Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your pellets? Best Shots has you covered with this week's Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off today's column with the latest from the Guardians of the Galaxy…
Guardians of the Galaxy #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It takes a moment for this issue to get up to speed, but once things start heating up, writer Al Ewing and artist Juann Cabal deliver some of the most next-level action choreography I've seen in ages. If you were a fan of Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones's Marvel Boy, you'll love what Cabal does with Noh-Varr here — the innovative layouts Cabal spins up, such as Marvel Boy climbing up a ladder of panels, twisting and turning his body like a cockroach through a series of pipes, or spitting psychedelic saliva, are just downright incredible. Ewing is also flexing some different muscle groups from his hard-hitting and cerebral Immortal Hulk, splitting up his action sequences almost fractally, bouncing between the various Guardians in a way that gives everybody just enough page time to fall into some peril. If Guardians of the Galaxy #4 isn't the most fun book from the Big Two this week, I don't know what is.
DCeased: Hope at World's End #5 (Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Who would have thought the end of the world would evoke so many feelings? Writer Tom Taylor and artist Marco Failla follow the next generation of DC's Doomed Trinity for a last-minute mission to Gotham, as Damian Wayne is determined to rescue the one parent he has left: Talia al Ghul. To be honest, what makes this issue work so well is how hard it peels away from the oppressive horror that made DCeased such a powerhouse — even an undead Kite-Man bouncing off the hull of the Invisible Jet is played for laughs rather than chills. It's a solid palate cleanser, and the emotional beats of this story as Damian and Talia visit the Batman's grave leads to some really heart-rending moments (if you can overlook some of the contrivances). This story also plays to Failla's strengths as an artist more than the previous installment — because he doesn't have to deal much with the Anti-Life Infestation, Failla gets to channel that scratchy-yet-cartoony style of a Dustin Nguyen, instead being able to revel in Jon, Damian and Cassie laughing over Kite-Man's botched ambush or the stone-cold Damian shedding tears for his departed father. One of DC’s best releases this week.
Virtually Yours (Published by Comixology; Review by C.K. Stewart, 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): What if you found your perfect partner on a site dedicated to fabricating fictional relationships? Writer Jeremy Holt and artist Elizabeth Beals' Virtually Yours delivers a unique take on the world of online dating — an eponymous app that matches customers up with a profile that a dedicated Virtually Yours staffer uses to deliver texts, flowers, and plausible excuses with evidence to get your committed Match Game-playing coworker off your back. Child actor turned Virtually Yours rep Max and budding journalist Eva don't expect anything to come of the service, but what's a romcom without a fun twist? Holt delivers moving relationships and real chemistry between our hapless protagonists, and Elizabeth Beals' artwork really steals the show — Virtually Yours is absolutely gorgeous to look at and it’s easy to fall in love with any of these characters. If you're looking for a sweet, fun, emotional read, Virtually Yours is definitely worth checking out.
Amazing Spider-Man #44 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Writer Nick Spencer and guest artist Kim Jacinto dig deep in their sometimes dreamy, sometimes nightmarish interlude of Amazing Spider-Man. Setting up an impending conflict with the Sin-Eater, Spencer leans into the atmosphere hard, recasting Stan Carter as a horrifying figure that could give the Punisher a run for his money. But he also smartly gives Jacinto room to let his art do the talking, as a sequence of Overdrive on the run from Sin-Eater ends in a particularly visceral fashion. But there's also a lot of heart, too, as Spencer digs nicely into Peter Parker’s psychology, particularly his dynamic with Mary Jane. That said, where the issue stumbles is in the finale — while Spencer himself acknowledges the narrative cheat of a "dream within a dream," the mystery of Kindred doesn’t grab as hard as the Sin-Eater and Overdrive sequences, and the conclusion feels maddeningly opaque. Still, when this book is on, it is absolutely on, making Amazing Spider-Man #44 one of the series’ best issues in recent memory.
Family Tree #7 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Following the reveal of Josh's future, writer Jeff Lemire intercuts from two different time periods to showcase the fallout of Meg's 'planting,' ranging from her family’s emotional turmoil to nature reclaiming what it once owned. The pacing for this issue is a tad bit slower compared to previous installments, as Lemire focuses on the family's raw reaction towards 'losing' Meg. Can you mourn someone who's turned into a plant? Each family member deals with this question differently. On artwork, Phil Hester highlights the earthy, grounded nature of Lemire's script, which is beautifully accentuated by Ryan Cody’s brown and green color palette. Family Tree #7 continues to only tease Josh’s grander role as it focuses more on the larger consequences of Meg’s transformation.
Justice League #49 (Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 1 out of 10): It's uncertain who approved a storyline of the Justice League being clueless interstellar colonizers, but writer Si Spurrier and artist Aaron Lopresti's Justice League #49 leaves a distinctly bad taste. Spurrier's story leaves the entire Justice League flat-footed, as every time they try to instill peace amongst two warring alien tribes, the worse it gets — but how can a team comprised of a Green Lantern, the world's greatest detective, a super-speedster, and two of the most moral compasses in the DCU flub this badly? It doesn't help that Lopresti’s designs look retrograde, and not in a flattering way — in particular, his designs for the two warring alien factions look unintentionally goofy, with a pair of alien children looking like smiley-face buttons. (And honestly, why does Spurrier position them as the POV characters for the Justice League — you'd think the adults would actually seek out other adults?) Honestly, this misfire might be the lowest I've seen the Justice League franchise in quite some time.
Fence: Rivals (Published by Boom! Studios; Review by Kat Calamia; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The yaoi-inspired sports comic returns with a bang as it switches from single issues to graphic novels. This new release format leads to some great development between the team, but most importantly Nicholas and Seiji's friendship. Writer C.S. Pacat expertly balances slice of life with classic sport tropes, allowing Fence to feel both familiar and fresh. On artwork, Johanna The Mad continues to hit it out of the park with her anime-infused style that highlights both the exquisite movements of fencing and the emotional beats/romances between the King Row teammates. Fence: Rivals is a seamless next chapter for the once-ongoing series that not only builds tension from the actual sport of fencing, but also the potential romances blossoming between the teammates.