Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for some quick critiques? Best Shots sure is, with this week's edition of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off with issue #24 of one of Marvel's most acclaimed titles, with a look at the latest issue of Daredevil...
Daredevil #25 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Sometimes a fight comic is just a fight comic. But when you have Chris Samnee drawing it, well, you get a winner like Daredevil #25. I don't think I've ever seen Samnee get to tear out like this, but when Daredevil goes mano-a-mano with Ikari, a ninja armed with DD's own radar sense, this comic gets bananas — and fast. Little flourishes like Ikari snapping Daredevil's telescoping staff across his shoulders or the way the two characters' silhouettes contrast against the night sky show that the Eisner committee did something right in nominating Samnee for Best Penciller/Inker. Mark Waid's final twist may be a little light, but it doesn't change the fact that he knows how to choreograph the hell out of a fight.
Justice League #19 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10):They say there are no new stories, but I would have enjoyed Justice League #19 more had I not been able to name two within six pages. Intentional or not, Geoff Johns is pulling deep from Mark Waid as I felt the influence of both Kingdom Come and Tower of Babel throughout this entire issue. He tells the story well enough, but even the big bad reveal at the end won't sway this reader. At least Ivan Reis on pencils keeps the book interesting to look at. Although his women tend to fall for same-face syndrome, his action scenes and compositions are fun and exciting. Rod Reis' colors lend themselves to Ivan's lines and together it's a visually strong book. Just wish I hadn't read it before.
Superior Spider-Man #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Dan Slott is playing the long game here, and it's that mega-arc that keeps Superior Spider-Man #8 from faltering. There are a lot of big ideas going on here — Otto versus the Avengers, Otto versus pharma-thief Cardiac, Otto versus the spirit of Peter Parker — and that winds up cutting both ways. On the one hand, you can't accuse Slott of not going big; on the other hand, though, his pacing is so fast that he has to end each of these scenes on some fairly goofy notes. (Who in their right mind would ever trust Spider-Man as a brain surgeon?) Humberto Ramos's cartoony designs keep this book from getting too dark, but his fight scene with the Avengers is a bit cramped, and occasionally his characters come off a little distended here. Big ideas rather than big execution win the day here.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): No doubt, Keith Giffen knows exactly whom his audience is with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1. People like me. People that know enough about this setting and characters that we don't need any recap. It might cost the book the casual reader, but who the heck is going to pick up He-Man wondering just what it's about? Pop Mhan's art is fun and chaotic as he attempts to squeeze action and movement out of every panel. His line work is a little jumbled at times, but he more than makes up for that with proper Wagnerian poses. Hero and villain alike, they know how to make an entrance. Giffen and Mhan gleefully embrace every wacky sword and sorcery trope in the book and it's a better comic for it.
Doctor Who Prisoner of Time #4 (Published by IDW; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): When planning security for a tourist site, the Judoon probably aren’t the best choice, but if the Fourth Doctor can’t find a missing jewel, paradise won’t be the only thing lost in a flawed fourth issue. Continuing their tribute to Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary, the writing team of Scott and David Tipton slips here by not having the Doctor drive the action. The plot is in keeping with the television series, but references aside, this didn’t feel like it had to be a Fourth Doctor story. Artist Gary Erskine and colorist Charlie Kirchoff made several continuity errors with the Doctor’s trademark scarf, as it appears/disappears, and rarely has the same color pattern. The overarching plot thickens, hopefully with more attention to detail next issue.
Godzilla #11 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Godzilla fights desperately for the earth while Boxer and his son struggle to stay in the conflict in an issue dominated by good old-fashioned monster fighting. Duane Swierczynski wisely steps aside and allows Simon Gane to dominate, using dialogue mostly for breathing space a few plot advancements. Godzilla and the other creatures are the show here, wreaking havoc everywhere they go. Gane’s portrayal of the Godzilla-Hedorah fight is a thing of savage beauty, switching between epic splash pages and tight shots that give readers the blow by blow. The last scene of the battle, with Godzilla’s footprints, might be my favorite panel in the series so far. Godzilla captures the feel of the movies within a comic and a is a real treat for fans.
Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Frank Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham continue to deliver a supernatural pulp-adventure thriller with their second issue of Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray. The story picks up as Fabian and his faithful companion awaken to the dangers of the Spider god and its menacing followers as they are about to be sacrificed. While we know little of the Spider god and its cult, we know they possess an artifact that could help heal Fabian’s sister and unlock the secrets behind his mysterious, otherworldly powers, which is what led Fabian to their sanctuary. The book visually captures the old pulp feel through Mooneyham’s cinematic panel composition and Vidaurri and Affe’s use of a basic color palette mimicking the more limited palette from the magazines of the 1930s and '40s while still retaining a modern style as depicted in the scenes with the ghosts’ influence on Fabian. Barbiere cues readers in on a little more of Fabian’s backstory as he develops his characters while avoiding cumbersome exposition with a fair balance of action. For readers who picked up the first issue, this is one comic that is not to be missed.
Adventure Time #15 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Finn and Jake lose their voices but not their courage as they help the princesses take on a mean magician, proving even in pictograms it’s still Adventure Time! creator Ryan North is hitting his stride in this series, taking advantage of the “anything goes” mentality of the cartoon to include the patter and asides he’s known for on the Web. This issue is brilliant, challenging the reader to decipher Finn and Jake’s dialogue. Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb allow the word balloons to dominate and then come in at just the right moments with crowd scenes and details you can lose yourself into. Combined with a backup by Jeremy Sorese, this is a good trial issue for anyone looking to try Adventure Time.
