Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your pellets? Best Shots has you covered with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Courteous Kat Calamia, who takes a look at Amazing Spider-Man...
Amazing Spider-Man #30 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Spider-Man’s greatest enemy returns as writer Nick Spencer leaves more clues to who is under the mask of his own creation, Kindred. If you are reading Absolute Carnage and Amazing Spider-Man there’s a lot of information that’s repeated with this installment, but Spencer adds the necessary emotional beats to make it not feel too expository. This issue is also a good reminder to exactly why Norman Osborn has earned the title of Peter’s arch-nemesis. There’s a great flashback that allows us to get into the psyche of Peter’s trauma that still affects him to this day. On artwork, it’s a pleasure to have Ryan Ottley return for an already very promising story. I really like the bright, crisp colors that Amazing Spider-Man gives their Carnage story compared to the darkness of Venom. It’s adds for nice contrast and diversity to the story. The Amazing Spider-Man #30 is not only a solid “Absolute Carnage” tie-in, but also a great Spider-Man issue as it continues to develop the mystery of Kindred and brings the Red Goblin back to the forefront.
Harleen #1 (Published by DC Black Label; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Fans of Harley Quinn will be hard-pressed to miss the latest offering from DC’s Black Label imprint with Harleen #1 from Stjepan Sejic – a deep dive into the origins of Gotham’s favorite motley mischief-maker. While there are moments where background details fall to the wayside, there are many other cinematic moments Sejic paints that breathtakingly capture the gravity of these formative moments for Harleen, especially the first time she sees Joker battle Batman. And while Sejic may be best-known for his steamier comic Sunstone, this first issue takes a much more subtle approach to building the tension between Harley and Joker, balancing her present day awareness of the toxicity of their relationship with the undeniable response she felt to him at that time. It’s a slow build at times, but this issue rewards readers with what appears to be a promising look at Gotham and its larger-than-life inhabitants from the perspective of Harley Quinn.
The White Trees #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The first issue of The White Trees was so smart about its worldbuilding and scope that it seemed capable of sustaining an ongoing series to further build on all that, yet it’s to the creative team’s credit that they stick the landing on the single story they want to tell in this realm. Chip Zdarksy’s script picks up with heroes Krylos, Dahvlan, and Scotiar attacking an enemy patrol in order to secure some uniforms to aid them in their plan of infiltration. After the first half of this tale built the stakes and characters up, this swift shift into action indicates how quickly things are going to move on the way to the conclusion. While this means there’s less dialogue than the previous issue, Aditya Bidikar still uses what’s there in a variety of ways to demonstrate changes in speaking tones and the emotions behind the words. Kris Anka and Matt Wilson match the quality of their collaboration on Runaways, the character acting is top notch and the designs of the architecture show the realm of Blacksand to be such a vibrant location, where other stories could be occurring just across the horizon.
Batman/Superman #2 (Published by DC; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10) The fight promised at the end of #1 is here in full force, and thanks to artist Dave Marquez it looks incredible. Arguably, it could have been choreographed a little bit better, but Marquez is such a strong draftsman that what he’s putting on the page still looks truly excellent. Writer Josh Williamson really lets that fight breathe (it gets three double-page spreads) before presenting the next step for our heroes, and that does make this sophomore effort seem a little bit light but it at least presents a path that most readers likely wouldn’t consider. The dialogue probably could’ve used another pass as a lot of it comes across stilted and sort of generically superheroic rather than specific to these two DC pillars. But fans eager for more of the Batman Who Laughs’ saga won’t want to miss this installment.
Ghost-Spider #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Every superhero has to play a balancing act, and for Gwen this is physically shown through her trips from Earth-65 to Earth-616. Earth-65 is a representation of Gwen’s superhero life. Everyone knows her secret identity - she’s a superhero 24-7, even when she’s not wearing her mask. Earth-616 represents a hero’s secret identity persona as Gwen tries to keep her superheroics a secret and adjust to college life. Writer Seanan McGuire perfectly showcases this tension between Gwen’s worlds as we see the villains from both lives begin to gain the advantage. On art, Takeshi Miyazawa also aces the juxtaposition between super heroics and Gwen’s college life with a nice mix of action and character beats. Ghost-Spider #2 does a good job at creating the building blocks that will certainly lead towards some entertaining drama with Jonah’s son on her earth and Jackal on Earth-616.
Batman: Curse of the White Knight #3 (Published by DC Black Label; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10) Sean Gordon Murphy can sure draw the hell out of Gotham City, but his writing in Batman: Curse of the White Knight leaves a lot to be desired. Much like his initial White Knight limited series, Murphy just seems so careless about using language and imagery that will only appeal to the most reactionary contingent of comics readers - particularly the Joker yelling at Harley Quinn that “victimhood is your superpower” while making a crude abortion joke. Which is too bad, because not only does this fly in the face of the previously sympathetic characterization of the Joker in the previous White Knight series, but it also distracts from some grade-A fireworks, such as Azrael bringing down a longtime cast member from the GCPD. But beyond the pretty pictures, it’s hard to see what Murphy is going for here, as some of his story beats feel like shock for shock value’s sake - and establishing some poor precedent for some of the industry’s least reputable elements.
