Greetings, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here again, wishing you a belated happy Fourth of July with the Best Shots Team! Today is definitely a doozy, with an epic mash-up of our main Best Shots column as well as some sneak peeks for later this week! With books from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, BOOM! Studios and much more, the fireworks are just beginning. Now let's check in on the symbiote-fueled aventures of Flash Thompson, in the latest issue of Venom…
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Tony Moore, Crimelab! Syndicate and John Rauch
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
Think of the old-school Spidey soap operas mixed with high-octane action, and you've got Venom in spades. While the previous three issues have been a little bit of a slow burn — surprising, given the fact that writer Rick Remender has been so careful to make each issue feel self-contained — but all those threads do pay off in this fourth issue, as there is a ton of action to reward readers for their patience.
The thing about Remender's writing that I think comes out the most in this issue is the fact that he sets up rules for his new world — having Flash Thompson in the Venom suit was fine for the initial high concept, but what are his weaknesses? His hidden tactics? Remender delivers here, as he really makes the world feel "real," whether its Flash throwing an enormous car at his one-time hero, Spider-Man, or the risky gamble he takes to keep the murderous symbiote under control.
Something else that works in Remender's favor — his pacing. This is probably the best-paced issue he's written in awhile, successfully juggling fights with Spider-Man, Jack O' Lantern, and his own morality without feeling rushed or crammed. In a lot of ways, Remender is able to have his cake and eat it, too — there's that interpersonal dynamic between Flash and all his cast of characters that works perfectly alongside all the crazy action, and harkens back to that John Romita Jr. era of brighter days gone bad.
Tony Moore, meanwhile, is Remender's secret weapon. His use of angles is really fascinating, and I love the way he really establishes a visual continuity — there's a moment where Flash is swinging over a crowd, dodging a horde of robotic demons, popping up into the sky… and then, BAM, he gets intercepted by Jack O' Lantern. Between the moments of action and the emotional beats — seeing Flash lose his greatest battle is a masterful piece of body language.
If you've been thinking that this book has been slow, you may wish to give Venom a second chance. There is a ton of stuff going on, and it may be difficult for new readers to follow, but definitely rewards the diehard Spider-fan. With a ton of action and some wonderful pacing, this is definitely the spot where this series picks up.
Batman Incorporated #7
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn
Lettering by Patrick Brosseau
Published by DC Comics
Review by Scott Cederlund
If anyone can be Batman, what makes Batman unique? Batman Incorporated #7 shows us the less successful heroes inspired by Batman, the Native American Man-Of-Bats and his sidekick Raven. Instead of being a billionaire playboy with a faithful partner, Man-Of-Bats is a reservation doctor, harangued by his boss for his extracurricular activities and struggling to make his son understand the honest good they do patrolling the shacks and casinos to save the poor and destitute. Where Batman has his secret Batcave and Batmobile, Man-of-Bats has his own shack, so secret that he has a giant bat signal painted on his garage door as if he doesn't understand the idea of a "secret identity" and he drives around in a pickup truck that overheats. In Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham's latest issue, it is too easy to see Man-Of-Bats as a deluded fool who thinks he is Batman rather than a hero who serves his community more personally than Batman ever could do with Gotham.
While Grant Morrison's overall Batman Incorporated is feeling muddy and unfocused, this issue is a pleasant interlude, focusing on a couple of characters that Morrison has used over and over again during his Batman run. Man-Of-Bats and Raven have shown up repeatedly but always just been part of the Batman of Many Nations club or whatever it was called back in "The Black Glove" storyline. You can see in this issue how Morrison has been trying to show what Bruce Wayne is by showing everything he isn't in Man-Of-Bats. Man-Of-Bats isn't a hero of the world; he isn't successful in business or crime fighting; he doesn't inspire awe and fear like Batman does. But he reaches out to people, fights crime going door to door to find out what he can do for his people. He's a hero of the people in ways that we hardly see Batman able to do. Morrison shows us how Batman and Robin inspire heroes who don't have everything that they do but still want to make their little part of the world a better place.
