Best Shots for 8-31-09
By The Best Shots Team, courtesy of ShotgunReviews.com
Your Host: Troy Brownfield
Greetings! Your BSEs and Best Shots Advance reviews from the past week were . . .
Olympus #1-4 by David Pepose
Ms. Marvel #44 by Brian Andersen
Avengers: The Initiative #27 by David Pepose
Dark Reign: Elektra #5 by David Pepose
And the rest . . .Batman and Robin #3
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely
Coloring by Alex Sinclair
Lettering by Patrick Brosseau
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
Forget swine flu -- what Professor Pyg's carrying is assuredly worse. But it's that level of depravity that gives Batman and Robin a worthy foe, combining with some hard-hitting action and strong characterization to make a satisfying conclusion to the first chapter of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's first arc.
The story is a familiar trope that Morrison makes all his own -- Batman is on the warpath, searching for both Professor Pyg and his missing Robin. But whereas Dick Grayson earned the nickname of the Boy Hostage, Damian Wayne is one hard core customer. Damian's self-confidence is less bravado, and more a direct reflection of his father's legacy: Even as he's tied to a chair, his first words upon regaining consciousness are, "whose neck do I break first?"
But the real contribution Morrison brings to this series has to be Professor Pyg. It's been a while since a Batman villain felt this truly unhinged, as Pyg does a weird Buffalo Bill-esque dance for his bound captives. "I want to be sick in front of everyone," Pyg tells us, or perhaps to no one in particular. His weird ramblings feel like mental static, the sort of dialogue Morrison has mastered in stories ranging from JLA to Final Crisis. It's true -- Morrison really has redefined "wrong."
Artist Frank Quitely's linework looks as great as ever. While the experimental panelwork sometimes looks like variation for variation's sake, the characterization is especially strong. A two-page sequence of Professor Pyg dancing is especially strong, as it caps off with one great expression on Robin's face. And the book of course opens up with a bang, as we get a sense of how this new Batman conducts his interrogations -- it's maybe a bit flashier than his predecessor's, but isn't that Dick Grayson's characterization in a nutshell?
If there's a complaint that anyone would have -- although not one I share -- it's that Batman really isn't as strong or active a protagonist as Robin. Dick Grayson's interrogation is certainly inventive and fun, but it's clear who Morrison's baby is -- but looking at this series through the lens of Batman #666, with Damian as the future Batman, I don't necessarily think that this a bad thing. It's clear that Gotham will fall into worse and worse chaos, and we need to see how this new Batman will rise above his darker instincts -- and I think that's what this series is all about.
With Bruce Wayne as his protagonist, I think that Grant Morrison was a bit more restrained with his creativity, but through Batman: Reborn, he's really wedded the semi-street-level nature of the Batman mythos with his wilder and crazier ideas. Ending with a strong epilogue that I think will set up a great story on the evolving identity of Gotham City, Batman and Robin really is one of the strongest books DC is putting out these days.
Dark Wolverine #77
Written by Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Onofrio Catacchio
Coloring by Marte Gracia
Lettering by VC's Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
It's been a testament to the story tellers that Daken Akihiro hasn't needed his claws to make for a sharp story. And as the next stage of his plot to take down Norman Osborn comes to fruition, Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu have really been raising the bar -- indeed, in this issue, Daken himself is missing from a third of the book -- and it still comes off as masterful.
Because Dark Wolverine isn't about the powers -- it's about the plot. And that's what makes it so interesting.
As we saw in the last issue, Daken is playing both sides of the fence -- with Norman Osborn and the Dark Avengers on one side, and Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four on the other. Yet Way and Liu are as unpredictable as ever, sending both heroes and villains into surprising paths that show just how desperate the Dark Reign has become.
Of course, the highlight of the book is Daken, whose narration has a certain poetry that is just charismatic. "I need the other you," he thinks of Ares. "The one that would shed a gallon of his own blood for just a taste of his enemy's." But Norman Osborn has a certain malevolent lecherousness that is a nice touch for the character -- it does wonders in making him a villain for the whole Marvel universe, rather than just Peter Parker's.
