Greetings, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you this sweltering summer afternoon with the Best Shots team! It's happy day for the team as we welcome a new addition to our ranks, rockin' reviewer Deniz Cordell! As we give him a round of Internet applause, we've also got a ton of reviews for your reading enjoyment today, including the latest releases from Marvel, DC, Dynamite, Zenescope and more. Want to see more? We've got your back, with a ton of back-issue reviews over at the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, let's bring the thunder with the latest issue of the Odinson's adventures, with The Mighty Thor #2…
The Mighty Thor #2
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales and Laura Martin
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
That's the only word I can use to describe the sophomore issue of The Mighty Thor, which starts off looking sharp and then suddenly tears past your expectations on a supersonic cosmic surfboard. It may largely still be setup, but that doesn't change the fact that this is one of the best looking comic books that I've seen in a very, very long time.
But that's what happens when you let Olivier Coipel go wild with a character he hasn't been known to traditionally tackle. Don't get me wrong, his layouts of Thor, Sif and Loki fighting a Stone Colossus are pretty epic to look at, but it's when the Silver Surfer hits Broxton that this story kicks up a notch. Seeing the Surfer's body language, the near-liquid sheen of not just his skin, but his very anatomy takes the "surfer" side of the equation to a level I can't ever recall seeing; there's one panel, just after the Surfer's speed shatters a diner's windows with the force of a shockwave, where the horizon actually bends like a wave. Unreal.
And that energy is felt in the writing, as well. You can recognize from the very first panel how much Matt Fraction gets the Silver Surfer. He only takes five pages to get across so many features from this herald from the stars; we get the speed, the majesty, the urgency, the humanity of someone so far removed from humanity – it's all there, and it all has a voice. "I bring you greetings from Galactus," he says. "I bring you salutations from the monster of all worlds." In many ways, Norrin Radd really does live up to his last name, because Fraction's take on the character, aided by some spectacular letter design from Joe Sabino, is so crystal-clear that you can almost "hear" a mellow baritone in every panel.
Of course, with all this talk of the Surfer, you'd think I was talking about a different comic. Fraction and Coipel give Thor and Odin plenty of love as well, coming off the heels of the heavy angst that defined their relationship in this month's film. In certain ways, Fraction's plotting I think will pay off. Seeing Thor actually struggling with a physical ailment is a nice touch that both evokes Simonson and All-Star Superman, and I hope he's able to follow up on Loki's eagerness to bond with his big brother. While it's still decompressed, Fraction's pacing is picking up, even as the double-page layouts from Coipel sometimes make the read a little too speedy for comfort.
In an era where comic-book cameos often act as just blips on the radar, it's clear that The Mighty Thor has them all beat. With Matt Fraction throwing as much spectacle at Olivier Coipel as he can -- and believe me, Coipel hits a home run with every swing -- this is the kind of Marvel Team-Up that will excite even the most jaded of readers. There's the occasional slow point in this book, to be certain, and sometimes I think the inner circle of Asgard expects your attention rather than earns it, but those concerns vanish swiftly enough, as the story is stolen by the Silver Surfer himself. But that's may be fitting because The Mighty Thor #2 is so damn good-looking, it's almost inhuman.
Action Comics #901
Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Jesus Merino and Brad Anderson
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Colin Bell
I had mixed emotions as we moved closer and closer to a Lex Luthorless Action Comics. Although excited to see writer Paul Cornell afforded the chance to take on DC's flagship character, I was sad to see his excellent take on Lex Luthor go. Luthor and Cornell's whistle-stop tour through the villainous side of the DC Universe was witty, inventive and month-in month-out fun for the best part of a year. Anything that came after it was always fated to pale in comparison; but this is a spectacular fall from grace.
It's hard to reconcile the past eleven issues of Action Comics with the current storyline. To recap, a variety of clones of the seldom well-utilized villain Doomsday have rounded up any superhero wearing the crest of the House of El and dumped them on a satellite amongst the remains of New Krypton. It's not the most exciting premise, and certainly it's one that feels mandated rather than a story that grew organically from what had went before it. All of this is to the book's detriment.
