Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick things off with Mischievous Matthew Sibley, who takes a look at Powers of X...
Powers of X #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): There’s still charts and infographics in Powers of X #3 – including a pair that confirm more about the surviving mutants of X2 – but Jonathan Hickman shifts into a different gear for this chapter. It takes place purely in this era and its narrative is more action-packed than any previous instalment as these mutants launch an attack on the Church of the Ascendancy. Everything happening in Year 100 is reminiscent of how Hickman’s own East of West exists in a world threatening to explode into chaos at any moment, where the vibe is one of perpetual tension and how the pace ramps up when something does kick off. R.B. Silva and Marte Gracia are an outstanding art team, with this issue showing how well they build a sustained sequence. It gets more chaotic as it goes on, but they’ve got a strong handle on where the characters are despite any changes to the geography. This issue isn’t as heady as previous issues from the outset, but still manages to recontextualize everything that’s come before by the end and it’s simply thrilling to read something that manages to shake proceedings up so drastically as a result of its structure.
Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #2 (Published by DC; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The trickiness of creating a narrative with an unconventional structure is ensuring that the pieces are entertaining by themselves rather than being abstracted for the sole purpose of confusing the audience. In the case of Jimmy Olsen #2, Matt Fraction, Steve Lieber, Nathan Fairbairn and Clayton Cowles continue to tell a few different stories: there’s the grudge between Joachim Olsson and Luthais Alexander back in the alleged good ol’ days, a modern-day tale of brotherly frustration between Jimmy and Julius Olsen, whatever Lex is up to in the present, and a centerpiece scene which goes to prove that Jimmy really is Superman’s Pal. The vignette-style storytelling promises these will eventually come together, but each section is a delight without an urgent need for all the threads to join right this minute. Fraction’s humor pairs well with his lead character, with both moments of witty dialogue as well as visual moments that Lieber and Fairbairn knock out of the park due to the pair’s sense of timing and expression. It’s a welcome return to Big Two comics for Fraction and it’s great to see him matched with an artist of similar sensibilities in Lieber.
Daredevil #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Matt Murdock and Detective Cole North face impossible choices in Daredevil #10. Given a gritty, highly detailed Gotham Central-esque energy and look by guest artists Jorge Fornes and Jordie Bellaire, Chip Zdarsky continues to back his leading men into engaging and compromising moral deadlocks. North’s is having to face down the crooked cops in his unit while Matt is still struggling to “get the Devil behind him.” It all leads up to an explosive, immensely beautiful showdown in a police station house, in which Zdarsky steps out of the way of the art to let it speak for itself. Though this run of Daredevil has been steadily improving from the start, #10 shows there might not be a ceiling on just how good it can get.
Batman #77 (Published by DC; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10) By now you’ve likely heard about the major death that’s featured in this issue, but outside of that, this issue doesn’t feel impactful in any way. Tom King has been messing with reader’s expectations throughout his run but it’s gotten to the point where his plot machinations just feel frivolous. It’s hard to enjoy a story when there’s nothing that really anchors it. The art team manages to do some decent work, though. Mikel Janin’s action sequences that feature Damian Wayne are a standout, but Tony S. Daniel’s interludes with Bruce and Selina seem weirdly off-model at times. This is strange issue because it feels technically proficient but tonally transient — an odd mix for a writer as intentional as King.
Pretty Violent #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Derek Hunter, Jason Young and Spencer Holt’s Pretty Violent reads like an homage to The Pro and I Hate Fairyland, and for readers unfamiliar with one or both of these titles, this comic book will prove funny and full of rated-R slapstick over-the-top visuals. Readers more familiar with Garth Ennis and Scottie Young’s stories, however, will likely find this less inspiring and a bit predictable, as it dials up certain superhero tropes to comedic levels. Sophomoric humor dictates the story and art, so for fans of that brand of comic, this will be sure to please.
Superman: Year One #2 (Published by DC; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10) Frank Miller and John Romita, Jr.’s take on the Big Blue Boy Scout is really far from the pedigree of its creators or the “Year One” name. Miller seems to have trouble reconciling Clark’s power set with his outlook on life - he plays fast and loose with both, but fails to really say anything about Superman as a character. The Navy Seal plot only exists to serve as a convoluted explanation for why Clark thinks killing is bad. Then Miller has Clark trying to prove himself to Poseidon so that he can date Lori Lemaris, an actual mermaid. John Romita, Jr. fares a bit better than Miller this time around, because there are some big action sequences, particularly during the Atlantis sequences. But Superman: Year One feels rudderless and bland, lacking the creativity that its creators are known for.
Jane Foster: Valkyrie #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Jane Foster: Valkyrie #2 is the perfect example of how to do an action issue, and is a wonderful follow up to the series’ near flawless premiere. The creative team does a splendid job at exploring Valkyrie’s new power set, all while showcasing the importance of Jane Foster’s empathy. There is also a great set-up for where the series will go from here, as Jane learns more about her new job as a Valkyrie. Cafu’s pencils and Jesus Aburtov are out of this world as the series has some of the strongest artwork on comic book stands. Jane Foster: Valkyrie continues to be a must read — the series challenges what readers expect from a superhero adventure and cranks the dial to 11, creating one heck of a fun issue.