Artwise, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Onofrio Catacchio start with a slow simmer that suddenly boils over in the second half of the book. "Game on," indeed -- the jagged edges of the pencils really add a nice menacing mood to all this, and Camuncoli and Catacchio's style makes gristly injuries into a new form of high art. The choices are great, and you can they just take it up a notch with the special effects, whether it be invisible force fields or explosive trick arrows.
It all comes down to a satisfying conclusion that really makes me want to know what the next stage of Daken's plot is going to be. That said, at this point in the masquerade, there are a few errant strings in the overall fabric of the story -- for example, wouldn't someone 'fess up about Daken's manipulations? That said, there's so much promise in this story, that I wouldn't be surprised if Way and Liu turned this to their advantage as well. If you're looking for the real deal behind the Dark Reign, pick this book up -- because Dark Wolverine is one plot you definitely want to be in on.
Wonder Woman # 35
From: DC Comics
Writer: Gail Simone
Art: Aaron Lopresti
Review by Brian Andersen
After all the battles, upheavals, and status changes in the most recent issues, Wonder Woman takes some time to get to know herself better and try to figure out her next move in life. And how does she go about doing this? Why by entering into an illegal, underground, battle royal, superpowered fight-fest of course. Marvelous!
Granted she’s on a mission, so it’s not all fun and games for our amazing Amazon, but leave it to scribe Gail Simone to drum up an issue devoted to Wonder Woman’s inner quest for her next big step in life - to figure out where she’s going and who she wants to be - by framing it against an illegal “Beyond Thunderdome” type setting. Love it. All this plus, it appears, Wonder Woman has just gained a new ability! Zeus’s might thunder bolts are now responding to her command, or at least they did in her punch-out with the goddess Pele.
I particularly enjoyed the very fun and very frank discussion Wonder Woman had with her cohort Black Canary on the nature of the female superhero – the sexiness factor versus the sales viability factor (at least in terms of the action figure market) – and I’m hanging on the edge of my seat to see what comes of the formerly betrothed Nemesis dumping Wonder Woman at the end of this issue. Yikes! The girl can’t catch a break.
Overall a superb issue. My only sorta negative comment is on the art side of things. Although the always dependable Aaron Lopresti brings the action and the acting with his pencils I just realized something. Doesn’t Wonder Woman look kinda stumpy? Lopresti draws Wonder Woman, and Black Canary for that matter, a little on the more mooshed side. It just dawned on me, after all these issues that Wonder Woman comes off looking rather stumpy-dumpy. I guess I always picture her as long and lean, towering over most everyone. But, of course, this could just be me being a deranged fanboy nit-picker. So take it with a grain of salt.
King City #1
By Brandon Graham
Lettered by Lucas Rivera
Published by Tokyopop & Image Comics
Review by Brendan McGuirk
All comics should be this good.
Even as a reissue of a previously released Tokyopop digest graphic novel, King City is the best comic that came out last week.
King City tells the story of a gadabout named Joe and his multipurpose utility-cat named Earthling. Joe, a cat-master, whose skills handing a loaded feline rival the most feared gunslingers of the old west, has returned to King City after a time away, and returned to trouble. Mystery, adventure, and yes, even ex-girlfriends; it’s all part of life in King City.
Brandon Graham is a cartoonists’ cartoonist. He wears his influences plainly, visually citing Moebius, along with pulpish adventure comics. His linework is clean, and his architecture is downright Seussian, which isn’t to say that it’s superfluous, but rather that the curvature running through the landscapes of the work give a unifying flair and majestic personality to all of King City. Simply put, Graham draws the $*** out of each page, as if to ask “why draw something ordinary, if it can be made extraordinary?”
These are guerilla comics. There are no rules. A cat can be a Swiss Army Knife. A booger can be a bullet. The world can be had. The characteristics of the comic itself can be described the way Joe described his feline companion when asked “What can Earthling do?”
