Best Shots: BATMAN & ROBIN, ONSLAUGHT UNLEASHED, More

Best Shots Comic Reviews

Hey 'Ramablers, your favorite substitute Brendan McGuirk here, heading up this week's massive installment of Best Shots. We've got a full menu for today, with the Best Shots team reviewing on over 11 of our favorite (and otherwise) books from last week. With a plate that full, there's no room for dawdling, so let's dive in.

 

Batman and Robin #21

Written by Peter Tomasi

Art by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray and Alex Sinclair

Lettering by Patrick Brousseau

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

Click here for preview

While I still don't think he's quite firing on all cylinders with Batman and Robin, I'll be the first to give Peter Tomasi some credit — he's definitely improving with every issue. Even as he occasionally stumbles in execution, Tomasi's increasing comfort with the characterization is slowly but surely bringing this book back to the A-list.

Tomasi, in certain ways, is still finding his feet with his characters, and there are times where the book slows down under the weight of exposition. In that regard, Tomasi can fall into the same traps that befall his Brightest Day compatriot, Geoff Johns — sometimes, you need to show in addition to tell, and there are times where both he and Gleason kind of drag a bit. But where Tomasi is succeeding is that he's starting to warm up to Dick Grayson and, perhaps more importantly, Damian Wayne. "You have the makings of a fine detective, Master Damian," Alfred says. "Fast forward, Pennyworth," the Brat Wonder replies. "I'm already a good detective."

And I will give Tomasi some props, in that he's also gearing the story to play to his strengths. Considering Tomasi's propensity for blood and torture, his high concept ends up being a good fit to play up the horror and violence that is a mainstay in Gotham City. Even monsters like the Mad Hatter and Victor Zsasz aren't born in a vacuum — and giving these madmen families to be targeted actually uses continuity and Gotham mythology in a really subtle way to ratchet up the tension. Are the sins of the son really passed on to the father? The White Knight sure seems to think so, and while his motivations still are frustratingly unclear, his actions are speaking louder than his words.

Now, let's talk about Patrick Gleason for a minute. Gleason is on fire with this book, and he really ramps up the speed and movement and terror that this story prescribes. Sometimes, Gleason plays up the silhouette of Batman, almost evoking that cartoony, iconic style of Batman: The Animated Series — even characters like Jim Gordon feel smooth, yet moody as hell under the inks of Mick Gray. That said, there are a couple of moments — namely, the splash page of the Dynamic Duo against the Batsignal — that doesn't quite feel as hard-hitting as they could.

In certain ways, while this book isn't quite as effortlessly A-list as I might have expected from Tomasi and company, I'll be the first to say that Batman and Robin #21 is on an upswing this month. Balancing superheroics and detective work — in many ways, a one-stop shop for people seeking Batman stories without the globetrotting Grant Morrison has on display — this is a stylishly-drawn read with a killer hook. If this book continues its increases in quality, next month might just bring about that X-factor that gave this book its edge.

 

Onslaught Unleashed #2

Written by Sean McKeever

Art by Felipe Andrade and Ricardo Tercio

Lettering by Dave Lanphear

Published by Marvel

Review by Jennifer Margret Smith

Click here for preview

Onslaught Unleashed is both a very good and a very bad example of Marvel's marketing strategies. It makes perfect sense for the company to cash in on a name – Onslaught – that piques the interest of those who will buy absolutely any issue that references something from the bombastic comics of the blockbuster-selling 1990s, and I hope that financial gamble has paid off. But the title has the opposite effect on those who, like me, have no interest in Onslaught or '90s comics but would be very, very interested in picking up what the comic actually is: a beautifully-written crossover between the Young Allies and the Secret Avengers. Had a friend not pointed me in the direction of this second issue, I might never have discovered the brilliance of a comic that includes some of the very best characters in Marvel's stable, written with finesse by Sean McKeever.

Sean McKeever excels at characterization. One of the best parts of the sadly canceled Young Allies book was its ability to draw readers immediately into the lives of relatively new characters with distinct, compelling personalities. Here, McKeever continues his great work with the Young Allies characters, but he also does a fantastic job of characterizing the Secret Avengers in only a handful of panels each. This throws into sharp relief the deficiencies of the actual Secret Avengers title, which has done lovely things with plot but has made almost no effort to differentiate the characters or give them individual arcs. In Onslaught Unleashed we see Steve Rogers' compassion (particularly for children), Black Widow's take-charge, no-nonsense efficiency, Sharon Carter's struggle for control, and Moon Knight's hard-edged ability to repress emotion – all in addition to the character moments for Ant-Man and Beast delivered in the last issue.

