Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready to close out the week with some Rapid-Fire Reviews? Best Shots has your back, as we cut to the quick with a look at the final issue of Geoff Johns's epic run on Green Lantern...
Green Lantern #20 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Geoff Johns's last issue on his definitive run would not seem a likely jumping on point for readers new to the Green Lantern series. Still, Johns wisely provides sufficient background leading up to the showdown with the First Lantern so newcomers are quickly caught up to speed—having an oversized issue helps, of course—and readers are better prepared to jump into the action amidst the entire spectrum of Lanterns. Doug Mahnke’s detailed artwork is a pleasure to take in, and given the length of the issue, his ability to do so consistently is impressive. No doubt, many followers of the series will be sad to see Johns step down from Green Lantern, but it speaks to his ability as a writer that he can make even this grand showdown accessible to even newer readers.
Daredevil #26 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Beaten and demoralized by the assassin Akari, Matt Murdock is no longer the Man Without Fear, as Mark Waid and Chris Samnee deliver another solid issue of Daredevil. What's great about this issue is the pacing, as Matt moves from scared to emboldened to full-on badass within the span of 20 pages. Chris Samnee meanwhile lends a real humanity to Matt, particularly the sheer panic on his face as he begins to doubt even his own super-senses. (Akari also looks tremendously menacing, stealing every scene he's in.) The only slip-up for this book? A longtime Daredevil villain gets a new status quo, and their identity is so unsurprising that it deflates the long-term mystery of the book a bit.
Batman Incorporated #11 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): With the high-stakes story that has been Batman Incorporated, this issue is unexpected. Chris Burnham takes on writing duties and a break from the main story arc. The Batman of Japan and his tiny sidekick, Canary are up against Leviathan reject, Lady Tiger Fist. The dialogue is over-the-top and the characters are festive. Burnham drives a well-paced one-shot that reads like a campy Knight and Squire adventure. Jorge Lucas’ art leaves a bit to be desired in detail work, but Ian Hannin’s colors make up some of the ground lost there. With no Bruce Wayne and only a mention of Leviathan, you could probably skip Batman Incorporated #11. But then you’d miss out on all the fun (and probably a Grant Morrison reference later). Your call.
Superior Spider-Man #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Spoiler Alert: Have you heard, Otto Octavius is a much better Spider-Man than Peter Parker ever was? Some might even say he’s… superior? Readers continue to be told how ineffectual Peter was as Spider-Man in issue #10; yet, ironically enough, Spider-Man’s greatest foe and Doc Ock’s greatest rival for that position — the Green Goblin — is hiding quite literally under his nose. Spidey’s true identity is continually questioned in spite of Peter’s supposed death in the previous issue, and this undercutting much of the dramatic weight from issue #9. Ryan Stegman’s stylized take on Spider-Man works compliments Dan Slott’s “What If” like story. Most readers should recognize the smoke and mirrors of superhero comics Slott employs as a “resurrection” will no doubt come down the line soon enough.
Superman #20 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Amazing the difference an artist makes. Aaron Kuder scores a major win for the Man of Steel as he draws one hell of a fight between Superman and the New God Orion. Kuder's style is almost a mix between Frank Quitely and Pete Woods, with clean lines and expressive faces - his fight choreography is superb as well, particularly a moment when Orion pulls a battleship out of the sea to attack Superman. Scott Lobdell also starts us off on the right note with a really poignant scene with Clark and his parents, although he does stumble across the finish line when he has to wrap up a nebulously built-up subplot with Hector Hammond. Still, as far as fight comics go, this is definitely a fun one.
Red Sonja #75 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Sonja returns home for a final battle against her worst enemy — herself — in an issue designed to make way for the new series with a new creative team. One of Dynamite’s first books, Red Sonja has taken the character through a life quest and given her qualities that echo Howard’s vision but go further than a pulp writer would ever have done for a male character. Ending this run by having Sonja face her worst traits made flesh was brilliant on the part of writer Eric Trautmann. Not as solid was artist Marcio Abreu’s chest-heavy Sonja, who poses more than she fights. There are a few nice artistic touches, like a volcano of arrows, but overall the art doesn’t do justice to the story.
The Flash #20 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Don't believe what you see on the cover - nothing nearly as exciting happens inside. The meeting of nemeses we’ve all been waiting for is still a few issues away. Messrs. Manapul and Buccellato start this new arc with a very slow boiling first chapter that ends in a dogleg left from where you'd expect. The biggest problem with the issue is the cumbersome voice-overing Barry does, which reads as if he’d be delivering in his best Stephen Wright. It effectively strangles the pacing, telling us the story instead of allowing the artwork to capably show it. That disconnect, between the stylistic artwork and mediocre storytelling, continues to be the hurdle this book can’t quite surmount. It’s okay, but it begs to be great.
