Greetings, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, bringing you some of tomorrow's reviews today with the Best Shots Team! We've got books from Image, IDW, BOOM! Studios and Aspen for your reading enjoyment, not to mention tons of back issue reviews on the Best Shots Topic Page. And now, let's check out the third new superhero from Stan Lee, as we look at BOOM! Studios' Starborn...
Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Khary Randolph and Mitch Gerads
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by David Pepose
Who needs superpowers when you've got character?
That's my two cents on Starborn, the third and final series to debut from BOOM! Studios' new Stan Lee superhero line. Arguably the best of the bunch — and certainly possessing the highest energy of all three books — Starborn is a stylishly drawn, character-driven knockout of a first issue.
It's a credit to writer Chris Roberson that he takes one of the biggest clichés in writing — yep, you guessed it, having a struggling writer as his protagonist, Benjamin Warner — but manages to give that tired old character and breath some new life into it. In so doing, he lays out some pretty smart exposition about Warner's foes, the interstellar Hive. But for me, what makes the character so sympathetic is that he yearns so badly for something more than being a corporate drone. "Is this really my life?" he asks.
Out of all three artists for the Stan Lee lineup, Khary Randolph is definitely the cartooniest of the bunch — but without question, he's easily the best. Teaming up with Mitch Gerads for some really moody colorwork, Randolph's characters have a clean, animated vibe to them, with some real emotion showing through his meticulous designs. This first issue could have fallen flat on its face with its repeated flashbacks to Warner's fictional universe, but Randolph serves up some addictive eye candy with the action that brings as much style as it does speed.
Now, this book isn't going to be for everyone — those who didn't enjoy the decompressed nature of Soldier Zero might have a similar problem here, as Benjamin doesn't actually get into costume (or even display any powers at all) in this first issue. Those who aren't into cartoony art might also feel a bit of a drag, since Benjamin's problems don't make him quite as deep of a character as Soldier Zero's Stewart Trautmann — but for me, the artwork of Starborn says so much about the character's ambitions and dreams that I'm happy to roll with it.
Out of the three Stan Lee superhero books from BOOM! Studios, I'd have to say that from an execution standpoint, Starborn is my clear favorite of the bunch. It's books like these that show you don't always have to have a crazy high concept to make for a solid story, as long as you have some strong characterization on the table and a bold visual style behind it. Roberson is proving to have the Midas Touch for his books, and with some striking visuals from Randolph and Gerads, it looks like the sky's the limit for the creators of Starborn.
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Renzo Podesta
Lettering by Shawn DePasquale
Published by Image Comics
Review by Vanessa Gabriel
How many people get to live their true passion? There are some who free themselves from the tyranny of the rat race and find that one thing that ignites a fire within them like nothing else. What if you tasted it, smelled it, felt it, lived it, and experienced 20,000 people celebrating it — and then it was gone for good? Could you fathom doing anything else? What would you do to get it back?
Will Garland is the guitarist who drives his band's epic success, and he's never been happier. Then, an inoperative nerve disorder leaves him unable to play. Afflicted with severe pain in his hand and desperate to play the guitar again, Will searches for a cure from every kind of healer. He ends up at his last resort on his 27th birthday, and 27 is an unlucky number for legendary rock stars.
This story seems like a wholly original take on the musician selling his proverbial soul to have the one thing he cannot live without, his tool of creativity … his hand. Although, it is not entirely clear who is behind the forces that are at work here. There seems to some themes, though: the death of creativity, consequences of a mad science rebirth of creativity, and ultimately creativity versus death. There are some odd and confusing moments that don't detract from the story, but rather pique interest. I found the experience of 27 to be abstract and fun. Writer Charles Soule is clearly a musician. His perspective offers authentic emotion that serves the book well.
Renzo Podesta's art is spooky, dark and subtly stylized. The first few panels had me feeling skeptical. As I continued through the book, I found the art to be quite apt for the story. The background art has an impressionist feel, and it brings the hard, simple lines that Podesta uses on the human form out in full force. Throughout the book, he elicits an unsettling feeling that matches Soule's story. I absolutely adore W. Scott Forbes' cover art. It is beautifully colored ethereal realness that I could spot a mile away.
Soule has also included a bit of fun beyond the story itself. There is a puzzle built into the book's art, and certain pages contain pieces of code in each issue. If you put the pieces of the puzzle together, they make up a set of instructions. I heard there may be something in it for whoever figures it out first. But that's just what I heard.
I see 27 as having the potential to be either utterly eccentric, or wildly interesting. The bizarre moments need some fleshing out, but the rippling of concepts like creativity, talent, death and desperation are provocative and thoughtful. I'm down to buy the next issue, for sure.
