Best Shots 02.22.10
By The Best Shots Team
Your Host: Troy Brownfield
Greetings, readers! Remember, you can keep track of all our Best Shots columns and stand-alone reviews right here.
Green Lantern #51
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke
Colors by Randy Mayor
Letters by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow
It's too bad that I had to cover this book a week before "Blackest Night #7" drops, because I have the sneaking suspicion that it would've been fun to compare the two in terms of their effectiveness as penultimate chapters for the overall crossover. Granted, there's at least one more issue of this book to look forward to a month from now, but there's no doubt that we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But since I only have Green Lantern #51 to work with, please allow me the opportunity to get a little technical for just a moment: It freakin' rocks. A technicolor throw-down of epic, if not biblical, proportions, there's lots to love here, and most of the colors of the emotional spectrum are well represented.
The worst kept secret from an issue prior is further developed, the return of Parallax. Hal Jordan came up with the cockamamie scheme to re-inhabit the role of one on the Green Lantern Corps' greatest foes in order to match up more effectively against the oversized threat of Black Lantern Spectre. While writer Geoff Johns peppers this compelling battle with riveting dialogue and pacing, there is no doubt that it's driven home thanks to some awe-inspiring visuals by Doug Mahnke. What's even more amazing is that Mahnke does the whole book solo, not so much as getting any extra assistance on the ink work. Considering the other occasions where he got two or three inkers finishing up his pencils, I was so surprised to see him handle everything on his own so deep into the series. When does that happen? Suffice it to say, what Johns and Mahnke come up with when pitting the Agent of Fear against the Spirit of Vengeance is bananas, and there are so many layers to be peeled, literally and figuratively.
As for some of the other characters who figure large in Part Two of "Parallax Rebirth," Lex Luthor gets two pages that are pure gold -- sorry, pure ORANGE. It made me wish that "Blackest Night: Superman" wasn't relegated to three issues months ago, because an issue dedicated to Luthor as an Orange Lantern would've been most welcome. Hopefully we have a row between him and the Black Lantern Man of Steel to look forward to in one of the next two issues of "Blackest Night." Atrocitus and the rage-powered Red Lanterns are also value added, and it makes sense to see a connection made with the Spectre, albeit temporary. And while the time devoted to Nekron is economical, it's nice to see even the slightest bit on insight into the character since the role of quiet observer was starting to run its course.
Eights months into the Black Lantern invasion, no one could be blamed for experiencing some "Blackest Night fatigue." Fortunately Geoff Johns and company continue to reward us with quality output like that found in Green Lantern #51. Many happy returns, Parallax.
Marvels: Eye of the Camera # 6 (of 6)
Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by Jay Anacleto
Color art by Brian Haberlin
Letters by Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Brendan McGuirk
Kurt Busiek has been writing about Heroic Days and Brightest Ages for... well, ages. While only recently has this reclamation of the mores of superheroic optimism stormed back into fashion, that faith in the power and potential of heroism has been the fundamental cornerstone of Busiek's work for as long as he's been a presence in mainstream comics.
Marvels: Eye of the Camera has been a reaffirmation of that faith. A sequel to Busiek's massively popular breakout collaboration with Alex Ross, Marvels, Eye of the Camera returns the writer to the character of Phil Sheldon, the ground-level eyes of the Marvel Universe. Sheldon, a photographer who has experienced great success in life due to his unique ability to capture the power and grace of the superhero set, is nearing the end of his life. And, as happens at the end of a life, Sheldon has taken to somber reflection.
The first Marvels series, published at the height of flimsy mid-90's steakless sizzle comics, was a hearkening to the tenets of the Silver Age. It painted a bygone era with a modern brush, finding new resonance in old stories. This followup series shifts the timeline forward, now with a backdrop of the 80's grim-'n-gritty scene. Understandably, Sheldon's belief in the institution that the superheroic “Marvels” represent has been shaken unlike ever before. As someone who made his living celebrating the wonder of the Marvels, the world's axis seems to have shifted wayward, leading Sheldon to see his life and work as a tragedy and mockery.
Busiek ably captures the deep depression that enables Sheldon's crisis of faith. It is one of the writer's great strengths; the ability to use singular characters and moments to create an overriding mood on the grand scale. As it was in the prequel to this series, Sheldon's emotional state is representative of that of his world, and even of our memories of that age as an audience. He is a touchstone character; an emotionally impressionistic manifestation, and therefore, his struggle is our struggle.
