BEST SHOTS REVIEWS: Advance Reviews of ANT-MAN #1 & OPERATION: SIN #1, and Five From Last Week

Marvel Comics January 2015 solicitations
Credit: Marvel Comics

Happy 2015, 'Rama readers! Ready for your first review column of the year? Best Shots has you covered, with a six-pack of reviews on top of two advance reviews from Marvel Comics! So let's kick off today's column with Scott Lang and company, as we take a look at the first issue of Ant-Man...

Credit: Marvel Comics

Ant-Man #1
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Ramon Rosanas and Jordan Boyd
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Score one for the little guy. Actually, y'know what? Score ten.

Marvel is set to start 2015 off right, as Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas deliver a knockout of a first issue starring that most unlikely of superheroes, the avenging... Ant-Man. While you might think a three-time loser with a penchant for theft and shrinkage might not be a compelling lead, the humor and heart of this first issue make this easily the strongest debut issue from the House of Ideas since the first issue of Hawkeye.

The only difference? This comic is even better.

Fresh off his surprisingly funny stint on Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Nick Spencer brings that same screw-up sense of humor to Scott Lang, the second in a long line of Ant-Men. People. Whatever. Similar to Boomerang back in Superior Foes, Scott is more flawed than most, a guy with a laundry list of character flaws, as he so helpfully tells the human resources manager at Stark Industries. Theft. Divorce. Prison. Personal references who happened to have created Ultron. To put in other words, Spencer has given Eric O'Grady a run for his money, as Scott Lang might be just as irredeemable an Ant-Man as Robert Kirkman's character ever was. But unlike O'Grady, Scott Lang has one hugely redeeming quality - his teenage daughter Cassie, who's been sidelined from a superheroic career as the Young Avenger known as Stature. At the end of the day, the heart of this comic is about Scott loving the crap out of Cassie, and it all leads to one heart-warming conclusion.

Of course, that's after the action. And the screw-ups. And Scott enjoys a lot of both. Spencer is able to add a nice spin to the Ant-Man saga by essentially making this first issue a heist caper on top of a comedy, and in that regard, Scott succeeds with aplomb. Spencer choreographs some surprisingly cool beats as Scott breaks into Stark Tower, utilizing millions of ants to bust open a two-ton door. But once the thievery ends, well, Spencer goes back to his Superior Foes well, injecting tons of humor as Scott sees some stuff that a mere Ant-Man is not meant to see. Similar to the slice-of-life ethos of Hawkeye, Ant-Man lays out its theme from the very first issue - this is a guy who unerringly snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. He may be a loser, but he loses for the right reasons. And for that alone, he might earn his status as Marvel's next Hollywood superstar.

Speaking of superstars - Ramon Rosanas. Remember the name, because if you missed him over in Night of the Living Deadpool or Marvel 1602: Spider-Man, you're in for a treat. His work reminds me of a cross between Chris Sprouse and Phil Hester, or a Bernard Chang inked by Scott Kolins, just with these very smooth characters that are broken down with some nicely angular inks. Perhaps most impressive, though, is Rosanas' page layouts - Spencer writes some very dense pages, but you wouldn't know it looking here, as Rosanas experiments with composition and storytelling. Even Scott's size works to his advantage, with one great scene as Scott shrinks down in a crowded subway. Colorist Jordan Boyd is also a perfect fit for Rosanas' pages, adding plenty of realism without sucking out any of the energy. Seriously, the art team alone is victory enough for this unlikely winner of a comic.

Bringing much of the sense of humor that defined Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Nick Spencer has brought his A-game - and brought an A-game art team in the form of Ramon Rosanas and Jordan Boyd - to Ant-Man #1. This comic is a perfect mission statement for Scott Lang, and if the upcoming movie can do half as good a job at defining the character, Marvel is going to be adding another powerhouse franchise to its roster. Get ready to enjoy your next favorite Marvel series.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Operation: SIN #1
Written by Kathryn Immonen
Art by Rich Ellis and Jordan Boyd
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by George Marston
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

With Haley Atwell's winning performance in the Captain America films making Peggy Carter an unlikely household name, it's no wonder Marvel is banking on the World War II super spy to sell not just its next TV project, but Operation: SIN, the latest title that attempts to fill in the secret history between Invaders-era Marvel, and the present day of the Avengers. Thanks largely to a winning script by Kathryn Immonen, which draws more on Moonlighting than Mad Men, this post-war spy thriller packs more than enough charm to make up for its buzzword title, and to capitalize on the name recognition a certain Agent Carter engenders.

