Best Shots Comic Reviews: DAREDEVIL, SUPERBOY, More

Best Shots Rapid Reviews

Greetings, Rama readers! Best Shots is on the prowl today, with a number of big reviews from this week's biggest releases! And to add to that, the team has grown — everyone welcome Edward Kaye to our ranks! And now, let's kick off with the latest issue from Marvel's "Big Shots" campaign, as we check in with Daredevil...

 

Daredevil #2

Written by Mark Waid

Art by Paolo Rivera, Joe Rivera, and Javier Rodriguez

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

You'd have to be blind not to appreciate this book.

Not that Marvel isn't trying — they have an audio version of the last issue of Daredevil out, which is great — but the real strength of the Man Without Fear is the design strength of his art team. This book crackles more than most out of the Marvel universe — in fact, I might even go as far as to say this is the Detective Comics of 2011, with Paolo Rivera drawing some of the best work of his career.

Rivera starts with the excitement early, and really keeps the pressure up throughout the issue. If you've seem the previews or even read Issue #1, you know what I'm talkin' about — it's red, white and black-and-blue, as Daredevil squares off against Captain America himself. There's a great sense of layout to this sequence, particularly when DD steals the world-famous shield. When he describes it as like holding a Stradivarius, it's a great insight by Mark Waid — but to be honest, it's just as impressive to watch Rivera's craftsmanship at work.

Waid, meanwhile, has a great skill — he gets out of his art team's way, gives them plenty of fun stuff to draw, and then gives a great line here or there to send the package home. Even Daredevil's response to Cap's summons — "Objection," he deadpans, as he tumbles off the roof with shield in tow — is a great moment, perhaps because it subverts so many expectations with its sense of humor. I'm not sure I buy all of the explanation he gives for Cap's hard-nosed attitude, but the pacing and choreography is a great way to get readers invested and up to speed on DD's recent adventures.

So where does this story stumble? Well, as fun as Cap's inclusion is, it ends up making the second half of this book feel a little disjointed. Daredevil's got a case to investigate, and tonally, moving from high-flying acrobatics to CSI-style interviews to the surprise villain at the end feels a little inorganic.

But that's ultimately a structure thing — I'd be lying if this book didn't feel as fun as it was ambitious. Matt Murdock may be blind, but his adventures are some of the best looking on the stands today. Rivera really is an artist's artist, and I'm already excited to see what's in store next month.

 

Superboy #11

Written by Jeff Lemire

Art by Pier Gallo, Jamie Grant and Dom Regan

Lettering by Travis Lanham

Published by DC Comics

Review by Edward Kaye

‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

When I first picked up Superboy #1, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. I had read, and thoroughly enjoyed, Jeff Lemire’s work on Essex County and Sweet Tooth, but really couldn’t imagine that he’d be able to tell a story as good as those featuring a character like Superboy, who I’ve always considered to be a bit dull. I don’t have a real problem with the character per se, and like him fine as part of a team like Teen Titans, but I’ve never really considered him strong enough to carry his own title.

Oh boy! Was I ever wrong! Over the last 11 issues, Jeff Lemire has woven a tale that is epic in every sense of the word. This story has spanned both space and time, and has delved deeply into the mystical side of the DC Universe. Lemire has managed to tell an incredibly gripping and involving story, by planting enticing clues and hints about the deeper mysteries throughout his run on the title, which readers have been left guessing at, as the characters gradually uncover what is really going on in Smallville.

Not only has he managed to tell such a high caliber tale, but he’s also managed to do it using second-string characters like The Phantom Stranger, and a cast of new characters that he created just for this story!

Aside from a slightly dodgy ‘Reign of Doomsday’ crossover, and the issue where Superboy raced Kid Flash, every issue in Lemire’s run has been building up to this point, with subtle clues leading Superboy and pals to this inevitable final battle with the evil lurking underneath Smallville. In this issue everything comes to a climax, mysteries are solved, secrets are revealed, plotlines are resolved, and many butts are kicked! It’s a fitting closing issue for a series that has very rarely disappointed.

