Best Shots Comic Reviews: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, RED ROBIN
Marvel Preview: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #630
Written by Zeb Wells
Art by Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza and Antonio Fabela
Colors by VC's Joe Carmagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
Just like Curt Connors himself, Amazing Spider-Man #630 is a surprisingly conflicted issue -- while there are some scenes that Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo knock out of the park, there are several others that turn this chapter into a fairly jerky read.
Well, perhaps "jerky" isn't really the right word -- especially when it comes to the well-crafted introduction, Zeb Wells' greatest strength is his pacing, his ability to perfectly time Peter Parker's internal monologue with the action around him. It's Peter's interactions with women that are the highlight of the book, whether it's the strikingly beautiful moment where he thinks that the Black Cat "stepped all over my punchline," or even the quiet moments with new love interest Carlie, Wells succeeds when he touches upon the humanity of the character.
Yet one look at the cover shows that this book isn't about humanity -- and it proves to be Wells' great weakness. The return of the Lizard actually seemed more terrifying and foreboding in Wells' story in last week's Spectacular Spider-Man -- while seeing Curt Connors and his son is a chilling scene, the rest of the build-up doesn't quite grab you in terms of the scary factor. Additionally, seeing Aunt May in her new status quo threw me for a bit of a loop -- it took a little bit of rereading to get it, and that'll certainly trip up new readers.
But out of everyone on the book, Chris Bachalo's art surprised me the most. It's perhaps because of him that the Black Cat steals the show for the few pages she's on -- she's as stylish as she is confident. But that confidence seems to fade rather quickly in this issue -- perhaps it's me still recalling Bachalo's masterful Dark Avengers annual, but the design here for the various characters doesn't seem nearly as slick as what I know he can do. That said, he can certainly make the action count -- there's these little snapshots of violence that only Bachalo can do. Colorist Antonio Fabela does some strong work on this book as well, with reds and whites really popping off the page.
It's weird, because in many ways, it's arcs like this that are what the post-Brand New Day experiment for Amazing Spider-Man were all about -- rapid-fire arcs by the best and the brightest of Marvel's creative lineup. You'd think with Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo, they'd be unstoppable for the Lizard's return -- yet without the human anchor throughout the entire book, this chapter runs about as hot and cold as Dr. Connors' dual alter egos. The team still has me on board for next issue based on the sheer potential of this collaboration, but here's hoping that now that the set-up is over, they give the next chapter some teeth.
Written by Christopher Yost
Art by Marcus To, Ray McCarthy and Guy Major
Lettering by Sal Cipriano
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
Here it is, folks, after a year of build-up, the main event -- Red Robin versus Ra's Al Ghul and the League of Assassins. And in a lot of ways, this is a bittersweet issue -- because who the hell knew that Chris Yost could write like this?
While Yost is departing the title after this issue, he doesn't walk off with anything less than blowing the lid off everything he's done in the past year. This issue is head and shoulders above the rest, and really helps clinch what Tim Drake's storyline has been building to for years -- standing as the spiritual successor of Bruce Wayne. Tim may be over his head, but he stands like a complete badass, and is charismatic enough to skate the book past a few leaps of logic.
Meanwhile, Marcus To is on fire, as he really plays up the stylishness of this book. He especially draws his fight scenes with some real panache -- now that he doesn't have to worry about some of the weirder designs from the League of Assassins, he can get to brass tacks and have Tim and Ra's really fight it out. But To also does well with the emotions, as well -- whether it's a look on Tim's face when he knows he's done Bruce proud, or seeing his look of surprise when a new wrinkle enters his life, it's very smooth and very compelling. Meanwhile, colorist Guy Major takes a bit more of a nuanced take on the various lighting, and aside from it looking occasionally a little flat with Red Robin's tunic, it's getting better and better every issue.
Now, there will definitely be some people who cry foul at some of the interior story logic here -- like why Lucius Fox would give Tim Drake the key to his victory, or why Tim didn't use his "secret weapons" against Ra's in any of the other previous 11 issues of the book -- but in a lot of ways, this book speeds past those bumps by sheer panache alone. This is a slick-looking book, and it's absolutely fun, to boot -- it is a fitting swan song from Chris Yost, and it leaves a particularly burning question for incoming writer Fabian Nicieza:
Can every issue of Red Robin feel like this?
Riot Shell #0
Written by Adrian Nicita
Art by Martin Montiel
Published by Nicita Designs
Review by George Marston
Picture this: the year is 1996. You are a 13 year old boy who has just discovered a more mature side to comic books. "Bad Girl" comics are all the rage; any fetish model with a thong and a ray gun can get her very own comic, and you eat that kind of thing up. Your room is littered with issues of Lady Death, Lady Rawhide, Lady Justice, and a whole bevy of beautiful and scantily clad lady murderers and vigilantes. You still wouldn't buy Riot Shell #0. Riot Shell takes a novel publishing premise, in which the content is determined, and often created, by the fans of the book, and squanders it in such a way as to ensure there will be no fans interested in contributing, by presenting a character and a plot so unoriginal, and so lackluster, that only the most immature and undiscerning comic reader will find it appealing. The fact that it is 2010, and this kind of stuff is still happening in what most people would consider the future does it no favors either.
