Best Shots Rapid-Fire Reviews: X-MEN #2, BATMAN'S GRAVE #2, FOLKLORDS #1, FAMILY TREE #1, More

DC Comics November 2019 solicitations
Credit: DC

Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off with Melodious Matthew Sibley, who takes a look at X-Men #2...

X-Men #2 primary cover
X-Men #2 primary cover
Credit: Leinil Francis Yu/Sunny Gho (Marvel Comics)

X-Men #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): In an attempt to be a better dad, Cyclops is taking Rachel and Kid Cable out for the day. Now it is admittedly to scope out an island moving towards Krakoa at quite some speed, but what can you say, at least he’s trying. Jonathan Hickman’s Summers Family Adventures, aka X-Men #2, is a blast to read and moves like a bullet – taking just a page to set up the mission – and winds up in an unexpected destination. While it breezes past the big story beat of X-Force #1 , this issue just goes to show once again how the new status quo continues to expand and get all the more interesting with each passing week. Leinil Francis Yu’s characters are still a tad too stoic to wholly suit Hickman’s voices for the trio, but their journey through the island is a better fit for he and Gerry Alanguilan’s talents. The dense foliage and expansive clearings are bolstered by some striking colours from Sunny Gho, as they uncover this mysterious new locale – not to mention its inhabitants – while also laying some groundwork for future stories down the line.

Credit: DC

The Batman’s Grave #2 (Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Batman takes on the Flamingo in The Batman’s Grave #2, and ultimately, your mileage on this sophomore effort will be based on how much you like Bryan Hitch’s artwork. With this highly decompressed story, Batman and his face-eating nemesis trade punches that feel like wrecking balls, and similar to Warren Ellis’s collaboration with Declan Shalvey on Moon Knight , there’s a deep visceral excitement to these fight sequences that dwarf what you see in most Big Two comics. That said, this fight also goes on for more than half the page count of this series, with Ellis taking a slow burn to introduce more detective elements to the series before running out of narrative real estate. Not a bad book by any means, but there’s definitely some fat that could have been trimmed here.

Credit: BOOM! Studios

Folklords #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10) Ansel isn’t like the other kids of the village; he has visions of another world where the buildings reach the sky, carriages move without being pulled by horses, and everyone wears suits. He’s convinced that the Folklords know more about this place, wherever they may reside and he’s adamant on launching a quest to find them, even if the elders seem against the idea. Writer Matt Kindt teams up with artist Matt Smith, colorist Chris O’Halloran and letterer Jim Campbell for this new miniseries, akin to a young-adult version of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village , melding intrigue with the classic teen idea of dreaming of another world out there. Beyond what they’ve known for their entire life, one where they belong. Smith and O’Halloran’s cartooning and colors bring this world to life, there’s a sense of how close-knit the community is from what’s seen in the streets and the taverns while also getting at how closed-off and restrictive it is to someone dreaming of more. When the adventure gets going, the book’s look shifts away from warm colors and towards the ominous, an apt visual depiction of the unknown ultimately is, while imploring you to join the quest.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Future Foundation #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The fight between the team and Ultimate Reed Richards continues to be a game of cat and mouse that has overstayed its welcome. In Future Foundation #4, writer Jeremy Whitley leans heavy on the action, while the series struggles juggling its large cast. The cramped narrative makes any significant character beats feel muddled. That said, artist Alti Firmansyah and colorist Triona Farrell are able to better balance the many characters with their sleek and cartoony style. Overall, Future Foundation’s penultimate issue leaves fans on an interesting cliffhanger, but there aren’t enough emotional moments to allow this story to be truly memorable.

Credit: Image Comics

Family Tree #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Jeff Lemire and Phil Hester take the idea of the Family Tree to a whole new level in their brand-new Image series, as a single mother’s daughter starts literally developing bark and branches, forcing the family to go on a dangerous adventure to save the girl. The issue is a slow burn, but does a solid job at setting up the series’ conflict and the varying personalities of the family. I’m most excited to see how the characters’ dynamics will develop as the stakes grow higher for this eight-year-old girl. On artwork, Hester nails the title’s somber tone as trouble creeps through the narrative. Family Tree #1 presents a world that is ending not because of war but because of nature, as the creative team ably balances ambiance with character study.

Credit: DC

Tales of the Dark Multiverse: Blackest Night #1 (Published by DC; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): DC delves deeper into their dark tales of the multiverse with a retelling of a modern classic, Blackest Night. But like many of this line’s other installments, Tim Seeley and Kyle Hotz do not prove that this is a necessary offshoot from modern DC continuity. The strongest element is the unlikely combination of Sinestro, Lobo, Dove and Mister Miracle as they rage against a universe filled with Black Lanterns, but the issue focused way too much on twists to make this motley crew reach their true potential. On visuals, Kyle Hotz and the rest of the art team take a spookier bent on Ivan Reis’ signature style, but doesn’t instill the same awe inspiring detail as the original series. Tales of the Dark Multiverse: Blackest Night #1 proves that not all great stories have to be revisited, as these Elseworld narratives continue to fumble.

