Best Shots Reviews: DARKSEID WAR - GREEN LANTERN #1, SECRET WARS #7, ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #1, WEB WARRIORS #1

"Secret Wars #7" variant cover by Tomm Coker
Credit: Tomm Coker (Marvel Comics)
Credit: DC Comics

Justice League: The Darkseid War - Green Lantern #1
Written by Tom King
Art by Doc Shaner and Chris Sotomayor
Lettering by Tom Napolitano
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Apart from Superman and Wonder Woman’s reasonable case for the position, there are few members of the Justice League who might reasonably list "god" under former occupation on their resume. Except, of course, Hal Jordan. It’s not just his ego that would see him raise his hand for the role, but actual on-the-job experience as the Spirit of Vengeance himself. In the wake of the death of Darkseid, various members of the Justice League have been granted previously unfathomable powers. How Hal reacts to this opportunity is unexpected, almost as unexpected as how heartfelt this tale is.

Tom King’s contribution to the series of one-shots that flesh out individual responses to this mini-Crisis takes us into Hal Jordan’s past. Without missing a beat, King’s script initially throws us in at the deep end, with Darkseid’s Parademons ravaging Oa, and a Mother Box offering each of them a chance at godhood in turn. Every member of the Corps turns it down, and only Hal considers it for a time. Hal’s mind turns to all of the moments in his life that he wishes he could change, although it is principally the death of his father that he lingers on.

Like the Batman story from a few weeks ago, one where the Dark Knight actually accepted his new crown with painful results, Jordan struggles with having everything he wants at once. We know from Emerald Twilight where that path would lead, and while that is not directly referenced here, a far more fundamental truth for Green Lantern is the focus of the decision: his ability to wield willpower. God, posits the story, is the absence of free will, the very substance that Jordan was chosen for in the first place. As Geoff Johns reminded us at the start of his Green Lantern run, it is not what a person does with unlimited power that defines him, but the kind of person he is when he emerges on the other side.

Evan "Doc" Shaner’s art is one of the main highlights of this book, a style that has all the best nostalgia of a Darwyn Cooke outing, with the darker edges and heavy shadows of Mike Mignola thrown in for good measure. The latter is seen particularly in the flashbacks, where a young Hal Jordan is lit only by candles. Shaner’s action sequences are deliberately staged, wide horizontal panels controlling the pace of the action, while a handful of full-page spreads don’t so much give us pause for breath as act swiftly to take it away. The most awe-inspiring of these is undoubtedly the reveal of the ‘God of Light’, providing readers with a montage of friends and foes of the Emerald Knight through his history. Color artist Chris Sotomayor gets to take flight as well, having carefully subdued the color scheme on the other flashbacks, so as to make the psychedelic mix all the more engaging.

Hal Jordan often gets a bum rap from some fans when it comes to comparative Lantern lore, with successor Kyle Rayner unquestionably less of an insufferable jerk than Hal could often be. (There’s also the small matter of Hal slaughtering all of his comrades once upon a time, but we’ll just quietly put that to one side for the moment). Yet this is one of those rare pieces that gets to the heart of a character by defining who he is by those actions he chooses not to take, a decision that will certainly have ramifications before this event is through.

Credit: Alex Ross (Marvel)

Secret Wars #7
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Robert Reed
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Sometimes, “epic” works. In spite of its flaws, a piece of art may simply convey enough of a sense of grandeur and importance that its audience will gloss over it. In many ways, Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic’s Secret Wars #7 is just that, an issue of epic storytelling that has some powerful moments that overcome its flaws. The end result is an issue that makes for an entertaining read, but also brings up several questions.

The issue’s ending sequence provides one of the stronger payoffs to the series, calling all the way back to one of the arcs of Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four, as Black Panther discovers the true extent of his title, “King of the Dead.” For fans who have been reading Hickman’s work for awhile, this will likely be a satisfying reveal, but for those just reading Secret Wars it may fall flat due to the lack of setup within the miniseries itself.

