Greetings, ‘Rama reviewers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off with Oblong Oscar Maltby, who kicks off today’s column with Alpha Flight...
Alpha Flight: True North #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): An all-star Canadian creative crew presents the return of the frostiest team in the Marvel Universe with Alpha Flight: True North #1, a one-shot anthology with three stories, each one focusing on two members of Canada’s finest. First up, Jim Zub and Max Dunbar offer up a Snowbird and Talisman tale – Dunbar’s art is smooth and stylish, while Zub’s story has a strong emotional core even if the narration is a little heavy-handed. Djibril Morisette-Phan and Jeb McKay provide the issue’s standout story with a shameful look into Puck’s unscrupulous past. Morisette-Phan’s moody inks bring the atmosphere, whilst McKay’s script is poignant and cathartic with just a touch of humor. Completing the trio is Ed Brisson and Scott Hepburn’s espionage-tinged take on Heather and James Hudson. Heavily steeped in continuity, this one’s a real treat for Alpha Flight fanatics. Hepburn’s art is the weakest of the three here, but they’re still a solid set of pages even if they lack the strong adherence to a theme that the other two stories excel at. All in all, Alpha Flight: True North #1 looks great and reads even better. It’s a one-shot that begs the question – where’s the ongoing series?!
Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #1 (Published by DC; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): “And Then…”, Brian Michael Bendis and a legendary team of pencillers rocket through the ages in Legion of Super-heroes: Millennium #1, the epic first installment of a two-part tale that promises to bring order to DC’s muddled future timelines and reintroduce the Legion of Super-Heroes. Bendis makes the rather left-field choice here to focus on Rose & Thorn from out of his Action Comics run - making this first part an intriguing new status quo of a previously D-list character. The shadow of Rose’s dangerous dual personality looms over the entire issue, effectively re-establishing Thorn’s threat level and Rose’s battle to keep her suppressed. Jim Lee, Dustin Nguyen, Andrea Sorrentino and Andre Lima Araujo all bring their trademark flair to each portion of the story – from Lee’s angsty, growling battle scenes to Araujo’s hyper-detailed renders of a sterile future. A compelling and oddball start for the new Legion of Super-Heroes.
Immortal Hulk #23 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Immortal Hulk #23 elevates its action-packed narrative with Jackie McGee’s inner thoughts about her connection with the Hulk family and her viewpoint on their monstrous tendencies. The slower aspect of the issue is the main conflict between the Shadow Base and the Hulk family. It’s starting to feel a bit drawn out, and the addition of Alpha Flight doesn’t help this story’s slight pacing issues. Joe Bennett’s pencils continue to stun as our heroes and villains trade punches, but they truly shine when Bennett showcases Bruce’s most gruesome moments. The Immortal Hulk #23 could have been your average action issue, but does a great job at giving a human element as Al Ewing gets to further develop his new cast member to the Hulk mythos.
Something is Killing the Children #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): A monster in the local woods slays a group of boys and the lone survivor joins a slayer as she goes on the hunt in James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera’s thriller. This issue provides a clinic in pacing and the only slow moments occur in order to allow the tension to build and horror to set in for the reader. Miquel Muerto’s colors also expertly underscore the sense of dread and tension throughout. The area where the comic fell a little short was with the James’ principal who served Tynion’s purpose to be a support for the beleaguered teen but came across as trying too hard to be cool versus a true mentor. Aside from any hiccups with supporting character cast development, this first issue delivers a solid story that fans of Stranger Things will certainly enjoy.
Savage Avengers #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Savage Avengers ends its first arc with blood and blades in the action-packed fifth issue. With his band of killers finally standing shoulder-to-shoulder, writer Gerry Duggan aims them all like bloodthirsty cannons at the Marrow God and its puppet master, dark wizard Kulan Gath. The result is a darkly funny and consistently gross showdown between the team in the horror, prompting them to get creative in their attacks before turning the war back to the wizard that started it. Duggan even delivers a grim cliffhanger of sorts, setting up this “non-team” of brutes for the second arc nicely. Artist Mike Deodato leaves it all, literally, on the floor here, clipping limbs and monster parts across each page in incisive and eye catching layouts, bolstered by the leathery colors of Frank Martin. Though it may have taken a bit too long to get to this point Savage Avengers #5 finally delivers on the promise of this team of killers and monsters.