Marvel Cinematic Universe connections aside, Peggy Carter is a no-brainer for the lead in Operation: SIN - at least in Kathryn Immonen's hands. Immonen wastes absolutely no time in showing exactly why Peggy Carter was Captain America's WWII confidant and ally in a cold open that somehow manages to take the nightgown fight scene - usually played for fan service - into the best action of the book, without ever straying into cheesecake territory. While much of that falls to artist Rich Ellis, who renders Carter with a perfect balance of scrappy soldier and femme fatale, it is Immonen's action-first pacing that is Operation: SIN's best asset.

Second only to that, however, is Immonen's interplay between Carter and Howard Stark. By framing them as old allies rather than former lovers, specifically without a romantic past, Immonen places Carter and Stark on equal footing, building more of a classic rivalry than an old flame gone cold. There is still a spark between them, but it is closer to the dynamic between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, or Statler and Waldorf. And though their interplay is funny - seeing the pair argue about Stark's method of recruiting Carter is solid gold - that isn't to say that Operation: SIN feels like a talker, or a comedy.

While there are some shortcuts getting our heroes together, Immonen spends just the right amount of time with each beat, allowing the relationships of Stark, Carter, and their two heretofore unseen allies, Tania Belinskiya and Woodrow McCord, to develop a particularly well-balanced dynamic. Of course, Operation: SIN isn't without flaws. In the rush to establish the group dynamic and the outlandish peril at hand, there isn't much time to really delve into who these characters are. We know what they can do, and how they relate to each other, but there is a lot of short hand getting the readers on the same page. Even that feels like a minor quibble when measured against the ease with which Immonen falls into each character's voice, however, so perhaps some mystery is fitting for a book about super spies.

As for Rich Ellis, his handling of the subject matter rings true in the sense that his art never feels too serious and hardboiled, but carries enough weight that Operation: SIN never falls into cartoonish territory. Most appealing is Ellis's eye for fashion and character design, which incorporates plenty of brown trenchcoats, pencil skirts, and thin mustaches to fully establish the setting of the burgeoning Cold War, while still feeling distinctly like a comic book, and welcoming the addition of alien technology and super spy gadgets. Despite this, there are times when Ellis's faces feel inconsistent, like he hasn't quite pinned down each character's acting, so to speak. Still, along with colorist Jordan Boyd's balance of primary colors and earth tones - pitch perfect for a post-war thriller - Ellis cultivates a kind of souped up Man From U.N.C.L.E. vibe that truly carries the story.

Despite these strengths, there's something not quite there about Operation: SIN. While the twist ending hardly feels like it comes from left field, it does feel a bit like an after-thought, meant solely to bookend the issue with another big setpiece. It still provides a strong enough hook that Operation: SIN #1 gets by on the promise of what's to come more than its actual story. There's also that strong dynamic between Stark and Carter, which is worth tuning in for on its own, but Operation: SIN lacks the slightest depth required to feel like a runaway hit.

With Agent Carter on the immediate horizon, it makes perfect sense to stick that show's presumed breakout characters, the titular Peggy Carter and the debonair Howard Stark, into a book of their own. On the other hand, seems a little forced to tie that book in to a byzantine event comic that got middling reception rather than making it more accessible to nascent fans of the TV series. Either way, do yourself a favor, and don't pass Operation: SIN #1 up as an inessential tie-in book. Kathryn Immonen and Rich Ellis are cooking something special here, even if it needs a little more time to simmer.