Mystery Society #5
Written by Steve Niles
Art by Fiona Staples
Lettering by Robbie Robbins
Published by IDW Publishing
Review by David Pepose
As a self-described Mystery Society fan, I have to admit — this final issue made me ask myself, "is that it?" While Steve Niles and Fiona Staples really exploded with the first issue of this Nick-and-Norah-meets-capes-and-pulp book, the ending is more fizzle than fun, with a whole lot of talking and not much in the way of definitive action to wrap this book up.
I think my biggest problem with Mystery Society #5 is, well, not a whole lot happens in this book. If you've missed a couple issues, you'll probably be lost on some key details, but ultimately, the resolution written by Steve Niles feels more like writer fiat than anything particularly organic. Case in point: If Nick Mystery is being held based on video evidence, why would a robot showing a bunch of scared generals another video do him a shred of good? That lack of weight pops up again and again, whether it’s Nina and Sally's big secret, or an attempt on Nick's life, or even the secret of Edgar Allan Poe's skull. Considering this series began with so much energy, I'm surprised that the ending came as such a snooze.
That malaise also seems to affect the artwork, from Fiona Staples. Whereas previous issues had a real spring in their step visually, the artwork here feels — well, it feels a little plain, compared to Staples' past work. There's only a handful of pages that display the sort of experimentation with panels that gave a boost to the series, and the colorwork really muddies up a lot of the imagery here. Staples certainly works well with body language, as Nick cocks his head back defiantly as he signs away his freedom, but ultimately a two-page spread of the Mystery's plane seems like some wasted opportunities.
What gets me about this book is that it feels like Niles started off with such a fun group, and didn't put enough weight onto where they were going to end up. Endings are just as important — heck, a lot of times even more important — than beginnings, because once you've gone on the road with a character, you're invested in what they do and where they go. And in that regard, Niles and Staples get hit harder, because they started off so successfully — I really came to like these characters, but with such a lightweight, even sometimes cartoony ending, it really puts a damper on what came before.
Lady Mechanika #1
Written by Joe Benitez
Art by Joe Benitez and Peter Steigerwald
Lettering by Josh Reed
Published by Aspen Comics
Review by Vanessa Gabriel
Following the emotional and riveting #0 issue, Lady Mechanika #1 has the potential to be one of the best new books hitting the LCS shelves. I suppose those are big words to back up, but from start to finish, this issue has all the trappings of a high-caliber comic book.
Lady Mechanika is part-human, part-mechanical, and all determination. She is revered and feared in the streets of Mechanika, the City of Tomorrow, as some know her to be a vigilante for justice while others have deemed her a mechanical abomination. There is a sharp divide amongst the populace about the value and goodness of fusing machines with living creatures. There are those ruthless unknowns doing the "fusing," playing God ostensibly in the name of research and invention. Against a backdrop of power plays and social instability, Lady Mechanika seeks to uncover how it is she came to be.
Lady Mechanika #1 is character driven. Joe Benitez builds the intrigue immediately with the introduction of a beautifully illustrated antagonist. She is as sexy as she is merciless. Not only do we get the kick-ass Lady Mechanika, but we also get a mysterious redhead with an eye-patch. Can you say, "Hot damn?" You should. Whoever she is, she could ice you with her one, good eye. Sprinkle in a couple of do-gooders and, of course, an ominous big bad, and the cast is shaping up to be memorable, as the story is only beginning to unfold.
Lady Mechanika is an art powerhouse. The intricate detail and costume design is beyond fantastic. Benitez's vision is so crisp and clear; it sets the book apart and makes it a visual smorgasbord of coolness. Aside from straight-up savvy design, there are some powerful action scenes and beautiful splash pages. Steigerwald's coloring could not be more perfect for the tone of the book. He brings cold, mechanical intrigue and warm light with obvious skill. I absolutely love all of it.
I usually don't mention lettering, but the importance of this art form is not lost on me. The letters here by Joshua Reed are a noteworthy, admirable aspect of the book. What makes the lettering noteworthy is the script used when narrating Lady Mechanika has that sort of antique look to it, which adds a little something extra. Even the lettering in the speech bubbles is detailed and slightly different than a lot that I've seen, again setting the book apart subtly.
Benitez has created what I think will be a classic, and he makes steampunk so cool! I had no previous affinity for steampunk until Mechanika. Now I am completely enthralled; in love, even. The mix of antiquity and modernity is fascinating. Benitez, who writes and draws the book, is doing big things. I'd like to give an emphatic "Huzzah" for the creator-owned Lady Mechanika. It is an excellent book.What comic are you looking forward to reading most this week?