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Justice League of America #1

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by David Finch, Sonia Oback and Jeromy Cox

Lettering by Rob Leigh

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

The Justice League may be the world's most powerful superheroes, but who keeps DC's Magnificent Seven in check?

Enter the Justice League of America. Their reason for being may be pure fan service — but let's be honest, isn't that how the original Justice League got started? — but Geoff Johns and David Finch provide a strong launchpad for a scrappy new team that is tailor-made to put a stop to the strongest of the DCU.

After a brief bit of exposition, Johns really shines when he starts introducing his new League. There's a lot of action here, and characters like Hawkman and Katana really do a good job at giving the book an unsettling edge. At first blush, Hawkman in particular feels a lot like an unhinged Judge Dredd/Moon Knight mashup, which gives the character a lot more intensity and scariness than I've seen in awhile, and Johns' twist with Catwoman is the smartest thing I've seen done with Selina since the New 52 began. Johns does sprinkle character moments here, but it's mostly conceptual overhauls here — this is introduction, but all killer, no filler.

What's interesting is that people who know their history know this isn't the first team book David Finch has helped launch. Yet, in a lot of ways, Finch looks much, much different than during his glory days of New Avengers. Inking himself, Finch does come off a bit more cartoony than usual, particularly in the scenes with Amanda Waller and Steve Trevor — that isn't necessarily a bad thing, as you don't want every book to be as dingy and oppressive with the details as, say, Moon Knight was, but it is an adjustment. His big splashy moments with Hawkman or the Dark Hunter are the highlights of the book, but occasionally Finch's panel-to-panel storytelling suffers, particularly with some cramped sequences with Vibe or the Hunter running away from his pursuers.

Now, this book isn't perfect, even if it is a fairly streamlined launching point. Particularly with Waller and Trevor, Johns gets a little dialogue-heavy, which drags the scenes down, and sometimes the speculative "matchups" Johns envisions don't quite make sense yet (could Catwoman really take out Batman?). That said, the pacing for this comic is pretty spot-on, even if the art occasionally stumbles, and it's nice to see a team with a clear purpose from the get-go. To be honest, that's my biggest question with Justice League of America: Is this a book for the long haul, or will it simply live in the shadow of its more iconic sister?

Sounds like fighting words to me. And once you read this book, this is a showdown you will definitely be excited to see.


Savage Wolverine #2

Written by Frank Cho

Art by Frank Cho and Jason Keith

Letters by Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Frank Cho's Savage Wolverine is seeing massive jumps in quality after an already strong start. Though there are still more than enough questions surrounding what's actually happening, Cho's narrative skills are picking up steam, and the introduction of everyone's favorite wunderkind, Amadeus Cho, promises entertaining dividends to say the least. There's still something missing; Savage Wolverine feels like a mini-series more than an ongoing, probably because of the lack of a glimpse at the larger stakes of Wolverine's predicament, but there's no discounting the fun of the adventure the ol' canucklehead is having.

Things go full steam ahead for Wolverine and Shanna as they traipse through a strange island in the already strange Savage Land. Meanwhile, Amadeus Cho arrives on the island under similarly strange circumstances. Wolverine and Shanna are one of the best buddy teams Marvel has right now, and it's great fun to see Wolverine essentially getting pushed around and out-bossed for once. Shanna's skill at turning the tables on Wolverine, and her jungle savvy are making her the real star of Savage Wolverine, but the main man is no slouch either. Frank Cho's hardboiled narration has toned down in this issue, complementing the story rather than commandeering it.

Cho's already proficient art is also adapting to the environs of the story, taking on a roughness that evokes Joe Kubert's Tarzan comics in just the right way. Cho's rendering of dinosaurs — a must-include element for any Savage Land story — is also skillful and convincing, drawing on more modern conceptions of their probable appearance rather than relying on old tropes. Jason Keith's coloring, while lush and expressive, still feels a little incongruous with the pulpy tone that Cho is approaching, but the connection between art and story is getting stronger.

Despite its faults, such as action that moves faster than the plot and a shaky noir-ish style, Savage Wolverine remains one of Wolverine's most fun series in years. Frank Cho is moving closer to just the right balance in his art and writing, and Wolverine seems like an impossibly good fit for Cho's "apes & babes" aesthetic. It's only two issues in, so there's plenty of time for the pacing and story to catch up to each other. In the meantime, it's nothing but fun watching this book evolve.


Conan The Barbarian #13

Written by Brian Wood

Art by Mirko Colak and Dave Stewart

Lettering by Richard Starkings

Published by Dark Horse Comics

Review by Jose Camacho

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Those fans that missed Conan actually being a barbarian can rejoice. This issue sees the barbarian leaving his pirate ways and being forced back to being an infantryman. That being said, this issue is not really a very satisfying read; it merely attempts to set the stage for a larger story. Fortunately, this is the first issue in an arc so it can be forgiven for lacking a complete to a certain extent.