“Pretty much anything.”
You may have read this story before. Released in 2007 as a digest by Tokyopop, the story is now being released as album-sized individual comics. It will reprint the story of that volume, and then go on to tell the new chapters afterwards. It doesn’t matter. Even if you were wise enough to purchase King City vol. 1 by Tokyopop, you’re going to want to buy the book in its new format. The pages are blown up to full Golden-Age sized glory, and the art remains as credible at that size as it did in its humble, original presentation. Graham also provides bonus material, with an interview, and an inspirational mini-comic. His work and words make it readily apparent that this is a guy who is in comics for love of the game, and this story says the same.
Ambiguous and ambling, the plot pushes on, educating us about the city the only way one can; by walking straight through it, experiencing it. It’s a story that’s comics for the sake of comics. One can’t even really challenge the pacing because each page does exactly what a page should do. The voice of the work is mellow and understated, perfectly contrasting the fanciful trappings of the city.
Imaginative, technically impressive, and plain old fun, I’m telling you, cat-egorically- buy this comic. You’ll be better for it. It will show you something new.
Fantastic Four #570
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Dale Eaglesham
Color art by Paul Mounts
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Brendan McGuirk
Early results indicate that the new creative team of Hickman and Eaglesham have found the proper formula for Marvel’s most Fantastically Functional Family.
The Fantastic Four are a notoriously tough nut to crack; while everyone agrees that the title was the high water mark of Stan Lee/ Jack Kirby collaborations, and while there have been no shortage of comics’ heavy hitters handling the creative reigns, it seems as though it is a constant struggle for the book to retain relevance. The most recent run, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s World’s Greatest, kicked off with a ton of momentum, but sputtered even before the creators left the book. And, this being comics, there’s nothing better to regain prominence than bringing in fresh blood for new perspective.
Hickman and Eaglesham were a perfect choice. Dale Eaglesham has become a giant of the industry. His brilliant run with Geoff Johns on Justice Society of America elevated him to an undeniable A-lister. His draftsmanship is remarkable, and his characters sing with emotive elegance. After bringing iconic sensibilities to the heroic standard-bearers of the DCU, what better endeavor could there be than capturing the first family of comics? His mastery of intimate character moments make him the perfect artist to illustrate the dynamics of a household of heroes.
Hickman, in a relatively short time, has made quite a splash himself. Now inarguably out of the infancy of his career as a Marvel writer, he takes the reins of a Marvel Comics mainstay authoritatively, aggressively putting his stamp on the book. What struck me about his handling of the characters in this issue was how heroic they were. The through-line of Hickman’s work, from Nightly News to Secret Warriors, seemed to be an indignant outrage- an almost paranoia that lit the fires of his protagonists. Those books were social outcries, and espionage thrillers, casting out at an unfair world. That outrage is absent here, replaced instead with an earnest will to do good. These are heroes to be emulated, with a support base to be envied.
The plot picks up quickly, weaving threads both from the Millar/ Hitch run and Hickman’s own work on the Dark Reign: Fantastic Four miniseries. Mr. Fantastic feels the burden of his own elastic genius, and seeks out to Solve Everything, as the arc is titled. It’s exactly the kind of challenge one expects of the foremost mind on the planet, but what one couldn’t expect is the team of minds he is invited to brainstorm with.
There’s some Tom Strong to Hickman and Eaglesham’s portrayal of Reed Richards. Gone is the introverted intellect, replaced by an ambitious adventurer whose sharp mind gives him infinite confidence. Proactive without being too preoccupied, he’s the kind of commanding presence one would expect at the head of an accomplished family. He’s unshaven and stubbled, which is only logical as a man with those sorts of obligations has little time for petty inconveniences like hygiene. And, y’know, it makes him look cooler. He is a worthy centerpiece to this introductory storyarc.
It wasn’t perfect. Hickman’s opening scene, a classic case of the old switcheroo, was a bit witless of a plan to have been masterminded by a genius like The Wizard. And Eaglesham’s portrayal of The Thing was somewhat ill-defined, in stark contrast to his work on his JSA counterpart, Wildcat. But these issues were minor, and the sorts of things that can be worked out in subsequent issues.
