Best Shots: Action Comics, Iron Man & More

Best Shots: Action Comics & More

Action Comics #875

Welcome once again! This past week, we ran the following BSEs:

Witchblade #125

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1

And now, we lead off with . . .

Action Comics #875

Written by Greg Rucka

Art by Eddy Barrows with Ruy José & Julio Ferreira

Published by DC Comics

Review by THE Rev, O.J. Flow)

I found plenty to like about this launch to a new era of Action Comics, though I'll need plenty more story before passing final judgment. We finally get the revelation on the true identities of the (New) Kryptonian iterations of Nightwing and Flamebird. That's a good thing because for months over the various issues of Superman books they would provide maybe a page or two just to indicate that these characters actually existed, but rarely did the assorted creators do anything to build much of a mystery. Without giving away anything about this revealed in the new issue, the two masked Kryptonians are in fact genuine natives of Superman's homeworld, and they aren't necessarily plucked from thin air to fill out this guy-girl combo. It's up to writer Greg Rucka to make some sense out of how these two managed to form a partnership. Rucka's earned plenty of confidence in me as a reader from his exemplary time on another Man of Steel book earlier this decade, Adventures of Superman. Much respect for the scribe and the energy that he's brought to related concepts in the past.

Driving much of said energy as well, if this issue is any indication, is some at times jaw-dropping art by Eddy Barrows with the help of Ruy José and Julio Ferreira. The book's second and third page are a 2-page spread featuring two characters I was in the dark about, and that was the intention, and the resounding impact despite the unfamiliarity is palpable. What I didn't much like were the new outfits sported by the two new Action Comics leads, although the rationale is explained and somewhat justified. I'd have preferred the costumes that invoked more invoked nostalgia, what with the decades of history between these Kryptonian creations. I'm all for reinventing dormant characters, but not at the risk of making them unrecognizable.

Another good thing is seeing more of Phantom Zone baddies Ursa and General Zod proving that Kal-El is wise to put in his time at New Krypton to keep a closer eye on the settlement's new leadership. It's to no one's surprise that they have designs on Earth domination once again, but the scheme they've cooked up presumably dating back to "Last Son" is solid, and clearly the foundation for this series for the foreseeable future. It ain't quite the party it should be with this title lacking it's longtime lead character, but it's off to a strong start.

X-Men Noir #4

X-Men Noir #4 (of 4)

From: Marvel

Writer: Fred van Lente

Art: Dennis Calero

Review By: Jeff Marsick

I’m a sucker for all things hardboiled which is the reason I picked this series up in the first place. Well, that and those gorgeous black-and-white variant covers by Dennis Calero that practically scream “Don’t peruse me, just pick me up and buy. I’m that good.” And really has been. It’s been the most original X-Men story in years (maybe a decade?) and sadly it comes to a close with this issue.

Magnus finally snaps and unleashes his inner Scarface, the mystery of Jean Grey’s murder reaches a satisfyingly twisty end, and the door is opened for the next series to take on a decidedly Asian flavor (hopefully in the Kurosawa vein, like Drunken Angel) . This series set the bar for others in Marvel’s noir experiment to chase (I’m talkin’ ‘bout you Spider-Man, Daredevil, Punisher, and Luke Cage) but I could have used a little more clarity in Dennis Calero’s art. He conveys the dark and gritty mood so well with shadow and half light that he often inadvertently sacrifices differentiation of characters, which can make panels smoggy and hard to follow. I do, however, prefer his style and technique to represent the noir feel as opposed to Carmine Di Giandomenico’s over on Spider-Man Noir, the latter’s efforts reading more like a funny book trying too hard to punch above its weight class.

X-Men Noir could also have used a little more of Fred van Lente fleshing the minor characters instead of having them shine briefly in a handful of panels, being not much more than mere filler adorned with names that titillate our geek factor (although kudos are deserved for keeping Wolverine restrained and not letting this series be subtitled “It’s Really All About Wolverine…Again”). I also think that having one character be allowed to play in boots and gaudy suit was more liability than asset to the book, making it at times more pulpy than noir, but maybe in the next series this will be corrected.