But no matter how dark Sheldon's world gets, there always remains a glimmer of hope. Sheldon's hope rises from his family. As a photographer, his sense of self was largely dictated by the actions of others, and his ability to capture that. But in the end, as is the case for most of humanity, it is the familial bonds forged in life that encapsulate the man's true legacy. The world around him echoes that optimism, for even as the superheroes of the Marvel Universe are beat down by their world, they fight on, and find hope where they can.
This miniseries was plagued by delays and expectations. It is just as trivial to compare this series to its predecessor as it is impossible to try and ignore the urge. For many, the fact that a Marvels sequel ever happened without the involvement of acclaimed painter Alex Ross makes the entire project lamentable. While it is true that the iconic artist's penchant for iconic imagery was a central tenet to the previous book's success, artist Jay Anacleto deserves accolades for his work here. Anacleto does not strive to be Alex Ross. His character work is more emotional and nuanced, his motion is less static, and overall his visual style is in line with the era the story is meant to portray.
Kurt Busiek is a far more accomplished writer today than he was when he first penned the Marvels book. Before, he was a historian of the Marvel narrative, and now he is a custodian of it, having contributed more than a few chapters of the ongoing story himself. As an active player instead of a passive spectator, it becomes more difficult to act as a commentator on the meaning of the Marvel story's broader strokes.
Eye of the Camera is by far a more character driven, plot centric story, and less of a hodgepodge allegory than was its predecessor, but that doesn't prevent it from being a satisfying and rewarding read. Busiek plays to his best strenghts, using the fictional world of superheroes and their familiar tropes as tools to unearth very true stories of humanity and human struggle. More than , Marvels: Eye of the Camera is not a superhero story. It is a story about a world inhabited by super-powered beings, and about the richness of humanity in that world. It is about world where tomorrow is always brighter.
Written by Andy Diggle and Antony Johnston
Art by Marco Checchetto
Colors by Matt Hollingsworth
Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
They say that the measure of a man is in his enemies. And in that regard, Daredevil #505 really succeeds. While it's not the flashiest issue of the run, Andy Diggle and new co-writer Antony Johnston do engage in a nice bit of world-building that further defines the power of the Hand.
As far as the plotting goes, the flavor of Daredevil #505 is a bit different from recent issues -- it's not necessarily the sort of street crime of Brubaker's run, or the looming tragedy of Diggle's last arc, but instead focuses on the internal structure of the Hand -- specifically, the introduction of Bakuto, a rival daimyo from South America. While the characterization of Bakuto isn't necessarily the strongest, the clash between the two is surprisingly infectious -- Bakuto seems like one of those villains that will not only challenge our hero, but will make him grow.
The art, of course, is what makes this shifting of gears palatable. Colorist Matt Hollingsworth is the glue that's been holding the tone of this book together, with his dingy colors making this book still feel like "Daredevil." The more I look at Marco Checchetto's artwork, though, and the more I think it fits -- there's a sense of enthusiasm to his composition, with characters like Matt and Bakuto really looking cool and fluid. In particular, I love the silhouetting he gives Matt Murdock -- with those red shades shining in the darkness like blood rubies. Checchetto's action sequences look great, too, adding a nice sense of personality to when Daredevil finally suits up, his legs flying in the air as he leaps across Japanese rooftops.
Ultimately, sometimes your best friends were once your worst enemies -- and all signs in Daredevil #505 shows that regardless of where they end up, the threat of Bakuto is something that could very well stay with Matt Murdock for a long, long time. It's rare that an enemy can hit the scene with charisma and attitude -- and while the overall mythology of the Hand feels a little slow, there's certainly some nice sparks flying with the Man Without Fear.
Atomic Robo Volume 4 #1: “Revenge of the Vampire Dimension”
Written By Brian Clevinger
Art By Scott Wegener
Published by Red-5 Comics
Review by Kyle DuVall
Despite an Eisner nomination and heaps of critical acclaim, some people still want to dismiss Atomic Robo as a Hellboy rip-off. Maybe it’s a fair criticism. After all, Atomic Robo features an incorrigible pulp-monster protagonist (in this case, super-strong, super-smart sentient robot) who fights monsters and nazis with the help of an organization of specialized scientists and commandos. But Atomic Robo is less of a Hellboy imitator and more like the Hellboy that might have been if Mike Mignola had focused on the smart-alecky, self-referential aspects of his famous creation rather than the deliciously dense mythology and character conflicts that characterize the Hellboy family of titles today.
So, sure, some basic plotting concepts are the same, but Atomic Robo’s sensibilities are about as opposed to Hellboy’s grand guignol suspense ethos as one could ask.