There is great potential in this collaboration. It is the sort of launch issue that leaves fans energized at the prospect of a long and hearty run for the creative pairing. There is lofty company in the realm of pitch-perfect creative staffs on current Marvel titles, from Brubaker, Epting & Guice on Captain America, to Fraction & Larroca on Iron Man, and Straczynski & Copiel on Thor, but by maintaining the pace set here, Hickman & Eaglesham’s Fantastic Four could be joining the ranks.
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Victor Santos
Lettered by Clem Robins
Published by Vertigo Crime
Review by Brendan McGuirk
It’s a good time to love crime and comics.
Has it ever been better for the crime-comics fan? Each and every publisher is putting out crime or noir books of some kind, combining fatalistic stories with stylishly moody artwork. Creative heavy-hitters are champing at the bit to tell their own tales of grift and woe, and from the look of things, the market abides. Vertigo, well known for a penchant for gritty, adult comics, has gone so far as to create a new brand, “Vertigo Crime,” to house these illicit projects. With sleek, small hardcover design these volumes are ripe for bookshelves, both at the retail level, and the collector’s.
Richard “Junk” Junkin is a piss-poor car salesman. After washing out of a once-promising football career, he’s settled into a rut of mediocrity. But that all changes when his boss sets him on a special assignment; act as body guard to his daughter. A burly athlete, this would be no problem, except that this Vicki is no ordinary girl. A socialite addicted to the night-life, she rules the upper crust in the only way a woman of her ilk could- through implicit sexual manipulation. She’s a bad girl, and it’s Junk’s job is to do his best to keep her out of the papers.
Of course, Junk is sucked into a world of sex, power, and danger, where everyone has a secret, and nothing is what it seems. Trapped by obligation in a world of affluence and indulgence he has no business associating with, Junk is over his head. But he’s a survivor, and manages. Told in the classic crime fiction style, Filthy Rich is fittingly ambiguous and delightful. And before long, that upper crust, the world Junk does not weasel his way into but is led to nonetheless, crumbles in a fit of sex, death, and, well, crime. As an x-factor, it is his association with the untamed Vicki upsets the tender balance of that realm of luxury and opulence.
The story runs a slow burn before the violence breaks out, and builds a tension that keeps readers as on edge as the characters themselves are.
It might be all the sex, but this book is sexy. It’s rife with dutiful good girls, and alluring bad ones. Told in the 1950’s, it exposes the amount to which sex was the greatest, and perhaps only, weapon a woman had, and these dangerous dames ain’t afraid to use what they got. It is a real “thriller,” in that it maximizes the various sensations in such a way that everything is experienced viscerally. Each corner holds an unknown danger and an unknowable temptation, and that heightened state is ideal for breakneck storytelling.
Azzarello weaves a beautiful story that demands a second read. It begins modestly, and the escalation of events are exciting and uncontrived. Matters of control are given text and subtext, and, depending on perspective, heroes may be viewed as villains, and villains, tragic bystanders. It’s a gripping read, the way only crime fiction can be.
Santos’ art is pitch-perfect. He deftly utilizes heavy inks and shadows, apropos of the genre. In a stroke of storytelling genius, his line work subtly evolves from a clearer line at the story’s unassuming starting point, and dwindled into ink-soaked nebulousness as matters become darker. It is a master stroke of exploiting the strengths of comics as a venue for crime stories.
Filthy Rich succeeds in all of its goals. It offers a story without heroes in a world that brings out the worst in humanity. Temptuous, battered, bleak, and soaked in blood in sweat, it’s a nihilist comic fan’s dream.
