Face front, 'Rama Readers! It looks like Dancin' David Pepose is out moonlighting as a sentinel of the spaceways once again, so I, Gorgeous George Marston am here to guide you through some rapid reviews of this week's top titles. Without further ado, lets kick things off with a look at Deathlok #1 from yours truly! Excelsior!
Deathlok #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Nathan Edmondson's takeover of the espionage thriller corner of the Marvel universe continues with Deathlok #1, a guns-n-glory adventure with all the merits and flaws of an '80's action movie. Edmondson's script hits all the right notes to establish the tale of a former SHIELD agent turned living weapon, who must hide his secret life as a cyborg assassin from his daughter. However, Deathlok's sitcom-esque premise never develops any soul to go with its carefully crafted structure. Mike Perkins turns in art that makes up for its lack of style with solid storytelling and realism that perfectly fits Deathlok's tone. But a dearth of substance and a lack of clarity in the book's central mystery make this a hard sell beyond its Schwarzenegger-era blockbuster trappings.
All-New X-Men #33 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Brian Michael Bendis has transported Warren, X-23, Jean, Bobby, and Hank to the Ultimate Universe, which makes for entertaining moments as they puzzle out their predicament. The most enjoyable scene is when Miles Morales introduces Jean to a stupefied Ganke. Mahmud Asrar has several standout pages; Jimmy Hudson charging looks appropriately menacing. However, X-23 and Warren's faces lack sufficient warmth or lifelikeness. This arc adds a fun layer to the original X-Men's already fish-out-of-water scenario, but Bendis has not made us feel any urgency or gravity. It feels like the X-Men could hang out comfortably in the Ultimate Universe for a while. The lack of urgency makes the story read more like a quirky tale than a true crisis.
Justice League United Annual #1 (Published by DC Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Jeff Lemire's Justice League United captures the spirit of humanity and cosmic action pioneered by JLI, but an inability to balance those elements hurts more than it helps. It's hard not to feel like we wouldn't need so many text balloons if not for gags like Animal Man arguing with his wife, but JLU Annual #1 would die without them. Worse, the Legion shows up to crowd this extended – but already packed – issue. These are classic characters, and yet no one seems to know how to make them any fun. Still, Neil Edwards and Jay Leisten keep the energy up with help from Jeromy Cox's bright colors, so at least this book doesn't drag as much visually as it does in its script.
AXIS: Revolutions #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Apparently with all the brow-furrowing and teeth-gritting that comes along with a big cross-over event like Axis, there is still some fun to be had. Taking a page out of AvX and A+X, AXIS: Revolutions feels like DVD bonus material instead of essential reading. The Hopeless/Lashley Spider-Man story reads like a high grade morality tale that’s more PSA than side story. The Spurrier/Huat Doctor Strange tale is a lot more fun; pitting the Doctor and Wong against the childishly aggressive NYC streets. There is something wonderful about the verbose Stephen Strange insulting Wong with a litany of creative insults. These two part mini stories can be really hit or miss and in AXIS: Revolutions #1 readers get a little of both.
AXIS: Carnage #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Don't ever accuse AXIS: Carnage #1 of not trying. This issue goes almost too far in establishing Cletus Kasady's psychopath status, leading with an over-wrought internal monologue that feels as cliché as Carnage's new “lethal protector” style. There's a lot in Rick Spears's script that ties into the longrunning symbiote narrative, like the presence of the Sin-Eater, but Spears's stabs (pardon the pun) at characterization are far too hoary and hamfisted to be much fun. On the bright side, German Peralta's painterly, inkwashed art, coupled with Rain Beredo's moody colors set this book apart from the usual tie-in fodder, with the sinister, ghostly Sin-Eater being a highlight. Still, there's not much to get excited about, unless you like wordy, uninteresting dialogue and cheap character gimmicks.
Robyn Hood #3 (Published by Zenescope; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The premise of this recently launched series is that expert archer Robyn Hood and spellcaster Marian Quin have been transported from a magical land to the concrete jungle of New York City. Robyn's archery ability is regrettably underutilized - she shoots one arrow in this issue, and her grappling fighting style makes her more akin to Black Widow than Hawkeye. I like Robyn and Marian's friendship and dynamic as equal partners. Claudia Balboni's foreground characters are too starkly set off from the background, at times giving a video game-like aesthetic. A welcome surprise is that the interior art is not evocative like most Zenescope covers. Pat Shand is developing two fun leads into multifaceted characters. Robyn and Marian's solid teamwork is a rare find.
Harley Quinn Annual #1 (Published by DC Comics; review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): For a comic with a scratch-n-sniff gimmick, Harley Quinn Annual #1 sure has a lot of poop jokes. But seriously folks, this is a comic that only those fans who already love Palmiotti and Conner's madcap take on the clown princess of crime will appreciate. For everyone else, it's a puerile groan-fest that survives only by the grace of some talented guest artists, including zany main artist John Timms. With a plot centered entirely around forcing the smells of suntan lotion, pizza, and yes, marijuana into the narrative, and jokes so unfunny as to seem purposefully tone-deaf, Harley Quinn Annual #1 is a gimmick at best, and at worst, a sad excuse to get Joe Quinones and Ben Caldwell's art in the same comic.