Hello, 'Rama readers — Best Shots is back with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with a battle royale, as we take a look at the latest issue of Avengers Arena...
Avengers Arena #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Marvel NOW!'s guiltiest pleasure continues unabated, although critics should give Dennis Hopeless props for curbing his bloodlust for an issue. This comic, underneath its lethal Hunger Games-esque premise, is pretty much a character study in the same vein of Avengers Academy, whether its getting into the nitty gritty with Annihilation alum Cammi, or even brief moments of likeability with Darkhawk and the Sentinel-wielding Justin Seyfert (and X-23... wowza, she's going to steal the show, I know it). Much of this is the right artist on the right story with the right tone — Kev Walker is beastly with his hard-angled characters and high-flying fight sequences. Definitely wasn't expecting to like this book as much as I do, but it's one of my top picks at Marvel these days... whether I like to admit it or not.
Star Wars #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Dark Horse takes their Star Wars comics back to the time of the original trilogy, telling a story that slots in neatly between Episodes IV and V. Brian Wood is at the helm, and he provides readers with a brilliant character-driven issue that sets the scene for the upcoming adventure. Wood’s grasp of these characters is second to none—it’s like discovering the lost screenplay for an unproduced Star Wars movie. My one gripe would be that the script is a little exposition heavy in places, with some unnecessary narration that disrupts the issue’s flow. The story is brought to life through the stunningly detailed artwork of Carlos D’Anda, who does a fantastic job of replicating these classic characters and settings.
Action Comics #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): This is one of those comics that's going to split readership down the middle — you're either with Grant Morrison or you're against him, as his wildly shifting structure in Action Comics #16 is not exactly meant for beginners. With the Legion of Superheroes, fifth dimensional beings (hope you read last issue if you want to get that), different shades of Kryptonite and foes that are brought in and carried out in what seems like a blink... well, this book is more than a little avant grade with its structure, and a lot of people will not like that. That said, if you can follow along there's a nice sense of scale, as you sense Morrison bringing out all his random threads so he can suddenly pull them all together next issue. Brad Walker and Rags Morales feel seamless in the artwork, with the Legion scenes being the real highlight. Still, quite the divisive issue.
Thor: God of Thunder #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Here's the problem with comparing yourself to the greats — it better be like the greats. Jason Aaron billed this story as Batman: Year One mixed with The Dark Knight Returns, but while those stories each had a singular style, point of view and purpose, Thor: God of Thunder really is a different beast. By the end of this issue, we get what Aaron is really getting at, and that really does pique interest, as he can finally put Thor on the trail of the God Butcher without slogging through three eras of exposition. Esad Ribic is also finding his feet with his composition, so that we get a more dynamic view of Thor himself, instead of just looking at his back. Definitely a huge improvement.
Swamp Thing #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): While the "Rotworld" crossover has strengthened both Swamp Thing and its sister title Animal Man, the core concept does seen to be waning a bit. I skipped out on the past few issues, and to Scott Snyder's credit, the book still makes sense — it just also feels a bit repetitive. Swamp Thing fights through cities of zombies, pining (a-hem) for his lost love Abby. This time he actually gets somewhere, although the actual destination feels a little tired, like something we've already seen before. Yanick Paquette's art is as unorthodox as it gets with his cut-up, leaf-like page layouts, but aside from the distended zombie heroes, not too much stands out. This book is OK, but unless you're a diehard, you can probably let this one go.
Cable & X-Force #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): In the debut issue of this series, readers were presented with a mystery: how did Cable and his counterfeit X-Force team end up destroying a factory and killing its employees? This issue reveals the reasons behind the team’s actions. See, Cable’s brain is swelling, which is giving him prophetic visions (look it up, it’s a medical fact). His latest vision involves tainted meat that turns patrons of a fast food chain into bloated maniac killers. Things just get more unbelievable from there, as the plot becomes so ridiculous that it insults the reader’s intelligence. The only reason this gets two points is because of Larroca’s vastly improved art style that is leaps and bounds better than his work on Iron Man.
Supreme #68 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): The art and story are as depowered as Supreme himself in this final issue of Erik Larsen’s run on the title that feels unfinished on multiple levels. I wanted this to come out more often, but without any help, Larsen’s work looks paper-thin and incomplete, as though it wasn’t ready yet for publishing. In addition, instead of wrapping up his story arc for the next person, there’s no conclusion or solution, leaving readers hanging. I wanted some closure on Larsen’s ideas but got nothing, as the story ends abruptly with at least three plot threads dangling. Larsen leaves room for a reset button but doesn’t end things cleanly. After so many great issues, it’s a shame to end on such a sour note.
Eerie #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): A star-studded list of creators bring more science fiction horror to the shelf in this issue of Eerie that’s even better than the first. Damon Gentry and Mike Allred lead off a story about making money off the intelligence of ants, with Allred’s off-kilter work looking even creepier than usual. Atomic Robo’s Brian Clevenger teams with Evan Shaner that will make you wish we’d stop trying to contact intelligent life with an innovative twist that’s both visceral and stunning visually. The only off-note is the reprinted Goodwin-Colan Nazi scientist story, which feels dated and unoriginal, using two obvious horror tropes. I wish this was more than a biannual, but horror fans shouldn’t miss this great comic that captures the feel of the original Warren book. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!