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 Pontificatin’ Pierce Lydon, who takes a look at the latest issue of Batman...
Batman #83 (Published by DC; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10) There are two things that stand out about Tom King’s work in this issue. First, in scripting Alfred’s big speech, King is adept at tapping into the Big Dad Feelings that characterize a lot of Batman stories. This is a sad affair, and King gets that across effectively. But secondly, it’s hard to parse his intent in using two Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poems as framing devices. Longfellow was one of the most popular poets of his time, but critics (including Edgar Allen Poe, notably) turned on him, accusing him of plagiarism and somewhat banal simplicity, eventually deriding him as little more than a children’s poet. So in using these poems, is King talking down to his audience? Being self-deprecating about his own work? Making a statement about Batman and/or superhero comic books in general? You could make a case for all three and unfortunately, I think the poems detract from the good work that King does elsewhere in Alfred’s final words to Bruce. Mikel Janin turns in a gorgeous looking issue and really steps up to the emotionality in the script. With the end of King’s run in sight, Batman #83 should tug at your heartstrings, as we gear up for the Dark Knight’s final confrontation with Thomas Wayne.
Absolute Carnage #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10) It all ends here - sorta - and if nothing else, Absolute Carnage has been a fun ride. Donny Cates ups the melodrama in this conclusion and set the stage for the aftermath of the event in his Venom run. While this issue isn’t quite as exciting as some of the past ones, Cates reminds us that he can very effectively end a story and leave enough threads hanging to push the narrative forward elsewhere. Ryan Stegman’s work in this issue (and across the series, really) communicates the tension and the terror of this whole situation with aplomb. Frank Martin’s colors really come through as well, giving the pages individual depth where a less skilled colorist might not be able to handle the swaths of red and black that ooze through this book. All in all, it’s a good effort - it’s not the kind of finale that will blow you away, but it serves its characters well and will have lasting consequences for Venom moving forward.
Amazing Spider-Man #34 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Artist Patrick Gleason continues to dominate with his post-DC work in Amazing Spider-Man #34, as he and writer Nick Spencer deliver a winning team-up between the Spider-Men of the present and the year 2099. If Gleason isn’t drawing the best-looking Miguel O’Hara in the history of the character, I’ll eat my hat, and his take on the classic Spider-Man ain’t too shabby, either, with some superlative body language that illustrates both the agility and the sense of humor of the friendly neighborhood Webslinger. Spencer also escalates his story nicely, criss-crossing between Spidey 2099’s mission to rescue the future and the past, while playing up an assassination attempt on Victor Von Doom himself. While some of Spencer’s plot seeding - including a device that can predict the future - drags the momentum a little bit, Gleason is such a revelation that he makes Amazing Spider-Man a must-buy.
Olympia #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): It’s always tough to tackle a piece of work that a creator describes as the “most important story” they’ve ever told. When it’s working, it can be a revelatory experience that recontextualizes the entirety of an artist’s work. But when it’s not, it’s hard not to feel like the creator may have imbued the piece with some significance that just never made its way to the page. Unfortunately, it seems we have a bit of the latter with Curt Pires’ Olympia. Pires worked on the book with his late father Tony, and while that is touching, it doesn’t make up for a story that just doesn’t feel unique. Elements of Thor, Plutona and God Country help make up the concept and are too obvious to ignore, while Pires’ protagonist Elon feels too flat to hook readers. Artist Alex Diotto never fully commits to the Jack Kirby homage (like we’ve seen in books like Godland) so the whole affair feels less like reverence and more like a misunderstanding about what’s made Kirby’s work iconic. Pires and Diotto are infatuated with the aesthetics of The New Gods, Thor and even Stranger Things, but that clouds their ability to mix those into something new and compelling.
Marauders #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Kitty Pryde goes full-on pirate with a new costume, a drink in hand, and tattoos on her knuckles. I’m enjoying Gerry Duggan’s new-no-holds bar version of the character, but I wish there was more explanation on how Kitty has gotten to this point. Is it the failed wedding? Is it because she can’t go to Krakoa? Or is it just the lack of direction as she struggles with her self-identity? These are all wounds that just aren’t getting enough attention, and without acknowledging them this change in character comes out of left field. Putting Kitty’s lack of characterization aside, Marauders #2 is still one hell of a fun issue, particularly with the new dynamic between Emma and Kitty, especially knowing their previous history together. It builds for some excellent tension between the two and a killer cliffhanger. On artwork, Matteo Lolli has done a great job at the new character designs, but I wish there was more detail with their facial expressions. Overall, Marauders has a lot of potential to be one of Marvel’s best titles, but it needs to dive deeper into some character work to get there.
