Best Shots: Marvel 1985, Red Lanterns, Superman & More

Best Shots: Marvel 1985 and More

Greetings, again! Here’s a quick run-down of our Best Shots Extras and affiliated reviews that ran between last week’s column and now:

The Comic Book Virgin Reads Watchmen (review by Isabelle Burtan)

Battlefields: The Night Witches #1 (review by Troy Brownfield)

Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #1 (review by Lucas Siegel)

Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns (review by Jamie Trecker)

Amazing Spider-Man Annual (review by Brendan McGuirk)

MARVEL 1985#6

From: Marvel

Writer: Mark Millar

Art: Tommy Lee Edwards

Review by Erich Reinstadler

1985. I was 11, and had been going to my LCS, The Comic Book Box, for a year already. My first comic was Star Wars #1, waaaaay back in 1977, but aside from the occasional book, I never really got into comics. GI Joe and The Transformers got me into the comic shop, and the guy behind the counter (his name is lost to history) got me into super hero books. By the time 1985 rolled around, I was an avid comic reader, blowing my $5-a-week allowance on comics. I miss the days of 65 cent books.

I was introduced to the world of Marvel Comics, and within a couple months, i was regularly reading Daredevil, Captain America, Spider-Man, The Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, and so on. I was voracious with the back issue boxes. I couldn't get enough! One day, I'm called to the counter. He holds up a book for me to see. The cover had all my favorite characters on it. Cap, Cyke, Shulkie, Wolvie and so on! I look at the title: Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.

I was hooked!

Month after month, I'd eagerly look for the latest issue of Secret Wars. I couldn't get enough of it! I was an avowed Marvel Zombie, and the idea of all those characters I'd been reading in one book together was great. The fact that it was a hell of a story was even better!

23 years later, I'm still loyal to The Comic Book Box, I still read Marvel, tho my allegiances have been more on DC's side the last 15 years or so, and I just read Marvel 1985.

It's like I'm 11 again!

Why? Mark Millar has given us a 13 year old boy as the potential hero of the story. My god! At that age, who among us didn't want to be a comic book hero? Toby Goodman, the son of a divorced father, is a typical 13 year old. He goes to school, reads comic books, and lives near a house full of super villains.

Millar's story starts with Stan & Jack creating (or not! duh-duh-duhhhhh) the Marvel Universe in 1961. Fast forward to a brief re-telling of Secret Wars #10, where Doctor Doom steals the power of The Beyonder (who is not a sentient Cosmic Cube, I don't care what anyone says!), and-- And the actual story starts.

Millar's story is about a boy who notices some weird goings-on, things that adults don't (or won't) see. Yet Millar never falls into the trap that so many stories like that fall in to. This is not one of those stories where the cute, clever kids figure things out while the functionally retarded parents coast thru life oblivious of everything. 1985's hero, Toby, doesn't even realize what's he's stumbled across until a chance encounter at the end of the first issue.

By the end of the sixth, and final, issue, Toby has lived every kids greatest dream. And what a nightmare it's been. The villains of the Marvel universe have been pulled into Toby's world. With no heroes to stop them, they run rampant thru his town. Death and destruction are visited upon the innocent people who are hesitant to accept the un-real reality they're witnessing. About 2/3 the way thru issue 6, you think you know how it's going to end. It's pretty obvious. But you're wrong. There's a great, semi-tragic ending to the story. While you understand the sense of loss, the story ends with a smile on the reader's face.

Mark Millar is a divisive writer. People either love his work, or hate it. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground when it comes to him. I'll freely admit that I've called for his head, his resignation and/or tarring & feathering more than once. But this time, Millar hit every chord for me. Some of it is that I can see so much of myself in Toby. Some is simply that all kids play super hero, but never actually face comic book villains. Millar's look back at a more innocent time has brought out the kid in my, a kid I haven't seen in 20 years.

My only complaint about this book is the art. Specifically the Secret Wars art. Between "It's like I'm 11 again!" and "Why?", I took a couple hours to dig out my copies of Secret Wars and read the whole series again. Mike Zeck's art was so specific to the story that I'm forced to wonder why Marvel didn't just use the original Secret Wars art in this book. Aside from that, I have no complaints. I wasn't familier with the art of Tommy Lee Edwards, but it really fits the overall tone of the book. The characters all look unique, and there's no obvious "Jerry is based on Actor X" vibe to the faces.

