Greetings, 'Rama readers! Staying safe through the hurricane? Best Shots is braving the storm, with a ton of Rapid Reviews from this week's releases! So let's kick off with Jake Baumgart, as he takes a peek at the latest issue of Aquaman...
Aquaman #13 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Geoff Johns brings the latest Aquaman story arc to an emotional end with Issue #13. It’s all fighting — all rage — as the King of Atlantis takes on Black Manta and the mysterious villain on the high seas. What Johns does best here is capture what he does in the first issue of the series: in other words, he shows a new and interested audience that Arthur Curry is a real-deal superhero and capable of all the passion and honor that comes with that title. Artist Ivan Reis is really able to shine here with the crashing of the waves and rage emitting from Arthur. If a fan is reading Green Lantern, Flash, or Batman, there is no reason they shouldn’t be picking up Aquaman on a monthly basis.
A+X #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): All the fun of the AVX fight book is slowed down considerably. The punch-‘em-up battle royales are now replaced by Avenger/X-Men team-ups that service a larger story (time travel, no less). Without the aid of the witty "Fun Facts" or the pure fun of seeing great creative teams interpret hero mash-ups, A+X flounders in its first issue. The first story features the anachronistic heroes Cable and Captain America in a tale that is paced too quickly, followed by a simplistic Hulk/Wolverine team-up featuring them brawling with their famous future versions. Although there seems to be considerable effort by creators Dan Slott, Ron Garney, Jeph Loeb and Dale Keown, the new title isn’t deep enough to be processed and too thin to enjoy purely on the surface.
Fatale #9 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Jose Camacho; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): If HBO-style storytelling existed in the 1970s, Fatale is what it would have looked like. Sean Phillips shows off his eye for detail and continues to provide cinematic art. The gestures and positioning of these characters really bring out their personalities. A great example is Rat, the Vietnam-vet-turned-stuntman whose wicked smirk reminds you this is noir. There are no good guys. Writer Ed Brubaker takes the baton and drives this home. The cult continues their hunt while Miles and Jo plan their attack. Neither side is innocent. This issue sees both sides gearing up for something big and serves as a teaser for a big reveal. With some fun Easter Eggs in the art (is that a Burt Reynolds cameo I see in the party sequence?), and Fatale is continuing to kill it.
Star Wars – Darth Maul: Death Sentence #4 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): I'm going to spoil something right now: I am so very glad Maul didn't pull a Grinch in this sucker, because even a softie like me couldn't have handled that one. So at least from a character stance, Darth Maul: Death Sentence stayed true to the Sith Lord. The final issue wrapped up stories a little too quickly for my tastes, but the seeds of distrust and hate the Brothers Sith plant are just fun. I hope writer Tom Taylor gets to revisit these characters. Bruno Redondo's art is clean and crisp, and while it lacks finer detail, he does a good job of capturing people that are either all or no emotion at all. Pacing notwithstanding, this is a solid entry in the prequel EU.
Swamp Thing Annual #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jose Camacho; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Arcane continues to seep into the pages of Swamp Thing, and I hope the end is near for him. This issue sees Becky Cloonan pinch-hitting for Yanick Paquette, and she demonstrates the same level of creativity; the transition here is seamless. Panels intertwine to create a collage of green. I seriously want a poster of the “I’m not dressed yet” panel on my wall. Tony Avina utilized a various shades of mostly green and brown, which really brought the “green” to life. While it does rehash the plot from previous issues, using the contrast between the Carpathian mountains and Louisiana’s swamps to bring Abby and Holland together made this issue more entertaining. Some dialogue does border on rambling, but it does help show a grey area in the Rotworld.
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Liberty Annual 2012 (Published by Image; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): A host of well-known creators come together to create short comics based on the theme of freedom in this one-shot that’s designed to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund but comes up short as a comic. I appreciate the desire to include thirty creators, but when each team gets only a few pages each, the result is disjointed as most stories don’t have the room they need to develop. Andy Diggle/Ben Templesmith do a great job tweaking the morality police, I liked Chris Roberson/Roger Langridge’s one-page argument over the nature of freedom, and David Hine/Doug Braithwhite’s hope for the future are the highlights of the anthology for me. Overall, though, this is one you get for the cause, not the comics.