In fact, much of Secret Wars #7 feels a bit underdeveloped. While some scenes have connections to the tie-ins (the scene where the Thors fight amongst each other, for example), several key scenes appear to have taken place off the page. Characters like Maestro appear in spite of how their tie-ins ended. Carol appears to gained power over Sinister despite him assimilating her into his society in the previous issue. The glossing over of these developments ultimately lessens the impact of Secret Wars #7.

Fortunately, what is on the page works well. The synergy between Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic shows throughout Secret Wars #7 and shines in the opening sequence when it is revealed that the Prophet is Maximus. Ribic frames the Prophet with both far and medium shots, making him appear mythic in stature, as Hickman’s captions add to the grand nature. But the epic nature fades away into a humorous reveal in which Maximus, using two of his subjects as a platform to stand upon, gleefully identifies himself. It’s a nice laugh that also takes a playful jab at the reader. Ribic’s use of a close-up for the reveal makes Maximus seem, appropriately, larger than life.

Ribic’s penchant for staging in his artwork makes the central portion of Secret Wars #7 truly epic. Maximus leads his army against the Barons of Battleworld, and Ribic stages each addition to the battle in truly epic fashion. There’s an ebb and flow to the action here, transitioning smoothly between individual combatants and developments of the overall battle. Ribic uses the vertical space of comic book page beautifully, often isolating a powerful image in 3/4ths of the page, while using smaller panels below it to highlight certain pieces.

Ive Svorcina’s color art in issue is fantastic, with a light blue undertone for the lighting that gives the issue a colder feel throughout the story. It’s a subtle effect that really provides the battle with an all-or-nothing atmosphere. It doesn’t, however, completely washout the vibrancy of the characters. This is still a superhero book and the red capes and green skins of the combatants still pop off the page. Svorcina’s work keeps true to the epic nature of Ribic’s lines and Hickman’s script, and it’s nice to see three creators working so well together.

Overall, it’s impossible to deny the visual power of Secret Wars #7 and while certain elements feel glossed over or lost in the editing process, the issue has enough punch to be a satisfying read. Secret Wars is a grand tale told grandly, and Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic, and Ive Svorcina have the creative synergy to make it work. While the delays have made Secret Wars a bit frustrating for many readers, the series has maintained the epic feel that it started off with.

Credit: Marvel Comics

All-New Hawkeye #1
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Ramon Perez and Ian Herring
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Oscar Maltby
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Before Battleworld, we saw Hawkeye's past. Now, writer Jeff Lemire and artist Ramon Perez put his future in their sights as we pinball between the present and 20 years from now in All-New Hawkeye #1, a bold and emotionally charged issue that plunges Team Hawkeye into their darkest hour.

If there's one thing Jeff Lemire likes, it's narrative symmetry. Much like how he split his previous Hawkeye run into the past and the present, now he shows how the present will shape Kate and Clint's future. Still shaken up by the events of last volume, Clint Barton and Kate Bishop's partnership is troubled. With Clint determined to get past their traumatic mission against Hydra and Kate determined to do better, it looks to be the end for Team Hawkeye. Lemire's dialogue in on-point here, effectively communicating Clint's desperation to cling to the one good thing he considers he has, as well as Kate's sad frustration about her perceived lack of impact on the world. Lemire attacks emotional development with laser-sharp focus, each new word balloon revealing a piece of each Hawkeye's psyche. It's well-realised stuff that forces you to care about a superhero team who, on paper, seems a bit too ordinary.

When Lemire flicks forward 20 years into the future, he shows us a Clint who has been softened by time. Although this bearded ex-Hawkeye tries to maintain the facade of a grizzled old man, he's clearly impressed by Kate's efforts to fight injustice around the world. In the span of a single issue, Lemire shows us a Kate with everything to prove, and a Kate who's proven everything. Lemire's intent on showing us both sides of every coin, and it makes for a satisfying read.

Ramon Perez muddies his usually clean style for sequences set in the future, adding a dingy atmosphere through the use of scribbled line-work and shadowy cross-hatching. His artwork here retains the grey of the pencil and seems to lack the traditional finishing touch of inking, which makes both Hawkeyes look worn out and battered by time.

