Best Shots Extra Reviews: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, More

 

Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Steve McNiven, John Dell, and Justin Ponsor

Letters by Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Marvel may be putting a lot of stock into Guardians of the Galaxy as their next big franchise, but it's going to take more than a study of a character that's always been a little nebulous to really sell the idea that the interstellar superteam isn't just going through another reinvention. Granted, it's early yet, but as the central character of what is meant to be a major franchise, Peter Quill is gonna have to spend a lot more time showing who he really is, and less time brooding about his troubled past.

In a way, Brian Bendis and Steve McNiven represent Marvel's dream team, and putting them together on a tentpole title seems like a great sell. On the other hand, Bendis's script in this issue doesn't give McNiven much to do with his chops. In fact, the script is, at times, exhausting. Most of it just feels like it's going through the motions, but there are stretches where the interaction between J'Son of Spartax and Meredith Quill feels like it's never going to end. On the other hand, there are portions of their brief relationship that are expressed solely through McNiven's art, and it's those sequences that are the best of the entire issue.

For as sarcastic and sardonic as Peter Quill was in Abnett and Lanning's Guardians of the Galaxy, he's remarkably stoic under Bendis's guidance, as if he's making a conscious effort to stray from his usual character themes. In a way, that's good, but on the other hand, there's little shown about Quill in this character piece besides his anger for his father. And that's fine, but for an issue that's meant to make a case for Peter Quill as a leading man in a major title, his role in the story is surprisingly thin. There's plenty of time to really dig into Quill as a character — this isn't even technically the first issue of the series — but as a hook, this issue just isn't there.

McNiven's art is the real selling point of the issue at this point, even if Quill's new Star-Lord duds are little closer to something out of Neon Genesis Evangelion than his more interesting super spaceman look. In fact, if not for McNiven making the issue work, Guardians of the Galaxy wouldn't have much to stand on. McNiven's work hews closer to Jim Cheung here, thanks probably to inker John Dell and colorist Justin Ponsor. The result is a style that relies more on its actual linework than on a painterly style of coloring to fill in the gaps. It's a slight change of pace for McNiven, but it really works, showcasing his deft lines, and his expressive characterization.

Really, judging Guardians of the Galaxy by this preview issue is like judging a film by its trailer. But the purpose of a trailer is to provide a hook, or a compelling reason to see a film. And to that purpose, Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1 doesn't accomplish much. The strength of the art, and the potential of one of Marvel's dream teams is still the real selling point, but once the series actually launches, Bendis and McNiven will have to move quickly to make a case for Guardians of the Galaxy as a necessary component of Marvel's future.

 

Five Weapons #1

Written by Jimmie Robinson

Art by Jimmie Robinson and Paul Little

Lettering by Jimmie Robinson

Published by Image Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

This is everything a comic reader should ever want in a first issue.

At first Five Weapons seems like a sort of Harry Potter meets the League of Shadows type of situation, and it's easy to see why. By the end of the first issue, there is so much intrigue and character work, you wonder how writer/artist Jimmie Robinson managed to do it all. Best of all? It's just fun! When we're first introduced to Tyler Shainline, we have the impression he comes from a long line of assassins, but as the story unfolds, Tyler is not what he appears and a swerve is thrown in where you think the story was going.

Doing triple duty of writing, pencils, and lettering, Robinson doesn't lose any stride along the way. The panel construction and layouts are sharp and comprehensive, and while the dialog comes at you fast and fierce, nothing is lost along the way. We meet a multitude of characters, both friends and enemies, but never overwhelmed by this new world and its inhabitants. Robinson's art style is reminiscent to the Saturday morning cartoons of my youth, but maintains an edge of danger throughout the issue. His return to the more young-adult type of stories is a welcomed one here, and if Five Weapons is any indication of what lies ahead, I say let's welcome more.

Colorist Paul Little does a great job giving life to Robinson's characters and world. He uses a more softer palette here than he does in comparison to his work on I Love Trouble, but with Robinson's linework, this sort of mixture is bright and doesn't overload the pages. All of the characters have a distinct appearance, and together Little and Robinson really give this book a distinctive look.

Saying Five Weapons should not be missed is an understatement. For those readers that fell in love with the likes of the Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, or even anime fans, this comic should be right up your alley.

 

Witch Doctor – Mal Practice #4

Written by Brandon Seifert

Art by Lukas Ketner and Andy Troy

Lettering by Brandon Seifert

Published by Image Comics

Review by Aaron Duran

'Rama Rating 10 out of 10

Hey kids, it's issue #4 of Witch Doctor – Mal Practice and all I can say is, “that's a little more like it.” Having a bit of a mid-arc slump last month, writer Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner bring their special brand of crazy horror back into the light. There is a lot going on in this issue, and that doesn't even factor in the story proper. At it's most basic level, twisted Dr. Morrow is in a bit of a sticky wicket. After being played on more than one occurrence, he's all but at the mercy of the devious Nostrum and his monstrous partners. And since I am loathe to do the full story recap in a review, you'll just have to believe me when I say that darn near every player in issue #4 has a moment to shine.

Right off the bat, this issue pulls the reader into the action and Seifert doesn't really let up until you put the book down. However, what struck me the most upon reading was how much each character had a short moment to shine. I wasn't fully sold on Nostrum until this issue. This guy finally feels like a legitimate threat to Morrow and his companions; to say nothing of the deeper plan Nostrum is playing. Truly, every character has a scene that makes you smile and nod, sometimes our of curiosity and other times out of sheer awesome. However, as the titular character, Morrow still needs to most screen time and Seifert again delivers. Although this isn't the perfect know-it-all that's graced previous stories. This is a Morrow that's truly worried he might meet an untimely end. And while the character is still quick with the quips, it makes for an interesting dynamic for the reader.

Mal Practice #4 might be one of Lukas Ketner's strongest issues to date as well. As much as I dig him cutting loose with page-filling beasts and ominous settings, there is a natural interaction between characters that I've never seen before. Even in issues I enjoyed, Ketner never felt all the comfortable when mundane or simple characters made up the bulk of a panel. That short hurdle in his penciling is finally gone. There is a strong attention to proportions that I hope he's able to maintain in future issues. Finally, when we come to Morrow's solution to his supernatural ailment, well it's just a visual joy. Seriously, if you can tap into creepy horror all while channeling classic sci-fi action, then you've got a winner on your hands. Combine that with some incredibly effective colors by Andy Troy and you've got, hands down, Image's nicest looking book of the week.

I know this is an unusually gushy review from me, but this book is just too much fun to not heap praise upon. When Seifert and Ketner are on the same page, thematically and tonally, they're one heck of a team. Taking into account the ongoing story, as well as the many hints at stories to come, and you've got one great issue with Mal Practice #4. Hopefully they can maintain this level of narrative fun as the arc enters its final stretch. Go get yourself some Witch Doctor. It's weird. It's funny. It's creepy. It's smart. It's simply good comics. 

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