Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off with Magical Matthew Sibley, who takes a look at Batman Universe...
Batman Universe #3 (Published by DC; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): While Brian Michael Bendis has tackled a variety of books since making the move to DC, Batman Universe is the one he seems to be having the most fun with. With Nick Derington and Dave Stewart in tow, Bendis finds Batman waking up on Thanagar, unaware of how his hunt for the Riddler has led him from Gorilla City to outer space. The Thanagarians are equally confused about why he’s there, with both parties trying to get to the bottom of this particular conundrum. This section doesn’t last long – this is a reprint of a story previously published in the Walmart Giants, which ran in 12-page chapters – before moving to the next idea and then onto the second half, which is drastically different in content. Brimming with ideas about where to take Bruce that a traditional book wouldn’t allow for, Derington and Stewart’s artwork is luminous, although more impressive is how their layouts and storytelling flow manage to pack everything into the page count. In a time where decompression is bemoaned, and with Bendis’ usual style being used as a prime example, this is a delightful and sharp-looking counterpoint that goes by all too quickly.
Daredevil #11 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Timely cameos and pretenders in devil horns spice up Daredevil #11. Opening a new arc titled “Through Hell,” writer Chip Zdarsky continues to complicate Matt Murdock’s life. And, of course, it involves women - mainly Elektra, who is back in the dark regarding Matt’s secret identity, and new creation Mindy Libris, mob-wife and current love interest. But making matters even more complicated are the people donning their own Daredevil costumes and taking to the streets. While this may not be the most exciting of opening issues, Zdarsky’s attention to building up his own corner of Hell’s Kitchen is still very fun to behold. As is the artwork of Marco Checchetto, who continues to adapt very well to the grounded, more realistic bent this volumes of Daredevil has been enjoying. Down-to-earth and filled with crime drama realness Daredevill #11 keeps this volume firmly on the right track.
Punisher Kill Krew #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Frank Castle is on a mission - a mission to hunt for Frost Giants and other monsters spawned from Norse mythology and beyond. There’s not much to Punisher: Kill Krew other than that, and Gerry Duggan knows it. It’s a goofy concept and so he plays it up, taking it as far as he can push it (read: includes a robot shark) in order to write an outlandish action romp. The main draw to the limited series is Juan Ferreyra’s art, from the moody opening, where three chatting Frost Giants are oblivious Frank appearing behind them like an apparition in the blustering weather, to Frank’s iconic battle van being carried through the purple and pink-hued sky by a magical goat. The creative team manages to steep this book in the violence being enacted without luxuriating in it and Frank’s revenge-driven vendetta too much. There are some limitations to the approach - namely that this book isn’t one that can be returned to again and again in order to uncover hidden nuances and further depth on a reread - but it gets what drives the Punisher and how that, in turn, can drive a story.
Pandemica #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by C.K. Stewart, ‘Rama Rating 5 out of 10): Someone’s created a customizable bioweapon - one specifically designed for ethnic cleansing, weaponizing diseases like sickle cell anemia and Tay-Sachs to target communities of color across the globe. Jonathan Maberry’s Pandemica #1, out this week from IDW, has a promising thriller premise that doesn’t quite land as a comic book. Maberry’s script is heavy on the expository dialogue, relying more on his narration than the art to keep this week’s debut issue going. While Alex Sanchez delivers a dynamic action sequence near the middle of the book, characters’ faces are often indistinct and muddy, a situation not helped by Jay Fotos’ thematically appropriate but bleak colors. The art is technically fine, but the scripting and layouts just aren’t particularly interesting, a fatal flaw for a book with a premise as instantly high-stakes as “bioterrorists enact global ethnic cleansing campaigns for the highest bidders.” The dialogue and narration here would hold up fine on their own, without any art, and the opening issue isn't fast-paced or compelling enough to make it memorable for the month-long wait between issues — this one might have worked better as a novel.
Gotham City Monsters #1 (Published by DC; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): The idea of bringing together a handful of DC’s underutilized monsters in Monstertown sounds promising, but the overly dour and self-serious tone Steve Orlando and Amancay Nahuelpan take sucks the life out of this premise faster than any vampire could. Overwrought dialogue and narration leads to a feeling of the characters trying too hard to be taken seriously, and character development leans too heavily on whether readers are aware of the shared DC universe for this to be an effective introduction to the cast and why we should care about them. And while the art was serviceable, there was a lack of dynamic pacing and layouts to create a sense of mystery and excitement that might have helped cement the intended tone. Gotham City Monsters already felt like a long shot title just based on concept alone, but without the execution to back it up, these horror heroes might be (un)dead on arrival.
Invaders #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The voice in Namor’s head grows stronger and deadlier in Invaders #9. Armed with the Serpent Crown and the psychic pushing of his fallen wartime friend, Namor is growing increasingly unstable, even by his own admittance. Which therein lies the real tragedy and action of Invaders as Chip Zdarsky continues to push all of the Invaders to a breaking point dealing with Namor’s crusade. Artists Carlos Mango and Butch Guice lean into that chaos, stocking this issue with action across both timelines, featuring a brutal, densely packed assault against Roxxon from Mango in the present a hellish territory push by the Invaders along with Spitfire in the past. Armed with burly action and deep emotions Invaders #9 continues to keep the old war heroes in the thick of it.
Ghosted in L.A. #3 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Daphne’s best friend has been ghosting her, she lives with literal ghosts, but all she wants is her ex-boyfriend, Ronnie, to disappear. Sina Grace adds some great layers to this slice of life series by not making Ronnie the stereotypical ex-boyfriend. He actually cares for Daphne and explains that the reason he broke up with her is because he’s gay, and Grace relates this well with one of the ghost’s coming out stories from the 1980s. The supporting characters grow a lot in this issue, but sadly Daphne’s attitude makes it hard to feel sympathetic for her. She doesn’t take Ronnie’s coming out badly, but she also makes it all about herself. Hopefully, the upcoming issues show this selfishness as a hurtle and uses it as part of her character growth. Siobhan Keenan’s artwork truly brings the slice of life/webcomic feel to the title, especially with her work on facial expressions. Ghosted in L.A. #3 does a great job at giving the series’ supporting cast layers that will hopefully influence Daphne to be a better friend and, overall, better character.
Event Leviathan #4 (Published by DC; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): How many detectives do you need to solve a mystery, anyway? Event Leviathan continues to add more characters to the board as it still aimlessly searches for its plot. This series has been extremely sluggish, and with every passing issue it’s getting harder to care about the identity of Leviathan because of the series’ lack of repercussions. Leviathan is so mysterious that his motives have become buried within the snarky back and forth between Batman’s rag tag detective team. That said, this issue does present an interesting tidbit as it’s revealed that Batgirl is going undercover as a mole within Leviathan’s recruitment…but this happens all off panel. So instead of showing this side of the story, the issue dedicates itself to more standing around. For a book about the smartest detectives of the DC Universe, I wish there was a bit more detecting. The strongest element of this event has been Alex Maleev’s contribution to the series. His colors bring the perfect tone to the title. Event Leviathan #4 doesn’t leave you with more clues, just more characters to juggle.