Best Shots Rapid Reviews: SPIDER-MAN, DETECTIVE COMICS, More


Avenging Spider-Man #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There are just certain artists out there that you're dying to see take a crack at Spider-Man. Gabriele Dell'Otto is definitely one of them. As Spider-Man fights his way through mutant dinosaurs in the Savage Land, Dell'Otto gives the web-slinger an agility that also has weight, a stronger build that screams "athlete acrobat" rather than "scrawny superhuman." With panels shifting and tilting to keep up with Spidey's super-swift flips, the book is a visual treat — which is a good thing, too, since writer Cullen Bunn's story (teaming Spidey up with the prehistoric Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy) doesn't have much legs outside of a not-terribly-funny lost-in-translation joke. Still, while the substance is lacking, this comic is all style — and exactly the kind of artist's showcase that Avenging Spider-Man was meant to be.

Detective Comics #14 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): John Layman continues his quiet campaign to make Detective Comics every bit as solid as Scott Snyder's Batman and Grant Morrison's Batman Incorporated. While not as airtight as his last issue in terms of the different forces gunning for both Batman and his alter ego Bruce Wayne, Layman still establishes a layered conflict with Poison Ivy, as well as setting up a new status quo with another Bat-villain that is so simple and so smart I'm stunned no one has thought of it sooner. I also have to say that having a slower, more methodical Bat-book is a superb fit for Jason Fabok, who has time to breathe with his figures, allowing Batman to have that sort of larger physique that belies his intellectual genius. There are a few hiccups here — Layman hasn't quite gotten Damian's snotty voice yet, and his "cure" for Poison Ivy's charms doesn't quite wow you in its explanation — but in terms of structure and plot, Detective Comics is easily DC's most improved book in its lineup today.


Freelancers #1; Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Erika D. Peterman; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10: Cheeky and all kinds of fun, BOOM! Studios' Freelancers has the feel of late '70s/early '80s TV show about maverick action heroes — or heroines. Raised in an orphanage where they were weaned on Kung Fu, Cassie and Val are cash-challenged freelance bounty hunters looking for their big break. Issue #1 is a blast thanks to Ian Brill's fast-paced story and Felipe Smith's engaging art style. But it's more than car chases and flying fists. The main characters are tough gals with wit to spare, and their chemistry is a big part of this book's appeal. Brill makes them instantly likable and gives them a good supporting cast to play off of, including a cocky rival with whom they share a history. For just $1, Freelancers is a no-brainer.

Worlds' Finest #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Worlds' Finest is still a book that feels greater than the sum of its parts. The same holds true for issue #6. Power Girl is still obsessed with finding a way back to her world, while Huntress gets into a tussle with her dimensional half-brother, Damian. Levitz and Maguire work well in crafting a rather entertaining fight between two heroes who have no problem fighting dirty. Perez's addition to the book continues to act as a bittersweet reminder of a comics legend who might be losing a step but still has the passion. Moreso than the issue itself, I am intrigued by the possibility this story holds between the siblings Wayne. The concept has some legs, I really hope they can stick the landing. 


AvX: Consequences #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): What's the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist? Kieron Gillen's answer: Legitimacy. While not too much action occurs in Gillen's final X-issue, the quiet war of ideologies rings far stronger here than the fisticuffs of Avengers vs. X-Men. Gillen solidifies the switching roles between Wolverine and Cyclops with some real panache, and sets up Scott's outlaw status quo alongside two of mutantkind's most dangerous people. Artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta looks a bit more painterly than usual, with Jim Charalampidis on colors, but his angular pencils remind me a lot of Kev Walker or even Phil Noto here (if occasionally the figures get a little distorted). While Gillen occasionally slips into slanginess with some of his characters' voices, this is a solid, if quiet, conclusion to his X-Men run.


