Best Shots Advance Reviews: INFINITY #3, BUZZKILL #1

Marvel Previews for September 18 2013
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Infinity #3
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Jerome Opena, Dustin Weaver and Justin Ponsor
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

We're officially at the halfpoint for Jonathan Hickman's ambitious Infinity event, and this is where Earth's Mightiest Heroes finally step up. For the past two issues, Hickman and company have been embroiled in space opera, and all the exposition that goes with it - but this week, the Avengers finally take a more active role, resulting in a far more satisfying read.

Of course, it does take a little bit of time to get to that point. The cast page alone has a staggering 61 headshots, and Hickman takes the scenic route as he paints a dire picture of this war in space. The Builders have routed galactic empires, and all seems lost... which is when Captain America comes in. Considering we're three issues in, this has been a long time coming - part of the danger of mixing the Earth-bound Avengers and the various alien races of the Marvel Universe is diving the spotlight, and while the Avengers are the logical point-of-view characters for this expanded universe, they've often felt like supporting characters in this series. While Cap's tactics aren't the most revolutionary, you can't argue that the sense of scale is enormous, and watching this scrappy guy from the Lower East Side commanding Sh'iar fleets is definitely epic.

Having Jerome Opena on art doesn't hurt, either. His gritty linework really plays up how desperate and violent this conflict is, particularly when you watch alien conquerors bowing in defeat to the Builders. There's a page featuring Starbrand that's also particularly evocative - indeed, visually and thematically, this feels like a sequel to Marvel's Annihilation, where it's a war story more than a superhero book. But considering how dialogue-heavy Hickman's writing is here, Opena's artwork is critical towards keeping the energy up.

But this book still isn't perfect. If there's one other problem that Infinity has, it's a lack of focus - Hickman has to juggle not one, but three different threats, moving from the Builders to Thanos to the incursion of parallel universes from New Avengers. The New Avengers tie-in feels particularly perfunctory, but even the growing war between Thanos and the Inhumans feels a little tagged on. Unfortunately, these subplots are the last nine pages of the story, which, combined with the slow start, really hurts Infinity's momentum. Additionally, Dustin Weaver's artwork, while striking and almost Kubert-esque in its design, feels like a bit of a step down from Opena's weightier, more realistic fare.

On the one hand, Infinity is certainly headed in the right direction, as the Avengers and the Inhumans both get some nice turns that bring the spotlight back to where it should be. On the other hand, there's still an awful lot of filler and slow pacing to this event, and now that we're three issues in, this might make or break the patience of many readers. Thankfully the artwork and fist-pumping moments are enough to keep interest piqued, and if Hickman can keep the focus on the fan-favorite characters rather than the obscure alien friends and foes, Infinity may stick the landing yet.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Buzzkill #1
Written by Donny Cates and Mark Reznicek
Art by Geoff Shaw and Lauren Affe
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Dark Horse is certainly setting themselves apart from the rest of the superhero set. Their latest take on tights and capes, Buzzkill, follows Ruben who gains his powers from drugs and alcohol and is trying to get his life together after the most tragic of blackouts. Considering the somewhat gimmicky nature of Ruben’s powers, writers Donny Cates and Mark Reznicek (drummer of the Toadies) have a fairly large hurdle to overcome with regards to being taken seriously by a finicky comic audience. But the strength of Geoff Shaw and Lauren Affe’s work makes this one go down easy.

Admittedly, I was skeptical of the premise upon reading the solicit. But Cates and Reznicek handle this one with care so far. The story is framed by Ruben’s first trip to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting which allows the writers to explain his backstory without it seeming like it takes away from the forward motion of the plot. Ruben’s voice is very reminiscent of Fight Club but that could be just because of the setting. Outside of the flashbacks, we never really leave the meeting. The humor is somewhere between Chew and Luther Strode. Ruben is an entertaining narrator at least, and the pacing is strong.

The story eventually gets to some more typical superhero plot devices. But I wonder if we’re just treading down familiar territory here. Superheroes with problems are nothing new. Superheroes and alcohol have been done before. Granted actually gaining powers from alcohol is new, but is that enough to float a series over the long-term?

Geoff Shaw’s linework is truly excellent, though. It has a sketchiness to it that, combined with strong character designs and background work, marks him as some sort of mixture of Sean Murphy and Rob Guillory. Some of the hyper violence definitely has a Tradd Moore tilt to it but the comparison is mostly in regards to the amount of energy in those panels as opposed to intensely detailed lines. I’m not in love with Shaw’s panel layouts though. There’s too much overlapping on some pages, too much gutter space on others. It just doesn’t flow as well visually as I’d like. Lauren Affe’s colors deserve a mention as well. Her smart use of digital effects combined with her palette choices Ruben’s muted reality and warmer beginnings enhance the mood of the book.

The front cover of Buzzkill has a quote from Mark Waid saying, “God, I wish I’d thought of this.” That’s a hell of an endorsement and so far, it’s kind of book that’ll make you say that. The art is engaging and visually stimulating. The writing has kept everything pretty simple and straightforward while still allowing room for twists and some unanswered questions. Cates and company’s first issue is a good reminder that sometimes less is more especially when remixing a genre that many believe has been done to death.

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