Best Shots Rapid-Fire Reviews: RUNAWAYS #25, BLACK TERROR #1, BATMAN #80, More

DC October 2019 solicitations
Credit: DC
Credit: Kris Anka (Marvel Comics)

Runaways #25 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): All Karolina has ever wanted to do is be good. She did everything in her power to not be like her parents, but even the best intentions can cause trouble in the grand scheme of things. Karolina’s superhero antics have gotten the world of social media noticing and a construction crew banging on the hostile’s door. This really fits well into the overall plot of the Runaways franchise. These young adults will always continue to be tested to do the right thing even when it doesn’t seem to be the correct path. On artwork, Andres Genolet continues to do a great job at delivering all the intense emotions from Rainbow Rowell’s script. Although, having Matthew Wilson share coloring duties was noticeable as the other colorist made Genolet’s pencils look more cartoony. Runaways #25 has everything a landmark issue should have: drama, comedy, and a nice twist ending that leads the Runaways to well…run away. It brings the series into a bold direction, while celebrating everything the creative team has done up to this point.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Immortal Hulk #24 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): The “second act” of Immortal Hulk comes to a thunderous, horrifying conclusion in Immortal Hulk #24. Having broken into Shadow Base, the Devil Hulk - Betty Ross in her new terrifying form - and the hollowed Rick Jones take the fight to Fortean, backed by the combined might of Gamma Flight. But while Al Ewing and artist Joe Bennett deliver a stellar, long time coming showdown between the Hulk and the new Abomination, it is the aftermath of said fight that makes this issue perfect. Grimly and methodically setting up the title for its next arc, Ewing starts to make good on all the teases he’s peppered throughout the arc like the Hulk sitting on a “Steel Throne” and revealing just who has been reaching out to “Bruce Banner of Earth” from beyond the stars. Chock to bursting with dread, body horror, and tremendous turns of phrase Immortal Hulk #24 is another stone cold classic issue for the consistently impressive series.

Credit: Dynamite Entertainment

Black Terror #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): If you don’t know who the Black Terror is, writer Max Bemis and artist Matt Gaudio’s new series probably won’t endear you to the old pulp hero. Similar to his work on Marvel’s Foolkiller, Bemis’ take on superheroism as seemingly an offshoot of mental illness can’t help but feel a bit repellant - we’re thrown into the deep end of the pool about a former hero who grapples with anxiety, depression, addiction and PTSD, and Bemis’ immediate stance on the evils of drugs like Valium feels like a swipe at the millions of people who do take antidepressants and antianxiety drugs (and still manage not to go on a spree of violence). Gauido’s artwork is cartoony in a style similar to Jim Calafiore — it gives the book a bounciness that rescues its subject matter from being hopelessly oppressive. That said, the story of the Black Terror can’t escape the callousness of its premise, making this a book that’s difficult to recommend to new readers or diehard fans alike.

Credit: Wendell Dalit (Marvel Comics)

Spider-Verse #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Capitalizing on the popularity of Spider-Gwen, Marvel has published a set of one-off stories over the past couple of years to introduce more spider heroes to the multiverse. Now, similarly attempting to build on the success of Into the Spider-Verse, Marvel launched a new series this week that follows this pattern. Marvel could have used Spider-Verse #1 to further explore the world of Into the Spider-Verse, like the cover entails, but instead launches a series to see what new spider hero can become their next mascot. The story revolves around Miles being thrown into multiple universes without any true direction or plot. It doesn’t entice the reader to want to pick up more, especially for fans who have followed the previous Spider-Verse events that did the same exact story tactic.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Future Foundation #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The anachronism that is Rikki Barnes takes center stage during a pitched escape attempt in Future Foundation #3. Framing her impossible life as a superhero fairy tale writer Jeremy Whitley gives readers a concise, emotional rundown of how and why Rikki found herself on the prison planet, only to upshift into good old-fashioned superheroics in the latter half of the issue. It is here where artist Will Robson and Paco Diaz shine. Rendering a tense, tightly packed battle between the FF and the planet’s prison guard nanobots, the pair kick the action of the title into overdrive, culminating in a tremendous double page splash of the whole Foundation (plus their super criminal allies) smashing and trashing all manner of robots. Filled with fantastic characterization and classic, momentive artwork Future Foundation #3 gets another high mark.

