Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with a whopping 21 Rapid-Fire Reviews for your reading pleasure! So let's kick off today's column with Maniacal Michael Moccio, as he takes a look at DC's newest weekly, Futures End...
The New 52: Futures End #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): If nothing else, the idea of this story is what’s hooked us into reading. Batman Beyond is a fan-favorite, and to see him in the mainstream DC Universe is a joy, but the story doesn’t do enough to hook readers into be interested for the long run. Any fans obsessed with the idea of prep time will feel gratified in the short scene between Brother Eye and Stormwatch. Other than that, the short and separate vignettes with Terry, Grifter and Firestorm don’t seem to add up together just yet; that clear and distinct separation makes it feel like there are three storylines going on at once. While this is a weekly and those three storylines will predictably coalesce into one large narrative down the line, there still needed something more to tie it together and give the reader a reason to pick up the next issue beyond the idea of the story. Luckily enough for them, the threat of Brother Eye is interesting enough to be worth a read and to pick up the next issue.
Amazing Spider-Man #1.1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): I should’ve known that I wanted to see Ramon Perez drawing Spider-Man. His take on Peter’s early days as the webhead stays close to the source ‘60s material but updates it seamlessly for the modern day. The action scenes choreography is a little forced and a little off from what we’re used to but this is not the polished, experienced Spidey we know. He’s just getting his bearings, and it shows. Dan Slott does a great job with Peter and Aunt May. Peter’s guilt and shame could really ruin him, but it’s May’s guidance that keeps him on the right track. What doesn’t work as well is the “Clash” subplot. Slott has worked with Spidey/Peter analogues in the past (remember Alpha, everyone?) and their storylines always come to a similar conclusion: if you don’t learn that with great power comes great responsiblity, then you can’t be a hero. It looks like we’re getting set up for that again. But, on the whole “Learning to Crawl” is more enthralling at the moment than Amazing Spider-Man proper.
Batman Eternal #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): James Tynion IV handles scripting duties for this installation of Batman Eternal, which is proving to be an all-encompassing narrative but an unwieldy one. Red Robin and future Robin Harper Row get some time in the spotlight here. I’m always partial stories that take into account more than just the police and capes side of a story and Tynion taps Vicki Vale for a starring role as well. But we’re still just moving pawns in this game of chess, and the strategy has been yet to be fully realized. Andy Clarke’s artwork isn’t a great fit for Eternal. There's a scratchiness to his lines and a penchant for crosshatching that makes some characters look almost unrecognizable. At least we only have to wait a week for a potential improvement.
Original Sin #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The next great Marvel event? It’s probably too soon to tell, but this definitely isn’t a bad start. Essentially an interstellar murder mystery, Original Sin has a lot going for it. Jason Aaron picks out an interesting cast of characters with very specific skillsets and it’ll be fun to see how those play out in the narrative. Mike Deodato, Jr.’s art is, quite possibly, better than I’ve ever seen it. This is a dark, heavy story, and he’s perfectly equipped to delivered that kind of gravitas. The superheroes of Earth must have always taken some comfort in knowing that there was someone more powerful watching over them. Aaron might be borrowing a little bit from Ron Currie, Jr.’s “God Is Dead” by asking the question: “When the being that watches over you dies, what becomes of life as you know it?” And that’s a great hook to hang your hat on.
Detective Comics #31 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato up the ante in their second issue of Detective Comics in terms of both art and storytelling. The narrative itself weaves seamlessly into the web of stories happening in Gotham and finally, we have a couple of writers placing an emphasis on Batman’s “World Greatest Detective” moniker. Bruce’s actions are more deliberate as he navigates the criminal underworld. He takes on disguises and investigates crimes scenes in ways we haven’t often seen in the New 52. Manapul and Buccellato use the art to help sell his methods as well, using inset panels to depict the information he’s gathering as he goes along, particularly a one-page, fourteen-panel fight scene that is so brutal it hurts.These two storytellers are starting to find their way with the Dark Knight and making it their own, just like they did with The Flash.