Cornell still seems to be finding his feet with the Man of Steel. There are flashes of strong characterization in the humorous way that Superman puts one threat on hold from the outset of the issue, and the take-charge manner he adopts to rally the Super-family into dealing with their situation. At the same time there are moments that undermine these bright spots, such as Superman's defeatist, near whiny thought-bubbled monologue, and a goofy "Ha! What can I say? Busted!" that truly grates. In these respects although Cornell seems keen to play up the human aspect of Kal-El, in some moments he goes too far. In fairness, this can be attributed to the large cast of Super-characters that Cornell is having to contend with in the issue. Perhaps in juggling these characters, the supposed returning hero of the book gets somewhat lost in the mix.
The introduction of a new villain in the stock method of "let's kill a hero to let everyone know it means business" is probably the last card that needed to be played in what was already a fairly generic story, and it made my heart sink a little. I've misjudged Cornell before, when his brief interlude on Batman & Robin turned what could have been a generic villain into a fairly interesting character. I hope I'm wrong and he can do the same for Doomslayer and Action Comics.
For the most part the quality of the story is sadly echoed by Kenneth Rocafort's art. The solicited covers for the next few issues of the book showcased some pretty and dynamic work, which is sadly represented here by pencilling that has went straight to a colorist when some inking could've tightened up some of the sketchier aspects. Detail apparent in character close-ups is sadly lacking in group or long shots, Superman ages and de-ages depending on which panel you're reading, and the work as a whole doesn't hold up as strongly as fill-in artist Jesus Merino’s, who turns in some of his best Action work to date as he takes on nearly half of the book in what was meant to be Rocafort’s full debut.
It’ll take a far stronger showing in the next issue to calm any fears I have about this run. I honestly expected better from the creative team as a whole.
Kirby Genesis #0
Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by Jack Herbert, Alex Ross and Vinicius Andrade
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by Deniz Cordell
“The comic strip superheroes and heroines, in my belief, personify humanity’s innate idealism and drive.” – Jack Kirby
So, does “Kirby Genesis” live up to Kirby’s philosophy? Does Dynamite’s much vaunted revival and reworking of several of Kirby’s creator-owned ideas hold up as both a worthy carrier of the Kirby torch, and as something that, in the Kirby tradition, proudly blazes its own trail?
The answer, happily, is yes. The pedigree for the series is top-notch. Kurt Busiek (in addition to the rest of his towering oeuvre) worked on the “Kirbyverse” for Topps Comics in the nineties, so has a built in familiarity with the sound and style of Kirby, and Alex Ross is a self-avowed Kirby-ite.
The story takes a meta-textual idea as its springboard (What if Jack Kirby created the artwork for the plaque on the Pioneer 10 space-probe?) and leaps off from there. The bulk of this issue is focused on Pioneer’s journey as it leaves our solar system, and falls into a rather familiar crackling energy pattern, which takes it to new, uncharted worlds. This framework allows the creative team to provide a very brief survey of the characters that will be taking center stage throughout the rest of the mini-series.Busiek, Ross, and artist Jack Herbert move between the intimate and the epic with aplomb, setting up a prologue built more on mood and fast set-up. Though the three “ground-level” characters we are introduced to are only seen for one full page, their personalities are clearly delineated through Busiek’s ear for dialogue, as well as Herbert’s natural facial expressions, and the postures he bestows upon them. There are certainly distant echoes of Busiek’s work on Marvels here, with the series setting these normal people up as the lens that we, as readers, see an extraordinary world through.
