Happy Valentine's Day, 'Rama readers! Team Best Shots has some gifts for you, just to show how much we care — a pack of advance reviews! So let's give Cupid the day off and kick back with Lan Pitts, as he checks out tomorrow's blockbuster issue of Batman...
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion and FCO
Lettering by Richard Starkings
Published by DC Comics
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Last issue we saw Batman broken and taken to the limit of the Court of Owls' capabilities. Oh, never mind, now we've seen what they are really capable of doing to Gotham's hero. Taken into a deep abyss, Batman is confronted by the Court and their judgment, but does he come out on top in the end? That's debatable because this fight is far from over, as the Owls are about to sharpen their talons.
Scott Snyder has brought about a Batman that is something tangible and human, not a demigod with unlimited deus ex machinas at his disposal. We see him bleed, get the pulp beaten out of him and taken the very limit of his being. What I didn't expect is the twisted and macabre methods of the Court and how far they will go to destroy Batman. Snyder's usual tactics of bringing out the best in his villains (or the worst, depending on your point of view) is in full force here. Though to balance that out, he's mastered the art of Batman's voice and while he sends Bruce on this dark journey, he gives him a glimmer of triumph and victory.
Greg Capullo has officially won me over here. Last issue, he delivered some totally disorienting composition with his topsy-turvy layouts. Here, it's more fluid and captivating. His style is a bit jagged, without being too pointy, keeping things from being too malformed. His back-and-forth imagery of what is there and what Bruce is imagining is startling and downright creepy at times. The idea of the owl masks are already visually striking and distinctive from anything else out there, but to see what Capullo does will draw you in, leaving you anxiously waiting for the next issue. The panel construction gives you a blow-by-blow breakdown of the fight between Batman and the Court. Jonathan Glapion's inks are stellar here, as well. He adds weight and great linework where he needs it, and knows where to pull back so nothing is too broad or over-rendered. The moodiness and dark pallet, mixed with the marblesque environment of the Court's lair that FCO brings to the table is something to applaud. That said, Batman's figure composition is inconsistent towards the end, and it's uncertain if it's intentional or not. It's a minor hiccup in an otherwise fantastic chapter to this arc.
For those who felt Grant Morrison's Batman was unbelievable, too out there or misconstrued, Snyder and Capullo are bringing you a hard-hitting alternative. This feels more like the Paul Dini and Denny O'Neil school of Batman, where he's the epitome of the human mind and body being used to their full extent, without it coming across as he's unstoppable. Snyder has crafted a Batman that has more humanity to him, yet gives a layer of intensity to the story because you believe he could lose. Greg Capullo and the art team churn out some deep visuals and work to achieve something different from the rest of the DCnU.
Written by Joe Keatinge
Art by Ross Campbell and Shatia Hamilton
Lettering by Douglas E. Sherwood
Published by Image Comics
Review by Edward Kaye
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Glory is the latest of Image Comics’ relaunches of Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios titles. Much like with its sister title Prophet, Image have decided not to renumber the series from #1, instead starting the series from #23, picking up the numbering from April 1997’s Glory #22, though interestingly ignoring the three issues published by Awesome Comics and Avatar Press in the late 90s. Where Prophet #20 is something of a soft reboot though, Glory is designed to pick up the story from where it originally left off, well almost.
Much of the issue is spent introducing readers to the character and recapping some of her past adventures. One thing that will be immediately noticeable to longtime Glory fans is that her origin tale has been tweaked a bit, so where in the original story she was born as the result of an alliance between the Amazonians and their demonic rivals, she is now the product of a union between two warring alien races. Other than that, her back-story matches that outlined in the original series, and even acknowledges the events that took place in Alan Moore’s very brief revival of the series.
Joe Keatinge chooses to tell the story from the vantage point of a young girl called Rudy, who from an early age has dreamed of the adventures of Glory, and as time goes on she begins to suspect some sort of mental connection between them. When she grows up, she decides to go in search of what happened to Glory, who has been missing for a number of years, and discovers something quite shocking that completely changes the status quo of the series.
