Best Shots: Astonishing, Batman and More

Best Shots: AXM, Batman RIP, Witchblade

Greetings! Welcome back to the big column. First, links to our Best Shots Extra from this week . . .

Patsy Walker: Hellcat #1

Station #1

Squadron Supreme v2 #1

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!

High Rollers #1

AND . . . have you been checking out the interviews from Wizard World Chicago by the Shots in the Dark crew? Yeah, that’s our boys (and girl). Lucas, Janelle, Vince, John, Eric, Steve, and Josh knocked themselves out at WWC, grabbing some terrific interviews amid the crazy logistics of the show floor. If you’ve never seen the regular show, check it out at The show’s about to evolve again in the near future, so get on board now so you can say, “I watched Shots in the Dark before they were huge sell-outs.”

And now, regular reviews . . .

Astonishing X-Men #25

From: Marvel

Writer: Warren Ellis

Art: Simone Bianchi

Colors: Simone Peruzzi

Letters: Chris Eliopoulos

Review by Troy Brownfield

This might be one of the few times in Warren Ellis’s career that he’s got a really tough act to follow. Obviously, the Whedon-Cassaday combo had many fans, and just as obviously, Ellis is not a guy who employs the same kind of approach as Whedon. I liked what Whedon did, but I have the feeling that some people won’t give this a fair shake because they’re totally enamored of Whedon.

That’s a shame, because Warren Ellis gets it. His vision fits perfectly with the new status quo for the X-line, and he writes the X-Men (with the in-character exception of Armor) as canny veterans. I also like that Ellis brings his humor to bear on the script. Both of those notions are evident in the scene with Storm and Emma Frost. These two have been mortal enemies in the past, but there’s an almost meta acknowledgement of the fact that allegiances in the X-World shift frequently, and that former hated foes can wind up as teammates. The use of the X-Men in an official capacity for powered threats to San Francisco is sensible as well, as is Cyclops’ suggestion that they modify their uniforms for dealings with public officials. This approach suggests that Ellis spent real time examining the angles and applications of the new situation.

As for the visuals, Simone Bianchi’s art comes from a darker place than Cassaday’s (part of that is the colors), and that’s fine. There’s flair and energy in the look of this issue, and the whole enterprise carries a very modern feel.

I think that this is a fine “new direction” issue. Inasmuch as Whedon’s run had a great classic feel, I also enjoy the forward-looking aesthetic that tends to be a hallmark of Ellis’s work. I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays.

Batman #678

From: DC Comics

Writer: Grant Morrison

Art: Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea

Review by Troy Brownfield

The first two parts of “Batman R.I.P.” have, in my view, gone swimmingly. This issue, on the other hand, seems like more of a bump in the road as a combination of factors threw it off for me. One of the things not working for me in this issue would be some of the Morrisonian indulgences. I’m a big fan of Morrison, but the constant riffing on Silver Age stories in this one is a bit off-putting. I’m familiar with the stories being referenced, so I can’t imagine the confusion that would be present for someone who’s not familiar with those stories. In a way, it’s common to my knocks on Final Crisis #1; Morrison seems to, at this stage of his writing, expect everyone to have his vast knowledge of the history of the DCU.

Another subcategory of the Silver Age references: is this supposed to be a tale the retrofits continuity? I know that people frequently bitch when you mention continuity in a review, but here’s the thing: if a company asks you to invest in their continuity, then it’s a fair question. So . . . is this story trying to grandfather some of those older tales back in, or is it merely using those old stories as items to feed the fever dream than the unraveling Bruce Wayne seems to be experiencing?

I’m finding the art to be a bit of a challenge, too. I think that Daniel was fine of the first couple of parts, but his members of the Bat-family seem somewhat interchangeable. There’s not a lot of difference in face or anatomy between Bruce, Dick, and Tim, and it can make you stop and ask who’s where. The best example is early on; if you didn’t see the red bike and helmet fairly quickly, that young man could be Tim, Dick, or even Jason Todd (it’s Tim).