Rat Queens #6 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Issue #6 picks up in the aftermath of the hedonistic bash following the Rat Queens successful defense of Palisade against the orc invasion, and we see all sorts of awkwardness ensue. While Wiebe bounces between vulgarity and hilarity with a dash of Gary mixed in for good measure, he also takes time to continue show cracks in the façade each of his Queens maintains for the public, thereby revealing aspects of their insecurities and personal lives. There are two twists in particular that will leave readers anxious for Issue #8 – one surrounding Dee and a visitor from her past, and the potential demise of a particular love interest. Meanwhile, Upchurch continues to create visually interesting layouts that strike a balance between arresting readers' attention while not distracting from the pace of the narrative. He's also particularly effective at rendering truly expressive characters, which removes the burden on Wiebe to tell readers what his characters are thinking and feeling. Once again, this book keeps delivering the goods that earned it much praise during its first story arc, so don't miss out on this issue!
Justice League 3000 #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): I don’t know what it is, but there’s something that’s drawing me back again and again to Justice League 3000. While this new Justice League still has grating personality issues, there appears to be glimmers of hope shining through in this issue. Hal Jordan gets a moment to be a real hero again as writers Keith Griffen and J. M. DeMatteis bog down the story with more hints at the nature of Cadmus, which fail to hook the reader with any interest at all. While Howard Porter’s art is still a bit too gritty and unrefined in terms of his inks, the sprawling one-page spreads detailing the Five’s home world are nothing short of breathtaking and serves to flesh out the story visually for the reader and ground them into this still new, futuristic world. Beyond anything, the hope that this series keeps me coming back to it — let’s see if they can do what others could not and keep a large enough audience to continue.
The Woods #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): James Tynion IV's first creator-owned print project sees the light of day … only to be transported to an alien planet in the dark of night along with an entire high school campus and the members of its community. It's an interesting concept that plays heavily on teen drama, as Tynion IV spends much of his first issue establishing characters within the school and the nature of their relationships with one another. I found this comic seemed to be setting up a Hunger Games-esque narrative with a group of teens fighting for survival in a strange setting, but there are more than enough differences that make this a fresh, new story. Newcomer, Michael Dialynas' style is very clean and straightforward, and his use of a fairly standard grid approach to storytelling keeps the reader focused on the characters even if it doesn't take many risks right away. Josan Gonzalez's coloring, however, is the one artistic element that stood out the most imbuing an otherworldly tone to this strange, new world.
Cyclops #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): From the very first page of Cyclops, Russell Dauterman's art blows expectations out of the water. Dauterman excels especially at drawing detail in Corsair's face and laying out panels where two characters are in conversation, without awkward poses. Colorist Chris Sotomayor fills outer space with pleasing, nebulous purple hues. Greg Rucka has already proven himself a poet at composing a story around a central, vulnerable but tenacious character, with Lazarus' Forever Carlyle. He does it again here with time-displaced teen Scott, who vacillates between eagerness and insecurity like an authentic teen should. I'm not a Cyclops fan - of "older" Scott or Young Scott - so I was unenthusiastic when this title was announced. Rucka, I'm sorry I doubted you. Corsair, whom I was predisposed to dislike for not seeking out sooner his sons Scott and Alex, takes steps to be fully present with Scott, and the results are emotionally poignant without being overdone. All this and a Star Wars quote. See Scott beaming when Corsair speaks proudly of him, and you'll understand why this title will be one to watch.
Green Arrow #31 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Issue #31 of Green Arrow ends Outsider’s War arc right, with a lot of heartache (and more severed arms than a Mos Eisley cantina brawl!). Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino finish their first big story since taking over the title by wrapping up the long-established mysteries and adding more groundwork for the future of their run. The only flaw is on it's own, this issue’s plot feels disjointed, but that should work perfectly in a trade. Sorrentino’s unique style allows this book stand apart from its peers and demands a second look from cover to interiors. Lemire and Sorrentino have brought the luster back to Green Arrow in a powerfully artful fashion.
Apocalypse Al #4 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Some finales end with a bang, other with a fizzle, but Apocalypse Al goes softly into that good night by finishing as an unremarkable and easily forgettable installment in Michael J. Straczynski’s array of works. Though Al’s personality is charming—being an independent woman who doesn’t need no man—she ultimately feels one dimensional because Straczynski just doesn’t let her be anything else. She had all the qualities that make for a great foundation upon which to expand and build, upon which to add subtlety and motivation, but she just never hits beyond the mark. By the end of the issue, as she closes out the issue, the audience has already left and moved on. While Sid Kotian and Bill Farmer didn’t necessarily have the best script to work with, they nonetheless did an admirable job with the visuals, making the fantastical world of Apocalypse Al at least look the part.
Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): This issue focuses on Miles' attempt to come to grips with the aftermath of Galactus' destruction of New Jersey, the loss of many of his fellow superheroes, and his abandonment by his father. It's a well-paced story that helps catch readers up to speed with the Miles' world who may not have followed the previous cross-continuity story arc. What will likely have people talking, however, are the two big reveals in this issue – the first in the very beginning and the second on the very last page. All I can say is Brian Bendis is a cruel man who has no problem toying with longtime readers' emotions - even if we should know better. Artistically, I can't say enough about Justin Ponser's colors, which bring a sense of vibrancy and energy to Marquez's art. And without spoiling one of the reveals, I will say that Marquez does a phenomenal job of capturing the threatening and foreboding tone of (part of) this issue. After reading Miles Morales #1, there's no way longtime readers will want to miss Issue #2.
Aquaman and the Others #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): While it’s place time-wise in the DC Universe is still questionable, Aquaman and the Others shows that there’s room for more non-traditional superhero teams (RIP The Movement). This team flourished in Aquaman, but they’re still trying to find their footing in this new series; too much time is spent between bickering and actually coming to a decision to act, which ultimately stagnates the action itself. The personalities of these characters are the main pull for the book, as they’re fun to watch—but to a point. Jurgens continues to explore fascinating Atlantean history and manages to incorporate other aspects of the DC Universe, namely Futures End. Penciller Lan Medina and colorist Matt Milla add another depth to the story with their illustrations; the pages sometimes have a little too much going on, but the breadth of Medina’s composition makes up for any struggles in reading. Though this series is starting off a bit slow, it looks like there’s hope for its future.
She-Hulk #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): You don't need a jury to deliberate this one - She-Hulk is the best Marvel book out that you're not reading. Licking her wounds after Doctor Doom kidnapped her client, Jennifer Walters is looking for some legal advice - and where better to turn than to that other Marvel superhero lawyer, Matt Murdock, better known to readers as Daredevil, the Man Without Fear. Writer Charles Soule may be setting the directions here, but it's artist Javier Pulido that makes it sing, as Jennifer and Matt's meeting in San Francisco makes you feel like you're seeing a long-lost friend - there's a giddiniess to these pages, as Matt does a handstand on the Golden Gate Bridge, or when She-Hulk and Daredevil suit up and crash-land on a bunch of gnarly, tattooed punks. Of course, Soule's diversion to include Daredevil is just that - a diversion - and while the over-the-top conclusion pitting She-Hulk against Doctor Doom feels a little zany, even for this book, it wraps up the first arc with an amusing twist. Be sure to set a court date with this gem of a superhero comic.
The Wake #8 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): In The Wake #8, Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy take readers deeper into the belly of the great Mer as Leeward encounters Captain Mary and his pirate crew. Soon after, Leeward begins to realize she was not alone in her discovery of Lee Archer's distress call. Of course, Snyder isn't revealing his hand just yet, so we'll have to wait until the very end to find out if Dr. Archer's fate from Issue #5 was as it appeared. Yet, it is the scene with General Marlow and Governess Vivienne that arguably raises the most questions in her astral-like representation with Marlow – an opportunity for Murphy and colorist Matt Hollingsworth to truly shine in creating an otherworldly and chilling series of interactions. Although Vivienne calls Marlow's visions mer-venom-induced hallucinations, it is clear she is in control of what is taking place. What this means for the free people, however, remains to be seen. Once again, The Wake strikes that balance of sci-fi, supernatural and thriller genres that will no doubt keep readers coming back for more.
Black Widow #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Issue #6 sees Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto wrapping up the first arc of their ongoing sleeper hit, Black Widow, and this team proves more than capable of delivering a satisfying superhero procedural. This issue in particular had a real crime drama flare to it – no doubt informed by Edmondson's screenwriting background – with Natasha "getting her man," closing the case close, and then discovering an even more insidious plot existing under S.H.I.E.L.D's nose. Considering the recent release of Captain America: Winter Solider, the timing couldn't have been better. Once again, Phil Noto's pared down backgrounds seem simple, but they help keep the reader's eye focused on the characters – the real heart of the story. Apart from the sound effects from Black Widow's "money shot," which looked uncharacteristically rudimentary, the books as a whole presents itself as a polished piece of storytelling that reinforces Marvel's commitment to publishing solid comics that will appeal to a broad reading audience.