Herbert’s art is clear, uncluttered, kinetic, and quite pleasing to look at, though his line and figure-work seem to have more in common with Brian Bolland than Kirby. That said, imitating Kirby’s style outright is not only a tall order, but would have been the wrong approach given the series' intentions of tailoring something new from Kirby’s cloth. There’s enough of Kirby’s spirit in the backgrounds and set and costume design to sate fans, particularly in Herbert's depictions of Captain Victory and his Galactic Rangers, as well as his integration of those omnipresent “energy lines” that seem to radiate from the costumes. Vincius Andrade’s colors tend towards a more muted, darker palette, but are still faithful to Kirby’s original color schemes, and pop with invention. Added to all of this is the integration of Herbert’s art with Alex Ross’s painted work, the juxtaposition of which will play a large part in the series. The effect is an interesting one, and complements the story admirably. Ross’s work is strong, and he brings a wonderful dignity and presence to his depictions.
The dialogue ranges from the naturalistic to the poetic to the terse and hyperbolic, and moves between all of those tones on the turn of a hairpin. It’s all quite lovely, lofty stuff, even if it doesn’t quite have that wonderful unconscious rhythm and meter that Kirby’s writing had. (But what does?) Again though, the idea is not to mimic Kirby, but relish his creativity, and to explore the notions he himself didn’t have the chance to delve into. Busiek brings his own perspective and voice to this world; he creates a lengthy speech (split across caption boxes and speech bubbles) that demonstrates an earnest, wide-eyed awe for the limitlessness of the cosmos and the promise of the knowledge contained therein, which I found irresistible. I also particularly enjoyed Busiek’s text for the “next issue” box, which should have any self-respecting lover of comics smiling.
If I have any caveats, it is that the issue seems to lack that distinctive Kirby pacing – that ability to pack so much story, and so many new and exciting concepts into each panel that narrative critical mass is a wonderful, dizzying constant. On the other hand, I would be hard-pressed to say that that approach would have suited the purpose of this particular issue. This is merely an overture to the opera that is about to follow, touching upon themes and ideas, without presenting any single notion in its fullest form. However, as an avid lover of overtures, I didn’t mind at all. Later issues will be able to provide a far better idea of what the rhythm of the story will be, and I will doubtlessly be back for “Issue #1.”
If this story is able to capture even the smallest fraction of Mr. Kirby’s philosophy (and given Mr. Busiek’s penchant for superheroics with excellent substance, I don’t see how it won’t) then this should be a very special series, indeed.
Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #10
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Fernando Pasarin, Cam Smith, Keith Champagne, Andy Owens, Sean Parsons, Jack Purcell, Jay Leisten and Gabe Eltaeb
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Scott Cederlund
Remember when the Red Lantern Corps first showed up and all they did was vomit red age? That was the extent of their power: to be really, really angry and to vomit up red blood. Got that picture back in your mind? If it helps, the only truly memorable member of that Corps was a little, cute kitty cat who could puke rage with the best of them. Now imagine a whole book like that, puking up all the colors of the rainbow for twenty-some pages. Well, the good news is that you don't have to imagine it because Peter Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin give you that book and technicolor vomit in Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors#10.
"War of the Green Lanterns" is a complete mess, lacking any the focus or apparent purpose that previous Green Lantern events like "Rebirth", "Sinestro Corps War", or "Blackest Night" did. Maybe it's because "Blackest Night" succinctly capped the cycle of death and rebirth for Hal Jordan and the whole Green Lantern Corps that makes this latest storyline feel empty and trite. Thanks to an undefined threat in Krona (really, what's his endgame?) and a distinct lack of heart and a soul, "War of the Green Lanterns" feels more like a placeholder for an event storyline than an actual event itself.
Peter Tomasi has the unenviable job of batting cleanup for Geoff Johns and Tony Bedard, who feel like they're at times writing completely two different stories. While those writers have spent the last couple of months going off and telling their own little stories, Tomasi's duty is to bring their casts together and remind us that there's supposed to be a larger story at play here. Unfortunately by being put in that position, all Tomasi is given to do is to get the heroes out of one precarious cliffhanger while getting them into another. He cleans up one Geoff Johns issue while maneuvering all of the characters into place for another. He doesn't even deal with the staggering issues of Tony Bedard's last Green Lantern Corps story, which is a cheap way out of what could be the biggest thing that happened in this event.
