Happy Thursday, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here — and do we have some reviews for you! We've got some bite-sized looks at hits from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image and Dynamite for your consumption. Looking for more? Have no fear, just check out the Best Shots Topic Page! And now let's look at a father and son's bonding time gone gamma, with The Incredible Hulk #611...
The Incredible Hulk #611 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): This book certainly hits hard, but does it hit Hulk hard? Greg Pak revisits his father and son themes — which have been a suprisingly compelling direction, all things considered — as the Incredible Hulk finally takes on his Old Power-wielding son, Skaar. It's nice to see Pak dredge up Bruce's past, and his view of the Hulk — but considering how long this fight has been coming, the one thing that I think this fight was missing was scale. It's hard to top your own past successes, and as solidly crafted as this book is, Pak can't overtake the sheer power of World War Hulk. Meanwhile, where artist Paul Pelletier particularly succeeds is not with the smashing — yes, he draws some great punching, but ultimately the script doesn't let him tear loose like World War Hulk would have — but in the emotions. There's one page where the Hulk realizes Caiera's semi-resurrection — ugh, that page will just stick with you, as the monster's mind truly shatters upon his loss. It's the ending that really powers this book, with some emotive images that are the real catharsis of this arc.
Birds of Prey #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel): Simone's first run on Birds of Prey was my gateway drug into the comic book world. Since then, I have been an insatiable little caterpillar consuming as many comics as possible. Along the way, I've read some epic stories. But few (or dare I say none) have come close to the rush I felt when reading Babs, Helena, and Dinah in action for the first time. I never thought I would feel that way again. As Simone's first arc closes on her second run, I was dead wrong. Birds of Prey #4 is 22 pages of pure, unadulterated kickassery. The story melds perfectly as it matches the intensity from scene to scene. Black Canary gets bloodied and still shines in all her smack-talking glory. Oracle's compassion and strength in the face of fear is monumental. The tension and emotion run teeth-clenchingly high when Penguin reminds Dove and Huntress what an evil bastard he is. And, man oh man; Ed Benes delivers some phenomenal panels. Nobody draws Dinah better. Ruffino's colors are glowing, as usual. Hats off to Adriana Melo for holding a candle to Benes, it speaks volumes of her talent. I am bursting at the seams because of the teaser at the end. Gail, I love your brain. This issue rocks. I want to have babies with it.
The Walking Dead #76 (Published by Image Comics, Review by Patrick Hume; Click here for preview): For a post-zombie apocalypse comic, The Walking Dead often has a low action quotient, but is also never anything less than fascinating. This is definitely a "talking heads" issue, as the community deals with the fallout of Rick's freakout last month, and I don't think we even see a zombie. At this point, though, it hardly matters; writer Robert Kirkman's interest clearly lies with examining the effects of this kind of long-term trauma, not the cause of the trauma itself. Rick takes center stage here, as he has a long talk with Douglas about the history of the community and tries to cope once more with the kind of man he has become. In many ways, I think Douglas is a kindred spirit, and it will be interesting to see where their relationship goes, particularly if Kirkman takes the story in the direction I think he will. There are certain pieces of foreshadowing in their conversation, as well as Glenn and Heath's encounter, that make me think the community will soon have other things to worry about besides internal strife. As great as watching Rick's continued breakdown is, it unfortunately marginalizes some of the other main characters, and I hope they get some more to do in the coming months. As ever, bravura work from artist Charlie Adlard, especially in that last scene.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): I was thinking the other day, about how good art can sometimes sell a book even more than a good story. And reading Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #13, I remembered there's a reason this book catapults to the top of my stack every month: David Lafuente. His sense of panel and figure composition, combined with his extremely expressive faces, just makes this book a delight to drink in — even a splash page with the Chameleon donning Peter's mask is surprisingly compelling, as is a nice nod to Mark Bagley from early on in the series' run. That's not to bash Brian Michael Bendis' writing, though, either — this is all character-based, and he makes the Chameleon an insidiously dangerous foe (and gives us one hell of a cliffhanger page, to boot). This is extremely accessible entertainment that doesn't require any prior knowledge of the Heroic Age or Brightest Day, just the knowledge that Peter Parker is an ordinary Spider-teen who happens to live with some super-powered Amazing Friends. Right now, this book is easily my favorite of the week.
