Best Shots Rapid Reviews: BATMAN BEYOND, IRON MAN, More

DC 1st Look: BATMAN BEYOND #1 Cover

Face front, 'Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here. Not only do we have your regularly scheduled dose of Rapid-Fire Reviews, but we also have a new member of the Best Shots team. Matt Seneca joins us from his blog DEATH TO THE UNIVERSE, where he takes on comics ranging from capes-and-tights to the indiest of indies. For this mad scientist of sequential art, comic book reviewing isn't a mudhole... it's an operating table. And Matt's the surgeon. So without further adieu, let's welcome our newest recruit while we give some off-the-cuff comments on books from DC, Marvel, Top Cow, BOOM! Studios -- and even a look back at Krazy Kat. And if you're still craving even more reviews, we got your back: Check out the Best Shots Topic Thread by clicking here!

Wonder Woman #600 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald): With all the buzz this week over this issue (even being featured on the national nightly news), I felt it my duty as a loyal comic book fan-girl was to at least flip through this issue. I just wanted to see the new costume in action, and with a $4.99 price tag I doubted I'd actually take an issue home. And then I picked up the book off the shelf. It's a hefty book, full of work by some of the hottest names in the business. From the Gail Simone/George Perez story that tugs at the heart strings, the Amanda Conner story that depicts WW as a wise adviser to Power Girl, to the intense storytelling of Geoff Johns and J. Michael Straczynski -- this issue takes the reader on a journey of the many sides of Wonder Woman. Add in the amazing pin ups of the character by artists such as Adam Hughes, Phil Jimenez, and Ivan Reis (just to name a few), and you have an issue that is one that will be talked about for a long while, and a worthwhile addition to a comic fan's collection. Will I continue to pick up future WW books? I'm still undecided, but chances are better than they were a few days ago. This book has put Wonder Woman back on my radar.

Batman Beyond #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): Holy. Cow. This book is an absolute treat. Writer Adam Beechen wastes little time getting us back to the world of Terry McGinnis, as he plays up his relationship with Bruce Wayne from their first line of dialogue: "Stop playing with him," Bruce scowls. "Finish it." To have a writer so quickly assume the very voices of the cartoon is nothing short of spectacular. But the real draw here? Artist Ryan Benjamin's style looks like the love child of Bruce Timm and Scott McDaniel -- it has fantastic composition, a nice sense of movement, and a surprising amount of emotion considering Terry wears a full face mask. Colorist David Baron typically does great work with his hues, giving everything a bold, animated look -- where he slips, however, is with a bright green cityscape that seems more drab and flat than a brave new world. But it's a small complaint, as this Batman goes above and Beyond your expectations.

Secret Avengers #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by George Marston; Click here for preview): Secret Avengers continues to be the strongest of the four recent Avengers launches.  It feels bigger, better imagined in terms of concept and purpose, and more fast paced than even the adjectiveless Avengers. It may be that someone is finally handling some classic Avengers type stories in a more contemporary feel, or it may be that Ed Brubaker manages to get in plenty of face time and characterization for each of his cast members without slowing down the action.  Issue #2 is even stronger than the first, building effectively on the mystery of the multiple Serpent Crowns while providing great interaction among the team members.  Seeing Beast back in action on the Avengers, as well as a return to form for Steve Rogers is downright thrilling.  Brubaker knocks this one out of the park, and Mike Deodato, Jr. is the perfect artist for the title.  This is a must-buy for Avengers fans.

Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): Every villain is the hero of their own story, and when it comes to the Mandarin, he's no exception. While Tony Stark is actually nowhere to be seen in this annual, the message of Matt Fraction's treatise on truth and art -- think Inglourious Basterds under an oppressive regime -- pushes this issue past the level of self-indulgence and make this easily the darkest story I've ever seen the writer put to paper. In that regard, retelling the Mandarin's origin and retrofitting him in the post-Iron Man film continuity is almost an afterthought -- this story definitely stands on its own two feet. Much of that is due to the art of Carmine Di Giandomenico -- get your copy-and-paste ready, because this issue is going to send this guy into the stratosphere. There is a lot of subtlety to his work, a lot of mood, just gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous stuff that really fits the exotic, non-armored subject matter. While it's not required reading for Tony Stark's adventures -- at least, not yet -- Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 is a great example of a top-tier creator successfully stretching himself.

