Best Shots Reviews: HAWKEYE #22, ROBIN: SON OF BATMAN #2, JUSTICE LEAGUE #42, More

Marvel July 2015 Solicitation Images
Credit: Marvel Comics

Salutations, ‘Rama readers! This is Lan Pitts here, taking over for our Best Shots leader David Pepose as he’s still celebrating the best Bastille Day holiday he’s ever been on, so I’ve got some of today’s best releases. We’ll take a look at Batman’s new role in Justice League #42, if Robin: Son of Batman is still holding our attention, as well as the debut of a new Captain Britain title. First though, Jocund Justin Partridge, III says goodbye to Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye. See you around, bro.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Hawkeye #22
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

“If you’re still here, you know what happened last time. This is how it ends.”

Thus begins Hawkeye #22, its usual cheeky recap replaced with a terse, yet appropriate final kick off. Though a long time coming, Hawkeye #22 is more than worth the wait, delivering a tense, emotional, and cathartic ending for our favorite human dumpster fire and his cooler than cool ward. Writer Matt Fraction along with artists David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth don’t overdo this finale nor do they go the easy route. They simply end the series that became an instant critical darling the same way they started it, with a rollicking issue long action sequence that shows more than it tells. Hawkeye #22 may have taken a long time to actually hit shelves, but after reading it, you would be hard pressed to think of a better ending for Clint, Pizza Dog, Kate, and the whole Bed-Stuy gang.

Hawkeye #22 wastes absolutely no time cutting to exactly what readers want. Picking up directly after issue 21‘s quirky cliffhanger, we are transported into Clint’s apartment where standoff between Cherry (who we actually learn is named Penny), The Clown, and the leader of the Tracksuit Draculas, Ivan. All of them trying to find the proper moment to steal away with the contents of the mysterious safe, introduced all the way back in the early days of the title, and the cause of all the violence that preceded this finale. Matt Fraction doesn't waste much time with the particulars of the safe. He throws away the reveal that the safe contains proof of the Tracksuit’s real estate swindle and instead, smashes into what we all really want; a showdown between The Clown and Clint, a fight that has been a long time coming. And, let me be the first to tell you, it does not disappoint. Fraction smartly gets out of David Aja’s way and simply lets the two go at it, all under the deft hand of Aja and colorist Matt Hollingsworth. But of course, this being Clint, he needs help more than he care to admit, and that’s where the internet’s favorite archer, Kate Bishop, comes in.

If you didn’t think that Kate Bishop was a star before Hawkeye #22, and if you didn’t, we probably need to have a serious talk, but this finale is yet another star turn for Bishop. She enters the fray about ten minutes before things truly went south of Team Bed-Stuy and makes her presence known with a literal explosion, thanks to a well placed thermite arrow. Fraction very much made Hawkeye a title about both Clint and Kate and the finale continues that fantastic dynamic. Both characters compliment each other so well, not only in personality but in the field, which is more than expressed in the final showdown between the Hawkeyes and The Clown, which is definite contender for action sequence of the year. To fully detail it here would rob the power out of the moments that make up the fight, plus, I fear that I wouldn’t be able to do it justice fully in mere words, but trust me. Aja and Hollingsworth have outdone themselves with Hawkeye #22. I could go on and on about Aja’s simplistic panel layouts and sparse backgrounds, aided by Hollingsworth’s evocative 70‘s comics inspired color choices, but they have to be seen to be truly appreciated. Hawkeye #22 is a masterclass in visual storytelling, one that isn’t cluttered with erroneous dialogue or needless exposition. It simply presents its story in the most dynamic way possible; par for the course for Hawkeye and the wildly talented creatives behind it.

And so, we bid farewell to Hawkeye, the little title about a guy who was simply that, a guy, a Hawkguy. Matt Fraction, David Aja, Annie Wu, Matt Hollingsworth, and letterer Chris Eliopoulos, time after time, delivered comics that detailed the adventures of ordinary people that only wanted to make a difference.

The world was never at stake in Hawkeye nor was a city in peril due to some alien menace. Clint, Kate, and Pizza Dog lived on the streets and so each story lived there too, and somehow, that became the most interesting and innovative thing we could read each month (or several months, but that’s neither here nor there). Hawkeye #22 is simply the best possible ending for our archers. The building and the people in it are safe, everyone got their version of a happy ending, and it was a futzing honor to have experienced it. Team Hawkeye’s aim was true at the beginning and now, it's just as true here at the end.