The Secret Avengers, though, mostly exist here to complement the Young Allies story. This is particularly the case with the story of Rikki Barnes, the new Nomad, who McKeever reintroduced to the Marvel Universe with 2009's Nomad: Girl Without a World. He has shepherded the character ever since with Young Allies and in backup stories in Captain America. By bringing her back into the Young Allies fold in this issue, McKeever takes the opportunity to continue her saga while also tying up loose ends from the canceled series, like Toro's past enslavement and Gravity's uncertainty about his abilities. All of this comes to a head as Nomad is possessed by the newly resurrected Onslaught, who plans to use her to destroy the world – and, perhaps even more devastatingly, questions the legitimacy of her existence in this universe.

Filipe Andrade tackles pencil and ink duties on the comic, and his angular, stylized work, though not to my personal taste, is much improved here over his efforts on the most recent Nomad stories in Captain America. He generates some very kinetic action scenes and faces that are expressive without being grotesque. His cat Beast, in particular, is a great, unique design, and the continuity of character design for Rikki is a plus. Colorist Ricardo Tercio also deserves abundant credit; particularly for making Onslaught look threatening in shades of hot pink.

Onslaught fans have likely scooped this book up already, but if you're a Young Allies fan craving more of those characters, or a Secret Avengers fan looking for an exciting ensemble adventure with some particularly nice Steve Rogers moments, I highly encourage you to give Onslaught Unleashed a chance. No previous knowledge of Onslaught himself is required, and the questions his presence brings up – about the nature of humanity, and about Rikki's autonomy – are questions any comic fan would find fascinating. The first issue is likely still on some shelves, and it's very much worth picking it up along with this one if you can – or, at the very least, making plans to pick up what is sure to be wonderful trade.

 

Venom #1

Written by Rick Remender

Art by Tony Moore, Crimelab! Studios, Sandu Florea, Karl Kesel and John Rauch

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Click here for preview

When Rick Remender and Tony Moore were first announced on the new Venom series, I was pumped. They've got a reputation for high-concept insanity, and with a resume like Fear Agent, Uncanny X-Force and Ghost Rider, I was ready to crown this book funny, entertaining and obscene.

What I wasn't expecting, however? To call this book bland.

Perhaps what's more disappointing about Venom isn't the fact that it's slow, but the fact that this blandness comes in spite of two top-notch collaborators. But with a slow start and few moments of bold characterization, this first issue seems far more subdued than you'd expect from the men behind Fear Agent.

Part of the problem that this book suffers is that even though it's a first issue, it takes the audience's understanding of the character and concept for granted. I know that regular readers of Amazing Spider-Man know that Flash Thompson is the new man under the alien symbiotic, but we don't get much new insight into his motivations or even much into Flash's characterization. Instead, Remender seems more enthused about Jack-O'-Lantern — he's an interesting visual to be sure, but a poor substitute for holding off on your main character's entrance for six pages.

Something else that surprised me about Remender's writing here was the lack of high concept ideas. Don't get me wrong, it's not a requirement, but it definitely brought some dissonance — Remender is one of the smartest guys in comics, synthesizing the craziness of Grant Morrison with the characterization and meaty dialogue of Jason Aaron. But this script doesn't play to those strengths — instead, it feels a bit like boilerplate action, a run-and-gun video game rather than something that'll draw you in. Where the book does bring some personal stakes to the table, it feels more like retread than edge-of-your-seat, because it's so structurally similar to Dan Slott's Amazing Spider-Man Point One intro to the character.

Visually, this book seems to be riffing off of Amazing Spider-Man, where Dan Slott's scripting has brought about pages with six- and seven-panel layouts. For some artists, like Humberto Ramos or Marcos Martin, this is a good fit — but for Tony Moore, it just doesn't play to his strengths. There's a lot of pages where the big shots — like Venom running down a war zone, his symbiote tentacles firing three guns behind him — that don't seem to have enough room to breathe. He's also done a disservice by John Rauch's colors — Rauch tends to rely on blues and purples a lot, which both muddles the main character while killing that gritty, real world atmosphere.

