Now, just because there's a substitute host this week, don't go thinking you can cut class, fire spitballs or engage in some sort of debauchery. Hey Newsaramoids, Brendan McGuirk here, filling in for the imitable David “No, I'm not the lost Pep Boy” Pepose, who is en route to Comic-Con International to bring you fair readers all the breakingest of breaking comics' news. But fear not! For we've still got your Thursday fix of ready-made, easily digested Rapid Fire reviews. As always, make sure to check out the Best Shots Topic Page for any and all reviews you may have missed. Because if you missed them, believe me, you missed them. Now, with the hucksterism out of the way, onto the show.
True Blood #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; review by Amanda McDonald): Anyone familiar with the True Blood television series knows that it involves vampires, werewolves, and shape shifters. Now IDW introduces the much anticipated comic, featuring our favorite characters facing off with a new ne'er do well -- an Imp Shaloop. A wha? The issue starts as a normal night at Merlotte's Bar, and quickly escalates to a battle with a Native American legend that eats souls plagued with evil thoughts. As his big black tentacles whip about, there are several casualties and it's up to vampires Bill and Eric to defeat him. With twelve variant and exclusive covers, the book has shelf appeal, and it was admittedly hard to choose which one to get. I was particularly torn between the J. Scott Campbell and Joe Corroney covers, but ultimately went with the David Messina cover, since he is the artist for the interior of the book as well. Messina's art is strong, especially considering the script he was dealt. One would think if a story involves battling a giant tentacled monster, there would be a lot of action. Not so. Heavy on narration and talking heads, I wonder about these writers and their familiarity with the comics medium. I get that this is a first issue, so of course the story needs to be established. However, there really is very little story established. Rather than give us much new insight into the characters or relationships, the dialog is simply a lot of cheeky (bordering on corny) banter among the characters. This book will likely sell well initially due to fans of the television series, but it will be interesting to see if it continues to do so if the future issues are as lacking in good story telling.
DV8: Gods and Monsters #4 (Published by Wildstorm; review by Brendan McGuirk): There's no shortage of superhero fiction that purports itself to be “realistic.” Usually this just means that modern society reacts negatively to the presence of its physical superiors, or that heroes prove to be less than infallible. The latest iteration of DV8 exists in that same vein, but Brian Wood and Rebekah Isaacs' exploration of megalomania in time-lost waywardly superpowered youths delves into new depths of honesty for the genre. The extra normal powers and extraordinary time-flung circumstances of this story are beyond reality's possibilities, but the sociological consequences and characters' subsequent emotional truths feel almost like a human certainty. The unique perspective of this book suggests that this is the only way that the constantly-grounded Brian Wood could ever write superhero fiction with any sort of comfort or authenticity. If art can exist in that perfect medium between overwrought and underwrought, that's where Rebekah Isaacs' work falls. It is perfectly wrought. Her clean line has an equalizing effect on the relationship between members of DV8 and the natives, capturing their shared humanity in the spite of a their many discrepancies. DV8 never strays from its central thesis that a fundamental inequity of power would make Gods and Monsters out of anyone, in any definitions of the words. Of course, it's their very humanity that makes this conclusion so forgone, and that inevitability is the real tragedy.
DC Universe: Legacies #3 (Published by DC Comics; review by Matt Seneca): Solid as a rock, the DC Event That No One Noticed keeps rolling along. If you like superheroes for superheroes' sake and you haven't been reading Legacies, you probably should be. It's got slammin' action, characters galore, and plenty of "to be continueds", just like the doctor says is good for you. If you have been reading it, this issue will hardly shock you out of doing so. Len Wein continues to do a great job with the high adventure he's been writing for thirty-odd years, while the human-interest framing story still lacks luster and takes up more space than it has a right to. It does heat up a little this issue in terms of compression, anyway: our rather boring, all-too-human narrator Paulie at least gets a policeman's badge and makes a sure-to-be-lifelong enemy out of an old friend. Three issues running, the backup stories have been the best part of this comic: here Wein drops his incremental uber-plot to tell a fast and dirty Challengers of the Unknown yarn and Dave Gibbons mixes in a little Kirby roughness with his Watchmen poise to draw the pants off it. The art transition from Joe Kubert to Jose-Luis Garcia Lopez could have been a tonal catastrophe, but it takes all of a page to get used to. While he doesn't have Kubert's dramatic flair or monstrous ink line, Garcia Lopez draws comics solid as a rock, perfectly evoking a Silver Age free of self-conscious "zaniness" and retconned dark shadows. It's not going to change the world, or even the genre, and it can be a slog to get through, but DCU Legacies is a relative bastion of quality in the straight-superhero landscape. The people are all good people, the pictures are always pretty, and I imagine I'm not the only one who wants nothing more than that out of my hero books from time to time.
