Wonder Woman: Dead Earth #2
Credit: Daniel Warren Johnson (DC)
Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off with Jerky-Eating Justin Partridge, who takes a look at Guardians of the Galaxy…
Guardians of the Galaxy #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Guardians engage in their version of saving the universe in Guardians of the Galaxy #2. While now supported by the resurrected Hercules, their mission is a bust and the only way they can get through is with one last gambit. One that fully sells the “hopeless” odds Al Ewing introduced in the opening issue. But even through the direness of the plot, Ewing truly nails the trippy, but engaging vibe of the Guardians while playing up their long storied history with one another. Artists Juann Cabal and Federico Blee also lean into the cosmic visuals and mind-bending tone available to the Marvel Cosmic line. There are more than a few examples of this slickness throughout, but to me the best is handedly the way the pair detail the psychic connection between Moondragon and Phyla-Vell, which looks ripped directly from Jim Starlin’s daydreams. Though edged with a dark undercurrent Guardians of the Galaxy #2 is another solid entry for the new Guardians.
Flash Forward #6 (Published by DC; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Compared to the rest of the series, Flash Forward #6 has the most “forward” momentum, but it’s a shame that writer Scott Lobdell waits until the title’s last issue to fully explore the true potential of a post-Heroes in Crisis Wally West series. This installment has movement, but that doesn’t mean that its progress goes in the most positive direction for the character. In DC Rebirth, Wally West returned as a symbol of hope, but what does it mean for the DC Universe if hope keeps getting ripped away from the character? I did enjoy the retcon of his children’s return, but it looks like fans will have to pick up yet another event to see the full scope of Wally’s journey. On visuals, Brett Booth has been a mainstay on many recent Flash and Wally West titles, so his work gives a nice familiarity to the title. He does a solid job at showcasing the large scale that the series sets up to explore, but that’s also the problem with Flash Forward’s last issue – the story has too much set-up and not enough resolution for a finale.
Wolverine #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Readers will get a lot of bang for their buck in this oversized first issue of Wolverine from Benjamin Percy, Adam Kubert, Viktor Bogdanovic, Frank Martin, and Matt Wilson. Split into two different stories, Percy first creates a crime drama that finds Logan chasing down a hidden leak in the Krakoan medical industry that’s fueling a black market and a series of horrific deaths. He follows this first story with a markedly different horror-mystery adventure led by classic Wolverine villain Omega Red who readers will find is all but a lackey to the surprise baddie Percy has in store for readers and the world of humans and mutants alike. Artistically, readers will find themselves spoiled with the line of Kubert and Bogdanovic and the evocative colors from Martin and Wilson. Overall, the only drawback to this first issue is that readers won’t necessarily know what direction this book will take in future issues – will it be more horror-based, a crime procedural, or something else entirely? Given that it’s unlikely for Percy to continue to enjoy such a wealth of page real estate in future issues, it will be interesting to see what threadline eventually wins out.
Daredevil #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): “Through Hell” delivers an emotionally powerful penultimate issue in Daredevil #18. Faced with an escalating gang war, all centered around the Owl’s kidnapping of a Libris family granddaughter, Detective Cole and Matt Murdock’s white bandana-ed alter ego are forced to team up, backed by the only “good” cops still around Hell’s Kitchen. It is a powerful scene, and one Chip Zdarsky plays to the hilt as the two track down the missing child amid the city in chaos. Artists Jorge Fornes and Nolan Woodard also commit to the street-level vibe of the issue, traversing the city and it’s streets with moody, highly evocative interiors and exteriors. With high drama and even higher emotions, Daredevil #18 continues Ol’ Hornhead’s hot streak.
