Greetings, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with some Rapid-Fire Reviews from the Best Shots team! We've got a ton of books for you, including new releases from Marvel, DC, Image and IDW! We've also got tons more at <a href="www.Newsarama.com/topic/best-shots">the Best Shots Topic Page</a>. And now, Aaron gets international with a look at the recently returned Batman Inc....
Batman, Inc. #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; <a href="/13529-dc-bat-previews-batman-incorporated-3-batgirl-19.html?iid=000/034/653">Click here for preview</a>): It has been a strange ride for Batman fans these past few years. We've endured cosmic battles, brainwashing, test-tube Boy Wonders, time jumping, and Bat-Mite. All of this Batman insanity at the hands of Grant Morrison. With Bruce back among the modern world, it looked like everything was going back to the status quo. Not so much. There was Bruce Wayne proclaiming to the entire world that he's been funding Batman for years, and was taking the Caped Crusader global! Great, more Morrison wackiness. Just tell us some good Batman stories! Well, we are three issues into Batman, Inc. and that's exactly what we're getting. Batman's global quest takes him to Argentina and the bolo-tossing El Gaucho! In classic Grant Morrison manner, Batman gives the global Batmen pitch while he and El Gaucho bring down a villain with a talking parrot, exploding scorpions, and dense literary references. Morrison is back on his game with Batman, Inc., seamlessly mixing the symbolism he loves so much, while telling one heck of a detective story. Penciller Yanick Paquette turns in another gorgeous issue. His women look beautiful and regal, while his men have that classic squared-jawed visage. His lines are so crisp and defined, you can almost hear the strumming of a Spanish guitar whenever Batman and El Gaucho pose for adventure. Grant Morrison might still be a little nuts, but when you're having this much fun traveling the planet with the Dark Knight Detective, it doesn't matter. It's all good times.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #155 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; <a href="/13519-dark-3-view-punishermax-11-venom-1-ultimate-spidey-155.html">Click here for preview</a>): And now let us praise Chris Samnee, whose artistic contributions make this consistently good comic book even more of a pleasure to read. Don’t get me wrong; previous artist David LaFuente is a talented illustrator who brought a playful edge to Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. However, Samnee’s heavier, more classic style really leaps off the page, thanks in no small part to colorist Justin Ponsor’s contributions. Samnee’s renderings of Peter Parker’s facial expressions — befuddled, delighted, weirded out — are simply fantastic. Brian Michael Bendis almost always brings his A-game to this book, and this prelude is another well-written chapter in Peter’s rollercoaster of a life. Despite the gloom to come, Spidey is in a good place with his friendships, his love life, and even his relationship with J. Jonah Jameson(!), who now knows his true identity. The newsroom exchange between Peter and the hard-charging newsman is by turns uncomfortable, humorous, and even quite warm. The story ends on such a sweet, satisfying note that it makes those gathering storm clouds look even more ominous. Enjoy the moment while you can, Pete.
Wonder Woman #608 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; <a href="/13533-dc-preview-wonder-woman-608.html">Click here for preview</a>): First, the good news: It’s temporarily exciting to see classic like the Cheetah, Giganta and Doctor Psycho in this “all-new” series. I didn’t think it was possible for Cheetah to be even more sadistic and unhinged, but I guess that’s what happens when you roll with the Morrigan. Original writer J. Michael Straczynski and successor Phil Hester give these storied bad guys a lot of air time as they launch a murderous attack on Diana’s inner circle. Now the not-so-good news: For all the slashing and rage in these pages, this issue has no real momentum. It’s bloody, but bloodless. More troubling is that I still don’t have a strong sense of who Wonder Woman is behind her ferocity and grim determination. Lacking a connection to the character, I’m having a difficult time caring about her trials, no matter how Hollywood action-packed they are. The illustrations are decent, though nondescript and blandly colored. However, there is an intriguing final panel, which indicates that more interesting things are to come. (Check out Doctor Psycho’s pocket accessories!) Though Wonder Woman #608 is unremarkable, I think Hester has done an admirable job given the controversial blueprint JMS handed to him. For the moment, I’m cautiously optimistic that Diana is on the road to a meaningful destination.
