Best Shots Reviews: SUPERMAN #700, X-MEN LEGACY #237, More

Best Shots Reviews: SUPERMAN #700, More

Greetings, Rama-readers. Troy Brownfield here. For the past five years and three months, I've been the "host" and team captain of Best Shots here at Newsarama. To say that's been a life-changing experience would be an understatement. I put together a team of people that have become valued co-workers and truly indispensible friends. My oldest son was only two months old when the column started, and now he enters kindgarten in two months. It's been fun, frustrating, crazy, and unforgettable. I tell you all of this now because I've decided to step down as the showrunner here at Best Shots. I'm still going to be sticking around at Newsarama over on Blog@ and in my capacity as a columnist for the mothership, but a variety of factors (that will be become more evident in the coming months) have led me to decide that I can't run a review team any longer. Best Shots will now be in the able hands of David Pepose. You already know David from here, Blog@, and his truly excellent beard. Be kind to him. At any rate, thanks for reading, and I'll see you around. David? Take it.

...Wow. Hello, 'Rama readers.

It's your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, and I have to say, it's an honor to be here. It's a little scary to be responsible for what's been Troy's baby all along -- but believe me, if there's anyone who deserves a heroic exit, it's him. But let me tell you a little bit about the future of Best Shots -- namely, it's not going anywhere. We've been talking with creators, publishers, you name it -- and the verdict is, "more reviews, faster."

Reviews, in my mind, aren't just to get the thumbs-up, thumbs-down opinion on a book -- when they're done right, they can raise the level of discourse about this medium. As a wise man once said, "with great power, comes great responsibility" -- and we see this responsibility to all our readers, fans and industry officials alike, as the utmost importance. So keep an eye on our team, as we'll be having new ideas, new features, and new team members to look at the best and the brightest of the comicsphere. We'll leave you with the message that there is assuredly more to come: Troy Brownfield may be riding off into the sunset, but when you see Best Shots: Reloaded, you'll find that you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Superman #700

Written by James Robinson, Dan Jurgens and J. Michael Straczynski

Art by Bernard Chang, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Eddy Barrows, J.P. Meyer, Blond, Pete Pantazis, and Rod Reis

Lettering by John J. Hill

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

While #700 is a pretty big number, it's up, up and away for Superman in this anniversary issue, as he barely touches down from World of New Krypton before entering the next stage of his never-ending battle. While the result is a little scattershot, there are some moments of greatness that do give this book some wings, even if it doesn't necessarily live up to the promise of this anniversary.

If there's anyone who comes out a winner in this issue, in my mind it's outgoing writer James Robinson. While Robinson has been maligned a lot for much of his recent work, it's ironic that for his final issue, he's really allowed to just write Superman. Not Superman in Space. Not the Metropolis Guardian, or Jimmy Olsen, or Codename: Assassin. But Superman, in the paradigm with which he works best: Saving the world and coming back to his true love, Lois Lane. It humanizes Clark in a way we haven't seen in far too long, due in part because of the breath of fresh air that Bernard Chang gives the story. In particular, his Lois looks absolutely gorgeous -- and while Chang's faces aren't always the most consistent, it just feels... nice.

Meanwhile, a story by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund feels light enough, but ultimately it had me scratching my head -- why here? Why at #700? Superman is going places that less than a handful of series have ever hit before, and we have a story that's really starring Robin? When you get over the placement, it's a cute story, with Jurgens and Rapmund's Robin almost reminding you of a Marc Bagley drawing, particularly when he's leaping around with the greatest of ease. The ending in particular is a cute way of showing Superman and Robin's relationship -- it's not a bad story, but it's surprising it wasn't in the recent Batman anniversary issue, instead of here.

The real question, of course, comes from a 10-page preview of J. Michael Straczynski's upcoming arc, "Grounded." Is it a little frustrating that we seemingly only get half a chapter? A bit, especially after Grant Morrison's triple-feature in the recent Batman #700. It's weird, because I love J. Michael Straczynski's work -- I have all his trades on Spider-Man, Thor, even Rising Stars -- but right now, something doesn't feel right about this premise. Whether it's seeing the street-friendly Batman and Flash act uncharacteristically distant from mankind or having Superman lose confidence in himself because he didn't use his powers for medicine instead of preventing genocide, I'm not convinced yet.

