Best Shots: Batman, Hulk, Blue Beetle, Guardians

Exclusive Preview: Batman #681

Greetings! Welcome back to the big column. Here’s a look back at this week’s Best Shots Extras . . .

Batman #681

Invincible #55

Now, on with it - and yes, the holiday weekend hit us a little, so we're a little more pellet heavy this time out.

Double-Shot Review

Batman #681: RIP Conclusion

Writer: Grant Morrison

Art: Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea

Color: Guy Major

Letters: Jared K. Fletcher

Review by Lan Pitts

This is the the conclusion of the much-hyped "Batman RIP" arc. It's interesting to note that the media got a hold of this and is actually reporting it on their sites and stations. They got it wrong however, but still...it's quite the event. I just wish I could say it was worth the wait. When Grant Morrison is good, he's one of the best. Though, when he's off target...we get something like this issue.

It was interesting to see that in the end even the enemy with unlimited resources could not beat Batman, who has been training all his life to prepare for every eventuality. Still, it struck me as a bit of 'deus ex machina' that Batman knew from the beginning of the Black Glove conspiracy and that he knew of Jezebel's involvement with the conspiracy. I mean, I understand he's supposed to be the "World's Greatest Detective," but that just seems like a cop out.

Similar to what Troy stated in his review, the art of Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea really shines, although I found the paneling structure to be a bit off for my tastes. I did like the little things here and there, mainly how the Joker's lettering looked and Guy Major deserves serious kudos for a job well-done. As a person who was genuinely excited about this arc, my excitement eventually waned and then I just became indifferent, especially after the supposed "death" of Batman. While we are treated to a "6 months later..." scenario, one question comes to mind: If Final Crisis really seals the fate of Bruce Wayne, what was the point of "RIP"?

So in, uh, conclusion, this conclusion didn't pay off for me. With all the hype surrounding this event, one would think Grant Morrison could do better than the cliche "no body and an explosion in the background". This was not his best work, or even his best "Batman" story. I suggest reading his work on JLA in the late 90's. Those were what I would call definitive Batman stories.

EC Archives: Weird Science vol. 3

Written & Illustrated by Bill Gaines, Al Feldstein, Wally Wood, Jack Kamen, Joe Orlando, Will Elder, Sid Check and Al Williamson – oh, and Ray Bradbury too.

Published by Gemstone

Reviewed by Michael C Lorah

From May 1952 through April 1953, six more issues of EC Comics’ brilliant Weird Science comics (issues 13-18) hit magazine racks all over the States. Man, it must’ve been a good time to read comics. In each issue, you find four short stories, smartly written and beautifully drawn, with adaptations of Ray Bradbury short stories in issues 17 and 18. By issue 15, the art teams seem to have reached the pinnacle of comics art, with Wood, Williamson, Kamen and Orlando each handling one story per issue.

In this archive edition, readers are also treated to six pages detailing the history of EC’s relationship with Bradbury. Their initial contact (when Bradbury asked for the royalty fee for an unauthorized adaptation of his stories “The Rocket Man” and “Kaleidoscope”) is covered, and several letters of correspondence between Bradbury, his agent Don Congdon and EC publisher Gaines are reprinted here as well.

The artwork are all beautifully re-colored from Marie Severin’s original color templates, and even letters pages and artist biographies (of Wood, Williamson and Orlando) are kept from the original comics to complete the experience of reading an original EC.

As stories, some of the ECs are slightly dated now, but only some of them. The creators consistently come up with surprising and creative twist endings, always digging toward the goal of showing the folly of humanity within a sci-fi context.

Though the Bradbury tales in this hardcover are strong, the stand-out story of this volume is easily “He Walked Among Us,” a blaspheme-treading yarn about a human outer space explorer using advanced technology to help a struggling alien society. One misunderstanding and one lynching later, the next humans to arrive on the planet (two thousand years later) find that their predecessor has a devoted *ahem* following. Two issues later, you’ll find the letters page crammed with negative and positive reactions! These were gutsy creators pushing the creative envelope, challenging readers, long before doing so was accepted in the comics medium.

EC Archives: Weird Science vol. 3 is another collection of superbly drawn, powerfully written comics, comics that changed the direction of the medium and influenced countless people beyond comics four-color pages. Even if you can’t follow the entire EC Archive run, any serious fan of comics needs to have a few of these on their bookshelf. You really do owe it to yourself.

PELLET REVIEWS!

Guardians of the Galaxy #7 (Marvel; reviewed by Erich Reinstadler): The last time we saw our band of heroes, they had split up, after learning of Star Lord's well-meaning betrayal of them. This issue starts with the team... nowhere. Instead, we get the future history of the Guardians, as told to Cosmo by Star Hawk. The end of the future them is caused by something in the present day. Too bad nobody knows what that thing is. Meanwhile, we find the new team facing the forces of the Badoon. Rocket Raccoon is joined by Mantis, a re-generated Groot, Major victory, and a character that i won't reveal. Because I hate spoilers. Elsewhere, Adam Warlock and Gamora are battling the Church of Truth, Drax and Quazar are looking for Cammi, and Star Lord is... Star Lord is about to have a bad day. A fun series from the beginning, GotG #7 continues the tradition of great science fiction storytelling. My only complaint is that the multiple storylines don't leave enough room for a strong storyline. Yet. I have no doubt that when the characters all meet up again, we're in for a great climax.