Written & Illustrated by Kevin C. Pyle
Published by Henry Holt
Reviewed by Michael C Lorah
The cover to this one is a little midleading. The explosive, anime-influenced cat does appear sporadically throughout the book, but the narrative is primarily dedicated to a less dynamic figure. Teenage Kit has a rough home life and no direction, so he takes up feeding neighborhood cats. There are requisite bullies, and a goth girl (The Katman of the cover appears in drawings done by her.) who takes an interest in him, as well as Kit learning to understand the peculiar old cat-lady in his small town. The art is stiff and awkward, but most often passable. Unfortunately, the story feels a little light.
The relationships between the characters are bland and obvious. Everybody fails to understand Kit’s passion because they’re too wrapped up in their own lives to notice, but there’s little follow-through on the relationships beyond that surface disconnect. The closest we come to some type of growth is the final scene with Kit and his mother, which unfortunately is highlighted by the tritest exchange of dialogue in the book. Similarly, the bullies that hassle Kit seem to exist only to further the tragedy of his life without feeling like realized characters in their own right.
Pyle’s art is functional, with solid character designs. The panel-to-panel storytelling works, but the anatomy struggles to remain consistent and the occasional foray into anime-cat-hero sequences fail to offer any support to the themes of the book, nor to enlighten us to Kit’s heroic qualities. Katman is a well intentioned book about a boy learning to open up and care, and maybe influencing others for the better; unfortunately, the narrative and artistic voice fall short of the author’s ambitions.
Detective Comics #856
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by J.H. Williams III
Colors by Dave Stewart
Co-feature written by G. Rucka; art by Cully Hamner & colors by Laura Martin
Published by DC Comics
Review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow
-- Capt. Maggie Sawyer
If nothing else, the powers-that-be responsible for Detective Comics #856 can probably make some room on the proverbial shelf for an eventual GLAAD award. More later on, but this comic is to be applauded for placing two of the DC Universe's most prominent gay characters in a positive, confident light. Even without the ever-so-progressive angle of the lead character's sexuality, Detective Comics has been a glorious, vivacious piece of comic book storytelling. If I had one complaint, and it's a minor one considering how much I currently adore this series, it's that I would really like to see a bit more Batman flavor to things. Batwoman, along with Dick Grayson donning the cape and cowl, and others have ably filled in for Bruce Wayne since his forced leave of Gotham City, yet here a certain lack of familiar faces has me yearning for more of a "bat-vibe," though a couple panels on Commissioner Gordon is a start. What would be cool is if a villain or two from Batman's rogues gallery gets dusted off and given the chance to square off against Batwoman and perhaps allowed to develop an adversarial rapport. Just a thought.
It speaks to Greg Rucka's writing and J.H. Williams' work here that they're referencing Batwoman's debut activity in 52, something I didn't really follow three years ago, yet the material offered here is accessible, engaging and downright thrilling. After a psychedelic romp last issue that really played to Williams' strengths in making full, illustrious use of every square inch of the page, things get even nuttier in this third chapter of "Elegy" ("Affettuoso") with Kate Kane and her father, outgunned and outmatched against Alice and her squad, getting some unconventional help. One can't help but wonder if Rucka would've developed a trio comprised of a werewolf and a couple of creepy creatures I don't know what the hell you can label were he not paired with J.H. Williams III. In a case of which came first, the chicken or the egg, it stands to reason that a writer may concoct some more fantastical ideas when working with an artist who's more than adept at bringing it to full color glory.
Speaking of color, were Detective Comics a DVD (make mine Blu-Ray, please!), I'd totally be tuning into the extras in hopes of seeing where Williams' brilliant pencils and inks end on each page and where Dave Stewart's vivid coloring begin. Between the two, they are bringing us the type of graphics I've been more accustomed to from the likes of Chris Ware and Geof Darrow. Safe to say that J.H. Williams is a must-read artist for me going forward. The artistic production talent does an excellent job throughout each issue covering the varying range of scenery, from the wooded glen where Alice & Co. find that subduing Batwoman is more daunting than expected, to a Gotham City fundraiser gala that gives us our first glimpse of Kate's supporting cast beyond her military dad. By the way, it's nice to see Rucka reintroduce Bette Kane (nee Bat-Girl, now Flamebird), now known as Kate's cousin. To those not familiar with the original Batwoman, Kane was Bette Kane's aunt, and now their dynamic is a little more level as cousins. And another supporting player is introduced, or should I , and she should be familiar to Superman readers from the last couple of decades.