When Batman does show up, he's there to save the day as Man-Of-Bats has been overtaken by Leviathan, the nebulous hive-mind enemy that has been attacking Batman around the globe. Batman Incorporated has been about filling the ranks of Batman's allies as he prepares for a battle with an enemy who is legion. Morrison is using that concept to explore obscure Batman-influenced characters like Man-Of-Bats to show different interpretations of Batman. In his "every story since Detective Comics #27 has actually happened” manner, Morrison has done everything to push the idea of Batman into uncharted areas but shows that the idea of Batman only works because the idea of Bruce Wayne works. Man-Of-Bats is not Batman because he is not Bruce Wayne. It's not the toys or the colorful villains that make Batman great. It's ultimately Bruce Wayne's story that Morrison keeps coming back to as the heart and soul of Batman.
Burnham's artwork continues to get sharper with each issue he works on. His artwork finds a nice middle ground between the hyperdetails of Geoff Darrow and the fine lifework of Frank Quietly. He doesn't always go inter super detail in every page but when he does, his art displays the squalor that Man-Of-Bats fights to try and save his people from. The opening pages show a desolate image of existence but when Man-Of-Bats and Raven find a young child trapped in a small house with his dead mother sitting on the couch, the details that Burnham puts in and that colorist Nathan Fairbairn accentuates are painful in how honest they are. That same attention to detail becomes amusing when we see Man-Of-Bat's secret headquarters which looks more like a museum instead of a secret lair. Instead of Batman's giant penny, he's got a big wooden nickel and bobble heads of himself and his sidekick.
Batman Incorporated #7 shows us why Batman is unique even if he doesn't have any special powers or isn't from an alien planet. He inspired people to be heroes through his own heroics. Sure, Superman and Wonder Woman have their sidekicks and imitators but Batman has an army of men and women who want to be him. They want to be the hero that Bruce Wayne has shown them that they can be. Batman Incorporated #7 shows us one of those heroes and while he will never be Batman, Man-Of-Bats is still a hero that all of us should aspire to be.
The Goon #34
Written, Illustrated, and Lettered by Eric Powell
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Review by Deniz Cordell
This issue of The Goon is a blissful deconstruction of its own deconstruction. The book has always been terrific, and this issue is no exception to the high quality that Eric Powell so carefully lavishes on his creation. More importantly, however, is the fact that Powell is enjoying himself tremendously as he takes his rapier-sharp pen to cut a swath through both the Vampire craze, and the demographic that seems to perpetuate its existence.
The issue is full of the same “throw it to the wall” sense of humor – Powell leaves no stone unturned in his quest for gags. Sometimes they come in the form of simple throwaway lines, sometimes in moments of self-reflexivity, sometimes outright parody, and sometimes plain old ribaldry. Yes, the image of several teen vampires tossing buckets labeled “GLITTER” on their leader isn’t an un-obvious joke to make (well, not since we recently discovered that vampires sparkled, anyway), but Powell’s art – the facial expressions and body language on this poised group are hysterical – to say nothing of the use of “JAZZ HANDS!” as a sound effect. The subsequent fight is choreographed with weight and energy, as The Goon – as one would expect – thoroughly trounces the group, addresses the audience, and forcibly changes the narrative drive of the story – acknowledging that another several pages of Vampire jokes would be “too easy.”
The Goon, for all his rough-and-tumble antics and coarseness, remains a thoroughly likeable, even relatable character. He is simultaneously the man in control of the situation, and the guy that will drunkenly tag along with some kids to get rid of a demon. It’s the latter element that makes up the second-half of the issue, and it’s a funny situation that escalates rapidly. One of the most refreshing things about the book is that the characters never beat around the bush – they are always explicitly clear when it comes to stating what’s on their minds. When one of the kids notes that the Goon may have killed their vile caretaker, another one declares: “Bonus!” Yes, it may seem uncaring or needlessly cruel, but it all comes out so quickly and naturally, and seems to fit so perfectly within the confines of Powell’s peculiar world, that lines which could leave a sour taste in your mouth elsewhere, are bits of comic inspiration that build a solid storytelling structure.
