Best Shots Extra: SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, THE MOVEMENT, More

Credit: DC Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Superior Spider-Man #9
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Ryan Stegman and Edgar Delgado
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by George Marston
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

If there's one thing Dan Slott will be known for when his run on Superior Spider-Man has come to a close, it's that he's better than any other writer at pushing the buttons and tugging the heartstrings of his audience. Like the most compelling forms of genre entertainment, Superior Spider-Man knows how to take its devotees to the limit, and then push a little further. With this issue's twist, Slott does exactly that, taking the carrot he's been dangling in front of readers for months now and dropping it right in the dirt. Knowing Slott's M.O., there's bound to be more to Superior Spider-Man #9's ending than meets the eye, but the scenes that are actually on the page may be the most gut-wrenching stuff that Slott has ever written, and if you've followed his Spidey run, that's saying a hell of a lot.

After last issue's cliffhanger left Doc Ock in possession of the knowledge that Peter's mind is still dwelling in his subconscious, and the tools to dig it out, Ock sets about to do exactly that. Of course, he gets much more than he bargained for, with Peter manifesting the embodiment of his legacy and memories to fight Doc Ock on the psychic plane. Ock has more than a few tricks up his own sleeves, however, and what starts as a one-sided fight turns into a slobberknocker that's more than a little tragic for poor Peter Parker.

The thing that's really trying is not that Peter is defeated — that's been telegraphed for a while now — it's what he loses along the way, the things that are taken from him as a consequence. It's more than difficult to watch Peter crumble as he desperately tries to recall his uncle Ben's name, or the names and faces of the people in his life. It's disturbing, emotionally abusive, and exactly the kind of cold-hearted callousness that will make whatever twist Slott has up his sleeve to eventually bring Peter back all the more triumphant and glorious. Slott is a master manipulator, and these characters are the strings that move the puppets.

Of course, this issue sees the return of Ryan Stegman to the fold, and it seems like he's used his break to tighten up from the looseness of his previous issues of Superior Spider-Man. That's not to say his art is stiff; on the contrary, his manipulation of the nimble Spider-Man (Spider-Men?) and the cumbersome Dr. Octopus is as lithe and driving as ever, but his inks are much cleaner, and his storytelling more readable than his last few efforts. This is the Ryan Stegman I was hoping for when he was announced for this book, letting himself come through more than trying to visually pace himself with the book's other rotating artist Humberto Ramos. Edgar Delgado's colors seem more geared to Stegman's lines here, as well, and it's nice to see Delgado providing visual continuity to the book while still learning to adapt his work to the artist he's working with.

Dan Slott has proved time and again that, if you're willing to go along for the ride, he'll take you not just to shattering lows, but to peaking, soaring highs as well. Superior Spider-Man #9 marks just about the lowest point for Peter Parker, maybe ever, in his 50 year history, but you've gotta go down to come back up, and with Slott at the helm, it's only a matter of time before he pulls back on the stick and sends readers back into the clouds. For now, we're left sitting in the dark, piecing together the clues he's left to find the way back into the light, and I for one am enjoying the mystery.

Credit: DC Comics

The Movement #1
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Freddie Williams II and Chris Sotomayor
Lettering by Carlos M. Mangual
Published by DC Comics
Review by Vanessa Gabriel
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

What do we know about The Movement?

They are society's throwaways, and they have banded together to hold their oppressors accountable. This society is in Coral City, and some of these throwaways have super powers. Bring on the vigilante justice.

When two cops find weed on a couple of teenagers, the cops attempt to barter their freedom for the sexual favor of the young female. It's the kind of scene that can do nothing but incite anger and disgust, but not for long. From the shadows emerges a group of people with faceless, metallic masks armed with webcams. Within minutes, the cops' sleazy arrest tactics go viral. Justice courtesy of Channel M, the poor man's Brother Eye.

In the first few pages, with an almost blunt force, Gail Simone establishes the theme of consequence and accountability for the privileged. From the abuse of power in an alley way or jurisdiction over a “crime” in their part of town, The Movement intends to assert itself. The police are not welcome there.

With the spirit of the Occupy movement and the antics of Anonymous fresh in our psyche, The Movement is, of course, an allegory. Watching a commonality of control meet retribution in just a few panels is pretty gratifying. But what feels like a rash effort to affirm the themes of The Movement give way to a dialogue that occasionally feels forced. Maybe that's the point, but a bit more sleight of hand in plot exposition would have made it a smoother ride albeit a fun one.

