Best Shots Advance Reviews: NIGHTWING, SAGA, HARDCORE

'Rama Readers! This is your Captain For The Day, Lan Pitts, here. The Best Shots team takes a look at some of tomorrow's releases today! We have our Flux Capacitors strapped on and bringing you the future one book at a time. So let's hit warp speed and start right into David's look at DC's Nightwing...


Nightwing #9

Written by Kyle Higgins

Art by Eddie Barrows, Andres Guinaldo, Eber Ferriera, Ruy Jose, Mark Irwin, Rod Reis and Peter Pantazis

Lettering by Carlos M. Mangual

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

While the comic might say Nightwing on the cover, it's really the Court of Owls that steal the show, as Kyle Higgins, Eddy Barrows and Andres Guinaldo tell the secret history of the immortal assassin known as the Talon. Comparing this comic to the rock-'em, sock-'em action juggernaut that is might be futile, but those looking to see Dick Grayson cut loose will not be disappointed.

Considering the Talon threw Bruce Wayne for a loop in several bloody issues of the main title, what sets Nightwing apart the most is the history behind it. Similar to his turn on , Kyle Higgins spends a good portion of this comic examining the life of William Cobb, the assassin known as the Talon... and the great-grandfather of one Richard Grayson. I'll be honest, this was the part of the comic that didn't quite sell me — William's problems don't seem quite high enough in terms of stakes, and it makes his inclusion into the Court seem like a random, not to mention hugely disproportionate, response.

But even as Williams' backstory chews up precious pages, Higgins knows how to choreograph a fight. The Talon may not seem quite as vicious as he was against Batman — again, Bruce was in a lot rougher shape when he went toe-to-toe with the Court — but now that it's been established that he can regenerate, the threat level against Nightwing is a bit higher. The aerial combat feels like a page out of the Chuck Dixon playbook (always a good thing to me), and Higgins even gets to break out his knowledge of city infrastructure for a finishing blow. While there is an occasional anachronism in terms of speech patterns — "OK," "knockoff," and "gadgets" seems a little hip for an assassin who has to be pushing at least 100 — there's just enough panache with these punches to make it worth your while.

A lot of that also comes from Eddy Barrows and Andres Guinaldo. Guinaldo continues to be a big team player like he was in last week's issue of , working seamlessly with Eddy Barrows so that stylistically this book doesn't miss a beat. While I still don't feel that Barrows brings the sort of hyperkinetic style that would really suit the acrobatic Nightwing, I'd be remiss if I didn't say he wasn't making some tremendous strides lately. Similar to Mike McKone before him, Barrows has been making his work a lot more dynamic by experimenting with page layouts — when we see Nightwing get ready for combat, the panels seem to form the rounded head of an owl, which then suddenly explodes into a two-page spread of the combatants flying out of a window. It's pretty impressive stuff.

While the Talon might have a point about Nightwing remaining in the shadow of , the ultimate aim of the Night of the Owls crossover is bringing slightly different angles to the same successful formula: Bat-family versus immortal badasses. Fight. Rinse. Repeat. Nightwing #9 provides more backstory than emotional fallout — although I don't doubt Dick will be wrestling with his newfound heritage soon enough — but this done-in-one fight book will still thrill fans of Dick Grayson, rough edges and all.


Saga #3

Written by Brian K. Vaughan

Art by Fiona Staples

Lettering by Fonografiks

Published by Image Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Three issues in, and Saga continues its trend of being a perfect blend of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. It has maintained the quality of the last two issues with Brian K. Vaughan spearheading even more world-building and monster-making. With Marko injured, Alan makes a deal with one of the ghosts of the planet and learns something quite interesting about Marko that makes me still love the idea that anything can truly happen here.

Vaughan has some of the best dialog so far in this issue. Since the story still spans other worlds, the interactions between the more minor players builds, and we get an idea on how vast the story truly goes. Prince Robot IV is becoming one of my favorite villains here. Not just because he's just unique-looking by comparison to most comic book villains, but his demeanor is just a combination of menacing and wacky. Also the premise of how some planets' evolutionary process of some species is just so imaginative, you can't help but silently applaud. The introduction to Izabel, the girl ghost, is a nice touch. Adding a bit of whimsy, and fun to an otherwise serious tone. The threesome of Alana, Marko, and baby Hazel become a foursome as they try to get ingredients to heal Marko. It's during this that a possible revelation about Marko is uncovered and leaves with you an "oh, crap" moment.

Fiona Staples' art is a bit quieter here, but the panels still have a solid flow to them. The way she handles simple interactions like Alana and Izabel talking about kids, to the more complex, like Robot beating the holy hell out of a prisoner. It's all done with a certain level of gravitas so you can't keep your eyes off the page. The more I think about it, the more I applaud her choice in the pallet used here. It's muted at times, but really complements the book as a whole. You still get the richness of the world around the characters, but it's not too distracting and overpowering. Her grasp on facial expressions is top notch which gives these characters actual, you know, character. Perfect example of this is how Izabel is handled.

Saga is one of the books that has supercharged the comic market. In so little time, it's become one of my favorite books of the year, and the only limit is Vaughan's creativity. By the rare chance you aren't reading this, you are missing out on what is simply a must-read.


Hardcore #1

Written by Robert Kirkman

Art by Brian Stelfreeze

Lettering by Troy Peteri

Published by Top Cow Productions

Review by Pierce Lydon

'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

At long last, Hardcore #1 finds its way onto the spinner racks. A product of the 2009 “All Robert Kirkman” incarnation of Top Cow’s “Pilot Season” initiative, Hardcore was the only entry that didn’t see print. Three years later, we get to see what could have been and in the pantheon of things once lost but now recovered, this one is a bit more “Carnival of Light” than it is the original “SMiLE” sessions.

Kirkman is going for a big concept right from the beginning. That is kind of the point of these “Pilot Season” books after all. Creators need to entice readers enough that they’ll not only want to read more but actually vote for which books get the green light. So we have a secret government organization running a covert op that involves involuntarily taking over the bodies of people with access to the world’s most wanted criminals in order to kill them. The only catch is that the controller cannot use the host body for more than 72 hours or else both will become brain damaged beyond repair. The story has shades of and . But Kirkman paints everything in broad strokes, like some of Mark Millar’s more recent “Readymade for Hollywood” comic book work, and in doing so he never utilizes his greatest strength: adept characterization. When we get to the series’ hook in the final pages, the plot already seems predictable and the characters fail to be compelling enough garner any kind of emotional response.

Brian Stelfreeze’s art doesn’t do Kirkman any favors. Despite turning in a couple of dynamic action sequences, the artist is falters when it comes to exposition laden, talking head scenes. This might be because of his rather distracting character design decisions. For some reason, just about every male character is afflicted with some skin disease that manifests itself as dark lines that cut across seemingly at random. I understand using additional lines on the face to give the illusion of texture, shading or facial muscle movement but the only effect that Stelfreeze achieves here is one that results in most of the characters appearing as elderly robots. Not only does this have the potential to take you out of the story, it just adds to the list of things that you don’t know about the characters, which in this case is their ages. That's a small detail, but it’s frustrating to not even know such a basic part of the story in the early goings.

With Kirkman’s popularity growing every day, it only makes sense that Top Cow would want to put out this unreleased issue. Hordes of Kirkmaniacs (and “Pilot Season” completists, I guess) will probably buy it. Mission accomplished. But as a standalone piece of work, this one was probably better left on the shelf.

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