Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for some Rapid-Fire Reviews? Best Shots is ready to let 'er rip, as we take a look at the sophomore issue of Brian Wood and Carlos D'Anda's Star Wars...


Star Wars #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Brian Wood, Carlos D'Anda, and Gabe Elataeb set a high bar with Star Wars #1. One they don't quite achieve in Issue #2, but I am still having a blast with this book. This issue is all about laying the ground work for what is to come as Princess Leia sets her covert team into motion. Although I am loving the character interaction, Wood might be spending a little too much time in his reintroduction of characters. I understand the reason, but it's a bit much. As a penciler and colorist team, D'Anda and Elataeb are pleasure to read. Each character stands out as unique and expressive. And again, the attention to detail placed upon ships and setting is fantastic. Star Wars has gone from fun to a monthly must-read.


Batman #17 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): When you start off with something as awesome as "The Court of Owls," it's hard to go anywhere but down — but in the case of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, "down" is all relative. This comic is great as far as the Batman-Joker dynamic is concerned, with Snyder making the verbal sparring cut even deeper than the fisticuffs. And believe me, Capullo makes those fisticuffs , with a scarred, angular style that reminded me of Frank Miller in his prime. That said, there are a couple of cop-outs with the plot, including a death trap that goes nowhere, a shocker splash that also winds up being a fake-out, and a conclusion that you know is far from the end. Even though the landing isn't completely stuck, this is still good work.


Secret Avengers #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): You'd think that "Secret" in the title would imply Avengers as SpecOps operators, running high-risk missions where plausible deniability is certain and disavowal is expected. Unfortunately, this pulseless addition to the overexposed Avengers line tries too hard at walking a darker path, with a KGB-ish S.H.I.E.L.D. roping Hawkeye and Black Widow into an odd plot involving bullets that heal after they kill and Manchurian Candidate nanotech. Although Nick Spencer writes good dialogue, too much of it reads as talk for the sake of talking; more emphasis should have been placed on story. Luke Ross's artwork is fine, if inconsistent (close-ups are not his strong suit), but is hindered by Matthew Wilson's dark colors that often obfuscate details and separations. Not great, not awful, but needs a purpose.


Katana #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Katana is not going to be an easy sell. She has the potential to be a fun character, and I think writer Ann Nocenti knows that. Although she isn't quite there yet. Nocenti drops hints at a much deeper story. However, Katana #1 loses focus when it spreads her story between Kanata's past, the history of Japantown, and the relatively confusing main story. Alex Sanchez works some interesting elements of traditional Japanese horror into his art, but sacrifices detail in the process. The art is surprising and not at all what I expected from Sanchez. It's welcome at times and others, it's simply jarring. Katana #1 is a work in progress. This book could be something, if DC gives the title time to grow.


Wolverine and the X-Men #25 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): School can be pretty fun when classes are in the Savage Land. Yet Jason Aaron and Ramon Perez don't lean too heavily on the high concept, instead letting us check in on the rambunctious children of the Jean Grey School. My personal favorite of the bunch is Wolverine, as we finally get to see him interact with the students a bit more directly. Perez is a nice change in terms of the art, with an expressive, cartoony style that still feels very different than the rest of the Marvel stable. That said, the subplot featuring Wolverine's lost brother Dog doesn't quite enthrall yet, sapping this issue of some of its strength.


Manhattan Projects #9 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Jose Camacho; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Jonathan Hickman had promised that “things would be completely nuts” in Manhattan Projects #8, and he delivered. This time around, the insanity has spilled over. This issue does not lack its share of action and unique humor. While very entertaining, this issue felt brief due to its pacing. To be completely frank, the fall of the Illuminati is just too quick. Pitarra's signature art is almost becoming formulaic. This issue is riddled with characters seem stiff, as if they were in a police lineup. Also, since close-ups are a tad overused it makes many panels seemed cramped. This is a slight misstep in an otherwise stellar series.


Popeye #10 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Popeye fights to help a friend stay in the country while the Sappos and Dr. Wotasnozzle audition for Marvel’s movie in this issue that would be better without the backup feature. I love writer Roger Langridge’s take on Segar’s sailor, aided by Vince Musacchia on art duties. The artwork looks right out of classic Popeye strips as Musacchia effortlessly keeps the story of a Tor Johnson lookalike moving from comical montages to the literal punch line. Unfortunately, this loses points for the Sappo backup, which is drawn fine by Ken Wheaton but just isn’t funny. The characters are unlikable and often cruel, making them the opposite of Popeye. Even with a questionable end story, this comic is still quite good and recommended.