Overall, I don’t think that this issue ruins “R.I.P.”. I typically enjoy surrealistic fare on its own merits, but Morrison lately seems to want to play surrealism and Silver Age referencing at the same time. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it’s wonky. Perhaps by the end of this arc, everything will make perfect sense. As it is right now, it feels like there’s perhaps a bit too much effort to make things seem strange and disconnected, rather than letting the dread and discomfort flow out of the story naturally.

Witchblade #119

From: Top Cow Productions

Written by: Ron Marz

Art By: Stjepan Sejic

Reviewed by Tim Janson

The latest issue of Witchblade is told almost entirely in a flashback sequence, which I’ve always found to be a bit annoying. Detective Sara Pezzini is being interrogated by Internal Affairs over a recent incident and Pezzini relates the details in the flashback sequence. She and her partner had just finished investigating a murder scene when she was attacked by an incredibly fast, and invisible assailant.

The battle moves onto a tanker truck which speeds through the city, destroying a car and nearly hitting two innocent bystanders. It’s interesting to read Pezzini’s dialog and account of the incident. They tell a completely different story than the art as Sara was in Witchblade mode, fighting her green-haired, female foe. This was the best part of the story as you’ll see Sara use her quick wits to explain to the investigator just how she managed to survive without revealing anything about her secret. This was actually a flashback sequence that worked because of Marz’ and Sejic’s clever framing of the story and contrasting the action and dialog. Sara’s attacker is soon unmasked, so to speak, and it is quite a surprise for fans of the Top Cow universe.

I loved Sara’s verbal sparring with the investigating officer, Inspector Phipps. Despite her precarious position and her previous history of similar incidents, Sara is not about to take any crap and tells him so. This tenacity is something I love about the Sara Pezzini character and the reason that I hope the split of the Witchblade is ended soon and given back solely to Sara. She’s just a more dynamic and interesting character than Danielle Baptiste. Speaking of Dani she is mentioned, but noticeable absent from this issue.

Sejic’s art continues to be a major plus to the series. His painted work displays incredible uses of light and shadows and gradients of smoke and haze throughout the battle on the tanker truck. There is an attention to detail that I think a lot of artists would just shun as being unnecessary.

Baghdad Journal

Written & Illustrated by Steve Mumford

Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Reviewed by Michael C Lorah

Though it’s not truly “comics,” Steve Mumford’s collection of essays and paintings based on his trips to war-torn Iraq captures the humanity in the middle of astonishingly challenging circumstances. Mumford made his first trip to Iraq in 2003, only months after the fighting began; after Mumford’s words and images initially appeared on, Drawn and Quarterly publisher Chris Oliveros saw the work and decided that the juxtaposition of text and art deserved a home at his company.

Each essay brings to light a different facet of life in the war zone. Mumford describes the lifestyles of artisans in Baghdad he’s befriended, while also witnessing the daily to-do of life for shopkeepers, homemakers and students just trying to get on with their lives. The varied reactions of the Iraqis he meets are some of the most compelling tales of war that I’ve ever read, from those who hated Saddam Hussein’s rule but don’t see American occupation as an improvement to Iraqis who hope the country can rise above the current turmoil and seize opportunities for its citizens that would’ve been denied by the former regime.

Other essays focus on the diversity of American troops, and as with the sections that focus on the lives of Iraqis, the myriad opinions Mumford finds provide readers with a full and truly non-partisan view of the conflict. For every soldier who finds the leadership directionless and flawed, there is another who believes completely that he or she is bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq. Some G.I.s are rude, some are deeply concerned, and some are passing time until their tour is over. On the ground, the lines between right and wrong are much more complex than armchair moralizers will ever realize.

Despite being a painter foremost, Mumford’s words are colorful and astute; he captures the complexities of people’s opinions without allowing his own feelings to filter anything. Strong and precise, the writing complements the reality shown in his images.

