Best Shots: Supegirl, Namor, Terror Titans, Aya and More

Cover to Supergirl #34

Greetings! Welcome back to the big column. Here’s a look back at this week’s Best Shots Extras . . .

Witchblade #121

Presidential Material: Barack Obama and Presidential Material: John McCain

And an advance peek: Marvel Zombies III #1

And now, the regular reviews . . .

Supergirl #34

Writer: Sterling Gates

Penciller: Jamal Igle

DC Comics

Review by: Jeff Marsick

History has been made, folks. I bought a Supergirl comic for the first time in my life. ‘Tis true. Now, I’m a firm believer in what’s dead should stay dead, and given Kara’s emotional demise back in Crisis On Infinite Earths, only through cameos and team memberships has she made appearances in the mausoleum of long boxes that is my basement (my hypocrisy is, of course, hued in green: notably Lantern and Arrow. But I digress…). I’ve not read a decent review of Supergirl since Peter David had the conn, and even then the kudos were tepid at best. Since I’m a repeat offender of reading at the rack, my occasional page-flipping has reinforced my opinion that the greatest evil Supergirl has ever faced, consistently more lethal than Luthor and more brutal than Brainiac, has for years been her creative team.

So why the sea change? It was the preview pages here on Newsarama (in the effort of disclosure, I need to state for the record that I have received zero compensation for that shameless plug) that tugged at my curiosity. The always impressive Mr. Igle’s pencils are a breath of fresh air that this book desperately needed. People actually look like people, the action is crisp and kinetic, and his plotting aids, not detracts from the plot. His name on the marquee is weight enough to warrant adding this to your monthly pull list.

The title: “Why The World Doesn’t Need Supergirl”, is based on a Daily Planet article penned by that backbiting Queen of Mean, Cat Grant. Cat’s got an axe to grind for the shiner she’s sporting after Supergirl rudely saved her life by shoving her from the clutch of certain death and into a photogs elbow. Supergirl, fresh from a tussle with Silver Banshee that does more damage than good, embarks on a farrago of discussion and discovery with her peers to determine if there is indeed a place for her, and if so, how she can better fit in on her adopted planet. I’ll give you a hint: secret identity. Leave it to Lana Lang to come up with a solution, stereotypically comic book-ish as it turns out.

While the issue is more placeholder than event, given that the “Superman: New Krypton” story is soon to break, it does give Sterling Gates a score and two pages to flex some voice. Like Igle, this is a much needed change for the series, and his dialogue feels real and the jokes aren’t cutesy or forced. His vision of Supergirl is less whiney and petulant, more confused and aggravated at her own inability to make the world like her. I don’t know if I agree with her constant portrayal of being rash and, well, not very bright: case in point is the saving of a ballplayer from the brunt of the Banshee’s shriek, where Supergirl whisks him miles away and deposits him right in the middle of a street in the path of an oncoming car. She’s got more experience than she’s being given credit for.

Still, it’s an enjoyable issue. If not for any other reason than the fact that the writing isn’t cringe-inducing and that this may actually be a change in status quo for the Girl of Steel. Worthy of a B, and a portent of goodness to come from this creative team.

Trinity #18

Writer: Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza

Artist: Mark Bagley and Scott McDaniel

From: DC Comics

Reviewed by: Richard Renteria

Thus far Trinity has been a pleasant surprise. Throughout the series Kurt Busiek has managed to tell an interesting story that utilizes the established myth associated with the iconic nature of the series stars – Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Mark Bagley’s art throughout the series has displayed a complete range of emotions with some well-executed battle sequences strewn about for good measure. With this issue the story enters its second act and Busiek utilizes the issue to reset the DCU in an Elseworlds type fashion as the fallout from last issues climactic battle between the three icons and Despero, Enigma and Morgana Le Fey, the evil trinity if you will, come into light.

Throughout the issue Busiek establishes some of the major changes that have taken place to the DC Universe as a result of the hatching of the Cosmic Egg by the evil trinity. The ensuing fallout gives the DCU a vastly different landscape and the effects on the world as a result of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman never existing comes into clear focus. As much as the story itself is engaging I do find a problem with the direction that Busiek has decided to take the story as some tension is lost as a result of a generic feeling of been there done that. There are a lot of other books exploring the realities of divergent timelines throughout the DCU and it’s a shame that Busiek felt the need to walk this oh so familiar path.

There is some hope in sight though as the back-up story does a good job of setting up the title to really explore the nature of the big three as one character has momentary flashes of what should be as opposed to what is. Busiek and Nicieza were wise to give the second story a more street level perspective of the changes as it makes for a nice balance to the main story. More importantly though, the second story does a good job of giving the reader more insight into the overarching theme that this title is exploring.

