Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for some lightning-fast takes on the latest and greatest? Best Shots lives to serve, with a ton of our bite-sized Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with the queen of Atlantis, as Aaron Duran checks out Aquaman #6...
Aquaman #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10; Click here for preview): Aquaman has been one of the best surprises of the New 52, Geoff Johns firmly placed Arthur Curry back into the pantheon of the DC Universe. With that in mind, it's incredibly frustrating to read an issue of Aquaman that is so very bad. Focusing on Mera, issue six delves a bit into her background all while playing off the quickly becoming tired scenario of us not understanding the fish heroes and vice versa. Everything from the pacing to the art to the dialog to the characters in this issue simply feel off. I find it hard to believe that even the most repugnant of sexually harassing managers would be so bold as to reach for a customer's outfit asking where he can find the zipper. Writing Mera as a completely naïve and, for lack of a better term, ditz is both confusing and a insulting. For a character Johns claims to adore, she's written with little respect. Perhaps, were this issue 1, I might be more forgiving, but by now; both her, Arthur, and this whole dang town should know where they all stand with each other. The art doesn't fair any better, artist Joe Prado pencils over Ivan Reis' breakdowns and it isn't pretty. Maybe on his own Prado would have turned in good work, as it stands, it's like shoving one style into another and the result is simply bad. Clunky lines, sloppy action, and blurring color work are the standard for this issue. The only thing that keeps this book from being a complete loss are the moments where we see Mera cut loose with her powers. But that does little to redeem Aquaman #6. Mera is a cool character, she and the reader deserve better.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10; Click here for preview): When I was 13, my mom caught me pretending I was Batman as Danny Elfman's score blared through my stereo. So, I can say without hesitation, I know exactly how Miles Morales feels. Okay, maybe not, but it's a credit to Bendis' writing and this character that as a reader about to turn 36, I can still connect with this kid on a very emotional and honest level. And I don't even have superpowers. Issue 7 of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man continues Miles complex journey from a smart kid in school to full-blown superhero. As has been the norm with this book, the path Miles takes as that superhero is just as exciting (if not more so) as the villains he inevitably faces. Squaring off against Omega Red, we see little snippets of just want kind of a hero this Spider-Man will become. But even more, it is the conversations about costumed heroes over dinner with his family and the return of Uncle Aaron that will have the lasting influence. Visually, Chris Samnee feels much more comfortable in this issue. As I've come to expect, his talent shines when drawing people outside of masks, as they are highly expressive and very human. You can see yourself in how these character carry themselves. Thankfully, this attention also comes through in the actions scenes, be it Spider-Man taking on a villain or simply swinging through New York as he gets a handle on his powers. While I love Sara Pichelli's work, Samnee's Spider-Man feels more childlike, with an almost Peter Pan quality as he jumps through the air. This sense of innocence in the face of danger only adds to why Ultimate Comics Spider-Man is one of best books in comics; be it Marvel or anywhere else.
No Place Like Home (Published by Image Comics; Reviewed by Erika D. Peterman; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): In the wide-open spaces of Emeraldville, Kansas, something wicked this way comes. No Place Like Home is a chilling story that draws you in from the opening scene of an elderly couple taking refuge from a tornado. You can’t look away from the impending doom, but even when it descends, things don’t go the way you’d expect. No Place Like Home #1 — yes, the title is a reference to the Wizard of Oz — plays out like a good mystery movie, one that writer Angelo Tirotto has filled with memorable characters. Aspiring writer Dee Hamilton has returned to Emeraldville from Los Angeles to bury her parents, and it’s quickly apparent that the official story of their demise is bunk. Tirotto paces the story well, spending ample time establishing Dee’s relationships with her friends, neighbors and extended family. Especially entertaining is Liz, the punky loose cannon who probably sticks out like a sore thumb in her hometown. But trouble is always lurking just beneath the surface, occasionally bursting forth in gruesome ways. Paul Little’s colors set an appropriately ominous mood. Richard Jordan’s richly detailed interiors are great, though I fear that the silly, peek-a-boob cover will put off as many readers as it attracts. (Ian Churchill's variant is much better.) I almost took a pass because of that, but don’t judge this book by its cover. It’s obvious that Jordan put a great deal of thought into each character’s look, from their clothes to their expressions. The story and the art all come together in an effective, suspenseful package that’s well worth a read.
