Greetings, 'Rama readers! Last week’s Comic Con International: San Diego put a little hitch in our step, but Best Shots still has you covered for easy, breezy rapid reviews of the comic books that dropped during SDCC! So let's turn back the clock just slightly with the one and only Oscar Maltby, as he takes a look at the debut issue of DC’s Young Animal’s Collapser #1 ...
Collapser #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Cosmic horror crashes head-first into mundane anxiety with the latest scrappy speedball of a first issue from DC's Young Animal. Protagonist Liam works as a carer by day and a DJ by night, despite his intrusively negative inner voice. After one particularly bad day, Liam opens a package from his estranged mom and gets a literal black hole implanted in his chest. As if he didn't have enough to worry about. Mikey Way and Shaun Simon's script moves deftly, hitting on the sad reality of old age before moving into the joys and pressures of youth, capping things off with a dash of horror-tinged sci-fi. Character voices are distinct and strong -- Liam's fevered neuroses are as well-rendered, as are his girlfriend Jocelyn's sense of expectation and self-assurance. On the visual side, Ilias Kyriazis' thin lines communicate the script's extreme emotion with craggy expressions and dynamically animated figures. Kyriazis often slices pages into diagonal panels, translating Liam's inner instability into visual flair. Finishing things off, Cris Peter mixes hot pinks and purples with light greens and blues to paint those conflicting feelings onto the page. All in all, Collapser #1 is a polished book about a messy situation.
Loki #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Loki can’t wait to stop being King in the debut of Loki #1. Written by comedian Daniel Kibblesmith and rendered by artists Oscar Bazaldua and David Curiel, the Lie Smith’s new solo series looks to tell the story of him shirking his responsibilities after ascending to the throne he so craved for years. On discovering ruling is not all it is cracked up to be, Loki starts acting out in the only way Loki can: with grifts and wanton destruction. Kibblesmith really nails Loki’s droll voice as well as a fun dynamic with his big brother Thor, but this issue is little more than a reintroduction to Loki’s new status post War of the Realms. Artists Bazaldua and Curiel do, however, bring a wild visual energy to the title. Bazaldua’s pencils have a sort of rounded, Aaron Kuder-like look to them, and Curiel brings it home with sharp greens, cool blues, and blazing yellows bringing the look of “Cosmic” comics back to the world of Gods. Fun enough but a little light on actual plot, Loki #1 stands as a funny new introduction to Marvel’s “greatest” con man.
Immortal Hulk #21 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10) Most, if not all, of the issues of Immortal Hulk thus far have featured a monster who cannot be stopped at their forefront – the titular nightmare fuel. For this issue, Al Ewing, guest artist Ryan Bodenheim, and colourist Paul Mounts delve into General Fortean’s history as he conducts a raid on Gamma Flight in the present, revealing just how much of his life has been shaped by Banner/Hulk, deigned to be chaos. Fortean believes himself to be the necessary order and that has turned him into a man who cannot be stopped as well. Ewing’s script here is more clinical than grotesque, yet still manages to include one heck of a body horror concept that’s sure to come back in a future issue. As guest artist, Bodenheim’s rendering of the issue is a stark difference from Joe Bennett’s. There’s no spreads of horrifying anatomy to be found here, instead the tightly packed layouts imply the efficiency of Fortean’s attack in addition to how compounded the formative moments in his life are in his memory. That said, the sense of scale persists. When Fortean recalls encountering the Hulk, his close-up is miniscule compared to the carnage occurring above him on the page.
Uncanny X-Men #22 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10) It’s a wrap on Matthew Rosenberg’s Uncanny run with this week’s Uncanny X-Men #22, and as with the run as a whole the issue aims high and falls short. If a not-insignificant portion of the criticism directed at your book revolves around a character death, it seems ill-advised to ramp up the speed with which characters meet an untimely end in a single issue to the point that it starts to feel like a running gag. That said, Rosenberg’s script does an efficient job tying up the loose ends of Emma Frost’s global campaign to hide mutants in plain sight, leaving the incoming Jonathan Hickman not with a clean slate, but a lot to work wit. Artist Salvador Larroca delivers solid action scenes but frequently tips into uncanny valley with the faces (Scott is a dead-ringer for James Marsden in one panel, and Jamie Madrox floats somewhere between Dean Cain and Henry Cavill. The effect is softened to a degree by GURU-eFX’s warm, lively colors, but it still serves to pull the emotional punch of an issue that can’t find the sweet spot between deep emotional drama and tongue-in-cheek action-adventure.
