Greetings, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with the Best Shots Team for a heaping handful of Rapid-Fire Reviews! We've got tons of reviews for your reading enjoyment, including releases from Marvel, DC and Top Cow — and there's plenty more where that came from, over at <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/topic/best-shots">the Best Shots Topic Page</a>. Now, let's go back to Smallville, as Teresa checks out the second issue of Superboy...
Superboy #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Teresa Jusino): I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: superhero titles that prominently feature teenagers are superhero titles at their best. The issues of identity and responsibility that come up in superhero comics are perfect metaphors for fumbling one’s way to adulthood. In the second issue of this wonderful new series, Superboy is forced to team up with Poison Ivy to solve the mysterious problem of overgrown plant life devouring Smallville. What makes this issue work is writer Jeff Lemire’s focus on Connor Kent’s relationship with his best friend, Simon, who has been begging Connor to allow him to be of help. When Simon rushes in to save the day by use of “Parasite frogs! Patent pending”, you know that these two boys are an excellent team. Lemire imbues this title with loads of humor, which is a change from his more serious-minded Sweet Tooth, and it’s interesting to watch Connor struggle with his new responsibilities and with wondering whether he should take his friend along for the ride, possibly endangering him. However, it’s clear that Simon’s intelligence is not to be underestimated, and I look forward to watching him and Superboy work together to fix an ailing Smallville.
Widowmaker #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jennifer Smith; <a href="/13292-exclusive-marvel-preview-widowmaker-1.html">Click here for preview</a>): Coming on the heels of Hawkeye and Mockingbird, Widowmaker #1 successfully integrates the world of Jim McCann's fantastic spy series with the world of the Black Widow, a character McCann takes to like a fish to water. Whenever Clint, Bobbi, Natasha, or H&M supporting character Dominic Fortune is on the page, McCann's writing sparkles with wit, pathos, and the weight of Marvel history. Newly-separated couple Clint and Bobbi have been thrown into a serious predicament, tracking down a villain that has made Bobbi a target, and their unresolved personal issues don't make the situation any easier — especially when Natasha, Clint's former lover, enters the scene. Unfortunately, these complicated emotional dynamics make up only half of the issue, and the other half consists primarily of exposition and plot setup involving vaguely evil figures and organizations that failed to hold my attention or complete comprehension. Luckily, David Lopez' gorgeous art is only getting better and better, making action scenes compelling even when their motivations were unclear. I look forward to future issues of the miniseries, which will, with any luck, focus less on set-up and more on our endearing, complicated heroes and their increasingly sticky situation.
Red Robin #18 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): Still one of the most visually consistent books in the DC lineup, but what particularly interests me about Marcus To in this issue is the fact that he seems to be evolving in his design chops. Red Robin is subtly beginning to change its look, giving Tim Drake a bit of a beaklike curve to his nose and a more tapered red tunic — it's not immediately apparent for those who haven't been following, but I think it's great that To is adding his own bit of flair to Alex Ross's old design. I also really dig the clean, smooth linework that To brings to characters like Red Star — that said, I'd love to see a little bit more motion to everything, and to see a little bit more shading from colorist Guy Major during the daylight scenes. Fabian Nicieza, while occasionally going a little on the wordy side, presents an unburdened, uncomplicated plot that is slowly but surely establishing a kind of consistent characterization that makes Tim Drake the true spiritual successor to Bruce Wayne's ubiquitous preparedness. Unassuming but reliably well-crafted, Red Robin is the sleeper hit of the Batman line.
Thor: The Mighty Avenger #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Scott Cederlund; <a href="/13295-solo-3-view-thor-618-thor-tma-7-incredible-hulks-618.html?iid=000/018/225">Click here for preview</a>): Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee’s Thor has to be the perfect boyfriend, at least as superhero boyfriends go. How much of Spider-Man’ shtick is running out on Mary Jane or Gwen Stacy when he’s supposed to be on a date? Not Thor. First he cooks. No dinner at some greasy spoon for his Jane Foster. With Thor, it’s a home cooked meal of Farikal, a mutton stew that Thor claims is “simple and good.” I have trouble thinking anything with mutton could be simple. It’s one of those exotic Scandinavian meats after all. That’s just part of why Thor is the best boyfriend. Let’s just say that instead of running out to investigate this weird sudden darkness or the absence of any rain, Thor stays in with Jane, eats a bit of mutton, drinks a bit of wine and doesn’t sleep on the couch, if you catch my meaning. Langridge and Samnee provide more than just the romance; they toss in fighting robots, have shadowy figures who are out to get Thor and even provide a wonderfully realistic Muppets cameo. Thor: The Mighty Avenger #7 perfectly brings together everything has made this one of the more charming comics this year; humor, romance, action and mystery. Combined with the pleasing craft of the creators, Langridge and Samnee have made this issue more fun and enjoyable than you would think a Thor comic would be capable of.
Witchblade #140 (Published by Top Cow; Review by Amanda McDonald): After a particularly emotional issue 139 that tied into the events of the series, Sara Pezzini of Witchblade returns to her job on the police force as part of the special cases division. A doorman in an elite Manhattan apartment building has being torn into small pieces and strewn about the pristine lobby. Logically, Pezzini and her partner Gleason set out to question the building's residents. But not before taking a look at the security footage and seeing a creature that explains why their division was chosen to investigate this case. Honing in on a group of residents consisting of two young children, an au pair, and a Wall Street executive widower — Pezzini and Gleason know that something is not quite right. Ron Marz co-writes this issue with Saurav Mohapatra, and as a sign of any good team-up — the writing is seamless and the two writers' content is indistinguishable from the others. The dialog is one of the strengths of this series and as always it flows, both moving the story along as well as adding to character and relationship development. Stjepan Sejic has a painterly style that is simply stunning as he switches between portraying the beauty of Sara and the horror of the crime scene and the creature responsible.
