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 a look at the latest issue of Thor…
Thor #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Something is breaking the destiny of Thor, as writer Donny Cates and artist Nic Klein throw everything and the kitchen sink at their cosmically empowered King of Asgard. The result is a sometimes busy read, but to their credit, Cates and Klein are both so technically proficient in their execution that you’ll likely find something to enjoy. As the Black Winter throws Thor into a prison of his own mind, Cates uses this as an opportunity to throw hordes of classic supervillains at the God of Thunder, which Klein portrays ably (especially with the painterly colors of Matt Wilson). That said, this does feel a bit like a table-setting issue for future stories, so if the actual action here doesn’t necessarily grab you, this might feel like a slower issue compared to some of the previous ones — additionally, while it remains to be seen if Cates’ cliffhanger pays off in the next issue, the final twist does feel a little underwhelming here. But if over-the-top cosmic action is your thing, you could do a whole lot worse than Thor #5.
Teen Titans #42 (Published by DC; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Teen Titans have disassembled, but that won’t stop new creative team Robbie Thompson and Eduardo Pansica from delivering a stellar debut. Thompson and Pansica use the downtime to further expand upon the team members’ individual friendships, including dynamics that haven't received much spotlight — the standout has to be Roundhouse and Crush's relationship, as they find a common ground through their mutual feeling of loneliness. As for the artwork, Bernard Chang will be missed, but I find myself quickly enjoying Pansica’s style for the book, especially his take on Thompson’s emotional beats. Every single member of this team has made a mistake that could define them as a bad person, but what makes this volume of Teen Titans a standout is how these sidekicks use the group to become better people.
Immortal Hulk #34 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Writer Al Ewing’s graceful reconfiguring of Hulk continuity continues in Immortal Hulk #34, as he and guest artist Butch Guice detail the many lives of the Leader. For most creators, this kind of recap would feel like a boring retread through Wikipedia, but Ewing gives just enough emotion and recontextualization that this winds up feeling like a great way to catch up on everything this series has been doing lately — particularly the Green Door symbolizing the Hulk’s many returns to life. Bouncing between faith, struggle, and the search for knowledge, Ewing writes some truly compelling stuff, and Guice’s artwork (combined with some scratchy inks from Tom Palmer) wrings every bit of emotion out of this zany trip down Memory Lane. If you haven’t been reading this book before, it might not be the best entry point, but Ewing and Guice deliver the goods and then some with Immortal Hulk #34.
Bleed Them Dry #1 (Published by Vault Comics; Review by C.K. Stewart; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Vampires, cyberpunk, hard-boiled thriller — Bleed Them Dry #1 tries to do a lot of things at once and manages to do most of them fairly well. Homicide detective Harper Halloway is tracking down a vampire in the futuristic mega-city of Asylum, more than a thousand years into the future. When her vampire partner Atticus Black seems to make a major break in the case, things seem to be coming to a close — or are the bloody red threads of conspiracy only getting more tangled? Created by Hiroshi Koizumi with a script by Eliot Rahal and art and colors from Dike Ruan and Miquel Muerto, Bleed Them Dry #1’s story beats feel a bit pat, reading like a standard crime thriller with a layer of the supernatural added over it, and some futuristic background details for atmosphere. That said, Rahal is a solid writer who delivers with a well-paced script, and Ruan’s art infuses everyone on the page with a great deal of personality (with an assist from Muerto’s colors, which are moody but never murky enough to obscure the details of Ruan’s lines). Given its decompressed pacing, Bleed Them Dry #1 doesn’t quite live up to the punchy excitement of its “a ninja vampire tale” tagline just yet but teases an interesting world and strange conspiracy that should be fun to see unfold over future issues.
Suicide Squad #6 (Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Despite bringing out the big guns with a guest appearance from Batman, Suicide Squad #6 rests a bit too heavily on its gags rather than embracing the series’ fraught new status quo. On the run from Ted Kord and Task Force X, there’s a lot of themes that writer Tom Taylor could play with, all of which could have massive impacts on the DC Universe as a whole — can we really trust our so-called “heroes,” and can we find it in ourselves to believe a group of bad guys and revolutionaries when they blow the whistle? But because Taylor rests so much on quips and banter with this issue, it comes at the cost of Batman being a believable threat — this honestly feels like the lightest issue of the entire run, particularly with a final gag of Wink stealing the Batmobile. That said, artist Bruno Redondo crushes it — he channels a bit of Lee Weeks with his introduction to Batman, and his panels layouts for a sequence where Batman is dropped from a crane looks superb. Not my favorite issue of the run, but by and large, Suicide Squad is still pound-for-pound one of DC’s best monthlies right now.
That Texas Blood #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Writer Chris Condon and artist Jacob Phillips deliver a knockout with That Texas Blood #1, a slow-burn debut that lets readers savor the sights and characters of Ambrose County. It’s the sort of book that inhabits the same space as Southern Bastards, but without the over-the-top grindhouse action — instead, we get to explore the town through the eyes of Sheriff Joe Coates, with everyday routines like killing rattlesnakes and picking up snacks at the gas station… all the way to a grisly murder-suicide at the side of the road. Having cut his teeth as a colorist on Criminal, Phillips evokes the same cinematic sensibilities as Sean Phillips, imbuing these characters with immediate recognizability and expressiveness — moreover, the way he approaches the scenery feels both specific and universal, with sweeping vistas and ramshackle gas stations lit with perfect sunset colors. While some of the supernatural horror vibes do come on a little abruptly, I feel like it will make more sense in Issue #2 — but given the talent in this first installment, I’m very excited to see where That Texas Blood goes next.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #50 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Mighty Morphin Power Rangers reaches a landmark with 50 issues under its belt. Ryan Parrott and Daniele Di Nicuolo celebrate the milestone with an action-packed narrative and a cliffhanger that will surely shake things up for many issues to come. The Omega Rangers team up with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to go up against one of their own, and the results do not disappoint. There are a lot of great character beats in this issue, especially between Kiya and Trini, where we really get to see Trini step up to face her former friend. On the artwork, Di Nicuolo’s style has become a staple for the Power Rangers' comics with his expressive action sequences and anime-infused style. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #50 is a solid bookend to “Necessary Evil” that closes some doors but leaves many more open for the creative team’s next chapter.