Best Shots Reviews: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, BRUCE WAYNE, more

Preview: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #632

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, filling in for Troy Brownfield as you get an all-terrific, all-Tuesday edition of Best Shots reviews, where we take a look at many of last week's new releases! While we were sorry to miss you last week, we're coming back in style, with more than a dozen reviews from Marvel, DC, IDW and Vertigo -- and if you're interested for more, we always have your back, with a near-unlimited supply of reviews over at the Best Shots Topic Page! Also, please note, Rapid Reviews will go up on Friday this week, as books are delayed by a day. Well, go on -- what are you waiting for? The reviews are ready, dive on in!

Amazing Spider-Man #632

Written by Zeb Wells

Art by Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, Emma Rios, Antonio Fabela

Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

The cold-blooded criminal acts of Curt Connors may be heating up, but is there enough bite to make this sluggish arc sing? Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo go a long way towards making this issue achieve the promise that it held all those months ago -- even if at the end it slips through their collective fingers.

You have to give it to Zeb Wells -- he knows what makes Spider-Man tick, and he absolutely knows how to craft a story beat that will burn itself into your memory. While it's been a little long on the set-up in previous chapters, Spider-Man and the Lizard barrel into each other like freight trains, and it's wonderous to see. "Lizard no longer dumb. You are prey," the thing that was once Curt Connors says. Spidey's response is perfect: "You're not as smart as you think you are." If that's not a set-up for a rockin' fight, I don't know what is.

And Chris Bachalo -- well, it's clear that his jagged, shadowy style is a strong fit for this storyline. First and foremost, colorist Antonio Fabela works perfectly with him, playing with black-and-white with explosions of red and green to set up the mood and desperation of the scene. While people may scoff a bit at the Lizard having hair now, the action is great, with the choreography really drawing your eye throughoutthe whole fight.

But Bachalo is also what irked me about this book -- that is, the fact that he doesn't draw the whole thing. Part of the thrice-a-month scheduling means that Spider-Man has to go out on time, but it's kind of annoying to see that even with the lengthy prep time the team had to get this story out, Emma Rios still has to be called upon to draw a third of the book. I like Emma Rios, don't get me wrong, but she's not Chris Bachalo, who can make any man into a monster -- meaning that the tail end of the book doesn't hit nearly as hard as it needs to.

Is Shed a great idea? I think it's got the potential for a great story. But because the art team switches mid-stream, it really takes me out of the story, and weakens this chapter. This issue was good -- but three issues in, good may not be good enough. If Bachalo needs a relief hitter -- even as one as skilled as Emma Rios -- in the next issue, not even Zeb Wells' excellent writing will be able to save it.

The Return of Bruce Wayne #2

Written by Grant Morrison

Art by Frazier Irving

Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

There's something about the anticipation of a mystery that is enthralling in and of itself -- and even as it crosses through time, that's what The Return of Bruce Wayne #2 is all about. How will Bruce Wayne come back from the Omega Sanction? And why are Earth's Mightiest Heroes trying to stop him?

In that regard, Grant Morrison has no answers, only more questions. Bruce Wayne, as a witchhunter, represents Batman's deductive reasoning just as the caveman version of him represented the strength and ferocity of his animalistic totem. Seeing Bruce rationalize in an era of irrationality stirs up some nice conflict -- but for my money, the mystery only gets deeper with the Justice League trying to defuse Darkseid's plans for Batman. It's a twist that's really unexpected, and opens a lot of potential for this series.

In certain ways, Frazier Irving is this chapter's weak link, only because his style makes it a bit difficult to understand who is who -- in this case, Brother Malleus and Bruce seem almost indistinguishable, and because Morrison's strength is not in creating different voices, the storytelling gets a bit jumbled when you don't have the right context to work with. When Bruce isn't with the rest of the witchhunters, however, the book looks superb -- there's a real swashbuckling flair when he takes on a creature from beyond, as he's tossed around by otherworldly tentacles.

Ultimately, I don't know where this series is going to go -- but when it comes to the mystery of Bruce Wayne, the trajectory can be just as important as the destination. Will Grant Morrison manage to stick the landing and tie all these threads together? That remains to be seen -- but with some occasionally muddled art aside, there's enough twists and turns to make The Return of Bruce Wayne a journey worth following.

