Best Shots: Thor, Nightwing, Spidey & More
Best Shots: Thor, REBELS, Spidey & More
And the rest . . .
The Amazing Spider-Man #586
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Penciller: Barry Kitson
Inker: Karl Kesel
Colorist: Andres Mossa
Publisher: Marvel Comics; Price: $2.99
Review by David Pepose
On the one hand, I can't be too harsh with this comic, as it says on the cover "Character Assassination Interlude." On the other hand, well, this issue is a bit of connective tissue with the main “Character Assassination” storyline without any of the compelling action that appeals to newcomers.
The main reason behind this is that this story is the fallout between Lily Hollister and Harry Osborn following the unmasking of Menace. (I won't give you any more spoilers.) Suffice it to say, Menace's secret origin is revealed, and the last few months of Spider-Man history are told from the villain's perspective.
Now, the art by Kitson is serviceable in this issue, and I will say that it seems that he has been maturing as an artist through the Spider-Man grind. His emotions ring true, and his style has gotten more and more subtle than in his past works. (Although the last page, which is meant to foreshadow a reckoning of Goblin-like proportions, falls a bit flat.) One pet peeve I have with Mossa's work is that Lily's hair is varying shades of yellow, as opposed to having black lines. Considering there are other blondes in the same issue (the same scene, no less) with black lines, it's just something that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I suppose, however, I should give points for at least trying to make an artistic statement.
But that said, this isn't really an "art" issue -- this is a conversation, and I guess that's why I was so disappointed in this particular issue. Supporting characters are well and good, but I'm of the opinion that they completely took over this issue. While there are some amusing moments -- Lily telling Norman that his Goblin journals were stuffed full of whining was more or less dead-on what I've been thinking since 1992 -- the overall claustrophobia of the conversation would have been better served as a five-page scene, not a 22-page one.
I know that Guggenheim and the Spidey Brain Trust can handle Peter Parker's world with style -- and I know that all this information is necessary for the grand story as a whole. But I also think that information could have been presented in a much more streamlined fashion: as is, this particular issue is going to read better in a trade rather than as a single comic. Let's hope that the next installment will juggle the characters a bit better than this.
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Andy Clarke
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Publisher: DC Comics; Price: $2.99
Review by David Pepose
If being a R.E.B.E.L. is wrong, then I don't want to be right.
Reading the first issue of this Legion of Super-Heroes (sort of) spin-off provides a surprisingly fun comic that provides a breath of fresh air to an oft-neglected corner of the DC universe.
The story is more or less simple: Vril Dox, or Brainiac 2, is on the run from interstellar thugs after his army of robots is usurped by a mysterious force. But Tony Bedard's script drops the reader into the action almost immediately, and pumps up the tension by focusing on the chase. Bedard's biggest triumph, however, is smartly referencing the Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes arc that he and Mark Waid wrote for DC's One Year Later lineup. While I won't give up spoilers, Kara Zor-El's involvement in the snarky Dox's plan feels natural, given her shifting status quos as well as her past exploits in the 31st century. The only warning I have about the story is that readers shouldn't get their hopes up too high by the image on the cover -- despite some appearances of the Omega Men and a surprise guest from the 31st century, you're not going to learn who will make Brainiac's R.E.B.E.L.S. team just yet.
Andy Clarke, meanwhile, certainly earns his rising star credentials for the DCU art crew. With his style evoking a bit of Gary Frank and a touch of Doug Mahnke, he certainly has a strong grasp of both iconic posing as well as Brainiac's irritated expression. He also gets major points in my book for his portrayal of Supergirl -- in this issue, she's less unrealistically sexy and more expressive and human. That said, Clarke isn't quite perfect yet: while his expressions come out nice and clear, some of his action shots are a little off in terms of panel composition. Another issue that I had was a matter of style -- Clarke utilizes staccato, almost dot-like linework that occasionally makes the art look grainy, as if the characters were made out of sand. A bit more confidence and follow-through in those lines (or a separate inker) will make Clarke the next Steve McNiven.
