Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your weekly pellets? Best Shots has your back with the latest installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s start off with Kinetic Kat Calamia, who takes a look at Strange Adventures…
Strange Adventures #1 (Published by DC; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Adam Strange comes home from war as a hero, but once word spreads that he’s responsible for countless deaths the media and his fans turn on him. Tom King tackles cancel culture, the celebrity of superheroes, and much more in this jammed packed premiere. Mitch Gerads and Evan “Doc” Shaner share art duties to tell the tale of two “adventures.” Shaner’s pencils focus on the war side of the story in a surprisingly clean style considering its darker topic as Gerads shows a grittier, more grounded take on the character for Strange’s present. Even though these two artists have vastly different styles, both Shaner and Gerads’ color palettes tie these two narratives together perfectly. Overall, King builds a potentially intriguing mystery between these two timelines, but doesn’t supply the audience with enough breadcrumbs to create the necessary tension to truly get sucked into the mystery.
Marauders #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Pryo’s unwelcome guest is finally dealt with in Marauders #9. Cheekily titled “Journey to the Center of the Pyro,” writer Gerry Duggan finally deals with the ongoing problem of Ant-Man baddie Yellowjacket doing his best InnerSpace impression inside Pyro to steal secrets for new baddies Homines Verendi. What follows is a Mission: Impossible-style fake out, one well-deployed by Duggan and his collection of mutant players this time around. Artists Matteo Lolli and Edgar Delgado also do a lot to sell the deception of Yellowjacket, fully committing to a gory psychic illusion of his escape, only to cut to what is actually happening just a page turn later. It all adds up to another wryly entertaining installment of Marauders.
Rescue 2020 #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Pepper Potts returns to the spotlight in a two-issue series tying into Iron Man’s new 2020 event. It was a pleasure to see Pepper back in the Rescue suit, and actually delving into the themes connected to her namesake. In this debut, Pepper goes on a mission to find Tony’s mother to grab a piece of her DNA to help bring Tony back to life. Surprisingly, Tony’s mother is hesitant, but instead of grabbing a piece of her hair and making a run for it, Pepper waits to get her consent, even if it means putting Tony’s life in the balance. I really liked how writer Dana Schwartz showcased Pepper’s personality through this principle, although I wish the story had to do more with Pepper as an individual hero. There are a few mentions of her being so much greater than Tony’s assistant, but the narrative doesn’t satisfyingly delve deeper into those story threads. On visuals, Jacen Burrows and Scott Hanna’s cartoony style doesn’t completely fit the book or hit Schwartz’s necessary emotional beats. Rescue 2020 is a nice return to Pepper Pott’s narrative, but the underwhelming visuals prevents it from being a must-buy.
King of Nowhere #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): A deer driving a truck and a bartender with an upside-down face are the first two people met by lead character Denis after he wakes up at the side of the road with seemingly no memory about how he got there. The surrealism of his arrival in the town called Nowhere is enough to convince him it’s a dream, but the resident population aren’t so sure. W. Maxwell Prince, Tyler Jenkins, and Hilary Jenkins craft a woozy first issue where it’s easy to give into the flow of the story’s direction. Events and locations flow into one another in such a way that make Nowhere a real, connected place, albeit one that seems to operate on a subconscious understanding of arriving somewhere without much recollection of how you did. The Jenkinses match this premise with grounded, scratchy work – the structures and character designs seem real enough without ever being defined by realism. There’s also an undercurrent of sadness that comes with this territory, as Denis’ narration explains waking up somewhere other than the warm embrace of a bed is a familiar feeling. Whether dream or waking nightmare, Denis is going to have to wake up and face himself.
