Buckle your seatbelts, 'Rama readers, because the Best Shots team is kicking into high gear with this week's Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with a new Dynamic Duo (or is it Trio?), as Jake Baumgart takes a look at Batman and Red Robin #19...
Batman and Red Robin #19 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Yeah, Batman and Robin #18 was going to be a hard act to follow. Being that it was one of the best of the Batman books, #19 has its hands full. However, the one-two punch of Peter J. Tomasi and Pat Gleason came through with flying colors. The cinematic flare of Pat Gleason keeps the story powerfully elevated and the artist is able to deftly capture the emotion in his character’s faces. It is a true testament to the writing prowess of Tomasi to balance so many characters from other titles (Frankenstein and Red Robin in this case). Although a Frankenstein-like resurrection might be a little extreme, even for Batman, Batman and Red Robin #19 is the must-read Bat-title.
Thor: God of Thunder #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It took awhile to get here, but seeing the present-day and future Thors team up to save their past self is a fun concept that really jolts this series to life. Jason Aaron sets up the stakes nicely, and his characterization of the three Thors — the anxious past, the seasoned present, the haughty future — feels really organic (aside from the occasional bit of overwrought dialogue, like Future Thor talking about his magnificent beard). This is also Esad Ribic's best issue yet, as he really knocks out the composition with the energy provided by colorist Ive Svorcina. (He too does have one big misstep, however, as his unveiling of one of Aaron's big punchlines is completely flat.) Even though the titular "Godbomb" isn't leaving me shaking in my boots, thanks to the lead character(s), the most metal series of Marvel NOW! is finally starting to live up to its premise.
Star Wars #4 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Wow, this one is all for the Star Wars nerds. You know, that ones that will totally know what Han's talking about when he mentions how a TIE Fighter performs in the atmosphere. Indeed, most of issue #4 from Brian Wood and Carlos D'Anda is all about the fan service. Star Wars #4 does little to expand upon Wood's plot, though in proper Star Wars fashion, two characters act as mirrors within their perspective sides of the Force. Not that it isn't a blast, but unless you've been that fan at 1:00 AM talking about Chewie's wicked Bowcaster and how it could totally take out a fighter, this issue might be lacking. Except, I am that fan, and this series is still one massive love letter to the faithful.
Batgirl #19 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): There is so much I want to like in Batgirl #19. Since Issue #1, Gail Simone has taken Barbara on a harrowing journey. A journey that's been fun, but always dogged by a glaring flaw: pacing, and Issue #19 is the biggest culprit. Simply way too many big and important moments happen in this title, with little thought as to the hows or whys. Daniel Sampere's art, however, is very effective in this issue and he's quickly becoming one of my favorite Batgirl artists. Indeed, he's at his strongest when showing the all too human side of the woman behind the cowl. I really like what Gail Simone wants to do with this book and character, I just wish the title could find it's center before throwing us around.
Uncanny X-Men #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Is it something about Cyclops that just sucks the charisma out of the room? Just like when Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen took over and , it feels like Brian Michael Bendis has all of his fun characters (including the confused young Scott) over in , while feels lackluster and ill-defined in its characterization. An extended scene between Emma Frost and the Stepford Cuckoos, for example, doesn't do much beyond overextend the exposition (and doesn't really explain why they'd go with Scott to begin with). Bendis also winds up spoiling here, but doesn't actually show any fallout from a wanted mutant terrorist showing up at Wolverine's school. Chris Bachalo gets about half a fight sequence to draw with his dynamic, ultra-rendered characters, but even his off-kilter panel layouts can't energize this script. The adult Cyclops — and his nondescript students — need to find their niche if they want to survive.
Green Lantern Corps #19 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 1 out of 10): Volthroom isn't just getting his revenge on the Green Lantern Corps — he's taking it out on the readers, too. Considering how talented Peter Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin are, it's kind of astonishing how difficult this comic is to read: I'm not just talking about the convoluted continuity dealing with the weaponization of the emotional spectrum, I'm talking about the actual panel-to-panel art. The flood of energy tendrils and garish colors makes Pasarin's artwork actually painful to look at — which is too bad, because you can tell he had to put in a of effort to get in that much detail. Tomasi doesn't really get much to do this issue, as this is basically an extended fight scene between energy tendrils and the debris of a certain Lantern-centric planet that I thought was already back on the playing field a month or so ago. Bad dialogue, sloppy plotting, painful artwork — I try to find something good whenever I read a comic, but this is a book to avoid.
