Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off with Cantankerous C.K. Stewart, who takes a look at Thanos...
Thanos #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Tini Howard’s Thanos #1 has some intriguing threads, but none move far or fast enough in this week’s debut issue to provide a compelling hook. Howard introduces us to the Thanos who found Gamora - someone desperate to lure Death back to his side, who drifts through space in his own intergalactic Winchester house with a literal murderer’s row of Marvel baddies by his side. There’s a vibe throughout the whole book that this would have been better served as a graphic novel; it’s a six-issue limited series, but a Thanos OGN could have been a hot seller right now, and would have given Howard more space to explore this very Byronic take on the universe’s most dangerous man. A longer work ready for binge-reading would have been well-suited to the slower, melancholic pacing Howard employs here. Ariel Olivetti and Antonio Fabela do a solid job on art and colors, though Fabela’s colors are at times a little too bright, even on the ship, to fully line up with Howard’s moodier writing. Thanos #1 offers hints at greatness, and Howard’s clear vision for this particular iteration of Thanos is interesting enough to warrant picking this one up in trade format for sure even if the debut issue itself doesn’t quite land.
Dial H for Hero #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): With their second issue, Sam Humphries and Joe Quinones turn in a delightful celebration to manga, and show readers that the true strength of this concept isn’t just coming up with wacky character concepts - it’s changing the package up. The H-Dial is a truly transformative artifact in the DCU, and the creative team leans all the way in on the idea. Quinones especially lends an elasticity to the proceedings, playful homaging Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball as well the myriad of mecha manga properties out there to keep the energy high and the action pretty light on its feet. Humphries’ pacing is still a little on the slow side as he tends to serve the bit over pushing the story forward but there’s no denying that Dial H for Hero is a fun and inventive title.
Dick Tracy Forever! #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The yellow-coated gumshoe gets a stylish anthology debut in Dick Tracy Forever! #1. Written and drawn by Powers’ Michael Avon Oeming and colored by Taki Soma, Tracy and his team bust crime through three pulpy, but propulsive stories pitted against the city’s most colorful villains. Though the recent Dick Tracy reboot at IDW told a more seralized tale, Forever’s anthology format pits a bit more pep in the detective’s step. Not only that, but Oeming and Soma are allowed a bit more artistic licence, giving them the room to break out of the “gritty” crime visuals with sequences like a stellar black and white dream sequence of Tracy becoming a radio serial space hero and heavily shadowed shootout with Flat Top. Armed with a fun accessibility and dynamic visuals throughout Dick Tracy Forever #1 returns to the streets, ready for action.
Punk Mambo #1 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The Valiant Universe’s answer to John Constantine returns to the stands this week in Punk Mambo #1, as the British voodoo practitioner heads down to Louisiana. When a rescue mission goes awry and severs her ties to the voodoo loas, or gods and spirits, Punk typically relies on to do battle with, she’s forced to team up with renowned voodoo queen Marie Leveau to uncover the truth of what’s severed her from her magicks. Succinctly, Punk Mambo is about a white British woman whose magic is based in an African diaspora religion - writer Cullen Bunn seems both aware of this but reluctant to dive particularly deep into the uneasy dynamic between Punk and her arts, and Punk and Leveau, beyond a maybe tongue-in-cheek moment about Punk being out of place in Haiti. Adam Gorham and Jose Villarrubia are well-suited to the magical horror elements of Punk’s world; they deliver excellent action sequences in particular, and add punch to a script that sorely needs it. If this turns into a woman’s thoughtful exploration of the culture she’s wholesale borrowing and her relationship to the powers she takes from it, it could be a compelling book, but this week’s debut is teetering on a fine line between that and a dismissiveness that will make future issues hard to swallow.
Amazing Spider-Man #20 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): “Hunted” has been a fine story and sort of spiritual follow-up to “Kraven’s Last Hunt,” but I can’t help but shake the feeling that it isn’t much of a Spider-Man story. So while artist Humberto Ramos is giving these pages his all and balancing a really huge cast, writer Nick Spencer is still spending a lot of time moving chess pieces around the board and giving us little in the way of plot development. He’s got to be building to something and the interplay between various villains has proven interesting. But it almost feels like the main parts of this story are ancillary to the individual character studies that we get in the .HU issues. “Hunted” feels like it’s losing momentum, and that’s not quite a problem yet, but it’s getting there.
