Ready for the quick-draw, 'Rama readers? Best Shots is ready for action, with our weekly helping of Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with a blast from the past, as we take a look at Before Watchmen: Ozymandias...


Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): This is the best Before Watchmen comic that doesn't have Darwyn Cooke's name on it, bar none. Len Wein writes one cold customer with Adrian Veidt, a child prodigy who goes on to struggle and thrive around the world, but the real star of the show is artist Jae Lee. Lee drenches every page in mood, aided by some eye-popping colors by June Chung. Every page in this book exudes mystery, power, menace — out of all of the Watchmen characters, Adrian definitely has the most fire to him right now. The book's only flaw, however, is a doozy: With all his strengths, Adrian's motivation to become a superhero feels forced. Thankfully, that reveal comes so late that the impact is minimized from an otherwise pitch-perfect read.


Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Miles Morales is not Peter Parker — but his similarities to the original Spider-Man are part of what make him so interesting. Brian Michael Bendis continues to take smart, unexpected spins on the old Peter-Uncle Ben dynamic with Miles and his supercrook uncle Aaron, giving this series a real shot in the arm. Miles attempts some fairly realistic steps when he realizes he's in over his head, and Bendis gives him the trauma he needs to become a true hero. David Marquez, meanwhile, draws clean, gorgeous choreography, and his expressiveness is just immaculate. That said, while I loved the twist, I couldn't help but think: why did it take 12 issues to get here? That slow pace is the one blemish on an otherwise rock-solid comic.


Edison Rex #1 (Published by MonkeyBrain Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): This all-ages superhero comic is about a criminal genius who turns over a new leaf and becomes a superhero. The dynamic between the hero and villain smacks heavily of the adversarial relationship between Superman and Lex Luthor, but Chris Roberson flips the story on its head by having the villain outsmart the hero in a fantastically clever and original way. The story in this first issue is action-packed, exciting, smart, and has a strong sense of adventure. Dennis Culver utilizes a bold and chunky cartooning style that is complemented by bright and vibrant primary colors that make the characters jump out of the page. Edison Rex is all-ages superhero comics done the way they are meant to be: fun and exciting.


Masters of the Universe #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): As a child of the '80s, there are few properties that took up as much time (and my parent's wallets) as Masters of the Universe. The first issue is the retelling of Adam's origin story and it doesn't just have a rocky start; it's downright atrocious. James Robinson's narration for Adam is appalling beyond words and comes across as as juvenile and not something a seasoned professional like Robinson and his accolades and vocabulary would be capable of, but yet, there it is on the page. I understand Beastman isn't the smartest villain in Eternia, but when you make Adam sound just as monosyllabic, it's not a good sign of things to come. I will give props to the art team here (all five members) as they carry the book and modernizes these almost 30-year-old characters, but even then, it's mediocre in the panel layouts and presentation. This book belongs in Snake Mountain's dungeon.


Spawn #221 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Jim Downing, the newest Spawn, may think he has things under control, but the Devil is in the details as both his mystical suit and earthly partners work against him in a different and intriguing Spawn. Though I knew very little backstory, this plot was easy to jump into, with writer Todd McFarlane providing information in the dialogue that assisted a new reader and drives the story. The idea of a man trying to pick up his life while everyone tries to harm him is a solid idea, and Szymon Kudranski's moody, shady art sets a tone that fits the comic well, obscuring as much as he shows while switching between abstract nightmare and fine, detailed lines. Spawn is a pleasant surprise that is worth checking out.


October Girl (Published by MonkeyBrain Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Matthew Dow Smith’s The October Girl is frustratingly short and surprisingly exposition-heavy in the first half. I have no doubt that Autumn’s problems and thoughts and feelings are important to the book. But five pages of her laying in bed thinking about them isn’t exactly exciting comics. Smith’s art is solid. Black and white with blue highlights, it has that slightly off-kilter look that makes Jeff Lemire’s art so endearing. As we get to the last page, this series’ hook reveals itself, the book ends and we’re left wanting just a little bit more. This series is straddling a line of expectation, with one foot planted firmly in “this is okay right now!” and the other foot dipping its toes into “this could be great somewhere down the line!”


Creator-Owned Heroes #2 (Published by Image; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): It's difficult to catch lightning in a bottle twice in a row, but the guys over on this book know all the right moves. I love how we dive right into the action in Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Phil Noto's Trigger Girl 6 and expand more of the story and build up the mystery of who this sleek assassin is. Noto's art is exquisite and has a vibrant color pallet that really sells it. American Muscle by Steve Niles, Kevin Mellon, and Bill Tortolini amps up the creepy factor with this apocalyptic tale. Niles knows how to make a thriller thrill, and Mellon's knack for grittiness is in full swing. Add in a stellar interview with Paul Pope, and this book is a can't-miss.


Aesop’s Ark #1 (Published by MonkeyBrain Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Part Noah’s Ark, part Aesop’s Fables, this charming all-ages tale features anthropomorphic animals aboard the Ark, weathering the storm by sharing anecdotal stories. Ringing in at a mere eight pages, J. Torres delivers a great script that lays out the premise, tells a self-contained story, and delivers a one-page fable with an important message. Jennifer Meyer’s artwork here is breathtaking — she illustrates the Ark scenes with smooth and flowing pencils that aren’t inked and are printed in sepia tones. For the one-page fable she brings the page to life with highly detailed watercolor painting that is a joy to behold. If I had kids Aesop’s Ark would be the comic that I would give them, it feels like a classic children's fairy tale.


Michael Turner's Fathom: Kiani Vol. 2 #3 (Published by Aspen MLT, Review by Rob McMonigal, 'Rama Rating 6 out of 10): Heavy weighs the burden of the crown, as both Kiani, leader of the rebels, and Siphon, head of the Elite, strive futilely to stave off a wave of bloodshed in this typical but well-illustrated fantasy series. While I have read similar stories of rebellion, writer Vince Hernandez does a good job creating characters that a reader wants to see succeed and, at least in this issue, makes both sides look sympathetic. The appeal for me on this one is the visuals. Oliver Nome's pencils match Turner's very well, with smooth and slick lines that draw the reader's eye to the actors on the page while providing extremely detailed backgrounds. Fans of high fantasy should enjoy this struggle for power and understanding in the Fathom universe.

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