Best Shots Advance Reviews: SLEEPY HOLLOW #1, DEADLY CLASS #8, LUMBERJANES #7

Art from Sleepy Hollow #1
Credit: BOOM! Studios
Art from Sleepy Hollow #1
Art from Sleepy Hollow #1
Credit: BOOM! Studios

Sleepy Hollow #1
Written by Marguerite Bennett
Art by Jorge Coelho and Tamra Bonvillain
Lettering by Jim Campbell
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Ichabod Crane might have had trouble with the ladies back in the 1820s, but thanks to Fox's buzzworthy show Sleepy Hollow, the sexy scholar has launched a thousand Tumblr accounts. BOOM! Studios has made a smart move bringing this property to the comicsphere, and while there are a few hiccups in the execution, the charm of the TV show still manages to translate onto the page.

Art from Sleepy Hollow #1
Art from Sleepy Hollow #1
Credit: BOOM! Studios

What works about Sleepy Hollow #1 first and foremost is that Ichabod and Abbie's chemistry still shines through. This is high praise for writer Marguerite Bennett, as she's able to really stretch herself with this adaptation. She's able to tap into horror like her mentor, Scott Snyder, while also being able to jump into some pretty cutesy banter between our two leads. If you haven't watched an episode of Sleepy Hollow before, this is a great place to get invested, as you can't help but like Ichabod's love of cupcakes, or Abbie resolutely using Wikipedia as a detective resource.

The actual plot also has some great stuff to it, particularly in the book's first half. Bennett lays out some nice set pieces here, especially when a young girl winds up going through some fairly horrific transformations. There's one action beat in particular, where a young girl flips a truck over her head, that's some very evocative stuff. There are some hiccups, however, with her conclusion, particularly the ultra-wordy solution to the case, as well the cool but admittedly convenient way Ichabod dispatches his supernatural assailants.

Art from Sleepy Hollow #1
Art from Sleepy Hollow #1
Credit: BOOM! Studios

Where the book still has some room to grow, however, is in the artwork. Jorge Coelho's scratchy linework leans towards a little bit more of a horror vibe than the drop-dead gorgeous TV Ichabod, and that's fine, especially given the subject matter. The action sequence with the truck is also the highlight of the book, as Coelho produces some damn fine comic booking with the hulking wreckage. But in other sections, his page layouts and panel compositions still aren't quite there yet. Right now there isn't a ton of variation in the camera angles, leaving everything feeling a bit distant, and more than a couple of pages not quite having a strong panel to focus on.

Occasionally, this distance winds up hampering a few crucial sequences. Bennett has to be quick on the page count, so she throws together two word-heavy pages where Abbie and Ichabod figure out the spook-of-the-week, but Coelho doesn't quite nail the talking heads, making it a bit of a chore to get through. Additionally, the final climax where Abbie and Ichabod interrupt a horde of possessed townsfolk feels distant, almost like we were watching it from a newschopper rather than being in the heart of things.

Just like the television series itself, I expect Sleepy Hollow to continue to grow as Bennett and Coelho find their footing. That said, for a pilot, this is a pretty strong showing, one with likable characters and fearsome antagonists that's sure to please veteran Sleepyheads and newcomers to Sleepy Hollow alike. If the creative team keeps up this pace with this high-potential licensed property, BOOM! Studios has another big hit on its hands.

Art from Deadly Class #8
Art from Deadly Class #8
Credit: Image Comics

Deadly Class #8
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Wes Craig and Lee Loughridge
Lettering by Rus Wooton
Published by Image Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Just when you thought Deadly Class couldn't get any darker, Rick Remender and Wes Craig pull out this issue. Serving as a flashback to teenage assassin Marcus Lopez's time in an orphanage, Deadly Class #8 also works as a great jumping-on point for readers interested in this creative team's characters, tone and artistic style.

Art from Deadly Class #8
Art from Deadly Class #8
Credit: Image Comics

There's a very emo vibe to Remender's lead character here, as Marcus is immediately restless and anxious, wondering when the rug is going to get pulled out from under him, unable to communicate his feelings outside of his journal. That's the kind of flavor that Remender has laced throughout this series, and when you see what's happened to Marcus, you might even be a little forgiving of his bouts of youthful melodrama.

Once Remender dives into the flashback, everything changes. This goes from being a darker teen actioner, and more of a prison movie, as Marcus's journal brings us back to his time in the orphanage. It's basically a sweat shop, and it's both horrifying and impressive the kind of tone that Remender brings to the story. You can really sense the rage that Marcus holds towards his captors and his fellow wards, as they struggle to survive almost a military-style sweat shop. Remender's pacing is in top form here, and the way that Marcus finally does make his escape is just vicious. But what's most important about this issue is the fact that even if you haven't read this series before, it's a great way to get inside the head of the book's protagonist - and it'll keep you hooked for more.

