Best Shots Extra: SUPERMAN #0, TALON #0, More - Reviewed!

 

Superman #0

Written by Scott Lobdell

Art by Kenneth Rocafort and Sonny Gho

Letters by Rob Leigh

Published by DC Comics

Review by George Marston

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

While DC Comics' "zero" issues have received criticism for lacking revelatory punch, Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort's Superman #0 actually delivers some significant twists and surprises to, well, let's just call it the origin of Superman's origin. Focusing on Jor-El and Lara, the parents of Kal-El, in the last days of Krypton, Lobdell delivers some new twists to old tropes about Jor-El's forewarning of the planet's destruction, and the Kryptonian Science Council's rejection of his claims.

Superman #0 isn't a perfect issue - Lobdell does a little too much telling in favor of showing, and Rocafort's generally gorgeous art gets a little hard to follow in one two-page spread - but it does hit the mark in terms of justifying a retelling of Jor-El and Lara's story, and setting the stage Lobdell's upcoming run on the title. So, what exactly did we learn from this issue? Well, on top of small details, like the confirmation that Krypton has much higher gravitational pull than Earth, there's the idea that Jor-El and Lara are exceptional people in their own right. Hardly a simple scientist, Jor-El may in fact be the most brilliant man on Krypton. On top of that, his wife, Lara, is not just a gifted physician, but a skilled hand to hand combatant and former military officer. These elements add some weight to Superman's genetic origins, establishing that he'd probably be exceptional even if he had remained on Krypton. Unfortunately, this is one of the sticking points of Lobdell's script, which is often bogged down with statements and reminders that Jor-El and Lara are brilliant and talented on nearly every page. In addition to the depth given to Superman's biological parents, we also discover that Krypton's destruction came at the hands of a cult dedicated to the Eradicator, explaining the cult-infested Science Council's resistance to Jor-El's research, and their attempts to stop, or even kill him before he could find a way to save Krypton - something that Lobdell, again, reminds us over and over that Jor-El cannot do. Finally, we get a glimpse of Superman himself, in a costume somewhat resembling his post-resurrection outfit from "Death and Return," perched on a building observing his father and mother's escape from the Eradicator cult.

While this raises plenty of questions, they're the kind of questions that crave answers that are undoubtedly still to come in Lobdell's run, and that's a good thing. Despite it's flaws, such as Lobdell's slightly over-scripted pages, which rely on a narrator — Superman himself — and still consistently reiterate obvious points, and Rocafort's occasionally hard to read layouts, there's a lot to love about Superman #0. In general, Lobdell sets a grandiose and alien tone for Krypton, seamlessly integrating Kryptonian lingo into the dialogue, and adding a sense of urgency that is often strangely lacking in tellings of Krypton's last days. For his part, Kenneth Rocafort's art here is gorgeous, probably his best DC work to date. Sunny Gho's vibrant colors, set atop Rocafort's un-inked pencils, make for an almost dreamlike water color pallet that's gripping from the opening scene of Jor-El in his exploration suit surrounded by holograms.

Many of the issues that fans have had with this team's work on other titles don't seem as prevalent here, and any cracks that do show are certainly overshadowed by what works. When he let's Rocafort's well-acted characters tell the story, Lobdell has a good eye for characterization and detail, and an excellent sense of pacing for what is, and should be, a breakneck issue. I'll admit, I have not been a fan of Lobdell's work at DC as part of the New 52, but this issue definitely left me wanting more, wondering what would happen next, and excited at the possible directions of the story. The fact that Lobdell seems unafraid to take risks, but still manages to deliver recognizable versions of these characters is only aided by Rocafort's cutting edge style in making this seem like the kind of book you'd expect from a company trying to re-establish and update even their most popular characters. I'd call this one of DC's most successful "zero" issues so far, and a great jumping on point for lapsed Superman fans.

 

Talon #0

Plot by James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder

Written by James Tynion IV

Art by Guillem March and Tomeu Morey

Lettering by Sal Cipriano

Published by DC Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

One of the hardest things in comics is to introduce a new character via their own ongoing series and to make it last. Here, we're introduced to Calvin Rose, a renegade Talon from the Court of the Owls and his journey to escape the Court's wrath. It's refreshing to see DC take a chance like this, and by the way? It paid off.

Co-plotted by James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, but written strictly by Tynion, we're given a straightforward origin story with a hint at the main plot that will be moving forward. The beginning is a bit dense with Tynion having a pension for Snyder's now almost trademark use of heavy narration. But the origin doesn't drag down the story and we get a glimpse on the other side of the mirror with what it was like growing up in the Court. There's sort of a Mr. Miracle vibe here with Rose being a talented escape artist as a youth and the Court manipulating the gift for their own evil. You can see the process of what it takes to be part of the Court, much less a Talon and Rose possessed all those skills, except one: showing mercy. Every horrible action he's done, he feels regret. So after a while, he runs. But as we've seen in DC's crossover event, the Night of the Owls, the Court is a relentless machine that stops at nothing to get their prey. Now that Rose is in their crosshairs, how long can he escape his former "family"?