I was hesitant to pick this book up, because I generally don't like Mark Millar's work. I'm glad I went against my gut instinct. 1985 is my favorite Marvel book of the year, and I am calling this one of my top 5 titles of 2008.

And with another view of FC: ROTRL is Lan Pitts . . .

Final Crisis: Rage Of The Red Lanterns

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Shane Davis and Sandra Hope

Published by DC

Reviewed by Lan Pitts

This is the issue I have been waiting for. Mr. Trecker already covered it here for one of this week's Best Shots, and now it is my turn to give it a go. It starts with Atrocitus getting the power of the Red Lantern. The bonding ritual between creature and lantern is something out of a horror movie and the Red Lantern "oath" is just as disturbing. Back on Coast City, Hal Jordan discusses the execution of Sinestro with Carrol Ferris. It's a stirring bit of dialogue that really captures the character of Jordan, both as a man and as one of our planet's greatest superheroes. When Jordan finally reaches Sinestro in his prison, Sinestro asks if Jordan thinks his execution is just. Jordan replies "It's not justice, it's what you deserve."

On the way to Korugar, Sinestro's home planet, the Green Lanterns escorting Sinestro to his execution are ambushed by the Sinestro Corps. After a brief altercation, both Corps are attacked by the Red Lantern Corps. The Green Lanterns and Sinestros are no match for the Reds and are easily taken out. I think Johns created, albeit not on purpose, an interesting equivalent to Ch'p: a blue cat that melts the face off of one unlucky Sinestro Corps member right before he could hand Sinestro his ring. When all hope seems lost for Jordan and company, a blue light shines and equips Jordan with power he's never experienced before and recharges his ring's power level at 200%! We will have to wait until next issue to discover who this Blue Lantern is.

I'm not quite sure how this is an official Final Crisis tie-in, though it is noted as being in between #1 and 2 of that series. I want to assume this is a tie-in in name alone. For all intents and purposes, this issue is really Green Lantern #36. It may be longer than the average issue, and Ivan Reis is unfortunately absent, but the issue falls right in line with Johns' continuing "lanterns" epic. Those of you out there who have been turned off by Final Crisis, please know that this book is utterly superb in every aspect. The art of Shane Davis really comes through and he delivers truly astounding work. He captures the essence of Johns' script and takes the reader through an action-packed issue that is cannot-miss.

With Johns' running "Rage" and "Green Lantern", and "Blackest Night" and "War of Light" on her horizon it is a great time to be Green Lantern fan.

Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip

Written & Illustrated by Tove Jansson

Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Reviewed by Michael C Lorah

The third hardcover volume reprinting Tove Jansson’s beloved children’s comic strip finds Moomin and family discovering love (and jealousy), the exoticism of jungle life, the paranoia of alien incursion and more.

Filled with gentle humor and common emotions, Moomin follows the Moomin crew through a panoply of scenarios that serve to underscore the bonds of family and the security of home. Finnish cartoonist Tove Jansson created the Moomin characters in 1945 as a children’s book series, before transitioning to comic strips in the mid-1950s.

Jansson’s warm, gentle humor is probably not en vogue among mainstream comics readers today, but the character play between the characters – such as when Moomin inadvertently sends Stinky on a plot to populate their newly grown jungle – is a delight. The free-spirited inquisitive nature of Moomin and Snorkmaiden and Moominmama gives readers an upbeat, curious insight into the workings of the world. Plus, gags such as a zookeeper referring to the Moomins as hippopotamuses and attempting to herd them into cages entertain on a more prurient level.

Artistically, Jansson uses the comic strip form effectively. The lines are strong and clear, sequences easy to follow and the character acting simply sublime. Just a few lines so effortlessly emote the curiosity or confusion, or the disappointment, of each player in this little melodrama. Her simple two- or three-panel strips rarely have cliffhangers or jokes – the strip is designed to be read in sequence as a long-form story.

Moomin is, in many ways, a relic of a different time, a different world, but it’s still a very effectively drawn and written cartoon strip. Charming and upbeat, filled with curiosity and warmth, it’s a fine strip that few readers will find fault with.

PELLET REVIEWS!

