Greetings, 'Rama readers! You ready for the onslaught of Rapid-Fire Reviews? I hope so, because the Best Shots crew is primed and ready to talk about some comics! Let's start the show with Rob McMonigal, as he gives his thoughts on Justice League #23 and the end of the Trinity War...
Justice League #23 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The secret of Pandora’s Box is revealed at last, creating almost as many questions for long-time readers as it answers in this wrap-up to the Trinity War crossover. Geoff Johns strives hard to wrap everything up in one issue, which requires racing across quite a few cool ideas and battle scenes. Ivan Reis does an amazing job keeping pace, packing as much as he can into every panel, whether it’s a flashback or the slow reveal of the perfect choice for the Secret Society’s master. He gets as many characters into the action as possible and they all look top-notch, even though there are three inkers. Johns’ surprise ending has me wondering how the pieces fit but I’m looking forward to finding out.
Captain Marvel #15 (Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):There is an interested sense of dramatic tension with a character that feels numb to all around her. After literally sacrificing a part of her body in the previous story, Carol Danvers now faces her greatest threat yet as she and all of Marvel heavy-hitters go to battle in space. Since Kelly Sue DeConnick took over the good Captain, one of her strongest facets has been her emotional connection to those she loves. All that is gone now and DeConnick, along with co-writer Jen Van Meter, pen a Carol that's almost robot-like in her actions on the chaotic battlefield. It's a shift that makes for some compelling reading. Visually, Patrick Olliffe on pencils does some heavy lifting with an action intensive issue. Visuals that are greatly enhanced by some good inks by Drew Geraci and colors by Andy Troy. I do hope the revolving door of artists on this series comes to an end soon. Kelly Sue has the character nailed, she just needs an art team that can claim the same.
King Conan - The Hour of the Dragon #4 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): An act of kindness puts Conan on the path to redemption and revenge in the fourth installment of this excellent Robert E. Howard adaptation that’s in the capable hands of Tim Truman and Tomas Giorello. The artwork grows more ambitious and complex every issue, with Giorello bringing a visceral feeling to every panel. It’s most evident when Conan slashes his sword through a man and directly at the reader’s eye, but even dream sequences are given power through extreme detailing, right down to the eyes of the background characters. Truman’s prose flows freely around the art, enhancing the visuals and capturing the pulp age feel perfectly. His characters speak like they are Howard’s but with a modern bent as this mini keeps going strong.
Doctor Who Prisoner of Time #8 (Published by IDW; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Overseers aren’t pleased when the Eighth Doctor decides to audit their actions even as his own are condemned in an issue that features the great Roger Langridge on art duties. It takes a moment to adjust to Langridge’s human beings, but he does a great job mixing his own style with re-creating actual actors. His Overseers look like Marvel’s Impossible Man dressed as pimps (complete with capes and canes) and the characters move about in frantic action as writers Scott and David Tipton keep the script moving in a story that’s typical Doctor Who, putting him in just the right place to right a wrong, even as his companions continue to slip away in this series celebrating the 50th anniversary of the show.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #25 (Published by IDW; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The loss of Leonardo threatens to break family dynamics across all sides as the “City Fall” storyline continues to tear the world of the Turtles apart. While Mateus Santolouco continues to impress me with his artwork, making the world of this comic feel dangerous at every turn, I was a disappointed that a landmark issue didn’t have a bigger overall impact. Instead, it’s part of a longer arc from Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz, and Bobby Curnow, failing to bring any of the current plot lines to a finish as you might expect. We move from point to point, letting Santolouco stir the pot by showing the desperation of the Turtles and Leonardo’s inner struggles in another strong issue that sets up future fights to come.
Batman, Incorporated Special #1 (DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Considering Batman, Incorporated just wrapped with some rather heavy and emotional content, it's nice to take a little breather. With Special #1, we get to see how some of the global Batmen react to the disbanding of the franchise. Most of the book is strong, but special attention goes to Brave by Nathan Fairbairn and John Paul Leon. It's an emotionally poignant story that balances traditional superhero action with a strong parallel narrative between Raven Red and a tired old man. It's good stuff that shows what kind of stories the Batman, Incorporated series should be telling. With a good tale about the Squire and her attempt at moving on, as well as fan favorite Batcow, Special #1 has something to please most fans of Morrison's run. Even if the grand ideas may have gone with their creator.