That's essentially the premise in Talon #0. But what Tynion does here is what we should see more of in comics. Where we have an established world, but a spin-off book that actually works, and to top it off, a totally new character that is instantly liked, empathized, and cared about. I had my doubts with the whole Court aspect being played out, but Tynion adds a new dimension here and shows their low level of humanity. The little owlettes are still the creepiest thing to come out of the reboot. Period.

Just off his run of Catwoman, Guillem March does the art duties here and despite past criticism, March is just wonderful. While his strengths and passion lies with drawing gorgeous and -at times- women with questionable anatomy, March delivers some solid action on these pages. His handle over some intense moments might have dampened the story if he had a misstep, but March soars here and gives us some gripping and terrifying visions of what it took to become a Talon and what it'll take to get away. Add in some great and gritty tones by Tomeu Morey, and you've got a good-looking book and a great start to what will hopefully be a great series.

 

Where's My Shoggoth?

Written by Ian Thomas

Art by Adam Bolton

Lettering by Adam Bolton

Published by Archaia Studios

Review by Aaron Duran

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

There are times when I wonder if we horror fans take HP Lovecraft's work a too little seriously. And while Lovecraft is unarguably the foundation of the modern horror story, it's always nice to have a little bit of fun with That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named. Mix that lighthearted irreverence with a twisted children's book and you have Where's My Shoggoth?, the newest all-ages title from Archaia Entertainment.

Adam Bolton on art and Ian Thomas on the words draft a perfectly twisted children's tale (assuming, of course, that you're OK with twisted children's tales). Just as the title suggests, a young kid has lost his Shoggoth. Nothing will be right with the world until he finds this beloved creature and gets home in time for supper. From there, Bolton and Thomas take the reader on a beautifully lyrical and visually stunning tour through Lovecraft's greatest hits.

Thomas has a good ear for pacing and tone. His rhyming meter is just cute enough to maintain a child's interest, but not so obvious and sweet that an adult grits their teeth as they read it. And, in a style that is reminiscent of Roald Dahl or Maurice Sendak, Thomas finds a balance between humor and danger for both our main character and reader.

Still, for as much as I enjoyed Thomas' words, it's Adam Bolton's art in Where's My Shoggoth that truly makes this book a must read. Each creature has it's moment to shine as our young boy travels the land. You can almost hear the glow bugs buzz about as he catches a Deep One, or feel your mind quiver with electricity when he enters the realm of the Mi-Go. Each encounter is layered with so much imagery, you'll find yourself taking your time exploring the pages. No space goes to waste as Bolton designs these horrors with a loving eye toward the whimsy. And yet, between each moment Bolton gives the reader a chance to breathe. Encounters are paced with near blank pages as the boy and his darling cat make their way from one bizarre event to another.

It really doesn't matter if you have kids or not, Where's My Shoggoth is one of those books you can't help but enjoy. There is a joyful glee that oozes from every page. Bolton and Thomas remind us that sometimes you can find all kinds of fun in the creepy corners of our world. Simply put, Where's My Shoggoth is a book you can't miss.

 

The Shadow Annual #1

Written by Tom Sniegoski

Art by Dennis Calero

Lettering by Rob Steen

Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

The main problem with annuals is that they usually "don't count". I look at annuals as a good way to give a story or a character a try, and here with The Shadow Annual, it continues my belief in that. I've been going in and out of The Shadow since Dynamite launched it, but it's still missing that certain missing ingredient to keep me coming back each month.

Tom Sniegoski delivers a fine enough story for the legendary pulp character and really delves into the Eastern systicism that surrounds Lamont's own powers. It's definitely got a "Village of the Damned" feel, but something with a more sinister edge. The Shadow's alter ego Lamont Cranston, is hardly featured here, so it reads like an old timey radio adventure, but if you're looking to try and understand who the character is, this isn't really where you should start. The Shadow goes up against some children that have powers connected to an ancient dragon (as the awesome cover by Alex Ross displays). The dialogue between character is fine, nothing memorable, but the Shadow's inner monologues are where most the of the better stuff comes from.

Some of the Shadow's supporting cast isn't featured, and again, somethings aren't really conveyed properly. His relationship with Margot just seems nonchalant and distant. Lamont may be a troubled man, but something just didn't click here for me. Where the book really excels in the art department. Dennis Calero, who've I've been a fan of since his X-Men: Noir days really drives home the action and the overall experience. He takes the wheel when things start getting violent and action-oriented and elevates the story to as high as it can go. The panels really take the reader on a visual journey I doubt you'll see anywhere else on the stand. The color palette at times is quizzical, and almost too dark, but gets the point across.

Much like the Green Hornet, Dynamite has an affection for the pulp characters of yore, but The Shadow has been hit or miss. As a fan of the character, I'd like to have some consistency in the story. It's just difficult to recommend to new readers, but hopefully that will improve down the line.

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