Powell’s art remains as strong and inventive as it always has been – his character designs are simultaneously grotesque and endearing – his children are half-torn from Little Lulu and Warner Brothers cartoons. His use of shading and shadow is expert – creating a real sense of depth to characters and backgrounds. His angle choices are inventive, and his action is always clear, and his use of motion lines within panels proves to be an excellent device to maintain the sensation of energy throughout the book. The design of the devil that disguised itself as a normal adolescent girl is suitably frightening, with distended limbs, an asymmetrical face, and cold, contracted eyes – and the fight between the Goon and the devil is a splendid construction. Powell’s reaction shots are quite splendid, and he uses those to continue to build up momentum and humor – particularly in a one-two-three-four punch sequence of dialogue as the kids attempt to articulate what the noise made by the monster sounds like. As one would expect from Powell, it’s a little vulgar, but in a demure, gentle, and – most importantly – genuinely funny, way. The Goon’s parting line to the children is funny in all the right ways, and the final beat wraps everything up nicely.
This is a terrific story that stands alone, independent of the rest of The Goon’s adventures. It has a distinct sense of humor that ably combines highbrow, lowbrow, and non-sequitur-brow. Beyond all of that though, there’s a lead character that we can enjoy reading about – his stevedore hat and gruff attitude giving him a unique visual signature in a world populated with interesting and engrossing sights and details. Yes, many of you already read The Goon, but if you’ve never heard tell of it, or have been avoiding it for some reason, this issue isn’t a bad place to start – it’s hysterical, exciting, and makes very clear The Goon’s abiding love of spaghetti. And, unless you’re gluten intolerant, how can you possibly argue with such a thing?
Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #11
Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Bernard Chang and Gabe Eltaeb
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
If you pick up one book from DC Comics this week, make it Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #11. Smart, stylish and self-contained, this character piece on Guy Gardner I think is a perfect window for superhero comics in general, a book I would happily give to a young reader to get them hooked for life.
Much of this has to do with Bernard Chang, fresh off his too-often-overlooked arc on Supergirl. Chang's linework is clean, open and animated, with colorist Gabe Eltaeb adding some superb brightness to make the visuals as accessible as possible. There are hints of Mahnke's expressiveness and Albuquerque's energy to Chang's artwork, as he moves from interstellar space romp to an almost Die Hard-style mano-a-mano battle of wits (and fists). Make no mistake, Chang is one of DC's most overlooked artistic talents, and the more books they can give him, the better off we'll all be.
But don't count out Peter Tomasi, either. Instead of multicolored corps and cosmic-level destruction, this story works as a perfect introduction for Guy Gardner, a blowhard's blowhard with a knack for barreling his way through any situation. Tomasi's decision to strip Gardner of his ring becomes a strength rather than a hindrance — you get to come in on the ground floor without the goliath backstory, and learn there's a reason why this character has endured for years. It's because he's so crass, so funny and ultimately so effective.
There's also such a human undercurrent to this story, perhaps more than I've seen in a Green Lantern book since Secret Origin: Guy is just someone who wants his weekend off, but he's called in to man the store anyway. That's instant relatability, and when you add in how oafish he can become, the chuckles come at some very unexpected moments. You can tell Tomasi was once a comics editor, because for this story, you get the sense that he really was writing with an artist in mind — this is one of the most streamlined scripts he's put out in a long time, and it gives Chang the flexibility to do some sublime work.
