Greetings, 'Rama Readers! Ready for some Rapid-Fire Reviews? The Best Shots team has you covered, with a flurry of yesterday's big releases! So let's see if the third time is the charm for the clone of Spider-Man, as we take a peek at Scarlet Spider #3...Scarlet Spider #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It's taken me three issues to figure it out, but here goes — Scarlet Spider is a '90s comic that has been printed years after its time. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. What do I mean? It's got slick art, a broody antihero, and so long as you accept this book for what it is — and by that I mean heavy on action, lighter on logic — you'll be in for a show. Ryan Stegman is the real draw here, with an art style that has McFarlane's edginess rounded out with Amanda Conner's rounded expressiveness. He often pulls some slick moves for Peter Parker's surly clone Kaine, as he races up a wall with a hapless mugger in tow, a trail of urine dripping down his leg. Writer Chris Yost gets props for tossing whatever fuel he can towards Stegman's fire, including pretty girls, acrobatic action and even a bit of physical comedy. That said, the actual story beats are barely a story at all, aside from introducing some more supporting cast members and giving Kaine a new threat from the past to fight against. It's pretty convenient — one might even say paper-thin — but like the '90s before it, the book looks good enough to get another pass. For now. Batwoman #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): An interesting aspect of Batwoman #7 is the incorporation of more Batman characters. Besides the Caped Crusader himself, staple Batman characters haven’t really been making an appearance in this book. However, with issue #7 we see the appearance of Killer Croc and mentions of Green Arrow. It is kind of a perk to see that Batwoman is part of the DC Universe at large and not contained in her own world. However, this is the right level of interaction with the character and it would be a crime to ruin this book by shoe horning it into big superhero books or crossovers. Although the absence of J.H. Williams’ artwork still feels missing from the book, Amy Reeder definitely feels like she is getting comfortable on the book. Batwoman #7 feels more like Reeder working in her own smooth style instead of trying to mimic Williams for the sake of continuity. Of course, Reeder is a perfect fit for this book, and the inks and coloring by Rob Hunter and Guy Major help keep the themes going from Issue #1 with the unique look of each character and the different lives juggled by Kate Kane. Not only is Batwoman one of the best books being published today, but with Issue #7, Amy Reeder is showing that she can definitely stand on her own as one of the top talents. X-Men: Season One (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): There's something off with X-Men: Season One — well, this book and this format. Dennis Hopeless is in between a rock and a hard place, in that he has to tell an origin story about the original five X-Men... without out-and-out retelling the original Stan-and-Jack stories. Unfortunately, he also seems to assume that you have read these stories, which leads for some really abrupt transitions, with the team suddenly fighting in the Savage Land, or battling Unus the Untouchable, or the Beast leaving the team in disillusionment. The problem is, Hopeless's characterization feels a little alienating, between Jean Grey being our snarky narrator to Cyclops being so cold and distant that it's hard to see Jean ever falling for him, let alone have us root for him. Jamie McKelvie, on the other hand, is a refreshing, if unexpected choice. His characters have a real innocence to their smoothly drawn features, and his take on the Beast is really dynamic, looking handsome but quirky, rather than the gorilla-man of yesteryear. The book does pick up near the end, as Hopeless writes a dazzling invasion of the X-Mansion, but with no resolution it's still too little, too late. Yet part of this book's problem is the format of Season One in general — it's retelling all of these old stories, but not quite, and without the sort of traditional chapter breaks that readers (and heck, even TV watchers) have come to expect. It makes X-Men: Season One feel like a marathon, or like over-eating, where you feel overwhelmed rather than excited. It's a little esoteric for new readers, yet is a little shallow for the converted. It's a tough road to walk, and unfortunately, X-Men: Season One doesn't quite stick the landing. Suicide Squad #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): "The Hunt For Harley Quinn" ends in this issue, although, to be fair, it was never a hunt so much as a chase, and if Amanda Waller had two functioning brain cells to go with all her Task Force X bluster then Harley would've been captured inside of ten pages. But writer Adam Glass needed another thirty to not only cement in the reader's mind what buffoons and D-listers this Squad is composed of, but also raise the question of why this title is still being published. The cover says "The Origin Of Harley Quinn" and gives seven more pages to last issue's flashback into Harley's descent to the Dark Side by Hannibal Joker. Problem is, the climax of that storyline in this issue is so superficial and asinine that I'm fully checked-out of caring about Harley anymore. It would have been better as a Stockholm Syndrome gone horribly wrong than the nonsense that played out here. This issue also continues the assassination of Deadshot's character by exhibiting how useless he is against a moving target half his size and armed with nothing more technologically advanced than a mallet, but put that same target in his lap at close range, let him pull a concealed weapon and Deadshot is stone cold, baby. Conclusion: Deadshot is only formidable as a coward. However, we do get to see Halle Berry — er, Amanda Waller — FINALLY make good on a threat about those cranial nano-bombs which has been a long time in coming. It's a shame that this book is nothing more cerebral than a run someplace-fight-rinse-repeat formula because the artwork is terrific. Clayton Henry (with Ig Guara on this issue) continues to be spectacular, and I have to call out Val Staples whose coloring really makes the panels jump off the page. Artwork alone can't drive an issue or a series, however, and this title is in serious need of a new writer and editorial team. Avengers Assemble #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): With the upcoming The