On art Mark Bagley continues to deliver some electrifying artwork. As good as he choreographs battle sequences, this issue Bagley is tasked with utilizing another of his artistic specialties – the dreaded talking heads. Bagley utilizes a deliberate mix of panel layouts and camera angles to really engage the reader in the story. Bagley’s art is well-suited for this story and the few noticeable shortcomings and shortcuts that do pop up in the art are excusable considering the nature of Bagley’s effort on a weekly title. Scott McDaniels’ art in the second half of the issue was just as effective and really added a nice contrast to Bagley’s efforts.

As I am mainly reading this title for the story of the three big guns of the DCU I am a little disappointed to see them missing from this issue, and it seems quite a few more, but the disappearance is necessary for the writers to further explore the importance of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman in the DC Universe so it’s forgivable, for now.

Terror Titans #1

Writer: Sean McKeever

Artist: Joe Bennett

From: DC Comics

Reviewed by: Richard Renteria

I’m very confused by what DC is trying to do with the Titans franchise. If the last few months of Teen Titans and the first issue of this series are any indication, it seems to be a desire to apply a veneer of the horror genre to the Titans franchise. The problem with this approach though is in the execution and Terror Titans is the perfect example of what the Titans titles have been lacking of late, heroes.

The plot of Terror Titans can probably be summed up in one paragraph, unfortunately the talented Sean McKeever decides to take the reader on a 22-page ride of twists and turns that seemingly collapses under the weight of its own flimsy pretense as there are no characters to sympathize with, no characters with redeeming qualities and the notion of death throughout the issue is treated with all the gravitas of salting pop corn. I will give McKeever credit for utilizing a concept from Final Crisis to give the story some added relevance to the DCU, but to fall back on the concept of arena-style gladiator games feels unnecessary and corny. Lacking any real drama and hindered by a complete lack of characterization the two deaths this issue feels somewhat hollow and unnecessary. It is a shame that death is treated with such a callous disregard in this title as most characters are in their early to mid 20s and treated like so much chattel. can’t help but feel subsequent issues will revel in the forthcoming blood-letting.

On art Joe Bennett lets the blood flow, as he continues the trend of applying the slasher-horror genre to the Titans franchise. DC has really been letting loose with the graphic violence in their titles lately, so long as it is depicted alcohol free, and this issue is no different. Bennett’s art is nicely detailed and carries the story well, but again the manner in which characters are handled creates a need to hurry through the pages as not even the art can salvage such a poor concept. Rod Reis’ utilizes a vibrant color palette which perfectly captures the spandex world, but the nature of the story and its urban settings require a darker feel to create the proper atmosphere.

It seems Terror Titans wants to be Secret Six, but with none of the character moments that make a reader sit up and actually root for an individual with evil tendencies. Even worse though is that Terror Titans is where Static will make his first DCU appearance, what an unfortunate turn of events.

Top Ten: Season 2 #1

Script and Layouts by Zander Cannon

Pencils and Inks by Gene Ha

America's Best Comics

Review by Brendan McGuirk

The first, most important thing to say about the relaunch of the Top 10 franchise is that, without the incomparable Alan Moore at the helm, the series will be different. It would be a mistake to come in with a preconception of better or worse, but “different,” is a safe assumption. However, unlike the best forgotten Beyond the Farthest Precinct miniseries of a few years back, Season Two is brought to you by series stalwarts Zander Cannon and Gene Ha, and so the absence of comics' greatest wizard is less profound.

Cannon's layouts and Ha's finishes solidify this book's consistency, syncing it both with the original series and the prequel original graphic novel, Top 10: The Forty-Niners. This story begins with the introduction of a rookie officer fresh to the Neopolis beat, Slipstream Phoenix. The 'new season, new rookie' storytelling approach hearkens to the introduction of Toybox in the series' debut issue. Bringing new eyes to a familiar situation is always an effective method of re-introduction, allowing new readers to examine the surroundings with the same sense of wonder as the character. With Slipstream's arrival, though, come some serious changes to the standard operating procedure. There's a new commissioner, and his edict is to normalize everything within oversight; castrating and homogenizing the very characteristics that have come to define the 10th Precinct Police. This is a major conflict for all our favorite officers, and there is no better scapegoat than the new guy.

The balance of a new season's plot lines and science crimes with the growth and exploration of' characters and relationships works without effort. The book also integrates some topical issues of current mainstream superhero comics, with slight nods to both the confounding nature of parallel worlds, and the bureaucratic headaches of post-human registration acts. The Easter eggs that proliferated the original series still permeate the pages, giving astute readers the added layer of depth they have grown accustomed to. Despite the impossibly large shoes Mr. Moore left, Cannon rises to the task, with everyone sounding and acting within character. Mysteries are set up, the entire cast gets page time, and we even meet some new faces.