It’s worth mentioning that I only have a passing familiarity with the character, and didn’t pick up any of the original Image run back in the 90s, even so, I found Keatinge’s light recap more than enough information to get me up to speed with the story. At the same time, the issue isn’t too heavy on the recap, spending just the right proportion of time introducing us to the character of Rudy, who will seemingly be instrumental in this new series. Keatinge’s script mainly sticks to dialogue, as well as some light expeditionary narration in certain scenes - so for the most part he lets the artwork do much of the storytelling, rather than bogging down the reader with a massive information dump. His dialogue is top-notch, and his characterization is spot on - so within the just a few pages he manges to effectively reintroduce readers to the character of Glory, and also establish the new character of Rudy, and make us care for her future. I really like the tweaks that Keatinge has made to Glory’s origin, as her previous one was just a tad to close to that of Wonder Woman. I was also impressed with the surprise ending of the issue, and will definitely be coming back to find out where he plans to take the story from here.
Ross Campbell is the artist for the series, and on this first issue his pencils have a sort of rounded look to them. That’s maybe not the best way to describe them, but if you are familiar with Campbell’s style you will no doubt know what I mean. There’s a sort of fluidity to his linework that verges on the cartoony, but just manages to stick within the confines of what makes good superhero artwork. His heroines are very curvaceous and voluptuous, and his heroes are sculpted and muscular. The character of Rudy has a very round and welcoming face that exudes innocence, and invites the reader to become invested in her plight. Campbell also draws some fantastic battle scenes, which are packed full of action and visceral detail, and remind me a little of the work of James Stokoe on Orc Stain. Campbell’s inks have a sort of organic feel them, and he adds a number of interesting finishes that really spice his images up. On most pages, he keeps the blacks quite light, in keeping with the superheroics tone of the story, but on a few of the scenes he drapes the pages in heavy blacks to enhance the dark and foreboding tone.
Glory #23 is an interesting debut issue, which pays honor to what came before, while establishing a new status quo with an intriguing new protagonist and a shock ending that will make you desperate to pick up Issue #2.
Peter Panzerfaust #1
Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art by Tyler Jenkins
Published by Image Comics
Review by Vanessa Gabriel
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
An aged Gilbert recounts the day when the Nazi’s occupied the French city of Calais, the day he first met Peter Panzerfaust. Gilbert was one in a group of boys fleeing from their freshly bombed orphanage in desperate need for a place to hide. With friends just dead and the Germans advancing fast, Peter Panzerfaust appears seemingly out of nowhere to lead their way. While we don’t yet know where that will be, Peter Panzerfaust #1 is an adventurous start.
Inspired by the characters and moments of the well-loved Peter Pan, Kurtis J. Wiebe introduces a unique take on the fairy tale that is shining with potential. My knowledge of Peter Pan is peripheral at best. I haven’t even watched Hook in its entirety. But the little that I do know gives Peter Panzerfaust a subtle familiarity while still being very much its own story. I think that tried and true Peter Pan lovers will have extra moments of enjoyment along the way as they see long-loved characters reimagined.
Aside from having a fantastic title, the quick dialogue and reckless abandon of Peter Panzerfaust is endearing. I smiled from ear to ear several times while reading. Within just a few pages, I felt the instant camaraderie that Peter Panzerfaust inspires. Felix, Julien, Alain, Claude, Maurice and Gilbert, who will come to be known as the Lost Boys, and Peter are all immediately likeable. And, when you like someone, you tend to care a bit about what happens to them. With so many characters, and more to come, I am impressed by Weibe’s ability to evoke interest in all of them. In one issue, I am curious enough to know I will be getting the entire first arc.
Even with all the merits of the writing, it is Tyler Jenkins’ art that brings the real charm. Jenkins uses a simple and warm color palette, which allows for him to really demonstrate his talent with excellent use of light and shadow. The heavy browns and strong inks are an amazing fit for the World War II era, and invoke a feeling of authenticity. Jenkins also graces us with an impeccably charming splash page introducing the world to Peter Panzerfaust. It is a brilliant image that urges you to continue reading while also putting you in a lovely mood!
