Hello, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with the crackshot reviewers of the Best Shots Team! As we do every Thursday, we've got a ton of bite-sized pellet reviews for your reading consumption, from publishers such as Marvel, DC and BOOM! Studios! And that's not all — we've got plenty of back-issue reviews for you over at the Best Shots Topic Page. And now, let's see if Jason Aaron is the best there is at what he does, as we take a look at Logan's last stand against the forces of Hell over in Wolverine…
Wolverine #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): If there's something that I don't think we see enough of in comics these days, it's having a resolution that's steeped in character. Oftentimes we've got the Ultimate Nullifier or aborting the doomsday device, but Jason Aaron ups the ante with Wolverine, giving him a resolution that really leverages continuity to his advantage. After last month's cliffhanger, Wolverine uses one of the most powerful memories he has to purge himself of a demonic infestation, and for those who know even a little bit of X-Men lore, you'll find that Aaron's decision is a smart one. There's also some nice bits here of the different X-Men roaming through the doors of Wolverine's subconscious, with some nice gags about "X-Men I've Had Sex With" and "How I Cheat at Cards." Daniel Acuña, on the other hand, feels a little bit too dark with his colors in this book — I had a difficult time seeing things like Nightcrawler's skin against his costume, or seeing Wolverine's head against some shadows. Just in terms of matching the climactic action to Acuña's style, it didn't seem like the most natural fit. Still, from a plotting and character perspective, this was a great read, even if the art might continue to make this an overlooked gem.
Teen Titans #94; Published by DC Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman: This book has fully re-established itself one of DC’s most reliably good comics, and now that Tim Drake has returned as Red Robin, it feels like old times. Writer J.T. Krul has pulled off the task of reassembling the original team while showing how the characters have matured. The players are familiar, but as is appropriate, they’re all older, wiser and more battle-tested. The Titans have landed in Mohenjo-daro, Pakistan, where a new character named Solstice is trying to find her missing archeologist parents. Meanwhile, Wonder Girl and her mother (also an archeologist) have been sucked into a mythological realm loaded with monstrous creatures and supernatural landmines. There are emotional landmines as well. Teen Titans is at its best when the adventures coexist with more personal storylines, and #94 sticks to that winning formula. Raven is the star of this issue, in which Krul does a great job of illustrating her struggle to contain volatile emotions. She is as powerful as she is vulnerable, and you can't help but become invested in such a character. As always, Nicola Scott’s pencils are lovely, and colorist Jason Wright brings the right tones to each setting: stark and bright in the desert, deeper and more subdued in a forest setting. On the whole, this is an interesting and well-written arc that is accessible to newcomers and satisfying for longtime Titans fans.
Invincible Iron Man #503 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Teresa Jusino; Click here for preview): We’re not supposed to side with Doctor Octopus, right? I mean, he’s a villain, and we’re supposed to cheer for the hero to give him what for. Lately, though, both the regular Marvel U and the Ultimate Marvel U have been giving us reasons to sympathize with this guy. It’s almost as if they want us to believe he’s a...human being. In the third and final part of the “Fix Me” story arc, we finally see Doc Ock’s endgame... and it’s pretty awesome. The reader will start cheering things like “Ha! In your FACE, Tony Stark!” before realizing, “Hey, wait a minute. He’s the good guy.” This is the great thing about Matt Fraction’s handling of this title. He has such a tight lock on what makes this, and every character in the book, tick that he’s not afraid to lead us to a place where we like him a little less. People are flawed creatures, and Fraction embraces this fearlessly. Salvador Larroca’s pencils are solid in this issue, and what impressed me most was the complete difference in style between the flashback in the beginning of the issue and the rest of the story. Larroca is a good artist, because he is so versatile. There is also a wonderful short story in the back of the issue called “How I Met Your Mother,” also written by Fraction. Just your average, warm, loving, Rich Boy With Powerful Friends Meets Rich Girl With a Shady, Vaguely Criminal Past story. The artwork, by Howard Chaykin, is a bit cartoonish for my usual tastes, but it suits this particular strange romp perfectly. All in all, Issue #503 is a solid issue leading into Tony Stark’s involvement in the Fear Itself event.
Supergirl #63 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): It's not the strongest showing that Supergirl has had in the past few months, but there's still plenty to enjoy about James Peaty and Bernard Chang's gleeful reworking of DC's teen heroes. In this issue, Supergirl's using her Kryptonian smarts just as much as her Kryptonian muscles, and while the payoff is a little predictable, Bernard Chang makes it look absolutely stellar. Where Peaty succeeds best in this issue is in the pacing and plotting — there's a lot going on, but it's definitely some fast-moving set-up to what I think is going to be a rock-'em, sock-'em conclusion that actually takes a pretty surprising left turn into Superman lore. (Let's just say that I was pretty surprised, and that's a feeling I don't get as much as I'd like.) There are a few moments in this book, of course, that don't quite compute as well — namely, that the rest of the DC teen heroes don't quite get a strong introductory image to establish that they're in the book — but at the same time, there has to come a point where this book becomes about Supergirl, rather than a new (and I'd argue, improved) version of the Teen Titans. Either way, this book is brisk, looks fantastic and has a smart hook that satisfies both story enthusiasts and continuity addicts alike. It looks like Supergirl's newest foe is kicking this book into high gear.