As you will quickly notice, Declan Shalvey has left the art duties to Mirko Colak's capable hands for the next couple of issues. Colak's style is more detailed than Declan's yet he somehow manages to be less expressive. The Cimmerian's muscles might be more detailed but his expressions are not. Inf fact, Conan spends most of the issue displaying the emotional range of a statue. This is especially disappointing since readers can tell, thanks to context, that Conan is meant to be sulking, yet it comes across as stoic.

A big positive that readers will find in this issue is that Colak turns Conan back into a physically imposing behemoth. It makes it more credible when foes cower before him. Shalvey and Becky Cloonan before him used simpler arrangements that made Conan look more vulnerable. Colak's Conan is a battle-hardened savage while before he seemed like a young warrior. Colak's art makes the action sequences more appealing to classic Conan fans.

It should be noted that Dave Stewart remains on the coloring, so the transition is eased by his unchanged palette. Stewart employs some of the same dark colors that he used in "The Death." This shows that the previous arc is still very influential to the current story. This is a very dark era for Conan even though it is devoid of any evil archtype and Stewart's colors are a big part to reflect it.

It is still perplexing to see how pale Stewart manages to make Belit, but the character does not look tacky when contrasted to others in the same panel. This technique highlights her uniqueness and gives her a supernatural look. When warriors comment on how mezmerizing she looks, readers can relate better thanks to Stewart's daft hand.

Brian Wood manages to conjure an engaging story that continues the emotional rollercoaster from “The Death,” the previous arc, while moving the Cimmerian's story forward. This issue's entertaining quality suffers from a lot of descriptions of city-states and their histories. Basically, the reader is told about the city-states and not truly shown. Stacking paragraphs on top of panels completely hinders the storytelling and does not allow the reader to become involved in the story. If you manage to overlook the descriptions, you'll find that Wood creates a very tragic situation for Conan. Wood manages to doom Conan's relationship as well as place him in a very dire position.

While there are some flaws in the technique used to deliver this story, there are some very interesting concepts. For example, this new arc also serves as a juxtaposition since now we are in Shem, Belit's homeland (a previous arc sent the couple to Conan's homeland, Cimmeria). Wood is also exploring the theme of separation and how each Conan deals with it. Conan and Belit have been drifting apart in terms of their relationship but now they are physically apart (they might even be pitted against each other). In order to deal with their separation, they are clinging to familiar things: Belit goes to her homeland and naturally, Conan goes to war.

If this is a sign of what's to come in Conan's ongoing series, readers are in for a treat. Although there is a lot of room for improvement, this new arc is showing potential. Brian Wood continues to breathe life into this series. He gives depth to his characters, even to a hulking Cimmerian. Also, he continues to develop unique conflicts to keep the masses entertained. Dave Stewart deserves a golden star for this issue since he played a big part in saving this issue. His colors remain consistent and engaging. Mirko Colak is a welcome addition to a very talented art roster. His stylised approach will standout when compared to other artists' recent runs. It will be interesting to see how Colak deals with the various settings and peoples of Conan's world. This issue might not add many readers, but it will not lose any either.


The Shadow: Year One #1

Written by Matt Wagner

Art by Wilfredo Torres and Brennan Wagner

Lettering by Simon Bowland

Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Matt Wagner is no stranger to the pulp and noir characters, having already sealed his legacy with works like Sandman Mystery Theater, which helped define Vertigo nearly 20 years ago. After already taking on Dynamite's Green Hornet in another "Year One" miniseries, Wagner is at it again with another pulp legend: The Shadow.

Wagner wastes no time getting into Lamont Cranston/Ying Ko's mysterious aura and how he has no patience or tolerance for the criminal mind. The dialog is sharp and to the point. How Wagner paces things, nothing is wasted and the planting of subplots has begun. From the nosy reporter to (future love interest) Margo's situation with the mob, it's all there, and Wagner knows his way around this time in America's history quite well. In the world of writers that bog pages down with needless dialog and cram the pages with exposition, everything is presented in a way that is both accessible and not overbearing to a new reader.

Newcomer Wilfredo Torres takes the artistic reigns here, and we have a star in the making. With his simple, Silver Age-type linework, the layouts and figure compositions are pretty straightforward. There's no straining of the imagination to figure out the action and it's all right there for you to pick up. His inking is just dynamite (no pun intended) with a style that hearkens back to the likes of Alex Toth. The backgrounds are detailed, but not to the point of overworked and crowding the pages with unnecessary detail. While some of the page layouts are clean and comprehensible, they do lack a certain amount of spice that could have been used here and there to make the story pop all that much more.

Brennan Wagner gives Torres' world some depth with a light palette, and doesn't overdo it and lets Torres' art do its thing properly. He does what a great colorist is supposed to do, and adds to the environment that the penciler/inker already laid down and does it well. The reds and darker colors really stand out the most — not sure if that's intentional or not, but definitely worth noting.

Fans of Dynamite's Shadow ongoing series will want to check this out, even if they know the story; and it's also a good place to start for readers who know the character only from the Alec Baldwin movie and might be curious. While The Shadow: Year One doesn't give you all the answers you might want right away, it does give a good idea of the things to come. 

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