Batgirl Annual #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): This annual, with its extra room to stretch, is certainly one of the stronger stories that Gail Simmone has been able to tell on her Batgirl run. Unfortunately, artist Admira Wijaya slows the pace. Granted, there is a spectacular-looking splash page at the beginning of the book by the artist. However, the rest of the book is plagued by a strange, otherworldly, digital style that adds an extra layer of mist over the pages. Pencils are digitally over-rendered, sending the pages right past realistic and into the uncanny valley. Things clean up when artist Daniel Sampere takes over the latter half of the book. Although Gail Simone shines here, the book does not due to lackluster art.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #15 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The Turtles have a killer family reunion when another of Stockman’s experiments escapes in a new story arc that just starts too slow. Writers Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman are usually pretty good about getting to the action, but this time we have a drawn-out origin of the new creature mixed with an entirely-too-long moving house sequence for the Turtles. They try to build atmosphere, but it doesn’t leave enough room for the battle. That’s a shame because l really liked the camera angle choices in the last few pages by Andy Kuhn (even if his art is still too basic and non-expressive for my taste) and the lighting effects by Rhonda Pattison on colors. Hopefully we’ll be back to better pacing next issue.
Batman – L'il Gotham Chapter 1: Halloween (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): And here I was worried I wouldn't get a DC Halloween special. Although L'il Gotham Chapter #1 isn't what I expected, I couldn't be happier. Co-written by Dustin Nguyen (who also provides all the art) and Derek Fridolfs, L'il Gotham is a shining jewel in DC Digital's crown. It's everything a longtime DC fan has come to expect from a holiday issue. Watching Batman try and teach his rather embittered son Damian the joys of Halloween will warm the coldest fan's heart. Nguyen's watercolors are truly gorgeous and are packed with enough Easter Eggs to keep you scanning the page long after you've finished the story. You won't find a better use of 99 cents. Ever.
Bloodstrike #32 (Published by Image; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Bloodstrike team gets a Supreme beat-down as Cabbot’s past life crosses with his current one in the start of a new story arc that blends elements of Tim Seeley’s run so far. It’s amazing how far this series has moved from feeling like a generic anti-hero title, as Seeley shows just how complicated and immoral the Bloodstrike program is. Seeing it through Suprema’s eyes continues the contrast of Silver Age/Modern comics that Seeley has brought into the narrative. Francesco Gaston keeps the many threads of the story connected with multiple camera angles and shows just how pathetic the Bloodstrike team is against a Superman-level opponent (Suprema’s face shows her disdain especially well), which makes the ending of this sleeper book all that more dramatic.
Godzilla #6 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): There are worse monsters than Godzilla, if the veiled parables of the Mothra Priestesses are true, as the second most famous Toho creature alights into the pages of another strong issue of this series. After so much pure devastation, Duane Swierczynski hints back to the end of Godzilla’s golden age, where the monster we know is better than the creature we don’t. He’s joined by guest-artist Dave Wachter, who keeps the designs of Simon Gane but provides his own, more polished spin on them. His monsters are as amazing as we expect in this series. A two-page spread of Mothra steals the stage (with an awesome coloring job by Rhonda Pattison) as Swierczynski sets up for even more devastating action next issue.
Bedlam #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating:4 out of 10): Nick Spencer tells the story of a masked lunatic who is “cured” through brain surgery then ends up helping the police track down another serial killer. It’s like Silence of the Lambs, featuring an over-the-top analog of the Joker. The Joker comparison is obvious and embarrassing, particularly the scene that mirrors the TV audience killings from DKR. Spencer tries too hard to shock the reader with scenes of child murder and other such violence, which just come off as desperate. The script is incredibly text heavy and dominated by the antagonist's non-stop annoying chatter. The plot is also obvious and predictable. Riley Rossmo’s artwork is the comic’s saving grace—providing nice dark and moody visuals that keep the reader interested through the tedious story.
Star Trek #14 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The look down into the ordinary crew of the Enterprise continues, as its smallest member, the alien Keenser, takes the spotlight in another one-and-done issue by the regular creative team of Mike Johnson and Stephen Molnar. We always see aliens on Starfleet vessels, but it’s rare for them to get a primary focus like this. Keenser is unusual for his race, and Johnson makes it clear he won’t let his difference stop him, an affirmative message Gene Roddenberry would approve of. Molnar still isn’t very dramatic in his panel designs, but I really like how he uses various devices to show Keenser’s unusual size—whether too big or too small. The result is an everyman story that fits in well with this tie-in comics’ universe.
Autopsy: Feast For a Funeral (Published by E-Comix; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): New writer Vincent Brusio delivers a Halloween one-shot based on the cover artwork of influential death metal band Autopsy’s classic album Severed Survival. The comic is a fun homage to gory death metal artwork and classic horror films of the ‘80s. The script is a bit too heavy on narration and exposition in places, but delivers some nice dialogue and is peppered throughout with Autopsy song titles and other Easter eggs. The artwork by Mats Engesten is perhaps a little rough around the edges, but gets the job done and delivers the violence and horror in spades. Fans of Autopsy are sure to enjoy this brutal salute to the masters of gore. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!