Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for the lightning round of reviews? Best Shots is ready for action, as we're busting out a ton of Rapid-Fire Reviews! Time waits for no reader, so let's cut to the chase, as Amanda McDonald checks in with the latest issue of Batwoman...Batwoman #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10; Click Here for preview): Oh goodness, this book is beautiful. . . and I don't just mean the art. If you're looking for an action heavy issue, look elsewhere this week. Yes, Kate faces off with some adversaries, but this issue is heavily story-driven as Kate relinquishes her training duties for her cousin, misses a date due to her superhero duties, and is further investigated by the authorities. J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman share the writing here, and it results in a story that would pull me in, regardless of the art. However, add in Willams' art and you've got a book that clearly comes from the heart. No shortcuts, no lazy storytelling, not a wasted panel to be found. I read through this one several times, once quickly, and then I went back for just the art, and again for just the story. Each run-through, I noticed little things that I didn't notice before, like how the paneling on one page mimics the bones of a finger, or the diving missiles on a character's tie. If someone came to me and wanted to give comics a try, I'd recommend this book — but I might worry it sets the bar so high, they'll be disappointed with everything else they read. While I love books that tug a bit at the heart-strings, I am hoping that the next issue jumps back into the action a bit, and we see more of how Kate deals with the creepy lake ghost and her cousin, who in this issue sets off on her own — but we don't really know what she's headed off to do. Kate's love life is well written, but I hope we don't see her exploited as THE lesbian of the DCU. She's an amazing character, and is being treated as such. I'm a bit irked by the intro to the book each issue, which includes this aspect — we don't have intros in other books touting the sexual orientation of the characters, and it seems unnecessary here. Still, all in all this is a great book and one that I've looked forward to for a good long while — Williams is certainly proving it was worth the wait. Ultimate Spider-Man #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10; Click here for preview): Cute — in his own way, Peter Parker has now become Uncle Ben, and Miles Morales continues to endear himself to readers as a natural-born hero. It's some wonky continuity-fu that Brian Michael Bendis is pulling out here, but it's actually pretty satisfying to those that know the broad strokes of Spider-Man lore to invert the dynamics the way that he has. There are some nice new complications to Miles's life that really makes this script fun — namely, how do you become a superhero when you're living in a forced triple? — and the gag about "why am I talking to myself all of a sudden" will make even the most anti-Bendis reader smirk. Sara Pichelli officially dominates with this book, with some real subtlety to some of her expressions (and still a heaping handful of puppy-dog eyes from Miles). The one thing about this script that kind of turned me off? Inserting Miles randomly into the death and funeral of Peter Parker, which is certainly plausible, but a little bit too convenient. Still, four issues in and Miles continues to be one of the most refreshing heroes on the stands. Check this book out. Green Lantern #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10; Click here for preview): Three issues in, and Geoff Johns seems to finally be finding his feet again with the character that launched him into superstardom. While Hal Jordan still comes off as surprisingly needy — seriously, his role as a Green Lantern is the only important thing in his life? That's not the fearless, brash Hal I remember Geoff writing a few years ago — the concepts at play here are both simple and strong. Teaming Hal with his worst enemy, Sinestro, has some nice sparks, particularly with Doug Mahnke's artwork — the maniacal look in Sinestro's eyes as he lords over his superiority is pretty chilling, and I love the way Mahnke composes his action sequences, balancing the alien designs with iconic poses. That said, while the pacing has finally picked up, there are a couple of weaker moments, including Sinestro's not-so-awesome "hidden" feature on the ring as well as Ganthet potentially snarling the continuity threads even further. Johns has the right idea with this issue — keep the Corps simple. Focus on character dynamics, not mythology. Fun will follow. Avenging Spider-Man #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10; Click here for preview): I've got a friend that's sworn off Spider-Man in Marvel 616 until he gets a written apology over the whole One More Day thing. This dude loves Peter Parker, at least in as much as you can love an imaginary person. Sadly, no matter how good Spidey's ongoing title has been (and boy has it), my pal just won't buckle. So, I'm gonna do my best here to convince him that he can still hate on the Powers That Be and love a Spider-Man book. And let me tell you, Avenging Spider-Man might be the most fun you can have in Marvel for $3.99 a month. Zeb Wells pens one dang fine book here. It opens with poor Peter complaining that he can't banter with