Ghostbusters – Infestation #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Aaron Duran): Packed with over-the-top potential, Infestation hasn't fully risen to the task. It tries too hard work in the over arching undead invasion event, which hasn't been very interesting. One would think that since each Infestation is locked into it's respective worlds, it would be freeing. Alas, The Baroness, Optimus Prime, and Captain Kirk all spent too much time trying to figure out the whys of the zombie infestation. Deep down, I don't really care. Just cut loose with zombie killing already. Enter the professional paranormal investigations and eliminations. And for the first time, Infestation has been fun. Not just the kind of fun that comes with watching zombies take a proton pack to the face. (Though don't get me wrong, that is all kinds of great). I'm talking genuine good times with Peter, Ray, Egon, and Winston. Writer Erik Burnham does a good job of capturing the characters voices and inter-team banter. Kyle Hotz's pencils, along with Dan Brown's colors hearken back to early Sam Keith with their heavy lines and deep shadows. Together they make a book that reminds you why you liked the Ghostbusters in the first place. Good one-liners, bizarre villains, and just a hint of world-ending apocalyptic danger. Ghostbusters Infestation isn't breaking any new ground, but it is a fun and fast read. Sometimes that's all you need.
27 #4 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; <a href="/13527-image-previews-march-9-2011-27-spawn-more.html?iid=000/034/591">Click here for preview</a>): W. Scott Forbes’ cover is once again strikingly beautiful, and perfect for the youthful tone of 27. The swift movement of Charles Soule’s story is satisfying. Every choice Will Garland makes is absolutely believable. If you are a 27 year old rock star whose been thrust into the seemingly emotional antics of supernatural beings. I am not being facetious. The dynamic between The Nine and Erebus is an amusing take on what spins this terrestrial ball, creation and decay. They are like siblings fighting over a toy, and Will doesn’t want to be their damned toy anymore. It is empowering to read characters overcoming self-pity, and playing the hand they’ve been dealt. I love the Golden Age format; the bigger pages are an excellent canvas for Renzo Podesta’s art. Podesta stylized scenes are intense and subtly abstract. The art flows seamlessly with the story, and the final splash page is to die for. The final installment in this four-issue mini wraps things up nicely, and sets an appealing premise for the “second set.”
Birds of Prey #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; <a href="/13502-dc-preview-birds-of-prey-10.html">Click here for preview</a>): The conclusion to the “Death of Oracle” arc was just a tad underwhelming. It was evident from the beginning that Oracle’s “death” was a ruse in order for her to be more effective at what she does. We all knew she wasn’t in that helicopter, right? I felt a tinge of predictability as I read this issue. That aside, Gail Simone’s storytelling is fully intact. Her dialogue-heavy cheekiness works well, and this issue is full of brilliant character moments. Huntress’ inner monologue was a hoot, and Black Canary breaking through the trance of Mortis, and showing up for the fight was kick-ass to the tenth power. She brought her JLA game, and it was exciting. I always find Nei Ruffino’s colors appealing, particularly in Gotham. Stanley “Artgerm” Lau’s cover is epic, and that is not hyperbole. While Inaki Miranda manages some remarkable panels, the action scenes are lackluster and confusing, and the proportions are off in many instances. Simone and the Birds deserve a consistent artist who can illustrate dynamic action and manage the physical proportions of so many different characters. DC continues to drop the ball here, and for such a high-caliber book, that is a massive disappointment.
