Best Shots Comic Reviews: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, EARTH 2, More

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for some of the week's biggest releases? Best Shots has you covered, with some of the best and worst on the stands! So let's get started with everyone's favorite friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, as Dan Slott and Christos Gage tag-team on Amazing Spider-Man...

 

Amazing Spider-Man #695

Written by Dan Slott and Christos Gage

Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Dan Green and Antonia Fabela

Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

What if Spider-Man'a greatest weapon suddenly became his greatest liability?

As a spiritual successor to "No One Dies" and "Spider-Island," Dan Slott and Christos Gage's "Danger Zone" takes another spin on Peter Parker's Spider-Sense. We've seen him fight without it — but what happens when Spider's sixth sense starts blaring out of control? This brisk opening chapter takes off with the proportionate speed of a spider, with a surprising amount of scale and setup that never comes off as overbearing.

The thing that's most impressive about this comic is just how much is going on — Slott and Gage wisely open up with action that's so deftly drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli, you almost don't realize that that's the only punching that takes place this week. Instead, Slott and Gage whirl from person to person, checking in on characters ranging from the Hobgoblin to Madame Web to the Kingpin himself. The best part of all this is that each scene — directly or not — ties the web tighter around one person: Peter Parker. His secret identity is hanging precariously, he's got a supervillain gunning for him personally, and his overloaded Spider-Sense might have deeper repercussions across the Marvel Universe?

Wowza.

Now, it's interesting to see Giuseppe Camuncoli, because he's one of those artists that really transforms depending on who he's paired with. Inker Dan Green doesn't crowd him stylistically, letting Camuncoli's angular pencils do the talking without amping them up too much or rounding them out, a la Karl Kesel. And Camuncoli's pencils do a lot of talking here — there's an opening splash page of Spidey flipping, punching and diving that is just stunning, and even the smaller moments ring really true with Peter's uniquely energetic body language. Colorist Antonio Fabela also adds a lot to the energy here, with some really bright, poppy palettes.

Culminating in an explosive splash page featuring much of the Marvel NOW! lineup, this would be an amazing standalone comic — but the fact that it's an opening chapter makes Amazing Spider-Man #695 even more impressive. It doesn't try to reinvent the wheel with new wrinkles or add-ons to the status quo, but instead takes a tried-and-true element to the Spidey mythos, turns it on its head, and lets the soap opera bubble over as a result. As long as Slott and Gage are behind the wheel on Amazing Spider-Man, you owe it to yourself to take yourself right into the "Danger Zone."

 

Earth 2 #5

Written by James Robinson

Art by Nicola Scott, Trevor Scott and Alex Sinclair

Lettering by Dezi Sienty

Published by DC Comics

Review by Brian Bannen

‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Is there any other way to have heroes come together without having them fight first?

Superhero team up stories have a formulaic process through which the heroes first meet, then fight, then decide they are not enemies before banding together to do something great. Most recently, The Avengers movie took time out of its action heavy story to give viewers an awesome throw down between Captain America, Thor and Iron Man who, in the end, unite to fight a common threat. Similarly, writer James Robinson makes Issue #5 of Earth 2 about establishing a relationship between the new wonders appearing on the planet. But everything else going on in the comic makes Earth 2 a cumbersome read.

Robinson relies on tried-and-true threats — a world that’s going to expire in less than 24 hours and a nuclear strike on the way — to force the immediacy of the situation. But he also gives readers the hero-throw-down-that-leads-to-team-up story, while still keeping Solomon Grundy as a threat, and showing a “situation room” showdown between Amir Kahn and super-villain Terry Sloan.

Phew!

Given everything going on, however, Grundy and Sloan feel the most wasted here. Grundy just gets pummeled, goes back into the Earth, and then comes back again to get pummeled. Sloan is nothing more than a Lex Luthor-type character whose penchant for evil makes him ruthless enough to kill millions of people with the press of a button. The action heavy story successfully illustrates the hero fight, but the excessive dialogue bogs down the flow. Robinson obviously wants to accomplish a lot in this comic, but at the expense of its pacing.

Through all of this chaos, Nicola Scott draws some superb characters. Her art is smooth and clean, even with all the decay and rot occurring because of Grundy. And speaking of Grundy, I hate his design (the ripped funeral suit is way cooler than the Hellraiser dress), but It’s easy to over look this given the sleekness of characters like Hawkgirl and Flash.

And given how clunky all the outfits look, Scott does a great job of making them look functional. Part of this is due to Trevor Scott’s inks and Alex Sinclair’s colors. The ugliness of the world is starting to weigh on me, so I’ll be happy when this arc is over, but I have to credit the artists for keeping imagery as neat as possible while still being able to show a world coming apart at the roots.