With a book this unabashedly great, it's hard to find critiques — when the only thing you can think is "maybe there should have been a football reference as a nod to Guy's past," you know you've got a stellar issue on your hands. With the Green Lantern franchise having been on constant event mode for the better part of five years, it was surprising to me to realize how much I missed these smaller, more human stories. Instead of exposition and big beats, this issue has action, character and heart. It's like Tomasi says in the book — you don't need a ring to take us in. Just good storytelling — and that Emerald Warriors #11 has in spades.
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Marcio Takara and Nolan Woodard
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Deniz Cordell
There is, at the conclusion of this issue of Incorruptible a moment of such startling, unexpected, and astonishingly brutal violence that – regardless of your investment in the characters, regardless of if you have been following Max Damage’s attempt to bring justice from the very first issue, or if this is the first time you pick up the book – you will be absolutely stunned.
Waid continues to mine rich veins of characterization, not only with Damage, but with a varied supporting cast, as well. There are various shadings of villainy in the people that make up Max’s Rogues Gallery – from the more benign malevolence of “Safeword” (who is able to freeze people), to the more animalistic, primal nature of “Creature,” there’s certainly no want of variety to any of the characters, and Waid’s tale of urban decay and collapse uses its superhero frame to great effect. The story is compelling and told without obfuscation or needless complication.
Much of the scenes involving Max deal with his relationship with Whelan – a man he has turned to, because he doesn’t “know the way good people think.” It’s a strained relationship, as Damage killed Whelan’s son in a previous issue, and there’s a clear bitterness in Whelan’s dialogue – he is presented here as a man defeated by a world he still tries to believe in – a relentless idealist just a hair’s breadth from giving in. The dialogue between the two is well crafted, and addresses the overarching themes of not just the book, but of heroic fiction on the whole. The function of “inspiring” and not “controlling” comes to the forefront, and by illustrating the difference between the two, Waid clearly shows that Max Damage has a long way to go and much to learn before he is able to wholly shed his old philosophy. He is, in that regard, a villain who acts heroically – and it’s that internal dichotomy that makes the character so lively and interesting. By providing a foil in Whelan, someone who will forever see Damage as a malcontent, no matter his deeds – Waid externalizes the conflict in a smart way. The simmering build-up to their confrontation is done extremely well, and both characters can easily be seen in a sympathetic light at that moment.
Marcio Takara’s art is nicely done, with confident line-work that doesn’t feel the need to go overboard. Nolan Woodard’s coloring ranges from the phosphorescent superhero to a dark, nighttime scheme, and supports the art quite well.Some of the more overtly “superhero fiction” tropes in the story – such as a sequence in which a drug is concocted to knock Max out, are done with tongue-slightly-in-cheek. It’s a nice respite from the weightier moments of the book, and the simplicity of the villain’s plan lends further charm to the proceedings – there is nothing convoluted or Byzantine in their plot – they want to get Max Damage, so they’re going to go the direct route – which naturally involves leaning over a boiling pot of a neon green liquid. It’s touches like that – the juxtaposition of the practical and the outlandish, that lend Incorruptible some of its more piquant moments of humor.
There’s another subplot involving the fate of Max’s friend, Alana – captured and held captive by a cadre of unfriendly types who have their own designs for Coalville. It’s fittingly reprehensible behavior complete with some bizarre gags that help create a composite picture of who these people are. There are also the hints of redemption for one of the characters, as they make a decision that sends the subplot spiraling in another, interesting direction. What it means on a personal and narrative level are of equal, and great importance, and the fact that Waid is able to juggle both notions so naturally makes it a certain thing that what happens next will have lasting consequences – good and bad.
I mentioned one of the issue’s closing moments way back at the beginning of this review. It is not a streamlined bit of superhero violence with an elegance and careful use of blood. It is gruesome, it is not pretty, romanticized, or protracted in the slightest – and it is, ultimately, quite heart-wrenching. The suddenness of it, its placement in the plot, and the unremitting, nihilistic bleakness of it, creates a moment that will linger and resonate for the reader and the characters for quite some time.