I think part of my hesitance, to be honest, is with artist Eddy Barrows -- it's not that I have a problem with him as an artist, but it's hard to have a clean break from before without giving Straczynski a new artist with a new style. And whereas Barrows was killing it with the panel layouts in Blackest Night: Superman, here we're treated to thin panels that cause the reader to blank out, not tune in. Considering the story is called "The Slap Heard Around the World," it's too bad that I had to reread the page twice to see it.

Considering it's a big month for Superman, it's a little sad that we couldn't just take the time to remember who he is at his core, and appreciate him for what he is. Superman is the man whose heart is stronger than steel, whose patience is more powerful than a locomotive, whose love for humanity will make him leap far more than tall buildings to save the day. There are plenty of things to like about this book -- particularly when we see Superman at his most human -- but I do find myself worrying that Superman is moving from stunt to stunt. Maybe that's the birthday present DC needs to give Superman, and vice versa -- the greatest super-power of all: the ability to just be yourself.

Power Girl #13

Written by Judd Winick

Art by Sami Basri and Sunny Gho

Lettering by John J. Hill

Published by DC Comics

Review by Amanda McDonald

Click here for preview

Green Lantern Corps #49

Written by Tony Bedard

Art by Adrian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes

Colors by Randy Mayor and Gabe Eltaeb

Lettering by Steve Wands

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

Make no bones about it -- Green Lantern Corps is going to be Tony Bedard's chance to shine. If you had asked me six months ago if I thought that this book would survive without Peter Tomasi, I would have been skeptical, but with Bedard at the helm, this book is an underrated gem that shouldn't be missed.

A lot of times, people don't remember that before he was a writer, Tony Bedard worked as an associate editor on Grant Morrison's run of JLA. But you see the same ease with character -- not just with the emotions and status quos of John Stewart, Kyle Rayner and the rest, but simply the balancing act that comes with so many secondary and tertiary characters. Even two pages being devoted to the Brightest Day event don't stop Bedard's momentum. And his use of the Alpha Lanterns, a group of characters that have felt a little underutilized since their inception, is really compelling: "What happened to all your passions, Boodikka?" John Stewart asks, as we stare into the Alpha Lantern's dead eyes. "My 'passion,'" she says, "Has been... repurposed."

Watching penciller Adrian Syaf, meanwhile, is an interesting exercise. With inker Vicente Cifuentes, Syaf's lines have hints of an old-school scratchiness in the realm of a Jim Aparo -- but because of the high-blast colors of Gabe Eltaeb, the image looks like nothing else. There are times where Syaf still shows that he's a little fresh -- John Stewart's sharply angled face looks jarringly like Jason Statham, and a one-page montage of Boodikka's past looks a little smooshed -- but he has a real knack for showing the various Green Lanterns in flight, with no two people soaring the stars alike. Only occasionally does Eltaeb stumble with the colors -- while the rainbows of hyperspace look garish, his opening page is a masterful use of green, skin and steel.

Looking at this story, it feels a little old-school, a little down-to-earth compared to the bombastic one-upsmanship that can inform what DC and Marvel do next. But at the same time, this story feels exciting on its own merits -- we don't need the White Lantern to make us care about John Stewart struggling against an Alpha Lantern horde, we don't need undead friends and foes to illuminate the conflict in Kyle Rayner's life. All we need are the rings, the characters, the will -- and in that regard, Tony Bedard has worked some real wonders in this book, precisely because it stands on its own two feet.

X-Men Legacy #237

Written by Mike Carey

Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Justin Ponsor

Lettering by Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Brendan McGuirk

Click here for preview

The best compliment one can pay to part 12 of a 14-part megastory is that it makes for a fun comic unto itself. Even for the readers that haven't kept pace with the X-universe's every weekly installment, X-Men Legacy #237 serves up a story complete with unconquerable sentinels, a wholly resolute Magneto, familial in-fighting during wartime, and a team of underdogs persecuted by a world that fears and misunderstands them. And on top of all that, readers are given reason to believe that Doug Ramsey's powers can be useful! Uncanny indeed.

