Best Shots Reviews: BATMAN #47, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4, BATMAN/TMNT #1, GREEN ARROW #47

Marvel December 2015 cover
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: DC Comics

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Freddie Williams II and Jeremy Colwell
Lettering by Tom Napolitano
Published by DC Comics and IDW Publishing
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

The Batman has taken on plenty of freaks in his time, serving justice to the Killer Crocs, Mad Hatters and murderous clowns of Gotham City.

But he's never had to fight turtles before.

James Tynion IV and Freddie Williams II get to live out a fanboy fantasy with Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, and it's the highest compliment I can give that they acquit themselves so well. Tynion does great work capturing the voices of both the Dark Knight and the Heroes in a Halfshell, and Williams' renderings of the Turtles will hit all the right notes for enthusiastic fans.

Tynion, a young writer in his own right, has likely grown up with the Batman and the Turtles playing on his TV, and he's able to capture that voice and accessibility with this first issue - enough to the point where he's even able to get away with some standard plotting issues. This first issue definitely has some of the decompression problems that many Big Two books have - we don't even see Batman and the Turtles in the same place until the final page of the book. But what most of these Big Two books don't have are characters with this much staying power. With that built-in hook, Tynion instead puts his characters on a collision course with one another - Batman gets to go head-to-head with Shredder and the Foot Clan, while the Turtles wind up laying the smackdown to Killer Croc and his goons.

But perhaps even more surprising is the artwork from Freddie Williams II. Once an up-and-coming superstar in the DC pantheon - he was one of Grant Morrison's collaborators on Seven Soldiers, for cryin' out loud - Williams' linework had become noticably shakier as he bounced from book to book. But with colorist Jeremy Colwell, Williams' work has never looked better - his work with the Turtles in particular looks incredible, especially as we first see them, crouching in the shadows. (It doesn't hurt that Colwell's colors really pop against all that black.) Williams' take on Batman is a little more exaggerated - his take on the Batmobile being especially rendered - but seeing him standing confidently among a pack of ninjas is still undeniably thrilling.

Some critics might accuse this book of being shallow, of not finding a deeper connection between its two franchises - but when it comes to Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I think they might be trying to reinvent the wheel here. Part of the reason why these two franchises work so well is that they don't need to justify themselves or continuously remind us of how they became who they are. Just rev them up, put them on a path towards one another, and watch the sparks fly. It's clear that Batman and the Turtles are in great hands - the second issue can't come fast enough.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Amazing Spider-Man #4
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith and Marte Gracia
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Marvel may have been putting out a lot of "All-New, All-Different" titles, but I don't think any have taken that directive to heart as much as Amazing Spider-Man.

For the change-averse, this might not be a good thing - even if the outcry over Superior Spider-Man subsided as fans realized this was one of the best Spider-Man storylines in years - but for those who trust in Dan Slott and Giuseppe Camuncoli, this has become a beautifully drawn, anything-goes kind of book that hasn't failed to impress.

Whereas we're typically used to Peter Parker stopping bank robbers before swinging home to Queens for some wheatcakes from his sweet Aunt May, Slott has been building a bigger, more put-together Peter Parker ever since he took over the title. And with this new iteration of Amazing Spider-Man, we're now seeing the logical extreme laid out during Superior Spider-Man - this is Peter Parker going for the big time, making the whole world his friendly neighborhood. Instead of facing the Rhino or Vulture, Peter is teaming up with Mockingbird and S.H.I.E.L.D. to take on the international cartel known as the Zodiac - instead of always getting beaten down by the old Parker luck, he's flying his own jet and hanging up on Nick Fury.

Casting his lead as a heroic Steve Jobs will earn Slott a lot of points from anyone who's ever rooted for Peter Parker, but a careful read will show that things aren't all hearts and roses for this newly successful webslinger. Slott gets that Peter's greatest drive is also his greatest weakness - he knows that with great power comes great responsibility, but not great prioritization. Peter may be playing on a bigger scale, but he's always been about short-term victory as a character. Spider-Man may wins battles, but Peter Parker always loses the war, and Slott has teased some interesting blowback for Spidey, even as he races to Africa to rescue his Aunt May. (See? As much as things change, some things still stay the same.)

