Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s start off today’s column with Kicking Kat Calamia, who takes a look at Batman: Curse of the White Knight...
Batman: Curse of the White Knight #4 (Published by DC; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Batman: Curse of the White Knight #4 automatically gets you sucked in with its gut-wrenching opening sequence, as writer/artist Sean Murphy intercuts between Jim’s death with a memory shared by Barbara and her father. These three exquisitely executed pages propel the rest of the issue as Barbara lives by her father’s words – she fights back on her own terms. It’s an issue filled with a lot of raw emotion, as Barbara is ready to kill the people responsible for her father’s death, while Bruce deals with the consequences of keeping secrets, and contemplates if he wants to continue to keep his identity under wraps. These emotions are beautifully portrayed by Murphy's gritty pencils and Matt Hollingsworth’s haunting colors. Batman: Curse of the White Knight #4 is one of the best issues of the franchise as it balances action and emotion as the Bat-Family mourns Jim Gordon. They explore the weight of what he meant to Gotham and, most importantly, each other.
The Amazing Mary Jane #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The Amazing Mary Jane gives its own unique twist with a metacommentary on MJ’s role as a supporting character. She is ready to take control, and be much more than a plot device to progress the hero’s story. The issue’s biggest strength is her conversation with Mysterio about her role in his film, but the story begins to lose steam when MJ leaves the set. Her conversation with Peter goes in a rather wacky direction, which honestly took me out of the story. The narrative then jumps to a cliffhanger that could have had a much better lead-up if the Peter/MJ scenes were traded for more panel time with these characters. On artwork, Carlos E. Gomez delivers some solid pencils, and shines the most when the issue explores the movie’s extravagant set. The Amazing Mary Jane might feel like a disconnect from Nick Spencer’s take on the character, but the moviemaking angle gives the series a unique enough spin to give the second issue a shot.
G.I. Joe #2 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Exquisitely drawn and lovingly paced, if G.I. Joe #2 isn’t the best comic book on the stands this week, it’s certainly going neck-and-neck for it. Writer Paul Allor continues to use Tiger as a charming audience surrogate, as he grapples with what it takes to be a Joe, while he scaffolds his story with a great metaphor about the five stages of grief, and what that might mean for General Hawk moving forward. Meanwhile, artist Chris Evenhuis and colorist Brittany Peer deliver some incredible work here, particularly in a scene where Scarlett beats the hell out of Tiger - watching the actual panels suddenly cut away in a white blur of pain is such a smart technique to really put us in the ring with Tiger. If this is the level of quality Allor and Evenhuis are bringing with just their second issue, G.I. Joe is going to be in great hands.
Angel #6 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): We are only six issues deep, and already the series’ title character has vanished amidst the chaos of the Hellmouth - instead this issue focuses on Gunn, Fred, and Spike as Angel deals with the events unfolding in Sunnydale. Angel #6 only scratches the surface with these characters, but it was nice to see Spike as more than Drusilla’s pet. The series is taking the initiative to let Spike’s stronger characterization peek through earlier in the Buffy timeline. This type of development would have been great for a normal issue of Angel, but as a tie-in it’s a bit disappointing. The events of Hellmouth only seem to be referenced as writer Bryan Edward Hill focuses more on the plot that was already stewing in the book. On artwork, Gleb Melnikov’s style gives the perfect tone to the series as it dives deeper into the darker side of the Buffyverse. Angel #6 isn’t the strongest tie-in, but it was nice to see the title take Angel’s absence as an opportunity to put a spotlight on the book’s supporting characters.