Ultimately, what disappoints me the most about this book is the idea that it could have, should have been a slam-dunk for Marvel, and one more hit in Rick Remender's already-impressive lineup. Instead, in many ways, Venom ends up feeling shoehorned into the style of its sister title rather than establishing its own feel from the get-go. I'm hopeful that this book will pick up steam as the missions progress, but I'm surprised that this symbiotic titan doesn't come with more bite.

 

iZombie #11

Written by Chris Roberson

Art by Michael Allred and Laura Allred

Lettering by Todd Klein

Published by Vertigo

Review by Jennifer Margret Smith

It’s hard to review a comic that is so consistently good each and every month, which may be why I’ve avoided reviewing iZombie in the past. But issue #11 marks the end of the book’s second arc (and, presumably, what will be the second trade), and it seems like a good time to look back on what Chris Roberson and Mike Allred have accomplished in less than one year.

What started out as a simple premise – zombie girl must eat one brain a month to stay human-esque, but temporarily gains the memories of the brain she consumes – has morphed into a fully-realized universe with its own unique monster mythology, several interconnected subplots, and a cast of colorful and incredibly compelling supporting characters that includes monster hunters, grad student vampires, and a monkey grandfather.

Zombie Gwen’s story is still central, and with every issue the questions about the nature of her existence grow ever deeper as she wrestles with the idea of losing all of her living memories if she doesn’t commit acts of exponentially greater evil than digging up dead bodies from a graveyard. But equally captivating are subplots involving ghost girl Ellie and were-terrier Scott, and the overarching meta-plot of the monsters and monster hunters maintaining the equilibrium of this universe. The fact that one of those monster hunters is romantically interested in Gwen, ignorant of her zombie nature, is only the icing on top of this multi-layered cake.

This particular issue is a quiet one, but it accomplishes two major things: revealing the backstory for the group of paintball entrepreneurs/vampires who have been making life difficult for the monster hunters, and tying up the loose ends of the last set of memories Gwen received: those of the mother of her childhood friend, Tricia. The former story advances the meta-plot in interesting ways and is an exciting tease for where the world will go next, but it’s the latter story that strikes a sharp emotional chord. Encountering people from her past has led Gwen to realize just how many memories she’s lost, and her melancholy following that realization has been absolutely heartbreaking. Revealing herself to Tricia didn’t solve any problems – her own, or those of Tricia’s late mother, whose memories Gwen now has – and Gwen knows she can’t do the same with her brother, Gavin, who she had almost completely forgotten before this incident. Tricia and Gavin aren’t going anywhere – Tricia has now encountered the vampires, and Gavin asked out Scott in a comic shop a few issues ago – but even their brief appearances here are enough to pull heartstrings and drive home Gwen’s increasing isolation.

Though much of this emotional resonance is due to Roberson’s fantastic writing, it would be ludicrous not to mention the art of Mike and Laura Allred, which has given this book its distinct character from the beginning and continues to make Roberson’s ideas shine. The Allreds are legends, deservedly so, and their art here is characteristically stunning, with clean lines, heavy inks, and deeply expressive faces. Laura deserves particular credit for highlighting the shadows and dark under-eye bags that are so necessary in a monster universe but are a sharp contrast to her usual bright, sharply divided colors. And Mike continues to prove that he can use his inimitable style to draw absolutely anything, from a were-terrier to period clothing to a cosmic Cthulhu-esque space squid.

iZombie is a truly unique book, unlike not only the plethora of zombie and vampire fiction currently glutting the market but also any other comic on the shelves. At the end of this second arc and with the release of the first trade on the immediate horizon, there’s never been a better time to jump into its world, and I highly encourage anyone with even the slightest interest to check it out. It’s well worth the investment.

 

Batman Incorporated #3

Written by Grant Morrison

Art by Yanick Paquette, Pere Perez, Michel Lacombe & Nathan Fairbairn

Lettering by Patrick Brosseau

Published by DC Comics

Review by Brendan McGuirk

Click here for preview

What could be more meta than Batman teaming up for an adventure with a character inspired by the character that inspired Batman?

Yeah, no, I have a headache after that, too. Grant Morrison should trademark his own brand of aspirin.

