Best Shots Advance Reviews: SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME #8, ASSASSIN'S CREED: UPRISING #1

Titan Comics January 2017 cover
Credit: Titan Comics

Face front, 'Rama Readers! Delectable David Pepose here with another edition of Best Shots advance reviews! This week we've got early looks at two books hitting the stands wednesday, so let's kick things off with a review of Space Battle Lunchtime #8 from Charming C.K. Stewart.

Credit: Oni Press

Space Battle Lunchtime #8
Written and Illustrated by Natalie Riess
Published by Oni Press
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Peony’s adventures in intergalactic gastronomy come to a sweet and startling end in Space Battle Lunchtime #8, the conclusion to Natalie Riess’ delectible eight issue miniseries from Oni Press. In the face of competitor sabotage and attempted cannibalism, Peony has baked her way to the finale of the eponymous smash hit cooking show she was unexpectedly recruited for in the Space Battle Lunchtime debut. This week Peony finds herself locking spatulas one more time with the villainous Melonhead in the most outrageous Space Battle challenge yet; will Melonhead’s schemes finally send Peony packing, or will she win the day the way she’s won Neptunia’s hearts?

Riess’ debut work for Oni Press has been a treat from start to finish, a perfectly paced miniseries with endearing characters and a startling amount of depth for a sci-fi series in a relatively small amount of issues. This week’s finale neatly ties up the tale’s remaining loose ends with a satisfying ending well-suited to the playful tenor of Space Battle Lunchtime. We’ve followed Peony on a long, strange trek from a simple bakery assistant to the finalist in an interstellar cooking showdown with surprisingly deadly stakes, and along the way, her warm nature and confidence in who she is have helped her blossom into a strong and self-assured competitor determined to win without sinking to the level of her last remaining opponent.

Despite brief detours into the macabre world of gourmet cannibalism, Space Battle Lunchtime has on the whole been a light-hearted and engaging tale, and tomorrow’s issue captures the essence of what has made Riess’ series such a delight to read. Peony is friendly and unapologetically cute, both in Riess’ writing of her and in the adorable pink and white heart motif Riess has used for Peony throughout. Her ruffly looks ground her firmly in a reality much more relatable to readers than the darker colors and simpler styles used for her competitors, all while making her stand out amidst the unusual alien staffers putting the show on around her.

Peony is determined to stick to what she loves and put beautiful sweet treats into the world no matter what her competitors serve up to slow her progress. Her warm nature and self-assuredness charm those around her throughout, proven in the support and encouragement receives from the new friends she’s made in the course her adventure as she walks into her final battle. Peony is a good-hearted person who wants to put good into the world, and it pays off in Space Battle Lunchtime #8’s final pages, if in some surprising ways.

Space Battle Lunchtime has been a strong showing from Riess, from her gorgeous illustrations and skillful storytelling to smaller touches like her lettering ability. Riess takes advantage of small touches to add extra emotional depth to the dialogue of a scene or even characters, as with Zorp’s squared-off, robotic word clouds. Her colors and shadows add palpable tension to the fiery climax of this week’s issue and close it with a soft and soothing palette that will leave readers as happy as Peony and her friends seem to be in the final panels. Space Battle Lunchtime #8 is a filling final installment for a series that has been strong from start to finish, and will leave you itching to reread it and experience Peony’s journey all over again.

Credit: Titan Comics

Assassin’s Creed: Uprising #1
Written by Alex Paknadel and Dan Watters
Art by Jose Holder and Marco Lesko
Lettering by Jimmy Bettancourt
Published by Titan Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

It's a Crisis on Infinite Anima in the debut of Assassin’s Creed: Uprising. Bringing together characters from both the Assassins and Templar-focused titles, Uprising is an ambitious debut and an entertaining one at that as it tackles a long-standing mystery of the Assassin’s Creed mythos and provides the characters brought from the previous titles a worthy reintroduction for new readers and old.

Writers Alex Paknadel and Dan Watters deliver a satisfyingly two-fronted take on this debut issue, following powerful, yet troubled Assassin Charlotte de la Cruz and her growing team of Assassins and the Templar gumshoe Juhani Otso Berg as he investigates the fledgling team and continues his duties as the new Black Cross, a sort of internal affairs heavy for the Templar order.

The pair’s plot moves along at a decent hum, carefully weaving in the dense backstory from the two titles into an easily retained and fast paced data package of a story. Aiding in that bounding energy is former franchise storyboard artist turned comic franchise artist Jose Holder and colorist Marco Lesko. Holder displays a firm handle on the gracefully deadly movements of the Assassins while at the same time giving each character a distinctly engaging look amid the chaos of combat, keeping every scene clear and precise aided by the clean colors of Lesko. Merging the best of both the Assassin and Templar worlds Assassin’s Creed: Uprising #1 is a stylish, bullet train beginning for the new series, one that uses a deep well of continuity to provide a cool drink to those hoping for more adventures set in this rich franchise.

Opening on the tail end of a botched information raid, writing duo Alex Paknadel and Dan Watters waste little time getting readers directly in the middle of this ever evolving conflict. During this tense and tightly blocked opening scene, the entire creative team is allowed a chance to shine. On the scripting side, the chase is a gambit that pays off big. Not only are we seeing precisely what Charlotte is capable of under duress, but the pair nicely thread in the larger plot and flashes Charlotte’s fractured yet deadly mind as she sweats a captured Templar pursuer using the combined experience of the dozens of killers in her mind.

As for the art, Jose Holder and Marco Lesko come out of the gate swinging. Starting on a ridiculously high floor of a Abstergo Industries archive and ending on a Hong Kong street, Holder and Lesko start the issue off with a sustained kineticism that shines through in Holder’s character focused blocking and Lesko’s precise, almost anime-inspired colors. Though we only get flashes of Holder’s panache filled action blocking in the rest of the issue (a spirited Assassin sparring session near the issue’s midpoint is a stand out), he acquits himself well to the more grounded and dialogue focused portions too, showing that he is more than capable to render people talking on rooftops as he is rendering them leaping across them.

The rest of the issue settles into a predictable but enjoyable routine, introducing the rest of the characters, including the enigmatic Templar detective Otso Berg as he works the daring raid by Charlotte and her team. While these sections don’t have the same zip as the opening, Paknadel and Watters admirably jazz up the immense amount of exposition they have to deliver thanks to the wry, almost Warren Ellis-like cadence of Berg and the eye for diversity the pair display when it comes to the make up of Charlotte’s team. Better still the title receives an interesting element in the form of the Phoenix Project, a long-standing mystery box for the franchise, and now the main focus of this new team title. While clearly aimed at longtime fans, Assassin’s Creed: Uprising #1 does a fine job hooking in both its established fanbase as well as new readers looking to get in on the ground floor.

Armed with a tight script and flowing, well rendered visuals Assassin’s Creed: Uprising #1 is another formidable debut for Titan Comics and its evolving Assassin’s Creed line. Alex Paknadel, Dan Watters, Jose Holder and Marco Lesko leap into the unknown of this new title and despite working without a net this creative team provides a nice balance of new ideas and established continuity culminating in an all around satisfying first volley for this new ongoing series.

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