Powers of X #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10) It’s clear that Powers of X walks so that House of X can run at this point. That’s not to say this isn’t an enjoyable issue, though - writer Jonathan Hickman has fallen into a pattern of revealing how we get to big HoX moments in the pages of PoX and it’s a neat bit of filling in the gaps. This issue helps flesh out Emma Frost’s involvement and Namor’s status amongst all these mutant happenings. We also get some great info about Cerebro’s capabilities. Artist R.B. Silva turns in some good looking pages especially during Xavier and Forge’s meeting under the sea with tons of creatures swimming around outside their bubble. If there’s a knock on this book it’s that Silva seems to draw everyone’s eyebrows the same, which gives all of his facial expressions work a very similar tinge, while Hickman’s plotting with the Phalanx has been coming at a glacial pace. It’s understandable if that part has been leaving you cold. But overall, Hickman continues to take the X-Men in a bold direction and the finales of HoX and PoX are sure to be a doozy.
Relics of Youth #1 (Published by Vault Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Will Relics of Youth be the next Morning Glories or Runaways? Well, this first issue does a good job at introducing this group of teens and their contrasting personalities as they discover their connection towards a mysterious island, but there wasn’t anything that stood out to me that made this story feel unique or help me feel connected to any particular character. One of the strongest elements of the book is Skylar Patridge’s artwork, as her distinct designs for each character make it very clear these people come from different walks of life. Relics of Youth struggles to find an identity as it tries too hard to be like its YA comic book predecessors, but the plot delivers a strong enough cliffhanger to entice me to read more.
New Mutants: War Children #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10) Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz team up for the first time in a while and on one hand, it’s a fun little nostalgia trip, but it's also a bit of a disheartening one. Ultimately, Claremont’s plotting is a boilerplate story about Warlock needing to kill the New Mutants to fulfill his destiny and the New Mutants essentially are able to save him with the power of friendship. It’s a nice throwback for a one-shot but not particularly compelling. That said, Sienkiewicz has not lost a step. Honestly, this book doesn’t even need dialogue and it would still be clear exactly what’s going on. Obviously, Sienkiewicz isn’t for everyone, as his off-the-wall stylings can sometimes seem confusing for some, but this issue proves that the man is still a master of his craft. This is a must-read for New Mutants fans looking for a trip down memory lane.
Action Comics #1015 (Published by DC; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): In the short time writer Brian Michael Bendis has been with DC, he’s already done so much for the company, but my favorite has to be Naomi. She’s a character that is so fresh, but still familiar as she adheres to many of the tropes we love from our favorite superhero origins. There are especially many parallels between her and Superman - both orphans from doomed planets, who were adopted by loving parents. So, it would make sense that these two heroes would cross paths eventually. Sadly, their first team-up issue is full of exposition with information most fans already know about Naomi, and is broken up with Bendis’ continuous threads to Rose, Thorn, and Leviathan. As for the visuals, Szymon Kudranski’s pencils and inks are very blotchy for these bright heroes, and makes the issue feel stiff. Let’s hope that the next issue of Action Comics delivers on the potential of the relationship between Superman and Naomi with stronger character beats.
Thanos #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Gamora’s tale of her childhood comes to an end, with her decision at the end of the limited series being an evident effect of how her life has been shaped due to be under the grasp of Thanos for so long. The smartest thing that Tini Howard has done with this miniseries is dial in on how the Mad Titan’s abuse and attempts at indoctrination on Gamora lead to a mental obstacle she’s battling with to this day — in fact, the ongoing conflict with Magus manages to feel secondary to that, but it’s a welcome kind of character work that the last couple years of Guardians stories involving Gamora haven’t had the time to dig into due to their scale. On the whole, Ariel Olivetti and Antonio Fabela’s artwork is far more suited to the smaller-scale story playing out, as the story thread involving Proxima Midnight and Ebony Maw on Zero Sanctuary looks overly digital, clashing with the rest of the book. The pair are far more suited to illustrating the Thanos and Gamora relationship, from the way that his figure can overshadow hers in the past, to how he appears like a ghost lingering over her current self’s shoulder.
Dial H #7 (Published by DC; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Dial H #7 acts as an interlude between story arcs as DC expanded this six issue limited series to twelve. This issue could have easily been a filler, but with writer Sam Humphries’ heartfelt storytelling and a quintet of artists on board, it acts as a great breather between stories. The narrative switches perspectives as we get to see how the citizens of Metropolis reacted to having super powers, while Summer and Miguel tried saving the day. The issue fit so many different genres of visual storytelling and it all flowed perfectly. It’s really impressive how Humphries and Joe Quinones continue to reinvent the way we think about comic books with their run of Dial H, and this issue is no exception.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #43 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Mighty Morphin Power Rangers turns up the intensity to 100 as Ryan Parrott and Daniele Di Nicuolo officially introduce the series’ newest villain, Dayne, to the story. He is much more than the mustache-twirling, cheeseball villains we’ve seen on the show, as he attacks the Rangers using their biggest weaknesses. On the flip side, the Omega Rangers begin to deal with some of the pieces from “Shattered Grid” - since Kimberly doesn’t know her friends are off-planet with their own Ranger mission, she calls her best friend, Trini, to air out her worries about this new threat. The voiceover is beautifully contrasted with Kimberly and her friends on the losing side of the battle between Dayne. On artwork, Di Nicuolo’s pencils are pleasantly kinetic for this action-packed issue and is a perfect collaborator for Parrott’s well-balanced script. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers continues to build a world of depth from the series’ exciting mythology to its extraordinary character beats.