The only storyline that doesn’t really get wrapped up is that of Psion, and his story is left pretty much unresolved. Well, Lemire did have a cursory stab at cluing readers into what his true mission was about, but it feels very much like this thread was one that he was planning to leave until a future story arc, and explore in much greater detail there.

On the art front, Pier Gallo does a wonderful job of illustrating a rather busy issue. He deftly handles everything that Lemire throws at him, including action-packed fight scenes, jaw-dropping magical battles, revealing flashbacks, poignant moments, and even melting mud zombies! I would describe Gallo’s style is really being very bright and clean, and highly accessible. My favorite panel from the issue is a one-page splash where Phantom Stranger and Psion reach into the Ether to retrieve the lost souls of the resident of Smallville, and send them back into their bodies - Gallo brings the scene to life with a dream-like image of ethereal faces surrounded by Kirby Krackle, stretching from the foreground back into the horizon, as Psion pulls the souls back from oblivion. It’s a mesmerizing page!

The only thing that lets the artwork down is the fact that the coloring job by Jamie Grant & Dom Regan feels a bit rushed in places. Not that it’s a bad job, though at some points it definitely looks a little bit on the basic side, and seems to lack subtlety. A good example of this is their rendering of Caucasian flesh tones, where they used a light pink tone for the base color, and a much darker reddish tone for shading - the combination of colors just seems off, and makes everyone looks very ruddy faced. However, lots of the backgrounds are colored rather intricately, and look quite lovely.

While the issue is certainly packed to the brim with action, Lemire keeps the storyline well paced at all times, and even leaves time at the end of the issue for Superboy to have a moment of quiet reflection on how fortunate he is to have such great friends, and how lucky he is to have this life, despite his ignominious origins.

When this issue came to a close, I was left with a newfound appreciation for Superboy, and a strong desire to read more adventures featuring him and his new friends. I’m really quite sad that this will never happen, because the next time we see Superboy, he’ll have a new origin, and this cast of characters will no longer exist in the DC Universe. Curse you, DC, for bringing this book to an end, and curse you, Jeff Lemire, for making me care so much!

 

Invincible Iron Man #507

Written by Matt Fraction

Art by Salvador Larroca and Frank D'Armata

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Aaron Duran

'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

It's been a while since Tony Stark has had to face down a villain that could really test his mettle. Mentally, I think that last time he's met his match was during "Dark Reign" and Norman Osborn, so it's nice to see him pushed to the edge. For me though, Fear Itself hasn't delivered on it's promise of shaking the Marvel Universe to it's core. Sure, there are some serious battles and people are dropping like rocks, but that doesn't make this event stand out from any other in recent memory. Fear Itself is supposed to make these heroes look deep within and face their single greatest fear. The single element that shakes them to their mortal core. Matt Fraction brings that concept to the strongest realization yet when Tony Stark gives in to his fear in supplication to Odin. A return of a drunken Iron Man is indeed everything Tony fears brought to life. Stark sacrifices his sobriety all in the hopes of gaining the help of Odin and his Dwarven weaponsmiths in order to build a weapon able to take on The Serpent.

Up till now, Fraction's run on Iron Man has been darn near flawless. For all the faults I have with Fear Itself, Matt knows Tony Stark and it's shown month and after month. Something about issue 507 simply feels off. The book is littered with small moments that I am sure will lead to a larger picture, but taken as a single issue, don't work. Although alcoholism is nothing to joke about, I'd be lying if I said the moments where Tony gives in to his addiction weren't amusing. At least at this stage of the fall, Tony's drinking habits are akin to the guy at the party that sits in the corner and tells bad jokes. This is still Iron Man though, so Fraction does his best to bring out an older and wiser Stark. A Stark that knows he can't give in to the oblivion of drunkenness. But even in these more poignant moments, it's over in a flash. In an instant we go from Tony grinning like a fool in a Dwarven tavern to starring into a mystical forge wondering if he can survive a dip in godly molten ore.

