Best Shots Comic Reviews

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Guardians of the Galaxy #25

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Art by Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy and Wil Quintana

Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Revew by David Pepose

There goes the interstellar neighborhood.

Regular readers of Guardians of the Galaxy know things haven't been too easy for Peter Quill and company. They've had Adam Warlock go evil, they've had the team split in two, they've even had to deal with an interdimensional Cthulhu-verse that hungers for everlasting life.

But let's talk about Thanos here. Because he is setting this book on fire.

Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning manage to do so much with so little here -- Thanos is simply a berserker out of control in this book. The Guardians might as well be fighting a hurricane here. But what is so compelling about this book is how DnA work around their antagonist, giving each of the various Guardians a unique reaction to Thanos' return -- and subsequently, giving each member of the team their own moment in the sun. But there's also a self-effacing humor to all of this -- particularly in the case of Peter Quill -- that the team is able to then upend for a fantastic conclusion. "Bang," indeed.

Meanwhile, Brad Walker is just tearing this book up with his art. While occasionally his faces -- namely with Drax and Moondragon -- can look a little distended or lumpy, he more than makes up for it with some stellar composition. Page One alone looks fantastic, and he never runs out of interesting things for characters to do while they talk. Looking at an image of Starhawk in particular, Walker can make a page with three vertical panels more effective than many artists can a full-page splash. It's that good. Colorist Wil Quintana deserves a lot of credit as well, because this book crackles like the Power Cosmic -- all the characters just stand out perfectly.

In a lot of ways, the Guardians of the Galaxy can become almost tragically ironic. A team of Z-listers who save with known universe with little praise, that's been almost exactly how it's played out with the fan base -- low sales, despite quality characterization and epic-scale storytelling. Will the Thanos Imperative convince readers how dire the fate of the Marvel Cosmic universe actually is? Or will the post-event status quo be a completely different animal? One can only hope that DnA's take on Guardians of the Galaxy survives its latest crucible in one piece -- because as far as this issue is concerned, this is some damn fine comics.

The Descendant of Christ Hits TOP COW
The Descendant of Christ Hits TOP COW
Magdalena #1

Written by Ron Marz

Art by Nelson Blake II, Sal Regla and Dave McCaig

Lettering by Troy Peteri

Published by Top Cow Productions

Review by David Pepose

There's a lot of things you could say about Magdalena #1, but you'd be selling the book short if you didn't start with this: It is one absolutely gorgeous read.

Just at the first glance, it's clear that the universe of the Magdalena is fast, fluid, and packs a real punch. Nelson Blake II has the sort of style that's reminiscent of Stuart Immonen with more of a cartoony flair -- he really knows how to crank up the speed for a fight, as he has Magdalena dive and roll and slice with that enormous spear. But where I don't think Blake will get enough credit is when it comes to Patience's expressions -- it's not necessarily high emoting of a Kevin Maguire or Stefano Caselli, but as you see the look on Patience's face when she parries an attack, you can tell there's a real subtlety here.

Yet Blake isn't alone here -- he has a fantastic support system with Sal Regla and Dave McCaig. Regla douses the page with shadows and mood, and really gives all the characters some weight and definition. What's fascinating to me is that Regla manages to make the quiet scenes rock even harder than the action -- the characters just have some really bold lines to them, that really makes everything pop. And Dave McCaig... the man is a superstar, whose color choices are always bold and eye-catching. The use of reds, obviously, is a big draw here, but he really electrifies the pages with every swath of color here. For a dark book, McCaig's art burns bright.

But that's not to say that Magdalena gets by on looks alone. The things that Ron Marz does best in this book is set up Magdalena's mission as a monster hunter, as well as illuminate her essential conflict: her rebellious relationship with the Church. "Looks like the secular world agrees with you," Kristof says. "Maybe I agree with it," Patience replies. There are a lot of subplots here that are also seeded out, all of which seem to have a lot of potential to them. But what I'm particularly excited to see as the story progresses is more of Patience's crisis of faith, that innate quality that truly defines her and makes her a character to root for. Right now, in this first issue, she has plenty of anger -- what I'm curious to see is how that clashes against doubt.

