Best Shots Reviews: DD: REBORN #1, AMAZING #651, More

Andy Diggle Debuts a DAREDEVIL: REBORN

Greetings, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with the reviewers of the Best Shots Team, following the MLK Day break. We've got a handful of last week's big releases for you to look at, including Amazing Spider-Man, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Daredevil Reborn, and much more! Looking for more? We got your back, over at the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, let's do whatever as spider can, as we check out the conclusion of Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos's first arc in Amazing Spider-Man...

 

Amazing Spider-Man #651

Written by Dan Slott

Art by Humberto Ramos, Carlos Cuevas, Joseph M. Damon and Edgar Delgado

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

What does it mean to hit the Big Time? It means you get some big fights.

After three issues of steadily rebuilding Spider-Man's new status quo, Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos push the envelope with one gigantic battle. Spider-Man versus Hobgoblin, Round Two -- FIGHT!!

In a lot of ways, Slott and Ramos are reminding me a bit of the old Michelinie/Larsen Spidey issues -- dense on visuals, heavy on the speed. If you haven't read the past few issues, you may wish to go back and catch up on some of the emotional buildup. But those who have been on board might enjoy seeing Spidey bring a brand new bag to whup up on a new foe -- there's some smart tricks that play up some of that Marvel-style pseudo-science dealing with sonics and anti-metal that are great to look at.

But the real beast of this book? Humberto Ramos absolutely packs the panels into this book, giving a real cartoony flair to Spidey's agility and Hobgoblin's flight capabilities. The Hobgoblin's jagged grin and wild eyes are a perfect match for Ramos's style, and I like the idea of the color-changing suit based on Edgard Delgado's eye-popping work. Seeing Spidey dodge Hobgoblin's flaming sword -- that's just some old-school violence-for-violence's sake kind of fun, really playing up the visual possibilities of Spider-Man that have hooked us for so many years.

That said, this issue isn't perfect, and it's not quite the knockout punch I think some might have expected. Part of this is a matter of the overall construction of the arc -- the main goal, at least from my vantage point, was to retool Spider-Man's status quo, to put an increased value on the character's ingenuity and scientific acumen. Which is all well and good, but that seems to have answered the question of "what is this story about" a little too soon -- this issue is more or less "just" a fight scene, and doesn't really answer any big questions about Peter's new lifestyle to give the denouement some punch.

Still, if you're looking for some superheroic pyrotechnics with a slick, speedy visual bent, it's hard to top Amazing Spider-Man #651. The fact that Dan Slott can give the Hobgoblin some real relevance -- to make him a flipside to Peter's tried-and-true "power and responsibility" mantra -- is a victory in and of itself. And for those who have been waiting to see the new Hobgoblin get his comeuppance -- all while exercising Peter's mental muscles -- you're in for a real treat.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #3

Written by Nick Spencer

Art by CAFU, Santiago Arcas, Howard Chaykin and Jesus Aburtov

Lettering by Steve Wands

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

 

Forget lightning striking twice -- DC Comics is proving it can hit three times with T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. Considering the lack of franchise backing or crossover material for this series, I have to say that it is of the highest production values of the entire DC publishing lineup.

Much of that statement has to do with the fact that this book has not one, but two top-tier artistic talents on board. The fact that they work so seamlessly together is a testament to editor Wil Moss, who continues to find the right artist for the right tone. I'd never think that CAFU and Howard Chaykin would be a perfect match, but they absolutely work well together. CAFU continues to make the work of his career, providing that visual consistency, that mournful expressiveness that bridges the previous issues. Meanwhile, Chaykin provides those sharp lines, that grittiness that shows just how inhuman the world can be when you just can't die.

And in that regard, I think Nick Spencer does allow his art teams to do the heavy lifting and really shine -- and you know what? It's not a matter of laziness, it's a matter of pragmatism -- the images are what really going to stick in your mind, and so his major contributions aren't so much the bits of dialogue or the characterization as much as some extremely solid plotting. There's a lot of implications about what might happen if you could just escape at any time -- but seeing the consequences of those actions... seeing the crumpled feet hanging in the air... that's what sticks with you.

