Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your weekly dose of Rapid-Fire Reviews? Best Shots is cutting to the quick, as we take a look at a ton of this week's new releases! So let's kick off with Scott Cederlund, as he takes a look at the latest issue of All New X-Men...
All New X-Men #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Scott Cederlund; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): After the multi-issue dance with Uncanny X-Men, Bendis gives his young cast of original X-Men another glimpse of their future as Cyclops gets to meet Havok, a brother he thought was dead, and the X-Men see how one of their enemies decimated the mutant race and yet still gets to be an Avenger. Bendis gives us emotional highs and lows, often within panels of each other, that reinforces just how disoriented the young X-Men must be. The heavy darkness of Immonen and Beredo’s artwork emphasizes just how daunting and murky their future, our present, actually is. While it feels like in 12 issues that not much has happened, Bendis and Immonen continue to reveal to us how our present days are a broken dream of the past. All New X-Men #12 isn’t about the past or the future; it’s about now and maybe it’s about how dreams need to change.
Earth 2 #13 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The World Army takes center stage as Captain Steel investigates what lives in a fire pit in an exposition-heavy issue that sets up a new danger for this alternative earth. This series shows what New 52 could have been, had DC decided to be bold start everything from scratch. Writer James Robinson has been free to re-imagine anything he likes, similar to the work Brian Michael Bendis did in Ultimate Spider-Man, and his interpretation of the Lantern mythos is incredibly cool. My only beef is there’s way too much explaining, but Yildiray Cinar and Rob Hunter work feverishly to keep the visuals interesting, and their splash pages really sing. I hope they get to show their chops on a more action-packed issue as this series continues.
Avengers Arena #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): And you thought the Red Wedding was bad. Dennis Hopeless delivers his best installment of Avengers Arena since the first issue, as the body count continues to rise. Hopeless does a superb job at really humanizing these characters, so you feel for them even more when they're pitted against one another. (And it makes some of the more brutal moments even more flinch-worthy.) Artist Riccardo Burchielli does an admirable job filling in for Kev Walker, with a looser yet similar style to Walker's sharp, quirky pencils. Lots of good progression for these characters, and a conclusion that will launch a thousand Tumblr posts. Read this now.
Detective Comics #21 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): For as much as I like Harper Row (and I really do). The way DC is bringing the character to us seems forced, or at the least, uneven. In Detective Comics #21, Harper receives the closest thing to a “blessing” Batman provides these days. Strange because I'm certain her bruises from his back-handing at their last encounter have barely healed. Layman does a good job of revealing her tenacity and quick mind, however hampered by some shortsightedness. Scott Eaton's pencils and panel layouts are vibrant, but are hampered by some chunky inking. Although Jermoy Cox's smart use of blue tones help to balance out those inks. Detective Comics #21 is a functional, if unbalanced issue that brings more players into Batman's world. Not a misstep, but nothing great either.
Kick Ass 3 #1 (Published by Marvel/ICON; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The first issue of the alleged final volume of Kick Ass is here, picking up right where the last installment left off. Hit Girl remains in lock down under high security, while Dave continues to dutifully roam the streets in a scuba suit after a failed jailbreak attempt. This is a solid first issue, though a bit of a departure from what we have come to expect from the title. Millar has replaced the copious gore with more in-depth storytelling, which definitely benefits any new readers. Our lead character, however, has not been so lucky in this regard, with his newly-added dimensions making him more vile with every passing page. Romita, Jr.'s consistently beautiful panels continue to balance the story, even as the character designs begin changing towards maturity. A good start, but let's see some action in the next issue.
Mister X Eviction #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Mister X’s friend pays for her loyalty while he encounters costs of his own in the middle section of this technological noir that’s both incredibly disturbing and engaging. Writer/artist Dean Motter does a better job of integrating the narrator in this issue, pulling the reporter into the story and giving her an active role. The understated horror of the prison runs through the entire issue as Mr. X compromises his ideals to save a life. As with the other Mister X work I’ve read, Motter’s visuals alone make this worth reading. His world is dark and sinister, yet features wildly vibrant coloring, like watching a 1950s vision of the future through a cracked mirror. This is a great comic for fans of Brubaker’s noir work.
Superior Spider-Man #11 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Iron walls do not a prison make, so the Superior Spider-Man improves upon them. Unfortunately, Alistair Smythe has designs of his own in the start of a new story challenging Ock-Spidey’s control. There’s a little less zing in the dialogue here, as Dan Slott plots the issue with Christos Gage completing the script that sees Otto’s sins come back to haunt him. Even still, this fresh approach to handling potential crises (such as a prison break) remind us that Otto really is improving on Peter’s work. Giuseppe Camuncoli and John Dell return on art, but this time their work doesn’t match Ryan Stegman’s, and is a jarring as a contrast. The Spider-Slayer inspired redesigns are strong, though, as this battle heats up for next issue.