El Goucho isn't Zorro. But he does do a mean Zorro impression. Reintroduced back during the Black Hand saga as a member of the League of Batmen, Don Santiago Vargas is Argentina's answer to our familiar Dark Detective. Living the life of a playboy while acting as the scourge of his nation's criminal underground, El Goucho meets Batman's offering to incorporate into the Bat-brand with the reluctance one would expect from a man who has made a life of choosing his own adventures. But, as is wont to happen, action intertwines the fates of the two heroes, and thus by the adventure's end El Goucho may have little to say about the matter.

What is most impressive in the still-new Batman Inc. title is the near-perfect balance it has found between unapologetic frenzied action and the subtle nuances of Morrison's expansive Bat-thesis. During the writer's current tenure as Batman's caretaker, his work has waffled with high concepts often meeting low execution. And while it has never totally stalled out, there were moments where the art and plot cohesion left room for readers to doubt the grand scheme. Here, though, with Yanick Paquette ably illustrating, each note is struck harmoniously, and there is no concern that the finer details of the story are being glossed over by a partner that isn't up to the task. Whether choreographing high-flying action or a sensual Tango of Death, Paquette proves to be a pro, through and through.

Here, it is Batman for all degrees of fandom. If you just want 22 pages of Batman doing Batman things, well, here you have it. If you want to examine each panel, caption, and word balloon for deeper meaning and continuity callbacks, well that's here too. It isn't difficult, though, to imagine what judges might see as pitfalls for this continued excellence:

Will the deftly balanced pace continue to satisfy Batman's diverse readerdom?

Will the team-up trope of Batman traveling the globe in an attempt to cultivate a team of adventurous master detective grow stale as the experiment goes on?

Will Batman truly commit to franchising his duties and obligations against the world's superstitious and cowardly lot?

Like Batman Incorporated's tagline says, we'll have to find out next time.

 

New Avengers #10

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Mike Deodato, Jr. and Howard Chaykin with Rain Beredo and Edgar Delgado

Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Reviewed by George Marston

Click here for preview

This is a pretty curious issue of New Avengers. Like the last issue, it's split between a pretty typical story about our heroes facing off against old-school B-lister Superia, and a Howard Chaykin drawn yarn about Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan assembling a team of '50s era superhumans for a mission they call the "Avengers Initiative." With the speed at which each piece moves, it's strange that they chose to cram the two stories together. The Avengers vs. Superia story that's taken place thus far could have easily been fit into a single issue, and the Nick Fury story moves so brusquely that it almost could have warranted its own four issue mini-series. Whatever the reason for combining the two stories, both suffer from the pairing.

In the New Avengers segment, the team faces off against Superia, a mad scientist with a pretty typical set of super powers. Through the course of the fight, Mockingbird suffers what Dr. Strange considers a life-threatening injury, and, in a somewhat surprising turn of events, the good doctor suggests that the best course of action is to call an ambulance. Not to, I dunno, teleport her to a hospital, or heal her with magic or something.

Brian Bendis has done a lot to bring Strange down to a human level, but his powers are kind of choppy at this point. Why can't he help Mockingbird? Who knows. Aside from that, the "New Avengers suffers what could be a fatal injury, sparking an out-of-the-ordinary turn of events" trope is something that Bendis has gone to the well with several times, and it maybe isn't holding the weight should. All in all, these segments from the last two issues could really have been one pretty typical issue of the book.

The bigger problem is the Nick Fury story. Howard Chaykin's art, especially in its current form, is kind of a take it or leave it proposition, and given the choice, I'm gonna leave it every time. His figures and faces are occasionally charming, and it's clear that he's used to drawing Nick Fury, but the overall product suffers from lackluster digital backgrounds, and odd, misplaced anatomy. Bendis's script isn't doing this story any favors either, as his handling of Sabretooth alone is full of gems like, "So, they told you about my healin' factor?" and, "He heals?" The latter is repeated several times throughout the proceedings.

The team Bendis (by way of Fury) has assembled is interesting, consisting of Sabretooth, Dominick Fortune, Ulysses Bloodstone, Kraven, Namora, and the elder Silver Sable. It's an interesting prospect, but that may be why the product is so disappointing. In another setting, it could be a cool story, maybe as handled by the creative team of Secret Warriors, but as it stands, the whole situation falls flat.