The Pepper Potts portion of the story is far more interesting in this issue as she travels to Paris and runs headlong in chaos and Hammer's Detroit Steel. As Rescue, it is fun to watch Pepper evolve from one time damsel in distress to bona fide hero in her own right. Fraction has done a good job of pairing Potts against Sasha Hammer. Both of these women have something to prove. Both to themselves and in a strange way, to Tony Stark, although their reasons couldn't be further apart. Sasha sees herself of the true heir of the Stark imposed legacy, whereas Pepper needs to prove to the world she's worthy of the armor she wears. Their inevitable fight in what's left of the streets in Paris is short and violent, made even more so with the appearance of the hammer wielding Gargoyle. This is just the kind of action you would expect from superheroes and villains in a time of global war.

The fight is wholly carried by the always-wonderful Salvador Larroca. Although like Fraction's storytelling, Larroca's art feels just a bit off. The facial expressions and talking head moments in the issue are lacking the dynamic energy I've come to expect. Most of the characters are locked into two or three simple tones, none of which are terribly compelling. Everyone looks a little flat. The art takes a definite step up when the action scenes kick in. Larroca makes good use of negative space to highlight the insane energy of armored heroes and mystical creatures duking it out. Characters are flying all over the page and you get a real sense of the danger faced by both Pepper Potts and Sasha Hammer. Alas, these moments are over way too fast as well. Like every story element in this issue, the action scenes only exist to move to the next short story element.

Also, the whole Dwarves swearing in runes gag? It's gotten old. Just go back to using @#$%, or just avoid it all together. Thanks.

All in all, Invincible Iron Man #507 feels like the very definition of “event fatigue”. There are some good moments in the book. However, as a whole it's very disjointed. As if pages where taken from Fear Itself proper and shoved into this one. This isn't a bad book, but it's so far below the caliber I've come to expect from Fraction and Larroca.

 

Zatanna #16

Written by Adam Beechen

Art by Victor Ibanez and Ego

Lettering by Dave Sharpe

Published by DC Comics

Review by Amanda McDonald

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

This most recent issue of Zatanna is a fun romp through just another atypical night in the life of a stage magician and superheroine. The opening pages remind us that Zee is sometimes just another jet-setting entertainer trying to catch a few zzz's on the plane between gigs. Sadly, it doesn't appear that sleep is in the cards for her on this night as her plane nearly goes down, she makes it home, gets in bed, and there's a knock at the door. As much as I'd love to tell you it was Klarion the Witch-boy at the door, it's another of the Roanoke colony descendants — Uriah, from Limbo Town, wishing to be an apprentice.

We quickly learn, however, that is not his only intention, as Zee winds up having to chase him down through a variety of dimensions. As they traverse through these dimensions, I couldn't help but hear the Benny Hill theme in my mind. Uriah is a troublemaker, but yet his impish frivolity endears him to the reader, and it seems even Zee can't be too mad at him as she winds up going pretty easy with his punishment.

This book features a muted color palette and Ibanez's simple but well-crafted style, much like a woodcut print, but sexier (then again, the subject matter lends itself to that). The palette by colorist Ego suits the story well, as it's set in the wee hours of the morning while the rest of the world sleeps and our main character is hopping among dimensions. The scenes set within her home lend themselves to the colorwork as well, depicting a classic elegance and richness in the furnishings and atmosphere.

Zatanna's closet and wardrobe are truly magical, and if I've got one complaint about the book it is that we see her in those fishnet arm stockings that will soon be part of her everyday look. The adventures through Zatanna's home of Shadowcrest hold a lot of visual appeal as Ibanez pays painstaking attention to detail in the home, right down to the copy of Seven Soldiers by Grant Morrison upon Zee's library shelves.

