Best Shots Advance Reviews: POWER MAN & IRON FIST #1, BILL & TED GO TO HELL #1

"Bill & Ted Go To Hell #1" preview
Credit: BOOM! Studios
Credit: Marvel Comics

Power Man and Iron Fist #1
Written by David Walker
Art by Sanford Greene and Lee Loughridge
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

When a comic book property has been put on ice for awhile, there's almost an irresistable urge to put a brand-new spin on it, dating back to the days of Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and David Aja's Bruce Lee/pulp remix of The Immortal Iron Fist. But it's that refusal to reinvent the wheel that actually defines David Walker and Sanford Greene's Power Man and Iron Fist, a series which focuses more on characterization than crazy high concept. While that quieter approach might not help distinguish this book amongst the noise of the Big Two's other superhero offerings, these one-time Heroes for Hire will still charm the socks of you in this debut issue.

From the very first panel, you get the sense that David Walker's main hook for Power Man and Iron Fist isn't these heroes' blaxploitation or kung-fu roots, but instead a buddy-cop dynamic that goes a long way towards making this book accessible. Luke Cage and Danny Rand have always been a study in contrasts, and Walker cannily gets that even though they've got history together, this street-smart husband and father and this clueless billionaire orphan are at two very different stages of their lives. Who hasn't had a friend who gets married and suddenly is taking their cues from their spouse? Who hasn't had a friend you just want to shake and tell them to grow up? But at the end of the day, you know these feelings come from a place of love, and it's that same bro-love that makes Power Man and Iron Fist instantly endearing.

While there's a lot of inherent chuckles to Luke Cage's domestic life or Iron Fist's naivete - "This guys is a bad knick-knack-paddy-whack," Luke tells Danny in one great moment, a byproduct of trying to watch his language around his toddler - Walker also reminds people that he has some chops when it comes to crime comic books. Perhaps its unsurprising, given that Walker's career took off with Shaft over at Dynamite, but he delivers some great tension when it comes to Luke trying to deal with a longtime Marvel gangster. Indeed, this book actually feels more gripping before the superhero fists start flying, because Walker understands that this is a negotiation, a high-wire act based on reputation and respect.

Sanford Greene, meanwhile, brings a surprising bounce to his linework here, with a style that's equal parts cartoon and scratchitti. Like Walker, he knows that the hook behind this run isn't going to be off-the-wall locations and cosmic baddies, but instead the dynamic between Luke and Danny. Just seeing the two characters in the same room is a great way for Greene to showcase just how different they are physically - Luke is easily a head taller than the lanky Danny, and probably has a hundred pounds of muscle on him. There's also subtler bits of expressiveness that give this book a surprising sense of humor, like watching a tourist with a selfie stick taking a picture of the Heroes for Hire, or the look on Luke's face when his daughter uses some surprisingly adult language. But it's Lee Loughridge's colors that really gives this book its energy - there's a lot of yellows and violets and bright reds at play, which gives just a tiny tip of the hat to these characters' '70s roots.

In an era where you almost have to be flashy in order to get some attention, it's refreshing to see Walker and Greene go against the grain this much with Power Man and Iron Fist #1. But when you have characters this likable, why go out of your way to try to "fix" them? While Danny Rand and Luke Cage were born out of genre filmmaking, it's surprising to see Walker go so broad with these characters, to make them appeal to potentially their widest audience yet. Ultimately, it remains to be seen if this series can survive without a hook outside of the characters themselves, but for those brave fans who decide to give this book a shot, I think they're going to be pleasantly surprised.

Credit: BOOM! Studios

Bill and Ted Go to Hell #1
Written by Brian Joines
Art by Bachan
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

It has been 25 years since Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey hit cinemas, and the last time that the titular time travellers made their way into the underworld. With a potential third movie in its own developmental purgatory, and last year’s Bill and Ted’s Most Triumphant Return comic recapturing some of that old charm, this latest entry into the most 1990s of sagas is targeted at the central nostalgia system in and around the counterculture of Gen X slackers and geeks. It manages to get pretty close to the core as well.

As far as plotting goes, Bill and Ted Go to Hell - which was actually the original title of the second film - is fairly light on the ground, stringing a loose narrative around their old friend Death (a.k.a. The Grim Reaper). While they initially think they have it all figured out, a spot of time travelling and a collection of old friends later, the mysterious big bad is revealed. Indeed, much of this issue is spend cataloging cameos from the two films and previous entries, and touring through some of historical figures that peppered the original films. As such, it leans towards being a little exposition-heavy, an odd mix when the story is also a chaotic mix of pop culture references.

The Bill and Ted franchise was always very much a product of its time, and it is surprising that it has maintained a fanbase for decades. Those late 1980s and early 1990s vibes are particularly strong in this issue, not just in the fashions and hairstyles on display, but in the way it tells a story. High-concept cinema got away with a lot more in that era than harsh critical Internet audiences will allow these days, and perhaps this is why Bill and Ted Go to Hell seems comparatively innocent. Which is one of its greatest strengths and weaknesses: it’s inoffensive and good-natured at its core, and the voices of the leads in particular ring incredibly true to the originals. Where writer Brian Joines excels is the same place his Krampus! and Imagine Agents stories succeed, and that’s in sewing the seeds for a world behind (or beneath) or own. Unfortunately, we only get the merest hints of this in the debut issue, necessitating we stick around for a while longer.

Bachan’s art is joyful, from the affable depiction of Death to the goofy cartoon versions of the leads. The artist really cuts loose on the characters of hell, perverting the safe into something a little more nasty. The Easter Bunny is even more sinister in Bachan’s hands than he was in the film, now a giant cross between Harvey and Donnie Darko’s Frank. Like the story itself, the art really cuts loose when Bachan is able to pile on the number of characters in a given scene, recalling the scenes of them all trying to squish into their "smaller on the inside" time machine.

Bill and Ted Go to Hell #1 is very much an introductory issue, and as such it’s hard to fully get a sense of how good this really is. Given the cinematic leaning like watching the first 20 minutes of a film, and all the fun is going to be in watching Bill and Ted interact with the visions and mischief that will find them in the afterworld. Nevertheless, if you enjoyed the previous Bill and Ted’s Most Triumphant Return series and can’t wait around for Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves to star in a new film, then you could do a lot worse than this.

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