It's kind of disheartening that this book isn't following up on the threads left off by the last arc. There's still the unresolved question of appointing the new Sorcerer Supreme, and the underlying tensions between the individual members, and most of that seems to be taking a backseat to the lackluster a-plot involving Superia, and the extraordinarily sub-par b-story revolving around Nick Fury and his pals. I'd really love to see this book tackling more of those Defender level threats, especially revolving around magical and supernatural threats, but right now the title is just kind of floundering.

 

Elephantmen #30

Written by Richard Starkings

Art by Axel Medellin and Gregory Wright

Lettering by Comicraft

Published by Image Comics

Review by Scott Cederlund

Click here for preview

Well, this is the issue Richard Starkings and his team of artists have been building toward; the sex issue. Since the beginning of the series, the tensions between Hip Flask and the various women in his life has been sexual, but considering that he is a walking and talking hippopotamus it seemed that any sexual attractions between men and beasts would have to remain relegated to the subtext of the series. Since the introduction of Miki, the taxi driver who helped Hip out in the early issues, Starkings has had his character walk a fine line between genuine attraction to Hip and outright obsession of the man-like hippopotamus. In some ways, Hip looked like the perfect platonic boyfriend for the young girl. With Elephantmen #30, it is no longer platonic as Miki seduces Hip with only one goal in mind; getting him into bed.

This issue had to happen to move the series forward in any way. For the last 6-10 issues, this series had stalled, trapped in a cycle of constantly reminding us of the monsters the Elephantmen are capable of being, while never moving much beyond that. We've been told over and over that they were created to be weapons, but had the potential to be actual people. Starkings finally pushes the characters towards the side of humanity as we see Hip acting as a man this issue, and not as a soldier or a cop. Starkings’ Hip Flask has always been a bit of a too-good-to-be-true character, filling the space of the noir-ish hero in Starkings’ story without really presenting any of the weaknesses or lust that exists in many noir leading characters.

In this issue Starkings also creates a new dynamic that will be fascinating to watch unravel in the future; the attraction of women to the Elephantmen, and to Hip Flask particularly, has been the unexplored core of the series. Starkings has slowly built to this point and now it's happened; Hip Flask has sex. There's a whole mess of implications, accusations and recriminations that goes along with that. This issue should give Starkings plenty of new matters to work with in this book and a focus that has been absent for a while now.

This series and this issue are all about the dual natures of the Elephantmen as weapons and as victims. Artist Axel Medellin and colorist Gregory Wright are tasked with visually showing that duality as the story of Hip and Miki is told in a softer, more European style. They recreate the hazy and moody look to the book that Moritat originally established for Hip and Miki’s story. While the seduction of Hip is a bit too obvious at times and played for the cheesecake factor, Medellin captures Hip Flask’s internal uncertainty. Over a couple of issues, Medellin has evolved into a great artist when it comes to the various Elephantmen. For the part of this issue that focuses on their nature as weapons, Medellin and Wright create a flatter, more traditional approach to the story. The loss of the painterly coloring of the seduction scenes is jarring and not nearly as strong as the coloring for Hip Flask and Miki’s part of the story.

It may be odd to say but after 30 issues, it feels like something has finally happened in this book. Starkings and his many artistic cohorts have created some fun, thought provoking stories but never felt like they had a solid handle on the overall shape of the series or where it was going. This issue corrects that mightily as Starkings bravely takes the series where it needed to go. It opens up a lot of questions about the plot and the characters to give Starkings plenty working room for the future. For maybe the first time, this isn’t a book about animals that walk like men; it’s now a book about people who have to live with their actions.

 

Weird Worlds #3 (of 6)

Written by Kevin Vanhook, Aaron Lopresti and Kevin Maguire

Art by Jerry Ordway, Aaron Lopresti & Matt Ryan, and Kevin Maguire

Cover by Justiniano

Published by DC Comics

Review by Shanna VanVolt

Click here for preview

There is some nostalgia to be had in reading Weird Worlds #3. While it shares no characters with its 1970s forbearer, then a Tarzan vehicle, it is likewise full of crude, derivative, action-filled crap.

