Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for the Thursday Rapid-Fire column? Best Shots has you covered, with a ton of pellet reviews featuring this week's biggest releases! So let's kick off today's column with Forrest Helvie, as he takes a look at the latest, canine-centric issue of Hawkeye...
Hawkeye #11 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): In a great week for new comics, Hawkeye #11 provides a quirky and unique story about one of the more… unconventional supporting cast members: Lucky the Pizza Dog. Who would have thought an entire issue could be told from the perspective of a pet dog and still be thoroughly entertaining? Apparently Matt Fraction and David Aja as they continue to emphasize how one does not need explosions, melodrama, or costumed characters to drive a compelling superhero title. I was really impressed with their ability to make me laugh and feel invested in Lucky’s well-being despite little text or dialogue in the issue. Aja and Hollingsworth continue employing a simple and easy to follow aesthetic while creating some really interesting page and panel layouts, which is capitalize upon when read digitally. Once again, Hawkeye continues to demonstrate why it’s both a critic and fan favorite.
Batman/Superman #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): When Bruce Wayne’s employees are attacked in Metropolis, Batman faces off against Superman in a comic that has promise but is full of unanswered questions. Writer Greg Pak shows he has a strong handle on the characters-especially their inner thoughts- though some choices here are hard to fit within New 52 continuity. He’s working hard to set up an epic story, but loses some points for dropping elements (like Catwoman’s appearance) as fast as Batman drops objects on Superman. Jae Lee opens the book with some great creepy atmosphere for Gotham, and his fight scene is stellar, feeling claustrophobic yet clear, while Ben Oliver minimizes the change between artists. This could be an awesome book, but it needs to slow down a bit first.
Young Avengers #6 (Published by Marvel; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating 8 out of 10): Young Avengers is back this week, and with it comes some old faces. Veteran YA hero Speed and New X-Men member Prodigy join the cast, further diversifying the book as writer Kieron Gillen had promised earlier in the series. This issue is a big departure from what we've been seeing lately, in both visuals and content. Kate Brown has taken over for Jamie McKelvie on inks and colors, bringing a beautiful, distinctly youthful vibe to the pages. Complimenting that is the setting of this issue — the two new members working office jobs. The perfect backdrop for jaded teens to complain and plan their escape from such mediocrity — which they do with vigor. A refreshing new plot paired with stunning art make this issue a must-read.
King Conan: The Hour of the Dragon #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Wizards are arrogant in their supreme power as King Conan works to free himself from this latest sorcerer antagonist in a second issue that loses a bit of steam but is delivers a Conan that fans of the original stories will easily recognize. Writer Tim Truman goes to the narrative well a bit too often this time, with an elderly Conan breaking up the flow of the story, but artist Tomas Giorello’s rendition of the grand old man almost makes it worth it. A lot of the creepiness and danger of this installment is due to Giorello’s visceral lines, whether it’s a rotting skeleton or a man’s eye bashed out. So far, this series is everything I want out of a Conan comic.
Masks #8 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It’s a race against time as the gathered pulp heroes must stop one of their own from forcing his own vision of justice on America as this mini-series comes to a close. I thought writer Chris Roberson did a good job bringing closure, especially in the end speech, where it’s the common people in the end who won’t stand for the oppression of the Clock’s takeover. Unfortunately, it loses a bit in execution because Clock’s transition didn’t show enough of his prior heroics. Dennis Calero balances flashbacks with action well, though I’m not sure how Green Hornet found time to get into costume. The art is big and bold here and less clouded than in past issues, wrapping up an enjoyable storyline nicely.
Justice League of America #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It's felt like a week of wrap-ups for tons of titles, and Justice League of America #5 was no exception. Although it’s always a good time to see some of DC’s top heroes throw down against cybernetic robots, some of the affect was lost due to the swift pacing of this issue. Geoff John’s seems like he knows where he wants the JLA to be come Trinity War time, even if that means getting the team through their first battle fast instead of reveling in the action. Brett Booth shows that he is one of the stronger artists in the DC house-style in this issue adding a little flavor to fast-paced action, even if a few of the heroes and villains faces all started to look the same. It may not be the strongest single issue, but Justice League of America #5 is still fun for DC fans.
Hoax Hunters: Case Files #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): A variety of creators join series creators Mike Moreci and Steve Seeley to provide tongue-in-cheek short stories set in the world of the regular series. The irreverent tone begins with Tim Seeley and Clint Hiliski’s parody of Image icon Rob Liefeld, giving the team a '90s makeover. We also get a reality-bending tale that turns the Hunters into everything from Legos to stick figures (courtesy of Steve Seeley and several artists), a Superman homage that tweaks the nose of secret identities, and even an explanation of why Bill Murray can be everywhere at once. This jam comic reminds me of the days when Marvel and DC would put quirky back-up stories in their annuals, and will be a treat for fans of the ongoing series.