The Thanos Imperative: Ignition

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Art by Brad Walker, Will Quintana, and Andrew Hennessy

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Kyle DuVall

The Thanos Imperative, Marvel's new cosmic “event” series, has a lot to live up to. First, its preempting two of Marvel’s best titles, Guardians Of The Galaxy and Nova. Its storyline, involving an extradimensional rift scarring space and the Lovecraftian “cancerverse” lurking on the other side, has been painstakingly developed over the better part of a year in five different titles. Thanos Imperative also has to fulfill all the awesome potential implied in the Realm of Kings one shot earlier this year, a story which introduced the “cancerverse” and established it as a Marvel anti-universe populated by supers powered by pacts with Cthulhoid entities. Since War of Kings, writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have cunningly built a cosmic universe scenario that is big enough to fill three or four ongoing titles. Now, it seems, it’s all getting shrunk to a single six-issue event miniseries.

The Thanos Imperative: Ignition takes on the daunting tasks of both whetting the appetites of fans annoyed by the disappearance of their favorite titles, while simultaneously catching up all the newcomers who haven’t followed the past two years of cosmic continuity. In the face of such narrative adversity, writers Abnett, Lanning, penciler Brad Walker, colorist Will Quintana, and inker Andrew Hennessy don’t even flinch. The Thanos Imperative: Ignition is a comic that is scarcely contained by the edges of its pages. Its a comic about big expolsions explosively told.  

Walker’s layouts detonate like cluster bombs on the page, sometimes shattering conventional panel-by-panel arrangements. In Ignition’s most pyrotechnic moments, Walker has no choice but to throw the idea of panels out the window altogether. Witness the two-page spread that gives Thanos’ backstory. A sequence that should be dry exposition, in Walker’s hands becomes a bursting shrapnel shell of concussive images. With Ignition, Walker has definitely equaled if not surpassed Paul Pelletier as chief visualist of the Marvel cosmos. Ignition is as bold thesis statement on Walker's continued mastery as any fan could ask for. (Except for that one panel on page 13 showing the Inhumans... Brad, what happened to Medusa’s face?)  

Of course, it's too bad Lanning won’t be around for the main series. It’s being penciled by Miguel Sepulveda, who’s going to have a lot to live up to after Ignition. But Abnett and Lanning the mad bombers behind it all, aren’t going anywhere, and they haven’t so much used Ignition to light the fuse on their explosive event as they’ve set the timer on a thermonuclear device. Blending Lovecraftiana, alternate universe tropes and the most cunningly and subtly cast ensemble of cosmic players the Marvel U has to offer, The Thanos Imperative has every chance of eclipsing War of Kings, and the Annihilation sagas.  

The only worry (aside from the fact that Walker is not penciling the main series) is that, unlike War of Kings, or Annihilation: Conquest, where events unfolded in a main miniseries, a group of limited series and one or two ongoing series, Thanos Imperative will be restricted to a single linear miniseries. I’m the last person to advocate bloated crossovers, but Marvel’s Cosmic events have been the perfect antidote to the contrived event-driven, synergistic blockbusters that have plagued comicdom.  Abnett and Lanning’s total control over their events give the stories a focus and consistency that is unique.  They’ve perfected a balance between strong central narratives and interesting-but-not-crucial side stories. The consistent and specific ways DNA have integrated the ongoing Guardians Of The Galaxy, and Nova series into their events, with Guardians issues always being in the thick of events, whilst Nova takes on more character-focused, sidereal elements, has been ingenious. On the other hand, one has to give DNA and Marvel massive credit for actually putting their money where their mouths are. Thanos Imperative shows no sign of adding last-minute ancillary series to the main story. This is not Siege. With the first issue hitting next week, it is safe to say that Imperative will indeed be wholly contained within on 6-issue miniseries.  

Maybe the explosive metaphors are a little redundant, but they couldn’t be more appropriate. Thanos Imperative:Ignition is a an exploding supernova of a book, a pinata made of nitroglycerin. Wack it with a stick and you get a face-first blast of cosmic coolness (although, admittedly, the from-the-vault Thanos back-up story by Scott Edelman and Mike Zeck is a bona-fide dud.). As a fan already bitter about the interruption of Nova and Guardians, and a fan who’s never understood the prominence of Thanos in the Marvel U, Ignition has got me seeing the light, even if its just the flash from another cosmic explosion.

