Best Shots Advance: ALL-NEW X-MEN, DEADPOOL, LUTHER STRODE

 

All-New X-Men #3

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Marte Gracia

Letters by Cory Pettit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

If there's one major success of Marvel NOW! so far, its the energy that shaking up the line has given the characters and creators alike. Sure, there have been some missteps, but many of Marvel's biggest names are seeing renewed life force thanks to the change in dynamics. Brian Bendis's All-New X-Men is emblematic of this principle, thriving on Bendis's heady, character-driven premise, and a new outlook for Marvel's biggest writer, and second biggest franchise.

Sometimes, a change of venue can make all the difference in the world for a creator. All-New X-Men has given Brian Bendis a more focused approach to writing a team book. Seeing the way that he is developing the relationships between characters like Magneto and Cyclops is making it painfully obvious just how paralyzed Bendis's writing had become by the end of his run. By focusing on a smaller cast, there's less potential for characters to get left by the wayside, and the individual relationships of the characters can be allowed to flourish. There's a lot less of Bendis's singular voice, with most characters receiving an actual personality instead of a collection of quips and conversational stutters.

There are some problems, though. Emma Frost's introduction in this issue is less than stellar, primarily because she's the one character that Bendis just can't seem to pin down. Here, she comes off less like an aristocratic anglophile, and more like one of the real housewives of Westchester, with bitter, uncouth dialogue, and more swagger than poise. It's unsettling, and if the scenes between Magneto and Cyclops, or the reveal of the location of the new Xavier School being so compelling and driven, Emma's out of character presence could have derailed this issue, which focuses entirely on Cyclops's team.

The art on All-New X-Men is steadily improving as well. Stuart Immonen is getting a much stronger handle on the characters at play, and, as with the writing, Cyclops and Magneto stand out in particular. The biggest improvements are coming from colorist Marte Gracia, however, whose palette is expanding away from the earthtones that dominated the first two issues. Gracia's fiery mood in the action sequences, and dark, steely, industrial take on Cyclops's new headquarters really hit home, improving and selling the scenarios.

So far, All-New X-Men looks to be earning its place as the flasghip title of Marvel NOW!'s X-Men line. This issue ends with a crucial moment that will undoubtedly set the tone for the rest of the series. It's a make or break moment in a book that has been full of make or break moments in only three issues. While this issue isn't a complete success - Emma Frost really doesn't work under Bendis's pen right now - there's so much to love about the way All-New X-Men has blended the ongoing mutant soap opera with an implausibly entertaining premise that, if Bendis can continue to stick the landing, he may have a definitive X-Men run on his hands.

 

Deadpool #3

Written by Brian Poeshn and Gerry Dugan

Art by Tony Moore and Val Staples

Lettering by Joe Sabino

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10

What's worse than beating a dead horse? In the case of Deadpool, beating a dead president.

Now in its third issue, the joke has worn thin, with the endless violence not being half the hook that Brian Poehsn and Gerry Duggan think it is. As Deadpool teams up with Doctor Strange to wage war against a horde of zombie presidents, nothing about this story Deadpool. It's simply punch after punch, tired joke after tired joke. (Except for Doctor Strange saying "Illusion, Michael! Tricks are for prostitutes." I'll admit, you got me with the line, Brian and Gerry. But that says something about the level of humor here.)

The real problem behind this comic is that Poeshn and Duggan don't write visually, they write verbally, essentially leaving artist Tony Moore in something of a hostage situation. Moore has a lot going for him, particularly his sleek, cartoony character designs. But it's all wasted on caricatured presidents and plotting that's way too light.

There's no direction here under all these verbose panels, so Moore's got to sort of make up the staging as he goes along — and that feels about as deliberate as it sounds. The few out-and-out action beats (that don't include punching or stabbing) still feel frustratingly vague, with the exception of one splash page that makes Strange more of a focus than Wade himself. Combine it with some garish blues, purples and greens from Val Staples, and the art is at war with itself.

When your guest stars feel more at home with the plot than your main character (and is essentially giving your hero the actual tools they need to succeed), I'd argue something has gone wrong with your story. Deadpool could have been a wicked funny grindhouse sort of story, but instead it's a sort of tired Bugs Bunny-meets-zombies kick. The jokes don't make you laugh, the action doesn't make you gasp, the character doesn't make you care. This one might be too much for even the Regeneratin' Degenerate to come back from.

 

The Legend of Luther Strode #1

Written by Justin Jordan

Art by Tradd Moore and Felipe Sobreiro

Lettering by Steven Finch

Published by Image Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

I love violence. Well, comic book violence. But even the most vociferous superhero fan knows you've got to have something else behind it. Unfortunately, The Legend of Luther Strode is all about shock and awe, missing out on exactly why we're supposed to care.

And that's a tough thing to say, considering how great this book looks. Tradd Moore makes this former weakling turned hulking death machine into a real force of nature, his cartoony figured whizzing past faster than you'd ever expect. Sure as hell faster than his victims, that's for sure! Heads are torn through doorways, cars are used as weapons, hapless thugs are dragged screaming out of our field of view. Moore gleefully plays up the carnage in this book, and, to be honest, is really the only memorable part of this sophomore effort.

That's kind of damning this book with faint praise, sadly. But violence is pretty much all that this story is. Luther Strode is considered a legend by local crime lords, but Justin Jordan is ultimately just building up a character that either (A) we know already from the first series and thus don't need the hype, or (B) is some faceless goon just tearing the place up but otherwise not endearing himself. There's a slight twist at the end, but, to be honest, that should have been on page 4, not at the end of the book, for Pete's sake. There's a wealth of character development that could have happened here, or even a fresh twist on the stakes, but it's all smash and hit, smash and hit.

It could be worse, but The Legend of Luther Strode also could have been so much more. When the series first began, I said it was an old story told with some fresh new art, but Strode is beyond the point where he can get by on looks alone — this book looks sick, but needs to be more than just a showcase for Moore's formidable chops. Where is Luther's legend heading? A more solid direction would definitely keep this hero from turning back into a scrawny high school zero.

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