Best Shots Rapid-Fire 02-04-10
Your Host: David Pepose
Brought to you by Shotgunreviews.com and Russ Burlingame's Day Off
Face front, 'Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, leading up the Best Shots Team for your weekly dishing of Rapid-Fire Reviews! Want to get a sense of some of this week's new releases? We've got books from Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, Top Cow, Radical and BOOM! Studios for your enjoyment -- and as always, if you want to get more Best Shots action, be sure to check us out all our previous reviews at the Best Shots Topic page.
Ultimate X #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): With all the relentless action of his work on Ultimatum or Hulk, it's easy to forget the sort of storytelling that brought Jeph Loeb to the top of the comic book food chain -- heart. Ultimate X brings it all back in a wave, however, as we meet an all-new, all-different mutant, in a story that's more of a coming of age between father and son than the sort of high-octane fare that the Ultimate Universe had just a year ago. Of course, it doesn't hurt when you have Arthur Adams on board. Adams is living proof that comics legends never die -- his work really sells the emotion and sheer potential of it all, getting a nice new sheen from colorist Peter Steigerwald. Of course, there will be some who will complain that this doesn't match the sort of grittiness of Mark Millar's original concept -- but while Loeb's characterization does feel a bit more familiar, this is the first time in a long time that I've truly felt that the X-Men could go anywhere, do anything. There are no rules for what's coming in Ultimate X -- and that's what makes this book sing.
Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Russ Burlingame): I liked this event better back when it was supposed to be just a Green Lantern story. It seems like the farther they’ve gotten away from that idea, that less the tie-ins contributed anything to the story and the less entertaining they were. While this issue was a nice character sketch, and I suppose that the whole idea was to use the more marketable Wonder Woman name to help them promote Mera, who’s apparently going to be a big character in the upcoming Brightest Day story, it all seems pretty unnecessary. Ultimately all it serves to do is to bring Rage-tastic Mera under control and establish that both Diana and Mera are free of the influences that were making them evil or evil-ish…but Mera seemed to be reasonably in control everywhere except in this mini, so I’m not sure how important that would be to anyone not reading this specific book.
Invincible Iron Man #23 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): I get what Matt Fraction's trying to do here. I get it. It's got some decent, if not revolutionary, construction -- including some great moments with Pepper Potts and Maria Hill -- but ultimately, this arc isn't grabbing me. By putting in the psychoanalysis of Tony Stark wrestling with the idea that he is the Iron Man... well, it's a whole lot of telling, and not a whole lot of showing. Artist Salvador Larocca does get a few opportunities to shine -- his work with the Ghost looks nice and fluid, and he does get a cool-looking final page to the book -- but because of the minimalism that the plot calls for, it's hard to find a hook here, visual or otherwise. There will certainly be those who find this book their cup of tea -- the premise certainly has plenty of potential, just like the done-in-one journey inside Professor X's head in New X-Men -- but I can't help but feel the execution of this arc is a bit too slow for my liking.
Devil #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): In a world where vampirism is caused by a virus known as Roxx, people with the disease, also known as "Devils" (that's the line of the show right there), are sometimes protected and secured until they die. The victims' lives once infected range from a few days, to a couple of months. However, there is a new subclass of these Devils that endanger humanity. I sort of saw this book as "Resident Evil" meets "Unforgiven". Classic western themes in a contemporary setting with some pretty interesting characters. Famed manga artist Torajiro Kishi takes the artistic wheel and delivers some serious gore and action, even if the panel layout was overly simplistic. If you're looking for something a bit different in your pullbox, give Devil a try.
Red Robin #9 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): This issue of Red Robin just made me keep thinking of that one Beatles song -- "you've got to admit, it's getting better... getting better, all the time." A lot of that has to do with artist Marcus To, who lends a nice sense of fluidity to his characters and -- even more importantly -- lets Tim Drake look like a teen, not a full-on adult. That said, I like To, and I like colorist Guy Major, but not together -- Major's colorwork tends to flatten out To's characters, whereas I think a nice bit of shading would give this some weight. Writer Chris Yost also manages to make the most out of a (somewhat) lighter status quo, and gives Tim a nice reunion with a former colleague that makes me wish this issue had come out before Adventure Comics. If we can get the same level of art with an increasing level of characterization for Tim, it would go a long way towards making Red Robin the solid read it deserves.
Siege: Embedded #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Russ Burlingame): This series has really helped to fortify what I aleady thought of the whole “Frontline” thing: It seems like Marvel’s tie-in minis not only don’t do anything substantial to help the main series along, but the goofy way that Volstagg is handled in this title actually actively makes me less interested in the whole story. The fact that Siege is so caught up in the current Thor continuity, and that the art in “Thor” has been so hideous that I’ve avoided it, I was already feeling a little at sea; the fact that this issue, where I actually think the art is quite nice and compliments the more down-to-earth styles and characters Reed is using, makes a mockery of that continuity makes me pretty sure I’m not missing anything.
