Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your regularly scheduled dose of Rapid-Fire Reviews? Best Shots has you covered, as we kick off with 19 of this week's latest releases! So let's kick off with Prolific Pierce Lydon, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Guardians of the Galaxy...
Guardians of the Galaxy #11.NOW (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli provide a good primer for brand-new Guardians of the Galaxy readers as we get a look at the cosmic side of “The Trial of Jean Grey.” Bendis is up to his old tricks (Mametian dialogue, a bit of overwriting, Skrulls) but he balances a large cast exceptionally well. He reintroduces characters in the context of the story without beating the reader over the head with exposition. Sara Pichelli is a great partner for Bendis. Marvel Cosmic can be a daunting task for artists because of the many different aliens, weird vehicles and weapons. Pichelli delivers, though. And her work with facial expressions really helps sell the humor in Bendis’ dialogue.
The Flash #27 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Patrick Zircher on The Flash is certainly a treat. The dark overtones of Matt Hollingsworth’s color mixed with Zircher’s efficient lines and deep inks provide set a perfect stage for this issue. Brian Buccellato has Barry Aleen explore a cold case that might relate to his mother’s death and while singular obsession can be a tireless trope to motivate superheroes, it works well here. Barry’s fixation on his mother’s murder always causes him to butt heads with the law in much of the same way that it inspired him to be a part of it. This is a grim Flash story because it needs to be and it’s a nice change of pace from the more colorful Francis Manapul era.
Miracleman #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Alan Moore’s, excuse me, The Original Writer’s lost epic continues to roll on at a freight train’s pace here in the pages of #2. Moore’s script crackles with a younger, rawer energy than anything we’ve ever read from him before while still reminding us of the prosaic and dense prose that enticed us in the first place. Gary Leach’s art really takes off in this issue, providing some truly scary visuals as well as some vast, cinematic panels. This issue also contains a rare high concept backup found in Warrior magazine with art from Steve Dillion, Alan Davis, and Paul Neary that provides a welcome change of pace to the grim main story. My only complaint with this copious amount of back matter is the original Nick Anglo stories, which do nothing but provide a stark contrast to the stories that proceed it. Its always a treat to see the original source material from which Miracleman came from, but like #1, these stories just hinder the comic, which is already heavy on back matter.
Earth 2 Annual #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Earth 2’s new Batman reveals an improbable secret and an almost parody-level origin as the alternative Earth takes a breather from another Apokalyptian attack. Tom Taylor writes a story that would fit better on the Crime Syndicate’s Earth, trying hard to shock readers by changing the entire nature of Batman’s family history. Unfortunately, instead of being gripping, it reads like something Mad Magazine might conjure up if they wanted to mix Batman with Boogie Nights. Robson Rocha and Scott Hanna turn in sharp, crisp artwork with great facial details and panels that keep the action moving. They’re able to make a 70s party or a back alley look perfect, thanks to strong perspective and shading, but the story itself adds nothing to overarching plot.
Black Science #3 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Scott Cederlund; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Matteo Scalera has simplified his artwork since his Secret Avengers days, drawing looser, expressive and more fun pages that are incredibly easy to lose yourself in. He easily captures the insanity that Remender is writing, from the science fictional Native Americans who are at war with early 20th Century Germans to the imprecise dimensional teleporting of this band of characters. Throw in the little detail that one of those sides has their own Transformers and Scalera’s artwork with Dean White's thick, painterly and deep colors leaves you anxious to see what’s on the next page. But after three issues, Rick Remender’s story feels like it’s running in place as the idea of anarchist scientists seems put aside and the characters lack any real definition. The scientists have become standard adventurers and the comic feels like a retread of Lost in Space as the characters all fit into neatly into the roles of the space family Robinson.
Damian: Son of Batman #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 1 out of 10): This book is completely irredeemable. Andy Kubert’s attempts to explore Damian’s relationship with Bruce and the cape n’ cowl fall completely flat. Abandoning explanation of some parts of his script (the Alfred cat, Gordon’s priesthood, possible brain damage) in favor of a fight-fest that does little more than prove that Damian does not know the meaning of the word "restraint." And since he’s no longer a trustworthy narrator, the reader is left no indication that he has grown as a character at all over the course of this series. Kubert’s art, meanwhile, caters to his worst habits, as the artist attempts to cover up awkward posing and a lack of background with gratuitous amounts of blood. This series is an exercise in how not to make comics.
