Greetings, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with the Best Shots team! We've got a handful of some advanced reviews, including books from Dynamite, BOOM! Studios and Ape Entertainment. As always, you can check out the rest of our reviews at the Best Shots Topic Page. And now, let's let George kick off today's column with a look at BOOM! Studios' Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers!Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers
Written by Ian Brill
Art by Leonel Castellani and Jake Myler
Lettering by Jason Arthur
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by George Marston
I've never really been a fan of comic adaptations of cartoons, even those I loved as a kid (or an adult!). There's always something a little off about the characters; the voices don't quite sound off the page, or the art doesn't capture the charm of the designs. Disney comics, in particular, have never been a staple of my reading library. Something about the stories appearing on the printed page brings them into the realm of Euro style "funny animal" comics (many of which actually find their roots in Disney animation to begin with. Time loop!) and that's a genre I've never been interested in. It also, and I am loathe to admit this, makes me feel like my comic stack is being cheapened by the presence of some that Mickey Mouse junk, like the adventures these characters are having are somehow invalidated because they actually are animals rather than simply dressing like them.
All of this is my own problem, though, and I decided to belay any misgivings I usually have about Disney comics, and try Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers because a) Boom! Studios has yet to disappoint me, and b) I absolutely LOVED the cartoon as a kid (and an adult!). I'm glad I took the chance, because, not that I should be surprised, Ian Brill and Leonel Castellani did a fine job of capturing the voice and charm of the cartoon I loved, and still managed to make it feel relevant, and not reliant solely on nostalgia.
To start off, Leonel Castellani is the perfect artist for this book. His work is his own, even when he's drawing characters for whom design sheets have been on the books for over 20 years. The weight of his lines is dynamic and fluid, and his storytelling is clear, classic, and easily accessible while still holding my interest. Colorist Jake Myler does Castellani's delightful linework absolute justice, adding the perfect mood and depth to each of the books many locales and precarious predicaments. Writer Ian Brill is no slouch himself, and the voice he gives the characters as the embark on a globetrotting race to collect the pieces of an important artifact is spot on; Monterey Jack, in particular, rings true, and I can practically hear Jim Cummings (or Peter Cullen, depending on the season of the show) reading the lines. I also love the way he handles Zipper, and his highly entertaining conversation with his family.
My one complaint is that the plot isn't exactly clear. There are several jumps in the timeframe, going between the modern plot (which itself jumps from locale to locale without much warning), and flashbacks that presumably give the Rangers the impetus for jaunting merrily from crocodile infested sewers to "pi-rat" plundered Amazon shipwrecks. It's easy enough to get on board, but the jumpy narrative does make for a bit of a choppy breakdown, particularly when there are no indicators given as to where or when a scene is taking place outside of bits of dialogue. I'm all for showing and not telling, but this is Rescue Rangers, not "Final Crisis."
Overall, I'm pretty excited about this little bit of my childhood finding it's way back into my life. After successfully resurrecting other old favorites like Darkwing Duck, Boom! certainly has the track record to make this work. If, like me, you have trepidations about the nature of a Disney comic featuring anthropomorphic mice, do yourself a favor and look past that to see the fun mix of Indiana Jones style adventure and all-ages sensibility in Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers.Raise the Dead 2 #1
Written by Leah Moore, John Reppion and Mike Raicht
Art by Guiu Vilanova and Alejandro Sanchez
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by David Pepose
Confession time: I have never read the original Raise the Dead.
Confession time #2: I didn't have particularly high hopes for the sequel, both in terms of accessibility and in terms of transcending this basic, simple question — don't we have enough zombie books on the shelf already?
Well, consider me converted — or, depending on your nomenclature, bitten.
Even if you haven't read the original Raise the Dead series, it's easy enough to get on the ground floor now, as Leah Moore and John Reppion deliver a character-filled look at contagion that's as ominous as it is atmospheric.
Marking this within the two other major zombie comics on the stands, Moore and Reppion — aided by scripter Mike Raicht — seem to lean more towards 28 Days Later rather than the slower pacing of The Walking Dead — there's no time to waste, it's time to square off with the undead, and they don't go down with just a blow to the head. Using a little bit of pitch-black humor, they give our protagonist Rachel a real likeability, one that makes the perils of zombiedom really resonate with you. You don't want this character to die, but fighting the undead is a war you win in inches, not miles.
Guiu Vilanova is an interesting visual choice as far as this series goes — his zombies actually have a stylishness, an air of evil to their blood-red eyes. There's no sympathy here, it's us versus them, and "them" happens to have some taut musculature and the hint of a grin on a lurking zombie. The humans in this book reminds a bit of Fernando Pasarin mixed with Mitch Breitweiser — very smooth lines with geometric shadows — but the skill he shows with composition is something that you shouldn't overlook.
The one weakness of this book — and, depending on how you look at it, it isn't much of a weakness — is that it doesn't reinvent the wheel, meaning it has to stand up against two well-established contenders for sequential art zombie holocausts: 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead. But honestly, how many superhero comics are there out there? They all manage to get along just fine. If you like some character to go along with your undead bloodshed, you should definitely give Raise the Dead 2 a peek.Megamind #1
Written by Jason M. Burns, Jesse Leon McCann, and Quinn Johnson
Art by Fernando Peniche, Dustin Evans, Tina Francisco and CV Design
Lettering by Josh Crawley
Published by Ape Entertainment
Review by Jennifer Smith
There are two giant pitfalls media tie-in comics must avoid to succeed. The first is the simple reiteration of the film or show, which, while accessible to potential readers who haven’t seen the original property, adds nothing to the story and is often completely superfluous. The second is in many ways the opposite problem: the creation of a new story so dependent upon the original source that no one unfamiliar with the original (or even only passingly familiar) can understand and enjoy it. The success of Megamind #1 relies primarily upon the balanced negotiation of those two extremes. The comic doesn’t simply retell the movie, but it also makes sure to tell stories that aren’t movie-dependent. Even readers who haven’t seen the film (like this reviewer) can jump right into Megamind’s origin story and the two shorts vignettes of his day-to-day existence, and that’s a credit to Ape Printing and the writers of this issue’s three stories.