Sweet Tooth #39 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Jeff Lemire's gut-wrenching tragedy of plague and suffering is haunting and unforgettable. But the darkness that propels the story is affectionately tempered by the light of connectedness that runs so deeply between his characters, and from his characters to the reader. It has always been evident that Lemire takes great care with Sweet Tooth, but he took even more with this issue. The art and composition are as beautiful as they are emotional. Abbott and Jepperd finally face each other. This is the climax. It is the beginning of the end. Sweet Tooth #40 is the final issue, and Sweet Tooth #39 is everything it needed it to be, should be, and could be.


Storm Dogs #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Jose Camacho; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): While the art and characters may not be immediately memorable, this space crime thriller will be a sleeper. Storm Dogs' setting has prisoners colliding with alien tribes and highly advanced law enforcers. There is a lot of potential here. It draws more from science fiction than a police procedural, and if that is expanded upon, the anthropology angle should differentiate this series from other crime thrillers. Storm Dogs #1 gives us a glimpse into what seems to be a very intricate world.  While the art may grow on you, I found that the sullen colors clouded great art as the pencil work was possibly too thin. It is essential for this series' success that they give readers more exposure to this interesting universe.


Willow: Wonderland #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Willow is easily my favorite character in the Buffyverse, so teaming her up with one of my favorite writers, Jeff Parker, sounds a perfect match. At least in theory. In execution, Willow: Wonderland #1 is a rather disjointed beginning to what promises to be a crazy adventure to return magic to the world. The premise is strong and Jeff's natural wit plays well to Willow, but the story lacks real depth. Brian Ching's art feels more like a hindrance to the mystical elements Parker is writing. And while the book pops with vibrancy, the excellent coloring gets a little lost in Ching's undefined pencils. It's a shaky start, but one I'm willing to take another shot at. If only for more Willow.


Shadowman #1 (Published by Valiant Comics; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10)
: Shadowman was one of the old Valiant's top tier books and has an acclaimed team behind the title, yet it balances a fine line between great visuals and clichéd moments that we've seen a dozen times elsewhere. The continuation of Jack Boniface being a legacy character is a nice touch; he's younger, not a jazz musician, but still a bright (no pun intended) young man trying to find himself. Justin Jordan handles the mythos of the character well enough, but it's weighed down by a lot of exposition and a choppy ending. Patrick Zircher and Brian Reber elevate the dialogue with some heavy gore and a great battle scene; definitely the stars of the show. There's enough here for me to take a second look, but it really has to start picking up from here.    


Fairest #9 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10)
: As Rapunzel and company face Yakuza, Fairest #9 gets kudos for the sheer volume of art and story contained within. Bill Willingham leads this tale with some appetizing reveals into Rapunzel's sordid past. Add Frau Totenkinder into the mix, and one can't help but be impressed. Inaki Miranda's complex detail and wide range of expressiveness make for a gratifying visual experience. And Eva de la Cruz's colors add cohesiveness and well-timed contrast to the already beautiful details. Fairest #9 picks up the pace as Rapunzel gallivants through Tokyo's version of Fabletown and will inevitably lead her to face her demons, in the literal sense. Reading Fairest is like gossiping behind Fables' back — and it's juicy. And that Adam Hughes's cover? Yeah, that happens.


Star Trek: The Next Generation - Hive #2 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Deniz Cordell; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10)
: Brannon Braga and his scripters, Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett, have done an admirable job of creating parallel stories across time, and this issue nimbly answers questions from the previous installment while developing and setting up new twists. The story is also filled with the grandiose, bizarre imagery associated with Braga's tenure on Star Trek — the destruction of an entire Borg fleet, or the character of the Borg Sentry being particular standouts. Joe Corroney's art captures the look of the actors and scenery well, and it lends the best scene in the book — set in a diner between Picard and Seven-of-Nine — a muted, careful quality. The book's tone veers from exciting to dour while the pacing is sharp but leisurely, much like the television series itself.