Inhumanity #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Transitions are always tricky when it comes to a creative team changing hands. At best it comes across as jarring and at worst, the ball is crossed completely and the book suffers. Thankfully, Inhumanity #2 isn’t a complete missed opportunity, but the transition isn’t as smooth as it could be. Matt Fraction brings the sense of epic scope that he introduced in #1, but the new elements introduced to smooth over the transition to Charles Soule feel like a odd downshift to the Game of Thrones-like tone that were seeded in #1. Nick Bradshaw and Todd Nauck runs away with the book, adding a hefty dose of personality into the Inhuman queen Medusa through her copious amount of hair, providing a transition from one artist to the other so seamless, I barely noticed a difference between the two. Their cartoonish renderings of the characters also highlight the oddities of the Inhumans and really make them pop from the pages. Matt Fraction started Inhumanity with a bang and in #2, he brings the same amount of reverence and scope the the characters that will be shaking up the Marvel Universe in the months to come.
Aquaman #27 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Aquaman’s brawn bests the beast but it’s the brains of the operation that portends the most trouble as this series continues in an adventure-themed direction under new writer Jeff Parker. Stepping back a bit from the multiple intrigues of the Geoff Johns run, Parker unleashes Aquaman’s powers on a behemoth with murder on its limited mind. He does a great job showing what Arthur Curry is capable of, but also manages to get in some character moments and sets up subplots to pursue later. The art is epic in scope with a real sense of desperation in the battle scenes. Facial features and other details lack consistency however, thanks to four line artists working on the issue. It’s refreshing to have Aquaman the hero back.
Thor: God of Thunder #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): You'd be forgiven for thinking this done-in-one story is filler, but Thor: God of Thunder #18 creeps up on you slowly, as Jason Aaron spins up a violent fable with the help of artist Das Pastoras. Pastoras' artwork will make or break this book - he's like someone shoved Frank Quitely and Frazer Irving in a blender and spat it out, but it somehow fits the days-gone-by tone of Young Thor's adventures. Aaron, meanwhile, takes a few smart twists on what would otherwise be a fairly straightforward story - the beginning, for example, where Thor forgets what he did the night before, has a "Dude, Where's My Car" sort of mentality, while the eventual resolution of his relationship with a talking dragon is both sad and necessary. Indeed, you wouldn't think that a dragon and a Thunder God would be cut from the same cloth, and it's that kind of surprising sweetness - not to mention some very outre artwork - that makes Thor: God of Thunder #18 a satisfying trifle.
Lunita #1 (Published by Amigo Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Lunita spins out of a decade old comic called GEI, which tried and failed a few times to make the jump from Europe to the U.S. With a new publisher in Amigo Comics and an altered concept, the title character is all that remains. Xavier Morell’s work is exactly in the paranormal crime genre defined by The X-Files and Hellboy. The two leads, Lunita and Ms. Fillion, are likable enough. The plot introduces a drug ring surrounding mermaid tears but it never really gets going. The art is what keep this book from really succeeding, though. Sergi San Julian uses entirely too many lines when rendering his characters. They end up looking like craggy rock monsters more than people sometimes. It’s a shame that it’s so distracting, because otherwise his panel-to-panel storytelling is solid.
The Green Team: Teen Trillionaires #8 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Franco and Art Baltazar finished up The Green Team, leaving this reader particularly sad. Although the book isn’t groundbreaking, the final issue tied up loose ends and finished strong. The writers did a great job in making the reader care about the characters and become invested in their stories; this upped the tension in the climactic battle, as the reader should find themselves rooting for Commodore to triumph against his father. Ig Guara needs a little more work on the art, as characters sometimes feel more static than fluid in the high-action scenes; otherwise, the characters looked strong and his rendition of the teens’ powers were well done. The Green Team finds strength in not taking itself too seriously, keeping the enjoyment in the book, and featuring a diverse cast that we’ve oddly come to care about. It’ll be sad to see this go after finding its rhythm.
Superior Spider-Man #26 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Superior Spider-Man #26 continues to be a mixed bag: There are elements in it that make it compelling while other aspects feel forced and rushed. Humberto Ramos' art on the Goblins continues to be kinetic and visually arresting, and it made sense to switch gears through employing Martin's classic approach in order to recall the Golden Age of Ditko within Peter Parker's memories. However, the inclusion of a third artist (Javier Rodriguez) overly complicates an already busy comic. Additionally, the pacing of the story feels incredibly rushed. Multiple plot lines run from one to the next with little time for readers to process fully the events that transpired. This is due in part to relying too heavily on dialogue and exposition to tell the story. This can be seen with the reemergence of the one true Spider-Man as he attempts to crawl out from the depths of Parker's subconscious, which is interesting to note considering the visually-driven scenes of old this issue recalls.
