Best Shots Comic Reviews: X-MEN SECOND COMING #1, More

Best Shots Comic Reviews: X-MEN SC, More

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X-Men: Second Coming #1

Written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost

Art by David Finch, Matt Banning, Aspen's Peter Steigerwald

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Brendan McGuirk

The problem with doing an X-Men crossover is that there are so many characters it takes a central concept with a hugely grand scale to make it worthwhile. Their soap-operatic ensemble is so expansive it can suffocate a good idea, if that idea isn't up to the task. So it's probably a good thing that when the stakes of Second Coming are presented as the fate of all mutantkind, you believe it.

Cable has done his job. He has kept Hope, the last mutant to be born and the savior to her people, alive and safe from Bishop's wrath. He has protected her, raised her, and trained her, and seen her through so that now she is of that adolescent age that makes her X-Men-eligible. Cable is a character that thrives with a mission. He has accomplished that mission.

And now, Hope is everybody's problem.

Cyclops has been consolidating power among the mutant community for just this purpose. Almost every story, from X-Force to Utopia, has been about the chess-moves he has made to best prepare for this day. Now, Cyclops' reputation as a master tactician will either bear fruit, or see it rot on the vine.

As surely as Cyclops has consolidated his base, so have the enemies of all mutants consolidated theirs.

So the situation has gotten a bit combustible.

Kyle, Yost and Finch deliver a blockbuster opening salvo in a big way. Finch, whose hyper-rendered work can become muddied at times, gives the widescreen action demanded of this story with clarity. Kyle and Yost, scripting a story that had to be largely brokered through crowded conferences, produce a script that does not suffer from the pitfalls that makes readers sense a committee approach. The dialogue reads true to every character, and the action moves at a steady clip.

With a franchise like the X-line, there is tremendous value in having these large story beats to give the shared narrative a common arc. The X-Men, and all mutants, have one common threat; extinction. And so, with Second Coming, they will execute their common goals, and ride out this latest imminent threat to their existence. And judging by the last page reveal of the latest mastermind of their destruction, they'd better be prepared. This is gonna be a bloody one.

Double-Shot: X-Men: Second Coming #1

Written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost

Art by David Finch, Matt Banning, Aspen's Peter Steigerwald

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Nearly a year since battle lines were drawn for the Messiah War, the strongest mutant power in the Marvel Universe hasn't been optic beams or adamantium claws.

It's been faith.

It was faith that brought together an endangered species and made them into a sovereign state. It was faith that took a fighter from the future and transformed him into a time-traveling father on the run. It was faith that took an uncertain hero and made him a general, a leader of a nation -- and the last, best hope of taking his people out of the wilderness.

And it's that same faith that breathes life into X-Men: Second Coming #1, a highly satisfying opening chapter that already brings together the various threads hanging over Marvel's mightiest mutants. Preaching to the choir with an enthusiasm and an orderliness few comics can match, this is an X-Men event that truly feels epic in both looks and scale.

In terms of the writing, Craig Kyle and Chris Yost really fit in well with the new Nation X paradigm that Matt Fraction has pioneered in Uncanny X-Men -- the script is streamlined and efficient, getting us into the current status quo and rostering of the X-Men like lightning. Characters are introduced quickly, and by using the X-Men-as-specialists structure of recent issues, we get a sense of relationships and power sets and environments that are extremely appreciated. While occasionally the exposition -- namely that surrounding the black-ops X-Force team and what they know -- isn't quite as reader-friendly as it could be, what's the most compelling part of their story is the man running it all -- Cyclops. Kyle and Yost's portrayal of Scott Summers is heavy from a year of nearly single-handedly beating back oblivion, and to see the various strategies he's deployed over the past few years finally bear fruit -- for good and for ill -- is extremely gratifying. "This is what we signed up for, X-Men. This is what we die for. Hope."