Mumford’s paintings, drawn while on the streets of the cities of Baghdad or later reconstructed from photos taken while on patrol or while in a firefight, are impressionist pieces. Each one is sketchy and loose, capturing the uncertainty of the country’s existence, yet the focus remains on the human beings living in the midst of the turmoil. Mumford is able to capture the daily routines with a muted desert-brown palette that is real and emotionally rich.

Apolitical and pro-humanity, Steve Mumford’s Baghdad Journal is a compelling document about life on the ground in Iraq in the year after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government. Maybe it’s not truly a comic book, but Mumford’s use of text and art has created a more rounded and humane portrait of the lives lived in the cradle of humanity than any other recent similar attempt.


Written by Brian Wood

Art by Becky Cloonan

Published by DC/Vertigo

Review by Sarah Jaffe

Re-released last week on Vertigo, DEMO was Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s take on young people dealing with ‘superpowers’—except these superpowers are a burden and the stories draw as much from a James Joyce-ian epiphany as the hero’s journey.

DEMO is more magical realism than superhero comic, more about people than anything else. At the core, these are stories about one person’s relationship with one or two others, or in a few stories, how that person’s relation to the world is shaped and twisted. Then again, aren’t all really good stories about humanity, not gimmicks?

It reads as a collection like a rock album, each story its own three-minute love song. Or maybe the perfect mix tape, to draw on a theme already evoked by one of the stories. It’s rare to find single issues as satisfying as these, as complete.

It’s at once a lot like Local and completely different. Where Local is hyper-real, each of these stories are a bit dreamy, a little strange yet still familiar, so when you feel them cut to the heart it’s that much more surprising.

Becky Cloonan’s art is amazing. She shifts styles in each story, from the sketchy-creepy feel of “What You Wish For” to the stark, woodcut-like “One Shot, Don’t Miss,” and you never notice the lack of color—it would just be clutter. And Wood has an eye both for the million little ways people can hurt each other, and for all the tiny beautiful pieces that make up a life. Most importantly, he knows when to let the art tell the story.

The opening story, “NYC,” sets up the entire series with one line: “Ever get this weird feeling that you’re different somehow?” It’s the quintessential coming-of-age tale summed up in 24 pages—the cutting loose, the tears, the trip to hell and back, and the celebration of freedom. Cloonan’s panels read like film stills: a shot in the rearview mirror, one from a low angle, close-ups, medium shots.

“Emmy” is an extended metaphor for puberty as a reservoir of terrifying power. Her voice is her weapon, and yet she can’t control it so she is silent. It could also signify sexuality, especially since it is sexual comments that lead her to lose control. When she was younger, “it was fun,” but now that she’s older she realizes the danger in the power she holds.

A family story, “Bad Blood” is about loss, and about the realization that you can’t escape who you are. Cloonan makes the most of what could have been a bunch of talking heads, and when the action comes it’s sudden, violent, and visceral.

“Stand Strong” is the first to veer away from a ‘superpower’ as the base of the story and to blend it into the action so that you barely notice it. It’s one of the more male stories, if stories truly can have genders like Neil Gaiman says, and it’s about growing up and accepting truths that aren’t glamorous and realizing that real love doesn’t look like what you thought. It’s about the pressure of loyalty to friends who really just want to drag you down, and worrying about what’s worse: disappointing your friends or disappointing yourself. The heavy linework here suits the vibe of the story—dark and slightly ponderous.

Possibly the best story here is “Girl You Want.” I could write pages on this one by itself, but I’ve got limited space here. Kate is a shapeshifter, but instead of choosing her own shape, she has them forced upon her by people she meets. We’ve all known what it’s like for someone to assume things about us that aren’t true, but imagine having your body physically shift on you. Wood’s taken the gaze from film theory and turned it into its own uniquely scary experience, but the story doesn’t go where you expect it to, and is that much better for it.