Content-wise, the stories are more hit-or-miss. The origin story by Jason M. Burns, which takes up over half the issue, is a fairly standard high school narrative about an outcast, Megamind, pining after the hottest girl in school, Roxanne, who is, inexplicably, (at least as far as the outcast is concerned) dating the popular jock — Megamind’s nemesis, Metro Dude. The story has its cute moments, like a hilarious parody of Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” and some fairly funny jokes, and it might work better for the young audience for which the comic is intended, since they likely haven’t seen this story a million times before. But the story also reiterates some of the most problematic aspects of this narrative, like the tendency to treat the girl as an object to be attained with no opinions or agency of her own.
That, combined with some cheap, vaguely homophobic cross-dressing jokes regarding Megamind’s Minion, makes for a disappointingly regressive plot, and makes Megamind an unlikeable protagonist, for reasons that have nothing to do with his supervillainy. Luckily, the story is elevated somewhat by Fernando Peniche’s art, which does a brilliant job not only of translating the CGI style of the film into expressive 2-D sequential art but of reimagining all of the film’s central characters as teenagers. The characters, Megamind in particular (despite his blue skin and bulbous head) look realistically teenaged and inhabit some awesomely creative layouts. I’d love to see Peniche on a teen superhero team book.
The other two stories in the book are significantly better. Jesse Leon McCann tells the first chapter of a story that will presumably continue through the next three issues of this miniseries, entitled “Minion’s Day Off.” With Minion off enjoying a day at the beach, Megamind is left alone in his lair to take care of himself and accidentally presses the wrong button — setting in motion a series of world-domination plans he wasn’t prepared to execute. It’s a clever set-up, and one I’ll be interested in seeing through to its conclusion.
Quinn Johnson’s “Minion, Where’s My Car?”, meanwhile, serves readers a series of silly montage moments as Megamind and his Minion retrace the day’s steps to try to find their invisible car — which is, of course, right where it belongs. This story is particularly suitable for younger readers, who are likely to delight in a joke that may be a bit predictable for adults, but adults can still find their fair share of enjoyment in the meta in-jokes of the montage. This transgenerational address is a hallmark of successful “all-ages” comics, and it’s used to great effect in this book. Tina Francisco’s art on both of the shorter stories, meanwhile, provides another nice 2-D take on the CGI Dreamworks house style, this one a bit rounder and less stylized than Peniche’s but no less effective in its storytelling.
Megamind #1 is not a perfect comic, but for a media tie-in from a small publisher, it hits more than it misses. If the remaining three issues continue in this vein, or improve upon it, Ape’s Megamind may one day make a great starter comic for new, young readers, and a delightful treat for older fans of animation in general and Megamind in particular.Bring the Thunder #1
Written by Alex Ross and Jai Nitz
Art by Wilson Tortosa and Marlon Ilagan
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by David Pepose
It may not bring the fireworks just yet — and in this industry, that may be all the chance they get — but I think it's worth noting that Jai Nitz knows how to bring the character to Bring the Thunder. Revealing a quirkiness to a badass military man, Nitz is what keeps a slightly retreaded action-origin story from being just sound and fury.
Looking at much of his previous work — even the new TRON book from Marvel — I've always gotten a sense that Nitz has been overlooked by much of the comics community. The irony with Bring the Thunder — another book likely to get overlooked by people, even with Alex Ross's involvement — shows some of Nitz's best work yet. What could have been just another faceless action sequence is given some real life by an examination of the funkiness of David Bowie.
And Nitz doesn't end there. Like James Robinson on Starman before him, Nitz manages to imbue some real meaning to the mundane, giving depth to Wayne Russell by explaining his love of Bridge rather than Poker or Spades: "Spades is like boxing, but Bridge is like MMA with a fencing match before you ever step in the Octagon. Make sense?" Things like Superman School or even Doctor Zhivago just adds to a protagonist who toes that thin line between being that kind of Batman-esque hyper-competence and being, well, human.
Wilson Tortosa, for me, is a little bit of a mixed bag. His sharp, manga-influenced style — reminiscent of Kia Asamiya from way back on Chuck Austen's run on Uncanny X-Men — really focuses on the action, even if there's some drawbacks on expressiveness or, on one of the last pages, some really weird musculature. But he does aim for the jugular early on, and seeing two unknown supermen duking it out looks powerful — even if it's a little overwhelming in its business. I really enjoyed Marlon Ilagan's colorwork here, as well — even nighttime combat doesn't get obscured, and he really helps set the mood nicely.
Now all that being said, the big stumbling block for Bring the Thunder is this — thus far, I feel like I've seen it before. Plot-wise — not character-wise, but plot-wise — it feels like I'm watching Spawn the Movie meets the Gauntlet from The Initiative. What is there to set this book apart? That's the real question of Bring the Thunder — the execution is already much better than expected, but if Ross and Nitz can figure out this character's reason for being, they might have a big hit on their hands.What are you looking forward to reading most this week?