Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday dose of pellets? Let's kick off today's column with the Best Shots team, as Aaron Duran takes a look at DC's latest crossover event, Forever Evil...
Forever Evil #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The Earth-3 Crime Syndicate has arrived on “our” Earth and all the heroes are hosed. That's the basic premise to Forever Evil #1. I'll say this, Geoff Johns seems to have some big ideas with this event and with the whole Nightwing thing happening, it's going to be interesting. Still, being a longtime DC reader, this feels like a “Best of Crisis on Multiple Earths” story. David Finch, with Richard Friend, both feel off their A-game on Forever Evil. Proportions aren't connecting and the action scenes feel stilted. It's a shame, both are capable of much better work. Forever Evil #1 is an interesting set-up. The teams takes some legacy DC concepts and does their best to fit them within the New 52. Pulling it off will be the real trick.
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Can I get a "bwahahaha"? Nick Spencer has pulled off his own version of Justice League International with Superior Foes of Spider-Man, as Boomerang continues his thankless - yet fiendishly funny - triple-cross with the Sinister Six. Spencer's sense of humor is firing on all cylinders here, particularly when Boomerang tells a tall tale about the head of Silvio Silvermane (seeing a robot head piloting an RC car is priceless). Other gags, like a support group homage to Fight Club and Beetle flying by a prison cell with a sign that says "LOL," are hilarious. Steve Lieber's artwork flows smoothly, and I love the little details he throws in there, like Beetle dropping a condom out of his robotic boot. This comic is way more funny than it deserves to be, and is definitely one of Marvel's quirkiest and best books.
The Star Wars #1 (Published by Dark Horse; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Fans have been wanting the ‘original versions’ of Star Wars for years, but this may not be what they meant. Before it was a film and subsequently reworked, remixed and given new effects and prequels, George Lucas had an idea about Jedi-Bendu, Knights of the Sith and people more machine than man. Despite adapting something very old, J.W. Rinzler’s take on the original rough drafts of Star Wars feels like something completely new, with some of the parts barely recognisable. Mike Mayhew’s art is very much inspired by Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art, but he manages to create his own organic template for an exciting new chapter in Jedi history. Only so much can be gleaned from this first issue, which does take its time to get moving, but it leaves us with an exciting prospect of discovery without interfering with decades of extended universe canon.
Justice League of America #7.1: Deadshot (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): There probably wasn’t a meeting of the minds before the launch of this latest version of Villains Month where all the writers decided all the antagonists in the DCU had to come from broken homes. Although this major negative ingredient was included across the board, Matt Kindt’s take on Deadshot in Justice League of America #7.1 does stand out from the rest. Sure, Deadshot is another villain driven by revenge and tragedy but Kindt is able to really pinpoint the style and grace that gives this character texture. Artist Pasqual Ferry is able to render the failed-artist-turned-assassin in a clean style that is cartoonishly bold and clean without the exaggerations and goofiness.
Batman #23.1: The Joker (Published by DC Comics; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating 9 out of 10): Villains month kicks off this week with a slew of titles including the terrifically dark Batman. What transpires in this one-shot is essentially the life and times of Jackanapes through the eyes of the Joker. Andy Kubert delivers a story that really plays into the nature of the villain as it is all at once horrific, endearing, and funny. It's important to note, however, that continuity is basically ignored in this issue, so die-hard fans be warned - the Joker is given an origin. Andy Clarke does an amazing job with the inks, setting two distinct tones in the issue. The main storyline is vivid and impeccably detailed, while the vignettes into the childhood of the Joker (where he really shines) are sketchy and dark. Taken at face value, this comic is highly entertaining and well worth the read.
Trillium #2 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Two issues into the series and Jeff Lemire is taking strides towards character development in this week'sTrillium. William and Nika are stranded on Earth, passing the time by speaking to each other, though neither can understand what the other is saying. Once they discover that they share a numeric system, the pair write in the sand what year they believe it is, and things pick up. Lemire gives us a great slow-paced dialogue between two people that have more in common than they know, followed with some solid plot progression. The inks and watercolors utilized continue to bring a unique ambiance to the panels, and the numerous shots of star-filled sky and constellations are beautiful. This book is much like the rest of Lemire's work - stellar.
Batman The Dark Knight #23.1: The Ventriloquist (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): The new Ventriloquist offers hope in a world of villainy, but it’s those who trust her who are dummies in this story that was the best of the villain books this week. Gail Simone is in top form, creating her own mythos for a new character. She reveals her killer personality from an early age but doesn’t give up all of Ventriloquist’s secrets. Derlis Santacruz, working with Karl Kesel, nails this one on art, moving back from present to past with ease and selecting just the right images to highlight to ramp up the horror while not skimping on the details. The overall style reminded me of Ethan Van Sciver. The ending shows that Simone has only begun her story with this intriguing new villain.