Amazing Spider-Man: Full Circle #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The fact that Amazing Spider-Man: Full Circle is readable at all is a miracle - so the fact that it’s fun to boot is just unbelievable. A murderer’s row of writers and artists - including Jonathan Hickman, Al Ewing, Chris Bachalo, Chris Sprouse, and a whole lot more - do their own riff on DC’s Kamandi Challenge, creating an exquisite corpse story bouncing the Web-slinger across space, time, and a whole lot of werewolves. While Gerry Duggan’s werewolf subplot becomes a stubborn quirk that the rest of the team can’t seem to shake, there’s some real standouts here - Hickman and Bachalo set the bar high with their opening story, while Ewing and Sprouse deliver the most heartwrenching Spider-Ham story I’ve ever seen. Valerio Schiti also does strong work in a short with Kelly Thompson, as he bounces through a cross-section of a werewolf-ized Aunt May’s home in stunning fashion. Do things get a little hectic towards the end? Definitely. But is this a cool jam band session of some of Marvel’s greatest talents? Absolutely.
Aquaman Annual #2 (Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Even with the symbol of Doom lighting across the skies of the DC Universe, it’s nice when books like Aquaman Annual #2 shift focus to the everyday struggles that superheroes face. In this case, it’s Z-list supervillain Sea Daddy (yes, I don’t think he knows what he’s saying either) ruining Amnesty Bay’s Founders Day celebration, and Aquaman, Aqualad, Tula, and Salty the Aqua-Dog trying to salvage things for the oceanside community. Oh, and did I mention there are two demigods running around in the mix? Writers Kelly Sue DeConnick and Vita Ayala do a great job at humanizing Arthur Curry by simply keeping the stakes simple - why punch out supervillains when there’s so much more drama to be wrung from having a missing dog? Artist Victor Ibanez is also in his element here, as he’s able to lean into expressive characters rather than the over-the-top fisticuffs. A really strong showing from all involved, and a great place to fall in love with Aquaman.
Ghost-Spider #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Gwen’s life is perfect! She’s enjoying her classes, making friends, and even arriving to band practice on time. Wait - this doesn’t sound right. Gwen is a Spider-person - what happened to the old Spider luck? Well, Gwen learns the hard way that balancing a life between two worlds isn’t going to be easy, as she has a dire reunion with her “arch-nemesis” the Bodega Bandit. It raises the stakes for an issue rooted in routine. On artwork, Takeshi Miyazawa does a great job at balancing the series slice of life storytelling with its high energy action. Ghost Spider #3 is the calm before the storm, as Seanan McGuire continues to build Gwen’s antagonists in the background to become even bigger threats.
Count Crowley: Reluctant Monster Hunter #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): A love letter to 1980s horror kitsch, Count Crowley: Reluctant Monster Hunter #1 is the Lois Lane/Jessica Jones mashup that you didn’t know you needed. Writer David Dastmalchian makes the leap from the big screen to the comic book page with few stumbles - his heroine Jerri Butler is bracing, as her alcoholism torches her career as a reporter, forcing her to man the 11 o’clock schlock block. Artist Lukas Ketner and colorist Lauren Affe lean into the 1980s era art style with colors that feel purposely muddy and overdramatic, like something thrown into a longbox ages ago. The only hiccups here are pacing — the first few pages feel a bit decompressed (especially since we revisit that scene at the end), while Jerri’s alcoholism is perhaps overplayed one scene too many. Regardless, Count Crowley: Reluctant Monster Hunter #1 is a must-buy for fans of ‘80s horror.
Marauders #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): What do you do when you can’t enter paradise? You become a pirate, of course! Marauders delivers plenty of interesting concepts for the rest of the series to tackle, but lacks the emotional resonance to make this a totally successful first issue. Kroaka is the one place Kitty can’t phase through, and her feelings towards this aren’t really explored. The plot moves so quickly that there is no time to dig deeper into Kitty’s character motives or the reasoning behind why she wants to change her name to Kate, which is a bigger plot point than you think it would be. Wasn’t becoming the leader of the X-Men enough to prove her maturity? On artwork, Matteo Lolli does a great job with the series’ comedy and action sequences as Kitty Pryde has a chance to show off her ninja skills, but he also doesn’t instill enough emotion. Marauders has a ton of potential with the series’ roster and plot points, but needs to deliver stronger character beats.