Best Shots Reviews: NIGHTWING #18, HULK #5, More

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for the Monday column? So is the Best Shots team! So let's start off this week with a smashing read, as we take a look at the latest issue of Indestructible Hulk... 


Indestructible Hulk #5

Written by Mark Waid

Art by Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan and Sunny Gho

Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose:

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Want to have an awesome Hulk story? Just add water. Putting Bruce Banner and his irate alter ego under the sea has reaped some unexpectedly satisfying returns, as Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu swiftly create a story packed with action, intelligence and even a sense of humor.

To start, the pacing for this comic is about as perfect as it comes — Mark Waid is all killer and no filler, building up the threat of the Atlantean conqueror Attuma as well as the personalities of Bruce Banner's new undersea rescuers, Mara and Canor. Bruce Banner is ultimately a character who benefits from interpersonal dynamics rather than suffers for it — Waid has figured out that just like people annoy us or worry us or spin us off in unexpected directions like a game of bumper cars, and that kind of reader relevance is magic for a character as tied to his emotions as the Hulk. In particular, Bruce's dynamic with newfound Hulk groupie Mara brings some laugh-out-loud moments, and adds some goofy charm to our titular hero.

It also doesn't hurt that the action and stakes are great, too. Watching a scrawny Banner straighten his shoulders in the face of worldwide genocide and say "power is relative" is the kind of moment that makes you root for a hero, and that's far from everything this issue has to offer. Waid has always been good with the comic book science, owing to his own degree in physics, and he's able to tap into that reservoir to create an especially dire threat from the deeps that also happens to be insanely visual. Combine that with a couple of inhuman feats of strength by the Hulk himself, and you find yourself amazed this book is only 20 pages.

But I would be remiss if I didn't talk about Leinil Francis Yu. What a champ. His designwork for the Atlanteans in particular is breathtaking, with so much detail in the scaled armor for these characters that even with a very similar color scheme each of these undersea dwellers looks not just unique, but well-suited for their characters. In addition to some nice fight choreography with the Hulk — it's amazing the stuff he can break through — The use of shadow here is also particularly masterful, thanks to inker Gerry Alanguilan, so Yu's faces still look clean but also chiseled, with the rest of their bodies being sharply rendered. Colorist Sunny Gho also keeps the world energetic despite a cool color palette of blues and greens. It's just a gorgeous read.

With Yu off the book next month for Walt Simonson, I can't help but feel a little bit of trepidation for Indestructible Hulk, a comic which has absolutely lived up to its name. Sharp artwork and even sharper writing have made Bruce Banner into a complex, three-dimensional character who is just as quirky and likeable as he was in the Avengers movie, and what's best about a character like that is that he fits into just about any setting. As long as we can relate to other people setting off our emotions, we'll always appreciate Bruce Banner getting mean and green in social situations, making Indestructible Hulk the 500-pound gamma gorilla of the Marvel NOW! lineup. 


Nightwing #18

Written by Kyle Higgins

Art by Juan Jose Ryp, Roger Bonet, Juan Albarran and Brett Smith

Lettering by Carlos Mangual

Review by Erika D. Peterman

Published by DC Comics

’Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Dick Grayson was more than Batman to Damian’s Robin. He was one of the few people that Damian deemed worthy of his respect, and it could be argued that Bruce Wayne’s late son learned as much about being a hero from Dick as he did from his own father. As Damian put it so memorably before his demise,“We were the best, Grayson.”

So even though Dick is “the one who doesn’t dwell,” it stands to reason that he would be devastated by Damian’s death, especially on the heels of the Haly’s Circus-Joker nightmare. Unfortunately, that huge sense of loss never comes through in Nightwing #18. The strongest segment is a repeat of a scene from the previous issue, where Damian reassures his former partner that his trusting nature isn’t a weakness. It says more about their relationship than several panels showing Dick’s internal monologue, which this story relies upon heavily to telegraph emotional struggle.

Yes, Nightwing visits Damian’s grave, ponders pulling away from those close to him and sits stone-faced in his apartment, ignoring calls. But there’s never a convincing, gut-punching moment to show the reader how much recent events have rocked Dick’s world. It’s hard not to compare this book to the wordless and deeply moving Batman and Robin #18, which illustrates the power of showing vs. telling.

Juan Jose Ryp’s pencils, richly colored by Brett Smith, emphasize every muscle, vein and stubble hair. The level of detail is admirable, but the overall result is a bit heavy-handed and overworked. Ryp’s art works best in an energetic action sequence, where Nightwing busts up a twisted auction with signature acrobatic style.

Writer Kyle Higgins has done well by Nightwing, and he understands what makes the character tick. Dick’s ability to rally and move forward after awful events is a big part of his makeup, and Higgins deserves credit for at least raising the question of how best to proceed when bad things happen. Do you put up walls or let people in? While life must go on, this issue seems in too much of a hurry to check mourning off of the list and get to the next chapter. 