“What You Wish For” is gothic horror brought to suburbia. It’s one of the weaker stories here, but even still has its chilling moments. Who doesn’t remember that moment when your parents stood up for you and you wanted to hide, knowing you’d just get it worse tomorrow? Also interesting here is that the picked-on minority is Asian, not the usual choice. And it would be worth reading just for the one beautifully creepy panel with the skeleton rising behind the boy. Really, for all the art, which is really allowed to move the story forward with little narrative intrusion.

Set during the early days of the Iraq war, “One Shot, Don’t Miss” shows the transition between the peacetime culture of the 90s and the endless war of our current administration. It’s hard to believe now that only a few years ago someone could have joined the military without really expecting to have to fire a gun at someone. This story asks that question—what would you do if asked to kill? Would it be worse if you knew you couldn’t miss? The art here is even starker black and white, it almost looks like a woodcut, and the silent final panels here are heartwrenching.

It doesn’t feel right to comment on “Mixtape.” You should just read this one and let it wash over you and remember your own lost loves.

“Breaking Up” is another little collection of insights into relationships. For all we think our own heartbreaks are unique, sometimes it helps to see someone else had them too, those moments when your love is not on your side anymore, but really half a world away and you can barely see them, let alone feel them.

All the pieces of “Damaged” don’t quite fit, and it’s my least favorite art-wise of the bunch, but it still gets under my skin. It’s about that guy none of us want to be, yet we can’t seem to stop chasing what makes us turn into him: money, success, shallow relationships.

“Midnight to Six” is a shout out to the slacker generation, and in some ways the simplest story here. No superpowers, no nothing except three kids coming to terms with growing up, and like in “Stand Strong,” learning how your best friends can disappoint.

Finally, “Mon Dernier Jour Avec Toi” is the dreamiest story of the bunch, not really a story so much as a love song, to draw out the mix tape metaphor even further. The story floats through Brooklyn, showing for once all the perfect moments of a relationship, as if to remind us after some of the cutting pieces here that there’s still reason to trust people. And love them.

Demo isn’t a perfect collection, but each story has its own core of truth and each brings something to the whole. You should read it. And then hold your breath for the new Demo issues upcoming from Vertigo. I am.

Titans Companion 2

By Glen Cadigan

From: TwoMorrows Publishing

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: TwoMorrows does an absolute champion job with their companions and reference books. One review down, you’ll see Mike Lorah talk about a great volume from the Modern Masters series. My call, though, is to look at the second companion dealing with the rich history of the Teen Titans.

This installment, like most of the companions, is built around quality interviews. Geoff Johns is all over the place here, talking about his earlier Titans-related work (like the Beast Boy mini), the relaunch with him and McKone, and the “One Year Later” iteration. There’s also a big effort to include the creators of related solo titles: Mark Waid talks about Impulse, Karl Kesel talks about Superboy, Chuck Dixon holds forth on Robin. There’s a complete feeling about this volume; Cadigan goes out of his way to make sure that this is as comprehensive a volume as possible. You know that to be the case when you see the time spent on things like the 2-year Jurgens series or the JLA/Titans event. I also love that they included a long discussion with Peter David about Young Justice.

Another great piece is a series of sections dealing with the animated series. In addition to conversations with show personnel, we also get interviews with the creators of the tie-in comics. Perhaps the best part of this segment is an interview with Marv Wolfman and George Perez detailing their reactions to seeing some of their seminal work on TV.

This volume is a must for Titans fans. It’s an expansive, well-crafted look at the franchise that offers numerous insights and anecdotes. Cadigan has a knack for pulling out great information, and TwoMorrows organizes it all in an appealing way. For my money, any book from the Companion series is essential reading.

Modern Masters vol. 15: Mark Schultz

By Eric Nolen-Weathington & Fred Perry

Published by TwoMorrows

Reviewed by Michael C Lorah

I somehow missed this volume when it came out a few months ago, so I figured I’d mention it in case you’re like me and don’t always see the good stuff the day is comes out.