a robot and then turns into the best episode of the Odd Couple ever with Red Hulk. From Peter panicking in mid-jump with Ross over some birds (and Rulk's pounding of said birds), to Mayor Jameson complaining about Jogging-Hippies, this book is flat out good fun. Artist Joe Madureira is the perfect companion to Wells' writing. His Spider-Man is scrawny and awkward. His Red Hulk is massive and horrifying. The action scenes bounce all over the page with such glorious chaos, I found myself saying the sound effects out loud. (And trust me, people look at you weird when you say yell “Ka-Koooom”, even in a comic book shop). While the book is rated “T”, I'd feel okay giving this one to someone even younger. Indeed, Avenging Spider-Man #1 reads like those nights you and your friends pretended to save the world, all while trying not to wake up mom and dad. Childhood glee, snappy dialogue, crazy art, and a Kool-Aid reference? 'Nuff said! The Occultist #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Despite the fact that the book’s cover states that this issue is “1 of 3”, the small print on the inside reveals that this is really “number 2 in a series.” This is because the story actually started in a one-shot that was released last year. The inside cover has a little summary to bring readers up to date, but it still felt a bit like coming in to a movie part way through. Thankfully, the plot of the comic wasn’t overly complex, so it didn’t take much time to catch up and get into the flow of the story. The book contains a fun mix of horror/supernatural elements and superheroics. What makes the blend work so well is Tim Seeley’s great script, which contains some engaging dialogue, packed with some hilarious lines. Victor Drujiniu’s artwork gives the book a really open and welcoming look, with some nice clean linework, and a light inking job that avoids use of heavy blacks. The look is finished off with some really organic feeling color work from Andrew Dalhouse, which in places has a watercolor look to it. The Occultist #1 is a good fun read, but you may want to find a copy of the one-shot if you want the complete story. New Avengers #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10; Click here for preview): Believing most of the world would follow Norman Osborn was one of the hardest aspects of Dark Reign, even for comic book logic. That didn't mean it wasn't a blast to read, and it looks like Norman's new gang in New Avengers #18 will be just as fun. Spinning out from the #0.1 issue, Bendis and Deodato show us the how this Dark Avengers team forms, though very little of the why. Well, that isn't entirely true. Bendis deftly pens the reasons behind the various members signing up, but still manages to maintain some secrecy as to Osborn's final plan. I'm enjoying this constant evolution of Norman as a villain. He truly believes he knows what is right for the world and he's going to make it happen. It will be interesting to see how this new team falls in line with his vision. Indeed, Bendis acts as the thought of the reader when Norman himself questions the logic in A.I.M., Hydra, and the Hand all working together. Mike Deodato pencils this issue with very heavy lines and shadows. This slight shift in his style works well with the overall ominous tone of the book. These are violent and evil people populating these pages, though they are not without their charisma. There is very little physical action, but the short scene of Skaar punching a dinosaur has a nice energy to it. The composition Deodato places most characters also adds a sense of dark awe. You're rarely looking anyone straight on. Instead, these villains loom high from above and look down upon us. It's a subtle choice, but it works well. As a “getting the gang all together” issue goes, you can do a lot worse than New Avengers #18. Huntress #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Take an exotic Italian location, mix in a story line that is a hot topic (rightfully so), and strong art and you've got the Huntress mini that makes me shake my head and wonder why this isn't an ongoing book. Helena is in Italy, and fighting a foe (Moretti) that really doesn't appear in the book that much, because his henchmen do his dirty work for him. The book takes us through Helena's work to stop his human trafficking, and it's just so well done that I really can't find a single thing for the book to improve upon, aside from the fact I wish it would keep going beyond the six issues it's slated for. Her belly window is gone, and she's the kind of superhero I love — a little brash, tough as nails physically, and smart to boot — as we see her work her detective skills in this issue. Marcus To's art is solid, and his action sequences are great, but his other scenes shine as well as he takes what could be panel after panel of talking heads, and instead feels like a well-shot movie. Paul Levitz is forming what is more that a solid story, but one that could potentially open up readers to current events in the world around us, as well as characterizing Helena as a really strong character that I hope we get to see more of after this mini ends. This book isn't like any others DC is putting on the stands right now. Rather than focusing on the villain of the month, we see a character that is a very real villain, the likes of which really exist out there in the world. To me, that's scarier than any rogue's gallery villain.