The Fury of Firestorm #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10; Click here for a preview): Excuse the pun, but The Fury of Firestorm #6 is where things really start to heat up. Right when things really seem to be gelling for the two Firestorms, Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch, it all falls apart after their first mission kills thousands of people. However, what I found to be the most interesting aspect of these two heroes isn’t their lives as Firestorms but how much they genuinely don’t like each other. Coming from different backgrounds could be enough to the two young heroes in an uncomfortable situation but, mentally and emotionally, these guys could not be more opposite. This makes for some great drama and an awesome throw down towards the end of the issue that felt as real and genuine as any fight you had with a best friend in high school. When the going gets tough, these two teen heroes get going at each other. This is a credit to Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver’s ability to nail human drama in her books and make it feel as real as possible. Yildiray Cinar is consistant as always in six issues deep into the book. His line work on all the elemental energies surrounding these characters makes the eye follow it contentiously by incorporating a little Kirby Krackle, dancing solar flares and electronic orbits. Firestorm may not be an A-list sort of hero, but I would definitely recommend this book for a friend wanting to dig deeper into DC’s characters.
The Li’l Depressed Boy #9 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): I’m Going to be honest, I picked up The Li’l Depressed Boy #9 because of the title. Not only did I think it was amusing, but I was curious, with that much info upfront, what was actually inside the issue. What I found was the muted color palette and alternative characters I have come to expect from a slice-of-life comic like this. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. LDB is far more active than one would think from the cover and his interactions with the world around him were amusing. I especially liked the scene when he is playing Rock Band with his mohawked friend, going over the time he worked as an MC for a freak show. The artwork, by both Sina Grace and S. Steven Struble, is a nice balance of strong, black lines and tiny hash marks that add texture and detail to the world. My only disappointment with this book was that it felt like it was over before it began and read really quickly. It wasn’t that I was hungry for more (I will be picking up #10) it’s that the combination of large panels and the first part of a story made for a quick read. Although this might not be the first book of this caliber I would recommend, The Li’l Depressed Boy #9 is a great starting point for new readers.
Justice League Dark #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10; Click here for a preview): For a book that had such a strong first arc overall, it’s sad to see Justice League Dark limp it’s way into a crossover. Peter Milligan has done a great job taking a bunch of DC’s supernatural characters are forcing them to become a team. It doesn’t always work but that part of the book’s charm. Justice League Dark is like the original Defenders, a team for no other reason than they happen to be fighting the same adversary and be in the same general vicinity as each other. Milligan knows this is a pretty shaky reason to group these characters and he uses this issue to try and fill out the foundation. He continues the horror-themed nature of the book by taking us inside each of the members’ nightmares and these are the parts that work wonderfully. Milligan sues these scenes to show that in some ways these characters are not that different. They are all afraid of something. They have regrets. They have wants and needs. The cover claims they are bound by destiny but Milligan goes deeper to show that they are not bound by destiny alone. Unfortunately, the issue flames out in the final pages. Madame Xanadu’s reasoning for bringing them all together is really weak and ultimately disappointing. But Mikel Janin does mostly excellent work with the art. His character work is strong and consistent. Each team member’s nightmare is uniquely terrifying and Shade’s splash page is epic. But he phones it in on some of the backgrounds. I understand that they are not totally in reality but sometimes I need a little more than just a two color watercolor background. Justice League Dark heads into a vampire crossover with I, Vampire next but this issue does little to sell me on the future of the book. I'll be checking out until Animal Man scribe Jeff Lemire takes over with issue #9.
