Greetings, 'Rama readers — ready for the fast column? Best Shots is, with this week's edition of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column as Giuseppe Camuncoli joins Dan Slott for the latest issue of Superior Spider-Man...
Superior Spider-Man #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Superior Spider-Man is all about upgrades this issue, as Doc Ock is determined to achieve things that Peter Parker never could, including finishing his doctorate and stopping Massacre once and for all. Also upgraded is the art, by Giuseppe Camuncoli, whose work seems to be a much cleaner fit for this book than Ryan Stegman's. At the very least, his darker, bulkier Spidey better suits the tone, and is bolstered by some terrific work from inker John Dell, and colorist Edgar Delgado. Dan Slott's writing is getting darker, too, as Massacre raises the book's stakes, driving Doc Ock ever closer to crossing the one line that Peter never did; plus an old villain returns to the fold. Superior Spider-Man gets better every issue.
Justice League of America's Vibe #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Didn't see this one coming. There is something about Geoff Johns' writing that just works when he's penning characters pop culture wrote off years ago. He, along with co-writer Andrew Kreisberg, not only create an interesting origin for Vibe, but they also give The New 52 a real sense of history. That just hasn't happened in any title. Artist Pete Woods doesn't get to kick around too much superhero action, but his character work is strong and paints a very believable human with Cisco Ramon and his quickly expanding world. The few slices of action we do get definitely leave me wanting more. I never thought I'd say this, but Vibe #1 is darn near everything I ever wanted in a classic superhero origin.
Saga #10 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Saga isn’t bound by convention or continuity, so anything can happen. That’s a win for readers, as it has created an exceptional and surprising experience. Suffice it to say that surprises can also break your heart. Saga #10 reminds us that the book’s heart is Alana and Marko’s relationship. Taking a short break from the action, the story flashes back to a moment when they’re on the brink of falling in love and making a life-changing decision. It’s a sweet sequence tinged with humor and urgency. The issue quickly shifts gears into the present, where it’s hellzapoppin’. Let’s just say that the couple’s family now has much bigger problems than avoiding The Will. And please don’t skip ahead. Surprises, remember?
Avengers #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Captain Universe, this is your life. Of course an enigmatic character like her would be up Jonathan Hickman's alley. What is a fairly standard origin story for the Captain is buoyed by the character dynamics surrounding her — Hickman's Shang-Chi in particular is the most refreshing addition to the cast I've seen so far, as his serenity and intuition show us that intelligence isn't measured in Infinity Gems or billion-dollar armor. (And Hickman's nod to Spider-Man's current status quo is delightfully trollish.) Adam Kubert and Frank Martin look as polished and painterly as I've ever seen them, which makes the small emotional moments — Shang eying the most powerful person in the universe intently, or Spidey giving a nasty smirk — some real oomph. Combined with a nice cliffhanger, this was a fun read.
Hellraiser: The Dark Watch #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Hellraiser returns as a new ongoing, written by Brandon Seifert, under the guidance of Clive Barker. The series follows on directly from last year’s ongoing, and sees a new status quo in hell, as Harry D’Amour takes over as high priest (Pinhead) and starts building an army for purposes as yet unknown. It’s an intriguing premise and the presence of D’Amour is sure to delight Barker fans. Seifert opens the issue by recapping the events of the last series with some expository dialogue that fits naturally into the flow of the story, and closes the issue with the return of a fan favorite character. Seifert obviously has a love for these characters and that comes through in the quality of his writing.
Number 13 #3 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): There is no doubt, the incredibly bright and vibrant work of penciler Robert Love and colorist Heather Breckel betray the violent and dangerous tone of Number 13 #3. It's a disconnect that alienates the reader, and yet within a few pages, you can't imagine another way to visually present such a setting. The titular character and reader have dealt with a lot these past three issues, and co-writers Robert Love and David Walker run both through the ringer in issue 3. I only wish they had more time. There are many aspects to the child that go unanswered, While I appreciate the writers wanting us to fill in the blanks and the future, I can't help but think he had more to tell us.
The Shadow Year One #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Jose Camacho; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Year One series often tend to be origin stories or the early era of certain heroes. The Shadow Year One #1 does not give us a lot of insight in to the character’s early career. In fact, the only factoid that we are given is that the Shadow’s signature red “bandanna” is actually a tablecloth. Matt Wagner’s script takes the Coen Brothers’ approach to creating a story, where we have a cast of villains. His dialogue is slightly generic, so it makes the characters feel flat. Wilfredo Torres’s simple art resembles classic Jack Kirby so it suits The Shadow’s pulp origins. He has a camera-like focus that he applies at the right moments. Overall, this is a timid start to a new series in terms of writing but art-wise it’s nostalgic.
