Best Shots Rapid Reviews: CAPTAIN AMERICA,WONDER WOMAN, More

Exclusive Preview: CAPTAIN AMERICA #610

Greetings, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with the Best Shots Review team to deliver our lightning-fast Rapid-Fire Reviews! You want Marvel We got it! You want DC? We got that, too! We've got books from Image, Top Cow, IDW and BOOM! Studios as well! And don't fret, we've got tons more reviews where that came from — just check us out at <a href="/13031-exclusive-marvel-preview-captain-america-610.html>: If you've been a big fan of Baron Zemo in the past, chances are you've probably done a little bit of grumbling at Ed Brubaker's latest arc of Captain America. "Wasn't he supposed to be a flawed antihero?" "What about the Thunderbolts?" "What about ?" So I think it's to Brubaker's credit what he does for Zemo in this issue — even if you haven't really been keeping up with this series, you get the gist quickly enough: Bucky Barnes and Helmut Zemo are two sides of the same coin, and Brubaker's motivation for Zemo outting the new Captain America's past as an assassin makes so much sense it hurts. (That is, if you know something about the character's recent histories. If you don't, the learning curve may be a bit much.) People talk so much about how superhero comics are the "illusion of change," but I think there's a lot of depth to plumb here, and Brubaker isn't making so much surface changes as he is sweeping shifts to his character's status quo. (At least one hopes.) While I feel like the trio of colorists (Dean White, Frank Martin and Paul Mounts) occasionally give the artwork a garish feel with the purples and reds, you can't help but admire the mood that Butch Guice gives the proceedings, particularly as you see the fatigue and menace on Bucky's face, his bowie knife an ominous silhouette against the rain. While it's still unclear where Brubaker will take Bucky next — and if he doesn't dig the knife in somewhat, this arc all be for nothing — but as far as single issues go, this is a surprisingly organic and satisfying conclusion.

Wonder Woman #603 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; <a href="/13036-dc-preview-wonder-woman-603.html>: A radical series reboot ought to elicit a strong response, and not just over a character’s change of clothes. While the all-new Wonder Woman has had some truly good moments, I’m not sure it’s adding up to a story that’s worth blowing up the previous continuity and so significantly altering the character’s persona. In this issue, Diana and her gigantic breasts lead her outlaw Amazon sisters through a desert teeming with soul-snatching creatures known as the Keres. To be fair, there are some cool panels showing Diana in straight-up Michael Bay action heroine mode. Even when she’s battling the supernatural, she comes out swinging. I dig her alley-brawler toughness. Unfortunately, Wonder Woman 2.0’s bratty teen dialogue and permanent scowl are have worn out their welcome, and they seem like inauthentic shorthand for “modern.” Wonder Woman #603 is a decent enough issue with art that ranges from mediocre to seriously pretty — but is this all there is? I hope this drastic renovation eventually results in something extraordinary and worthy of its title character.

Action Comics #893 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Teresa Jusino): Paul Cornell is a horrible man. His run on Action Comics has caused me to develop a sick, pervy crush on Lex Luthor. But I’m not ashamed. He’s brilliant, he’s ambitious, he’s confident. And I’ve always had a thing for bald guys… Cornell has Luthor on a quest for a Black Ring, and so far he’s come across some of the DCU’s best (and weirdest) villains. In Issue #893, Luthor goes up against a villain who is not only his match, but has a fuller head of hair: Gorilla Grodd! A gorilla who will eat your brains and kill you with a giant spoon as soon as look at you. In this fast-paced story, Grodd’s back and forth with Lex had the intellectual appeal of an evenly matched chess game while also appealing to a comic reader’s need to watch things go explodey as heads get chopped off. And the last page reveals next issue’s exciting adversary. Notice, I didn’t use the word “villain.” Issue #893 also has a great Jimmy Olsen story in the back by Nick Spencer, so you’re getting two funny, exciting stories for the price of one!

Next Gen Warz #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose): It's maybe not the most fair comparison, but I can't help but read Next Gen Warz and think of Dark Horse's . Yes, Next Gen Warz labels itself as a parody, but reading this book still feels like death by cheesecake. Whereas Empowered took the overendowed, fetishistic manga stereotypes and played them up for some smart laughs, there's something exploitative about Ryan Kinnard flashing the sexy gaming console Foxbox360's butt at the viewer, or how the original Foxbox is lying in the corner unconscious, her legs splayed wide open. (And what's that say about looking at women as just objects for boys to play with?) I get that there's a joke in there, don't get me wrong — but because the underlying message feels a little underdeveloped, the enterprise as a whole is just not making me laugh. As far as the video game insider jokes go, it's hit-or-miss — I understood the drawbacks from both the XBox and PS3 analogues, but some of the other inside baseball, like with the architects of the Playstation 3, soared over my head like their dark blue sex avatar. That said, I have no doubt there will be plenty of people who appreciate Kinnard's kinetic manga style — even when he occasionally gets a little cartoony with some of his characters' expressions, there's definitely an artistic talent in the mix here, but I can't help but feel that as far as Next Gen Warz goes, he's using his powers for evil instead of good.

Pilot Season: Asset #1 (Published by Top Cow; Review by Amanda McDonald): While I hadn't planned on picking up any of Top Cow's titles, the seductive allure of the main character on this one told me otherwise. Margaretha Zelle, aka Maggie, is the central character in this series — a modern day Mata Hari. Over the course of this issue she meets a man via an online dating site, seduces him, and manipulates him to meet her goals. It is yet to be seen who is directing these goals, adding to the mysterious air of her character. The art in this book is absolutely gorgeous, and I enjoyed the bit of mixed media with the computer screen shots thrown in as needed. So consider me a convert when it comes to the event. I'll be voting for this one and keeping my fingers crossed that you do too.

