Best Shots Advance Reviews: BATMAN, FRANKENSTEIN, More

 

Batman #9

Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV

Art by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, FCO Plascencia, Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig

Lettering by Richard Starkings, Jimmy B and Patrick Brosseau

Published by DC Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

If this issue had to be summed up in one word, it would be "heavy."

I'm not saying that's a bad thing here, since Scott Snyder is no stranger to a heavy narrative, but added to Greg Capullo's page layouts, Batman #9 has a lot going on and a lot to take in. When we left off, Batman was left defending his home with an iron Batsuit that gave him the advantage of surviving the assault of the Court of Owls, but even they are slowly finding a way to break him out of it. Of course, Batman being who he is, he has a plan from the get-go, but the fight is far from over, and the night has just begun.

Snyder's usual flair for backstories and historical facts is right up front in this issue, as he adds a bit more history of the owls and bats of Wayne Manor, mirroring perfectly with the fight escalating with Batman taking on numerous Talons. The Court just taunts him and gets pretty close to ending it, but when you're threatening Batman on his turf, you really don't know what you're in for. As I mentioned earlier, it feels like a lot to get through, but the pacing is top-notch and goes by pretty easily. Capullo's art carries a lot of energy here, and FCO's colors really stand out. Near the end, things finally wind down, and while it still has clever panel constructions, it's just odd to see things quiet and still, as the past four issues have been just nonstop. Here, we can finally take a breath and take in the fact that it's just a calm before the storm.

Scott Snyder has been one of those writers that almost anything he's touched in the past two years has just been solid gold. Nine issues in, he's put together a dynamite Batman arc that will hold up for a long, long time. The fact that Batman didn't start with a more famous Bat-villain is all the more reason for praise here. Snyder has given up tidbits of Gotham City history, along with some expansions of Bruce's life. Greg Capullo, who may have made people give quizzical looks, has more than won me over and his gritty Gotham is for all intensive purposes, the best-looking Bat-book out there.

We're also treated to a little more backstory in this issue, this one pertaining to Alfred Pennyworth. Alfred's history has been touched on before here and there. We knew he was a medic in the war, we knew he's been serving the Wayne family for most his life, but here his father Jarvis has a secret. What that is, we don't know yet, but it's obviously related to the Court. Rafael Albuquerque's art is as sharp as ever here, with Dave McCaig's usual palette of reds and golds taking on a more smoky appearance, adding a certain level of mystique and nostalgia. While Batman #9 doesn't pack the punch of the previous issue, you can still feel the tension rise as Batman and company are in for the fight of their lives.

 

Frankenstein Alive, Alive! #1

Written by Steve Niles

Art by Bernie Wrightson

Published by IDW Publishing

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Growing up, I read a lot more fantasy than horror, but for some reason, I was drawn to two big names of the genre: Frankenstein and Dracula. I wouldn't call myself a horror buff of any sort, but as for being a fan of both Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson? I'll take that claim proudly.

What we have here is essentially a love letter to the character of Frankenstein's Monster, and who better to craft such a work these days than Niles and Wrightson, two contemporary masters of the macabre?

Wrightson's imagery and visuals for the Monster are pretty recognizable, as this is hardly his first foray into telling this story. The two together have created quite a comic that will guarantee a grin from horror enthusiasts. What starts off as something of an interesting take on the character and a nod to how famous Boris Karloff's version is, we are shown a re-telling of sorts of the Monster's origins and final days. Niles' narration can be a bit cumbersome at times, but with Wrightson's art, the pages never seem claustrophobic. The tale is something most people know, but here, Niles gives the Monster an almost poetic voice. He's calm, collected and understands his role in this age he is now upon.

I think the last time I picked up a comic with Bernie Wrightson's name on it was a couple of years ago with his unpublished Batman story. To have something out on the market again with his name on it makes me all sorts of satisfied. His art in Frankenstein Alive, Alive is the stuff of legend. His usual style of dark tonal pencils and ink are just masterful here. The detail and intricacy of old Edwardian homes and majestic landscape is something to behold and rarely seen in comics these days. Even the style of how he does his feathering during inking is undeniably his own. Though it's black and white, I couldn't imagine a better way of showing this book.

This is obviously a labor of love for the two creators. I'm interested to see where they can take or possibly evolve the Monster's mythos and legend from here as it could go anywhere knowing the minds at work.

 

Higher Earth #1

Written by Sam Humphries

Art by Francesco Biagini and Andrew Crossley

Lettering by Ed Dukeshire

Published by BOOM! Studios

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Fiction, at its core, is all about escape. And while superpowers have long been a staple of comic book escapism, lately we've been seeing a new trend: a whole new world.

Or in the case of Sam Humphries, a Higher Earth.

While Humphries is currently making a big name for himself with Marvel's Ultimate books, Higher Earth feels more like his vintage sci-fi style. It's interesting to compare and contrast with Image's Infinite Vacation, which used parallel universes as a backdrop for a mystery/thriller — Higher Earth feels a bit more like a superhero action romp, with a sword-swinging tough guy teaming up with a junkyard scrapper who has long had to survive on her own.

There are definitely pros and cons to Humphries' writing, which are both on full display in Higher Earth. One thing that's unmistakably Humphries style is how assured he is with the central concept — parallel universes exist in this book, and he doesn't spend too much time belaboring that point. It's the hinge of the comic, but he's not self-conscious about it. Unfortunately, the build-up is then directed towards the action, which leads to a fairly slow start. Right now there is a spark of humanity in these characters — particularly Heidi, a teenage girl who seems to have a deeper past than she lets on — but it hasn't been fanned enough to make us really care. The stakes aren't compelling enough to hook us. Yet.

While the story itself is a bit embryonic, the art makes the spectacle stand out. Colorist Andrew Crossley is a real find, giving this series a hot visual signature not unlike Dean White over on Uncanny X-Force — from the first page, as you see our as-yet-unnamed hero fall from the sky, the page explodes in psychedelic pinks, violets and greens. It adds a lot to artist Francesco Biagini's style, as he cuts across panels with a real sense of daring, as his characters have a cartoony sharpness that gives them speed and strength.

In certain ways, Higher Earth feels like Sam Humphries riffing on Cable meets Quantum Leap, with it's action thus far trumping the implications of illegal dimensional immigration. Like Our Love is Real before it, there's a germ of high concept that I hope dominates this series, giving it a strong voice and direction. This book definitely has the looks to be memorable, and now that the chase is on, I'll be curious to see how Sam Humphries builds up a universe on the run.

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