But where this book really soars is with the art team. In so many ways, this is the best work that David Finch has produced for the House of Ideas, which proves so ironic in that this series is his last interior work before jumping to DC Comics. Stylistically, this almost doesn't seem like the same David Finch who drew last year's Ultimatum, due to some tremendous pairing with inker Matt Banning and colorist Peter Steigerwald -- the linework is much more restrained, and the faces and anatomies are particularly sleek. Everything looks weighty and epic, with Cable and Hope getting some really dynamic fighting in there. Occasionally, however, Finch does stumble -- sometimes the motion of a scene is completely lost (like in a car chase), and there's one two-page spread that really goes flat (no pun intended, for those who read this book), with the angle of the shot being a little too pulled back to seem powerful.

While there is the danger of this series eventually becoming one fight after another, it's nice to see the X-Men collectively holding their breath that maybe, just this once, they will escape tragedy and come out of their struggles renewed, replenished and reborn. Make no mistake, this series has been about faith in rising up against self-interest, rising up against hatred, and rising up against evolution and extinction itself -- in many ways, Second Coming is the X-Men's proving ground. And if this creative team is any indication, it seems as if the Children of the Atom may prove themselves worthy.

RASL #7

Written and drawn by Jeff Smith

Published by Cartoon Books

Review by Brendan McGuirk

Behold! The secret origin of RASL!

In RASL, Jeff Smith is taking readers for one wild ride. The leading man of the modern-noir story is a rough-and-tumble scientist on the run from horse-faced murderer who will stop at nothing to capture devastatingly powerful inter-dimensional technologies. It's surreal. It has planet-threatening lasers, and it has the Department of Homeland Security. There's no other book like it on the stands.

RASL #7 begins to pull back the shroud of mystery that led RASL to his dark and isolated path. Smith picks up where he left off, exploring the biography of real life super- scientist Nikola Tesla, and descent into late-stage mad science. Tesla is clearly a major inspiration, both for the series and within it, and Smith uses the pioneering mind as the foundation for the hypothetical sciences of this story, while also using the historical record to bringing a softly tempered sense of reality.

Using fact as component for fiction can be a tricky beast, as it requires a certain measure of showmanship to present make-believe next to history in manner convincing enough that it engages an audience without insulting their intelligence. The way to make sure this works, then, is to be well-researched enough to make sure the work is “smarter” than the reader. And hey, for this reader, it's working. The seams of history and science-fantasy are interwoven with such craft that they make the stitching invisible, allowing for pure, unapologetic enjoyment.

RASL is a story that seems to be about many things. It features strong elements of moral relativism, and the folly of man. It's also about humanity's greatest capacities for achievement, through discovery, music, and love. But it's hard to get away from the fact that it is being created by a storyteller whose most famous work is completely antithetical to this. Bone was a story that engaged with a certain part of the brain; its presentation made it feel light, its fantasy world was far removed from our own, it's characters seemed as simplistic as their designs. RASL engages the rest of the brain. It makes you think hard. It makes you wonder what is possible in our world. It makes you wonder just how close the fantasy is to becoming reality. And it makes you wonder if that's a good thing.

Detective Comics #863

Written by Greg Rucka

Art by Jock, Scott Kolins, Cully Hamner, David Baron, Dave McCaig

Published by DC Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

It's sad to think that Greg Rucka, who has forged something out Kate Kane/Batwoman, a character I knew nothing about originally couldn't care less and made a believer out of me within one issue, will be leaving soon. Part of me wants to be selfish and have Rucka on top of all things Batwoman, but that wouldn't be fair to his creative juices that he wishes to pour elsewhere, and I can't really blame him for that.

I digress.

