Happy Halloween, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your spooktacular weekly pellets? Best Shots is dispensing both the tricks and the treats with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off with the fun-sized critiques with the final issue of DCeased...
DCeased #6 (Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Writer Tom Taylor and artists Trevor Hairsine and Neil Edwards wrap up DCeased on a solid if unsteady note. With Superman now infected by the Anti-Life Equation, things have gone totally FUBAR for the DC Universe, and in that regard, Taylor delivers some truly heartbreaking moments — given how little they affected the general story, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy’s goodbye was some powerful stuff, Cyborg gets a grim full circle, and if Taylor hasn’t written the single best Jonathan Kent moment in the character’s history, I’ll eat my hat. That said, this story ends incredibly abruptly, given that the infected heroes can absolutely breach time and space — everything just sort of… ends, with a tonal shift that might give readers whiplash. While I was never completely sold on Hairsine’s artwork for this series, he delivers some of his best work here, particularly with some of the bigger battle royales with Paradise Island warding off an infected Atlantis. While this has been an imperfect story, given the deluge of zombie content that’s arrived in its wake, DCeased retains its putrid crown with aplomb.
Fantastic Four: Grand Design #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Tom Scioli turns his absurdist, auteurist eye toward Marvel’s First Family in the debut of Fantastic Four: Grand Design. Taking readers through a condensed but immensely entertaining visual tour of the first 50 issues of the original Fantastic Four comics, Scioli cuts right to the heart of what makes them special with the added bonus of his dry comedy and visual gags. Not only that, but the opening pages are one-page origins for the key players in the FF saga, providing nicely theatrical context for this new “Design” just like Ed Piskor did for the X-Men. Blessed with the raw energy and wry comedy of old-school comics, Fantastic Four: Grand Design #1 is an entertaining trip down memory lane for Marvel and Scioli.
Jughead: Time Police #5 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): It’s Crisis on Infinite Jugheads! The Jugheads of multiple dimensions go up against an evil classic version of the character. Writer Sina Grace delivers a levity that has been missing in the Archie Comics franchise for quite a while, and his comedic style is a perfect match with Derek Charm’s energetic pencils. Every page has a lot of detail, as Charm gives a different artistic style to each Jughead. On the down side, things wrap up rather quickly as a finale here. Towards the end of the issue, the story focuses too much on The Archies’ battle of bands subplot, which was originally only introduced as a stepping stone for the series’ time traveling antics. Jughead: Time Police #5 isn’t as strong as the series’ previous issues, but it’s still a fun ride.
Red Goblin: Red Death #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): There were so many interesting threads presented for Norman Osborn in Amazing Spider-Man’s “Absolute Carnage” tie-in, but sadly this one-shot doesn’t take the opportunity to explore that side of Osborn’s narrative. Instead, it tells a story about Norman’s early days as Red Goblin. It’s filler that has Norman uncharacteristically exploring his moral compass as he navigates his connection with Carnage. The strongest element of the issue is Pete Wood’s sleek illustrations, but it doesn't necessarily fit the series haunting tone the writers try to go for with their narratives. For the last story, Ray Anthony Height's art style is more fitting but not as detailed. To close out the spooky season, Marvel releases a horror driven Norman Osborn tale that doesn’t have enough meat or development for the character to warrant this title’s $4.99 price tag.
Tales of the Dark Multiverse: Death of Superman #1 (Published by DC; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Tales of the Dark Multiverse continues to put its own spin on classic DC stories – and this week up to the plate was Death of Superman. In this version, Jeff Loveness and Brad Walker have a grief-stricken Lois Lane inherit Superman’s powers after his death. The issue presents a very interesting concept, but doesn’t stick the landing with its execution — Lois is so full with anguish that it’s hard to connect to the character, and so driven by Clark’s death and mission that this doesn’t truly feel like her narrative. The strongest element of the issue is Brad Walker’s pencils. Walker brings a modern twist on this ‘90s classic with his crisp visuals as he explores all the landmark moments in Superman’s death and resurrection. Tales of the Dark Multiverse: Death of Superman #1 puts Lois Lane in the spotlight, but makes her too much of a reactionary character for her superpowered story to truly shine.