For those who aren't certain about Magdalena as a character, let's just say that this issue isn't just preaching merely to the converted. There's a lot of action in Magdalena #1, and even more important, there's a lot of potential for the character. If Marz's story with Ryan Sook didn't bring me over, Blake, Regla and McCaig have certainly made me a believer. If you're looking for some of the slickest monster-hunting in recent memory, give Magdalena a read.

The Brave and the Bold #33

Written by J. Michael Straczynski

Art by Cliff Chiang

Letters by Rob Leigh

Colors by Trish Mulvihill

Cover by Jesus Saiz

Published by DC Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

"I'm putting together a girls' night out, and I'd like to invite you. Because I want this night to be special. Very special." -- Zatanna

Let me just start off by saying, I was mislead by the cover. I was hoping for some romp and stomp with three of DC's most notable heroines. Maybe a fight with the Riddler, Kadabra, and Dr. Psycho. Or perhaps team together to take on one notorious threat. It was fun for a while, but I just found myself almost heartbroken.

Since it's relaunch, The Brave and the Bold has found itself to be one of the most consistent titles I've recommended to people who want to start reading DC books, but feel intimidated by continuity. It's for the reader out there who thinks that current books aren't for them and want to sit back and enjoy a fun adventure. While this issue had it's fun and cutesy moments, in typical JMS style, things take an emotional turn and punch you where it hurts, though true comic fans will see what's coming when the Oracle of Delphi is dropped into a conversation.

Cliff Chiang handles the art in his usual cartoonish style, yet still holds a level of energy with the girls and them having their fun. His use of facial expressions is spectacular that nothing feels wasted and even the most minor background character looks as if they have a story to tell. I loved how he handled Babs here and her level of inebriation without making her look dumb or, dare I say, slutty. As a fashion enthusiast, I also enjoyed how each of the girls outfits for the night reflected who they are (even shy little Barbara). In the end, how Chiang handled the "big reveal" is clever and all that much more terrifying. Trish Mulvihill does an excellent job of coloring over Chiang's work and compliments his simplistic style by not over-saturating the pages.

While I did have fun with the issue, I thought some things felt a bit off. Mainly how JMS handled Diana. Her range of emotions is too extreme and seem almost out of place for a character who is the idea of perfection and grace in DC lore. Now while some readers might construe the ending as malicious, I thought of it as more in the vein as "what will be, will be". Barbara's legacy is so much more than just Batgirl, since I think she serves more of a purpose as Oracle and how she came out of her tragedy stronger than before.

Brave and the Bold #33 isn't perfect by any means, but I'm always ready to read something that showcases three of my favorite characters, even if it did almost make a grown man teary.

Siege: Spider-Man

Written by Brian Reed

Art by Marco Santucci

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

Siege:Spider-Man is probably the most disappointing of the "Siege" one-shots so far.  While Loki was practically essential, Young Avengers was fun, if trifling, and Captain America at least answered some of the fundamental questions surrounding the relationship between Bucky and Steve, Siege: Spider-Man is chock full of nothing you might want from an event surrounding Peter Parker's arch nemesis, Norman Osborn.  Most of the issue is spent following Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel as they try to defeat Mac Gargan a.k.a. Venom, a.k.a. Dark Spider-Man, and while there is certainly plenty of ground to cover between Spidey and the man who impersonated him, it all feels very shallow, and never really resolves anything.

One could argue that the meatier bits that may yet take place between Spider-Man and Norman Osborn are left out of this one-shot in favor of taking place in the main Siege title, but so far, Spider-Man has played a surprisingly secondary role in the larger event.  Further, there absolutely must be plenty of raw material to work with there; surely at least enough to make this one-shot feel important or even relevant while still leaving the big moments to the main title.  With my hopes for some exploration of Spider-Man's psyche in dealing with the fact that his arch enemy is one of the most powerful men in the world dashed, I at least hoped that there would be some emotional pay off in dealing with the ersatz Spider-Man who is comprised of not one, but two of Spider-Man's most deadly foes.  No such luck there, either, as the deepest we get is learning that Spider-Man pretty much didn't like that someone was misrepresenting him to the already hostile public, and that he's still kind of mad about it.  Or whatever.  Peter never really gets angry, and in fact his most emotional response to anything in this issue comes when Venom reveals that he can tell that Ms. Marvel has feelings for Spider-Man. 

