'Rama readers, get ready for a full-face dunking in awesome sauce -- because it's Thursday, and with Thursday comes your regularly scheduled Rapid-Fire Reviews! Whether its DC, Marvel, Image, Vertigo, Dynamite, IDW or BOOM! Studios, we've got your back, with a baker's dozen (plus another one!) of piping hot pellet reviews for your consumption enjoyment. And as always, if you're looking for seconds, all you have to do is check out our Best Shots Topics Page! And now... bon appetit!
Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by George Marston): Let me start by saying that this was a solid book. Not perfect, not essential, but solid and fun for sure. Reggie Hudlin is no stranger to the Black Panther, having launched two volumes of the title at this point, and it shows. There is a confidence in the script that comes across nicely, illustrating the confidence of not only T'Chaka, but of Captain America as well. The use of Gabriel Jones as the voice of the series makes sense, and provides some nice asides regarding the nature of the characters at hand. Denys Cowan's art is solid, and often reminiscent of John Romita, Jr.'s work. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Cowan skewed more towards traditional anatomy and design, as some of his recent work has come across as experimental to the detriment of the story telling. As far as the story goes, it's always nice to see a Super Soldier throwdown. While we start with the obligatory fight between characters we know will be allies, the presence of at least two well known villains promises that even if the story moves in an expected direction, it will at least be entertaining.
Batman and Robin #11 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): Grant Morrison is a bit of a tease in this issue, which asks all the questions we've been dying to know but refuses to give us any answers just yet. As always, Damian Wayne steals the show, as we see that his mother Talia is not nearly as benevolent as we've been led to believe. In terms of the art, there's a cinematic quality that Andy Clarke has to his images, with some nice mood and weight being leant by inker Scott Hanna. That said, the coloring on this book does stand out to me -- maybe it's just the copy I read, but it almost looks pixelated, and it does stand out a little bit. And while Robin does get some great moments in here, part of me wishes a page or two was excised, just to see a little bit more of Dick Grayson in action -- based on the striking images and the idea of a hidden world beneath Wayne Manor, I hope Grant Morrison will fill us in a bit more on his adventures in the next issue. Either which way, this is definitely a strong showing that makes me eager to see where it goes next.
The Flash: Secret Files and Origins 2010 #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Brendan McGuirk): Geoff Johns has done more than a few of these Secret Files books. There's a pretty standard formula; give a teasing little chapter to lead into a bigger story, commission some sweet pinups, pair those with some meager write-ups and go about your business. Johns, Sterling Gates, Scott Kolins and Francis Manapul have struck out to innovate that tactic somewhat, taking those Files and making a narrative out of them. Installments do more than just rehash characters' histories, they give strong hints as to what is to come for them all. It is a refreshing foray, making what is often mindless filler into something vital that will inform the upcoming ongoing series. The lead story, by Flash stalwarts Johns and Kolins, serves as a prescient bridge between the recent Rebirth miniseries, their work on the Rogues in their Wally West Flash days, and the book to come. The Flash has a family now, and they're all going to have to push hard if they're going to keep up with Barry Allen.
Invincible Returns #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Brendan McGuirk): There's something about a superfluous Image #1 that gives sends a shiver down my spine, but in this case, the tactic works out. The Viltrumite War is only a month away, so Robert Kirkman took the chance to once again summarize the pertinent events of the the long-running series through a new story. It's an effective tactic, managing to push the ongoing narrative forward while laying out the broad essentials of Invincible's relationship with the people he descended from. This issue also demarcates a new era, “Returning” Invincible to his classic black, blue, and yellow spandex. Kirkman is wise in how he goes about this, because the costume change is done in such a way that the Jim Lee- designed blue costume represents the troubling era in which Invincible wore it, ascribing a firm resonance to it. With Ryan Ottley and Cliff Rathburn knocking the new chapter out of the park, original artist Cory Walker stepping up large for the Viltrumite recap, and a cadre of top-notch cover artists, Invincible Returns #1 is one of the sharpest looking books on the stands. Even if it isn't really “#1” of anything in particular.
Sweet Tooth #8 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Brendan McGuirk): Jeff Lemire's stories will cut you deep. He's a master of the quiet moments, and will use that lull to punctuate his jarring high-octane beats. Watching Gus grow from a naïve child into a jaded adolescent is as tragic as it is compelling. Lemire is also a skilled story architect, never better exemplified than the dueling storylines of Gus and Jepperd. Just as we are learning the tortured history of Sweet Tooth's rescuer-turned-deceiver, and coming to understand his motives, Lemire pulls back the veil of secrecy from the history of Gus himself, and begins to reveal the implications Gus' origins have on the plague that has scourged the Earth. Getting smarter all the time, Sweet Tooth is an inspired take on the distopian genre, touched with a hint of madness.
The Boys #41 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by David Pepose): The Boys, in a lot of ways, reminds me of pizza -- even if it's not trying to be a blockbuster, it's reliable comfort food that always plays to my particular tastes really well. In this case, I guess my particular tastes run toward swearing jokes and sex gags. If you've ever read an issue of this series, you'd know it's not for everyone -- and in this case, even as he writes gags like superheroes misplacing their "wee wee sticks," you can tell that Garth Ennis isn't exactly playing to the high-brow crowd. Wee Hughie, however, really steals the show -- maybe because it's a little more subtle than the superhero jokes, but it also gives a little bit of humanity to all of this.
