Best Shots Extra: NEW AVENGERS, GREEN ARROW, ALL-NEW X-MEN

 

New Avengers #3

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Steve Epting, Rick Magyar, and Frank D'Armata

Letters by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Jonathan Hickman isn't wasting any time with New Avengers. He's taking the Illuminati all the way to the brink — literally to the ends of the Earth — without hesitation, or remorse. And they do not come back unscathed. It turns out there's still more for these great men to learn about each other, and themselves, and not all of what they discover is pleasant.

There are sweeping changes in this issue. Beast is now in Professor X's seat at the table, the Infinity Gems have been recovered, and our universe is on a collision course with another dimension with almost no hope of salvation. In spite of overwhelming odds, the Illuminati gather together, reassembling the Infinity Gauntlet, and giving Captain America the means to avert an almost unthinkable disaster. The world is saved, but at a dear price. With the threat of further incursions by other universes looming, the Illuminati must make a dire choice, one not all of the members are capable of accepting.

Hickman's script is damn near perfect in this issue, with airtight characterization, and some of the best Marvel-style drama we've seen in a long time. Captain America, in particular, stands out, making me wish Hickman were able to give him more screen time in Avengers proper. And while the twist at the issue's end isn't anything we haven't seen before, it does carry some weight, particularly with the recent history of these characters. For his part, this is Steve Epting's best looking issue of this series yet. While there are some missteps - it doesn't seem like he's quite getting Dr. Strange right - his use of shadow is as potent and striking as ever, losing none of the tension and emotion that these scenes require.

Comics these days often have a tendency to seem "unimportant," or "inessential" if the world isn't at stake, or the entire status quo of the universe isn't changing in their pages, and so many titles wind up feeling forced, or overblown and too dramatic. New Avengers is an example of a title getting it right. And of course, that's Jonathan Hickman's strength in general. New Avengers gracefully plays on the last several years of continuity without directly invoking them too often, and builds a set of stakes that almost couldn't be higher, or more entertaining, for the Marvel Universe.

 

Green Arrow #17

Written by Jeff Lemire

Art by Andrea Sorrentino

Lettering by Rob Leigh

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10

It ain't easy being Green Arrow. Turns out, ain't easy reading him, either.

Since The New 52, few titles have felt as disappointing to me as Green Arrow, which has been plagued by inconsistent art, half-baked concepts and a lead who feels flatter than an archery target. To their credit, DC has stacked the deck for Oliver Queen, riding the wave of the new CW show and having two of their up-and-comers — Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino — tackle this troubled title. But just because Ollie's going back to basics doesn't mean it's very good, as Lemire and Sorrentino deliver a launch that doesn't explode on impact but instead weakly implodes.

Stop me if you're heard this one before: Oliver Queen is losing his fortune! Check. And he's being framed for murder! Check. And he's at his weakest, before inevitably coming back as a grizzled, streamlined badass! Yep, triple check. Jeff Lemire's story is as straightforward as it gets (even with its heaps of expository dialogue), and there's nothing new to Ollie as a character to give this old plot a new coat of green paint. To his credit, Lemire gets rid of all the dead weight that Ollie's corporate setting heaped upon him, and while that doesn't add much in terms of tension — cheap deaths and cheaper dying riddles never do — it does bring Ollie closer to his more physical, brusque self from the TV show. There has to be something to be said for corporate synergy, right?

That disappointed me, but wasn't terribly surprising — Lemire has to dig himself out from other writers' mistakes before he can really move forward. But the big disappointment here? Artist Andrea Sorrentino, who desperately needs the sort of nuanced colors that Hi-Fi gave him on the cover. Here's where judging a book by its cover can actually be illuminating — the Sorrentino cover has depth, but the self-colored interiors are nothing but flat. Sorrentino has a hard-edged, angular style that reminds me a lot of Jock, and he has a few standard poses for Green Arrow himself that look good... but it's not even close to worth the pages of scenes where we can barely distinguish Ollie's face from a flat peach-and-orange blob. This flatness even affects the fight choreography, as Ollie getting punched out over several panels is extremely difficult for the eye to follow.

I give DC a lot of credit — it's not like they didn't put the best talent available to bolster this book back into B-list status — but I think they were so focused with Ollie's new status quo that they didn't really focus on working with Lemire and Sorrentino to get the execution right. And that's a bad sign for a superhero who literally has a TV show dedicated towards spreading Green Arrow awareness. But anyone looking for a fresh, dynamic new take on Oliver Queen isn't going to be just sad, they're going to be green with disappointment.

 

All-New X-Men #7

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by David Marquez and Marte Gracia

Lettering by Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Brian Michael Bendis is in his element.

He's got a strong artist. He's got teenage protagonists. He's got dialogue-driven situations. All-New X-Men has let him have his cake and eat it, too — this is essentially for modern continuity mutants, and it's execution is so strong that you don't even need fancy high concepts to inflate your interest.

While the first arc of All-New X-Men really played up Beast and Jean Grey, this second arc is ultimately Cyclops's story — and what's so interesting about Bendis's approach is that it actually flies in the face of all that increasing ultracompetence that writers like Morrison, Whedon and Fraction had built into the character. For the first time in awhile, we're seeing Scott Summers back at his insecure roots, and this time, it's for good reason — it's one thing to fear failure unwarranted, but to see your future laid out before you as some sort of homicidal outlaw?

It's a premise that could be rife for naval-gazing, but Bendis actually makes it a thought-provoking character study, as Cyclops gets some double-edged advice from the world's worst authority figure. But the small moments here are also superb — little beats like Scott seeing his future with Jean, or the relief on his face when he finally gets an alternative to his stifling X-Men visor, or the unspoken comedy of Kitty Pryde fight-training the younger self of her current boyfriend Iceman, those make this book human.

And David Marquez. Oh, man. I never want Marquez to leave this book. He adds so much emotion to this book, and to be honest, I think he does a good job at reining in even Bendis's chattier side. You could build up some comedy or tension with a rapid-fire burst of dialogue, but the nuance that Marquez gives a dejected frown or an irritable look makes everything balanced. Marquez has a cartoony, expressive style that is even cleaner than Stuart Immonen's, and it's pretty addictive to take in. He's also a great fit for colorist Marte Gracia, particularly a lovely sequence where the cool blues clash with the blood red of Cyclops's visor.

The real triumph of All-New X-Men is that there's no splashy concept, no earth-shaking threat that needs to justify this book. It just is what it is, and what it is, is fantastic. From the writing to the art to the character arcs each X-Man seems to face, this book is quickly overtaking even as the most likeable mutant book on the stands.  

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