The thing that really gets me about this book is the fact the fact that it so completely upends expectations as far as the execution is concerned. I typically hate the idea of multiple artists on a book, because of the visual dissonance between them -- but T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents takes that bull by the horns, finding the right look for the right story. Two artists for the price of one, playing to each other’s strengths instead of fighting them? That's the spark that makes T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents one of DC's top books.

 

Daredevil: Reborn #1

Written by Andy Diggle

Art by Davide Gianfelice and Matt Hollingsworth

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

"Doesn't take a genius to figure this town has secrets, but it's not my problem. I can't help them. I can't help anybody." -- Matt Murdock

Matt Murdock is a man without a city. Possibly without a purpose, but trying to find one.

It's interesting to see Matt Murdock in a more "waffle house" sort of environment, and taken out of the urban jungle of Hell's Kitchen. It seems very en vogue to have super heroes on nomadic journeys of self-discovery, though, if anybody really needs a sabbatical, it's definitely Matt Murdock. The Shadowland event took its toll on Murdock's soul as he found himself fighting against other heroes and losing himself to the darkness that was the Hand. I guess after making myself the jerk of the year, I'd want to leave town as well. In the vein of the Incredible Hulk television series, we find Matt struggling with his past and figuring out the next move, like an author who just finished the last chapter of a long book, and has no clue what to write next.

Of course, even in a small backwards town, it doesn't take long for trouble to find Matt. After he takes a beating from a few white trash hoodlums, Matt figures something isn't right when even the police don't help him out and try to get him out of town. Being the detective that he is, Matt decides to investigate, and the shocking mystery about the town has just begun. When the police shrug off Murdock as not being a threat, they are in for quite the surprise.

Andy Diggle threw me for a loop in Shadowland, and in the worst way possible. I had enjoyed his run on the main Daredevil title, but for all the hype and my personal excitement invested, I was left, for a lack of a better word: bored. Boredom turned into complacency, and then borderline resentment. Daredevil: Reborn is another story. It's the Matt Murdock I enjoy reading. He's not Marvel's answer to Batman, he's not trying to be. He's not trying to be the hero he once was, but the man under the costume. Diggle provides the right words, and a great set up.

Now, I'm new to Davide Gianfelice's art, but I have to say, I am more than impressed. His line work lies somewhere between Cully Hamner and a hint of Scott Kolins and Chris Samnee. His figure construction is solid and use of facial expressions and body language complete the storytelling along with Diggle's dialog. Matt Hollingsworth rejoins the fray as colorist, and is in a class all by his own. The desert landscape seems barren and adds the depth of Murdock's solitude. Hollingsworth meshes with Gianfelice well as he doesn't step over his inks, and Gianfelice doesn't over ink the pages, giving Hollingsworth room to breathe.

We've seen "rebirths" before in comicdom. Some of them haven't been rebirths as much as they have been rehashing. Daredevil: Reborn (so far) seems like a restructuring of the character, and I'm not sure where this will lead. Black Panther may be the man without fear for the time being, but Matt Murdock will always be fearless.

Thor: The Mighty Avenger #8

Written by Roger Langridge

Art by Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson

Lettering by Rus Wooton

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

 

Do you ever wonder what it was like to read comics in the 1960s?

Before the age of epic summer events, I'd like to think that just the innate appeal of the characters fueled their popularity. That's certainly the appeal that Thor: The Mighty Avenger brings -- brought -- to the marketplace. And considering the kind of love and care that Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee have brought to not just Thor, but the Marvel Universe as a whole, I'd say that the Mighty Avenger series might have been one of the most honest takes on these properties in years.

This book deserves a Viking funeral. And by God, I aim to deliver it.