Captain America: The 1940s Newspaper Strip #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Matt Seneca; Click here for preview): A nice change of pace from Marvel, this umpteenth retelling of Captain America's origin and subsequent heroism eschews self-cannibalizing reverence for the adrenaline of midcentury newspaper action strips.  Or that's the idea, anyway: Kesel's art has more to do with Silver Age Kirby than any actual Roosevelt-era cartoonists, and the computer colors and lettering slapped over everything do away with any illusions of real history before the first panel's done. What this comic does take from classic strips, though, is energy and content in abundance.  There's more story packed into these pages than even Stan and Jack usually mustered, with Cap and Bucky breezing through mad science, bangin' action, and heartthrob romance at the madcap pace of two punchlines per page. In an age of hero comics that make far too much of waiting for things to happen, this qualifies as a breath of fresh air.  Points off, however, for the rather disingenuous "faux-corny" dialogue (Bucky exclaims both "Cheese and crackers!" and "Peaches and cream!" in the space of a few pages).  When another era's tone is what's keeping your comic above mediocrity, you'd do best not to make fun of it.  Still, though this certainly could have been something far more unique, it's got just enough style and flash to get by on -- not something you can say for most random Marvel books with no apparent reason to exist.

Velocity #1 (Published by Top Cow; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): Reading the original Pilot Season pitches, it was clear that Velocity pulled ahead from the rest not because of her super-speed, but because of the strength of her personality. And that quality, that level of charm for our scarlet-haired speedster, shows no signs of stopping in Velocity #1. Writer Ron Marz has been working overtime with many of Top Cow's properties, but I have to say, this is his most accessible "Moo-niverse" work yet. We get who Carin is from the very first page, from her super-fast dodging to the adorable wink she gives the reader. Which brings me to artist Kenneth Rocafort. The amount of emotion he gives our heroine is palpable, and I really enjoy what he does with jagged, shifting panels (even as Sunny Gho's colorwork, I would argue, clashes with Rocafort's style, with his dark palette and intrusive angles). But that certainly isn't enough to stop Velocity, a really fun read that has a smart high concept and definitely hits the ground running.

Alice In Wonderland TPB (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Lan Pitts): This past Spring, Disney released a live-action "Alice In Wonderland" feature with Johnny Depp, Ann Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, and Mia Wasikowska as the titular Alice, but I hadn't realized that BOOM! put out a graphic novel adaptation to the movie. I have to say I enjoyed the book more than the movie. Nothing knocking Tim Burton or his crew, but Massimiliano Narciso's art is something between Ted Naifeh and Jill Thompson and is simply amazing. It has a sort of dreamscape feel to it (as it should) and I hope to see more works from him in the future. Allessandro Ferrari does a fine job adapting the movie, which I'm aware is it's own story (though I would recommend The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Bebbor if you enjoyed this version, if you haven't already found that series). It also includes a behind-the-scenes sort of sketch pages where you can see the art progress which I found fascinating because I'm always curious on an artist's thought process.

Krazy Kat: A Celebration of Sundays (Published by Sunday Press Books; Review by Matt Seneca): This is about as far from the typical single-issue reading experience as it gets: a newspaper broadsheet (think Wednesday Comics) sized hardcover reprinting the best of George Herriman's epic funny-animal meditation on life, love, art, and the Arizona desert.  Though enough Krazy Kat has materialized over the past decade that no one was really crying out for this book, it's certainly an unexpected, decadent delight.  Herriman's work is a revelation at this size; his scratchy pen lines take on a brittle, immense grace, his Zen-like use of the space on the page astounds at every turn, and his bold colors and perfectly spotted blacks edge into a pop-art, almost silkscreened flavor.  Reading Krazy Kat on this book's gargantuan pages is as delightful as looking at it -- where in smaller books Herriman's surreal wordplay and non-sequitur punchlines are so sprightly and acrobatic, at this size they reverberate out slow and deep like sounds from massive church bells.  More a portable museum exhibit than a mere "read", A Celebration of Sundays is a looming, sumptuous monument to Herriman's talent; a celebration not just of cartoon bricks and pixies, but of the comics medium itself, the work of perhaps it's greatest artist, and of Krazy Kat's very real place in American history.  Beautiful.

Toy Story #4 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose): While it isn't the rock-solid high concept of the previous arc, Toy Story #4 does have a wild sense of glee in this issue, being driven by physical comedy and the over-the-top personalities of Andy's toy collection. Writer Jesse Blaze Snider, if nothing else, has the voices of Woody, Buzz and the gang down pat -- but whereas the first arc felt like a real story, this feels a little slapsticky, a little too episodic for my tastes. (Then again, one could say it's a zany palete-cleanser.) That said, the story also suffers a bit from the change in artistic teams -- Travis Hill has a much stratchier, distended style than his predecessor Nathan Watson, and while it still evokes memories of the Pixar hit, his characters a little more "Uncanny Valley" than the humanity of the film counterparts. Not a bad book, but it suffers under the weight of its past successes.

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