Hello, Rama Readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with the rockin' reviewers of the Best Shots team. We've got a ton of new releases for your reading pleasure, including reviews of the latest books from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, IDW, Dynamite and BOOM! Studios! Want some more? We got you covered, all at the Best Shots Topic Page. And now, let's take a look at what's going on in the DC Universe, as War of the Green Lanterns heats up in Green Lantern Corps…
Green Lantern Corps #60 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): If you pick up one Green Lantern book this week, you should probably make it this one — it can be a little rough around the edges, but if you're looking for big progression, this is where it's at. In a lot of ways, Tony Bedard is more of shaping setup and mythology rather than delving into the characters of John Stewart and Kyle Rayner, but considering how many questions War of the Green Lanterns has provoked, that's not necessarily a bad thing: We see what Kyle can do with a blue power ring that in every other issue has backfired on him, we see John make a difficult choice that I'm sure will define him moving forward — we even get to see some fallout from Blackest Night, for people who were reading it back in 2009. Of course, new readers will probably not know any of this, but seriously, if you're starting to read Green Lantern in Part Eight of a story like War of the Green Lanterns, well, that's probably going be what happens. Tyler Kirkham, meanwhile, knows how to draw badass — I get that, and as he gets closer to the end, Bedard gives him a ton of material to work with. But sometimes his focus still needs some work, with pages that don't have diehard action sometimes being formless with the composition. All in all, this book may ride on the strength of its fireworks, but for Green Lantern Corps #60, the fireworks are certainly big enough.
Uncanny X-Men #537 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): Just from a structural perspective, Kieron Gillen is a writer more people need to notice and appreciate. This issue of Uncanny X-Men may be the third part of an ongoing story arc, but it really stands on its clever conceit and its own two feet. With Kitty Pryde stuck in intangible form since her return to Earth, what happens when she's on the run from someone who can hurt her and can't be touched in return? This is a chase, through and through, and every failed attempt for reinforcements ratchets up the overall tension of the arc. In certain ways, the tone actually reminds me of a Joss Whedon TV show, something I've used to describe Gillen's writing in the past — it eschews the self-indulgent continuity messes, and instead focuses on the here-and-now, the important moments of the chase. Terry Dodson's smooth and cartoony style is a good leavening factor for a story that otherwise might prove a little too threatening for a mainstream audience — he softens the blows as we see more and more X-Men in peril, but at the same time isn't afraid to hit you in between the eyes for a final cliffhanger. As a single chapter, this is a very satisfying issue with a clever set of obstacles for our heroine.
Godzilla: Kingdom Of Monsters #3 (Published by IDW; Review by Kyle DuVall) As a Godzilla fan I am always amazed at how easily such a straightforward concept can be screwed up in the wrong hands. All fans of the Big G want is for new creators to keep the monster mayhem front and center, and to treat ol’ Gojira and his cyclopean pals with some sort of respect. We don’t want grim and gritty, but we want giggling self-awareness even less. Godzilla movies are often hilarious, and fans have a great sense of humor about them, but its humor that only comes out when the stories aren’t comedies. Unfortunately, Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters writers Eric Powell and Tracy Marsh seem to think the best use of the Toho mythology is as a vessel for witless social satire. If you do have the gall to yuk it up with Godzilla your jokes should at least be funny. This book’s clichéd attempts to skew such fish-in-a-barrel targets as environmental activists, rednecks, and Lady Gaga, fall as flat as the tower blocks we should be seeing crushed under the big G’s feet. Marsh and Powell’s attempted intrusion of satire has to be read to be believed. This is really sub-sitcom level stuff, with the “jokes” rooted in the laziest, most tired stereotypes. The redneck gags are thinner than Jeff Foxworthy’s sitcom career, the environmental activist jokes have all the timeliness and wit of a Bob Hope monologue, and the barbs directed at Lady Gaga wouldn’t rate a b-side track on Weird Al’s worst single. The thing about satire and parody is, you can’t just graft stupidity onto your targets, you have to have some sort of deeper perspective on them and, in the best cases, some glimmer of affection. That’s the reason why something like Robot Chicken is funny, and something like Epic Movie or the misfiring “humor” in Kingdom Of The Monsters is not. The comedy bits here are is just retchingly unfunny. Marsh and Powell are winking at the reader so desperately, they must have to order their Visine by the bucketful and the end result is not laughs, but the infuriating feeling that the writers think they are smarter than the property they are stewarding and that they want everybody to know it. Fine, kids. The message has been sent. Now move on and wreck someone else’s party. I want Godzilla back.
Venom #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): It's a slow burn, but have faith — not in Flash Thompson, but in Rick Remender and Tom Fowler. This issue succeeds primarily from a plotting perspective — just when you've written off this issue, you realize the whole thing's just been a set-up, the long fuse to what could be a seismic event across the Spider-Man mythos. Fowler has a bit of a rougher style than Tony Moore, but considering this story is about the symbiote running wild, seeing Venom's exaggerated musculature and dislocated jaw lolling around is actually a nice touch. The one thing that trips me up, however? From the striking first pages to the revealed mastermind behind it all, Remender gives everyone such a strong voice — except for Thompson himself. There's a couple of football references by the end that are nice as things get more and more desperate, but overall, he's the straight man in his own book, which makes it tougher to root for him. Still, the last few pages are so damn tense that it's a sure thing I'm on board for next month.
