Best Shots Reviews: BATMAN/TMNT #2, SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN #3, More

DC Comics January 2016 solicitations
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: DC Comics

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2
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: 10 out of 10

There's easter eggs, and then there's fan service. And then there's Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

For readers of a certain age, this crossover is basically license for DC Comics and IDW Publishing to print money, regardless of quality or content. Thankfully, this book happens to deliver on both. James Tynion IV flexes the muscles he's built juggling large casts in Batman Eternal, and with artist Freddie Williams II turns in a fun, gripping story that pits the Dark Knight against the Heroes in a Halfshell.

Since the beginning of (crossover) time, whenever two heroes first meet, it's an unspoken rule that they have to fight each other before uniting against a common threat. It's cliche because it works, and Tynion makes this comic book work great. Given how weird a concept the Ninja Turtles inherently are, it's a great twist to have them be freaked out about Batman, how systematically takes down the Turtles one by one as he gauges their strengths and weaknesses. Tynion really nails the voices of all of his characters - the impetuous Raphael, for example, of course would trash-talk the Bat's suit, while Master Splinter gets to wax philosophical about whether it's stranger for an animal to act as a man, or a man to act as an animal.

While the main event of this issue is definitely the battle royale between Batman and the Turtles, Tynion also makes some great choices with his plotting. First and foremost, what's great is that Tynion gives each side a chance to one-up each other - Batman may be able to take on four teenage ninjas with his hands behind his back, but even his vaunted training can't always keep up with that of Master Splinter's. Tynion also adds a ticking clock - or perhaps, a ticking time bomb - to the mix, as mutagen degrades in Batman's universe, giving the Turtles only a limited time to retain their human intelligence. Watching the Shredder and the Foot turn the tables on the Penguin is another great beat, and given that Tynion has now introduced two DC supervillains, I'm very hopeful that other members of Batman's rogues gallery might make their apperances soon.

Anchored by the colorwork of Jeremy Colwell, Freddie Williams II also continues to impress here. His Turtles are bulky but never over-rendered, and their size also makes Batman's physique look less over-the-top by comparison. Given that there are pages and pages of fistfights here, Williams never seems to break a sweat here, really packing in all the right moments in his pages so they never look cramped. Because most of the characters in this book are masked, Williams' biggest challenge - creating convincing expressions - is largely mitigated here, and so he's able to put his masked characters in some very exciting images, such as Shredder and the Foot Clan swarming the docks of Gotham. Colwell is also a perfect fit for this book - he adds a lot of depth to Williams' work, both softening his inking style and providing weight to his characters.

James Tynion IV is leaning on a tried-and-tested structure with Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but for a project like this, I actually have to say that's a great idea. When you have a hook as simple as this, you don't need to reinvent the wheel - you just need to have a solid grip on characterization, and then let these mythologies clash as often as possible. If you're a fan of Batman: The Animated Series or anything Turtle-related, you're going to want to buy this book immediately.

Credit: DC Comics

Superman: American Alien #3
Written by Max Landis
Art by Joelle Jones and Rico Renzi
Lettering by John Workman
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

He's been a Kansas farmboy, an award-winning journalist, an explorer of the stars and Earth's mightiest hero. But are you ready to meet Clark Kent... party animal?

It might be considered an off-putting premise, given Superman's status as one of DC's most straight-laced superheroes, but Max Landis makes no apologies for his brazenly off-brand story in this issue of Superman: American Alien. While the story itself still feels a bit like Superman fan fiction, the artwork is nothing to scoff at, as Joelle Jones delivers some of the best-looking pages of her career.

After goosing the story with an action-packed fake-out of an introduction, Superman: American Alien #3 winds up having more in common with teen comedies like Superbad or Can't Hardly Wait than the Man of Steel. Literally crash-landing onto Bruce Wayne's yacht in the Carribbean, Landis has fun with Clark and Bruce's similar designs, as our favorite Kansas farmboy is mistaken for the reclusive billionaire. Landis liberally throws around easter eggs like they're coming from Bruce Wayne's wallet, with Oliver Queen, Sue Dibny, Barbara Minerva and even Deathstroke the Terminator all making appearances here.

Yet in certain ways, this story has all the depth of an episode of MTV Cribs, particularly when we're treated to a montage of Clark living it up as "Bruce," complete with jet skis, mixed drinks and party babes. In certain ways, it almost feels like you're watching your parents suddenly go wild at Spring Break - you can't help but feel a little uncomfortable not just at Clark assuming someone else's identity, but watching him have tawdry hookups and drunken encounters. Landis's script careens from being almost endearing to funny to cute to totally discomforting, and that inconsistency can make this book an acquired taste. It may be real, but for the Man of Steel, it might just be too real.