Continuing the style of past Modern Masters, this volume is a book-length interview with a modern cartoonist whose career and work have established him as a creative leader in the medium. Clocking in at nearly 100 pages, the interview touches on almost every aspect of Schultz’s career, beginning with his education and interests before launching into a lengthy discussion of his most famous creation, Xenozoic Tales. In addition to considerable conversation about the creation and development of the comic book series, Schultz is able to delve into the pros and cons of seeing his creation become a multimedia property outside his sphere of influence, as he reminisces about Xenozoic’s translation to toys and cartoons (CBS’s Cadillacs & Dinosaurs in 1993) and recalls farming his title out to other creators for tie-in comics (Topps’ comic series that shared its name with the cartoon).

Schultz’s work-for-hire career is also given a spotlight, with frank discussions of the relative quality and creative ups and downs of nearly every project he’s worked on, from Aliens and Predator stories to his four-plus year run on Superman: the Man of Steel. Schultz is plain-spoken, willing to discuss the fun of working with his fellow Superman creators (he has considerable praise for Man of Steel artist Doug Mahnke) yet also admit that he wasn’t able to examine aspects of the mythos that he’d’ve liked to explore.

At times, the interview could’ve gone deeper into specific subjects, notably Schultz’s current job writing the Prince Valiant newspaper strip and his upcoming projects Storms at Sea, but as a historical overview of his career, there is little left out and plenty of surprising and thought-provoking answers given.

Each page is lavishly decorated with hundreds of Schultz’s sketches and final art pieces, and a 20-page gallery, including a too-short color section, follows the interview portion. Early Xenozoic character sketches show the evolution of the characters and world, and offer comparison to recent illustrations of the Xenozoic. Various other illustration jobs, including Conan work for compilations of Robert E. Howard’s texts, character model sheets for Xenozoic sculptures, toys and animation, and various covers for projects including his own Subhuman, Jim Ottaviani’s terrific Cowboys, Bone Sharps and Thunder Lizards and DC’s Action Comics #836.

For fans of Schultz’s work or of classic adventure illustration, Modern Masters vol. 15: Mark Schultz is a clear winner and another very strong entry in TwoMorrows catalog of artist spotlights.

Marvel Graphic Novels and Related Publications: An Annotated Guide

Published by: McFarland Publishers

Written by: Robert G. Weinder

Reviewed by Tim Janson

Want to talk about a labor of love? How about trying to catalog and document all of Marvel Comics’ graphic novels, trade paperbacks, prose novels, and children’s books ever published? That’s exactly what Rob Weiner does in this thoroughly exhaustive reference book. Over five years in the making, Weiner gives Marvel fans a one-stop shopping place for information on all of these books published through 2005.

As I paged through the book I was simply blown away by the amount of information inside. I had no idea that there were so many books out there. But of course, in the past decade, we’ve seen this trend towards preprinting story arcs of varying numbers of issue into book format. Comic fans are no longer merely collectors and some are not collectors at all. They still want to keep up with their favorite characters and buying one book every six months versus having to run to the comic store monthly is simply more desirable for a lot of people and for those people especially, this is a fantastic tool.

What I love about Weiner’s layout is that he didn’t just decide to list books in alphabetical order but instead he grouped the sections by subject matter or characters. For example there is a section for Marvel’s Superheroes with subsections for individual heroes or groups of heroes such as The Avengers, Conan/Kull, Hulk and She-Hulk, Thor, X-Men/Mutants, Wolverine, etc…

Next is the section for special volumes and series like the Marvel Masterworks and Essentials lines and Epic Comics graphic novels, followed by sections for Children’s books, Prose novels, Marvel/DC crossovers, guidebook and indexes and more. Nearly 400 page in all and it’s all backed up by a comprehensive index or indexes I should say as there are three of them: one for title, one for artist/author, and one for subject making it easy to pickup and find exactly what book you are looking for. There are even three appendices including one for all of the Marvel Superheroes game books and modules published by TSR.

