Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for life in the fast lane? Best Shots is pushing it to the limit with this week's edition of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's put pedal to the metal forthwith, as Edward Kaye takes a look at Francesco Francavilla joining Matt Fraction for the latest issue of the Eisner-nominated Hawkeye...
Hawkeye #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Hey, bro! This futzing comic is amazing, bro! In the wake of last issue’s surprise death, Fraction winds back the clock to show the events leading to the murder from the killer’s perspective. It’s a brilliantly told story, packed full of surprises, and provides a heart-wrenching backstory that gives you a whole new perspective on the killer. This series has showcased some of Matt Fraction’s best writing, and this issue is his strongest yet. Francesco Francavilla takes over art duties for the issue and delivers some gorgeously composed panels highlighted by moody noir stylings, luscious inks, and creative use of color. If you’ve not picked up this series yet, get out and grab the back-issues now. This series will make you love Hawkeye, I guarantee it, bro!
The Movement #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): There is a lot to cover in The Movement #1, with very few pages to do it in. Indeed, my biggest critique is an issue of pacing. I really wish DC had given Gail Simone about eight more pages to give the reader a few more panels with all the players in the book. Still, this is a strong debut with a very clear vision. There are some moments where I question the “good” motives of the heroes, but they're moments I'm willing to wait out. Freddie Williams II really stretches his linework, this is not the traditional heroics we're used to seeing. For all its message of equality, what intrigues me the most about The Movement is the opportunity it provides two talented creators to truly stretch their talents.
Thanos Rising #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Young Thanos made the jump from altruistic pacifist to brutal killer at the end of the debut issue. This issue jumps forward a few years and shows us a much more familiar Thanos — a cold-hearted and inhuman killer intent on discovering his own purpose by any means necessary. It’s a well-told tale and enjoyable, but hardly essential reading for Thanos fans. In fact, it humanizes him somewhat, as he’s being pushing into things by the mystery girl (three guesses who this turns out to be), which may or may not be a good thing. Simone Bianchi provides some really nice art for this series and has altered his regular highly detailed style slightly to a more cartoonish look that seems to fit the story much better.
Aquaman #19 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It's impressive how ambitious Geoff Johns is with Aquaman, packing in a ton of subplots and characters almost in defiance of decompressed storytelling. From Aquaman's behemoth aquatic friend Topo to the water-intolerant Atlantean Swatt to Mera's journey to another undersea world, there's a lot going on here, to the point where it's a challenge — albeit a fun one — trying to keep up. It doesn't hurt that Paul Pelletier is on art, giving this book a clean, regal feel that is very easy on the eyes. (Pelletier's fight sequence between Swatt and Murk is also very well-choreographed despite the large number of panels involved.) The only thing this book is missing at the moment? A reason for us to root for Aquaman that isn't his general sense of sadness. If he or one of the supporting cast really starts to spark, DC's resident book of royal intrigue will blow us right out of the water.
Mister X: Eviction #1 (Published by Dark Horse; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating 9 out of 10): Dean Motter's classic psycho-architect protagonist is back, and this time he's out to rescue the city he helped build from the evil intents of its corrupt new masters. Motter's artwork is gorgeous and creative, reminiscent of Darwyn Cooke, with a neo-noir-retro sensibility that results in a Golden Age meets Blade Runner feel. The blend of negative space and creative light and shadow effects into the traditional comic look make this a feast for the eyes, all perfectly inked by Hamid Bahrami. Everything works, from the over-stated lettering to the flat color palette to the terrific dialogue. The only drawback is accessibility for first-timers; if you're not Mister X-savvy, even the occasional editor notes may not exactly help catch you up.
Iron Man #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Even though the cover makes it look like we'll be diving deep into the secret origin of Tony Stark, this is actually a prelude in space — not an awful read, but one that takes a bit too long to get to the punchline (and it's a punchline that is a little too jarring tonally to make much sense). Kieron Gillen gets a couple of decent lines out of Tony ("Hush, P.E.P.P.E.R. Making my own mistakes now," as well as a line about robot racism), but there's so much focus on Tony's determination to bring in genocidal robot 451 that Gillen doesn't actually sell us on why it's so personal. Dale Eaglesham's art looks great, with clean characters and detailed sci-fi worlds, but there's not enough action to sustain interest. Guru eFx's colors are lovely, however, giving this comic a painterly Isanove-esque kind of energy. You can see what kind of swerve it is going from deep space to Tony Stark's birth, and unfortunately Kieron Gillen's Iron Man hits more than couple of bumps trying to make the turn.
Mice Templar IV: Legend #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): The creative team behind Mice Templar: Legend continues their hot streak in Issue #2: “Desperate Season.” While King Icarus puts the pressure on the renegade mice within the walled city, Karic and Cassius are forced to face the next step of their journey alone. Both narrative threads seem to be slowly preparing the groundwork for the grand finale of this epic mouse saga. What is most notable about this particular issue is the gut-wrenching scene that plays out in the throne room with Icarus and his subjects. The artistic juxtaposition of the mad king and his queen against his fallen consort and his subjects makes for a scene that will no doubt prove disturbing for readers of the series. Yet, this graphic depiction of depravity is not without context: It not only drives home the notion that it is always darkest before the dawn, but it also carries a kernel of hope that will no doubt begin to grow and spread. The advice I would offer to new readers is be sure to have read Mice Templar, Vol. 4, #1 before this issue, as Oeming and Glass drop you right into the thick of things.
