Greetings, 'Rama readers — ready for your weekly dose of Rapid-Fire Reviews? Then let's cut to the chase with the Best Shots team, and get started with Marvel's mightiest heroes, with the latest issue of Avengers...
Avengers #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): There's something lurking underneath the surface of Jonathan Hickman's Avengers, like the shadow of a shark — while we don't know what will wind up rising from the depths, it definitely big. Tying in nicely with his run on , Hickman gives us an ominous origin story of Hyperion, a superman from another dimension. With his poetic narration, Hickman is playing the long game here, combining AIM, genetic terraforming and multiple universes while still giving us at least a minimum of action. Artist Adam Kubert keeps the visual bar high for this book, his cartoony style keeping things from looking too sinister. New readers may be confused, but those interesting in seeing where Hickman's mystery goes will find plenty to chew on here.
Mara #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The "real world superhero" concept has been done to death. It seems like every facet has been deconstructed and examined under the microscope. Then along comes Brian Wood, who smashes this perception with a fresh take that breathes new life into the genre. What makes this story work so well is the amazing characters that Wood has created, and the fascinating world that he’s crafted as a backdrop for the tale, which is not that far removed from our own. The enhancement/cheating element of the story really resonates with readers in the light of recent doping allegations, and makes the story that much more compelling. Ming Doyle’s artwork is fantastically detailed and beautifully rendered, brilliantly complementing the “real word” feel of the story.
Hawkeye #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart) 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10 Sure, comics have a tendency to reflect our current social situations and both Marvel and DC have addressed real life problems. However, with Hawkeye #7 Matt Fraction comments on a very recent national tragedy in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Issue #7 splits the two titular characters up and places them both in their hometowns (Brooklyn and New Jersey, respectively) and the path of the hurricane. Fraction is able to show the true heroism behind both Hawkeyes even without the bows and arrows in their abilities to risk it all for their neighbors. This might be a bit out of place with the other capes on the comic racks, but this sort of story is needed a little more than the others.
Superman #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Before anyone jumps on me — Superman is getting better. Scott Lobdell's villainous H'el actually winds up stealing the show here, as he gets a fairly compelling backstory: He really is a Kryptonian patriot, not to mention one of Jor-El's biggest fans. The rest of the cast feels a little underdone, however. Supergirl gets the worst of it, as H'el's duped girlfriend — if you didn't know or like the character before, well, this comic will pretty much guarantee you hate her. (Although Superboy's brutal dispatch of her seemed way over the top in artist Kenneth Rocafort's hands.) Rocafort's wispy linework is the book's big saving grace, even though he can't really draw Superman's T-shirt look without it looking silly. This book still isn't great, but it is getting a little bit better.
Glory #32 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Guest artists abound as Glory and her extended family ponder their fates in the shadow of a final battle in this interlude issue. I appreciate the chance to visit small character moments, but I feel like Joe Keatinge could have sprinkled them into a more epic story, especially since we only have a few issues left. Glory’s sisters get the best moment, as we learn being dangerous runs in the family. Primary artist Ross Campbell continues to mix small things (the baby pictures of Glory and her sisters) with the larger ones (the devastation of the Knight) in his pencils, and the last page promises even greater things as this series wraps up later this year. Even in a weak moment, Glory is still worth reading.
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The secret origin of Bubastis revealed! You're not going to get too much new insight into the life of Adrian Veidt here, but Jae Lee's artwork continues to be as dynamic as ever. Lots of shadows clash with clean, gorgeous figures, and you see the tension that is Ozymandias — he's a guy who looks so assured, so powerful, so good, yet he's going to perform the world's most painful kind of heroism. Even Lee's pages that look askew — a giant faded head of Richard Nixon being one that springs to mind — feels like an artistic choice rather than a setback, and layouts like Dr. Manhattan staring seemingly at the reader are great to look at. Still the best-looking book of this series.
Doctor Who Prisoners of Time #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Doctor is under attack from a mysterious foe who wants to deny him his greatest weapon—his companions—in this maxi-series that digs deep into Doctor Who history and is off to a start worthy of its television roots. The Tiptons, fresh off their awesome Doctor Who-Star Trek crossover, start at the beginning, bringing back an obscure villain from the First Doctor’s rogues gallery. They perfectly capture the dynamic of William Hartnell’s portrayal as the scholarly but cranky Time Lord. Simon Fraser’s not the strongest at capturing likenesses of the actors due to faces that seem soft and blurred, but the pacing and panel constructions really drive the action. This has the potential to be a highlight of Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary year.