Batman Eternal #39
Batman Eternal #39
Credit: DC Entertainment

Batman Eternal #39
Written by Ray Fawkes
Art by Felix Ruiz and Dave McCaig
Lettering by John J. Hill
Published by DC Comics
Reviewed by Brian Bannen
‘Rama Rating 7 out of 10

Ray Fawkes has a difficult task in Issue #39 of DC’s weekly Batman Eternal. He’s charged with seamlessly balancing three plot threads while simultaneously revealing some major mysteries in a series that has been an increasingly frustrating to read due to the lack of advancement the story. Batman Eternal #39 finally gives us some answers but in its usual fashion meaning that more questions are raised at the end of the issue. However, save for some opacity in the art, the issue is a solid piece of storytelling.

Fawkes’ script is pretty tight, which makes reading the comic a little easier given the murky, claustrophobic stylings of Felix Ruiz. While the bulk of the issue is taken up with Batman’s encounter with Riddler, the other two thirds of story divides itself between the recently rounded up villains and Vicki Vale’s self pity over being duped by Jason Bard. While Vale is little more than a plot point used to make connections between seemingly random events that have occurred since Jason Bard took over and corrupted the Gotham police force, Fawkes’ paint-by-numbers approach is appreciated, especially given the myriad conflicts Batman Eternal has created in its thirty-nine issue run. What he reveals, though, is that nothing is random in the Batman world, and that our authors are very clever.

The conclusion of the villain round-up isn’t necessarily unexpected, but the conclusion of the comic is. Someone is definitely playing Batman against himself, but the situation is much more dire than we originally thought. A few issues back, we learned about the hidden Batman cache which was revealed to Gotham’s many villains, but here we learn more about its purpose. And the reveal definitely tells us that the worst has not yet come for Batman, or for Gotham City.

The bread and butter of the issue, though, is Batman’s meeting with Riddler. Fawkes perfectly captures Edward Nygma at his most cryptic and arrogant. The quality of the writing - the smoothness of transitions, the playful yet loaded back and forth between hero and villain - make these parts of the comic fun to read. While Nygma seems like the logical choice for the person behind Batman’s struggles, he definitely drops a huge hint about who’s actually behind all of Bruce’s woes, and he does it - of course - with a riddle. Everything about their conversation is engrossing, and I hope that Fawkes gets a chance in the future to pen more Riddler-centric stories because he knows how to write Batman’s intellectual rival.

Where I had issues following the flow of the comic was in the art. Felix Ruiz has a murky, jagged style reminiscent of Kelly Jones, but without the animalistic Batman. This makes the imagery uneven. His point of view choice is occasionally difficult to understand and this makes the composition of the panels messy. Images tend to blend with each other so that at some points, panels are overlapping but not cleanly. We know Batman is a moody character and therefore most issues of Batman call for some gloominess, but not at the sake of lucid visuals. Ruiz is a fan of crosshatching but this leads to excessive and often distracting shading, and the final splash page really suffers from this lack of clean construction.

Dave McCaig also uses a pretty restrained palette so the images tend to be shadowy. This makes for a lot of dark shots and muted finishes. The comic really has echoes of Sean Murphy’s styling but this doesn’t work well with characters in dark colors, like men in all-black S.W.A.T. suits for example. It’s occasionally on point, but it misses more than it hits.

Despite my issues with the art, Batman Eternal #39 tells a great story. Fawkes weaves his plots with skill and style, and the comic delivers a great reveal while also building its overarching mystery. Plus, we know now that Gotham hasn’t reached its darkest point yet. Reading this issue, it’s easy to make many parallels to “Knightfall,” the famous arc that saw Batman broken by Bane. Clearly, something as sinister is in store for the Dark Knight, and I can’t wait to find out.