Batgirl #13 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald): This issue begins with Stephanie Brown just trying to have a normal college girl day, but with Oracle out on "Birds business" and the other members of the Bat family occupied, she has to step up to a daylight challenge with Clayface in the financial district of Gotham. In place of Oracle is new friend Wendy, also known as Proxy. I've really been enjoying the way Bryan Q. Miller writes the dynamics between Steph and Oracle, and now he is doing a great job with building the relationship with Wendy as well. Steph's encounter with Clayface leads to a lot of banter with Detective Nick Gage and allows us to really see the young girl side of Steph, with her internal dialog cursing him for being so attractive and allowing herself to "squee" when he admits his trust of her. The way she is written makes it hard not to like her. Pere Perez takes over the artistry in this issue, picking up right where Lee Garbett left off. While there are of course slight style differences, it does not detract from the storytelling and will be easy to get used to. This book continues to prove itself as a strong stand-alone book. No tie ins to worry about knowing about, no heavy continuity, this is just a purely good book to pick up and enjoy.
Buzzard #3 (Published by Dark Horse; Review by David Pepose): Buzzard #3 is pure offbeat action with a moody, poetic soul as its hero. Eric Powell and Dave Stewart absolutely shine, with some gorgeously drawn work — Buzzard himself has some great emotional beats, and even seemingly throwaway images like the motley trio walking down a dark valley look stellar, all due to the iconic silhouettes. Stewart himself deserves a huge round of applause for this book, as he makes it clear why he walked off with yet another Eisner just last month — he adds such a degree of depth with his colors, making the world of grays and browns suddenly explode with vivid reds and oranges. This guy is the master, pure and simple, and he brings Powell's art in the best possible light. One thing I thought was also great is that Powell really explores the motivations for Buzzard's quest, and gives him a deep, compelling conversation with his adversary that gives a reason for the madcap violence — and a soul. There are a few weaknesses here, all of which are just because this is the last issue of a limited series — it ends a little too neatly (although the ending is really heartfelt and sad), and ultimately new readers won't get the full affect without having read the previous two (awesome) issues. But I will say this: even if you've never read an issue of The Goon in your life, you can certainly circle around Buzzard. You won't regret it.
Zatanna #4 (Published by DC Comics, Review by Amanda McDonald; Click here for preview): As the beginning of a new arc, we find Zatanna is in Las Vegas and has been invited to perform there. Fresh off the heels of that Brother Night fiasco back home, she's facing off with the Royal Flush gang who are fresh from a casino heist. Paul Dini clearly had fun developing these characters as the Rat Pack references fly about, and Zee uses what is (for her) a rather unconventional method to take them down. My main concern with this book was the art. The artist, Chad Hardin, has a tough act to follow. Stephane Roux's work was hot as all get out, and with the preview images floating around before the series debuted cemented my vision of what Zatanna should and would look like. Hardin's pages that are good — are really, really good. But the pages that are not good? Well, they're pretty bad. There's a lot of inconsistency in Zee's appearance, to the point where it appears there are several different women in this book, all in the iconic Zatanna costume. There's just that much inconsistency in her facial features. Also, I was confused as to why she was in costume at all times, even just walking down the street. Previous issues had her in street clothes when not performing, and I liked that, as it made her seem a little more "real." Lastly, for some reason her eyes kept changing color. I know, it's a little thing, but it was enough to take me out of the moment and scratch my head. The story is strong here, and I don't think the issue should be dismissed altogether based on the art, however I do hope it improves.
Prince of Persia: Before the Sandstorm #2 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): It's interesting, because the title of this book is extremely misleading — but that doesn't make this a terrible book. I think much of that has to do with the artists' showcase that this book inspires, with David Lopez and Niko Henrichon really tearing it up. They realize Jordan Mechner's stories really well, with Lopez in particular really showing some wide range from his monthly antics on Hawkeye & Mockingbird by making the very act of throwing a blade into some eye-catching iconography. While Mechner's stories about an Arabian slave is definitely some interesting food for thought, he particularly excels on his story with Hencrichon, about a girl being groomed for an almost otherworldly paradise — and the secrets of that world. But what I think is the main obstacle for this book is, ultimately — what's the point of this story? Where does one fill in the gap between the marketing and the reality? This isn't the high-flying acrobatics of the video game — this is more like the Arabic Usual Suspects. It's not a bad book, but I'm still wondering who the market is for this comic.Thor: The Mighty Avenger #3 (Marvel Comics; Review by Brendan McGuirk; Click here for preview): Roger Landgridge and Chris Samnee have captured a unique tone with their wide-eyed interpretation of the God of Thunder. Likely drawing inspiration from the impending film, Thor is a lost warrior who clumsily falls into the life of museum curator Jane Foster. God saves girl, recovers mythical weapon, romantic chemistry ensues. The book proves itself to be fun without being distractingly silly, allowing slapstick humor to mesh seamlessly with consequential action. In this issue, Thor is integrated into the world of Marvels, meeting Ant-Man and the Wasp in a classic example of the superhero-misunderstanding-mistaken-identity-fight. It isn't terribly complex, but it's accessible, well-crafted, and captures the basic joy of superheroing. Thor: The Mighty Avenger succeeds on every front it means to. Mightily. What's your favorite comic so far this week?