Face front, 'Rama Readers! Our fearless leader David Pepose is icing his hamstrings in his trailer, so I, George Marston, am gonna be the clown this rodeo deserves — even if it's not the one we need — today. We've got a bevy of lovely young pellets coming your way, and I'm gonna kick things off with a look at this week's excellent FF #2.
FF #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Whether it's Leech's solemn confession to Darla Deering — who gets some much needed characterization this issue — "You pancake. They goned," as he and Artie crawl all over her, She-Hulk smugly snapping Mole Man's staff over her knee, or Bentley looking every bit the twerp as he tells Ant-Man the Moloids are “Sleeping in a ditch. Who cares?” nearly every panel of Fraction and Allred's FF #2 contains an adorable or hilarious character beat. Beyond the on-the-money characterization, FF #2 is where this title's actual plot starts to materialize, promising something maybe even a little dark to go with all the funny and feely bits that make this book sing. Fraction and Allred are having all of the fun with FF, and it's contagious.
Li'l Gotham #3 - Christmas (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): I don't receive a lick of compensation from DC or Dustin Nguyen, honest. But for three months straight, I've been crazy for Li'l Gotham. Issue #3 is no exception. It would be one thing if these books simply played up the notion of cute superheroes. While there is some truth to that, it's the deeper emotion within these digital shorts that put them over the top. Nguyen's pitch perfection composition, as Batman tells Mr. Freeze, “And every kid deserves parents” puts these stories over the top. Along with co-writer Derek Fridolfs, Li'l Gotham #3 continues to tell stories that really shouldn't work. I mean, Gotham is place filled with darkness and fear. But somewhere there is light and hope. Li'l Gotham #3 shows that.
Avengers #2 (Published by Marvel Comics, Review by Scott Cederlund, ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10; Click here for preview): You can practically hear the metronome ticking away behind Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opeña’s steely precise Avengers #2. While Captain America and Iron Man reconstruct the team as a finely-tuned machine, the creators approach the words and the pictures with a cold efficiency that resembles the gears of a fine watch rather than the natural ebb and flow of a story. Hickman characters talk with their own sign-songish beat. As Cap and Iron Man recruit the heroes they want on the team, the book falls into its own patterns of call and response for the characters: Cap calls and everyone else responds. The characters feel programmed, speaking the preset words of a stilted script. Opeña's art ends up being mechanical as every page relies on strong horizontal sequences that feel as constructed and posed as Hickman’s dialogue.
Star Trek/Doctor Who Assimilation2 #8 (Published by IDW; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): It’s the Doctor doing what he does best with a Bridge crew of companions as they work together to stop the Cybermen threat and a final surprise as this incredibly cool crossover ends this issue. The writing team of the Tiptons whip this comic into a frenzy of action, never letting the pace slow as we race from one series of small climaxes to another using characters in fan favorite ways without resorting to pandering. Penciller Gordon Purcell sometimes has trouble keeping up with the script, but he and painter J.K. Woodward put more dynamic flourishes on the art, giving this last issue a lot of life (and less posing). The ending is perfect all around, avoiding possible pitfalls to provide a great closing chapter.
Indestructible Hulk #2(Published by Marvel Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Word on the street is that Marvel gave Indestructible Hulk to Mark Waid with the edict, "Just do what you did with Daredevil." Apparently that means making one of the most dour guys in the MU one of the most likable, as Bruce Banner is the real star of this comic. Waid nails absolutely every inch of Banner, from his keen manipulation of equally well-written guest star Tony Stark, to his punchy one-liners — "You wouldn't like me when I'm happy" — Banner is becoming more interesting than his big, green alter-ego. The only downside is Leinil Yu, whose work, while solid and textured, lacks some element of charm and emotional gravitas despite its well crafted lines and panel depth.
Freelancers #2 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Erika D. Peterman; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): I would gladly watch a weekly TV show about Cassie and Val, the bounty-hunting buddies and martial arts experts who star in this thoroughly entertaining comic book. These two may be a little down on their luck, but what they lack in funds they more than make up for in humor, toughness and moxie. Writer Eric Esquivel infuses their Fast and the Furious-like adventures with zinger-filled dialogue, which makes Freelancers a kick to read. In hot pursuit of a target, Val cracks a Hall and Oates joke that made me laugh out loud — and there's more where that came from. The spirit of Freelancers, as well as the best friend dynamic between Val and Cassie, reminds me of the lighthearted moments in Gail Simone's outstanding Birds of Prey run. Joshua Covey's fun illustrations, a little cheesecake-y here and there, have an action cartoon look that's just right for this winning newcomer.