Credit: Marvel Comics

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Carlos Pacheco, Mariano Taibo, Jason Paz and Dono Almara
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

With Mark Waid and Carlos Pacheco behind the helm, S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn't just gotten a new series - it's gotten an entirely different mandate. Recasting the agency in the Marvel Cinematic Universe's image, gone are the spy games and Steranko flare, and in its place is something that's less well-defined. Instead of S.H.I.E.L.D. being its own autonomous agency, this new run might be better defined as what they are not. Like in the Marvel films, this iteration of S.H.I.E.L.D. aren't superheroes in their own right, but instead serve as their handlers, as their connective tissue. Even with characters imported from the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series, this exercise in continuity-fu is decently crafted, even if it can't help but be reductive at the end of the day.

From the first page on, Waid takes his cues from Marvel's movies, as we meet super-fan Phil Coulson, feverishly working away at a growing database of facts regarding Marvel superheroes. While I can't say that Waid necessarily imbues Phil with the sort of sassiness or charm that he had in Iron Man 2 or Avengers, it does lead into the structural conceit of this new era of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Namely, Coulson's ability to mix and match different heroes from different corners of the Marvel Universe. In other words, a man after Waid's heart.

Like I said before, this iteration of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't so much defined as what they are, as what they're not. It's Marvel superheroes and "the other guys." Unfortunately, "the other guys" don't have a ton going for them at first blush, other than providing an excuse for superhero team-ups that, honestly, most superheroes didn't need in the first place. Outside of Coulson, most of the other agents - Melinda May, Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons - get only a line or two each, not giving them a ton of room for characterization. Additionally, while Coulson has that ever-elusive comic book superpower of "leadership," it's not really him doing any of the heavy lifting, here - we get some cool moments with an unlikely pair of superheroes, and the sense of scale with Asgard and international politics adds some punch, but nothing about this feels like Coulson's victory.

Carlos Pacheco is an interesting pick for S.H.I.E.L.D., in only because he mirrors Waid's strengths and weaknesses so much. His superhero work looks great, especially a double-page spread featuring Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Hyperion, White Tiger, Shang-Chi, and much more. There's a pair of sword-fighters that are the unexpected highlights of the book, but that scene also cuts to the heart at what's holding this book back - namely, all the flash goes to the superheroes, while leaving none of that likability for the actual core cast of the comic. Pacheco's S.H.I.E.L.D. agents look largely interchangable, and in the case of the women, are largely shown from the back (and at a distance), making it a challenge to remember they were even there. Pacheco gets points for trying to make characters like Fitz and May look like their on-screen counterparts, but it's only for a panel or two before they get lost in the fracas.

On the whole, S.H.I.E.L.D. is a comic that's packed with characters and is hardly offensive - it's not a bad comic, but it also hasn't cracked the code to make it a particularly good or memorable one yet, either. Part of that is because it's inherent to the book's concept that the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. aren't even Z-listers - they're outside the fold, just assembling the real heroes to get the real work done. It's hard not to feel at least a little dismissive at this team on the outset, with their lackluster jumpsuits and their nondescript action. They're everything superheroes aren't - and right now, that's not doing S.H.I.E.L.D. any favors.

Credit: Marvel Comics

All-New Miracleman Annual #1
Written by Grant Morrison and Peter Milligan
Art by Joe Quesada, Richard Isanove, Mike Allred and Laura Allred
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos and Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Marvel has had the rights to Miracleman for a few years now and we’ve patiently waited for them to churn out some new material. On the last day of 2014, we’ve finally gotten our wish and Marvel didn’t hold back on the lining up some marquee talent for the debut of All-New Miracleman. First, they dusted off a 30-year-old Grant Morrison script and paired it with head honcho Joe Quesada. Then they got the old X-Statix team, Peter Milligan and the Allreds, together again for fun little Miracleman Family story. But something’s amiss. Maybe this well-regarded classic hero just doesn’t translate well for modern audiences. Maybe the creators themselves put the character on such a high pedestal that it prevents them from really taking Miracleman and running with him. Maybe great creators only make okay comics sometimes. I’m going to guess it’s that last one.