Savage Dragon #157 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Russ Burlingame): Larsen’s “Dragon War” starts to take its full toll on the world of the Savage Dragon; caught by his son in the act of eating another Dragon’s brain, “our” Dragon, who has regained his original, dictatorial memory set and lost the ones he made on Earth, slaps the kid basically into orbit and starts taking on all comers, while all the supporting characters navigate themselves into position for what looks to be a pretty massive smackdown between the morally-ambiguous Savage Dragon and the morally-ambiguous Vicious Circle (now with a handful of Dragon clones). The coolest part of this story, and the most confusing part, is trying to figure out who the hell you’re supposed to be rooting for.
Berserker #4 (Published by Top Cow Productions; Review by George Marston): If I have one positive thing to say about Berserker, it is that I liked Jeremy Haun's art. Other than that... Well, things aren't great. The premise is interesting, and the scene in which the antagonist describes the trees as ancient spirits gives some hint at a larger mythology that actually intrigued me for a few pages. Unfortunately, the violence is so extreme and over powering that I just couldn't get past the opening gore-fest. The main character is flat, uninteresting, and predictable. The over the top violence is so off-putting and cartoonish that any value that may have once resided in the story has been wrung-out like a blood soaked towel. I do not recommend this book to anyone.
Red Tornado #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Russ Burlingame): It’s the final issue in the Red Tornado miniseries and while I feel like the execution has been fairly strong (nice art, good character moments, not-too-predictable plot), I also can’t shake the feeling that this story and its gaggle of robotic “Color-Nature” combinations comes from the imagination of 6-year-old Kevin VanHook, and was only recently rediscovered by an older version who now writes comics. I can’t shake the inherent silliness of the “Red Tornado Corps” and the fact that it’s played so totally without humor or irony (at least Deadpool’s Corps understands how preposterous the whole thing is). Then again, it’s a Red Tornado story. Anytime he walks out in one piece you have to think it’s a win.
The Warlord #11 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Russ Burlingame): With a story that features real, serious potential consequences (since all the fans have seen the solicited cover to #13), this is the second issue in a row to use a documentary filmmaker’s take on Skartaris and Travis Morgan as a framing device—but it’s less from the point-of-view of the filmmaker and more from Morgan’s own, which is appropriate given that after soliciting #10 as featuring art by Mike Grell (it didn’t), Grell returns to the title for this issue. His work is beautiful, and while it’s probably a little dated I still look at his Warlord art and can’t quite escape the feeling that he should be the only one ever allowed to draw it. The story itself, meanwhile, is one that Grell has been aching to tell for years, and it shows; the whole thing is building to the kind of huge conclusion that befits a story like this; in a lot of ways you can take DC’s recently-released Showcase collection of old Warlord comics and superimpose the first year of this new title on the end of it to tell a complete story.
Aladdin: Legacy of the Lost (Published by Radical Comics; Review by George Marston): Aladdin: Legacy of the Lost presents a fine accounting of the first act of a story we all know by now. When approaching these twice-told tales, I do my best to examine style over substance; after all, what else is there to a story that's been around for thousands of years? Unfortunately, this telling doesn't add much to what we've seen before, aside from a little bit of a modern edge by way of prostitutes and swearing. The tale touches on greatness with some bits of Wold-Newton vie a Sinbad cameo, though I wish it had gone further to reinterpreting the old myth. That said, the writing is solid and well paced, and the art, while flat at times, suits the story nicely. It often evokes shades of Marko Djurdjevic's cover work, and some of the later spreads even ring with elements of Frazetta. If you are interested in a solid retelling of the Aladdin story, then you could certainly do far worse than Legacy of the Lost, though it left me longing for more of a twist on the classic tale.
Toy Story #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Russ Burlingame): This is one of those adventures that just works better in the comics, I think; while the basic plot (Andy’s grandmother sends him a new Buzz Lightyear toy, resulting in the wrong one being returned to the toy store) is something I can easily see happening in the movies, there’s a scene where all the toys jump into a car and conspire to drive, in the middle of the night, to a toy store. Even in an animated environment, I can’t imagine that being convincing. Something about it reeks “jumping the shark” to me, but maybe I’m thinking too hard for a kids’ comic. The twist on the last page is particularly movie-friendly, though, as anyone who’s seen the trailer for the next film can attest.
28 Days Later #6 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Russ Burlingame): Despite disappointingly-generic art, this title has consistently been well-written, character-driven and pound-for-pound the second-best zombie book on the shelves (behind The Walking Dead, of course). As we start to see more and more of what made Selena tick back before the first film, it gives her hardass veneer and tortured persona quite a bit more depth. Meanwhile, in the “present,” we’re reminded that in any good zombie story, jerks with guns are as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than the undead.