Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Formidable Forrest Helvie, who takes a look at The Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child...
The Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child #1 (Published by DC; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Rafael Grampa and Jordie Bellaire absolutely shine in this over-sized one-shot from DC’s Black Label. The kinetic, highly detailed line art combined with the warm and vibrant colors will leave a lasting impression on any reader. Grampa’s work often feels highly reminiscent of writer Frank Miller’s, but with a tighter control over the lines that provides a great sense of focus to what’s happening in each panel. With regards to the story itself, however, the first impression proves to be a lasting one, with scenes overstuffed with expository dialogue and narration but lacking any real meat on the bone, as Miller takes a while to unpack events. Thankfully, the art proves visually appealing and engaging enough to keep readers from blowing through the story. Fans of Miller’s current style of writing will find plenty to enjoy, and those who are not will find something to appreciate in the contemporary realization of his take on the DCU as depicted by Grampa and Bellaire.
The Amazing Mary Jane #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): When Mysterio is directing a movie, you know that trouble isn’t far behind — and in The Amazing Mary Jane #3, the Sinister Six crashes his set and starts wreaking havoc, leading to even more production delays. Writer Leah Williams brings a unique perspective to Marvel’s lineup with a nice tongue-in-cheek commentary on the blockbuster superhero films of today, but this message becomes muddled with the random bursts of action, although Carlos E. Gomez’ pencils do shine during these moments. With the series third installment, the title continues to struggle to find an identity for itself. It injects action for the sake of it being a superhero book, but the quicker it figures out it’s not the stronger the series will become.
Undiscovered Country #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Picking up in the wake of the capture of their pilot and finding themselves on the run from the despotic Destiny Man, the characters must now try and find a way to balance the need to escape with accomplishing their mission to secure the cure for the Sky disease. Scott Snyder and Charles Soule’s make clear their concern about developing both the world and characters who inhabit it; unfortunately, most of this issue centers on such background development. As a result, there are few scenes that break up all of the expository, plodding flashbacks. Fans of Snyder and Soule can trust this is but the calm before the storm, but it doesn’t keep it from being an overall slow read. Thankfully, artist Guiseppe Camuncoli, inker Daniele Orlandi and colorist Matt Wilson’s psychedelically dystopian proves engaging and leaving readers wondering what they’ll discover on the other side of the next page.
Doom 2099 #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): A man out of time, we find a present-day version of Doctor Doom displaced into 2099 and fighting his way back to power. Writer Chip Zdarsky does a solid job of finding Victor Von Doom’s voice and character in this one-shot while artist Marco Castiello and colorist Chris Sotomayer artfully craft an edgy, dystopian future for this villain to try to conquer. The story comes across as fairly rote up until the end, with a surprising reveal that will both surprise readers and leave them questioning how they missed the clues. Unfortunately, some of those questions are fairly asked as the answers won’t be so easily identified upon rereading the issue. Additionally, this issue fails to connect to the current Marvel 2099 event taking place let alone the original line of series, and this leaves readers wondering not only about the identity of Doom but also what the stakes are in this story.
Far Sector #2 (Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): DC’s newest space procedural continues to impress in Far Sector #2, as Green Lantern Sojourner Mullein continues to hunt for a murderer while finding her feet in the strange world of the City Enduring. While writer N.K. Jemisin slows things down a bit for her sophomore effort, it makes sense that now that we’ve been introduced to this bustling interstellar metropolis, we’d see more of Jo’s place in it, with an alien friend-with-benefits, carnivorous diplomacy, as well as struggling with the concept of flying. But artist Jamal Campbell continues to make this book what it is, from his homage to the Matrix on the book’s first page to versatile designs of the Green Lantern plasma sculptures, such as the way Jo single-handedly parts a crowd of bystanders. There’s a ton of ideas and loads of beautiful art in Far Sector, making this one of the best books DC has to offer.
New Mutants #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Ed Brisson and Flaviano take over the New Mutants with a tale of the “next generation” back on Krakoa in issue #3. Armor and Glob are adjusting to their new lives on the island, but Armor’s thoughts are still occupied with those who haven’t come to Krakoa — specifically Angel and Beak, breakout stars of the Grant Morrison and Jason Aaron X-tenures, who seem to be stuck back in the U.S. with their children. What follows is an occasionally funny and emotional adventure from Brisson, tempered by the highly expressive, slightly cartoony artwork from Flaviano and colorist Carlos Lopez. While it isn’t as singular as the space-based hijinks of the titular team, it is nice to see New Mutants #3 thinking locally and making great use of the younger generations of X-Men from throughout their storied history.
The Red Mother #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Daisy McDonough has it all – a perfect boyfriend, a good job, plans for the future – that’s until someone attacks Daisy and her partner, leaving her with a missing eye and a potentially murdered boyfriend. Writer Jeremy Haun hides the villain deep into the shadows to keep his attention fully on Daisy’s PTSD as she deals with these life-changing events. What makes Red Mother stand apart from the pack is that it takes its time for Daisy and the readers to process her physical and internal loss. Regression’s Danny Luckert beautifully displays this emotional resonance through his visuals. Red Mother #1 brilliantly takes a slow-burn approach to focus on character work to allow the audience to fully connect to the series’ main lead and build tension for the dangers that lie ahead.
