Greetings, 'Rama readers — ready for your weekly dose of Rapid-Fire Reviews? Best Shots has you covered, with a barrage of reviews from this week's stack! So let's start off by going under the sea with DC's best and brightest, as we take a look at Geoff Johns's latest issue of Justice League...
Justice League #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Geoff Johns has a lot of balls to keep in the air with his "Throne of Atlantis" crossover, and so seeing everything he's got going in Justice League #16 shows he's got plenty of ambition. Aquaman trying to maintain order among his colleagues while tiptoeing the tenets of Atlantean law is a nice touch, even if it feels a touch artificial. (Like, Batman and Wonder Woman really wouldn't defer to the Atlantean of the group?) The action here is fast and furious, Cyborg also gets some great moments, and Johns' twist at the end is definitely the right kind of cliffhanger. Artist Ivan Reis delivers some wonderful splash pages showing the Ocean Master in elemental action, and his layouts, while occasionally cramped, are still the best of DC's widescreen house style. Definitely a big, action-heavy read.
Young Avengers #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Within the first few pages of Young Avengers #1, it is evident that great care and intention has been taken by the creators of this book. With fresh, clear definition, Kieron Gillen engages you immediately with his story and a winning roster of characters. Opening a book with the candid charm of Kate Bishop is nothing short of brilliant. Jamie McKelvie capitalizes on that youthful appeal with crisp lines and bright, 18-year-old expressiveness. Even the panel layout is alive with newness, and Matthew Wilson’s colors make it all pop … perfectly. The tone, trajectory and tenacity of this book sing from the pages with honest, endearing characterization and impeccable comic art. Young Avengers #1 is a shining star of a start to a series.
Chew #31 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Consistency in style, humor and high-quality entertainment are John Layman and Rob Guillory’s super power. True to form, it is on display in Chew #31. Following the shocking events of Chew #30, our punchy protagonist is out of the hospital, focused and hungry for some serious police detectiving. We haven’t seen this kind of determination in Tony for a while, and it kicks the pace into higher gear. He is re-partnered with the irreverent and perfect foil to his straight edge, John Colby. This reinvigorated good cop/bad cop duo has fantastic chemistry and a brand new mystery to chew on. Chew #31 is a momentous start to the next arc, and it is loaded with subtle but defining character moments making this an excellent jumping-on point for new readers.
Wolverine and the X-Men #24 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It's Date Night at the Jean Grey School, and the down time gives readers a nice palate cleanser after and Jason Aaron's off-kilter Frankenstein arc. The highlight of Aaron's script has to be Kitty and Iceman's awkward first date, as they discuss how they shoulder the burden of training the next generation of mutants. Smart stuff. David Lopez is a bit more of a subdued artist than Nick Bradshaw or Chris Bachalo, reminding me at times of Carlos Pacheco (particularly when we see Wolverine in costume). The Wolverine/Storm subplot feels the most tacked-on, however, particularly as Ororo's internal conflicts aren't nearly as compelling as Kitty's. Still, a well-structured, human done-in-one that reminds us why we love these characters in the first place.
Batwoman #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): As Medusa, the Hydra and bevy of monsters descend upon Gotham Harbor, Wonder Woman and Batwoman do their worst to fight them off. It is a chaotic brawl of mythic proportions from cover to cover. In superhero comics, J.H. Williams is as close to high art as you get, and his signature complexity, unique layouts and intense angles are on full display in this issue. The entire issue is a beautifully illustrated fight sequence. But the art is one animal and the writing is another. Despite the defining character dialogue, Williams and Haden Blackman’s story is too dense. It lacks forward momentum and the bit of exposition that we do get feels forced. Batwoman #16 is not a gratifying read as a single issue. Still, visually – it is a hell of a comic.
FF #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): There's just something so charming about the goofy, pop art-influenced style of Mike Allred in FF. Whether it's Scott Lang suddenly realizing how creepy it is to be sitting in the flowers he was giving to bring back super starlet Darla Deering, or the unspoken bro bond between Wyatt Wingfoot and Johnny Storm (even if the latter is missing an eye and a leg), there's a ton of personality to these pages. Writer Matt Fraction throws out some witty concepts here, including Doom the Annihilating Conqueror or the Yancy Street Gang's rebirth as a bunch of IRL paparazzi/Internet trolls, but he shines the most with his character dynamics, particularly the chemistry between Scott and Darla. A light, fun read.
Witch Doctor – Mal Practice #3 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): I was worried this issue had fallen victim to the dreaded “exposition trap.” However, Seifert does a good job of playing with that concept and turns it around. Seifert explores a Dr. Morrow that's running on total ego in this issue and it's not going to end well for him or his partners. Ketner's art isn't as detailed as I've come to expect and were it not for the coloring, would possibly be his weakest work to date in this arc. With an exception coming in the final pages, where clearly the artist spark hit him and his lines leap from the page. Although not the strongest installment in the series, Witch Doctor – Mal Practice #3 is still a comic worth getting excited about.
Green Lantern Corps #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The cover pretty much says it all — DC is looking to up new Green Lantern Simon Baz's exposure (and goose Green Lantern Corps's readership in the process). That's cool. But it's to Pete Tomasi's credit that this is still Guy Gardner's story, even if it gets a little saccharine with the Gardner family reunion ("Gotta live till you die!" I'm imagining they all got biker vests at their Bar Mitzvahs now.) Once the Third Army and Simon do show up, it's kind of a frenetic melee sort of in the Transformers style, if that's up your alley. Artist Fernando Pasarin definitely makes this comic look expressive and human (that first splash of Guy sitting forlornly in jail is gorgeous), but Scott Hanna's inks do falter in the fight sequence. This tie-in could be worse, but could have been a lot better, too.