I’ve read each floppy as they came out, but going back and devouring it all in one swoop affords a truer appreciation of what this creative team wrought. If you’re a Criminal or Incognito fan (and really, why wouldn’t you be?) you’ll certainly want to have this under-appreciated series in your collection.

Batman Confidential #27

Batman Confidential #27

Written by Christina Weir and Nunzio DiFilipis

Art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nowlan

Published by DC Comics

Review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow

On the same week that the Batman Family status quo sees historic upheaval in "Battle For the Cowl," fans who miss the old school adventures of the now-absent Bruce Wayne may find themselves satiated thanks to Batman Confidential #27. This second chapter of the 3-part "A New Dawn" is a tad short on the gritty intensity that makes for some of better modern Dark Knight tales, but it's still an enjoyable showcase between some classic characters and the creative talent responsible for it. Riddler fans, I would imagine, particularly have much to appreciate in this issue, and it's brought home very effectively by industry legends Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nowlan. Granted Detective Comics has been in excellent hands with Dustin Nguyen, and Tony Daniel continues to put his stamp on Batman, but Garcia-Lopez continues to make magic with one of his greatest subjects, and DC would be wise to keep him more involved in their monthly output.

Back to the story, this Batman Confidential story arc has already assured its spot in comic book history by introducing a character never before seen anywhere other than live-action television over a generation ago.. One of the more campy fixtures in the Caped Crusader's rogues gallery back on ABC in the 1960s, King Tut has now entered the 4-color world for the first time thanks to writers Christina Weir and Nunzio DiFilipis. In the first chapter of the storyline, it seemed apparent that the King Tut here is similar to Victor Buono's comedic 1960s interpretation in name alone. Appearance-wise, this King Tut is tall, slim and athletic -- a far cry from the portly thespian's delusional would-be criminal mastermind. King Tut 2.0 distinguishes himself with a far more violent, murderous agenda, and part of his methodology attracts the unwanted attention of one of Batman's more high-profile adversaries, the Riddler. At least it's assumed that Riddler's involvement is not welcome, but we find that another layer to this murder plot's been added by story's end.

Also, as the background of the more clear-cut suspect is brought to the fore, it's a little surprising to find that elements of Tut 1.0 are incorporated into this current incarnation's. I don't recall that Buono's backstory was ever fleshed out other than a brief recollection of the wayward Egyptologist by Adam West's Batman, but a more dramatic, revenge-fueled take is revealed here, right down to a bump on the head, an old King Tut plot device. Since the last issue, it's been apparent that an unrevealed conspiracy among the city museum's board members has fueled "A New Dawn"'s plot, and as revelatory as this chapter is, I'm venturing a guess that more remains to be seen a month from now. At times I feared that this arc had the potential to be a fluff piece lacking substance, but Weir and DiFilipis's script contains a few quality twists and turns.

I'd be remiss if I failed to make one observation on an aesthetic level and that's how Tut 2.0's victim in this issue, museum board member Leigh Carson, spends half the issue in little more than frilly undergarments. It would have struck me as gratuitous, like a typical teen slasher flick, but in the able hands of Garcia-Lopez and Nolan I found myself more appreciative of their ability to render the female form so extraordinarily well. Panel for panel, their work has such a fluidity to it that's something to be savored. A significant portion of this issue is detective procedural (Batman partnered up with Riddler is nothing new, especially recently, and it doesn't feel played out at all on this occasion), yet even those scenes are teeming with vitality. Regardless of villains and supporting characters featured on other occasions down the road, the creative team responsible for Batman Confidential #27 need to be doing more work on this title, if not elsewhere in the Batman universe.

Invincible Iron Man #11

Invincible Iron Man #11

From: Marvel Comics

Writer: Matt Fraction

Artist: Salvador Larroca

Reviewed by: Richard Renteria

As much as people may have felt that Tony Stark was the bad guy prior to Dark Reign it is very clear that in Invincible Iron Man Marvel is doing everything they can to reconcile the actions of an extremis-amped futurist and a normal human with a high IQ. As with prior issues of this title writer Matt Fraction and artist Salvador Larroca continue the redemption of Tony Stark by utilizing a solid mix of espionage, super-heroics and compelling art to masterfully engage the reader.