Back into the present, Perez's artwork has the bold look of the 50's, minimizing features until Kate's nose is nothing but two pin-prick Betty Boop-style nostrils. When combined with Ian Herring's clear blues and purples, a few panels here could easily be blown up, framed and passed off as Roy Lichtenstein originals. Perez's focus on attitude and expression equals Lemire's, with a panel composition which emphasizes body language and facial expression. For the issue's climactic action sequence, he spreads the fight over two pages, giving it room to breathe and the reader a chance to enjoy his dramatic staging.

Special mention must go to the last-stage appearance of the Mandarin, who arrives on the scene in an eye-popping white suit, orange shirt and rainbow tie combination. The look is so wacky it almost undercuts the seriousness of the splash page he appears in, but it's backed up here by the bold, old-school styling of Perez and Herring's earlier pages. For some, this Mandarin's new look will not work at all, but for those of us who can appreciate a bit of kitsch in our superhero books, it's a worthy and amusing little addition.

Contrast is the name of the game in All-New Hawkeye #1, both in an artistic and narrative sense. All in all, Jeff Lemire's iron-clad plotting and Ramon Perez's night-and-day stylings come together to make All-New Hawkeye #1 another great start for Team Hawkeye set in tumultuous times.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Web Warriors #1
Written by Mike Costa and Robbie Thompson
Art by David Baldeon, Scott Hanna, Jason Keith, Denis Medri and Andrew Crossley
Lettering by Joe Caramagna and Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

There have been many spin-offs and tie-ins to the excellent "Spider-Verse" event, one that introduced or reacquainted us to virtually every spider totem in the known Multiverse. Web Warriors is the proper sequel to the web-slinging mayhem, bringing together some of the more colorful characters from the series. Like the event itself, this title provides more than one story from across the great web, and while it may not be as immediate in its consequences, there is an overarching thread that connects the various pieces.

Throughout Secret Wars, there have been similar gatherings of Spider-UK, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Ham, Spider-Man Noir, Anya Corazon, Karn, Pavitr Prabhakar, and other totems. Here Mike Costa picks up where his Scarlet Spiders and Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man issues left off, with various totems on a Spider-Verse patrol helping to mend the severed skeins across space and time. On this level, it’s a joyous reunion with characters we’ve not seen working together for a while, and a reminder why the Spider-Verse is now a rich and varied sandbox that will exist long beyond the next time they decide to kill off Peter Parker.

There’s lots of fun to be had here, such as the opening sequence set in the universe of the Spider-Man ’67 animated world, chosen as a non-lethal training ground for future incursions. There’s a world where ancient Egypt is updated to the 21st century, and a few brand new worlds we’ve not seen before. Perhaps the coolest new element is the existence of a roving pack of Electros, planting the seeds for the main thrust of this arc. In fact, there’s almost too much going on in this first issue, with scarcely enough time for new readers to get to know any of the individual characters. The addition of the steampunk story focusing on Lady Spider, written by original creator Robbie Thompson, is almost superfluous at this early stage, although it does give us our first clue to a common element to the two stories, instantly setting up a kind of puzzle.

David Baldeon, Scott Hanna and Jason Keith have the enviable task of bringing together multiple styles and settings in the primary story, and it’s as much fun to read as it is must have been to create. The contrast of the highly stylized 2015 characters against the simplicity of the ’67 cartoon was something that worked well in the original series, here the art team going so far as to play on the popular memes, showing Spider-Man simply sitting behind a desk while the action continues. It’s not just Spider-Man that they play with either, and the multiple versions of Electro showcase a variety of styles in a single page. Denis Medri’s distinctive style gives life to the steampunk aesthetic, and it’s something that would be great in a full-length piece.

Time will tell whether this formula works better in small doses or an extended format, but the sheer number of people filling this oversized issue is indicative of the fact that there are many stories left to tell in the vast Marvel Multiverse. The wider story hinted at in both of these tales, involving a silvery plot, is also something that Web Warriors has over a simple vignette format. With the right balance of different writers and artists thrown at this book, it could readily become one of Marvel’s leading lights.

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