Doctor Strange #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Stephen Strange’s already complicated life gets even more so in the tensely entertaining Doctor Strange #4. Somehow melding taut medical drama with wooly magical mysteries, writer Mark Waid brings out the best in both, all anchored by his punchy, engaging take on Strange. There is an extra layer of dread in the way Waid is telegraphing Strange’s exhaustion at being a surgeon and Sorcerer Supreme that makes it even more interesting. The title is further strengthened by the old-school horror visuals of Kev Walker, Java Tartaglia, and Antonio Fabela as the trio bring a real Creepy vibe to the issue. Starting with an expansive fight with a daemon and ending with a cramped surgery on a daemon, Walker, Tartaglia, and Fabela lean into the weird duality of the issue, much to its benefit. Armed with old-school monster fun and surprisingly tight medical drama, Dr. Strange #4 is the best of both weird worlds.
Iron Man 2020 #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The Robot Uprising reaches an odd peak in Iron Man 2020 #3. The exact middle point of this whole affair, writers Dan Slott and Christos Gage pit Arno Stark and Tony – now calling himself Mark One – against one another in a pitched battle “for the fate of all robotkind.” But the stakes of the whole thing are still muddy, even after the extensive info dumps Slott and Gage deliver through Arno’s monologuing and Mark One’s robot allies’ exchanges. While the script is muddy, the art is crystal clear, and sometimes damned exciting under the pencils of Pete Woods. Bringing to the issue an expressiveness and dynamism, Woods injects real character into the robotic co-stars and bulky Iron Man armors. The battles between Arno and Mark One also have a fun bombast that peps up this muddled crossover, if only for a few pages. I’m still not sure who to root for in Iron Man 2020 #3, but at least it looks pretty good.
Billionaire Island #1 (Published by Ahoy Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): In classic Mark Russell fashion, Billionaire Island tackles serious social issues through a satirical lens. It focuses on the unfair advantages of the One Percent, and the consequences the working class go through to live in a world the rich controls. There are a lot of interesting topics tackled in this premiere, but the story’s biggest downfall is that all of this is explained through exposition instead of character work. There was no true character to latch onto to help deliver some much-needed heart to the narrative. On artwork, Steve Pugh and Chris Chuckry do a great job at displaying the lavished life style of the rich, and the pure desperation the 99% go through to survive. I love the contrast between the brighter visuals to display these darker concepts. Billionaire Island #1 sets up an intriguing concept, but needs to work on its characters if it wants to be a truly extraordinary series.
Strikeforce #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The team spends a rowdy night on Deadpool’s Monster Island in Strikeforce #7. Continuing the shell game of the Vridai, writer Tini Howard shifts the team to a whole new location, but the tension is slightly undercut by her opening reveal that main antagonist Birgit is already there. She finds some fun, however, with the Deadpool cameo in which he labels them as “proper weirdos” who are always welcome on his island, but the ongoing plot of the Vridai is still too tangled to really get behind. Artists German Peralta and GURU-efx unfortunately aren’t given too terribly much to do on Monster Island, but their Mos Eisley Cantina vibe they bring to the Monster Island interiors and its strange citizenry keeps the odd charm and look of the title intact. Though it could still use a bit more straightforward plotting, Strikeforce #7 is a fun if a bit head-scratching trip into Marvel’s supernatural side.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #13 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Even through the high-octane Hellmouth event, Jordie Bellaire’s Buffy retained a character-focused position, something which is also true of this issue which expands on what Kendra’s life was like before she came to Sunnydale. As a character on the show, Kendra helped to expand the lore – the idea of the Slayer line continuing as a result of Buffy’s “death” in the first season – without ever getting a solid focus. Drawn by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, the issue takes us to Jamaica as the Slayer-in-training fights vamps and has frequent battles regarding her conduct with her Watcher, Zabuto. The first page initially frames her against an outer-space background only to reveal this in the following panel as a billboard. Nevertheless, Kendra is keenly aware of the distance between her and everyone else that comes with the possibility of being humanity’s savior against all manner of demons. Compared to her work on last year’s Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me or recent Shortbox-published book, Valero-O’Connell’s isn’t as free-flowing, though she retains her intense clarity of emotion across the cast’s faces. Coupled with Raúl Angulo and Eleonara Bruni’s luminous colors, this is in keeping with the aesthetic of previous arcs without requiring a complete upheaval of her style.