Best Shots Rapid Reviews: BATMAN, INC, DAREDEVIL, Much More

Interior page from Batman Inc #13
Credit: DC Comics, Chris Burnham

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Let's put pedal to the metal this lovely Thursday, as Best Shots locks and loads its weekly Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's cut to the chase with Vanessa Gabriel, as she takes a look at the conclusion of Grant Morrison's epic run on Batman Incorporated...

Credit: DC Comics, Chris Burnham

Batman Incorporated #13 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Much like the Ouroboros, Grant Morrison’s stories eat their own tales (pun intended). For a grand Bat finale, Batman Incorporated #13 is a conundrum. It fluctuates between the clever references that make his comics fantastic and being outright haughty. As Morrison brings resolute seven years in the making; there are moments where he flirts with the fourth wall and it feels like he is mocking DC for making him shoehorn his Bat-saga into the abyss of retcon that is the “New 52.” Or maybe his Batman has always been a satire on the superhero. Either way, there is too much subtext and not enough sentiment for this final chapter. Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn could not have done a better job on the art. Its gritty flamboyance is perfect. Still, I wanted more from this issue.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Daredevil #29 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): No events and hype necessary - Daredevil #29 is as close to a perfect single issue as you’re going to get until (probably) the next issue. Writer Mark Waid has been around the block enough times that, in Daredevil, you can appreciate the flawless execution of a single issue. It’s the simplicity that’s really refreshing - especially when compared to larger story arcs and events that make up the current comic landscape. That being said, the real standout was Javier Rodriguez’s art. Somewhere between Chris Samnee and Jaimie Hernandez, Rodriguez pulls from these influences to craft stunning layouts and a fresh take on action that incorporates dynamic sound effects.

Art from Collider #1
Art from Collider #1
Credit: DC/Vertigo

Collider #1 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): In the not-so-distant future the rules of physics have started to break down, and it’s the job of Federal Bureau of Physics to take care of little problems like localized gravity failures and entropy reversals. Unbeknownst to Special Agent Adam Hardy and team, this is only the beginning and things are about to get a whole lot weirder. With a fresh and original concept, a great setup, nice pacing, and tight dialogue from writer Simon Oliver, Collider #1 is one of the best debut issue of the year. Robbi Rodriguez brings the story to life with bombastic linework, luscious links, creative use of texture effects, and vibrant colors. Don’t overlook this one, the series looks to have huge potential and is a good omen for DC’s attempt to revive the Vertigo imprint.

Credit: Image Comics

Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray #5 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Fabian Gray conquers his inner demons only to find another demon waiting for him as this mini-series wraps up its run with a nod to its impending ongoing series. Five Ghosts has been a love letter to Bronze Age horror comics, with artist Chris Mooneyham channeling the late John Buscema with his dynamic layouts, angular characters, and heroic poses. His world here is big and bold, drawing the reader’s eyes to the action while writer Frank J. Barbarie gives the characters dialogue that reflects the older comic book style without slavishly copying it. Gray finishes his hero’s journey, but as we learn in an intriguing epilogue (is that evil Lovecraft siding with Nazis?) there’s plenty more work to be done, making for an intriguing ending.

Credit: DC Comics

Detective Comics Annual #2 (DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): After reading Detective Comics Annual #2, I honestly think John Layman is having more fun with the Dark Knight Detective than any other writer at DC. He, along with co-writer Joshua Williamson, put some honest character work into not only Batman and his villains, but the support characters that are arguable the real life-blood of the character. This is a classic Batman puzzler that stands proudly with the Mike Barr era books it draws inspiration from. The varied art from Eaton, Kudranski, and Santacruz are one of the rare occasions where a shift in style greatly enhances the reading experience. Each story builds upon the previous, while visually becoming more and more clear, and in turn, horrific. Detective Comics might not be the headline book for the Batman universe, but it's quickly becoming the smartest.

King Conan The Hour of the Dragon #3 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Shadowy creatures do not a prisoner make of King Conan nor iron mercenaries a cage as he breaks free with the help of a special woman in this third issue that’s action-packed from start to finish. From the opening fight with a gigantic killer ape to the brutal attack on his captors to the final fight scene, this comic is charged with raw, primal energy, driven by the visuals of Tomas Giorello. His work gets better every issue, with a battle-frenzied Conan using everything from a dagger to a drink glass to rain bloody vengeance on his foes. Writer Tim Truman adds narration that hits just the right note for a pulp story, mixing his own lines with Robert E. Howard’s for a note-perfect comic.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 (Published by Marvel Comisc; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): After a shaky start, in which writer Brian Michael Bendis found his way around the relatively fresh palette of the most unlikely group in comics, this fifth issue seems to get the balance just about right. Readers don't have to wait long for the highly touted appearance of Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane's Angela, splashed across the first two pages as she is. As much a jumping-on point tied in with Marvel's time-rifting (that old-school Guardians readers should be well familiar with by now), highlights include Rocket Raccoon schooling Tony Stark about working with metal, and Sara Pichelli's beautifully choreographed fight sequence between Angela and Gamora. Angela might ultimately be crammed in sideways here, and the final revelation seems like an inevitability, but as Rocket would say, “buckle up, Buttercup”. It’s to Infinity and beyond from this point forward.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