Love and Capes: What to Expect #4 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Deniz Cordell; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10)
: What continually delights me about Thomas Zahler's work is how natural his dialogue is, and how likable and human his characters are. Lying behind the humor and wit is a story about aging, maturity, and succession. And it's told ably, with a great eye toward capturing little details of human behavior. Zahler's use of the eight-panel page is a terrific aid in maintaining rhythm and his cartoony artwork maintains a light, superheroic tone, even when dealing with down-to-earth matters. The emotional content is subtle and nuanced. The interactions never seem false, and every character is given a moment in the spotlight. Engagingly written with several varied but thematically linked plot threads in constant motion and charmingly drawn, Love Capes is a book you really ought to be reading.


Planet of the Apes Cataclysm: #3 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Deniz Cordell; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10)
: The plotting by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman is crisp and taut, and the art by Damon Couciero, with marvelous color work by Darrin Moore, has a grandly theatrical, darkly operatic quality. Make no mistake, you'll need to read the previous two issues to really catch on to everything happening here, but there are some great moments, particularly an intimate sequence involving drowning Orangutans and humans, and another that fleshes out a noble Gorilla's character. The page layouts are smart and vivid, playing with height to great effect. The scripting keeps the characters well delineated, and the final panel reveal plays right into the opening page — providing a final "gasp" as well as a sense of internal closure.


Popeye #7 (Published by IDW; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10)
: Meat is on the mind of writer/artist Roger Langridge as Popeye sails the desert seas to save the ostrich farm of an old rival, and Dr. Wotasnozzle creates chaos with a mechanical cow in another strong issue continuing the legacy of E.C. Segar's characters. I was hoping Langridge would illustrate an issue himself, and he doesn't disappoint here. Characters in both series look perfectly on-model while being placed with characters that have Langridge's signature odd looks. The blending shows that Segar definitely influenced Langridge, whose plotting and dialogue (especially Popeye's) is spot-on, as usual. I even liked the Wotasnozzle story, which features a clever cameo. Not all comic revivals are worth reading, but Popeye is just as good as its sources.


Criminial Macabre They Fight by Night One Shot (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10)
: "This politician is a monster!" isn't just mud-slinging in this enjoyable one-shot horror comic with a timely topic. Writer Steve Niles places his low-class private detective right in the center of the campaign blood trail as he and his undead allies must take on a candidate who literally supports change — into a werewolf. Niles' writing is acidly sarcastic with fast-paced action, which works well with the characters he's built up over time. Christopher Mitten handles the art here, giving everything jagged edges that connect at odd angles, keeping the story off-kilter and reminding the reader this is an unnatural world in every panel.  It's a fun story that doesn't require prior knowledge of the Macabre franchise and is a perfect Halloween dessert comic.


Garfield #7 (Published by Boom! Studios; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10)
: Garfield's antics are skewered but the results are overcooked as humorist Mark Evanier works with returning artist Mike DeCarlo and four others. The first story, which suffers quite a bit under the hands of too many creators who cannot decide on a unified look, features a cat trying to be Garfield and failing miserably. The story misses a chance to take a swing at Garfield's many imitators over the years, sticking to safe territory. While DeCarlo's art is more on-model this time, looking more like the work of Garfield creator Jim Davis and less like Looney Tunes, the plot is a tired fourth-wall breaking dream sequence. After a promising start, this series is slipping as it, like the newspaper strip, has seemingly run out of new ideas.


Kevin Keller Welcome To Riverdale (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10)
: Kevin Keller is out and about in the city of Riverdale in this series of adventures collecting the first four issues of his ongoing comic. Writer/artist Dan Parent guides Kevin into situations that show him as a typical Archie Gang teen, from dating woes to getting entangled in the 2012 Olympics. What makes this work so well is that with the exception of one oversimplified misstep, Parent never makes Kevin's sexuality the focus. It's just there, which is the way any gay character should be written. Parent does a great job of making the characters look and feel like Archie should, with stark character outlines, plenty of mugging for the camera, and an emphasis on physical comedy. This is a series even non-Archie readers should try. 

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