Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off with the Man of Steel's newest creative team, Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder, as we start with a look at the latest issue of Action Comics...
Action Comics #25 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder start off their Action Comics run not with a bang, but with a hurricane, as both Clark Kent and Lana Lang do their best to stand tall among the storm. Pak takes a really thoughtful approach to Clark's character in the New 52-niverse, bridging the cocky, almost off-putting young Kryptonian to the more experienced, more mellow, more heroic present-day version. It's nice to see Clark actually have a challenge - he isn't dealing with hapless crooks, but a force of nature, and it's nice to see Pak have the character finally own up to his own limitations. Aaron Kuder does superb work choreographing these sequences, especially the way Clark dives into the roiling waters. Combined with a great backup story focusing on Clark's super-hearing (with some of the cleanest, best Scott McDaniel work I've seen in years), this new creative team may turn the tide in Action Comics' favor.
Amazing X-Men #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Kurt Wagner has been a character that I have been sorely missing within X-Men comics. He’s always been my favorite X-Man, and when I learned that Jason Aaron was tackling the task of his resurrection with a new series built around it, I punched the air for a solid day. Aaron turns in one of the most fun X-Men comics that I’ve read in a very long time. For a bit now, the X-books have been marred in the darker aspects of their own continuity, but Aaron completely forgoes this trope and throws himself headlong into the swashbuckling, bantering team book that we’ve all so sorely missed. Ed McGuinness is the perfect artist to team with Aaron with his vibrant and kinetic pencils. His rendering of Nightcrawler’s fighting style is exactly everything you would want from a book like this. Aaron and McGuinness deliver a solid, fun number one that sets up the team and the hook for Kurt’s return that is sure to keep you grinning from ear to ear from page one until the very end.
Green Arrow #25 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): While this title started off rocky with its relaunch two years ago, Green Arrow has been smooth sailing since Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino came on to the title and lent a little creative credibility to the book. Although the reboot was intended to create a cooler/hipper version of Ollie Queen, the stuff Lemire and Sorrentino are doing feels much closer to the CW’s tv show Arrow with the addition of Diggle and Oliver’s mom. Aspects like this create the perfect bridge for Arrow fans to add the adjective and give the comic a try without feeling too lost. Issue #25 demonstrates how Lemire and Sorrentino are able to bridge the gap while still creating a quality comic that rises above the rest of the current DC roster.
Alex+Ada #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Alex gets an android to live with from his horny grandmother in a tech-saturated future that needs an infusion of something interesting quickly to be good. Co-writers Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna don’t make Alex very compelling as a main character, surrounding him with side figures who are far more interesting. This also feels right now like a retread of Chobits from CLAMP, and it pales in comparison. Luna handles the art duties in the most over-processed way possible, with everything looking stiff, awkward, and fake. There’s no life at all in the linework, making it feel like animation stills. That could be the point, but combined with a boring protagonist and mundane events, there’s nothing here to keep a reader past the “flip-the-pages” stage.
Forever Evil #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10):Each issue of Forever Evil teases something greater on the horizon and issue #3 is a stellar example of such. Geoff Johns is tackling no small task in bringing together DC's classic villains as the heroes, all while cementing the Crime Syndicate as a true force of evil in the New52. I just wish it didn't feel so choppy. One minute I was wishing the Ultraman and Black Adam fight would last pages, only to wonder why this series needs seven issues. Finch's art follows my same concern. His pages with the Rogues is stellar, with tight line work and panel design. Only to feel rushed and inconstant when the fists aren't flying. Forever Evil #3 is still an entertaining read, but I can't help but feel this story will play out better when it's all contained in a trade.
Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): You would be hard pressed to find a better looking book than Marvel Knights: Spider-Man on shelves right now. Matt Kindt keeps the pedal to the floor in his scripting, pitting Spidey against Hydro-Man, Sandman, Shocker, and Mysterio aboard a plane thousands of feet in the air. His characterization and understanding of Spider-Man’s powers is still as joyful to read as #1, but Marco Rudy is still the star of this book. Each page is densely packed with beautiful design work and layouts that warp any sense of conventional panel construction into something beautifully new and exciting. This is a book that will only get better upon each re-read as you will always find something new packed away in a page that you hadn’t before. If you aren’t reading this book, you are doing yourself a great disservice.
