Greetings ‘Rama Readers! Pierce Lydon here! We’ve got a number of rapid review for you so we’ll get right to it!
Black Widow #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10) Despite almost being blown up at the end of the last issue, Nat has no opportunity to slow down as the Soska Sisters reach the end of their story. She’s barely pulled herself out of the rubble before racing across Madripoor to save more people from Fun Dad. Flaviano and Veronica Gandini aren’t given material as expressionistic as the previous issue to illustrate, but the rhythm of their cross-cutting here is what grants the sequence tension. Even after this race against time, the issue’s narrative momentum can’t slow down due to the ambitious level of material that it intends to provide a conclusion to, with the last scene in particular being something which warrants more than just a couple of pages. Jen and Sylvia Soska have demonstrated an understanding of the Black Widow’s character that makes it easy to wish they had more than these five issues to work with – even just one more to better serve said scene and expand it into its own distinct issue – to see where else they’d take her and to see them get even more used to working in the medium.
Superman #11 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Brian Michael Bendis’ grand space opera continues in Superman #11. Picking up directly after last issue’s titanic cliffhanger, which found Superman and Jon facing down a three pronged attack against Jor-El’s ship, Bendis and art team Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, and Alex Sinclair deliver literally huge action supported by Bendis’ heartfelt narration. It doesn’t quite have the same intrigue as Action Comics, but the sheer scale and heart of the title cannot be denied. Neither can the issue’s sumptuously cinematic layouts, which are deployed all throughout the major battle. Starting from the opening splash page, one that provides a fresh angle on the whole space battle, Reis and the rest of the art team absolutely go for broke with huge, splashy action harkening back to a more classically visual era of Superman. It might be a little too decompressed, but Superman #11 is still a big, fun time.
Little Bird #3 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10) The main draw and reason for recommending Little Bird is to see the fruit of Ian Bertram and Matt Hollingsworth’s collaboration. Bertram’s linework is reminiscent of Frank Quitely’s, a comparison that’s strongest when looking at the texture of the character designs which populate this story and the grace of the action beats. The latter’s colours bring life to a world so occupied with death. The miniseries has worked so effectively thus far on a visual level that the narrative’s simplicity hasn’t really mattered, though the conflict has become all the more nuanced as it has progressed. This midpoint in the story gives Little Bird and The Axe their own separate, but equally important missions in the fight; tasks which eventually converge and become further entangled with the New Vatican. With a character that The Axe comes across during his mission and a reveal that comes to the surface during the climax, Darcy Van Poelgeest’s tale now plays like their riff on the original Star Wars trilogy, transplanting some general concepts and beats into the distinct creation of their world. He and his collaborators approach them with a bleaker sensibility, though still find a beauty of sorts in the darker moments.
Daredevil #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): “Know Fear” comes to a bittersweet conclusion in Daredevil #5. Pushing his body further and further, Daredevil is hot on the trail of The Owl, who is setting up a drug racket in the wake of “the death” of Daredevil a few issues before. But while Chip Zdarsky, Marco Checchetto, and Sunny Gho deliver some bone crunching action, there is something bigger, more affecting happening just beneath the surface. Thoughts of self-doubt have crept into Matt’s mind and after a gut-punch of a reveal from his Defender compatriots, Murdock realizes that he must now “renounce the Devil” and pack up his mask for good. Zdarsky’s Daredevil so far has been a true return-to-form for the title, engaging in poetic morality and bloody action. Now with this fifth issue Zdarsky looks to commit to his own premise fully, diving deeply into the consequences of Matt Murdock’s heroic life and the toll it takes on his very soul. It probably didn’t need to take five issues to get here, but Daredevil #5 is a brutally entertaining finale for this new volume’s first arc.
Teen Titans #30 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10) A coda to The Terminus Agenda crossover in which the team was just embroiled in, Teen Titans #30 at first glance promises to get into where the team stands now that they know what Robin’s been doing with the villains they’ve faced. The first half of Adam Glass’ script exists on the verge of insight when it comes to imprisonment and attempts at reform, as Damian mentions how many get sent to Arkham and Blackgate only to wind up back on the streets, though much of the argument is pitched at a level of petty squabbling. Bernard Chang attempts to render this with some flair, with pages where a character’s profile lines one side of a page, but their discussion remains a static and flat scene, just biding time until a fight. Any point that could be made gets tossed aside for an attention-grabbing cameo-driven cliffhanger which delivers no guarantee the series will actually get around to making a final statement about this. Considering that this issue is positioned as an epilogue to the crossover, the fact it doesn’t end on something conclusive (or as conclusive as a serialised medium can provide) renders this half of the crossover a waste.
Spider-Man: Life Story #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It’s Chip Zdarsky’s “Alien Suit Saga” in Spider-Man: Life Story #3. Picking up in the 1980’s, you would assume it would be a bit more broader than the previous issues. And in a way it is, as the creative team provide their world’s version of the “Secret Wars”, in which the heroes of earth were swept into a grander cosmic battle. But at the same time, Zdarsky continues to play the concept of a “real-time Spider-Man” deadly straight, as characters age realistically and the personal and political ramifications of superheroes are explored in depth. It is harrowing stuff. Artists Mark Bagley, John Dell, and Frank D’Armata find a nice synergy with this third issue, using the more darkened color scheme of the era and Black Costume to their advantage. The heavy inks and shadowy colors really sell the grimmer tone of this issue as Peter’s life continues to spin out of control through another decade. Though nowhere near as sunny as Chip’s previous Spider-Man work, Spider-Man: Life Story #3 is still a worthwhile read.
Uncanny X-Men #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): With Jonathan Hickman’s arrival to the X-books imminent, Matthew Rosenberg’s take on Marvel’s merry mutants has lost a lot of its luster. A seemingly endless parade of C-lister deaths have brought a fleeting sense of urgency to the proceedings but its the fallout from Rahne Sinclair’s death that gets the focus here. While Rosenberg is clearly a student of Chris Claremont in terms of delivering an emotional post-death denouement, there’s something bittersweet about the whole thing. Carlos Villa is a vast improvement over Salvador Larroca with a style that doesn’t do too much with what he’s given. But playing it safe works for the big cast and simply delivering on strong linework and consistently recognizable characters goes a long way to making the storytelling fairly smooth. However, this era has increasingly diminishing returns as as it seemingly can on tread water until the next big relaunch.