The first story is Morrison and Quesada’s “The October Incident: 1966.” The 30-year-old script delivers all the classic Morrison hallmarks. One of the characters looks just like a young Morrison. Lightning plays a major role. The narration creates an easy and obvious divide between good and evil, using “The Priest” and “The Dragon” as stand-ins for the characters in the story. Past that, the issue is riddled with even more religious imagery. Miracleman, Superman and Shazam are all easy analogues for Jesus Christ. But Morrison opts to use a different member for the Miracleman family and it’s the switch that takes the script into “Last Temptation...” territory. But like any old Morrison script (or, arguably, many modern ones), he takes far too long getting to the point. As soon as he hooks you, the story ends. It’s a great tactic when you know there’s an issue coming out next month, but it doesn’t carry the same appeal here. Also, the story is very abstract. Without prior knowledge of the characters, one would be hard-pressed to really follow along or understand the significance of the story. (Not a knock on the script. Morrison didn’t write it intending to see it printed 30 years later.)

The writing itself is beautiful, but it’s Quesada’s spectacular art that makes this book feel so bittersweet. He’s working on a whole new level in this story, employing a more European comics sensibility to his linework that really opens up the pages and allows his art to hold more weight. The wrinkles on the Priest’s face hold more significance because of the absence of lines elsewhere on the page. Quesada is much more deliberate when marking the page, and that’s what makes the difference between this and his recent variant cover work. Richard Isanove remains one of the best colorists working in comics but he does make one jarring misstep toward the end of the story. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, computer-generated lighting effects are terrible.

The second story is one my Peter Milligan and Mike Allred that is decidedly more sunny. This is the Batman ‘66 of Miracleman stories. There’s a death ray that works by shooting actual particles of death at our heroes. There are crazed dolphins attacking a town in Maine and Miracleman must speak with their king. It’s a silly story that hearkens back to a more innocent time in capes comics. Mike and Laura Allred are a great fit for this story. For his part, Mike Allred is able to draw anything with complete sincerity, never wavering in his style just because something could seem out of place. I don’t think another artist would have handled a gang of dolphins sitting around a campfire as well as he does. Laura Allred’s colors are fitting as well. This story is a very Golden Age throwback, and her work is bright and uncompromising.

Milligan really hams it up and in many ways, it’s a very “wink wink nudge nudge” kind of story. But readers unfamiliar with Miracleman are probably now even more confused. Clearly, Miracleman is a kind of archetypal strong man character, but can they expect more of the dour existential dread present in Morrison’s story or the technicolor romp of Milligan and Allred’s?

This annual is a weird move for Marvel especially, with seemingly no further Miracleman material on the immediate horizon. All the creators involved are great talents (and Quesada in particular is a standout in this issue) but, especially at a $5.00 price point, this seems like little more than a cash grab. It’s an expensive reminder that, oh yeah, Marvel owns that guy. Neither story develops a foundation for Marvel to continue with their vision of Miracleman and that might be because they don’t have a vision yet. For hardcore Miracleman fans, this is an interesting piece of work, but it’s one that a more thrifty fan is better off waiting to find in the $1 boxes.

Credit: BOOM! Studios

Abigail and the Snowman #1
Written by Roger Langridge
Art by Roger Langridge and Fred Stresing
Lettering by Roger Langridge
Published by Kaboom!
Review by Scott Cederlund
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Roger Langridge’s Abigail and the Snowman #1 is a story about one of those precocious children who don’t see or experience the world like anyone else. They have imaginary dogs named Claude and have taught kangaroos at the zoo to jump on command. They have to go to the park instead of the zoo on their birthdays because their father lost his job after accidentally setting his boss’s hair on fire. While she’s at the park instead of the zoo, she runs into a giant Yeti who’s on the run from the law. He’s hiding behind a small tree but no one but her can see her. In Langridge’s charming fashion, Abigail and the Yeti have a witty discussion about who he is. She claims he’s Bigfoot and he of course denies it; “They’re a bunch of hippies. No better than apes!”

