Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off with Jealousy-Inducing Justin Partridge, who takes a look at Absolute Carnage...
Absolute Carnage #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Carnage horde grows in the driven second installment of Absolute Carnage. With the villains completely established as well as the stakes surrounding the symbiote codexes Carnage and Knull are after, Donny Cates puts Venom, Spider-Man and their allies on the defensive. He does so by extricating them from the pitched battle inside Ravencroft and dropping them into the streets of New York, as they scramble to warn anyone who’s ever worn an alien costume. Cates’ Spider-Man continues to add a fun, wry energy to the dire, horror-tinged event, but he doubles down on it in relation to Eddie, allowing the two to ease back into their sharp “frienemies” mode comfortably. Artist Ryan Stegman continues to impress as well — though the opening scenes are far more closely cropped and intimate than I would have expected, the scenes of Carnage and his minions flooding through the city is truly terrifying to behold. Though a bit more standard issue superhero fare than the opening, Absolute Carnage #2 shows that there is still some fun to be had in this newest symbiote-centric event.
Superman #14 (Published by DC; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): “The Unity Saga” finally enters its endgame in Superman #14. Fed up with the secrets and lies that are threatening the larger intergalactic community, the House of El calls for a “Space United Nations” of sorts. This is, of course, after a massive space battle in the ruins of Krypton with Rogol Zaar. Though Brian Michael Bendis has been making great use of this title’s more larger scale, I have to admit the pace of it could use a bit of pep. We start in that direction thanks to Bendis’ opener — starting with Superman’s pitch to the universe before cutting earlier to see how we got there — as well as the massive return that graces the final pages, but I would really like to see more brisk writing in the next arc. And speaking of massive, Ivan Reis continues to swing for the fences on Superman. Dominated with widescreen, richly detailed splash pages, Reis leaves it all on the field once again, moving from cinematic establishing shots to bolting action with ease. Big, splashy, but still somehow slower than you would expect Superman #14 might need some energy, but it definitely has promise.
Marvel Comics #1000 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Marvel Comics #1000 is a true celebration of Marvel’s 80-year publication history, and one of my favorite anthology issues of the year. While I admit some skepticism over the book’s one-page story structure, Al Ewing and a host of legendary creators were able to create a cohesive and even emotional story. My favorite of the bunch is Gerry Conway and Greg Land’s MJ narrative as she talks about her feelings towards Gwen’s death. MJ pours her heart out in these few panels, and it was a nice change of pace to see Gwen's death from the perspective of MJ instead of Peter. “We’re Calling Him Ben,” “She,” “The MJ Memoirs,” and “The Celebration Dinner” were also a few standouts from the pack. Marvel Comics #1000 has a story for every type of Marvel fan — it doesn’t only celebrate the past, but gives us a nice glimpse for what’s to come in the future.
Batman/Superman #1 (Published by DC; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): In Batman/Superman #1, writer Joshua Williamson demonstrates a clear understanding of both Batman and Superman’s voice and what makes them tick. And as both heroes explore the next major plot from The Batman Who Laughs, readers really get an opportunity to see how the duo interact and respond to one another, which makes for some interesting reading. Likewise, artist Dave Marquez and colorist Alejandro Sanchez deliver a clean and iconic rendition of these classic superheroes all the while creating a horrific series of interactions with Batman’s doppelganger and his minions. Although this sort of story continues to remove Batman from his street-level origins, it still delivers a sort of mystery story as Batman and Superman chase their enemy and seek to find out how to stop his plans to infect this world.
Runaways #24 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Runaways aren’t superheroes. They’re a family that just happens to have superpowers. Well, Karolina Dean wants to change that. She doesn’t want to be anything like her parents, and needs to do everything in her power to stay good – so why not put on a costume and a mask? Rainbow Rowell and Andres Genolet showcase a very realistic portrayal of superheroism — for example, how it’s actually not easy to find a crime. This ensues in some of the series best comedic moments, including Nico and Karolina landing into a dance battle for the ages. Genolet’s artwork does a great job at acing these comedic beats and the more emotional scenes between Nico and Karolina. Matt Wilson is one of the best colorists in the game, and proves that with his work on Runaways as his vibrant lighting brings even more life to the title. Runaways #24 is just plain old fun, and sometimes that’s all you need in a comic.
Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Miles Morales takes a stand against the symbiote horde in Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales #1. Picking up on threads from the opening issues of this goopy event crossover, writer Saladin Ahmed delivers a perfectly serviceable side-story, highlighting Miles’ charm and will to fight. Unfortunately, those that have read this week’s Absolute Carnage #2 will already have the gist of this story, aside from the fairly obvious cliffhanger. But artist Federico Vicentini does, however, give this tie-in a distinctly slicker style than the stony main event. Rendered with cleaner lines and more velocity in the action, Vicentini’s artwork sets itself apart as a tie-in nicely thanks to its divergent art style. That isn’t nothing, but beyond that, Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales #1 may be for completionists only.
