Great Scott, Rama Readers! We've got to get to Wednesday! Don't worry, we've already parked the DeLorean in place, and have come back from the future with some Best Shots Advances. With books from Image, Dynamite, IDW, BOOM! Studios, Radical and Aspen, your team of crack reviewers are breaking the laws of time and space to get you tomorrow's reviews, today! Looking for more back issue reviews? Check us out at the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, class, let's review Image's sophomore issue of the new kids on the block, Morning Glories ...Morning Glories #2
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma, Alex Sollazzo
Lettering by Johnny Lowe
Published by Image Comics
Review by Amanda McDonald
This book has been absolutely flying off the shelves, and that's after only one issue. Great news for the creators, but I'm sure it's a bit intimidating as well — this sophomore issue has a lot of hype to live up to. Issue one set the bar very, very high.
Issue two, I think I love you. This book is chock full of scenarios that leave the reader utterly confused, but in a good way. Trust me, I've read plenty of books that left me confused in a way that made me wonder why I just wasted my few bucks and a bit of my time. However, this is one of those books that leaves me wondering, but having full faith that it will come together eventually.
Oh, I know — I hate that too, when people tell me that I should just have faith in something and it will all come together. I certainly can't make any guarantees; I don't know where this is going either. Although, if the pacing and story structure of these two issues is a sign of things to come I doubt any of us will be disappointed.
After the shocking end of the first issue, in which we see the parents of a new student being executed, the action just keeps rolling. The first issue was character development for the most part, as it should be. At the time, that's why I found the end so shocking. However issue two opens with action, and it really doesn't stop. Yet, it still holds the same shock value as that first issue. In this issue we see that all the new students have been sent to detention, and see via flashback scenes how they got there. Some are there for fairly minor infractions, while one in particular is quite puzzling and is obviously going to have a huge plot point in future issues. Without giving any spoilers, I must say that the academy is one messed up place.From the smooth, cool colors of the cover by Esquejo to the also fairly muted interiors of Eisma — the color scheme does go with the intensity of the story. But wait, didn't I say this was a pretty intense story? Yes, but not in a zip-bam-boom way. It's a slow, blue flame burn that you can just tell is going to explode at some point along the way. We are not to that point yet, but it feels so good knowing that it's on the way. I've been recommending the first issue to everyone who is a fan of the comics genre, and keep hearing back how much they've enjoyed it. Issue two is proof that this series is continuing on the right track, though not a good jumping off point. Pick this one up as well as issue one to really see the full picture, and let us know what you think. 5 Days to Die #3
Written by Andy Schmidt
Art by Chee
Lettering by Robbie Robbins
Published by IDW Publishing
Review by David Pepose
What's really coming to define 5 Days to Die isn't so much Detective Ray Crisara's shadowy nemesis Mr. Hoverman, but that his injuries and personality are making him his own worst enemy. There's definitely some twists to this third issue, and while the lack of answers leave you a little unsatisfied, this issue is what's setting this series apart from other revenge thrillers.
Writer Andy Schmidt succeeds the most when he's focusing on Crisara's uncertainty. Crisara, for those just tuning in, suffered a horrific car accident that killed his wife, hospitalized his daughter, and left enough shrapnel in his head to kill him in five days — and that much all-American car in your brainpan is definitely enough to disorient you. Having Crisara have periodic wooziness and hallucinations is reminiscent of Archaia's Tumor — yet Schmidt makes it run much faster, as Crisara crosses friend and foe alike in what could all be a figment of his imagination.
As far as the art goes, this is probably Chee's best issue of the bunch. There's some great mood here, particularly when Crisara faces off against a fellow cop — the look on his face is filled with tears, sadness, rage, resignation ... it's a great panel here. As Chee mentions in the afterword of the issue, he's also improved tremendously with his color scheme — there's a sequence where Crisara explodes into violence that swirls with red. It's a choice that I don't think would necessarily work on many (or most) books, but because we have a character that is experiencing profound health and psychological issues, we can get a little less linear with the visuals. While sometimes the brush strokes can make the visuals almost too dark, the moments where the lighting is supposed to be minimal — especially the last page — look absolutely desolate.
Yet there are some issues with the balance here — namely, I think the issue of one's professional responsibilities versus their duty to their family oscillates a bit. Sometimes, like when Crisara is chasing after a shadowy figure, or looking in horror as he wonders whether or not he just killed a man for no reason, those moments are the best of the issue — and weirdly, that's when the theme of the story isn't there. Other times, that theme is right up in your face, particularly when another cop chases our hero down so he can spend some time with his daughter. It's an interesting question — yeah, going back to your daughter would be easy, but then where would the story go? But Crisara's reasons still feel a little hollow, making it a no-win situation.