Wonder Woman: Dead Earth #2 (Published by DC Black Label; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Much has been made of Daniel Warren Johnson’s considerable abilities as a visual storyteller, but I’d argue his sophomore effort in Wonder Woman: Dead Earth shows us what kind of gold he’s able to mine out of the depths of continuity. His take on Diana as an amalgamation of Greek demigods is a powerful, poignant statement, as Hippolyta vows to give her daughter the strength to protect herself from the horrors the world might throw at her – but conversely, a scene where Nubia gives Diana her strength-regulating bracelets means there’s room for submission in this remixed Wonder Woman mythology as well. Of course, while these flashbacks do a great job at painting a picture of why Diana is so compassionate and inspiring – when you look at the world in lifetimes instead of days, it’s easy to take the longer view, the higher ground – the way that Johnson ratchets up the fireworks with the action is truly tremendous, including a sequence where Diana uses gasoline and a lighter to blow up a monster from the inside-out. Already standing far higher than its predecessor, dystopias never looked as good as they do in Wonder Woman: Dead Earth.
Valkyrie: Jane Foster #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): New writing team Jason Aaron and Torunn Gronbekk launch their new Valkyrie: Jane Foster arc, a beautifully crafted story that thoughtfully showcases the seamless transition from Valkyrie to Jane Foster. The issue opens up with Jane and her friend, Lisa, discussing their love life, which becomes the perfect segue into an Avenger/Thor team-up. The earth is dying, and it’s all connected to Thor’s past. The storyline allows Aaron and Gronbekk to take a deep dive into Jane’s exploration of her self-identity as a Valkyrie and doctor. How do you live when your professions depends on your connection to death? On artwork, CAFU delivers some of the best visuals at Marvel Comics as he perfectly balances action, emotion, and comedy. Valkyrie: Jane Foster continues to prove itself as one of the best superhero titles on stands as Jane brings a fresh perspective to the genre.
Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #8 (Published by DC; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10) The Big Two are sorely lacking in comedic books that are actually clever. Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber’s latest issue of Jimmy Olsen is a madcap multiversal menagerie of rapid-fire continuity in-jokes that relies so heavily on being in on the joke that I can understand it being an acquired taste. But this kind of quick-witted wordplay while still moving us through a page count rather than crowding out the panels is so rare that it’s a salve to the punishingly dull standard superhero output across the Big Two. Steve Lieber’s work is a bit looser here than we’ve seen in the past but when he needs to nail an expression or visual gag (Metamorpho’s cameo is laugh-out-loud funny) he does. This is a special book, and an especially fun one.
Runaways #30 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The clock is ticking – can Gert save her family from the wrath of fame-obsessed Doc Justice? In Runaways #30, Rainbow Rowell continues to deconstruct the superhero genre as Gert is faced with the truth behind Doc Justice’s plans for her friends. How does a superhero stay relevant? How will they be remembered? Well – they die, which seems to have an even deeper meaning since Gert is a hero who has also died in the past. On artwork, Andres Genolet really nails the comedic moments of this issue, especially Nico and Karolina’s exchange about Nico getting angry for being told to not smile in their team photo. Overall, Runaways #30 is a solid build-up issue for what can be a promising/explosive conclusion.
Plunge #1 (Published by DC; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): If you didn’t already know that Plunge was supposed to be part of Joe Hill’s horror line for DC, there’s almost nothing in this issue that would indicate that it is. Hill’s plotting plods along with decompressed dialogue and scene-building that doesn’t amount to very much. Stuart Immonen’s “big return” to comic books since Amazing Spider-Man #800 is a fairly uneventful affair, filled with more heavily photo-referenced sealife than the character acting and expression work that Immonen made his name on. There’s just nothing scary about this book, and worse yet, there’s nothing to hook readers into thinking that something scary might be coming except Hill’s name on the cover. No need to take the plunge with this one in floppies, this is likely trade-waiting bait all the way.
