Best Shots Rapid-Fire 12-17-09
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Your Host: David Pepose
Greetings, 'Rama readers! Welcome back to Best Shots, where your crack team of reviewers are still kicking butt and chewing bubblegum... and we are willing to share with you our bubblegum.
For those of you who like their reviews short and sweet, this is the column for you, as our Rapid-Fire Reviewers operate on a hair trigger, firing powerful pellets of profound and prescient prose -- all for your reading enjoyment. This column has books by Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Archaia, Top Cow, and BOOM! Studios, giving some off-the-cuff reflections on this week's releases. As always, if you need extra Best Shots lovin', check out our Best Shots topics page, which has all our previous columns and BSEs. And now, it's on with the show!
Green Lantern Corps #43 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Russ Burlingame): In terms of twisty, turny plot development, Green Lantern Corps #43 is, ahem, not the book for you. Guy Gardner: Red Lantern is the cover and central point of the issue, but the event that pushes him over the edge into rage-filled territory, Kyle Rayner’s death at the end of the last issue, is predictably short-lived. Throughout the issue, there’s a lot of denial going on; Kyle Rayner’s ring is looking out for a new bearer and Guy is trying to keep his hands on it, to keep it from leaving. “You’re Kyle’s ring! Nobody else’s!” He insists, as Kyle’s girlfriend Dr. Natu spends most of the issue trying to keep the Black Lantern ring from claiming Kyle. The art is good; Gleason has given Kyle a unique look that’s both reminiscent of Darryl Banks’ early Kyle Rayner and unique—something that Kyle hasn’t had much of in the last ten years as he’s been “just another Green Lantern” since “Rebirth.” His style reminds me a bit of Stuart Immonen’s Superman work in the late ‘90s, but the color palette of the “Blackest Night” arc really lends itself to a less photorealistic, more cartoony style.
Captain America: Reborn #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by George Marston): If I have one complaint about Captain America: Reborn #5, it's that the suspense has been spoiled by other recent books. Not the ending, mind you, as that has been a foregone conclusion from page one, but the suspense at how the status quo may change as a result of this book. That said, this issue was still the best of the series so far. In this penultimate chapter of the book, we see Steves's inner circle mobilize, two Captains face off, and even manage a little showdown between Steve Rogers and his age old foe, the Red Skull. Brubaker unleashes plenty of action in both his script and his plot, and we finally get a bit of the widescreen style comics Brian Hitch is known for. Hitch hits this one out of the park, as he manages to pull back the camera dramatically, while never losing his grasp on the nuance of the characters. The opening sequence in particular evokes shades of JH Williams III's already legendary run on "Detective Comics," and Hitch even injects plenty of the Red Skull's mannerisms into the Skull-Posessed Steve Rogers, right down to his fist shaking sneer. I imagine that reading this story as a single experience will significantly beef up its pace, thanks in large part to this chapter. All in all, this is the best issue of this series so far, moving along nicely and managing to make the story feel epic, despite its ending having been spoiled several weeks ago.
Incorruptible #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose): What happens when the world's greatest hero goes rogue? The world's greatest villain steps up. That's the premise of BOOM! Studios' new series Incorruptible, which spins off their Irredeeemable title. The pacing of this issue is certainly faster than its sister series, as we quickly meet Max Danger and see all the power he possesses. In terms of the art, I think a lot of people are going to be surprised to see the disconnect between the covers and the interiors -- it's not to say that Jean Diaz isn't good (he's actually got less of a scratchy line than Irredeemable artist Peter Krause), but Max Danger looks less like the handsome scoundrel of John Cassaday or Jeffrey Spokes, but more of the weathered ugliness of Tim Sale's cover. While the faster pace is certainly a relief, in certain cases, it feels a little forced -- namely, Danger's rebuffing of the teenage Jailbait sells us that he's turned over a new leaf, but it's almost a little too straight-and-narrow for my liking. If Waid can use that radical shift to his advantage, however, this could be a smart move on his part. At any rate, it's looking like a strong set-up for issue #2, which I think will make or break if people will follow Max Danger into battle.
Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Erich Reinstadler): Hi. My name is Erich, and I'm a hypocrite. I've gone out of my way lately to complain about Deadpool's overexposure, saying that he's just in too damn many books. But god help me, I absolutely love Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth. Deadpool's finally received a partner who can keep up with him -- the disembodied head of an other dimensional Zombie Deadpool. Not only does Wade have the various voices in his head to keep him company, but another him, who also thinks our Wade is a little off. The first arc comes to a head (so to speak) as Deadpools, AIM agents, Man-Thing, Hydra agents, and Hydra's Lord Baron Von Tito Hapsburg Rothchild Falcon The Seventh all end up in the Florida Everglades, in search of the dimensional nexus that will allow Deadpool Head to go home. Fun issue, fun series.
Power Girl #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): Best comic of the week? Best comic of the week. If you're looking for great art that matches the tone of the writing, look no further than Power Girl, an unabashedly goofy -- and an exceptionally awesome -- issue that leaves you wanting more. Amanda Conner is just such a phenomenon with this book -- the expressions, the body language, it all says something (usually funny) about the characters. Even little details, such as Charlie the Owl pecking at the fallen Blue Snowman, are a real treat for eagle-eyed readers. That said, don't discount Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, who give Vartox of Valeron an exceedingly strong and funny -- yet not overbearing or annoying -- voice. Indeed, this book could be considered by some to be "straightforward superhero fare," but Gray, Palmiotti, and Conner give us these little quirks -- such as Vartox's hippie-inspired planet (with gag names like "Chancellor Groovicus Mellow" and "General Peacemonger" that are just great), or P.G.'s expression when she meets the balding, be-vested alien -- that makes it stand out from the pack. If you don't buy this book, then you don't like fun, or happiness, or sunshine, or puppies.
The Marvelous Land of Oz #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): Marvelous, indeed. The team of Baum, Shanower, and Young have created a great adaptation from this book from the Oz series. After a slight recap of what transpired in the last issue, Tip's journey continues with Jack Pumpkinhead and his sawhorse, but loses them on their travels to the Emerald City. I loved what this dynamic team did with "Wonderful Wizard" and expected greatness from them again and was not disappointed. Perfect for any young reader, or the young at heart.
Star Wars: Thrawn Trilogy HC (Published by Dark Horse; Review by Troy Brownfield): The Thrawn Trilogy is by no means a new story. Set about five years after the conclusion of Return of the Jedi, this story originally appeared as a trio of novels by TImothy Zahn in 1991-1993. Then Dark Horse adapted them as comic mini-series, and now re-released in this full collection. The story is fantastic. It brings the same epic sense of storytelling the original trilogy of movies did, with a slightly more grown up look at this galaxy far, far away. There are some very cool new characters, and the characters everyone knows and loves from the original trilogy are in fine form as well. Jedi battles, space raids, new alien races, and even a love interest for Luke (that isn't his sister, natch) makes for an incredible story. The art, from three different teams, is unified enough that the switches aren't jarring at all, and is guaranteed to pull you in. This is a must have for every Star Wars fan, especially those disappointed by the prequel trilogy of movies.
Thunderbolts #139 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jamie Trecker): Since Warren Ellis departed this book (and since Moonstone was transformed into an hilarious-if-it-wasn’t-so-sexist parody of Marcy D’Arcy) a lot of folks have skipped out on the adventures of Norman Osborn’s black ops team. It’s hard to blame them: Cast members like Mr. X, Paladin and Ant-Man aren’t anything to write home about. No wonder Jeff Parker is clearly more comfortable with the guest cast this time around, his own lovingly retro Agents of Atlas, a book that faded into the Cool Comix Crypt all too soon. This time around, the T-Bolts are dispatched to give some payback to Atlas for stiffing Osborn on an arms deal, but both sides are playing the long game: Atlas is secretly trying to bring down HAMMER, while one suspects Osborn would like to be rid of this rather incompetent group of malcontents. It’s a fast-paced throwaway read — and a lot of fun. Hey, you could do worse — have you seen Titans lately? Yeesh.