Wolverine: Weapon X #13

Written by Jason Aaron

Art by Ron Garney and Jason Keith

Lettering by VC's Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Boy, I feel conflicted writing this review. I absolutely, absolutely, absolutely love what writer Jason Aaron has done for the past two chapters of this book -- and the qualities I loved about those two chapters, Aaron gives us in spades this month. But there is a certain slowing down of the arc as a whole that's troubling, and ultimately keeps this issue from being the hands-down standalone knockout that we all know it could be.

But let's start with the good first. The introduction. I have to give Aaron, along with artists Ron Garney and Jason Keith -- and perhaps most importantly, editor Jeanine Shaefer -- for really utilizing page placement effectively. Once you see the first two pages, you are in, hook, line and sinker -- Garney's composition is stellar, and to be honest, Aaron's leveraging of Marvel's shared universe is an absolute wonder. It's continuity porn at its finest, and it's a blast to see.

And the art -- well, Garney really excels when it comes to the fighting. Captain America and Wolverine have some very strong body language to them -- no two characters operate in the same way, whether it's Wolverine stretching his arms to have the maximum reach, or Bucky diving shield-first to make a more "defensive" offense. That said, because he's not working with a separate inker, there is a sketchiness to the art that might not be for everyone.

Yet with all that good to say, this chapter doesn't quite measure up to the first two -- it's a case of Aaron's ambition just getting a little ahead of himself, causing logic issues and burning through pages that could have been better spent with the lead characters (or even touching upon the seeming cliffhanger from last issue). Aaron pulls out the entire toybox for this issue, with the new New Avengers making an appearance to help out their comrades in need -- but ultimately, the scenes with them in it are talky and seem a little needless, and ultimately make me wonder why the Deathloks don't put a bullet in them rather than handle them with kid gloves. Meanwhile, Cap and Wolverine's bickering feels a little unexpected and shrill -- the two are so much alike, why are they sniping like this? Right now, their inclusion doesn't make this feel like a case for Wolverine and Captain America, and three issues in, we should probably have that sense.

Still, while this chapter stumbles, it certainly still has my attention. Think of Days of Future Past meets the Terminator, set in the Marvel Universe, and it's an equation that's pretty damn tough to ignore. And there is absolutely no doubt that when Jason Aaron connects, he sends the ball right out of the stadium -- the question is whether he can keep his rock-solid ideas within as immaculate of a story structure. If a theme presents itself next issue -- Why Weapon X? Why Wolverine and Cap? -- this could be one of Wolverine's finest moments yet.

Fantastic Four #579

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Neil Edwards, Andrew Currie, and Paul Mounts

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Kyle DuVall

If enough people are really paying attention, Fantastic Four #570 should be one of the most controversial comics published in the 2000’s. Of course, what passes for “controversial” in comics these days is usually gimmickry: juvenile applications of “adult” levels of “realistic” violence and sexuality, “incendiary” political posturings that are really just assertions of what the readership already believes...

But that’s not the kind of controversy Fantastic Four #579 is courting. With this issue writer Jonathan Hickman is laying down a  24-page mission statement for his vision of what the supreme super-scientists of pop culture, the Fantastic Four, need to be. It's a mission that flies in the face of the overwhelmingly dominant worldview of cynicism, scientific antagonism, and hopelessness that has long overstayed its welcome in comics. Global warming, environmental degradation, and political turmoil have eroded our psyches so much, that the hero as an ideal, a hypothetical, purer version of what we wish we could be, is not even allowed in our fantasies. The idea that tomorrow is something to look forward to is anathema. But Hickman wants to take superheroes back, and he’s found the perfect metaphoric vessel in the FF.  

The issue’s centerpiece is a speech by Reed Richards, who closes out a research conference by laying a verbal pimp slap on a bunch of scientific pessimists. It’s one of those special, but too-often ill-conceived, moments when a character seems to be speaking directly for the author whose pulling his strings, but Mr. Fantastic’s critique is more than a transparent act of Mary Sue-ism, it’s a gauntlet thrown down for both the readers and every creator dabbling in the milieu of heroic fiction.

30 years ago Richards’ little speech would be nothing more than an articulation of the status quo. But in a “heroic age” we’ve got a Captain America who packs a pistol, a team of black-ops Avengers conducting unilateral stealth missions, and a version of the X-Men who seem to be going to bat for segregation and supremacy, the sentiments are subversive. In real life, it is irresponsible to believe there are infallible heroes who can save us, but we’ve gone so far that we are no longer allowed to even imagine them. Our heroes today are buried in asterisks.

