Greetings, 'Rama readers! Best Shots is coming at you fast and furious this weekend, with tons of Rapid-Fire Reviews for your reading enjoyment! So let's kick off today's column with everyone's favorite friendly neighborhood wallcrawler, as George Marston takes a look at the latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man...
Amazing Spider-Man #690 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating 8 out of 10): Jeez, this is getting dark. For the last few issues of Amazing Spider-Man, Dan Slott has been telling probably the creepiest Lizard story ever by reversing a few paradigms and trapping the Lizard's animalistic conscience in Connors's human form. Trying to find a way to become the Lizard again, Connors has begun experimenting on other humans. Fortunately, Slott's shied away from getting too bleak, but with a multitude of lizard men now on the loose, it's not looking good for our hero. Giuseppe Camuncoli's art is the perfect fit, blending his exaggerated forms with just enough darkness to set the perfect mood. There aren't a whole lot of ways for this story to go, but I'm having a hell of a time enjoying the ride.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #11 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): I've been keeping up with this series mainly in hopes of more Larfleeze and Glomulus, and this issue delivers on that front. As Tony Bedard's spectrum of lanterns continues to seek vengeance for their stolen rings, we see them struggle with the inherent conflicts among them. The mythos of how each of these corps works and can be taken down keeps the story interesting, but the pacing gets a bit muddled as we flash between scenes.Tyler Kirkham's rendering of the lantern constructs really shines, specifically in the expressions of Glommy as the story progresses. This is a satisfying segment of the story-line with some big happenings, but new readers or Orange Lantern fans will want to read back a few issues to understand it.
Wolverine and the X-Men #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): This is definitely a stand-out issue in the current batch of Avengers vs. X-Men books. However, that isn’t saying very much. Although it’s great to see how the other characters of the Phoenix Five are handling the power, it seems like a lost opportunity in this issue. Instead of focusing on the internal drama of having two cosmic power in one Piotr Rasputin, it leans more towards the madcap once again. Although there are a few weird faces in the story, Jorge Molina covers every page with tons of pencil mileage. It lends to a richer experience even if the eye hangs on awkward lips or eye acting.
Flash #11 (Published by DC Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating 9 out of 10): I don't know what happened this month, but Brian Buccellatto and Frances Manapul have finally found their footing as storytellers. I learned more about what happened in the previous ten issues from the recap in Flash #11 than I did from actually reading those books. The pair have really ironed out their problems with pacing and build up, giving us an issue that has me excited to see what happens next. Of all the New 52 issues I've read, this issue of Flash felt more like what I expect from a DC Comic than almost any other. Marcus To isn’t as innovative as Manapul, but his art is clean and engaging, and miles ahead of most of the DC stable. More of this, please.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #12 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It’s a battle lifetimes in the making, as Shredder and Splinter face off to finish their reincarnation-fueled vendetta in this satisfying finale to the third arc of this series. Writers Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz set a vigorous pace in story and dialogue, with everyone from the Turtles to their human allies fighting to save Splinter, keeping Dan Duncan extremely busy. The artist rises to the task, using his anime-like style to portray the various conflicts in exciting and dynamic ways. Duncan does a great job getting the most impact out of each panel with character positions and slips in the flashbacks seamlessly. Balancing plot resolution with conflict resolution, TMNT #12 is everything you want as a Turtles fan.
Secret Avengers # 29 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Rick Remender sure knows how to push the right buttons for me. First he takes us to a city populated by evil robots, and now, he's taken us to an underground casino filled with hundreds of super-villains. Any comic that aims to bring back the Masters of Evil is all right with me, and the fact that this one features the kind of team dynamic I've been waiting for is icing on the cake. Hawkeye is finally leading the team the way he ought to, and the tension between Venom and Ant-Man is great. Matteo Scalera's artwork has a lot of personality, but his storytelling leaves something to be desired. Matt Wilson's colors set the perfect mood. Secret Avengers is the best of the franchise.
Star Wars – Darth Maul: Death Sentence (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Darth Maul finally receives his proper due in Star Wars – Darth Maul: Death Sentence. For too long, Maul was simply a bogeyman figure for fans to wonder and speculate upon. Writer Tom Taylor lets the now cybernetic Sith Lord cut loose in a glorious display of rage and hate. The art by Bruno Redondo is very expressive and is a strong fit within the Star Wars universe. Known characters appear as readers expect, but without relying on heavy photo referencing. The more I think about it, the more I enjoy this book. The creators have found the balance often lacking in most Star Wars products. They've managed to create a comic that reads as a dangerous tale of revenge, while maintaining an all-ages appropriate tone.
