Greetings, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with a six-pack of Rapid-Fire Reviews from the Best Shots Team! We've got Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, IDW and BOOM! Studios, and that's not all — we've also got a ton of back-issue reviews at the Best Shots Topic Page. And now, let's give me a hand, as I check out the latest issue of Brightest Day!
Brightest Day #19 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): Think DC is just on its way back to the Silver Age? Aquaman proves otherwise in the latest issue of Brightest Day. Single-handedly. A-heh. On the one hand, while there will be plenty of people who cry foul at the last three pages of this issue, I thought it was so over-the-top that you couldn't help but laugh — in a good way of course. This is the DCU sense of humor at its absolute blackest, like Bizarro Arsenal with his quiver of dead cats, and I absolutely dug it. But to be more even-handed about the rest of the book, it's good that Geoff Johns is getting a grip on exactly what the White Light's agenda is, giving a framework for readers about why the Brightest Day agenda exists, and I like the conflict that he gives Aquaman — this isn't a story about Black Manta anymore, this is a story about a man forgiving his wife for her secrets. That's what I wanted to see more of in this book — the metaphor. Ivan Reis, meanwhile, is on fire with this book — his crowd and distance shots in particular are starting to remind me of Bryan Hitch, and that is not a bad place to be for an instant. This is the sound of one hand clapping — but I'd be lying if I didn't say that it's clapping very enthusiastically.
Doctor Strange: From the Vault #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): Have you ever wanted to know who Doctor Strange is, but have never read one of his books? Well, Doctor Strange: From the Vault is more breadth than sophistication, but it definitely has every single important hallmark that the character has ever had. Roger Stern has managed to organically bring in the Himalayas, affluent society types, mystic demons, astral combat, weird Ditko worlds... it's the full package. What interests me the most, however, is Neil Vokes's artwork — it has aged really well, considering that he drew it 12 years ago. There's a real smooth flow to his character design, very much like animation, with just a hint of P. Craig Russell for good measure. But the one thing I hate — and I know is just stylistically harkening back to Doc Strange's first appearances — is when Strange goes into full-on "mystic" mode, he's got the goofiest, most unappealing Fu-Manchu stereotypical eyes and eyebrows. Can you really take a character seriously when they bifurcate their eyebrows? But that's admittedly a small detail — it's not the most sophisticated read in the world, but if you're looking to get educated on the Marvel Universe's original Sorcerer Supreme and can't find a trade, this is not a bad place to start.
Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever #1 (Published by Dark Horse; Review by George Marston): If I can recommend Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever for any reason, the biggest would be John Severin's art. It's always great to see a master at work, and John Severin drawing a western comic is like Paganini on the violin; he's hitting all the right notes in rapid fire, and the weird, staccato beats only serve to liven things up. The pacing on this book is one of its main strengths. It rolls along mighty quickly, never sparing a panel. Severin's rough-around-the-edges style is certainly indicative of his contemporaries, such as Joe Kubert, and you can really see, particularly from this title, how his style has disseminated among modern artists, particularly for guys like Frank Quitely. The art is certainly aided by Dave Stewart’s subtle palette, which is tasteful and moody. If there's anything that detracts from the art, it's that it's maybe a little too mundane when weighed against other titles that take place in the Hellboy continuity, but then, so's the story. It's pretty standard fare; a lawman finds himself hot on the trail of a missing colleague, and winds up in a rough-and-tumble western town that may have something sinister to hide. It's not rocket science, but it's pretty clearly designed to facilitate some great work from Severin, an old master returning to the drawing board.
Superman 80-Page Giant #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): Don't you just love it when an anthology comes together? There are a lot of fun stories in this book, and not one of them actually focuses on the Man of Steel himself, but rather takes a look at the supporting characters that I think are too often overlooked. It also helps that this book starts off with the best of the bunch: An action yarn with Jor-El, as he breaks into a Kryptonian lab to find incontrovertible proof of Kypton's impending demise. It's a great twist from Beau Tidwell, and CAFU's sense of panel composition is really rock-solid. A story by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover about Lois Lane is another story that's needed to be told for a while — just how does the Daily Planet's foremost investigative reporter do her thing? It's not the craziest story in the world, and Amilcar Pinna's artwork feels a little flat for my tastes, but again — smart twist. Trevor McCarthy meanwhile tears it up with some smooth lines on a Supergirl story with Joe Caramagna, who reminds us of Supergirl's isolation as both a superhero and a recent immigrant. And Aubrey Sitterson might just be the most natural read for Superboy that I've seen in years, as he and Eddy Barrows sell every cocky smile, every punch, every look of teenage bravado — Superboy's been lacking a bit of a True North character-wise, and this short story is what finds it. For my money, though, the most ambitious story of the bunch is Abhay Khosla's Jimmy Olsen, who evokes a lot of Grant Morrison (maybe sometimes too much) for a story that, while a little bit predictable, makes up for it in panache and message. While this book might not mean much for the continuity-enthused, this is a great comic to see the up-and-coming talent of the DC Universe.
G.I. Joe #26 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by David Pepose): Go Joe. Even if you don't know what's going on — even if you haven't read previous issues, and only know Snake Eyes and Helix from their action figures — there's a real beauty to this book, as IDW brings some A-list art talent to work with the master of the fight sequence, Chuck Dixon. Robert Atkins, along with inkers Clayton Brown and Juan Castro, have a real clarity to their work, reminding me a bit of Howard Porter at his prime mixed with Syndrome's David Marquez or Spider-Girl's Clayton Henry. Atkins' expressiveness also does wonders for the characterization, making you really care about Helix with just an arch of the eyebrow. Action junkies will get a kick out of Dixon's script, which is more or less run-'em-down, shoot-'em-up — but there are a couple of tender moments here, like Snake-Eyes using snow to try to wake up an unconscious Helix. This story doesn't actually get into a real metaphor, but to be honest, the action is so top-notch, you can forgive it this time. Sometimes it's just fun to watch these toys get put through their paces.
Chip ‘N’ Dale Rescue Rangers #3 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Jennifer Smith): Each issue of Ian Brill’s Chip ‘N’ Dale Rescue Rangers has been an improvement over the last, and with issue three he and artist Leonel Castellani seem to have finally hit their stride. While previous issues relied too heavily on the reader’s previous familiarity with the characters for emotional impact, this issue zooms in on Gadget’s complicated relationship with her late father as established in issue one. As a result, the reader is emotionally drawn into Gadget’s world and mindset, and genuinely cheered when she has her victory moment at the end of the issue. Chip and Dale and the rest of the crew are fairly secondary here to Gadget and Monterey Jack, who has taken up a mentor role in Gadget’s life, but the ensemble acquits itself admirably in the issue’s more action-oriented plot, in which they must avoid being attacked by a stampede of mind-controlled polar bears. In the absence of the confusing non-linear storytelling of the first two issues, Castellani’s art is able to shine, and chase sequences that would be flat and boring in the hands of another artist are dynamic and exciting, jumping off the page as if they were animation. If Rescue Rangers continues on this upward trajectory (which Brill’s excellent work on Darkwing Duck indicates it will), it has the makings of another hit for BOOM! Studios.