Detective Comics #863 is the finale of the "Cutter" arc, with an ending I guess we should have seen coming. Rucka has laid out a fine story showing the dichotomy of both Batman and Batwoman with the action going back and forth and panel by panel. To a lesser storyteller, this might have been confusing or perhaps lose a reader midway through. Though, in the right hands, it became an action-packed page-turner. I think though, that seeing Jock's work, it's still hard to compare it the previous arc and J. H. Williams' avant garde style. I know that was still a few issues back and Jock is being utilized the best he can be, but it feels a bit too jagged for my personal tastes. Dave Baron's colors really shine here with the different "filters" that ease the story along. Scott Kolins joins the fun, too, but gets lost in the mix and I think it's a classic case of too many cooks in the proverbial kitchen.

Of course, what 'Tec review would be complete without mentioning the superb work Rucka is pulling over on the co-feature with art by Cully Hamner and Dave McCaig on colors? Hamner is putting out some of the best work of his career with fine detail and excellent facial expressions. McCaig's subtle tones over Hamner's work is nothing to sneeze at either. It adds an extra depth to the pages without going overboard.

I understand that there is a level of ambiguity to what is going on with Kate/Batwoman being featured in her own solo book, but should the time ever come around for that, I'll be there. I also wonder what will happen to Renee Montoya/The Question now that Rucka has confirmed via twitter, he's written his last story for the time being. Rucka and Hamner have painted such a wonderful portrayal of her, I'd hate to see that go to the wayside.

If you're not reading this book, I think you're missing out on some serious fun.

Cloak and Dagger #1

Written by Stuart Moore

Art by Mark Brooks, Walden Wong, Emily Warren

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

Honestly, I haven't been following anything with the word "Dark" in it in the Marvel Universe. I just don't care. So, my reading of Marvel books has been somewhat limited of late. However, my ears perked up when I saw that b-list 80's progeny Cloak and Dagger would be coming back with their own ongoing...again. Color me surprised when I found some mutants in my usual urban city defenders' book, but it's good for them to branch out once more. Color me even more surprised when I got the to final panel and page to see "The End". It seemed like a nice introduction to the characters, so I felt misled, but maybe another time, Tandy and Ty.

We've got some pretty good art here. I can't remember a time Mark Brooks let me down artistically and teamed up with a strong inker like Wong who suits Brooks' style and on top of that, we have Emily Warren on colors who adds a sort of Japanimation feel to the book. Warren's colors also make Dagger's light and Cloak's darkness pop all that much more.

As for the story itself, I found it to be pretty average and actually moves the characters back to any sort of progression I felt they had made. Like their series in the 80's, the story falls under PSA category, but at least they kicked a little ass back in the day. Plus, I remember Tandy being stronger than she's portrayed here. She seems desperate and weepy. And don't get me started on how much of a jerk Cloak came off as.

I wanted to like this book for nostalgia's sake, but I just couldn't get behind the whole thing. If it had been the beginning of another on-going, I think I could have supported it more because I would know that more is coming, however this is not the case. Should you burn the book? No, it's not a horrid read, just really lackluster and not what I was expecting from characters I usually enjoy reading.

Double-Shot: Cloak and Dagger #1

Written by Stuart Moore

Art by Mark Brooks, Walden Wong, Emily Warren

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

If nothing else, Cloak and Dagger has been a property defined by its ironies and inconsistencies. Light and shadow, man and woman, trust and deceit, Marvel's original teen runaways have also been one step forward, two steps back. And in that regard, the dualities continue in this week's newest one-shot, with the bright art going head-to-head with a surprisingly murky storyline that will leave many fans as conflicted as their heroes.

For me as a reader, I think the real strength of this book has to be the artwork by Mark Brooks and Walden Wong. Dagger especially looks dynamic and powerful, and the use of the light- and shadow-based abilities of the heroes looks particularly fluid. There's a real manga sensibility to Brooks' art, that gives some real expressiveness to all the characters involved. That said, I'd say that Emily Warren's color work almost overpowers the book, with everything looking extremely bright -- even Cloak, which is weird considering his powers are based in the Darkforce Dimension. At the very least it's a bit distracting, and it certainly detracts from the tone that the story is trying to set.