Secret Warriors #20 (Marvel Comics; review by Brendan McGuirk. <a href="/13029-teams-3-view-secret-warriors-20-atlas-5-avengers-prime-3.html?iid=000/015/724> Mirko Colak joins Jonathan Hickman in his latest foray into the deepest of Marvel's dark conspiracies. The specificity of Hickman's sprawling global power web is perhaps this book's biggest strength, because of how it finally demarcates Nick Fury's oft-shrouded field of play. Vaguely implied villainous threats are one of comics' oldest cliches, but with Secret Warriors, not only are the shadowy power-brokers brought into the light, so too are their designs. And so are Fury's counter-designs. But that doesn't account for double agents. Or does it? And so on. No small part of the the fun with this book is gauging who is how many chess moves ahead, while also figuring out if both players are on the same board. The difference between espionage-adventure and action-adventure is intellectual involvement, and that is where Secret Warriors capitalizes. Colak brings a straightforward super-hero approach to this chapter, pairing the opacity of Hickman's script with a sense of clarity. He hits his marks, and the colors from Imaginary Friends Studio find the tonal match between the visuals and the story. In the latest arc, , the factions of Fury's forces, Hydra and Leviathan have finally been set on a high-profile collision course. All wild cards are in play, all aces drawn from their holes. If the secret gets out, it's a pretty good bet that Nick Fury and his will end up putting it back in. How hard can it be? It's only saving the world.

Justice Society of America #43 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): Confession time — I was a little bit hesitant to get into this issue. I know there's been craziness with Obsidian — Was he an egg? Was he a villain? Was he even around? — and lately that sort of continuity confusion has infected both his father, the Golden Age Green Lantern, as well as his sister, Jade. Who's a villain? Who's got their powers? Who's even alive? So you can understand even this die-hard DC fan's hesitance. Well, maybe this lower-key epilogue was a decent place to stick my toe back in the waters of the Justice Society of America. In certain ways, James Robinson takes an almost too-soft approach toward his retooling of the Sentinel — now he's a power-player in DC's magical universe, an area of continuity could always use a little bit of a conceptual retightening. Having Alan have a father-son bonding experience with Obsidian is a non-threatening way to coax readers into the new status quo for all these characters. That said, Robinson does cheat a bit as far as shoehorning some action in there — that's not to say that Jesus Merino doesn't make the five pages of potential catastrophes look positively sick (Vampire Mister Terrific for the win!), but it feels a bit shoehorned, to try to give this issue more "necessity," more "weight." (Then again, I still dug those pages, and they stuck with me, so mission accomplished.) I will say, however, that I think the colors flatten a lot of the visuals here — Allen Passalaqua's harsh greens and flat reds rob a lot of Merino's weight. It's not a perfect issue, but there is some heart to this Starheart — if this book can retain some of the humanity behind the legacies and power sets, this title could bear watching.

Angel #37 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Teresa Jusino): I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the most fascinating relationship in the Buffyverse is the relationship between Angel and Spike. Their relationships with Buffy don’t compare to their centuries-long rivalry, or their current competition over who’s the more awesome vampire with a soul. Bill Willingham is still plotting the title, but David Tischman and Mariah Huehner have written this issue, which cuts to the heart of the Spike/Angel rivalry and features Spike at his hilarious best. Also – News Flash – what’s going on with Connor is actually interesting! There’s also a great second story, “Round One,” featuring the devil, Eddie Hope; and in which Angel, Spike, and Co. attempt to save Gunn. However, I do have a complaint that starts with this book, but extends to many of the IDW titles I’ve read. Is anyone editing over there? There was a lettering mistake in one of the panels. Now, this happens to everyone, but it seems to happen every time I open an IDW book! They have some wonderful properties and some great writers and artists on their roster. That talent deserves better than carelessness.

Gotham City Sirens #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald): This book has had its ups and downs, but with this issue by new-to-the-series writer Peter Calloway, it is definitely on an upswing. With cameo appearances by Zatanna and Talia, the ladies are unsure of what they are up against and I was admittedly in the dark through the issue as well. I really enjoyed the banter among all of these ladies of Gotham, and the twist toward the end was something I should have likely seen coming. However the distractions these guest characters and some great art were enough to keep me out of the loop and pleasantly surprised at the end. From Selina's dream sequences, to Harl's pig tails and kitty tee shirt, there was none of the distracting inconsistencies in art I've complained about before. The guest characters were integrated well, and true to character. This one is definitely a great place to jump into the series, if you haven't already.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: Dust to Dust #5 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose): This issue starts off a bit slow, but you still can't get over just how much humanity Chris Roberson and Robert Adler can give an android. "We could have broken any human to pieces in an instant, and yet they were our masters," the android sleuth Victor Charlie recalls. "But I was programmed to be a good soldier, a combat android. And good androids obey the orders given to them by humans." Seeing Victor's robotic sense of humor play off the exuberance of the human researcher Samantha Wu is charming in and of itself — but Robert Adler, along with colorists Andres Lozano and Javier Suppa really seal the deal, giving a sort of horrific, bleached-out tone that shows the utter humanity that's conflicting with these automatons. That said, there are a few weak points to this issue — the first is the empathic character of Reed, who comes off as a little bit two-dimensional, like Roberson's trying a little too hard to make the character into comedic relief. The other thing that hasn't hooked me — or maybe has unhooked me, as if Roberson's played his hand too hard — is the motivations of his killer androids. Sometimes there's such a thing as too explanation, and I felt it made the villains seem too petty, too human. Still, this read has some striking characterization, and artistically it's got that scratchy atmosphere that is perfect for a sci-fi society laced with ambiguity.

What's your favorite comic so far this week?

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