Best Shots: Superman, Ultimatum and tons more

Best Shots: Superman, Ultimatum and more

By the Best Shots Team, courtesy of ShotgunReviews.com

Your Guest Host: Jamie Trecker

Our Supreme Leader is away again this week, nursing his alligator bites but that doesn’t mean we serfs stop, uh, serfing. This week we’ve already had a few BSE’s come out:

Detective  #855

Justice Society of America #29

The Batcave Companion

And now, the fruits of our socialist labors:

Skip Gates Week" at DC with key, sometimes shocking developments in two high-profile books bearing striking similarities.  In the two books I'm looking at, both featured the series's best and brightest character, a well-educated, technologically advanced black man failing to find safety and refuge in his own sanctuary.  Don't for a moment think that I am suggesting that writers Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham and James Robinson (all Caucasian) conspired to make the Justice Society and Superman Family more lily white.  But the fact that similar plot developments happened in the same week that "beer summit" became part of the American vernacular was simply too choice to ignore.

SPOILERS ON for those who have not picked up either book, because I'm about to get specific.  In Superman #690 the seeds planted by General Lane in getting Superman's ally Steel out of the picture have begun to bear fruit.  Using Atlas as a disguised plant to infiltrate Steel's Iron Works facility.  The results are somewhat expected but the ride that Robinson and guest artist Pere Pérez take us on is exhilarating.  The creative team navigates a no-holds-barred battle between the powerhouses Steel and Atlas that almost literally flies off the page.  The way they have a punch thrown on the left side of a page and finish it on the following page unquestionably keeps the action moving.  While the battle appears evenly matched early on, Atlas proves to be too much for one technically enhanced human to handle, and General Lane (as illegally as one can imagine, no question) has gained a new foothold in his private war against Kryptonians.  John Henry Irons' house is no longer his.  The rest of the issue is pure setup as virtually every other scene ends with an editor's note that the story will be picked up elsewhere.  Readers can't be blamed for feeling somewhat cheated on the idea that other books have to be read to follow these stories, and I can sympathize.  But I didn't really see, for example, Tellus' tale to get 100% coverage in this title, what with him being a Legionnaire, and the other books connected to the bigger storyline are hardly unfamiliar to the broader DC readership.

Robinson's dialogue is sharp as it's been in Superman, despite the occasion in one sequence with Zatara, where the literary references between the two lead characters were lost on me.  As Justice Leaguer Zatanna seems to be the Batman Family's resident mage, it would seem that role is going to her cousin Zachary in the Man of Steel's universe.  Fine by me!  There used to be a time where the storylines featuring the more second- or third-hand supporting cast was what contributed to me straying from Superman books over the years.  It's a testament to the "New Krypton" saga that I've yet to tune out of the scenes featuring the Guardian and his Science Police staff.  While some may have found some political incorrectness in his handling of one gay team member, it was one of the funnier pieces of dialogue found in this issue, and Jim Harper said nothing overtly offensive.  Shortly after we find that his assertiveness with his team is anything but gender specific.  Overall Superman #690 was an enjoyable read for an issue that can safely be labeled a place-setter.  The pacing was as good as I've seen, but I do look forward to more issues with specific focus.

As underscored by Troy Brownfield earlier this week, Justice Society of America #29 is downright monumental with the advent of an all-new creative team handling story and art.  Troy covered the bases quite well, and I tend to agree with him on all accounts.  A full story arc needs to come and go before we can safely put Geoff Johns & Co. in the rearview mirror, I have to say, but some compelling work has been delivered right out of the gate.  So let's just get to the similarities of this issue to this week's Superman, shall we?  It's the mother of all newsworthy coincidences that Mr. Terrific, accomplished in many ways similar to John Henry Irons, is put out of commission in is own headquarters.  And it wasn't like the JSA as a whole was under attack -- well, they are, just elsewhere -- but Terrific is clearly specifically targeted in his own hacienda, and the end result sees him in the most dire of circumstances.  I found the timing of these two issues covering similar ground uncanny in the midst of a news cycle where, regardless of your opinion of who was right or wrong, a decorated, scholarly public figure was arrested in his own home under false suspicion of burglary.  But where Professor Henry Louis Gates found himself able to walk away from his arrest, the fate of Mr. Terrific is much more precarious, not to mention that of Steel.  I leave this up to the readers to debate among themselves (and like I said, I sincerely believe that an ulterior motive was never shared among the writers and editorial), but it's certainly noteworthy how two of the DC Universe's exemplary African-American heroes have been so abruptly dispatched in one week's release of new books.  Can't we just sort through this over a couple of beers?