Detective Comics #25 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Zero Year creeps into Detective Comics looking to update the Jim Gordon story that was done so well once before by Frank Miller. That’s a pretty tall order for John Layman and Jason Fabok, but they do their best. Gordon’s tussle with the crooked cops of the Gotham City Police Department is familiar but the framing device Layman uses keeps it fresh. He hits all the necessary beats for a Gordon origin story but a twist knocks the wind out of its sails. Fabok’s artwork is very strong on a panel-by-panel basis, but I’m not in love with his page composition. It flows well digitally, but the pages look stale as a whole. Detective Comics #25 isn’t reinventing the wheel with this entry into Zero Year, but it is an inoffensive starting point for those would-be Gordon fans.
Daredevil: Dark Nights #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): I gotta give credit where credit is due - while I haven't always been the biggest fan of Jimmy Palmiotti's work, he and artist Thony Silas really knock it out of the park with Daredevil: Dark Nights, a "working vacation" of sorts for Ol' Hornhead that combines fun, flirtiness and fisticuffs. Silas's artwork reminds me a lot of Scott McDaniel in his heyday, a very fluid artist who always makes his characters leap rather than run, soar rather than fall to the ground - it's a perfect fit for a character as acrobatic as Daredevil, as he and Misty Knight bounce around a Miami hotel. But for my money, Jimmy Palmiotti's script is what sells this book, particularly as he plays up Matt and Misty's sexual tension, as well as the half-heartedness with which Matt still keeps up his "secret identity." A great fun romp that fans of the Mark Waid run of Daredevil will certainly enjoy.
Sidekick #3 (Published by Joe’s Comics/Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Superpowers come to America just in time to win World War II, but power corrupts in this series that comes out of the gate flat. It feels like writer J. Michael Straczynski might be out of gas. There’s none of the spark or snark that makes Sidekick shine. It plods though mediocre bathroom jokes then a long, drawn out exposition about the “heroes.” Artist Gordon Purcell does the best he can with the story, switching easily between modern scenes and those on the Normandy battlefield. His work reminds me a bit of John Byrne with just a bit less flow and movement, which Purcell makes up for with strong facial emotions. Overall, this one’s got nothing to add to your reading pile for the week.
Legends of Red Sonja #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10):The Gail Simone led anthology linking the Grey Riders to that red-headed she-devil is a great premise, if a tad weak on the execution. Simone's opening story sets a fun tone with hints of darkness and Jack Jadson's art is a great fit for the setting. Nancy Collins' portion of the book reads as rushed and a little against type when it comes to Sonja's attitude towards would-be killers and defilers. Even more out of place was Devin Grayson's story of Sonja on the high seas, with little added to either the Sonja myth and overall anthology. However, seeing Carla Speed McNeil have some fun penciling a battle between our hero and a sea monster was a real joy. I love the idea behind Legends of Red Sonja. Separately, each creator has an interesting idea and story, but just not enough time on execution.
Captain Marvel #17 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): This Carol Corps-themed issue sets the stage for the next season of Captain Marvel and features some excellent character moments by Kelly Sue DeConnick but Filipe Andrade’s art keeps it from really soaring. His style favors energy over accuracy which is great during bigger action scenes. But at times, Andrade’s panels lose all semblance of detail, focus and clarity. His characters’ faces morph into something resembling Korbinites (which would be awesome if Beta Ray Bill was in this book). That inconsistency robs a few moments of their desired impact. DeConnick does a great job capturing the essence of what makes this title special. Carol Danvers has affected a lot of people and her memory loss gives DeConnick an opportunity to remind us why we have heroes. It’s a love letter to Captain Marvel fans everywhere and proof that even big, corporate comics can come from a truly genuine place.