Credit: DC Comics

Robin: Son of Batman #2
Written by Patrick Gleason
Art by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, John Kalisz and Jeromy Cox
Lettering by Tom Napolitano
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Damian's quest for redemption continues in Robin: Son of Batman #2 and writer/artist Patrick Gleason wastes no time getting to the meat of this story. Damian, despite being a "good guy" now, has a stubborn streak that informs his character just as much as his bravado and intelligence. Gleason makes it clear to readers that Damian isn't going to have an easy path ahead of him just because he's finally doing the right thing. In fact, it's quite the opposite and the inclusion of the new NoBody to the regular cast helps set up a more compelling main concept.

Kudos to Gleason for improving on a strong debut. Robin is a really fun book, especially if you're a Damian fan. Establishing the Boy Wonder as the best there is at what he does really runs counter to his age. While so many characterizations of Damian focused on his intense thoughts and methods, they rarely balanced them with the fact that he is actually 10 years old. The trappings of this issue are a little more fantastic compared to your standard Batman fare. And that works. I don't think you could have an 8 foot tall giant man-bat in Gotham but here it makes the book seem a little closer to The Neverending Story and other child focused adventureworks of the '80s.

The new Nobody proves to be a formidable addition to the cast. She's a physical manifestation of Damian's sins and having her hang around is sure to create more tension than if Damian took on the quest alone. I also like the idea of the both of them bringing each other to the center. It doesn't seem like Nobody considers herself a hero but she is forced into situations where she has to be one because of Damian. Similarly, Damian's atonement is important to him because he does consider himself a hero, meanwhile Nobody threatens to expose his darkest secrets and constantly reminds him that he isn't as good as he thinks he is.

With so much going on in the narrative, it would be easy for the art to lag, especially with Gleason pulling double duty. But page after page, Gleason reminds us why he got this gig in the first place. His is the definitive version of Damian in the modern DC Universe and this issue is gorgeous. The pillars of Gleason's art are always the same: strong character renderings and intense inks informing dynamic action or drama. Stalwart inker Mick Gray is Gleason's biggest asset, laying a foundation of deep black inks that provides a clear base for colorists John Kalisz and Jeromy Cox to work from. It proves to be incredibly important in this issue as the color palette is expanded beyond what you'd expect from a Bat Family book due to the Temple Guardian's rainbow hypno beams.

Let a creator work on a character they feel strongly about and they'll turn in their best work. Gleason's clear affection for Damian shines through this issue and makes it easier for readers to appreciate what he's doing with the character. While other books rely on snap status quo changes and divisive retcons in order to bring curious readers in, Robin: Son of Batman treads lightly on established continuity to create something fun and exciting that doesn't inherently change anything about the character or his world. That's how you build a character up. Gleason and company are providing the perfect balance of reverence and strong storytelling.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders #1
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer and Wil Quintana
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Oscar Maltby
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Originally conceived by Herb Trimpe and Chris Claremont as the Marvel take on Arthurian legend as well as being an obvious tea-drinking counterpart to Captain America, Captain Britain has often languished as part of the Marvel D-team, occasionally being dusted off for small part in a team book or an irregular short-lived ongoing (As was the case with Paul Cornell's short-lived Captain Britain & MI: 13). Much the same can be said for the Defenders, a super-team that has boasted members like the Hulk and Namor, and yet never had the staying power of the Marvel ongoing main-stays. Enter Al Ewing. Most notable for his recent Marvel work as well as his memorable series' for 2000 AD, Ewing's fierce sense of humor and radical way of thinking breathe new life into both Captain Britain and the Defenders thanks to Marvel's do-anything editorial approach to the Secret Wars summer event.

Welcome to Yinsen City, where Dr. Yinsen's heroic alter-ego Rescue has pioneered super-heroism, stressing defence and peace over superior firepower. When Dr. Faiza Hussain (a character who originated in Cornell's aforementioned Captain Britain & MI: 13 book) breaks her way into Yinsen City, she comes in peace. Unfortunately, she immediately runs afoul of Doom, who lowers the fortifications that divide the peaceful Yinsen City from the blood-thirsty Mondo City-One in retaliation to her presence. Trouble ensues.

Ewing's written a script that's grounded within Battleworld, exploring how uneasy life would be when rubbing up close to dangerous and radically different regions of heroes. It's a refreshing and welcome change from the isolated alternate universes that most other writers keep their Battleworld books in. Ewing's Yinsen City is a recognisable yet purposefully odd place. This is a world where the Prowler witnessed the death of Peter Parker and chose to take his mantle, where Tony Stark's fellow cave captive Dr. Yinsen pursued a life of super-heroism and everyone's sleep is filled with dreams of the 616 universe. Ewing plays brilliantly in a sand-box, rebuilding familiar faces into fresh characters and winking defiantly at his spiritual home; the armor-bound and gun-crazy lawmen of Jeff Parker's Mondo City-One are here in full force, obvious homages to Dredd and co.