The three unrelated storylines feature a central hero, campy dialogue and shaggy plots. The anthology format is a mixed blessing: the reader gets little tastes of an alien world, but then is quickly catapulted into the next. Writers VanHook (Lobo), Lopresti (Garbageman), and Maguire (Tanga) aren’t trying to enlighten. Instead, the three stories are meant for entertainment that recollects a pulpy past.

The sci-fi anthology format is older than superhero comic books, and this book at its best offers some sly winks to the past. The only pre-existing character in the series is Lobo and, in a nod to the stylistic quirks of older serialized space adventurers, each issue starts with the same introduction: “He’s the last of the Czarnarians…because he killed all the rest...,” continuing with a description of a man not to be trifled with.

Close observers will note that Pete Pantazis’ palette channels some classic DC sci-fi; there’s a particularly nauseating pink that was a favorite accent color of the 1960s DC space adventure books Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space.

Ordway, drawing Lobo, has a somewhat frightening ability to draw gory scenes cleanly, devoid of emotional pain. It’s perfect for the withdrawn pulp attitude, and Vanhook seems to have fun going along for the ride, snaking the storyline with ridiculous twists and turns, and emphasizing Lobo’s amoral instincts.

Garbageman fills the need for schlocky imitation. Lack of originality does not bother me: Lopresti has made no bones about the fact that Garbageman bears an uncanny resemblance to Swamp Thing. (Swampy is of course also less than original, and had its own start in a comic anthology.) There are other overt references to Swamp Thing, as well as the work of Will Eisner: Lopresti embeds the title in the first page art, and has his action sound effects pop out starkly against a white background. The effect makes the short installment choppier and more just-for-fun than the all-encompassing epic its predecessor sometimes portrayed.

Lopresti has given some new claws to what had become a tired story. The current issue sees Lopresti set his monster on course for Gotham, leaving odd breadcrumb hints about a possible run-in with Batman, and then shakes the boat with a debut of another monster.

The final story is the anthology's weakest. The annoyingly needy girl-hero, Tanga, is the outlier of the trio, and her main asset seems to be unpredictability. With no knowledge of who she is or what she is doing, anything could happen! So far in Weird Worlds, she hasn't done much. What we have seen is a ditzy maybe-sexy maybe-cute girl who talks too much, doesn't understand local alcoholic drinks, and has a penchant for blowing things up when riled.

Maguire finally digs up some action in this issue, but, oddly, Tanga is observer more than partaker for the majority of it. Maguire's art and alien characters are fresh and imaginative, but against his hodge-podge of colorful creatures the monochromatic purple Tanga seems like an intruder. The character has a chance of redemption in the next installment — perhaps finally deciding to do something? — but, three issues in, she has yet to hold her own with the leading men who are taking their weird worlds in stride.

But that is the way an anthology collection generally reads — up and down, some good some not as good. I came out of Weird Worlds #3 with no greater knowledge of the DC universe, but had some laughs. None of the characters are brilliant or particularly inspired, but the anthology layout allows the reader to ignore that, and soak in what is very good art and old-fashioned space/monster stories, ten pages at a time.

 

Weapons of the Metabaron

Written by Alejandro Jodorowsky

Art by Travis Charest and Zoran Janjetov

Published by Humanoids

Review by Scott Cederlund

With The Metabarons, one of a handful of concepts that he spun out of his legendary The Incal, Alejandro Jodorowsky created a generational story in comics, part family drama, part space opera and completely captivating. With Juan Giménez, Jodorowsky took a supporting character from his and Moebius’ The Incal and created a whole universe and back story for him. The enigmatic, unnamed character, who is simply identified by his title, is the last of his line, sworn to never have a child that would be subjected to the cruelty, torture and destiny of he and all of his forefathers and foremothers. With Travis Charest and Zoran Janjetov on the artwork, Jodorowsky returns to his character in Weapons of the Metabaron, an untold tale of the Metabaron’s quest to find ancient and powerful weapons that would allow him to destroy the eight universes.

Jodorowsky’s story in Weapons of the Metabaron is unfortunately only a fragment, a slice of a larger story that is not present in this book. His Metabaron is a wonderful character and he shows the unrelenting drive and determination of the character that is so driven he allows nothing to get in his way. There’s not a lot of internal struggle in this character. You get a bit of that as Jodorowsky and artist Travis Charest show us how the mantle of Metabaron was passed on from father to son, but after that the character and plot are so focused that there’s no room for any character development. Readers can find out more about the character if they can find the fourth volume of The Metabaron saga, or a copy of The Incal (both highly recommended) and see just what his story is in those books. For this book, though, Jodorowsky doesn’t appear concerned in building the character up any further. The Metabaron is a vehicle to tell these events through and not a character who has any kind of story arc.

