Best Shots Comic Reviews: HAWKEYE/ MOCKINGBIRD, RED HOOD

Marvel 1st Look: HAWKEYE & MOCKINGBIRD 1

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The Thanos Imperative #1

Written by DnA

Pencils by  Miguel Angel Sepulveda

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Troy Brownfield

The fit, as they say, has indeed hit the shan.  Followers of Marvel’s cosmic titles know that the menace of The Fault has been growing since the end of the “War of Kings”.  Now, the Cthulhu-fueled Cancerverse begins its in earnest incursion into the 616.  Aligning against the threat are the usual cosmic suspects (Nova, the Silver Surfer, Gladiator, the Inhumans, and more), but the guys that think that have the best plan are, of course, the guys that always have terrible plans, my beloved Guardians of the Galaxy.  Their idea?  Fight this menace to existence with another menace.  Yep.  Thanos.  Obviously, this will be a good time.

It should come as no surprise by now that the first issue is an action-packed, frequently humorous blast.  DnA rock the Marvel spaceways, and they’ve grown extremely confident in their ability to handle sprawling casts in epic situations.  We’re talking the collapse of existence here, and two of the big heroes are a heat-packing raccoon and a telepathic cosmonaut dog.  Who else does that?  The writers manage to make just about everything work, and that’s saying something, considering there are literally dozens of threads at play here.

Aside from the Guardians (big fun as always), I like the way that DnA have grown Nova into a capable leader.  Sure, he’s a veteran hero, and even has that Avengers card now.  But DnA built on Giffen from the first Annihilation and segued Nova into a natural leadership role.  I’ve also enjoyed their work with Gladiator; that guy’s been hanging around Marvel-space since the ‘70s, and he’s never had more personality than he does now.

There is a danger, of course, with event comics.  DnA, however, have done a banner job since taking on Annihilation Conquest and their successive pods.  I don’t have any inkling now that this will be any different.  “The Thanos Imperative” looks to be one of the most enjoyable reading experiences of the year; it’s a summer blockbuster backed by humor and characters I actually care about.

Hawkeye and Mockingbird #1

Written by Jim McCann

Art by David Lopez, Alvaro Lopez and Nathan Fairbairn

Lettering by VC's Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

First issues are always a moving target -- but when it comes to Hawkeye and Mockingbird #1, let's just say that with humor, action and some smooth retelling of the Marvel mythos, Jim McCann and David Lopez have definitely scored a bullseye. While it's a direct sequel to the duo's New Avengers: The Reunion, it's a strong opener that will hook readers into the exploits of one of the Marvel Universe's premier power couples.

Ultimately, I think Jim McCann's biggest strength in this book is that he lays out the foundations of Clint and Barbara's future stories by introducing a slew of plot threads with a surprising amount of lightness. It also doesn't hurt that he opens with a fantastic action sequence, one that shows that there's still a few more trick arrows in Hawkeye's quiver -- and that a bow and arrow can be pretty darn cool in the hands of the right writer. But there's a lot of good plotting here, whether it's the spy stuff or the family drama, all of which could lead to some great conclusions.

And David Lopez. The speed and emotion he conveys in this book -- combined with the superb atmosphere generated by colorist Nathan Fairbairn -- shows that he's just as inhumanly enthused about this project as McCann is. He absolutely sells some great moments here, especially with Hawkeye's bag of trick arrows and how they interact with an environment. Something I really enjoyed about Lopez's work was also the fact that you could tell that the characters were wearing a mask -- as in, they have the same facial qualities both with and without. It's a subtle touch, but it's one that's really appreciated.

With bows and arrows, spies and guns, heroes and villains and the World Counterterrorism Agency, there is a lot for Jim McCann and David Lopez to work with for Hawkeye and Mockingbird -- and after reading this first issue, I am definitely excited to see where it goes next. It's lighthearted swashbuckling with romance and intrigue, and ultimately it's got the same infectious fun factor as a book like Incredible Hercules. Just like the skills of its titular heroes, this is a book you can't miss.

Judd Winick Returns to [RED] HOOD
Judd Winick Returns to [RED] HOOD
Red Hood: The Lost Days #1

Written by Judd Winick

Art by Pablo Raimondi and Brian Reber

Lettering by Pat Brousseau

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad book -- but even with a different artist paired up with Judd Winick, this first issue of Red Hood: The Lost Days seems a little familiar.