What sets characters like Thor and Iron Man apart? That's Roger Langridge's greatest strength -- allowing Earth's Mightiest Heroes to stand on their two feet. Thor is honest, if a fish out of water, with a temper that can get the best of him; Iron Man is every bit the billionaire playboy, pushing back plans for a rescue mission so he can get with two swimsuit models. In a lot of ways, the bad guys -- "The K-Bots" -- are just window-dressing. Seeing how Thor and Iron Man play off one another, particularly about the etiquette of bomb disarming, is the real meat of this story, and it's one of those stories that reminds you what you liked about these characters in the first place.

Langridge sets up this great final issue -- but it's Chris Samnee that helps sell the book, particularly with its sense of humor. There's been one thing that's really interested me as far as Samnee's work goes, that I couldn't put my finger on until now: His sense of anatomy and design. Traditionally, Thor's always been a bit of an endomorph -- thicker, brawnier, more square-like -- whereas Iron Man's been a bit more of an ectomorph -- thinner, streamlined, less bulky. Here, Samnee has cleverly switched the expectations, giving Thor a more lithe, expressive physique, whereas Iron Man is built like a freakin' tank. It's a great change of pace.

Outside of the design, Samnee also does some great stuff with the humor of this book. Langridge occasionally stretches out his jokes over a number of beats, and the idea that Samnee can pack it all in without losing the clarity is a rarity in this industry. The expressions are great, too: The look on Thor's face when he shows Iron Man the heap of "evidence" (and by "evidence" I mean scrapped robots) is pretty amusing, and the idea of a giant robot shrugging when he doesn't know how to disarm a bomb, these are some great moments of comedy. Who says superheroes are just made for punching things?

Maybe that's the secret of Thor: The Mighty Avenger -- that was a book that didn't preach to the choir, but aimed to bring in more converts. It took Marvel properties, and made bold decisions to distill them down to their very character. Tonally, thematically, this book hit far harder than its "all ages" designation would suggest -- and in many ways, gave the tried-and-true nature of some of Marvel's strongest characters a breath of fresh air. It's a travesty that this issue is the last of Thor: The Mighty Avenger. If only we all trusted the Thunder God's appeal as much as Jane Foster did. The comics industry would have been a mightier place, indeed.

 

Casanova: Gula #1

Written by Matt Fraction

Art by Fabio Moon and Cris Peter

Lettering by Dustin K. Harbin

Published by Marvel/ICON

Review by Scott Cederlund

If you ever wonder what a 21st-century James Bond would look like, Casanova Gula #1 is going to give you a pretty good idea. The issue opens with Casanova Quinn drugged and looking quite dead behind his eyes. Like Casanova: Luxuria #1, this issue opens with Casanova on a job but it does not look as fun or exciting into breaking into a huge mansion. Trapped in an evil doctor’s office, where he’s been forced to wait all day, Casanova’s jobs have become mundane and sublimely normal. Matt Fraction and Fabio Moon drain all of the life out of the character, showing just how the job and life he’s chosen have worn him down until he’s barely recognizable. The heart of this issue is Casanova’s job following the evil doctor’s office, a simple job to prevent a weapon from being built, but which results in Casanova’s dropping off of the grid for over two years. If the character was unrecognizable at the beginning of this issue, he’s just plain missing at the end.

If the first arc was about defining Casanova Quinn by his actions, Gula #1 begins by defining Casanova by the void he leaves behind. He even has a six-armed outer-space Amazon from the future looking for him. That’s how far his influence reaches; the future notices when he drops out of the present, leaving no trace. By taking the powerful figure of Casanova Quinn out of the book, Fraction puts the spotlight on Casanova’s family and friends, the least of which is his twin sister Zephyr Quinn, who’s become a gun for hire to whoever is willing to pay. You can easily see on her job, tracking down an escape-artist cult leader that she’s already starting to emotionally come apart. This isn’t the crazed but focused Zephyr of the first series who acted as an agent of chaos. Now on the run from everything she was, Zephyr tries to find something to cling to and, more importantly, to believe in.

