Greetings, 'Rama readers! Best Shots is coming to you fast and furious, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off with the biggest mystery of the Marvel universe, as we take a look at the latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man...
Amazing Spider-Man #699 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Trapped inside the dying body of one of his greatest enemies, you'd think the jig would be up for the Amazing Spider-Man. Not quite. Dan Slott fills us in to how Otto Octavius pulled the body snatching of a lifetime, and the twist fits in nicely with stories going all the way back to Issue #600 and "Spider-Island." Slott also takes an interesting perspective on the nature of Spidey's innate heroism, as well as Otto's ingrained bad streak. Humberto Ramos' cartoony style at first seems counter to the somber subject matter, but you find that it winds up giving the issue energy and a needed lightness to keep it from getting too bleak. Still more of a sleeper denouement than actual fireworks, Slott smartly sets up the stage for the next chapter, with Superior Spider-Man.
Before Watchmen: Minutemen #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): I think that it’s fair to say that Darwyn Cooke is a modern master and this is one of his finest moments. Not only is Cooke an amazing artist but a true talent as a writer as well. Cooke’s take on The Minutemen pays visual homage to original Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons in the panel structures and storytelling aspects but still feel like Cooke’s work. The story itself strikes the perfect balance between the glory of superheroics and the disgusting tragedy within the worst of humanity. This is the best that Before Watchmen hoped it could be. The only real downside to this issue is that the miniseries is almost over.
All New X-Men #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Scott Cederlund; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Staging a daring rescue of Emma Frost, Magneto confronts Cyclops with thoughts he’s been trying to avoid: it was Cyclops that killed Charles Xavier, and not some mystical force. Bendis recasts Cyclops as a hero in denial of his sins and his betrayal of the dreams he believed in since he was a teenager, showing him as a flawed man who has lost the control he has spent his entire life cultivating. Immonen brings to life the chaos, the pain and the anger of these three characters’ lives as they have to move on from their confusion over the destruction that they were at the center of. If the second issue was about the original X-Men learning about how they eventually failed Xavier’s dreams, this issue shows Cyclops having to face the fact that he destroyed any hope of peace for himself.
The Legend of Luther Strode #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The legend himself, Luther Strode, is back — bolder and bloodier than ever! What’s not to love about this comic? First, Tradd Moore has this unique penciling style which incorporates so many thin, symmetrical lines that give his pages a distinct feel without weighing down the page. It’s clean and sharp and decorates a natural ability for characters and expressions — even when those expressions have a sewer lid thrown through them. Writer Justin Jordan knows how to step up a first issue that pulls in new readers who might not have read the first tale. Jordan puts it all up front for the reader and pulls them in with story first. The Legend of Luther Strode is a must-read.
Avengers #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Jonathan Hickman starts his Avengers run in fine fashion, with an action-packed debut issue filled with adventure, excitement, mystery, intrigue, and as always with a Hickman script, big ideas that make the mind boggle. Rather surprisingly, Marvel is not playing it safe with this title, making some bold changes to the lineup already that many will not see coming. The plot of the issue is gripping and enticing, and will ensure that readers come back for more. Though my one worry is that Hickman’s ideas may be a little too off-the-wall for new readers. Jerome Opeña’s gorgeous artwork gives the story a sense of grandeur and splendor that makes it feel like you are at the movies.
Detective Comics #15 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Like most of the prologue books to Death of the Family, this one didn’t contain much of the Joker or Scott Snyder’s crossover plans. However, this is certainly a plus because the main story that John Layman has been working on is sure to please Batman fans. It was a little weird to see the weed-killer Batman action figure-look, but Layman and Jason Fabok are laying down solid work involving lesser-seen fan favorite villains. The backup story by John Layman and Andy Clarke seemed oddly superfluous, but it was touching nonetheless. Can’t get enough of the Dark Knight? Then Detective Comics #15 might just be the book for you.
Doctor Who #3 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10):The subtitle to Doctor Who #3 really should read Road to Gallifrey, as writer Brandon Seifert has some fun with the tried and true buddies on the road theme, with perhaps a hint of Quantum Leap coincidences. It's not his strongest writing, but it's clear he loves these characters and a good sense of whimsy comes through to the reader. Phillip Bond's art is a nice match for Seifert's tone, if a tad unbalanced. Although he has a good grasp of the characters, there were a few too many times when an excited expression merely came across as angry. To be sure, if you miss the adventures of the good Doctor and the Ponds through time and space, this issue will help satiate that craving.
Hawkeye #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Some of the new Marvel NOW! titles should take a look at the amazing work being done on Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and Javier Pulido. First off, Javier Pulido had some seriously big shoes to fill after David Aja opened the book. Yet rest assured, because Pulido has been doing amazing work on the title, maintaining the same level of quality with colorist Matt Hollingsworth on board. Fraction has done more than create the quintessential Hawkeye title, but really fleshed out the character behind the bow and arrows. Clint Baron is a fully realized character in this title unlike ever before, and worthy of being both in the Avengers and as one of Marvel’s most popular characters.
Avenging Spider-Man #15 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10):You'd think an issue featuring Devil Dinosaur and Spider-Man would succeed on crazy action. And yet, it's Cullen Bunn's voice for Peter Parker and Moon-Boy that makes Avenging Spider-Man #15 work. It's fun to watch two characters that don't understand a lick of each other attempt to overcome rampaging dinosaurs and mad scientists. Gabriele Dell'otto on pencils have some vibrancy to them, but most of what he draws gets lost in very muddling coloring by Dommo Aymara. It's a real shame, as there is some fun action in this book, but you just can't see it very well. Both Bunn and Dell'otto showcase some good talent in this book, it's just too bad so much of it gets buried in heavy shadows and blurred coloring.
Kevin Keller #6 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; ’Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Sulu himself, George Takei, makes a guest appearance in this issue, and it’s fitting that he is cast as one of Kevin’s idols. Writer/artist Dan Parent gives a warm shout-out to the geek community via the gang’s pilgrimage to “Smithville Comic-Con,” where they make an attempt to meet Takei. There are some smile-worthy bits, including Veronica’s description of Kim Kardashian as an inspirational figure and the sight of a con-goer cosplaying Mr. Weatherbee. Parent has always given Kevin a witty supporting cast (especially Jughead), and the glowing color work makes his art all the more lively and fun. While this is a perfectly nice read for the whole family, I was more invested in the short subplot featuring a potential love interest.
Thunderbolts #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): For a book about a deadly black ops strike team, this book doesn’t deliver much of anything. Usually the first issue of any title can feel a bit slow due to the fact that characters and conflict need to be established. However, Thunderbolts #1 doesn’t even get around to doing that, leaving out characters and motives for joining the group as well as any sort of real conflict. Sadly, Dillon’s pencils are sparse and with flawed perspective in the unnecessarily large and empty panels. Then, on top of that, Guru eFX overrenders the empty space that creates this cold and absent atmosphere. Unfortunately a book with this many Marvel badasses will probably stick around for longer than it should.
Stumptown #4 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10):About two-thirds of the way into Stumptown #4 I caught myself making VROOM-VROOM noises. Out loud. In public. However, that's exactly the kind of excitement artist Matthew Southworth is able to capture on the page. While Greg Rucka does a good job of maintaining Dex's signature humor and hard-edged poise, this book is all about Southworth. While some will claim the panel layouts are gimmicky, or that other books did it first (both true), it doesn't mean the design doesn't work. Stumptown has always had it's feet firmly planted in the great American P.I. genre, and you simply can't do that without a car chase. It has it's bumps, but Stumptown is still one of the best rides on the spinner rack these days.