Best Shots Reviews: ULTIMATE SPIDEY, GREAT TEN, more

Best Shots Reviews: ULT. SPIDEY, more

Best Shots 01-11-10

Your Host: David Pepose

Brought to you by ShotgunReviews.com

Greetings, Rama readers! Hope you're enjoying this fine Binary Day -- Skynet sure is. Looking to get your mind off the impending Terminator threat? Well, Best Shots has the answer, with a short but sweet column for some of last week's comic offerings. If you're interested in reading our previous columns and BSEs, feel free to check out the Best Shots Topic Page, by clicking here! And now, on with the reviews!

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #6

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by David Lafuente

Colors by Justin Ponsor

Lettering by VC's Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Who'd have thought enrolling in school could be so fun?

It's a simplistic way of looking at Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #6, but don't worry -- this is still one heck of an enjoyable book. With a firm grasp of character and great action combined with gorgeous, stylish art, this book has consistently been a blast.

Something I've been raving about since this series relaunched is the consolidation of Spidey's supporting cast -- in this case, Iceman and the Human Torch in addition to Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy. Seeing Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends sitting around the dinner table feels like the sort of family you wish you knew: "There's no hanky-panky in this house." Aunt May says. "That goes for any of you. Especially you, Mister Storm... I read the gossip sites." Yet with all these supporting characters getting attention, don't think that Brian Michael Bendis is ignoring the webslinger -- I love the fact that even Peter's wondering, "Am I living a life or is life just happening to me?" It's philosophy from a high-schooler, and it rings pitch-perfect.

But just because the meat of the plot has to do with going back to school doesn't mean that there isn't action to spare. I've got to say, I'm going to miss David Lafuente and his sense of speed and whimsy that fits so well with Bendis' style -- one scene in particular that wowed me was watching Peter run away from a threat, while hastily putting on his Spider-shirt, pants, and booties. That alone would have been enough, but Lafuente also infuses his characters with pure personality -- and yes, while Iceman might look a bit like Bobby Hill, there's so much likeability and teenage awkwardness and stylization and expressiveness to everyone. In other words, I like it a lot.

Yet in certain ways, this issue is a bittersweet deal, as David Lafuente is taking a break to let Takeshi Miyazawa fill in with the art duties for the next two issues. While I know Lafuente will return soon enough, it's rare for me to enjoy a book as much as I have Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, and I think Bendis and Lafuente's chemistry has been a big part of that. Either which, I cannot recommend this series enough -- with Bendis weaving together his various plot threads with aplomb and Lafuente applying his rock-solid craftsmanship, this is about as fun as it gets.

Great Ten #3

Written by Tony Bedard

Art by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens

Colors by the Hories

Lettering by Steve Wands

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. But with the third issue of Great Ten, it's clear that Tony Bedard's deft skill with these Chinese superfunctionaries is clearly a pattern. Taking a look at the Siddhi-powered superman known as Thundermind, Bedard takes a step forward and finally manages to nail the balance between action and characterization.

Interestingly, while Bedard's first two issues focused primarily on the conflicts between these characters and their loyalties, there's a charming simplicity to the story of Thundermind. The parallel to Superman is obvious, with this sense of speed, energy, and power to the character -- and that's all based on Bedard's script, which focuses on the here-and-now rather than the past.  

While you could argue that the theological implications of enlightenment- and Nirvana-based powers are completely sidestepped, where Bedard really succeeds here is that because of the pared-down origin story. In this issue, he's able to finally nail the framing device of this piece, allowing us to learn more about our hero by pitting him against the Chinese God of War. "You are practically a god yourself!" the elder god shouts. The answer is what makes the book: "No, Kuan Ti, I am merely a man..."

With Bedard making strides, it's a shame that Scott McDaniel couldn't apply some of the same polish. There are flashes of greatness to this book -- such as a silhouette of Thundermind transforming from his civilian identity, or him standing nonplussed before Kuan Ti -- but most times, the scatchiness of McDaniel's lines makes this issue look rushed. Ultimately, with the action going fast and furious, the sheer energy is enough to coast on -- but details like faces or smaller panels are tougher to watch, considering you know that he's capable of stronger work.

