Best Shots Rapid Reviews: AMAZING X-MEN, JUSTICE LEAGUE 3000, More

Marvel Comics previews for January 15, 2014
Credit: Marvel Comics

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your regularly scheduled Thursday column? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's edition of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with team rookie Marlene Bonnelly, as she takes a look at the latest issue of Amazing X-Men...

Credit: Marvel Comics

Amazing X-Men #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Marlene Bonnelly; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Action! Adventure! Romance! The creative team crams a little bit of everything into this issue, making Amazing X-Men #3 the busiest installment yet. Finally, we move past blue thought bubbles and get another real look at our favorite fuzzy elf in all his swashbuckling, jump-kicking, BAMFing (see what I did there) glory—and when drawn by McGuinness, it is glory. Considering the gloomy setting, Aaron manages to keep the book’s tone light-hearted and even humorous, crafting a tightly-focused story that brings to mind the X-Men series of old. Disappointingly, Azazel acts as an ambitious but fairly ridiculous antagonist, with dialogue more suitable for a Disney villain than the future ruler of hell. The sweetest X-Man actually closes the book as its scariest figure: Beast lives up to his codename by shedding the witty, thoughtful persona of pages prior, showcasing the character’s complexity in a way we haven’t seen for some time. I’m excited to see how the on-again couple of Nightcrawler and Storm face off against their teammate, but I’m also curious about what the rest of the group is up to in heaven, since we don’t even get a glimpse of them in this issue!

Credit: DC Comics

Justice League 3000 #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): The future is an ugly place, and the Justice League 3000 aren't afraid to tell us as such. The problem? Our heroes, which writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis accurately liken to "brain-damaged children in super-powerful adult bodies." The League's one-note characterizations and constant in-fighting continue to grate, and there's an additional problem with pacing here - Giffen and DeMatteis spend 13 pages delivering exposition, cutting away the moment there's about to be anything visual taking place. This effectively ties artist Howard Porter's hands behind his back up until the book's second half, a short fight scene that takes a few reads to understand that only one member of the team rather than the entire League is seemingly killed. Still, Porter's designs look strong, especially when you watch Superman get punched right off the page by the reality warper Locus. To be honest, Porter deserves better. And so do the readers.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Miracleman #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): What I think will impress comic fans the most about the reprinted Miracleman #1 is the chance to read an Alan Moore that's still learning his craft. It has some blemishes on a style that would someday change how we approach superhero comics, but is also free of all the nasty habits Moore would later acquire. I was pleasantly surprised by the coloring by Steve Oliff. Normally wishing for a book to stay true to it's roots, Oliff does add strong depth and design to the still crisp pencils of Garry Leach. The price point is a little hard to justify, as I'd been happier to save a few bucks and read the Quesada interview on Marvel.com, but that's a minor gripe from fan with limited funds. Miracleman #1 may not feel as groundbreaking to modern readers. That thought, however, is not fair. Taken for its time and place, this is still a book any comic fan should read.

Credit: DC Comics

Batgirl #27 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Gail Simone strikes just the right balance between horror and hope with Batgirl's tie-in to "Gothtopia." While the overall premise of "Gothtopia" - namely, Gotham and all of its denizens living in a hallucination-fueled utopia - still feels a little shoehorned, Simone makes the villain of the piece one of the creepiest new characters I've seen come out of a Bat-book in a long time. Injecting a primal fear into what should be a joyful mileau is part of what makes Batman such an eerie character, and the contrast for Gothtopia makes it worse. That Pleasantville vibe also masks some of Simone's more stilted moments, particularly when Barbara is eating bacon with her beloved dad, Commissioner Gordon (or when her costumed cohort Daybreak randomly tackles her). The art, by Robert Gill, feels a little too brittle with the linework, reminding me a bit of Jock, but without the right composition or choreography. Skippable in the grand scheme, but there's something worth seeing here.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Superior Spider-Man #25 (Published by Marvel Comics, Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Overall, the pacing of this issue felt incredibly rushed. Comics filled with fighting can be a perfectly fine thing; however, there are a number of major beats Slott attempts to hit, and it felt like those elements needed more development. The major plot twist comes from out of nowhere even though the character tells readers the past few months have been building to this moment. Still, it's something we're told but haven't been shown. I understand why this twist was kept secret (even though most seasoned readers saw it coming), but it doesn't change the fact it was done abruptly. The "Goblin Wars" arc is well done, however, and it was easily the strongest aspect of Slott's story. Further, it provides an excellent opportunity for Ramos to shine as he does Goblins better than most contemporary artists out there with his sharp, angular style. Overall, #25 is an "okay" issue but doesn't deliver on the amount of hype behind it.