Avengers #3 (Published by Marvel Comics, Review by Scott Cederlund, ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opeña’s Avengers #3 is less a conclusion of a storyline and more a wrap up of a prologue as the Avengers travel to Mars to rescue their teammates and fight the aliens who bombed the Earth from that distant planet. It sounds more like a schlocky sci-fi story than the sophisticated adventure story that Hickman and Opeña are trying to produce. There’s little charm as they rush through the battle, cramming a lot of indistinguishable characters into their own momentary spotlights just to remind us that they are there. Opeña’s art perfectly captures the action, but none of the heart or soul of the characters. Hickman and Opeña’s story is a sterile fight comic that feels like it’s only setting up future stories of these characters fighting some more.
Nightwing #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10):Nightwing #16 is one of those comics where the art team is so spot on, one doesn't even need the dialogue from writer Kyle Higgins. That's not to say his work isn't strong, but it clearly takes a backseat to the visual feast happening on the page. Barrows' pencils are tight and create a cinematic look to the book. While Ferreira on inks and Reis on colors bring a sense of realism that is almost unsettling. All five of your senses are working to take in this horrific trial for Nightwing. Still, this is a book for the Nightwing fan only, as has been the case with most of the second "Death of the Family" installments, Nightwing #16 does little to further the story.
Mars Attacks Transformers #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): As if one set of alien invaders wasn’t enough, the Earth must try to survive miniature murderous attackers in this nifty one-shot that has its tongue planted firmly in cheek. Reading more like Jeffrey Brown’s than the usually melodramatic comics, writer Shane McCarthy makes fun of the Autobots and Decepticons at every turn, filling the dialogue with mock importance and sarcastic one-liners. The deadly serious Martians make great straight men props for McCarthy to contrast the Transformers with. I love Matt Frank’s art here, backed by amazing colors from Josh Perez. The Transformers look like giant toys under Frank’s watch while the Martians are straight out of their 1950s origins. This is an awesome take on a crossover and is highly recommended.
Frank Cho: Women Book 2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Frank Cho’s skills as an artist drawing buxom women is on full display in this art book that’s divided into three sections, showing his cover work, Liberty Meadows pin-ups, and more. While Cho’s artwork has its failings (such as a lack of varied body shapes), his place as one of the best at single illustrations of attractive women is easily confirmed by this book. For most of the pictures we get to see the work from pencils to inks to digitally colored finished product. It’s interesting to watch how the loose lines become finished work and what changes over time. For fans of Cho or the idealized female form, this is a great collection—just be aware it’s not for kids or reading at work.
Masks #3 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): More heroes rise up to stop the jack-booted “Justice Party,” but it might not be enough as this pulp-era crossover continues to feel like it’s missing something. Writing in someone else’s style is hard and Chris Roberson is veering dangerously towards overdoing it, with dialogue that might be period accurate but feels overwrought at times. I’m also hoping we’re just about done with character introductions. Any more will overtax the reader and artist Dennis Calero, who is trying to keep the many threads together here using thin, blurred lines that remind me a bit of Jae Lee. He’s doing a lot with oddly-structured panels, but sometimes they feel unnecessary. Masks has a story to tell, but right now, it’s still an imperfect one.
Peanuts #5 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Three new stories that extend classic Charles Schulz comic strip gags highlight a new issue of BOOM!’s Peanuts comic that is better than usual. Alexis E. Fajardo really captures cosplaying Snoopy, and I love the slow-burn that leads to him angering the entire Peanuts gang. Meanwhile, Shane Houghton tweaks Linus’ nose, exposing the flaws in his understanding nature. Vicki Scott’s Lucy is still a bit too shrill, but her interaction with Charlie Brown works well. All three pencil artists (Mona Koth, Mike DeCarlo, and Scott, respectively) do a great job of keeping the characters on-model while still giving them plenty of life and movement in long-form work. Schulz’s work is deceptively hard to recreate, but this issue does it well and was fun to read.
Prophecy #6 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Red Sonja’s life has been changed forever but she might not live long enough to care, as Kulan Gath’s plan to end the world reaches its climax. Ron Marz is running out of time to end his grand story and that shows a bit here, with many in the large cast getting only a few lines or scenes and Ash stealing every one he’s in. I’m a bit worried about how it will wrap up, but I have no doubt it will look gorgeous. Walter Geovani’s artwork continues to be solid, drawing scene after scene of action-packed panels, with great facial reactions that tell so much about each character. Prophecy is well worth reading and is a model for a good crossover.
Steed and Mrs Peel #4 (Published by Boom! Studios; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): There’s madness in the music as Steed and Peel have a quiet evening interrupted by a master manipulator in a story that tries to capture the feel of the television show but falls short. The dialogue between the two main characters was crisp but Caleb Monroe seems afraid to go all-out weird with the plot. Hypnotic dance moves isn’t a bad idea, but we barely see it play out before Steed and Pell wrap things up. Yasmin Liang’s art is better than Ian Gibson’s, but lacks the life needed to jazz up a pedestrian script. There’s very little emotion in the faces of the characters and entirely too many stiff poses. This series is going to need work to keep me hooked long-term. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!