Best Shots Comic Reviews: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #7, BATGIRL #35 (New Team), More

Amazing Spider-Man #9
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: DC Comics

World's End #1
Written by Daniel H. Wilson, Marguerite Bennett and Mike Johnson
Art by Adrian Syaf, Sandra Hope, Danny Miki, Jorge Jimenez, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Paolo Siqueira, Cam Smith, Scott McDaniel, John Kalisz, Allen Passalaqua and Jason Wright
Lettering by Dezi Sienty
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

Nine artists. Three writers. Two worlds. And one giant-sized mess of a comic.

That's World's End #1 in a nutshell, as this legion of comics professionals create a patchwork Frankenstein's Monster of a comic, one with little voice or soul, but instead shambles from one recap to the next. While you could argue that revisiting the whole of James Robinson and Tom Taylor's runs on Earth-2 is a necessary evil towards getting everyone up to speed for DC's latest weekly, reading this book feels more like homework than fun.

For the first 21 pages of this book, if you've already been reading Earth-2, move along, there's nothing to see here - writer Daniel H. Wilson, paired up with Marguerite Bennett and Mike Johnson, is stuck with the unenviable chore of retelling all the salient points of another series so people can be adequately caught up with this series. One could argue that characters like the relaunched Jay Garrick, Alan Scott or Thomas Wayne weren't particularly well-defined in the original Earth-2 series, but here, they're basically just blips on a Wikipedia page, as Wilson has to reintroduce all these new characters (as well as give a quick nod to Huntress and Power Girl getting shoved off to the main DC Universe) while also bringing us up to speed on the hordes of Apokolips raging war on Earth-2. It's about as interesting as it sounds, particularly because we never spend more than one panel on anything.

What's perhaps most shocking about the beginning of this comic is how inconsistent the artwork is. With four pencilers on board - not to mention Scott McDaniel on breakdowns as well as a horde of inkers and colorists - it's almost detective work trying to assign credit (or blame) for specific pages. But Ardian Syaf being saddled with two inkers does not do him any favors, particularly off McDaniel's breakdowns - characters' heads and features morph from panel to panel, sometimes evoking a Kubert vibe and other times scrunching up into something weird or distended. Granted, they have a lot of script to pack into these pages, and none of the scenes are connected narratively, but McDaniels' layouts seem to feel random, with big moments getting short shrift.

The book's second half mercifully improves, after Wilson finally gets through the onerous process of exposition. Putting Jorge Jimenez on the art is a great way to show audiences that the prologue is over, and now we're finally headed forward. Jimenez's characters have a great bounce to them, and the way he has the Flash or Hawkgirl break through panels is really eye-catching. Paolo Siqueira, who follows up on Jimenez with an interlude with Dick and Barbara Grayson in a refugee camp, is a decent stylistic transition, even if the colorwork for that scene looks muddy and low-energy. Eddy Barrows, the (relative) big name of the group, goes for a more classic iconic style featuring the heroes of Earth-2.

Storywise, while Wilson hasn't quite found his footing yet, once he gets to move forward, he has some promise. Longtime readers of Earth-2 and Worlds' Finest get a great payoff here, as Huntress and Power Girl meet the new Batman and Red Tornado - if you don't smile a bit at Kara and Lois reuniting, you're a more jaded reader than I. Additionally, Mister Miracle fans will likely perk up, as the character is being built up for a great escape, and mysteries abound with Dr. Fate and Hawkgirl. Despite people's hemming and hawing about the relaunched Justice Society, there is something to these rebooted characters, particularly the war they're about to face that's reflected in Futures End.

But right now, that potential is only barely being tapped. It's hard to justify a story like this if you need to spend half an issue recapping another series - particularly if World's End is going to be a weekly expenditure. You only get one shot at making a first impression, and for 21 listless pages, this book is going to test a lot of people's patience. Combine that with no firm art team to at least sell this book in a cohesive fashion, and World's End is going to have to work hard to win back readers' goodwill.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Amazing Spider-Man #7
Written by Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Art by Guiseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Antonio Fabela and Edgar Delgado
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Talk about a Marvel Two-in-One - not only does the friendly neighborhood web-slinger get to team up with Jersey City's newest superhero sensation in Amazing Spider-Man #7, but we also get an Easter egg-laden trip to the edges of the Spider-Verse. Yet while these two great tastes are even better together, the one thing that holds this issue back is that both of these stories compete for vital page space, leaving the comic feeling somewhat incomplete as a whole.

