Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your first column of the decade? Best Shots has you covered with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews — let’s kick off with Frenetic Forrest Helvie, who takes a look at Thor...
Thor #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Fans of R.E. Howard’s Conan will no doubt hear echoes of the Cimmerian within the opening pages of writer Donny Cates’ prose in Thor #1 as he delves deep into the great melancholies of another mythic warrior who became king in this first issue. Artist Nic Klein delivers a one-two combination between cinematic page composition and beautifully rendered art, and the use of layered wide-panel shots proves especially effective in conveying the epic scope of the stage upon which this story unfolds. Likewise, cosmic-driven stories need to be handled carefully as far as the coloring is concerned to avoid looking like a 1980s nightmare, and veteran colorist Matt Wilson delivers a lifelike and yet otherworldly display over Klein’s line art that will keep readers glued to the page. The story as a whole will be one that’s familiar as Cates explores the theme of “heavy is the head that wears the crown,” and yet, he manages to end this first issue with an altogether unexpected twist. Plan on a wild ride with this new series as Galactus enters the fray for what appears to be a final ride to Armageddon.
Harley Quinn #69 (Published by DC; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10) Mark Russell and Sami Basri have some fun with a fast-food flavored caper that’s a send-up of the McDonald’s corporations various characters, but as a Harley Quinn story it leaves something to be desired. Basri’s art is the real stand out, providing some great character acting across the issue and some solid design work as well. Russell’s storytelling is pretty tight but the narrative is a bit thin. Anyone looking for the political commentary that marks most of his work will be disappointed to see a fairly stock main concept about corrupt CEOs and politicians. Still, this does put forward the idea that Mayor McCheese is/was the mayor of Metropolis, so that’s a win.
Hawkeye: Freefall #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Otto Schmidt kickoff a new series with Clint Barton, hot on the heels of villainous new Ronin all the while facing challenges of keeping his neighborhood safe. Despite Hawkeye’s best efforts, we find that Brian Bendis staple villain the Hood seems to be one step ahead of the Avengers’ top sharpshooter. Artistically, Schmidt’s action sequences move quickly without missing a beat while his character-driven scenes help sell the dry wit from Rosenberg’s dialogue. With clean line art and colors that pop, it’s a visual bullseye. Hawkeye: Free Fall#1 serves as a strong first issue as Rosenberg captures elements from the fan-favorite “classic contemporary” Hawkeye while presenting Clint in a new series of circumstances with Winter Soldier and Falcon. We see that while the Avengers may assemble, they’re not always so united.
I Can Sell You A Body #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): From the solicit, Ryan Ferrier and George Kambadais’ I Can Sell You A Body should be an easy sell: a disgraced medium performs “reverse exorcisms” that put spirits back in other bodies for a steep price, but finds himself on the wrong side of some mobsters when he fails to deliver fast enough. But the story that Ferrier and Kambadais put on the page does very little to advance that sentence or put any story hooks into the reader. Most of that falls to the bland protagonist, Denny Little — he is charmless and baffling, seemingly only doing things to introduce more problems to the book. We’re being forced to follow this character around but we’re not given any compelling reason why. Kambadais’ art works for the tone of the book, but it feels like it's missing something (not unlike Denny himself). There is some good cartooning here and there, but the complete package is unremarkable. I Can Sell You A Body has potential, but fails to deliver on any of it.
Star Wars #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Picking up mere moments after the conclusion of The Empire Strikes Back, Charles Soule, Jesus Saiz, and Arif Prianto offer Star Wars fans a jumping-on point that will feel familiar and welcomed after the contentious ending of the cinematic Skywalker saga. With Luke now aware that Darth Vader is his father - not to mention losing his hand and his lightsaber - this Jedi-in-the-making must now reevaluate who he is and who he will become. We also see how Lando Calrissian works his way into the Rebellion, along with a cameo appearance from Shara Bey and Kes Dameron – parents to future Resistance leader, Poe Dameron. The comic looks polished (though perhaps a bit overly rendered in the coloring with some of the characters’ faces), and the scenes with the aerial combat are especially strong. Soule works well with the constraints before him, given that we all know how this plays out, but he still manages to pique our curiosity over Luke’s pending brush with the Dark Side of the force. For fans looking for a safe return to classic Star Wars, this is the issue you’re looking for.
Dial H For Hero #10 (Published by DC; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Dial H for Hero takes a deep dive into the multiverse in an issue that tests both Summer and Miguel’s moral compasses. Will the temptation for power have them walk away as heroes or villains? With every issue of Dial H, Sam Humphries and Joe Quinones deliver a breath of fresh air to superhero storytelling, and Issue #10 is no exception. The narrative explores the heavy concept of multiverses with a much needed levity, all while instilling emotional resonance and character depth to the series’ leads. On artwork, Quinones delivers some of his most dynamic pencils yet, as he seamlessly explores the rough terrain of DC’s multiverse. Dial H is like The Good Place of comics — every issue continues to reinvent the title as Humphries and Quinones uses comedy to tell a much deeper story.
Daredevil #16 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10) Ol’ Matt Murdock is having a bit of an identity crisis in the latest Chip Zdarsky-penned issue, but then again, when isn’t he? Zdarsky has continually put Matt through the wringer, and while the events that take place in this one are considerably less of a physical toll on the hero, his role as a hero is affecting him emotionally. It’s another issue that shows just how thoughtful of a writer Zdarsky can be and has been through his Marvel tenure. Jorge Fornes handles the linework for this issue, and he’s not up to the level of quality we’ve seen from him on Batman. His figures feel a bit more static and stilted, the expression work (which is tough considering Matt’s mask) is lacking, and his line weight feel surprisingly heavy. Colorist Nolan Woodard utilities some odd gradients that don’t complement Fornes well either.
The Terrifics #23 (Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): While writer Gene Luen Yang and artist Sergio Davila’s actual narrative in The Terrifics #23 is a bit of a mess, Yang’s got a cool storytelling mechanic in this issue that keeps things from completely drowning under all the Bizarro weirdness. Trapped as babies in a time loop — yeah, it’s better not to ask, as Yang’s exposition doesn’t really help — the emotional highlight is Mr. and Mrs. Terrific using their emotions and their unique bond with each other to overcome temporal mindwipes and the fear of the unknown. But while those two characters read well, everyone else feels superfluous — additionally, Davila’s artwork feels a little rough around the edges, but the weird baby conceit of the script also doesn’t do him any favors.
Marauders #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Marauders #5 focuses on many team members, but their stories are so separate that this doesn’t exactly feel like a team book. The only dynamic that really stands out is a small but poignant scene of Kitty opening up to Emma about her fears of not being able to go to Krakoa – of feeling like an outcast to her own people. We also get a glimmer of Kitty’s thought process about working with the Hellfire Club, as she ruminates on what would have happened if she had joined Emma’s school instead of Professor X – a choice she made when she was way too young to know what she actually wanted. Maybe this is her rebellious teen phase she never had the chance to have? On art, Matteo Lolli’s biggest strength is his creative action sequences, especially the issue’s epic boat battle as Kitty uses her powers to phase through their enemy’s ship. These scenes are sharp, but the character beats seem out of focus, with some panels looking blurry. Overall, Marauders #5 spreads itself a bit too thin as it tries to balance action with politics, but finds strength in the small moments it gives between the series’ leads.