Cannon and Ha's pages are as lavish and concise as ever. They employ a new technique where backgrounds and background characters are inked traditionally, and the main characters are toned with softer, water-color like coloring. A similar technique was used on The Forty-Niners, and the resulting paint- like look gives an almost dream-like quality. Alex Sinclair's work in this regard is integral to the overall quality of the look, and as always, he rises to the task.

As much as it is difficult to envision an Alan Moore series without Alan Moore, this book is well-worth a look. Again, even if we are to compare this series to previous iterations, to make broad judgments after one issue would be a mistake. But all the pieces are there- great cast, unique and nuanced visuals, hilarious observations on superhero tropes, and good old police drama. If you enjoyed the Top Ten world before, there is no reason you won't love Season II.

Aya of Yop City

Written by Marguerite Abouet

Illustrated by Clément Oubrerie

Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Reviewed by Michael C Lorah

A sequel to last year’s Aya, writer Marguerite Abouet returns to the Ivory Coast of her youth with another story about the romantic entanglements, responsibilities, fun times and adventures of three young African women. As with Aya, Aya of Yop City is a fast-moving, fun portrait of African life rarely seen amid the headlines of genocide and starvation. Abouet captures the cadence and liveliness of youth culture in the Ivory Coast in the 1970s, reminding readers that young people are young people, no matter where they live.

Abouet understands the rhythm of dialogue, and her ability to establish each character with clear speech rhythms establishes each character’s personality quickly and firmly. By playing different personalities against one another, Abouet is also able to round out each character and provide plenty of spice to keep readers interested. Though a few characters seem impossibly dense to what’s going on around them, the narration keeps characters distinctly in the dark about coming surprises, so there are plenty of revelations to watch the girls play off.

Although the three heroines are often hard to distinguish from one another, Oubrerie’s art is quite good. He’s able to frame shots effectively, using zooms and angles to keep the reader’s eye excited. Capturing the African origin of the characters without resorting to ethnic stereotypes, Oubrerie’s character designs (stronger with the male characters; not as distinct when it comes to the three protagonists at the center of the tale) and subtle character acting make it easy to connect with and relate to each character. The backgrounds are full of urban details that ground the scenes in a cosmopolitan setting.

The book’s biggest failing, perhaps because Abouet recognized the success of Aya and planned for a series of books, is the open-endedness of the experience. A cliffhanger pertaining to Aya’s father, a shadowed lovers’ liaison, Bintou’s “Parisian” boyfriend, Hervé’s struggle to find his calling and Mamadou’s move to embrace responsibility for himself and Adjoua … it’s too much to leave so untidy. Aya of Yop City is a delightful book, a fiction built on an author’s upbringing, but hopefully the next volume will provide some closure to at least a few of the threads Abouet is weaving.

Zero-G #1 of 4

Writer: Alex Zamm

Penciller: Jason Badower

Spacedog Comics

Review by: Jeff Marsick

When an asteroid containing enough vitamins and precious minerals to basically cure all global financial crises passes within reach of Earth, an international race erupts as every country launches a team to land on it and claim authority. When the US delegation lands, they find that the asteroid has secret of its own in the form of an alien mining operation gone horribly and tragically wrong. Worse yet, the US team’s shuttle has been sabotaged, with fuel and air now at a premium and fading fast, with the chances of rescue dwindling by the minute. It’s Armageddon meets Stranded, and is the brainchild of screenwriter Alex Zamm.

For a company I’ve never heard of before, Spacedog, this is an impressive book. The artwork is solid and better than a lot of work done by bigger companies, although I had to laugh at the Chinese space shuttle being just like the United States’s, except for being painted in Communist Red #5. Mr. Badower could have done with a little more attention to detail in spots: two of the US team members are Marines, yet when they are introduced, they are wearing t-shirts with “NAVY” on them. No self-respecting Marine would be caught dead in anything from another service. Alex Zamm, does a decent job of writing dialogue and pushing the plot along at a blockbuster movie’s pace, but I wish he had also paid a little more attention to details. While I’ll overlook his assembly of such a high-profile team to include an Army General and a Marine private (I blame it on Star Trek), what I cannot forgive is his inclusion of two Air Force corporals as the mission’s pilots which is so ridiculous and preposterous a mistake that it ruins the scene.

