Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your weekly pellets? Best Shots has your back with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Kinetic Kat Calamia, who takes a look at Fantastic Four #13…
Fantastic Four #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): In this issue of Fantastic Four, artist Sean Izaakse ramps up the series’ visuals with wall-to-wall action as the Thing goes up against the Immortal Hulk. But what makes this issue one of the series’ strongest installments are not the punches thrown but the words traded between Puppet Master and Ben. While Puppet Master’s bottled-up feelings about his daughter Alicia marrying Ben come to a head, this isn’t a story where Alicia plays damsel in distress. As her father and husband trade blows, she uses her own strengths to save her fellow tourists at their honeymoon resort. Her strength as a sculptor becomes her own unique superpower. Overall, Fantastic Four #13 is a must-read action-packed issue with a lot of heart.
Batman: Universe #2 (Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Batman’s globetrotting adventure is its own brand of fun in Batman: Universe #2, as Brian Michael Bendis and Nick Derington string the Dark Knight along with a who’s who of DC guest stars. And given the story’s initially serialized format, Bendis does some strong work at delivering some crowd-pleaser moments, like Batman’s one-on-one against a possessed Green Arrow, or a stealth mission to Gorilla City. The connective tissue here might be a little convenient, but it’s hard to argue with the results. (Not to mention the sly sense of humor he gives Batman. Who’d’ve thought he would be funny?) But it’s Derington who’s the real superstar here — he makes every sequence look incredible, particularly a strobe effect as Batman infiltrates a fortified gorilla compound. This book may be the equivalent of slamming action figures together, but damn if Batman: Universe isn’t a blast to read.
Once and Future #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Fans of King Arthur will find an intriguing new look at an age-old myth with Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora’s The Once & Future #1. Set in the present day, readers meet ex-monster hunter and current retirement home escapee Bridgette McGuire and her museum curator grandson Duncan as they seek to prevent British Nationalists from acquiring Excalibur and resurrecting (presumably) King Arthur. Mora and Bonvillian’s art comes alive and creates tension and excitement throughout the issue while Gillen’s wit and sense of pacing set readers up to want more just as the issue comes to a close.
Powers of X #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10) After turning X-history upside down with his first three issues, Jonathan Hickman dials things back down a little and does meaningful worldbuilding despite the lack of a traditionally big reveal. But more and more of the structure of Hickman’s approach is becoming clear to us. He’s a writer who sees patterns in stories and with the convoluted continuity loops that the X-Men frequently find themselves in, it’s only natural that he would start to find one here. And when Hickman is at his best, he’s delivering solid character development while continuing to send readers down a rabbit hole of charts and informational asides that create as many questions as they answer. He’s right in that wheelhouse now. R.B. Silva turns in some of the best work with Magneto that we’ve seen in some time as well and proves that he can really hang with the work that Pepe Larraz is doing on House of X — these two artists are complimenting each other in ways that we don’t usually see. Powers of X remains the more “big picture” part of this budding X-Men era but Hickman’s intentionality and attention to detail has made it as much of a must-read as its companion title.
Second Coming #2 (Published by Ahoy Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Second Coming’s first issue was one of my favorite debuts of the year, and the series’ second installment doesn’t disappoint. Mark Russell beautifully develops the polar opposite ideologies between God and Jesus as they both try to guide Sunstar onto the right path. Russell grounds the story by making Jesus and God feel like a real-life father and son. Even if Sunstar is trapped in the middle of these powerhouses, he has some great development as well. He’s a god-like creature who just wants to enjoy the human milestones of getting married and having kids, but he’s learning there are some things that are outside even his superhuman grasp. He takes out his frustrations on a man who doesn’t deserve it, and stumbles upon one of the most human virtues: failure. As for the issue’s visuals, Richard Pace’s artwork is wonderfully dynamic. His pencils for Heaven and Earth shifts tones so seamlessly and creates a real diverse palette for the series. Second Coming #2 is a successful new installment as Russell and Pace continue to find the most humane and relatable pieces of God’s narrative.
Go Go Power Rangers #22 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The fallout of “Shattered Grid” start to build as the team deal with the loss of Tommy’s powers. Go Go Power Rangers #22 has a slowness to its pacing, but continues to succeed with its character work. I especially enjoyed the dynamic between Matt and Kim — it’s great to see Kim have an outside source to talk to about Power Ranger stuff as they also navigate their status as exes. This issue even leans into some nostalgia as the team has to fight a bunny turned Lord Zedd monster. The Rangers have had to deal with a lot of heavy drama recently, so it’s fun to see them go up against one of the sillier sides of the franchise, but with none of the cheese. On artwork, Francesco Mortarino gives a more cartoony look to the book compared to previous collaborators, but overall still fits the tone of the series nicely. Go Go Power Rangers #22 isn’t the most memorable issue from the lot, but has some good build-up for future installments.
Punisher Kill Krew #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10) There are still some loose ends to tie up in the aftermath of War of the Realms so Gerry Duggan and Juan Ferreyra have teamed up to put the Punisher on the case. This is purely a table-setting issue but Ferreyra doesn’t skimp on the art — this book is gorgeously drawn. He is judicious with his inking and it looks like he colors right over his pencils, giving the whole book a sort of painterly look. It’s not what we’re used to getting from a Punisher book but it works well with the fantasy elements that exist in the script. But Duggan’s work leaves a bit to be desired. Punisher is getting revenge. That’s generally his deal and Duggan doesn’t try to do too much more with it. Duggan does try to tug at your heartstrings a little bit but this is a fairly by the numbers approach to the characters, only the targets are different. Fans looking for more closure from War of the Realms or a great-looking Punisher book will find what they seek here, but this issue likely doesn’t have too much appeal outside of that audience.
Strayed #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):Strayed #1 takes readers into the future where humanity seeks out habitable planets through the astral powers of a psychic cat named Lou and his handler, Kiara. Cat lovers will especially love seeing a feline protagonist with this series. And while Doe’s line art in this issue serves the story well, his colors truly standout, giving the story a Voltron-esque feel to it. Both Doe and Gioffoni establish a clear conflict, engaging characters, with enough questions in this initial outing to leave readers wondering where the story will go from here – the desired mark for any first issue to hit.