Lazarus #3 (Published by Image; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating 9 out of 10): Greg Rucka and Michael Lark serve up another dose of dystopia this week with the newest installment of Lazarus. Things are not going so well for Forever Carlyle. She is deep in enemy territory with her brother and sister plotting against her from their home base. Tensions are running high all around, except maybe for her budding relationship with Murray's Lazarus, Joacqim. Rucka takes a big step towards character development in this issue, further fleshing out Forever and adding more depth to the story. Lark and the art team continue to deliver visuals that are stunning and yet perfectly ominous. The feel of impending war is captured in every panel. A must read issue with an explosive ending.
Godzilla Rulers of Earth #3 (Published by IDW; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): The mystery builds as aliens attack the anti-Kaiju forces, but detective Godzilla is on the case as this new series struggles to find a voice. After two issues of being monster-centric, Chris Mowry and Matt Frank abruptly shift gears, putting the humans front and center as the struggle to understand the recent attacks. It’s jarring, and a bit boring. Unlike other Godzilla series, this one doesn’t have any people the reader can attach themselves to and care about. The soldier is just too generic to fill the role, and the dialogue here is just about as stock as the characters. Frank does his best to make the alien/human scenes interesting, bringing the reader’s eye up close to the action, but this series is fading fast.
Skullkickers #24 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): A sprinkling of prequels combine for another anthology edition of Skullkickers, allowing other creators to play in the irreverent fantasy universe of Jim Zub and Chris Stevens. Ron Marz and Stjepan Sejic highlight the work by giving us a story of Kusia’s early days, showing her maverick streak came early. Sejic’s artwork is quite a change from the usual, blockier work we see in the series, while Adam Warren hews closer to the source material with his story of Baldy’s encounter with a beast that leaves him in an Empowered-style situation. There’s even a story by Zub and Lar Desouza for Thool, the overarching villain of the series, setting up future events as this madcap fantasy series moves into a new arc in 2014.
Peanuts #11 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The spotlight’s on Schroeder in a pair of stories that sound a discordant note for lovers of music lovers in a new issue of Peanuts that continues its run of safe stories. Staying with the formula of mixing old and new that has worked so well, Paige Braddock, Vicki Scott, and Art Roche write stories using art from Schulz, Andy Hirsch, and Scott Jerralds/Justin Thompson respectively. The highlight is Roche’s clever tribute to Schulz’s many strips that commented on modern trends. The Gang gets turned into numbers but in the end reduces the concept to rubble, with great, expressive work from Jerralds and Thompson. Meanwhile, Scott and Hirsch take a page from the Schulz panels of musical notes as this ongoing homage stays the course.
American Vampire Anthology #1 (Vertigo Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): While I doubt a short review could ever do a comic like American Vampire Anthology #1 any real justice, that doesn't mean this book isn't deserving of praise in this column. Every creator in this comic reveals the true potential in the American Vampire series. This is a comic that's filled with wonderful ideas and every story succeeds as a fully realized tale that creates and builds upon a centuries old mythology. Each artist is a perfect match for the tone of the story being told within. At any given time, the American Vampire Anthology #1 is beautiful, violent, seductive, horrific, but always fantastic. This is one comic that shows what happens when you collect some of the best in the industry and ask them to have fun.
Itty Bitty Hellboy #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Hellboy Universe characters battle for the backyard as frequent collaborators Art Baltazar and Franco take their comedic talents and de-aging machine to Mike Mignola’s world. It’s a bit strange seeing cute Nazis, but the pair make it work. The evildoers want to defend their castle (a dishwasher box) and envy Hellboy’s accommodations (a refrigerator box and a wading pool). Boing-ing skeletons and a literal application of chicken soup tell you everything you need to know. It’s clear that the only enemy here is a lack of imagination. Heavy on visual gags and physical comedy, this is about as unlikely a book as you’ll find in a comic shop. Recommended for any fan of fun who knows enough about Hellboy to get the jokes.
FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics #2 (Published by Vertigo Comics; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating 7 out of 10): The comic formerly known as Collider is back this week, now calling itself FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics. A dangerous anomaly called the Bubbleverse has formed, trapping five members of the public inside. Adam is volunteered by his partner Jay for the rescue mission, and once inside finds things to be much worse than he had imagined. Writer Simon Oliver lays on the intrigue pretty thick in this issue, dropping clues everywhere to a puzzle that can't be solved just yet. There isn't much in the way of character development, but the story remains interesting. Robbi Rodriguez does another stellar job on the inks, navigating between delicate line work and heavier, expressive strokes. The subtle art changes from one dimension to the next are a thing of beauty. This book is right on track, but the characters need some more depth to maintain interest.
Station to Station One-shot (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): An experiment gone horribly wrong finds one man left to stop unspeakable creatures from turning San Francisco into a deadly vacation home in this nifty sci-fi one-shot from Corrina Becho and Gabriel Hardman. The Planet of the Apes team shows their love of science fiction movies in a story that has a familiar plot but great pacing and amazing visuals. As soon as Bruce Banner-like Tim shows up, we’re off and running against a giant lizard, a tame pterodactyl, and a creature that looks like the biggest, most disgusting ear-growing potato ever. Hardman’s linework reminds me of Steve Lieber in its extensive detailing, but just a bit scratchier, teasing out hints of a larger world. This is a one-and-done that I hope gets a sequel.
Batman-Superman #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Supermen and Batmen converge as their wily opponent leads them to a deadly decision point in a story I feel I should be enjoying more than I am. The idea of taking New 52 characters and bringing them into a world that feels derived from their Silver Age versions is intriguing, but writer Greg Pak isn’t doing enough with it, preferring to give us another “Bruce meets Kal” story instead. It’s illustrated in period detail by Yildiray Cinar, with a manga-like look, and makes the background-less panels of Jae Lee look very hollow by comparison, with their ghostly nature and posing. He’s better served working solo. The dialogue and characterization are as strong as you’d expect from Pak, but I’m not sold on this series.
Captain Midnight #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The game is afoot as Captain Midnight and his allies work to root out a Nazi from his past, but he just might be too clever for his own good in an issue that shows promise but isn’t quite making a case for itself. Joshua Williamson comes up with some clever ideas (like the key to beating a smart man is to allow him to outwit you), but the characters feel like they do dumb things just to put themselves in danger to set up a cliffhanger ending. Fernando Dagnino keeps the script moving with rich and vivid characters who look like they could step off the page. Dagnino’s eyes really hammer home emotions, even if the overall issue left me a bit lukewarm.
Uncanny #3 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Wheeler deals with a man who claims to know more about those with weird powers like his. Alas, it looks like he’s in over his head as this series stalls in mid-arc explanations. I really dug the first two issues of this series, which showed writer Andy Diggle at his scripting best. But this time, he opts to do more talking than action, and it hurts the flow. Trying to illustrate endless conversations and make it interesting falls to Aaron Campbell, who tries his best. He works as many shadows, eye movements, and character positions as possible, but in the end, this is a lot of pages of talking heads setting up future action. It’ll read great in a trade, but here, it’s a wash.
Larfleeze #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Larcenous Larfleeze bites off more than his massive jaws can chew as he fights multiple cosmic beings while his butler flees a running gag from writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis. The comic timing of this duo is unmatched, as they set up jokes and knock them down in rapid succession, all while managing to tell a solid story that builds a new corner of the DC Universe from scratch. Larfleeze continues to get himself in more trouble while becoming the ultimate hoarder, with his butler as a hapless pawn trying to stay alive and intact. Developing Giffen’s outlines, Scott Kollins has a Kirby-feel mixed with silliness, as Krackle and costumes contrast against farcical reaction shots. This is a must-read for fans of fun comics.
Think Tank #9 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Forced out on a mission, Dr. Loren must deal with the weapons he’s created as he learns even more about unintended consequences at the start of a new story arc. Matt Hawkins (words) and Rahsan Ekedal (art) show the dark side of the military industrial complex once again, this time getting up close and personal with their focal character and exposing him to the horrors he created. I’m still not sold on Ekedal’s art, which feels incredibly stiff, even as Dr. Loren is going through the most traumatic events of his life. He’s great at doing the background and machine work, but his figures don’t generate true emotion. This series tackles a difficult political subject head-on, with a personal touch that makes it recommended.