Avengers movie, Marvel are beginning to ramp up their output of Avengers titles to record levels. At the front of the pack is Avengers Assemble #1, which is written by Brian Michael Bendis, and features the exact lineup of the new movie. For those keeping count, that makes this Bendis’s third ongoing Avengers title currently being published. If you read any other Marvel books, the first thing you will notice is the characterization here is completely off — none of the characters seem anything like they do in their solo books. Now, clearly this book is being aimed at non-comic readers, who are likely more familiar with the classic versions of these characters, so this problem would be excusable if the story itself were good. Sadly, it is not. The plot is virtually non-existent, and is centered on the rise of a new version of classic Avengers villains “Zodiac,” and the Avengers’ subsequent attempt to thwart their crimes. To constant readers, Zodiac has been horribly overused and reinvented over the years, and casual readers will have no idea who they are. This feels very much like a fill-in arc for the main Avengers title, not the start of a brand new series. It’s not terrible, but it’s just nothing special. The artwork is by Mark Bagley, and it’s far from his greatest work. The linework is rather uninspired, with action scenes that don't feel very exciting, and characters that display little to no emotion. Avengers Assemble #1 reads like a very average superhero comic, which for a line-fronting book with an A-list creative team, is simply not good enough. Batgirl #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10):For being one of the New 52 books with the most attention going into the relaunch, Batgirl has been consistently good and enjoyable every month. However, Issue #7 falls short of the previous endeavors and felt awkward and clunky the whole way through. The book’s pencils are split up between Adrian Syaf and Alitha Martinez. Unfortunately for Marinez, the middle portion of the book that they handled felt askew the entire time. The first page, done by Martinez, features a high-flying Barbara Gordon who, while in midair, has her eyes closed like she is sleeping and looks like she just had a big burp. It’s one of those details that cause a reader’s eyes to hang on the page and not in the good way. This could be a case of lost in translation with inker Vicente Cifuentes and Ulises Arreola although that doesn’t seem likely due to the fact that Adrian Syaf’s pages still look great. Although it has been great to see Simone’s take on Barbara’s superhero life with short arcs that flesh out her rogues gallery, it is beginning to feel a little predictable. Even though this sort of Silver Age approach to her villains is a great choice, it would be nice to see Batgirl in something a little longer paced to really build up her detective skills and tenacity as a character. Batgirl #7 isn’t the best issue in the series by far, it seems like a rare misstep for this creative team and is definitely still worth checking out. Crossed: Badlands #1 (Published by Avatar Press; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Crossed is by no means a comic for everyone, but as a big fan of the macabre, I’ve been hooked since that explosive #0 issue. I’ve enjoyed David Lapham’s recent run on the series, but I’ve been eagerly anticipating Ennis’ return to his creation. With this opening issue, he illustrates perfectly why no-one else writes horror quite like him - it’s in the characters, you see. Where Lapham’s Crossed was filled to the brim with gore, the human characters in the series were almost as evil as the Crossed themselves. By contrast, Ennis’ original Crossed run was driven by strong, sympathetic, and highly likable characters. It’s what is at the center of all the best post-apocalyptic survival stories, and Ennis spends the bulk of this first issue introducing us to his new cast. In fact, we go a whole eight pages before we see gore of any kind. Ennis really is the master of character creation, and within a scant few pages of meeting the protagonist, the reader is vested in his fate, and that of his companions. What this means of course is that when horrible things start to happen, as they inevitably will, the reader genuinely cares what happens to the characters. Joining Ennis on the title is original series artist Jacen Burrows. Burrows is one of the greatest horror artists working in comics today, and every page in this issue is a pleasure to behold. But it’s not just the gore that he excels at, and one of the best images is of fish swimming in a clear stream - it’s a beautiful panel. Crossed: Badlands #1 is a brilliant return to form for one of the best horror comics on the shelves. Exile On The Planet Of The Apes #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): I didn't read Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes and not doing so feels like coming into a football game without having seen the first quarter: I've got the gist of what's going on but having actually seen it would help me appreciate the current action on the field. The damn dirty humans are running raids on ape towns, led by Tern (from Betrayal) and his fancy hand signals, while Zaius and his council debate who's to blame and how Tern should be stopped. While relevant to the real world, political intrigue plots like this are pretty run of the mill and they don't become any more unique just because the leads are apes instead of humans. The result is a story that, while not badly written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, isn't gripping, intriguing, or especially interesting. If anything, I feel that it failed to really build up to the last page's reveal which seems to be the key to the crux of this series. It should have landed as more "Holy crap!" and less "Huh." than it did. Marc Laming does great work with a pencil and it's funny because even though he's not Greg Land-ish by any means, there's such a realism at times in his work that I feel like I'm a kid again watching the early '70s flicks. Unfortunately, the inking is too heavy and Jordie Bellaire's colors are far too dark, the combination of which drowns out nearly every panel's details. Straining to suss out the visuals keeps pulling the reader out of the story and makes it more of a chore than leisure. Apes enthusiasts may need this in their collection, but for me there's nothing compelling or original enough to need another issue. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!
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