Writer Brian Clevinger and artists Scott Wegener and Ronda Pattinson, keep the pace in Atomic Robo dizzily frenetic, but never so fast that the funny bits don’t play out with perfect timing. The panels of an Atomic Robo story flow like nothing less than a wonderfully animated wickedly funny action cartoon. Not necessarily deep or groundbreaking Atomic Robo gets by being one of the most propulsive and delightful books on the market. If Robo owes a debt to Hellboy, he’s owes just as much to Bugs Bunny.
The latest issue of Atomic Robo, “Revenge Of the Vampire Dimension”, shows the Robo crew in typically fine form. Clevinger and Wegener once again take a familiar genre trope and run it with vigor and wit. The issue follows a hapless geologist unwittingly applying for a job as one of the Tesladyne Corporation’s “action scientists”. It’s the basic clueless, normal guy, getting in over his head at a super-hero/sci-fi team headquarters schtick, a scenario readers have seen played out dozens of times in comics and especially in movies like Men In Black, and, yeah, Hellboy. The mild-mannered researcher, of course, winds up witnessing action-science first-hand as Robo and the inexplicable bad-ass known only as Jenkins clean up an accidental invasion of the Empire State Building by extradimenional vampires.
As described here, It sounds like typical comic book stuff, but Clevinger and company having their comic timing down to such an (action)science that even the most skeptical naysayers should get at least a few laughs out of the book. So deft is the interplay of art and gag in this series, it continually amazes me that Atomic Robo is produced by a split creative team rather than a single writer/artist. Atomic Robo’s humor, as broad and silly as it often is, relies on subtleties of pacing and composition that require artist and writer to be of one mind. One liners would not work if not positioned at just the right place in a sequence of illustrations, humor would not be conveyed without just the right quirk of composition or draftsmanship. In essence, so much of what makes Atomic Robo work seems like it wold be impossible to convey between writer and penciler in the confines of a written script. One wonders if Clevinger and Wegener don’t have some sort of mind-melding device straight out of Robo’s own Tesladyne labs.
Atomic Robo is a perpetual joy to read, undiluted comic book fun. “Revenge Of The Vampire Dimension” has relatively humble aims, but, as with every previous issue of Robo, the perfection of their execution is irreverently sublime.
Written by Chris Yost
Art by Harvey Tolibao
Inks by Sandu Florea
Colors by Jay David Ramos
Letters by VC’s Hoe Sabino
Reviewed by Brian Andersen
This dazzling conclusion to the first solo miniseries starring the X-Men’s Psylocke is a balls-to-the-wall, in-your-face, action romp. And frankly, I expected nothing less. What I love most about this exhilarating series is its ability to do the near impossible: to triumphantly make Psylocke exciting and cool again. By returning her to her former glory as the strong, confident, warrior-like X-Woman with a fierce determination with the acrobatic ninja skills to match, Psylocke is back on the X-Men A-List where she belongs. Plus, the comic even makes the purple telepathic-butterfly effect cool again. Yay! (It’s these little things that make comics so delightful)
If seeing Psylocke in all her ninja glory isn’t enough bait for you to pick up this series, than surely the talented writing of Chris Yost is. Yost delivers a tight, fast-paced, engrossing story with a clever, surprising twist that gives a creditable, thoughtful and purposeful reason for Wolverine’s guest starring role – I mean, aside from the fact that the Canadian Mutant seems to have the annoying compulsion to horn in on practically every mother-effing comic on the stands. (Please shoot me in the face when he starts appearing in Wonder Woman).
I don’t want to spoil to much here (I don’t believe that reviews need to give a complete play-by-play of what happens in a comic, because that’s a summary, not a review) but the basic plot revolves around Psylocke’s vow to kill the man who ruined her life - because, like, you know, you would be pissed too if Matsu’o Tsurayaba (the man in question) swapped your mind and soul into another body and then napalmed your former body completely. But like most missions and purposes in life, Psylocke’s plans run afoul when she finds that Matsu’o has been kept alive and, in a bizarre shock, protected by Wolverine himself. Why would Wolvie want to keep the man alive who not only screwed Psylocke but also murdered his own one-true love? I’m not gonna tell you, you need to pick up the book. But I will say that it involves torture, maiming, and perhaps a bit of hobbling too.