Just as Geoff Johns worked on making the Justice League come together in his first arc, James Robinson is attempting to recreate the Justice Society of America. I’m interested to see some of the other Earth 2 characters, but the newness of the world is starting to wane. I want so badly to be interested, but the stagnant nature of this arc is killing its initial flow. I hope Robinson can turn it around with Issue #6 — plus, I want to see the new Red Tornado. That alone may be worth the price of admission.

 

Doctor Who #1

Written by Andy Diggle

Art by Mark Buckingham

Colors by Charlie Kirchoff

Lettering by Shawn Lee

Published by IDW Publishing

Review by Shag Matthews

’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Doctor Who #1 does a very good job walking the delicate line between faithfulness to the source material and being an exciting comic book to read. Media tie-in comics are always tricky business. The creative team must carefully capture the character’s appearance and speech, while also translating the flavor of the series to comic book form. If they get one or both of those wrong, the fans might not embrace the expanded adventures of their beloved characters. Andy Diggle and Mark Buckingham have produced a smart story with beautiful visuals that should satisfy any fan of Doctor Who.

From the first scene, Andy Diggle demonstrates his love of Doctor Who and his scripting know-how. His story follows the TARDIS crew of the Doctor, Amy and Rory as they visit the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London, 1851. The issue begins, as any good Doctor Who story should, by introducing us to new characters and a mystery. Quickly the Doctor and friends find themselves investigating an anachronistic machine, confronting paranormal abilities, and caught up in a race against time. All the usual Doctor Who tropes are present: the sonic screwdriver, psychic paper, clever banter, and a dangerous situation that only the Doctor fully understands. Diggle manages to incorporate all these elements from the television series, while at the same time delivering a fast-paced and compelling comic book story. The reader will find themselves interested in Emily and Charles Fairfax, Diggle’s newly created characters, and feel sorry for them as their story unfolds.

The television series is famous for cliffhanger endings and the comic aims to deliver too. However, one of the two dilemmas at the end of this issue left me scratching my head. Without spoiling anything, I don’t really understand the ending with the Doctor and Amy. Maybe I’m over-thinking it, but their conclusion left me wondering what Diggle was trying to convey. With that said, the other dilemma with Rory was perfect for that character.

Andy Diggle’s characterization of the TARDIS regulars is spot-on. He gives us some quiet moments for Amy and Rory as they reflect upon their adventures with the Doctor and the impact on their lives. This has been an important theme in the new season of television episodes, so this provides a nice bridge between the comic book and television adventures. Also, Diggle really has an ear for the voices of these characters. As I read his dialogue in the scene between Amy and Rory, I can clearly hear Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill in my head delivering these lines. For example, this bit was 100% pure Rory: “You’re sad that it’s our anniversary. Okay. Right. No, that’s fine. Um.” The only dialogue concern that jumped out was towards the end I felt the comic book Rory was beginning to become a parody of the television Rory with the over-usage of the word, “right.”

Mark Buckingham gorgeously captures the likenesses of this TARDIS crew. I’ve been a fan of Buckingham and his versatility since his early work on Miracleman, and I was pleased he opted for realistic portrayals of the characters instead of comic book stylized versions. It reinforces the connection between the comic and the television series. His careful use of linework is more suggestive than detailed, and it results in wonderfully expressive faces. Now the über-Who geek in me feels compelled to point out a couple faces in this comic appear photo-referenced, but that’s probably only noticeable to die-hard fans.

Victorian London is an ideal locale for Mark Buckingham’s talents. His knowledge of the period combined with his subtle linework creates believable surroundings. A highlight of the issue is Buckingham’s wonderfully steampunk Quantum Resonator, resplendent with its brass, lights and glass domes. Also, inside the Crystal Palace are some nice Easter eggs for longtime fans of classic Doctor Who. One of which is mentioned in Diggle’s dialogue, a few others only appearing in Buckingham’s art. Charlie Kirchoff’s color palette of earth tones compliments Buckingham’s Victorian London, but it makes a few scenes look a bit muddy.

Andy Diggle and Mark Buckingham deliver an excellent start to this new volume of Doctor Who. Fans of the television series will feel right at home with the story and will find their favorite characters faithfully rendered on the page, both in dialogue and appearance. This makes for a compelling Doctor Who adventure, but also a fun comic book to read. It features a smart, fast-paced script with beautiful illustrations. If this first issue is indicative of the rest of the series, then I’m definitely on board for further trips in the TARDIS with IDW’s Doctor Who. Geronimo!

