Best Shots Rapid Reviews

Face front, readers! Best Shots sub-commander Jamie Trecker here with another round of the best the week has to offer. This time, we’ve got looks at the only two books DC shipped this week; takes on books from BOOM!, Image and Moonstone; and a couple Marvel books you don’t want to miss. Let’s get right to it with a look at Warren Ellis’ Secret Avengers:


Secret Avengers #16 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10; Click here for preview): There's an old saying that every comic could be somebody's first, but Secret Avengers #16 really oughtta be. It's not that it's perfect, but more that this fun, fast-paced done in one story does a great job of introducing the themes, the characters, and the general tone of Marvel Comics. Consider this a great jumping on point if you've read comics, but have never indulged in superheroics. I've never been a big Warren Ellis fan; I think he has big ideas, but I often have a hard time connecting with them. This issue is making me re-think that, however, as there's charm oozing out of the script. It's easy to see that Ellis enjoys writing Beast, and he injects him with a wry, sardonic sense very similar to what Grant Morrison did in his iconic X-Men run. There's a lot to love about Jamie McKelvie, too, as his clean lines and expressive characters make it easy to get lost in the story. He makes some interesting choices, injecting new energy into simple, stereotypical superhero beats, like firing a grappling hook, or soaring over a cityscape. There's a sense of movement to everything that matches the pace of Ellis's story. Again, it's clear that McKelvie enjoys drawing the Beast, who really jumps out as the star of this story, and he manages to wring a lot of expression from his inhuman countenance. Colorist Matt Wilson does a fine job complementing McKelvie's line art. The two have worked together before, and it's easy to see them getting more comfortable as a team, with Wilson's subtle palette coming alive at the big moments. Overall, it's an exemplary effort from a team brand new to the title; the kind of comic people say you "just don't get anymore." And it's true, a lot of writers could take this one-shot tale and blow it out over six issues. That Ellis didn't, however, means that this is the kind of book that will get people to pay attention.


Justice League #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10; Click here for preview): There's a reason why Jim Lee is so popular, and books like Justice League are proof of it. His style hasn't changed much since he exploded onto the scene in the '90s, but even when he veers into the realm of over-rendering, that sureness of line in a character's face — particularly, the Man of Steel after he punches an intergalactic-class adversary into next week — is nearly magic in its confidence. That's what will make or break Justice League for readers: Do you like seeing Jim Lee take on (some of) the world's greatest heroes? As far as the writing goes, Geoff Johns is taking a slower pace with his favorites of the bunch, namely Batman and Green Lantern, jamming pedal to floor to get in as much action as he can. Considering how much real estate Johns has had to use in the past to explain stories like Flashpoint or Brightest Day, this is a smart move, but overall the story pacing does feel more similar to Brad Meltzer than Grant Morrison. I'll be the first to admit that as a whole, the story doesn't move too terribly far — but I'll also admit that I didn't see the cliffhanger coming, and that kind of smirk really does have me intrigued. The book may be a visual knockout, but I'm not totally sold on the story. But at the very least, Johns and Lee have earned at least another month to convince me.


Epoch #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Wendy Holler; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): This comic feels like a throwback to the late 80s or early 90s, complete with swirling trenchcoats, bodybuilder proportions, and cartoonish coloring. The comic opens with the internal monologue of the protagonist, a cop, as he stands over two bleeding bodies. His hand is covered in blood, and the comic jumps almost immediately into an extended flashback to explain the scene. In the world of Epoch, demons and angels are real and held in check from constant battle only by the interference of a mysterious agency called the Council. The protagonist has strong ties to this world, and this retelling of an old, old story is the tale of how he discovers his place within it. While the art does feel like it's from a different era, it also feels fun. Energy fills the panels, and the angles for each scene are both effective and interesting. It's rare for an artist to have to answer the question, "How should I best stage this eviscerated body?" but Paolo Pantalena manages to convey the brutality of the story's subject matter without pushing into horror territory. The bright, lush colors also help maintain the mood of high-level urban fantasy. The story doesn't have many surprises so far, but with a fun world and engaging art, it might not need them.


Flashpoint #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jamie Trecker; 'Rama Rating: 4/10): Wow, what a disappointing way to end a universe. Maybe it is too much to ask for one book to tie up a lengthy summer event and set up the new DC Universe. However, that’s what the creators had promised —reinforced by the fact that DC shipped only two books this week — but it is not what they delivered. Flashpoint wasn’t the best DC summer event ever, but it had its moments, and deserved to be wrapped up in a less perfunctory fashion. And as for introducing the DCnU? Well, that didn’t really get done either: the publisher says everything has changed, but it sure feels the same. Now: it probably is too much to ask that a single comic book could also feel like an immerse wrap-up of what is over seventy years of comic book history. And yet, it can be done, because Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore have both done it for DC before. What the creators did do well is provide one final small moment for Barry Allen and Bruce Wayne, with the Flash delivering Batman a letter from his late father. That was a superb but small set piece — but too small for a book like this to hang everything on.