Which brings me to Stuart Moore. On the one hand, Moore's story content is certainly a lot more mature than just about anything I've seen in a Marvel book in quite some time -- he focuses on the regrets and inconsistencies of young love (and unofficial marriage), and the sexual undertones to the symbiosis between the two certainly can't be ignored. But aside from undoing the potential that Matt Fraction gave them at the end of the Utopia storyline, the real issue with Moore's script is that he can't execute it without making both protagonists look either desperate or just plain unlikeable. You feel for both of them by the end of the issue -- and if that's Moore's goal, then all the power to him -- but ultimately, realism doesn't always equal satisfaction.

That's not to say that this is a bad book by any means -- this is more of an experiment that, while ambitious and even a little bit artsy, it certainly doesn't bring Cloak and Dagger to the triumphant return we've been waiting for since Utopia. That said, the book certainly draws the eye, and I can only hope that with the transitions that Stuart Moore has given our young heroes in love, that Marvel will keep the light going and give us another look at this conflicted, contrarian, but altogether compelling partnership

Gotham City Sirens #10

Written by Paul Dini

Art by Andres Guinaldo, Raul Fernandez, Ian Hannin


Published by DC Comics

Review by Amanda McDonald

How long will it be until I rip away the facade of respectability completely and embrace whatever lies rolling beneath? Well. That's the riddle, isn't it?  ~The Riddler

"Reformed" villain Edward Nygma is being held hostage by Doc Aesop, and the Sirens come to his aid. This issue is heavy on action, and light on the playful relationship among the Sirens seen in earlier issues. While we do have some fun seeing the ladies knock out his muses and steal their gowns, this really is more of an action and story advancing issue than an issue I pick up for the laughs.

With guest artists Guinaldo and Fernandez on board, this issue has a different look than previous interiors by Guillem March, although he does still do the cover for this issue. The difference is quite obvious: March has a softer and sexier style, while these interiors are crisp and more expressive. I think this is a good fit for the book, with March's style lending itself better to an eye catching cover, and the guest artists' styles better fitting the action of this issue.

I'm looking forward to future issues for a variety of reasons. It's mentioned that Ivy will be starting her new job at S.T.A.R. Labs; a new setting will be nice and hopefully give us a chance to delve deeper into each of the Sirens' individual lives both as their alter egos and themselves. I really dug the guest artists' work in this issue and would like to see them continue or some other artists also get some exposure. The storyline had much less of a cheescakey or fluffy feel than past issues. While Dini writes humor well, he also writes great action, great character development, and more complex plots than what I've seen thus far in the series.

With DC putting out some other female-centric books in coming months ( and ) are the two I'm most looking forward to), I hope this book continues to swing up as it has in recent issues. My bank account won't be happy, but I sure will be one happy fangirl!

PELLET REVIEWS!

Amazing Spider-Man #627 (review by George Marston): This week, classic Spidey scribe Roger Stern and veteran artist Lee Weeks turn in the first chapter of a story that, as many recently have, explores some of Spider-Man's past adventures.  This time, they plumb some of Spidey's 1980's adventures, dealing not only with the Juggernaut, a villain with whom Spider-Man has a longstanding rivalry, but also putting him into an interesting position with a character that was once more of an ally than an adversary. There are no big reveals, no continuity shattering moments, but that's a big part of what's been going right for Spider-Man over the last year.  Lee Weeks knows his way around Spider-Man's world, and draws the hell out of this issue.  Likewise, Roger Stern, who is no stranger to Spider-Man provides some great storytelling, never losing the elements that make Spider-Man great.  As if it was a secret, I highly recommend this book.  Neither old, nor new fans will be disappointed.