If the Yeti isn’t one of those giant Muppets, I don’t know what it? Having spent a few years writing and drawing The Muppets for BOOM!, Langridge’s own natural design work is in perfect step with Jim Henson’s. From the Abigail’s expressiveness to the Yeti’s overall huggability (he wears a professor’s sports coat and charmingly carries a pipe with him,) Langridge’s cartooning is just delightful. Langridge reconnects you to your own childhood, one where wonder and mystery can be found on any playground. The Yeti frowns, scolds, dances and worries. He even pushes Abigail on a swing as he tries to explain how he’s on the run from a shadowy government agency. Langridge fills his children and monsters with so much life in them that these characters become real and are full of fun.

What makes Langridge’s comics work as much as his characters is his sense of timing. The man has great comedic timing. Through the layout of a page, knowing when to throw in a splash page or finding the perfect moment to end the issue on, Langridge paces out this comic to build up to and hit the perfect note for a reveal or a joke. Abigails finds the Yeti in the park after she’s thrown a stick for her imaginary dog to fetch. It is a magical blending of her imagination at work (fetch with Claude) and what we only can understand as imagination but seems to be something more (finding a Yeti hiding out in a British park.) From there, the pantomime of the Yeti, a “monster” trying to shoo off a little girl showcases Langridge’s ability to marry his timing and his characterization together as Abigail refuses to be intimidated by the coat-and-tie-wearing monster.

Roger Langridge combines whimsy and wisdom into a comic that enjoys the imagination of children in Abigail and the Snowman #1. Children's imaginations can see so much more than most adults can. We see jobs, paychecks and responsibilities. Children see invisible dogs or bigfoots. These are things we never question when we're young but can't even understand once the weight of adulthood sets in. This is the world that Abigail and the Yeti inhabit, a world where children see so much more than those of us who are supposedly older and wiser.

Credit: DC Comics

The New 52: Future’s End #35
Written by Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens, Jeff Lemire and Brian Azzarello
Art by Jesus Merino, Stephen Thompson, Dan Green and Hi-Fi
Lettering by Carlos M. Mangual
Published by DC Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10

Despite being built on a truly insane premise the title, to me, The New 52: Future’s End #35 never fully lived up to its potential or provided audiences with any substantial narrative takeaway. As Future’s End hurdles toward its conclusion, the title seems content with delivering more of the same, but what they were delivering has never been as compelling as they anticipated. #35 still features a rough and tumble group of characters all working separately toward different goals; some of them literal lightyears away from each other. This odd disconnect that Future’s End commits to never once makes the issue feel like anything other than a series of vignettes jammed together.

This month’s installment of Future’s End checks in with the majority of the major players of the series, but always for just enough time for them to become interesting... and then its off to another scene. While the issue opens with Firestorm launching herself into her first metahuman battle against Dr. Polaris, this battle is over before it could really be started. The writers give Madison and Jason some interesting interactions as Jason valiantly tries to guide Madison toward being an effective and careful field hero, but, like most things in Future’s End, it is over far too quickly, and then we are shuffled off to another setting and another set of characters.

The next superhero one-act we are presented is the family drama that is Lana Lang and the sociopathic Fifty-Sue. Much to my surprise, this scene ended up being the most engaging scene in #35, despite it being about one of my least-favorite characters from this dystopian universe. Artists Jesus Merino and Steve Thompson imbue this scene with a pathos that has sorely missing throughout the run of Future’s End. Merino and Thompson stage this whole scene in tight two shots and angled establishing shots, keeping it from devolving into melodrama, which in a title like this, it easily could have been. The Lana Lang featured here is rendered in such a way that it evokes the Lana that we have seen steal the show so many times in Action Comics; she is poised, fierce and authoritative in the face of a being that could easily dispatch her with a single movement. This sort of emotion is something that Future’s End has needed before now, but I fear it might be too little too late.

Future’s End #35 rounds out this month’s group of squashed together scenes with a jaunt into space to the Carrier, which now holds the combined forces of Stormwatch and S.H.A.D.E, in the hands of newly appointed leader, Ray Palmer, who is trying to save Frankenstein after his Nth Metal transplant. While that was a ball to type, the issue seems all too eager to turn this into an exposition dump about the state of the title’s antagonists, as well as a one-panel explanation as to where Black Adam is going. These characters have, for me, been some of the only consistent parts of Future’s End mainly because their adventures have felt the least self-serious out of all the plots. These characters are, by nature, very over the top, so the writer’s allowed them to be over the top, but #35 just finds them stagnating, with Palmer monologuing about the status quo of the book as of this issue and vowing to build some sort of army in order to keep control in his new position. Kudos to Amethyst for doing the only sensible thing by scooping up Frankenstein and marching out of frame toward, hopefully, some magic-based craziness next month.