This is an issue that is completely stand alone, and could serve as a great way to hook a new reader. Beechen provides Zee with a distinct voice, and it's one that invites the reader into this adventure with her. While this brings us to the end of the Zatanna series, we'll still be seeing her on the pages of Justice League Dark, but I will truly miss her starring in her own book. The Zee we enjoy here balances dark supernatural themes with a healthy sense of humor that flows naturally and isn't cheesy or going for the easy laughs. It may be the end of this series, but she's a character that we'll still be seeing and if you ever curious, this may be an issue to pick up.

 

Avengers #16

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts

Lettering by Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Edward Kaye

‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

I should start off by clarifying that the plot of this issue is completely different from that solicited by Marvel. Instead of a story focusing on the relationship between Spider-Woman and Hawkeye, we instead get a story that deals with the aftermath of Fear Itself #3, and the death of Bucky Barnes.

Aside from the fact that it’s been over two months since Bucky died, I have to say that I had a really hard time empathizing, as the "talking heads" of the various Avengers related their feelings on the passing of Bucky, and explain what Captain America meant to them. Maybe I’ve just witnessed too many superhero deaths recently for it to have any effect on me, or maybe it’s the fact that Marvel is resurrecting dead heroes left right and center, but I just can’t bring myself to care anymore, as I know he’ll probably be back in under a year’s time — not to mention the fact that we can still read about his early adventures in Captain America & Bucky every month!

Other than Bendis’ attempt to tug at our heartstrings, we get an exciting side-story about Steve Rogers hunting down Sin to take revenge for her murder of Bucky. It’s a fun espionage style tale that takes Rogers and his ‘avenging angels’ to a remote Swedish castle, for a battle with many bad guys from Rogers’ past. I have to say though that I’m a bit confused as to when Rogers and crew managed to fit in this trip to Europe, with Blitzkrieg U.S.A. in full swing. I’m also curious how S.H.I.E.L.D. Intel places Sin a castle in Sweden, when it is blatantly obvious that she is in Washington D.C., charging about in the open, wreaking havoc and destruction.

Technicalities aside, the battle sequences in this issue are really well executed. Bendis holds back on the dialogue for quite a bit of the sequence, and lets John Romita Jr.’s amazing artwork do all the talking. Romita executes some beautifully choreographed fight scenes, which are filled to the brim with action, excitement, and huge explosions. However, the panels never get confused, and it’s always easy to see exactly what is going on at every second. My favorite artwork from the issue is a sequence where Rogers and Agent 13 are thrown out of a window by an explosion, and Rogers use his shield to save them both, by surfing down the castle walls and bouncing off a roof top. the physics of it is quite preposterous, but Romita’s dynamic artwork pulls the scene off perfectly, making it look like a heck of a lot of fun.

Romita’s energetic linework is made even more charismatic by a top-notch inking job by Klaus Janson, whose intricate and precise inks have been the gold standard in comics for nearly four decades! The look is finished off by some wonderful coloring by Paul Mounts, who uses a subtle and subdued palette to play down the super-heroics aspect of the story, and enhance the espionage feel. Together, this may be one of the best art teams working in comics today!

Unfortunately, the pace of these exciting battle scenes is somewhat compromised by the fact that the action is constantly being interrupted with scenes of Maria Hill explaining, in great detail, what is going on in the fight. These pages feel like completely unnecessary exposition, and are a real waste of the art team - having them illustrate the same panel several times, and then covering half of it with word balloons. I believe that exposition is a rather poor writing device that should have no place in modern comics. It is just used as a way to decompress the plot, and pad out the page count. In fact, I think that if you were to skip the panels with Maria Hill in them, you would have absolutely no problem following the plot, and the story would flow a heck of a lot better.

