Best Shots Rapid Reviews: WALKING DEAD, AVENGERS ARENA, More

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Best Shots is back in action, with this week's edition of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's cut to the chase with the latest from The Walking Dead, as Edward Kaye takes a look at issue #105…


The Walking Dead #105 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Negan takes pity on his deadly stowaway, taking him in and showing him around the fortified factory the “saviors” use as a base. It’s a smart way to show readers how Negan runs his operation, and why his soldiers follow him without question. The storyline serves as a nice parallel to the Governor storyline currently running in the TV show, with Robert Kirkman clearly trying to one-up the antics of that character. This he does to stunning effect, by showing us how he makes his followers kneel before him like a king, how he keeps a harem of “wives,” and what happens if you cross him. There’s a merciful side to him though, which provides a glimmer of hope that Carl may make it through alive.


Avengers Arena #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Sure, we've all seen the kids-trapped-on-an-island-and-kill-each-other thing before, but Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker are giving it their all in Avengers Arena #1. Taking some the less popular teen heroes in the Marvel Universe and pitting them against each other morally and physically is a great angle for the company-wide overhaul, and Kev Walker really brings the A-game to this book. The artist is able to capture these adolescents at their most intimate and vulnerable, and he has Dennis Hopeless to thank for getting them there. Certainly one of the stronger titles right out of the Marvel NOW! gate, Avengers Arena #1 might be something we've heard before, but damn if it isn’t good.


Batgirl #15 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10):Apart from the core title, I'd assumed the arc would most effect Batgirl. Issue #15 gives me a little more to chew on, but Gail Simone is still missing the target. Although not by much, as most of the emotional intensity between Barbara and the Joker reads as genuine and intense. The James, Jr. scenes feel rushed and unnecessary, I'd rather a deeper telling between Batgirl and Joker. Artist Daniel Sampere really brings home the personal nature of these characters. The reader is brought uncomfortably close on darn near every panel. It works to an extent, but eventually becomes desensitizing. Simone has set into motion an arc that should only end in one way — it's just a shame we probably won't see it.


Conan the Barbarian #11 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):If you prefer a Conan that stabs his way out of problem, Conan #11 might not be the issue for you. Indeed, most of arc will leave you wanting. However, Brian Wood is exploring a side of Conan that most readers never experience — that of a man with genuine emotions, beyond the short-term exuberance that comes from a full belly or bloodied blade. Declan Shalvey's art is the a strong sell. His action scenes pop with intense violence. Although Shalvey is at his best when conveying the real sense of hopelessness that Conan faces as he sees all that his loves slowly die to a foe he can't defeat. Conan #11 isn't an easy issue to read, but it's still a very good one.


Cable and X-Force #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Cable puts together his own version of X-Force, to battle threats before they happen and prevent future catastrophes. Hopeless opens the book in an interesting enough way, with Cable and company caught red-handed at the scene of a terrorist attack. The story then jumps back in time to reveal how they got to this point. It’s a tried and tested storytelling device, but the problem is that we don’t get a payoff to the initial tease, as the issue ends just as things begin to get interesting. Salvador Larroca’s artwork is the best it’s looked in a long time, with him returning to a more traditional cartooning style rather than the unsettling photo-tracing he had been employing on .


Ame-Comi Girls Featuring Duela Dent #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It feels like much longer than it probably has been since DC put out a fun Elseworlds-type book; the Ame-Comi Girls mini-series scratches that itch perfectly. Stories and characters based on a line of collectible toys might not have the best track record, but Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray make it work. On top of solid art and the punchy script, half the fun is trying to figure out the aspects of this new interpretation of DC’s classic characters. This is a must-buy for young female readers looking for something more. If the current DCU is bringing you down then take a break and have some fun with Duela Dent and the other Ame-Comi Girls.


Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): A series of deaths and rumors of the devil draw Sherlock Holmes and Watson into an intriguing new case that’s got plenty of potential clues in this new mini-series. While Matt Triano’s depiction of Holmes drove me crazy, looking more like Bing Crosby than Basil Rathbone, I otherwise thought the action looked great, moving quickly from panel to panel. Little items drawn in by Triano add to the atmosphere created by writers Leah Moore and John Reppion, as they build a believable Victorian world for the characters. Best of all, Holmes’ deduction skills are on display early and often, a key piece to creating a good adaptation. This looks like it will be a fun series that treats Doyle’s characters with respect.


Ghostbusters #16 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Long-time Ghostbusters fans will tell you two truths: Ghostbusters 2 wasn't that bad and Winston Zeddemore never gets enough screen time. Issue #16 of Ghostbusters from IDW seeks to change that. As with most of the recent stories, writer Erik Burham drafts a simple but pleasing done-in-one tale, while dropping in hints at bigger events to come. Together, artist Dan Schoening and colorist Luis Antonio Delgado keep the tone light and fun, with just a hint of real danger. Choosing an animated over photo realistic style is definitely the smarter choice. While some of the story reads a bit forced, it's still an enjoyable read that will please Ghostbusters fans. As with most of IDW's licensed books, Ghostbusters is in good hands.


Change #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There is something truly amazing going on here. It may not be entirely clear what that is yet, but the amount of talent behind writer Ales Kot and artists Morgan Jeske, Sloane Leong and Ed Brisson is certainly felt in this dense first issue. There are so many themes at play right from the start that it’s a bit difficult to keep them all organized as the story progresses. The same could actually be said of the art, which dips its creative toe into multiple color palettes, future tech concepts and manic paneling. This work might be stronger after be collected. Despite a busy first issue, there is something beautifully startling about Change #1.


Popeye #8 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Poopdeck Pappy is in puppy love, but it might be a dog pound of trouble for Popeye and the rest of the gang if Pappy’s paramour gets her hands on a secret treasure in this joke-filled action adventure. Roger Langridge treads a careful line to ensure that the gags are funny and not offensive, cleverly giving most of them to Olive. The idea that Pappy is afraid of water and hasn’t bathed end up bring great plot points, and we end with a touching moment only Popeye himself could deliver. The art continues to be excellent, this time with Vince Musacchia seamlessly drawing Segar’s characters in whatever situations Langridge can conjure up. Popeye remains a recommended comic for fans new and old alike.


Life with Archie #25 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Like any good soap opera, Life with Archie has to juggle multiple characters’ stories while maintaining a slow boil. Writer Paul Kupperberg manages to pull this off twice, every month, by providing satisfying plotlines in parallel worlds. It's a smart move to use different artists in each arc — Fernando Ruiz and the team of Pat and Tim Kennedy — so that the separate realities have distinctive looks. Issue #25 gives reads plenty for their money: A Machiavellian business scheme, a potentially controversial political campaign, a marital rift in the making, the arrival of a character who’s up to no good and a possibly tragic cliffhanger, all in one comic. Two years in, Life with Archie hasn’t lost an ounce of juice.


Garfield Volume 1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Garfield may hate Mondays, but Wednesdays are just fine! This trade collects the first several issues of the iconic newspaper strip character’s new comic, written by 1980s Garfield cartoon scribe Mark Evanier. His take on the fat cat is more sarcastic and fourth wall breaking than creator Jim Davis while still appealing to a younger audience. The initial outings are quite good, from tweaking comic collectors to a classic slow burn, but the gags get a bit like stale lasagna as it moves on. A variety of artists work on the stories, drawing Garfield more in the old TV cartoon mode than Jim Davis’s style, with Gary Barker and Dan Davis illustrating the strongest stories. It's a good all-ages collection helmed by a veteran of animation.

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