That said, having to juggle two great stories is a wonderful problem for Dan Slott and company to have. The main story is just gold on a conceptual level - Spider-Man! Ms. Marvel! Teaming together for the first time! With Kamala Khan on full fangirl mode, it's great to see that scripter Christos Gage gets the character. "Oh! My! Gosh! You're Spider-Man! I'm in a Spider-Man team-up!" You can almost hear Spidey wince as he responds: "Oy. Look, I put my suit on one web at a time." (There's also a very funny sequence where Anna Maria keeps spraying Spidey and his new gal pal Silk with a water bottle, like dogs in heat.) While Gage doesn't get enough time to really delve into the action - I'll get back to that later - he gets the dynamics down great, as we get not one, but two scrappy, likable heroes getting to riff off one another.

But for my money, I think the best part of this issue is the backmatter, as Dan Slott continues to press ahead with his greater Spider-Verse arc. Featuring Spider-UK, Slott goes deep into Marvel lore, featuring Saturnyne and the Captain Britain Corps. With the ability to witness the entire multiverse, Spider-UK winds up being part Spidey, part James Bond, part Superman, as he is driven to action by Morlun and his vampiric family. Slott probably delves into some of the blackest humor I've ever seen him write, as Morlun and company wreak havoc on characters ranging from Spider-Cat to Spider-Man Unlimited. And don't even get me started on what that monster did to Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Have you no heart, Dan? Have you no heart?

The glue that binds these stories together is Guiseppe Camuncoli, who teams up with colorists Antonio Fabela and Edgar Delgado. Fabela's colorwork might be my favorite of the bunch, as he unabashedly goes bright with the Ms. Marvel story, allowing Peter and Kamala to just pop off the page. In this, Camuncoli really plays up the expressiveness of his characters, like how Silk cringes every time she's sprayed with a water bottle, or Kamala's wide-eyed expression as she freaks out over Spider-Marvel fanshipping. The second story, meanwhile, plays to Camuncoli's most brutal strengths - there's one visual punchline on the second page that is both hilarious and sick, and the way he just displays broken bodies is unsettling. Edgar Delgado's colorwork feels a little too shiny for my tastes, but considering the change in scale - we've now in the multiverse, for Pete's sake - it's not an altogether bad choice.

But as I was saying before, the major problem with this comic? It's got two great stories, but only one can win out. Slott's Spider-Verse story, with its heightened stakes and fun new character, easily wins out over the Kamala Khan crossover, which feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity due to Ms. Marvel's undeniable appeal. Combined with the fact that Kamala gets 12 pages of this issue and Spider-UK only gets eight, and something feels off here. Still, while the pacing of this comic may feel a bit unsatisfactory, the actual content and execution is superb - even with its flaws, this might be one of the better issues of Amazing Spider-Man in quite some time.

Credit: DC Comics

Batgirl #35
Written by Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher
Art by Babs Tarr and Maris Wicks
Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

Just as Gotham Academy swept the cobwebs out of the corners of the dusty old den of Batitude, writers Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher aim to inject a fresh new vibe to Batgirl that’s more in keeping with whatever they think young women are up to these days. Gail Simone’s magnificent run has ended, and no sooner than you can say “genital snapchattery,” any whiff of her character or world-building is summarily cast aside in the pursuit of a new target demo. So while a tip of the cowl must go to DC for trying something new with the franchise, to paraphrase former roommate Alysia in the first panel, “Ms. Simone - I’m gonna miss your face.”

From the very first panels, as Babs Gordon moves into Burnside, the Gotham equivalent of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Batgirl wears its changes on its sleeve. “Don’t worry,” new roomie (and apparent old friend) Frankie assures us. “She’s in good hands!” The very next page, that good will is onomatopoeically flushed away, as we transition into what Stewart and Fletcher imagine is a typical morning of girls hanging out in their underwear, swooning over shirtless men they don’t remember, and pining for a coffee. Fear not, faithful readers, for a thief is only a wall of emails and a barrage of emoticons away, one that she assures mid-fight that she’s “legal” when her age is brought into question. Perhaps he too had read the first few pages of the comic.

