Greetings, Rama readers, your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here! Team Best Shots is loaded for bear this week, with a ton of new yesterday's releases from Marvel, DC, Top Cow and BOOM! Studios! Whether its the British Batman and Robin or a Spielberg-esque trip through superheroic fantasy, Best Shots has your back -- and if you're interested in more reviews, you can check us out at the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, let's let Teresa kick off the column, with a trip across the pond to look at Knight & Squire...
Knight & Squire #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Teresa Jusino; Click here for preview): Whoa! That was the most British thing I’ve experienced since Guy Ritchie adapted that Charles Dickens novel that was a retelling of Jane Austen into a movie with a soundtrack by The Sex Pistols! I’ve seen Knight and Squire in issues of Batman, and enjoyed them immensely, so I’m happy that they now have their own title. Writer Paul Cornell is clearly reveling in the Britishness of it all, and it’s awesome to see how these characters work in their natural habitat. There is a lot of British slang being bandied about, but what you don’t get from context, you will get from the handy-dandy glossary in the back of the issue (which I didn’t need for nearly as much as I thought I would! It pays to have been an anglophile from an early age!). However, the real Britishness is in the story – a hero who is upset about the neutrality of a superhero/villain pub protected by “truce magic” attempts to thwart it – in which the moral is the importance of moderation. Jimmy Broxton’s art is charming, despite him working his name into EVERYTHING! (I started to think “Brox” was a brand!) Knight & Squire #1 is a fun and funny beginning to a series I’m very much looking forward to reading!
Thor #616 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Brendan McGuirk; Click here for preview): To be “Kirby-like,” is probably an over-cited characteristic in comics. When we say this, we often mean that characters are portrayed with exaggerated mass or bulk, or we refer to a choreographic philosophy, or maybe just a predilection towards silly space dots. Almost always, “Kirbyism,” comes in reference to literal artistic styles. Ferry and Fraction's Thor has begun exhibiting Kirby Karacteristics of a different sort; ones that speak not to the literal representations on the page, but in the loft and ambition of their ideas. It begins with the very concept of space gods. For a long while, creators have seemingly made a decision as to whether Thor should be a fantasy book or a celestial one. Do we anchor these characters to the past, where they began, or to the skies, where they have yet to be imagined? The blend of these disparate elements were definitional to Stan and Jack's early work, and were never better exhibited than by the creation of Beta Ray Bill in Walter Simonson's very first ongoing issue. The concept behind the World Eaters, a rival species of space-deities antithetical to the Asgardians, is not so revolutionary, but the contrast between these destroyers and the Norse gods, visually, by their lettering, or in their actions, offers a new interpretation of Thor's immortal brethren. And while the heroes and adversaries are heavenly, the story as a whole is still bound to Earth and those who walk it. The warrior gods, even Thor himself, are as flawed and fallible as they were in the legends. There is melodrama on the ground and astral threats in the skies. Cosmic energies crackle from the pen of Pasqual Ferry, who is doing the work of his life on this book in balancing beauty, fake space science, and elements of the fantastic in this vibrantly new kind of Thor story. Like Volstagg says of the scientist who seeks to explain the pending threat to Earth and Asgard, “This small man has big thoughts!” That is Kirbyism. That is what we need from the clergy of our space gods.
Green Lantern #58 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; Click here for preview): I'll give it to Johns; the dialogue in this book is really good. Sinestro and Atrocitus, Carol and Hal, and Larfleeze. These characters are so well defined, and there are some truly memorable moments: Sinestro talking smack to Atrocitus, Adara choosing a host in a touching, save-the-day kind of way, and Larfleeze being, of course, hilarious. But my favorite would have to be Carol FINALLY telling Hal to go home to his Cowgirl. That bit of backbone was long overdue. Her costume is a travesty; therefore, displays of dignity are imperative for the character. Thank you, Johns, for giving Carol a purpose other than being in love with Hal Jordan. There are several hints in Green Lantern #58 that there will be some game-changers for a few of the major players. This was a good read with solid characterization and story development. Mr. Mahnke, your art is splendid, as usual.