My Little Pony Micro-Series #2: Rainbow Dash

Written by Ryan K. Lindsay

Art by Tony Fleecs and Amy Mebberson

Published by IDW Publishing

Review by Forrest C. Helvie

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

My Little Pony: Rainbow Dash is a bit of an unexpected oddity... yet, Ryan K. Lindsay proves aware of an audience of older readers who are either My Little Pony fans or parents of children who enjoy the series but want to know what their kids are reading.

Growing up in the 1980s, I was a boy’s boy: G.I. Joe, He-Man, and Transformers were the toys I played with and the cartoons I watched. So this was a bit of unfamiliar territory to say the least. Needless to say, I was more than a little surprised when I found at least one reference to Blade Runner, another to The Dark Knight Returns, and another unconfirmed allusion to Fight Club. That’s right, Fight Club and My Little Pony. 

And yet, it’s so subtly inlaid within the dialogue that only the most adroit pop culture detectives will pick up on it. For parents looking for an age appropriate comic or older fans of the series looking for a comic with smart, witty dialogue, try this one out. The kids will be captivated with the daring adventure of Rainbow Dash while even diehard G.I. Joe fans will find themselves laughing at some of the dialogue and situations Lindsay sets up. The gremlins, which serve as the antagonists whom Dash faces, are especially humorous and well written.

On art duties, Anthony Fleecs provides readers with over 32 pages of fun-filled art with nothing too scary for especially younger readers. It is action-packed and the quality is both consistent and dynamic. It’s also worth pointing out the vibrancy of the color palette, which really helps Fleecs’ art pop off each page. 

All-ages comics that are appropriate for a wide range of readers can be difficult to come by lately, and those which demonstrate a more subtle level of humor for the adult readers are even rarer. The only the potential drawbacks to this comic is the lack of familiarity with the franchise itself, which may turn off some readers. Yet, Lindsay and Fleecs work well together to create comic that works hard to draw in readers who either consider themselves a fully-fledged “bronies” or those who are simply looking for a good comic they can feel comfortable having their children read.   


Artifacts #26

Written by Ron Marz

Art by Marco Turini and Andy Troy

Lettering by Troy Peteri

Published by Top Cow

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

The Progeny arc comes to a close here with Tom Judge and his allies (Angelus, Magdalena, and Dr. Rachel Harrison) going head-to-head with Jackie Estacado once more trying to set the world right in balance. And once again, things don't go according to plan.

Ron Marz has taken what was supposed to be a thirteen-issue event that unraveled the Top Cow universe and has expanded it to quite a great ongoing. Here, though, the conclusion seems sort of anticlimactic. You have all the big players in the game on the board, but the battle is almost over before it really begins. The way Marz begins the issue gives a hint that Judge's plan this time won't go down how he wants, but I expected a bit more than this.

The rest of the issue plays out well with lots of great interaction among Judge and his cronies. The Tom/Finch dynamic is fun to watch unfold, though the bits about Finch's sexuality is a tad cliche at this point. It's good to see Marz have some fun with Sara Pezzini again, if only for a few pages.

The big difference here is artist Marco Turini in place of usual Artifacts maestro Stjepan Sejic. Turini has a more traditional comic art style compared to Sejic's more digitally rendered, and it's not bad, but a lot of the pages fall flat with emotion when there should be running high. Aside from the opening scene at the bar with Finch and Tom, the rest of the characters seem to just be less lively. Colorist Andy Troy does a good enough job here shading these characters to life, but something still felt off.

Reading this issue, fans are going to realize that simply wiping Jenny from this universe won't be the easiest thing to do so it can reset and go back to the old one. Sara's speech to Tom at the end of the issue was heartbreaking, but made sense. The restoration of the Top Cow universe as it was doesn't seem like a likely scenario for the time being, but as long Marz continues to breathe life into these characters, I'm in. 


It Girl and The Atomics #8

Written by Jamie S. Rich

Art by Mike Norton and Allen Passalaqua

Lettering by Crank!

Published by Image Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Color me new to the series, but I might be on board for the rest here on out. Any longtime Mike Allred fans might get a kick out of this, even if Allred's name is bound to the concept and the cover.

Writer Jamie S. Rich has taken a concept I was vaguely familiar with and turned it into something completely accessible and not overbearing. Readers intimidated by not being able to get into this title without having previous knowledge of Madman lore shouldn't worry; it's all here ready for the taking. For what is supposed to be an end to an arc, it's really not that hard to follow.

What we have here is It Girl returning from a rescue mission and goes up against robot henchmen and an old lady with a shotgun, while saving a scientist and his invention that will change life as we know it (it's never really explained, but you see what it can do for yourself). It has a bit of an The Incredibles vibe, and that's always a plus in my book.

Artist Mike Norton demonstrates and proves here why he's one of the best cartoonists working today. His handle on It Girl's powers of matter mimicry is fun to watch as she takes on from being a pillow to being a bullet later on. The panels have a lot of energy and just a classic Gene Colan on Daredevil feel to them. Despite It Girl wearing a mask to cover her eyes, Norton gives her a great range of expressions here, making her all that much more personable.

It Girls and The Atomics #8 is a fun issue and even if you're not sure where to start, this right here is a good enough place. Rich and Norton gives strong visuals and easily understood for new readers. It's good old-fashioned fun and something comics needs to push more of into the market.

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