Wonder Woman #42 (DC Comics; review by Rev. O.J. Flow) So I’d pretty much come to terms with the fact that Gail Simone was moving on (not sure exactly which issue will be her last), and Aaron Lopresti is already off to another assignment with DC, presumably.  But I thought the right artist was at least brought in for the remainder of Simone’s tenure on this book in Nicola Scott.  While I hadn’t regularly read “Secret Six,” I had seen enough to recognize her talent, plus she was clearly cut out to draw this book after doing lights-out work on “Blackest Night: Wonder Woman.”  So you can imagine, Scott’s first issue onboard, how disappointed I was to see another artist finishing things up before the halfway point of Part 1 of “Contagion.”  I was supposed to be excited about things, not wondering (again) how long it’s going to be before DC editorial has to come in (again) to blow everything before ushering in a whole new creative team (again).  Sigh.  As for the story, it was an interesting direction for Simone to take, going pages (like the ones Scott actually drew before Fernando Dagnino steps in to finish) set in deep space showcasing instead of the series lead a random trio of Green Lantern Corps members first experiencing a deadly planet-invading force that eventually bears down on Earth and, naturally, Washington, D.C.  Seriously our nation’s capital is going to look into a much better line of defense, because brazen attacks on the White House and everywhere around there seem commonplace.  The overall script felt like a sullen navel-gazer, especially the scenes featuring Wonder Woman, so I hope things pick up next issue.  With a significant revelation at book’s end, that should be the case the case, only it’s up to Simone and Scott (maybe?) to deliver.

Justice Society of America #37 (DC Comics; review by Rev. O.J. Flow)  Now this is a JSA I like.  Working together and cohesive, despite a crushing loss to their ranks, Bill Willingham and Jesus Merino have finally presented the original superteam I know and love.  Though their overall success is short-lived in this pivotal second chapter of “Fatherland,” I found the better part of this to be a compelling read.  You ain’t American if a good ol’ Nazi ass-whoopin’ doesn’t do your heart good (Dr. Mid-Nite especially earning brownie points from me taking out a certain little brat).  In story arcs later on, I would like to see the creative team go to some more recognizable A-list, even B-list, villains to challenge the JSA, and even less of them while we’re at it.  Save for Kid Karnevil, Willingham has yet to truly make any of these costumed baddies worthwhile, and it does the JSA a disservice.  I’m a tad apprehensive about knowing that there’s still three more chapters to go, because I would sincerely like to see that they keep up the momentum through all five.  Mr. Terrific is certainly the MVP of “The Darkness Engine,” displaying considerable resourcefulness despite being aged in the futuristic setting without the handy T-spheres at his access.  The way things are shaping up for the next issue, should Willingham & Co. play their cards right, it could be a benchmark book in the history of Michael Holt.

The Outsiders #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Robert Repici): Sigh. Here we go again. After surprising me with a rather enjoyable second installment last month, it seems that Dan DiDio’s debut story arc on this unstable Outsiders book is once again headed in the wrong direction. Heck, after reading this month’s issue, it can even be argued that DiDio’s run on the title has completely lost its way. Fortunately, I’m not that cynical or jaded to make that kind of argument. At the same time, however, there’s no denying that this was one bad comic book. First of all, this month’s issue is filled with an uncanny amount of clunky, laughable dialogue that makes the entire story seem like it was stolen from a lost script for a second-rate superhero cartoon. And just like his first two issues on the book, DiDio has an incredibly difficult time getting into Geo-Force’s head, as he fails to give the so-called leader of the Outsiders any kind of consistent, multilayered characterization here. Simply put, Geo-Force is portrayed as a one-dimensional tyrant who’s suddenly hell-bent on killing his best friend Black Lightning this issue just because he feels he’s been disrespected by him in his own land. On the artistic side of things, Philip Tan returns to the title this month, and he actually delivers some strong visuals this time around. His splash pages are particularly powerful here, and his artwork in general is more than serviceable to the story. Nevertheless, the fact remains that this issue is just a major letdown on almost every level. I don’t know where DiDio is taking this Outsiders storyline in the coming months, but it sure seems like he needs to go back to the drawing board in order to make it a success.

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