Greetings, 'Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood Best Shots team is back in action, bringing to you your weekly helping of Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with the Gotham of tomorrow, as we start off with the latest issue of Batman Incorporated...
Batman Incorporated #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Gotham City may be burning, but that doesn't mean that the legacy of Batman isn't in good hands with Damian Wayne underneath the cowl. Jumping to the future, Grant Morrison delivers a dystopian last stand with the Son of the Batman that feels like the twisted mirror version of the already crazed Gotham. Damian's defiance in the face of a Joker virus outbreak just makes you root even harder. "I promised I would protect Gotham City. Down to the last stone. Down to my last breath." Amazing. Artist Chris Burnham's exaggerated characters only make them scarier, and I love the moment where he evokes Frank Miller himself when Damian rises one last time. This is an enormously powerful single issue, easily the best of the week. Do not miss this book.
All-New X-Men #2 (Published by Marvel Comcis, Review by Scott Cederlund, ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): For a book whose foundation was laid in 1963, Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen’s All-New X-Men #2 takes baby steps while the title slowly tries to figure out what it’s going to be about. Bringing the first class of mutants from the past before they either died, mutated more or killed their mentor, Bendis' script reads more as a commentary about where the X-Men are now than a story that stretches any characters into new directions. We’re seeing the present day through the eyes of characters who were never meant to do the things that they have. Immonen captures the confused innocence of the original five X-Men while showing how different and strange the modern world is from anything that they could have imagined. The original, young and pure X-Men react to their bleak future, showing just how far the present has fallen from Xavier’s (and maybe Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s) dreams of peace.
Ghostbusters #15 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Even when writer Erik Burnham works the pretty heavy deus ex machina into the joke, it still cheapened an ending to an arc that's been really strong. Still, Ghostbusters #15 is a fun ride that will appeal to any fan that looks fondly upon the animated series. Dan Schoening's art, combined with wonderfully vibrant colors from Luis Antonio Delgado and you've got an issue that just screams Saturday morning cartoons. There are a few panel design hiccups that upset the flow of the book, forcing the reader to back track a few times to make sure they didn't miss something. However, these are forgettable missteps in a book that does a good job of capturing the whimsical tone of the paranormal investigators and eliminators.
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Make no mistake, Before Watchmen: Ozymandias might just be the best-looking book DC prints today. Jae Lee makes Adrian Veidht into a bonafide badass, whether its going toe-to-acrobatic-toe with a gang called the Flying Tigers, or simply watching dozens of news screens in his arctic fortress. Len Wein's story starts off with some nice action, then goes to a simmer as we see Adrian's connections with the Kennedy White House. There are some nice somber beats at the end of that, but where Wein trips up massively is at the end of the issue, where he lifts his last three pages verbatim from the original Watchmen without much of his own spin. While it trips big on the dismount, as a whole, Before Watchmen: Ozymandias is still a treat.
New Avengers #34 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Brian Michael Bendis says sayonara to the franchise that made him a superstar, but it ends not with a bang, but with a whimper. Fans of Doctor Strange may have fun seeing him take on the Avengers all by himself, although the army of artists that jump from character to character may seem jarring (Newsarama Note: Though it looks pretty cool in panel-view mode on a phone or small tablet). In terms of writing and plotting, it's pretty arbitrary, pretty loose, an example of Bendis when it's not a new or passion project (see All-New X-Men, Ultimate Spider-Man). The toys are back in their boxes for Jonathan Hickman to play with, and for the most part, even the deaths of recent issues aren't set in stone. The end of an era is upon us, and I think we're all ready for it after this.
Masks #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):Masks #1 sounds like it belongs on the radio. Which is a real credit to writer Chris Roberson, as it shows he's able to translate the voice of these icons of pulp onto the page. His take on the Shadow is darn near pitch-perfect. The story is outlandish and utterly impossible, meaning it's simply ripe for these characters. Although Alex Ross' almost Wagnerian approach to these vigilantes is beautiful to behold, his art never lends itself to hyper kinetic action. As a result, many of the fights feel static. Though make no mistake, Ross is never better than when he's drawing the greats, and these players are the indeed the greats. Although $3.99 is a steep ticket, fans of pulp adventure need this show.
Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): What started out as a journey of self-discovery has turned into more of a seedy revenge story set in the psychedelic Sixties. What makes this book stands out are the small character moments — well, that and the fact that this book is ridiculously good-looking. Artist Amanda Conner shows us entire worlds in her characters' eyes, and her page layouts are just out of this world. You wouldn't think it with her expressive, cartoony style, but out of all of the Before Watchmen artists, I think she evokes the original visually the most. She, along with co-writer Darwyn Cooke, are at their best when they're showing the dysfunctional relationship between Laurie and her mother. That said, the surprisingly bleak revenge didn't really fit with the rest of the story, and it was a little disappointing to end this series directly in the thick of the original Watchmen. Smooth execution saves a slow ending.
Bedlam #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): After a horrendous debut issue, this series can only improve, right? Only minutely, it seems. Chapter two is a chatty issue with the reader playing eavesdrop on several conversations that are talk for talk’s sake and don’t meaningfully move the plot along. Transitions between scenes continue to be jarring, chaotic and senseless. Worse, there is nothing remotely interesting or investable in the main character, Fillmore. Riley Rossmo’s artwork is still the best thing going here, but it’s scratchier and less polished than in the first issue. The result isn’t sequential storytelling as much as being sequential pages of artwork. Bedlam is probably best comprehended while under some hallucinogenic influence, but continues to be a waste of $3.50.
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