New Avengers #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Teresa Jusino; <a href="/13296-team-4-view-new-avengers-i-am-an-invaders-x-men-4ever.html?iid=000/018/251">Click here for preview</a>): Brian Michael Bendis has succeeded in giving us one of the most funniest issues of this or any Avengers title ever! After dealing with a major problem caused by misused magical mojo, the New Avengers are now hilariously domestic! Bendis has such a strong hold on each of these characters, that watching them deal with the nuts-and-bolts concerns of Avengers housekeeping and management is not only funny, but fascinating, as Bendis highlights the non-superhero issues that are personal to each of them: Spider-Man not being able to receive a paycheck, because he won’t reveal his identity, and therefore, can’t receive the tax forms; Jessica and Luke needing a nanny for their baby; Wong not wanting anyone to touch his damn kitchen as he plays “second-rate Jarvis to a second-rate pile of Avengers.” The nanny search was by far the most fun part of the issue (and a beloved character is chosen for the position!), and a great deal of the humor in this story comes from Stuart Immonen’s artistic choices. Wolverine’s raised hand holding a piece of fried chicken as he raises his hand for a vote was priceless, and it amazes me how much expression Immonen can put into a masked face. I had been ignoring this title for the past couple of issues, but I am now firmly back on the New Avengers bandwagon.
Invaders Now! #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jennifer Smith; <a href="/13296-team-4-view-new-avengers-i-am-an-invaders-x-men-4ever.html?iid=000/018/245">Click here for preview</a>): Of all the Alex Ross-created, Marvel/Dynamite co-produced, Invaders-centric miniseries that have come out over the past few years, Christos Gage's Invaders Now! is by far the best. While the large cast necessarily scatters Gage's strengths of characterization, he has managed to set up a moral dilemma and a consequential willingness for heroic sacrifice that rings true for all the characters involved. Though I know that Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes, Namor, and the others are unlikely to perish in this tiny story, the characters' resignation to their certain doom (in exchange for saving a town full of people who have been turned into zombies) is absolutely believable, which is a testament to the dramatic tension Gage has successfully created. Gage also displays his facility with the vast array of toys in the Marvel sandbox, deploying a fleet of scientist and magician characters to find the zombie cure and interact with our heroes in creative yet logical ways. The only real weak spot in the series has been Caio Reis' art, whose (non-zombie) figures and faces always appear a bit deformed, but even he has improved with this issue, and would likely benefit from a separate inker on future projects. Though issue four of a five-issue miniseries is a bit late for a jumping-on point, this is a book that Marvel fans (or Invaders fans, or Christos Gage fans) would be wise to pick up in the eventual trade.
Batgirl #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald; <a href="/13305-exclusive-dc-preview-batgirl-16.html">Click here for preview</a>): Entitled "Fugitive," this issue centers around Stephanie Brown's murder accusations and her mission to clear her name. Dialog is heavy between Steph and Barbara Gordon, with the former Batgirl sharing a great deal of wisdom with her protégé. Being Batgirl shouldn't be about clearing her name — it should be about justice for the victim. Barbara's other protégé, Wendy/Proxy, makes a brief appearance as well as she helps Barbara get to the bottom of who the true killer was. Bryan Q. Miller has a great handle on the relationships between Barbara and these young women, and I'm finding more and more that my favorite issues of the series are the ones that really focus on those relationships. Dustin Nguyen knocks the artwork out of the ballpark with the kinetic style of the splash pages and story propelling facial expressions through the issue.
Shadowland: After The Fall #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; <a href="/13294-event-previews-shadowland-after-the-fall-chaos-war-ares.html?iid=000/018/208">Click here for preview</a>): This is very much a good news, bad news kind of book. Let's start with the bad news — fans might find this story a little bit familiar, as there are plenty of shared plot points from last week's Daredevil #511. But maybe this do-over is an improvement — visually, Roberto De La Torre and Marco Checchetto together have a bit more oomph, and Morry Hollowell's colorwork is pitch-perfect in illustrating the two protagonists of this read. It certainly feels more focused in just Antony Johnson's hands, rather than the dual collaboration with Andy Diggle last week. While the more photorealistic vibe lends some power to this issue, the actual events in this story don't quite grab me — Foggy Nelson comes off as a little bit shrill, and while guilt has always been a central theme in Daredevil's mythos, I don't buy the self-pitying vibe Matt Murdock's last message brings. This issue likely won't change anybody's mind about how well turned out, which is too bad, because there are two compelling protagonists overshadowed by all the drama.
Detective Comics Annual #12 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): It's not as electric as the annual, but it's nice to see the teamwork element of in practice in Detective Comics Annual #12. That's not to say that this is a perfect read by any stretch of the imagination — David Hine isn't shooting as ambitiously as far as high concepts go as franchise frontman Grant Morrison, and the characterization between Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson isn't particularly nuanced as far as voice goes. Where Hines does succeed? Looking at the international and legal implications of , as Bruce Wayne finesses the French government in order to expand the Shadow of the Bat to foreign shores. The story here certainly feels very weighty, and Agustin Padilla is reminiscent of Lee Garbett as far as his art goes. (That said, the colorwork by Tony Avina is a little muddy towards the beginning — considering it's an art-heavy intro, it cuts down on the momentum a bit.) The real success of this book? Artist Trevor McCarthy, who's reminiscent of Rob Haynes with the composition of Jason Pearson. McCarthy is a breakout talent, and one I hope I see more of in the DC pantheon. What comics have you read so far this week?