Best Shots: Spider-Man, Legion, Punisher...

Best Shots: Spider-Man, Legion...

Amazing Spider-Man #585

Greetings! You should know in advance that this will be a light week, due to much of the crew being at NYCC. That said . . .

Amazing Spider-Man #585

From: Marvel Comics

Writer: Mark Guggenheim

Artist: John Romita Jr.

Reviewed by: Richard Renteria

The one thing that has been missing from this title since its new start is answers. For over 36 issues, the mayoral election has been running in the background, the mystery of Menace’s true identity has been teased, and the Spider Tracer killer gets a blurb at the front of every issue to remind the reader of a plot due to a lack of any real movement on the storyline. Having said that, there are occasions when Amazing Spider-Man really shines with its new status quo. Thanks to a tightly focused story backed by some energetic art with some surprising revelations, this is one of those issues.

Writer Mark Guggenheim does a superb job of tying a lot of loose story threads together that not only have direct impact on Spider-Man’s life but, if a bit coincidentally, have a significant impact on Peter Parker’s life. Guggenheim’s script moves from location to location as his tightly focused story zeroes in on specific individuals from Peter’s life. Scenes like Carlie’s conversation with Vin happen quickly but have significant impact on the overall story, even if the development may seem abrupt. Guggenheim throws a lot of information at the reader throughout the issue but keeps the narrative clearly defined as he touches upon basically every plot line that was started at the very beginning of Brand New Day.

As the story moves along and Guggenheim continues to make more revelations while putting Spider-Man through the wringer as he battles Menace at a mayoral rally. His battle with Menace and the citizens’ arrest that follows is classic Parker luck and really puts Spidey in a tight spot and adds further tension to the issue. The battle with Menace was probably a highlight of the issue and made me appreciate John Romita Jr’s return to the title all the more.

I love JRjr’s art. It’s simple, clean and effective. Storytelling skills aside what Romita Jr brings to the title is a sense of urgency in the art as each scene this issue plays out with significant consequence. Harry alone on the Statue of Liberty was an effective scene and the goblin shadow was a nice touch. Spider-Man’s battle with Menace moves at break neck speed and is energetically rendered. Romita Jr’s Spider-Man is lithe and animated, which makes for some great action shots.

While the biggest mystery solved this issue was the identity of Menance there is finally some significant movement on the Spider-Tracer killer as Carlie gets herself into a potentially deadly situation. The drama has been ramped up a notch and this is one of the times I am glad the title is almost weekly.

Punisher #2

Punisher #2

From: Marvel Comics

Writer: Rick Remender

Artist: Jerome Opena

Reviewed by: Richard Renteria

I knew that eventually the Punisher would find a successful formula to reintroduce him back into the Marvel Universe I just wasn’t expecting him to find a new, yet familiar, voice under the Dark Reign banner that permeated this weeks crop of books. Even better though this issue proves that Rick Remender and Jerome Opena’s first issue was far from a fluke as the second issue proves to be just as engaging as the first.

While the cover of the issue may be a bit misleading it does amplify the thematic notion that is at the crux of this first arc as the Punisher finds himself in a position of trying to take Norman Osborn down. By having the Punisher basically fight a public relations war with Norman while taking down the criminal operations of Osborn and his cabal partners, Remender taps into the exact same scenario that Norman has used to propel his fortunes since the “shot saw around the world.”

The Punishers first mission has him breaking into a secure vault to recover some familiar Marvel Universe armament with a scene that is expertly rendered by Jerome Opena who once again proves an excellent match for the story. Opena is adept at handling tight action scenes without the same amount of finesse as he does a simple conversation. Norman’s smugness at the beginning of the issue is contrasted nicely by his annoyance by issues end when he realizes the Punisher is one step ahead of him.

One of the best titles to emerge from Secret Invasion, the Punisher thus far has been a smartly written comic that is successfully utilizes the current state of the Marvel Unvierse. By using Dark Reign as the backdrop to their story Remender and Opena tell a compelling story that is also visually appealing.

Legion of 3 Worlds #3

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #3 (of 5)

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by George Pérez & Scott Koblish

Published by DC Comics

Review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow

Legion of 3 Worlds of feels like a big, flippin' party where everybody's invited. It's only at the final page of this long overdue third issue where it remotely feels like they're straying into "non-Legion territory" a bit too far, but writer Geoff Johns and artist George Perez have brought so much awesome spectacle to this series that they've yet to introduce an idea that fails to work. Johns certainly lives up to his reputation as the ultimate DC Universe fix-it man, and I pray that we don't have to wait as long for issue #4 as we did this one.