Best Shots Extra: ULTIMATUM #5
Best Shots Extra: ULTIMATUM #5
Ultimatum #5

Written by Jeph Loeb

Art by David Finch and Danny Miki

Colors by Peter Steigerwald and Guru eFX

Lettering by RS & Comicraft

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Ultimatum is at an end. The question is, was it any good?

Throughout its decade-long history, Marvel's Ultimate universe has pulled no punches, showing that superhero fights did have a human cost, and that no one was safe. With this in mind, perhaps it's fitting that Jeph Loeb took that dial and cranked it to 11. And despite some serious misgivings on the overall execution of this book, I think Loeb sums up how I feel with one phrase: "His vengeance cleared the path for a better world."

For those of you who have been big fans of Jeph Loeb's recent work on the Hulk, then you will probably enjoy the standards that Ultimatum is reaching for. But one quibbly I had with this issue is the fact that while it's billed as a line-wide crossover, it's primarily an X-Men story, with some appearances by the Ultimates, and a handful of cameos by the Fantastic Four. Yet I will say that while the balance of characters is off, there are some moments by Loeb that are just-crazy-enough-to-work: for example, Wolverine literally is burned to his adamantium skeleton by Magneto, as his smoking body falls to the ground. "You killed Wolverine," Magneto says. Suddenly, a horrifying skeleton jerks up, stabbing Magneto through the chest: "Not yet," Wolverine mutters.

Something else that felt weak on the story's end was the final defeat of Magneto. For those of you who haven't read Ultimate Origins, Loeb more or less spells it out for you, as Nick Fury shows Magneto the real secret behind the mutant population. The question I had was -- why would Magneto particularly care? It may be an ugly truth, but a mutant is still a mutant, no matter where he comes from, and the fact that the entire story hinges on this revelation just left me cold. Finally, the fact that eight pages out of 26 were splash pages also frustrated me -- it's not that I don't appreciate some splash pages, but there were times in this book I felt they were needless.

Artwise, David Finch really surprised me with this book. For me, I wasn't a huge fan of his work, as I felt his faces just looked wrong, and the fact that between he and his inkers, his drawings occasionally came off as far too detailed for my liking. But he reins himself in with this issue, however, as the vast majority of it actually looks pretty good, such as the aforementioned Wolverine scene, as well as a scene where Nick Fury telepathically strips down Magneto to his very core. Some images, however, lost me with the composition, including Cyclops' final shot at Magneto.

But that said, while I found Loeb's execution to be shaky, the overall direction of the plot does lead up to one surprisingly satisfying epilogue, where a new mutant is suddenly gunned down in cold blood. Going back to work such as the Long Halloween, I've always found Loeb is at the height of his powers when he has something in popular culture to riff from, and this scene holds the promise of some real shakeups in the Marvel Universe -- if the Hulk hitting New York in the Ultimates or Magneto hitting the White House in Ultimate X-Men was like their 9/11, the death of this character could be their JFK assassination. Furthermore, another scene featuring the Thing -- a scene which is really the only important use of the Fantastic Four in the entire issue -- is a little too cut-and-dry, but again could set up some interesting tension in stories to come.

All in all, if subtlety is your thing, you're probably not going to find it in Ultimatum #5 -- this is a comic that definitely piles on the shock factor, sometimes at the expense of the drama. That said, sometimes comics are like a forest -- you have to burn everything down before it can grow again. And while I can't say that this comic is a strong example of what the medium can aspire to be, I will say that Loeb has given some major promise for the Ultimate lineup. Love it or hate it, there's no cop-outs in this book, and that's something that's rare in this industry. So here's hoping that what they said is true: that nothing will ever be the same again.

