Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let’s kick off today’s column with Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes…
Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Writer Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum and artist Luca Maresca are doing surprising justice to the video game tie-in comic in Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes #4, set in the world of the Spider-Man Playstation 4 game. As Peter reels from the apparent murder of the Black Cat, Hallum manages to tug at our heartstrings despite us knowing that superheroic death is usually exaggerated — watching Peter wrestle with what he just saw will soften plenty of readers skeptical about this title’s existence. At his best, artist Luca Maresca evokes bits of classic John Romita Jr. with his Spidey design, wide-eyed and deeply expressive. While some of the interstitial montage featuring Silver Sable and Hammerhead’s escalating war across the city can’t help but drag a bit, Hallum’s character work and Maresca’s effective artwork make this video game comic strike way out of its weight class.
Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #10 (Published by DC; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The culprit behind Jimmy’s botched assassination attempt is revealed in appropriately ludicrous fashion in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #10. But while the high-concept hijinks from Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber are still very much intact here, like the extended cut-away to the exploits of the Porcadillo, the somewhat disjointed nature of the storytelling is very apparent here in Issue #10 — so much so that I’m not sure this tenth issue can be considered a “good” single issue of comics as it cuts away from various vignettes that would be better served as a longer, sustained narrative. Though Fraction’s script is a bit of a fractal, Steve Lieber’s artwork continues to display a warm realism and sharp comedic timing. Especially in the sequence of Jimmy and his unwitting accomplices stuck on a roof during an alien invasion. Though Lieber plays the scene fairly broad, each expression of the character models feel and read as real, further selling the ridiculous reality of the series. Though the chaotic energy and comedy of Jimmy Olsen is still here, this tenth issue would be better served as a part of a collection.
Youth #2 (Published by ComiXology Originals; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): The first issue of Youth married lackadaisical pacing with thinly sketched characters – a quality of both Curt Pires’ by-the-numbers scripting and Alex Diotto’s scratchy art. As much as first impressions are key, not every creative project hits its stride off the bat. But going into this second issue, the hope was the creative team would find their footing and demonstrate what makes their take on “teens find themselves having superpowers” unique. While the abstract-looking explanation for these powers that opens the second issue is a better fit for Diotto and Dee Cunniffe’s artistic stylings – the latter in particular renders a beautiful starry expanse – it ends up taking half the issue to explain. The second half then decompresses the narrative even further via a confrontation with a “bootleg Nick Fury” – Pires’ words – and those problems of the first issue continue to persist. By the midway point of the series, the closest thing it has to a character is the post-modern narration that occasionally interjects, but that’s not a good enough substitute for actual characters. After a shoddy first and second impression, Youth offers little to captivate and too little an incentive to stick around in case and see if the back half will offer more.
Batman: The Adventures Continue #4 (Published by DC; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): With more breathing room to continue their story, writers Alan Burnett and Paul Dini and artist Ty Templeton get into a solid groove with Batman: The Adventures Continue #4, as Robin has an unexpected team-up with Deathstroke the Terminator, while Batman gets closer to the shadowy figure surveilling him across Gotham. It’s to Burnett and Dini’s credit that while most readers know that Slade Wilson is a villain, his counterpoint with Robin feels solid and natural enough that you could see him starting to win over the Boy Wonder; that said, Batman’s subplot still feels a little overstuffed, particularly a flat-looking sequence where Templeton has to have him run up a flight of stairs to try to catch his stalker. Yet Templeton acquits himself well with Robin, Deathstroke, and villainous guest-star Firefly, putting this issue solidly in the win column.
Outcast #45 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Kat Calamia; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): After 45 issues, Outcast continues to struggle to find an identity for itself, which becomes even more apparent with the title’s lackluster build-up to its finale. The “merge” is coming as our heroes come face-to-face with the series’ villain. Other than Paul Azaceta’s stellar artwork, Robert Kirkman’s script lacks an emotional tether. This leads to a tensionless scene between Kyle Barnes, and the title’s big bad. Though the emotional beats are missing in the script, Azaceta does a beautiful job capturing emotion visually by the brilliant use of small close up panels as characters change their posture and facial expressions. Overall, Outcast is a slow burn to the end, and with only three issues left, it looks like the title will be going out with a whimper rather than a bang.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #14 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Matthew Sibley; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Heavy is the burden of the Slayer, though this issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer sees Jordie Bellaire demonstrating how much it complicates the lives of those close to her as well. Buffy doesn’t get on that well with Kendra, lying to her mother about what’s really going on in her life, creating an even greater level of familial tension than being a teenager already does, in addition to struggling with the lack of Willow and Xander right now. Bellaire’s heroine is a superhero and the difficulty of that double life dichotomy is on full display. Julian Lopez and Moisés Hidalgo join the book with this issue — Raúl Angulo remains on colors, assisted by Francesco Segala — continuing its streak of artists that excel with nuanced character acting. One needs to only look at their first page to see that, where their lead’s face displays a rapid-fire procession of changing emotions. Though a quieter issue overall, it builds to both a big emotional crescendo and an intriguing final page that’ll surely complicate Buffy’s life more.
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #2.4 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Justin Partridge; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Tenth and Thirteenth Doctors sprint toward the finale of their first team-up in Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #2.4. Trapped between the Weeping Angels and the now rampaging Autons, the Doctors and their companions put their sonic screwdrivers and TARDISes together for a thrilling, if a bit rushed, finale of “Year Two’s” first arc. But even despite the speed of the plot, writer Jody Houser handedly captures the voices of Jodie Whittaker and David Tennant, supported by their companions, and barrels through the Doctors’ “plan.” Artist Roberta Ingranata and Enrica Eren Angiolini also handle the speedy double-act well, bopping back and forth from The Tenth and Thirteenth Doctor’s TARDIS interiors and populating each panel with wonderful in-character details for both, like Tennant’s wiry physicality and Whittaker’s motor-mouthed charm. Though this final issue would hit a lot better in a binge-read, Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #2.4 is breezy Multi-Doctor fun.