This brings us to our final scene of the issue: Plastique and Terry McGinnis butting heads with a really unsettling new version of Composite Batman, who apparently loves Zagnuts. While Merino and Thompson brought genuine heart to the scene with Lana and Fifty-Sue, their action sequences haven’t slacked off either. Plastique and Composite Batman’s first scene together is a nice bit of tense staging with Plastique huddled in the foreground while Composite Batman looms over her in the background, giving way to a nice, albeit a bit mopey, hero shot of Terry right before it all kicks off. The artists even manage to throw in a subtle Frank Miller reference as Terry leaps into action and catches a fleeting glimpse of the Dark Knight huddled in shadow waiting for his time to strike. While this fight and the opening set piece with Firestorm are much too short to really enjoy, the art team still manages to render it all with momentum; I just wish it wasn’t brought to a screeching halt before it could really get going.

Combine all these together, and what you get is another forgettable issue of The New 52: Future’s End. Which is a shame, because I really want to like this book: it's my kind of crazy, and it stars a bunch of characters that I really love and who have been missing from the main roster of DC heroes. However, the weekly distribution of the book and the writers' frustrating habit of never making the scenes and characters gel in any way at all keep this book from succeeding.

Double-Shot Review!

Credit: Marvel Comics

All-New Miracleman Annual #1
Written by Grant Morrison and Peter Milligan
Art by Joe Quesada, Richard Isanove, Mike Allred and Laura Allred
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos and Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10

I'm confused on what "All-New" is supposed to represent in All-New Miracleman Annual #1. This isn't exactly the best effort brought forth to rekindle a collective love affair with the Miracleman world, and for any new readers coming into the property, could lead them astray and puzzled. Given the talent and marquee names involved here, you'd think they'd be able to do just that, ignite the passion once again for these characters and this world, but it's an extreme letdown.

When things start off with a story written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Joe Quesada, you know it's going to impressive, or at least given the impression it's going to be. Sadly, it is anything but. True, Quesada's attention to detail looks great with the crashing waves and the intricate linework that gives both the priest and the demented Kid Miracleman such great expressions and compositions.

That said, by the end, these characters are both shells in the story. There's no real context. Like, at all. The thing this, this script was written decades ago by Morrison, and just because you put a fresh coat of paint on an old, busted Buick, doesn't make it new. Props also to colorist Richard Isanove for at least giving Quesada's pages a slick coloring job. But Isanove can't change the fact that the script is cliched and doesn't have the punch contemporary works by Morrison possess.

Now, you take the first couple pages and follow them with up with the back up story by Peter Milligan and the Allreds, and the whole book suffers because it feels so disjointed. To be fair, though, the Milligan-Allreds combination works more as a complete story than the Morrison-Quesada tale, even if it is slightly goofier. Though it's hard to not love the expression "fishing village is attacked by an army of unusually crazed dolphins." At the very least, it's superhero satire at its finest and comes packaged with that Allred flair that you have to love. The story also incorporates a lot more of the mythology and character roster and gives you a better look inside the Miracleman world. Yet again, there's no real solid introductory course, but again, I guess this book was just made for established Miracleman fans and that's kind of a disappointment.

I think there is an audience for Miracleman, one that doesn't remember the old stories or doesn't have access to them since they're not really in print anymore, an audience that wants stories more fitting for a comic with the "All-New" banner attached. I wonder if this kind of book would be more fitting in an anthology format, but something more accessible than All-New Miracleman Annual #1. When you hype something as something as potentially big as "all-new" and deliver something like this, you can't help but feel a little disenchanted by it all.

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