Power Girl #14 (Published by DC Comics; review by Amanda McDonald): I am SO relieved. I reviewed the previous issue's debut of the new creative team, and to put it lightly -- I did not enjoy it. I found the story to be weak, and the art distractingly flawed. However, I chalked it up to my being a bit resistant to change in addition to a new team having a bit of a learning curve to adjust to, and decided to give this issue a hesitant shot. It was. . . not bad. It's not a book I'll be raving to my friends about, but the story was good enough and the art was improved enough to continue having it on my pull list. This issue begins a new arc, featuring Karen battling loan officers repossessing her business, dealing with Booster Gold and the mystery involving Max Lord, as well as fighting a gigantic purple android bent on destroying all of New York City. The dialog is witty, the pacing of the various story lines worked well, and while the art is certainly a departure from the previous team's it was much cleaner and better executed than the previous issue. While I was a huge fan of the previous team, I'm also a big fan of the character herself, and this issue seems to be back on track with what I expect from a Power Girl book.
Amazing Spider-Man #638 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by Brendan McGuirk): Finally, Joe Quesada and Paolo Rivera can reveal that which was OMITted from Marvel's history after One More Day. Fanboys and fangirls asked for it, and after a long gestation period, the Web-heads have obliged. One Moment in Time fills in the blanks on the specifics of exactly what was changed when Mephisto Mephistoed away Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson's marriage. It does so with a modern framing sequence, and a flashback that integrates art and story from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21, in which the nuptials occurred, with updated and newly drawn sequences that reflect Mephisto's revisions. It is an inventive way to present a retcon, but it's not without drawbacks. Quesada draws the modern framing sequence in his polished modular style, and Rivera fills in the blanks of the past. Their art styles compliment each other well enough, but there seemed to be a missed opportunity with the reproduced Annual pages. Marvel has put out a great many reprints in recent years, and has often reconstructed and recolored pages with modern technology. The result is old images that look freshly new, which showcase just how important coloring can be in servicing a story. Here, the original coloring seems to be left as is, making the jumps from Rivera's work to original penciller Paul Ryan's somewhat jarring. It is not the biggest distraction in a story about totally altering the course of the life of one of the world's most popular superheroes, but a unifying palette could have smoothed over at least one rough edge in a story that is sure to be received controversially. In some ways, OMIT falls victim to the same pitfalls that pitfell OMD; it feels less like a story born of a creator's vision than it does a story in service of an agenda. Ever since the marriage was magicked away, fans have understandably demanded to know what it meant to the stories they have already read, and this does begin to answer those questions. But it is hard to imagine this would change the opinions already formed by readership. Because regardless of what the devil told you, you can't change the past.
Marvel Her-oes #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by Amanda McDonald): In the fourth installment of this four-shot series, Wasp, Namora, and She-Hulk face off with a trio trying to capture them for re-sale to groups interested in their meta-human abilities. These three teens are new to using their powers in this capacity and in need of guidance from Miss America, of the U.S. Meta Corps. This was a really fun series to read! I tend to read more indie and DC books than Marvel books, but through series like this one and the limited run Girl Comics, I've been able to familiarize myself more with the female heroes of the Marvel universe. Grace Randolph has crafted a story that emulates the concerns and relationships of teen girls, while incorporating the superhero element flawlessly. Craig Rousseau's art and character styling is crisp, clean, and hip. I'm 32 and enjoyed this book, I can only imagine how much I would have loved it at 16. If you know any teen girls that are even semi-interested in the comics genre, this is definitely one to recommend.
Futurama #50 (Published by Bongo Comics; review by Brendan McGuirk): Good news, everyone! The Planet Express crew aren't just back in action on your televisionboxmachines, they're also still around and kicking in four-color pamphleted glory, finally reaching their milestone 50th issue. There's a level of comfort surrounding the Bongo brand, and a conceptual resiliency that reveals itself when the humorous sensibilities of these properties translate to differing media. This comic couldn't replace Futurama on screen, but it does do well to compliment it. In this issue, Leela becomes involved in the corporate machinations of Momcorp, the not-yet-split Amy and Kif couple get into hijinx, and Bender and Fry take a back seat, albeit not quietly. The characters, the visuals, and the style of storytelling are all pleasantly familiar, making this a regular Back-to-the-Futurama.
Batman Beyond #2 (Published by DC Comics; review by Brendan McGuirk): In tying the adventures of this warmly remembered TV series to events and villains of modern Batman continuity, writer Adam Beechen makes a wise calculation. It's ironic to think of that it is a sense of nostalgia surrounding an almost decade-old show that itself was about the future driving this book, but that's exactly the Batman Beyond comic's selling point. Beechen, perhaps sensing nostalgia alone would not make quite enough of a hook, goes to the well of traditional comics, drawing out one of the most sensationalized characters of the past decade; Jim Lee and Jeph Loeb's Hush. The character of Hush makes for a shrewd inclusion, and serves to bridge the gap between the cartoon and the modern continuity in a way that doesn't seem to compromise either distinct narrative. At the end of the day, the success of Batman Beyond as a TV show went beyond the simple thrill of seeing different iterations of Batman and his villains; it made Terry McGinnis a strong character in his own right, worthy of the cowl. Squaring off against one of Batman's biggest modern blockbuster villains could solidify the standing of McGinnis as a character, not only within the context of the story, but also to comics' readership and the market at large.Best Shots doesn't sleep!