Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off with Jousting Justin Partridge, who takes a look at Batman: Secret Files…
Batman: Secret Files #3(opens in new tab)
(Published by DC; Review by Justin Partridge;’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10)
Gotham’s greatest assassins prop up a stellar anthology in Batman: Secret Files #3. Batman: Secret Files #3 delivers punchy, yet highly effective one-act showdowns with villains like Cheshire, the Gunsmith, Mr. Teeth, and Deathstroke, bracing Batman against each assassin both physically and philosophically, building to a visceral tease of ' The Joker War' from James Tynion IV.
Standouts include Vita Ayala, Andie Tong, and Alejandro Sanchez’s "Don’t Hold Your Breath," which finds Batman trying to reach the young but deadly Cheshire. Dan Watters and Jean Paul Leon’s "Afraid of America" also provides a prescient, heartbreaking examination of Batman’s history with guns, told from the point of view of the Gunsmith, who claims that he can turn anything — even a desperate hostage — into a gun. Mariko Tamaki and Riley Rossomo’s "Muted" also injects a keen sense of style and form into the anthology, giving us a largely silent showdown between Mr. Teeth and Batman, told mainly through sound effect bubbles and onomatopoeia.
Flexing with a Legends of the Dark Knight-like energy and making great use of a uniting theme, Batman: Secret Files #3 is an impressive showing.
Excalibur #10(opens in new tab)
(Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10)
Jamie Braddock wants a new Captain Britain Corps. He just has to break reality several times to do it in Excalibur #10. Leaning into the trippy powers of the new King of Avalon, writer Tini Howard gives us an Inception inspired trek into a reality that has fully turned against Betsy and her new team.
Though the handholding narrative Howard engages with in the resolution and Corps power cliffhanger (which finds Rictor, Jubilee, Rogue, and Gambit all becoming Captains Britain) gives away the game a bit too cleanly, the road to get there (complete with a fun Rachel Grey cameo) is really fun.
Artists Marcus To and Erick Arciniega also thrive in the branching realities, adding a splashy drive and menace to the team’s flight, in particular the scene in which Jamie monologues to his captives about his villainous plans.
Bringing the best of multiple worlds Excalibur #10 is another fun "verse" in the myth of the new Captain Britain(s).
Go Go Power Rangers #32(opens in new tab)
(Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10)
What started out as a series to explore the teens' first year as Power Rangers became a story about saying goodbye. Doing what the TV show couldn’t, Go Go Power Rangers writers Ryan Parrott and Sina Grace tap into the raw emotions of Trini, Jason, and Zack’s departure as they officially pass the torch down to Rocky, Aisha, and Adam.
Visually, artist Francesco Mortarino showcases the two teams' new journeys perfectly with the issue’s ending sequence — cutting between their different battles, ending on the title’s namesake. But the true beauty of this issue drives home the point that once you’re a Power Ranger, you’ll always be a Power Ranger. This is proven with Grace’s hidden dagger stash and Trini, Jason, and Zack’s promotion to the Omega Rangers.
Overall, Go Go Power Rangers #32 is a perfect bookend to the Power Rangers' humble beginnings.
New Mutants #10(opens in new tab)
(Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10)
The New Mutants take on a Russian ball of nightmares in New Mutants #10. Responding to the call for backup as a new mutant child’s influence starts to grow, Mirage, Boom-Boom, Cypher, Mondo, Wolfsbane, Armor, and Wildside attempt to break into the sphere "Poltergeist-style" while the Russian populace grows more and more unsteady about their operation in the country.
Giving the team tactile problems to solve is right in Ed Brisson’s wheelhouse, and he manages to mine a fair amount of charm and tension out of the action and characters. Unfortunately, while sweet, the cut away to Glob and Magik cooking in the Sextant while the rest of the team operates cuts the energy of the Russian-based scenes a bit. It also saps some of the pep out of Flaviano’s artwork as well. While the grim, Ditko-inspired “nightmare sphere” allows for some trippy, blacklight-ready artwork, the sudden cut back to the sunny flora of Krakoa is a bit of a trade down.
But at the very least New Mutants #10 gives the kids some problems to solve, thus keeping the narrative firmly on the tracks for the time being.
The Batman’s Grave #7(opens in new tab)
(Published by DC; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10)
Batman and Alfred continue to build their profile of a killer amid some optically unsound rioting in The Batman’s Grave #7. Though the opening pages deliver more of the keen comedy Warren Ellis has been mining from the Batman/Alfred dynamic, it’s the back half of this issue where the imagery starts to get truly uncomfortable given today’s headlines.
In another talky exposition sequence, Ellis reveals that multiple riots are starting to break out among strategically placed agitators under the thrall of the issue’s heavy Colonel Sulphur. And to keep them and him in check until he can strike, he and Alfred deploy a remote controlled Bat-tank (shades of Nolan’s Tumbler) throughout the streets. Of course this was written months ago more than like, but the imagery of military vehicles on the street — or Batman about to extrajudicially torture a man of color for information — feels like a big misstep from DC to put out to the public right now.
While there’s some verbose energy to the characterization, the ill-timed imagery of The Batman’s Grave #7 means this issue will probably read better later in trade.
Adventureman #1(opens in new tab)
(Published by Image Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10)
Following its action-packed, larger-than-life introduction, Adventureman is really the story of Claire, a partially deaf, single mother, who lives in a world where the age of pulp heroes has been long forgotten.
Writer Matt Fraction uses this double-sized debut to establish both the past and present of this new superhero world, but those extra paces actually come to actually Adventureman #1’s detriment. It makes the story feel bloated as it takes half the issue to get to the main character’s tale.
Counterintuitive as it sounds, a smaller page count might have helped refine the story — Claire is a potentially interesting character, but the premiere barely scratches the surface and the ambiguous cliffhanger makes it hard to feel fully invested for the second issue. As for the visuals, Terry and Rachel Dodson do a great job at making this pulp world bright, modern, and action-packed. I was also very impressed with Clayton Cowles’ lettering as, readers get to visually experience Claire’s deafness.
Adventureman #1 may not be the strongest premiere, but it has the building blocks to become a better series.
Deadpool #5(opens in new tab)
(Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10)
While the Merc with a Mouth’s new title as King of the Monsters still feels like an ill-fitting new direction, writer Kelly Thompson teams up with artist Gerardo Sandoval to deliver a story that shows no matter what new status quo Wade Wilson finds himself in, he’ll never be able to escape his bloody past.
Thompson’s story of Deadpool and Elsa Bloodstone chasing down a rebellious teenage kaiju to Manhattan is definitely decompressed and can sometimes veer towards self-indulgence with the banter, but she sticks the emotional landing at the end of the issue to bolster an otherwise paper-thin plot. Sandoval’s artwork is as spiky and exaggerated as ever, but stylistically he’s actually a pretty good follow-up to Chris Bachalo — I do feel like some of his panel-to-panel storytelling is all over the place, leading to a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments (like a pair of bystanders getting atomic breath-ed out of existence), but since this book is mostly monsters and Wade’s masked face, this series lets Sandoval play to his strengths.
Not my favorite read this week, but it’s a solid showing despite its flaws.