In certain ways, 5 Days to Die has been almost as much an exorcism — that much Schmidt has said in the first issue — as it is a standard crime thriller. There's a lot of ingredients in this stew, and as far as single issues go, sometimes the taste of all these conflicting themes and elements can surprise you. Yet with a new twist in the offing, I'm curious to see where Schmidt and Chee take this book. Crisara's definitely headed for a fall, and I think that will be even more satisfying. The question is, when this all-business cop finally does drop, will he have what it takes to get back up?The Boys: Highland Laddie #2
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by John McCrea, Keith Burns and Tony Avina
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by David Pepose
Look, there's going to be some readers who absolutely love Garth Ennis, love The Boys, love Wee Hughie, love stories set in Scotland. Everyone's entitled to their passion, and if you're a big fan of any of the previously stated categories, you'll probably love The Boys: Highland Laddie #2.
Me? I come in without some of that baggage. I don't have a problem with Ennis's work — I can take or it leave it — but I don't pick it up religiously, either. And as far as Highland Laddie #2 goes, I'm probably in the "leave it" camp: Without the balls-to-the-wall superhero satire or even the character arc Hughie had in the main series, this issue feels static, a one-note joke that gets less funny the more times it's repeated.
That's not to say that Ennis isn't a solid writer. You can feel how deliberate he is with the sorts of stories he tells — and sure, having Hughie repeatedly come face-to-face with some serious screw-ups has its own appeal — but that's the problem with having such an outre portfolio: How do you top yourself? Much of this feels tame — blow-up dolls in a lake or stories about clandestine bukkake mysteries feels, well, kind of beneath Ennis. And seeing Hughie see this sort of stuff again and again and again gets kind of old after awhile, y'know?
And the other problem — much of this story doesn't give John McCrea and Keith Burns a whole lot to work with, comedically. There's an early scene of Hughie getting to meet with some pilots that's got some expressiveness to it, and there's a moment of violence that almost brings you back to The Boys at its height, but the problem with not being a flashy artist is that when the story slumps, you don't have something to pop it back up.
It's a shame, because I know that The Boys ongoing manages to be a lot more entertaining even in the slow issues, rather than Wee Hughie's exploration into ennui. Seeing Hughie's exploits in the states might be crass and self-indulgent, but that's the voice and tone that Ennis set up a long time ago — The Boys: Highland Laddie feels like it's trying to set itself apart from its sister title, but still hasn't decided where it wants to go. The result feels washed-out, meandering. I guess it's true what they say: You can never go home again.Time Bomb #2
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Paul Gulacy and Rain Beredo
Lettering by John J. Hill
Published by Radical Comics
Review by Amanda McDonald
You've got to love a good time travel story. Well, okay — you don't HAVE to. Actually, now that I think about it there is a lot of potential for really horrible time travel stories. I usually avoid historical themes, but knowing that there was a time travel twist and knowing that this book comes from Palmiotti and Gray, I thought I'd give it a go. I'm pleased to report that I was was not disappointed.
Weighing in at a hefty 50 odd pages, there is a lot of story and action going on here. In the previous issue, a group of scientists have accidentally detonated a bomb, and the government reveals the ability to send them back 24 hours to prevent the detonation. However instead of being sent back as expected, they are sent back to Nazi Germany toward the end of World War II.
Starting outside of Berlin in a concentration camp, the team has to find a way into the city. They don't waste any time in getting out of the camp by any means necessary. I give them some credit, they do try to hitch a ride with some Nazi forces, but those darn Nazis just don't make it easy for them. Good thing the team is armed. Upon entering the city the team separates, providing us with multiple plot lines. Some team members masquerade as officers, others seek intelligence. I most enjoyed the story of Peggy, masquerading as a bar maid, and using her feminine charms to get information. Things take a turn for the worse, and we see she's capable of being much more than just a charming woman. The team has inner ear communication devices, as well as nifty weapons to put them at advantage over the forces they come up against.
As the issue progresses, we see lots of close calls. I particularly loved the scene where we see their meaning of "x marks the spot." This book really does have a good action movie feel to it. Dark tones, elaborate settings, detailed crowd scenes are abound, all while telling a story where you really don't know what twist or turn will come next. Palmiotti and Gray have clearly plotted out a very complex story. In addition, Gulacy's art portrays the dramatic settings and graphic action scenes with equal skill as he does the bar-maid or the Nazi seductress.
This is issue two of only three issues. While this book could have easily been printed as a more conventional length and drawn out over six issues, as a reader I appreciate this three issue approach. It fits this particular book very well. This is the kind of book I would rather enjoy over a lazy weekend afternoon than wait from month to month for. The story is so complex and the art is so intriguing that it's not the typical ten minute read I give most books. It demands a good chunk of your time, and I did find myself going back to enjoy certain passages again. I do recommend the series as a good addition to your collection for those days when you just want to put your feet up, and enjoy some damn good storytelling for an afternoon.Dellec #5
Written by Frank Mastromauro & Vince Hernandez
Art by Micah Gunnell, Rob Stull and Peter Steigerwald
Lettering by Josh Reed
Published by Aspen
Review by George Marston
It's really hard to jump into an unfamiliar title, particularly late in the game after all the set up has taken place. After seeing a preview of Aspen's Dellec, however, I decided to dive in without any prior knowledge, based solely on the quality of Micah Gunnell's art. Inside Issue #5, I found a mixed bag of action tropes and oddities that has potential, but doesn't quite hit the mark just yet.