Scooby Doo, Where Are You? #100 (Published by DC; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Mystery, Inc. celebrates not one, but two major milestones with classic hijinks in Scooby Doo, Where Are You #100. Celebrating both a 50th anniversary and 100th issue milestone, DC’s long-running all-ages title simply buckles down and plays the hits. Delivering two equally charming tales of faux ghouls and plenty of snacks, writers Sholly Fisch and Jack Briglio toss in the gang into wryly silly situations like facing the ghost of a Rin Tin Tin analogue at Scooby’s old obedience school and squaring off against a “new, hip” reality show version of themselves. Artists Roberto Barrios and Walter Carzon also are in the gag, detailing both stories in familiar, yet energetic pencils. Pencils that evoke a sort of Archie Comics-esque feel that really suits Mystery, Inc. It is very comforting to know that even after 50 years and 100 issues Scooby Doo, Where Are You? isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. It just wants to tell spooky, silly mystery stories. Therein lies the charm.
Aquaman #51 (Published by DC; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Aquaman and Aqualad spend some quality time with one another in the 51st installment of Aquaman. Taking young Jackson Hyde under his wing, Arthur sets to introducing him to the new Amnesty Bay. At the same time, Mera is keeping up appearances in Atlantis, attempting to forge new alliances and intrigues using her sham wedding to Vulko as a front. Though the newfound softness and dynamics Kelly Sue DeConnick has found with the characters work well for the title, the compatibility of the plots above and below the surface are still a bit too far removed from one another to really meld well. Robson Rocha’s artwork, however, is still top-notch. Though significantly quieter than the previous issues, aside from a monster filled cliffhanger, Rocha handles the pathos well, providing expressive character models and stunning seaside vistas throughout. The Kelly Sue DeConnick era of Aquaman still hasn’t completely solidified yet, but #51 shows that it is getting there.
The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The Magnificent Ms. Marvel finally returns to grounded storytelling as Kamala comes back to Jersey City and deals with her father’s new diagnosis. This is the type of storytelling I’ve missed from Ms. Marvel. Her space adventures felt out of place, especially to start a new volume with a new creative team, but her character works best as a friendly neighborhood superhero, and this issue does a solid job at getting her back into this role. I liked seeing Kamala interacting with her friends again, but the weakest aspect of this story was the main villain. His narrative felt forgettable compared to the rest of the issue’s deeper storytelling. On artwork, Minkyu Jung and Ian Herring do a good job at keeping the style of the series consistent to what has come before. The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #6 is a step in the right direction, as the new creative team returns to the character’s roots.
Year of the Villain: Black Mask #1 (Published by DC; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): This first issue does a few things well while not completely sticking the landing. Roman Sionis provides fertile territory for leveling up a criminal mastermind to a world power; however, Tom Taylor’s presentation of him as a bumbling robber undercuts Lex Luthor’s choice to bring this villain to the next level. That said, the origin story is both concise yet compelling. Likewise, the opportunity to see Batwoman operating in a new environment apart from Batman feels promising as well. Not surprisingly, artist Cully Hamner and colorist Dave Stewart’s art is as polished as ever and keeps readers engaged throughout. The emotions – both overt and subtle – come across clearly and help readers feel the insidiousness of its lead villain even if his actions leave us scratching our head early on.
History of the Marvel Universe #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): If nothing else, this project is a wonderful showcase for Javier Rodriquez’s art. Turn to any random page and you’ll find a point in time of the Marvel Universe rendered with a pop-art flair, like an early one which involves Namor, Steve Rodgers and Blade. Álvaro López’s inks only make his linework look sharper. History of the Marvel Universe is an ambitious idea, in its attempts to document a timeline as lengthy as this one, but Mark Waid’s bullet point-esque script is as dry as a Wikipedia entry, just providing an overview, never digging deeper. Coupled with how pages are designed to stand alone, there’s no real cohesive flow through the issue, beyond brief insert panels involving Steve on his way to becoming Captain America, a minuscule detail on the pages it features on. One can appreciate the lesser-known details of continuity it ropes in along the way, like a reference to the Gibborim that features on the same page as one related to Peter Parker and the establishing of S.H.I.E.L.D, but it never seems in service of a deeper point than noting that one event happened after another.
Snotgirl #14 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Lottie’s deepest darkest secrets seep through as the world of social media learns about her relationship with Coolgirl — and even worse, her snot! Snotgirl continues to blur the lines between reality and fantasy as Lottie’s online and offline presence begin to fuse. In this issue, Lottie must deal with the turmoil and consequences that come along with putting your life online as she ultimately and unknowingly signs her privacy away. Bryan Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung continue to do the impossible as they make their audience truly care for this shallow social media mogul. Lottie is a victim of circumstance, and with every passing issue I find myself feeling bad for her — it makes me wonder how her life could have been different if she had one healthy connection to rely on. Snotgirl is a hyper-realized story about our own relationship with social media, and #14 beautifully continues to tell this almost horrifying tale. It explores how the mask we create online can never live up to who we are in real life, and how this affects our own interpersonal relationships and psyche.
Superior Spider-Man #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It is a different kind of Spider-Man versus Norman Osborn showdown in Superior Spider-Man #10. Picking up hanging threads from Spider-Geddon, writer Christos Gage shows a truly reformed Doc Ock, one connecting to his neighborhood and learning how real relationships can enrich him. But this is all threatened by the Norman Osborn Spider-Man and Spiders-Man, who are now taking a page from the Kingpin’s playbook to ruin Otto’s life in San Fran. This isn’t anything new, but the way Gage continues to mine real emotion from Otto’s new life as a Spider-Man is still paying unexpected dividends. Artist Mike Hawthorne also continues to thrive with the Superior Spider-Man title, delivering raw emotion and solidly kinetic action thanks to his stony, smooth pencils. To be honest, I kind of thought the whole Superior Spider-Man thing would have been done and retconned by now, but this title continues to show that there are more story threads to be pulled here for the time being.