So of course Psylocke and Wolerine end up locking horns in a fight to end all fights. And what a bloody, deadly, nail-biting battle it is too. The great thing about this usually clichéd ‘hero v. hero’ slugfest element in a comic book story is that here the reason these two x-buds throw-down isn’t forced, nor clichéd. It actually works for the story and adds a great, twisty element to what would have been just anther revenge story.
Thankfully the art delivers as well as the story. The pencils are dynamic and packed-full of high-energy panels, interesting camera angles, and subtle character moments. My only minor suggestion for artist Harvey Tolibao would be to maybe work a bit more on the character’s faces. At times Psylocke and Wolverine looked downright ugly - boarding on Fugly! I supposed when faced in a dual to the death one can’t expect to be Cover Girl ready, but there were moments when Psylocke’s facial features didn’t quite match the elegant, beautiful and stunning strength Talibao rendered previously on our purple-haired mutant. I do love the fact that Talibao is able to draw Psylocke super sexy but not cheesecake-y. She looks dignified! And it’s hard for a girl to look dignified in a one piece bathing suite with a ten-foot pink ribbon sash, but somehow Talibao pulls it off. So aside from that gripe (eh, who cares if Wolverine looks ugly, that’s kinda his whole thing, right?) I cheer Talibao’s stellar work.
So run, don’t walk, to your local comic shop and pick up this terrific series. If not for the great art, if not for the amazing, entertaining story, then why not to just show Psylocke some love? It’s not every day you come back from the dead and get your first ever solo series! The girl needs our support people! Don’t let her down.
Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery Archives Volume 2
Written by: Various
Art By: Various
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewed By: Tim Janson
Once again Dark Horse has come to the rescue of a comic series that may have been lost to obscurity. This time its Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery. In the 1960s, the aging horror icon lent his name for this anthology series from Gold Key Comics. This second volume presents issues #5 – 10 in their entirety, originally published in 1963 – 1965. In much the way that the Cryptkeeper or Uncle Creepy introduced the stories in “Tales from the Crypt” and “Creepy” magazine, Karloff introduces readers to the stories within.
Like classic EC Comics, the stories generally featured ironic twists at the end or had a moral message to relate. In “Possessed” a group of friends who have a ‘black magic club’ foolishly play with a Quija board and end up trapped by evil spirits. In “A Cage for Hassan” a greedy and paranoid Arab merchant has the tables turned on him at the end leaving him trapped in a prison of his own mind’s making. In “The Terrible Dark Glasses” a man murders a wealthy Optician in order to marry his wife and steal his fortune. But the dead Doctor’s mysterious eyeglasses reveal imagery, which is too terrifying for the murderer to bear.
Each issue of the comic also included a one-page text story and a Key of Knowledge feature, which featured various topics such as archaeology, or understanding weather. The main difference between theses stories and those of EC Comics or Warren magazines lies in the art. The quality of art in Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery was simply not on a par as those other magazines. Occasionally there would be art by people like Joe Orlando, Frank Thorne, or Wally Wood, but more often than not, the art was by capable but mediocre journeymen artists and thus these stories lack that extra appeal. Still, the stories are a fun read and its great to see these in print after nearly fifty years.
The Outsiders #27 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Robert Repici): Well, this was certainly a pleasant and unexpected surprise. After all, as an intrigued fan of this latest incarnation of the Outsiders team since its formation just over a year ago, I have to admit that my expectations for this title hit an all-time low after reading and reviewing Dan DiDio's disappointing debut issue on the book last month. But, believe it or not, The Outsiders #27 isn't half bad. Heck, at second glance, this was actually a pretty enjoyable issue on a number of different levels. For one, DiDio does a much better job of capturing the main characters' voices this time around, and I certainly like the fact that he's giving Owlman some additional "screen time" to further flesh out his role as the rookie on the team. And, hey, with a possible romance with Katana (not to mention a potential rivalry with Geo-Force) that DiDio effectively hints at here, Owlman may very become one of the most captivating characters in this book sometime in the near future. At the same time, however, whereas DiDio does a decent job writing Owlman in his second issue on the book, he still seems to be having a hard time getting into Geo-Force's head. The Prince of Markovia isn't written totally out of character this month, but his behavior toward his teammates still comes across as both odd and unjustified. Nevertheless, I have to say that I'm extremely glad to see that DiDio is making a strong effort to add some more troubling layers to Geo-Force's character by building on a few prominent, yet unresolved plot points from Brad Meltzer's 2008 "Last Will and Testament" one-shot. It's about time someone started to think about the ramifications of Geo-Force's trip to the dark side from that story. In regards to the artwork, Don Kramer unexpectedly steps in to draw the entire issue this month, and he manages to deliver some polished and dynamic visuals that are really just tailor-made for this book. I don't know what happened to Philip Tan, the artist who was originally announced as DiDio's creative collaborator for this book's new direction, but I definitely wouldn't mind if Kramer ultimately becomes the new regular artist on the title instead. All in all, even though there are still a few kinks to work out, DiDio's run on this title now seems to be headed in the right direction. And, yes, I'm genuinely looking forward to next month's issue. (Gasp!)