Currently there are very few writers capable of juggling multiple storylines and effectively giving each the necessary development within the confines of a 22-page story and yet month after month Matt Fraction not only makes it compelling he makes it look easy. Fraction has an instinctive understanding of how to balance the real world aspects of the story with the needs of the super-hero fan. Watching the feints and parries from both Stark and Norman Osborn as they try to outwit each other perfectly captures the rivalry that exists between these two enemies; while moments like Maria Hill stumbling into an odd situation quickly reminds the reader that this is indeed a super-hero comic book with Maria Hill: Agent of Stark in the role of hero.

Throughout this storyline Fraction smartly builds upon events from previous issues and continually expands the scope of the story in a very believable manner. When this storyline first started it was basically Stark, Hill and Potts together developing a strategy for the coming storm. As the story has expanded they now play their own individual roles within the title and it makes for a compelling read as their motivations remain the same, stay out of Osborn’s clutches, while their actions remain their own.

While the issue itself provides for some nice character moments Fraction never forgets that this title is called Iron Man and not only does he apply liberal helpings of said character. We also get the added bonus of watching Pepper learn how to use her new armor while Maria Hill stumbles onto a uniquely comic book situation in the form of one of Iron Man’s long time enemies. These scenes come to life thanks to the high quality art provided by Salvador Larroca.

From the opening scene of Pepper Pots donning her new armor to his rendering of a member of Osborn’s Cabal, Larroca is firing on all cylinders. His art effectively conveys the action on each page and have an organic look to them. One thing that really stood out this issue was the ocean. I’m not sure who is responsible for the effect whether it be the artist or colorist Frank D’Armata but the shimmering across the water was very effective. If I had one complaint about the art is has to be Norman Osborn’s hair, it just looks wrong, but on the whole that is a small quibble and does not take away from the overall quality of the story and art.

Iron Man continues to excel under Fraction’s pen and by utilizing Tony Stark’s history and present status within the Marvel Universe it is one of the best titles coming from Marvel. I also thought the introduction of Jarvis this issue was a nice nod to not only continuity but the movie as well.

Green Lantern #34

Green Lantern Corps #34

From: DC Comics

Writer: Peter Tomasi

Art: Patrick Gleason

Review by Mike Mullins

Peter Tomasi nails character moments, and in Green Lantern Corps issue 34, he simply knocks it out of the park. This issue jumps from great moment to great moment, but the strongest work by Tomasi is extracting some feeling other than ambivalence towards Sodam Yat. Picking up from issue 33 and folding in the background provided in the Sinestro Corps War: Ion special, Sodam unleashes a justifiable rage against the entire society of Daxam with special vitriol reserved for his parents. In just a seven pages, Sodam Yat has gone from window dressing to interesting.

The fight promised in issue 33 between Mongul and Arkillo results in the expected outcome though Mongul is surprisingly merciful towards Arkillo.I wish there was one more panel on the page where Mongul defeats Arkillo to show why Arkillo falls over, but the fight is otherwise is aggressive and destructive as should be expected. Even losing, Arkillo continues to live up to his reputation as the Sinestro Corps brutal thug.

The issue continues with glimpses into the romance between Kyle and Soranik and then Kryb and the Star Sapphires. The image of Kryb’s homeworld and Kryb’s imprisonment on Zamaron captures how even unhealthy aspects of love are accepted and valued by the Star Sapphires, but then again, the Star Sapphires have a habit of not understanding the difference between a nurturing, caring love and an oppressive, unhealthy love.

The issue wraps up with a Red Lantern being placed in the Sciencells. This allows Guy Gardner to speak for the fans when he questions why there are so many differently colored corps showing up all of the sudden. The Red Lantern’s admission to the Sciencells also provides Scar, the rogue Guardian, with the opportunity she needs to begin her work enacting the will of the Book of Black.