Giuseppe Camuncoli, meanwhile, is just as strong a visual craftsman as Slott is narratively. His compositions always play up the speed and excitement of a battle - watching Spidey bounce between pumpkin bombs looks almost as good as him firing web cannons into some poor War Goblin's face. But it's not just the flashy action beats that make Camuncoli such a great artist - his knack for body language is superb, particularly with an opening sequence featuring Scorpio and the Gemini lying peacefully on a hill, divining their future from the stars. Even without Slott's dialogue, you could sense the malevolence here, just with a close-up of Gemini's mouth. Colorist Marte Gracia is also doing some wonderful work here, really utilizing his color palettes well to establish the different locales in play.

Of course, there will be plenty of people who think this isn't a great fit for Peter Parker as a character - that all the gadgets and all the money rob this book of its tension, giving Peter a get-out-of-jail-free card to create any sort of doohickey he needs to get out of a jam. Some of these gadgets are kind of cool - giving Mockingbird wings, for example, feels like a no-brainer in retrospect - but I think Slott has taken this under consideration. I think he's having his cake and eating it, too - not only is he able to spin together new storylines thanks to Peter's new company and international reach, but he's absolutely setting up more ways for the old Parker luck to return with a vengeance.

But where some readers might see the plotting of this book as overly convenient, I like to think of it as unpredictable and open for anything. And really, isn't that what we wanted to see for Marvel's "All-New, All-Different" titles? Dan Slott and Giuseppe Camuncoli have put Peter Parker in a whole new arena, one where his capabilities are limited only to his imagination. It's not just a great place for the Friendly Neighborhood Webslinger - it's a great place for his fans, as well.

Credit: DC Comics

Batman #47
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

The Robo-Bunny suit era of Batman seems to be coming to close, and what a long, strange trip it’s been. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s acclaimed run on Batman has given us a number of twists and turns over the years, but it’s hard to get excited about inevitabilities - and the return of Bruce Wayne is about as sure a bet as it gets. But the odd circumstances that led to Bruce Wayne’s amnesia makes the plotting of Batman’s return a bit muddy, and Snyder isn’t able to sell us on it any more than he is able to sell us on new villain, Mr. Bloom. But Batman #47 is a technically good comic despite its shortcomings, and a lot of that has to do with Greg Capullo’s continued mastery of all things Gotham City.

Utilizing a design that evokes Slenderman folklore, Capullo is able to use great shadows and angles to up the horror factor in this issue. We still know very little about Mr. Bloom and his capabilities - which makes him all the more terrifying - and Capullo’s thin-limbed monster of a villain plays well to his strengths: thin lines, great character rendering and an eye for strong panel blocking. As Bloom’s hands creep out toward Gordon, you can almost hear the fingers growing and the bones stretching into place. But the standout moment in the book comes with Bruce and Duke Thomas, as they escape the Penguin’s goons in the subway. The image of a bat screeching toward Bruce is one emblazoned in the memories of just about every Batman fan, but using smoke and the horrific light of a subway car, Capullo gets to put his own spin on it and the panel is a real highlight that delivers on the tension of the scene.

But while this artwork anchors this issue nicely, Snyder’s script is all over the place. Gordon’s defeat of Bloom is well-choreographed but the narration is overwrought. Given the intensity of the situation, Gordon’s quipiness feels a little bit out of place. The emphasis that Snyder places on Gordon needing all of his gadgets (and using them effectively) does set his take on Batman apart from Bruce Wayne, though, which works really well to establish different approaches to the cape and cowl that help show off the many possible strengths of the character. (Similarly to how different actors and writers have explored the facets of James Bond.)

