Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week's edition of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with a look at the World's Greatest Detective, as we take a look at the 75th anniversary special for Detective Comics...
Detective Comics #27 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Batman has always been the most naturally likeable character in DC Comics' stable, and his 75th anniversary issue is no exception. A who's-who of modern-day talent takes on the Dark Knight with Detective Comics #27 -- Brad Meltzer and Bryan Hitch hit the ground running with a visually striking first story that brings a lot of insights to Batman. (In particular, I love Meltzer's honesty, such as Batman revealing that he can't go to the movies anymore.) Peter Tomasi and rising star Ian Berthram take on Bruce's 75th birthday, as Berthram's Rafael-Grampa-by-way-of-Chris-Burnham style makes me feel like we haven't seen the last of this artistic talent. Sean Murphy dominates with a story about "Batman 200" written by Scott Snyder -- Snyder's conceit of Batmen through the ages is clever, but Murphy's renditions of cybernetic Batmen and giant mecha suits is the highlight of the book. John Layman and Jason Fabok lend some meat to this collection of anthology tales with the opening of "Gothtopia," a well-constructed if not-altogether-original concept of a Gotham manipulated into an idyllic if unstable utopia. None of the stories particularly bomb, although some of the more metatextual ones, like Gregg Hurwitz and Neal Adams' take on Batman through the ages, or Francesco Francavilla's all-too-short story about Batman rescuring a child, feel a little unnecessary. Still, if you can get past the $7.99 price point, this is an anniversary issue that does justice to one of DC's most enduring creations.
Avengers World #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Avengers were formed to take on things no one else could handle alone, but they’ve got their hands full in an action-packed first issue of this new series. Co-writers Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer create multiple threats for this expanded Avengers roster, allowing the mysterious narrating villain to divide and conquer. The dialogue sings, as you’d expect from Superior Foes’ Spencer, with snarky Bruce Banner and the Trek debates being a highlight. Stefano Caselli has to draw just about every active Avenger and manages it well, keeping the Avengers and the reader off-balance with a lot of panels drawn from an angle. His facial designs are a bit too generic, but that’s the only downside in this solid beginning that’s well worth reading.
Action Comics #27 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It might not jive with the rest of DC’s Superman output, but Greg Pak is writing the best Man of Steel comics right now. Following the events Action Comics #26 Pak uses a little alien to frame Clark’s own experiences finding out he wasn’t human. In this way, Pak grounds Clark and gives him deeper motivations than the “Save the world. Get the Girl” ones we’ve seen elsewhere. Superman’s roots are inherent to his character. His humble beginnings inform everything he does. Its important not to forget that. Pak doesn’t. Meanwhile, Aaron Kuder turns in an excellent effort drawing Ukur, his monsters and the Imperial Subterranea. Some of his designs come across as Darrow-esque and they’re a joy to behold.If you’re going to read one Superman comic, make it this one.
Sex Criminals #4 (Published by Image Comics, Review by Scott Cederlund, ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It only stands to reason that if there are sex criminals that there have to be sex cops but sex bus drivers? O.k., that last one sounds all kinds of wrong but then Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky are all kinds of wrong. Dom-Rom comedies? Inflatable Humpkin? There are panels in this comic that you just shouldn’t try to zoom in on your iPad because you’ll just get lost in all of the fun, dirty jokes that they hide in the details of the panels. And while there’s sex and all kinds of jokes about sex, Fraction and Zardsky’s comic revolves around the question what would you do if you thought you could get away scott-free? Only as they’ve been building up to it over the first three issues, there is no perfect crime and there is no scott-free. 50% of this issue is one sex joke after another but the other 50% is a reaction to the world around us. While it’s fun watching Suzie and Jon fumble their way through the sex and the crime in order to screw over the bank and save the local library, you’ve also got to pay attention to everything Fraction and Zdarsky are talking about, from the politics of physical and emotional relationships to the messed up economy where the rich prosper while everyone else is expected to quietly suffer. Fraction claims that he’s writing a sex comedy, but Sex Criminals #4 may be one of the most honest comics that he’s ever written.