B.P.R.D. Vampire #5: The Inquisitor (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Professor Bruttenholm heads to the Czech Republic to confront the monster that Simon Anders has become. This sequel to B.P.R.D.: 1948has been an eerie thrill ride, but unfortunately this final issue comes off as slightly anticlimactic—with very little action, lots of talking heads, and an unresolved storyline that leaves things open for a sequel. There’s also a few weak lines of dialogue that let the script down a bit. In the art department, Moon and Bá produce an amazing looking visuals that are heavy on atmosphere and while clearly in their own unique style they pay homage to Mignola with their dynamic inks and heavy blacks. A decent finale that could have benefitted from more of a cliffhanger.

Credit: DC Comics

Batman Annual #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): New writer Marguerite Bennett co-writes this issue alongside Scott Snyder with Wes Craig at the helm on art duties. The issue covers two threads: The first is that of Arkham’s newest orderly as he gets to know the Asylum’s oldest patient and the second arc, which has Batman testing Arkham’s newest security system. The result, however, is an emotional exploration of the relationship between Batman and Arkham Asylum from a rather unique perspective. Craig gives readers a great looking comic as well and his style is well-suited to the mainstream superhero genre without being over the top. Overall, it’s a solid story that covers both familiar and unfamiliar territory about the Batman, which readers will enjoy.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #24 (Published by IDW; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Turtles Disassembled! A desperate attempt to rescue Leonardo from Shredder’s clutches finds the group caught in a trap that only a former enemy can rescue them from in an issue that continues taking this comic down a daring path. The intricate plotting of Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz, and Bobby Curnow shows here, as they bring back ideas seeded long ago, including doubting the truth of Splinter’s claim to the paternity of the Turtles. Artist Mateus Santolouco is perfect for this arc. His work is more realistic and he does a great job of differentiating the body shapes of the Turtles, especially in contrast to evil Leonardo. The looks on the characters’ faces match the dialogue well as this story arc continues to be engaging reading.

Credit: Marvel Comics

X-Men #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Great art and smooth pacing keep X-Men from falling completely underfoot alongside the other, more heavily publicized X-titles, but there's still something missing from this Sisterhood of the Atom. Brian Wood brings some decent action, particularly as Kitty Pryde runs through a bank of computer processors in her attempts to disable the techno-based lifeform Arkea, and Olivier Coipel makes every page look striking and iconic - even if the final standoff between Arkea and Psylocke comes so suddenly that it flat-tires the tension. The best moments of this book, however, are Jubilee bonding with her adopted child Shogo, giving the audience a sassy nod back to the old Claremont days. That said, Storm says it herself - this is barely a team - and without a firm status quo or theme, it keeps X-Men from truly reaching its full potential.

Akaneiro #3 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating 7 out of 10): Kani finds herself embroiled in a colossal battle in the opening pages of Akaneiro #3. This is the final installment, and there were a lot of loose ends left to tie up in the series short 3-issue run. Writer Justin Aclin does a respectable job of this, making the ending sensible if not entirely engaging. The pacing goes awry in certain parts, and some details are lost in the extended battle scenes, but that is quickly overlooked by the sheer amount of action. Vasilis Lolos continues to do a great job with the inks, employing gratuitous (and expert) use of motion lines and cinematic effects. Michael Atiyeh's colors are a perfect compliment to the battle scenes, with large areas saturated in reds, blues, and purples giving the panels that rpg feel. A fitting ending for the mini-series, still rich with comic talent.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Captain Marvel #14 (Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10):The Enemy Within comes to a decent, if not wholly unexpected ending in Captain Marvel #14. Kelly Sue DeConnick is at her best when she's dealing with Carol Danvers on a more personal matter. While this issue has some strong moments with Captain Marvel, it all feels a little too easy. A little too deus ex machina. Still, even knowing this isn't the end did little to lessen the nice emotional hook at the end. The true flaw with the issue rests with the art. Both Scott Hepburn and Gerardo Sandoval make design choices that come across as rushed at best, and plain lazy at their worst. It's a shame, this book has always taken stylistic choices that, good or bad, I could at least appreciate. Captain Marvel #14 reads like a book scarified to the next big event.