Action Comics #1014 (Published by DC; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The Invisible Mafia of Metropolis gets a little more visible in Action Comics #1014. Taking a step back slightly from the ongoing “Leviathan Problem,” writer Brian Michael Bendis starts to flesh out the Red Cloud and her benefactor Marisol Leone. Hinged around Leone finally revealing herself to the Daily Planet staff (and offering ungodly sums of money), Bendis’ script is very down-to-Earth this time around, which is great for the characters but less great for the overall energy of the title. Guest artist Szymon Kudranski though is still very much excelling during his time on Action. Skipping well between wide-scale action, like in the sequence of Superman taking on a troll, and grounded interaction between characters, which they stage in cinematic, crosscutting panels. Though certainly a dip in the energy Action Comics has enjoyed over the past few months, Issue #1014 still has cards to play.
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11 is a fun one-off that allows Mary Jane to be the hero of the day. Following Nick Spencer’s MJ-focused story in Amazing Spider-Man #25, this is a much more laid-back version about MJ and Peter’s connection and an outlet to showcase her feistiness. This issue even delivers a small team-up between MJ and another wallcrawler, which was a nice surprise. On artwork, Juann Cabal’s pencils fits the simplicity of the story well, even if I would have preferred a more detailed look for the book. Overall, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11 is a great showcase of the many facets of Mary Jane Watson, and is a warm issue that nicely matches the tone of the rest of the series.
Absolute Carnage: Lethal Protectors #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): It’s Die Hard with monsters starring Misty Knight in Absolute Carnage: Lethal Protectors #1. Following up on teases from Absolute Carnage #2 and the Cult of Carnage one-shot, writer Frank Tieri throws Misty into the thick of a sacrifice led by the infected John Jameson and longtime Carnage cohorts Doppelganger and Shriek. But that’s pretty much it, even though the cover suggests a full on street-heroes reunion, with characters like Iron Fist and Cloak and Dagger completely MIA. I have to admit it is disappointing to not get that story, but maybe some icky, horror flavored fun can be found in later issues. Artist Flaviano however really comes alive in the dingy, bloody setting, adapting well to the horrific imagery with smooth, almost modular character models. Perhaps once we get in and out of Ravencroft, Lethal Protectors will start to blossom, but for now, it seems too concerned with the dark and muck of this crossover event.
Batman: Curse of the White Knight #2 (Published by DC; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Fans of Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth will find the same fast-paced, action-packed kind of story and art they’ve come to expect in Batman: Curse of the White Knight #2, as this second issue continues to deliver on this Elseworlds-style take on the Dark Knight and Joker. Fans of 1990s Batman will also appreciate the way in which Murphy makes us take Jean Paul Valley and Azrael far more seriously, building a rich history to bring the Order of St. Dumas into the deeper origins of Gotham, the Wayne family, and Batman along with the present-day depiction of the would-be-Batman as a black ops specialist in the employ of the elites of Gotham. Combine that with Murphy’s incredibly dynamic artwork, and you’ve got yourself a winner with Curse of the White Knight #2.
Spider-Man: Life Story #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Spider-Man: Life Story continues to put a fresh twist on classic Spidey stories, and the miniseries’ finale issue doesn’t disappoint. This is Spider-Man’s life story — so how does it conclude? Well — where it began. All of Peter’s life he’s been haunted by guilt, but in the end he’s able to find peace, leaving this Spidey fan with a smile on her face and even some tears. This beautiful last chapter embraces what has come before as it explores the era of Superior Spider-Man, with the sacrifice Peter makes in the end landing a true gut punch. Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley truly ace these emotional beats, making Spider-Man: Life Story a true celebration of the character’s publication history that I can see becoming a modern classic in the years to come.
Power Pack: Grow Up #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): As part of Marvel’s 80th anniversary, the original creative team for Power Pack returns for a celebratory one-shot. Reading this story, I felt transported back to when I first read the original series. This issue focuses on Katie’s insecurities of being the youngest sibling, while Alex hits a milestone at age 13. I was happy to see a significant amount of panel time spent on Katie, since Julie and Alex now have a monthly series with Future Foundation. The artwork by June Brigman was very impressive as Tamra Bonvillain’s coloring made her pencil’s really pop. I also enjoyed Gurihiru’s art style – as it fits the all-ages tone of the series very well, but it was a bit jarring to see the visuals switch halfway through the story. Overall, Power Pack: Grow Up #1 isn’t the most memorable story, but is a fun nostalgic trip down memory lane – focusing on a team that doesn’t get nearly enough spotlight.