Greetings, 'Rama readers! Time to cut to the chase with Best Shots' latest round of Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off today's column as Aaron Duran takes a look at this week's fateful issue of Animal Man...Animal Man #18 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): This is a rough week for families the DCU. Animal Man #18 wraps up Buddy's involvement in the thoroughly enjoyable Rotworld arc, but it comes at a painfully high price. Although Jeff Lemire's pacing in this issue feels a tad rushed (this book would have benefited from a $3.99 jump in page count), he more than makes up for it in emotional impact. Steve Pugh really shines in this issue and marks a rare time when I prefer the art to the story in an Animal Man comic. As much as I loved his take on disgusting beasts of the Rot, his return to classic Animal Man imagery is a welcome breath of life in a book that's steeped in some serious pain. All-New X-Men #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): What a great book. Brian Michael Bendis adds so much humor and quirkiness to the X-Men here, and it only gets better with David Marquez on art. Marquez proves you can have it all: expressive, clean character designs, engaging fight choreography (look at how Angel uses his wing speed to stomp on bad guys!), efficient layouts... this is A-list art on an A-list book, and you sense Bendis knows it too, which is why he saves his big dialogue bits for when he needs them (including a great gag of Kitty and Iceman making fun of Captain America and the Beast, and Cyclops stealing the show in one panel). The only downside? The needless inclusion of the Avengers, and the ending — while strong — already happening in another high-profile Marvel book. Still all-new, all-different, all-awesome. I Love Trouble #4 (Published by Image; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): This issue takes a bit of a swerve, but given Felicia Castro's life in general, I can't really say I'm surprised. Then again, originally I felt the last page came out of left field, but remembered a while back something like that might occur eventually, but to this extent. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, she can talk to her monkey tattoo. Aside from that, everything seems pretty much in place, but the visuals save it from being too mundane. Mark Robinson's art with colorist Paul Little's assistance gives it that shot of HGH that it needed. Not to say writer Kel Symons isn't good here, but it just seemed like a throwaway issue until the very end. Things should be more interesting from here on to say the least. Age of Ultron #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Patrick Hume; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Starting a big storyline in media res can provide for some arresting beats, like the two stunning splash pages that open up Age of Ultron. Seeing what has become of Manhattan, stronghold of Earth's superhero community, drives home the scale and stakes of the series in an immediate way. The bulk of the issue, with Hawkeye attempting to rescue one of his comrades from captivity and return to their community of traumatized survivors, fills in some of the blanks, with well-paced action from Bendis and Hitch throughout. The last page, though, shows one of the pitfalls of beginning in the middle; you have to earn a moment like that, and the rest of the series is going to have to do a lot to feel as if it has. Swamp Thing #18 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Running a similar course as it's sister title, Animal Man, Swamp Thing #18 is all about death and rebirth. Snyder and Paquette certainly know how to end a run on a title. Fulfilling an emotional ending that was lacking in the official ending of Rotworld, Swamp Thing #18 reminds long time fans just what it means to be an Avatar of the Green. Snyder and Paquette work in perfect tandem as we say goodbye to that which we love, knowing what is reborn can never return. If you're new to the title, wait for the trade. If you've been there since Issue #1, Swamp Thing #18 is a perfect ending to a run that stands as tall as anything from Alan Moore, Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. Superior Spider-Man #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Superior Spider-Man #7 is going to upset people. It's very hard to judge this book by the quality of its storytelling, and not the turning point it represents for Otto Octavius as Spider-Man. On one hand, Giuseppe Camuncoli's art is wonderful, though some of his faces seem flat, and Dan Slott's script has enough twists on old ideas that it's a joy to read - until the climactic scene. Octavius crosses a line that Parker never did, and only time will tell what that means for Superior Spider-Man. If it's the return of Peter Parker, then maybe this is worth it. If it's a descent into something Parker would never have been, then it'll be hard to keep repeating Slott's mantra, "just keep reading." Worlds' Finest #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Kevin Maguire may be remembered for his "bwa-ha-ha" days on Justice League International, but I love seeing what he can do when he's playing things straight. Case in point—Worlds' Finest #10, in which he lends power, strength and expressiveness to Huntress and Power Girl's respective personal issues. Paul Levitz continues to produce a solid counterpoint (if occasionally abrupt pacing) between Helena and Karen, with Karen getting back at Holt Industries for their corporate sabotaging and Helena reeling from the death of Damian Wayne. The interplay between the two — particularly Helena's last snarky line asking how could Karen have an affair with Michael Holt and not realize he was Mister Terrific — makes this book feel warm and inviting, like two great friends you don't see often enough. Fun art and fun characterization make this issue a fun one to read. Avengers #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Worlds collide in Avengers #7, both literally and figuratively as the ill-fated New Universe begins manifesting in the Avengers core title, while the plot of New Avengers starts to trickle in as well. A good script by Jonathan Hickman and some lovely art by Dustin Weaver go a long way towards making the unpalatable palatable, but there's almost no getting around how hard it'll be to sell Nightmask and Starbrand. Honestly, it's worrisome how quickly this title is serving every purpose except to tell Avengers stories. Too many attempts to shoehorn everything but the Avengers themselves into what should be Marvel's flagship book will only dilute the brand. Avengers should be about Earth's Mightiest Heroes, not trying to repurpose every character Marvel is underusing. Green Lantern #18 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Considering the big meeting between Simon Baz and Hal Jordan takes place this issue, it's kind of a shame that Green Lantern #18 is shackled with mismatched fill-in art. Simon Kudranski's moody monochromatic art doesn't quite fit the daring sci-fi nature of this book, and it clashes pretty strongly with the loose cartooniness of Ardian Syaf. The script also lacks focus, with Geoff Johns burdened with the greater subplot of Volthoom and the Hal/Sinestro dynamic (which got awfully sinister, awfully fast). Besides Simon getting to fire his Chekhov's gun, there's not too much that's memorable here, even with a spooky-looking cliffhanger. The end is near for Johns and Doug Mahnke, but I hope that end is a roar, not a whimper. Guardians of the Galaxy: Infinite #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): From a business perspective, this is a smart move — a free comic that shows off not just up-and-coming property Guardians of the Galaxy, but also promotes a brand-new, digital-friendly format of comics with two big Marvel names? That alone is worth the download. But that said, be warned — the book is also a little shaky. Brian Michael Bendis doesn't really do a lot to introduce Drax the Destroyer other than allude to previous acts of brutality, making Mike Oeming's chiseled characters and fight choreography feel more self-indulgent than something we can invest in. Marvel may still be figuring out how to make Yves Bigerel's transitions hit their hardest, but this is an experiment in price, content and format that deserves to continue. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!
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