Credit: Image Comics

Trees: Three Fates #3 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Toska’s intimate criminal network comes apart at the seams in Trees: Three Fates #3. While series lead Klara is sidelined with increasing visions brought on by her proximity to the Tree, writer Warren Ellis takes the time to fill in the gaps in regards to henchmen Oleg and how he’s been burned by crime boss Nina. And it all has to do with the body by the base of the Tree. Though this issue would hit a bit harder in a binge-reading situation, the texture of the village and the dingy details of Ellis and artist Jason Howard’s world still really pop. A violent but evocative new chapter, Trees: Three Fates #3 delivers some dark-edged Warren Ellis fun.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Runaways #27 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Runaways fully embraces the superhero genre as the team picks their costumes, codenames, and joins Doc Justice in the field for their first superhero battle. Runaways #27 is just pure fun, as this volume’s original creative team Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka create a magical collaboration with the effortless joy they pour onto every page. This energy is especially showcased in the issue’s “fashion show” segment, as the heroes try out their new costumes, not only highlighting the heroes’ personalities, but also poking fun at the costume tropes of the past. But the strongest aspect of Anka’s return is the small moments he’s able to brilliantly deliver between characters, especially the romantic beats Karolina and Nico share and the awkward love triangle between Gert, Chase, and Victor. Issue #27 proves Runaways to be a splendid character-driven series that is able to consistently reinvent itself.

Credit: Wendy Pini (Dark Horse Comics)

Elfquest: Stargazer’s Hunt #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Elfquest returns with the story after the story in Stargazer’s Hunt #1. Scripted by co-creators Wendy and Richard Pini and brought to life by the lyrically old-school pencils of Sonny Strait, this new series looks to return readers to the wonderous world, following the remaining cast and their families. But unfortunately, much of the page count is dedicated to a reintroduction to the layered fantasy world and cast. And much of that, though handsomely rendered and colored by Strait, comes off a little flat for anyone not intimately acquainted with the world of Elfquest and the complex character dynamics found in the original series. Though a neat slice of comic history repolished for a new series, I don’t see Elfquest: Stargazer’s Hunt garnering too many new fans along with the diehards.

Credit: Valiant Entertainment

Psi-Lords #6 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Tank, Beacon, Hazard, and Artisan engage in a barbaric recruitment drive in Psi-Lords #6. Thrown into the Gyre by the ship’s leaders and forced to fight for a new team, the castoffs from Earth try to hold their own while Artisan receives some long-awaited backstory from an outside psychic source. This might sound kind of busy, but writer Fred Van Lente keeps the action focused on our lead cast, hinging all the narrative turns around each in kind. This also gives artist Renato Guedes plenty to do as the cast scraps and clashes against crazy alien character models amid expansive, intricately designed galactic settings. Melding space opera and ensemble comedy Psi-Lords #6 continues to be a fun romp through deep space.

Credit: DC/Black Label

The Dollhouse Family #1 (Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): The latest debut in DC’s Hill House imprint begins with a shaky foundation in The Dollhouse Family #1. Writer M.R. Carey oscillates between two plots — the story of a young girl caught in the middle of her abused mother and her violent father, and a historical narrative meant to dovetail into a clearly sinister dollhouse now in the young girl’s possession. The problem is, readers get the gist of what Carey’s going for in the first few pages, and the unnecessary repetitiveness doesn’t do much to establish the mood or atmosphere (or to elevate these characters beyond stock figures). While colorist Cris Peter goes to the mat to conjure up tension with his dark palettes, artists Peter Gross and Vince Locke don’t bring enough stylization to conjure up any scares or dread with their unassuming style. Given the post-Halloween glut of spooky stories, The Dollhouse Family doesn’t register amongst other superior horror comic offerings.

Credit: Titan Comics

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Holiday Special #1 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Thirteenth Doctor and her “fam” face off against a memory-stealing Santa Claus cosplayer in the debut of the The Thirteenth Doctor Holiday Special. Headlined by regular series writer Jody Houser and the expressive, screen-accurate artwork of Roberta Ingranata and Enrica Eren Angiolini, this Holiday Special delivers a devious deconstruction of holiday trappings, pitting the Doctor against a Santa that steals memories and his army of raygun-toting Nutcrackers, all tied together by Houser’s engaging, natural characterization of the Doctor and her companions. We might not be getting a TV Christmas Special this year, but The Thirteenth Doctor Holiday Special #1 is a worthy alternative thanks to it’s charm, characters, and Christmassy trappings.

Credit: Legends Press Comics Group

Project Wildfire: Street Justice (Published by Legends Press Comics Group; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): One part Saturday morning superhero cartoon, one part kaiju actioner, and one part government conspiracy thriller, Project Wildfire: Street Justice throws everything and the kitchen sink at its readers, with an enthusiasm and ambition that occasionally outpaces what can be put on a page. Artist Quinn McGowan’s photorealistic style recalls that of Tony Harris, fleshing out writer Hannibal Tabu’s wild and frenetic world nicely. Tabu, meanwhile, turns this story into an all-you-can-eat genre buffet, with Agent Wildfire acting as a mix between Static Shock and Captain America, as he navigates working with the shadowy governmental agency Monsterwatch while being reminded of the harsh realities of police race relations thanks to fellow superhero Faze. That said, there is a lot crammed into this story, and sometimes the focus takes a hit as a result — additionally, while McGowan brings some polish with his art, Cyril Brown’s colors sometimes make the detail work muddy, while McGowan’s lettering hurts the overall readability of the book.

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