Swamp Thing #31 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): There's nothing wrong with Swamp Thing per se, but given the solid talent aboard this comic, you can't help but feel like this series is underperforming a bit. Writer Charles Soule has a simple but interesting concept, as Swamp Thing has to jump from host to host in order to regain control of his body, which has been stolen and experimented on for science. Jesus Saiz also draws some really solid characters, reminding me of a much cleaner Doug Mahnke. (And he draws a really streamlined Swamp Thing, which doesn't hurt in terms of accessibility.) The problem with this book? The actual mission doesn't really have much in the way of smart twists, and that falls on Soule for not directing Saiz, and on Saiz for not finding some ways to make this short sequence pop. There's not much to learn about the Green or this new sub-kingdom, the Grey (which rules over fungus), or about the responsibilities or moral costs of being an avatar (or choosing a host). Talent is the root of all good comics properties, but something about the execution here is just a little moldy.
Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Similar to the relaunched Ghost Rider, Iron Fist: The Living Weapon is a crazy, balls-to-wall series that takes the "shock and awe" approach to win over readers - but if you need more than fireworks to get you going, you might start getting impatient by this second issue. This is very much an auteur work by Kaare Andrews, as he drenches his pages in black, white and red - that said, unlike last issue's crazy fight sequences, this comic seems to hold back, with one short fight (that's somewhat difficult to tell, based on the similarities between characters) and one admittedly cool, Dragon Ball Z-esque melee between Danny Rand and a pack of zombie robot ninjas. Andrews' art style is what will make or break this book, with his over-the-top, cartoony characters twisting and stretching in their oversized efforts to impress. (Yu-Ti leaping off a building to face his attackers, for example, is a great touch.) That said, the pacing in this issue is a little off, as Andrews has to break the momentum of the ongoing story with a continued retelling of Danny Rand's origins in Tibet. If you dig Andrews' crazy art, you're set, but I'll admit that I expected Iron Fist: The Living Weapon to pack a little bit more narrative punch.
Teen Titans Annual #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort end their era of the Teen Titans in this annual, and while this comic's extra-large page count gives you more bang for your buck, you can't help but notice the rambling nature of this narrative. Lobdell takes awhile to pit our Titans against their arch-foe, Harvest, and the first page fakeout of the team possibly meeting their end is completely undermined by Bunker conjuring up some energy bricks, if you can believe it. (And also, the villainous organization that's been fighting the Titans this whole time just, well, cleans up its act off-panel? Hoo boy.) Kenneth Rocafort's artwork, however, looks as gorgeous as it ever has, and that's a good sign considering he's relaunching the book with Will Pfeifer in July. While he does waste valuable page space with his unorthodox layouts, Rocafort does portray the Titans as superhero icons, particularly as we get to watch Raven let loose. It's hard to get over how convenient this reboot is, down to the return of Lilith and Artemis, though, and as a story, this is more a means to an end - namely, a clean slate for Pfeifer and company - than a satisfying conclusion.
Real Heroes #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): For a story that had so much potential, it’s more than a little disappointing that writer Bryan Hitch opts to have characters take to the background as the heavily inundated plot takes precedence. The first few pages of pages of this second issue set the tone of the entire piece: confused, reactive, and frustratingly listless. These spoiled movie stars turned heroes take no opportunity to step up and take control of the story. Though Hitch shouldn’t be expected to go from 0 to 60 character development wise in a single issue, it would have been nice to see the protagonists of Real Heroes to be proactive and take the story. The main character Chris almost gets that chance, but he—along with any potential character development—gets pushed aside by the less-than inspiring entrance of the main villain and kills most anticipation for the next issue.
Andre the Giant: Life and Legend #4 (Published by First Second; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): When hearing the name "Andre the Giant," most people will likely call to mind Wrestlemania III where Hulk Hogan body-slammed the mountain of a man in front of a sold-out crowd of tens of thousands of shocked fans. Others are likely to recall the gentle but imposing Fezzik from The Princess Bride. Box Brown tackles all of this and more in his original graphic biography of Andre the Giant, which provides greater detail into the real-life pro wrestler and sometime actor. What I appreciated about this book was the way it took a character whom many saw as being a simple person and brought out some of the complexities of the man behind the image he and his handlers created. Brown employs an artistic style that clearly demonstrates a strong influence from Chris Ware, which works quite well given the deconstruction of the commercial image of Andre that takes place in this biography. Although readers' past notions of the "gentle giant" will be challenged in some regards, I think this book does a fine job of bringing a greater appreciation to André René Roussimoff, and it is certainly a must-read for wrestling fans.