Best Shots Rapid Reviews: X-23, BIRDS OF PREY, More
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Happy Thursday, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with a ton of team Best Shots' special Rapid-Fire Reviews! We've got books from DC, Marvel, Image, BOOM! Studios and much more for your bite-sized review-reading enjoyment — and we've got tons more at the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, let's let Teresa start us off with the first issue of X-23...Click here for preview): Marjorie Liu doesn’t eff around. She writes female characters the way I wish everyone would write female characters. Liu’s women are always women, not girls — even when they are girls, as is the case for X-23. Liu isn’t afraid to have women be cold or ruthless or ambitious. She respects their life experiences, and she manages to give them a feminine sensibility without putting too fine a point on their gender. Liu’s Black Widow has successfully made Natasha Romanoff more than just a badass in a slinky outfit (though she remains a badass and still does wear the slinky outfit), and she seems to be going in the same direction with X-23, which pleases me, because X-23 is one of the most interesting and underserved characters in the Marvel Universe. She’s too good not to be done well, and Liu is writing her well. However, I was grateful for the guide to X-23’s story in the back of this issue, because a lot of the issue was dependent on X-23’s rather convoluted backstory. I would be remiss in my reviewer duties if I didn’t mention Will Conrad’s gorgeous art which, like Liu’s characterization, manages to be hard and soft at the same time; and Danni Shinya Luo’s spunky cover, which drew me to the issue in the first place. X-23 #1 is a great start to what has the potential to be an amazing series. Click here for preview): When a comic has this much buzz, it’s impossible not to read it with unreasonable expectations. So I’m relieved to have thoroughly enjoyed Morning Glories, a comic that has so far seamlessly combined humor with horror and teen angst with action. It’s not easy to juxtapose a scene of a girl being tased after her parents are murdered with a Judd Nelson joke, but writer Nick Spencer wields a deft pen. All of the characters do embody classic types and exchange the kind of hyper-intelligent, snappy dialogue we’ve come to expect from teen movies, but shorthand is working for Morning Glories. Rodin Esquejo’s oh-so pretty cover art is undoubtedly a big draw for this comic, but Joe Eisma's inside panels are more abstract and roughly hewn. Still, Eisma’s artwork does a very good job of capturing each character’s personality, and thanks to him, I am now deeply frightened of Miss Daramount, the teacher from hell with the intimidating bun. This is good stuff, so try to put he deafening hype aside and just enjoy the spooky Morning Glories Academy tour. Click here for preview): "Ninja, please." This is the Avengers title that not enough people are raving about, which is too bad — because Jeff Parker and new artist Declan Shalvey are tearing this book up. Parker makes this book easy to jump into, walking us through all the various inmates' personalities (although I will admit, some captions with name and power would have been a little bit helpful in the scenes in the Raft, where all the characters are out of costume) and bringing this team of super-scumbags right into the thick of things quickly. It's nice to see Luke Cage have a little bit of a moral conundrum on his hands, and I hope Parker sees that through as this crossover book continues. Now let's talk a bit about Declan Shalvey — he transitions fantastically from the extremely underrated Kev Walker, as he really pours on the moodiness of all these characters. (His Luke Cage is easily the best of the bunch, particularly when he bashes a Hand ninja with a trash can. Wowza.) The fact that this team actually is more of a threat without its leaders is the makings of a strong dynamic — this is the Avengers book that you're likely not reading, and that's too bad. Because even if it's tying in from crossover to crossover, it's one of the best of the bunch. Click here for preview): This a book with style. And it’s not just about the art, though Fiona Staples’ finely rendered illustrations are so distinctive and sophisticated that they’re a treat unto themselves. Her work is an excellent match for Steve Niles’ story, which is like a “Hart to Hart” for the 21st Century, only with robots and conspiracy theories. Despite all the gunshots and stuff blowing up, this issue maintains the same airy, humorous quality of the first two. (The portly robot that houses Jules Verne’s brain delights me to no end.) As for Society founders Nick Hammond and Anastasia Collins, they are such good-looking, unflappable and mutually smitten types that in other hands, they could become annoying, and fast. Niles keeps the charm factor high. The book also has its serious moments, especially with Society members Sally and Nina, African-American twins with special powers who underwent mysterious experiments in the early 1950s, and were essentially frozen in time. With only two more issues to go, Mystery Society doesn’t appear to be in a big hurry to tie up all its loose threads, including the search for Edgar Allen Poe’s skull. However, it’s a fun ride on a scenic route, one I plan to enjoy to the end. Click here for preview): It's funny, because I was just asking online what's the model of an effective first page for a comic — and Jason Aaron manages to touch down and create the perfect one. Who cares if Wolverine has a convoluted backstory? "I've done it all," Wolverine says. "I've had enough sex and killin' and drinkin' and drama to last me ten whole lifetimes. Maybe more." And that's when it hit me — that's why we love this guy! Jason Aaron knows what makes Spider-Man and Wolverine tick, and it shows throughout this entire story — yeah, the jumps in setting from issue-to-issue are a little jarring, but I think this is the issue that's really made me a believer. And let's not forget Adam Kubert here — he's got an image of Wolverine versus a planet that is absolutely to die for, and he just manages to pack in so much style in so much pages. This book is a total trip — read it. Click here for preview): I've been really digging this series in the past, but there's no way around it: This issue is a little disappointing. While I'm totally for the idea of expanding Batman Beyond's mythos to include a Catwoman, Batman robots, Hush, and the like, there's a choppiness to the pacing here that is pretty distracting — we see Catwoman fighting Hush, and pull a new bag of tricks from her predecessor? Well, let's check out Dick Grayson now! Wait, what? By the time Oracle analogue Max abruptly drops in from a "trip to Opal City," you get the sense that the story by Adam Beechen is going where it's going because that's where he needs to go, not where it would organically follow. I don't really buy Bruce's motivation to have a replacement in the wings anymore than I buy Dick Grayson's reasons to leave the Bat-family — sure, there's tension, but the suspension of disbelief shatters. It doesn't help that artist Ryan Benjamin's work has gone from cartoony to just looking really rushed — there's one panel of Terry kicking hush that looks so unnatural that it looks more like Batman is doing a dance party than kung-fu fighting. Nostalgia and some good previous issues are what's kept this fourth chapter on its feet — as someone who's really enjoyed the past few issues, I hate to say that this book is disappointing me. But it is.