The Incal Classic Edition
Written by Alexandro Jodorowsky
Art by Moebius
Published by Humanoids
Review by Scott Cederlund
There's magic happening within the pages of Alexandro Jodorowsky and Moebius's The Incal. It's not the hocus-locus kind of magic or even an Alan Moore "everything is magic" type. It's something more primal, more instinctual and more natural kind of magic where two things become one. In this case, it is two people becoming one in that strange alchemy that rarely happens when perfect partnerships are formed. While on the surface, it's easy to know who did what (Jodorowsky=words, Moebius=pretty pictures), The Incal is far more complicated than that as you can see how this partnership affected both artists to produce something neither of them could have created on their own.
The Incal is the story of John Difool, a simple man with base desires who ultimately has to become the reluctant savior of all existence. It's the kind of story that Jodorowsky is endlessly fascinated by as he explores our humanity to find out what we truly are capable of. John Difool may be the worst that humanity has to offer. He's not evil or anything but he's just so wrapped up in himself and his own needs that he can't understand his own place in the universe. In his stories, Jodorowsky is always interested in finding the humanity of his characters, in finding some nobility that exists deep within them. In John Difool, there is very little redeeming or noble about the character because Difool exists just to protect himself.
Moebius's stories are a quest for humanity as well but a humanity that's engaged with the world around him. Moebius's best and most imaginative works are about our interactions with our world, whether that be in sprawling metropolises or lush gardens. The Incal gives Moebius the chance to let his imagination run visually wild with fantastic new worlds and even more fantastical characters. Difool is the Everyman and he alternates between being a very ugly man who wears his every desire on his face to being practically angelic as it seems he's about to rise above his own petty wants and needs.
The best and most memorable stories are about the way they are told as much as they are about the plot and narrative. Taking Jodorowsky's narrative search for humanity and Moebius's exploration of ourselves and the worlds we live in produces a piece of comic art that is unlike anything else the two creators have ever been able to do. They've both taken their artistic pursuits to far deeper explorations than The Incal. Jodorowsky has his Metabarons saga that continually reexamines what kind of people we are and Moebius his Aedena/Airtight Garage cycle which takes us to far more exotic and revealing places but they've never been able to capture our imagination quite as deeply and forcefully separate as they were together with The Incal.
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Written by Harold Sipe and Christopher Sebela
Art by Lee Leslie
Lettering by Christopher Sebela
Published by Image Comics
Review by Wendy Holler
Two out-of-work monsters walk into a Con. I'm not entirely sure what the punchline is, but it seems to have something to do with a porn movie, a murder, and unfortunate bathing habits. While the humor in Screamland #2 is about as subtle as a bullhorn-wielding sledgehammer, the comic is offbeat and versed enough in genre conventions to keep this issue fun.
The setting established for this run of the series is Fantasyscapecon, a send-up of fantasy and science fiction conventions. If you've ever cosplayed at Comic-Con, attended a panel at World Fantasy Con, or stumbled across a room party at Dragon*Con, you'll be well familiar with the shrouded booths and hotel rooms that make up the background for this issue. Fans of several types show up, and while they are more caricature than character, the simplified tone seems like a conscious choice in keeping with the comic's aesthetic.
That aesthetic takes into account the premise of the series, which asks "What happens to the monsters when Hollywood moves on?" The art is cartoonish, and the characters have exaggerated, iconic forms that both identify their monster status and humanize them. Carl "Wolfman" London isn't just the wolfman, he's also that guy who crashed on your couch for a week too long. Travis Walters isn't just the man who played an engineer and a detective; he's also every bad rules lawyer who ever sat at a gaming table. Both characters are so caught up in their own preconceptions that they fail to see what's right in front of them.