Hickman has once again built a Fantastic Four with the concept of “family” at its heart, but its the idea of stewardship, of guiding the inheritors of the future, the children, the young, that sets Hickman’s perspective apart. You can easily call this single issue too preachy, too talky, and completely negligent of a good 2/3rds of the FF, but after a 9-issue run that has given us Reed Richards fighting Galactus and Celestials with a super-team of alternate earth counterparts, a dive to the bottom of the Antarctic sea, an expedition to the core of the earth, and a mission to the blue area of the moon, Hickman has more than earned an issue of narrative breath-taking. Issue #579 not only points the reader toward the shape of issues to come, but it illuminates the subtle threads that have been woven in the storyline from issues past. Form the recurring motif of faith in youth ill-served by their elders, to the brilliant way Hickman has posited the Wizard as the literal embodiment of everything Reed is fighting against, this issue reveals Hickman’s previous rip-roaring FF adventures as replete with subtle, newly discernible meanings.  

Perhaps Hickman is just setting us up, maybe this is preemptive hubris. Maybe he’s building Mr. Fantastic up to have just to take him down later in an all-too-familiar epic of modern comics gloominess. If he is, it will have devastating narrative effective, but an inert philosophical one. Hopefully Hickman’s simply wearing his heart on his sleeve with this issue, because as it is now, Hickman’s FF is shaping up to be a keystone run in contemporary comics.

Gotham City Sirens #12

Written by Tony Bedard

Pencils by Peter Nguyen

Inks by Jack Purcell

Colors by Tony Avina

Letters by Steve Wands

Published by DC Comics

Review by Amanda McDonald

"The Angel likes madness. He says you have to be a little unhinged to see true evil for what it is." ~ Maggie, Selina Kyle's litter sister

This book continues to impress me more and more. This issue, with Tony Bedard taking the writing helm, takes us further behind the scenes of the ladies of Gotham. These ladies don't just fight Batman, or swipe jewels-- and this series is doing a lovely job of showing us the rest of their lives. The issue kicks off with Selina and Harley, both worried about loved ones. Selina's younger sister, Maggie, hasn't been seen since that whole Black Lantern thing, and Ivy hasn't returned home from work as expected.

It turns out they have good reason to worry about these two. Ivy is still dealing with a demented employee at the labs, and Maggie. . .  well she's gone a bit mad. The issue centers around Maggie's visit to a world famous exorcist in hopes of exorcising the demon from her sister, Selina. Meeting up later in the issue with Selina and Harley, we see that Maggie has taken on a new persona for herself that is sure to keep the storyline moving along nicely.

This issue takes a refreshing turn with Bedard writing. I've been enjoying the issues that let us see the more human side of these ladies, and this issue does this with finesse. Previously penned by Paul Dini, the series has been a fun and entertaining read, but I can see the need to take it a little deeper story-wise. There are a few puzzling panels in this issue, and I think the art could be a little tighter, and the inks a little lighter. However, these are things noticed only on re-reading the issue-- Bedard's storyline captivated me the first read-through.

Mystery Society #1

Written by Steve Niles

Art by Fiona Staples

Letters by Robbie Robbins

Published by IDW Publishing

Review by Amanda McDonald

Normally, I probably wouldn't have picked up this book. But when I saw the names across the top -- Steve Niles and Fiona Staples -- I had to take a look. I'm not a big horror fan, but I have enjoyed everything I've read by Niles, and Staple's name rung a bell as being an artist that fellow 'Rama writer Lan Pitts has work by in his sketchbook. So being totally blind to any buzz about the story, I picked it up. And promptly fell in love.

Debuting the story of Nick Hammond and his wife, Anastasia Collins, this book is (as Nick makes clear) not an origin story. We don't get any info on why they are the Mystery Society, they just are. We see Nick as a charismatic media spectacle headed to prison as a result of his actions, and his wife Ana wearing an earpiece directing his adventures in Area 51. Niles establishes the relationship between this two without any heavy handed narration, but rather via their flirtatious dialog. This couple is the couple any comic book lover dreams of being a part of -- a true partner-in-crime scenario.

