but I feel it hampers the energy of the rest of the issue. But that said, Spider-Man: Life Story #2 still stands as an interesting alternate history for Peter Parker and his family.
Justice League #22 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): James Tynion IV and Francis Manapul commit to the myth of the Multiverse in the sweeping, but largely flashback-based Justice League #22. In this latest “Legion of Doom” interlude, Tynion takes us all the way back to the very beginning of the Multiverse, detailing main antagonist Perpetua’s rise and fall as the “mother of everything.” While this captures all the scope and epic scale we have come to expect from this era of Justice League, I worry it might be the wrong place for this particular bit of backstory, especially when Bat-Mite just made the scene in the present-day A-plot. That aside, Justice League #22 continues the title’s streak of looking gorgeous, thanks to the painterly style of Francis Manapul. Sticking to a more formalist style, particularly in a gridded exchange between Perpetua and her Monitor son, Manapul presents this as epic history complete with “frescos” in the form of panel grids and splash pages. That said, with the Bat-Mite-filled future looking as fun and unpredictable as it looks, one can’t help but feel restless at how much Justice League #22 looks backwards.
War of the Realms: Punisher #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Frank Castle needs some “bad men to help some good people” in the debut of War of the Realms: Punisher. Written by Gerry Duggan and drawn by Back to the Future’s Marcelo Ferreira, this event tie-in finds Frank caught up in the latest “Avengers crap” (his words), killing his way through a monster-filled New York. Thankfully, Duggan plays this as broadly as he should, leaning into the pulpy, cartoonish action of other more “fun” Punisher comics. Though he takes a bit too long getting to the real crux of this tie-in (Frank recruits petty criminals to escort a fleeing hospital’s staff and patents through the Lincoln Tunnel), it is still fun to see his take on Frank deal with the weirdness of the event. And art team Marcelo Ferreira, Roberto Poggi, and Rachelle Rosenberg lean into that weridness! Mashing craggy crime comic violence with gloop-blooded monster violence energetically laid out on the page in cinematic layouts enriched by vibrant, neon inspired colors. Not too shabby for an event tie-in. If you like your Frank Castle a little more broad and pulpy, then War of the Realms: Punisher #1 is a battle worth fighting this week.
Naomi #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Brian Michael Bendis goes back to his old bag of tricks in Naomi #4, where it’s hard not to feel echoes of Jefferson Davis’s untold stories as a SHIELD agent, as he, co-writer David Walker and artist Jamal Campbell delve into the secrets of Naomi’s father, an AWOL soldier from the planet Rann. If you’re a fan of Bendis’ trademark banter, then there’s a lot for you to chew on here, but if you don’t like his decompressed pacing, you’ll probably be turned off by this issue, which lingers on Naomi’s father’s stay on Earth, but often glosses over the emotional beats such as meeting Naomi’s mother, in favor of hurtling along to the next twist in an interstellar cold war. The real MVP of this issue has to be Campbell, whose linework and coloring is truly exceptional — the way he throws bodies at a battle royale is just so beautiful and over-the-top, and while some of his layouts during the talkier scenes feel a little crowded, he still keeps his characters legible. While the last page twist certainly might raise some eyebrows, it’s unclear if Naomi can muster up the momentum to really get going, or if its languid pacing might kill this mystery dead in its tracks.
Uncanny X-Men #16 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Scott Summers’ back must be sore from carrying this book. X-books tend to have a clear focus on the leader of any given iteration of the series, but in the past have been comfortable with letting the narrative focus drift towards some of the other members of the group. It is a team book, afterall. The biggest thing working against Matthew Rosenberg’s story is that every character aside from Cyclops feels like an afterthought, with the exception of one character who has a touching and grounded scene really only serves to build sympathy for a final-page reveal. Still, Rosenberg’s Scott is an undeniably compelling character, and his making a decades-old character feel full of stories to tell is no small task. Visually, the comic is above average, with artist Salvador Larroca imbuing the quieter scenes with a sense of drama that overshadows the less interesting action sequences, while GURU-eFX’s coloring is as solid as is to be expected. With Hickman’s upcoming run looming large over the House of X, it’s nice to find something, namely a thoroughly punished Scott Summers, to spend time with as a reader.