Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your pellets? Best Shots has you covered with this week's Rapid-Fire Reviews - let's kick off with Personable Pierce Lydon, who takes a look at Avengers...
Avengers #29 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10) The new Starbrand is revealed the issue but Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness take their time getting to it. It’s hard to complain too much though because Ed McGuinness turns in some A+ fight sequences and Aaron has some fun with this currently kind of remixed squad of Avengers. Brood Thor is terrifying. Boy-Thing-armored Blade is actually a pretty cool look for the Daywalker. (To say nothing of the power potential there.) Aaron and McGuinness definitely deliver some really enjoyable moments across the issue and Aaron’s foreboding Silver Surfer is always a good turn for the character. But your mileage may vary on this issue if you aren’t all-in on this Starbrand story that’s been brewing. There’s just not much else there.
The Batman’s Grave #4 (Published by DC; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): In a lot of ways, this is the platonic ideal of a Batman comi bookc. Batman follows a lead and conducts a thorough investigation of said lead but this being a Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch joint, there’s a requisite amount of snark and widescreen violence. Ellis, to his credit, keeps the chatter to a minimum and let’s Hitch really star this issue. The fight scenes are well-choreographed and the absence of sound effects gives them a sort of quiet brutality. (In fact, it’s probably for the best considering that Batman breaks so many bones in one man’s body, that you could probably fold him in half and I’m not sure what sound that would make.) This might sound reductive but this book is exactly as advertised on the cover: Ellis, Hitch, Batman. ‘Nuff said.
Undiscovered Country #3 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Undiscovered Country #3 falls in line with a similar impression from the previous issue where readers will know this story is building some fantastic moments, but it continues to take some work and patience to get there. By the end of the issue, we’re closer to reaching the climax of the team confronting the sinister force behind the dystopia that is the United States… but we’re still not there quite yet. Scott Snyder and Charles Soule continue delving into the backstories of their cast, and this time, they focus on the American history expert, Dr. Ace Kenyatta, who helps both the team and reader better understand and appreciate the world in which they find themselves. Artist Giuseppe Camuncoli, inker Daniele Orlandi and colorist Matt Wilson continue to craft a visually compelling world that feels disconcertingly foreign and familiar at the same time – no mean feat. Given the team’s track record with slow-build storytelling, patient readers will no doubt be rewarded later on this series; however, don’t look for Undiscovered Country to give readers a satisfying one-and-done reading experience.
Runaways #29 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The secret origins of the J-Team are revealed! Gert takes center stage, observing the team from an outsider’s perspective, as she learns the haunting truth about the previous members of the J-Team – they all died or ended up with Doc Justice and then died. Doc Justice is a man much older than 30 who continues to prove the lesson the kids just don’t seem to learn: don’t trust adults. This is the best issue of this arc thus far because Rainbow Rowell continues to keep character at its core while still giving great chunks of information about the story’s potential villain. On visuals, it’s evident how much fun Andres Genolet is having with the title’s deep dive into the superhero genre and its infectious to read. It’s the perfect balance of emotions, comedy, and action! Runaways #29 is a fun story that revels in the classic superhero tropes we all know and love, but at its heart it’s a narrative about not needing superpowers or a psychically-linked dinosaur to be a hero.
Valkyrie: Jane Foster #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): What’s life without death? Writers Al Ewing and Jason Aaron take a deep dive with Valkyrie: Jane Foster #7, as the medical professionals of the Marvel Universe team up to try and save Death herself. And this brings up an important ethical question: If they don’t cure Death, does that mean everyone they love or have loved get to live forever? This forces Jane to have to relive the trauma of losing her ex-husband, her son, and the struggles she’s gone through with cancer. A poignant moment in the script is when Jane through a mortal lens is down to the wire and must answer this impossible question. She sees the reproduction of living cells as a cancer, and of course, as a breast cancer survivor, that’s not a world she wants to live in. The end of death doesn’t equal life. This big, worldly question is the driving force towards a powerful character story, which guest artist Pere Perez perfectly aces with his delivery of these emotional beats. Jane continues to bring a human perspective to some very complicated concepts, and this central theme is why Valkyrie: Jane Foster is one of the best superhero comic books on stands.
Red Mother #2 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Red Mother successfully takes a slow burn approach to focus on Daisy’s every day struggles as she deals with the loss of her boyfriend, her eye, and her normal life. This structure allows Jeremy Haun to create tension as the reader builds a stronger bond with the title’s main character – all perfect elements to create a compelling horror tale. On artwork, Danny Luckert, does a wonderful job at balancing the hurtles Daisy is facing with the “red” monster seeping into her life. This is especially displayed through his color work as a burst of blinding red appears sporadically throughout the book. Overall, Red Mother #2 is a great second installment. The series takes a deep dive into character study as the story allows the haunting elements to slowly creep into the pages - creating the perfect tone for this horrific title.
Iron Man 2020 #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): For comic fans who haven’t kept current with writer Dan Slott’s work on Iron Man, this issue does enough to catch them up to speed with the events in this issue, but there’s little about Arno Stark for readers to really connect with and root for. That said, Pete Woods’ artwork and Joe Caramagna’s lettering work together quite well to create a continually attention-grabbing comic. The story itself may feel a little predictable given many familiar elements worked into it – from the A.I. rights to the mysterious 13th floor – but Woods manages to breathe life into the storyline with his emotive depictions of the robots. The Wall-E like bomb robot was an especially charming touch between Woods and Slott. This issue should be a pleaser for contemporary Iron Man readers, but there’s a lack of the fluidity with the various parts of this story that is hard to overlook.
The Flash #86 (Published by DC; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Josh Williamson’s run with The Flash has been one of the most consistent since DC Rebirth, and this issue is no exception. In a lot of ways, Williamson’s work feels like an echo of the past. The stories have weight but aren’t so big that they feel unwieldy. The captioning is very overt and spells things out easily for the reader. There’s something comforting about the simplicity. However, that can work against the writer as well, and another issue that kind of hinges on “my Speed Force is broken” feels a bit like a broken record. But solid art from Rafa Sandoval and a conclusion that promises Barry is in another unforeseen predicament means you could so a lot worse for your money at the comic shop this week.