What do I mean? Well, Winick already has written a brief origin of Jason Todd's new status quo, right around the time of Infinite Crisis. And despite the "Superboy Punch" method of Jason's resurrection, I actually really dug Winick's take on the character, as he toed the line between wisecracker and sadist, of antihero and off-the-wall villain. While the idea of how Jason Todd came from the Lazarus Pit to possessing physical and financial assets to rival that of Bruce Wayne does sound interesting to me, the big double-edged sword of this issue is that that particular journey hasn't even started yet.

For those who missed Winick's turn with Doug Mahnke on the book, that's probably a good thing, as they'll jump on board with few problems. For those who have already read that arc, however, it feels like Winick retelling his own story. Certainly there's a few more moments in here that weren't seen before -- like Jason refusing to fight back when it's Talia smacking him around, or Ra's telling his daughter that Batman is incapable of the gratitude she seeks -- but it doesn't quite feel like enough new material here. Where Winick succeeds is where he's already gone before: Jason Todd hasn't been this interesting as a character, well, since Winick first brought him back from the grave in 2006.

But while the story does kind of feel like it's running in place a bit, I found myself really enjoying the artwork by Pablo Raimondi. Think of Butch Guice, only cartoonier, with a hint of Doug Braithwaite in the faces. Raimondi excels when he has to bring in force, whether physical or emotional -- indeed, there's a sequence where a brain-damaged Jason Todd suddenly lashes out, with the force of the blows literally breaking through the panels. Colorist Brian Reber does some great work, as well, especially when using the grays and reds of Jason Todd's new life.

Ultimately, I think that while this issue may be running uphill -- indeed, it's coming out more than four years after Jason Todd's return -- there is a lot of potential here. Judd Winick knows how to give Jason Todd a voice, even when he doesn't speak, which is why it's too bad that this particular chapter feels like a retread of one of his previous issues. But this is one series I wouldn't judge based on the first issue -- now that the backstory has been told, there is a lot of globetrotting to catch up on, and in that regard, new readers will absolutely be able to follow. In a lot of ways, Red Hood: The Lost Days is a lot like Jason Todd himself -- this book looks great and has more in it than we know, even if, at least at first, it doesn't have a whole lot to say.

The Waking #4

Written by:  Raven Gregory

Pencils by:  Vic Drujiniu

Colors by:  Mark Roberts

Lettering by:  crank!

Published by Zenescope Entertainment

Review By:  Jeff Marsick

It’s mind-boggling to me how this book isn’t on every pull list in the country.  Especially those of you out there who are dead heads (the zombie variety, I mean, not the Grateful) and appreciate a smart, well-thought out and executed yarn.  It all comes to a head in this, the last issue of the series.

Jonathan’s ability is to “awaken” the dead, but he’s let his defenses down inadvertently raised a couple people, and since the first issue it’s just been one big Faberge shampoo commercial, each new shuffler bringing two friends and them bringing two and on and anon until it’s just one big Romerothon in the city streets.  Jonathan’s not a bad guy, just a guy with a talent who only wanted to get justice for his dead daughter and protect her in the bargain. That road to Hell, though, it’s paved with good intentions, and Jonathan’s basically autobahning his way to an eternal charbroiling.

This issue is also about choices, not just the ones that have been made, but a tough one that needs to be made, and it was surprising (in a good way) to see the cop, Vanessa, make it.  I liked the ending, not only for the ultimate resolution of the plot, but also for the fact that it’s not wrapped up all in a tidy little bow.  Go ahead, read into that last page’s image and shiver a bit that this isn’t over.  Not by a long shot.

I’ve said it before that Raven Gregory has made a name for himself as a writer, but this book crushes any impressions you may have had of him before and elevates him to a new level.  I’d love to see him do crime noir.  

When I first read this series it was a pdf in black and white, and this re-read in color is slightly less impressive visually.  The inks are often very heavy, which bleeds out definition and casts far too many shadows.  Still, if that’s the only real complaint, that ain’t all bad.

Go get this series, all four issues of it.  Read it and then come back and thank me for the recommendation.  And don’t ever doubt me again.

