Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your pellets? Best Shots has your back with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off with our column’s resident Jimmy Olsen, Justin Partridge, who takes a look at — you guessed it — Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen...
Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #3 (Published by DC; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): The method of Jimmy’s madness becomes clear in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #3. Strung together once again by seemingly disparate scenes by creators Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber, #3 comes much, much more into focus. We have known someone has had Jimmy in the crosshairs for two whole issues now, #3, however, shows just how long he’s been targeted and maybe by whom. Reaching all the way back to Jimmy’s failed space dive, Fraction and Lieber reveals more and more of their story cards in a heady mix of crime fiction and wacky Silver Age hijinks. We still don’t get the whole scope as there are still 9 issues left, but Jimmy Olsen #3 finally shows that this new series isn’t just mindless fun (even when it is just mindless fun).
Absolute Carnage #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): “You know my name. Now scream it!” Donny Cates goopy epic continues in Absolute Carnage #3. Setting both Eddie Brock and Venom at diametrically opposed stances for the incoming war, Donny Cates has injected a real urgency and pathos into the usual large scale event storytelling. Eddie wants to try to win without killing while Venom needs someone “strong enough to end this.” He might have found it in the form of the Devil Hulk, but beyond the bombast and team-ups, Cates has really grounded this event with real deal emotions, largely based around Eddie, Venom, and Eddie’s newly discovered son Dylan. Ryan Stegman gets a bit less to do in this third installment, as it’s mostly exposition and regrouping from the last Carnage horde attack, but his stony, highly expressive pencils continue to impress (even if they are a touch too dark in spots). Big, splashy, but also heartfelt Absolute Carnage #3 continues to keep this event on solid legs.
G.I. Joe #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): There’s something shockingly subversive to writer Paul Allor and artist Chris Evenhuis’s debut of G.I. Joe — perhaps because of how everything feels just one step removed from where our world is now. The idea of a country occupied with bad actors and evildoers isn’t much of a stretch, given today’s headlines, but Allor makes this scary new world feel claustrophobic and paranoid, especially when we see the early casualties of the Joes’ war with Cobra. In particular, I also like how fully realized the Joes seem — while their uniforms might sometimes feel a little much of a stretch given their fidelity to some of the toy models, watching the Joes struggle with killing enemies (or finding out they used to have day jobs) really gives this story heft. Artist Chris Evenhuis and colorist Brittany Peer are also a dream team — the clean lines of this story add to the dystopian nature of this storyline without making it oppressive, and the expressiveness of Evenhuis’ characters make them instantly likable. This is a truly effective opener, and one that demands your attention.
Flash Forward #1 (Published by DC; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Wally West is a man of two worlds. The very concept that made Wally such an intriguing character in DC's "Rebirth” is the detriment of Flash Forward #1 . The issue opens up with a sprawling segment of exposition about the multiverse, and then transitions into Wally wallowing about the events of Heroes in Crisis. It all feels very repetitive to what we’ve already seen explored in Tom King’s event, and didn’t give me enough to get excited for his potential redemption story. On visuals, Brett Booth is no stranger to Wally West with his work on Titans, but his pencils are too stylized for my liking. It’s an acquired taste. At the start of "Rebirth," Wally West was one of the most promising characters of the universe, but his arc suffers as DC continues to stall to solve the mysteries of their new world.
Archie 1955 #1 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Writer Mark Waid rejuvenated Archie Comics with his modern-day run on the character, but his Archie 1941 series wasn’t nearly as earth-shattering — and unfortunately, Archie 1955 #1 seems to be following in the footsteps of Waid’s previous mini-series. I enjoyed the commentary he and co-writer Brian Augustyn in Archie 1955. made on music, but it didn’t feel like they were doing anything different with this franchise to warrant a new mini-series, which is disappointing with what we’ve seen with Waid’s previous work with the company. On art, Tom Grummert gives a nice classic look to the book. I hope to see more rock n’ roll influence as Archie grows as a musician. Archie is a great character to show this renaissance period for music, but Riverdale feels like an afterthought. Archie and his supporting characters just don’t radiate the personality needed to make this an enticing premiere.
