Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your pellets? Best Shots has your back with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Kicking Kat Calamia, who takes a look at Immortal Hulk...
Immortal Hulk #26 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Bruce Banner has taken over Shadow Base, and has a message for everyone. Following the series’ ominous milestone issue of a desolate world, Immortal Hulk #26 focuses on how the universe could possibly get to this place, allowing us to see how the world reacts to Bruce’s new philosophy and the effects this has for the rest of the Hulk family. Writer Al Ewing fully dives into the political, psychological, and philosophical themes that have been sprinkled throughout the series from the start. There’s no twisting Hulks in this issue, but Joe Bennett’s pencils are just as haunting through this character-driven narrative. Immortal Hulk #26 shows that Bruce Banner is just as horrifying as the monster inside.
Green Lantern: Blackstars #1 (Published by DC; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10) Grant Morrison’s work can often be impenetrable at times, and unfortunately this follow-up to his run on Green Lantern is no exception. Even if you were following that run, so much of this issue is bogged down in odd exposition and Morrisonian jargon that it takes all the joy out of reading it. Xermanico’s art isn’t hateful - it’s full of the kind of weirdness and horror that we’ve come to expect from Morrison’s time out in DC space. At his best, the artist blends the strange grotesquery of Liam Sharp and the more straightforward capes work of Ivan Reis. But the visuals aren’t enough to prop up a script that feels like a writer trying to recapture a past version of himself.
Undiscovered Country #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Fans of dystopian sci-fi will be right at home in Undiscovered Country #1 from Scott Snyder, Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli. Snyder and Soule complementing each other well throughout the densely packed world-building in this first issue while skirting around some modern-day sociopolitical commentary about walls and U.S. foreign policy. Artistically, Camuncoli’s framing of the various panels keeps readers engaged and helps the story continue moving forward, with colorist Matt Wilson’s colors help provide a smooth transition from one scene to the next. Overall, Undiscovered Country #1 feels slow as Snyder and Soule have a lot of background to cover in this oversized first issue, so readers will need to be patient. But given their penchant for bombast, it’s likely we will see future issues pick up the pace, especially given the introduction of the warring factions in the seemingly utopian world of the United States.
X-Force #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): A new nation means new enemies in the debut of X-Force. Gathering a stable of deadly, hyper-capable mutants, writer Benjamin Percy makes the leap to the X-titles well. This opening issue moves fairly well and makes good use of the more “black ops”-focused narrative. The only problem is, this Dawn of X entry feels fairly standard team-based fare, especially when compared to the more conceptual "Dawn of X" titles. Artist Joshua Cassara, along with the stony colors of Dean White, certainly makes it look like a rough-and-tumble action movie, populating the debut with sketchy character models and rich Krakoan plant-life, edged with keen action and a devastating cliffhanger image.Though not pitch-perfect or ambitious, X-Force #1 at the very least is a pretty fun, darkly entertaining opening issue.
The Infected: King Shazam #1 (Published by DC; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): At this point, it really feels like DC is running this whole “Infected” thing into the ground. Writer Sina Grace’s script is hollow, full of stock teen angst that just doesn’t resonate at all. Even Shazam’s big “move” in this one is something Josh Williamson already did more effectively in Batman/Superman. Artist Joe Bennett acquits himself well in this one, however, even if his inkers tend to put too fine a point on his linework. (I don’t think that so much of the shading needed to be each and every line of hatching.) If you’re looking for more Shazam (and I don’t blame you given the Big Red Cheese’s main title delays), you’re better off skipping this one, as it says little about the character and adds little to this event’s bigger arc.
Crone #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Ever wonder what life would be like for Red Sonja after retirement? That’s the question that Dennis Culver, Justin Greenwood, and Brad Simpson explore in Crone #1. We first see Bloody Bliss in action through a flashback, and the bikini-clad, redheaded barbarian doesn’t shy away from drawing an immediate parallel to Red Sonja, especially as she readily dispatches her foes and awes her male companions with her battle prowess. Yet, the story quickly jumps ahead 30 years as we see she has aged and now lives a hermit’s life on a mountaintop. The story has potential, and Culver and Greenwood deliver a character with heart whom readers should want to follow, even if the dialogue did occasionally come across as clichéd. Greenwood and Simpson’s art pops throughout and it has the look and feel of the old Dragon’s Lair video game – vibrant and full of life, and readers will want to wait until issue #2 to see whether Crone is able to find its true potential.
Amazing Spider-Man #33 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The new era of 2099 gets off to a surprisingly plotty start in Amazing Spider-Man #33. Though we start with some choice Spidey 2099 action, densely and kinetically rendered by artist Patrick Gleason in the opening, afterward writer Nick Spencer shift to finish his twisty geopolitical morass centered around the Chameleon, Peter’s spy sister Teresea, and the return of Silver Sable. It has a neat scope and ties in a lot of past Spider-Man narrative from the Dan Slott era, but still reads too much like naked set-up for the incoming 2099. He even doubles down on the table-setting by threading through some of Peter’s new school work into it, introducing a wondrous bit of tech that can “accurately predict the future.'' Surely that isn’t going to complicate the Spiders’ lives, right? We’ll likely find out soon enough, as Amazing Spider-Man #33 keeps us on the road to 2099.