Since one of the things in front of them is the Invisible Man or, rather, the corpse of the Invisible Man, that's not necessarily as much of a failing as I make it out to be. This issue explores the first stages of Izzy's murder investigation, wherein our heroes stumble around chasing what seem to be dead ends. The exposition develops character as well as plot, and the histories of Carl, Travis, the Mass (think the Blob), and the Midnight Slasher (think Freddy) all get panel time. Simple decisions, like having characters narrate their own action, keep the tone of the comic cheesy in order to better capture the feeling of outdated sci-fi. Little artistic touches, like flip phones and digital watches, help reinforce the idea that the characters are living in the past and out of touch with what the cool kids are doing these days.
At the same time, this sense of being out of touch is the comic's great weakness. This issue does a better job at picking apart than putting together. The ribbing that the monsters, the intelligentsia, and the fans receive is funny, particularly if you've ever suffered through a panel like "Serial Murder as Philosophical Metaphor," but this insistence on mockery also makes it difficult to care about the characters or their concerns. The MacGuffin of the piece, a missing porn film that could expose several of the monsters, is a good example of the comic's relentlessly lowbrow and low stakes stance. It's as though the creators decided to write about horror while simultaneously refusing to engage in the sense of dread that fuels the genre.
If you can buy into the comic despite this emotional remove, then Screamland #2 provides a satisfying jumping-on place for the series. The plot is easy to pick up and follow, and the jokes are accessible even if you aren't going to catch the Venture Brothers reference. Convention-going fans need to approach the story with a thick skin, though that really ought to come with the badge and the program. The comic promises and delivers bad puns and silly horror movie jokes, and I trust this series not to take itself too seriously. If you're looking for something designed to see the fun and humor in slasher films and skin flicks, then this is your comic.
Kato: Origins #10
Written by Jai Nitz
Art by Colton Worley & Carlos Lopez
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by Deniz Cordell
Kato: Origins is a lean, tautly structured action comic. The emphasis here is laid squarely on a fight between two men – Kato, here disguising himself as a Siamese Prince, and a famed bullfighter.
Now, before I address all of the positives in the book – and there are many – from Jai Nitz’s plotting and economical exposition, to Colton Worley’s physicality in his art – I do want to address one small gaffe the comic makes that probably irritated me more than it should have. Early on in the issue, a newspaper magnate shows the latest headlines to the rest of his social club. There’s a panel where we see the back of the newspaper – and it is text clearly taken from a present-day periodical. Not only are there seven-digit phone numbers instead of the alphanumeric exchanges that were commonplace in the 40s (MUrray hill-5, BUtterfield-8, and so on.), but there is a line with a web address, sitting there, clear as day. It’s a moment that takes you out of the world created by the comic – if you even look for it. Quite probably, the publishers rightly assumed that only a fool would bother reading the text on their newspaper – and I am their proof.
Now, for the positives: though the plot motion here is negligible, it really doesn’t matter one whit. Jai Nitz has been developing a double mystery involving kidnapping and murder, and now, things come to a head – first with an elegant fight, and then with a steely-eyed confrontation of wits. It’s a treat to see Kato operate solo, untethered from the Green Hornet – as he proves to be a relentless pursuer of the truth, and his goals. Nitz also gets in a wonderful bit where Kato uses his first-hand understanding of newspapermen to elicit a reaction and information out of the paper owner. Nitz knows just what characteristics in Kato to exploit and develop, and he is able to draw out elements from Kato’s life as part of a double-bill and use them to further his plot and create an observant, well-rounded character.
The fight scene takes up the bulk of the issue, and Colton Worley, colorist Carlos Lopez, and letterer Simon Bowland really shine. The panel layout alone is just incredible - mimicking and echoing the motions of the two fighters and their weapons. There is one page wherein the action is framed totally within enlarged onomatopoeias – which not only provides a dynamic quality to the art, but ratchets up the impact of the action immeasurably. It makes each strike, each moment in the fight, feel important. The reaction shot from the onlookers – on the same page – is funny and not at all out of place, and everything builds up to another cleverly laid-out page, where the action opens up and lets completely loose. More than all of that, though – it’s all tremendously entertaining, and it takes full advantage of the things that separate comic book structure from any other narrative form.
