Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday rapids? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our patented pellets! So let's kick off today's column with Pickled Pierce Lydon, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Gotham Academy...
Gotham Academy #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): This book is so close to being a must-read. Karl Kerschl’s artwork is a perfect fit, diving it’s influence from animation just as much as comics. It’s a different look for a Batman comics but a welcome one that proves that darkness doesn’t have to be exaggerated into parody. But Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher haven’t hit their stride with the pacing of this series. The last issue felt like we had finally gotten the ball rolling but this one grinds as they involve another character more intimately into the plot. When this creative team finds their footing, they’ll be taking an already very good book to the next level.
AXIS Revolutions #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): AXIS Revolutions, more than most of the recent tie-in books Marvel has been printing lately, is less a collection of stories and more quick vignettes. Ray Fawkes writes an action-packed story featuring Kitty Pryde robbing a bank while Pepe Larraz and Rodrigo Zayas evoke a sketchier version of Sara Pichelli. It's a fun story, with some fun tricks (especially her phasing into a cop car and stealing it), but the only problem is it's all action that goes nowhere. Frank Barbiere and Victor Santos fare much better on that score with their short Sandman story, featuring Flint Marko's double-crossing attempts to come out as a hero. Barbiere comes up with some super-creative uses for Sandman's shape-shifting powers, and he brings a surprising warmth and sense of humor. Santos' angular art is also a great fit, really playing up the off-kilter, not-quite-moral side to Flint. This is a decent enough showcase for some surprising names, but the small scale makes AXIS Revolutions #3 feel just a little too disposable to be a must-read.
Secret Six #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10):The fan-favorite and morally questionable Secret Six make their New 52 debut under Gail Simone. But make no mistake, this is not the team you remember. Using the classic snag-and-trap hook, Simone locks her characters in rather quickly, and at least by the surface, establishes their styles and psychoses. It's a shame the art by Ken Lashley and Drew Geraci isn't quite up to Simone's manic story. While Lashley's pencils have a real sense of movement and impact, but his facial detail lets more than one character blend into the other. When he performs his own inks, some of the detail remains, but under Geraci, it lacks cohesion. Still, artistic team is clearly going for a tone that will work if they can work out the wrinkles. So yeah, this isn't your old Secret Six, but that's okay. Because this group looks worse, and that's a win for us.
Angela: Asgard's Assassin #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Kieron Gillen and Marguerite Bennett's new story feels like Game of Thrones in space, with stubborn monarchs, clashing swords and unspecified species. In an early fight scene, Phil Jimenez uses creative panel layouts to give Angela a nearly full-page, imposing presence as an efficient killer. Romulo Fajardo's juxtaposition of glowing eyes and glimmering armor against pale, dusty backgrounds completes the otherworldly setting. The substory achieves better tension than the main story. Stephanie Hans' art is attractively lush and thickly applied, like watercolor soaked into canvas. This is a wordy debut, but Bennett and Gillen successfully distinguish Angela from Black Widow: Angela's flat affect and unabashed ego are unique among Marvel solo leads. The art and setting make this the Marvel solo title that is closest to the fantasy genre.
Batman Eternal #35 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): How about this issue of Batman Eternal, huh? Things are really moving at a faster pace as we approach some kind of inevitable reveal. I think the fun of this issue is that James Tynion IV and the rest of the consulting team have injected some mystery back into the plot. Hush was a great red herring (though, admittedly, this wouldn’t be the first time he was one) and we’re finally back to a state of not knowing what will happen next. Artist Fernando Blanco doesn’t reinvent the wheel in this one. He just combines solid character rendering and panel composition for an easy read that complements the pacing. Many villains have tried to “Break the Bat” before but it finally looks like it’s actually happening, and that’s an exciting development for this series.
Hulk #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Gerry Duggan is bringing a weird guest star in Hulk #9, as the X-Men's Kitty Pryde winds up performing a very big favor for Doc Green. Kitty's inclusion feels a bit like a detour to see a likable acquaintance - it doesn't detract from the story, but it doesn't lend anything to it, either. Once Green returns home, however, Duggan whips up an ominous meeting between Green and his most hated foe. And the cliffhanger at the end? Longtime Hulk fans will definitely enjoy it. Marc Bagley's artwork is also on an upswing this issue, showing off some surprising range with inker Drew Hennessy. Yes, there are some goofy moments, like Green sticking his head through a steel door a la The Shining (and shouting "Hello, Kitty!"), but ultimately the Hulk is on the right track.