But what makes this gathering of international playboys a bit more palatable has to be Joelle Jones, whose linework looks more fluid and expressive here than I've ever seen it before. Considering how dialogue-heavy Landis's script is, Jones does a remarkable job at varying up the imagery, and really showing a versimilitude when it comes to her character designs. (The one exception being Clark's horrendous Hawaiian shirt. We can just chalk that up to Ma and Pa Kent not being the most fashion-forward of parents, but still, the less said about it, the better.) Jones is especially at her best when Clark meets a restless young woman named Barbara Minerva - watching them cuddle and talk philosophy is the highlight of the book, and Jones does great work at showing them briefly wrapped up in each other's lives.

Ultimately, though, Superman purists will likely want to steer clear of Superman: American Alien, and that might be what Landis and DC are looking for, given the nature of the marketing behind this series. The overall goal that Landis is pursuing - trying to lend a certain amount of humanity and resonance to Clark Kent before the capes and tights and invincible superheroics render him too "safe" to really enjoy - is right on the money, even if his execution winds up feeling like he's tossing out the baby with the bathwater. The stellar artwork behind Superman: American Alien #3 wins Landis a lot of points, but this Spring Break vacation might be a little too adventurous for its readership.

Credit: DC Comics

Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion #1
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Ethan Van Sciver and Jason Wright
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Published by DC Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

When we last left the scrappy Green Lantern Corps, they were trapped in a decaying universe, but even in the face of impossible odds, the light of hope burns bright. The Green Lantern line of the DCU has seen a resurgence in quality of late, thanks to rollicking cosmic tales like The Lost Army. Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion looks to keep that streak alive, and for the most part it succeeds. Writer Tom Taylor takes full advantage of the ragtag Corps, delicately balancing all the huge personalities while delivering a story with a truly epic scale. On top of the end of the universe stakes, Green Lantern fan-favorite artist Ethan Van Sciver returns to the franchise, once again giving this miniseries the slick, blockbuster look of the Green Lantern stories of the pre-"New 52" era. Time may be running out for this neighboring universe, but no problem is too big for the resilient cast of the Green Lantern Corps.

One of the major strength of a title like Green Lantern Corps is its deep bench of characters, and thankfully writer Tom Taylor adroitly displays a firm grasp on the title’s diverse cast. Though missing heavy hitters like Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner, Edge of Oblivion makes wonderful use of the Corps underrated leads like the valiant John Stewart, the shrewd Salaak and the irascible Guy Gardner. While Taylor gives plenty of big moments to some of the recognizable leads, this debut issue succeeds mostly because it feels like a big team book. Every Lantern here has a job to do, and they all use their vast and varied skill set toward that end goal, making this first issue feel propulsive and engaging. When you have a pile of great characters in front of you, all wielding one of the most powerful weapons in reality, you would be remiss in not using at least half of them, but thankfully Tom Taylor realizes the wealth of character in front of him and makes full use of them.

While Edge of Oblivion succeeds on the characterization front, it also delivers some truly cosmic problems for the Corps to tackle. On top of Mogo The Living Planet being stuck in a dying universe, the Corps encounter the last city of this universe and its imposing protectors, Dimsas and Ausras, who quickly implore the wayward Corps to aid them in escaping as well. This sparks up a justifiably heated debate between the Lanterns, adding another layer of narrative on top of the already interesting cast dynamic. Taylor even throws another log onto the roaring story fire with a cliffhanger suggesting that danger lurks for the Lanterns in this final city at the end of everything. Let it never be said that never Tom Taylor goes for it because Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion #1 swings for the fences in a big way, sending this doomed universe with a big bang of a story.

In keeping with the epic scope of Edge of Oblivion penciler Ethan Van Sciver returns to the Corps with colorist Jason Wright to render planets and punches alike in the style that made the Green Lantern titles a visual force to be reckoned with. While not exactly the non-stop action of some of the early events, Van Sciver still displays a knack for the weird character flourishes of the alien members of the Corp as well as a firm grip on what makes the Lanterns so formidable and visually interesting in combat. The first encounter with Dimsas and Ausras provides this debut its solitary action sequence and Van Sciver shows that his action blocking can still feel hard hitting and kinetic as Kilowog slings his ring at his foe and takes a mighty slam to Mogo’s surface for his troubles. Van Sciver’s sense of detail and scale gives Edge of Oblivion the larger-than-life look that made the early Green Lantern events look so enduring. That polish is sealed to the page by colorist Jason Wright’s inky blacks, dully metallic greens, and smoky purples. A truly cosmic color scheme from Wright that makes this debut look like the blockbuster that it aspires to be.

The DCU is a big place, and the Green Lantern Corps is there to protect it, but in their time of most dire need, who is there to protect them? Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion #1 is big in every sense of the word. Its got big stakes, a big cast, and a big set of visuals that can only get bigger as the miniseries goes on. Tom Taylor, Ethan Van Sciver, and Jason Wright understand what makes the Corp interesting as characters as well as a sense of scale when it comes to the odds that they can face. The universe is a big place, requiring big heroes to step up and take the spotlight. Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion is proof that these characters are more than ready for the main stage, no matter what universe they are in.

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