Best Shots Extra: 'TEC #16, ARTIFACTS, DOCTOR WHO

 

Detective Comics #16

Written by John Layman

Art by Jason Fabok and Jeromy Cox

Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Tie-in comics are usually another term for a necessary evil. Seemingly hastily constructed, tie-in stories would derail the narrative of their host series but also paradoxically raise up sales — the mania surrounding the flagship title would spread to its sister books, ensuring their survival even as the things that made those books stand on their own were lost.

All of which is explanation for this week's hidden gem. There's no other way to describe it — Detective Comics #16 is a tie-in comic done right. It may actually be the best tie-in comic I've ever read. As Batman takes on Joker-inspired gangs throughout the city, John Layman's story feels less like a sharp change of plans and more like a fun surprise detour, a trip through the scenic route that doesn't grate on readers but instead reminds us why we got on board in the first place.

Having flipped through my copy several times, I couldn't believe that this comic was just 20 pages. Layman has the eye of a film editor, as he cuts scenes down ruthlessly — and to great effect. He bounces swiftly from scene to scene throughout this crime wave, and what he winds up doing is really building up the enormity of what Batman has to face. And not only does the pacing work, so do his ideas — Layman's faux funnymen have some deadly gags, including a homicidal dentist and a deranged lunch lady. Layman's bad guys are brand-new, but they feel like they've been around forever — they feel organically tied to the Joker himself, yet are just different and unpredictable enough to pose a challenge to the Dark Knight.

And talk about the right script bringing the best out of an artist. Was this really the same Jason Fabok from Batman Annual #1? Talk about a level up — Fabok brings a real solidness to Batman and his world, reminding me a bit of Barry Kitson, Howard Porter and, of course, Fabok's mentor David Finch. From the opening splash of three thugs staring grimly at a Joker-inspired gang hit to a knockout of a double-pager of Batman crouching on a car, this book looks smooth and spectacular on every page. Colorist Jeromy Cox does nice work with all the night scenes, too, adding some energy but not overwhelming the darker mood.

And not only that, Layman gets to have his cake and eat it, too, as he continues to weave a nice backup story featuring Ignatius Ogilivy, the young up-and-comer taking over the Penguin's empire. Layman's hot streak with creating new villains continues here, including the golden man Mr. Foschini, Mr. Combustible and Hypnotic. The conceit I won't give away here, but it's a smart reaction to the Joker's killing spree in the "Death of the Family" storyline.

More writers in the Big Two should be taking note at John Layman's work in Detective Comics, which consistently builds up villains and thrills its audience with accessible, done-in-one storytelling. Tie-in comics don't usually elicit high expectations, but that winds up rewarding bad behavior when the books sell just on concept. But if you're looking for a tie-in book that doesn't just stand on its own two feet but actually kicks the doors down, Detective Comics #16 is as good as it gets.

 

Artifacts #24

Written by Ron Marz

Art by Stjepan Sejic

Lettering by Troy Peteri

Published by Top Cow

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

This is the issue I've been wanting from this series in a long while and finally got it.

With the Top Cow universe in disarray from Jackie Estacado's tampering, things are pretty topsy-turvy, but it feels good to see Tom Judge get some sort of plan going to get things right. Though, this issue mainly concentrates on Dani Baptiste and the now Angelus host of her somewhat-girlfriend, Finch. Dani and Finch have a history from the previous universe and while it's been hinted they still have a connection this issue removes all the subtlety and they find themselves right back where they were before.

Ron Marz kicks up the action here with Finch in full on Angelus mode as she impales a nightmarish creature that invaded her Citadel. Marz establishes, or re-establishes Dani and Finch's romance early on in the issue, but really shows off Finch's guts with what she can do with her new powers. While it is strange to see somebody else in that role besides Dani, I'm all right with this change so far. The doubt Finch has building up concerning her leadership abilities as well as living up to the mantle is face front here. Of course Dani in the broken Citadel has a feeling of deja vu, but can't really place her finger on it. Unlike another certain company's reboot, the whole "echoes of another life" scenario really works here and the past universe isn't completely ignored.

Artist Stjepan Sejic has been a Top Cow staple for a shade under a decade now, and it's hard to imagine certain characters that aren't in his style; Dani and Finch especially. While the action scenes sell the issue, some of the backgrounds didn't seem all put together. You get the feel of the devastation of the Angelus home, but something just feels out of joint. His layouts are still just as dynamite and really tells the story well. The Dani and Finch's love scene is one of the more laid back ones, but still handled with a touch of class.

Artifacts has been the go-to book for characters outside of Witchblade and Marz has such a solid grasp of concept and familiarity with this world, everything else feels not up to par. While this book has gotten off track recently, this issue takes the series out of neutral and gets it back on the race track.

 

Doctor Who #4

Written by Brandon Seifert

Art by Philip Bond, Ilias Kyriazis, and Charlie Kirchoff

Lettering by Tom B. Long

Published by IDW Publishing

Review by Aaron Duran

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

As fans go, I'm a relative newcomer to the world of Doctor Who. You know, one of those people that came in with Tennant and while I've done my homework, watching all that came before and after, I'm not a Class-A Whovian. So, it's with some hesitation that I find myself critiquing the current status of the show and it's path. I dig Matt Smith, I really do, more so than most if my conversations with fans matches the general fandom consensus. Still, the past series has left me wanting. I don't mind the good Doctor facing insurmountable odds or the darkest of evils, but I always want him to do so with a wink and a smile. Nothing is ever so bad in the world of Doctor Who. That's what Battlestar Galactica is for. I think it's that draw to a more lighthearted Who that makes me enjoy the current IDW series so much.

It's part two of The Doctor and the Nurse (or as I like to call it, On the Road to TARDIS with Who and Rory) and the boys are in a bit of trouble. Classic Doctor Who trouble. The TARDIS is sick, a giant gorilla is trashing New York, a tiger is loose in the little blue box, Cybermen are attacking, and Amy is stuck in the historically accurate London Beer Flood of 1814. You know, another day at the office for Doctor Who fans. It's very clear writer Brandon Seifert is a huge fan of the characters. While his first outing had a few tonal hiccups, his dialogue in issue #4 is much cleaner. As if he's feels more comfortable playing with characters that, up until recently, were just people he enjoyed watching. With so much of the book focused upon Rory and the Doctor on their own, Seifert does a good job of matching the wits of two peoples with separate, though no less driven goals. Both want to protect their one true loves, but without sacrificing the greater good. It's a tricky balance, but Seifert pulls it off.

The art is quite the mixed bag for me. Artists Philip Bond and Ilias Kyriazis share the penciling duties and it makes for a somewhat jumbled story. The scenes between the Doctor and Rory don't feel as crisp and clean as I'd like. I understand making a comic from established looks is tricky, as you don't want to completely give in to photo realism, but there were more than a few panels when the Doctor looked like a totally different actor. Perhaps this is a petty concern, but nonetheless, it takes the reader out of the moment and hinders an otherwise strong pacing. However, when the book shifts to Amy in London, issue #4 simply brims with life and energy. The expressions are fantastic and the panel design lends itself an almost cinematic look. Indeed, even the colors by Charlie Kirchoff have more opportunities to shine when focused on Amy.

If you like the heavier Doctor Who, then issue #4 might not be your cup of tea. However, this is a strong issue and goes a long way in recapturing the more lighthearted nature of the character. The overall plot involving the Silence is wrapped up a little too quickly for my tastes, but considering the serial nature of this title, I am certain we haven't seen the last of them. Although hindered a bit by unbalanced art, Seifert's comfort and understanding of these characters helps push Doctor Who #4 over the top.

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