Color-wise, Jose Villarrubia is a bit hit and miss with this otherwise fun first issue. On the one hand, Villarrubia sometimes gives Clarkes' pencils a needed bit of weight, adding shadows to faces and atmosphere to the action. That said, Villarrubia's work doesn't always do this, such as the scenes with Drox's pursuers -- and that is when the art particularly suffers. But as a first issue, Vril Dox's characterization alone makes this is a particularly strong showing. I'm really looking forward to following Bedard and Clarke, wherever the R.E.B.E.L. flag may fly.
Written by J. Michael Straczynski, Stan Lee, and Chris Giarrusso
Art by Olivier Copiel, Marko Djurdjevic, Jack Kirby, David Aja, and Chris Giarrusso
From Marvel Comics
Review by Brendan McGuirk
And lo, there shall be an annivers'ry!
This issue is nothing short of a majestic tribute to the scope and grandeur of Marvel's mighty Mjolnir bearer. After thirteen issues, Loki's subtle machinations finally unfold, and reveal her power-toppling scheme that's downright Shakespearean.
Twelve issues were spent building the world of Thor sturdy enough to stand on its own, and this marked the serendipitous 600th hundred issue of Thor's publication when all combined, (and given the eighty-three issues of the original Journey into Mystery preceding the Odinson). Here, Straczynski and Copiel finally reintegrate their story into that of the Marvel universe at large. It has been a patient reintroduction, taking care to flesh out the plight of the Earth-stricken Asgardians. This patience has brought readers up to speed on the lifestyles of Asgardians and their pains in adjusting to our world, their political power structure, and allowed for the time to see Loki's plot go from inception to execution. Loki's regicidal conspiracy is one befitting a monarchy, and is too well-laid out to spoil. And for all the benefits of a slowly paced series, it was high time that we get a knock-down, drag out brawl. We've earned it.
Loki, after plucking Bor, father to Odin, from the timestream, lets loose the god of gods onto the streets of New York City. Loki goes on to cast a spell to confound the elder god, and the scene is suddenly set for a battle of misunderstandings. This effect is illustrated with Marko Djurdjevic providing the pages that are from Bor's skewed perspective. Djurdjevic's work is a harsh, stilted contrast to Copiel's lush, majestic style. As this battle builds to its crescendo, and Thor summons the Avengers, he is gravely disappointed in who shows up. With the issue's culmination, readers can be sure that Thor is firmly entrenched in the middle of Dark Reign, and will be there for a while. It took a good long while, but readers can now expect Thor to be as visible in the Marvel U as ever before.
In addition to the climactic main story, the issue was jam-packed with anniversary swag. Stan Lee and David Aja collabo'd on a fun story where classic storytelling meets modernity. Stan wove a quintessential story of power and responsibility (or maybe 'obligation'), and proved he still has his Marvelous fastball. Aja proved his versatility, forgoing the more ornate panel sequencing of today for the straight-forward, head on storytelling of yesteryear. Matt Hollingsworth's coloring bridges the gap of past and future, the deep hues adding a visual complexity classic Marvel tales simply lack. Chris Giarrusso proves his sequential mastery, summarizing three years of Thor's continuity in eight hilarious pages. Every joke he tells is so honestly rooted in the Thor saga it rings completely true. Additionally, readers are treated to five reprinted Tales of Asgard from Marvel's hall of fame squad; Stan, Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta, and Artie Simek. Originally presented as supplemantary back-ups in Journey into Mystery. these stories were opportunities for Stan and Jack to do what they did best; tell limitless stories in fantastic settings. These stories take some seeds from real Norse myth, and then incorporate Stan's sensationally supuflous voice, and Jack's bombastic power and scope to make for some of the finest stories of Marvel's Silver age. Finally, the exhaustive 600 image cover gallery delivers as the perfect end cap to a sublime celebration of Marvel's own god of thunder. Looking through all those covers proves it; there's never been a better time to be a fan of old Goldilocks.
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Don Kramer and Leisten
Review by Mike Mullins
This issue seems to serve two purposes, providing closure for Nighwing as he leaves New York to return to Gotham and foreshadowing some of the conflicts and motivations that should be played out in the Battle for the Cowl. It delivers on both accounts, but may feel like filler to readers who have been around for a while.
Dick’s easy friendships with the rest of the superhero community are shown as he leaves the Cloisters and helps capture one of the defining characteristics of Nightwing. While that sets up Dick’s connections to other heroes, the issue later captures that Dick feels that the responsibility to watch over Gotham is a personal burden.