The art ranges from acceptable to good. Overall Patrick Gleason provides easy to follow layouts that clearly depict the events. The storytelling elements are all there, excluding the clear depiction of why Arkillo fell during his battle with Mongul, and the panels provide a variety of perspectives to the events takingplace. My biggest issue with the art is that some facial expressions look a little too cartoony in comparison with the rest of the art, especially the finely detailed image of Kryb’s home planet.

This issue is definitely worth the price of admission and continues to justify the interest in Blackest Night.


Booster Gold #18 (DC; by Mike Mullins): Dan Jurgens continues to show why he was the proper creator to take over for the departed Johns and Katz. He continues to weave the tapestry of blue and gold together and confronting Booster Gold with opportunities which might allow Ted Kord to live, but at horrible consequences to history. I wish the reveal on the villain for this storyline had been someone else, and for a short period hoped it might relate to Kah-Ef-Reh, resulting in some of Blue Beetle’s history coming alive in the pages of Booster Gold. Instead, the villain is a recurrence of a previous villain who just doesn’t seem to have a significant threat potential. No matter how nervous he makes Skeets, as a reader I just don’t feel that Booster and the Time Masters mission is truly in jeopardy from this villain machinations.

The Walking Dead #59 (Image Comics; Reviewed by Erich Reinstadler): "Oh sh*t". Those are the words that left my mouth as I reached the end of issue 59 of Robert Kirkman's ongoing tale of life in the post zombalyptic world. Rick and Carl went home, back to their town, with supplies and weapons as the goal. They didn't expect to find Rick's old partner, Morgan, killing and feeding strangers to his late son Duane. Convinced that Morgan did the right thing and ended Duane's afterlife, the group, including Abraham, headed out on the road. They stocked up on all the supplies they'd needed, and drove straight into hell. As the current arc continues, Kirkman's writing is growing even tighter; the sense of dread and terror he's able to instill is palpable. I don't know where he's taking us, but you can believe I'm sticking with this series til the bitter end.

The Stand: American Nightmares #1 of 5 (Marvel Comics; Reviewed by Richard): Here’s my problem with this issue, this reads more like the conclusion to the Captain Trips arc that just wrapped as opposed to the start of a new arc. Every event that happens within this issue is basically a culmination of the set-up from Captain Trips and alleviates my consternation at the rather abrupt ending of the first series. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa continues to tell an enthralling story as he cherry picks moments from the source material to streamline his vision for the comic medium. Mike Perkins art continues to impress and the bonus material at the back of the book really helps the reader appreciate his talents all the more.

Guardians of the Galaxy #11 (Marvel Comics; Reviewed by Richard): This issue focuses squarely on Dax and Phyla Val as they try to understand the ramifications of their death at the hands of the Mentor and how it fits into the rescue of Moondragon. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are a great team, I’m not quite sure how they work out their stories but whatever procedure they are using really works for this title. While the other members of the Guardians make only an appearance on the recap page, the story never suffers from the lack of their presence. Actually the effect is quite the opposite as this issues allows Abnett and Lanning not only to explore the psyche of the aforementioned individuals but it also allows them to more fully explore the idea behind the avatars that make up death, eternity, oblivion and a host of other cosmic simplifications. The art provided by Wes Craig is realistic and nicely displays some storytelling skills, while the colors of Wil Quintana add an effective mood to the pencils.

Trinity #41 (DC Comics; Reviewed by Richard): Looking back through my stacks of comics it dawns on me that I have not picked up this series since issue 20 and the reason why is made very clear in a relatively short time this issue. I was promised a story with the big three icons of the DCU but instead I get a story with the big three totems of the DCU and that is a story that is just as uninteresting sounding as it is reading. I thought for sure by now we would see the big three make their re-appearance within the series but apparently they are saving that moment for another time. I have said it once and I’ll say it again DC right now has no understanding of how badly fans want to see their favorite characters being heroic, not watching things from afar. There has been enough of that over the last few years, and I for one am tired of my icons sitting on the sidelines while editorial tries to falsely foment fan interest. I can’t be the only one who wanted to read a story about Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Mark Bagley, or am I?

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