Runaways #26 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Runaways have never been establishment superheroes — but when Doc Justice enlists them into the capes-and-tights scene, writer Rainbow Rowell puts the team’s inherent distrust of adults to the test. The major themes of the Runaways' franchise comes to a head as The Pride return in a fresh, new way to attack our heroes' home. Is the team forcing themselves to become classic superheroes to further themselves away from their families' legacies? Rowell continues to do a beautiful job at showing the struggles the Runaways face to continue to be good people and the unique way each character deals with this internal battle. On artwork, it was a pleasure to see all the different superhero designs Andres Genolet was able to work on with this new direction. Runaways #26 is a fun set-up issue as the series moves forward in embracing its connection to the superhero genre.
Batman Annual #4 (Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): With his run on Batman drawing to a close, writer Tom King and artists Jorge Fornes and Mike Norton deliver a love letter to the Dark Knight that speaks to the character’s versatility and resilience in the face of whatever insanity comics can throw at him. It’s a fun conceit — essentially revisiting Grant Morrison’s “everything counts” theme but compressing it into the span of a single annual — but in this particular case, I’d say the additional page count winds up overextending King’s joke a bit beyond the breaking point. Yet it’s hard to argue too much with additional Fornes art — the man has earned every bit of growing superstardom he’s received, tackling everything from MMA fights to dragon slaying to bullet trains with aplomb. Norton’s artwork can’t help but feel a little out of place as a result, but thankfully the placement among King’s greater montage means the momentum doesn’t falter a bit. While this isn’t the most sweeping of statements about the World’s Greatest Detective, Batman Annual #4 will likely appeal to diehard fans of both King and Fornes’ work.
Invisible Woman #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Susan Storm has one rule in the field – don’t kill. That’s something that has always set her and her ex-partner, Aiden, apart — and in Invisible Woman #4, writer Mark Waid shakes up the narrative showcasing how Aiden has changed over the years because of their moral differences. This isn’t your classic bait-and-switch. Aiden is a bad guy, and it’s gut-wrenching to witness how Aiden learns this revelation about himself. Waid and artist Mattia De Iulis utilize Sue’s power set of invisibility nicely to create a unique espionage story that present some really interesting visuals. One scene that stands out the most is when a blinded Sue uses cosmic rays to see the shape of her enemies’ bodies in darkness, beautifully depicted through De Iulis’ use of negative space. While like its title character, Invisible Woman may be easy to overlook, but Waid and De Iulis are doing strong work showing the true strength of the Fantastic Four’s leading lady.
Star Trek: Year Five #7 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Star Trek: Year Five’s second arc kicks off with a return to Tholian Space in Star Trek: Year Five #7. Now able to communicate with the young Tholian who has made his home on the Enterprise, Kirk and Spock attempt to learn just what happened to the colony that was decimated all the way back in the early issues. But writers Jackson Lanzing and Colin Kelly aren’t just paying off threads they introduced, they also provide this issue a wonderful “episodic” problem in the form of a new Tholian Web, one that cuts them off from Federation space and traps a new aquatic race in its snare. This leads to more dynamic, richly rendered space-based action from artist Stephen Thompson, who continues to nail screen-accurate depictions of both the ship and crew. Filled with old-school Trek thrills and substantial, binge-worthy storytelling, Star Trek: Year Five #7 is another winner for the IDW line.
Dr. Strange Annual #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Stephen Strange and Wong both receive chillingly entertaining side-by-side Halloween tales in the Dr. Strange Annual #1. Divided evenly by writers Tini Howard and Pornsak Pichetshote, both Strange and Wong face terrors only allowed when the veil between realities is at it’s thinnest. Howard’s story is essentially a team-up, pairing Strange and Zelma Staton with Brother Voodoo, Talisman, Agatha Harkness, and the Scarlet Witch for some annual Halloween “house-cleaning” around the Sanctum Sanctorum. Pichetshote’s tale is a little more visceral, pitting Wong and his cousin Han against a sword and demon specifically built to kill a Sorcerer Supreme. Both tales really delve into the weirdness one would expect from Dr. Strange and both art teams, Andy MacDonald and Lalit Kumar Sharma respectively, deliver appropriately spooky, monster filled artwork. If you were looking for a read appropriate for All Hallow’s Eve, you could do worse than Dr. Strange Annual #1.