Detective Comics #855

Written by Greg Rucka

Art by J.H. Williams III and Cully Hamner

Colors by Dave Stewart and Laura Martin

Letters by Todd Klein and Jared K. Fletcher

Published by DC Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

What can I say about this book that hasn't already been said? Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III have really brought a compelling book with a solid character and great story, accompanied by uncanny art that is not to be missed. Last issue, we had Batwoman (Kate Kane) firing a gun, which Batman would never use. Turns out, it's a pepper gas pellet and what follows is an action sequence that is so beautifully constructed, it's borderline absurd. After THAT is another double-page spread with no dialogue because the art tells the story so well.

Now Batwoman squares off with Alice, the new leader of the Religion of Crime. There's a quip about how Alice didn't get the memo about how Gotham already has a Carrol-themed rogue, though Alice is hardly the Mad Hatter. We know nothing about her (besides being one sick puppy) and I think Rucka may have created Batwoman's Joker equivalent. Now, Williams was pretty creative with panel construction and lay-out in the last issue, but in this one he cranks the meter up to 11. Batwoman gets drugged (by a poisoned razor blade that Alice hid in her mouth) and from there the pages just become so avant-garde, but not too muddled where it becomes confusing.

Meanwhile, Kate's father notices her bio-signs are deadly and goes looking for her. Luckily for Kate, he finds her just in time. Alice and her followers have found them and a gunfight ensues. Kate is still out of commission when Alice approaches her and her father. She doesn't finish them off, instead we see. . . monsters, almost something out of the old Universal movies. If there's one complaint, it's the fact I have to wait another few weeks for the next issue.

Of course right after the Batwoman adventure ends, the Question feature continues. The Question (Renee Montoya) is still looking for a missing girl and along the way thrashes some serious street trash. Now, Cully Hamner's style is a tad grounded from Williams. Though the way I see it, it complements the story. You don't need two artists with Williams' style, Hamner's is a solid break from Batwoman's story. It's only a few pages long, but Renee basically is getting her name out as the new face (or non-face?) of street justice. However, it doesn't end well and the issue ends on another cliffhanger.

I'm sorry to say, but if you're not picking up this book, you are seriously missing out.

The Lone Ranger #17

From: Dynamite

Writer: Brett Matthews

Art: Sergio Cariello

Color: Marcelo Pinto of Impacto Studio

Letters: Simon Bowland

Review by Troy Brownfield

The Lone Ranger rides before a brief (two month) hiatus that was dictated by Dynamite’s directive of only putting the book out when the arcs are complete.  Thus, the railroad runs on time for specific storylines, and the talented team gets a little breathing room to build up the work.  I like this approach, just as I like that Dynamite is sticking to ongoing numbering, rather than trying to goose a number one out of new arcs.

When we return to the days of yesteryear (sorry, couldn’t help it), it’s right in the thick of the action.  As a matter of fact, we catch up with the Ranger and Tonto during a bravura nine-page opening action sequence.  Our titular hero is coming into his own, becoming more sure of himself in his larger than life exploits.  There’s a touch of dry humor to that in two regards: one, he gets a quick reminder not to get too cocky, and two, he occasionally has to watch Tonto pull off the type of badass moves that he aspires to with an almost bored competence.  Though there are a couple of funny lines from the Ranger amid this sequence, it could work just as well silently (and yes, that’s a compliment).

The rest of the issue is quieter in comparison, but it goes a long way toward establishing the Ranger’s redemptive journey.  John was fairly consumed with revenge at the outset, but he’s realizing that’s there more to mission than that.  I also loved a great minor detail: Nephew Dan observing some bees with keen interest; as we know, that fascination with stinging insects is going to be a family tradition.

If you haven’t checked out Dynamite’s take on The Lone Ranger before, this is great starting point.  Brett Matthews continues to build a solid interpretation of the world and characters, and Sergio Cariello’s dynamic twist on the Kubert school keeps things rocketing along.  I’ve been really enjoying this book since its debut, and I don’t expect to stop any time soon.

Creepy Archives Vol. 4

Written by: Various

Art: Various

Published by: Dark Horse

Reviewed by: Tim Janson

Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella are three of the most influential horror magazines ever produced.  They not only gave a forum to some of the most talented artists in the business, but without them, we’d have had little more than comics code-watered down books to read back in the 1970s.  When it comes right down to it, there’s still nothing like those old Warren Publications magazines today.  Thankfully Dark Horse has ridden to the rescue by reprinting Creepy and Eerie,into hardcover archive editions.

