Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday rapids? Best Shots has you covered with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Melodious Matthew Sibley, who takes a look at the latest issue of Star Wars...
Star Wars #68 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Let’s get the obvious out of the way first — Star Wars #68 is drawn by Phil Noto, so of course it looks gorgeous. The opening page pushes us closer to Empire Strikes Back, depicting a Star Destroyer sending out probe droids in search of the Rebels and Noto captures this with a coldness, a looming and inevitable tension as we know what happens when everything converges on Hoth further down the road. Before Star Wars gets there though, new series writer Greg Pak tasks our heroes with multiple missions that will both cripple the Empire and make them believe the Rebels are somewhere they’re not. As a result, the main cast gets split up – Han and Leia, Chewie and Threepio, Luke and Artoo – only for the groups to encounter their own individual obstacles along the way. Pak appears to have a strong enough handle on them all, with his take on Luke being the most intriguing, though the structure of his plotting leads to the issue being so busy that he doesn’t have much chance to explore the dynamics in a deeper way. That said, the wrinkles to their missions introduced look like they’ll manage to kickstart this in what follows.
Batman Universe #1 (Published by DC; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Hot on the heels of “Walmart Superman’s” debut last week comes “Walmart Batman,” a.k.a. Batman Universe #1. And it may well be Brian Michael Bendis’ best DC work to date. Anchored by a wry, consistently funny interplay between Batman and Alfred, Bendis pits Batman against the Riddler in a new, strange game Edward is playing, populated with cameos from other DC A-listers. Under the pencils and pens of Nick Derington and Dave Stewart, the whole thing pulses with a sort of classic, Mike Allred-esque energy. Starting with a first person opening that builds to a truly cool splash page, Derington and Stewart harken back to the art deco action of the animated series and the comics based thereupon with dynamic action, strong stagings, and keen point of view. Don’t let the “grocery store comics” reputation of this issue’s first run fool you, Batman Universe #1 is the real deal.
Second Coming #1 (Published by AHOY Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Mark Russell delivers divine comedy in the debut of Second Coming. Jumping ship from Vertigo to Ahoy, Second Coming tells the story of Sunstar, a neurotic Superman analogue that is struggling with balancing his civilian life (that he lives in costume still hilariously) and life as a near omnipotent superhero. His life is thrown further into chaos once God (yes, THE God) dumps his “deadbeat” son Jesus onto his doorstep to make him a better deity. While the concept itself is pretty funny, writer Mark Russell takes a sort of Terry Pratchett-esque approach to it, immersing us fully in both Heaven and “The City” through wickedly funny character interactions. Artists Richard Pace (series co-creator) and Leonard Kirk are also in on the joke. Both artists display a hilarious duality, detailing the past flashbacks and scenes in Heaven with a sketchy, rough-hewn fresco kind of look. The present however gets a slick sheen, with pages that look like a mid-budget superhero comedy with clean lines and rich colors. While I am not sure it is worth all the controversy surrounding it, I can for sure say that Second Coming #1 is hilarious for sure.
Event Leviathan #2 (Published by DC; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Event Leviathan’s cast and suspect list grows in its tense second issue. Working the case, Batman finds himself crossing paths with the Red Hood, who has picked up his own trail in this mystery. But instead of more Jason and Bruce-centered drama, Brian Michael Bendis uses it as a foundation for check-ins on co-stars Plastic Man and The Question, who have picked up new clues toward Leviathan's goals and methods. While again fairly plotty for an early issue, Bendis’ take on the Question and Plastic Man still entertain, the latter providing some of Bendis’ trademark motor-mouthed “dad humor.” Bendis’ long-time collaborator Alex Maleev is still handling his transition from Marvel to DC well enough, too. Made up of wide-screen multi-panel grids, Maleev’s cinematic style works well with the brooding cityscapes and lithe character models. Though I would like to see his costuming loosen up a bit. as a few characters look like their outfits are literally painted on them here. That aside, Event Leviathan #2 keeps the clues and fun coming for Bendis’ first DCU “event.”
Secret Warps: Weapon Hex #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): A spiritual sequel to the Amalgam Universe, Secret Warps is an esoteric dive into Marvel continuity, with in-universe mashups that read best with your tongue firmly in cheek. And in that regard, Weapon Hex — with her punny spellcasting and her hyperactive sidekick Speed Weasel — represents the best of the line, weaving a charmingly weird story from writer Al Ewing and artist Carlos Villa. Granted, this book is a fun diversion rather than a particularly coherent or accessible storyline — at the end of the day, Ewing and backup writer Tim Seeley owe much to former Wolverine writer Tom Taylor for so liberally channeling his jokey but engaging dynamic between Laura and Gavrill. While Ewing and Villa’s main story can be a little difficult at times to follow, especially once Soldier Supreme and Iron Hammer make an appearance from the previous Secret Warps one-shot, Seeley and artist Bob Quinn deliver a super-fun backup story featuring the villain known as Wentigra. This is a super-silly read, but definitely a fun diversion for fans of Marvel’s weirdest experiment in recent history.
Young Justice #7 (Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Almost serving as an answer to Marvel’s Secret Warps one-shots, Brian Michael Bendis and a trio of talented artists through DC’s youngest heroes through the Multiverse in Young Justice #7. A very sit-commy detour in nature, Bendis does nice work with the comedy here, particularly with a scene with artist Dan Hipp, who delivers a very funny sequence in the vein of Teen Titans Go. That said, even while Bendis plays with some occasionally portentous properties — a detour to the Kingdom Come universe, for example, can’t help but leave you feeling a little bit anxious — some readers might cry foul that the story doesn’t really go anywhere, beyond a couple of one-liners before the YJ team gets shunted to another universe. Still, watching these kids go through various degrees of freaking out — Red Robin is suitably nonplussed, while Impulse is just excited to see cute chibi versions of his favorite superheroes, while Jinny Hex and Teen Lantern are about to have nervous breakdowns — is a fun story, and when you’ve got artists like Hipp, David Lafuente and John Timms in your corner, it’s hard not to find something to like with Young Justice #7.