Kill Shakespeare: The Tide of Blood #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Interestingly, writers Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col pen an opening that will entice new readers far more than the Kill Shakespeare loyal. I'm a little jealous of newcomers to The Tide of Blood #1. The story and characters are instantly compelling, if you're fresh to the title. Make no mistake, as a fan, I love these folks, but the story needs to get a little deeper to truly knock my socks off. As for the art, Andy Belanger has an almost whimsical style that lends itself well to the subject matter. Even in darker moments, his lines ad a wispy level of detail that really sells the whole concept. Don't worry, Kill Shakespeare: The Tide of Blood #1 still entertains, it just lacks the spark that made the original so wonderful.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #17 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Considering this book has been considered to be one of the more inaccessible books in the Green Lantern franchise, I have to say... this is a compelling read. By focusing just on Kyle Rayner — and the alternate timelines he has to endure, thanks to the all-powerful master of the emotional spectrum, Volthoom — Tony Bedard and Aaron Kuder make you curious about all these multicolored rings in a way that no crossover could. Kuder is the superstar here, with a Frank Quitely-style fleshiness to his characters and some real risk-taking with his layouts. (A scene where Kyle is split into numerous versions of himself is some of the best I've seen out of DC in awhile.) This book leads with its looks, but if it draws interest to the Wrath of the First Lantern, it's a good move for DC.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #19 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The Turtles must rely on uncertain allies to stop Krang from remaking the earth as the dimension-spanning story continues. Placing the Turtles in the middle of a science-fiction space opera is risky, as the writing team of Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz are veering too far into tropes here, as the dialogue from Krang and the underdog resistance feel too cut and paste. Fortunately, the scenes with the Turtles themselves still shine (particularly Donatello’s geeking out over the technology). Ben Bates continues as a major upgrade on art duties, giving the aliens an OEL manga look that sets off the "normal" look of the Turtles. I also love his facial features, which help liven up the script, which I hope returns to earth soon.
Indestructible Hulk #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Who would have thought the Hulk could have been such a charmer? (Maybe everyone who saw Avengers.) But there's something about Bruce Banner that makes you root for this weirdo super-scientist who's just getting his life back on track. Mark Waid continues to introduce Banner's new status quo as a S.H.I.E.L.D.-funded polymath, which builds up his likeability factor for when the fighting starts. Artist Leinil Francis Yu is the reason this all works, as not only are his quiet moments really wonderful to take in, but his Hulk battles are huge set pieces with giant submarines, Atlantean superweapons and creatures so grotesque they actually seem like a threat. The only downside? This issue breaks Waid's done-in-one streak. A small price to pay for good comics.
Baltimore: The Widow and the Tank (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): This one-shot contains two short stories chronicling a couple of Lord Baltimore's many encounters with monsters and vampires during his ongoing hunt for Haigus. Each tale has an interesting hook, and Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola manage to deliver well-plotted and well-paced stories in the scant few pages allotted, with each having a clever little twist in its tail. Ben Stenbeck and Dave Stewart excel on the art front, bringing this grim, vampire infested, World War I era world to life in splendidly dark and morose fashion. These aren't essential chapters in the saga of Baltimore, but they are definitely worth checking out, and subtly add to the rich tapestry of the ongoing tale.
Batwoman #17 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): This is such a frustrating book. After all the build-up and world-ending threat; that's how the bad guys go down? There is playing the long con and then there is not knowing how to wrap a story and I feel J.H. Willams III and W. Haden Blackman's latest is the latter. There are still elements to Batwoman that I simply adore. There is, of course, the wonderful art, but even that is starting to take a backseat to my frustrations. Indeed, were it not for the last two pages (trust me, the big "question" isn't the only shocker), I don't know if I'd be back for issue #18. But I can't help it. I love Kate Kane and I'm in this for the long haul. I'll understand if you want off.
Sherlock Holmes the Liverpool Demon #2 (Published by Dynamite Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Clues abound as a possible supernatural killer lurks in Liverpool, but linking them up may prove a challenge for Sherlock Holmes as this miniseries continues. I appreciate that writers Leah Moore and John Reppion are giving us as many details as possible so that we can match wits with Doyle's detective, buy the pace felt too frantic this time out as we jumped from one suspicious character to another. Matt Triano's art appeared more rushed this time, too, with Holmes' look not holding the consistency of the first issue and a tendency to over-shadow things. Dark and gloomy can be shown by more than keeping things obscured. This is still a story that gets Holmes right, even if it has a few flaws.
In Case You Missed It!
Hoax Hunters #7 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Hoax Hunters are quickly becoming the Hoax Hunted as they face attacks from all sides, continuing a strong start for the series' second arc. There are multiple clever moments from co-writers Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley, such as how to make a dead man feel pain, and I was definitely surprised at this issue’s end revelation, which continues the slow-build storytelling. Axel Medellin really drives the action home with little facial expressions, the positioning of hands, and panel constructions — such as when Regan blasts a laptop to smithereens. He’s also quite good at making gnomes look scary, no mean feat, and I love the albino king’s character design, especially the soulless eyes. Hoax Hunters is a book horror fans need to be reading. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!