Now if this were just a list that might be good enough but it isn’t. Once you look up a book, Weiner provides the artist, writer, year of publication, ISBN#, the issues the book reprints if applicable and a comprehensive summary of the plot. Now I don’t know if Mr. Weiner actually read all of these books but it doesn’t really matter…there is a wealth of information here that is indispensable for Marvel fans. Extraordinarily researched and meticulously laid out, the book is well worth the $49.95 price tag.

Sky Pirates of Valendor #3 (sneak preview!)

Written and created by Everett Soares

Art by Brian Brinlee

Inked by Micheal W. Keller

Coloring by Jet Amago

Published by Free Lunch Comics

First agenda of the day: let's explore the world of Valendor. At my primary glimpse, I thought I was looking at "Pirates of the Dark Water", but as I read the script "Sky Pirates" is more of a mix of Tellos and a steampunk pirate mesh. Now, Sky Pirates #3 hasn't come out yet and for those of you who have no idea what's going on let's play catch up. The main character in the series is Tobin Manheim, captain of the Rogue's Revenge. His crew is an assortment of characters, but they have the usual cliches covered. Gearz, the android warrior who happens to be Tobin's ex-wife. Bryan is a man-bear beast, the tank of the team though highly intelligent.

Fritz, gnome/dwarfish looking fellow who is the ship's engineer and a pretty good fighter. Finally, there is Shyni, the cat-woman seductress and agile warrior.

The story arc for the series focuses on an assignment that Tobin is hired by the Governor of Southgate to complete. In issue #1, Captain Tobin is summoned to Governor Langford's office. It is there where he is offered the job of rescuing Melissa from the Temple Khorii. There is a sequence of flashback sequences where Tobin recalls a not-so-pleasant experience he had with his eternal enemy. At the end of the issue, Tobin is reacquainted with Gearz, his ex-wife. Gearz has been hired by Governor Langford to make sure Tobin does the job he has been hired, and paid in advance, to do.

In Issue 2, the crew of the Rogue's Revenge embarks on their journey to find the mysterious kidnapped one. To get there, though, the reader is taken on a tour of Croix, the pirate port of Valendor. You see, Tobin needs to call in a favor or two to help him accomplish his assignment. So, he visits the Pirate Guild to ask the Pirate Queen for assistance. Prior to entering the Guild, Tobin realizes there is a bounty on his head for not paying his Guild dues. As a young handsome pirate can do, he charms his way to get the bounty lifted and the Queen to assist him by calling off harbor patrols for the evening. The crew knows that the task of rescuing Melissa is not going to be an easy one so we have the opportunity in this issue to see them run through the steps and what they actually go through to get there.

In Issue 3, the crew has to settle an old score with a Minotaur captain and try to patch up their wounds. Tobin had been injured previously and is still suffering from the side effects. Gearz has a bit of trouble with her programming and goes into warrior mode and we see what she really is capable of doing though luckily Tobin deactivates her fury by reciting their marriage vows. The skirmish with the Minotaurs and Carnon Shield Smasher is brief, but ends with Tobin using his brain to kill his oversized rival. I like how there is a note from the authorthat explains some terminology. Sometimes fantasy books forget an index or glossary and it becomes confusing on what exactly they are talking about. They even explain some notes on the Pirate Code and an Elder Scroll about the New Age.

This is first real attempt at writing a comic book series by Everett Soares, the creator and writer. True, he's a novice, but they don't stay that way forever. His world is lush and wide. I'd love to see what other lands exist in his mind.

Brian Brinlee's style is cartoonish enough while still holding some seriousness to it. He is a fantasy artist and his works are mainly covers and RPG illustrations. He's obviously a fan of Tellos from how the characters are designed, but they remain distinct. You can tell his heart is really into his work. My main criticism is how his pencils are inked. Michael W. Kellar was a staff inker for Gravitywell Productions. This is his first book since that gig. So, I could associate his work with that he could be slightly rusty. Still, the line work is too broad at times and still looks, well, not the best.