On the grand scale, the Messiah and now Second Coming X-events successfully created streamlined narratives that have holistically united the mutant race in singular struggles for basic racial survival. Hope, who personifies mutantkind's uphill struggle in staving off extinction, has gone from newborn to full-on X-Man during these broad strokes, and her long journey has become the most memorable single mutant's character arc since that other volatile redhead had her Saga.

Pitfalls abound in intraseries crossovers of this nature. Creators must strike a fine balance in progressing chapters from point A to point B without allowing their tales to devolve merely into a hodgepodge of telegraphed plot points. A certain contingency of readership will cry foul no matter how these multi-part stories are executed, but in this issue Mike Carey does a fine job providing substance that satisfies while bringing broader advancement to Second Coming's plot.

Heavy on action and emotionally charged close ups, this story is readily suited to Greg Land's style. His line is well grounded by the inking touch of Jay Leisten, who tempers Land's photo-referential characters with an illustrative flair to make for a less distracting style. In toning down that trademark beauty magazine gloss, Land's strengths as a storyteller become more readily apparent, better serving the story. Whether it is Hope's thrashing rage or Cable's steeled determination, it is those high-octane character moments that Land nails, giving a full pronunciation to the story beats.

This issue of X-Men Legacy doesn't spend each page challenging readers with the nuanced plight of those who are born different. It won't make you see mutants in new ways. But it is bombastic, visually vibrant, and shows a bunch of mutants fighting killer robots. It's summertime. Find somewhere with air conditioning, kick back, and enjoy the blockbuster.

Zatanna #2

Written by Paul Dini

Art by Stephane Roux, Karl Story and John Kalisz

Lettering by Pat Brosseau

Published by DC Comics

Review by Amanda McDonald

Click here for preview

I love magic. I love mysticism. I love things that go bump in the night. Not things that go CRASH in the night and scare my pants off-- just "bump," enough to creep me out a little bit and send a shiver up my spine. This second issue of the long awaited Paul Dini penned series does just that.

Stephane Roux's cover brings to mind the imagery of classic magician posters, with muted tones and elegant script. Teasing the reader with characters including the arch foe, the nightmare, and the ghostly ally -- in this issue, Zee faces a challenge of the supernatural type named Fuseli, who can travel from nightmare to nightmare. This is a great situation in which we see the extent of Zatanna's abilities as she deals with a villain who has skills that could potentially rival her own.

The panel design and splash pages amp up the action of the book even more. With vibrant backgrounds immersing the characters into the supernatural setting, John Kalisz's colors really have a chance to shine. Considering the dark tone of the book, and the night time setting, Karl Story's inks are not heavy handed and compliment Roux's detailed style very well. Dini crafts a story that appeals to both new fans and long time Zatanna lovers, with an ending that made my jaw drop. This team is putting together a very high quality book full of superhero action, supernatural chills, and lots of "hex" appeal.

Powers #5

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Michael Avon Oeming and Nick Filardi

Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Icon

Review by Brendan McGuirk

Remember when Walker was untouchable?

It seems so long ago that Christian Walker typified the heroic archetype; mysterious in both history and motivation, interpersonally aloof, yet always seemingly in complete control. It was his partner Deena who was the wild card, while Walker played the part of the rock. We now know scores more about Walker, both about the long road he has traveled and the scars he bears as a result. And Walker's scars run deep.

Laid low by loneliness, in Powers #5 Walker finds himself in a dark place, reminiscing on dark times.

“They all %*!#'in leave me.”

When you're talking about a near-infinite timeline, that's some heavy stuff, even for slurred drunk-talk.

It is easy to credit the audacity of Powers for the way the story dutifully pushes forever onward. There are no rehashes, and most resolutions of conflict lead to only greater and more complex issues. Walker, though, is the constant. No matter the time or place, Walker is there, doing his earnest best to make his influence on the world a positive one, and paying the price. In the last volume of the series, it was Deena who faced the character crisis, and was put through the ringer. Now, it's Walker's turn.

After coming tantalizingly close to true contentment, Walker has it all ripped away, all over again. Suddenly, Walker's “curse,” to forget large chunks of his many lives, finds its absolute internal logic. Of course he forgets, of course he buries it all. Of course it is a defense mechanism, because without that therapeutic, whitewashing suppression, no one could shoulder the load of immortality while yet retaining the desire to be a human, with a human life. Once again, Walker bought in, all in, and was settling into the foundation he'd laid for a real life. And once again, his burden has taken it all away from him.

