Best Shots Reviews: SUPERIOR SPIDEY #19, ROGUES REBELLION #1, More

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #19
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Superior Spider-Man #19
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Ryan Stegman, Livesay, and Edgar Delgado
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by George Marston
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

It's looking like Dan Slott's endgame for Superior Spider-Man may be fast approaching.  With Otto's secret all but uncovered by the intrepid Carly Cooper, and the Wraith, and Miguel O'Hara looking to be a continuing presence in Superior Spider-Man, Slott is clearly moving towards some kind of new status quo.  Big changes are again afoot for Otto Octavius, and possibly Peter Parker as well.  

Superior Spider-Man #19 sees the end of yet another chapter in Spidey's saga.  As the life that Peter Parker built slips away under Doc Ock's care, it's beginning to look a lot like the real method to this book's madness has been to eventually return Peter Parker to his core as a lovable loser, and his alter-ego as an intrepid hero, doing the right thing no matter the cost.  With bits and pieces of this puzzle forming, Superior Spider-Man is beginning to finally pay off.

On the other hand, there are some technical problems with this issue.  While Slott's script is air tight, effectively managing its twists and turns, Ryan Stegman's art is occasionally murky, and often stiff.  For an artist with such a talent for kinetic action, it's almost criminal for his figures to feel so static.  The art in this issue isn't helped by Edgar Delgado's usually energetic colors, which this issue take on a washed out atmosphere in service of the chronal energy that is playing havoc with Horizon Labs. That said, it's not all bad - the sequence where Doc Ock desperately digs into Peter's memories is wonderful and well-told - but by and large, the art is outpaced by Slott's well-wrought script.

Superior Spider-Man has undoubtedly been one of the most polarizing and controversial stories Marvel has ever told, taking Spider-Man and divesting him from his heart, taking away almost everything that readers have taken for granted and proving that while Doc Ock may be a superior Spider-Man, Peter Parker will always be the greater hero.  Now that Slott's goals are coming into focus, Superior Spider-Man may also go down as one of Marvel's greatest tales.  It's had it's issues with execution, but it's doubtless that Dan Slott will go down as one of Spider-Man's greatest shepherds, if not at least his greatest fan.

Credit: DC Comics

Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1
Written by Brian Buccellato
Art by Patrick Zircher, Scott Hepburn, Nick Filardi
Lettering by Dezi Sienty
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

After taking over the entire month of September, those villainous folks from Earth-3 are determined to take over the entire world. Running parallel to the Forever Evil crossover that has rapidly become the status quo of the New 52, save for a few pockets of resistance that are content to keep doing their own thing, Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion is a welcome shift away from the main event with a focus on a smaller group of villains who just don’t want to play ball with the big bads.

The first issue in this tie-in mini-series arrives in tradition of Geoff Johns’ Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge, in that it follows a very similar structure, cast and basic plotting. Instead of escaping a prison planet, the group now consisting of Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Weather Wizard and Heat Wave liberate the Trickster from prison and return home to find their beloved city trashed, and the whereabouts of Cold’s sister in question. Substitute their Final Crisis refusal to join Libra’s society for this rebellion against the Crime Syndicate’s not-so-secret society, and you have the makings of a some bad guys going even more rogue than usual.

Despite the obvious commonalities with that earlier series, an argument that could be made for the event as a whole, Buccellato’s follow-up to his “Villain’s Month” Rogues one-shot has a compelling dynamic. The unlikely group immediately distinguishes itself as having members with rich pasts, defined character traits and worthy goals. Led by Captain Cold, in spite of his part in forcing super powers upon the group, this unconventional family has as much to lose from the machinations of the Crime Syndicate as the so-called heroes. Their arrival home to a Central City in ruins is as devastating to them as it would be to The Flash, and Buccellato immediately uses this to successfully leverage some empathy from the reader.

Zircher’s dark artwork also helps aid this sense of loss, his initial pages of the issue are a bloody punch to the gut as the bodies of humans and Grodd’s apes line the streets. This increasingly violent streak has become common throughout the “Villains Month”/”Forever Evil” issues, although at least here it serves to hammer home the sense of loss. However, about halfway through the issue there is an abrupt change in the artwork, as Scott Hepburn’s more Mike Mignola-inspired jawlines take over, and it is right in the middle of a tense action sequence. The transition point isn’t too disconcerting, as both artists are suited to the material, although it is noticeable.

Following the story of a group of thieves who “never wanted to rule the world” has instantly become one of the most engaging aspects of the “Forever Evil” event, and DC would be wise to consider this team for their own standalone title outside of the confines of The Flash following this crossover. It has the potential to be as fun as Gail Simone’s Secret Six and fill in a big gaping hole in the current publication line-up that we didn’t know was empty until now.   

Guardians of the Galaxy #7
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Sara Pichelli, Valerio Schiti and Justin Ponsor
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Who is Angela? And what is she doing in the Marvel Universe? Brian Michael Bendis begins to unravel the mystery of this Image Comics ex-pat in Guardians of the Galaxy - and while this comic definitely suffers from Bendis's trademark decompression, the artwork and flickers of humanity keep this book from stumbling too much.