The series isn't colored, save the cover. True, it would look better colored, but myself in the Indie game I know how freaking expensive that can be. So they have Jet Amago. He is a very talented artist with an exquisite line of work to his name. He does the grayscale on the book and it works out just fine.

Everett and the team entered a contest last year that they finished in 2nd place out of 113 contestants. The contest netted them a published Issue #0 and then a contract with Free Lunch Comics. All of the issues collectively have sold close to 700 copies, through independent distribution. The series will be going to TPB at the beginning of the new year. This series is something I am looking forward to and if you have a young one who's a fan of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and even Pirates of the Carribean, they should pick this up and see how they fancy it. More than likely the will love it and if you're a not so young one and you're a fan of Tellos and Battle Chasers or maybe remember and were a fan of Pirates of the Dark Water, then you should check it out yourself this July.


Jonah Hex #33 (DC; review bt Rev. O.J. Flow): With all due respect to every artist who has contributed to this series, issue #33 is a solid argument for my theory that bringing in more A-list talent on hand to contribute would do the book here a great service. As much enjoyment as I get on a monthly basis out of DC's best Western ongoing book, I was especially thrilled to see that writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti (superb month in, month out) were joined here by the peerless Darwyn Cooke. Every dynamic storytelling nuance that Cooke blew me away with, and countless other readers, in DC: The New Frontier can be found is this one-and-done issue that finds Jonah Hex uncharacteristically in the Great White North. Gray & Palmiotti have an uncanny knack for throwing the reader a curveball somewhere in the narrative, and I have to say this issue's surprise came with the eventual revelation of the lead character (who recalls this whole episode, by the way) and his physical shortcoming that can't be much help as a youth stranded in the harsh winter wilderness fresh off of becoming an orphan. Just when you think that this character's savior may have a glimmer of humanity in him, he holds true to form -- but isn't that what makes him so compelling in the first place? And I do have to say that I would hold this book up to any of DC's more high-profile titles in terms of gripping cover-to-cover action. You simply have to put Jonah Hex way up high on that list. I hope we get to see more of Cooke's work here in the future, so long as this book remains in DC's rotation. Perhaps he can afford us Hex fans at the very least an annual visit.

Avengers/Invaders #3 (Marvel/Dynamite; by Troy): Let’s talk about Sadowski’s art for a minute: Wow. I was a big fan of his work on JSA, but he’s doing a really terrific job at capturing the many, many characters here. There are some great moments in this one, including Namor vs. Namor, Baby Namor (that one’s for you, Caleb), the love the LMDs have for Jim Hammond, and Bucky’s surprising ruthlessness. At present, the role of the Avengers is mainly supporting, and that’s fine. I didn’t realize that I missed the Invaders until Ross, Krueger and Sadowski reminded me.

Red Sonja #35 (Dynamite; by Troy): The new direction takes hold in fine style as writer Brian Reed and artist Walter Geovani work the reinvention. Reed does a great job in putting down layers of character and setting up a new status quo (to quickly shatter, no doubt). Geovani’s work reminds me of Lee and Silvestri, by turns, but in a good way. This is definitely a great jumping-on point for potential new readers, and I appreciate the slow build. Good stuff.

Army of Darkness/Xena, Warrior Princess (Dynamite; by Troy): This crossover has been fair to middling, but this issue finally kicks in the inspired lunacy that’s inherent in the premise. There are a lot of laughs to be found, notably Ash’s assertion to “Just tell ‘em it’s magic. Stick to that and you can get away with all kinds of ridiculous crap!”

The Walking Dead #50 (Image; by Troy): It’s obvious that Kirkman and the gang have been influenced by Romero, but the long specter of Cormac McCarthy also manifests itself over this issue as Carl struggles to keep things together for himself and his ailing father. This issue is top-flight coiled suspense. The destruction of the prison safety net opens up a number of possibilities for the story, and I’m even more curious at this point to see where it’s going to lead. Regardless of that, the success and longevity of this book should be celebrated.

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