Young Avengers #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Kieron Gillen’s Young Avengers has a beautifully strong sense of character; distinct and honest. But apart from Kate Bishop and Noh-Varr — there still isn't much chemistry between the characters. And beyond Wiccan, it isn't clear what motivates the rest of them either. Without those key elements, it is difficult to care about them. Young Avengers #5 is the conclusion to the first arc, and Gillen reveals the ties that bind this team together which hopefully, moving forward, will lend to the chemistry and motivation that is missing here. While there isn't much feeling evoked from the story - Jamie McKelvie’s smooth, crisp lines and Matthew Wilson’s brilliant colors are brimming with inspiration. The art in this issue is undeniably exquisite. Young Avengers #5 is a mixed bag, but a promising one.
Masks #7 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Ordinary people join the costumed vigilantes to take back New York, but they may have run up against the biggest villain of all—time—as this mini-series moves towards conclusion. Chris Roberson pares back on the overwrought dialogue this time, which improved my reading experience immensely. He’s still having trouble keeping such a large cast together, but I love the idea of bringing the common people into the fight and showing that hero logic can go into very dark territory without stepping on Watchmen’s toes. Dennis Calero still relies too heavily on shadow to create drama for my taste, making it hard at times for me to understand just what was happening. This series has been interesting but flawed and looks to finish that way.
The Fury of Firestorm #20 (Published by DC Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): The finale of the series ends pretty much how it all started, with a whimper. Writer and penciler Dan Jurgens throws everything but the kitchen sink into this issue, with Firestorm facing off against the entirety of his Rogue's Gallery. There is never a real sense of risk, however, and Firestorm is easily upstaged by Major Force, a civilian with a two-by-four, and a cameo by Superman. The artwork mimics the dialogue, campy and sophomoric, with inconsistent regard for anatomical proportions. The coloring and lettering are still the book’s best feature, the perpetually bickering Ronnie/Jason paradigm its worst. Firestorm has been in dire need of an editorial overhaul since page one and hopefully in the next iteration, the character will finally get the respect it deserves.
Ghostbusters #4 (Published by IDW; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Ghosbusters old and new combine to beat back a classic foe as the first story arc wraps up a bit too neatly. Writer Erik Burnham had the makings of an epic story, but by bringing the movie team back so quickly and dispatching the villain without much effort, the whole thing felt rushed to me, and called into question why this series was re-numbered in the first place. The art of Dan Schoening is extremely cartoonish, giving readers a caricature of the actors he’s portraying, a hallmark of the series so far. His monsters look cool, however, and the coloring by Luis Antonio Delgado complements the pencils well. Ghostbusters is a series in transition right now, with a few kinks to work out.
Avengers #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Twelve issues in, and Avengers is sadly starting to wear out its welcome. The problem with this comic is that, despite the title, Earth's Mightiest Heroes still feel like supporting cast members in their own book — Jonathan Hickman's plot essentially makes the Avengers babysitters for a new species of human. That's about as interesting as it sounds, with the actual marquee characters really only providing a couple of handfuls of comic relief. You even get the sense that artist Mike Deodato is at a loss for what to do with this issue, as his normally moody, shadowy artwork feels surprisingly tranquilized. There have been so many diversions from the actual premise of the Avengers — namely, Marvel's best and brightest teaming up and kicking butt — that it's hard not to feel disappointed here.
All-Star Western #20 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Booster Gold’s faulty memories team up with Jonah Hex as this series finally moves out West while continuing its solid writing. While I really wish DC would let co-writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray play with an unencumbered Hex, it’s nice to see him where he belongs and their take on fish-out-of-water Booster works well. The quips fall fast and furious here, even as the plot heats up and the pair are in for more trouble. The writing team continues to knock the back-ups out of the park, with a steampunk take on Stormwatch that is better than the main title was when I read it. Combined with solid art from Moritat and Staz Johnson, this is still one of my favorite New 52 books.
Deadpool #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): It's the Superior Cash-Grab! Deadpool rides the bandwagon as the Superior Spider-Man guest-stars this issue. Ultimately, however, this book feels more or less disposable, particularly if you've been reading Avenging Spider-Man. Whereas the Peter Parker/Wade Wilson team-up was a smorgasbord of gloriously bad jokes, Otto Octavius is just the same old arrogant troll, and doesn't quite play off Deadpool that well. Mike Hawthorne's artwork is clean enough, and in particular I like the way that he makes Spidey more thin and agile, as opposed to the bulkier Deadpool. Not a bad book, but not a great one either - only Spidey or Deadpool completists need apply.
Godzilla: The Half-Century War TP (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Writer/artist James Stokoe chronicles the life of a man who fights Godzilla across the decades in a visually spectacular series that has a great story arc to go along with it. This series would be recommended just for Stokoe’s depiction of Japan’s most famous monster, as his ability to show devastation on a macro and micro scale and give the creatures an epic feel is stunning. Fortunately his plot is equally interesting, starting from an early encounter to improved weaponry to an interesting spin on Mechagodzilla as things come full circle. The idea of Godzilla being not unlike a nuclear bomb in his ability to help and harm is well played. The humanizing of the story really makes this one sing, and is highly recommended.