Justice League Dark #11 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Set at the House of Mystery and centered around acquiring the Books of Magic, with a veritable Who's Who of mystical characters — this issue feels like that rare crowded event where you actually talk with everyone you intended. Jeff Lemire takes a series that felt scattered in focus, and brings together a team that is as dysfunctional as any other, but with a deliciously darker tone while incorporating the Vertigo properties in a way that does not require extensive background knowledge. This is already a book with a huge cast of characters, and it takes a true talent to incorporate more and at the same time continue to make it more appealing. Mikel Janin's art pulls it together for a solid book worth reading.
Archie #635 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; ’Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Wealth distribution is an inherently touchy subject, but Archie #635 steers clear of controversy as the Occupy Wall Street movement comes to Riverdale. Writer Alex Segura’s story sticks to general statements about “the system” and the value of debate as Archie’s pals stick up for the 99 percent in a local park. Though lighthearted and humorous, the comic does acknowledge tough economic realities. Betty’s mom is working a second job while Veronica haughtily deems the protest “so third period.” The standout is illustrator Gisele's delightfully sophisticated interpretation of Archie and the gang, which strikes a perfect balance between respecting the classic look and giving it a modern polish. However, I wish the narrative had more room to develop rather than just being a one-issue riff on a complicated current event.
Axe Cop: President of the World #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Axe Cop is now president of the world, and with no more bad guys on earth to defeat, he and friends head into outer space to find alien butts to kick. If you’ve never read Axe Cop before, it’s difficult to adequately describe quite how zany and just plain fun this series is. The story is wacky and unpredictable, filled with non sequiturs and insane plot twists. The dialogue and narration is very simple, understated, and to the point, which is often hilariously incongruous with the fast paced action occurring in panel.The artwork is done in a wonderfully fun cartooning style that is packed full of hilarious detail, and is simply a joy to behold. I wish all comics were as fun as Axe Cop.
Trio #3 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Trouble comes in threes for our heroes as the outmatched band of adventurers must face their watery foes, a giant from space, and an evil from beyond the grave in a series with amazing visuals but suffers from hewing too closely to the Fantastic Four. John Byrne adds in a character that is straight-up Galactus in his alternative jersey, complete with a noble alien who wants to thwart his plan to drain the earth of water. Ideas fly fast and furious—but they aren’t new. The book is stunningly gorgeous, however, with innovative layouts and an impressive use of scale. Byrne’s ability to make epic battles convincing and evoke emotion through art are second to none, but Trio really needs a dose of original story ASAP.
Masks and Mobsters #1 (Published by Monkeybrain Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10) Playing out like the opening act of a noir detective movie, "masks" are the protagonists (or as the mobsters see it, antagonists) of this title rather than your expected detectives. Mobsters know how to deal with cops -- but heroes? This presents some new challenges. Promoted as a series of stand alone stories, the art team rotates with Mike Henderson taking the helm on this debut. In gray scale, Henderson plays with shadows, sprinkles in just the right amount of grit and kicks up his heavy lines with a sense of movement that has scenes practically leaping off the screen. Joshua Williamson's characters fit the noir archetype, but his plotting and pacing have a fresher and less predictable feel. At 99 cents, this is a no-brainer.
B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Exorcism #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Field agent Ashley Strode attempts to purge a demon from a 100-year-old exorcist, utilizing a deadly rite that sends both of them into a spiritual hell. It’s another B.P.R.D. mini that focuses on the agency’s field agents, and what makes this one work so well is the wonderful character that Stewart and Mignola have created in Ashley Strode; she is fantastically characterized, and beautifully rendered. The story also features a gripping plot, smart dialogue, and tense action. Cameron Stewart’s beautiful artwork gives the protagonist an innocent and naive quality that is contrasted by the hideous monsters that he designs for the issue. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of him on the title soon.
Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 #3 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): A villain emerges who can really shake things up just as Stan Lee is trying to figure out how best to market the aliens he’s acquired in this strange book that reads like a long-form roast of Lee. Written by Lee and others, the book weaves dangerously between trying to tell a serious story and being a Not Brand Echh parody, making it quite uneven. Story-wise, Lee looks as bad as his detractors portray him—exploitative of the aliens and money-hungry, which is either brilliant or confessional. Industry veteran Alex Saviuk really shines in the few actions scenes he’s given. The characters are suitably heroic and his linework is better than I remember from the 1990s. Overall, Mighty 7 is one mighty puzzling comic book.
Superman Family Adventures #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): It was only a matter of time, and issue three is the charm as we see Art Baltazar and Franco reference the infamous Superman line "I like pink very much, Lois." In the void left by the conclusion of Tiny Titans, Superman Family Adventures provides a fun all-ages read that will entice young readers and guarantee a chuckle or three from long time comic fans. With an increased amount of dialogue, this is an ideal stepping stone for developing readers. Whether it is Lois questioning Clark, Jimmy Olsen being followed by all the Super-Pets, or Fuzzy the Krypto Mouse learning to make popcorn with his heat vision — Baltazar and Franco have the art of appealing to a true all-ages audience down to a science.