Pasarin's artwork nicely brings some order to the chaps of the story. There are colors, Lanterns, Guardians and other aliens flying in every which-way direction but Pasarin keeps the action clear and flowing. While his artwork isn't as bold as Ethan Van Sciver's or as fluid as Ivan Reis's, his clarity keeps the story flowing forward. But not even his art can make the silly uniforms for Guy Gardner and the rest of the Earth Green Lanterns look anything but silly and bland.
For far too long now, the Green Lantern books have been about every other color than green, as evidenced by Hal, Guy, Kyle and John running around slinging the rings from other Corps rather than their own. "War of the Green Lanterns" has lacked the focus and passion that past Green Lantern-centric events had. Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #10 is full of psychedelic colors and a lot of talk and action, but it all tries to cover up the fact that there's no story here, just an endless series of events and action that have no core. There is no driving energy in this issue to make it anything other than a bridge between one Geoff Johns-written issue and the next.
Grimm Fairy Tales: The Dream Eater Saga #1
Written by Raven Gregory
Illustrated by Roberto Viacava, Jason Embury, Vinicius Andrade, Andrew Elder
Lettered by Jim Campbell
Published by Zenescope Entertainment
Review By Jeff Marsick
Forget Flashpoint or Fear Itself. If you want a massive crossover event that will TRULY shatter a comic universe to its core, you've got to check out Zenescope's version in The Dream Eater Saga. This series has its start during the landmark Grimm Fairy Tales #50 issue, where the epic battle for the fairy land of Myst was waged and it fell upon Sela's shoulders to sever all portals with Earth in order to keep the Dark One from crossing over. During the battle, when the odds are looking poor for the good guys, Thane, the lion king of Oz, makes a fateful, and possibly fatal, last-ditch decision: he releases the Dream Eater.
What is it? Well, we don't truly find that out in this issue. Suffice it to say it's a terribly powerful creature that scoffs at barriers imposed by space and time. It starts as a shooting star visible on the horizons of the present day, and of the late 1800s past, and of Sinbad's Egypt; a spectre lightly stroking the existence of each major Grimm character, indicating the massive span of this twelve-issue arc. The Dream Eater eventually finds a landing spot in the now of Patterson, Virginia, and energy becomes form, a god assuming the shape of his minions. What he does to the Red Queen (a twisted little mynx running a carnival's House of Mirrors) is a brutal and violent portent of what lies in store for the Zenescope pantheon.
It's your typical first-issue foreplay scenario: the cards are dealt, the players named, and a handful of teasers are dangled. What's got me all a-giggity over this series is its ambition of reaching into all of the corners of the Zenescope universe. The Wonderland characters are here, the Grimms, the Neverlanders, Sinbad and Mercy Dante (my personal favorite). If you're not particularly savvy in a character or storyline, it would certainly behoove you to do a little catching up, but with each chapter being a one-shot in the respective title, I'm sure there will be enough blank-filling to make them accessible to even a first-time reader.
I've been looking forward to this series for months and can't wait to see how it's going to affect the Zenescope universe, and what characters are going to survive the event. Highly recommended.
Strange Adventures #1
Written by Selwyn Hinds, Talia Hershewe, Peter Milligan, Lauren Beukes, Jeff Lemire, Ross Campbell, Kevin Colden, Paul Cornell and Brian Azzarello
Art by Denys Cowan, John Floyd, Cris Peter, Juan Bobillo, Sylvain Savoia, Eva De La Cruz, Inaki Miranda, Jeff Lemire, Jose Villarrubia, Ross Campbell, Lee Loughridge, Kevin Colden, Goran Sudzuka, Eduardo Risso
Lettering by Travis Lanham, Nick Napolitano, Sal Cipriano, John J. Hill, Jared K. Fletcher, Carlos M. Mangual and Clem Robins
Published by Vertigo
Review by David Pepose
Dear Comics Industry: Please, more like Strange Adventures.