Picking up the art chores from his brother Gabriel Bá, Fabio Moon adds the sexiness to Casanova: Gula #1. Each line has a life of its own as it flows across a panel or a page. Even in the shadowy offices of the evil doctor, Moon’s art alluringly pulls you into the story. Moon’s loose and organic lines pull you into the story, inviting you to experience Fraction and Casanova’s world.

Fraction’s writing in Casanova: Gula #1 feels more immediate than anything he’s done yet in Iron Man or Thor. While you can see aspects of Casanova in those Marvel characters (the parental issues, trying to figure out how they fit in with a future and world that they didn’t want), Casanova is a much younger character than those, not weighted down by almost 50 years of continuity. He’s building everything in Casanova: Gula and he’s also able to tear everything down. The Fraction who writes Casanova is a dangerous writer, maybe even slightly crazy, if Casanova has been any indication. As this issue shows, he’s willing to demolish everything he built in the first storyline by getting rid of his main character. He’s pulling out some big concepts for his Marvel work, but Casanova has the added weight of being pure Fraction.

If Casanova: Luxuria was the work of an angry young man, Casanova: Gula #1 is the work of a writer trying to get past his anger and gumption and find a place in the world for his creation. By taking his leading character out of this issue, Fraction creates room to write about identity and how we choose our own roles in life -- whether it’s as a loyal son, traitorous daughter, loyal sidekick or even a three-headed secret agent. You can choose to be the sidekick or the hero. But you also have to live with those choices. The first part there may be easy; the second part, not so much.

22 Reasons to Fear The Future #1

Written by Egan McConvey

Art by Ryan Sergeant

Published by Liberated Ink!

Review by Zack Kotzer

Tomorrow can be a scary thing. Between turning off the lights and drifting into dreamland, there’s that conceptive period one does laying in bed doing nothing but ponder what will happen once the sun rises. The ups and downs, your dwindling consciousness winding down ping-ponging contingencies for scenarios that will likely never happen. In 22 Reasons to Fear the Future, Egon McConvey reaffirms one man’s future nausea in both long term and short term forms after a stranger resembling his father delivers a curious letter. In its first issue a reader will wonder just what fears the future hold, and more importantly, with what kind of delivery.

Julian Birch is a bit on edge. Holed up in his isolated estate, he’s been set off by a message of impending doom contemplating both his actions and accomplices. While written a little bit dry and bluntly at times, the direction of this tale definitely skews further towards classic brands of suspense, I’d even veer towards gothic. While there is certainly action and consequence, the largest players are that of conspiracy, drone and paranoia. Which is fine all the same because, while it’s hard to tell from the first issue, many of the characters introduced in such short time are done rather rapidly, ineloquently and unexplained, there’s a lot of missing information in the circumstances of these cast members. So fingers crossed the future holds some clearance in that regard.

What has me a bit more piqued is the direction of the art. Sergeant’s style can be pinned somewhere in between John Cassaday and old Diabolik ventures, the cover in particular is almost uncanny to Cassaday’s work. That said, Sergeant’s not a heavy-hitter, his style feels a bit undiscovered at times and some images are a little rough, but what I must applaud is his panache for dramatic direction in imagery. Some pages really drive the emotions home, and suddenly Birch’s frantic gloom becomes shared with the reader due to brilliantly plotted pages. My favorite sequence is when a decapitated head (of some kind, I won’t say which) comes hurling at a window. It’s done with such grace and simplicity that it strikes a serious chord hard. This static page evokes the same dangerous allure of the glance of a freakish fish near the lightless abyss of the ocean floor. You got me, I’ve been watching Planet Earth again.

22 Reasons has an interesting start. I’m definitely confident in the talent of the creators, and its delivery is unique enough despite playing in territory of similar taste to LOST or The Twilight Zone. I hope the stakes are driven a bit harder, and aside from the emotional drives we’re being told more than we’re being shown. I’m not afraid of the future. But I am interested.

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