Best Shots Advance Reviews: SAGA, EXTERMINATION


Saga #9

Written by Brian K. Vaughan

Art by Fiona Staples

Lettering by Fonografiks

Published by Image Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Every week that Saga comes out is always a good week for comics.

Saga #9 takes a small detour of things with concentrating on The Will and his budding relationship with Gwendolyn, Marko's quasi-ex-wife. Part of me wishes these two could have some sort spinoff where they decide to turn over a new leaf, and, sorry I digress. The chemistry between the characters here is undeniable as Brian K. Vaughan gives us more unparalleled storytelling and artist Fiona Staples continues with the most visually striking art in recent years.

The first scene is full of excitement at the possible return of a character thought dead, but that rug was quickly snatched from under and we're back in the real world. The combination of both The Will and Gwendolyn's banter is playing right with Vaughan's strength. Only having been introduced on the very last page of previous issue, we don't know much about Gwendolyn aside from her marriage to Marko and hatred she has for him now. Here, Vaughan fleshes her out and gives her a feminine, but lethal charm. She is out for revenge while The Will stalks Prince Robot IV, but first a pit stop to Sextillion.

Having The Will show this range of character from being heartless to compassionate gives us an idea of who he really is and what he's about. The Will is one of the characters that we see and instantly think "the man". He has the reputation to back it up, but since he tried to free Slave Girl a few issues back, there's a whole new way to view this character. He's a complicated man, but here another layer is shed and while he's still looking out for himself, he now needs Slave Girl more than ever on his quest for vengeance. Pairing him with Gwendolyn was a smart move and the story elevates that much higher.

Fiona Staples is a beauty and a beast all in one. Her design work is still the freshest in comics today. While the book mainly concentrates on the character work between The Will and Gwendolyn, Fiona weaves some great panel work that make the words easy to follow. There is a lot of dialog at times, but you get who these people are easily and without the pages looking too cluttered. Staples continues to channel Kevin Maguire-like facial expressions that almost tell the story by themselves. From Gwendolyn's smirk and assurance, to The Will's glacial stare everything just looks marvelous.

This book continues to wow me and while the main characters are nowhere to be seen except a brief mention, the so-called antagonists of the series carry the title well and hope to see more of their involvement down the line. Saga is the book to not miss out on.


Extermination #8

Written by Simon Spurrier

Art by V Ken Marion

Colors by Michael Garland

Letters by Ed Dukeshire

Published by BOOM! Studios

Review by Jose Camacho

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Almost a year after it started, Extermination has come to its end. Unfortunately, this is a series that has largely gone under the radar. It has had a solid story from Simon Spurrier and strong art from V Ken Marion. Meanwhile, hooked readers have witnessed the evolution of Nox and the Red Reaper, an unlikely pair fighting aliens in a wasteland.

This series was somewhere between a campy superhero parody and an epic post-apocalyptic story. Spurrier found a way to balance the story that kept it from being too goofy or being too self-righteous. A good example of this balance comes from one of its main characters, Nox, who began the series as a simple-minded caped crusader parody was quickly fleshed out into a passionate and manipulative individual.

Another good element of the series is the humanity of these characters. Spurrier surprised me by creating characters that are flawed and self-aware. Nox knows he's being selfish yet feels he can't do anything about it. Red Reaper feels liberated from the hero vs. villain cycle. No matter how outlandish, Spurrier makes the characters approachable.

The humor within the series was unique and addictive. I often found myself looking forward to what “sacred” superhero elements would be twisted. A good example from earlier in the series occurred when Nox discovered how apocalypse survivors employed a superhero with a healing factor. The humor employed goes beyond mere shock factor. It forces superhero fans to see things from a different perspective and laugh at themselves.

This final issue picks up the baton and concludes a very solid run. While not the campiest of the series, Extermination #8 does not eschew its signature humor completely. The issue is full of Red Reaper's cynical commentary. This is a double-edge sword since compared to previous issues, the bulk of the issue comes off a bit too preachy. The reader has to sit through a couple of the Reaper's moral yet villainous monologues. This is ironic since he quips about the theatrical world of his heroic counterparts.

Garland's colors steal the spotlight away from Marion's art. The colors are often vibrant and help maintain a light mood. One of my favorite techniques employed in Extermination is the laser-like colors used for the alien energy and dimensional portals. The colors breathe life to art that at times feels rushed. The sequence showing Absolute's wrath appears pencil thin and not that far from a rough sketch. Another technique that stood out was highlighting characters with a subtle tinge. While it may help to guide the reader, it also enhanced the tension in the scenes.

While Garland's colors are stellar, it is not to imply that the art is lacking. In fact, Marion does a great job to match Spurrier's script by creating characters that are half cartoon/half pulp. For example, the Red Reaper could be easily inserted into a Captain America comic. The art is versatile lending itself to a very wild script. The art is hindered by fact that more often than not, there are too many panels on the page. The art seems cramped into smaller panels. There are a couple panels where characters are limited to shoulders or torsos.

While the ending is left open for further stories, it brings things full circle. Without hindering pace, Nox's fall from grace is completed, Red Reaper's ambitions resurface and Absolute is awakened. Extermination #8 may break the “every issue should be a first issue” but it moves the story forward without hesitation. Often, last issues are plagued with a too much exposition and not enough action. In a time when a lot of series are ending, this issue is an example of how to do it right.

This issue displayed a lot of the series' strengths. It had the healthy dose of humanity and the unhealthy dose of humor. The art team was a bit unbalanced yet managed to remain creative and unique. This is obviously not a good way to start the series, head over to the back issues and check out one of 2012's underrated series. 

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