Best Shots Extra: WOLVERINE, BALTIMORE, GREEN HORNET

WOLVERINE Rules Sales Charts in Sept.
WOLVERINE Rules Sales Charts in Sept.
Wolverine #1

Written by Jason Aaron

Art by Renato Guedes, Jose Wilson Magalhaes, Matt Wilson, Jason Latour and Rico Renzi

Lettering by Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Click here for preview

He's the best there is at what he does. But what happens when Wolverine comes face-to-face with all the people he's ever killed? It's a special kind of Hell, not just for the Ol' Canucklehead, but his closest friends. And even though this first issue of Wolverine wastes no time with backstory, there's definitely a lot of potential for some good old-fashioned mayhem.

Let's start with the good here: Jason Aaron knows how to play up his villains, and he knows how to put the pedal to the metal to get the story moving. Whereas the other book he has out this week -- Wolverine: Road to Hell -- focuses on Logan's perspective on his precarious position, Wolverine #1 focuses on other members of his long and varied supporting cast, including fellow Weapon X-er John Wraith and his current flame, reporter Melita Garner. There's some great moments here regarding the action that particularly work, such as a motorcycle breaking into a newsroom that show Aaron isn't just going to focus on our hero, but to build up his world.

That said, this book is not for beginners -- kind of like what Marvel did with the Marvel Adventures line, this is a relaunch in numbering only, so if you haven't read Wolverine: Weapon X (or even, some might argue, the Road to Hell book, which I think structurally works more effectively in getting both new and older readers ready for the status quo), you might feel out of the loop. If you don't know who John Wraith is, for example, the introduction might totally sail over your head -- this is less of a clean break and more of a new chapter of Weapon X. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

Now, what do I think holds the book up a bit? The art. Part of that I can chalk up to personal taste -- I like having some shadows with my figures, and Renato Guedes has more of a flat, let-the-colorist-handle-the-shadows look that isn't particularly attractive (at least to me). When you have characters like Wolverine, you have to finesse it a bit, or else the character is just pointed hair and endless lines across his face, which is pretty much what you see here. Other things, however, feel a little more objective -- there is some shaky design in here, ranging from the possessed Wolverine to his demon captors, with over-drawn cloth wrinkles or spikes and muscles jutting everywhere. In certain ways, Guedes reminds me a little bit of Stephen Segovia, the second artist from Dark Wolverine -- so if those sorts of drawings float your boat, then jump on board.

But let's talk for a minute about the second feature, "The Last Stand of the Silver Samurai." Holy. Cow. To be 100% honest? This is better than the main feature. Marvel, whatever you do, give Jason Latour and Rico Renzi more work. The Samurai's story is extremely dynamic, with Renzi drenching Latour's work in eye-popping reds and yellows. Latour does some great work with his panel composition, slicing up the page in key with the Silver Samurai's assault. It's no insult to Jason Aaron, but ultimately, it's worth the price just to look at the art. No joke.

That said, if you're itching to go back to Claw City, there isn't anyone else I'd want behind the wheel than Jason Aaron. Some less-than-user-friendly structuring between this book and Road to Hell aside, I think there's a lot of cool story opportunities to be mined here. (Plus, that second story, seriously, is worth the price of admission alone for its stellar artwork.) While I wouldn't say the newly-relaunched Wolverine has won me over yet, there's plenty in this set-up that could remind us why our hero -- not to mention Jason Aaron -- is the best he is at what he does.

Baltimore: The Plague Ships #2

Written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden

Art by Ben Stenbeck and Dave Stewart

Lettering by Clem Robins

Published by Dark Horse

Review by Kyle DuVall

Ben Stenbeck. Yes, other people worked on Baltimore:The Plague Ships #2, but this review is really about Ben Stenbeck. Because, when you put this issue down, that’s who you will be thinking about. This series marks one of those exhilarating moments when a talent that, before, was merely one to watch, fully and boldly arrives on the scene with an earth-shaking stomp. Stenbeck’s advent is like that of a foreboding character in an old western. You know, the kind, the kind who,upon swinging open the saloon doors, sends a raucous room into dead silence. Stenbeck’s here, cowboys, hide your pencils and brushes. There’s a new sheriff in town.

Stenbeck already collected various accolades for his work on last year’s Witchfinder mini-series, where fans were impressed by his masterfully squalid depiction of Victorian London and his uncanny eye for facial performance. Still, the narrowness of Witchfinder's, urban setting and a plot that ended up being a Hellboy footnote, made it evident that Stenbeck’s best hour was still yet to come.  

