Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your weekly pellets? Best Shots has you covered with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Jealous Justin Partridge, who takes a look at Action Comics #1012…
Action Comics #1012 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The mystery of Metropolis’ “Invisible Mafia” deepens in Action Comics #1012, our first Event Leviathan tie-in. Though regular series leads Lois Lane and Clark Kent are shuffled off the board in a romantic interlude, writer Brian Michael Bendis quickly fills the gap with new character Daily Planet reporter Robin Goode a.k.a.the Red Cloud. Evoking The Departed as Goode chases leads on her own criminal outfit and the looming Leviathan, Bendis delivers some lengthy exposition as Good interviews C-list DC vigilantes Rose and Thorn. But it’s guest artist Szymon Kudranski who makes Bendis’s traditional wordiness pop a bit more — armed with several theatrical double page splashes, one displaying the intimate opulence of the Fortress of Solitude and another the full gritty fury of Thorn at “work,” Kudranski adapts well to the seedy underbelly of Metropolis and the varied world of Action Comics overall. While this event tie-in could have used a little bit more information to provide context, the Bendis era of Action Comics seems to be continuing to go strong.
Runaways #22 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Runaways continues to impress even when Kris Anka isn’t on interiors, as writer Rainbow Rowell and artist Andres Genolet deliver a fun and accessible story that delves into the drama that comes up with teen superheroes having to grow up. Rowell shifts between her cast seamlessly, from a breezy intro with Karolina to navigating Chase’s problematic feelings about his time-displaced, resurrected, now-teenage ex-girlfriend (who is now hooking up with a robot who happens to be more age-appropriate) with sensitivity and care. Genolet, meanwhile, continues to uphold Kris Anka’s legacy with aplomb, mirroring Rowell’s deft sense of emotion with all of his characters — in particular, it’s hard not to feel a similar sense of enthusiasm when Karolina is rescuing someone off a high-rise, while Chase’s anguish feels both palpable and even a little menacing. The fact that this series hasn’t skipped a beat without Anka on interiors is nothing short of amazing, but the fact that Rowell and Genolet are able to deliver such a strong entry point for new or lapsed readers makes Runaways #22 a perfect read.
Canto #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Fantasy, steampunk and fairy tales collide in the new all-ages tale from IDW Publishing Canto. Scripted by David M. Booher and given expressive, gorgeous fantasy visuals by artists Drew Zucker and Vittorio Astone, Canto tells the tale of a lowly clockwork robot, forced into service by nightmare creatures, along with the rest of his clockwork brothers and sisters. Written is a sort of lyrical, storybook style, Booher delivers a shockingly violent and philosophically complex story, but through the prism of “epic tales.” It’s that maturity in the writing I think will set this apart from other, more “cutesy” all-ages fare. Art team Zuker and Astone also take this pretty seriously, invoking the vibes of Studio Ghibi and Mouse Guard for rich wooded landscapes and eye catching character and creature design. “All-ages” can be a dirty word to some readers, but Canto #1 takes a number of influences and mixes up a truly entertaining and striking modern fairy tale.
Batman Beyond #33 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Joey Edsall; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Batman Beyond #33 is a good story that is a hair away from being great, but it’s hinting at interesting ideas is what raises it, and makes this arc one of the more interesting of Dan Jurgens’ run. Bruce Wayne’s less-than-moral antics in the previous issue was an excellent story beat because it called into question whether or not this character that readers love actually has the greater good in mind as he struts about town while Terry McGinnis gets bested by the villain Splitt. The reveal of Bruce being impersonated by Falseface puts those worries about his character to rest, but still the reader has to think — Terry needs help to be Batman and Bruce can be compromised. The art team of penciler Rick Leonardi, inker Andi Parks, and colorist Chris Sotomayor all deliver mostly strong performances. Leonardi’s bodies have been a little off in the past few issues, but barring an oddly angled panel of Splitt, he’s a major part of why this book works. There’s a lot of intrigue in the parallels of both the Splitt and Falseface storylines, so it’ll be interesting to see where the series goes with it, and how heavily it’ll lean into those obvious connections.
Amazing Spider-Man #24 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): With “Hunted” now in the rear-view mirror, writer Nick Spencer and artist Ryan Ottley get back to basics with Amazing Spider-Man #24… but unfortunately, even with Ottley’s superb artwork and Spencer’s knack for characterization, this series feels like it’s still spinning its wheels in first gear. Part of the problem is Spencer’s Peter Parker feels a bit navel-gazey even by the character’s usual standards — his worrying about Mary Jane, even when rooted in the “Hunted” event (and, presumably, his oft-debated deal with Mephisto), feels like directionless moping versus having a real sense of tension. To his credit, Spencer’s gaslighting of Mysterio is a delicious bit of irony that plays with the character’s loopy continuity over the years, but the way the Spidey villain is shafted by new baddie Kindred feels like a weird play the week before Jake Gyllenhaal dons the fishbowl helmet on the big screen. Ottley nails the expressionwork Spencer needs for this script, but you can’t help but wish he had something a little meatier and more action-packed to chew on.
The Flash #73 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): “Year One” continues with an origin story for The Turtle and super-speed heart surgery for Barry Allen in The Flash #73. Picking up after last issue’s cliffhanger, which found Barry taking a bullet to the chest, Josh Williamson continues his take on Barry Allen’s budding, soon to be iconic powers. This recontextualization of Barry’s origins has been a blast so far, as has been Williamson’s take on Barry and Iris’s courtship. The solid origin for the Turtle is also appreciated, but at the risk of sounding corny, these scenes drag the issue down. Thankfully artists Howard Porter and Hi-Fi keep the visual energy of the title alive and well. Porter’s expressive, slightly exaggerated style still suits the grand emotions of the Flash and Hi-Fi’s colors continue to give the title a real sense of vibrancy. Not exactly a snail’s pace here, but The Flash #73 does start “Year One” in a slower lane storywise.
Transformers/Ghostbusters #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Celebrating the 35th anniversary of both franchises comes the debut of Transformers/Ghostbusters. Helmed by longtime Ghostbusters creative team Erik Burnham, Dan Schoening and Luis Antonio Delgado, this debut supposes a sort of “secret history” the bots have had with the supernatural, positing that it was actually Gozer the Gozerian that destroyed Cybertron and not the endless Autobot/Decepticon war. They even go a step further with the introduction of Eck, a new Autobot scientist who finds himself mixed up with the Prime IDW Ghostbuster team. Much of this issue is dedicated to expository dialogue setting up these turns, but the classic tone and look of the IDW Ghostbusters comics is still very much there. Also Schoening and Delgado prove themselves worthy of the kind of scale that comes with doing Transformers comics, staging Eck as a hilariously huge new member of the Ghostbusters while the team battle the titanically sized ghost of Starscream. (Yeah, you heard me.) A fun start for a hopefully fun anniversary crossover.