To give away more of the details of the fight would be to ruin many of the issues delights, but I will say that the art is inventive and consistent – the anatomies are well done, the fighting is elaborate, elegant – and has a very theatrical element to it which works quite well. The sound effects are integrated into the action in myriad smart ways. Nitz creates convincing voices for the characters, and they stay consistent throughout. Worley also works in complete simpatico with the scripting – there’s nothing contradictory in the art. When the paper magnate stands up, we see him pushing his hands into his lower back, and he points out in the next panel: “I have a bad back.” The small visual details like that support and enrich the reading experience.
The standoff between Kato and the magnate is an impressive game of verbal one-upmanship that doesn’t let either character fully have the upper hand – and when the “James Bond Gunbarrel” framing makes an appearance, it’s both a laugh and a moment of great tension.
Kato: Origins is a panacea to action stories that fetishize violence and gore; an antidote to the glum and dour, cipher-for-character rigmaroles. Its action is sharp and exciting, its dialogue clever, the art is terrific, the characters distinct and expressive, and the colors have a pop and crisp brightness that makes everything stand out. It also helps that Kato is presented as smart, driven, and not above a slight bit of humor. The issue ends with a moment that promises the next issue will be more plot-driven, and after such a bravura action setpiece, I am excited to see how Nitz & Worley’s style will throw even more complications into the mix. This is one of the best of the Green Hornet books.
The Mis-Adventures of Adam West #1
Written by Reed Lackey
Art by Russell Dauterman, Kamui Ayami, Matt Bellisle and Lipe
Lettering by Jaymes Reed
Published by Bluewater Comics
Review by Erika D. Peterman
Adam West, the original live-action Batman, has always had a sense of humor about his place in pop culture history. The Mis-Adventures of Adam West #1 draws upon that lighthearted spirit, making for a very funny mystery caper. Writer Reed Lackey's tongue-in-cheek tone is exactly what you'd expect from this comic, and the story doesn't disappoint.
There is some thoughtful commentary among the jokes. West has only played a hero on TV, but in this book, he laments the demise of the heroic ideal. He's an old-timer who’s baffled by a culture in which people derive entertainment from seeing the good guys get beaten down. As West treats a mail delivery guy to a monologue about classic TV shows, the clearly bored young man doesn’t get the “Gunsmoke” and “Hawaii Five-0” references. When the subject of Batman finally comes up, the generation gap becomes a chasm, and it provides a great punchline.
West is suddenly reunited with his own youth when he touches an amulet inside the delivered package. It turns him into a suavely dressed, secret agent type, complete with a sleek, European sports car. Things get even stranger when Serena, a vixen right out of a Bond movie, appears and addresses him as Cane. Dominic Cane.
Lackey’s writing is full of zing, particularly when he winks at spy movie/thriller clichés: the case of amnesia; the suggestive banter between young West and Serena; the bad guy crashing through a window. There are also some great quips. “You’re a figment of my C-list imagination!” West tells Serena.
Artist Russell Dauterman has some good panels, most notably West’s moment of transformation and the resulting auto wreck. He aptly portrays the senior West as a man who still has his action hero pride and steely determination. However, the art isn’t nearly as lively as the script, and the colors are disappointingly bland. Dishwater gray is a recurring theme, and there is a lot of indigo. It’s not that the visuals are bad. They just don’t have the energy to complement the story.
However, The Mis-Adventures of Adam West #1 is a winning read overall, and it has a darn good cliffhanger. As with the 1960s Caped Crusader himself, this book’s considerable charm lies in not taking itself too seriously.Got a comment? There's lots of Newsarama conversation on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.