Superior #1 (Published by Icon; Review by Teresa Jusino; Click here for preview): I’ve been excited about Superior ever since they decided to use a photo I took as part of their marketing campaign (so I’m bragging. So, sue me!). I was already a huge Mark Millar fan – loved Kick-Ass, War Heroes, American Jesus, Old Man Logan – so I had a feeling I’d love Superior. But I wasn’t expecting this book to be so…earnest. Superior tells the story of a boy named Simon who has Multiple Sclerosis. When a mysterious monkey in a spacesuit takes him out of his room (yes, that’s right. A monkey in a spacesuit! What?!) in the middle of the night, he grants Simon one magic wish – to be Superior, the superhero he admires from movies. After all the stories about children and superheroes that Millar has told in the past, all full of irony and cynicism, Superior is a much-needed breath of fresh air. In his letter to fans at the end of the book, Millar says he’s going for something Spielbergian. To me, this issue seemed more like Superman: The Movie meets Big. It’s a wonderful story from an unexpected point of view complimented beautifully by Leinil Yu’s gorgeous artwork, which has an innocent, nostalgic quality about it. Superior is going to be an amazing series, and I really like the softer side of Millar!
Pilot Season: Forever #1 (Published by Top Cow Productions; Review by Erika D. Peterman): Longevity, a biotech company that adds years to people’s lives, is simply too good to be true. Its motto, “We ensure tomorrow,” is the kind of faux cheerful marketing line that belies the dirty work life extension entails. Young employee and everyman Ryan Chambers is about to find out just how unsavory Longevity is, and how it’s connected to his orphan past. It’s a mind-blowing trip for Ryan, and his tour guide is a scary, scruffy character known only as Kane. Though we don’t learn much about Ryan in this issue, writer Brad Inglesby makes him so relatable and likable that the reader is immediately invested in the collapse of his world. Thomas Nachlik’s illustrations are vibrant, and the deep, dark lines make the characters practically tangible, as if they’d been carved. Most of the action seems to take place either before sunrise or in the dead of night, and Nathan Fairbairn’s understated colors are suitably ominous. Forever’s fate is ultimately up to Top Cow Pilot Season voters, but by the cliff-hanging end of this satisfying book, many a reader will be clamoring for the next chapter.
Dark Wolverine #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): Bravo, Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu -- bravo. This is what I want to see when I see Daken, better known to comics fans as Dark Wolverine. Giving our manipulative hero his own playmate -- the shapeshifting Mystique -- is just what this book needed, as there's so much sexual tension between the two that you could cut it with an adamantium claw. While I think the subplot about Wolverine being sent to Hell -- particularly, the ones who sent him there -- could be a little more defined, I'm having a good enough time on the ride there that I don't need the answers right away. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Guiseppe Camuncoli, whose use of fire is absolutely stunning -- this guy has really cranked up the intensity of his composition, aided by some really striking colorwork by Frank D'Armata. Seriously, Wolverine in Hell never looked better than when Camuncoli drew it. I'll be honest, I've always been a little skeptical of Dark Wolverine, after it jogged in place throughout Siege, but it's issues like this that make me seriously eat my words. Call him the Comeback Kid: With some real intensity to the artwork and a great foil for Daken, this is one issue of Dark Wolverine that hits way above its weight class.
Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): I have to give Peter Tomasi a lot of credit -- while the other Green Lantern titles sometimes strain a little under the weight of its exponentially-increasing mythos, Emerald Warriors takes that continuity and masters it, making for a really satisfying set-up chapter for this book. For the beginning of the book, it's nice to see the various Lantern corps -- Green, Red and Blue, for those keeping score at home -- get a chance to strut their stuff, power-wise: Whether its Guy giving a bit of sass as he blasts his Red Lantern escort, or seeing the Red Lantern burst a plasma bubble from within, there's a lot of fireworks for readers to enjoy. A lot of that comes from Fernando Pasarin, who seems like a much cleaner version of Doug Mahnke, with Mahnke's hard shadows giving way to some real expressiveness. I also like that the plot threads from earlier issues are starting to get a little bit more clarity, giving the Lanterns a tangible threat that they will eventually have to face. Is everything the most reader-friendly? Maybe not -- if you don't know who Sodam Yat is, then likely some of the weight is going to be lost here. Still, this book is finally putting the pedal to the metal, and if it can give some payoffs next issue, these Emerald Warriors might be all that they can be.