Hawkeye: Blindspot #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jennifer Margret Smith; <a href="/13517-cap-3-view-korvac-saga-first-thirteen-hawkeye-blindspot.html">Click here for preview</a>): Jim McCann surges forward with the next chapter of his character-defining Hawkeye saga in this second issue, which manages to progress the plot set up in the first issue while deepening the reader's knowledge of Clint Barton as a character, past and present. The chronological progression of Hawkeye's history, told in flashbacks, continues here, this time covering the “Cap's Kooky Quartet” period of the early Avengers comics. But the flashbacks feel far from rote or repetitive, and their focus on Clint's early combative relationship with Captain America contrasts nicely with the current action, as the two spar over Steve's overprotective concern for his old friend. This is how continuity should be done: with clarity, depth, and explicit connection to current plot points. And two issues in, Jim McCann has managed all that and more, introducing Hawkeye and his relationships (last issue with his mentor figures and with Iron Man, this issue with Captain America) to a newer generation of comics readers while simultaneously delighting the old. Not to be overlooked are McCann's able collaborators: Paco Diaz, whose clean lines and distinct faces bring the present scenes to vibrant life, and Nick Dragotta, whose throwback style, like the fusing of Jack Kirby and Darwyn Cooke, makes the flashbacks feel appropriately like memories of another age. The work of all of these men combines to create a deeply satisfying whole, with a cliffhanger last-page reveal that will leave readers, myself included, clamoring for the next issue.
X-Men Legacy #246 (Published by Marvel Comics, Review by Jennifer Margret Smith; <a href="/13520-mutant-3-view-onslaught-2-x-23-7-x-men-legacy-246.html">Click here for preview</a>): Age of X may be the X-Men story that Mike Carey was always meant to write. While dystopian alternate universes are nothing new in X-Men comics, Carey has managed to spin gold out of old straw, building a world that gains depth and intrigue with every issue and telling a story that is ultimately character-driven amid the shiny distractions of science fiction bombast and a giant ensemble. This is shaping up to be the best Rogue story in years, the story of a woman balancing her roles of Reaper and Legacy, literally keeping the collective memory of a dying species inside of her while struggling to discover the corruption that is destroying her community from within. But it's also a great story for a number of other characters, most notably Wolverine and Cyclops, whose determined pact to join Rogue's mission at the end of the issue promises a team-up that will explore the ways in which their familiar dynamic has been warped and twisted in a world where they are both broken men. Carey's Wolverine is particularly strong, and I hope he finds more opportunities to write the character in the future, focusing on the more contemplative, protective, fiercely loyal side that writers interested primarily in his claws sometimes overlook. Clay Mann's art, meanwhile, ably complements Carey's words, and he continues to draw some of the most realistic female anatomy in the business. I only wish the script spent more time explicitly identifying characters, whose changed designs and code names can make ensemble scenes confusing. This is a minor complaint, however, in the midst of a story that is well on its way to being the best X-Men crossover in quite a long time.
Lil' Depressed Boy #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; <a href="/13527-image-previews-march-9-2011-27-spawn-more.html?iid=000/034/609">Click here for preview</a>): In a lot of ways, I'm surprised I've enjoyed Lil' Depressed Boy, particularly as a set of single issues rather than as a fully fleshed, Scott Pilgrim-style trade paperback. If you're vulnerable to sentimentality and awkward romance — which, heh, guilty — this is a book that'll make you feel all warm inside, even if those moments aren't as earned as you'd expect. In a lot of ways, this book is a hipster romance that is the very epitome of "boy meets girl," and the conflict from writer S. Stephen Struble is actually pretty minimal as far as that's concerned. Or perhaps I should say it's more like window-dressing: Lil' Depressed Boy doesn't know his new girlfriend's name, as they go visit comic shops and play "style points bowling." Would I call it self-indulgent? Oh, absolutely, and that's going to make for an acquired taste for many. Would I call it manipulative storytelling? Maybe — but on the other hand, what storytelling isn't? Something else that'll be a hurdle for some is the overall "ragdoll boy" conceit — but in certain ways, I think that plays to artist Sina Grace's strengths, since his hard lines don't always make for the best expressions. Making your protagonist into a simple frowny face gives the book a hipster irony, which feels like the whole point anyway. There are some who will dig this book, others who will see it as the stereotype for indie self-indulgence. Only time will tell which one is right.