Doctor Who: Prisoner of Time #7 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The Seventh Doctor has an Ace up his sleeve as he battles his old foe the Master in Scotland in a story that’s sadly lacking in kilts but is otherwise a great adventure. Sneaking ever close to revealing who is stealing the Doctor’s companions, writers Scott and David Tipton do an amazing job this issue with the Master-Doctor interplay. It was nice to see the Master get a full story instead of just a cameo and as always his scheme was complex and convoluted, carrying on a grand tradition. Kev Hopgood really improved the artwork this issue, varying the size and shape of the panels and showing the characters moving. This was a solid issue all around, continuing the 50th anniversary celebration for Doctor Who.

Credit: kaBOOM!

Adventure Time 2013 Summer Special (Published by Kaboom!; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The newest addition to the growing ranks of Adventure Time titles is here! The 2013 Summer Special gives us healthy doses of Finn, Jake, Princess Buttercup, Marceline, Fionna, and Cake in four shorts by indie darlings Noelle Stevenson, Ryan Pequin, Emily Partridge, and Becky and Frank. The summer theme is less prevalent than I would have expected, with lemonade being the only real connection to the season, but even more refreshing than that beverage is the varying art styles employed in the issue. These creators might have overlooked summer, but they pulled out all the stops to create beautiful and original work. From the modern digital panels by Stevenson to the painterly grace of Becky, this comic is a delight from front to back. A must-read for any Adventure Time fan.

The Deep: Here Be Dragons #1 (Self-Published; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10):Just going to come right out and say it. The Deep: Here Be Dragons #1 is perfect. It's everything I love about comics. Tom Taylor has managed to find the perfect balance between pulp adventure, pop science, and family friendly adventure that will appeal to anyway with heart. This multi-ethnic family of ocean explorers is simply brilliant fun. James Brouwer on art only adds to the utter perfection of this comic. Brouwer's lines are crisp and his expressions are exactly what this title demands. These are living, breathing people contained on the page. The design is so strong it would be forgivable if the reader thought the panels were simply screen captures from an animated feature. The comic industry needs more books that appeals to all and The Deep: Here Be Dragons #1 delivers in spades.

Ghost Town #2 (Published by Action Labs: Danger Zone; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Issue #1 of the series read something like Think Tank with a dose of homegrown terrorism. Now with Ryan Lindsay in the writer’s seat, Issue #2 takes a decidedly more post-apocalyptic turn a la The Walking Dead - minus the zombies. Picking up in the near future, Washington D.C. has been mostly abandoned due to the imminent threat of a nuclear bomb that could go off at any moment after terrorists transported it through space and time. This comic tells the tale of those who chose to stake their claim and continue to live in the Ghost Town in spite of the possibility of a nuke going off at any moment. It has the makings of a “slow burn” story, so expect the pace to pick up quickly as the miniseries continues.

The Westwood Witches #1 (Self-Published; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): There is a classic Hammer Horror vibe going on with The Westwood Witches. Writer El Torres is onto something interesting with his writer returning to his roots, only to be surrounded by demonic evil tale. Yet for as much as I enjoy the concept, his voice (both in character and narrative) come across as a little flat. The art by Abel Garcia, while properly horrific and sets a nice tone, is also lacking in real depth. Sadly, most of the women give way to the overly used sexy witch found in the aforementioned horror films. Still, there is something to The Westwood Witches. Both Torres and Garcia work well in setting an appropriately dark tone. There is also some wry humor happening with an author that clearly wishes he never had his legions of lustful goth fans. A rocky start, but not without promise.

Trade Pellets!

Beware the Creeper Trade Paperback (Published by Vertigo/DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): The world of the surrealists just got even stranger as a mysterious figure dressed in garish colors wreaks havoc in France. There’s more than chaos on the mind of the Creeper in this story of love and revenge. One of Vertigo’s mini-series that revamped a classic character, this tightly plotted murder mystery nails its time period. Writer Jason Hall draws the reader into the world of post-war France while not skimping on characterization or story. Hall even captures original creator Steve Ditko’s moral outrage at injustice. An early work of Cliff Chiang, the distinctive look of his art is on display here. The Creeper bedevils everyone in visuals that range from dramatic splashes to tightly framed close-ups. A hidden gem I’m glad to see reprinted.

Ghost, Vol. 1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick with art by Phil Noto, Ghost, Vol. 1 tells a story set in Chicago about a scientific device that calls forth ghosts from the afterlife. This invention is then acquired by a pair of two-bit reality television producers. After managing to summon the spirit of a murdered young woman, they begin to help their ghost uncover the mystery of her past life (and death). The concept is admittedly a bit out there at times, but DeConnick does a solid job of creating believable characters in unbelievable situations. And it’s just different enough that it’s a fun and refreshing read. Noto’s art is polished and straightforward, and given the twists and turns in the story, this style is probably best since it lends to an easier reading. If you enjoy a smart mystery story of the supernatural variety, pick this trade up.

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