Bionic Man vs. Bionic Woman #2 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Jaime Sommers tries to succeed where the Bionic Man failed but only finds deadly danger as this crossover takes a step backwards from its initial promise. Keith Champagne opts to cut between scenes too abruptly, requiring me to go back to the first issue to confirm I hadn’t missed important details like Steve Austin’s final (unseen) fight. I’m also not keen on using the “villain vaguely hints at sexual violence” trope, which happens once the Bionic Woman is defeated. Jose Luis continues to be solid here, using a lot of visual tricks to keep the story moving, though sometimes it feels a bit overdone in the talking moments. I’m still intrigued enough to continue but this series definitely hit a sophomore slump in Issue #2.


The New Ghostbusters #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Not a lot of ghost busting in The New Ghostbusters #1, but it does a great job of bringing new readers up to speed and did so with some zip. Erik Burnham takes well established, but background characters, and makes them the center stars. Surprisingly, it works quite well. Dan Schoening's exaggerated style is again a boon to this title, as it continues to harken back to the original cartoon. Which means the book may not pull in fans of the original films, but will still appeal to fans of the entire Ghostbusters world. Actually, that's a bit of a shame. The New Ghostbusters #1 has some really fun stuff going on with it. It deserves a bigger audience than it will likely receive. Give this one a look.


Creepy Comics #11 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Uncle Creepy gets romantic with a spectacular theme issue. From Gilbert Hernandez using his own artistic quirks to create a shock ending to a teen romance that takes a turn worthy of the 1970s magazines, this is solid work all around with varied art styles that fit each entry well. (My personal favorite was Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones creating an innovative haunted house story that takes the trope to a new level.) As with , this issue echoes the themes from the original Warren book without slavishly recreating them. I love that Peter Bagge operates as an Aragones-like dark comedy breather with short one-page gags. Get this one for your loved one that enjoys their Valentine’s heart still beating from its victim.


Avengers Arena #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Boo to you, Avengers Arena #4. I know covers aren't always honest, but come on! Don't promise what you never intended to deliver. Dennis Hopeless started out strong, but his concept just isn't keeping up. The series depends on past readers knowing and loving these characters, but then their deaths only anger the faithful. While new readers are left wondering just why the heck everyone is so mad. Alessandro Vitti's art is unsteady. His quieter personal moments have a nice depth, but action scenes are a little sloppy. Frank Martin's colors do much to raise Vitti's art and go a long way in setting the tone of Arcade's island of death. Avengers Arena had me a for a while, but the honeymoon is over.


Django Unchained #2 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Jose Camacho; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Considering the influence of grindhouse films, Tarantino's scripts easily lend themselves to the pulp side of comics. While there are a few extra lines of dialogue peppered about, this issue does not add anything to the film. If pitted against each other, the scripts negate so it would be a competition between cinematography and art. Unfortunately, this issue's art is not its strength, Guera's ink seems too heavy on more than a few scenes. Night scenes appear blotchy and hard to follow. Unless you're collecting memorabilia, I'd suggest sticking to watching the film.


Alabaster: Wolves Hardcover (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Dancy is a monster killer with God on her side until she meets a cynical bird and a werewolf with her own agenda in this excellent miniseries that’s a clinic on how to tell a good comic. Caitlin R. Kiernan expertly weaves a story that builds from chapter to chapter into a whole that is very much a sum of its parts, as we see Dancy fall from grace. Steve Lieber might have turned in his best work here, conjuring up a world that is familiar yet devoid of natural life. When he turns the creepiness dial up to eleven, it makes the impact all the bigger for the reader. This is a perfect horror mini-series and was one of my comics of the year.


Atomic Robo Vol. 7: Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the South Pacific (Published by Red 5 Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): It’s Baby-Boomer Robo in action, as the creative team of Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener take Tesla’s science adventurer to just after World War II in this trade that once again blends humor, action, and dramatic moments. Robo finds himself attacked by a sleeper cell of Japanese soldiers and must ally himself with women who didn’t want to return to second-class status after the war was over. Clevinger handles the time period’s sexual politics like an expert and the only flaw might be that Robo himself isn’t always the star. Wegener’s art shines again, as he nimbly balances light-hearted fun with serious moments. The look is blocky and angular, but flows smoothly from panel to panel. This series continues to be excellent in every incarnation.


Hypernaturals Vol. 1 (Published by Boom! Studios; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The Hypernaturals are a carefully crafted superhero team that’s being carefully dismantled by a villain who knows their history in this start to a new cosmic series by fan-favorites Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Despite some problems with too much overly clever jargon/dialogue, Abnett and Lanning hooked me on the idea of finding out who was behind the event that killed the current team and the impact it has on former members. The art brings this down a bit, as I found the combination of Brad Walker, Tom Derenick, and Andres Guinaldo to be jarring. They often try too many medium looks, giving us a sense of the world but not the action. This is a good fit for anyone who likes sci-fi superhero action.

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