We have a pair of characters that are instantly endearing, and then you add in the art style. Staple's characterizations echo Nile's depiction of these characters and their relationship. We see them smirking, we see them concerned, the dialog and the art could stand alone and still tell their story. Monochromatic backgrounds give the book a very stylized feel, as do the creative and effective panel layouts. I haven't been this excited about an indie type book in a long while, but this has been my pick of the week anytime anyone has asked. This is a book that starts off with a bang, and shows the potential to just keep going up. It has apparently sold out of its first printing, so I'm guessing I'm not breaking any news to you all -- this is definitely a book to pick up.

Double-Shot Review!

Mystery Society #1

Written by Steve Niles

Art by Fiona Staples

Letters by Robbie Robbins

Published by IDW Publishing

Review by Lan Pitts

"Origin stories are so boring. It's not like we were exposed to explosive radiation or born on another planet...we were just exposed to hidden truths that bound us as a couple and that gave our lives purpose." -- Nick Hammond, aka Nick Mystery

With a title like "Mystery Society," you'd think it would be an assembly of villains of supernatural origin from the Golden Age of comics. Or at the very least, a gang who would fight Hanna-Barbera's "Birdman." Well, if you thought either of those, I'm not sorry to disappoint because what the Mystery Society is is way more imaginative and not at all sinister.

To sum it up, an eccentric couple come into a lot of money and form their own club that hunts out the mysteries of the world and expose them as either fake or fraud. Though in the first issue, we see something went wrong and Nick is tried for his actions which leads into a quasi origin story dealing with a Area 51, a new addition to the Mystery Society, and just some really cool gizmos and action. All of it make for a good read on a book that already had so much buzz and didn't disappoint.

Right off the bat, you'll notice the thrilling, stylish art of Fiona Staples. Her style has changed dramatically since we her work on Wildstorm's Hawkmoor series. Believe me, it's for the better. There's an angular style to it that's not too polished, but not overly rough. There's a dynamic sense to the world she's drawn, from the character design, to the spygear, to her page layouts that do wonders for the flow of the story. Speaking of story, here is Steve Niles simply at his best. Both Nick and his wife, Anastasia have a distinct voice and you get a real sense of who they are as individuals and as husband and wife with their flirting and nonchalant towards the macabre, i.e., how somebody could steal Edgar Allan Poe's skull.

This mini-series is sadly that, just a mini-series. I hope the creative team has its chance to tell the story they had envisioned because it has unlimited potential to become one of the books to talk about. I'm hearing the first printing has sold out, so hopefully you got your hands on this one. I'm looking forward to what this book can really do.

Pellet Reviews!

Power Girl #12 (Published by DC Comics, Review by Amanda McDonald): This issue opens with Atlee and PowerGirl headed to the "spa," wearing little to nothing and dipping into waters that wash away one's defenses and allow the bathers to feel uninhibited emotions. As a result we get to see Karen's tough girl facade wash away. This plot device works perfectly for this issue, the last from this creative team. The issue wraps up loose ends, such as the teen boy who has blackmailed Karen Starr previously, and hands over the last of his evidence revealing her as PowerGirl. Satanna is still on the hunt for PeeGee, seducing Sivana to no avail. Business is going well for Karen, and her staff surprises her with a party. Seeing Karen's emotional side endears her even more to the reader. Even though her creative team is leaving, we feel close enough to the character that readers will want to continue to tune in. Where does this story go now? Ultra Humanite has been 'cleansed', everything seems to be going peachy in PowerGirl's world. The Palmiotti/Gray/Conner team has brought PowerGirl back with a bang-- and the book can go anywhere from here. All I know is that I've grown to love this character, and I hope the book continues to kick ass, no matter which direction it goes.

Fall of the Hulks: Savage She-Hulks #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): I expected this book to be a cash-grab from the very first issue. So it's with pleasure that I eat my words, because Jeff Parker has managed to make these tie-ins some really fun reads. Parker really knows how to give both She-Hulks (Lyra and Jennifer) some real charisma and sass -- and it really fits, considering the cartoony styles of Salvador Espin and Jonboy Meyers. While Red She-Hulk does get a little bit of short shrift -- which is to be expected, the main Fall of the Hulks is more of her story -- Parker manages to tie in Lyra and Jennifer's complementary personalities with some of Lyra's slightly loopy backstory and gives it a nice uplifting ending. Does it give a whole lot of answers about the main storyline? No. But does it give some fun moments between Marvel's ever-increasing gamma-powered women? Yes -- this is a book that, quite honestly, deserves to be an ongoing. If you're a fan of any of the She-Hulks, you owe it to yourself to give this book a look.