Only hints have been given for the Powers expiration date, but with Deena's descent and now Walker's, there is reason to believe we are approaching the final act. There's only so low these characters can go before they become irretrievable. But we're not there yet, and there is no purpose in predicting what will come next. The only thing we know for certain is that, despite himself, Walker will walk on. And, just as certainly, they'll all die on him again.

The Muppet Show #7

Written by Roger Langridge

Art by Amy Mebberson and Eric Cobain

Lettering by Deron Bennett

Published by BOOM! Studios

Review by Lan Pitts

"Oh, man. That's one big hunk o'bear!...Oh I'm not judging. I just...well, I kind of am. Sorry." -- Skeeter

Color me late to the Muppet comic bandwagon. Leave it to me to find a book after it's been talked about for almost a year and garnered an Eisner nomination. I wouldn't consider this a "kiddie" book, but more like an all-ages book. It read like an episode of the Muppet Show would and did. You have a Rowlf poetry session, Piiiiigs Innnnn Spaaaaace, musical numbers and of course an actual story going on. This time, Fozzie is trying to impress his visiting mother who he lied to about to saying he's a personal assistant to a famous detective, as well as having a girlfriend (Skeeter, Scooter's sister) in fear of being arranged by somebody of his mother's choosing.

It's hard to imagine my childhood without the Muppets, or even anybody's from my generation and if this issue is any indication of what I've been missing out on or what we can expect later down the road, then I am sorry I've missed out on some good times, but know I'm on board for further adventures.

Robert Langridge channels the world Henson and company created exquisitely and giving all the Muppets their distinct voice. I could hear Rowlf, Fozzie and Kermit in my mind when I read this and it didn't skip a bit. Nothing felt out of place or odd. Amy Mebberson's style is probably the selling point on the book. The characters look like you remember, and not some puppets. They look and feel real, and I don't mean in a live-action sort of way. There's some real heart in her art, as you can see the emotion between Fozzie and his mother and how she's proud of him of living his dream, something we all want to do with our lives. The use of facial expression of course exceeds what puppetry art can do at times and the characters come across as real people, well as real people as a frog and bear can get.

So, please, don't be like me and just let a good and fun read pass you by and pick this book up.

Justice League: The Rise of Arsenal #4

Written by JT Krul

Art by Geraldo Borges, Kevin Sharpe, Fabio Jansen, Marlo Alquiza, Scott Hanna and Hi-Fi

Lettering by Travis Lanham

Published by DC Comics

Review by Kevin Huxford

Well, that's over. We've quite possibly seen four of the top ten worst superhero comic books ever... all spawned from one mini-series, generated from a previous mini/event that is starting to look respectable in comparison (Justice League: Cry For Justice).

There's been a lot of focus on this series. All of it negative...and all of it deserved. All but the first issue have had three pencil artists and at least two inkers. For the life of me, I can't understand why. It wasn't rush solicited and it isn't such an important book that several others would be damaged by it running late. The only explanation I can come up with is constant re-writes. Why do I feel this is likely the case?

Because one of the hallmarks of the series, continued in this issue, is inconsistency and things that just don't make any sense.

We have keys switching sides on an orderly's belt and his co-worker seemingly oblivious to physically struggling with Roy. Then there's a super-villain wearing his costume under his prison uniform and then having that directly contradicted by a comment by Harper. Of course, a jailed Green Arrow walking around in his full costume barely gets one to bat an eye after that. We have terrible perspective in the art, with blades that go from looking like knives to short swords and back again from one panel to the next. One of those blades somehow pulls a cellblock switch when thrown straight, which manages to damage the reader's ability to suspend disbelief more, something that previously seemed impossible. Yet I still paused out of incredulity when I noticed a large blotch of blood somehow wind up on a wall that would have been shielded by the attacker's body.

There's not much to say about the writing that hasn't already been said in reviews all across the internet for the first three issues. It's written at all times for extreme shock value, which leads to a product that only manages to be entertaining through the same way one might enjoy a movie that wins a Razzie: laughing with friend at how bad it is, as you gather together to pick it apart.

