Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with 14 Rapid-Fire Reviews for your reading pleasure! So let's kick off today's column with Pontificatin' Pierce Lydon, as he takes a look at the latest from Uncanny Avengers...
Uncanny Avengers #19 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Uncanny Avengers is the gift that keeps on giving. Rick Remender’s big set pieces are in place and just seeing this cast of characters facing off against each other is worth the price of admission. Some of the timeline stuff is a little convoluted if you’re not following closely, but the fights are fun and the stakes are high. Daniel Acuna continues to give us the best work of his career, balancing the incredible emotional toll this is taking on these characters with high octane action. Uncanny Avengers should be at the top of your reading pile every month. It’s that good.
Secret Origins #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): A book like Secret Origins should always be made available. Not only are they an amazingly helpful primer to new readers or those who lost track of constantly evolving stories, but done at this level of quality makes them a nice sampling of different talents. Greg Pak and Lee Weeks Superman story updates it’s audience on what superficial changes have been made to the classic origin of Kal El through the lens of the mother and son relationship. Kyle Higgins and Doug Mahnke’s Dick Grayson story trims the New 52 fat around this character’s origin and depicts whats at the core of this character by what binds and separates him from Batman. Last, Tony Bedard and Paulo Siqueria’s Supergirl gives the character a chance to show her rebellious side with noble intentions.
Daredevil #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10) : Its the unstoppable force meets the immovable object this month in the pages of Daredevil as Matt Murdock runs afoul of San Francisco’s resident superhero, The Shroud. Mark Waid pulls a character from the vaults to offer a stark contrast to Matt as Daredevil’s star is on the rise in SF and The Shroud’s has long since fallen, leaving him in destitution. Its a very interesting dynamic to offer this early in the series and more than a match for Daredevil as he strives to make his mark in San Francisco. Chris Samnee wows as per usual, contrasting the bright, hopeful new beginning of Matt’s life with the hardscrabble, dingy life of The Shroud. Samnee also loads down The Shroud’s origin scenes with heavy dread and menace offering another juxtaposition to Daredevil’s high flying, carefree sensibility. The team of Waid and Samnee are at the top of their game still in this new volume of Daredevil and from the looks of #2, it will be a long time before there is a lull.
Batman Eternal #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): This is the Batman title for everyone from longtime fans hoping to see their favorite parts of the Bat mythos come to life in the New 52 to new readers just getting acclimated to Gotham’s rogues. Jason Fabok’s artwork goes a long way toward selling the drama, most of which doesn’t feature the World’s Greatest Detective. His intensive, expressive linework lends a gritty realism that’s appropriate for a story about the rise of the criminal underworld. There are so many moving parts though, that some readers might feel that the narrative is taking too long to come together. That’s a symptom of the weekly format and one that I don’t think can be properly judged until we have a bigger chunk of the story in our hands. Scott Snyder and James Tynion are deliberate in their storytelling (as they’ve been in the past). It might feel slow, but it’ll only be disappointing if there’s no payoff.
Conan the Avenger #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):Of all the horrible names one would not want to call Conan, apart from a coward, is that of a sorcerer. Which is exactly how our drunkenly mourning barbarian finds himself pulled into another adventure of blade and foul magics. Fred Van Lente writes a Conan that borders on petulant as he drinks himself into stupor at the loss of his beloved Bêlit. It's a fun way to spend a few pages with our title character, but it's also nice to see him grasp his more murderous side once his foe presents himself. The true stand out is artist Brian Ching. His lines convey a fluid, almost early Don Bluth animation style. The implied movement adds a real sense of excitement to the action on the page. It's not blunt or brutal, but still appropriately violent. Conan the Avenger #1 is another strong debut from a company that knows the genre.
Justice League United #0 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10):So, aliens are making super alien babies to rule the galaxy, and only the Justice League of Canada can save us. Doubtful? Don't be. Jeff Lemire writes a gang of lower tiered heroes so beautifully that I believe these underdogs can take on anybody. Lemire simply nails the tone of each of these characters, save a few moments from Martian Manhunter, that read like a pending DC arc was forced into dialog. Visually, Mike McKone on art and Marcelo Maiolo on colors are a fantastic team. The lines and movement scream classic Silver Age fun, but with modern styles and sensibilities. Characters meant for attention stand out as such, while those that work better from the shadows maintain an air of mystery, without delving into brood land. Justice League United #0 is easily the most fun I've had with a DC title in a long time. I truly can't wait for more.
Original Sin #0 (Published by Marvel Comics #0; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10):This zero issue has a lot of work cut out for it, as it needs to back all manner of Marvel history, while rising above the level of a A-Z Marvel Universe Handbook. Waid more than rises to the challenge as both Nova and the Watcher reap the harvest of their fathers, while still maintaining an emotional connection with the reader that feels true, but never becoming melodramatic. Jim Cheung and Paco Media both play it a little safe on the panel design and action. However, these are artistic choices that reinforce the story, not hinder it. There is a lot of information crammed into Original Sin #0, the fact that it never visually bores is a testament to two artists that know how to get the most out of classic comic art. Some of the colors feel a little one-sided, when compared with the scale of the issue. Still, this is now a Marvel event I'm actually excited to read.