That being said, Avengers #16 isn’t a bad issue, it’s just far from Bendis’ best work, and really feels very much like a filler issue. I have to say that while I have been really enjoying Fear Itself, I will be quite glad when it is over and everyone can get back to telling their own stories, so we won’t have anymore of these forced tie-ins. Avengers started out so strong, but it just feels like it has been treading water for the last few issues, which is a shame, because it should be the ‘must read’ book of Marvel's line-up.

 

The Stuff of Legend, Vol. 3, #1

Written by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith

Art by Charles Paul Wilson III, Jon Conkling, and Michael DeVito

Published by Th3rdworld Studios

Review by Erika D. Peterman

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

The word “epic” is frequently used to describe ambitious comic book stories, but The Stuff of Legend has lived up to the title again and again. Now in its third volume, this series has taken readers on a captivating, suspenseful journey that began with a classic childhood fear: Being snatched by the Boogeyman.

The Stuff of Legend has been compared many times to a certain Pixar film about toys’ loyalty to their owners and the heartbreak of being discarded or replaced. But Mike Raicht and Brian Smith have crafted a much darker story that is definitely not for kids still sleeping with stuffed animals. A child known as the Boy has been kidnapped by the Boogeyman, and several of his toys, plus his beloved puppy, have set out on a rescue mission. In the Boogeyman’s realm, they’re transformed into living, breathing versions of themselves who wage violent battle with countless opponents. By the end of Vol. 2, the team had unraveled after a shocking admission of treachery.

Vol. 3, Issue #1 is devoted to the Jester, the former jack-in-the box and The Stuff of Legend’s most heroic figure so far. Jester is a quick, deadly hand-to-hand combatant who was one of the team’s most fearless members. Charles Paul Wilson III’s illustrations have been outstanding throughout, and his panels of the nimble Jester in action are truly exciting. Jester’s wit and formal speech is especially entertaining when he’s trouncing an overconfident opponent. “Thank you for the dance, and Good Night!” he says, landing feet first on a burly combatant’s face. Now separated from the team, Jester is solely focused on finding his beloved princess.

One of the most impressive things about Stuff of Legend is its endless imagination, both in plot and art. The book captures the intense, disorienting nature of nightmares. They’re not always about being confronted by monsters. Sometimes the terror comes from being lost in a world with nonsensical rules and unclear boundaries, and seemingly benign encounters that change on a dime. Think Alice in Wonderland with weapons and bloodshed. Color and design artists Jon Conkling and Michael DeVito’s sepia tones and dark shadows are spot-on for this tale.

However, it’s the characters who shine above all. The toys have complex personalities that are reflected in the illustrations. For example, the duplicitous pig Percy appears meek and downtrodden in some sequences and downright scary in others. I also appreciate the toys’ unpredictability, which adds to the suspense. Anything is possible, and that’s the beauty of this series in general.

Because of the story’s previous twists and turns, Vol. 3, Issue #1 would be a difficult entry point for new readers. Enjoying The Stuff of Legend to the fullest requires a bit of homework, but the uninitiated will have a grand time familiarizing themselves with a remarkable series.

 

Power Girl #26

Written by Matthew Sturges

Art by Hendry Prasetya and Jessica Kholinne

Lettering by Travis Lanham

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Self-contained. Action-packed. Dynamic. As far as final issues go, Power Girl ends on a high note, as Matt Sturges and Hendry Prasetya deliver a fun, accessible story that doesn't so much ponder the future for Karen Starr as much as reveal how entertaining she can be.

In a lot of ways, if this is the kind of story that DC will be delivering when the relaunch hits, I'll be very happy, indeed. While Sturges isn't breaking any new ground with the premise of Power Girl racing around the world to save lives, he succeeds on the outward characterization. Karen quotes Star Trek, she has friends, she's got a sense of determination that doesn't turn gritty — Sturges doesn't quite answer what makes her tick, which is a shame, but that doesn't mean you don't like P.G. any less. The threat isn't so much an external one to her, but one that could harm several others, so seeing her have to use her wits as well as her fists is really refreshing.