Reign In Hell #5 (of 8) (DC; Reviewed by Erich Reinstadler): Hell is generally known as a bad place to be. Especially when the assorted rulers of Hell decide to fight each other for control of the realm. Unless, of course, you're a super-powered teenaged Goth girl. It can be a pretty good p[lace then. At least, that's what black Alice thinks, as she happily wanders thru downtown hell. Elsewhere, Blaze, after a planning session with Satannus, engages in a duel against Doctor Fate that ends abruptly as an army of demons breaches the walls of their castle. Even more elsewhere, members of the Shadowpact are battling their own demon horde, when we find out just what happens if Ragman's soul-suit suddenly has access to unlimited evil souls. Keith Giffen has managed to do two great things with this book - For one, he has managed to wrap multiple storylines into one cohesive narrative. The other, and many would say most important, thing he has done is to bring the real Lobo back into the DC Universe, while easily explaining away how he could become a dreadlocked religious pacifist. For that, Mr. Giffen, I thank you.

Blue Beetle #33 (DC; reviewed by Erich Reinstadler): The "Boundaries" saga reaches part five, and the action is really ramping up. The stories of the new Doctor Polaris and the super-powered illegal immigrants that Jaime Reyes have been battling come to a head with this issue. Blue Beetle, the Teen titans, and Peacemaker are guarding a "Day Without Immigrants" rally, when the magnetically powered immigrants start to attack. Simultaneously, the Scarab informs Jaime that more of them are breaching the border and attacking the Border Patrol. In the meantime, Brenda and Paco are being held captive by the girl who is convinced that Paco is the Blue Beetle. The opportunity arises for Paco and Brenda to make their escape. They bring the girl, Mariposa, to the scene of the wrapped-up battle between BB et al, and introduce her. Everything Beetle has been fighting against in the recent past is the responsibility of her father, Doctor Polaris. Beetle rushes to find the good doctor, only to learn just how dangerous a man with a horseshow-shaped helmet can actually be. The creative team of Sturges and Albuquerque have been giving us a great, fun book, and this issue is no different. In their hands, Jaime Reyes has really come into his own as a great new character in the DC Universe. It is a damn shame that the book will be coming to an end shortly.

The Umbrella Academy: God Save the President #1 (Dark Horse; review by Troy): Really, was there a better image in comics this week than a rampaging Lincoln Memorial brought down by a John Wilkes Booth statue? Gerard Way, now well past establishing his comics bona fides based on the success of the first series, has a grand time building his tale of this dysfunctional family of heroes. The art by Gabriel Ba matches Way’s vision note for warped note. Umbrella remains a tremendously enjoyable book.

Superman #682 (DC; review by Troy): As we all expected, things start to get out of hand. Superman’s enemies find themselves having a really bad day when the Kryptonians start rounding up Kal’s rogues gallery. Unfortunately, their moral compass is a tad different. James Robinson juggles the dilemma of the powder-keg of Kryptonians with some joy-buzzer Silver Age moments (particularly the guest from the last two pages, not to mention his location) to good effect.

The Walking Dead #55 (Image; review by Troy): Just when you think that Rick might be completely losing it, Kirkman lets fly with a roundhouse that seals the fate of a long-time cast member. The best, most consistent part of this book continues to be the fact that Kirkman still manages to surprise within the familiar context of Zombie Apocalypse. Abraham had piqued my interest; one wonders if Kirkman is building him up either to ascend to a larger role, or to get gloriously smoked in the near future. Either way, the book continues to be a rollercoaster.

The Incredible Hercules #123 (Marvel; by Troy): This book might presently be the most fun I have reading comics in month. Genuinely hilarity, punctuated by moments of surprising brutality, continues to be the order of the day. I’ve said it repeatedly, but Amadeus Cho is one of the best characters introduced in comics this decade. In the art department, Henry and Espin make the most of it; in addition to fine action, they have a terrific command of facial expressions.

Hulk #8 (Marvel; by Troy): Hey, you know what? This issue was a pretty good time, too. If you like to see Hulk smashing, this is a great issue for it. In the split narrative, the front half (drawn by the always outstanding Art Adams) pits Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight and The Sentry against a shifting Banner in Vegas. Oh yeah. And there are Wendigos. The back half has Frank Cho drawing a clash between the Red Hulk and a small battalion of Marvel’s toughest ladies. It won’t be on Time’s Ten Best list, but it’s certainly the equal of a particularly fine episode of RAW, circa 1998.

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