Zombies vs. Robots Aventure #1 (IDW; Review By Jeff Marsick):: On paper, this should be a pretty gratifying book. Zombies and robots: two great tastes that taste great together. Three eight-page first acts, all marrying zombies and robots in some capacity. In execution, however, it's actually nothing more than a tease, more character sketching than actual storytelling. "Kampf" shows the most promise with great moody artwork by Menton Matthews III, but suffers from the weight of terribly derivative and horribly cliche dialogue, before being guillotined so suddenly by an ending that is less cliffhanger and more yawn-inducing. "Masques" takes far too long to achieve lift-off, a campy tale about a Jobe Smith-type character who suddenly gets his Aasimov on, complete with a Stargate portal within easy reach. And "Zuvembies vs. Robots" prefers to avoid a direct route to telling a story, preferring the long (the version with a dozen o's) way instead; it's eight pages of yakkity that needed no more than two, especially with pencils and inks that are excessively washed out; a 1920's horror movie is positively technicolor in comparison. Ashley Wood's covers are exquisite but it lacks a compelling reason not to wait for the trade.
Tiny Titans #25 (Published by DC Comics, Review by Amanda McDonald)
How do you take an already successful book that appeals to both kid readers and adult fans and make it even better? Add a dash of guest co-writer Geoff Johns! This issue brings back Superboy (along with chair eating, puppy loving Match), AND has the kids finding Lantern rings at the local Bubble Gum Emporium (translation: pawn shop). From the kids willing such things for themselves as ice cream and lollipops, an appearance of the GL Corps fabulously drawn in classic Tiny Titans style, to the Green Lantern himself coming down to retrieve the rings and telling the kids they are too young from them--this issue is sure to please adult fans. I know when I read this book, I enjoy myself-- but this time around, I couldn't help but picture Art Baltazar, Franco, and Johns giggling to themselves as well. The only thing it was lacking was a Blackest Night tie in banner!
Captain America #603 (Marvel Comics; review by George Marston): While hardly as incendiary as the previous issue, Captain America #603 is still solid. Bucky and Falcon move forward with their plan to infiltrate the Watchdogs; unbeknownst to them, the evil Cap is already aware of their ruse. Bad news ensues. While hardly groundbreaking, Brubaker does what he does best while spending some time allowing Bucky to finally get comfortable with his now permanent role as Captain America. Additionally, Luke Ross's art fits the tone perfectly. His pacing is clear and his composition is nice. Some may accuse the book of simply floundering while Siege is wrapping up, but honestly, sometimes good comics is good comics, regardless of whether an issue moves heaven and earth or makes you "forget everything you thought you knew." That's not to say that the book is without flaws. Things feel fairly cut and dried, lacking some of the depth that Brubaker often mines. There's still some time, however, and it's nice that this book hasn't simply become another Siege tie-in. Oh, and for the curious, this book does NOT appear to have had any editions based on last week's flap regarding Captain America #602. Not that there are any further references to the Tea Party movement or other fiscal conservatives, but there's not really any place that they could have fit.
Supergirl #50 (DC Entertainment; review by George Marston): If there is one true victory for Supergirl #50, it is that this is the issue where Kara Zor-El finally, truly comes into her own. Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle have been working for this moment since their first issue, and for me, they have finally hit the mark just right. Kara is confident, intelligent, and believable not only as a hero, but as a maturing teenager. While they have put much focus on bringing Kara out of her more stately cousin's shadow (and the New Krypton story has certainly facilitated that), there have been stretches where the character seem almost held back by Superman's absence on earth. While establishing her secret identity as Lana Lang's neice was a nice touch, I felt that the development was all but ignored when Kara left for New Krypton. Granted, Gates used the opportunity to show Kara butting heads with her mother (new territory for anyone with an "S" on their chest), but it was still a bit of a pacing snafu, and one that detracted a bit from the impact of this issue. All that side, Supergirl #50 is a solid story, and if it's any indication of the way things will be for the book moving forward, I can honestly say I'm excited for what's coming.