Pathfinders: Goblins #4 (Published by Dynamite; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): One comics genre that hits my "sweet tooth" is the field of four-colored fantasy adventure, and this fourth part of the five-part mini-series hits that spot. This issue works particularly well because both of the short stories are accessible – there is no need to have read any of the previous issues to understand these two tales of the ever-hungry, always cowardly goblins. Both Holt and Schneider turn in enjoyable stories about these smarmy little greenskins; however, it was Bonvillain's work on colors that stood out to me the most as the lush and vibrant color palette captured the fantastic element of the world these goblins lived in and made each panel spring alive off the page. My only complaint about this issue is that these stories would be better suited as a part of an anthology rather than a single 22-page issue – but this is more of an editorial critique than one against the creative teams involved.
Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Longshot is a goofy character. He’s got a goofy new haircut. This is a goofy comic. And that’s why it worked for me. Cut from a similar mold as some of Marvel’s other slice-of-life comics, writer Christopher Hastings pokes fun at the titular hero as his luck powers culminate in crossing paths with one of the Marvel Universe’s most powerful artifacts. Hastings also does a great job with Tony Stark and Reed Richards in their supporting roles. Jacopo Camagni’s work is extremely expressive but the villain’s design hurts to look at; he looks like the In-Betweener went through an ill-advised ska phase. Outside of that, Longshot is a winner and you should definitely pick it up, pick it up, pick it up.
Doctor Who Prisoner of Time #10 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Things never go well for the Doctor when he makes it to Hollywood as he finds aliens trying to upstage humanity in a story that doesn’t quite capture the magic of David Tennant. The script from David and Scott Tipton gets all the right lines, like the Doctor’s menacing tone, warnings to leave Earth, and even his agility in lying, but they felt strung together rather than natural and organic. Artist Elena Casagrande’s likenesses are great, and she’s able show him smirking and smiling and striking a dramatic pose, capturing Tennant’s range well. Sadly, her aliens are a bit boring, looking right out of a B-movie that features in the plot. This one needs to pick up the quality a bit before its climax.
Robocop: Last Stand #4 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10):There is simply no getting around it. Frank Miller's style hasn't changed in years, perhaps even decades. If you're a fan, then Robocop: Last Stand #4 will be right up your alley. Although I enjoyed some of the moments between a heavily damaged Murphy and his young companion, I've read it all before. From Frank Miller. It's hard to tell where Miller ends and the “Sequential Adaptation” by Steven Grant begins. Still, taking both writers together, this writing still sufferings from repetitive cadence and rushed pacing. Korkut Öztekin on art is appropriately gritty and has a style that lends itself to the Robocop world. There is a stiffness to the pencils that hampers the story, at times making me think I'm reading a movie storyboard with word balloons. This is an interesting experiment, but really only for the hardcore Miller or Robocop fan.
Quantum and Woody #5 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Ken tries to live the dream while Woody wants to experiment with cloning in the start of a new arc of this series that picks up its irreverent style right where last issue left off. Ming Doyle’s artwork is stunning, never missing a moment to create a visual gag or facial expression to enhance the comedic style that writer James Asmus sets for the book. There’s quite a few stabs at comic book clichés, from a nose-tweak of Frank Miller to musings on why warehouses always have supervillans-or cool parties. Heavy on gag set pieces, there’s still an underlying story as Ken’s dubious employer learns he has a superhero on the payroll, which can’t end well but is sure to be funny as hell.
Bionic Man vs. Bionic Woman TPB (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): America isn’t the only country with bionic humans as the Bionic Couple learn to their peril in a mini-series that was surprisingly entertaining. Writer Keith Champagne puts together a clever story that avoids some of the pitfalls a series like this might normally have, especially in relation to ensuring that the Bionic Woman is seen as being just as good-if not better-than her male counterpart. The plot breaks down into a non-ending, but artist Jose Luis’s art keeps this one in the recommended pile. Even given a giant, hulking villain, Luis’s art flows across the page. He picks just the right moments to illustrate in the many action scenes, creating tension and a strong sense of the violence involved when super humans clash.