Sledgehammer 44 #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The story of a World War II robot that could change everything concludes in a comic that’s really good but feels rushed. Mike Mignola and John Arcudi work hard to try to tell a war story link the mysterious suit to the Hellboy mythos, but it leads to story jumps, including cutting out a crucial fight scene that I would have loved to see Jason Latour illustrate. Latour’s artwork here is even better than in the first part, as he allows his own, cartoonish style to come to the fore and worries less about emulating Mignola for the mythological aspects. The story really opens a lot of questions, which I suppose will be answered in subsequent miniseries, which I hope we’ll see soon.
Kevin Keller #8 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Archie-Betty-Veronica situation is no longer the only love triangle in town. Now Kevin Keller finds himself in an awkward spot between his first boyfriend, Devon, and Paul, a no-longer secret admirer. After the somewhat serious Issue #7, this installment is a return to lighthearted fun. Devon is turning out to be an interesting character. He’s fresh out of the closet and a hothead with a jealous streak, so writer Dan Parent has plenty of room to develop his relationship with Kevin. Bill Galvan’s pencil work is crisp, lively and expressive. One of the most entertaining aspects of Kevin Keller is the constant verbal sparring between Veronica and Jughead. Unfortunately for Ronnie, her disastrous school play/vanity project gives Jughead plenty of ammunition.
Theremin #1 (Published by Monkeybrain Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):The themes Curt Pires explores within Theremin #1 are most interesting. I only wish he'd taken more time in exploring the concept behind the idea, other than simply jumping into a fictional retelling of history. The idea of Theremin traveling within time and space with a symphonic manipulation of music and energy is wonderful. It didn't need the other elements, at least not yet. Still, when paired up with Dalton Rose's simplistic, yet wholly dense and beautiful lines and colors, Theremin #1 is a surprising winner for fans of the unorthodox. It's too bad Monkeybrain Comics' design doesn't allow for longer issues, as a wider exploration of the space between would have made this a darn near perfect debut.
Hawkeye #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Behind every good man is a great woman. But behind Marvel's greatest marksman? There's . Focusing on Black Widow, Mockingbird, Spider-Woman and Kate Bishop, Matt Fraction and David Aja take a smart detour from Clint Barton's main story in the latest issue of Hawkeye. Each of these women has a different relationship with Hawkeye, and so they approach his problems very differently — it's nuanced and organic, but it ultimately is some of the best characterization any of them have had in quite some time. Aja also draws the hell out of this book, giving everything a dingy tone that really encapsulates the bleakness that Hawkeye is feeling right now. Combined with a gut-punch of a conclusion, this is the best comic you'll read all week.
Garfield #12 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Transformations abound as Garfield moves into the realm of magic and science in the twelfth issue of the series that’s settling in for a few good gags and a few inside jokes. Mark Evanier pens the lead tale, which reads like an episode of the '80s cartoon. Andy Hirsch sticks to the standard Garfield look, taking no chances as the fat cat is transformed into a bird and has to evade being eaten by his fellow cats. The second story by Scott Nickel has an alternative comics vibe, as Garfield fends off three comical lasagna monsters. David DeGrand makes Garfield look more like his 1978 self, which was a nice change of pace for a series that tends to be a lot of the same.
Frost #1 (Published by Monkeybrain Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It's pretty rare when it happens, but it's a nice surprise when a story can pull off the hyper testosterone tone, without sacrificing quality or character. Writers Brandon Jerwa and Eric Trautmann do just that with Frost #1. It's a tight opening to a story that's fairly standard as a “one-man army” goes off against another. Giovanni Timpano's pencils and coloring need a little work, with most characters falling prey to the ever-distracting same-face syndrome. Still, his linework during action scenes are effective if not inspiring. In a strange way, the art is a perfect fit for a title that rises just above standard action movie fare. However, for the price, Frost #1 is well worth the admission. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!