Dark Horse continues to collect Creepy magazine in its entirety with letter columns and advertisements included.  This fourth volume collects issues #16 – 20 of the series.  It all starts with a fantastic cover by Gray Morrow (doing his best Frazetta take).  The opening story, “A Curse of Claws” presents art by one of the all-time greats, Neal Adams with a story written by the late Archie Goodwin.  An arrogant hunter goes off on his own in a hunt for big game in the jungle and finds more than he bargained for when he encounters a beast-controlling witch.  

Early Spider-Man artist Steve Ditko provides a tale about, what else…a comic book artists whose monstrous drawings come to life to threaten him and his new bride.  Joe Orlando provides the art in a seven page adaptation of “The Mummy’s Hand”, the 1940 Universal horror film that was the first (and best) of five mummy films made by the studio in the 1940s.  Orlando does a brilliant job of capturing the likenesses of stars Dick Foran and George Zucco, as well as Tom Tyler who played the Mummy.

Reed Crandall, a great veteran artist from the EC Comic days has a couple of stories in this volume including his take on Frankenstein in “Footsteps of Frankenstein”.  A doctor arrives at a quaint English village looking for the shunned Dr. Sebastien and his monstrous creation.  There is also an adaptation of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic vampire novel “Carmilla”.

The good is that most of the stories in this volume were written by Archie Goodwin.  Goodwin grew up on EC comics as a kid and no writer had a better feel for capturing the tone of EC Comics than Goodwin.  The bad is that the quality of art started to go down here.  If you talk to artists who worked for Warren back then they will to a man tell you stories about how cheap Bill Warren could be and soon some of the major talents that worked on early issues of Warren’s magazines began to leave.  There is only one Frazetta cover (Issue #17) and a lot of the art was done by lesser names such as Sal Trapani, Maurice Whitman, Roger Brand, and other artists who Warren could get cheap.  Thankfully most of Goodwin’s stories are able to rise above the mediocrity of some of the art.  

Ultimate Spider-Man: Requiem #2

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Mark Bagley, Stuart Immonen, Scott Hannah, and Wade von Grawbadger

Colors by Pete Pantazis and Justin Ponsor

Letters by Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

With the final issue of Ultimate Spider-Man: Requiem, I guarantee that Brian Michael Bendis' story will set a lot of readers' continuity-sense tingling.

And you know what? Ignore it. You'll be glad you did.

While I'm not altogether convinced of this story's place in the overall Ultimatum constellation, Brian Michael Bendis, along with artists Mark Bagley and Stuart Immonen, puts together two great stories that -- if you can ignore the inconsistencies -- really leap off the page.

The main story, an untold tale penciled by Mark Bagley, is easily the highlight of the book, as it shows Peter Parker's first interaction with the Incredible Hulk. For those of you think you've seen this scenario before, you're not wrong -- Bendis previously took a crack at this clash of the titans back in Ultimate Marvel Team-Up way back in 2001. And there will be a lot of you out there who will find this breach of continuity -- especially on a story that helped launch the current Ultimatum crossover -- unexceptable. I'm telling you -- give it a shot.

With Spidey vs. Hulk Mark 2, Bagley's cartoony style really sings, as the acrobatic contortions of Spider-Man play really nicely against the sheer destruction of the Jade Giant. Bendis, meanwhile, gives Spider-Man the same sort of snarky humor we've come to know and love from the Webslinger in all his various incarnations: "They are going to shoot up the neighborhood and people are going to get hurt... and I kind of like the neighborhood," Spidey says to himself, after getting knocked clear across town into a coffee shop window. "Well, I don't really, but... all my stuff is here." All together, Bendis and Bagley have really choreographed a great fight that highlights the strengths and characterization of both combatants.

While Bendis' cracks about the Hulk's "fabulous" pants and whether or not anyone is "all of a sudden in the mood for frozen peas" is pitch perfect for this story, the real unsung hero of all this is colorist Pete Pantazis, who really makes Bagley's artwork sing. Both Spider-Man and the Hulk appropriately pop off the page, yet when the military starts mixing it up, the fireworks really explode. One especially cool sequence where the creative team just hits its mojo is when a soldier fires a bullet at Bruce Banner -- Bagley really plays up the tension of Bendis' script, dividing the panels claustrophobically as the bullet comes closer and closer, as Pantazis lends just the right amount of green to know that this isn't the end of the story just yet.