Justice League #32 (Published by DC; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Readers looking for fast-paced bombast and lots of fan service will likely find plenty to enjoy in Justice League #32; however, this ultimately suffers from attempting to do too much within too short a span of time. In terms of what works, we see Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV move the plot of their epic story forward and prepare for the major showdown with Luthor and his Legion. Similarly, longtime fans will enjoy the wink-and-nod moments when Flash and Green Lantern run into and work alongside the 1940s JSA. Unfortunately, the multiple storylines never really have sufficient time to develop fully beyond a collection of exciting moments filled with expository crib notes. Howard Porter and Hi-Fi’s line and color art captures Snyder and Tynion’s enthusiasm for the action, and the expressive shots and coloring help balance out the sometimes text-heavy exposition.
The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Magnificent Ms. Marvel goes back to basics with the best installment of Saladin Ahmed’s run yet. In this issue, Kamala is going through the motions as she deals with her father’s medical diagnosis. This leads to Kamala, Zoe, and Nakia to go on a road trip together. Up to this point, Magnificent Ms. Marvel was focusing on a world bigger than her own, which felt out of place for the hero, but Kamala fighting old enemies and zombies is the type of story I want to see for this title. It’s Ms. Marvel dealing with trouble in her neighborhood with her friends by her side. And boy did this issue reminded me just how much I missed Zoe, Nakia, and Bruno — their dynamic brings a whole new dimension to the series that was absent with the titles’ first arc. Joey Vazquez on pencils does a great job at displaying the diverse personalities from Kamala and her supporting cast, and is a wonderful guest artist for this arc. Hopefully The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #7 is just a taste of the type of stories Ahmed has planned for the future.
Batman #79 (Published by DC; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Fans of Tom King’s run of Batman will no doubt find much to appreciate about this latest issue as he takes his time building up the Bat-and-Cat connection before they return to Gotham to square off with Bane. Clay Mann and Tomeu Morey’s work on the art is impeccable in terms of telling the story and setting the tone despite a few panels that leaned a bit too heavily into the pin-up realm. The real dividing line on this story comes with whether or not readers want a Batman romance story, which is what King seems intent on exploring in this arc. The real conflict lies within the fallout from the failed wedding and the attempts to rebuild a new relationship in its aftermath. Unfortunately, drawn-out moments of romantic tension on the beach do little to whet one’s appetite for the pending battle for control over Gotham.
Jane Foster: Valkyrie #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Jane Foster displays the true power of her abilities as she brings Heimdall to his resting place. I absolutely love the voice Jason Aaron and Al Ewing have crafted for the series as Jane navigates this new world through her instincts as a mortal and Asgardian. Although, the issue’s multiple artists make the story slightly falter compared to the series’ previous installments. The action in the middle of the issue doesn’t hold up as well as the series’ mainstay artist, Cafu, who only contributes a few pages. Overall, Jane Foster: Valkyrie is still a magnificent series, but would’ve been stronger if the issue had a more consistent art team.
Inferior Five #1 (Published by DC; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 100: The Inferior Five receive a highly entertaining Lynchian reboot thanks to Keith Giffen and Jeff Lemire. Set shortly after the events of Invasion!, Giffen and Lemire wisk us away to Dangerfield, Arizona — an eerie town filled with citizens with secrets and a sack-masked stalker by the name of Billy Shanker. Focused on moody, darkly hilarious introductions, Giffen and Lemire, both of whom provide artwork as well, amping up the unease and weirdness of the title, give us just enough to keep us on the hook but not enough to give up the whole of their secrets. None of the old-school Five are named explicitly, but fans will notice their scuzzy new personas as they live and “work” in the cosmically odd burg of Dangerfield. Though comparisons to Lemire’s Black Hammer will be expected, this new Inferior Five displays a much weirder, much more DC-specific kind of take on these fun Z-listers.
Spider-Man #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Hollywood superstar J.J. Abrams and his son Henry enter the realm of comics with an out-of-continuity story starring one of the medium’s most popular heroes – Spider-Man. Sadly, these comic book newbies fall into a similar trap that the industry has worked so hard to step away from. The issue opens up with a troublesome “women in refrigerators” moment that propels Abrams’ newest protagonist — it’s sad to see that an iconic female character only be introduced into the story to die and further our main character’s angst. To make matters worse, this new protagonist feels very familiar to characters we’ve already seen multiple times in Spider-Man’s mythos and these predecessors do a better job at respecting the source material. Sara Pichelli’s artwork is the strongest aspect of this issue, and does a great job at displaying the Abramses’ cinematic style of storytelling, but even this Spider-Man superstar artist isn’t enough to forgive all the negative comic book tropes this series relies on to tell its story.