Larfleeze #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): And now, for something completely different — Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis channel their inner "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" for this comedic, crude spin on the Orange Lantern known as Larfleeze. This departure from the ultra-serious Green Lantern books is refreshing, even as Giffen and DeMatteis skew a little juvenile in their sense of humor (such as when Larleeze's mother squats down, births him, and then drags him around by the umbilical cord). Scott Kolins adds in some nice sight gags with Larfleeze's goofy mug, particularly a panel when he buries his ultra-punchy wife. That said, the humor here is definitely an acquired taste, and if you're not buying the Orange Lantern concept, this book might not be what convinces you. Still, the change in tone makes all the difference, adding a little bit of light to the gloomy Green Lantern mythos.
Godzilla: Rulers of Earth #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: out of 10): The world is learning to accept that Godzilla and his fellow creatures are a part of life. Unfortunately, that’s not going to stop them from stomping all over the globe, as this new series doesn't quite match other recent Godzilla series. I’m not sure how (if at all) this series links to the one written by Duane Swierczynski, but the style is more lighthearted, both in the script from Chris Mowry and the more cartoonish art of his partner, Matt Frank. There’s still devastation on a huge scale and a focus on multiple monsters, all of whom are rendered quite well by Frank, but the tone is more summer action flick than the horror unleashed by these beasts, which is less interesting to me.
Guardians of the Galaxy #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): This is the best issue of Guardians of the Galaxy yet, but Brian Michael Bendis's ragtag team of space heroes still are the victim of massive decompression. This comic feels like five to 10 minutes of a really solid TV show — there's some nice interplay between Iron Man and Gamora, Star-Lord gets his flirt on, a team member is in danger — but ultimately it still feels like about a scene and a half of actual material. Sara Pichelli proves a strong fit for this comic, as she lends a real human expressiveness to these otherwise alien characters — for example, Gamora and Tony Stark's flirtation doesn't even need dialogue, as you can just tell based on their looks (and smirks) what they want. There's a lot to like about this book, but ultimately it feels so light on content that it's hard to justify the price point.
Doctor Who: Prisoner of Time #6 (Published by IDW; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Visiting the city of Antarctica, the Sixth Doctor runs into some famous foes, is accused of assaulting penguins, and lays a trap for his mysterious adversary as this tribute to the show’s 50th anniversary continues. Writers Scott and David Tipton give us a very distinctive Doctor, exceedingly arrogant and angry, sniping at his human companion and destroying the monitor from which the Master mocks him. Unfortunately, the Master quickly gets lost and we have another artist whose work is lacking. John Ridgway does a good job with likenesses but doesn’t even pose his characters when the dialogue clearly indicates they are running. With the Tenth Doctor entering the fray, things are gearing up. I just wish the art did justice to such a great story.
All-Star Western #21 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Hex is vexed by Booster’s incompetence and ends up finding his way back to Gotham in the worst way possible as this series takes a step in the wrong direction. The refusal to keep Jonah Hex where he belongs is growing maddening and stale, whether it’s a decision by co-writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray or an editorial mandate. It was badly rushed, from the Booster scene to a quick fight with Batwing to getting tossed in Arkham. The steampunk Stormwatch back-up story is stronger, but also felt like it was fighting for space to finish its plot. Moritat and Staz Johnson did a great job with the art, but overall this was the weakest issue of this series so far, despite some great dialogue.
Bloodshot, Vol. 2 TPB (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Bloodshot hopes the enemy of his enemy will be his friend, as he takes the fight directly to his former handlers in this collection of stories that’s action-packed from cover to cover. Duane Swierczynski doesn’t let up for a moment, as he takes advantage of the main character’s unique abilities to find new ways to utilize the nanobots that power him, not all of which involve violence. The addition of a voice inside Bloodshot’s head and the increasing levels of deception give the stories here a lot of depth. This collection has three pencillers and two inkers, but holds together better than that indicates, thanks to a lot of post-processing. If you like thrillers with a lot of explosions, this is the title for you.
Adventures of Augusta Wind, Vol. 1 HC (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Like any normal girl. Augusta Wind likes to tell fantasy stories. The difference is that her stories are real, calling into question the reality she thinks is her own. It’s an Alice in Wonderland-like adventure in this collection that felt a bit too familiar from writer J. M. DeMatteis and artist Vassilis Gogtzilas. DeMatteis’ strength is in his ability to make philosophical debate into an engaging comic. This time it was off the mark, focusing too heavily on ideas he’s explored before. He isn’t helped by Gogtzilas’ art, which resembles a softened Sam Keith and is given jarring colors by Carlos Badilla, distracting from the dialogue-heavy narrative that’s placed in color-coded speech balloons. Augusta Wind is an interesting idea, but probably only for DeMatteis fans.