Conan the Barbarian #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Jim Zub’s debut on the main Conan title finds the Barbarian ascending to “The People’s Champion” in Conan The Barbarian #13. Partying hard in a new land where he doesn’t speak the language, Conan is swept up into a contest of strength before being thrown into a deadly dungeon that serves as the town’s place of worship. Not only does Zub continue to display a great tone and voice for Conan, but the dungeon scenes bring to the title a palpable Dungeons & Dragons-like energy that sustains throughout. Artist Roge Antonio and Israel Silva also lean into the high adventure/fantasy aspects of this debut issue, opening with a dense festival vibe and settling into tight, trap-filled corridors and antichambers as Conan and his erstwhile translator fight to survive the pits. Armed with a keen drive and high adventure fun, Conan the Barbarian #13 keeps the main Conan title on strong legs.
Canopus #1 (Published by Scout Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart, ‘Rama Rating 8 out of 10): Dave Chisholm’s Canopus #1 is a delightfully bizarre sci-fi tale. In this week’s debut of the four-issue miniseries, Helen wakes up on the barren surface of a purportedly lifeless planet with little memory of how or why she’s there. In short order, she discovers the planet isn’t exactly lifeless thanks to her “son” Arther, a robot companion that refers to her as Mom, and signs of life that conjure hazy memories of her own astronaut father and a dangerous, unknown threat to the world she left behind. Canopus has an almost Rendezvous with Rama vibe, with Chisholm’s bold lines and the muted colors of the Canopus landscape making the oddities Helen encounters on her trek to repair her ship feel all the more ominous, whether it’s a mundane baby doll or a dangerous batch of denture-growing vines. For readers who enjoy a psychological thrill with their sci-fi, Canopus #1 is worth checking out.
New Mutants #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Jonathan Hickman and Rod Reis commit to the bit in New Mutants #7. Picking up with Roberto da Costa’s newfound ability to break the fourth wall, Jonathan Hickman gives us another funny and wooly check-in with the original New Mutants’ mission to get the band back together. Though the structure and scene layout of the issue is very odd, Hickman’s take on the original team is still charming and funny, especially when their antics are broken up with a data page about a working RPG game that readers can play in lieu of a splash page. Artist Rod Reis also impresses a few times during this issue, in particular in a sequence that displays Wolfsbane’s transformation and another of Dani and Roberto arguing over if he spoiled the issue or not. Though kind of oddball and madcap series compared to the rest of “Dawn of X,” New Mutants #7 brings some new charm to the nostalgia of the original team.
Justice League #41 (Published by DC; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10) Robert Venditti and Aaron Lopresti just move the chains along with their Daxamite/Eradicator plot, and it makes Justice League #41 a fairly ho-hum affair. Even if you didn’t enjoy the last run, you’ve gotta at least give Scott Snyder credit for trying to give us more than a boilerplate alien invasion story – but this series goes so far back to basics that you’re left with what feels like a totally lifeless affair. Lopresti does a decent job with the story even if some of his work is uninspired (Stewart’s constructs stuck out to me as particularly blase – a group of Marines and… a box? Not exactly inspired.) It’s hard not to feel like the whole DC universe isn’t just biding time waiting for whatever ‘5G’ ends up being. This kind of workmanlike, tunnel vision approach to storytelling gets the bills paid, but doesn’t really feel worth the cover price.
Ghost-Spider #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Forget what you know about the Fantastic Four – because Earth-65’s Johnny and Sue Storm aren’t superheroes, but instead social media moguls that created their following from their own unique brand of tragedy. Ghost-Spider #7 is a true breath of fresh air from other Marvel alternate universe stories because Gwen makes Johnny and Sue’s Fantastic Four connection apparent from the start. Because the main characters know the Storms’ fate just as much as the readers, this allows writer Seanan McGuire to keep her audience on their toes with some true twists and turns with these familiar characters. On visuals, guest artist Ig Guara does a great job at replicating Takeshi Miyazawa’s slice-of-life style, while still delivering his own unique palette. Ghost-Spider #7 is a good build-up issue that has me very intrigued to learn more about this world’s version of the famous Storm siblings.