Magnus: Robot Fighter #4 (Published by Dark Horse comics, review by Kyle DuVall The newly re-vamped Magnus Robot Fighter kicked off with a debut issue that was disorienting to say the least. It was everything a “modern” comic wasn’t supposed to be: Guileless, unambitious; a straightforward pulp anachronism lacking the slightest hint of irony and only the most infinitesimal spark of self-awareness. Not flamboyantly raving mad in and of itself, releasing such a book in the modern marketplace was, nevertheless, mental, and that was the charm. Four issues into the run and that charm is leaching away. So much of that daft personality, that tone that straddled anachronistic earnestness and vaguely implied self-awareness in the debut was the result of penciller Bill Reinhold’s sometimes hokey, gee-whiz artwork. New penciler Stephen Thompson is certainly a good enough artist, with a style more in step with modern readers, but that’s just the problem. Thompson’s carefully hatched and truer proportioned figures make Magnus a little too conventional and, in context, way less daft. It also doesn’t help that Shooter’s script this time around is fatally talky, especially for this kind of book, and an emerging subplot about discrimination of sentient “q-bots” adds a weak bit of modern-style ambiguity that the premise definitely does not need. At this point I’m quickly coming to the conclusion that Shooter’s establishment of Magnus as a sort of retrograde, earnest book-out-of-time wasn’t a subtle bit of brilliance after all, and simply the effort of a great creator whose time, unfortunately, has definitely passed.
Detective Comics #877 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): When he wants to, Scott Snyder sure can start off a story with a bang. Trapped amid a crusher of abandoned cars with no way out, what's Dick Grayson to do? Well, let's just say Snyder sure gives Jock some great stuff to draw, as he makes his exit more like a fiery comet than a bat out of hell. It's a great intro, and in general seeing Dick take on the Roadrunner and his gang is a real treat visually — even if there are a couple of lines, like him saying "b-deep, that's all folks," that made me raise an eyebrow. Action-wise, this book is great, and it gives Jock a lot to do with the sharp silhouette of Batman's costume. Yet the book isn't perfect — about midway through, there's two info-dumps from two characters that I imagine will lead us down to find the killers (it is a detective story, after all), but those two conversations end up being more exposition than anything else, grinding the speedy pacing of the story to a halt. (It also hurts the flow that it's interrupted by a Super 8 tie-in story, which you desperately want to flip through in order to figure out what's happening elsewhere.) Once the setup ends, however, it's smooth sailing once more, as the cliffhanger for this book is eerily gorgeous — in general, this issue is the best work I've seen out of David Baron, and that's even considering the flatness I saw last issue. If you're looking for some action amid the detective work, definitely check this out — it's got a great first impression that really sets the tone for the rest of the book.
Grave Sight: Book One (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Erika D. Peterman): If a loved one died under unclear circumstances, would you really want to know how they met their end? Or would that knowledge make it more painful, especially if they died violently at someone else’s hand? Sookie Stackhouse series author Charlaine Harris and co-writer William Harms raise those questions in Grave Sight: Book One, a gripping mystery. A big part of the book’s appeal is protagonist Harper Connelly, a young woman who finds dead people, then sees and feels how their lives ended. It’s a gift Harper doesn’t want, but it pays the bills as she and her brother, Tolliver, travel to help clients who pay for her services. You really sense what a heavy burden her power is, and how it has damaged and isolated her. But perhaps because of this isolation, she has a close relationship with her protective brother and best friend, Tolliver. I don’t know whether this is setting the reader up for a gut-punching plot twist, but for now, their bond is quite touching. Grave Sight has an appropriately melancholy tone thanks to Denis Medri’s sharp illustrations and colorist Paolo Francescutto’s subdued color palette. The colors are limited — mostly dark purple, swamp green, and dull gold, but they work very well in this context. Medri conveys emotions like malevolence or emotional exhaustion in subtle, captivating ways. There’s not a lot of smiling in this book, but it’s still a pleasure to read.
DuckTales #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Lan Pitts): BOOM! has carved out a niche as a solid publisher for Disney franchises, and DuckTales is no exception. This comes across like a relaunch and a continuation at the same time. Written by Warren Spector, yes, the same Mr. Spector that wrote the oh-so incredible Epic Mickey game for the Wii, so an epic adventure with Scrooge McDuck and clan should be a no-brainer. Spector is aided by an outstanding art team consisting of Leonel Castellani, Jose Massaroli, and colors by Braden Lamb. The characters give a fluid style that takes you back to the animated show and to some good ole adventures. There is a bit of a retrospective of Scrooge's past adventures with winks and nods to the show and early Scrooge comics. If there is one complaint is that I felt overwhelmed reading it. There just seems to be a lot going on in the first issue, it does feel like it could have been condensed in some places. Still, for those of you who loved the show or are looking for something for a young reader, without a doubt pick this up.
Comeback Kings #1 (Published by Ardden Entertainment; Review by David Pepose): This book may be a lot of things. It might be crass. It might be exploitative. It's also a guilty pleasure. And I feel really guilty saying that. Having a commando team of dead celebrities ranging from ringleader Bruce Lee to psychedelic seducer Jim Morrison to class clown Andy Kaufman is one of those concepts that if you don't put any expectations on it, you'll be surprised to find that it doesn't — often — go out of its way to offend you. The fact that Matt Sullivan and Gabe Guarente actually take some time to develop some of these characters into something a little bit more than parody or schlock — I thought Tupac as a substitute teacher and suburban dad was the highlight of the book — is a surprise, but it's a welcome one. Artist Ethan Young, working just black-and-white, also does a good job of putting these historical figures into a narrative context, with the majority of the images being recognizable but not jarring. Jumping back and forth between provocation and restraint, I can't believe I actually enjoyed this book — but after that I-can't-believe-they-just-did-that last page, I have to see if this book sticks the landing… or just crashes and burns.Visit Newsarama on FACEBOOK and TWITTER and tell us what you think!