While it may look a little rough, just take a cue from Thundermind, and know that looks can be deceiving. Taking a surprisingly mainstream view after two more ornately-styled issues, it's a testament that Tony Bedard can take something we've all seen before, and still make it shine like new. With the Great Ten team having pulled a successful hat-trick, I'm extremely excited to see what happens next for this book.

Spider-Man Noir: Eyes Without a Face #2

Written by David Hine and Fabrice Sapolsky

Art by Carmine Di Giadomenico

Letters by David Lanphear

Cover by Patrick Zircher

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

"" -- the Crime Master

This series just became a bit more intense, while keeping the action to a minimal, but heavy on the set up and great climax. Spider-Man continues his hunt for the Crime Master, all the while keeping a close eye on Felicia Hardy, and eventually having to find his friend Robbie who has gone missing. Spider-Man also sweats out a minor player who was a Don Moretti associate and closes his shop. For good. Things don't look well for Robbie as he was kidnapped by the Dr. Octavius (who, in case you missed it last time, is a Nazi scientist in this universe), who is experimenting on the "inferior races".

There is a lot of plot going on here, but Hine and Sopolsky does a fine balancing act without taking any bumps. They've taken the noir idea, but I think the word "pulp" really defines this sort of story more accurately. This issue really concentrates on Octavius' origin and just briefly touches on a bit of the Crime Master's back story. Of course, Hine and Sopolsky are aided by a visually gifted talent like Giadomenico, and everything looks and feels solid. His kinetic style captures Spider-Man's movements and really knows how to panel a fight scene and even handles the subtle moments with an easy touch.

I've had fun with the "noir" series Marvel has put out thus far and, pardon the pun, but this team has really spun a creative web and sucked me in, even if it is weird to see Spider-Man holding a gun. Even if you haven't given this a try, I suggest you should. It's fun and exciting, even if it does take place during one of America's darkest times.

Stumptown #2

Written by Greg Rucka

Art by Matthew Southworth

Colors by Lee Loughridege

Published by Oni Press

Review by Henry Chamberlain

Stumptown is first-rate crime fiction with a main character you'll quickly connect with. It's hard for Dex to catch a break. When the police fish her out of the water, half-drunk and out of her mind, they can hardly believe she's a private investigator, especially with her name, Dexedrine C. Parios. "What's the C stand for, cocaine?" quips one of the officers. And so the latest Greg Rucka creation is off and running.   

Issue Two finds Dex recovering from the near fatal mishap on her current case. She's in the ER flirting with the doctor but that's cut short when, Tracy Hoffman, a friend from the precinct stops by. Hoffman is there to vouch for Dex but not before giving the doctor fair warning about her. Dex's latest case, to find a missing young woman, is actually a way to make amends for a huge gambling debt.  

"The Case Of The Girl Who Took Her Shampoo But Left Her Mini," is a story you can easily jump into at Part Two. The way it's been structured, you cut right into the action without missing what you need to know. But you will be rewarded when you go back to Part One. We see that Dex, while prone to reckless behavior, is a decent person. She is responsible for her developmentally disabled brother and proves to genuinely want to find the missing girl for more than just the money. What proves most puzzling is not so much that the girl skipped out without her car but that a high powered crime boss wants to find her too.  

Shaping up to be an engaging mystery, this comic is full of shady characters and twists and turns. It is a fine work of comics like this that invites the reader to dwell on scenes to appreciate facial expressions, pacing and settings. Artist Matthew Southworth provides a cinematic feel with his capable way of condensing details. There a four pages of Dex on a stakeout that, without any text, are packed with information and are a pleasure to linger over, longer than you would if you had words to read.  

You'll also get a kick out of a bonus feature at the end of this issue, "All You Need Is A Girl And A Gun." This is a chance for Matt Southworth to give you some behind-the-scenes commentary. The title of his piece is a quote from Jean-Luc Godard and leads you into some thoughts on film theory and its place in comics, particularly this comic. If you can believe in the main character, Southworth suggests, then you will accept the truth of the story. In that sense, Stumptown definitely proves worthy of your trust.