I say this, because people end up associating "comics" with superheroes, oftentimes to the detriment of actual story. Riding on concept can only take you so far, and oftentimes superhero comics and others that use established characters end up omitting the theme, the human resonance, even the sheer newness of their material in their zeal to get the biggest explosions between Point A and Point B.
That's where Strange Adventures comes in.
Don't get me wrong, this book isn't flawless by any stretch of the imagination. I've heard the complaint of some of these stories ending a bit predictably, and I can definitely see that in a number of these stories. Ultimately, I think readers and industry folks alike could learn a ton from this book. These are stories that embrace their high concepts and gives you a human eye to look at them through, and perhaps most importantly, these stories know what it's like to have to earn your audience's respect. It's a drive that I think could help the industry all around.
For my money, I'd say that my favorite story of this anthology was probably from newcomer Talia Hershewe, whose story "The White Room" isn't so much structurally immaculate as it lulls you with its easy-to-grasp high concept and suddenly knocks you in between the eyes with a moment of unexpected beauty by John Floyd. Jeff Lemire does some truly heartbreaking work with Ultra the Multi-Alien, the only previously licensed character in the entire book. Even if you have no idea who that goofy-looking character is, Lemire fills you in, giving you a direction that's rooted in the metaphor of the character but surprises you all the same. Kevin Colden's "Postmodern Prometheus" is a bit of an acquired taste, but his voice is so clear in this story that it ultimately brought me off the fence for sheer characterization. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Inaki Miranda, the artist for Lauren Beukes' "All the Pretty Ponies," who I think is going to hit the big leagues in a big way if he keeps this up.
Not all the stories are this lucky, however. Selwyn Hinds' collaboration with Denys Cowan starts off with a great, visually-interesting riff off cyberpunk that crashes and burns with the last, easy-to-spot twist, and while Peter Milligan tries to subvert the cagey reader in his story of two friends – one imaginary, one real, and neither sure which is which, the dark tone doesn't seem to go anywhere. Ross Campbell's story with Lee Loughridge just seems like gross-out for gross-out's sake, and Paul Cornell's story about Saucer Country seems just a little too fragmented to really get a strong narrative going. Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso's big headliner for the story, their new creator-owned work Spaceboy, ends up being one of the big misses of the book, as it starts off just a bit too slowly to get readers even understanding the new slang-filled world, let alone invested in it.
But here's the thing: Strange Adventures shows the strength of the medium of comics, going beyond the superhero paradigm (or even the TV-pilot seed paradigm that others might attribute to the creator-owned scene), and rapidly hits readers with high-concept, resonance, emotional arcs and oftentimes just plain beautiful imagery. With the episodic nature of most comics these days, it can sometimes be hard to lead with a striking theme that works well with a high concept; when that lightning does strike, sales are sure to follow. Take note of Strange Adventures, everybody. If more comics took their storytelling ethos from this book, I think the industry might be an even stronger, smarter place.
DV8 Gods and Monsters TPB
Written by Brian Wood
Art by Rebekah Isaacs and Carrie Strachan
Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by DC Comics
Review by Scott Cederlund
If I remember correctly, the members of DV8 were the dark side of Wildstorm's Gen13. Where Gen13 were full of life and everything that was good about the world, DV8 were the pessimistic and evil kids of the Wildstorm universe. The fact that they were once written by Warren Ellis should practically tell you everything you need to know about those kids. Even if they weren't created by him, they were still Ellisonian characters, full of hate and spite but in that charmingly optimistic way that Ellis is so good at pulling off. At least that's how I remember the book. Honestly it's been years since I even thought about the characters. In the recent dying days of Wildstorm, Brian Wood and Rebekah Isaacs reinvigorated these characters, reintroducing them in a story that owes as much to Warren Ellis as it does to William Golding's Lord of the Flies.