Batman: Streets of Gotham #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): If you're looking for more "straightforward" storytelling than Grant Morrison's take on the Dynamic Duo, take a look at Paul Dini, who transplants Dick and Damian into more familiar detective roles. For the most part, this story is pretty compelling, with Batman and Robin hunting down some missing children and a rogue Santa -- Dustin Nguyen has a somewhat understated line, but it really does get the job done in terms of emotion and movement. There are a few hiccups, however -- the snow effects in the introduction muddle the first few pages a little much, and the one disadvantage with having a character like Damian is that when everyone gives him a different voice, it always sounds jarring. Probably the thing that most takes you out of the story is the introduction of a third party, who may or may not have been hit with a crowbar and/or a car, which requires a bit of rereading. The second feature with Manhunter reads even better, with Kate having some fun interactions with both Commissioner Gordon and the scarred Harvey Dent. I totally dig Cliff Richards' style on this book, especially with the non-costumed characters -- there's a real sense of personality to all the looks, and the lines are always clean and smooth. For just nine pages, it's top notch stuff.
Dr. Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): Talk about a supernatural overload. The Hood, Ghost Riders, Dr. Doom, Nightmare, Son of Satan, and yet it doesn't feel overcrowded or complicated. Coming off of the last issue where Earth had plunged into a state of, well, something close to Hell, Dr. Voodoo Jericho Drumm tries to fight off Nightmare and his evil forces. Let's just say that doesn't go as planned. I love what Rick Remender has done so far, but he's still making Drumm look weak and inexperienced, or maybe it's just the cards are stacked against him THAT much. Jeffery Palo's art continues to be sensational and a feast for the eyes.
Cable #21 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): A really solid story whose trio of art teams actually makes the comic feel more in-depth. I've long had a theory about Duane Swerczynski when it comes to Cable -- so long as he doesn't jump the shark too much, and as long as you give him a solid artist, this book is one of the most focused and purposeful in the entire X-line. Needless to say, he proves it, as Cable, Bishop, and Hope finally collide in a really powerful way. The art team also deserves some kudos: Humberto Ramos really reins in his sometimes sketchy tendencies with some nice use of shadow, and Paul Gulacy of course knows how to make things moody -- even if his action sequences and expressions feel a little weird. Lan Medina is the hero of the piece, however, as he anchors the middle section with some exceptionally solid storytelling. The only problem with this issue is that the end kind of cheats you a little -- that said, it's a small price to pay for a well-structured arc that makes Cable the sleeper hit of the X-Men titles.
Okko: The Cycle of Earth #3 (Published by Archaia; Review by Russ Burlingame): Now, this is a fantastic-looking book. It harkens back to Frank Miller’s Ronin, complete with the stilted, faux-period dialog that tends to populate that kind of story. Still, it’s incredibly dense and truly a value for the money. Like The Life and Times of Savior 28, there’s text-heavy flashbacks, colored in black-and-white, which fill in a lot of the background of the story. Okko is the kind of story that ought to be published more by mainstream publishers, and Archaia is exactly the kind of publisher who makes these projects happen. Writer/artist Hub gives a nice cliffhanger ending for the final issue of the mini, and it’s a nice capper to 32 beautiful pages.Darkness/Pitt #3 (Published by Top Cow; Review by Russ Burlingame): It’s been years since I read a book that was drawn by Dale Keown, but Darkness/Pitt #3 is a reminder of why he was a sensation briefly in the ‘90s. it’s a great-looking title and not badly written, either. This one’s surprisingly dialog-heavy for a “pretty pictures” story, which tends to be what I assumed a crossover book by a couple of Image boomers would be. There are shades of every horror movie you’ve ever seen in here; there’s The Pitt seeming to hide from what looks like zombies; there’s demons and demon masters; there’s the smarmy guy in Jackie who seems like he may or may not be on the side of the good, and the creepy, powerful little kid who moves the plot along. This issue, there’s a pretty cool twist in terms of the villain’s motivation and a tidy ending that leaves you feeling like there’s way more to come.