But Bendis isn't done yet, as he still has Ultimatum to address. Stuart Immonen bookends the Hulk story with the final confession of J. Jonah Jameson, as he finally writes about just how wrong he was to malign Spider-Man all these years. While I think Bendis might be a little heavy-handed with J.J.'s repentant article -- as he admits to "my weakness as a man and my corruption as a journalist" -- he does deliver a nice requiem at the end of the book, as pencilers ranging from Trevor Hairsine to Mark Bagley each give one-page shout-outs to the end of an era. Yet Bendis and Immonen really come together to create a beautiful last page of the book, that I think symbolizes a spectacular new beginning for this ambitious series.

So is Ultimate Spider-Man: Requiem #2 a success? Yes and no. As a final satisfying coda to the Little Series That Could, I don't think so -- the battle with the Hulk, while satisfying, still stands out as fill-in material rather than an out-and-out plan to eulogize the mythos. But if you can take this issue on its own merits -- forget continuity, forget Ultimatum, forget the packaging for a "requiem" that we all know isn't the end of Brian Michael Bendis' iteration of Spider-Man -- and you've got yourself a damn fine comic. It certainly asks a lot of readers to understand it as such -- it certainly was asking a lot out of me -- but I promise you: Ultimate Spider-Man: Requiem #2 delivers.

Metalocalypse One-Shot: Dethklok versus The Goon

Written by Eric Powell and Brendon Small

Art by Eric Powell

Colors by Dave Stewart

Published by Dark Horse Comics

Review by Brendan McGuirk

The biggest compliment I can pay to this one-shot is that, as a devotee of neither The Goon nor Metalocalypse, I @#%*’n loved it.

Right off the bat, Powell and Small inform readers not to stretch their brains too hard, as this is an out-of- “continudities” story, thus has no broader, lasting impact on either franchise, except for the sheer impact of awesome on them both. It makes this stipulation, but frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any sort of episode-to-episode continuity in any Adult Swim property, so that’s just par for the course. In any case, don’t get bogged down trying to make it fit anywhere, because if you do the Goon and Murderface will probably beat you up.

This book is firmly in the tradition of the great nonsensical crossovers, like Scooby Doo meets the Harlem Globetrotters. It’s got everything a fan of either property could want, including drugs, groupies, rock and roll, and sweet, sweet merciless violence. It’s definitely not for kids- I’d classify it as for “somewhat mature audiences.”

The most striking part of this one-shot is the way Powell and Stewart capture the cheap-animation look of the cartoon series, and contrast that with the lush style of The Goon. Dethklok, and the denizens of their world, are rendered with clean line-work, and flat colors. Goon and Frankie, of course, are captured with the lavish and deep painted look that has come to define that series. Even the perspectives on the respective characters seems to intentionally point out the differences in “house” art styles, as Dethklok is shown with straight-ahead, full body panel shots, and the folks from the land of The Goon are shown from dynamic, three dimensional angles. It’s laudable that Powell and Small found a way to put both sets of toys in the same sandbox, without betraying the visual rules of either universe.

This issue also provides the most uncomfortable sex scene this side of J. Jonah Jameson Sr. and Aunt May, with even more uncomfortable pillow talk. It must be good to be a death-metal superstar. It ends, as any Metalocalypse story must, with a killer jam, and an even more killer mosh. And, like the best play-dates, it doesn’t end until someone gets hurt roughhousing.

Sex, drugs, and violence, dudes, dudettes, and dudebros- If you don’t dig this issue, I don’t know what you enjoy. But it sure ain’t rock and roll.