Uncanny X-Men #523 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Brendan McGuirk): Sometimes Terry Dodson's sexy lady art can work to the detriment of a story. I mean, I love all things aesthetically pleasing, but doesn't a Cable-talks-to-Hope-as-she-exits-the-shower scene, which I know is probably not intended to have any innuendo, come off a little... creepy? I'm sure that's projection, but that is projection that can be chalked up to a suggestive and provocative art style. Cyclops' moral compromises are finally becoming common knowledge, and the seeds of defection have been planted. Second Coming promises breakneck action with few pauses, and this issue delivers. This war's just getting started.
28 Days Later #9 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose): And the trek continues. It's nice to see Selena's party start to grow and change in terms of their relationships with one another -- meanwhile, artist Leonardo Manco certainly adds some polish to the entire enterprise, with there being a real oppressive scratchiness to the art. It does take a little getting used to, of course, for there not to be any zombies whatsoever in this book, but if you can wrap your head around the fact that this is a character piece, it's a strong piece of writing with not just heart, but some humor. "Let me know when you get acclimated to my blindness," deadpans Derrick. Who'd've thought this book could be funny?
Vengeance of the Moon Knight #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): Tan Eng Haut is not Jerome Opena. And I mean that in every way possibly, besides the fact that they have both worked on this title. Where Opena had more of an action movie-oriented style, Tan has a more grounded and dare I say vanilla style. Perhaps maybe three panels out of the entire issue stood out. What a shame, too. Gregg Hurwitz does a great job again of spinning MK, as a street avenger, but the story is bogged down by a Deadpool appearance. I'm not a hater without merit, but it seems more like a product placement with DP in it than an actual first part of an arc. Just annoys because the book has had a good streak so far, but the art just took me out of the story. Hopefully, Tan will adjust his methods and not be so stiff.
The A-Team: Shotgun Wedding #3 (Published by IDW; Review by David Pepose): As a child of the '80s and '90s, I missed the A-Team boat growing up. And maybe that's why the first two issues of this series didn't appeal as much to me -- I didn't know the characters as people, so seeing them in action didn't do much to connect. Shotgun Wedding #3, however, is a welcome change -- Tom Waltz and Joe Carnahan take a break from the action, and instead take some time to introduce us to our characters. Especially Face, the loveable lothario of the group. Without giving too much away, there's a Reverend, a wedding planner, a Segway, and a cruise ship, and they are funnier than the knock-knock joke they all last appeared together in. There's one joke that might seem a little off-color -- perhaps maybe a little in poor taste -- but seeing the interactions is so much more engaging than the fisticuffs. Stephen Mooney, in certain ways, reminds me a little bit of Jock with a hint of Rafael Albuqueque in the expressions -- it isn't revolutionary, but it lays out extremely smoothly, and there's a scene with a Segway that will make you laugh out loud. If you're wondering about the property before the movie comes out, this is one issue with which you might want to get hitched.
Thor and the Warriors Four #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): Was this the team-up that everyone secretly wanted but never knew to ask about? Because I have to say, this one cute book. Alex Zalben walks that sort of ironic line of Incredible Hercules and the Marvel Adventures line, especially cutting to the quick about the Power Pack, their personalities, and their situation. Without giving too much away, you immediately empathize with the Power kids, and there's enough good humor in this book that you'll forgive Thor himself not actually being in the book (it is kind of a weird left turn Zalben takes with his replacement, but it's to his credit that he makes it work well). Gurihuru, meanwhile, has a great clean expressiveness to his artwork -- everyone really stands out from a design perspective, and there are little Easter eggs in the background that are a treat for eagle-eyed readers. From the first page to the grin-inducing teaser for the next issue, this is a great all-ages book.
Zorro: Matanzas #3 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Troy Brownfield): Those looking for a great fight issue won't be disappointed. Zorro races to save someone crucial to his life from his latest adversary. Much of the suspense here lies with the twin dilemmas of Zorro trying save the person while concealing his own identity, and trying to defeat his enemy without appearing as a villain to some of the observers of the battle. This is the way that a fight SHOULD work in comics: not only is loaded with sensible choreography, the clash has concrete implications for the characters. If you haven't been checking out Dynamite's Zorro books, you should.
Philip K. Dick's The Electric Ant #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by George Marston): The Electric Ant is definitely one of those adaptations that just doesn't come across the way it ought to. The dialogue is stilted and disjointed, and often abrupt and unclear. That may not be a problem in a prose piece, where the rest of the text fills in the blanks, but not even the art can do that here. David Mack fails to capture the human element of the original work, while piling the feelings of alienation on in spades. Pascal Alixe's art is able, but his characters often fall flat. His backgrounds and environments, however, are lush and beautiful. Overall, this it definitely a book to skip, probably even for fans of Philip K. Dick.