Avengers A.I. #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): In the middle of more than one weighty event, it’s good to know that there are still a few comics that are willing to just have fun. In the aftermath of Age of Ultron, Hank Pym’s tiny viral creations may have just produced new life on Earth, and what happens next is fascinating. Taking a group of largely underused characters, not least of which are the Vision and former ‘Runaway’ Victor Mancha, and fusing them together as an unlikely team gives this book an edge on similar titles. There are some great dramatic and, more importantly, comedic moments in this issue, many of the latter involving Doombot’s detached and angry head. Andre Araujo and Frank D’Amata’s art leaps out at the reader, especially as they take us into the realm created entirely for the newly awakened A.I. Smart and funny, it’s one of the sleeper hits of the year.
Detective Comics #23.1: Poison Ivy (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Regardless of any praise or dissuasion this issue may receive, it will be referenced for a long time to come because it holds the origin story for fan-favorite Bat-agonist Poison Ivy. Although Pamela Isley’s origin isn’t drastically changed in the new 52, writer Derek Fridolfs adds very little flavor to the eco-terrorist. She, much like most of the villains spotlighted this month, comes from typically tragic homes take to the worst case scenario and being spurned in adult life. Despite a paper thin motivation for evil, the real highlight here is artist Javier Pina’s water-colored flashbacks to Pamela’s past. They perfectly depict the deceptively pastoral life of Poison Ivy, thus making a bland installment stand out on the stands.
Love Stories to Die For #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): A twin billing of twisted tales that would have been at home in a Warren Publication make this a book worth looking for if you’re fan of old Creepy magazines. Writer Dirk Manning understands the cadence of the horror stories of the 1970s and homages them quite well. Rich Bonk illustrates a story of warriors come to save a monastery, only to find the real monsters lie inside the walls. He hits the right notes in terms of showing gore and creating a sense of bravado and treachery. Symptom of the Universe finds Owen Gieni channeling the likes of Frank Frazetta and Richard Corben as a man works to get back to his lover-who has other plans. This was an unexpected hit for me.
Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigo (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): As with many of the other “Forever Evil” inspired issues this week, Jeff Lemire’s Green Arrow takes a traumatic memory from a villain’s past and relates it to the current continuity somehow. In this instance, it’s the origin of Count Vertigo, who suffered at the hands of some captors who experimented on him and literally made him the man he is today. It’s an approach that we’ve seen before, including in other Villain’s Month titles, but in maintaining the creative team of Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino, this acts as a proper interlude to the main story arc, with the writer taking the opportunity to flesh out the character and give him a humanity that was lacking in his often goofy Bronze Age origins. Sorrentino’s distinctive art elevates the tale beyond the ordinary, expressing Vertigo’s angst and anger through Marcelo Maiolo’s vivid colors.
Hit #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Warning you fair reader now, Hit #1 is not a pretty book. Not by any stretch, but boy is it one heck of a comic to read. Hit is a fictional telling of factual hit squads that once secretly carried out assassinations for the LAPD all in the name of law and order. Bryce Carlson is penning one complicated slice of nasty noir during the golden age of Los Angeles (assuming that town ever had one). Vanesa R. Del Ray pencils a setting that works perfectly with our own distorted image of an L.A. By way of Polanski's Chinatown. And while I appreciate colorist Archie Van Buren's attempt at adding to Del Ray's noir style, the palate gets a little dense at times and the art suffers a bit. Still, Hit #1 is a dense story with some great twists that will appeal any noir crime fan.
No West To Cross #1 (Self-Published; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Always nice to see comics have some fun in the Western genre. No West To Cross #1 is a fun little introduction to lone cowgirl Rebecca Cross and the nasty little world she inhabits. Writer David Pinckney plays around with your expected Western tropes, and while his dialog does skirt the line between realistic and parody, he still handles Rebecca with some style. Watching her take down some ruffians with both fist and pistol to get back a kid is just good fun. Zach Basset's pencils have potential. There are hints of a style influence by artists like Steve Lieber or early Joëlle Jones. While the composition is a little rusty, the potential is definitely there. There are some issues with haphazard panel design that left me confused, but this is still a strong debut. No West To Cross #1 is good Spaghetti Western action and it deserves an audience. Check it out.