There's a lot here for fans of obscure Marvel. From Boss Magnaconte (A No-Prize is well deserved to anyone who remembers the New Universe's All-American) to the return of the Mondo Cities from Parker's Dark Avengers run, Ewing's clearly having fun with the weirder corners of Marvel's many universes, and it shows.

Alan Davis' artwork is technically proficient. He doesn't have the flashiest of styles, instead dependably and capably rendering body language and facial expressions in a way that elevates Ewing's script. Davis is an excellent story-teller, he just isn't the most captivating one. His work embodies the simple approach; choosing not to fill faces with craggy lines or to texture every single facet of his world, but instead opting to depict solid characters against simple backgrounds. Davis' no-frills approach even extends to his climactic splash page, a landscape shot showing the fascist dystopia of Mondo City-One, which is almost barren of detail. It's at times like that when Davis' work feels like a detriment rather than an addition to the overall issue, but luckily it's relegated to that one unfulfilled splash page.

Atop Davis' solid pencils, Wil Quintana breaks out the standard-issue Marvel primary color palette, daubing the issue in bright reds and blues against tarnished silver and dusty beiges. Much like Davis' artwork, it's reassuring instead of eye-popping; finishing off a well-written comic book that looks attractive but isn't exactly eye-catching.

There's no obvious drawbacks to Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders #1. There's nothing bad about Alan Davis' pencils, they're just incredibly safe. Contrastingly, Al Ewing is an unrestrained whirlwind of ideas and energy, clearly enjoying the freedom offered by the Battleworld concept and using it to maximum effect. A great script and solid (if unexceptional) artwork make Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders #1 an issue worth recommending.

Credit: DC Comics

Justice League #42
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

There’s only so many times that writer Geoff Johns can drop the mic on this title before it is considered wanton property damage, but with the second chapter in “Darkseid War” he proves that it - and by extension the audience - are far more resilient than that. What has characterized this run to date is seeing a Justice League in full flight, working together as a seamless unit especially during those times when the entire world is being threatened. So naturally this latest threat takes the form of a team literally divided on separate worlds, and one of their member being in a position previously unimaginable.

Despite opening on Apokolips, in a wonderfully ambiguous scene with Superman and Lex Luthor, this issue of Justice League is pleasingly focused on Wonder Woman. This was the case with the previous issue as well, but as a warrior her words about the nature of war are both the mirror image of Steppenwolf only pages before, as well as being their anti-thesis. As Darkseid’s daughter, Metron and the Anti-Monitor/Mobius prepare the Earth to be the battlefield for their war, it is perhaps Diana of all the League that understands most what this would cost the Earth. It’s also interesting that Johns has chosen Mister Miracle, another child of two worlds whose existence was meant to put an end to conflict. Their parallel stories make for one of the more interesting dual narratives in this kind of event, with the latter giving us ideas of who and what the targeted Myrina Black represents.

What Johns does here with the team is fascinating. Having built up notions of what their ‘godlike’ power means on Earth, he displaces them entirely by having them confront ‘actual’ gods in a world that is not entirely their own. Metron warns them that the Anti-Monitor’s “story is forbidden” and that their world is doomed. The League’s inability to accept this is of course typical of their defiance against evil, but for the first time there are smatterings of arrogance to their power, perhaps suggesting they are due to be taken down a peg or two. More than that, it is once again Diana that challenges the very notion of Metron’s omnipotence, using her own power with the “truth” to seek out hidden knowledge and literally challenge the gods. How that situation resolves itself is a table-turning event that few will see coming.

Jason Fabok’s background on Batman titles, along with his villainous leanings with Forever Evil: Arkham War, have made him an ideal fit for this title. His style is cinematically inclined, as evidenced from an opening page filled with thin ‘widescreen’ strips of close-ups. He and Brad Anderson play with deep reds and the darkest of shadows on Apokolips, and cold electric blues when contrasting with Metron. A fight sequence uses the rain in conjunction with speedlines, so that the aesthetic never feels like a construct but rather a natural outgrowth of the scenery. The onomatopoeic sounds of the boom tubes positively shatter a frame.

It is unsurprising, given his heavy involvement in so many of the titles to date, but Johns’ encyclopedic knowledge of the entire DC universe has never been more evident than in this issue. Threads from previous New 52 events, Earth 2 and beyond are all present in this outing, with reverberations of Convergence still being felt behind the panels. The absolute bombshell of a twist in the final pages not only flips the script on the concerned character, but leaves us hungrily wanting more.

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