Well, now that hour is here.  

With Baltimore, writers Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola have put together a macabre melding of Nosferatu, All Quiet On The Western Front, and Moby Dick that provides the ideal demo reel for Stenbeck’s gifts. Quiet character moments, horrific supernatural terror, lush scenescapes, crackling action, all are here and all provide moments of triumph for a penciler poised to take the comics world by the throat.  

There is less of Kirby in Stenbeck’s style than in Mignola’s; perhaps more of Wrightson and Neal Adams, although about the same amount of Gustav Dore. There is a concentrated yet wholly uncluttered attention to detail in Stenbeck’s pencils that even trumps Mignola. The unrelenting grimness of Baltimore’s tale of trench warfare and vampire horror is served all the better for Stenbeck’s strengths. This is a tale unrelieved by the inherent levity of Mignola’s regular cadre of oddball characters. Baltimore focuses on characters in a diseased world, characters either broken or soon-to be broke. Stenbeck’s sensibility, with one foot in the gravedirt of gothic stylization, and another firmly planted in the solid ground of realism, blossoms like a night-orchid in the haunted greenhouse Mignola and Golden have constructed. A still life of submarine corpses and skeletal ships is as arresting as the kinetic blast of machine gun fire. Giant vampire bats, drafted with anatomically perfect realism still bristle with supernatural menace. All of this is, of course, accompanied hand in glove by Dave Stewart’s typically eerie coloring, which renders the world in gravestone greys and midnight blues, with hot vibrance intruding only in moments of extreme violence and horror

Perhaps most impressive of all is Stenbeck’s grasp on expressions. Stenbeck makes the landscape of the human face, in both sly gazes and death mask grimaces, as compelling as the rooflines of plague-decayed villas. Baltimore shows a mastery of in-panel acting many veteran artists never bother perfecting. At the very least, After Witchfinder and Baltimore, Stenbeck has cemented his status as comicdom’s premiere renderer of the muttonchop.

There's a story in Baltimore #2, and it’s a good enough crossbreed tale of vampires and violence, but Baltimore is really Stenbeck’s little midnight hour of glory. Plot, characterization, and pacing are important only their ability to provide fodder for an artist who absolutely terrorizes the page. Baltimore is developing into a seismic statement of Stenbeck’s abilities, and a must-read not just for horror fans, but for anyone with an eye for superior comic art.

Green Hornet Annual #1

Written by Phil Hester

Art by Carlos Rafael, Josef Rubenstein, and Carlos Lopez

Lettering by Troy Peteri

Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Review by Lan Pitts

Click here for preview

"Our war is on crime, Kato, not people." -- the Green Hornet

As a big Green Hornet fan I am, I've been underwhelmed by Dynamite's efforts, save for the Green Hornet: Year One mini-series earlier this year. Nothing has been popping out at me or agreeing with the collective idea of what the Green Hornet is in my mind. Green Hornet Annual #1 fills that void nicely, but not in the way I would have thought.

Green Hornet Annual #1 isn't really a Britt Reid, jr story, nor is it an actual Green Hornet story. While there are flashback sequences featuring the original Green Hornet, Phil Hester really gives you and idea on who Britt is. He's tortured, but not in the same vein as say Batman or Dick Grayson. He decides to become a hero because in his heart, he feels it is the right thing to to do. Though being a hero isn't always the easiest of things, as Britt gets his ass handed to him by friend and mentor "Coach" Pollard. We learn that Britt was an already good fighter, he just lacked the discipline and had a cavalier attitude about life.

Speaking of which, on top of Britt's father being murdered, his home life isn't the best at the moment. His love interest, Julie, has moved out and he's trying to find himself within this shattered world. We know where this is all headed, but still, it's nice to see the beginnings of the new Green Hornet come across like this. We know he'll never be the man his father was, just the hero his father became.

There are two different styles going on here. One being the art used in the flashbacks showing Hornet and Kato with chiseled jaws and Adonis-like physiques. It comes across as classic 60's comic style, even the coloring has the old dotted-look to it. While in the "present", the art is clean and the facial expressions come across precise and proper. Carlos Lopez's colors comes across as too dark at times, but nothing too distracting or awful.

The Green Hornet franchise can be confusing at times for fans of the character, but not quite sure where to begin or even start. If you haven't started, I strongly suggest this issue.

What do you think of this week's books?

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