Uncanny X-Force #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating 9/10; Click here for preview): It’s chapter four of the “Dark Angel Saga” and you’d best hold onto your hat because Rick Remender simply grabs a lower gear and drops the hammer. It’s Archangel ascendant, with the concept of Warren Worthington all but gone and Psylocke equal parts naïve/stupid/heroic in believing that the man she once loved is in there somewhere. Stealing the show, however, is Genocide. Under Jerome Opeña’s pencils and Dean White’s colors, this cat has never looked more vicious. Wolverine may be the best at what he does, but even his limits are challenged when Genocide blasts him at point-blank range. And later, when Genocide gets the order to wipe out a small rural town in accordance with Archangel’s plan to “reset evolution”…wow. The artwork is nothing short of fantastic, Deadpool is at his funniest, the action explodes off the page and when you’re done you’re left drooling in want for the next issue. What more could you ask for? Psylocke’s narration during her fight scene with the Four Horsemen came across as forced and felt unnecessary, otherwise I would have scored this book a perfect 10. Uncanny X-Force continues to be one of the best books on the market and you should be reading it.


The Spider/Domino Lady: Phases of the Moon #1 (Published by Moonstone; Review by Jamie Trecker; 'Rama Rating: 2/10): The Spider is a pulp hero that has fallen into popular domain: this means that anyone can take him out and give him a spin. Moonstone, an extremely small publisher, has used lesser-known public domain figures like the Spider, Domino Lady, the Avenger and Airboy in their titles, for a number of years. To their credit, they usually provide disposable entertainment on the cheap. This title, however, is laughably bad. The dialogue stinks, the artwork is childish at best and it is difficult to get more than a few pages in. I should mention that I picked up this curiosity for only one reason: David Liss will be writing a title on this same character for Dynamite. Liss, who has written a number of fine Marvel titles, will surely do a better job. Wait for his take.


The Rinse #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating 9/10): First of all, it’s a buck. One Washington for 22 pages. Secondly, it’s written by veteran crime and mystery writer Gary Phillips, of Cowboys and High Rollers fame. Throw in the noir-ish artwork by Marc Laming that echoes of Paul Azaceta (who did the alternate cover) and Sean Phillips and you’ve got a book that you can buy without ever having to browse the interior. Jeff Sinclair is in the money laundering business, a profession he excels at. He knows all the angles and stays one step ahead of trouble at all times. If a situation arises, like any good baseball player he knows “when to swing and when to take a walk”. But then he meets Hank Winslow, a schlub who has twenty-five million in stolen casino money and wants it rinsed. This forces ol’ Jeff Sinclair into a situation where control might be the first thing taken away from him, either by the casino owner’s heavies or the mysterious G-woman who’s following him. It’s a solid first issue that Cliff Notes the basics of the laundering business and goes heavy on the characterization, really allowing the reader to get to know and develop an attachment to Sinclair. Fans of Criminal certainly should buy this.


Amazing Spider-Man #668 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 7/10; Click here for preview): As Spider-Island rolls on, it's becoming clear that this is less of a Spider-Man story, and more of a Peter Parker story. While it's hard to imagine a book that doesn't feature Pete jumping around in red spandex, I can't say that that isn't exactly what I wanted out of this story. One of the nice things about this issue was seeing where some odd beats from tie-in books actually fall in the storyline. It's good to know you don't have to read everything with the "SI" banner on it to get the full experience. Humberto Ramos's art is energetic, and it's honestly pretty impressive that every single Spider-Man he draws is at least a bit different. Dan Slott is still the master of bringing his stories back to their core, and works in some tidbits about the ongoing threads laid in "Big Time," particularly revealing that the secret sixth scientist at Horizon Labs is an expert on Parker DNA. Is this Ben Reilly? It's rumored that the original Spider-Clone is to make his return in Spider Island. While I'm not sure how I feel about that, I trust Dan Slott to make it work. Honestly, I never thought I'd enjoy a story featuring the Jackal again, so that's already 1 for 1 on Clone Saga callbacks. And hey, if Ben Reilly does return, maybe he can hook up with Mary Jane. 

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