Ultima Thula Graphic Novel

Published by Arcana Studios/Greenlit Publishing

Reviewed by: Tim Janson

The title of this graphic novel, and the back cover art made me think I was getting a Lovecraftian but of horror.  There is a bit of that type of other-worldly horror going on but its much more on the personal level than Lovecraft’s brand of cosmic horror.  Jason Battle is an ex-Iraq war veteran, fighting to get custody of his daughter after the death of his wife.  As Jason returns to the small town of North Bend to have his day in court, he find the town a literal Hello on Earth.  It’s citizens all sucked up into a vast vortex that hovers above, including his daughter.  Leaping headlong into the maelstrom he is transported across space to a world in the midst of war between rival alien factions.  A plague has decimated the planet and the only antidote requires human blood.  Jason has to aid the rebellious aliens against their tyrannical leader and also try to find his daughter amidst the alien world.

This was an interesting story…part sci-fi, part horror, part action-adventure all rolled into one.  The story moved at a quick pace and is filled with near endless battles.  The art is a bit rough around the edges although I’d guess that this was intentional to give a look which fit the gritty storyline, I especially like the color palette that was used.  There’s a lot of subtle half-tones used which contrasts the edgy storyline.  This is by no means the end of the story and I’ll be anxious to see where Jason’s tale goes from here.

Northlanders vol. 2 tpb: The Cross and the Hammer

Written by Brian Wood

Art by Ryan Kelly

Colors by Dave McCaig

Published by Vertigo Comics

Review by Brendan McGuirk

The first thing I noticed in reading this latest Vertigo volume was , ‘Hey, waitaminute, this doesn’t have anybody that was in that last book at all!’ The book takes a sizable jump, of about twenty-five years, in this latest story. Then I reflected back on how Sven the Returned opened, and pretty much closed the book on Sven, and realized I shouldn’t have been surprised. But still, it is an admirable challenge for Wood and company to undertake, as they pretty much build their story from the ground up with each installment.

The Cross and the Hammer tells the story of two bad men at the turn of the 11th century. The first is called, simply, Magnus, and is a freedom fighter for Norse-occupied Ireland, who comprehensively defines the “by any means necessary,” pathos. The other, Ragnar Ragnarsson, is a confidant of the Viking King Sigtrygg, who is given the task of capturing Magnus, and securing the king’s lands. The character of Ragnar reveals the tangible innovation behind Northlanders; if this is a world Viking crime, it follows that there must be Viking detectives, and that is Ragnar. CSI: Norsemen it’s not, but it is a quietly brilliant stroke that adds depth and weight to Wood’s Nordic world.

Magnus’ escapades are the driver of this story, with Ragnar forever lagging one step behind in pursuit. Magnus, we learn, is a character desperate for redemption, who seeks to cleanse the blood on his hands with… blood on his hands. With his young daughter in tow, he murders every Viking lieutenant he can find. He is fighting for his land and countrymen, he insists, but as we watch his brutality we see that the demons he’s fighting are as much internal as external. A chase through the end, it is a coarse story befitting a coarse time.

Kelly really flexes his range in this book. Departing from his other, gentler collaborations with Brian Wood, his heavy line and fast-paced action exposes his true versatility. The story turns on a late twist that actually rings as a little conventional for the normally inventive Wood, but it does serve its purpose in proving that there are men beyond redemption.

The Cross and the Hammer is a blood-soaked tale of revenge, like any good Viking story must be. Brutal and cold, there are no good guys to cheer on. There is only survival, and the cruel justice of the sword. It’s a dark book of dark days.

Fahrenheit 451

Written by Ray Bradbury

Adapted to comics by Tim Hamilton

Published by Hill & Wang

Reviewed by Michael C Lorah

Ray Bradbury is one of the great writers of modern fiction, a master of speculative science fiction, and fortunately for comic book fans, a longtime admirer of the comics form – so much so that he’s authorized multiple comics adaptations of his work, dating back to the heyday of EC Comics (technically, the first adaptation he okayed after its publication, but let’s not split hairs here.)

Fifty-eight years later, Bradbury’s most famous and influential work, Fahrenheit 451 receives its sequential translation thanks to cartoonist Tim Hamilton (who recently also handled a comics version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and has serialized his own Pet Sitter and Adventures of the Floating Elephant at Act-i-vate).

The story of Fahrenheit 451, to little surprise, holds up after many decades and in its translation to a new form.  Of course, in an era when sound bytes pass as news and Huck Finn is banned from libraries, the future depicted in Bradbury’s novel is perhaps more terrifying than ever before.  Guy Montag’s literary crisis remains horrifying, yet eerily possible, just over the horizon.