Dead Eyes #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Dead Eyes #2 presses the pedal to the metal as Martin Dobbs officially goes out of retirement. The series continues to succeed by showing grounded problems that our main character must face. Writer Gerry Duggan and artist John McCrea opens up with Dobbs at the hospital with his newly admitted wife as he finds out just how expensive her medical bills are going to be. This is what leads Dobbs to put on the mask again and rob a bank, which delivers some great dynamic action from McCrea’s artwork as things go horribly wrong. One of my favorite elements from this title is Dobb’s relationship with his wife. His work as Dead Eyes isn’t a secret, and even when they get into a fight about his return as a vigilante, he’s still very open about his work. It’s such a nice, refreshing change for this genre. Dead Eyes has quickly become one of my favorite new indie titles of the year with this creative team’s deconstruction of superhero tropes through the lens of an anti-hero.
Livewire #12 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Livewire’s journey comes to a surprisingly low-key but thematically rich conclusion in Livewire #12. Faced with a breach of her systems and sudden clearing of her name, Amanda faces the real puppetmaster behind it all; new Councilman Wright, who has been using Livewire and her assistance all along to further his own agenda, resulting in a sort of moral deadlock, instead of the usual arc-ending battle royale. Though it doesn’t have nearly the same bombast as the previous Livewire-focused titles, writer Vita Ayala makes it feel weighty thanks to tense dialogue exchanges and deep, introspective narration. The visual duality of the issue also helps, starting with the cartoonish, but evocative artwork of Tana Ford and Kelly Fitzpatrick, this opening section of the finale leans into the emotions of Ayala’s final act. Though when Bruno Oliveira and Ruth Redmond take on the final pages, the comic takes on a more indie movie-inspired tone, which clashes slightly with the look and tone of the previous pages. Still, it is a pretty great to see such a large scale title like this take such an emotional, character-focused track for the finale.
November: Book One (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): This first book in a series of comic novellas, November tells a story of various characters in a nonlinear fashion forcing the reader and to piece together the harsh and unforgiving world in which these people scrape by. This is Matt Fraction telling the kind of story he tells best: a snapshot in the day of the life of a flawed but sympathetic character living in a world that does not love or care for them. Readers unfamiliar with artist Elsa Charretier will quickly find her work to be reminiscent not only of Cooke but also earlier David Mazzuchelli with its cinematic simplicity. Hollingsworth’s colors also have an opportunity to shine due to the fine line art from Charretier, which allows his work to carry the tone and atmosphere forward. This story invites multiple re-readings and makes returning for the next book a no-brainer.
Young Justice #10 (Published by DC; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Young Justice #10 opens up with the origin story of one of Bendis’ new creations, Jinny Hex, which then abruptly shifts into the team’s current multiverse storyline. This narrative tug-of-war continues throughout the issue, taking away what could have been an informative and gripping narration about Jinny Hex. And while I’m a diehard Naomi fan, it’s disappointing that the cover heavily promotes the character, while the actual story takes an entire issue to introduce her to the team. For a very juxtaposed narration, John Timms and Nick Derington are surprisingly able to keep a consistent visual tone, despite Derington having a largely quiet story while Timms goes wall-to-wall with the crowded action sequences. Overall, there are elements for a really great issue in here that are muddled with so many subplots that none of them are able to truly stand out.
We Are The Danger #5 (Published by Black Mask Studios; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): We are the Danger closes its curtains with a closer look at the series’ villain, Logan, as this issue digs into the root of her daddy issues, which ultimately leads her to rigging the Battle of the Bands. This makes for a good character-driven issue as we get a peek behind the curtain of our villain’s life, which also helps deliver some good dramatic tension for our heroes. While it’s a somewhat convenient plot point that the band’s management coincidentally overhears Logan’s father rigging the contest, artist and writer Fabian Lelay does a great job at establishing tone, and I absolutely love the large cast’s very distinct styles throughout the series. Overall, We Are The Danger is a fun slice-of-life, musically driven comic book that finds its strength through the band’s intricate dynamics and their layered arch-nemesis.
Magnificent Ms. Marvel #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): History reports are hard. Kamala thought this would be the biggest challenge her day would bring, until her father collapses onto the floor and is rushed to the hospital. Magnificent Ms. Marvel continues to find strength when focusing on Kamala’s personal narrative as it intertwines with her superhero life. Writer Saladin Ahmed delivers this in stride with the origins of Kamala’s father’s sickness revealed and her relationship with Bruno starting to steam up with her new rush of emotions. I enjoyed seeing Kamala’s balancing act, but the Mister Hyde fight, introduced towards the middle of the issue, felt obligatory — instead of helping to build tension, it made the narration lose momentum from its emotional storytelling. On artwork, Minkyu Jung returns on pencils with a delightful familiarity to the series in collaboration with long-standing colorist, Ian Herring, who deliver some great emotional scenes. Magnificent Ms. Marvel #9 is one of the series’ stronger issues, as it does a better job at balancing Kamala’s personal drama with her superhero responsibilities.