Once in Gotham, Dick reunites with Alfred and Tim. It is a good moment between the adoptive brothers, and shows Dick’s concern for all Tim has been through at such an impressionable age. This scene seems to foreshadow that the Battle for the Cowl may be a philosophical between Tim and Nightwing, especially to readers who have also been following Robin.
The remainder of the issue shows Dick visiting the site of Joe Chill murdering Thomas and Martha Wayne. Dick visualizes the crime around him and then superimposes the death of his own parents into the scene. Artistically, there is a nice play with juxtaposition of the lives of Bruce and Dick showing how similar they are. This scene actually feels like it was stretched to make the story reach sixteen pages. Without the Origins and Omens at the end of the issue there may have been an opportunity to expand the story into something that felt a little more important.
Artistically this issue suffers from too many inkers and the art just doesn’t look quite as good as previous issues on some pages. On one page Alfred looks decidedly different than in his other depictions in the issue. Another quibble, but Hal Jordan seems to orange hair and a hair cut that looks far more like Guy Gardner’s bowl cut.
The Origins and Omens story is a nice connection between Dick and Barbara that shows hoe at ease they are with one another and leads directly into the Omens page. The Omens all seem to indicate events that should occur in the very near future, mostly related to Battle for the Cowl and the Oracle miniseries.
From: DC Comics
Writer: Judd Winick
Art: Howard Porter
Review by Brian Andersen
Hey everyone, check out the Cyclops-visor-sporting JLA as they show up to get their hands on that crazy little rascal Jericho, who’s hiding out in the body of Titans leader Nightwing. Gee, do you think the JLA have the same hotline on tech that Professor X and Cyclops have? Sure, these design-rip-off visors come in handy when dealing with a confused Titan who can body-jump through people’s eyes, but couldn’t artist Howard Porter at last try to not directly emulate a super-famous comic character’s number one identifying trademark?
This long, drawn out (seriously, it seems like this story has been going on for 12 issues now) Jericho saga clunks along in this thinly plotted issue where possessed ‘hero fights hero.’ Everyone wants a piece of that naughty hero/villain/who-knows-what-the-hell-he-is-now, Jericho. The JLA hope to arrest him, the Titans battle to help him, while we the readers just wish he would go away and never come back. Seriously, Jericho’s been so thrashed by the last few writers who have handled him that they have utterly ruined all semblances of likeability. Frankly, I would be happy if he truly did dissipate forever into the atmosphere instead of magically managing to “ape” Vixen’s powers and leap into a nearby animal “somehow.” WTF? That’s the quick, throwaway explanation we get as to what might have happened to Jericho at the end of this ridiculous story? Suddenly, Jericho cannot only body-jump, but can now “ape” another character’s powers? What a lazy, creativity-challenged explanation, a true grasping-at-straws way out for a writer who plotted himself into a corner. I expect better from you, Judd Winick. You leave me no recourse but to declare this plot point: Totally Lame!
Also what is up with the scary, oddly deformed faces throughout the book (see Starfire’s face on page 3 for example. Or better yet don’t! Her eyes look like they’re two feet apart) and the boxy, stiffly rendered bodies? It’s like every hero has massive sticks up their butts and are encased in invisible cement that causes them to lumber around like statues. Awful, awful, art. For someone with as much experience as Porter, you’d think he’d be getting better, not worse. I give this book 5 more issues before it gets canned (as well it should). It’s pretty much gone off the rails and really doesn’t justify its existence. If its original goal was to unite the beloved Wolfman and Perez Teen Titans, to give the readers that comfortable, nostalgic feeling, it’s failed miserably. The heart, that family feeling, that connection we expect and loved for this classic era of the Titans, isn’t anywhere to be found. Instead we have a shallow, empty, pale reflection of a treasured bygone era. What a waste!
Written & Illustrated by Pascal Blanchet
Published by Drawn & Quarterly
Reviewed by Michael C Lorah
Blanchet’s previous book, White Rapids, was among my favorite comics of the last few years. With Baloney, Blanchet applies his design-driven artwork to a completely different setting, but the results are no less astonishing.