Ten Grand #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): J. Michael Straczynski turns the classic Faustian pact on its head, with our protagonist forced into a cruel and unfair deal with Heaven. In this second issue Joe Fitzgerald infiltrates the base of a demonic cult in pursuit of his nemesis, coming up against a grotesque and glutinous demon manifested in the flesh. Questions are raised about the deal he made with heaven and an interesting twist at the end of the issue sheds a new light on events and raises all sorts of questions. Ben Templesmith’s unique style of art brings the story to light in horrific and exquisite detail. He uses color washes and light effects brilliantly to bring attention to the supernatural elements of the story, while maintaining a noir grittiness throughout.
Daredevil: End of Days #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Daredevil: End of Days follows the structure of its spiritual ancestor, Citizen Kane, down to the last issue. Although satisfying as Issue #8 is for fans of title or Hornhead in general, it does all seem a little too packed with conclusions. So much about the previous issues are scraped in the last issue that it makes the previous experiences of Ben Urich feel a bit empty. However, artists David Mack, Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz really pull out all the stops and this is some of the best work of these artists long career in comics. Even though the ending might have taken a left turn into less full filling territory, Bendis has made it one hell of a ride for Daredevil and his fans.
Swamp Thing #21 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Even though new writer Charles Soule has been getting most of the headlines for Swamp Thing, this issue really is artist Jesus Saiz's chance to shine. Saiz does a superb job at making Swamp Thing look menacing yet simple, with some extremely clean linework that draws attention to Swamp Thing's unique look (particularly the triangular snout). Saiz's fight choreography also looks great, and he does a great job at emulating Yanick Paquette's innovative panel layouts. Soule's story here is subdued but also quietly ambitious, as he delves into the previous champions of the Green, similar to Fraction and Brubaker's Immortal Iron Fist. Sometimes Swamp Thing's dialogue comes off a little bit too much as an everyman (why would a sentient plant use the word "curveball," for example?), but this is a decent showing.
Uber #2 (Published by Avatar Press; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Things have been looking up for Uber since its previous issue landed, so expectations for this one were pretty high. Canaan White's art continues to drive the story, featuring plenty of gore-filled panels depicting gruesome battles. Aside from that, though, there is not much to hold a reader's interest in this issue. Gillen's characters remain hard to connect with and harder still to distinguish from each other. The dialogue is high in quantity and low on content, while the art is rendered less effective due to the muted and muddy color palette. To me, the star of this book is currently Battleship Sieglinde's flying ponytail. The concept remains strong, but without more character development and tighter artwork, this might be a sinking ship.
The Movement #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): This book is trying so hard to be edgy and relevant, which is a shame, because it already seems dated. Gail Simone's band of underground, counterculture heroes don't have much in the way of personality besides "hardcore," as they lead cops into underground jails and lecture them on social justice. There's a subplot about a traitor in the ranks that feels perfunctory, particularly because these characters are so paper-thin in terms of characterization and concept. Freddie Williams II's artwork doesn't help, as his loose lines make for some really gnarly characters. Even though this comic has been marketed to target the Occupy crowd, it reads as though Simone and company have never actually read anything about the Occupy movement. Not a fun book.
Suicide Risk #2 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Just when you think you’ve seen every deconstruction/reinterpretation of the superhero concept, along comes a fresh and original story that makes you rethink everything. In Suicide Risk, Mike Carey examines the ages old saying that absolute power corrupts absolutely. In this second issue officer Leo Winters learns that gaining superpowers isn’t quite as simple as he imagined and much of issue is spent looking at the practicalities and side-effects of suddenly gaining powers he doesn’t understand and can’t control. It’s a very cerebral issue but the plot still moves forward and keeps you gripped to the very last panel. Elena Casagrande’s artwork suits the story nicely. Particularly impressive is her use of force lines to illustrate the usage of powers.
Herobear and the Kid – Special #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It's been too long since I've read work from Mike Kunkel. With Herobear and the Kid - Special #1 he certainly does not disappoint. The book opens with some intense concepts for a child to handle. Yet within those few panels, we see Kunkel deftly navigate those concepts using the infectious imagination of one fun kid and his heroic teddy bear. Kunkel's art is simple, clean, and wonderfully expressive. Flowing naturally from the fantastic worlds in which Herobear and the kid exist into the mundane from which he draws inspiration. Even the slightly unfinished manner of the line work and background sketches add to the whimsical nature of the work. Without a doubt, Herobear and the Kid is truly a title for the imaginative of all ages.