Art from Deadly Class #8
Art from Deadly Class #8
Credit: Image Comics

Wes Craig's artwork provides a wonderful counterpoint to Remender's gritty, bleak story, as Craig's ultra-clean linework keeps the story from drowning in darkness. Craig's use of negative space is particularly fun to look at, as it makes his character pop off the page, even as sometimes their faces are covered in shadows. His panel layouts are also great - Craig is clearly a pro, and his choices of how he stages sequences - like the way he splits a bully's face in two panels just before he meets his gruesome end - it's a little bit Reilly Brown and a little bit Frank Miller. Lee Loughridge also does some superb work with his colors, giving a nightmarish quality to the setting as the violence ramps up.

On the face of it, Deadly Class #8 is an intimate story, but it opens up this series to so much more. It's easy to jump into, and it's gorgeously drawn, almost reading as a snapshot of unbelievable horror and rage. The rest of the backstory, featuring Marcus and his cadre of trainee assassins, doesn't even factor in here. Nor should it - this is a prime example of not letting the high concept get in your way, instead letting the execution speak for itself. If you're looking to find out what all the hubbub is about with Deadly Class, there's no better time than the present.

Art from Lumberjanes #7
Art from Lumberjanes #7
Credit: BOOM! Studios

Lumberjanes #7
Written by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
Art by Brooke Allen and Maarta Laiho
Lettering by Aubrey Aiese
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Michael Moccio
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Friendship to the max! I’m not sure there’s ever been a better group catch phrase than that, and Lumberjanes #7 delves deep into the meaning of friendship and what happens when friends fight. This is a book that celebrates friends, friendship and selflessness, which means that pretty much everyone should be picking up this book and giving a try. The creative team is able to balance the far-out, mystical happenings with this diverse group of ladies, who are all so interesting, unique, and relatable, that we find no problem in accepting what’s going on because we’re far more interested in the characters themselves.

Art from Lumberjanes #7
Art from Lumberjanes #7
Credit: BOOM! Studios

Writers Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis are able to masterfully showcase the differences between each character when they have to steal a crystal from the Camp Director’s cabin. This eight-page scene - one third of the book - is never dull or boring because we’re so invested in their success. Each of the Lumberjanes plays a specific role - whether that be the distraction, the mastermind, the person actually stealing - and it all fits into the personalities Stevenson and Ellis have spent so much time developing. They’re completely committed to the wackiness and zaniness of their ideas and run with it. And that’s a major reason why everything the Lumberjanes do is so compelling, because they thrive in high-tension and high-risk environments, as are we as readers.

Art from Lumberjanes #7
Art from Lumberjanes #7
Credit: BOOM! Studios

Artists Brooke Allen and Maarta Laiho mirror that by making each Lumberjanes’ movements completely unique. You can literally see the difference in the way these girls carry themselves and in their fashion choices. It’s clear that everything we see on the page is purposeful and has some kind of meaning, even if it’s just to reinforce what we already know.

Jen is the highlight of this issue, and is rapidly becoming the superstar of the entire series. She’s smart, questions pretty much every supernatural thing that’s going on around her, and continually tries to prevent the girls from putting themselves in danger. She’s the vehicle by which Stevenson and Ellis to naturally question what’s going on without explaining everything. Whenever Jen finds something ridiculous and absurd, like the revelation in this issue about Diane, we’re reminded of how lost we are, which adds credibility to the story because the writers acknowledge it. Seamlessly, the girls continue to pull us back in without needing too much explanation because the characters are so much more important than the plot.

Art from Lumberjanes #7
Art from Lumberjanes #7
Credit: BOOM! Studios

The pacing of this issue is a little too quick and the revelation about Diane is about as a far out as concepts can go. Don’t be surprised if you feel this is straight out of left field, too, because there wasn’t much indication this kind of mythology was going to be brought in. Regardless, the story continues to move forward after that, which doesn’t give us time to really think about it. Stevenson and Ellis give us other things to worry about by putting the Lumberjanes in their most dangerous setting yet.

It’s in the final scene that the Lumberjanes - particularly Jo and April - have their friendship tested. Friends fight - that’s a natural response to being human and different; it’s just when they fight they make up and become stronger, and Stevenson and Ellis give Jo and April the situation that clearly lets us know that they’ll always be friends no matter what. Lumberjanes #1 through #6 were all in preparation for this climactic moment, and it absolutely feels one hundred percent earned. When Jo saves her friends from certain doom, we understand why she does what she does and we believe she would make that choice. All of this is proof that Stevenson and Ellis understand how to tell a great character-driven story and that they have so much else planned down the line.

Lumberjanes #7 is the climax of this first arc. Between the girls’ friendship, their ability to get themselves in all sorts of trouble, and the supernatural forces all around them, Lumberjanes is one of the best books available right now. Issue #7 shows just how strong bonds of friendship are, which makes for an inspiring and emotional read. The creative team doesn’t pull any punches and uses all the tools at their disposal to tell a seriously compelling story.

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