Baloney is a parable about the titular butcher, his beloved daughter and the cruel landlord who owns the heating business that preserves the dark and frigid town. Described as “a tale in 3 symphonic acts,” Blanchet does adhere to the three act structure, yet embellishes his act breaks with recommended music. Act one’s opening tells the reader, “Slow waltz in a minor key; bass for gravity; flute for the wind; vibraphone for mystery and snow; cellos for austerity”, etc.
The design-driven artwork, marked by entirely full-page images and figures and settings derived almost entirely from basic shapes, remains utterly gorgeous. However, it’s the pacing – the quiet pauses created by simple, quiet images, juxtaposed against crescendos of colors, text and jumping shapes – that makes Baloney such a remarkable effort. His use of text and color supports the imagery, swirling and hushing throughout the narrative. Reds and blacks manipulate the readers’ emotions, while the flow of the text supports the grandeur and simplicity of each scene. Few comics artists have mastered the art of pacing and laying out a comics page, but Blanchet seems to have raised the bar here.
The story itself is a basic fable, a tragedy of a family fighting for a better life. It’s Blanchet’s ability to deliver the story in such direct and dramatic terms that makes Baloney a must-read comic. The book is a virtuoso performance, and Blanchet is quickly making himself a must-watch artist.
Kaspar, by Diane Obomsawin
Published by Drawn & Quarterly
Reviewed by Michael C Lorah
Somehow these two books seem to belong together, although they have no connection other than being recently shipped titles from the same company. Nicolas is series of short vignettes from the life of cartoonist Pascal Girard, each detailing how his life has evolved following the death of his younger brother while both were just children. Following Girard from youth to adulthood, we see how people broach the subject with him, how he deals with (or tries not to) his feelings about his brother, and how his relationships are impacted by the tragedy.
Kaspar, by Obomsawin, is based on the writings of and about Kaspar Hauser, a young man found in Nuremberg in 1828 having had no previous human contact. Without any language skills or history, Kaspar was nearly a blank slate. Obomsawin’s comic shows his integration into society, first as an intellectual and scientific curiosity, and later as an awkward, yet concerned human being.
Both books deal with tragedies and human contact, and both are drawn in minimalist styles. Neither offers much depth, providing the reader with quick glimpses into the subject over a period of years. Nicolas is filled with short, curt scenes that drive each of Girard’s experiences home quickly, hitting the reader with machine-gun information about his life. Tracking him from institution to boarding house to functioning member of society, Kaspar follows its central character like a skipping stone, catching him as each new encounter fills him with greater understanding and builds him up into a more socially functional human being.
Driven by their underlying tragedies, both books are well-conceived and executed comics. Girard and Obomsawin keep their central character’s plights in the center of every page, reminding you what they’ve had to learn to live with and how they’ve fallen and how they’ve succeeded. Neither is revolutionizing the comics form, nor is either highly recommended, but both Nicolas and Kaspar should be worthwhile titles for interested readers.
From: Marvel Comics
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Leonard Kirk
Reviewed by: Richard Renteria
The best thing about this title is the fact that writer Paul Cornell has an understanding of the mystical nature of England as it exists within the Marvel Universe. Continuing to deal with the fallout from Secret Invasion, he cleverly places the story within the context of Dark Reign while minimizing its overall impact to the story. The added benefit of Leonard Kirk’s moody art this issue continues CB-13’s strong run as one of the best titles currently on the stands.
The opening scene on the moon between Dr. Doom and Dracula was probably one of the most surreal moments ever rendered in a Marvel comic book, and yet somehow it worked. Cornell’s use of the original lunar landing site as the spot for the meeting was inspired, as Dracula is able to subtly convey his plan when he wipes away man footprint from the moon. While the story in general may be lacking in traditional action, Cornell smartly moves a handful of storylines along well upping the romantic tension between various team members while dousing another member’s hope with a bucket full of ice water.
From the opening pages to the final moment when Dracula makes his deadly first appearance on Earth, the scenes are charged with a combination of tensions, drama, excitement and even dread. Cornell packs a lot of story between the pages and the reader is the clear winner in this arrangement. I enjoyed how Cornell takes a moment from Warren Ellis’ run on the Authority and has Dracula launch an attack from the moon utilizing vampires as his choice of weapon (although I have yet to figure out how the vampires survived re-entry). It was a clever scene that really allowed series artist Leonard Kirk a moment to let loose with the pencils.
