Best Shots Rapid Reviews: SCALPED, VENOM, DR. MANHTTAN, More

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Rapid-Fire Reviews? Then join team Best Shots for this week's installment! So let's kick off with the final installment of Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra's Vertigo epic, Scalped...


Scalped #60 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Brian Bannen; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Jason Aaron’s Prairie Rose Reservation saga comes to a close this month with Issue #60 of Scalped. Aaron mixes both intense violence and strong narration through Dashiell Bad Horse’s thoughts to cap the series with an issue that is half chaos and half characterization. There are a few threads left at the end of the comic, so the story doesn’t feel completely closed, but I wouldn’t call it a “neat” ending. If anything, the issue leaves room for potential additional stories. Additionally, artist R.M. Guéra knows how to turn on the grit and when to scale it back in order to convey tone and Guilia Brusco’s colors aid the imagery. For a final issue, Scalped hits all the right notes, leaving readers with a satisfactory finale to an acclaimed series.


Venom #23 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Definitely a comic to check out, folks, if only to see a new Marvel superstar in the making. Thony Silas is a great artist for Cullen Bunn to work with on this book, and he's only going to get better from here. Evoking styles ranging from Howard Porter to Terry Dodson, Silas has a fluid, clean style that's a real treat to read. Bunn spins a brisk, action-packed story that gets most of the exposition out smoothly, and his choice of the Son of Satan as Venom's new foil is a smart one. Sometimes the narration comes off as a little overwrought, and it is admittedly low-calorie action, but Venom is moving surprisingly strong with this new team.


Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): J. Michael Strazcynski wasn't kidding when he said this series was headed to some lofty heights — the only problem is, will anybody understand it? Straczynski's opening issue focuses so much on all of Dr. Manhattan's questioning that it never really settles on what it wants to be — and once it does, it's just one twist too many, a deconstruction of a deconstruction. The big twist, sadly, came in another comic, as Manhattan uses his time-travel to actively impact the future (and his love life). Adam Hughes reminds me a bit of Daniel Acuña here, with a heavy painterly style that doesn't quite match Dave Gibbons' expressive cartooniness or the dynamic heft of Darwyn Cooke or Amanda Conner. There's potential for this book, but right now it's for diehards only.


The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): I really can't get enough of unashamed serialized adventure, and The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #1 has it all. I doubt there is a greater pairing of modern pulp adventure than Mark Waid and Chris Samnee on the Rocketeer! The book opens with grand spunky action, both in image and words, and simply doesn't stop until the last panel. Samnee makes sure our hero flies high in the sun, while the villains hatch their evil plans from the darkest of shadows. I only wish Samnee had been allowed to color his own work, as some of his subtle pencils get lost in the coloring. But this is minor when you read a book that understands nostalgia, but never once panders to it.


Invincible #94 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Colin Bell; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Now on its third issue of one protracted fight scene, Invincible is being stretched paper-thin, and giving the impression of running on empty, arguably for the first time. While the generic fight rages on in the present, through flashbacks Robert Kirkman seems intent on answering the questions of what happened during Robot and Monster’s Girl’s adventures in the Flaxan dimension. Sadly this is to a heavily expository level of detail that surely no one is looking for, which is a shame, because on these sequences artist Cory Walker has been pitching in some of his best work to date. Ryan Ottley continues to be in a league of his own when it comes to superheroic throwdowns, but were it not for the artistic team, this sub-par story would rank a lot lower.


Lobster Johnson: The Prayer of Neferu #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Mignola and Arcudi’s pulp action hero returns for another pulse-pounding adventure in this ancient Egyptian themed one-shot. A dead museum curator and a missing sarcophagus lead Lobster to a clandestine meeting of The Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra, where they plan to harness the mummy’s spiritual powers. It’s a fun done-in-one story that, while not an essential piece in Lobster’s history, is a rip-roaring adventure nonetheless, and is sure to please fans of the character. Wilfredo Torres provides suitably pulpy visuals, with energetic linework and luscious brushwork. The look is finished by another impeccable color job from Dave Stewart. This is a fast-paced thriller that doesn’t attempt to be anything more, and is all the better for it.