Animal Man #20 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): I can't help it — the movie issues of Animal Man always happen to be my favorites. Instead of drowning in mythology, Jeff Lemire writes a moving story about the intersection of being a celebrity and being a superhero. Lemire's portrait of the fall and rise and fall again of the Red Thunder is poignant, especially the hero's relationship with his son, which evokes the recent death of Buddy Baker's son Cliff. John Paul Leon's artwork also evokes a great sense of mood, with his shadows making his characters' faces look both realistic and expressive. The one problem? This excellent story is just a movie within the DC Universe, and thus is one degree removed from Animal Man's actual protagonist. Indeed, issues like this make you ask yourself — why couldn't it be this solid all the time? Here's hoping that this Hollywood-infused take is the first sign that Lemire can keep our hero down to Earth.
All-New X-Men #11 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Imagine the tastiest sandwich you can think of, but with some slightly stale bread on each end — that's the best way I can describe All-New X-Men #11. Based on last issue's slightly awkward cliffhanger, this issue trips out of the gate, as one of the time-displaced X-Men defects to the renegade Cyclops's school. Brian Michael Bendis's rationale for this character is half-baked at best, but it leads us into the best scenes of the book: namely, Jean Grey having to deal with the ethics of telepathy head-on. "By coming here you changed the dynamic of the group," Kitty Pryde rightly says, and for the first time in forever I can honestly say I can see how easily the line between "good" and "evil" mutant might be blurred, broken or crossed. It's these talky scenes that Stuart Immonen is best at, showing a nice range of emotion for these characters. Still, the intro does feel crowded, and the cliffhanger perfunctory, but All-New X-Men #11 does have a solid middle.
Snapshot #4 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Jake and Callie learn that resistance is futile even when there’s no Borg in sight as this extremely disappointing mini-series crosses the finish. While I realize that Andy Diggle’s script is probably the most realistic way for a story like Jake’s to end, I found it completely unsatisfying that the resolution leaves the status quo in place. What is the point of following the characters around if at the end all we’re left with is a body count, albeit one crafted with care and exquisite use of shadows by Jock? This ends up feeling like a pale echo of Losers but without the engaging characters that kept a story lacking hope interesting. This one’s only recommended if you are a huge fan of Jock’s artwork.
World's Finest #12 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): They are two of DC's biggest hitters, but for the life of me, I have no idea why they're fighting anymore. Paul Levitz has a good hand on the banter between Power Girl and Huntress, I just don't see a clear vision for the flashback heavy story. Adding Desaad into the mix makes it interesting, if not all that believable. The art is fun, with Kevin Maguire getting a good grasp on the more personal elements of both Karen and Helena. Alas, the platoon of artists making up the flashback scenes make the book a little uneven. I really want to like this comic, but it gets harder every month. Also, the boob window is back. Which is all I will say, because it's all the explanation we readers got. Deal with it. I guess.
Suicide Risk #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): In a world where supervillains are an overwhelming force, can a lowly beat cop alone turn the tide? The concept is intriguing but the execution falls short, with laughably inane character names, cliché buffoons playing the villains, and a glaring plot fail (why isn't the military the front line of defense?). Mike Carey has written yet another tired Chosen One riff that fails to distinguish itself from anything else that's come before. Elena Casagrande's artwork has some wonderful moments, with superb action sequences that help you ignore her uninspired costume and character designs, but Andrew Elder's colors don't do her any favors, drowning out detail with pints of black in nearly every panel. It’s not terrible, but it’s not worth the cover price, either.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 5: Krang War (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Zapped into another dimension, the Turtles must join forces with uncertain allies in order to stop Krang from taking over one world and turning Earth into his new home base in this fifth trade collection. Writers Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz pen a space opera arc that veers heavily into tropes but is still engaging and enjoyable, mostly because of the way the Turtles react to being thrust into a typical sci-fi novel. Ben Bates is a major improvement on art, giving the dimension elements a strong OEL manga feel but keeping the Turtles drawn in a more traditional manner that further highlights the differences. With a lot of strong quips and character moments, this is another quality collection in the new ongoing series.
Cyborg 009 #0 (Published by Archaia; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Cyborg 009 is one of the longest-running “superhero” series you've probably never heard about. Releasing a $1 teaser issue, Archaia looks to change all that. Writers FJ DeSanto and Bradley Cramp are rather successful in distilling a character and series into a short introduction that not only entertains, but ensures I reserve the pending graphic novel. Marcus To's pencils keep the action moving at a very brisk and exciting pace. His lines, with colors by Ian Herring, go a long way in playing homage to creator Shotaro Ishinomori's original vision, while keeping it wholly contemporary. Round that out with some well-designed lettering by Deron Bennet and you've got one impressive debut that should entertain and inspire an all-new generation of comic book readers.