Best Shots Advance Reviews: ORIGINAL SIN #3, NAILBITER #2, BIG TROUBLE LITTLE CHINA #1
CREDIT: Marvel Comics
Original Sin #3
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Mike Deodato, Jr. and Frank Martin
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10
"I want to know the next big secret as much as you."
That's the main thing I get from Original Sin #3. It's almost a meta-story on the nature of event comics - or even the nature of superhero comics in general. Superheroes rarely change as characters. They're largely reactive by nature, a constant against a universe that is constantly doing things to them. Continuity becomes overgrown and insane by the constant additions and tribulations to each superhero, whether that means adding clones, deaths, new sidekicks - and arguably, these new trappings give the illusion of weight. Yet Original Sin feels a little on-the-nose in that regard. Everything changes in this issue. And yet, the real narrative ramifications play only the most minor of roles in this comic.
There are two, perhaps three decent focal points to this comic that don't so much move the story of Original Sin forward as much as forces new status quo changes to the rest of the Marvel Universe. With the eyes of the Watcher in his grasp, Z-list villain and Jason Aaron mainstay the Orb gives new meaning to the phrase "dropping some truth bombs" - with a flash of light, suddenly the most destabilizing of secrets hits a cadre of Marvel's major superheroes, and nothing is the same again.
Or is it?
Maybe things will change in everyone's individual books. Or maybe, as we've seen with rare exception, maybe those changes will only be ephemeral. But the problem with Original Sin as an individual issue and an individual story is that the heroes get right back on their feet with barely a hiccup. The actual fallout of these attacks on both these heroes' emotions and their actual histories is nonexistent, aside from a tease about Thor having a sister or the Hulk suddenly having it out for Tony Stark. So not only is the actual mechanism for this revelation a bit lazy and on-the-nose, but it doesn't really do anything. It's just killing time and eating pages with slow pacing and overwritten dialogue. It's the illusion of change.
While the continuity side of this comic seems boring on the surface, Aaron does try to have a little bit of fun with the crazy pairings as he digs deeper into the mystery of who killed the Watcher. Seeing Grant Morrison creations like Doctor Midas or Oubliette is somewhat refreshing, although it's hard to imagine them as legitimate threats to people like Tony Stark and Nick Fury. Doctor Strange and the Punisher lack a little bit of endearing traits to make that odd couple work, and Ant-Man, Black Panther and Emma Frost still feel more like exposition than anything resembling chemistry. But the Winter Soldier, teaming up with Gamora and Moon Knight, at least brings a cool moment in this story, as Aaron gives us an interesting casualty in this increasingly cosmic hit job. The Winter Soldier and Nick Fury, both men of shady pasts and hidden secrets, have some of the best moments in the book, although it's hard to necessarily believe Jason Aaron's cliffhanger, given a certain character's history.
The art also stutters a bit under Mike Deodato's pen. I give Deodato credit for his sleek-looking page layouts, reminding me a bit of the ultra-clean, multi-paneled Jonathan Hickman aesthetic, even if much of those extra panels feel extraneous. On that thread, Deodato's clarity is seriously lacking in this issue - for example, when the Orb fires a blast through 15 of Marvel's finest, it's very difficult to tell who half the characters are. Given the very recognizable designs and silhouettes of these characters, I shouldn't be scratching my head over whether or not a character is Spider-Man or Daredevil or Ant-Man or Black Panther or Captain Universe. While Deodato's inks are sufficiently dark and moody for the kinds of graveyards that our heroes are investigating, he isn't really given much more to do than present a gristly establishing shot and then have muddy, difficult-to-distinguish talking heads dominate the rest of the page.
We're three issues into Original Sin, and it still feels like this book is lacking a crucial hook. More than most events, nothing really happens here - we get the bare bones needed to push the rest of Marvel's titles into strange new directions, but in terms of this specific issue, it's just mechanical plot progression. The team-ups aren't thrilling. The villains feel self-indulgent. The twists and turns are few and far between - and don't quite feel believable when they do hit. Things happen... sort of. This comic feels obsessed with the act of revealing secrets, without actually showing any of those secrets or what they mean. We all want to know what the next big secret is. But you won't find out what it is in Original Sin.