Teen Titans #83 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): I can't wrap my head around how awful this book is. I guess it's because I don't understand how a title that is centered around teen superheroes, with some having been around for almost twenty years or more, yet they seem to have just lost their voice that made them distinct. There doesn't seem to be a direction for the team, especially Superboy, who just comes across a lot more arrogant as usual. It is as if Felicia Henderson watched "The Hills" and decided this is what teens act like and should be. The art is pretty standard, nothing really to write home about or talk about. I have to admit, the saving grace of this book is the co-feature with the Coven (Black Alice, Traci 13, and Zach Zatara) by Rex Ogle and Ted Naifeh (of Oni's Courtney Crumrin). I wonder why the Coven are the co-feature of this particular book since those three don't really have anymore Titan's business going on. I guess it's because that they are all teenagers as well. I'm not sure if Naifeh is holding back or whether he's adapting his style to be a bit more "mainstream", but it's different from anything he's worked on. Rex Ogle has worked on comics for almost a couple of years now, but hasn't really made his mark, so hopefully this co-feature will get his name out.

In Case You Missed It...

DC Universe Legacies #1

Written by Len Wein

Art by Scott Kolins, Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert, Mike Atiyeh, Brad Anderson, J.G. Jones and Alex Sinclair

Lettering by Rob Leigh

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

Looking at the titles on this book, it's clear that a lot of people are going to buy this book for the father-son dream team of Andy and Joe Kubert. What isn't clear -- at least until you read it -- is that writer Len Wein is just as big of a draw, giving DC Universe Legacies #1 a strong voice that goes well with its easy-going pace.

But let's start with what nails you first -- and yes, that is the Kuberts. It's really fascinating to see Joe's inks over Andy's lines, because that looseness of some of the details -- like the shadows on a young boy's face -- really takes the contemporary and merges it with the classic. There's a lot of detail and mood to the Kuberts' designs, just on everyday things -- evem with Wein's surprising number of panels, the Good Old Days are enough of a set piece for them, even before the superheroes show up. And let's just say their capes and tights aren't too bad, either -- the Atom, in particular, really steals the show with some very unique character work.

Of course, that's not what you're reading this about -- you know the Kuberts are good, I know the Kuberts are good. The question is: is this book readable? The answer is a surprising yes, as Len Wein really gives the whole time period a unique voice. It sounds very much like pulp films, with the swashbuckling patois working nicely with gangsters, street kids and the DC Universe's Mystery Men. I think the biggest obstacle that Wein faces -- and it's not something that's his fault -- is the fact that he has stiff competition with the similarly-veined S.H.I.E.L.D. acting in the same time period, and artist Dustin Weaver acting as a dead ringer for a Kubert.

Someone else that I don't think will get his due credit in all this is J.G. Jones, who draws some really stunning pages for a backup describing the DCU's nascent world of magic. Pairing him up with colorist Alex Sinclair is a great idea, as it gives this a nice photorealistic tone -- in particular, Jones' take on the Spectre is fantastic. Seriously, can somebody hire him to do something like that full-time? It's like watching the storytelling of J.H. Williams with some of the figurework of Doug Mahnke. Really visually appealing stuff.

Of course, the real question that will be asked in upcoming issues is whether or not DC Universe Legacies can get by beyond looks alone. Will there be a message behind the retelling of the mythology? Or is this continuity porn for all of us to get behind and enjoy? The answer is still unclear, but as far as first issues goes, this is a reliable story anchored by some top-tier artwork, and that makes this a book that is an early contender for living up to the huge legacies of DC's 75th anniversary.

DC Preview - BRIGHTEST DAY #2
DC Preview - BRIGHTEST DAY #2
Brightest Day #2

Written by Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi

Art by Ivan Reis, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Joe Prado, Vicente Cifuentes, Tom Nguyen, Rebecca Buchman, David Beaty, Aspen MLT's Peter Steigerwald, John Starr and Beth Sotelo

Lettering by Rob Clark, Jr.

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

In a lot of ways, Brightest Day is feeling like the spiritual successor to DC's first weekly series, 52 -- of course, while 52 picked up a lot of C- and D-listers like Booster Gold and Animal Man, this book feels a bit more important with their choices in the DC pantheon, with the Martian Manhunter and Firestorm leading the pack for this series on second chances.