Annihilation Scourge: Beta Ray Bill #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): A good boy and an Oathbrother of Thor walk into a cosmic war in the solidly fun Annihilation Scourge: Beta Ray Bill #1. Written with a funny, burly energy by Michael Moreci and rendered in splashy, monster-filled pages by Alberto Albuquerque and Jay David Ramos, this latest one-shot pits fan-favorites Bill and Lockjaw against a twisted version of Doctor Strange as well as the Sentry. Moreci does mine some neat character moments from the team-up, including Bill’s thirst for battle among the more peaceful population of the planet they are staying. But the real spark here is the muscular, impressive action of Albuquerque and Ramos, who really beef up the showdowns of the one-shot. Though it reads more like a set-up to the incoming Omega issue, Annihilation Scourge: Beta Ray Bill #1 is a fun solo showing for the cult favorite character.
Spider-Man 2099 #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It’s the year 2099, and if there is one hero readers expect to see, it’s Miguel O’Hara – the futuristic Spider-Man! The odd thing about this first issue is that we really don’t spend a lot of time in the action-filled world of costumed superheroes set 80 years in the future, and instead, focuses more on catching readers up to speed with the origin story for this new iteration of the webbed wallcrawler. Nick Spencer weaves a number of familiar elements into this issue from the original 1990s series, along with some new tweaks made to keep longtime fans engaged. Ze Carlos, Brian Reber, and Andrew Crossley’s art pops throughout, leaving readers wishing for more costumed action. Overall, this issue does a fine job of setting the stage for who this Spider-Man is, as well as giving readers a feel for the world of 2099, even if we don’t get as much time with the main attraction as we might otherwise like.
Go Go Power Rangers #26 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Writers Ryan Parrott and Sina Grace continue to flip the script on what we know about Power Rangers with a twist that creates even more layers for one of the franchise’s most popular characters, bringing the Evil Green Ranger and Lord Drakkon arcs to a whole new level. Tommy’s story has the strongest momentum for the issue, but the origins of the Omega Rangers does slow things down since we already know how the conflict between Trini, Jason, and Zack ends, given their future narration revealed in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. On artwork, Francesco Mortarino, continues to do a good job at matching previous artist’s, Eleonora Carlini, style as she resides on the Angel/Buffy crossover event title. Overall, Go Go Power Rangers #26 nicely puts the pieces together for the bigger picture of “Necessary Evil.”
Fallen Angels #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 1 out of 10): Fallen Angels is a book that started off on the wrong foot and has subsequently stumbled with each following step. Picking up with Psylocke, Cable and X-23 about to fight a giant cybernetic threat, artist Szymon Kudranski’s scene geography is incomprehensible, with no backgrounds or continuity as the fight progresses. Meanwhile, writer Bryan Edward Hill’s plotting has become more decompressed with each issue, while his take on the core trio is puzzling, particularly in his regressive take on Laura Kinney that’s closer to her first appearances in NYX than any other material between then and now. Combine that with Kudranski and colorist Frank D’Armata’s lifeless pages, and this series fails to live up to Dawn of X’s potential on a massive scale.
The Batman’s Grave #3 (Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10: On the one hand, you can’t help but think that The Batman’s Grave might read better in a collected edition than it does standalone issues, but there’s also a sense of detail to Warren Ellis’s writing that matches the smashing realism of artist Bryan Hitch. Of course, there’s definitely a sense of Ellis taking the piss out of Batman as a concept, using Alfred as a mouthpiece to continually admonish the Caped Crusader for getting his kicks beating up the poor on behalf of Gotham’s police force, but at the same time, seeing Bruce delve into actual detective work (not to mention critiquing smarthome technology like Alexa) is a refreshing way to look at the character. Hitch, of course, excels most when he has Batman duke it out, and while I’d say that he and Ellis are getting diminishing returns with their lengthy widescreen brawls, there’s still a sense of weight and power that we can feel with every blow.
Valkyrie: Jane Foster #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The medical professionals of the Marvel universe come together to search for the cure for their most difficult patient – Death herself. Writers Jason Aaron and Al Ewing continue to perfectly balance both the worlds of Jane Foster and the Valkyrie as they allow Jane’s background as a doctor to become one of her super powers in her arsenal. The issue’s opener is a quiet but powerful scene that showcases this balance beautifully as Jane’s mortal and divine sides analyze the intentions of her eccentric but well-meaning boss. Jane reveals her secret identity to him, which completely flips the script on this classic superhero trope – where he deducts Jane’s identity even before she makes the choice to confide in him. It builds the foundation for an interesting relationship for the future. On artwork, Pere Perez takes over for Cafu and does a great job at maintaining his predecessor’s distinct expressions, while still providing his own style to the book. Valkyrie: Jane Foster continues to redefine superhero comic books by reveling in the genre’s classic tropes while adding its own modern twist.