Worlds' Finest Annual Issue #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10):I get that sometimes you have to take a step back in order to move forward, but Worlds' Finest Annual Issue #1 is a bit too far. Too far and unnecessary. Although far from perfect, I've rather enjoyed the world and relationship between the Huntress and Power Girl created by writer Paul Levitz. This massive flashback acting as a prologue to the big Batman and Superman reveal does little to explore either character or world. We really have been here before. Although Diogenes Neves provides some fine line work, it's frustratingly uneven. Neves is clearly more comfortable drawing the street-level vigilantes than heroes who operate faster than a speeding bullet. Perhaps condensed into a regular issue, this would have some merit. As it stands, it's all filler and no content.
Witchblade #172 (Published by Top Cow/Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Sara plays a deadly game of “Whose Witchblade Is It, Anyway?” as she finds herself unable to untangle herself from the magical world. Ron Marz’s Sara is fearless even when weakened and able to think on her feet to help Rooney survive the Angelus warrior and awkward questions. Old habits die hard and it looks like Sara’s not yet ready to let go of hers. Laura Braga and Betsy Gonia make a great art team, with Sara looking attractive even in a hospital gown, but never shown in an exploitative fashion. The linework is soft, but features many different facial expressions and framing that puts the reader’s eye in off-beat or key areas of a scene in a comic that continues to be recommended.
Red Lanterns #27 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Despite its cover, Red Lanterns #27 isn't quite the fight comic you might expect. Charles Soule serves up a good mix of humor and intrigue as Guy Gardner takes part of his team to Earth. While he tries to win back Ice, they inevitably get into some trouble. Meanwhile Rankorr and Bleez head out to find Ratchet’s power ring and what they find will definitely have larger implications. Soule gets a lot of small moments to work with and he handles them really well, providing little bits of insight about every character. Alessandro Vitti and Jim Calafiore split the art duties on this one and while they may come across too intensely for such a insular narrative, they both do commendable jobs.
Cataclysm: The Ultimates' Last Stand #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 1 out of 10): From its misleading solicit to its glacial pacing, Cataclysm: The Ultimates' Last Stand #4 is proof positive that maybe the Ultimates deserve to be eaten by Galactus. Despite the hype that a character will die to save the Ultimates universe, that doesn't happen - indeed, very little happens in Brian Michael Bendis' script, other than the Ultimates pick up the X-Men, Spider-Man Miles Morales suddenly appears with his mask in tatters, and Galactus says that he's hungry. With the extended exposition and explanations, the content is so stretched-out as to be non-existent, and the artwork by Mark Bagley is similarly bloodless. (Inker Andrew Hennessy deserves some credit for making Bagley's lines look lush, though.) Still, it doesn't make up for forgettable fight sequences, flat coloring and a superhero base that looks like a wayward screw from Ikea. Skip this book.
Superman #27 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Superman’s solution for Lois’ coma is dubious at best and dangerous as worst. The Parasite had the potential to be an interesting foe after the last issue, but Scott Lobdell and artist Ed Benes opt to make him a roaring pile of purple puss with a wholly inconsistent power set. Lois had a lot of potential with her newfound powers as well, but it was wasted in a poorly-paced story that was forced to a conclusion with broken story logic. In terms of the art, Parasite proves to be too unwieldy a character for Ed Benes' skills, as the villain takes up way too much of the panels and overwhelms the book with his hue. Good thing DC is publishing three other Superman titles.
Five Weapons #6 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The School of the Five Weapons, in many ways, feels like a demented children's TV show, with all the imagination and energy to match. Jimmie Robinson - aided by some bright colorwork by Paul Little - gives this book a real visual bounce that makes some of the clunkier sections easier to get through. For new readers, this isn't a bad place to start, as the return of Enrique Garcia provides a decent POV character, similar to Kitty Pryde back in her X-Men heyday. Robinson is at his best when he's using his art to sell some of the more over-the-top aspects of the school, particularly all the ways that Ed almost dies as he scopes out the school as an assistant medic. That said, the lack of variation in the page layouts - not to mention the pages of exposition - do slow this book down, as Robinson does a little too much telling, and not quite enough killing. Still, this is a book with potential.
Larfleeze #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Green Lantern stories thrive on themes of willpower and the struggle of good versus evil. Larfleeze doesn’t have to concern itself with all that. Avarice becomes an opening to insert humor into the GL universe but J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen don’t attempt to write outside of Larfleeze’s main motivation of greed, after awhile, it gets tiresome. Their angle understandable, given their strengths and previous works together, but the end result for Larfleeze leaves much to be desired. The humor between Larfeeze and his power ring is a highlight but his mission is completely unstimulating. Scott Kolins' art is fine. It’s unfortunate that he’s toiling away here but he makes the most of it, communicating action with ease and selling a few of Stargrave’s one-liners as well.