Adventure Time #7 (Published by Boom Studios; Review by Colin Bell; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10) Making it seven issues without hitting a bum note, writer Ryan North continues to capture the voice of the televised Adventure Time, and then run away with it, laughing giddily. A cavalcade of ideas, and non-sequiturs, this month’s time-travel plot is faithful to the ethos of the show, and thankfully this ethos basically permits anything to happen. This allows art team Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb to really cut loose with some vivid depictions of a time-displaced Finn and Jake in some of the title’s most madcap scenes yet. Shannon Wheeler and Zac Gorman round out the issue with some slight, but no less entertaining, back-ups. Highly recommended to all — and when’s the last time you picked up an all-ages comic discussing the works of Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury, anyway?


Star Trek #12 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Star Trek #12 is all about the fan service and I just don't care. The Truth About Tribbles, part two is a retelling of the classic episode, so I wasn't expecting any deep philosophy here. What I did get from writer Mike Johnson is a clear grasp on every character that inhabits the Enterprise and their interactions with each other. While I'm glad Claudia Balboni's art doesn't suffer from extreme photo referencing, her works feels a little sterile this time out. I'd like to see her raw pencils. I get the feeling the coloring didn't help. The Truth About Tribbles plays nice with my fandom. Although this issue and series has had a few bumps, it's still the best Star Trek has ever been treated in comics.


Planetoid #3 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): This series started out so well, with an interesting premise and some great artwork. Sadly though, three issues in, the series hasn’t really had any memorable moments, as the plot just trundles along with no clear focus. Characters don’t seem to have their own personalities, and are all obvious archetypes brought to the page with little alteration. What puts the nail in the coffin in this issue is that all the humans have banded together to rebuild a spaceship, and Garing chooses to display the process in a cheesy montage sequence that makes the story feel like the part of The A-Team where they build a weapon out of nuts and bolts. It’s a shame, because this one had potential.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #13 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Splinter’s personality appears to have matched his name, as he ponders what the Turtles must do to survive the wrath of Shredder, who has plans of his own for his family in a jumping on issue of the ongoing series. Dealing with issues from the microseries as well as the main comic, writers Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman continue this very different take on Splinter that makes him more interesting by taking away his Gandhi-like nature. Andy Kuhn, the new artist, moves to a more rounded feel for the art, working in looser lines that are sketchier and not as defined. Unfortunately, this hurts the emotional range of the Turtles, who tend to either grin or shout here. TMNT’s strong story keeps this one recommended.


Grimm Fairy Tales Myths & Legends #19 (Published by Zenescope Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Hank and Gina play Russian Roulette with the Supernatural to gain television ratings, but this time they may have found the loaded chamber in a stage-setting issue by writer Troy Brownfield. This issue moves a bit slowly, providing the glue that ties the plot to the original fairy tale. Brownfield does a great job anticipating the horrors to come using the tricks of the genre, but the art lets down the script this issue. Joyce Maureira uses an old Image house style that’s big on medium shots, posing, and generic facial features, relying heavily on the dialogue to drive the story. Angled panels don’t evoke the horror needed here, but the plot’s too good to pass up in this sleeper comic for horror fans.


Archie #636 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s cat gender-swaps Riverdale to teach Reggie a lesson in a comic that goes to the topical issue well once too often. I applaud Archie Comics for examining difficult topics, but this one falls flat as Tania Delrio can’t decide between outdated gender jokes and serious commentary on the male bias in American society, leaving the comic to fall on its own sword by attempting to balance on the edge. Penciller Gisele draws the Archie cast too much like an OEL Manga for my taste, though her body language and positioning work well with the characters’ unchanged personalities, especially Jughead and Veronica. Gisele’s style also makes the characters look cuter than normal, which further undermines an issue that just tries too hard.

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