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 Jaunty Justin Partridge, who takes a look at Daredevil...
Daredevil #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Matt Murdock faces his past, the city, and his latest attempt to get his life back on track head on in Daredevil #7. Though we have seen Hell’s Kitchen and Matt himself trying to course-correct after his “retirement,” writer Chip Zdarsky seems to be taking a much more realistic way through the story, showing down to the emotional level how Matt and characters like Wilson Fisk and Detective North are adjusting after Zdarsky blew up Matt’s life (again) in the first arc. New artist Lalit Kumar Sharma, along with colorist Java Tartaglia and inker Jay Leisten, make great use of Zdarsky’s realism. Bringing a more naturalistic, Eduardo Risso-like look to the title, setting aside the dynamism of the previous arc for a more theatrical and effective look for the more emotionally based current arc. I will admit a certain apprehension for Zdarsky’s take on Daredevil, but the more time he spends with Ol’ Hornhead, the better it gets.
Batman #73 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There’s some interesting possibilities going on in Batman #73 - while this issue might be a little quiet with its aspirations for some, the idea of Thomas Wayne as Batman being Bruce Wayne’s greatest foe could yield big dividends for writer Tom King down the road, either in his wrap-up in the flagship Batman title or the Batman and Catwoman spinoff down the road. That said, some readers might cry foul at the decompression of this issue, particularly bits like Thomas singing “Home on the Range” as he dispatches a cadre of Ra’s al Ghul’s assassins. But teaming up with colorist Jordie Bellaire, I’d also argue this is the single best-looking issue that artist Mikel Janin has produced for the series, channeling Mitch Gerads with his moody figures being swallowed up by their breathtaking surroundings. For my money, I enjoy King tinkering around with Bruce’s mental state more than I do his traditional rogues’ gallery, so a wild card like Thomas Wayne perks up my interest, and combined with some show-stopping artwork, Batman #73 remains a solid if quick read.
Lab Raider #1 (Published by Black Mask Studios; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Your new favorite animal rights activist girl gang debuts in Lab Raider #1. While writer Matt Miner takes a bit too long to get to the genetically enhanced hook of the title, he makes up for it with an extended, dramatic introduction to series leads Sarah and Jeanette. Though much less pulpy than the cover suggests, Miner lays a nice groundwork for the women and their noble eco-terrorism. Artists Creees Lee and Josh Jensen inject a punk rock energy into the introduction, thanks to their sketchy pencils and neon infused colors. While I would have liked just a touch more of the monster action teased on the cover, Lab Raider #1 still shows a lot of potential.
Excellence #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Writer Brandon Thomas and artist Khary Randolph raise their already considerable game in Excellence #2, which shows underdog warlock Spencer quickly learn the limits of the mystical world around him. But that doesn’t mean this creative team is hampering in this secret society of sorcerers - on the contrary, Thomas flexes his genre muscles nicely here, pitting Spencer on a magical heist that’s paced incredibly well. Moreover, he makes this world feel accessible yet expansive, grounded with real-world rivalries and regrets that make his characters feel three-dimensional. Randolph, meanwhile, shifts between the dynamic and the expressive seamlessly - you can see the righteous petulance on Spencer’s face as he skulks around the Aegis, while Spencer’s one-on-one against the Overseer crackles off the page. The only hiccup in an otherwise flawless second issue? The shifts between past and present still feel a little abrupt, with letterer Deron Bennett’s Saga-esque “age” captions a little too small to always notice. If you haven’t been reading Excellence, you really owe it to yourself to catch up on one of the best adventure books on the stands.
Guardians of the Galaxy #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): When a series has a cast as expansive as Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw’s Guardians of the Galaxy does, it can be tough for it to properly focus on those characters. The start of the arc had the benefit of conflicting teams all in search of Gamora, but now that Thanos’ plan of using his brother Eros to upload his consciousness has been revealed, and allegiances have shifted as a result, Cates’ script can’t help but feel too busy for its own good. There are moments where the benefit of tighter-knit cast shines through, one being the concluding scene, but it primarily comes across in a big dramatic beat between Peter and Gamora. Shaw and Curiel try as best as they can to stay focused during the frenzy, favouring close-ups that push the reader closer towards characters, though this sacrifices any sense of spatial cohesion between the various factions until the story requires them to do something. As a resolution, it’s too small and too big at the same time, having qualities of big event storytelling and a more intimate character-driven story, each preventing the other the full space and time required for it to satisfyingly play out that way.
Clue: Candlestick #2 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Honestly, this book is just delightful. Writer/artist Dash Shaw draws so much history from archetypical board game characters in Clue: Candlestick, this time focusing on femme fatale and mysterious muse Miss Scarlet. Scarlet’s past dealings shrewdly threads the needle between art, the meaning behind it, death, and how toxic masculinity winds up tipping the whole thing off its axis. It’s brilliant stuff, and Shaw’s off-kilter art style only serves to keep readers further on their toes looking for clues amid the wild departures in color and tone. (The fact that Shaw throws in little mini-games in the mix is only a bonus, and is a nod to the puzzle-solvers who play the Clue board game.) My only regret for this series is that this is a three-issue miniseries, which makes the focus on Scarlet feel too exaggerated - to be honest, I’d love to see Shaw get to spend a series of one-shots plumbing each of the Clue suspects’ lives for their connections to Mr. Boddy. That said, I’ll take what I can get of this fantastic series.
Assassin Nation #4 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Bullets begin to fly before the first page is over in this quip and violence-ridden bonanza, which means Rankin’s still in danger, and thus Echidna couldn’t have been trying to take him out. Process of elimination leads the remaining assassins to the Huynhs gang, the current top dogs. Even when he’s just setting up a scenario fit for almighty carnage, Kyle Starks’ script moves with tremendous speed, suspense and anticipation for when it all kicks off. And then when it does, complete with a line that can’t even be reproduced here, the chaos is yet another stunning display of Erica Henderson’s talent as a cartoonist. If the issue’s set-up is where you can see how Henderson’s characters are capable of vivid expressions and emotions (a quality which makes them such great actors for a book with this much comedy), the main attraction is where she demonstrates how well they can look in motion. The fight is a bloody mess from the second the first shot is fired, something that her colors emphasizes, yet her panel-to-panel composition is all about retaining clarity through the sequence, even when she substitutes the setting for full-color blocks.