Best Shots Extra: AMAZ. SPIDER-MAN, INFINITE VACATION, More

Best Shots Extra

 

Amazing Spider-Man #682

Written by Dan Slott

Art by Stefano Caselli and Frank Martin, Jr.

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

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There's a caption in this comic that perfectly sums up this issue: It's time to Spider-Man up.

While the enthusiasm behind the Web-slinger's adventures has been contagious over the past year or so, Dan Slott and Stefano Caselli kick off their latest arc, "Ends of the Earth," with a confidence and panache that's impossible to overlook. Ever since "Big Time" began, Slott and company have worked towards making Peter Parker the best Spider-Man he can be — and now that Doctor Octopus is thinking on a global scale, they're going to put this new-and-improved Spider-Man to the test.

Just like "Big Time" before it, Slott's number-one bit of karma for "Ends of the Earth" is that he doesn't just provide exposition, but provides an easy entree for new readers who want to see Spider-Man's place in the greater Marvel Universe. Peter's job at Horizon, his under-the-table Spidey-deals with his boss, his membership with the Avengers, it's all addressed with a breezy, accessible tone. While Doctor Octopus's master plan only begins to unfold here, Slott chooses to show each character flexing their muscles. It's a little bit of a slow burn, but watching Spidey and Doc Ock show their smarts and assemble their weaponry means that we're in for a good fight.

That said, Slott also opens up with some downright spectacular action that's a big hat-tip for returning readers, and that's where artist Stefano Caselli shines. I read through this book several times, and was curious as to who was inking Caselli's work — turns out, the man is at his slickest when he's inking himself, drawing a powerfully fluid fight sequence that sticks in your mind despite being only two pages. Yet people shouldn't overlook Caselli's greatest strength, which is his human, expressive style — our heroes aren't standing around in stock poses, they're emoting, their eyes widening with a question, their mouths open mid-sentence. Caselli's characters are gorgeously rendered, but because they're always moving, they're incredibly human, too.

While many event comics these days start off with a big opening salvo and a B-list casualty, Dan Slott and Stefano Caselli trust in their product enough to simply make the stakes bigger. Spider-Man will always innovate, always improvise, but the nature of his character means that in the right hands, Marvel will never need to reinvent the wheel to sell his stories. The gauntlet has been thrown, and the battle will take Spider-Man to the Ends of the Earth.

Count me in for a ringside seat.

 

Infinite Vacation #4

Story by Nick Spencer and Christian Ward

Script by Nick Spencer

Art by Christian Ward

Lettering by Jeff Powell

Published by Image Comics

Review by Pierce Lydon

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

As the mini-series nears its conclusion, Infinite Vacation finds itself sprinting to the finish line. The high concept sci-fi psychological thriller showed tons of promise at the outset, but the continued usage of an awkward storytelling device and a weak main character hold back what is otherwise an ambitious and visually compelling project.

Nick Spencer has emerged as a truly unique voice in the comics scene over the past couple of years. His knack for character development paired with an excellent feel for proper pacing has served him well in any genre he’s written throughout his career. But while this series has been entertaining enough, it’s lacked the emotion of various other Spencer titles like Morning Glories. Most of this stems from our protagonist, Mark. Mark’s problem is simple: someone is killing different versions of him from other realties. These Marks might be doctors or rednecks or criminals but the fact remains that one of them is killing the rest in effort to get to him. But Mark isn’t all that likable. He’s a slacker. He’s given up on himself and while Spencer uses him to fulfill the everyman role, Mark doesn’t do it justice. There’s no reason to want him to succeed.

Where Spencer excels in this issue is plot development. As with some of his other work, his use of pacing adds layers of mystery that add depth to the story. Unfortunately, this kind of depth only makes Mark seem less likable. Spencer attempts to humanize him in the alternate reality he finds himself in. It’s a nice moment but that’s all it is. It’s hard to believe that Mark is actually changing at all. But as Mark spirals through the issue, a reality voyager unhinged, Spencer’s idea about “boxing” realities takes control and gives the book a threat that is more intriguing than the transdimensional murder mystery at the beginning.

Christian Ward’s art is phenomenal. And that’s what makes one of the storytelling devices he and Spencer use so infuriating. The book opens with a public service announcement. But rather than use Ward’s art, the creator opts to use photographs of an actor telling us the announcement. It’s odd and a bit jarring but keeps in theme with what they’ve done throughout the series. Still, it just seems like wasted pages.

Ward’s art on the rest of the book gives Spencer’s ideas a sort of psychedelic energy that enhances the weirdness of the storyline and the alternate realities. But even while Mark is tripping through dimensions on big double page spreads, Ward is able to deliver smaller character moments that come across as perfectly normal despite the crazy coloring and frenetic linework.

Infinite Vacation is an absolute trip. It’s one that I hope will provide a memorable conclusion as the series winds down but this issue has been the best so far in terms of artwork. Spencer’s ideas might be a little all over the place and his main character might be a little weak but the world as a whole is compelling. Coupled with Ward’s art, there is no reason not to at least flip through this one.

 

Luther

Written by Mark Waid

Art by Jeremy Rock

Available on MarkWaid.com

Review by George Marston

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Mark Waid's got some big ideas about comics. His highly popular run on Marvel's Daredevil is just the latest in a long history of blockbuster work on fan favorite characters, and creator owned stories by the author. Now, Waid has turned his attention to the growing digital market, creating a proprietary format for sharing his creator owned work which, assuming everything goes according to plan, will all be released digitally from here on out. As a proof of concept, Waid teamed with artist Jeremy Rock to produce Luther; a short story about the way life goes on after zombies have destroyed civilization.

If the premise sounds familiar, that's because it is. Comparisons to The Walking Dead are basically inevitable, as Waid's story follows the lives of simple country folk who are all trying to find a way to live their lives after the zombie apocalypse has come and gone. It's probably an intentional connection, and while there's enough tonal difference to ensure that Luther would in no way feel at home as a part of its obvious inspiration, the concept of the story is relatable enough to fans of the comic and popular television show for them to feel comfortable, and at home following the story. It's a fairly smart move by Waid, appealing to a known audience to launch a totally unknown format for digital comics, and while Waid's writing of the characters' dialect occasionally falters, the bittersweet twist at the end of the story makes this a strong example of the kind of stories that Waid plans to deliver.

To that end, artist Jeremy Rock, whose work I am admittedly unfamiliar with, is also a solid choice for this inaugural story in Mark Waid's digital format. His art is clean and inviting, with characters that are possessed of both recognizability and personality, and storytelling that, probably by design, works wonders with the "click through" format of this story. As for the format itself, it's interesting to read a story that was designed to work this way, as each page, or screen, is drawn in a landscape format, which easily presents itself on a computer monitor. While not every click of the mouse brings new pages — occasionally it only adds new dialogue, or a new panel to the page — there's enough going on to make the story easy to follow, and engaging in a way that sets the digital format apart from print media.

If Luther were a pilot for what might be an ongoing comic in this format, it probably wouldn't sell itself. There's just not a unique enough theme to the story to justify it as a counterpoint to what's already on the market. But, as a proof of concept for Waid's vision of digital comics, it works wonders, showcasing the unique ways that readers can interact with a page, or screen, and managing to provide enough content in something like 8 pages to tell an entire, singular story. While I have a hard time imagining a future in which digital comics entirely supplant comics presented in print media — there's just something about the tactile experience of a physical comic that can't be captured digitally — I can certainly imagine this type of approach to digital catching on, as it delivers an experience that physical comics likewise can't match.

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