Perhaps the thing that irked me most about this one-shot was the presence of Ms. Marvel.  It's impossible not to feel like Brian Reed threw her in there just to forcefeed more of the idea that Carol and Peter are "in like" with each other.  There's no chemistry between them, even when written by a guy who has spent plenty of time with both of them individually, and who invented the whole idea in the first place.  It feels forced, and Ms. Marvel's presence, while resulting in some humorous quips, only serves to further dull the possibility that anything meaningful to Spider-Man or "Siege" will come from this book.  Brian Reed doesn't really turn in much of anything worth noting, aside from a few of the aforementioned jokes, and often his portrayal of Venom also feels contrived.  I'm much more interested in the version of Mac Gargan that showed up in the last few issues of Dark Avengers, having taken his meds long enough to realize that there was some seriously messed up stuff going on around him. 

Artist Marco Santucci is also a let down.  The first shot of Venom in action is decent, and his portrayal of the character stays fairly consistent through out.  He also manages to inject some well thought out body language into the Venom/Ms. Marvel hybrid, but his protrayal of both Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel is lackluster at best, and anatomically questionable at it's worst.  Further, his the way he draws Broxton, Oklahoma just doesn't jibe with what's come before.  Broxton has always been a kind of backwater, Mayberry-esque type of place, and the way he draws it here feels practically urban.  It's this kind of inconsistency from both Santucci, and from Reed (since when could Venom's host simply be physically pulled from the symbiote?) that drives this book, and makes it one not only to skip, but to ignore entirely.

Power Girl #11

Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti

Art by Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts

Lettering by John J. Hill

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

Power Girl. Monkeys. Mind-control. Eeeeeevil scientists. If none of these things appeals to you, I am sorry. Because it means that your sense of humor has been surgically removed.

There's a real sense of whimsy amid all the action in Power Girl #11, which pits PG against her rock-'n-rolla pal Terra. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti do plenty to keep the action moving -- and give some amusing exchanges between PG and her mind-swapped friend -- really going at top speed, from the city to under the sea to the underground city of Strata. What the real strength of the book is, of course, is that they give Power Girl a real down-to-earth voice -- she's exactly how you'd expect for a superheroine like her to sound, and that's great.

But I have the feeling that Justin and Jimmy could have written PG fighting a pack of superpowered furries, so long as Amanda Conner was drawing it. She has a rep for being a humorous artist -- and believe me, she doesn't lose that expressiveness with this page, either -- but who'd've thunk she had such a way with action? There's one four-panel sequence of PG getting slammed around that has some extremely strong composition, as she's aided by the crystal-clear coloring of Paul Mounts. Seriously, Mounts knows how to set up a mood for a page, whether its gearing up for Power Girl's second wind, or showing a volcano going off underwater.

Aside from one surprisingly dark moment in this book -- like, wow, was that dark -- Power Girl is still an immense treat to read. This story may wrap up a bit neatly, but that's not what this series was ever about. Forget about the complex schemes or the careful dropping of logic -- Gray, Palmiotti and Conner are all about making the most fun book they can. And it shows.

Firestar #1 –One-Shot

Written by Sean McKeever

Art by Emma Rios

Colors by Matthew Wilson

Letter by Kristyn Ferreti

Marvel Comics

Reviewed by Brian Andersen

Firestar was the only reason I ever watch that classic Saturday morning cartoon “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.” Spider-Man and Iceman? Eh, I could care less about them. But Firestar? Now there was a character that burned bright in my childhood mind. She was the lone girl hero fighting villains, soaring through the air, and rocking that one-piece yellow unitard highlighted by awesome red and orange flame accents. I loved it. I loved her.