I think Weibe and Jenkins have a fantastic concept in Peter Panzerfaust. It has the magic of being a period piece, the fancy of a fairy tale, balanced by the tragedy of war, settling it firmly into a place of first-class storytelling. Peter Panzerfaust is another win for Image Comics and creator-owned titles. Add it to your pull list so we can keep this one coming.
Army of Darkness #1
Written by Elliot R. Serrano
Art by Marat Mychaels, Chris Ivy and Gabriel Belluco
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by Aaron Duran
'Rama Rating 4 out of 10
I'm not sure if this is the first time Army of Darkness played the Rule 63 card, which states, "for any given male character, there is a female version of that character." Regardless, it's a welcome spin on a comic series that has lasted far longer then even this hardcore Deadite would have imagined. As is the trend these days in comics, Army of Darkness #1 appears to be a soft reboot of the series that we love so much. This time, a female Ashley Williams squares off against the hordes of Deadites from beyond time and space. And while covers don't always deliver on what they tease, the concept of twin loudmouth braggarts from the future has me all kinds of excited. An excitement that doesn't wane upon reading the first page. A dusty, wind-swept landscape. Shackled feet shambling across the burning sands. And there, in the corner, a snarky comment that reads "My name is Ash, and I am a slave..." Shoot, I can actually hear Joe LoDuca's score to Army of Darkness playing in my mind. If writer Elliot R. Serrano can keep up this tone, we're going to have one heck of a time. Can you already sense the big ol' "but" I'm about to drop?
But he doesn't. Let me back up a bit. Serrano doesn't have the easiest job here. In this new Army of Darkness, Serrano has the tricky task of introducing the reader to a setting that is familiar, all while trying to maintain an air of newness. In a sense, he understands the task at hand. Simply sticking a female Ash in place of Bruce Campbell isn't enough to pull in $3.99 an issue. Thanks to fan fiction, we can do that on the Internet for free. And so, Serrano needs to play out just what makes this version of Army of Darkness different from what came before. Essentially, Serrano needs to pull off his own Earth 2. The opening pages do so nicely. We get a fast and relatively entertaining recap of Ashley's journey from Smart-Stop clerk to magical hand-wielding slayer of the undead. Then things get a little weird, and I'm sad to say, a little boring as well. This first issue reads like Serrano has an interesting vision in mind for this character, and how he's going to incorporate our Ash into it. Unfortunately, there is so much backstory to bring to the reader, the energy falls to the wayside. By the time we reach what is intended as the climactic cliffhanger at the end, I wasn't all that invested in the story. Not that I need or want deep meaning from Army of Darkness, but you need to keep me laughing at the wanton violence or cringing at horrible one-liners.
Art by Marat Mychaels is efficient and gets the job done, but does little extra in terms of dynamic storytelling. This style of art feels very much a sequential art by the numbers job. No single panel or segment within the comic takes away from the overall story, but nor does it add to the experience. His Ashley Williams looks incredibly static, but not without potential. There are a few panels and scenes in the issue where I can see what Mychaels can achieve with some time and continual work. The strongest case for this being the bug-like alien creature that acts as Ashley's less than trustworthy sidekick. In the few panels I saw this character, I noticed more nuance in body language and facial detail than the multiple pages of humans that preceded it. With multiple panels of simple lines or gradient color washes, the backgrounds also do little in setting the tone or feeling of the book. On the positive side, there is more than one occasion where Mychaels could have resorted to incredibly exploitable cheesecake scenes between Ashley and Cleopatra, and never once does so. Much. Hey, it's Army of Darkness, you have to get in some wink-wink, nudge-nudge moments.
As I wrap up this review, I've got the Army of Darkness soundtrack playing in the background. Within the soundtrack I realize my biggest complaint with this comic. The Prologue track is 2 minutes and 59 seconds long. In that time, we're brought completely up to speed with the film. In the comic, this tonally similar setup takes the entire book. In doing so reveals the flaw. In a comic called Army of Darkness, if you want to grab and hold our attention, you need to get to the one-liners and over-the-top violence quick. Sadly, this comic just doesn't do that. And while I don't think I can recommend this read to the casual fan, I'm probably coming back for Issue #2. Hey, you're reading a review from a guy that's bought Evil Dead 2 seven times. I just hope this book gets better.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!