For most of the issue, Kirk is in talking head mode, which may not make for dynamic panels, but it does help to show off Kirk’s ability with mood, setting and emotion. As scenes shift between varied locations, Kirk adeptly renders each moment, even managing to instill some much needed humanity into Blade as a character. The vampire attack on England is conveyed explosively, and Kirk definitely has a handle Dracula. Jay Leisten must have worked over time on the inks, as there is a lot of subtle shading taking place; he handles it well, and, thanks to colorist Brian Reber, the art never gets overwhelmed by their work.
One of the strongest titles on the stands continues to prove its worth month after month. If you really are looking for an entertaining super-hero comic book that is doing something different with familiar characters, you can’t go wrong with Captain Britain and MI-13.
Fables #81 (Vertigo; review by Mike Mullins): I may be dense, but it wasn’t until this issue that I had a guess as to who the new big bad is, and it is a disturbing choice if I am correct. The situation of the Fables looks dire and we see the passing of another favorite character, though the there is a hint that his journey may not be complete based on the teaser for the next issue. Sadly, this issue also marked the last cover that James Jean will be supplying and DC/Vertigo were nice enough to include a letter from James Jean about his experiences as the cover artist. Fables is may be the best comic on the stands and this issue lives up to those standards.
Hellcat #5 (Marvel; Reviewed by Brian Andersen): This wily story had so much potential to be a delightfully fun lark, a playful take on a Z-List character that is sorely needing some big-time attention. All the elements are there, the art is super great, the story is an arctic roadtripping tale filled with magic and beasties and poker-playing bunnies, with a character that has been a blank slate for well over ten years - so the sky was the limit on what you could do with Pasty Walker. In many way writer Kathryn Immonen tried to pull all the stops, crafting a wacky adventure that is as ‘out there’ as it can be. So what went wrong? For me the dialogue lost me around issue two. I stuck around just out of devotion for the character and to see where the book might finally end up, but every issue, including this one, left me only slightly less lost and confused then when I read DC’s Final Crisis. Often times I had no idea what Hellcat was saying or what her mission was. And although the art showcased extremely great characterization and action the words just didn’t match up. I found myself re-reading pages in a vain attempt to try to get the gist of what the heck was being said; only to give up and succumb to the fact that it was all over my head. Oh, well, as I said above, if you can dig through the confusion you will find the basic elements for a truly fun story with really terrific, amazing art. Too bad I just didn’t get it.
X-Infernus #3 (Marvel: Reviewed by Brian Andersen): I’m still riding the stoked-wave over the return of Illyanna that I can’t hate on this story, despite the fact that there were a few times I felt a little confused. (I know! It must be me, right? Am I getting deranged in my old age? Oh, gosh, I hope not!) I don’t think it’s the writing so much, as it’s classic X-Writing with tons of action, character, and dynamic elements to keep the reader more than engrossed. My confusion, this time, is with the art. At one point the evil daughter of Belasco side-steps Illyanna’s Soulsword strike, but in the panel it just looks like Illyanna’s just slashing away blindly in front of her as her nemesis casually walked past her. What huh? There were no ‘swoosh’ highlighted words to denote that evil girl dodged the sword, no lines showing her moving speedily. Nothing. Also, it wasn’t as clear to me how Colossus and Wolverine suddenly were shifted over to the evil side. I suppose it happened quickly in the space of one small, quick, little, panel, but story-element wise it would have been nice to see a shot of the two X-Men getting snagged by the spell before they suddenly attack their fellow X-Companions. But aside from my annoying nit-pickyness, I still just can’t over my excited in seeing Illyanna return. ‘Bout time, girl.
