Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your pellets? Best Shots has your back with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off with the latest issue of Detective Comics…
Detective Comics #1022
(Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10):
If there’s anything you can say about Detective Comics #1022, it’s that penciler Brad Walker, inker Andrew Hennessey, and colorist Brad Anderson draw the absolute hell out of this book. There’s something so visceral about the way they portray Batman squaring off against Two-Face, including a particularly harrowing set piece of the Dark Knight escaping from a vat full of acid (and losing half his suit as a result). Writer Peter Tomasi sets up his art team with some truly tense sequences and then lets them go to work, which makes for some thrilling action even if the eventual explanation leading into James Tynion IV’s "Joker War" feels a little overwritten. But given how in-your-face Walker and company’s artwork is, it’s hard not to feel the tension in every page, especially with Anderson amping up the energy with fluorescent green acid. Definitely an overlooked gem in DC’s publishing line-up.
Avengers of the Wastelands #5
(Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10):
It’s hard to believe that Avengers of the Wasteland is set in the same world as the ultra-brutal, ultra-intense Old Man Logan, and unfortunately, writer Ed Brisson and artist Jonas Scharf deliver an ending to this years-long saga that feels completely bloodless. Dani Cage leads her new Avengers to New Latveria to face Doctor Doom, and the twist… well, it’s not quite as clever as Brisson is intending, as we learn why the Avengers of the Wasteland were brought together in the first place. Unfortunately, the whole series seems to hinge on this twist, and Doom’s threat is disabled with barely any inconvenience — there’s no sense of danger here, and to be honest, even Scharf’s post-apocalyptic setting feels so sanitized and clean that we might as well be in the main Marvel Universe. With a surprisingly saccharine ending to wrap things up, Avengers of the Wastelands never really lives up to its iconic predecessors.
Nailbiter Returns #1
(Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):
Writer Joshua Williamson and artist Mike Henderson bring back the book that launched their careers in Nailbiter Returns #1, and it’s nice to see that the Buckaroo Butchers still have plenty of life in their serial-killing ways. Even though it’s been a bit since we last saw Agent Finch and the Nailbiter’s daughter Alice, Williamson drops us into the thick of things quickly, with a horrifying cold open before giving us bits and pieces of exposition. Granted, this isn’t necessarily the best way to return to Buckaroo if you’re unfamiliar with the series — to be honest, even someone who’s read the original Nailbiter could stand to use a reread. But Henderson is just as confident with his work as Williamson, with some super-clean yet edgy linework that makes every character look just a bit serrated and deadly (and that’s before we see a double-page splash of a blood-soaked bathroom). Definitely a return to form for one of Image’s best horror series.
Revenge of the Cosmic Ghost Rider #5
(Published by Marvel Comics; review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10):
Given the character and creators involved, there’s a better story somewhere in the bones of Revenge of the Cosmic Ghost Rider, but this finale doesn’t quite do any of them justice. Artist Scott Hepburn is a beast, and as Frank Castle descends into Hell to save his friend Cammi, there’s a surreal energy that goes into this over-the-top setting — Hepburn is the kind of artist that should stand in that pantheon of Daniel Warren Johnson, Tradd Moore and James Harren, and if he’s given more chances to cut loose on bigger stories, he’ll get there. But while writer Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum is capable of juggling action beats with flickers of characterization, the issue stumbles at the five-yard line, with a truncated ending that comes across as abrupt and bewildering — given Cosmic Ghost Rider’s turducken of a high concept, it’s understandable that he’d get tangled in plot threads involving Mephisto, but this finale doesn’t quite stick the landing, despite the considerable talents of all involved.
Action Comics #1022
(Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10):
There’s a reason we care about continuity in superhero comics — it’s not just about making all the stories “fit” or “make sense,” but because it’s a sense of history, of connection with characters that we fall in love with like they’re flesh and blood. So while writer Brian Michael Bendis is a bit on the quippy side as he and artist John Romita, Jr. reintroduce Conner Kent to the rest of the DC Universe, it’s hard not to feel something. Watching Conner interact with Clark’s son Jon is a fun dynamic, but the real heartfelt moments are seeing him come face-to-face with Ma and Pa Kent — there are echoes of Geoff Johns’ DC Universe Rebirth Special here, but there’s a reason why that was so effective. While Romita’s designs with the character take a bit of getting used to — his younger characters still look a bit too old and over-rendered — he does do some strong work conveying the camaraderie of characters like Jon and Brainiac 5. That said, this issue does drag outside of the Conner scenes, such as the check-ins with The Daily Planet and Red Cloud. This issue pulls off a win, but only barely so.
Red Mother #5
(Published by BOOM! Studios; review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):
In a matter of minutes, Daisy lost everything — her boyfriend, her eye, her life — but even after all that trauma, the world moves on like nothing ever happened. Writer Jeremy Haun and artist Danny Luckert beautifully encapsulates the day-to-day trials that Daisy goes through to move past that traumatic day. This issue shows signs of moving on, but the Red Mother is a symbol of the emotions Daisy is forcing herself to ignore. There are small beats that Luckert purposely prolongs to give a glimpse of the real emotions that Daisy is feeling — that nothing is okay and she’s going to have to face those demons one way or another. Red Mother is one of the best horror books on stands because it’s not afraid to take its time — creating a slow burn, helping the story build tension as the title character creeps around the corner.