Make no mistake, Zero-G is a wild ride that should be sold with a tub of buttered popcorn. Within the zeal of its execution, however, is where the elastic of disbelief suspension can at times be stretched perilously thin. Instead of the countries of the world united as one to mine the asteroid as would be typically expected and realistic, every country (even the third worlders) hastily develops a space program and the plot becomes a sort of Cannonball Run, complete with acts of war that no one seems to blink over. This is a book begging for Michael Bay’s attention that sci-fi fans and action junkies should seriously consider. I give it a B-.

Pellet Reviews!

Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes HC (DC; by Mike): When you put together the only two superhero concepts that really work for me, coupled with all the love showered on these comics when serialized, this book should be a pretty easy sell, yet it was still a well-drawn, well-intentioned miss for me. Writer Geoff Johns did a nice job playing with the theme of rejected young people, how some (the Subs) choose to make themselves better while others (the League) become bitter (though Johns misfires when trying to cast Superman as the ultimate reject; the character’s place in social consciousness is simply too transcendent for such a brief flashback to make his rejection feel authentic). And, yeah, there’re some great moments throughout (a few storytelling bumps, but Gary Frank mostly nails the artwork - both images of Superman's hand and bullets are terrific), but Johns’ strength has been his ability to boil characters down to their iconic core. Here, with a few exceptions (Gim and Brek), I feel that he’s reduced each down to an action movie one-liner (Brainy’s smug inability to admit a mistake; Brin’s smartass “hide the battery” crack). In the end, the arc also missed what I’ve always loved most about the Legion during its fifty years; this story looks to the past, and all the best Legion creators, from Shooter to Levitz, from Giffen to Abnett and Lanning, have always looked to the future.

Sub-Mariner: The Depths #2 (Reviewed by Richard; Marvel Comics): Peter Milligan has done a solid job with the writing in the first two issues of Sub-Mariner: The Depths. Evocative and somber, Milligan’s narrative draws the reader into the story so effectively that the reader can empathize with the feeling of dread and fear of what lies beneath that the characters exhibit throughout. Esad Ribic’s art does a phenomenal job of capturing every scene and adding a unique feel to the narrative’s overall tense feeling. By creating a contrast between the vastness of the ocean and the claustrophobic feeling of being inside the confining space of a submarine Ribic is able to add a nice contrast to these very different settings. With a story enhanced by some haunting art Sub-Mariner: The Depths is a great read that succeeds in keeping the reader engaged from page one.

No Hero #1 (Avatar; By Brendan): Warren Ellis dives into the world of the uncensored superhero once again, this time taking his analytic eye to the concept of vigilantism. Juan Jose Ryp handles the art chores, and continues to appear the artist best suited to the harsh, aggressive nature of Ellis' writing. In other stories, Ellis has zoomed out, pondering the impact of the entire supposed world the extra powered might inhabit. Here, however, he focuses instead on the individuals, and individual's personal sense of justice and satisfaction. The concepts are ambitious and far-reaching, but like many Ellis stories, this first issue is all lead in and groundwork. Still, there is adequate action, both beautiful and grotesque, rendered by Ryp. So if you like explosive violence, and arrogant characters, or, more succinctly, if you like Warren Ellis, this book is worth the look.

Batman #680 (DC Comics; review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow): Only one more chapter to go now, and I can honestly say that "Batman R.I.P." has been one of my more joyless reading experiences. As easy as it has been to lavish praise on Grant Morrison's work on the just-wrapped All Star Superman, it's been equally difficult to find merit in the writer's time on the lead Batman series. One might argue that Morrison's run on Batman has been indecipherable at its best, and I'm not inclined to disagree. As bizarre as things are in Batman #680, I get what's taking place (mostly), but I think the story fails in that the delivery is awkward and it's challenging the readers for all the wrong reasons. Under the influence of hallucinogens and deep-seated brainwashing by the Black Glove, Batman is trying to reclaim his sanity, and I sort of feel the same way after reading each chapter so far. It's funny that the last line of the book is the Joker saying "Now do you get it?", because it felt like a challenge to us rather than Bruce Wayne. If there is a mystery to the circumstances that have led Batman to this breaking point, more than we've been privy to so far, terrific, but nothing seems to be coming together in any coherent manner. Morrison and artist Tony Daniel have redesigned the Joker in a most unpleasant fashion, and everything that made the supervillain great for decades seems to have been scrapped in favor a angry serial killer persona (never mind the fact that his odd interaction with the Black Glove's Le Bossu serves little purpose -- what's with the one random panel where Le Bossu apparently got mutilated by Joker?). For a story that's supposed to be all about Bruce Wayne's last stand, it's been disheartening to see him so broken and lacking in spirit. That's how Batman #680 felt for me.

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