Written by Josh Williamson
Art by Mike Henderson and Adam Guzowski
Lettering by John J. Hill
Published by Image Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Serial killers never strike once - and it looks like there's no rest for Nailbiter, as well. After a criminally good first issue, Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson rally for a successful second issue that builds upon this series' striking collection of characters. There's no sophomore slump from this team, as Nailbiter continues to go for the jugular.
The first issue opened up with visceral terror, as we joined a SWAT team on their raid of the abbatoir of one Edward Charles Warren, the cannibal killer known as the Nailbiter. This second issue begins with a sense of outrage - namely, us watching as Warren gets off literally hundreds of criminal charges completely scot-free. Josh Williamson is able to have his cake and eat it, too, not just content with a horror story, but giving equal credence to the law and order aspects as well. Not only that, but by showing the smug look on Warren's face now, we're invested in this story - it's not so much that we want to see our heroes win. We just want to see that monster burn.
Williamson also does good work continuing to build up his heroes. Williamson builds his characters as truly interesting foils for the sick namesake of this book. Finch, who was drawn to Buckaroo to find a missing colleague, shares at least a few... occupational skills with at least one member of this town of budding serial killers. And to have the city's top cop Crane have a romantic history with the most infamous (and acquitted) killer in the city's history? That provides a lot of fertile narrative ground for this story, which doesn't forget to show a couple of moments of gross gore and even a burst or two of shocking violence.
Artist Mike Henderson continues to dominate with this issue, as he straddles that line between cartoony and atmospheric. You'd think that his expressive characters might be too over-the-top for a series like Nailbiter, but he conveys fear, anger, smuggness, and even beats like a charred-up corpse with confidence. He's got one great moment where we watch Warren cooking a stew, as we see some finger-like bones ominously jutting out from the surface of the liquid. Colorist Adam Guzowski keeps Henderson's artwork on an even keel, never sacrificing clarity or the downright evil atmosphere of this town.
One issue is an occurrence. Two is a coincidence. A third might just mean a patter. Nailbiter is well on its way to becoming a serially entertaining bit of serial entertainment. The writing is on point, the art is expressive and a new flavor from much on the stands today, and - most importantly - the conclusion of this book's second issue makes me truly excited for what comes next. There's no other way to say it - this creative team nails it.
Big Trouble in Little China #1
Written by John Carpenter and Eric Powell
Art by Brian Churilla and Michael Garland
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
“Big Trouble in Little China” was a commercial failure when it was released in 1986, but it found its way into the hearts of many on home video. Director John Carpenter returns to the property for its continuation as a comic book with Goon’s Eric Powell handling the scripting duties. On some level, it’s exactly what you might expect. It’s a goofy fantasy martial arts story dripping with ‘80s film tropes. But Carpenter and Powell’s decision to put a little “Harry and the Hendersons” spin on it might be a little off-putting.
The opening of the issue is a little rough because it takes a few pages for Powell to really find the tone. Once Jack Burton has his demon in tow and they return to San Francisco, everything is much smoother. The humor comes through better with a bunch of visual gags. This is a pretty lighthearted action book that has no qualms about hamming it up. Powell does a nice job of capturing Jack Burton’s voice to the point where you can almost hear it in your head while you’re reading. The comic allows Jack to be saddled with a problem he didn’t have to face in the movie - namely that his defeat of Lo Pan has burdened him with a demon that follows him around until someone kills him. The ape-like demon makes the comparisons to the aforementioned Harry pretty easy and brings this book closer in tone to something like “Scooby Doo” or “The Jackie Chan Adventures.”
Brian Churilla’s art is probably part of the reason that this book doesn’t read like more adult fare. His character designs are tailor-made for Saturday morning cartoons. And while he’s able to sell the characters as bombastic and larger-than-life, he doesn’t really nail the action scenes. They feel small and claustrophobic. The choreography is static and the backgrounds are removed in favor of speed lines. I know that’s one way we show motion in comics, but three straight pages are inundated with them. The visual gags are excellent, though. Churilla shows flashes of great work here, but just not on every page.
Fans of the original movie might be split on the comic. On one hand, we get the continuation of Jack Burton’s story but on the other hand, was that something that we really wanted or needed? It’s great that a new medium allows Carpenter and Powell to open up the mythology of the property and it’s fun that they’ve gone for full-on camp. I’m not sure it will resonate with everyone, though. This is a different kind of goofy than the movie was, and it might not have the same appeal.