Happy Thursday, 'Rama readers! Your darling Best Shots Team has a fresh batch of Rapid-Reviews for you to wrap up your week with. George is going to get this party started with a look at New Avengers ...
New Avengers #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): New Avengers continues to be one of the most consistently entertaining books in the franchise. Even though some long-winded exposition about the strange, insular mythology of the incursions eats a portion of New Avengers #6, Jock's art and some really excellent scripting from Jonathan Hickman make it work, with Black Swan’s dialogue really standing out. Dr. Doom's participation in this issue was sadly less than hoped for after last issue’s dramatic set up, but it looks like he'll be back, as will Black Panther's obvious guilt over the steps the team has had to take to save their world. New Avengers is not afraid to get philosophical, asking questions of cosmic morality, and is all the better for it.
Batman: The Dark Knight Annual #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): This storytelling in this issue is an example of some of the finest being put out today. Penguin, Mad Hatter, and Scarecrow are all mysteriously called together in “A Midnight Dreary” at the Arkham Detention Center for Youth where each rogue believes the other called him to this clandestine meeting. However, this is not the case. Hurwitz weaves a smart, psychological narrative that is peppered with some humorous insights into the life of a Batman villain. Kudransky and Kalisz art is both dark and detailed, all of which heightens the tension in the story. This comic provides a unique approach to telling a thoroughly enjoyable story that is both about and not about Batman.
X-Men #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Brian Wood's much anticipated all female X-Men isn't without its problems, but it still makes a good argument for why these characters should be at the heart of the franchise. In many ways, this book picks up where some of Brian Wood's work on the previous X-Men volume left off, and that's both good and bad as it explores themes that Wood is comfortable with, but relies on a complex mythology that may baffle those who followed Wood and not the X-Men to this title. On the other hand, Wood has already found creative ways to use his characters, and Olivier Coipel is as good as ever. It's got some progress to make, but X-Men has had a strong start
Adventure Time Annual #1 (Published by Boom Comics; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It's definitely Adventure Time as Boom Studios sees the release of the series' first annual this week. Over fifteen creators have converged on this 37-page anthology to entertain the reader with vignettes into the lives of Finn and Jake. Sadly missing, however, are the ladies of Ooo. Amongst the beautiful watercolors by Dustin Nyugen and clever dialogue by Derek Fridolfs, there is nary a Princess Bubblegum, Marceline, or Lumpy Space Princess to be found. Since all four covers feature at least PB, this was a big disappointment. Despite this oversight, the annual continues to deliver the fresh and fun storytelling that we're used to, from both veteran creators and exciting new faces.
Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart) 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10 Call it growing pains for this team of young heroes and their title, Red Hood and the Outlaws. Although James Tynion IV inherited a mess of a title and turned it around quite quickly, there are still some strange odds and ends. Even though Tynion does bring a refreshing take to the team’s drama, it is a little out of place to have everyone thinking out loud all the time. The real trip up came from the inconsistent art of team Al Barrionuevo, Javier Mena and Bit. One page is the standard DC house style of bold and bright and the next page is this out-of-place painted style that leaves the team looking leathery. You can call Red Hood and the Outlaws a comeback, but maybe wait a few months for the victory lap.
Justice League of America #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10):Steve Trevor’s League lurches into action against the New 52 version of the Secret Society of Super-villains but this series can’t get any momentum even with writer Geoff Johns working his magic on the characters. Catwoman’s part is intriguing, but she’s a pawn used to lever the other Justice League into the story via her connection with Batman. The rest of the team looks like they can’t work together, a plot trope that’s wearing thin. Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund bring a softer edge to the art, with slick lines that have heavier processing and make the story feel brighter than it actually is, further harming the overall feeling. Right now, this is a series trying too hard to prove itself to readers.
Thief of Thieves #14 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Thief of Thieves #14 is a strong start for writer Andy Diggle. Diggle launches into a new arc and doesn’t employ any coyness with this story — this is a straightforward, hit-you-where-it-hurts kind of a set-up, and you most certainly want to know what happens next. And there’s just enough context and exposition to make this a breeze for new readers. Shawn Martinbrough’s heavy inks and hard lines are just as potent as the plot, if not more. Felix Serrano’s heavy colors are a perfect match. Martinbrough’s cover art for this issue is spectacular. The simple yet grim composition is almost enough to pick up the issue. It’s the story inside with the same spirit that makes it worth your while, though.
King Conan The Hour of the Dragon #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Not even ruling a nation can dull Conan, but when an evil wizard is resurrected in the name of partisan politics, he may have finally met his match in the start of an adaptation of one of Robert E. Howard’s stories. I don’t care for the tone of the regular Conan series and was happy to see veteran writer Timothy Truman return to a more visceral take on the material. The characters speak rich, Howard-like dialogue that is purposefully over-the-top--a Conan story should evoke the 1930s not modern speech. Tomas Giorello keeps the action moving with characters rippling with muscles, flowing robes, and intricate but grimy details. This issue is mostly set-up, but is building to be a Conan comic worthy of the name.
BPRD Vampire #3 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Revenge is a dish best served when you’re in control of your body, as Agent Anders learns to his peril as this mini-series finally delivers on its promise. This issue is freed from writer Mike Mignola’s info dumping prison, allowing co-writers/artists Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon to show off why they are such highly regarded artists. From the creepy interiors of the tomb, which are cleverly never shown in full profile, to Anders’ fear, rage, and eventual possession, there’s a sense of scope and menace on every page. I feel the danger now, instead of wondering when it’s going to appear. The vampires scare me now. This is a significant improvement on the first two issues, and moves this into the “worth a try” category.
Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #5 (Published by IDW; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Rutan to the left of him, Sontarans to the right, and the Fifth Doctor stuck in the middle — what to do? Moving on to Peter Davison’s incarnation, we see a Doctor less sure of himself and a bit more manic. He’s not as arrogant and can’t get the aliens to bend to his will, which makes this issue an improvement on issue four, where it felt like co-writers Scott and David Tipton plugged the Fourth Doctor into a generic plot. Unfortunately, the cartoonish art of Philip Bond doesn’t work for the story. His Sontarans are cute and cuddly and the main characters shift like play dough in their features/size. Still, this comic tribute to Doctor Who is at the top of my to-read pile.
Noir City #1 (Published by Popgun Chaos Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Noir City is the first issue from a Kickstarter success now available on ComiXology from co-writers Cody Walker and Richard Valerius and artist, Allen Byrns. Frank Miller’s influenceis felt in the narration and dialogue while Ben Templesmith’s roughly hewn style stands out in the art. There’s even a hint of Bendis and Oeming’s Powers, which could make for an interesting story thread. The team does a nice job of bringing out the different noir elements, rendering exceptional coloring, and angling the camera to make some compelling shots. However, the line work does become inconsistent at times, which lessens the impact of the other aesthetic elements. Readers unfamiliar with crime-noir may also find it can be tricky to figure out who’s who in this story and keep up with the pace, but at 99 cents for 33 pages, it’s worth giving a shot.
Amala’s Blade #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The enemy of her employers is Amala’s friend as she finds unlikely allies in those she’s killed. This mini-series slows a bit but still packs a punch. The pace of the story wasn’t quite as frantic this time and I thought the actions scenes by Michael Dialynas lost some of their clarity and vibrancy as well, with too many darkened colors and characters placed too close together, unnecessarily obscuring the violence. The overall plot, however, moves forward nicely. We see that Amala’s target is a sympathetic character keeping this fractured world together while her literal ghosts look to have an agenda of their own. Writer Steve Horton keeps just enough hidden to make me want to read more of this next month.