Batman: White Knight Presents Von Freeze #1 (Published by DC; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10) Sean Murphy is joined by Klaus Janson to fill in a gap between Issues #6 and #7 of Batman: White Knight and explain Murphy’s vision of Mister Freeze. The flashbacks take readers back to Nazi Germany and explores the birth of cryotech and the tenuous relationship between Fries’ father and his Jewish colleague. It’s far from an essential story, but Janson’s art is pleasing - it’s easy to see where Murphy draws some of his own influence from with the clean linework on display here. Nazis are the kind of antagonist that always works, but having a character side with them even for a short time definitely muddies the waters a bit. And Murphy’s clunky dialogue keeps this one from really reaching its true potential.
Crowded #10 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Charlie and Vita’s sexual tension comes to a head in this steamy edition of Crowded. As the characters finally give into this sexual build-up and learn more about each other as romantic partners, Christopher Sebela expertly allows the two characters to start opening up to each other about their pasts. (Well, at least Vita is opening up, Charlie’s past continues to only be teased, but I like the organic slow burn with her narrative.) We not only learn more about our leads, but also the ominous assassin that has been following them – as we see her story connect to the themes of our social media-obsessed world. On artwork, Ro Stein and Ted Brandt do a great job at showcasing the spark of new love as Charlie and Vita begin to explore an intimate relationship with each other. Overall, Crowded #10 is a sexy, action-packed comic you need to pick up.
Amazing Mary Jane #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Lights! Camera! Well, it might be a little premature to call action - The Amazing Mary Jane #2 delves into the nitty gritty that goes into making a Hollywood production with Leah Williams expertly showcasing her knowledge of filmmaking as MJ and Mysterio team up to try and find money to continue their shoot. The almost slice-of-life nature of this story is a lot of fun, but the superhero/Spider-Man aspect continues to feel jumbled as the Sinister Six crash onto set - a cliffhanger that feels tacked on for the sake of a superhero moment. But on the flip side, artist Carlos E. Gomez is able smoothly find the balance between action and comedy with his visuals. Amazing Mary Jane still struggles to find its voice, but has a unique point of view for the superhero genre as it explores the day-to-day hiccups that come along with set life.
The Infected: Scarab #1 (Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): While the overarching "Infected" storyline is already wearing a bit thin, writer Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum and artist Freddie Williams II deliver a strong Jaime Reyes story with The Infected: Scarab. In many ways, this feels similar to Spider-Man’s symbiote story, particularly as we see Jaime start to succumb to the Batman Who Laughs’ dark metal Batarang. (Comics, everybody!) But Hallum does a great job at channeling Jaime’s unique voice and personality, and the moments where he starts to lose his cool - like beating the hell out of a bad guy - are really intense. While some of his human characters are a little overexaggerated in terms of their anatomy, Williams brings a wonderful level of energy and dynamism to his work - his take on the Beetle suit and Ghostfire are superb, so watching those two duke it out is a highlight of the book. That said, while Hallum and Williams provide a strong audition for an ongoing Blue Beetle run, the ending of the issue feels a little predetermined and rushed - but in their defense, it’s hard to ramp up stakes when you’ve already seen where Jaime winds up in another series. A solid outing that Blue Beetle fans will love.
Captain Marvel #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Carol Danvers turns to the dark side! Captain Marvel #12 dives straight into an evil Danvers trading punches with the God of Thunder himself, which artist Lee Garbett expertly delivers. I was especially impressed with the new evil character design Garbett developed for Carol - it brings a whole new flavor to the book! Writer Kelly Thompson begins this brand new direction for the character in the middle of Carol’s evil adventure, which is a bold choice that creates for some great intrigue for the rest of the narrative. Captain Marvel #12 is a successful first installment to this exciting arc, as it jumps right into the action all while building a fascinating mystery surrounding Carol Danver’s new dark path.