Artwise, Hendry Prasetya is really proving his worth. He's clean, he's accessible, and his sense of expressiveness is really improving every time I see his name on a book. Remember that determination I was discussing earlier? A lot of Power Girl's traits come across because of Basri, particularly the look on her face as she crashes into a window to rescue a JSA-er in distress.

There are some flaws to this book, of course — nothing that is too distracting, but they are noticeable. I think Sturges' inclusion of a JSA member turned into a little bit of a red herring, as he wrote himself into a corner — do you let Power Girl totally save the day, or do you play up your guest star? It's a tough choice to make. And ultimately, I recognize with Karen's history how hard it is to make a clear statement on who she is as a person, but that little bit of insight on the last issue would have gone a long way.

Regardless of these quibbles, this book absolutely stands on its own two feet, and gives Sturges an opportunity to play with some interesting concepts to put Power Girl through her paces. It's not exactly an end-all, be-all statement on this often misunderstood heroine, but from a pure construction standpoint, Power Girl will go out as it always was: an overlooked gem.

AMAZING SPIDER-GIRL is Back In August
AMAZING SPIDER-GIRL is Back In August
 

Spider Island: Spider-Girl #1 of 3

Written by Paul Tobin

Art by Pepe Larraz

Colors by Andres Mossa

Letters by Dave Sharpe

Published by Marvel Comics

Review By Jeff Marsick

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

In this Spider Island tie-in, against the backdrop of Manhattanites getting their arachnid on, it seems all the bad guys have reasons to want Spider-Girl. The Society of the Wasp wants her dead, the Hand wants her alive, the Hobgoblin wants to deliver her in thirty minutes or less and the Kingpin wants to make a deal. In summary it sounds a little everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-ish but really it's more a gauntlet of fires and frying pans that Anya Corazón hops along until that final splash page of the orca-big Kingpin sitting all goliath birdeater (look it up, kids) on the wall. "You and I have much in common," he says to Anya, which you know can't bode well for our heroine. Or New York.

While I'm familiar with the character, I've never read a Spider-Girl comic. Oh, I keep meaning to, but every time I finally put my foot down, the series is three issues into a storyline and I can't find the back issues to catch up. All that said, after reading this issue I find it hard to believe she can't keep a running series. Sure, remove the anatomical and sartorial differences and she's basically a Peter Parker clone, but she's a fun clone, courtesy of Paul Tobin. The book stumbles a little right out of the gate, but there's some history Mr. Tobin has to quickly get through to us new readers, including establishing the main antagonists in the Society of the Wasp who are out to exterminate anything that smells of spider. After that it's full speed ahead for our daring damsel and, I have to say, she's a more convincing wise-ass than her Spider-Man counterpart. The nutcase that is Hobgoblin, however, in all of five pages of appearance is nearly reason enough to buy this issue and if Mr. Tobin doesn't get a Spider-Girl ongoing, I'd love to see him on a Hobgoblin monthly (are you listening, Marvel?).

Pepe Larraz on art and Andres Mossa on colors sure help the issue, too. Mr. Larraz with his kinetic anime style puts you right there in the action while being minimalist in all the right places. I love the way he draws Anya, never removing her femininity. She's a cute girl with powers above and beyond, not an unbending super jock. And, I'll argue, in one of the best costumes in the 616. Dave Sharpe on letters does a great job, with one panel in particular of Anya tossing a wasp into a car against the background of SKRASSH! almost suitable for framing. I have to question, though, why there's a lack of a tilde in "Araña" or accent mark in "Corazón" given her heritage. An oversight that should be corrected in the coming issues.

I'm not a big fan of event tie-ins, but this was a fun book to read. An enjoyable character who is being handled with capable hands in this creative team. Well worth picking up.

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