Savage Wolverine #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Who'd have thunk the auteur book of Marvel NOW! would be Savage Wolverine? Idiosyncratic yet stylish, this book is unapologetically all Frank Cho, and if you don't enjoy his cheesecake beauties, his brief bursts of violence and his increasingly random supporting characters, well, this is definitely not the book for you. Somehow Savage Wolverine breaks all the rules — Wolverine is sort of a bit player here after Amadeus Cho, Shanna the She-Devil, even Man-Thing — and yet I never get tired of the way Cho zooms in on Wolvie getting the crap kicked out of him. Small panels like a somersault and a tight shot on a pivoting foot do a lot to illustrate the flow and choreography of a fight. It's a goofy vision, but it's also totally gorgeous and cohesive. Love it.
Hoax Hunters #9 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Who you gonna call? Not the Hoax Hunters, if this creative and fun flipbook issue is any indication. Writers Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley split the story in two, presenting a mock episode of the hunters on one hand and a really angry ghost on the other, showing how the team manipulates the facts to keep the public in the dark. It’s extremely ambitious, but the story works, partly because of how well artist Brent Schoonover tells the same story twice, but with subtle (and occasionally not-so-subtle) differences. He does a great job of making the TV side look fake-scary while showing true terror when the truth is revealed. This is a great series that keeps knocking it out of the park monthly.
Wonder Woman #19 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10):It took me longer than most, but I think it might be time to put down Wonder Woman for a while. With issue #19, Brian Azzarello continues his vision of the Amazon princess that's more family drama and less, well, Wonder Woman. Although Goran Sudźuka and Tony Akins draw a nice book, it lacks the depth and warmth I've come to expect from Cliff Chiang. Indeed, I wonder if the art is what's kept me around for so long. As a story, there isn't anything inherently wrong with this book. The concepts Azzarello wants to explore are valid, but in this title it seems off. It's one thing to focus on side characters every now and then. Still, when Diana receives more exploration in Justice League than her own title? No thanks.
Grimm Fairy Tales #84 (Published by Zenescope Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Sela wants to stop bullies at her new school, but her message may be frozen out as Jack Frost exacts his revenge in this second half of a topical story. Bullying is a huge issue for teens, and writer Troy Brownfield doesn’t shy away from its darkest edges. He tweaks the story of Frost a bit, but I really like the idea that only exposure will stop bullying. Riccardo Bogani uses a very thin-line drawing style that wouldn’t be out of place in a storybook, though it does suffer a bit from stilted poses. His Frost is menacing and the muted coloring of Leonardi Paciarotti works well with the mythical themes of this one, making it a good pick for fans of the classic legends.
Mara #4 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The first couple of issues of Mara were fresh, original, and brimming over with potential. The series seemed to be making an interesting commentary on performance enhancement in sports and the way athletes are now treated like celebrities. However, in this fourth issue the plot seems to have veered off course somewhat. This issue deals with the military trying to weaponize Mara and threatening to harm her brother if she doesn’t comply. It’s not a bad story, but it isn’t one we haven’t heard before in dozens of indie superhero titles. The series just seems to have lost its spark. Ming Doyle’s clean linework still looks lovely though, and with Jordie Bellaire’s colors it almost has a Jamie McKelvie / Mike Norton look to it.
Bionic Man vs. Bionic Woman #4 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Bionic Woman makes her play after throwing Steve to the wolves in this penultimate issue of a mini-series that’s been a surprising favorite. Keith Champagne continues to impress me with his handling of a female lead, giving her determination without making her partner look bad. Both pale in comparison to their bionic villain, who looks poised to win the day despite their combined efforts. There’s no letdown in the art at all, with Jose Luis’s visuals keeping the reader as off-balance as the characters in the story. Even pauses in the action get an extra kick from the camera angles or close-ups Luis chooses. Dialogue and art combine for a great reading experience, building up to what should be an explosive conclusion.
Darkness Rebirth Vol. 2 TP (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The world Jackie created starts falling apart as the darkness of his life threatens to destroy all he’s worked for in this second trade that’s very readable without prior knowledge. I was pulled in by writer David Hine’s overarching theme of a man who desperately wants control but slowly watches it slip through his fingers. It’s a classic theme, bolstered here by monsters, criminals and conflicting agendas. The artwork of Jeremy Haun is suitably creepy, keeping pace with whatever Hine devises. His portrayal of the Darkness itself is terrifying by not going over the top and gives an atmosphere of ongoing menace. The dominoes are about to fall for Jackie, and this trade lines them up, making a good starting point for a new reader.
Hack/Slash Vol. 12 TP (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): A series of guest writers expand Cassie’s world even in this strong and varied collection. It’s fascinating to see how different writers take on something so strongly associated with series creator Tim Seeley, and these were the stories that hooked me on Hack/Slash. The highlight is Hack/Slash/Repeat, from the writing team of Mike Moreci and Steve Seeley (along with artist Ryan Brown), who crushingly lay the burden on poor Cassie in a hearbreaking story of the futility of ending violence forever. I also enjoyed The Case of the Killer and the Question King (by James Lowder and Matt Merhoff), which features the old mail-order scams heavily. Given its lesser ties to the ongoing story, this is a strong start for a new reader.
Mars Attacks IDW TP (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): An uneven series of one-shots takes the creatures from Mars Attacks across several of IDW's licensed properties in this trade paperback. This is a weird quasi-crossover, with no linking connection and creative teams that don't usually work on these properties. The results range from amazing (Shane McCarthy and Matt Frank’s hysterical takedown of the franchise) to the slightly overdone homage (Martin Powell and Terry Beatty’s would slip right into Langridge’s ongoing series) to badly constructed (Erik Burnham and Jose Holder’s disjointed story). It’s a fun enough idea, reminding me a bit of Marvel’s effort in giving those involved creative freedom. As a whole, though, it’s probably only recommended for hardcore fans of the characters or creators involved. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!