What's cool, too, is that several different plotlines are happening as the Legion of Super-Heroes fights Superboy-Prime's quest for universal domination with the help of his epic version of the Legion of Super-Villains, yet Johns & Co. give each bit its own space to work. Even in one particular instance, the mysterious mission being conducted by the trio of Polar Boy, Wildfire and Dawnstar in the 20th century, only clocks in at two pages, yet it's more than enough to whet the appetite for the next two issues (not to mention the highly anticipated Superman: Secret Origin, I mean this area HAS to be covered there, right?). [Quick note: In the last issue it was suggested that they went to the 21st century, and that was not accurate considering the agenda at hand. Glad that was adjusted here.] The book here actually picks right up from last issue, with Mon-El and Shadow Lass on their mission to Oa to deliver the body of the deceased Rond Vidar with the ulterior motive of tapping the assistance of the Green Lantern Corps. As we found out prior, the Corps is virtually all extinct, save for the Daxamite GL Sodam Yat. While it's assumed that Mon-El's involvement here is due to their shared heritage, Johns shrewdly pairs him with Yat due to a far more compelling reason, again an aspect of the DCU not automatically connected to the Legion, but full of hope, promise and positive energy to spare.

Johns also picks some, for lack of a better word, cute occasions to illustrate the differences between the Legionnaires of the three distinctive universes. Who knew that there were three different ways to spell "Winath"? Personally, in my head it's always been "winn-eth." Not nearly as endearing, but no less riveting is Sun Boy's story. A shame that his revival may be stemmed from tragedy, but as long as Johns has kept Dirk Morgna down, you have to assume that he's merely being set up for a spectacular comeback. The book has one hell of a big reveal at the end, another instance of Johns undoing previous wrongs of DC editorial. I hope the publisher appreciates what an asset it has in this talented writer.

Speaking of greatness, I don't know that there's another artist in the business who could make this one bona fide success in the Final Crisis line so amazing. George Perez infuses each and every panel with energy and electricity, literally and figuratively. No doubt that with the Crisis on Infinite Earths-like cast that's involved, the sheer volume had to have been a factor in the scheduling snafus that have been the lead, if not lone, detractor to this series. Inker Scott Koblish's contribution is invaluable as he does a tremendous job putting sublime finishes on Perez's pencils and layouts. And as busy as every page is, it's never so cluttered that it intrudes in the flow of the narrative. Delays be damned, there is something to be said for keeping the same artist on a really involved story that kind of supposed to be a big deal.

Seriously, if you aren't having a blast reading Legion of 3 Worlds, you should stop reading superhero books, because you've lost your joy. Conversely, if you've been looking for a fun experience after too many books have been bogged down by disconnect and bleak self-importance, you have arrived.

Hotwire #1

Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead #1 (of 4)

Writer: Steve Pugh

Artist: Steve Pugh

Letterer: Steve Pugh

Colorist: Steve Pugh

Radical Comics

Review By: Jeff Marsick

In all seriousness, all verbiage in a comic book review beyond “this is a Radical Comics production” is purely overkill. Pull lists from this company should be generated sight unseen, kind of like the days of yore when a cover with ‘Image’ on it was all the enticement one needed in order to throw fistfuls of dollars over the counter. Each book that comes out from this company gets better than the one before, and the names on the marquee continue to get bigger, like this book’s sporting of some guy named Warren Ellis, and an upcoming series by Arthur Suydam.

Unfortunately for Warren Ellis completists, while the character of Hotwire is partly his in the imagining, this book is all Steve Pugh. The very talented artist of the painted style who I raved about when he did Shark-Man introduces us here to Alice Hotwire, Detective Exorcist, whose beat is London, the blue-light capital of the world. While this may sound like The Big Smoke has more possessed Wal-Marts per capita than any other city, blue-light is actually London Metro’s more politically correct term for ‘ghost’, which the stiff-upper lips apparently think is too emotive. Ubiquitous electromagnetic waste from the unrestrained and rampant use of personal electronic devices have created something of a man-made purgatory here on Earth, where the souls of the dead float around the ether, trapped between the bars of a Verizon wireless plan. Suppressor towers keep spirits from the upper crust ‘hoods, while tombs are lined with ceramic to keep the deceased locked in one place. Every now and then, though, a blue-light gets free, wreaking havoc, and if falls on Hotwire to neutralize it. The problem (and ergo, the mystery) is that the system is failing, the ghosts are beating the security, and only Hotwire can see the problem.

