Best Shots Extra: AVX: VS #1, AQUAMAN #8, UNCANNY X-MEN #11


AVX: VS #1

Written by Jason Aaron and Kathryn Immonen

Art by Adam Kubert, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Morry Hollowell and Jim Charalampidis

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Click here for preview

Chances are, if you buy one superhero comic this week, it's going to be AVX: VS #1. Is it what you expected?

Well, if you expected crazy fight sequences by some of Marvel's top talents, then the answer is "hell yes."

Unencumbered by exposition, plot movement or character development, AVX: VS is action-figure combat at its most indulgent. And chances are, if you bought this book willingly, that's not a bad thing — I remember this book being described as similar to the fighting game series back at C2E2, and that's pretty darn accurate here. It's disposable, and the impact won't even extend past these 20 pages.

But you're getting what you paid for.

Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert are the opening round, pitting the Invincible Iron Man against the master of magnetism himself, Magneto. Aaron delivers some snappy one-liners, but ultimately this is the kind of combat that you'd think about as kids — Iron Man pulls out tricks ranging from carbon armor to hitting Magneto with the force of Jupiter, while Magneto uses some larger-than-life weapons to knock Ol' Shellhead into the stratosphere. Kubert is the real draw here, as he makes each character look imposing and rapid-fire with their strikes. In a lot of ways, Kubert reminds me a little of Steve McNiven in this issue, with some surprisingly clean linework to his characters — at least until the debris starts flying.

Kathryn Immonen's take on Namor versus the Thing is another fun diversion, illustrated by her husband Stuart. The fact that Immonen keeps up with Aaron's snappy dialogue (particularly the fight announcer-style captions comparing the two warriors' strengths) is really impressive, to the point where it was difficult to notice that there were multiple writers on board. Stuart Immonen, meanwhile, delivers some fun choreography here, including the Thing riding a surfboard of debris and Namor being pinned by two giant monster teeth. While Immonen doesn't have the epic scale that Kubert provides, he makes up for it with some nice expressiveness for his characters — both Namor and the Thing are short on patience, and the annoyed looks on their faces are some of the funnier moments of the book.

Logistically speaking, you couldn't fit all of these fights into the main storyline, which is ultimately too bad — while tonally this spin-off doesn't match their heavier, more somber lead title, I think I prefer the character interaction more. You can see Iron Man reminiscing about stories with Mike Tyson, and you can see the Thing snarking about Namor's constant infatuation with Sue Storm. Like Mark Waid and Greg Rucka's "The Omega Effect" saga going on in , and , these mash-ups feel natural, and wouldn't be replicated with any other combination of characters. It's snacking entertainment, but that's what you need when you've got ringside seats.


Aquaman #8

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis

Lettering by Nick J. Napolitano

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Don't think the Justice League was Aquaman's first test of teamwork. By introducing "the Others," Geoff Johns has created an interesting backstory for one of DC's most underrated superheroes, even if the end result tantalizes more than it follows through.

Then again, the decompression you feel with Geoff Johns's writing here might be because he's juggling a lot of balls in the air: he introduces us to Arthur and the big trauma of his life, he shows the dynamic between Arthur and his wife Mera, and spins some exposition revolving around Aquaman's first super-team. It's a lot to juggle, but Johns makes it matters where it counts — you feel for Arthur, when his celebrity keeps him from humanity in ways both literal and metaphoric, and the Others... well, to be honest, I kind of wish Johns wrote this way, because their tactics and characterization seem much more concrete than DC's current flagship title.

But then again, not every book has Ivan Reis on board. Reis is the real deal, with expressive characters, dynamic composition and clean linework to draw in even the most green comic book reader. His designs are, for the most part, solid with this new team — I think the savage girl Ya'wara and the masked enigma Vostok are the most memorable of the bunch, particularly Vostok's demonic-looking mask. There's also a nice subtlety in difference between young Arthur and the Aquaman of the present day — today's Arthur looks more mellow yet more defined in his features, while his past self looks angrier, more driven, even if he has just a hint more of a baby-face.

The only thing that holds this book back at this point is, well, the pacing. We're two chapters in, and we barely know who or what this team is — it would have packed a lot more punch to get one more of the Others brought to the present-day, instead of having yet another splash page of Black Manta, as if to remind us who he is. But with some high production values as well as the lure of a deeper universe behind the nascent New 52, I'm willing to keep pushing to see where Aquaman takes us.


Uncanny X-Men #11

Written by Kieron Gillen

Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Guru eFx

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Click here for preview

Has Kieron Gillen been holding this in, all this time?

More importantly: ?

It's taken months to get there, but suddenly — unexpectedly — the Uncanny X-Men have become the world-beaters that Gillen and company had originally envisioned. Scott Summers and his Extinction Team are facing exactly that — extinction — and Gillen more-or-less single-handedly gives the Children of the Atom the one thing they've lacked throughout this crossover: a defendable rationale.

Let me back up for a second. It's been pretty clear from the get-go who Marvel is backing on their latest epic, (because honestly, likening one team to Branch-Davidians is not a good way to give the X-Men the moral high ground). It's been one of the more disappointing aspects of this crossover, reminding readers of Iron Man's near-complete character assassination as Agent of "The Man" back in . It's stacking the deck and, even worse, telegraphing the ending — is there going to be any lasting fallout for a franchise that has a movie coming out next week?

But Gillen, however, bucks this anti-mutant trend, not by putting us into Cyclops's head — although he does — but by putting us in the shoes of his soldiers on the ground. It's hard to justify harboring a potentially world-ending force of cosmic destruction, but listening to Namor explain his affinity for mutantkind? "There are those who would stand with the many against the few... but Namor would never be amongst them." Now that I can relate to. Colossus, meanwhile, absolutely steals the show, as we get an unsettling look into his head as the new Juggernaut. Seeing Peter take on the Red Hulk — and his own destructive bloodlust — is the most badass fight sequence I've read in quite some time. "I smile as his blood tints the seas," Colossus says to himself. "I always wanted to work in watercolors." Chilling.

While I'm still not a huge fan of Greg Land's stock-expression, stock-pose style, I will say that this sort of story is right up his alley. His work on Colossus and the Hulk — two brawlers so powerful that they cannot be restrained within possible human anatomy — is the visual highlight of the book, with Colossus's transformation looking just organic enough to be truly terrifying. That said, Land's ordinary characters could still use some work — the mutant messiah, Hope, looks more like the Megan Fox School of Teenagerhood, and his Cyclops looks a little too lumpy to really take him seriously. Thankfully, Land makes his fights look good, and the script moves fast enough that you don't have to linger on the artistic potholes.

It's rare for me to give such a high ranking to a book, and even rarer to do it purely on the strength of the writing. But the action is so anchored by sheer characterization, that I've found myself rereading this issue again and again. If only all tie-ins could be this good. 

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