Red Lanterns #30 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Charles Soule is sticking with a formula that’s worked so far in Red Lanterns. But this issue is so bogged down with character development that the dialogue actually crowds the panels. The split in art between Alessandro Vitti and Jim Calafiore is noticeable but not distracting. Vitti’s rendering of the origin of a new Red Lantern is suitably grim and horrific. Calafiore handles Guy Gardner and his team. Vitti’s more expressive lines wouldn’t have played as well in the interior setting that the Lanterns occupy for most of the issue. We get a glimpse of Atrocitus but not much more so this crossover is off to an uneven start.
Dead Boy Detectives #5 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): After quite literally burning down the house in the finale of the first arc, Crystal Castles heads home with Charles and Edwin in tow, searching for another mystery. Toby Litt keeps the story moving at a decent clip, following the through line of Charles’ long lost sister and expanding the world of Dead Boy Detectives outside of the walls of St. Hilarion’s. While the first arc felt predominately about Crystal and her experience at St. Hilarion’s with Charles and Edwin silently working in the background, this opening issue of the second arc fully devotes itself to an ensemble feel, allowing each character to shine and thrive within the story. Mark Buckingham turns in some highly stylish pages here, fully displaying his inventive panel layouts and flair for vintage inspirations. Look no further than his Seven Rules (and Seven Buts) for Being a Ghost to tell you everything you need to know about the series and its charming visuals. Dead Boy Detectives started out strong and by the looks of the opening of this next arc, it has no plans of slowing down yet.
Superman #30 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): As prelude issues go, this one is pretty dull. Scott Lobdell is trying to set this Doomsday story apart from the others but it’s clear that this issue serves more to catch up lapsed readers or summarize everything thats happened to this point for new ones. In that respect, it’s doing it’s job but it sacrifices plot development for exposition. Not much happens here that couldn’t have been explained in a recap page. Part of the reason that it lacks any excitement is that Ed Benes work isn’t as strong as we’ve seen in the past. Overreliance on wide panels without really differentiating their layouts make the action come across as stagnant.
Fantastic Four #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The cover states that this is still The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine, but yet, it feels like well traveled, lackluster territory. James Robinson continues tracking the fall of the FF and while this is still an interesting concept, he has yet to really capitalize on it. The story in #3 contains a few choice bits of character work, but it never really feels like it gels together in a way that is worth the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine moniker. There is potential there, but Robinson has yet to tap it. Leonard Kirk does some great work here in issue three, rendering the FF with the momentum that the script lacks. Kirk’s expressive and lyrical work sell the character work and make the few action beats pop from the page, aided by the Technicolor sheen of Jesus Aburtov. There are hints of greatness in James Robinson’s Fantastic Four, but as of now it still just feels like a collection of scenes instead of the family that we know and love.
Elektra #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Fresh off the visually arresting but narratively anemic Batwoman, W. Haden Blackman is... on another artistically astonishing book that needs to step up its story game if it wants to really be a hit. Elektra looks gorgeous, thanks to some career-making art by Michael Del Mundo, who is basically a cross between the bright colors and character designs of Frazier Irving and the page layouts of Yanick Paquette. That said, there's not much to make this Elektra's story - indeed, she's barely in the second half of the book, and even the bits she's in are setting up her quarry, a super-mercenary known as Cape Crow. Still, it's hard to begrudge this book too much when you see Del Mundo kill it in the second half, with a downright gorgeous sequence of the super-cannibal known as Bloody Lips emerging from a river. The detail is just astonishing, and it's some of the best-looking work out of the Big Two these days. But this is the very definition of a mixed bag - to really make this a satisfying read, Elektra needs to focus on her, rather than on villains who will steal the show.
Catwoman #30 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Ann Nocenti’s first issue of the “Race of Thieves” arc is as bland and antiseptic a superhero comic as they come. Selina spends most of the issue rejecting the Catwoman identity and trying to move on, but she almost immediately comes back to it. The reasoning for getting Selina back in the suit is almost too on the nose. “Kids in trouble… my Achilles heel!” is actually a thought we’re supposed to believe runs through her head. For what it’s worth, Pat Oliffe’s artwork is strong. I like his design for Selina and although his characters’ proportions aren’t always correct, they aren’t consistently off. The Mirror Master fight scene is a little busy, but at least it’s an attempt to break from the more traditional approach across the rest of the issue.
Avengers Undercover #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Timothy Green II steps in on art for the third issue of Avengers Undercover, and it’s a doozy. This is the moment the kids have been waiting for, and while their plan actually comes together, Constrictor, Baron Zemo and Masque are clearly playing a bigger game. Dennis Hopeless’ script is funny and self-aware, all while upping the ante for the characters. And Green’s art is a great fit for what is definitely the darkest chapter thus far. It’s odd to see these characters drawn by someone other than Kev Walker, but Green delivers big action scenes and some truly standout panels. Superhero comics are frustrating sometimes because the characters never really change, but Hopeless is making sure that these characters have no choice but to, making Avengers Undercover one of the most fun reads in the Marvel Universe.