Maggie Sawyer, now a member of the Gotham City Police Department, looks to play a role in the series, and while I support the usage of positive GLBT characters in ANY book, I am not into the idea of just "throwing the gays together" who are available. Kate and Maggie display considerable chemistry in a sequence poetically rendered by Williams, but they shouldn't be paired up just because Maggie's the most prominent DCU lesbian next to Renee Montoya (whose backup feature The Question is another serviceable slice of gritty noir). Any relationship these two share should be organic. That being said, this self-professed liberal loved every scene with an out-and-proud Kathy Kane. She should certainly be in the conversation of "character of the year," and Detective Comics is shaping up to be one of the best books in the line.
In case you missed it...
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Stjepan Sejic
Letters by Troy Peteri
Published by Top Cow
Review by Lan Pitts
In part five of "War of the Witchblades", the Balance is restored and a main character is killed. Needles to say, it's going to be a pretty intense finale. This issue doesn't slow down. Once the action starts, it just keeps hitting and it hits hard. The dialogue remains sharp without becoming over the top and rambling. To be honest, Marz kept it a bit sparse here, but that's mainly to keep the action intact. Sejic's art is dynamite and this doesn't feel like just a Witchblade story as it does an epic fantasy tale.
The design aspects are killer, too. The whole bridge construct that Sara creates has a genuine horror aspect to it and the look for the new Angelus leader is just plain cool. Most of this issue is a fight scene between Dani and Sara, and with Sara having the most experience between the two, things don't bode well for Ms. Baptiste. It's been a while since I was saddened by a loss of a character like this. It makes me wonder how Sara will react if she becomes undone by her enchantment or I wonder if there is no going back at this point.
This arc has truly delivered and define what super hero(ine) comics should be. Fans of the series should NOT miss this issue and for readers who have been missing out, I strongly recommend this.
Guardians of the Galaxy #17 (Marvel; review by Troy): Twists and turns abound as DnA and friends pull off an honest-to-God shocking issue. It begins with the typical GOTG action and humor, but by the end, it’s managed to surprise you at least twice (maybe more; if you expected ONE big thing happen, you surely didn’t see the other two coming). In many ways, the wrap-up here is devastating; on another level, it can only mean good things for the book. The Guardians are at their best running for their lives and cracking wise while doing it; from the looks of things, they’re going to be running like hell. I never feel like I say this enough: One of Marvel’s Best Books.
Batman: The Widening Gyre #1 (DC; review by Troy): As a reader that really didn’t care for “Cacophony”, I’d have to say that the first issue of this pair of mini-series comes closer to the mark. Smith generally has a good handle on Batman and Nightwing, even if his dialogue does slip a bit into his film/”Evening with” persona on occasion. Walter Flanagan’s art continues to improve; while a couple of the early sequences were pretty basic, he does some great stuff inside Arkham. I think that there could be a solid Batman story lurking in here, but I think we’ll need to see more of the overall game to get a sense of it.
Hat Trick (Published by Outlaw Entertainment; Review by Lan): How I haven't heard about this book until a week ago is beyond me. I consider myself a magic history buff and something like this was right up my alley. It follows the adventure of Ray, who is not exactly the world's greatest magician, and is transported to a magical world through his dead uncle's old top hat. Along the way he meets new friends, namely a magician named Carla that is missing her legs (imagine a girl sawed in half trick gone TERRIBLY wrong) and a six foot rabbit named Poof. Turns out Ray's uncle wasn't dead but became a dictator of the Magicverse (as well as not being his uncle at all). It's a delightful ride that's quick and easy to read. Armando Zanker's art is easy on the eyes and the story is kid-friendly. I couldn't recommend this book enough for a young reader, or people who aren't afraid to have magical fun.