Of course, while 52 had some very distinctive voices -- with Greg Rucka and Grant Morrison really standing out, alongside Mark Waid and Johns lending a more seamless foundation to it all -- Brightest Day #2 feels more like a singular voice. It's no surprise, considering Johns' history with Peter Tomasi, and the use of retconning and character distillation works particularly well in the case of the Martian Manhunter. It's weird, because on the one hand, J'onn's new status quo is certainly more violent than I think we would have expected just a few years ago, but at the same time, there's a heart to it, a humanity, as he gives an elderly woman just one last chance to reunite with her father. (And J'onn's new antagonist? Well, that's a great, albeit bloody opener.)

Now, that doesn't mean all the rest of the heroes necessarily get by as well. Firestorm's new status quo is probably the next most interesting of the bunch, largely due to the artwork of Scott Clark (who gives the Atom a great redesign, by the by), who drenches the opening with mood in a style similar to that of David Finch. But others, like Deadman, feel like it's a little too much, too soon after the bombastic storytelling of Blackest Night -- the character is feeling a bit more like a framing sequence than an actual three-dimensional person. And despite the awesome-looking Aquaman cover in this book, fans of Mr. Curry will have to wait till next issue, because he really only shows up in one panel.

It's interesting, because with the veritable army of artists on this book, it certainly allows each chapter to stand or fall on their own merits. Artists like Pat Gleason and Clark do some great work, but ultimately, I wouldn't say any of them "own" this book, which does rob Brightest Day of something special. But on the other hand, I would say that Johns and Tomasi do succeed where other weeklies have failed, in the fact that this book feels important, and gives enough good moments of characterization that it certainly is a worth a read. Is this book all it can be yet? I think the jury's still out -- but as far as sophomore issues go, Brightest Day #2 certainly doesn't fall into a slump.

American Vampire #3

Written by Scott Snyder (co-feature by Stephen King)

Art by Rafael Albuquerque

Colors by Dave McCaig

Letters by Steve Wands

Published by Vertigo

Review by Lan Pitts

"You know, I was gonna burn you alive that wreck, but on second thought...why don't you come out and play!" -- Pearl Jones

Color me entranced by this book. You have to admit that Scott Snyder takes very little time with getting with the action, yet still manages to move along the story. There's no "talking at a table" scene here, you just get to witness newly-made vampire Pearl following her instincts and getting the job done. She still has a hint of humanity in her, but when it comes down to going after her own kind (or at least another species), she doesn't even blink. Snyder has some creative ways on the old vampire on vampire violence and it's extremely entertaining.

With Stephen King handling the Skinner Sweet backstory, and Snyder doing the main story, we see how both Sweet and Pearl handle being so-called creatures of the night. The interesting part here is how Sweet is depicted by both authors. While Snyder has him come across as a malevolent mentor, King has him sort play the bad ass. An amalgam of Wolverine, Batman, and Freddy Krueger. Essentially, somebody who you wouldn't want to cross in a dark alley. I sort of see him as the Vic Mackey of comics: somebody who you wouldn't want to be friends with, but you end up rooting for him anyways.

Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig are masterminds, plain and simple. Two parts of the issue, two stories, with two completely different styles. On Pearl's feature, we have a more polished, traditional look with lovely hues of red and desert yellow to diamond blues, all looking marvelous. With Sweet's tale, McCaig uses a more painted vision, almost dreamlike and it paints an entirely new picture of the world Snyder has conceived. All the while, Alburquerque's pencils still hold the tone and visceral feel of the book.

I can't help but wondering where this book will go from here. It's a great concept, with wonderful visuals. If you're not reading American Vampire, you have my sympathy, because you are truly missing out on some bloody good times.

In Case You Missed it... Pellets!

Iron Man: Noir #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): Second issue in of this four-part series, I find it interesting we've only seen the Iron Man suit of this universe only once and it wasn't even utilized. The cover comes across as misleading since it's not even in this issue at all, so I can understand if some people feel let down. I, on the other hand, am enjoying this adventure that really wouldn't qualify as "noir" as it comes across more as a 1930's serial, or as an Indiana Jones-like tale. Nazis, mysticism, Atlantis, and all. Where previous installments of Marvel's "noir" line have more to do with the artistic approach, this take on Iron Man is definitely more writer-centric. Not to say there's anything wrong with Manuel Garcia's style, it's rough and fits the story, but nothing to really write home about. This has been my favorite in the "noir" series since the first X-Men: Noir run and looking forward where Tony takes us next.

 

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