Steve Pugh has gone to considerable effort to write a female character that is tough, independent, but not so over-the-top as to have the reader check out of the story for having her be ridiculously bad-ass. She’s more than just a cuter (and taller) Tangina Barrons with high-tech toys in her toolbox for dispensing of poltergeists. She’s a rule-follower and a scientist, yet a protector of secrets, even when it puts her at odds with her fellow mates in uniform who have her pegged as a snitch and a rat. She revels in being the outsider, in being misunderstood and misjudged, and while she fronts invincibility with her peers, behind closed doors or even on the case is when we see fractures in her armor. A great scene in the book is when Hotwire has climbed a tower in a rough ‘hood in order to run a diagnostic check. Some thugs arrive to harass and harm, and Hotwire just manages to escape intact. It was refreshing to see that she didn’t punch beyond her weight class and leave a trail of bodies in her motorcycle’s wake. She did just enough to get away. Later on, in her home she thinks of the witty wisecrack she laid down and at first laughs at its brilliance, only to quickly realize “…so actually, that was pretty stupid.” She’s a strong female character who is believable to read, something not easy to pull off in today’s comics.

So the story is good, what about the artwork? Gorgeous. There’s no other word for it. Mr. Pugh does futuristic so well that you’d almost be inclined to believe that that’s what London actually looks like, or will look like, in just a few years. It’s a darker mood and coloring than what he did with Shark-Man, which is befitting the story, and one of the best scenes is the night action at the suppressing tower. There is a cinematic feel to his artwork, and it’s almost as if you’re holding in your hands a compilation of cels taken from a movie reel.

Radical does it again. And for anyone who’s been hemming and hawing about getting on board with what this company has to offer, Hotwire is definitely the place to start. Go to your store, today, and get this issue. And then get every issue of every other series they put out. You won’t be sorry.

In the Flesh

In the Flesh

Written & Illustrated by Koren Shadmi

Published by Villard

Reviewed by Michael C Lorah

In the Flesh collects ten short stories by cartoonist Koren Shadmi, each a depiction of the darkness in our need for human contact. As with many compilations of shorter works, this one is something of a mixed bag. Undoubtedly, readers with a more cynical outlook may find the work more satisfying, and several stories did hit the right nerve, but most seemed to ramble around the vague area of a point without ever hitting the mark.

Among the more satisfying, and direct, is “The Fun Lawn,” a twisted tale of the guy inside the giant dog costume on a children’s TV series and his unlikely appeal to the sexy young make-up girl in the neighboring studio. “The Fun Lawn” follows through to a logical conclusion, which is at once logical, heart-breaking and truly disturbed. Among the less satisfying, “A Date” takes its surface analogy too literally, with an ending easily predicted by panel two, and “Cruelty,” whose split narrative doesn’t come into a coherent focus.

Still, there are some pretty twisted and dark ideas in here, and Shadmi is a terrific artist. Few readers are likely to find much fault with the illustrations, which mix lights and darks extremely adeptly. The panel to panel storytelling is very good, as is the character acting. Shadmi’s establishing himself as an artist to watch if only to see how his visual skills evolve.

This early writing effort, however, is likely to be remembered for having a few truly disturbing moments – “Grandpa Minolta” is one of the best – mixed into a sea of stories that can’t quite decide if they’re parables about humanity or just peculiar dreams of sadness and confusion. Either way, more accomplished cartoonists have done similar material with much sharper results. Still, there’s a glimmer here, and I look forward to seeing what Shadmi works on next. Even if I can’t quite bring myself to recommend In the Flesh.

PELLET REVIEWS!

Secret Warriors #1 (Marvel Comics, reviewed by Richard): Secret Warriors starts strong with a tight script by Jonathan Hickman; he does a good job of explaining not only who the characters are but gives us some insight into Nick Fury. The art on the title was a bit off at times, and I’m not a fan of the colors as they seem to overwhelm the art throughout the title. As strong as this issue was, the last page reveal is sure to cause even more chatter. Although, I have to say, as surprised as I was about the reveal, it did make a certain kind of sense; I look forward to seeing where Hickman, with Bendis, take this story next.

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