Credit: IDW Publishing

Transformers/Ghostbusters #5 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): IDW’s latest Saturday Morning crossover concludes in Transformers/Ghostbusters #5. Delivering what’s essentially an issue-long fight, Ghostbusters team Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening wrap up all the loose ends of Ectotron’s time on Earth. While it’s a little too convenient (and sets up the new Autobot for a return in a possible sequel) the novelty of seeing the Ghostbusters battle spectral Decepticons is still a hoot. Artist Schoening also shows out here, melding the old-school cartoonish charm of the Ghostbusters with the large scale bots of the Transformers, both scraping it out with their respective lasers. Though not exactly groundbreaking Transformers/Ghostbusters #5 ends how it began; as a fun, readable crossover lark.

Credit: BOOM! Studios

WWE SmackDown #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by C.K. Stewart; Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Kevin Panetta loves wrestling. Every line of dialogue in this week’s WWE SmackDown #1, out now in anticipation of the show’s move to FOX Fridays, is an absolute delight. Panetta has an incredible grasp of not just the issue’s star, Becky “The Man” Lynch herself, but of the full roster - a sequence of events that begins with the IIconics recruiting Becky to help them befriend WWE legends and peaking with Otis Dozovic worming his way to the Brothers of Destruction is laugh out loud hilarious. Kendall Goode and Serg Acuna do a stellar job capturing the IIconics’ and Heavy Machinery’s deliciously chaotic energy; there are plenty of other superstars to love here, but those two teams absolutely steal the show. This issue is a lighthearted interlude longtime fans will love and an easy-breezy primer for anyone curious looking for a way to ease back into wrestling as the Wednesday night wars return and SmackDown makes its big move to Fridays.

Credit: Kyle Hotz (Marvel Comics)

Absolute Carnage: The Immortal Hulk #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Absolute Carnage: The Immortal Hulk #1 takes you into the mind of Bruce Banner, spinning directly out of events of Absolute Carnage and The Immortal Hulk. The issue does a good job of giving both fans of the event and both main series something to enjoy as it tackles Thunderbolt Ross and Hulk’s connection to the symbiote. On the flip side, I do feel like these stories could have been explored in their respective series to have more time to breathe, but hopefully this is only the main titles scratching the surface. The artwork, by Filipe Andrade, was the weakest aspect of the issue, especially compared to Ryan Stegman and Joe Bennett’s crisp and stunning pencils. The proportions felt very off as the issue catered to Bruce’s dreamlike state. Overall, Absolute Carnage: The Immortal Hulk #1 is worth reading for the seeds it plants for the future of both titles, but doesn't warrant its own issue.

Credit: DC

Batman #80 (Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): After several issues following Batman and Catwoman’s romantic vacation/convalescence, they’ve returned to Gotham to take back the city from Bane and Thomas Wayne. Writer Tom King teams up with artist John Romita, Jr. for an issue that has plenty of much-appreciated fireworks after the slower pacing of the previous chapters. Seeing Batman face down his brainwashed rogues gallery in a series of vignettes is a fun return to form, and Romita adds the sort of drama that fits in nicely compared to mainstays like Clay Mann or Mitch Gerads. That said, given how long the wind-up has been to get Bruce and Selina back to this point, you’d be forgiven if you still felt a little bit of decompression by the time the story ends - but duels between Batman and Hush or Batman’s reunion with Kite Man will likely make you say “hell yeah.”

Credit: John McCrea (Image Comics)

Dead Eyes #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Gerry Duggan’s Dead Eyes puts an amazingly unique twist on the anti-hero archetype, and explores something that is rarely delved into with superhero comics – a vigilante who has actually retired. The premiere pulls on your heart strings and at the same time piques your interest with the opening interactions between the series’ main hero and his wife. Another twist from your average superhero comic – she actually knows about his past and is able to have a casual conversation about his work. Their relationship leaves for a very interesting cliffhanger to get the reader sucked in for more! On artwork, John McCrea does a great job at bringing that gritty/street level vibe to the series. Dead Eyes #1 is a refreshing twist on the superhero and crime genre in the vain of Image Comics’ Kill or Be Killed and The Violent, and it should not be missed!

Credit: Dynamite Entertainment

Vengeance of Vampirella #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The dream of the Nineties is resurrected with Vengeance of Vampirella #1. Standing as the long-awaited continuation of the 1994 series that bore the name, writer Thomas Sniegoski and artist Michael Sta. Maria reintroduce us to the ruined world of that series and set about resurrecting our bloodthirsty hero. Though the issue’s plot isn’t much more than that, the tone and mood offer a delicious creepiness fitting for the returning series. Artist Sta. Maria also leans into that macabre sense of self, providing blocky Phil Hester-esque monster models and garish, gross details like antagonist Mistress Nyx’s loungewear...which is made from stitched together human skin. While I would have liked just a touch more plot development beyond “Vampirella is Back,” Vengeance of Vampirella #1 is vintage horror in all its gory glory.

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