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 Jack-of-all-Trades Justin Partridge, who takes a look at The Green Lantern...
The Green Lantern #8 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): “This is ridiculous. You know that.” “I’m counting on it.” The Hard-Traveling Heroes return to battle a cosmic drug epidemic in The Green Lantern #8. Teased all the way back in the debut issue, Green Lantern finds himself swept up in a drug bust with none other than Green Arrow. But as the two men investigate they find something much weirder and much bigger than just people looking for a good time. Part of the major charm of this series has been Grant Morrison’s gleeful subversion of “cop procedural” tropes, and that same subversion extends to this latest GL/GA team-up. Artist Liam Sharp also gets in on the fun, starting with gritty, fairly grounded street action and then expanding outward to detail an assassin on the moon and Dimension Zero. Strange, fun, and anchored by the gruffly hilarious dynamic between Hal Jordan and Ollie Queen, The Green Lantern #8 is another odd winner for the series.
Savage Avengers #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): More blood is spilled as the team starts to take shape in Savage Avengers #2. Starting with the secret origins of Kulan Gath and moving into bloody, near constant action writer Gerry Duggan more than earns that “Parental Advisory” tag on the issue’s cover. Better still, now all the characters are finally on the board. Though they still aren’t a “team” per se yet, Duggan is definitely taking steps in the right direction. Art team Mike Deodato, Jr and Frank Martin also continue to thrive with the title’s bloodletting and hard-hitting action. While a bit more cramped than the debut issue as much of the action takes place in tight interiors, Deodato and Martin’s dark, sinewy pencils and colors are still very much in line with Duggan’s pulpy vibe. Packed with more blood and action than you can shake a wizard’s staff at, Savage Avengers #2 lives up to its title.
Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III #2 (Published by DC Comics and IDW Publishing; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It’s rare for fan service to sell me as wholeheartedly as Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III #2, but having original TMNT artist Kevin Eastman working side-by-side writer James Tynion IV and artist Freddie Williams II is honestly more than enough of a hook to demand any Turtle fan to pick up this book. Tynion’s overall structure for this issue is a bit of an exposition dump, but the mythological scaffolding he’s putting up is about as impeccable as what Geoff Johns is doing in Doomsday Clock — the conceit is also a perfect rationale to bring Eastman’s scratchy black-and-white imagery back into the fold, and boy, the man hasn’t lost a single step. Eastman’s pages, featuring the original Raphael, makes you feel like you stepped into a time machine, with all the raw energy and audacity that he and Peter Laird brought to the original Ninja Turtles storyline more than 30 years ago. (And stylistically, he fits in great with Williams, who really does operate in a similar visual wheelhouse with his mashup versions of Batman and the Turtles.) Honestly, Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III #2 is one of the most thrilling single issues I’ve read all year, and this issue alone already justifies Tynion and Williams’ third trip to this particular well.
Thumbs #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Thumbs is an odd book. It hangs out somewhere in between Ender’s Game and Armada, following a training school of child soldiers recruited for their skill in a virtual reality FPS called “Fortress” to battle in a clandestine conflict — this time against an aggressively anti-tech American government. What sets Thumbs apart from Armada, or other tales centered around this kind of advanced technology, is that writer Sean Lewis and artist Hayden Sherman manage to posit technology itself as somewhat value neutral; this is a world where billionaire Adrian Camus’ inventions include an AI stand-in for a surrogate parent, Mom, and provided it at no cost to underprivileged families. Our protagonist Charley (gamertag: the titular Thumbs) rightfully points out that the problem isn’t that Mom exists, but that his parents are out of the house so often trying to make ends meet that an invention like Mom is necessary to begin with. Sherman’s art is moody and unsettling; mostly black and white and shades of gray with pops of red for the technology, and it drives home that nothing is quite right here. This week’s debut explores murky questions about who can benefit most from technological advances, the often exploitative nature of that, and what happens when attitudes towards technology begin to swing too far in the other direction without having any answers to those questions beforehand.
The Dreaming #10 (Published by Vertigo Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Matthew and Dora’s search for Dream takes them to the depths of Hell in the tenth installment of The Dreaming. Displaying a true handle of the “purple prose” that makes Endless stories so fun, writer Simon Spurrier digs deep with this A-plot, delivering sharp humor and poetry as Dora and Matthew interact with the denizens of Hell. Unfortunately, the issue’s B-plot centered on the Mister Moth ruled Dreaming drags the energy of the issue down a bit, but Spurrier quickly recovers once he refocuses on Hell again. Artists Bilquis Evely and Mat Lopes however keep The Dreaming looking absolutely gorgeous on both fronts. During the scenes “below” Evely and Lopes deliver dense John Milton-esque depictions of Hell, twisting the POV of the pages to suit their diabolical directions. The Dreaming scenes aren’t nearly as eye grabbing as the previous issues, but Evely’s knack for interesting layouts cannot be denied. Sharply funny and densely rendered The Dreaming #10 continues to be a worthy extension the Endless’ tale.
Black Cat #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Writer Jed MacKay and artist Travel Foreman’s first issue of Black Cat doesn’t so much feel like a propulsive launching point as much as a trailer for a movie we haven’t seen yet — they don’t really tell us much more about the titular Felicia Hardy than casual fans might already have figured out just by implication, and as a result, even Foreman’s eye-grabbing visual style doesn’t leave much of an impression. MacKay has some potential, playing up Felicia’s tense dynamic with the New York Thieves Guild, but this opening issue can’t help but feel like a tepid cover of Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke’s superlative work over a decade ago on Catwoman — sure, Felicia’s a beautiful thief who finds herself on the run, but what makes the heist different from any other heist? The problem is, even with a perfunctory ninja fight in the middle of the issue, even Foreman’s linework feels a little subdued, thanks to colorist Brian Reber taking an especially heavy hand here. Even with two backup stories for added value, I’m not sure Black Cat steals enough of the show to justify another pass.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #5 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Time is of the essence as Buffy returns for its second arc, immediately following up on last issue’s Xander-related conclusion. With Xander incapacitated, it’s up to the Slayer, Willow, Giles and Jenny Calendar to do as much as they can (and as quickly as possible) to help him before it’s too late. Jordie Bellaire’s script gets a little playful with time, opening with a more dynamic scene (and a strong welcome for arc artist David Lopez) and also expediting part of the group’s efforts thanks to the story in BOOM!’s Free Comic Book Day offering. Couple this with Jenny’s involvement in the story, and this issue really enforces how Bellaire has both the voices and the relationships of the characters down while also creating her own strikingly different narrative for them to occupy. On the flipside, Lopez’s depiction of the characters differs greatly from how Dan Mora struck a balance between capturing likenesses and the essence of personalities. His movement, blocking, and body language all shine from the outset, aided by Raúl Angulo’s colors being just as sharp in the series’ first arc, though his faces can vary from panel to panel and page to page in terms of how much detail they express.