Trapped on a primitive world with no idea how they got there, the kids of DV8 find themselves thought of gods by the indigenous tribes of that world. Scattered among the tribes, Wood's characters begin influencing the people they live among as well as finding themselves influenced by the world. They're worshipped as god yet they are only kids and show themselves to be horrible and petty towards their worshippers. On this world, they think of themselves as gods and can't see how monstrous and destructive they really are.
There's an air of sadness in this book as Wood's channels more of his Demo and Local themes in this book. DV8: Gods and Monsters is about youth and the people we grow up more than it is about super powers and exotic planets. Wood puts these characters in a position where they can do a lot of good and one of them, Jocelyn, does. She teaches the people how to get water out of the ground. She laughs with them and gets to really know them. "And she was not a god at all," one of the other characters says. "She showed her true humanity, and that put the rest of us to shame." Trapped on this world where they could have been true gods, only one of them could embrace her humanity while the others drifted off into their own selfish lives.
Rebekah Isaac's understated artwork makes the story clear and easy. While she does great conveying the action and energy of the battles, her art really concentrates on portraying the feelings of these characters. They're lost, excited, angry or maybe just a bit happy to be on this world. Isaac's artwork tells us that in ways that Wood's script doesn't even come close to doing. She tells everything you need to know about these characters and their emotions in their faces, the way they look or smile or even sleep. She's able to capture their thoughts and feelings through a sideways glance. She brings to life just how lost both physically and emotionally these characters are.
Maybe as kids it's too easy to just become something like friends with the people that you're thrown together with. Maybe it's too easy to become comfortable with them and yourself until you're pushed into new experiences and have to try to figure out who you really are. Those are the kind of stories that Brian Wood is so great at telling, where the characters have to figure out if they're going to remain as kids and immature all of their lives or whether they're going to take on some kind of responsibility and become an adult. With this book, he blends that journey with super powers and creates the superhero equivalent of Lord of the Flies. There's a lovely sense of foreboding hanging over this book as you just know that these kids are completely unable to make the right decisions.
In DV8: Gods and Monsters, these super powered kids find their own world to play with. It's the perfect opportunity to grow up and show just what kind of responsible adults they can be or it's a disaster waiting to happen as every petty desire leads to an equally petty action. As the title suggests, these kids can decide to be gods or monsters, or maybe even both. With that decision, they destroy the delicate balance of a world because they can; because it's their plaything and they want to. Wood and Isaac give these forgotten characters one last chance to do something worthwhile and they do. They remind us of all the bad decisions we've made and all of the potential that we have to do better in the future.
Pellet review!The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde #2 of 4 (Published by Dark Horse; Review By Jeff Marsick): The detective story of Inspector Thomas Adye's investigation into the 1887 Whitechapel murders continues in this issue. Whereas issue one portrayed an incarcerated Dr. Jekyll as Hannibal Lecter to Adye's Clarice Starling, issue two sees Jekyll partnering with Adye, the former now Jonathan Mardukas to the latter's Jack Walsh. That Jekyll wormed a release on such a skinny game of semantics does nothing to bolster confidence in Adye's aptitude as an investigator (who is less idiot than his superiors who granted the request). It's a flimsy plot point and patently transparent as a device to get Hyde back into the open to do the beastly things that Hyde does so well. Adye, with the help of Jekyll and his hulking alter ego, makes an arrest in the grisly murder case that garners him national attention and makes him a briefly shining star, but the ripping good times come to a screeching halt when a certain Jack alerts Adye that the game is still afoot. Plot hiccup aside, I find this is an enjoyable read, a mash-up of literary and real-life characters, well written by Cole Haddon with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen -inspired art by M.S. Corley. How Hyde will factor more into the story and earn his place in the title will be interesting over the next two issues. If you miss the individual issues, I would definitely recommend getting this in trade form.