Avengers Academy #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jennifer Margret Smith; Click here for preview.): Growth is a rare thing for superhero characters. It's an even rarer thing for newer superhero characters, whose writers often have to spend so much time establishing their personalities, power sets, and status quo that changing them early in the game is a risky proposition. But Christos Gage has done such an excellent job establishing his Avengers Academy cast that this issue, which includes major change for at least three characters (Veil, Reptil, and Striker), manages to strike just the right balance, creating real growth without disorienting the reader. In some ways, the growth is literal — the characters spend half the issue in their future adult bodies, and credit should be given to industry veteran Tom Raney, who manages to step into Mike McKone's departing shoes and age up the students' looks believably despite having little experience drawing the characters in their original incarnations. But other growth is more metaphorical, from Veil's moment of self-empowerment to Striker's crisis of purpose to Reptil's subconscious decision to keep his adult form (and resulting control over his powers). And even those characters who conspicuously don't change, Hazmat and Mettle, share a moment of bonding over their mutual hopelessness, letting out tears that their hard, contained bodies usually don't allow. Avengers Academy #12 is an issue about change and progress that never falters. It's is an exemplar of Christos Gage's almost supernatural level of talent, and more evidence that this series may be the very best book on the stands.
Power Girl #23 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): It's the Brave and the Bold — Power Girl and Zatanna! And if you like the goofy kind of tone that both of these heroines have in their own respective series, you'll enjoy the heck out of Judd Winick and Sami Basri's latest issue. There are definitely some amusing moments to this book, particularly seeing a velociraptor dressed as Paul Bunyan and a T-Rex with guns for arms. By having a magical threat for P.G. and Z (okay, and Superman, too, even if he's more or less ignored in this issue), Winick is able to really go as crazy as he wants to, throwing in sasquatch attacks and the hordes of Hell just to make things interesting. There's not exactly a whole lot of character development here, but it's light enough and has enough humor to charm. Artwise, Basri is still expressive as ever, but there are definitely a few panel choices — like focusing on the back of Power Girl's head when she wins a fight, or the surprisingly hideous wig that Karen Starr wears at the end — that seems a little weird. Despite not having the steadiest dismount, this is a fun, funny read.
Malignant Man #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose): This is one of those books that, no lie, I was pretty concerned with walking in. The idea of a super-powered cancer patient sounds pretty crass upon first reflection, and after reading the first issue of Malignant Man, I'd say that the jury is still out. What Michael Alan Nelson does do well with this book is the beginning, getting us invested our hero Alan's plight. He's terminal, only has weeks to live, and hearing the reflections of what the cancer and its treatments have done to him are pretty heartbreaking, especially when he says things about not being able to remember his first kiss. I'd say the first half of this book is actually pretty interesting, and goes a long way towards warming you up. The second half, unfortunately, not as much — it's pretty much standard action shoot-'em-up once you hit page 11 or 12, sort of Weapon X horror meets the kind of vague pursuers of, say, Soldier Zero. Piotr Kowalski's artwork, with Jordie Bellaire's colors, doesn't quite leave a strong impression — it's all just a hair too stiff, a touch too muddy. Considering the kind of fire that Nelson and company were playing with with Malignant Man, I guess it's a blessing to be a bit ambivalent rather than to outright be offended… but there's some potential to this book that I don't think made it to the printed page.
Generation Hope #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jennifer Margret Smith; Click here for preview.): Generation Hope #6 is the first issue of the series to come out during writer Kieron Gillen's solo run on sister book Uncanny X-Men, and while it may be a simple coincidence of scheduling, the synergy of this issue is evident. The issue opens with a conversation between Scott Summers and Kitty Pryde, who haven't had any real interaction since Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men – a story Gillen is currently revisiting in his main Uncanny story. Scott's very in-character trust in Kitty as the new liaison for Hope's team, beyond the synergy, sets up a great new status quo for Generation Hope – while Kitty may joke that that the team has just “switched one shouty woman who can't touch you for another shouty woman who can't touch you” (in reference to former liaison Rogue), Kitty's history as a teen hero trying to prove herself in a world of adults fits the Generation Hope concept remarkably well, while also working in tandem with Gillen's overarching project of reinserting Kitty into the X-Men world. Also remarkably fitting is Salvador Espin's art, which has gotten better with each issue and is perfect here for Gillen's long crosscut sequences of the different team members stretching the limits of their powers. The art can be goofy, perfect for the awkward teenagers, but it also has a creepy edge that works very well for the issue's main plot, the unsettling discovery of the newest mutant “light” as foreshadowed by Mike Del Mundo's strikingly eerie cover. If this issue's strength and synergy is any indication, and I do believe it is, the X-Men universe is destined for great things with Gillen at the helm. Visit Newsarama on FACEBOOK and TWITTER and tell us what you think!