In many ways, it is obvious that this book exists for the artwork. In 2000, Travis Charest disappeared from the American comic scene suddenly after redefining his artwork in the pages of X-Men/WildC.A.T.S. and the 1999 relaunch of Wildcats. Charest moved to Paris to work on this book with Jodorowsky and in six years only produced 30 pages, which are all included here. Charest’s work takes that Jim Lee-like style he had honed and refines it until he’s left with something that looks like it could have appeared back in the heyday of Heavy Metal magazine. Charest’s artwork is cinematic, capturing these larger-than-life events as the Metabaron has to duel his own father and then begin the quest for the ancient weapons. The raw energy Charest captures is stunning. Maybe fitting in with Jodorowsky’s story, Charest's strengths are not evident in showing a lot of character in his figures, but he makes up for that with the impressive images and action he creates.

Zoran Janjetov is a completely different, yet more accomplished, artist than Charest. Picked by Moebius in 1986 to take over the artwork on The Incal, Janjetov has illustrated a number of Jodorowsky’s story, including Avant L’Incal and The Technopriests. Where Charest is cinematic and controlled, Janjetov is illustrative and grand. As Jodorowsky’s story moves from a smaller to more cosmic scale, Janjetov easily steps into the book and creates a battlefield of asteroids, space dragons and metaphoric battles as the Metabaron ultimately has to face himself in the final battle of the book. Charest’s artwork is more down to earth while Janjetov captures the vastness of Jodorowsky’s final part of the story. The two artists are different, but the story is structured to play to the strengths of each artist, bringing out the best in them.

Weapons of the Metabaron is a beautiful book to look at. Charest and Janjetov artwork visually captures Jodorowsky’s imagination and creates worlds and characters that are mythic and grand. But the story itself doesn’t live up to the vision and its artwork, feeling more like a first act of a larger story, with no second act to follow it up. If nothing else, hopefully this book will inspire you to go out and find Jodorowsky’s multi-generational Metabarons saga, where he has the time and space to really develop the characters and the universe they live in.

 

inFamous #1

Written by William Harms

Art by Eric Nguyen

Lettering by Wes Abbott

Published by DC Comics

Review by Zack Kotzer

Hello game fans. Welcome once again to another episode of Zack-Writes-A-Game-To-Comic—Adaptation-Review-Because-Zack-Likes-Games-Though -Maybe-Not-The-Comics-Based-On-Them. We last mulled about on DC’s jab at Deus Ex, spiraling out from there to hype up the upcoming prequel, though failing to support the cyber-thriller’s legacy. Now it’s on to Sony’s newer property, inFamous, which, admittedly, is based on the superhero complex concept to begin with. Perhaps we might find some synchronicity, enough overlap for the tale of a superhero-y video game to work within the medium, which first bore the concept of superheroes as we know them. Or maybe it can at least not stink, that would be keen.

Just looking at it, this book gives off a better vibe than its adapted predecessors. Eric Nguyen’s art is pretty nice in here, outdoing some of the digital characters' design than in their virtual appearances. Some figures feel a little top heavy, kind of cromag-ish. It is somewhat like you’re looking up at them from an angle, or they’re reflections in a funhouse mirror bent at the middle.

What I think is really flattering are the colors, which have a significant design angle that cuddle with the narrative. Colors and their tones bounce to and fro to fit the mood, dusty and washed out for mourning, jolting and thrashing for action. They also make certain elements and points pop. At its worst moments it feels a little too digitally influenced, which is weird to say about something inspired by a video game.

If you haven’t played through inFamous, and you plan to, don’t read this comic. Cole's a superhero without a superhero title, a regular courier given the power to control electrical charges after a coordinated freak accident. The game asked you to choose using your powers for evil (infamy) or good (famy?) The comic assumes you chose the latter.