Pellet Reviews!

Justice League: Generation Lost #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Kevin Huxford): This was the first book I read this week. Not so much because it was the one I most looked forward to (it was, but I sometimes read those last), but because I was able to wake up and buy it without putting on pants, thanks to it being DC's first day/date digital release. This issue was easily the best of the bunch so far, as they've finally "got the band back together" (more or less), injected more humor into the story and now seem prepared to shed some light on what Maxwell Lord is up to, which will give a little more meaning/direction to the conflict. There was what appears to be a glaring inconsistency in how they tied this to Blackest Night/Brightest Day with Lord's "situation", but it's an interesting enough choice and might have an explanation offered as to why it didn't happen earlier. So I'll hold steady with my suspension of disbelief and look forward to reading the next issue.

Avengers #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by George Marston; Click here for preview): The Avengers are dead! Long live the Avengers! The flagship title of the new Heroic Age, Avengers marks a very different direction for the Bendis helmed Avengers panoply. While it's not necessarily "Less Talk, More Rock," there's definitely a better balance of both going on. This issue starts out with the gang picking right up where the last one left off, enlisting Noh-Varr to aid in dealing with Kang's dilemma. Meanwhile, an obviously distressed Wonder Man shows up and causes some trouble, setting the whole operation back in the process. Bendis's willingness to cash in on Avengers history is definitely the strongest change in the tone of his writing on this series. Unfortunately, some of his old operating tactics are still taking point. Bendis too often introduces a new team member simply by having another member say, "I know a guy..." That's the case with Wolverine's introduction of Noh-Varr to the team, and it's the one weak point in an otherwise strong showing.

Green Arrow #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Kevin Huxford; Click here for preview): If we had to go through the Fall of Green Arrow to get to this, I'm retroactively more disappointed in that story. Turning the character completely into a Robin Hood carbon copy feels easy and lazy. That the first issue uses a truckload of exposition to "tell us" instead of "show us" only reinforces that feeling. Where Krul seems to be angling this story to go seems like it works as well in a shared universe as a dead cat works as a weapon (which is to say: poorly). When you have to introduce a power-draining forest in order to make No Man's Land redux work, it should be a rather loud alarm ringing in your head to warn that it's just not going to work.

Ultimate Avengers #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): Hey kids -- do you like violence? That's what this book has in spades, with antiheroes like the Punisher and the new Black Widow taking on Mark Millar's Ghost Rider. I don't how he does it, but from Ketch's very first words, you have such a clear voice in your head -- in a lot of ways, Millar is getting his swagger back. It's still action figure violence, but he still manages to make feats like the Punisher running 125 miles per hour sound pretty darn cool. In a lot of ways, the intro of the story -- as well as the origin of the Ultimate Ghost Rider, which is reminiscent to Spawn but feels so much cleaner -- is the real meat here, with a lot of the interpersonal stuff with Gregory Stark and the Black Widow feeling a little bit too much like mean-spirited fluff. (Although Stark does get a great gag at Carol Danvers' expense.) Leinil Francis Yu, meanwhile, is absolutely killing it with this book -- the harsh angles and shadows of his work, the griminess of his characters, the power of his blows, they all fit exceedingly well to the tone of Millar's work. And while it's still a cracked-mirror version of his earlier, more profound work on Ultimates this book also gets some real focus by the end, showing just how deep the rabbit hole really goes. The answer might not be to get a bigger gun, but boy does Millar make some fireworks with it.

Jurassic Park #1 (Published by IDW; Review by Brendan McGuirk): After the legions of mediocre sequels and cynical toys, one could have almost forgotten the pure conceptual joy in a world of dinosaurs among us. Bob Schreck, Nate Van Dyke and Jamie Grant bring readers back to Michael Crichton's playground, where the only things that stops dinosaurs from inhabiting our zoos are red tape, horror stories and possibly the threat of litigation. This is a really fun variety of sequel, not dwelling on past minutia, and wasting little time to get to the core of what made the original a success. Van Dyke provides some mean looking dinos, and after an unlucky thirteen years since the end of the original Jurassic Park film, humanity is once again proving itself incapable of basic restraint in the face of profit. The dinosaurs are back, the Murphy kids are back, and anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Just hope there are no velociraptors.

