Best Shots Rapid Reviews: DAREDEVIL, FATALE, More

'Rama Readers, get ready for the lightning round! Best Shots is ready for battle, with this week's edition of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with George Marston, as he checks out the Man Without Fear in the latest issue of Daredevil...

 

Daredevil #10.1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10; Click here for preview): This issue is exactly the kind of thing I expected when the "Point One" initiative was announced. It's a perfect jumping-on point for both brand new readers and those that may be familiar with Daredevil, but have, for some reason, lapsed. I'm a little stunned at how well Mark Waid incorporates an explanation of Daredevil's powers, his current status quo as having a semi-publicly known identity, and the current overarching story involving the disc that contains damning information about several major crime organizations into a neat little done-in-one story about a super-powered hitman named Pyromania. Honestly, the recap page at the beginning was all but superfluous. Maybe the biggest surprise on this issue was Khoi Pham, whose work has steadily improved in his time with Marvel. Here, he fits right into the style that's been established for the look of this title, while still managing to be recognizable on his own terms. His work particularly sings during the action scenes, where his DD is acrobatic and lithe, while still cultivating a little bit of menace. It doesn't hurt that Javier Rodriguez's colors provide some continuity with the other artists who have worked on the book. Seriously, if there's anyone left who isn't reading Daredevil, this is the perfect opportunity to climb aboard.

 

Fatale #4 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The web of lies, deceit, and death further entangles the cast of this comic as Brubaker and Phillips draw the reader deeper into the mystery of Josephine and the many men who find themselves powerless to stop themselves from helping her, regardless of the cost. This is a noir comic in its purest form, with no main characters that are innocent—only the level of their depravity varies. Using a great “not showing has more impact than showing” form, the storytellers let the reader’s imagination fill in the details of things like Sylvia’s death while the characters talk in clipped, cruel sentences and narrative boxes do the rest. Philips is at the top of his game here, with the aid of Stewart, using shadows to obscure certain details in order to highlight the rest, all in a straightforward, realistic style that echoes watching a movie while being careful not to copy the format slavishly. When we do see blood, it pops! I love Brubaker’s realistic dialog and how he’s tying things together while slowly upping the body count and inching towards the horror elements. I left Fatale 4 just as confused as I entered it, but that’s a good thing in a crime story. Any fan of that genre needs to be reading this book now, while it’s easy to catch up.

 

Amazing Spider-Man #683 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10; Click here for preview): Superhero comics, take note — Amazing Spider-Man should be the standard here. You've got strong characterization, strong characters to play with (with the Avengers squaring off against the Sinister Six), you've got some smart obstacles, some smarter twists, it all looks good, to boot? Dan Slott and Stefano Caselli seem determined to have their cake and eat it, too, as Spidey leads Earth's Mightiest Heroes to take down his worst foes. Even if you haven't read the previous issues, Slott makes it easy to follow — Doctor Octopus is stepping up his game, and Peter Parker has to follow suit. Caselli, meanwhile, continues to up the ante with expressive characters that also hit like a freight train in battle, particularly with a sequence featuring a super-speedy Electro blasting his way through some of Marvel's biggest guns. Slott has said that he wanted to bump up the Sinister Six's cache as world-beaters, and I'd say he accomplishes that goal at least for the moment. The only downside to this story? This battle royale in a remote cave does feel a little similar to Slott's earlier crossover with the Fantastic Four, where the team also fought a horde of villains (including replicas of the Sinister Six). But with easy accessibility, a satisfying sense of pacing and some gorgeous art, Amazing Spider-Man places a high bar that its contemporaries would do well to emulate.

 

Static Shock #8 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Rest in peace, Static Shock. While the character of Virgil Hawkins will live on to fight another day, his solo series is shuffling off this mortal coil, which is a shame for all involved. Writer Marc Bernardin has said this was originally meant to be a jumping-on point for readers, and I think, for the most part, he's right — this is part eulogy, part exposition, as we find out how a high-achieving outcast became a lightning-powered superhero. Bernardin echoes that old Spider-Man morality when he examines Virgil's one slip-up, the one time he tried to be anything other than what he was: a good kid. That's an empowering message for anybody, and one that I wish had had more time to be explored. Artist Scott McDaniel does feel a little bit busy for what should have been an accessible read, but his angular style comes off as extremely kinetic for the fight scenes. That said, the conversation piece of the story comes off a little flat in terms of the acting, and the splash flashback pages can be disorienting in their layouts. The subplot of this story — namely, the school principal thinking Virgil has been abused at home — gets a little bit of short shrift due to the fact that, well, this is it for this series. The landing is fairly messy, but that's to be expected when you get the plug pulled. Still, when you have a character that be summed up as positively as Bernardin did Static Shock, you can't help but wonder what could have been.