Operation Broken Wings, 1936 #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating 4 out of 10): Comic books are visual, the perfect medium for showing versus telling a story. The writer is important, absolutely, but the story should be carried on the shoulders of the artwork to roll smoothly from panel to panel, especially when you've got a professional like Trevor Hairsine on pencils. Problem is, this story about a German intelligence officer in World War II tasked with an assassination is clutched in so tight a narrative chokehold that it — and the reader — is exhausted just a few pages in. It's a spy story. No, wait: it's an occult story. No, wait: it's a mystery. No, wait: ah, forget it; I've lost interest. Seriously, the book is so leaden with voiceover that it could be used for ballast. Mr. Hairsine's artwork may be good, but it's hard to tell given that it's strangled by too many panels per page and often obliterated by the dark palette of Sebastien Lamirand. I love World War II stories and this one had an interesting premise but it fails on the launch pad. You would do better to spend your $3.99 elsewhere. Punisher MAX #19 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Want to read a perfect Punisher comic? Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon are happy to serve, with a great entry point into the twisted world of Punisher MAX. You want voice? Frank Castle has it in spades, as Aaron illustrates the increasing dangers of aging in a war against crime. "Every time I bleed," Frank says to himself, "they believe a little more that they can win." It's great narration, but it also helps that there is some great art. Dillon has always been an interesting artist to me, as he's not particularly flashy with his designs, but damn if he isn't at his most dramatic here, particularly with a final page cliffhanger that radiates menace and fear. Every gunshot wound, every stab, every punch, you see the pain and intensity in each characters' eyes, and he's still got that cinematic quality to his composition that I think really lends itself well to the script. But what I think I enjoy most about this comic is the fact that Aaron is able to juggle a nice core of characters — namely Frank, the Kingpin, and Vanessa Fisk — and give each of them a satisfying emotional throughline that has its own twists and turns. If only more comics were as lovingly crafted, as smartly created as Punisher MAX. Suicide Squad #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10; Click here for preview): Talk about uneven. The first issue lacked a pulse, the second issue was worth an eight out of ten and this third chapter falls back into a coma. Between the covers, Harley Quinn is the only draw, although that's simply because she has the best dialogue. Given all the teams Deadshot's been on, all the capes he's had in his sights and all the street cred he's had heaped upon him (which I have said for many years is wholly unwarranted), it defies logic that he would be so inept not only as team leader, but as a skilled tactician. Worse, the fact that Mad Dog posed a threat to the Squad for the entire issue instead of simply two panels goes far to demonstrate what a waste of oxygen the unit is. Then again, writer Adam Glass didn't really tasked the team with anything more ambitious than wandering aimlessly from page to page in search of something to do; which, in El Diablo's case, was nothing less than whining like an air raid siren with a jammed 'On' switch. I like Cliff Richards' artwork, but some pages deviate from tight pencils to a look decidedly cartoonier and a little sloppy, as if he rushed these off just under the deadline. DC needs to look at the competition's Dark Avengers, take some notes and give this team the makeover it sorely needs. Three issues in and this reboot could use a reboot.
Hellraiser #7 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Kirsty Cotton descends into Hell, as she accepts Pinhead’s twisted offer, in an attempt to reunite with her deceased loved ones. The action slows down a bit in this issue, and Barker and Monfette use the opportunity to do some great character development that explores the motivations of each of the characters, as they prepare to embark on this huge change in the status quo of the entire Hellraiser franchise. Not to worry though, as there are still plenty of gory moments in the issue, which are sure to keep horror fans happy. The art chores on this issue are shared between Stephen Thompson and Janusz Ordon, and as is often the case with two artists involved, there is a slight difference in style between their pages - mostly in their inking techniques. It’s not too distracting though, and both artists deliver some wonderful pages, including a couple of double-page splashes that showcase how immense and terrifying Barker’s version of Hell is. Hellraiser #7 is a great character focused issue, which feels a bit like the calm before the storm. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!