The Sixth Gun #19 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Wow, that is some serious exposition going on in Part 2 of A Town Called Penance. Something I've always enjoyed about The Sixth Gun was its avoidance of such issues. Sure, from time to time, writer Cullen Bunn would catch readers up to speed, but it was done with such flair and pizzaz, you didn't really notice you were reading an explanation. Unfortunately, that is not that case with this issue. That isn't to say this is a bad issue, far from it. Drake's moments underground as he plots with his old gang and master is just what I've come to expect from this series. Nice and creepy with enough realism to make you think all this could have happened. It's when we rejoin Becky in the town of Penance where the story gets a little too “and this is how they did it” for me. Being a large majority of this book falls into the talking head category, there is very little for artist Brian Hurtt to do here. While I enjoy the freaky look to all the citizens of Penance, everyone looks a tad unfinished, and don't I mean that in a disturbing monster way. Like the writing itself, Hurtt's art is merely a functional element to the comic, something to keep the pages turning. Indeed, even the coloring by Bill Crabtree does little to inspire in this issue. Mind you, a less than stellar installment of The Sixth Gun is better than most books on the shelf. I guess that's one of the dangers of putting out such a strong title, when you do take that misstep, it really shows. As we're only two issues into this arc, I'm hoping all this exposition is a necessary evil for what is to follow. Nobody is perfect and this is still a comic you should be reading.
Deadpool #51 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10; Click here for a preview): Daniel Way’s Deadpool has been mostly good, sometimes great and occasionally genius, but Deadpool’s quest for eternal rest has gone on too long and is starting to wear out it’s welcome. The first part of the “Dead” arc used a really fun device to carry the plot and sell the concept. It was as if Deadpool was in a heist movie but he played every part. Issue #51 sees some of his plans coming to fruition. But Way eschews the humor of the first part of the story to deliver a more straightforward superhero mini event book. While it isn’t a drastic shift in tone, it is decidedly more serious and even Deadpool himself is a more somber, calculating character. His plan, which seemed really wacky at first, just makes sense now. In fact, everything that Wade does in the book makes sense. It’ll have you waiting for a bait and switch that never happens (or at least doesn’t happen in this issue). But the script is pretty much just par for the course. Ale Garza wields the pencil on this one. His style is reminiscent of a couple of the artists who have been on Deadpool recently, most notably Carlo Barberi. He uses very clean lines and his proportions are great but his expressions need work. Throughout the issue, characters are grimacing. Sometimes whole pages have the same expression on every character. This detail is easily overlooked due to the amount of action that’s featured but that’s no excuse the same old expressions. There’s a chance that this arc improves with the next issue. It really could go either way at this point. We already know the book will survive this arc now hopefully Way will deliver a stunning to conclusion to whether or not Deadpool does.
Blackhawks #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10; Click here for a preview): I'll say it now — CAFU and Bit are DC's most underrated art team, and they deserve a lot of acclaim. Because even though Blackhawks #6 isn't particularly accessible, it's still one of DC's strongest releases this week, based on looks alone. CAFU is reminiscent of Barry Kitson, with a cinematic style and a nice balance between clean lines and deep shadows. He also excels with both the action and the drama — there's a sequence where Irish and Atilla are sitting in a bar, when suddenly a panel explodes into violence so unexpected, it damn near takes your head off. And better still, CAFU's collaboration with Bit has become so strong, it's hard to tell on the pages where Bit actually did the finishes on CAFU's layouts. That's pretty sharp. Mike Costa's script is a bit more hit-or-miss, however. It opens fast and has some great beats over the Blackhawk's mandate, as well as the aforementioned bar scene. But the entry point for the story is still pretty difficult, making it hard to understand the stakes or learn where the characters are going. That weakness makes this a book without context, a stylish look at spy-soldiers doing spy-soldier stuff. It may not make much sense, but it looks so sharp, you might not mind. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!