Batman and Robin #3 (DC Comics; Reviewed by Brian Andersen): All I want to stay about this amazing book is be sure you take the time to look at that outstanding art by Frank Quietly! I mean, yeah, the story is typically great, very odd, totally interesting, and just slightly over my head (as per most Grant Morrison stuff) but yowza if the art doesn’t just leap off the page. Although I’m not sure I’m doing back flips for Quietly’s current scratchy, rough-around-the-edges art as much as I normally would - as opposed to his usual more polished, solidly inking lines of old - but scratchy or not the storytelling work her is beyond fabulous. Rarely do I want to stare at a comic page, or panel, as much as I do with this comic. So much is stuffed into each panel, so much energy oozes off each moment, that I am delighted to linger on a page, I want to really take it all in before I flip to continue the story. That, my friends, is the mark of a stellar artist.
The Incredible Hulk #601 (Marvel; Reviewed by Brian Andersen): As interesting as the Bruce Banner/Skaar lead story is - or as I assume it is because I didn’t read it - I honestly only picked up this book for its back-up story. Yep. Despite all my internal fanboy hatred I find myself *gulp* really liking the all New Savage She-Hulk. Though she can never replace my love for the Sensational She-Hulk, I find myself deeply intrigued by the red-headed daughter of the Hulk and Thundra, aka Lyra - she of the alternate dimensional future. I like her even more since she’s on the hunt for the missing original She-Hulk - who went missing in the pages of Hulk (or Rulk depending on how you want to refer to him). Aside from the always lively artwork by Michael Ryan, I am consistently impressed by the writing prowess of Fred Van Lente. It sure was great seeing the usual emotionless Lyra get a little smoochie-smoochie face with one of her fellow agents, only to suddenly have him SPOILER ALERT get fried to a crisp by the all new, all deadly Savage She-Hulk rogue’s gallery! Lyra now has her own arch-enemies and (how cool is this?) they’re all female versions of Zzzax, the Abomination, and, oh jeeze help me out here, is that The Glob? Either way, Van Lente rips into the short story with so much gusto and smarts that I’m eagerly awaiting next issue. My only complaint is where the F**K is the blurb on the cover telling readers about the Savage She-Hulk back-up feature? Get it together, Marvel! Some of us pick up a book for the back-up, and not the main feature, FYI. (Which is kinda dumb of me since it $4 bucks for a short-story, but whatever!)
New Avengers #56 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): As far as the New Avengers as a team go, you might not be thrilled with this book. But as a look at the heavy hitters in the Marvel Universe, this is a fun if somewhat unfocused book. There's something about the Wrecking Crew that just brings the best out of Brian Michael Bendis, as they slap around Mockingbird and Spidey in some surprisingly entertaining ways, and a cameo by Dark Avengers really steals the show. Stuart Immonen is probably the reason this book works -- Mockingbird looks particularly slick, as she acts as takes Cap's shield and tries her damnedest to take on the Wrecking Crew all on her lonesome, and the Sentry has a particularly powerful-looking panel. That said, considering the story doesn't have any resolution, part of me feels like last issue and this issue could have been combined with very little lost.
Project Superpowers Chapter Two #2 (Dynamite; review by Troy): Things certainly seem to be clicking in this issue, which actually felt more like a conventional team book. And that’s not a bad thing. Much of the first run of P:SP dealt with ramping up the individual stories. This issue felt like there was a lot more in terms of character interaction and team-based action, and that enhanced the story on several levels. Edgar Salazar gave the issue a striking feel of motion, and it made for a more satisfying reading experience.
Superman #691 (DC; review by Troy): For an issue with at least two major moments (a skillfully played ambush on Mon-El and Superman coming face-to-face with the guy pulling the strings), it strangely didn’t seem like a lot happened. While the Superman titles have generally benefitted from the presence of Robinson, this is one of those times when the individual issue seems to have victimized in service of a larger story. I understand that this is part of an arc, but every issue should have something that sticks. This was a decent stepping stone with, as I said, two big bits, but it didn’t come off as a full thing unto its own.