Supreme #67 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): If your earth requires Omni-Man to try and save it, things are pretty bad indeed and they keep getting worse as Erik Larsen’s run on Supreme moves towards its conclusion next issue. Sadly, I found myself less engaged with Mean Supreme’s rage against the world and the depowering of the other Supremes because we last saw them on August 15th, a gap of four months. The plotting is still excellent, with the return of a “fowl” villain and Larsen has the perfect art partner in Corey Hamscher, who makes the clash of alpha-class characters feel like it’s playing out on an epic scale. There’s devastation everywhere and a climactic splash page that explodes on the reader. This is recommended, but might read better in trade.
Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): If issue #1 of Witch Doctor: Mal Practice was all about Ketner's growth as an artist, issue #2 is the time for writer Brandon Seifert to shine. This is a very dense issue, with a large chunk of Dr. Morrow's wonderfully bizarre world brought to light. And while the strength of the series clearly falls to Morrow's knowledge, it's fun to watch Seifert back his character into an intellectual and mystical wall. Although the dialogue is fun and fresh, there were more than one occasion when I wish Ketner had more to give to the reader. Especially scenes involving the magical market, a paranormal Where's Waldo if there ever was. Minor gripes aside, this is still a book I look forward to every month.
Wonder Woman #15 (Published by DC Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Cliff Chiang's back, and he brought my favorite redesign of The New 52 with him in Orion. As both Orion and Wonder Woman seek to make use of the scrying talents of another of Zeus's brood — one who is suspiciously similar to the late Wesley Willis — their paths, and swords, cross. This issue's main failing is the same one that's plagued this whole series; it's not really about Wonder Woman. She's often a catalyst for the action, but she's rarely the focal point of Azarello's growing ensemble cast. Seeing how Azzarello and Chiang handle Orion makes me wish they could take on the New Gods. Something tells me that's a book they'd handle well, whereas Wonder Woman has been consistently out of focus.
Classic Popeye #8 (Published by IDW; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Popeye the... spaceman? Two sneaky scientists con the spinach-eating sailor into taking a trip to the Moon in this reprint of Popeye’s Bud Sagendorf days. I don't know the date of this issue, but it’s got 1950s written all over it. Popeye is able to freely explore the moon (but not Mars, which the characters dismiss as unrealistic) without any scientific help! The work is not Sagendorf’s best, featuring leaps in logic, weak antagonists, and a lot of unusually static posing, which hurts the comic. (In fact, Popeye mostly stands around and borrows Peter Parker’s Spider-Sense to show emotion.) Wimpy’s back up feature is better, playing up his lust for hamburgers. This example of older Popeye comics is best left to hardcore Popeye fans.
Journey Into Mystery #647 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Kathryn Immonen had a hard act to follow on Journey Into Mystery, and while her Sif story isn't as playful as L'il Loki's tale, there's still an abundance of depth and density in Marvel's Asgardian ensemble title. Sif's arc so far, obtaining the Berserker spell and dealing with the consequences, has been a little slow to move, but breaks like a ton of bricks when it does. With Sif having been almost literally dropped in the path of some monster, it's finally time to see her kicking ass. Immonen's tempestuous take on Sif is strong and compelling, but the real star of this title is Valerio Schiti, whose clean, expressive linework and well paced, readable storytelling make him the best creative find of Marvel NOW!.
Executive Assistant Iris #1 (Published by Aspen Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Trained personal protector Iris is trying to move on from her past, but her former "allies" won’t let her do it as a new mini-series in Aspen's Executive Assistant series kicks off. Executive Assistant co-creator David Wohl continues on scripting duties, doing his best to catch new readers up to speed with narrative boxes from Iris as she saves her newest client from one threat only to be thwarted by a former friend. Unfortunately, this means distraction from the action which takes away from the climax as Iris faces her past. Artist Alex Lei moves the action well enough, trying to keep the story going despite the need to backfill plot. This could be something, but currently it’s not enough to break from the pack.
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