Best Shots Rapid Reviews: YOUNG AVENGERS, FLASHPOINT Tie-Ins
Best Shots Rapid Reviews: June 30
Face front, ’Rama readers! Jamie Trecker here, seizing the Best Shots reins from David Pepose in a bloodless coup. Mwuah-ha-ha! This week we’ve got rapid-fire reviews of the latest issues from the world of Flashpoint, the skinny on a big, under-the-radar Marvel book, and looks at Batman, Inc., FF, and Wonder Woman, plus titles from Image, Oni and Dark Horse. Want some more back-issue reviews? Check it, over at the Best Shots Topic Page. A happy Fourth of July weekend to all our readers and please join us back here next week for more Best Shots goodness.
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #6 (Published by Marvel, Review by Jamie Trecker; Click here for preview): This is a big book, with some major ramifications for the Marvel Universe. The Young Avengers have been looking for the Scarlet Witch, who as you will recall from the “House of M” storyline, depowered most of the Marvel Universe’s mutants and then vanished. Well, the Young Avengers have just found her — and she remembers everything. Considering she decimated the mutants and killed three team members, that’s not a good thing. The end of the book contains three major developments which I will not spoil here, but the book affects the very fabric of the Marvel Universe. Suffice it to say that this book is also off most folks’ radar. Why? Because Allan Heinberg and artist Jim Cheung are taking a year and a half to deliver this nine-issue mini-series. It feels like an eternity. I adore Cheung’s art — and this book is indeed gorgeous, with slick, sinuous lines and charming faces — but the shipping schedule has made it pretty tough to keep up with what’s going on. That said, if you were tempted to wait for the trade, don’t. This is snappily-written — Heinberg is arguably the best dialogue man for teen characters in the business — and affects the Marvel Universe right now. Click here for preview): Despite Batman being in the title of this book, he's really more of a guest star in his own book, as Grant Morrison examines the Batman of the Southwest, Man-of-Bats and his sidekick Raven. In certain ways, Morrison riffs on the sorts of social and economic inequities that Jason Aaron did in Scalped, but in 20 pages, it's tough to give that sort of theme the kind of heft you need. Chris Burnham, however, is just a beast with this book, really cranking up the speed and power of these back-alley brawls with lines that remind me more of Nathan Fox than his typical comparison point, Frank Quitely. The real question of this book, of course is whether or not you end up caring enough about Man-of-Bats and his son. On that note, I don't think I'm necessarily sold on Batman Incorporated #7 — but as far as execution is concerned, Burnham absolutely elevates what could be seen as an interlude and gives it a bit of needed energy. Click here for preview): If you had told me three years ago that the Fantastic Four would be Marvel's best team book by a wide margin, I would have laughed in your face. But five months in, Jonathan Hickman is absolutely owning this often-overlooked corner of the Marvel U. He's such a sure-footed author, and even though this chapter does feel a little more staccato than previous issues, it still feels plenty more substantial than most superhero books these days. There's a great line in here where Sue realizes that not all things are what they seem with her husband, and the artwork by Barry Kitson showing Reed revealing his secret exudes sadness within the shadows. Kitson in general is a fantastic choice for the FF, giving a cinematic, mainstream edge to this book that is completely justified. If there's one issue I've got with this book, it's actually with some of the other overlooked characters — Spider-Man and Alex Power get a bit more spotlight in this issue, but the dialogue and power usage isn't quite as snappy as before. Still, it's just a small misstep for the juggernaut known as Jonathan Hickman, as the sheer force of his long-game plotting is more than enough to sweep you off your feet. Click here for preview): If you remove the phrase Flashpoint (and all of the mental turmoil that entails) from the front of this title, you have something that could have legs. Project Superman #1 is still a little less refined than it deserves — DC is pumping out undercooked books like doughy hotcakes these days — and yet is one of the stronger books coming out of what is proving to be a confusing event. Scott Snyder and Gene Ha are a solid team. Ha's ability to capture clever emotional cues in faces complements Snyder's writing of tense character interactions. Sometimes the push for an emotional connection in this first issue can be a bit demanding and drag the story. The half-expected surprise at the end feels a little late to the party considering there are only two more books to communicate the implications of it all. There are some other Flashpoint-patented distractions dotting the book, like a lot of parallel-universe name dropping that doesn't really lead anywhere (yet?), which may alienate a reader who feels that they are not in on the joke. Pacing and nit-pickery aside, Snyder and Ha are off to an intriguing, if not terribly fast-paced start; there are more emotional battles than physical in this one. That said, Ha can make sitting around and talking look cool. Calling Project Superman a “diamond in the rough” may go a little too far, but it is at least a silver dollar in a sand trap.
Click here for preview): Character revamp aside, Phil Hester has transformed the Wonder Woman “Odyssey” arc into something I anticipate every month. I don’t think that “Odyssey” has the character-defining magic that readers will look back on and praise, but Hester is working quite well with what he's got. Wonder Woman #612 is a necessary read, but probably the most underwhelming issue thus far. Sure, we get some answers. We also get staple Wonder Woman mythology, but my response on the final page was, “REALLY?” Perhaps my lackluster reaction is because DC has hyped it as the issue we’ve been waiting for all year. I also think the mystery surrounding the villain was excessive. Whether this is a holdover from J. Michael Straczynski's initial outlines or something else entirely, the plot development in this issue seems lazy with only a hint of satisfaction. The momentum comes to a screeching halt in order to give the grand reveals, and the events that unfold don’t quite add up in my mind. Where the story lets me down, Lee Garbett’s brilliant cover and Paul Mounts colors add some much needed kick. Don Kramer does a respectable rendering of Diana. His dynamic action sequences and salient emotional expression allow me to forgive him for inflating Wonder Woman’s bust rather disproportionally. The next issue is the finale (for real this time) to Wonder Woman’s Odyssey. It better be bloody brilliant.
Click here for preview) : This issue gets off to a rocky start, but by the end it settles back into self-conscious and silly action. Skullkickers #8 finds Baldy and Shorty trying to track down the assassin who framed them for the murder of a local chancellor. The comic splits its attention three ways by focusing on the Skullkickers, the assassin responsible for this whole mess, and the guards searching the Skullkickers' rooms. This split doesn't serve the comic quite as well as it might because the irony and sarcasm that Baldy and Shorty bring to a scene ground the comic. The farther the comic moves away from that irony, the closer it gets to farce. Fortunately, the bulk of this issue remains with the title characters, and the tone of those scenes maintains an unapologetically boisterous sense of humor. With playful sound effect text ("body slam 2" and "kickeroo"), a cheerfully cartoony level of violence and gore, and plenty of wry self-mockery, the comic's aesthetics revel in all of the silliest elements of the fantasy genre. Small continuity touches like maintaining the colors associated with particular magical effects help demonstrate the degree of care that goes into making the comic's effects seem effortless. Bonus points also go to the creators this time for providing paper doll cutouts of the main characters for all your cube decoration needs. This issue, like the series itself, ends up being scatological, irreverent, silly, and more fun than a bag of piranhas.
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