The scene that jogs Bruce memory is well done artistically, but is emotionally hamfisted. There’s no clear indicator as to why Bruce suddenly understands his true identity. Duke’s dialogue is annoyingly leading, probably partly because there’s no dramatic tension in having a kid yell, “Hey dummy, you’re Batman!” over and over, but all things considered, we know how this one has to end. Snyder’s whole run has talked about why Batman is the way that Batman is and the ending in this issue is essentially just an emotional retread of “Zero Year.”

Despite the lack of an emotional payoff, this book is still pretty sound. The art is tight and it accomplishes its goals even if it meanders for a moment in the service of poetic license. But the ending feels like a non-event. It’s cheap, and frankly it feels like the creative team isn’t giving readers enough credit. They’ve built a rabid fanbase with this take on Batman. The tease is unnecessary, and I think it undercuts the effectiveness of the script. The big reveal plays like that episode of a TV show that knows it wasn’t strong so they give you a glimpse of next week’s guest star to get you to tune in. Stick the landing before getting back on the horse. I promise your audience will still be there.

Credit: DC Comics

Green Arrow #47
Written by Benjamin Percy
Art by Fabrizio Fiorentino, Federico Dallacchio and Gabe Eltaeb
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10

The troubled Green Arrow title showed signs of life with Benjamin Percy coming on board earlier this year, but this second arc has been inconsistent to say the least. After successfully applying aspects of the horror genre to a character that has rarely dabbled with them in his 75-year history, the conclusion to Percy’s second story is significantly less than the sum of its promising parts, sandwiching Oliver Queen into a scenario where his role is ultimately perfunctory.

Seemingly betrayed by Tarantula and captured by the Skeleton Cartel for a ritualistic murder, the main parts of this issue are actually about the rise of the cartel’s leader Jefe, and his dalliance with the old gods in order to save his son. While Percy’s systematic cataloguing of horror tropes has now stayed on the Mayan inspired artifacts for a time, this line of storytelling continues to make Green Arrow a background player in his own book. With Ollie tied up for a fair chunk of this issue in a scenario that plays out more like an episode of the From Dusk Till Dawn series, both inspired as they are by ancient blood rituals, Arrow is not much more than a passive actor in this issue.

This is a shame given how much story potential there was in this outing. The last few issues have rushed us to this point, shoe-horning in a love story with Tarantula. This at least gave Ollie some stakes beyond a missing dog, which never truly served as a convincing motivator, but their true romance has never once felt authentic or earned. Being saddled with cheesy dialogue (“But it’s my heart that hurts”) doesn’t help matters either. Jefe is actually the only actor who shows anything resembling real emotion, and even his sad story is undercut by Ollie having to spell it out to the reader only pages after his plight has been explained to us in great detail.

The artwork, originally solicited as series artist Patrick Zircher but replaced here by fill-in artists Fabrizio Fiorentino and Federico Dallacchio, is wildly uneven. Dallacchio shared art duties with the sorely missed Zircher last month, perhaps indicating that Zircher’s absence was not entirely expected. Unfortunately for Green Arrow, this shows on the page. The Day of the Dead sequence at the start of the book reads incredibly well, but it’s missing the darker edge that Zircher brought to the page. Color artist Gabe Eltaeb provides some consistency with the previous issues, but it’s just a shame that this arc couldn’t finish on the same strong artistic note that it commenced with. Percy’s penchant for keeping Green Arrow out of costume remains intact, fighting the final battle shirtless, a move that will be familiar to fans of the Stephen Amell television series.

Green Arrow has been regularly frustrating since its reimagining in 2011, and so far Percy’s tenure has only brushed the reader up against the greatness that this character always has the potential of displaying. The future doesn’t seem quite as bright as it did at the end of the first arc, with the third arc hinting at a wolfy awakening for Ollie. This is definitely not the facial hair that fans are hoping to see. Where the character, and indeed Percy, work best is when they stick to the core values of the man behind the mask, but at this point is seems the shaft has strayed far from the center of the target.

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