AVENGERS VS. X-MEN Covers Revealed
AVENGERS VS. X-MEN Covers Revealed
 

Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10: Although comic fans may have seen this scenario before, Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 still brought the excitement. Scriptwriter Brian Michael Bendis keeps the story level with lighthearted superheroics at the very beginning paired with the impending doom of a familiar extraterrestrial force and the much darker tone surrounding Cyclops' Utopia. Big moments actually felt like big moments when Bendis builds the tension between Cyclops and Captain. Sure, we might have seen this before, but the Marvel Architects seem aware of this and are bringing something new to the mix. AvX #1 feels like an event book in the best possible way with the pictorial line-up of the two teams before the first page, with Beast and Wolverine caught in the middle. John Romita, Jr. is amazing as always with the way he compliments the story with knowing when to play panels big or small and having full control of the figures on the page. No awkward action figures talking to each other, these guys look like real people in costumes with Romita’s signature style; a perfect choice for something so rooted in the Marvel Universe. Romita seems to be playing his pencils just as big as the summer event was hyped to be. Sure, there has been a lot of ill feelings building between these two teams for a while now, but anyone can pick up this book and at least have fun with it. Who doesn’t want to see their favorite superhero teams throw down against each other?

 

Chew #25 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): One of the greatest strengths of Chew is that it's able to incorporate a pretty wide swath in terms of tone, and this issue — well, it's about as dark as I've seen this book. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. By eschewing much of his usual laughs (except for Elvis — everything goes better with Elvis), John Layman actually ramps up the tension pretty substantially, as we follow hard-hitting food writer Amelia Mintz as she tracks down her missing foodie psychic cop boyfriend, Tony Chu. It's actually kind of a Lois Lane sort of story, showcasing her reporter's drive, but Layman does good work by letting the battered, bloody Chu get some hits in, as well. For my money, I'd say Rob Guillory is the real superstar of this issue, as the cartoony artist is able to flex his dramatic muscles, particularly with a gruesome splash page of Tony being hung as a bloody trophy in front of an auditorium of hungry auctioneers. That said, this issue does kick off a little slow, with some non-starter sexual humor with Tony's partner, the cybernetically enhanced himbo Colby, and there's more than a few offhand mentions to previous issues, which might throw some people off guard. Still, this is a solid conclusion for a good arc for Chew, and it's going to be interesting to see where the cast goes from here.

 

Secret Avengers #24 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Only a few issues into their run, Rick Remender and Gabriel Hardman are already building on the foundations laid for Secret Avengers by Ed Brubaker when it launched two years ago. Perhaps Remender's best strength as a writer is cramming a hell of a lot of story into every 22 pages, building tension and excitement in a way that few other writers can muster. On top of that, he manages to engender the kind of high-stakes, life-threatening challenges that do and should set the Avengers' black-ops branch apart from any other Avengers team while still throwing in the kind of semi-goofy, superhero gimmicks that make Marvel so endearing. I mean, come on, one of the villains is named Emperor Doombot. The only thing that makes me a little wary of Remender's Secret Avengers is his handling of Hawkeye. I get that he's building a character arc where Clint's gotta get past his overcompensating and become a great leader, but that's been done a few too many times, and Clint's lead a few too many teams for the conceit not to feel forced. All of that aside, the story is compelling, the villains are strange, and the art from Gabriel Hardman and Bettie Breitweiser is basically flawless. This book hasn't stopped finding it's way to the top of the stack every month, and under Rick Remender's direction, it looks to be climbing there a little faster yet.

 

Fanboys vs. Zombies #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The premise of doesn’t take too much explanation — a bunch of friends go to Comic-Con International, there’s a zombie outbreak, and they have to fight for their lives. In fact, it seems like such an obvious idea that I’m surprised that no-one’s thought of it before. The majority of this debut issue is spent introducing readers to the story’s cast of characters, and examining their relationships with each other. Writer Sam Humphries does some great character work here, which will certainly become important later in the series, as their friendships are put to the test. It’s a fun opener that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and pokes fun at fandom, and a lot of genres conventions and clichés. I particularly like the hilariously inventive origin Humphries creates for the zombie plague. The artwork is by industry newcomer Jerry Gaylord, who has a very cartoony style that reminds me strongly of Humberto Ramos’ work (who coincidentally provides a cover). That is to say the characters have exaggerated and improbable anatomy, and the facial expressions are all caricature like. I’m not always a huge fan of this style of art, but it seems to work really well here, and heightens the sense of silliness that the series has. While I’m hesitant about how this concept will hold up as an ongoing series, Fanboys vs. Zombies #1 is a strong debut issue, and is definitely worth checking out, especially as it only costs $1.

 

Brilliant #3 (Published by ICON; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): There are a lot of creator-owned and indie superhero comics on the shelves right now that ask the question, “what would happen if a regular person got super powers?” With so many comics on the market doing the same thing, a new title needs a good hook to make it stand out from the crowd, and that the problem with - there’s just nothing unique about it. The story is now three issues in, and the plot hasn’t been shown to be anything but formulaic and clichéd — guy gets powers, guy uses powers for personal gain, cops come after guy, guy goes bad. What makes it worse is that all of the characters are two dimensional and transparent, and the dialogue is all in that irritating brand of banter that Bendis specializes in — where there’s so much back and forth between characters, but no-one is actually “saying” anything. The artist on the series is Mark Bagley, and while his artwork here is a dozen times better than his recent work on , it’s still far from his best. He goes with a slightly sketchy style here, which looks rough around the edges, and seems a bit rushed in places. Brilliant #3 is a rather average and forgettable comic that never manages to live up to its name.

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