With strikingly visual flames and the mechanical hound, the story is packed with elements that explode off the pages and burn themselves into the reader’s mind, even when “limited” to prose.  Artist Tim Hamilton’s style, clean with a muted color palette that erupts into jagged lines and eye-searing yellows and oranges when the arson begins, fits Bradbury’s 50s dystopian vision like a glove.  The bleak coloring reflects the life drained out of society, a dour world of ambition-free “happiness” and senseless satisfaction.  The panel-to-panel progressions read clearly, and all of the thematic power remains on the page.

When I see comic book adaptations like these, I’m torn between two feelings.  First, I think people should just read the novel and experience Bradbury is his pure form.  But then I also realize that too few people read books at all, and if cartoonists like Tim Hamilton can preserve the intelligence, passion and importance of novels like Fahrenheit 451, making strong comic translations like this available can only be a good thing.

PELLETS!

Army of Darkness #23 (Dynamite; review by Troy):  Though the book can still vacillate a little to the goofier side of things, I’m enjoying the building of the League of Light, Ash’s horror all-star team.  Werewolf, witch, flame-monster, Ash, more to come . . . I like it.  One of the things that had somewhat suffered here was the lack of an ongoing supporting cast; assuming that the League doesn’t get completely wiped out, a couple of these characters would be worth keeping around so that Ash could play off of them regularly.  It’ll be fun to watch where this goes.

Superman #690 (Published by DC Comics; Reviewed by David Pepose): It's been a while since I last checked in with the Superman series, and some nice looking art by Pere Perez really brought me back into the fold. Perez has a style that's a little bit of John Cassaday and a little bit of Mike McKone, and it largely works for the ever-shifting supporting cast of Superman, whether it be a fight between Steel and Atlas, the snarky teenage wizard Zatara, or the Daxamite Green Lantern Sodam Yat. Writer James Robinson uses the hook of his artist to really fill us in on the general supporting cast's whereabouts, which I think could have been pared down a character or two. Robinson's fight with Steel is great, even if it is one page too long, and his take on Zatara -- sarcastic, self-centered, yet imminently charming -- is a surprisingly compelling scene, and definitely makes me want to know what happened next. The only slow points are dealing with the Guardian's reworking of the Science Police -- which seems to be minutiae only die-hard readers would understand -- and a one-page cameo from Dr. Light, who I didn't know was in the series. All in all, some great artwork makes this a book to watch.

Blackset Night: Tales of the Corps #3 of 3 (DC Comics, Review by Mike Mullins):   While I harped on the cost point with the first issue, the final issue of this companion to Blackest Night provides only two stories covered in a mere 18 pages for $3.99.  The first story, about Kilowog's time a recruit, is written by Peter J. Tomasi with art by Chris Samnee and colors by John Kalisz.  First off, I actually like Lantern Ermey and like seeing the baton of leading delivered from one sergeant to a future sergeant, but I hate the fact that Kilowog is shown as a recruit without the green lantern symbol.  Since Green Lantern: Rebirth, a lot has changed including two lanterns per sector and symbol-lesss uniforms for rookies, but when Kilowog was new to the Corps, the ring made him a Green Lantern from day one, though one in need of training just as Hal received training in Emerald Dawn.  It is fine that the Green Lantern Corps has made advances since the Corps was restarted, there is not need to rewrite the history of Green Lantern.  I enjoyed the art and wouldn't mind seeing Samnee fill-in when Gleason needs a break, but the strongest effort was from Kalisz who I really enjoyed on the art with his shading of constructs, play with light from the campfire, and adaptable color palette which creating striking differences between volcanic mountains, shifting sands of the desert, and ice holes on the frozen tundra.

The second tale, also written by Tomasi, features Arisia before she entered the Corps.  The art in this story comes from Mike Mayhew with colors from Andy Troy, and the art is stunning.  The story, however, is meaningless.  If the story is important enough to make it into Tales of the Corps #3, tell the reader why.  What makes it so important that Arisia's family has provided the Green Lanterns for the sector for so long?  The story doesn't feel important and Tomasi never provides a solid reason to care.  Overall, there isn't much in this issue to make any care if they purchase it or not, especially when the reader is charged for a commentary of Blackest Night #0 that provides far less insight than Ethan Van Sciver's interview in Tales of the Corps #2.