After last issue's battle royale between Angela and the unstoppable alien warrior Gamora, Bendis takes a much lower-key approach to Guardians of the Galaxy #7, as an imprisoned Angela tells our heroes about her departure from Heaven (or "Heven," as she calls it). Ultimately, Bendis doesn't give us a lot of meat here, instead letting artist Valerio Schiti stir up a sense of wonder of this glorious world lost. It's only closer to the end of the issue - once Peter Quill pokes a hole in the perfunctory hero-on-hero combat - that we start to see the sympathetic side of Angela. She's a woman without a world, dropped into a land of which she's only heard legends. That's something you can get behind.

That said, this comic is slowed down by Bendis's stylistic quirks. There is so much page space eaten up by random banter by the Guardians, none of which particularly lends that much characterization to the dynamic. (Although I will be the first to admit that Starlord and Iron Man's shared sense of snark has some potential.) We get it, Groot is Groot, and Rocket Raccoon has some serious impulse control problems - but how much rapid quippery do we need before we see these characters making choices that make them more than two-dimensional? Looking at this issue just based on content, aside from the filler dialogue, the Guardians could have completely been absent, and little would have changed.

The artwork is another piece of interest. Valerio Schiti, fresh off Journey Into Mystery, draws the flashback sequence for Angela, and it's easily the highlight of the book - make no mistake, Schiti is a superstar just waiting to happen, reminding me a bit of a cross between Steve McNiven and Terry Dodson. Just the smirk on Angela's face when she's about to dive into the fray is the best-looking image of the book, and his fight choreography is incredibly fluid and streamlined. In fact, Schiti is so good that he winds up overshadowing Sara Pichelli, who manages to pull off some decent expressions (particularly for Rocket Raccoon), but is so bogged down by the enormous amounts of dialogue that her pages are largely just talking heads.

Now that Angela has been introduced to the Guardians of the Galaxy, it remains to be seen if this two-issue diversion will actually bear fruit, or if it will just be a self-indulgent detour on Brian Michael Bendis's tour of the outskirts of the Marvel Universe. There's some great artwork here, however, and there's just enough potential with Angela's revised origin to maintain interest. Still, with the team getting a stunt guest star this early in the series, Bendis and company need to focus on their characters if they want this book to survive.

Credit: DC Comics

Batwoman #24
Written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Art by Trevor McCarthy and Guy Major
Letters by Todd Klein  Published by DC Comics
Review by Forrest C. Helvie
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Without a doubt, I would have never picked up this series had it not been for the creative brilliance that Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams brought to this character. Following their amazing collaborative work together, I invested the time into this series and I was never disappointed. When W. Haden Blackman stepped, I was impressed that the quality of the series continued to stand above many other mainstream superhero titles. And now this era comes to an end with Batwoman #24 as this creative team gives readers their final installment on what has become one of the strongest, most independent characters in the DC Universe. So how does it stack up?

The opening sequences accomplish two important tasks right away: First, they remind readers that while Kate wears a bat insignia on her costume and operates within the city limits of Gotham, she is not beholden to its patron Caped Crusader; second, we observe that in spite her past performance as a capable crime fighter and detective, even heroes like Batwoman can make some very bad decisions in spite of the best of intentions. Despite sympathizing with Kate's desire to rescue Beth, however, this issue shows just how far away from her heroic path she is willing walk in the methods she employs to accomplish her overall goal of saving her sister.

While Kate is busy satisfying the demands of Director Bones in subduing Batman, we also keep abreast of Kate's aviary-inspired sidekick. Firebird is sent on the actual recovery mission to secure Beth. It is well paced and provides the young heroine an opportunity to shine. Of course, it also looks as though Williams and Hardman planned to create some additional twists and challenges for her to face in the following issue had they have been able to wrap up this end of the story arc. For now, we'll have to wait and see how the new creative team handles things.

Artistically, the issue does well to use a darker color palette given the tone of the story and the "dark" path Kate has set herself and her Bat family  upon in this issue. I did notice there were some consistency issues, particularly in the scenes with the villains and the final page with Batwoman as she battles Batman. The inks and line work did not seem to match up as consistently with other pages as they were much more loose and rough. Scenes such as those taking place in the Gotham Police Department or with Firebird, however, generally looked to employ a finer line weight and the ink work gave the images a little cleaner, sharper contrast from the background. This is likely due to the fact additional artists were brought in to do finishing work and the differences are noticeable at times.

With regards to the layouts, however, it just wouldn't be a J.H. Williams III comic if there wasn't something unique somewhere for readers to soak up. Towards the end of the issue, the pages are split in half by a lightning bolt dividing line following Kate's use of her electrified gloves meant to shock Batman, and this effect carries over into almost all of the final pages of the issue. This is more than just a "neat" trick to show the two narrative threads in this story, however; it serves to show how Kate's actions are splitting her apart from both Batman and the hero she once was into something… else as she aligns herself against the Dark Knight and with Dir. Bones. Even if Williams wasn't manning the artistic helm for this issue, this sort of device has become something of a signature of his over the years, and it provides yet another brilliant example of how the comic medium can implement form to drive the narrative.

Although I won't spoil the ending, I will say it ends rather abruptly leaving readers in something of a lurch. And at only twenty-one pages, it is clear the missing page would have been better used preparing the reader for what is to come in Issue #25 as opposed to being wasted on a "Channel 52" recap that most readers will inevitably skip. It is all the more disappointing as this abrupt ending also serves as an sad parallel to the abrupt ending of this creative team's tenure on this title as both writers step down, and the artistic team will be replaced as well. If you've been following the series up to this point, I'd recommend picking up Batwoman #24. It has been a fun ride.

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