Wonder Woman: Come Back to Me #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10) The latest of these reprints, Wonder Woman: Come Back to Me by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, is unfortunately the weakest of the Trinity’s titles. Some of this stems from their structuring of the issue. It starts with a day at the beach for Steve and Diana, followed by her helping to deal with a forest fire. That’s a tangent to the main plot of Steve Trevor taking part in an experimental test flight that goes wrong, but takes up the bulk of the first chapter (as was released in the Walmart issues), with Trevor’s plot getting its own climax and conclusion before Etta hurriedly tells Diana about what’s happened to Steve in the space of a page. Their plotting is more assured in the second half and suggests what follows could be a fun romp, though a more pressing problem is that Chad Harron and Alex Sinclair appear to be the wrong choice for this book based on their work here. Harron’s take lacks consistency, with the forest fire scene alternating between loose linework of the firefighters and the sharper panels of Diana at work, with both styles having any potential texture sucked out of them by Sinclair’s flat colouring.
Resonant #1 (Published by Vault Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10) Resonant #1 is truly stunning. An eerie post-apocalyptic story of family and survival, Resonant is captivating from the cover to the final panel. It tells the story of single father Paxton and his three children: eldest daughter Bec, middle brother Ty, and baby brother Stef, living alone in a remote cabin and riding out an unseen horror signaled only by the relentless chirping of insects. Too much detail on the plot in this issue spoils what makes it so captivating -- the creeping dread of something dangerous and unknowable just around the corner, the fraught drama of the family’s seclusion. Writer David Andry’s script captures familial warmth and the strain of being alone together for so long all at once, while artist Alejandro Aragon and Jason Wordie offer up stunning wide shots of secluded forests and abandoned highways. There’s an uneasy sketchiness to Aragon’s lines, something mutable and fragile that captures the delicate balance Paxton, Bec, Ty, and Stef have been careful to maintain at the end of the world. Deron Bennett continues to deliver as one of the best letterers in modern comics -- his work here makes it clear how vital letterers are to comics as a visual medium.
Invaders #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The fallout from Namor’s engineered war becomes clear in Invaders #7. Writer Chip Zdarsky kicks off a new arc with the “day after” as Captain America, Bucky, and the world at large try to deal with the citizens Namor has transformed into Atlanteans. These sort of Tom Clancy-esque superheroics are still proving to be really fun here plot-wise, but it is Zdarsky’s characterizations (especially in the increasingly unhinged Namor) that keeps the book from going completely adrift. Dual artists Butch Guice and Carlos Magno also continue to impress, forming a sort of visually symbiotic relationship with Magno continuing to handle the present day action and intrigue well while Guice again provides thematically rich flashbacks to WWII. While I worry that readers looking for a new “jumping on point” might be a bit lost Invaders #7 continues to give the “heroes of yesteryear” a bright spotlight.
Aquaman #50 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):It's a giant-sized welcome home for Arthur Curry in the fiftieth issue of the Protector of the Deep's latest run. Aquaman returns to Amnesty Bay with his new crew in tow, only to be met by a cavalcade of reporters and an inquisitive Wonder Woman demanding answers. Meanwhile, without a clear succession plan for the crown, Queen Mera's pregnancy causes strife within the Atlantean Council. Kelly Sue Deconnick imbues Aquaman and Mera with relatable human fears and flaws, packing the double-sized issue with a hearty amount of plot and meaty character moments. Plot-wise, a couple of intriguing mysteries are set up here, compelling new readers to jam Aquaman into their pull-lists. Robson Rocha and Eduardo Pansica's pencils are mostly serviceable, rendering the realistic DC house style with confidence. However, the script calls for Mera's pregnancy to be visible, and she still cuts an unrealistically sinewy figure. Considering the relatively light tone, the eye-catching cover (with 'BLACK MANTA RETURNS' emblazoned on it) adds a serious dose of suspense that keeps the pages turning fast. Aquaman #50 is a hefty chunk of superhero goodness, an accessible jumping-on point for new readers and the compelling opening chapter of a promising new story.
Spider-Man: Life Story #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley’s grand alternate universe take on Spider-Man rolls through the Morlun Saga and Civil War in Spider-Man: Life Story #5. In this penultimate issue of the miniseries, we open on 2006, with Ben Riley dead at the hands of Morlun and Iron Man. Captain America’s conflict is spreading throughout the nation, forcing Peter to once again don the costume for his family. I will admit a certain annoyance that Peter in this series is always retiring and un-retiring, but Zdarsky’s world-building continues to be very impressive and meticulously laid out. Artist Mark Bagley also “ages” gracefully along with Peter. Taking the energy and bounce of his pencils in other Spider books and molding it to Zdarsky’s grizzled and aged take on the Marvel Universe, he imbues the pages with both tones very well. Though we only have one more issue to go, don’t