Being unfamiliar with the very concept of the series, it took a little outside homework to get a handle on what's going on here. Dellec is a family man who has undertaken a quest to purge the world of evil, only to find that concepts such as "evil" and "good" may be separated only by appearances. It's an interesting idea, that God created evil to drive men to his arms, and not one without precedent, but unfortunately it's an idea that I had to go outside of this issue to track down. Here we have Dellec being captured by what is apparently a gang dedicated to Darwinism, who display this dedication by dressing as apes, and being rescued by a man who controls what appear to be shadows, who Dellec instantly betrays. Along the way, we share a moment between Dellec and his children, who he abandons in his quest, since they, typically, "Wouldn't understand his mission," and a showdown between Dellec and a scantily clad woman who blows up Dellec's church.
It's honestly not the ripest plot, and the beats are pretty typical for this sort of story, but the pacing is smooth, and the storytelling easy to follow. The dialogue doesn't stand out one way or another; no one seems laughably unrealistic, but there's not much personality coming through, either. My only real complaint is the lack of actual ties to the over arching plot. While I was easily able to follow the events of this issue, nothing in any of the pages gave me any idea as to what had already happened in previous issues, or what was going to happen in the future. The saving grace of this book is Micah Gunnell's fantastic art. It's clear, concise, and detailed, reminiscent of Patrcik Gleason, or Art Adams. This guy is someone to watch, for sure.
Overall, Dellec doesn't seem like a bad title, and it's very possible that reading only issue number 5 isn't the best way to get the story, but there's little at play here to make want to dig back through those previous issues. While I enjoyed the art immensely, there's not a lot of meat to the story. There are some great concepts inherent in the good/evil dichotomy they've set up, and even in this issue the ape-gang is a pretty weird and cool idea, but there's not enough of those ideas coming through the pages to make me feel like I've glimpsed something that lives up to those promises.Robert E. Howard's Hawks of Outremer #4
Written by Robert E. Howard and Michael Alan Nelson
Art by Damian Couceiro and Juan Manuel Tumburus
Lettering by Johnny Lowe
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by David Pepose
Did BOOM! Studios really release a book that starts out with a 9-page fight sequence? Considering the addage "every comic is someone's first," that's an incredibly ballsy way to start a comic — and it's also surprisingly succcessful.
Seriously, this is a book that works on art and atmosphere alone, even for someone who hasn't read the previous three issues. Damian Couceiro handles his pen like Cormac Fitzgeoffrey handles his sword — like an utter badass. The composition is fantastic, as Fitzgeoffrey mows down hordes of soldiers — there's one sequence in particular I adored, where he takes a two-handed swing, spins the sword in his hand, and then stabs two guys behind him. Jeez, it's like the Crusader version of the Terminator. But, yeah, the fight choreography is fantastic, and utterly worth the price of admission alone.
As far as the writing goes, Michael Alan Nelson does something interesting here — he steps out of his own way much of the time, woring with Couceiro to establish some strong pacing, and leaving much of the dialogue until later in the story. When Fitzgeoffrey finally opens his mouth, you can hear the poetry of Robert E. Howard, as our hero growls, "though it will cost me my life, you will die this day, Nureddin." The story does end a little abruptly, but it's still an impressive exit for a rough-and-tumble warrior.
Considering that this issue is the last of the series, it's a real testament to Howard, Nelson, Couceiro and the BOOM! Studios crew that they're able to get you on board so quickly. And considering how well Nelson concluded his series Dingo, you get the sense that this is one of those increasingly rare writers in the biz — this is a guy who knows how to pull an exit. Even if you haven't read the first three issues, I highly recommend this book — it'll leap off the stands, mug you by swordpoint, and kick your ass all the way home. And you'll like it.
Pellet review!Muppet Sherlock Holmes #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Lan Pitts): "I use a deductive method I call "look-a-fication" to find the answers others miss in plain sight." An heiress has developed a mysterious sickness and keeps muttering an eerie phrase: "speckled band." Doctors are baffled and only one man, er, Muppet can solve the case: Sherlock Holmes! While not directly an adaptation of any Arthur C. Doyle story, Muppet Sherlock Holmes is guaranteed to keep you intrigued and chuckling all the way through. Patrick Storck's script is funny with humor that screams of vintage Muppet Show moments. Amy Mebberson's art almost pops out at you with amazing background detail and uncanny likeness to all the characters. Great stuff for any old-school Muppet fan or one trying to get a younger individual into the world of Muppetry. What are you looking forward to most this week?