So for me, seeing Miss Angelica Jones, starring again in her first solo comic (since her 4 issue mini series from the 80’s, which is sorely underrated BTW), was a delight. Firestar is one of those rare Marvel Comic Heroines that a lot of non-comic readers is aware of but knows very little about. Sadly, pretty much the same can be said for us comic readers, as Firestar, for the most part, has been pretty underdeveloped as a character. Sure we comic fans can run down the list of key things we know about Firestar: she’s a mutant, she was part of the New Warriors, she dated and was engaged to and broke up with Justice (good riddance!), she was an Avenger, she had cancer. But everything on this list is stuff she’s done or things that have been done to her. Nothing in this list defines the character. We all know her name and her powers and where’s she’s been, but do we really don’t know who she is? What makes Angelica Jones tick?

Thankfully this much-needed comic is a huge step in the right direction for defining our beloved Firestar. While there’s plenty of action in the story, and the return of the classic Firestar costume (hip-hip-hurray!), the main reason I enjoyed this book so much has to do with the bulk of the focus being on the woman and not the mask. Thanks go to writer Sean McKeever (and artist Emma Rios) for delivering the deep, character driver story centered on a strong, powerful woman trying to find her place in the world. Imagine that! A female superhero comic that - unlike a lot of heroines written today (who I won’t mention by name **Ms. Marvel**) - never comes off as bitchy, or bossy, or as someone with a super-in-your-face-tude. McKeever allows Angelica to be *gasp* human. Yes she’s powerful and yes she can control Microwaves, but just because she has amazing abilities that doesn’t mean she’s not afraid to be gentle, to let her guard down, to struggle, to strive to help a childhood jerk in need, and then to go back and fight the good fight. She doesn’t have to be a hard-ass to be confident and kick-ass. I like that.

It’s nice to have a story that balances a lot of themes; from typical superheroics, to family interactions, to friendships, to personal strife, to overcoming adversity. It’s also nice to see a character come to life on the comic page and for Firestar, this moment has been long overdue.


Savage She-Hulks #2 (Marvel Comics; Reviewed by Brian Andersen): I am a professed, devoted, super-fan of the She-Hulk (Go Jennifer Walters!) and I’ll read anything with her in it. And for a time (under Peter David and Gary Frank) I also was an Incredible Hulk fan. Now with all this recent multi-colored Hulk madness I’ve found myself dragged back into the fold on all the He-Hulk books. I’m holding my breath and hoping for a Blue Hulk to show up soon so that we can all cheerfully say “One Hulk, Two Hulk, Red Hulk, Blue Hulk.” But until that glorious time dawns I’ll just keep on happily reading - what seems like 500,000 - Fall of the Hulk titles. This She-Hulk focused series is, due to my personal bias, one of my fave Fall of the Hulks books. I was overjoyed to see that Jen Walters She-Hulk (I’ll call her “JW” now for short) is still alive and kicking and finally out of that wacky watery-tubey-thing. Hopefully now she can start being a major part of the storyline again. Also, it was great fun to see Lyra She-Hulk and JW She-Hulk interact and bond - despite the fact that their backstory-sharing time seemed a bit too much like plot padding. Also, as a would-be continuity cop, I will say that to my knowledge JW She-Hulk’s father isn’t dead and Lyra She-Hulk wasn’t raised by her mother Thundra. But aside from this gripe, I enjoyed the issue. I like the whole Lyra and JW mentor/mentee kind of budding relationship thing they’ve got going on and I can see these two in a series together. Make it a Thelma and Louise-ish comic and I smell a hit! This issue marks the first time that all three She-Hulks faced off, with the annoyingly hyper-angry, hyper-“tough-girl”-Red She-Hulk trying to kill the two greenie She-Hulks. We get it, Red, you’re mad and you’re dangerous! Can we have some actual character development now? Maybe we need a Blue She-Hulk to come in and represent hope and calm your fiery ass down? Oh, wait, I think I’m getting my comics crossed.

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