Avengers A.I. #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): There's some major glitches in this machine. Avengers A.I. is a tough sell, a user-unfriendly mess of self-indulgence that's long on exposition and naval-gazing but short on action or characterization. Sam Humphries' ragtag team of androids, robots and artificial intelligence engage in various cyber-hackery and intrigue, as all roads point towards the digital dimension known as the Diamond. Humphries spends a lot of time focusing on the rogue A.I. Demetrios' rationale (not to mention his byzantine plan involving oil refineries and mind control through gas-checking apps) -- it's not a particularly visual story, driven instead by dialogue. (Jokey dialogue that doesn't hit the mark, making matters worse. Doombot replying that he will "crush all laptops" was tired even before I finished reading it.) Which is a shame, because there is some potential for artist Andre Lima Araujo -- but even the moments where Araujo is called to the plate, like when Doombot "attacks" a rogue app, feels bizarre and difficult to follow. (Indeed, it took me several reads to figure out the weird shark creature was supposed to be Doombot's digital avatar.) This is a tough book to read, with no real hook for most Avengers fans -- and yes, that even includes the shoehorning of the Uncanny Avengers. Unless you're a Hank Pym or Vision completist, leave this lemon on the shelf.
Afterlife with Archie #3 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Teenage horomones meets Night of the Living Dead equals tension and bad decisions -- all-in-all, an equation that makes Afterlife with Archie #3 well worth reading. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa manages to weld together the episodic nature of comics with the required tension of the horror genre -- namely, we're here to see some zombies terrorize the squeaky-clean kids of Riverdale, and here he delivers. The unlikely hero for this particular issue winds up being Mr. Lodge, who introduces the required atmosphere while also bringing in sadness when two more of Archie's iconic cast members succumb to the undead. The rest of the kids, however, add a lot to the mix -- like any good horror story, it's about teenagers making bad choices, whether its the Riverdale crew partying it up while zombies turn under their noses, or Archie Andrews running back into town to check up on his parents. Francesco Francavilla continues to sell this comic nicely, playing the haunting premise straight, especially moments like the burning diner Pop Tate's. This wonderfully subversive high concept won't die off anytime soon.
Swamp Thing #27 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Jesus Saiz is another in a line of great artists on this iteration of Swamp Thing but as the Seeder arc reaches its finale, great art isn’t enough. Charles Soule starts the issue with a nice little Last Temptation of Christ kind of bit where Alec Holland is encouraged to give up. He’s no longer the Avatar of the Green. He can finally relax. But Holland isn’t satisfied and so Soule hurls him into a chain of events that are resolved so quickly that it might leave fans wondering, “That’s it?” There’s not enough action for it to be a fight comic, really, but the ending at least leaves Holland with a new status quo and questions about how his decisions will affect the future.
All New X-Factor #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): What if Google got a superhero team? That’s the premise for this version of X-Factor, which has some issues with retreading ideas. Peter David’s dialogue is as sharp as it’s ever been, especially when characters are snarking on Gabit. Using Remy as a focal character is clever, because he’s an unreliable narrator. But we’re back to “Double Agents, Tortured Mutants, and Secret Agendas” territory, all of which aren’t new to David’s long association with X-Factor. Artist Carmine Di Giandomenico draws everyone too thin and similar to each other, which means when we get to uniforms, things could get tricky. His detail work and panel constructions are strong, however. Overall, your enjoyment of this one is going to depend strongly on your feelings about Peter David.
The Fox #3 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The Fox's artwork -- and outlook -- continues to impress, but the lack of a stronger theme or hook keeps this book from hitting its full potential. Dean Haspiel's expressive, clean artwork goes a long way, particularly when he draws the otherworldly realm that our all-too-human hero has found himself in (complete with a jeweled staff and a latex model of his own head). There's a great sequence in particular where the Fox is climbing through a series of tunnels, and the acrobatic body language looks superb, not too over-the-top but not too sloppy. Mark Waid's dialogue also helps humanize the Fox, particularly as he mutters to himself about when he gets back he's going to maintain a compost and read Moby Dick. That said, the content here spins its wheels a little bit -- it feels a little shoehorned for this series to keep introducing new "transformed" MLJ superheroes when we haven't really even figured out what makes the Fox himself tick yet. Still, with the artwork looking as smooth as it does -- and the lead character being a charmer thanks to Waid's dialogue -- there's still a bit to like about The Fox.