Hellmouth #3 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The overall quality and focus of Hellmouth has swung wildly with each installment due to how the cast of the Buffyverse have been divided. What’s made the titular book the strongest component is that this has ensured some extended time with its two leads, Buffy and Angel. Unlike the first season of Buffy, which saw the two get to know each other in more muted situations, the speed of serialized comic storytelling means they’re having to do it around more drastic stakes, namely that after spending the past two issues of the trail of Drusilla, they find that the Hellmouth is holding a great deal of power over the vampire that opened it. Jordie Bellaire and Jeremy Lambert script their team-up in a way that’s true to the essence of both characters (right down to Angel avoiding telling Buffy what he is) and using that as a springboard to craft a story that can be drastically different in its dynamics. It also helps it looks gorgeous, as Eleonora Carlini’s pencils sell the body language of these characters despite not using likenesses to the same degree as other artists and Cris Peter’s colors are luminous, even miles beneath the Earth’s surface.
Captain Marvel #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The opening to the “Last Avenger” arc opted to raise a number of questions and let them hang in the air as the spectacle unfolded, and Captain Marvel #13 starts to cleverly answer why and how Carol’s going after some of her fellow Avengers, balancing this with another big fight. As with the previous arc and Minn-Erva’s role, Kelly Thompson knows how to lead a readership in one direction before pivoting into a more interesting direction, she does it again here to justify why the first half of this issue sees her lead going after Tony Stark while he’s doing something as important as brushing his teeth. Lee Garbett frames the attack as a speedy one, using panel borders as the walls that the pair crash through. Colored by Tamra Bonvillain, the sequence is a bold one, the blasts of energy being fired off crashing into one another and becoming the dominant component of the backgrounds. The intensity helps to sell the heel turn, in addition to how Tony’s facial reactions of surprise, annoyance and shock indicate the turning points of the sequence, while Carol remains hidden behind her helmet until it’s time for her to reveal what’s going on.
Five Years #6 (Published by Abstract Studios; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Five Years #6 spreads itself a bit thin as it focuses on Rachel’s revival in Russia, Stephanie’s devious attack on the Phi-Bomb’s scientist, and Tambi’s plans to put Katchoo back on the board. Though the plot is a bit stagnant, there are some excellent character beats in this issue. The story opens on a somber note as Terry Moore allows readers to get into Rachel’s head after her recent revival. Then Moore brings on the laughs with the return of the unlikely romance/relationship between Casey and Tambi, where Tambi has a hilarious segment as she learns to say hello to strangers. Moore’s black and white visuals bring a distinct flavor to this title, which continues to help his universe stand apart from the many comic books on stands. Five Years #6 slows things down to put the Mooreverse’s diverse personalities on display, and reminds readers how fun it is just to spend time with these characters and see their day-to-day lives.
Strikeforce #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Marvel’s hottest new “non-team” tell some campfire stories in Strikeforce #4. On the run and looking for refuge with the (maybe) real body of bigwig Vridai Count Ophidian, the team make use of one of Doctor Doom’s ward houses, hoping to recover their strength for a magical egress. But once inside, writer Tini Howard and a bevy of guest artists start to ramp up the creepiness factor, allowing Bucky, Daimon Hellstrom, and Spider-Woman to tell short “tales of terror” about their first experiences with the monsters. While Howard’s wry sharpness is still intact though the stories and connecting scenes, they also allow her to flex some of her horror sensibilities. The guest artists, including Max Fiumara, Marika Cresta, Stacey Lee, and colorist Dan Brown, also stage the stories very well, delivering a distinctly different look and tone for the scares they deliver, standing well amid regular team German Peralta and GURU-eFX’s present day interiors. With black-ops thrills and horror comic chills, Strikeforce #4 keeps the title on steady, entertaining ground.
Annihilation Scourge: Silver Surfer #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Dan Abnett returns to the stars in the powerful and beautiful Annihilation Scourge: Silver Surfer #1. Fresh from the trials of Silver Surfer: Black, the Surfer is now cursed with intangibility, meditating at the edge of the universe. But when the new Annihilation War interrupts his meditations, he is forced into the Negative Zone to do battle with more Cancerverse doppelgangers and drawn to the cause of the troubles, Bob Reynolds, the former host of the Sentry. Adapting quickly to Norrin’s new status quo, Abnett takes readers through the spacebound horrors of the war as the lofty Surfer passes through shattered ships and through the rift into the Negative Zone. Artists Paul Davidson and Matt Milla also amp up the grandeur and Kirby-esque scope of this one-shot, delivering highly detailed, searingly colored cosmic vistas dotted with hard angled attacks from the Surfer. Easily one of the more impressive efforts from the crossover Annihilation Scourge: Silver Surfer #1 sets the bar high for the incoming finale.