Riot Shell is all about agent Isabella Shell, a special security officer who works for a company called Cortech. Agent Shell and her team are on a special mission when they are ambushed by a cyborg named "Silencer" who is after "the files." Agent Shell is the only survivor, which is fortunate, because she has "the files," and thanks to those very "files," is able to be rebuilt as the ultimate cyborg weapon! She has a special arm that can transform into a gun, or a rocket launcher, or some kind of gun/rocket hybrid that she calls "the ultimate weapon!" She also carries a sword because cyborgs are a superstitious and cowardly lot, and nothing strikes fear into the heart of an evil cyborg like a heroic cyborg who is so badass that she doesn't even need to use her ultimate rocket gun to kill you. She's just going to do it with a sword, probably after monologuing internally on a rooftop for a couple of hours.
Silencer gets wind that Cortech's leading scientist is delivering a speech in the city, and decides that he is going to ambush her and get some "info," which will allow he and his fellow evil cyborgs to become even more awesome cyborgs with sick ultimate arm guns of their own. He plans to get this "info" by killing the scientist, and just taking it right from her DNA. Sure Silencer, best to skip the middle man and go right to the DNA, the body's "info" center. Anyway, Riot Shell decides to stop him by drop kicking him through a window, and cutting off his robot arm (which clearly isn't as advanced as hers). But then a plot twist happens, and his arm is going to explode, but don't worry about Riot Shell. Even though Cortech's top agent and ultimate weapon is clad only in a bathing suit and a thong despite her admitted vulnerability to conventional weapons, her ultimate super arm turns into a shield which just barely protects her from the blast, which apparently destroys what's left of Silencer. Oh, sorry, spoiler alert.
Do you know how I know all this happened? Because despite the art which fairly clearly depicts all of these events, the multitude of word balloons that clutter every page describe these events in detail, leaving nothing to chance. I mean, who can count on comic readers to infer information visually? Actually, that may be a valid point with the type of person who is probably reading Riot Shell. Speaking of the art, it is actually decent. There's nothing great about it, and if the artist had better material to work with, it might improve substantially. As it stands, there are a lot of shots of Riot Shell posing on rooftops in her thong, and not being able to decide whether she wants to actually pull her sword all the way out of its sheath.
After all that, there's not much left to say. While the idea that the book's content is determined by fans is intriguing, there is very little room for this book to grow beyond it's "HAWT CHIXXX EXXXTREEEMMMEE" premise, particularly with material that will undoubtedly be disjointed, and of amateurish quality at best. Do yourself a favor, and even if this review makes Riot Shell sound like its funny, don't read it. I already regret it.
The Killer: Modus Vivendi #1 (Published by Archaia; Review by Lan Pitts): You know, this is my first experience with this character, but after reading this issue, I want to go back and try the rest out. Essentially, The Killer centers around a nameless assassin with a murky and mysterious past, whose crimes and sins are catching up with him. Some moments are intense, and reminiscent of television shows like "The Shield" and some parts even echo "The Departed", with it's gritty dialog and violence. Alex Nolent, aka Matz, has such a way of telling the story that you know everything the Killer is thinking. There is hardly any page, much less a panel, without some sort of dialog or narration. The layouts by Luc Jacamon are exquisite and reflect the serious tone of the story when it needs to be, and lets up ever so slightly when the mood changes. Yet the color selection isn't noir-ish at all and is more bright and warm, and really make the pages pop with such a bold presentation I wasn't expecting. Faithful fans of the series will want to give this a try, but readers looking for a certain edge to add to their pullbox, I strongly recommend this one.
Secret Six #21 (DC Comics; reviewed by Kevin Huxford): I had wandered away from Secret Six until the start of this current arc. I didn't jump back on because there was something about the solicitation that grabbed me. I just was curious to see how the book was and happened to grab it. Fortune shined upon me, as it is an arc that puts a good deal of focus on Thomas Blake, long one of my favorites of the group. Gail Simone does an excellent job crafting the story. There is no shortage of entertainment here, with the balance between the absurd and the dramatic being rather well done. She's even found an excuse to bring in limo-full of B-D list villains as some form of collaborators with the group, which is always good for either a cheap laugh or smile. Here? It's good for several chuckles with room to grow.
Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #1 (Marvel Comics; reviewed by Kevin Huxford): Wow. While this is largely an issue meant just to set the table for the meat of the story, I'm impressed. This new venture starts out with two major talents working on a story that doesn't just try to do a paint-by-numbers job to try to just hit the notes and sprinkle in the additional characters that one might think is the recipe for easy commercial success. Right off the bat, we're thrown into alternate timeline stuff, which, while it is good and can sell, seems to clearly be putting creativity and storytelling above trying to sell at all costs. Jason Aaron takes a chance to try to tell a unique story and early indications are that it'll payoff. Adam Kubert brings his A game, helped a bit by Aaron playing to his strengths with the tale he's weaving. Worth a pick up. On an unrelated note: after all the tweeting about ink & color artists, I was hyper aware of the lack of cover credits for both on this issue.