Credit: DC Comics

Nightwing #27 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10):Writer Kyle Higgins seems to be doing the best he can with a Nightwing that's essentially in a holding pattern as Forever Evil takes it's sweet time in wrapping up. The interaction between Grayson and the manic hero / villain Marionette is quite enjoyable. The character works best when he's played against a foil that tugs at his emotional core. His world is never black and white, unlike his cowled mentor. Visually, Will Conrad draws a comic with soft tones that is functional, if not all that exciting. A few pages have art by Cliff Richards and it isn't the most seamless of transitions, with his lines taking on a rougher edge. Were either artist the sole penciler, the visuals might have worked better, as it stands, it's a bit jarring. Still, Nightwing #27 is an entertaining read from a team that could sore if given the chance.

Credit: BOOM! Studios

Curse #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): With two writers (Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel) and two artists (Riley Rossmo and Colin Lorimer), I was worried this comic would somehow feel disjointed from having too many hands in the pot – not so. Part One of Four, Curse #1 does a great job of bringing readers into both its werewolf-terrorized rural town and the family struggles of its protagonist, ex-NFL star, Laney Griffin. Admittedly, I thought I knew where the story was going after the first few pages, but I was pleasantly surprised that the story took a different direction. There's also something raw and visceral about the artwork in this story, which is incredibly well suited to this story of a family slowly tearing at the seams…and a werewolf literally tearing a town apart.

Credit: DC Comics

Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Trapped in Gotham City, the remaining Rogues must make hard choices against Society-backed Arkhamites in an issue that highlights the degrees of villainy in the DCU. Pitting Flash’s foes against Batman’s while both are out of play is a great move by writer Brian Buccellato. Bruce’s foes are ruthless, brutal, and backstabbing. Barry’s try to stick together, even against hopeless odds. In a world of extreme evil, their brand of criminal is almost heroic. Co-artists Scott Hepburn and Andre Coelho do a great job with visualizing the large cast, but their action is a bit stiff, with panel choices that don’t create a lot of tension. Still, this is one of the best things to come out of Forever Evil so far.

Credit: MonkeyBrain

Art Monster #1 (Published by MonkeyBrain Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Writer Jeremy Holt pairs off with artist, Francesca Ciregia, to deliver an eerie black and white revamp of Mary Shelley's classic Frankenstein. Although Ciregia is still a relative newcomer, and some panels do feel a little less consistent (as seen in Victor's changing facial expressions in the President's office), there are far more panels that contain a real Vertigo-like feel to them, which is pitch-perfect for this sort of story. Faced with the tight constraints of Monkeybrain's page cap and an already well-known story, Holt still manages to capture readers' attention particularly with his strong sense of pacing and use of moving back and forth in time to help introduce some mystery into an already familiar story. It does feel a little short, but that's due more to the publisher's guidelines than the any error on the part of the writer. And at $.99, it's worth checking out.

Credit: DC Comics

Constantine #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): The NuJustice League Dark team travels to Heaven but the story is stuck in limbo as this Forever Evil crossover feels very much like filler. This is exactly what fans feared when John moved to the mainstream DCU, with Constantine stuck participating in things that even he doesn’t want to do, as dialogued by Ray Fawkes. This felt like a way to introduce the new anti-heroes to an unfamiliar reader picking up a tie-in, with pages spent having “God” explain their nature to an uncaring Constantine. Guest artist Beni Lobel misses a chance to make it visually interesting, opting for a realistic style in a supernatural environment. The art is technically perfect, but lacks punch or impact, making this an issue readers should probably skip.

Credit: MonkeyBrain

Strange Nation #4 (Published by MonkeyBrain Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): This book definitely lives up to its name. Sasquatches, aliens, and a podunk town caught in the middle? Writer Paul Allor actually explains a surprising amount with this issue, making it prime territory for anyone looking to jump in. Artist Juan Romera proves to be a coup for Allor as well, knowing just how to strike up the right balance between drawing a setting without it seeming too sparse or too overwhelming. (A somber scene where an alien sadly confesses to a young woman is particularly expressive, in an old-school way.) Sometimes Romera's art stumbles a bit with the action sequences, such as when the Sasquatches first pour into the town, or when Jesse Vernon drives up in his car to rescue people, but when he finally limbers up, he does some strong indie work. This is a great place to pick up a very strange tale.

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