Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Jousting Justin Partridge, who takes a look at Immortal Hulk #18...
Immortal Hulk #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Banner and the “Devil Hulk” find some structure and a terrifying new Abomination makes the scene in Immortal Hulk #18. Picking up a few weeks into Banner’s “recovery” as Joe Fixit, writer Al Ewing starts to shore up his ongoing narratives, like that of Banner and “Devil Hulk’s” emerging plan, Alpha Flight’s hunt for him, and Betty’s new gryphon like transformation. While that might sound like a lot of plates spinning, Ewing doles out the exposition well, tempering it with the creature-feature thrills of the horrifically designed new Abomination who is stalking Banner. Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, and Paul Mounts also continue to impress, even with the expository scenes. Obviously the more horror-inspired Abomination scenes are the standouts here, displayed in cracked, eye-grabbing double-page splashes, but I wouldn’t sleep on the quieter scenes either, especially the ones where Banner and the Hulk are interacting. Managing to be both a horror book and stunning deconstruction of the Hulk mythos, Immortal Hulk #18 continues to play to the series’ strengths.
Heroes in Crisis #9 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): For all the unnecessary hoops that the confounding and convoluted time-loop adds to this story, there is something to the conversation held between two different versions of Wally in this final issue of Heroes in Crisis. The idea that there are no clean answers to processing trauma is one that would’ve had the chance of working far better if series trademarks like the confessional scenes (ever rigid by way of Tom King’s love of the nine-panel grid) and Clay Mann’s title spreads (pretty as they are) were excised to allow more page space for the actual story. When it comes to Mann and Tomeu Morey’s art, it’s just as tactile as previous issues, the level of clarity and detail brought to each panel is an artistic approach that could’ve been utilized so much better if it was allowed to focus in on the more tender, heartfelt and emotional material that the book hasn’t really dealt with. What makes all this worse is the heroes’ big plan is sealed with a gesture so misguided, it renders everything that came before callous. The last story beat in a book that’s meant to be allegory for senseless violence is senseless and ill-considered.
Killer Groove #1 (Published by AfterShock Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Killer Groove is an intriguing debut from writer Ollie Masters and artist Eoin Marron. The California crime noir brings to mind David Lapham’s Stray Bullets as characters go about their business but then kind of careen into one another. Marron’s blocky style suits the proceedings perfectly, adding a little bit of grittiness when necessary but never muddying up the narrative. But this is a very, very deliberately paced story, calling to mind early Coen Brothers work like “Blood Simple.” That’s not going to work for every reader, especially as the book ends just as it really feels like it’s about to get going. But the overall package of the book, from concept, characters, setting and design feels steady and singular — colorist Jordie Bellaire and letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou really help pull everything together. This creative team is singing the same song, and I can’t wait for them to get to the chorus.
Star Trek: Year Five #2 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Enterprise’s tense standoff with the Tholian Assembly comes to a close in Star Trek: Year Five #2. Leaning into the episodic nature of the series, Jackson Lanzing and Colin Kelly hit the ground in a sprint, reestablishing the stakes and fleshing out their wonderful characterizations of the original crew. While very dialogue-heavy, Lanzing and Kelly’s exposition crackles with empathy as they commit to Starfleet’s humanitarian goals. Keeping the series looking screen-accurate are artists Stephen Thompson and Charlie Kirchoff. Peppered with awe-inspiring ship based exterior scenes, Thompson and Kirchoff lean into the old-school set design and detailing renderings of the cast. Punchy, fun, and filled with the kind of heart fans expect from Star Trek, Year Five #2 ends the publisher’s new title’s first arc on a fantastic note.
Queen of Bad Dreams #2 (Published by Vault Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The most vital part of dream logic to this reviewer is that you can never remember actually traveling to get somewhere; you just are there where you need to be. Queen of Bad Dreams cuts from location to location, as if we’re tumbling from one plot beat to the other, a sense of constant propulsion is embedded in the very narrative. While Wei lets the figment Ava go upon their first meeting, it doesn’t take long before their paths cross again, and the former learns about the latter’s story. Looking at this from Ava’s perspective, she jumped out of one supposed dream and into a nightmare, a strange and confusing world that seems all the less logical. Said world, crafted by Jordi Perez and Dearbhla Kelly, is minimalist while also having a sense of depth — the expanse of the city is present without drawing focus from Wei, front and centre in one panel. Danny Lore’s script is right to dig into these two characters via their conversation, that Wei doesn’t do much legwork in her investigation works in the book’s favor, as it allows more space for characterization rather than letting the worldbuilding pile up.
Giant-Man #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Leah Williams’ big man road trip continues in Giant-Man #2. Picking up seconds after the opening issue’s cliffhanger, Scott Lang and his team continue to bluff and fight their way across Frost Giant occupied Florida. Using a combination of their wits, fists, and Dolly Parton songs in order to survive. Though the constant tension of their mission adds nice stakes to the series, it is Williams’ attention to characterization and emotions that keeps things moving along well. Marco Castiello’s art does take a bit of a hit this time around however. As the issue continues, given a sharp coolness by colorist Rachelle Rosenberg, it gets a bit hard to differentiate which Giant-Man is which, especially when they are sharing the panel with other Giants. A far cry away from the specificity of the opening. But still, Giant-Man continues to be a fun romp through enemy territory.
Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #5 (Published by Dynamite Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10) Kieron Gillen and Casper Wijngaard’s take on Peter Cannon has been a breath of fresh air over the last few months. Cape comics have missed Gillen’s unique voice, and it’s been fun to see him return to the genre with a rumination on Alan Moore’s Watchmen and the comics medium itself. But with the conclusion of this arc, it feels like the concept has run out of steam just a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great rebuttal to comics’ 30-year obsession with deconstruction, but it lacks a bit of the propulsion of previous issues in making its final conclusions. Wijngaard’s work remains particularly inspired, and that helps carry everything through to the end. (Especially on a page that inventively uses the nine-panel grid as a weapon in and of itself.) This story will read like sledgehammer to folks discovering it in a trade format, but for monthly readers, the conclusion fall off just a little bit.
Angel #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The impetus for the Angel TV spin-off was him getting out of Sunnydale and stuck into the grit and grime of LA. For this comics version by Bryan Edward Hill, Gleb Melnikov and Gabriel Cassata, the inverse is true. Angel has come to Sunnydale, but first, a lengthy flashback to a time long ago that provides a glimpse at Angelus. Chances are this issue plays better for people unfamiliar for the character considering how much time is spent establishing this backstory, after which Hill doesn’t have many pages left to get the present-day plot started. Melnikov colors himself for the flashback, a blood red sky overseeing a medieval village, with his linework being more cartoony here than it is with Cassata. Meanwhile, present-day Sunnydale looks different to the depiction in Buffy; it’s moodier for sure, Melnikov’s linework appears thicker and the level of shadow is dialed up, a factor that works in conjunction with the pages’ black gutters. On a visual level, both aesthetic styles are strong and promising in establishing what the series will look like, it’s just hard to get a read of the voice of the book with how long it takes for the story to kick in.