The issue isn’t a total step-by-step recap of the game, though it does highlight some of its biggest spoilers. In the first issue it’s hard to pin where this story is at and where it expects to go. I’m gambling with myself on whether to expect a full bridge from the first game to the second (which takes place in a new location and offers new powers) or just a wedge of a plot neither here nor there. To its benefit, inFamous’ comic dives deeper into the thick of the mythos than Deus Ex bothered to burrow, but its pacing is troublesomely scattered and it struggles to introduce newcomers while launching its own story off the ground.

This isn't as bad as I was worried yet another tie-in would be. These pseudo-advertisements tend to be on the shamelessly limp side. inFamous does have some jolts running through it, but the story isn’t much of a surge. It’s difficult to invest in, even as someone who enjoyed the game it is based on.

If you’re ravenously anticipating the next inFamous, and you really need to see Cole bemoan before the sequel, then there’s nothing too offensive or terrible here. Verdict, it’s okay. Alright, 'til we meet again, same based-on-a-video-game time, same based-on-a-video-game TV input.

Zatanna #10

Written by Paul Dini

Art by Cliff Chiang and John Kalisz

Lettering by Pat Brosseau

Cover by Stephane Roux and Karine Boccanfuso

Published by DC Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

Oh, Zatanna, you are a bit too trusting at times.

In the previous issue, a possessed puppet had you tied up while threatening you with a knife. Now you're giving him a tour in your ancient family home in Shadowcrest? Oh my. This will not end in your favor.

Paul Dini continues the story of troubled puppeteer Oscar Hampel, who swore up and down that Zatanna's father, the famed magician Zatara, transformed him into a puppet all because of a misunderstanding. Zatanna is down for finding the truth and reversing the curse, until she finds out a lot more than she bargained for. Hampel's origin from a renegade youth, to a murderous vagabond is unveiled, which has led him to this current predicament. However, what do you get when a vengeful puppet dabbles with a ton of magical artifacts? You get Zatanna getting played for a dummy.

Paul Dini is finally hitting his stride again with this issue. The thing I love about Dini is that when he does an arc he takes his time, and the payoff is worth it. The arc's past two issues were good, but when things come around we finally find the good reason why Zatanna should have her own book; because you certainly won't find a story like this elsewhere in DC. It's enchanting fun, but still with an edge to it.

Truth be told about this issue, while Dini gave a slightly predictable, if still interesting cliffhanger here, Cliff Chiang is this story's show-stealer. The way he handles Zatanna, with a definite style and grace, is just stunning. This isn't Chiang's first time with the character and each time he draws her she becomes more and more dynamic. He gives Zatanna a sort of personality that some artists seem to leave at the wayside while they favor her other physical characteristics. Chiang's imagery seems to fully match the image that Dini has in mind. The page presents no confusion or conflict, but rather a vision from a team working in flawless cohesion. The splash page of John Zatara's private sanctum, as a prime example, simply exudes wonder and charm.

Readers that might have dropped the book in the early going should give this issue a returning try. Readers that have never picked up the book before could find this arc , which began with issue #9, to be a book hitting its stride. You get a sense, not only of who Zatanna is, but also what it was like to grow up in the Zatara household and the magic that this book inhabits.

Rapid Fire Reviews!

Charismagic #1 (Published by Aspen; Review by Lan Pitts): I am a fan of magic shows and the whole shebang. Charismagic is written by Vince Hernandez and illustrated wonderfully by Khary Randolph, who shows off a completely different style here than seen in his Starborn work. It tells the story of an actual magician that may have stumbled onto something bigger than Harry Blackstone magic kit could offer. Nothing is what it appears to be is the strong message this work conveys, and its good cliffhanger will keep you interested for the next issue. As a former magician's assistant myself, I can appreciate a book like this, and I hope you manage to find it and give it a try.

The Stuff of Legend Volume 2: Part 4 (Published by Th3rd World Studios; Review by Lan Pitts): What started off as pretty simple idea has evolved into a world that I hope to pass along to my children. In the final part of "The Jungle" arc, we see an explanation of Max's betrayal, an unexpected return, and the story take a somewhat darker path with a murder that at least I didn't see coming. Mike Raicht and Brian Smith's story has taken a life of its own, becoming something more than I ever imagined it to be. You combine that with illustrations by Charles Paul Wilson III, who keeps setting his own bar higher and higher, you get more than a read, you get an experience. Is it too soon to ask for Volume 3 already?

Twitter activity