Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for some Rapid Reviews? Best Shots is already way ahead of you, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off with Scott Cederlund, as he takes a look at the newly retitled Dark Avengers...
Dark Avengers #175 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Scott Cederlund; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10; Click here for preview): There’s some nice symmetry to Dark Avengers, when you stop and think about it. The original Thunderbolts first appeared when the Avengers were trapped in an alternate dimension, just as these new Dark Avengers make their debut while the Thunderbolts are lost in time. It’s another “twist” of the Thunderbolts concept as Jeff Parker and Declan Shalvey saddle Luke Cage with a new team of lunatics, clones and criminals that begins with the obligatory fight.
Shalvey draws the fight between knock-offs of Spider-Man, Thor and Hawkeye and the real Luke Cage but there’s this looming sense of been there/done that in this issue. After an early great line for Luke Cage — “Did I just see Troll riding a dragon?” — as he and Hank Pym try to find the lost-in-time Thunderbolts, the introduction and fight with the new Dark Avengers falls back into Superhero Comics 101 and images of heroes (or hero imitators) fighting heroes.
Parker and Shalvey don’t do anything to give us a reason to pay any attention to this fight. The introduction of the Dark Avengers vaguely refers back to some previous battle that we’re supposed to know about that supposedly gives this battle some pathos. Instead, it’s just an excuse to watch Thor pound on Luke Cage even if it isn’t the real Thor but it is the real Luke Cage. Dark Avengers #174 introduces a new twist on an old team but the concept already feels worn by the end of the issue.
Worlds' Finest #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Spinning out of Earth 2, Worlds' Finest #2 continues the introduction of Power Girl and Huntress as they come to terms with their new setting. While the Huntress is content with making a life of her new home, Power Girl still believes they can find a way back and focuses all her attention on doing so. Even if it means taking a few licks from a radiation-fueled baddie called Hakkou.
Paul Levitz brings new readers up to speed quickly. There are, however, a few bumps in the road. The book jumps around quite a bit, from present to past to times in between. These jumps are a little jarring as written and tend to slow down the overall pacing of the book. And while Levitz has a good handle on Power Girl's rough demeanor, he seems to have lost his voice with the Huntress. In her miniseries, his Huntress was pitch-perfect. In Worlds' Finest, she reads a bit off. Almost hesitant.
On art, George Perez continues to show why he's a legend in the industry. His lines are as definitive and crisp as ever. And, as we've come to expect, the man lives for drawing in details. No amount of background goes to waste. Stylistically, Perez has toned back the physical presence of his heroes. Although I don't really need a muscle-bound Power Girl, he does draw her on the small side, something that creates a slight visual disconnect when she cuts loose.
While lacking the emotional punch of Issue #1, Worlds' Finest #2 is still a solid read. One that hearkens back to the DC of old, which ironically, feels fresh in the New 52.
Creator Owned Heroes #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Creator Owned Heroes is a new anthology series that debuts new creator-owned comics from some of the industry’s top talent. The plan is for the series to have a revolving list of writers and artists coming on board to tell new stories, before handing over to other creators.
This premiere issue begins with the the first installment of American Muscle by Steve Niles and Kevin Mellon. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and features a group of teens who have escaped from the last human stronghold, and are cruising across America in muscle cars, trying to find paradise. With influences from movies like Mad Max and Death Race 2000, this intriguing opener introduces us to a cast of highly likeable and realistic characters, and teases the horrors lying in wait in the desert. Mellon brings the whole thing to life with some fantastically gritty cartooning, and a thrilling car chase scene.
Next up is the first installment of Triggergirl 6, by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Phil Noto. This series tells the tale of the sixth in a series of genetically modified assassins, born in a secret laboratory, and programmed to kill. In this thrilling opener, we accompany the enigmatic protagonist as she makes a hit on a U.S. senator, boarding his private jet while in flight. The action is intense and gripping, and Noto makes it all look fantastic, with his incredibly clean and minimalist linework.
Creator Owned Heroes #1 is a stunning debut, packed with thrilling stories, gorgeous artwork, and interesting text pieces. Not only that, but it only costs $3.99, which is really quite the bargain.
Popeye #2 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Taking a very old property and bringing it to a modern audience is a tricky thing. Sometimes, the formulas that worked in 1952 aren’t nearly so good in 2012. That’s the case here, as Roger Langridge’s second issue of Popeye is not nearly as good as the first.