Namora One-Shot (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald; Click here for preview): As part of the ongoing Women of Marvel series, this Namora one-shot is a good introduction for someone like me, previously unfamiliar with the character. My only previous exposure to the character is in the Her-oes series, which places her in high school. I've been enjoying that series enough to want to know more about her, so the timing of this book was spot on. I really enjoyed this read. Jeff Parker skillfully writes a story that keeps the action moving, but also effectively tells the back story of the character. The art and colors by Sara Pichelli and Rachelle Rosenberg, respectively, are what pushed me from just considering picking up the book to taking it up to the cash register. Set in Namora's underwater world, the cool yet vibrant colors made me think this would be an ideal book to read to mentally escape the blazing summer heat. It worked. I even took a swim after I was done. Sadly, I did not run into the title character in my pool. The back of the book encourages readers to pick up Atlas to get more Namora -- and their strategy with this one-shot worked for me, as I plan to do so.

In Case You Missed It!

Avengers Academy #1

Written by Christos Gage

Art by Mike McKone and Jeromy Cox

Lettering by Clayton Cowles

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

Click here for preview

Marvel Comics has made it abundantly clear since the announcement of it’s “Heroic Age” that the Avengers would be leading the charge in this new direction. The launch of three new titles in the line over the past few weeks (with another on the way) shows Marvel’s dedication to the franchise as its definitive flagship title. Interestingly enough, however, the spate of titles at hand feels very similar to the Avengers line-up that hit the shelves after “Civil War,” one of the main events that pushed Marvel into the era of strife and turmoil only recently culminating in the “Siege” mini-series. There’s a team that’s a little more street level, a team that consists of the “Big Guns,” and now, with the first issue of Avengers Academy, a book chronicling the future of the Avengers, and by extension, the Marvel Universe.

Fortunately, Avengers Academy posts a much stronger first issue than it’s predecessor, “Avengers: The Initiative,” and also eschews much of the dross that quickly accumulated in that title. Focusing on a smaller group of students, and a more recognizable cast of instructors and mentors immediately allows a better sense of character development while grounding the reader in the comfort zone of the Avengers. Hank Pym takes center stage as the leader of the Avengers Academy, a program designed to train and redeem young people whose powers were discovered and exploited by Norman Osborn during his Dark Reign.

The teen heroes here are already more interesting than the characters presented in “The Initiative.” The powers are bigger, the personalities are more defined, and there’s more of a sense that these characters will eventually play a part in the broader Marvel Universe. The issue's twist ending is perfectly suited to the tone of the book; it's enough of a surprise to justify a lot of room for character exploration without coming off as schlocky, or built in for shock value. While writer Christos Gage often plies the reader with some melodramatic dialogue, and some broad character strokes, the introductions go smoothly. I immediately had a sense of who these characters are, what they can do, and even an inkling of why they need to be mentored and watched so closely. And honestly, in a comic about teen superheroes, a little bit of melodrama isn’t going to hurt anyone, especially when it is cautious not to stray into the realm of teen angst or immediately kitschy pop-culturism.

Avengers Academy feels very much like an X-Men book, often moreso than an Avengers title, in that it focuses on a group of young people whose powers may be more than they can handle. In the years following the rise and fall of the original “New Mutants” title, Marvel has tried their hand at this sort of book numerous times, and it’s very rarely come together this well. One of the things that helps is the inclusion of characters that the reader is already comfortable with, and for whom the themes of redemption and growth are very prevalent. Hank Pym has spent the majority of his career justifying his presence, atoning for past mistakes, and more recently trying to help others learn to avoid those same problems. Likewise, the other instructors, Justice, Tigra, Quicksilver, and the newly re-christened Speedball have dealt with issues of anger, betrayal, egotism, and carelessness, and are all here to earn not only the respect of their peers, but of the reader as well. This comes through in the title, and it’s very nice to see this group given some time in the spotlight alongside their young charges.

The book is visually stunning; Mike McKone is definitely the right man for this job, having spent a lengthy run on DC’s teen-hero title “Teen Titans.” He knows how to convey young heroes who are believable not only as young people, but as beings of great and sometimes terrible power without compromising either aspect. His character designs are great. Hank Pym (even though it’s just the labcoat) stands out, while Speedball feels a little plain. All of the Academy students feel contemporary, and their powers are well conveyed through their designs.