Punisher: War Zone #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): It's hard to review a book that's narratively strong, but wholly unnecessary. Punisher: War Zone #4 is an interesting insight into Frank Castle as a tactician and how he plays off the Avengers. That being said, most of what happens in this book could have been included in previous issues, as well as the final installment coming next month. Carmine Di Giandomenico's pencils aren't as tight as previous issues, with most of the heavy lifting helped by some solid coloring by Matt Hollingsworth. Still, it's a shame this will be Rucka's last run with this character for the foreseeable future. His take on the Punisher is still as fresh as the first time he got into Frank Castle's head... even if this isn't the strongest outing.
Criminal Macabre: Final Night—The 30 Days of Night Crossover #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics and IDW Publishing; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The grand crossover between Steve Niles’ two most famous creations moves into its second chapter, as Cal and Alice continue their hunt for Eben, while the vampires learn never to mess with a ghoul. The story is beginning to develop nicely, blending aspects of both series together seamlessly, to create a gripping and exciting tale with never a dull moment. The story doesn’t require new readers to have in-depth knowledge of the individual series, but does draw upon enough elements from each to satisfy constant readers. With Christopher Mitten being the current artist on both regular series, his artwork is obviously a perfect fit for this crossover, bringing the story to life with an intoxicating mix of horror and noir styles.
Journey Into Mystery #648 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Sif sure is a scrappy one. Even though Journey Into Mystery isn't quite as thoughtful or cerebral as when Loki was its star, Kathryn Immonen's enthusiasm is palpable here, as she dives into the fray just as much as her fight-crazy berserker heroine. Sif is at her best when she's swashing buckles and bringing the hurt to her foes, but when she's the focus of a joke it kind of keeps the book uncertain of its tone. One thing that is for sure, though: artist Valerio Schiti is superb, with a weighty yet cartoony style that makes every punch and sword swing look superb. Looks alone keep this book swinging, and next month's guest star is a cash grab that, while crass, I'm pretty excited to see hit the page.
Hack/Slash #23 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Cassie’s war continues as her remaining allies try to stop returning foes as this long-building story stays fresh and engaging. Despite only recently starting to read this title, I’ve had no trouble getting the gist of the extended plot, thanks to Tim Seeley’s crisp writing and periodically sadistic sense of humor. Cassie’s tied into an unending loop against the worst of killers and wearing down, setting up the distinct possibility of failure. Elena Casagrande’s panel constructions do just enough to keep the story moving, especially her use of shadow, but overall, I didn’t think the art quite captured the power of the emotions of Cassie and the others. It’s hard to catch a story in the middle, but horror fans should give a look.
FUBAR – Winter Special (Published by FUBAR Press; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Been a while since I've read a nice and dirty zombie book. FUBAR – Winter Special does a good job of scratching that itch. Opening with a story by Chuck Dixon and art by Jeff McComsey, is definitely the strongest of the shorts. Sure, it ends with a pretty obvious twist, but that didn't make it any less enjoyable. by writer Jeff McClelland and artist Daniel Thollin brings little to impress save some ghastly line work. Whereas by writer Daniel Moser and artist Maysam Barza does the best job of mixing real history with the zombie menace. While little in this issue breaks any new ground with the genre, it's still a fun and gory read for fans.
Extermination Vol. 1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Only two arch-enemies can save the world from a devastating alien attack in another Boom title that makes great use of traditional character analogues. Simon Spurrier starts with “What if Batman and the Joker had to team up against a greater threat?” and runs with it, showing Nox and Red Reaper’s characters are more than anyone’s come to believe. The art by Jeffrey Edwards and V Ken Marion often feels a bit too crowded, especially when accompanied by darker colors, but the world-building has strong visuals and the characters are always flowing across the page. Truth and reality are in flux as Spurrier’s world gains complexity at nearly every page turn, accompanied by snappy dialogue that makes this title sing and is highly recommended.
High Crimes #1 (Published by Monkeybrain Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Nature versus the worst humanity has to offer, that's a concept I can get behind. High Crimes #1 by writer Christopher Sebela and artist Ibrahim Moustafa is easily one of the strongest titles to hit this week. Sebela does a fantastic job of setting the stage with interesting characters I immediately want to know more about. Moustafa continues to impress me with his art, as his style improves with each title. His character design and line work matches the detail the writing demands. He also understands the importance of the setting, with each location acting as a character unto themselves. Sebela and Moustafa are a strong team and they've set a high bar for the remainder of the series. I can't wait to read more. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!