Where the story is feverish, the characterization is not. In a neighborhood called the ‘Tween, we meet some of the super heroes who lead The Movement. Katharsis is a perched on a ledge with her mechanical wings ready for flight. She is taking orders, one of them being not to kill. Tremor demurely strolls onto a crime scene; she is the first line of resistance to the police involvement in the ‘Tween. Mouse, the Prince of Rats, explodes onto the scene creating one hell of a disturbance. Virtue is the benignly manipulating leader.

There is enough evidence in the DC Comics archive to say that Simone can write one heck of a team book. We also know that she has got a penchant for new, off-beat characters. The bar is set high. There is an expectation for her to “crush this.” One of her own design, Tremor, is fantastic in this first issue. She exudes confidence and defiance with a bit of trash-talking. That's the kind of festive characterization she's delivered before. But high expectations can diminish an experience some times. I think this may be true for the rest The Movement characters. There isn't enough meat yet on the character bones. That is the peril of a first issue.

Freddie Williams's traditional style solidly illustrates the story, but feels safe and predictable. I would have liked to see an edgier aesthetic for this book. Combined with the banality of certain plot points, the art is on the edge of campiness. But Williams's sharp ink work lends to some complex background detail and beautiful and emotionally explicit close-ups. Chris Sotomayer's color does wonders for the feel of the entire issue and makes for some powerful splash images.

The Movement is about the people that society doesn't care about and what society's ill-treatment can create. They are angry, self-righteous, indignant and tired of being ignored. It's what you'd expect, but they've got super-powered “justice” on their side and more characters to be revealed. The Movement #1 is a slow burn, but it has potential. It could be the kind of story that we haven't had the privilege of before. Mainstream comics is ready for this. Mainstream comics needs this.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Age of Ultron #7
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Carlos Pacheco, Brandon Peterson, Roger Martinez, Jose Villarrubia and Paul Mounts
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

Clearly Wolverine hasn't been reading his Marvel Encyclopedia.

That's the main lesson readers get from Age of Ultron #7, a book that suffers from a tremendous identity crisis. As we discover the fallout from Wolverine's decision to go back in time and kill Hank Pym before his Ultron robot destroys humanity, the question remains: Does this comic want to be a fully-fledged event with all the biggest stars of the Marvel Universe, or does it want to twist those icons in some sort of nihilistic Elseworlds kind of saga? Combine that with the inherent reversibility of a time travel story, and the result is a well-intentioned comic that has begun to lose its way.

Part of that is because, well, in this second act, it feels almost like Brian Michael Bendis is telling a totally different story than from the first five issues. Starting off with this grand, sweeping disaster epic that touched upon a ton of characters, Bendis has abruptly zoomed in on Wolverine and the Invisible Woman, a duo that, two issues in, still haven't made sparks fly. But since Bendis has introduced the time travel element to this story, not only have the stakes felt watered-down, but the plot actually feels a bit goofy: I mean, how obvious is it that killing Hank Pym — a founding Avenger, the creator of the Vision, head instructor of the Avengers Academy — wouldn't have far-reaching consequences?

Yet those consequences, at this point, still feel purely cosmetic. After a slow first half with laborious exposition in Marvel's past, I give Bendis credit for injecting some action into this comic once we learn the consequences of Wolverine's actions, but it all feels a bit too loose, with no deliberateness to the choreography or the exposition. In other words, these new Avengers on the cover still feel like variant costumes, with no discernible difference in personality or history to give an identity — let alone justify — this brave new Marvel Universe. Yet with a time travel escape hatch already established in the plot, it's also hard to take this too seriously. After all, what is a time machine if not the ultimate "undo" button?

Art-wise, the book doesn't suffer from two pencilers, but I do give the edge to the present-day second half by Brandon Peterson. Reminding me a bit of Howard Porter during his JLA period, he gives this tweaked universe a real heaviness with his dark inks. That said, the lack of direction in terms of the action does hold Peterson back, as there aren't really any memorable panels as the Avengers hunt down the two time travelers in their midst. (Even a moment like "our" Wolverine slicing his present-day counterpart feels crunched.) Carlos Pacheco, meanwhile, suffers from not being given much to draw — his scene in the past is largely just exposition, and the dialogue isn't heavy enough for him to even sell with emotion. While modern-day colorist Paul Mounts emulates past-sequence colorist Jose Villarrubia, I wish he would have chosen some darker, stronger hues to sell the point that this is a totally new world.

Perhaps the title says it all — even though the book is called Age of Ultron, the despotic robot isn't even present in this issue. And that's because this story isn't even about him anymore. Like Wolverine's time travel gambit, Bendis has sort of side-stepped his sweeping disaster story and tried to replace it with something entirely different — the problem is, that alternative just doesn't hold water, both with readers and from a storytelling perspective. Wolverine may be the best there is at what he does, but as Bendis and company show us here, that repertoire clearly doesn't extend to headlining time travel epics.

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