Strange Tales II #1 (Marvel Comics; Review by Brendan McGuirk; Click here for preview): The last Strange Tales series proved to be Marvel's most nuanced and varied assemblage of character interpretations in memory. Cartoonists whose talents and priorities usually kept them segregated from comics' “mainstream,” proved themselves to be fully capable of repurposing both their own work and stalwart House of Ideas characters in the creation of original, subversive Marvel comix. The reloaded round two begins here, and the stuff proves just as powerful. Rafael Grampá, whose granular and dynamic work suggests that given the chance he could be the greatest Wolverine artist in a decade, sinks to an unexplored depth in Logan's pathos, one that reveals fetishism on both planes of the page. Jeff Lemire's Canadian tale of horror exhibits the deafening quiet that has become his trademark. Gene Yang's Frog-Man embraces his feet of clay with humor and grace. Shannon Wheeler inverts the Captain America/ Red Skull paradigm in a way that is hilarious if not blindly patriotic. That every creator involved brings a different artistic style and approach is immediately apparent, but what ultimately keeps Strange Tales so apart from the rest of Marvel's catalog is that the artistic intent of each story is so apart from serial fiction. Like the alternative work of its creators, the ambition of these stories begin with the human experience, and the array of perspectives it offers us, and merely uses these fantastic and familiar characters as props to get there. This expressive diversity might not be a sufficient fit when convincing readers to buy Spider-Man a few times a month, but it does remind those of us that live by a pledge to genre fiction that there is truly nothing comics (or comix) can't be, look like, or do.
Superman #703 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): This is kind of the quintessential good news/bad news book for me at this point: The good news is, it's much better than the previous issues. The bad news, there's still some major, major flaws to the characterization and plotting that really cuts down on the sympathy and enjoyment level for our hero. Superman comes off as -- well, the best word I can use to describe him is "cranky." Police officers get some lip, dudes harrassing waitresses are threatened with being dropped from high altitudes, and he even cops an attitude with perennial nice guy Dick Grayson (although the latter part may have some tweaking from editorial, since Bruce is still technically "dead" and not available for Superman to clash with): "We play bad cop/psycho cop," Superman tells the new Dark Knight. "Guess which one you get to play." But -- but -- I have to give J. Michael Straczynski and Eddy Barrows some credit here, because they also give Superman a chance to really flex his superpowered muscles. To be honest, it's that physical edge -- not the emotional one -- that Superman's really been needing, so seeing Clark body-tackle a possessed strongman into a lamppost at super-speed, that's pretty darn cool. Still, even with the well-drawn action beats, this book feels just a little too preachy and sanctimonious for my tastes. Moody Superman may be the strongest one there is, but I can't say that he's my hero.
Farscape: Scorpius #6 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose): As I've said in previous columns, I love trickster characters, manipulative buggers who hit harder with a well-crafted turn of phrase than a laser beam or a punch. So imagine my surprise when, on a whim, I started devouring the adventures of Scorpius in BOOM! Studios' Farscape spinoff. Well, this sixth issue certainly is a bit more decompressed than the previous issues, but at the same time, there's just something fascinating about watching Scorpius work. David Alan Mack, working off a story from Farscape creator Rockne S. O'Bannon, gives Scorpius a worthy foe -- it's not just someone who can outshoot him, but someone who can outthink him. It gives some real stakes for our character, and also makes us root for this hot-blooded hybrid in spite of ourselves, only because we realize there's someone worse out there than Scorpius himself. I will say that Gordon Purcell's artwork is a little bit too cartoony for my tastes -- that's not to say that he doesn't give some expressiveness to the characters, but with the number of splash pages that Mack gives this book, there isn't quite as much horror or even mood as I think this book deserves. It's not the fastest issue -- you should definitely pick up the previous issues, however -- but there's still a lot to like about Farscape: Scorpius.What are your picks so far this week?