 

Fashion Beast #2

Written by Alan Moore

Art by Facundo Percio

Published by Avatar

Review by Brian Bannen

‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

The mark of a great comic is one that affects you on a visceral level, one that you reread immediately after finishing, and one that stays with you long after you close the pages.

Fashion Beast is that book.

It’s easy to lose oneself in the story, which feels dystopian and erudite but still accessible. Not a moment feels wasted, even the shots that depict nothing more than movement through a room, and the strength of the story lies equally in its visuals as well as its structure. Scripted by famed writer Alan Moore, Fashion Beast is a perfectly plotted, impeccably illustrated, and wholly absorbing comic.

Based on a concept by Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, Fashion Beast is an alternate take on the story of Beauty and the Beast, coupling the life of Christian Dior with the world of modeling to create an eclectic and engaging story. The book has the same orderly structure as Moore’s seminal work, Watchmen, which is not really surprising considering they were both written at the same time. It’s take this long for Fashion Beast to see the light of day, albeit in a different form than originally intended.

While the first issue introduced the cross-dressing Doll Seguin and set up his immediate departure as the coat-check girl and dancer for an exclusive nightclub, Issue #2 brings readers inside the enigmatic Celestine, a factory like modeling agency owned by a reclusive figure who is only displayed through glass.

Our link, Doll Seguin, is engaging as the lead character due to his outsider status and naiveté. As Doll moves through the strange and arcane world of Celestine, we as well experience his failures, shock and disgust. In the end, I want nothing more than Doll to succeed.

Moore also addresses deeper societal themes, specifically the darker side of modeling and body image. There’s a grotesqueness to the lengths people go to be noticed, and while body disfigurement is not present in modeling world, it’s easy to see how people would use it to be noticed.

Because Fashion Beast was originally written as a screenplay, the sequential nature of the storytelling makes for a very methodical pacing that rarely shifts its point of view. To this end, Facundo Percio’s art is stellar. His illustrations are impeccably detailed, and he makes Doll the focal point of the comic by drawing those around him as distorted in appearance through misshapen body features. Additionally, Doll’s colorization is a bit more vibrant than those around him and as much of the comic is darker colors — browns, greens and grays — Doll’s blond hair and white dress make him that much more pure. And given the muted colors, the comic is still visually entertaining rather than being off-putting.

Furthermore, the symmetrical and sequential nature of the imagery is impressive, especially considering the repetition displayed through a steadily focused point of view. Emoting is flawlessly conveyed as Percio runs the gamut on character reactions, and the long stationary shots make for a level of tension that pervades the experience.

There’s a reason Alan Moore is continuously praised as one of comics’ best writers. As if to punctuate that fact, Fashion Beast is another great entry into a long list of great Moore works. The story has deeper roots than we’re seeing, and where we’ve only dipped out toes into this world, it is already palpable and enticing. I have a hard time finding any flaws with this book, and without any reservation, I recommend this is a comic you should be reading.

 

Danger Club #4

Written by Landry Q. Walker

Art by Eric Jones, Michael “Rusty” Drake and Garry Black

Lettering by Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt

Published by Image Comics

Review by Jose Camacho

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

The original Watchmen graphic novel was a classic since it was an epic plot with a classic feel and fresh new ideas. The Danger Club series is built upon that same foundation. The world of Danger Club, much like Watchmen, is in the midst of a gritty post-superhero era. We get to see heroes, or in this case sidekicks, being placed in relatable while still superhuman situations. In other words, while we may have never had a superhero mentor, we have felt the pain of losing someone close to us.

This great series begins with the premise of the mass disappearance of its heroes. Their sidekicks are left to fight for the scraps and somehow also keep the world from falling to a much bigger threat. So far Kid Vigilante and his fellow sidekicks have had to put down some of their own. This clash has left them very fragmented and confused, especially after uncovering more details regarding the disappearance of their mentors. After further investigation, they are regrouping and preparing to confront the aforementioned threat.

All the while, we see them being tortured by their inner demons. In Danger Club #4, it is the Magician's turn to face his past. Instead of using flashbacks or even dialogue, Landry Walker employs a voicemail as our window into the Magician's life. This was very inventive and it served as a reminder that many of the main characters in Danger Club are children. They still have to report to their parents. They are afraid and vulnerable.

As the cover confirms, the events in this issue are intense. Do not let the buckets of blood deter you from this series. Danger Club #4 mixes great action sequences with introspective psychedelic frames. The result is a stunning issue where we are left wanting more; both in terms of writing and art. The art team of Eric Jones and Michael "Rusty" Drake are great at maneuvering characters through dialogue or violence. Throughout the issue, Jones and Drake demonstrate that they know where to focus for effect such as the jet crash in the climax of the issue. The action happens on one "main panel" while "side panels" are used to show motion.