Battlefields: The Tankies #3 of 3 (Dynamite; review by Troy): This isn’t so much a review of this issue in particular, which is great, then it is to implore you to check out Garth Ennis’s Battlefields mini-line.  The concluding chapter of this mini maintains the high quality of the two previous done-in-three installments; each one had a different artist, setting, set of characters, and tone.  Tankies has certainly been the most humorous of the three, but it still says some striking things about the horror that soldiers in tank warfare continue to face.  One of the best bits here is that Ennis announces that there will be three more three-issue Battlefields minis in the near future.  Ennis does great work with The Boys and other projects, but he’s practically peerless in terms of the modern war comic.

The Complete Dracula #2 (Dynamite; review by Jeff): Now this is what you should get in a comic book when you lay down five Washingtons.  It’s thirty-two pages heavy and a meaty read, not something you’re likely to tear through on a single visit to the loo.  Book two covers chapters six through twelve of the novel, and if you’re not savvy, that means we’ve left Transylvania for the more genteel climes of Whitby, London, and Budapest, getting to know Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra a little better along the way.  In the latter’s case that also includes riding shotgun as she devolves from beautiful socialite prior to the Demeter’s docking in Whitby to mere husk after Dracula’s finished using her as his personal sippy cup.  The issue moves a little fast, albeit forgivably given the amount of material to adapt, but never so much as to feel rushed, and aided by Worley’s gorgeous and moody painted artwork you can almost feel Lucy’s life drain out her with the turning of each page.  Writers Moore and Reppion’s love of the material is palpable and they continue their meticulous effort in adapting Stoker’s unadulterated version of the classic masterpiece.  This is arguably the most beautiful book on the stands right now and while the hardcover collection is solicited for October release, it’s worth it to get the individual issues as they come out.  Highly recommended!

We Kill Monsters #1 (Red5 Comics: review by Brendan): When giant killer monsters invade your small town, who do you call? Why, the codependent, coworking Basher Brothers, of course. Jake and Drew are small time mechanics, struggling with their small time lives, until, y’know, adventure is thrust upon them. During a mysterious monster attack, Jake is injured. Recovering quickly, he is revealed to be empowered by the strange monster-brain juice that infected his wound. Though one monster is toppled, there are many more on the horizon, and suddenly the directionless Basher Brothers have found their true calling. With clean storytelling and satisfying art, the first issue of this book delivers a strong, likeable foundation on which further, more nuanced stories can be sprung from. You’ll like the guys, you’ll like the art, and you’ll like seeing monsters get slapped around. Can’t ask for much more than that!

War of Kings: Ascension #4 of 4 (Marvel, Review by Mike Mullins):  Overall, the finale issue of this mini-series succeeds.  It provides a satisfying conclusion to the arc without relying on the primary War of Kings story, growth for the series’ focal character, and path forward for our hero both in terms of mission and obstacles ahead.  The high points include revelations of Darkhawk’s armor including the ability to change from metal to carbon-fiber, an ability that makes sense with the technologies developing in automobile manufacturing; demonstration that Chris is mastering abilities taught to him by Talon such as gating; and the interaction between Chris and Jeeku, the Skrull captured by Talon’s amulet in issue #1.  The only low point in Abnett’s and Lanning’s storytelling comes as they string out Chris’s deception of Razor, making these pages feel like a James Bond villain revealing his plans, as the real Razor would have better understood the implications of Talon’s actions without needing to be given every detail.

For the most part the art holds up to the task.  In a few panels, the art feels a little rushed, but it typically does the task of developing the story.  The exception where the panel layout felt a bit jarring was the collision between Darkhawk and Galdiator as there is not enough shown to determine how Chris went from standing in conflict with Havok to impacting against an apparently immobile Gladiator’s chest.  The rest of the fight scene has a solid panel layout and smooth flow to a complicated fight scene for which Alves should be commended.  

Overall, the miniseries proved an enjoyable jaunt into Marvel’s cosmic universe.  Hopefully, the November solicits from Marvel will provide a hint of what is to come for Darkhawk.

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