Ho, New-years-a-ramers! Brendan McGuirk once again riding shotgun on your Best Shots reviews. We've got fast-acting critiques on the latest from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Icon. So take a moment out of contemplating your New Year's Resolutions and enjoy a sampling of Rapid Fire Reviews!
Avengers #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by Brendan McGuirk): Finally, once again, The Avengers are Marvel's varsity team. The reinvention of the unit over the past few years as a collection of Marvel's biggest current stars (and not its biggest stars in 1963) has done wonders to restore the brand, but in the process of integrating Spider-Man, Wolverine and others, there was a degree to which the team seemed to become more street-level than its cosmic iterations past. The fact that each of the team's biggest adventures happened in external event books fed into this sense, but finally The Avengers is a destination series for readers looking for Marvel's biggest square off against its baddest threats. And it sure as @%# doesn't get any badder than the threat posed by a reassembled Infinity Gauntlet. Furthering the “varsity,” feel, letttermen Brian Bendis and John Romita Jr. have each been so integral to Marvel's tapestry over the years that their collaboration is almost a pure distillation of the House of Ideas. In years past, readers might have had a hard time imagining theirs to be complimentary storytelling styles, with Bendis known for dialogue-heavy interpersonal scenes, and JRJR celebrated for his ability to pack his pages with powerful action and imposing bulk. It works though, and the glory and urgency of the flagship Avengers title has been renewed. But as the Oral History backup reminds us, the glory days never seem to last long, and the next shakeup is always just around the corner.
Green Lantern #61 (Published by DC Comics; review by Brendan McGuirk): Geoff Johns continues his longstanding tradition of the villain spotlight issue here, teaming up with Doug Mahnke in a profile of Atrocitus and his Red Lantern- powered rage. These stories are always an interesting exercise, because they provide a twisted sort of rationalization to the actions of the DCU's most super-villainous. Here, Johns and Mahnke remind readers how rage, at its core, is fundamental to the human (and not-so-human) experience. It is the occasional and unfortunate consequence of a society shared by flawed individuals. Atrocitus' rage is no more or less than is the average rush-hour motorist, but where road-ragers can allow the moment and the vitriol to pass, the Red Lantern dwells for a lifetime. So, with nary a Green Lantern in sight, Atrocitus confronts the avatar of his own lantern; the emotional entity known as The Butcher. Wonton violence abounds. Through adding some background and context to Ysmault's crankiest son, and pitting him against an agent known for a more righteous sense of rage-as-justice, this one-shot reminds readers that perhaps, in our weaker moments, we believe Atrocitus has a point. And it's also worth remembering that he will totally stab you with it. Because he is that angry. Hellboy: The Sleeping and The Dead #1 (Published by Dark Horse; Review by Lan Pitts): Vampires have been done to death (pun intended) in comics these days. Though I will say their appearance in titles such as Hellboy make the most sense, because in the hands of Mike Mignola, these are the vampires I remember from my childhood. Mike Mignola and Scott Hampton team up for the first time and it looks pretty good. The Sleeping and The Dead is only a two-parter, and this initial issue sets the stage for the second act. On a 1966 hunt for a vampire, Hellboy hides out at an English inn. What begins as a simple creature-slay, with a momentary possession, devolves into a tragic tale of supernatural slugouts, familial loss and horror. The thing I love about Scott Hampton's art is how he can just be himself. His work is minimalist to the core, with the rest of the detail added in from Dave Stewart's colors. The watercolor-ish style compliments Hampton's art exceptionally well. If you need a straightforward quick Hellboy fix that isn't buried in Hellboy mythos, give this a read.
Incognito: Bad Influences #2 (Published by Icon; Review by Brendan McGuirk): I didn't think I wanted more Incognito. I loved the first series, to be sure, but I felt as though Brubaker and Phillips had likely said what they had to say about the world of the super-criminal underground with Sleeper, and hoped they could fully focus their collaborative energies on the more untrodden ground of Criminal. Then I remembered that I barely care what the comics these guys make are about, because no matter the topic or tropes the work is guaranteed to be gripping, seductive, and executed with a perfectly honed and distinctly singular voice. Zach Overkill has been forced back into the felonious fray, and once again must survive without the protection of any white-hatted cavalry. In the previous volume, it was Zach's status as an identity-protected witness that made him, well, Incognito. Here, it is him putting on an old face, revisiting old haunts and former partners in crime that serves as a mask for the reformed (but never seemingly repentant) Overkill. With schemes, betrayal and sin, Incognito does what Brubaker, Phillips and Val Staples do best; dull the polish of adventure comics with a little old fashioned grime. Which comics have you read so far this week?