The main story features Popeye in a love triangle with a slick actor who woos Olive Oil with his high culture for an evil scheme. Popeye complains about how fickle women are through the whole thing, making remarks that just don’t belong in a modern book while Olive looks mean and gullible. Ken Wheaton handles the art, with his Popeye looking more like the cartoons than the comics. His panels and larger and far less detailed, but it’s still a recognizable style that captures the feel of the characters.
The second story also harkens to a trope best left behind. This time it’s the badgering wife and her poor husband, who just wants to rest. The pair, Sappo and Myrtle, have Professor O.G. Wotasnozzle for a boarder, and soon, he’s devising ways for the couple to either keep away or get at each other. Tom Neely shines at making innovating inventions and merging Popeye’s visual style with just a hint of Robert Crumb, which was pretty cool to see in action. Overall, however, Langridge is just a bit too faithful to the source this time. Hopefully next issue will return to form.
Avengers Academy #31 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10; Click here for preview): I get the feeling this whole AvX thing doesn't make a lot of sense to writer Christos Gage. Or at the very least, he's using the kids in Avengers Academy to act as the voice of reason. This issue opens with the re-powered Sebastian Shaw ready to cut loose. But, as this title has shown time and time again, all is not what it seems. What follows is an interesting take on the question of personal freedom versus security.
Avengers Academy #31 does more to logically and rationally explain the two sides in the AvX argument than all the other titles in the event. And while some might argue that Gage's take is naively simplistic, you need to remember what he's writing. His book is all about teenagers and young adults coming to terms with their powers and their place in the world. As such, Gage perfectly captures the tone of youth not yet weighed down by age. Maybe the characters solution isn't the right one for the situation, but it's the right one for them and in this book that's what matters.
Penciler Tom Grummett, inker Corey Hamscher, and colorist Chris Sotomayor are a great art team. In one moment they draw characters that look as fierce as any member of the Avengers or the X-Men. Yet, when the story requires, they help to remind the reader that we're still looking at children. You can see it in their eyes and expressions. There is very little pretext in them, what you see is what you get. And while the art in Avengers Academy lacks the hard edge we've come to expect in modern superhero books, it's a style I've come to appreciate in the title.
Issue #31 is just another example of why Avengers Academy is one of Marvel's best books. Fact.
Earth 2 #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out 10): Is anyone still really all that shocked when a company “outs” one of their characters as gay? Perhaps the more impressive story should come from a comic that, not only features a LBGT character, but treats them like normal characters and not publicity stunts?
The problem is, readers of Earth 2 don’t know much about Alan Scott besides the fact that he is gay, and after two issues that feels a bit hollow. However, that doesn’t reflect the rest of the issue, which features some nice Easter eggs for long time JSA fans and an interesting turn for Mr. Terrific and Jay Garrick. It’s interesting to see a character like Jay Garrick, who has spent so much time as an elder statesman, now as a young man. It’s safe to say that, out of the New 52, this title got a complete overhaul.
Nicola Scotts’s pencils toe a nice line for Earth 2 that finds its way somewhere between a classic, no frills style, a la early super hero comics, while still feeling futuristic with the advancement of society and the spiffy new costumes. Scott doesn’t muddy the panels with unnessicary lines but is still able to craft full, vivid panels. If the reader can ignore some of the overheated politics surrounding Alan Scott, they might just find their new favorite comic in Earth 2 #2.
Trio #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Never live in a coastal city in a comic book, unless you enjoy watching sea monsters destroy your home. John Byrne’s newest heroes must try to stop a powerful aquatic villain and his leviathan in this second issue of Trio that is visually brilliant but still feels a bit too much like a rejectedFantastic Four story for my comfort.
Byrne does not shy away from writing the type of comic he is best known for, even if that style is out of fashion. There are plenty of narrative boxes describing the action or feelings, written in prose that evokes Chris Claremont. Characters speak in a mixture of classic dialogue and modern catchphrases. The spotlight is on the heroism of our trio who are willing to risk everything to save the city. In a nice touch, this feeling is placed in stark relief with an ambitious reporter who sacrifices her cameraman just to get the story.
The depiction of destruction and the battle itself show that Byrne hasn’t lost a step at all. The sea monster is impossibly big, but scales perfectly to the characters around it. He does an amazing job of showing the way each person’s powers work, such as having Paper float. We can gasp as the powerful Rock is dangled in the air by the stand-in for Namor. This is simply a beautiful comic, which makes up for some flaws in other areas, and continues to be a fun read.