The Barry Windsor Smith Conan Archives Vol. 2

Published by: Dark Horse Comics

Written by Roy Thomas

Art by Barry Windsor Smith

Review by Tim Janson

This is the second hardcover volume collection Barry Windsor’s Smith early 1970s Conan stories published originally by Marvel Comics.  This edition collects issues # 12 – 16, 19 – 23, and stories from Savage Tales Magazeine # 2 & 3.  Here we see Smith display less of the Jack Kirby influence that permeated his work early in his career and develop the style were used to seeing today.  Smith was an artist that really benefited from a good inker and the best inker was normally himself, you can notice a marked difference in the detail and depth of the work when he inks his pencils, compared to someone like Dan Adkins.

This edition contains the two-part story where Conan teams with another famous swords & sorcery character, Elric of Melnibone.  The story was plotted by Elric creator Michael Moorcock and its quite amazing today that this team-up ever happened.  A tribute to the days when licensed properties were not tied up in as much red tape as it is today.  It’s not a great story as Conan tales go but its fun to see these two very different characters together.  

The book includes the first comic adaptation of the original Robert E. Howard Conan story, “The Frost Giant’s Daughter”.  One of Howard’s shortest tales it finds Conan pursuing a beautiful girl across the frozen northlands, leading him into a trap where he is attacked by her giant brothers.  Also included is the first appearance of Red Sonja from Conan # 23 & 24.  Contrary to belief, Sonja was created by Roy Thomas but based upon two of Howards’ characters: Red Sonya who appeared in the story “Shadow of the Vulture” which Thomas adapted for issue #23, and Dark Agnes de Chastillon, a sword woman in 16th-century France.  Also of note is that Smith did not depict Red Sonja her well-known bikini scale mail—that would come later. Here she is dressed a bit more conservatively, in a long-sleeved mail shirt and short pants of red silk.

As a special treat. Dark Horse reprints the story from Chamber of Darkness #4 that served as a tryout for Conan.  The barbarian named Starr the Slayer looked exactly like Conan.  

Tales From Wonderland #8 (Tales from Wonderland: The White Knight)

Written by:  Troy Brownfield

Art by:  Tommy Patterson

Colors by:  Jeff Balke, Alex Owens, Jason Embury

Lettering by:  crank!

Published by Zenescope Entertainment

Review By:  Jeff Marsick

Newsarama’s own Troy Brownfield gets the writing credit for this issue, “The White Knight”, but the book’s transition from regular writing crew to guest spot is so seamless that you’d think Mr. Brownfield had been doing this since the series began.

The titular character is Leon du Lac, son of Guenevere and Lancelot, who is raised and trained by Merlin during the ebb of the Arthurian era.  As his kingdom falls, Leon escapes through a magical mirror into Wonderland where he discovers and dons enchanted armor which serves double protective duty:  against the monsters he must war upon and smite, as well as against the madness of Wonderland that seeks to infect all who enter.

As the White Knight, Leon quickly learns that the horrors of Wonderland can find their way into his reality.  Goaded into battle by the Queen of Spades, Leon vanquishes all comers, until there is left but one, the ultimate test of his mettle.  Caught in a damned-if-he-do-damned-if-he-don’t, no matter how noble the man in the armor may be he is still just that, a man, and prone to baser impulses.  Which means there ain’t no amount of Tarn-X on a Wal-Mart shelf that’s gonna remove that eventual blemish from a paladin’s veneer.  And ultimately, perhaps it matters not a whit, for everyone who enters Wonderland becomes a pawn between its two ruling queens anyway.

It’s an engaging tale, as all Tales From Wonderland books are, although I like this one the best of late—aside from the fellow Newsaramian represented—simply because of the artwork.  Tommy Patterson’s pencils are more solid than the last several issues and less cartoony, especially in the action sequences.  The colors are a little more subdued, casting something of a pall on the book and intimating that anything white and brilliant is doomed to fade in short order.  The inking, too, normally thick enough to jump rope with, is gentler, allowing the colors and pencils to breathe.  It’s just a good-looking book and I hope this artistic team gets the call to do more together.

If there’s a problem with this issue, it’s the same problem I’ve had with several in this series:  I want more.  Just as it gets to the point where I’m settled in and committed, it’s over, silenced with a three letter guillotine when what I would rather see is “To Be Continued”.  Leon du Lac has more story to give, and if Tales ever becomes War For Wonderland (which would set a new record for awesome, in my opinion) Leon would be a major player.

A solid story and definitely worth picking up.

 

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