I find that too often, comics will be littered by dialogue and it keeps readers from enjoying the art. In this issue, you will notice dialogue is evenly distributed and it actually helps guide the reader's eye from panel to panel. The dialogue compliments the art instead of taking the reader's attention away from the art. An example of this is the Magician's narration while he floats around a dimension. The "bubbles" and his narration combine to build drama and give the appearance that he is wading through memories. Also, I want to point out that Michael "Rusty" Drake is stellar (pardon the pun) during this sequence. The chemistry between the colors that he employs is very unique.

In terms of the writing, Landry Walker's ability to tell a story is hard to beat. He is one of those truly gifted creative individuals that can present a story where you will find that special factor that will keep you coming back from more. Whether it is the "retro" first page of each first issue that provides background as well as foresight or the characters that mirror classic archetypes while developing their unique personalities and histories, Walker has something for everybody. Walker built a world where characters are engaging and their histories compliment the overall plot.

The only flaw I can find is that while the art is awesome at times it is slightly inconsistent when paired against the rest of the series. The pencil-work seems hair-thin and the colors are overpowering in a few panels. When you take into account that the art has been flawless in previous issues, this "off day" is not a death sentence.

Danger Club #4 continues a sensational story that is paired with superb art. The characters are still being fleshed out but not at the expense of the overall plot. It should be noted that this issue will be hard for new readers to follow but it will solidify the returning audience. If this issue is any indication of what is to come, potential readers better take notice before it is too late. For the readers that have been anxiously awaiting for this issue since July, let me confirm: this will not disappoint. I am looking forward to where Walker, Jones and Drake will take us next.

 

15 Minutes: Kim Kardashian #1

Written by Marc Shapiro

Art by Noval Hernawam, Bill Key and Pipin L. Tobing

Lettering by Warren Montgomery

Published by Bluewater Comics

Review by Pierce Lydon

'Rama Rating: 1 out of 10

Bluewater Comics has made a name for themselves by putting out biography comics of the biggest names in pop culture. Their new 15 Minutes series focuses on different aspects of a multitude of reality stars. Their first undertaking is Kim Kardashian, the “sex tape diva turned world celebrity brand.” But 15 Minutes: Kim Kardashian, written by New York Times bestselling author Marc Shapiro and drawn by up and comer Noval Hernawan, fails to deliver anything in comic book form that isn’t readily available on her TV show or Wikipedia.

Shapiro’s background includes a multitude of celebrity biographies, among them, his NYT bestseller on J.K. Rowling. But rather than attempting to craft a compelling biographical narrative, Shapiro captions us to death. There isn’t a single line of dialogue in the entire book. Kim Kardashian doesn’t even seem like a character in her own story. But maybe this is actually an attempt to deconstruct reality stars. Maybe Shapiro is saying that in some way, once you become a reality star, you cease to be a character in your own story. Instead, you become a human-sized doll flitting away your existence at press junkets, on red carpets and on the cutting room floor of your hit TV show. Unfortunately, we are never given even the subtlest hint that this may have been Shapiro’s intent.

For his part, artist Noval Hernawan does try. The opening couple of pages are very solid aesthetically but then he loses his way. Awkward panel layouts and complete abandonment of the principles of foreshortening make this book a struggle to get through. Hernawan’s best moments come whenever a pin-up style shot of Kardashian is needed and his recreation of this bunch of famous faces are mostly on point. But besides their faces, his characters are stiff and unnatural, looking more like posed action figures than anything else. Colorists Bill Key and Pipin L. Tobing don’t help any. The muted palette they use, doesn’t suit the subject matter and the drastic difference between the opening pages and the rest of the book is jarring.

You might be asking yourself, “Why did this guy even bother reviewing this? Didn’t he know it would be bad?” Those questions are exactly why I decided to review it. It is unfair to say “Bluewater is always bad” if you aren’t going to bother reading their books in the same way it’s bad to say “X artist can’t draw feet” if you’re going to ignore any instances where X artist does actually draw them. Before opening the cover of this comic, it had the potential to shatter everything we thought we knew about Bluewater and the type of product they put out. This time around, they don’t deliver. In the past, their books haven’t delivered. But it doesn’t mean that in the future they won’t. 15 Minutes: Kim Kardashian is a bad comic, but not because of the name of the company on the cover. We’d all do well to remember that. 

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