Batman and the Outsiders One-Shot #1 (DC: Reviewed by Brian Andersen): Darn it! I bought this comic not realizing it is just an ad for the new Outsiders book! Sure the comics was well written and the art was enjoyable, loved the bats running throughout the story Adam Kubert, but the one-shot really is just a nicely written, nicely drawn, ad. Oh well, there are worst things, I suppose. My favorite parts of this story? The return of Halo - yay, you’ve been gone far too long girl - the barfing up of Metamorpho (how many times has Metamorpho and come back from the dead? 20?), and how generally creepy the Creeper looked leaping into the air. Wow! I welcome a scarier, devilish Creeper. Could be cool to have him on the new team. So, consider me intrigued DC, your ad snagged me into picking up the new Outsiders book. Score one for you!
Double Shot: Amazing Spider-Man #586 (Marvel Comics, reviewed by Richard): As this issue mainly focuses on the history of Menace, it was smart to call this issue an interlude. Marc Guggenheim’s script this issue is a solid story of a troubled girl looking for attention. I love how he portrays Lily as strong-willed but so blinded by her daddy issues she is unable to see her own madness. Barry Kitson’s art is as phenomenal as ever adding a nice softness to his characters. If there was a problem with this issue it is Lily’s constantly changing skin color, it was like she was related to Shilo Norman.
X-Men Origins: Sabretooth (Marvel Comics, reviewed by Richard): On the list of stories that needed to be told, this story was at the absolute bottom of the pile. While I understand what writer Kieron Gillen was going for with this story, it was hamstrung by some rather animate art by Dan Panosian. The story starts out in one direction by exploring Sabretooth and then totally misses the point by its maddening need to bring in Wolverine, over and over again. This was not Sabretooth’s origin but rather the origin of Logan and Creed animosity a story that has been told before and done better.
The Walking Dead #58 (Image Comics; Reviewed by Erich): Walking dead continues to be one of the most powerful books on the market. The stark beauty of Charlie Aldard's black and white art belies the painful ugliness that the survivors of the zombie apocalypse have been forced to endure. And Robert Kirkman's writing is as good as ever, with this month's issue, in which Rick, Carl and Abraham discuss the awful truth, the depths of depravity they've sunk to in order to survive. Truly heartbreaking.
Double Shot: Thor #600 (Marvel; by Troy): Speaking of repeating yourself . . . while I’ve been down with JMS so far, and while I think the art is great . . . are we already back to this particular twist in the road? It’s a development that’s so staggeringly not new that I can recall off-hand at least three stories that involve this issue’s endpoint without much effort. Perhaps it’s part of the 616 long-game, an effort to put Thor on the field more consistently with his Avenging pals. Then again, there are a lot of other ways to do it. I hope that we still get to see the intrigue and cast that we’ve seen regularly. As it is, my reaction to this issue essentially comes down to “This again?” I will be sticking around to check it out, because I like this team on this book, but still, a bit of a let-down.
Batman Confidential #26 (DC Comics; review by Rev. O.J. Flow): I suppose at this point it can be assumed that this title is simply a straight up reappropriation of the old "Legend of the Dark Knight" series. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but all this book does it tell Batman stories from day's past. Actually that's a good thing now, seeing as Bruce Wayne is out of the picture for the foreseeable future. All of the sudden this book seems more essential than ever. I haven't been reading this book regularly, but what attracted me to it was the introduction of King Tut to the Caped Crusader's world. A semi-regular villain of the 1960s TV show but never before found in the DC Universe, the version that premieres here bears little resemblance to the TV original, but then again that character strayed from historical doctrine in his own way. In this first chapter of a set 3-parter, Batman, Commissioner Gordon and the city's police are on the trail of a serial killer whose murderous techniques include those from a more familiar arch-nemesis. Good old school Bat-procedural, Part One of "A New Dawn" is mostly setup, showing King Tut as he lays down a path of carnage through the a Gotham museum's board of trustees. Complicating things is the involvement of the Riddler, a prime suspect due to King Tut's penchant for telling riddles when committing vicious assault. The writing team of Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis is new to the DCU, and it's nice to see their script given the artistic flourish that only Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nowlan can provide. The art is completely appropriate for such a potentially timeless Batman story. They give King Tut just the right level of creepiness, and he's more than a match for the Dark Knight. So far so good on this story, and I'm definitely onboard for the next two parts.
Best Shots is brought to you by Newsarama, ShotgunReviews.com and endless days of rain. Check out www.shotgunreviews.com, www.shotgunreviews.com/shots and www.myspace.com/shotgunreviews.com at your leisure.