Overall, this is Marvel’s most successful attempt at a teen hero team book since Young Avengers, and, if this first issue is any indication, Avengers Academy could rise to the “all-time” list very quickly. If Christos Gage gets a little more comfortable with the voices of these characters, and McKone can hang around for a solid run, Marvel’s got a hit on their hands.

Girl Comics #2

Written by Various

Art by Various

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Amanda McDonald

Click here for preview

After being skeptical of the first issue, and pleasantly surprised by it, I was actually looking forward to this second installment of Girl Comics. Being an anthology style book, it had the potential to be as strong as the first or completely bomb, depending on the contributors. Luckily for readers, Marvel selected a great group of talent and the issue was a joy to read.

This book hooked me from the start with its Jill Thompson cover and Colleen Coover introduction. Two drastically different styles, but both examples of artists really enjoying their subject matter. Consider me a stereotypical girl, but the initial story by Thompson featuring Lockjaw trying to escape bath time had me saying "awwww" aloud. Additional stories with Molly Fitzgerald (Shamrock) running a salon for clients with super powers, Dr. Doom's Friday night of reading Twilight gossip then being interrupted by a prank phone call, and Mary Jane Watson daydreaming up personal ads of available superhero men, are not your typical superhero book fare.

Then again, what do you expect from a title like Girl Comics? A title which, by the way, is addressed in one of their spotlights on influential women of Marvel. I appreciated that they acknowledged the heat over the title initially, and cleared a bit up for this reader by explaining a previous 1950s series by the same name.

This is the kind of comic book content I enjoy sharing-- the kind where each panel I read results in me peskering my roommates-- "dudes, you have to hear this!" and then giggling myself silly. While the book is full of superhero characters, it's low on action and heavy on humor. And that's okay. . . sometimes. I still stand by my review of the previous book and the assertion that the best female heroes stand on their own, regardless of gender. But I think I see now what the book's intention is. It's caught the attention of me, a loyal DC female hero fan. It's introduced me to different characters, different artists, different writers. It's given me something FUN to read, something to guffaw at with others.

Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead TPB

Written, Drawn and Lettered by Steve Pugh

Published by Radical Comics

Review by Tim Janson

Radical Comics has quickly become one of my favorite newer publishers. The quality of the production of their titles is second to none. But guess what? It’s not just eye-candy.

There are great stories to go along with the high-quality art and one of my favorite titles is Hotwire that blends horror and cyberpunk sci-fi. The trade paperback collects the four-issue series. Alice Hotwire is a “Detective Exorcist charged with capturing or destroying spirits in the near-future. Fifty years ago spirits ceased moving in to wherever it is that spirits go. The “Blue Lights” began drifting into cities all over the world, feeding off the stray wasted of electromagnetic energy emitted from billions of wireless electronics. The Dead are now buried in ceramic plots to keep the spirits contained and suppressor towers keep them from moving into the better parts of cities. Some of these can gain enough power to possess the living or even worse which is where Alice comes in.

Alice isn’t generally like by most of the regular cops, particularly tough detective Mobey with whom she finds herself partnered with to investigate heavy amounts of blue light activity. Alice is finding spirits seemingly growing in power and doing things they’ve never been capable of doing before and one gives her an warning about a “Ghost Bomb”. The pair soon find themselves caught up in something very dark and powerful that threatens the entire city.

Hotwire is perhaps the best blend of horror and sci-fi ever seen in comics. Alice isn’t your typical female hero who tries to play as tough as the men. She realizes her vulnerabilities but also realizes she has a skill that makes her unique and extremely valuable to the police force. Pugh’s script takes hold of the reader from page one and doesn’t let go. Pugh also handles the art his lush colors make the ghosts seem like they are leaping right out of the book. The book also features a cover gallery, an early Hotwire story, and an interview with Steve Pugh.

