Greetings, 'Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood Best Shots team is back in action, with this week's edition of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off with something new from Dark Horse, as we take a look at the debut issue Francesco Francavilla's Black Beetle: No Way Out!
Black Beetle: No Way Out #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Someone is killing off the mobsters of Colt City, and Black Beetle means to find out who. Opening with an intriguing mystery, Francesco Francavilla grabs the reader by the throat, then takes them on a thrill ride packed with action, adventure, excitement, mystery, and intrigue. The script keeps things short and to the point, and is dripping with pulp and noir stylings. The artwork is dark and moody and brings the grim streets of Colt City to life as an unwelcoming and harsh place. The pulp noir atmosphere of the story is greatly enhanced by Francavilla’s gorgeous brushwork and gloomy color choices. The issue feels like it’s over way too fast and leaves you hungry for more.
Indestructible Hulk #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Mark Waid's not-so-jolly green giant is a smashing success, with charming banter and intriguing characters standing alongside some good old-fashioned action. Waid continues to make Bruce Banner more and more likeable with his team of enthusiastic lab assistants, and his biting back-and-forth with Maria Hill is a real treat. Artist Leinil Francis Yu really makes some sleek, gorgeous characters (particularly his ultra-detailed, mech-like S.H.I.E.L.D. agents), and his Hulk is so massive and stocky that he really stands out amongst Marvel's other characters. The only problem? The action does seem a little formulaic already — Hulk meets big foe, Hulk gets even stronger to overcome it. But the characterization is enough for Indestructible Hulk to keep its gamma-charged momentum.
Hoax Hunters #6 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): It’s gnome joke—the Hoax Hunters team investigates an infestation right out of a D&D dungeon manual in a great start to the series’ new story arc. Despite fighting strange creatures daily, nothing is worse than facing irate anti-fans at a convention, as the writing team of Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley tweak the noses of comics readers while building up hubris for the team that could cost them. Alex Medelin shows great timing in his panel construction, both in generating horror and setting up the jokes in the script. He’s able to switch from killing teens to a sight gag all within the same page. This sharper outing is just what Hoax Hunters needed to make it stand out from other similar comics.
Saga #9 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): I would read the hell out of a comic starring only The Will and Saga’s newest most valuable player, Gwendolyn. This issue not only gives readers an opportunity to see these two formidable characters work together but also begins filling in the blanks about Gwendolyn, Marko's ex. The complexity of The Will, a hired killer, continues to emerge as he pursues his targets while mourning his girlfriend’s death and trying to rescue a child slave. His expression is priceless as Gwendolyn proves that she is far more than “a scrawny civil servant,” and the fact that she’s now leading the hunt for her old flame and his wife is an interesting wrinkle, to say the least. The character interaction, witty dialogue and perfect cliffhanger make Saga #9 an extremely satisfying interlude.
Superboy #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Goosing Superboy's numbers with a Justice League cameo, this comic actually will appeal to younger readers far more than diehard Kon-El fans. Jumping off the "H'el on Earth" storyline, Tom DeFalco spells out everything readers could possibly need, including Superboy's tweaked powers, his relationship with the Justice League, as well as intrigue with Supergirl and her new beau H'el. Ivan Coello and Amilcar Pinna deliver a cartoony, accessible version of all these characters, really hitting that all-ages audience in a style similar to Clayton Henry. (Although Batman's fur-lined cape and Superman's T-shirt look do look goofy against all those other coherent superhero costumes.) That said, this book isn't particularly sophisticated with the writing, and the challenges Superboy and the League face feel pretty random (and not tailored to Kon at all). Accessible, but far from awesome
All-New X-Men #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): I've said that there are two Brian Michael Bendises — the Sorkin-esque dialogue-driven characterization of and the looser, chattier quip-cape-com of — and I gotta say, it's nice to see Bendis gravitate more towards the former in All-New X-Men. This is ultimately the story of the original X-Men, with some really compelling beats with Jean Grey mastering her telepathy or Scott Summers having his first head-to-head with his once-and-future rival Wolverine. New artist David Marquez scores a knockout with his characters, particularly with Jean and Scott actually looking young (and extra points for the subtle differences between young and old Angel). Definitely the best issue yet.
Todd, The Ugliest Kid on Earth #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):I dug the heck out of this book, although I can't say why. That's not entirely true. The pencils from M.K. Perker are wonderfully expressive with an edge of grotesque beauty that's hard to take your eyes off. Combined with truly brilliant color work by Cemal Soyleyen and you've got one of the best-looking books of the week. The story, by Ken Kristensen and Parker (script by Kristensen) isn't an easy read. On the surface, it's horrible people doing horrible (though humorous) things at and around poor Todd, a postmodern Charlie Brown. It's a book that unflinchingly asks if we're laughing at or with the characters. Todd, The Ugliest Kid on Earth opens with a lot of promise. Making good on that promise will be the real trick.
Batgirl #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10):Batgirl #16 seems to have the same problem that its sister title does — it already said everything it was going to say a month ago. This is Barbara Gordon getting her long-overdue rematch against the Joker, and while last month that meant she was taking some chilling risks... this feels like more of the same. Ed Benes gives Batgirl herself some presence for the book's first half, but he bails just as the action starts — Daniel Sampere meshes decently well, albeit with some rounder angles than Benes, but there aren't any moments that really stand out. The Joker redesign doesn't hold well here, either, lacking the sort of grotesque detail that Greg Capullo or Patrick Gleason brought. Combined with the exact same cliffhanger as the other Bat-books, only diehards need to see what happened here.
Mars Attacks the Real Ghostbusters (Published by IDW; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The Real Ghostbusters face an interstellar issue, taking on a set of undead invaders in this one shot that has a great idea lost in the execution. Writer Erik Burnham takes too long to get everything in place, leaving little room for the crossover to play out. Instead of a climax, the big fight seems like it’s just another day for the boys. I really liked Jose Holder’s depiction of the iconic Martians and his pages set in the past showed a lot of life. However, his fight scenes with the Ghostbusters felt crowded, as though he needed to squeeze everything in because of the pacing issues. This is too uneven to recommend, but fans of the characters involved might want to take a look.
Bionic Man vs. Bionic Woman #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There’s a battle of the bionics brewing and even Steve Austin’s improvements may not be enough when fighting a foe with all of his advantages and none of the morality in this promising beginning to the limited series. While I’m not a fan of the main series for these characters, Keith Champagne hooked me with a great opening, snappy dialogue, and a menace that echoes the heroes. Jose Luis’s art is a bit overprocessed by the coloring job of the Inlight Studio, but his character placement really heightens the drama and manages to subtly show Austin’s inhumanity. With clear lines, Luis deftly captures the action of a fast-moving script. This is worth picking up, even if you’re not a normal reader of .
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