Superman #681 (DC Comics; review by Rev. O.J. Flow): A quick read's gonna warrant a quick review. I'm all about the "New Krypton" epic, but this chapter felt a little light coming off the more substantive special we got to kick off this story recently. Overall this issue is good, though it didn't do as serviceable a job pushing the story forward as I would've liked to see. The world is taking in the idea that their home is now host to thousands of super-men and women, and Superman is the only thing standing between their well-being and a hostile takeover that would make the previous Phantom Zone villain incident ("Last Son") pale in comparison. Again the art team of Renato Guedes and Jose Magalháes serves James Robinson's script well, this being one of the series' most solid creative teams ever. I was also pleasantly surprised with the unexpected visitor who appears in the last page. As much as I've followed the "New Krypton" epic by way of interviews found in this very website and elsewhere, I had no idea that Doomsday was in the game plan. A little surprise every now and then is refreshing.

Justice League of America #26 (DC; by O.J.): If there's anything worth trumpeting about this series, it's that we can put the seemingly endless story of Vixen's misappropriated powers in the proverbial rear-view mirror. It may have been for that reason that while I wasn't terribly excited for this issue (symptomatic of how I've felt about the book for months now), I found myself appreciating it as a decent read once completed. In this fifth and final chapter of "The Second Coming," Vixen's been thrust into a new world, the creation of the trickster god Anansi. This world is altered in that a lot of JLA heroes exist, but their histories are different to the point that they aren't always the same people we're familiar with. Writer Dwayne McDuffie and artist Ed Benes spend a good part of the book covering Vixen's assembly of this "Elseworlds JLA" for a rematch with Anansi, so it's a tad disappointing that the team is marginalized by the issue's end with an anticlimactic head-to-head with the real JLA when they finally turn up at the end. I'm delighted to report that Vixen's powers are now back to normal, and I'm even more delighted that the JLA will be taking on new threats starting next issue. Ideally I'd like to see this team became relevant again. It's been a long time since that was the case. Oh, and what the hell was the Brown Bomber all about??

Thor #11 (Marvel; by Troy): Remember, kids: brawling can get out of hand. The gods learn that games can go badly as more foreboding stirs in Asgard. However, the real centerpiece of this issue is a conversation between Thor and the apparent spirit of Captain America. That’s some good stuff.

Checkmate #31 (DC; by Troy): And so a noble experiment ends. I really, really liked the Rucka issues of this book, and I thought that the overall premise was (and is) sound. The end of this run bogged down a bit with the lengthy Chimera arc, but I did appreciate the inclusion of the Global Guardians and a number of other semi-forgotten characters. I would like to see the continuation of Checkmate in other portions of the DCU, much as I would like to see that side characters from Manhunter go on.

The Incredible Hercules #122 (Marvel; by Troy): I wish I laughed as much on an hourly basis as I do when I read this book. The interplay between Herc and Sub-Mariner is great, and Amadeus continues to be one of the best supporting characters in comics (though he would probably argue that Herc is his supporting character). This one is a good time every time.

Indiana Jones Omnibus vol. 2 (Dark Horse; by Mike): I love the format of these Dark Horse Omnibus – the dimensions and page count are a tremendously appealing package. The quality of the content has been so variable that I’ve avoided buying them to this point, and this edition did little to change that impression. Most of the stories range from subpar to mediocre, rehashing the surface clichés of an Indiana Jones film to little effect. Karl Kesel and Eduardo Barreto’s fast-moving roller coast ride, Indian Jones & the Sargasso Pirates, however, redeems the entire book, with a delightful adventure that owes more to the pulp-fiction, adventure newspaper strips that inspired Indiana Jones than the Indy films themselves.

Heartburst and Other Pleasures (King Hell; by Mike): One of comics unique voices, Rick Veitch is always worth reading. This collection of short stories from early in his career shows just how good he’s been since the very beginning. “Heartburst” shows his sci-fi imagination, while playing with notions of humanity’s subconscious connections, misguided religious idealism and genocidal conflict. Throw in a drunken autobiographical quip, a mobius, sci-fi strip written by R.L Stine, and Veitch’s collaboration with Stephen Bissette in adapting Alan Moore’s “The Mirror of Love” and this book has something for nearly everybody. Having these stories back in print is a huge pleasure.

Grendel: Devil Quest (Dark Horse; by Mike): Seven interlocking stories, all fully painted (not to mention written) by Grendel creator Matt Wagner, Devil Quest is a nice piece of the Grendel puzzle, though not where neophytes should start. For fans of War Child and Batman/Grendel, this story is a treat. Wagner is adept at diving into the minds of each of his seven narrators, fleshing out the Grendel-verse through their perspectives, and allowing the overall storyline of Devil Quest to manifest only after you’ve absorbed several perspectives.

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