It’s a fair question, too, for the character has not simply been recast in a zany new light, but apparently dropped several years and IQ points in the process. When former partner Black Canary turns up, Babs totally ditzes out on having left her gear and incendiaries in the less-than-happy costume hero’s apartment. Later, she catches the hashtag-spouting bad guy not with her traditional crime-fighting smarts, but by posing on Hooq, the DCU’s equivalent of Tinder. A bad guy, it must be said, who drops phrases like “Oh, glorious #angel from heaven... Show me a little... somethin’ somethin’. Take it all off and my #kingdom will be yours!” before flashing his pixelated middle fingers in her general direction with a pointed “Bring it on, #bitch!” It’s as edgy as a well-used butter-knife.

The art, on the other hand, is wonderful. Completely capturing the youthful spirit that the script so desperately wants to tap into, Tarr’s character designs are smart and refreshing, and Batgirl’s new costume (designed in an obligatory sewing montage) is a clever piece of functional, imitable, and highly cosplayable suburban get-up. A particularly stylish use is made of Bab’s eidetic memory as she CSIs her new apartment for traces of a thief who was there the night before, and there are more floating text bubbles, emails and emotes than you can point a smartphone at. The aforementioned hashtag-douche behind a plot to steal everyone’s private photos and data (in a case of art following real headlines) is more conservative in design, coming off as a Law and Order street tough, complete with beanie hat. Regardless, this is fun art, something that is sorely missing from most other books in the mainstreams at the moment.

Taking Batgirl in a new direction is one thing, but shaming her smarts is a disappointment to fans of the character. While her ultimate solution does make nimble use of a QR code (which people totally use, right?), this new Batgirl is a far cry from the one we’ve come to know over the last three years. As us older fans (in every sense of the word) wave kids off our lawn and return to our whittling, Batgirl has for the moment left us for a sassier younger model.

Credit: DC Comics

Klarion #1
Written by Ann Nocenti
Art by Trevor McCarthy and Guy Major
Lettering by Pat Brosseau
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Klarion is the latest character to get a New 52 revival. The Kirby creation has always bounced around the outskirts of the DC Universe, but a starring role makes sense considering the success of Loki over at Marvel and DC’s unabashed embrace of the supernatural. Ann Nocenti and Trevor McCarthy bring him to life this time and it’s a far cry from the character’s peak in Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers, but it’s a take that might just give the boy occultist a firmer direction.

Ann Nocenti is very aware that Klarion is not the most well-known magic-based comic book character, and so she quickly drops him into the context of the DC Universe at large. It begins with an immediate mention of the Multiverse, and while this isn’t a direct tie-in to Morrison’s epic, the mention should help give the book some context. Klarion is like the other characters we’ve encountered in the New 52. He’s not a hero, and Nocenti is wise to set up a quick and dirty protagonist/antagonist dichotomy between magic and technology that readers will catch on quickly. For the most part, Nocenti’s dialogue is sharp and the pacing of the issue is a strength. I love the bit about a magic users hands mattering to the spells they perform. It works as a playful indictment of Marvel’s preeminent sorcerer. What’s unclear at this point are Klarion’s true motivations. He doesn’t really seem to have anything at stake and his supporting cast is paper-thin. Nocenti will have time to flesh them out as the series progresses, but the lack of a major villain (or even a true tease of one) at this stage takes away some of the impact of this issue.

Trevor McCarthy is really trying to make people take notice of his work. Somewhat in the shadow of J.H. Williams III on Batwoman, the artist is coming into his own and taking a few tricks along the way. There’s a heavy emphasis on mood in his work through the use of panel gutters and backgrounds. The importance of details in the dialogue comes through in the page designs and while those designs are significantly toned down after a whirlwind opening three pages, that hook is necessary to set the stage for what’s to come. McCarthy’s character’s are joyfully rendered especially when Klarion performs some of his darker magic and the artist is able to evoke the best of DC’s supernatural output through deep black inks. Nocenti had mentioned in interview that McCarthy was developing a whole set of runes and it’s impossible to ignore the potential of some of the page designs to actually be references to those runes. could there be some hidden meaning to them? We’ll have to wait and see.

Klarion comes out of the gates brimming with potential because of it’s gorgeous art and the start of a focused direction for the character. As Nocenti and McCarthy open up Klarion’s world to the rest of the DC Universe, we’ll see how well they’re able to balance a book that less insular without losing sight of their main character. The threat is a bit amorphous right now, but the concept is strong enough to give that a pass for now. DC might have found their endearing trickster, and it looks like it’s going to be fun seeing what this creative team can conjure up next.

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