Joker's Asylum: The Riddler -- One Shot

Written by Peter Calloway

Art by Andres Guinaldo, Raul Fernandez and Tomeu Morey

Lettering by Patrick Brosseau

Cover by Ethan Van Sciver

Published by DC Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

"Were you born with the ability to make an entrance at the worst possible time, or is that a skill you've honed?" -- Edward Nygma, the Riddler

Much like first Joker's Asylum series, this continues the idea of Joker as a sort of Cryptkeeper character, and narrates a story featuring one of Batman's rogues gallery. Now, of all the issues in the last Joker's Asylum, I felt the Penguin spotlight by Jason Aaron and Jason Pearson was the strongest. Riddler is one of those guys that I've always felt drawn to (my tattoo on my calf speaks for that), and always seems to be lost in the shuffle. He's been portrayed as a sniveling twerp in such works as Long Halloween, to a mastermind in Hush, to now a private detective that could be walking down the dark path once more. In this one shot, he's definitely striding down a darker road than I've seen him in a long time, if ever.

The issue comes across as a character study for Nygma, especially the notion that he suffers from an extreme case of OCD. He falls in love with an art student and tries his best to win her over. Nygma goes the usual route with trying to woo her from flowers, chocolates, jewelry, etc, however the young woman returns all of the items. So, something clicks in Nygma's mind, basically him trying to solve the riddle of her love. However, when he finally gets her attention and admiration, it's under interesting circumstances, but the twist is...the "riddle" is solved, and Nygma doesn't care anymore.

From there, it starts to fall apart. I've never figured the Riddler as a killer and while Calloway is a great talent, I think he's trying too hard here and thinks it's a bit more cleverer than it actually is. We've known Riddler might have a sort of Tyler Durden situation going on here, and this story eggs that idea even more. I don't know if Nygma would just give up that easily. He's too obsessed for that. Plus, I've always seen him as sort of asexual, since the puzzles of the world, and money would be all he ever wanted.

Character disagreements aside, I think Calloway did a great job here in capturing Nygma's obsession and dialog. The Joker's narration gets distracting at times and in some places, not really needed. Guinaldo's art doesn't blow me away, but is still pretty excellent with a great panel construction and easy story flow. I wanted to like this issue more because I'm a huge Riddler fan, but it just fell flat.

Captain America #606 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by George Marston; Click here for preview): Captain America #606 is the first issue of the title under Marvel’s “Heroic Age” banner, which makes the themes explored inside it that much more interesting. Showcasing the return of one of Cap’s oldest villains, Baron Zemo, the overarching theme here is whether it’s possible to exist in shades of gray in a world that defines itself in often very stark black and white terms. Many fans were upset at the return of Zemo to villainy after the character took a turn for the heroic at the end of the first era of his old team, the Thunderbolts. While he is definitively a villain in this title, there’s much to suggest that there’s room for his redemption yet. In many ways, this book sees Captain America and Baron Zemo trading philosophies; Zemo begins with a conversation with the Ghost about how close the world came to recognizing that sometimes there is a middle ground between “good,” and “evil,” only to go right back to the old dichotomy as soon as Osborn was out of the picture. Meanwhile, Cap struggles with what he feels is his ever-increasing move towards that same middle ground after slaying an imposter Captain America in order to save many more lives. It’s interesting ground to cover, and right in keeping with the tone of Brubaker’s run so far.

The Unwritten #14 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Lan Pitts): WWE Hall of Famer and wrestling legend "Rowdy" Roddy Piper has famous catchphrase: "Just when you think you have all the answers, I change the questions." That sums up this issue of my favorite series. The new Tommy Taylor book release is right around the corner, and it's a slow build to what is about to go down. A trap has been set, and it just gets crazier by the moment. We see a little hint of behind the scenes of the forces out to get Taylor and company. Calling it "weird" is an understatement. Mike Carey and Peter Gross continue this series that leaves the reader wanting more, yet never wanting the mystery to end.

Fraggle Rock #2 (Published by Archaia; Review by Amanda McDonald): Square in size, with a matte finish cover, virtually no ads, three stories, character bios, and a "how to build a doozer structure" feature-- Fraggle Rock feels very different than many other popular all ages friendly titles. This book feels more like, well... a book! In a size format that will seem more familiar to the picture book reading youngsters, I can see this being a really fun book to share with a child. As someone who grew up loving the television series, it seems logical that I would want to introduce the world of the Fraggles to my children (that is, if I had any). But since I do not, I will happily enjoy them in this comic format by myself for now!

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