Suicide Squad #67

Written by Gail Simone and John Ostrander

Art by Jim Calafiore

Colors by Jason Wright

Lettering by Steve Wands

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

What happens when you throw together four or five plots together, each with a wildly different tone, into a 22-page book? The answer is unfortunately fitting: Suicide. Indeed, while this resurrected book great, it ultimately reads as more fragmented than enjoyable.

It's not to say that Gail Simone or John Ostrander don't know what they're doing, in what is in essence another issue of -- for instance, Deadshot steals the show in all his scenes, and when Catman takes on his Suicide Squad counterpart, the book just crackles with energy. The problem? You've got to deal with Deadshot's past, exposition for Amanda Waller and Yasemin, the Blackest Night, Black Alice coming into her own, a scene focusing on Bane interfering with Scandal's sex life... tonally, you can see Ostrander's bad-ass instincts clashing with Simone's more comedic bent, with each scene ending before it could dig its fingers into you.

That said, Jim Calafiore does a lot to make this book sing. His Black Lanterns are among the best I've seen outside the main Green Lantern books, and his take on Multiplex (Multiplex, of all characters) has a great sense of menace. And there's an image of Catman in action that... wow. Just wow. It looks fantastic. But with the script bouncing around, it doesn't really tap Calafiore's strengths -- big poppin' action.  

With this issue transitioning directly to the next issue of , Suicide Squad might read a bit better with its sister book. But after reading the last two superlative issues by Simone and Ostrander, I have to say that the lack of focus with the plot left me kind of cold. That said, when the book focuses its sights on Deadshot, it shapes up quite nicely -- while I feel that the action and the humor could have had a better mix here, if the next issue of can make the pacing and tone less choppy, this could be a fun battle royale.

Pellets!

Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #2 (DC Comics; Review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow) I do have to say that Mera has had quite a week.  Between this book and her prominent appearance in <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/tv/Batman-Brave-Bold-Reach-100107.html"></a> last Friday ("Aquaman's Outrageous Adventure!"), the Queen of the Sea has been enjoying quite the creative revival.  In the last issue of Blackest Night, a possessed Wonder Woman confronted Mera who openly expressed her interest in how she'd fare against the Amazon Princess.  And it is here that we see the challenge come to fruition, and boy, is it a doozy.  Nicola Scott, accompanied this issue by Eduardo Pansica, does a dandy job covering this fight in all its bloody brutality (with vivid coloring provided by Nei Ruffino).  It was almost disappointing then when the action is cut short around the halfway mark of the book in favor of following Diana tangle with her sisters, an also-possessed Donna Troy along with a hapless Wonder Girl.  Writer Greg Rucka shows that his penchant for Wonder Woman is like an old pair of comfortable shoes, familiarity to the benefit of the reader.  In fact at one point I had to remind myself that it was Rucka handling this story and not Gail Simone, and that should be taken as a compliment to all involved.  Good on Rucka for keeping things fairly seamless.  Overall they did a respectable job filling in the blanks found in Blackest Night #6, though at times I wished I had both books next to each other to read almost simultaneously since they go back and forth a bit.  I was also happy with the final outcome in this second chapter, because by the time a certain Gotham City superhero made an appearance I was starting to wonder what the hell was going on.  The resolution made a lot more sense once it was all laid out, and I'm excited to see Wonder Woman in action next issue now that she's practically beaming with new energy.

Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love #3 (Published by Vertigo; Review by David Pepose): So often, books will go in two ways -- they'll either drop in quality after the first issue, or struggle mightily to keep the same steady level of enjoyment through the rest of the arc. Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love is that rare book that does neither -- instead, this book has been getting consistently better with every issue, and this issue is no exception. Writer Chris Roberson has so much to mine when combining the fantasy and espionage tropes, and in so doing gives a real sense of charisma to his plot. Yet Shawn McManus has really kicked his art into high gear -- it's very stylized, very beautiful stuff, that really plays up the suave nature of the story's protagonists. In fact, I might even go so far as to say I like this series even more than the original Fables book. With sex, spies, and magic spells, Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love is an exceedingly entertaining and quirky treat. If you haven't read it yet, it's well worth a look.

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