Doomsday Clock #11 (Published by DC; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Watchmen deconstructed superhero comics, while Doomsday Clock deconstructs the DC Universe. Issue #11 marks the penultimate issue of this hyped-up DC limited series, but sadly, it left me rather underwhelmed. Compounded by the delays that have sapped this title’s momentum, this issue doubles down on my biggest problem with this series, which is too much teasing and not enough showing. As a DC event, it’s a bit disappointing, but as a love letter to Watchmen, there were a lot of things to enjoy – especially Ozymandias, as he reminds us exactly why he’s such a menacing villain when he’s hiding in the shadows playing puppet master. Writer Geoff Johns beautifully showcases his love for Watchmen and the DC universe with his analysis of DC’s superhero universe through the lens of Watchmen. On artwork, Gary Frank’s pencils are phenomenally detailed as they give their own flare to the Watchmen mythos, while still embracing Dave Gibbons’ dark tones. The finale is almost here, and the clock is about to hit midnight — but I just don’t know if the series has enough time to stick the landing.
Ghost-Spider Annual #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Spider-Gwen enters Murder World – just not her Murder World, which truly flips Arcade’s devious power set on its ear. Gwen is forced to go up against Peter Parker’s biggest fears, and one of the most interesting aspects of this Annual is the similarities and differences Gwen has with Peter’s demons — for example, going against the Lizard and instead grappling with the guilt of losing her universe’s Peter Parker, or battling Peter’s superheroic colleagues (and her universe’s greatest enemies) Punisher and Daredevil. But the real gut-punch was having Gwen Stacy learn that Earth 616’s Gwen is only remembered as a victim. Artist Pere Perez gives a sleek look to the book. He aces this action-packed issue, and I was absolutely floored by Rachel Rosenberg’s coloring. She does a splendid job at meshing both Ian Herring and Rico Renzi’s style to deliver some wonderfully vibrant visuals. Ghost-Spider Annual #1 is a really great interlude to Gwen’s new life as she tries to find balance between living in two different universes.
Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy #1 (Published by DC; Review by Oscar Maltby; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Poison Ivy’s struggling to keep it together – literally! Jody Houser and Adriena Melo kick off an six-part miniseries with Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy #1, chronicling the trials and tribulations of rebuilding their lives after Ivy’s leafy rebirth. Hi-Fi’s colors revel in the contrast between the pale white of Harley, her crimson wardrobe and Ivy’s vibrantly green complexion whilst Melo’s textured pencils pick out all the intricate details of Harley and Ivy’s world – from out-of-place strand of hair to stray leaf. Her rendition of The Floronic Man is a real visual highlight. On the script front, Houser’s story provides some solid character beats for both Harley and Ivy – each one suffering a different flavor of existential crisis. There’s a relatable element to Harley second-guessing herself here, whilst Ivy’s struggle to regain her humanity tugs at the heart-strings – with a healthy dose of body horror to mix things up. Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy #1 proves yet again that these two together are a winning combination.
Fantastic Four #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Fantastic Four sees value in their mistakes as they celebrate the crash that gave them their powers all those years ago. Dan Slott and Paco Medina deliver a great adventure where Marvel’s first family get to reminisce about the old days and show just how far they’ve come. That said, I would have liked some more explanation for the motives behind revisiting this mission other than nostalgic reasons – it’s a problem I can easily overlook for the story’s emotional payoff. On artwork, Medina’s pencils are sleek and is a nice fit with Slott’s energetic script. Fantastic Four #14 is a fun, nostalgic issue that adds a new, exciting layer to the team’s origin story.
Justice League #31 (Published by DC; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Justice/Doom War gets theoretical (not to mention a hell of a lot of fun) in Justice League #31. Dividing the team between the past, present, and future and teaming them with major DC icons along the way, writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV start ratcheting up the tension as the forces of light and dark continue their hunt for the building blocks of the universe. The mythic storytelling concerning the Monitors does, admittedly, get a bit techno-babble at times, but the sheer scale and big superhero energy of the arc cannot be denied. Nor can the tremendous and sumptuously colored artwork of Jorge Jimenez and Alejandro Sanchez, both of whom bounce well from era-to-era with voluminous pencils and expressively cool character models. Though I am not sure just how much bigger the Justice/Doom War could get, Justice League #31 continues the title’s streak of splashy, mythic storytelling.
Future Foundation #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Future Foundation’s second installment leans heavily on exposition and action, but finds solace between the budding relationship of Julie Power and Rikki Barnes. The series still struggles with balancing its large cast as they all try finding their voices in the narrative. If the issue focused less on Reed’s expository dialogue there could have been more room for team building, allowing audience members to feel connected to these characters and their adventure. On artwork, Will Robson and Paco Diaz give a nice cartoony flavor to the series and does a good job at fitting the title’s large cast without it feeling too crowded. Future Foundation’s first arc has been a bloated one, but still has many sparks that showcase that this can be a potentially great series.