Justice Society of America #30 (DC; review by Troy): The latest version of Dr. Fate makes a stellar entrance and the ruptures in the team are starting to show. I like where the new creative team is moving things, and the generational split is, in fact, quite sensible. Willingham and Sturges manage to make the conflicts between team members hang on previously established characterization, and that counts for a lot. The real story here is Jesus Merino; he’s literally got like 60 characters to draw and pulls it off with ease. Right now, this is the best DC book with “Justice” in the name.
The Flash: Rebirth #4 (DC; review by Troy): Ethan Van Sciver drew the absolute hell out of this book. Seriously, this is a great-looking comic. Granted, there are a lot of color effects going on, but that doesn’t diminish the pace and scope of the thing. It looks NICE. There’s (no pun intended) a lot of momentum here, and I frankly hope that it’s heading toward the same type of resolution that the previous Johns/Van Sciver Rebirth did: with a number of characters available and healthy on the field.
Buck Rogers #3 (Dynamite; by Troy): Look, I know that I’ve already lavished praise on this book three times previously (yes, I can count; there was a 0 issue). However, I’ve gotta do it again. Scott Beatty and Carlos Rafael are doing a bang-up job on this book; if this version were a weekly series on the-channel-that-used-to-be-Sci-Fi, you’d never miss it. Part of what’s so great is how they throw effortless nods to past iterations (like the rockin’ old school spacesuits) while doing things that are totally fresh.
Herogasm #4 (Dynamite; by Troy): While much of the series so far has revolved around the laughs and outrageous moments inherent in its premise, this issue pulled a fast one and threw the focus on the “The Boys” mythology and dug deeper in the government chess-game that surrounds the supers in this particular universe. These moments made this spin-off mini more vital, and provide some context that resonates within the ongoing series. People forget amid the over-the-top humor of these two titles that Garth Ennis is a fiendishly clever writer that’s adept at casting a sheen of paranoia over a story; he reminds them here.
The Flash: Rebirth #4 (DC Comics; review by Rev. O.J. Flow) It was ironic that this story chronicling the return of the Fastest Man Alive was proving to be so lethargic. All the more reason why this issue was very welcome as unquestionably the most energetic, fast-paced to date. Barry Allen had been running around with a figurative stick up his butt, and I'm not referring to that nasty wand that Reverse-Flash has been wielding. But Barry is finally showing some signs of life, and all of the sudden Flash: Rebirth has become vital reading again. And while the story is clearly Barry's, it's just as apparent that the other characters in the Flash line figure large in the big picture. By no means infallible, most anything writer Geoff Johns touches turns to gold these days, but the key ingredient in this series is Ethan Van Sciver. The artist captures the frenetic energy of the super-speed heroes held captive in the Speed Force that Professor Thawne has full control of. One thing I'm compelled to mention in my praise for Van Sciver is that the dude can flat out draw kids. Amazing sometimes how hard it is for some artists to give children a genuinely youthful look, but Van Sciver nails it with a cast that includes Wall West's kids and Bart Allen. You just hope that the children get to see adulthood, what with Reverse-Flash bringing the fight to them. Fortunately it looks like a recharged Barry Allen is ready to return the favor. Very much looking forward to the final two issues from a series that started slow yet is fixing to finish strong.
Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen Special #2 (DC Comics; review by Rev. O.J. Flow) I'll get you caught up, and this shouldn't take long. Jimmy continues his investigation of Project 7734. Following a couple of leads, he fails to get to the first in time, and following up with a second he does a lot of talking. Codename: Assassin swoops in under the direction of General Lane and, well, things don't look too good for Superman's pal. For the benefit of those following the "New Krypton" saga, I won't delve deep into this special's final outcome. But if the title of this story, conveniently saved for the last page, is accurate, I have to say that the lead character deserved better, not to mention the reader. Not awful per se, but a low point in the bigger storyline running throughout all the Superman titles.
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