Detective Comics #1002 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Come for the excellent Brad Walker art in this one, and it’ll be over before you realize. The mystery of the Arkham Knight continues here, and Peter J. Tomasi’s narrative is moving at a pretty fast clip thanks to his talented artistic collaborator. Walker even manages to make the more expository passages seem positively breezy with a mix of great character work and some surprisingly fun paneling especially around Robin’s escape from the Arkham Knight. Tomasi’s taking his time with revealing the Knight’s identity but he manages to get a couple of fun jokes in and it’s always good to see him working with Damian again. This is a thoroughly solid issue that moves the chains for the next part of the story.
Ghostbusters 35th Anniversary: Extreme Ghostbusters (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The dream of the 1990s is alive at IDW with the debut of the Extreme Ghostbusters! Standing as the final weekly 35th Anniversary one-shot, writers Jim Beard and Keith Dallas bring the cult favorite animated team into the title’s universe with a talky, but still fun one-and-done story. The animals at the Central Park Zoo have been possessed by a ghostly animal rights activist and now it’s up to the Extreme team to set things right. Beard and Dallas might take a more expository, less action heavy take on the team, but they do nail their voices and dynamic which should please fans of the “next generation” team. Artist Tim Lattie and colorist Luis Antonio Delgado also make good use of the team’s look and color palette, rendering their “extreme” ‘90s-inspired looks and equipment well onto the page. Here’s hoping that this isn’t the last we see of the Extreme team.
War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): This story feels a little out of sync with where the main X-Men title finds itself, but it does give us something of a tonal roadmap for some events that we’ve seen play out there. Matthew Rosenberg uses this as an opportunity to underline the leadership issues inherent in this iteration of the team and we see a better throughline to why Cyclops gives up his sole leadership role. Pere Perez turns in a solid issue here even if he’s not entirely sure how Banshee is supposed to look at this juncture and tends to draw most of the characters a bit slighter than we’re used to seeing them. The action beats generally work and the pacing is breakneck. But your mileage may vary in terms of how much you actually care about the larger event.
Star Trek: Waypoint Special 2019 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): IDW’s flagship Star Trek anthology series returns with the Science and Medical Officer focused Star Trek: Waypoint Special 2019. Filled with stories focused on Dr. McCoy, Beverly Crusher, a pre-Voyager Kathryn Janeway, and Ezri Dax, this new special takes a more meditative and emotional track with it’s stories to great effect. Though this might turn off some of the more action-focused readers, this Waypoint Special makes great use of some of our favorite “Blue Shirts” as they navigate through their missions and personal lives. Highlights of this anthology include seeing McCoy attempt to court an icy Vulcan doctor from creators Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward, who effortlessly captures the grainy, yet evocative look of the Original Series. As well as “The Swift Spoke,” a tale which finds Kathryn Janeway, back when she was but a Science Officer, interacting with a species who make their home outside of reality from writer Stephen Mooney and artist Andy Price. Basically, if your favorite Trek characters are Science Officers, then Star Trek: Waypoint Special 2019 is the book for you.
Age of X-Man: X-Tremists #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): X-Tremists is a book that’s probably bitten off more that it can chew. Halfway through the series, it feels like writer Leah Williams has yet to dive into the themes that she set out to. Despite having a couple of prominent queer X-Men on the team, their loss of identity hasn’t been explored. And while the ethics of what Department X does have been brought up, they seem to be secondary to seeing how Blob and Psylocke flirt within the limits of their platonic friendship. And Georges Jeanty’s work just isn’t consistent at all. He is awesome when giving us close-up expression panels, communicating so much in a widened pair of eyes or a slight smirk. But the instant he’s forced to give us wide and medium shots that feature more of the cast, his linework gets sloppy and the characters look unrecognizable. Despite Department X’s seemingly large role in this world, the scope of this story feels very narrow, and that limits its appeal.