Wolf Moon #1 (Published by Vertigo Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Let’s face it: There simply are not enough werewolf comics being published today when compared to their other fanged counterparts. However, Cullen Bunn and Jeremy Haun attempt to right this wrong with their unique twist on the lycanthrope in Wolf Moon. It’s a visually exciting issue that will no doubt find many readers more than game for following Dillon Chase as he continues to hunt down the monster that killed his family – and many others in this issue. Although there were a few moments in the dialogue that felt a bit melodramatic, high marks go to Bunn for a truly creative take on what think we know of werewolves especially as it relates to the cause of lycanthropy. Likewise, Haun’s art is not for the faint of heart as he throws readers into the visceral world of the werewolf and lets his monstrous creation cut loose in a very literal sense. Overall, this book is off to a solid start.
Five Ghosts #14 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): One of the things that makes this series so thoroughly enjoyable is the genre mashup that readers get to experience in every story arc. In this case, it’s classic horror with pulp adventure as Fabian travels through a rural, European countryside populated with vampires and all other sort of supernatural horrors in search of continued adventure. Although Barbiere brings a number of familiar plot elements and characters together in this arc, the high level of execution is what keeps it from feeling stale. Aside from the sheer fun of reading this comic, what will also catch readers’ attention is how much Mooneyham and Affe’s art continues to gel with each subsequent issue. It still possesses the same “pulpy” composition that has set this series apart from other comics, but the combination of perspectives and coloring gives it an almost cinematic quality, which emphasizes the fast-paced storyline. Once again, Five Ghosts proves to be a “must-read” series.
Grayson #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 6 out of 10): Dick Grayson is a fun character who has stood the test of time for a reason - but five issues in, I do question the utility of an arid character piece. Tom King shows readers what Dick Grayson's made out of, as he's lost in the desert with a baby in tow. The problem? That's all this book is - walking. Considering that comics are a visual medium, not to mention the spy-fi flavor that has made Grayson stand out so much, this feels like too much naval-gazing and not enough actual action. Artist Mikel Janin tries to play up the desert's empty, almost paralyzing expansiveness, but he's not given enough to do. What I do love, however, is that King writes Dick Grayson as a protector, a hero, as someone who will never, ever give up, no matter what the challenge. It's a story that definitely cements Grayson's claim as one of the greats - I just wish he had more a exciting way to prove it.
Usagi Yojimbo: Senso #5 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Kamikaze bat samurai, alien octopuses, giant robots, laser guns… this comic has it all! Stan Sakai packs this penultimate issue of the miniseries full of action, drama, romance, suspense, and some incredible character work. The artwork is some of Sakai’s best to date and it’s a testament to his skills that he can continue to outdo himself after 30 years of working with this character. The last panel is one of the coolest splash pages in an Usagi comic yet and is a great nod to classic anime and kaiju movies. The finale is gearing up to be an incredible thrill ride, so jump on board now and buckle up tight!
Earth 2 #29 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Although focused on two fan-favorite characters, Earth 2’s Barbara and Dick Grayson story falls completely flat. The world is ending all around, this universe has more than its fair share of heroes and you have the most popular sidekicks in the biz, but with this issue, writers Marguerite Bennett and Mike Johnson phone in an story where events just sort of happen to these parents without regard to the larger story in Earth 2. The story paces at such a strangely quick clip the reader isn’t given enough time or details to process the dangerous situations. The couple walks into a mostly generic bad guy hideout and then stroll right back out. Artist Andy Smith is in fine form here, but nothing in the artwork can redeem such a lackluster story.
Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1952 #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Mike Mignola and John Arcudi return to the early days of the B.P.R.D. they first visited in the “1946” miniseries, but this time they skip forward four years and give fans what they’ve been begging for, with untold Hellboy adventures. The story follows a group of seasoned agents as they take Hellboy on his first mission to investigate reports of a strange beast sighted in Brazil. The focus is on setting the scene, which makes the pace a little slow, but I imagine things will pick up as the story progresses. Alex Maleev’s artwork is gorgeous here, and his gritty linework and intense blacks are a perfect fit for the world of Hellboy. A solid start that takes a while to get going.
Penny Dora and the Wishing Box #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Penny shares the spotlight with her friend, Elizabeth, as they figure out how this mysterious box works. We don't get major reveals yet, but we do get cute, funny moments, like when Iggy the cat receives ham-flavored ice cream. Tamra Bonvillain's use of bold colors looks good: two panels that focus on Penny's luminescent green eyes pop off the page. Michael Stock writes well the tension kids feel between wanting a friend to like them and not wanting that friend to mess with their stuff. We need more development of Penny apart from this mystery: what are her likes and hobbies? Stock is combining Beverly Clearly-style hijinks with Hogwarts-like magic realism. It's a fun and creative story, but Penny's world beyond her bedroom and house still remains unexplored.