Best Shots Reviews: YOUNG JUSTICE #1, MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #2, More

The Green Lantern #3
Credit: Jae Lee (DC Comics)
Credit: DC Comics

Young Justice #1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Patrick Gleason and Alejandro Sanchez
Lettering by DC Lettering
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Brian Michael Bendis is a divisive figure in comic books today, but love him or hate him, there’s no denying that he’s always one to shake things up. Before the post-Rebirth DCU could stagnate, Bendis was brought in to redefine Superman, and hot on the trails of that success, he’s pushed towards his Wonder Comics line - a revitalization of DC’s younger heroes. The star of that, of course, had to be Young Justice but despite promising promo art, fans still held their breath that “their” versions of these beloved characters would be coming back. Well, breathe easy, DC fans - while Young Justice #1 is not a completely infallible debut, Bendis and artist Patrick Gleason remind us why we loved these characters to begin with, and that alone is worth the price of admission.

It should go without saying but this is a very Bendis-y book. It’s wordy. Characters talk over one another. Their dialogue occasionally falls into sort of exhausting David Mamet-ian word volleys. The set-up is pretty by the numbers, and we have a general idea about where we’re supposed to land. And if there’s anything to really take issue with, it’s the fact that these heroes are very conveniently together in Metropolis despite at least two of them not being based there. Bendis is clearly more concerned with delivering the goods promised on the cover than with the tiresome machinations of getting all the characters in the same room, so to speak. But the same way that Bendis opened up a world of possibility for Superman by just trying to write the best, most intrinsically good version of him - the Young Justice cast benefits immensely from his voice.

We start out with a mysterious figure shrouded in darkness talking about an Earth Crisis. No, not the ‘90s metalcore band - the giant events that have repeatedly given expanded or condensed the multiverse in the DC Universe. It turns out that we’re on Gemworld, and Lord Opal has realized that Gemworld and Earth are linked. These crises, specifically seven of them (though considering how often “crisis” has been used by DC, it’s impossible to know which ones he means), are the key. There’s the motivation for the villains to visit Earth, and as they attack Metropolis, only the young heroes band together in the absence of Superman. It’s simple and to the point. This is a double-sized issue, and it flies by, as Bendis lets each of the members have their moments in the battle and the plotting ups the intrigue about a certain clone.

Despite good work all-around with Tim Drake, Cassie Sandsmark, and newcomers Jinny Hex and Teen Lantern, the standout character has to be Impulse. In part because Bendis’ constant streams of dialogue play well with the speedster’s quicktalking tendencies, but also because Patrick Gleason really flexes his muscles with the character. Bart is all over the place in the book, and his powers allow the artist to experiment a bit, with Bart literally flying out of the confines of panels that struggle to contain him. Gleason eschews a lot of the rounded lines that have come to define his work in recent years and gives us a book that is visually unrelenting. Gleason’s designs for the warriors of Gemworld are much more angular than we’re used to seeing from him - falling more in line from a design standpoint with a severity that we’re more used to seeing from artists like Sean Gordon Murphy. As the danger mounts for our heroes, even Gleason’s layouts becomes more staccato and angular, giving him a great opportunity to build to big moments like Cassie joining the fray or the big splash of the whole team. This is some really masterful work from Gleason, and it all grows from a character-first approach.

The books ends with the appearance of a familiar face as we’re thrust into the unknown. Bendis’ blend of nostalgia and mystery as well as his reputation for pushing characters forward works really well with Gleason’s buoyant linework and Alejandro Sanchez’ classy coloring. Brian Michael Bendis might be a divisive figure in comic books today, but there’s no denying his talent, and he proves that time and time again. Young Justice is back, and it’s setting the bar for Wonder Comics exceptionally high.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #2
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Art by Javier Garron and David Curiel
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Saladin Ahmed and Javier Garron make their sophomore installment of Miles Morales: Spider-Man a good one, as they bring the teenage web-slinger together with the unlikeliest of sidekicks: namely, Peter Parker’s longtime bad guy the Rhino. Yet it’s the chemistry of this odd couple that makes Miles Morales such a fun read, showing that this Spider-Man does things differently than his red-and-blue comrade-in-arms.

With a classmate’s cousin gone missing, Miles finds himself hot on the trail of a cybernetic arms ring - but what he probably didn’t expect was to have the Rhino helping him out. Evoking his use of the Absorbing Man in Black Bolt, Ahmed’s introduction of the Rhino is a great way to keep readers engaged with Miles - unlike Peter Parker’s snap-judgemental, occasional reactionary streak, watching Miles play nice and actually make friends. Plus, Ahmed leans into the blue-collar relatability of the Rhino - rather than lean into the broken syntax of a Russian mobster analogue, Ahmed makes the Rhino feel more like Ben Grimm, a guy who distrusts cell phones and self-effacingly says “I ain’t an ideas guy.”

The dynamic he has with a young upstart superhero who’s still figuring out the ropes himself is a charming one, and that elevates the otherwise run-of-the-mill superheroing that Miles finds himself in. These two need each other - at least for the purposes of finding these missing kids - and watching Miles have to account for a two-ton sidekick makes for some of the funniest and most heartfelt beats of the book. (A sequence where Miles builds an actual web-swing for Rhino so they can get across town without police hassle is one of the kinder beats I’ve seen in a Spider-Man book.) But most importantly, this partnership feels like one of equals, and by having Miles and the Rhino team up so effectively, Ahmed honestly makes both characters work in a way that we haven’t seen in the comics for some time.

Javier Garron, meanwhile, continues to impress with the fluidity of the action, as well as the expressiveness of his characters. His art style fits in that same cartooniness of a Nick Bradshaw - and perhaps it’s because he has no face mask on, but his take on the Rhino really steals the show, as he really shows the warmth and sensitivity underneath all that muscle. If there’s any weak spot in Garron’s work, it’s actually with Miles himself - while Miles in his civilian identity is pitch-perfect as a teen being pulled in every direction, Garron’s expressiveness with Miles’ mask comes at the cost of the iconic shape of the Spider-Man eyes, making the main character feel a little less, well, spectacular than he could be. It’s a tricky balancing act for many artists, and even playing up the red outlines more (and having the lenses moving underneath them) would help maintain the design while allowing for Mile’s emotions.

That said, minor hiccups aside, this feels like a real triumph for Ahmed and Garron, as Miles Morales: Spider-Man genuinely feels like an adventure that wouldn’t fit for any other webslinger. The lack of history - and subsequent baggage - that Miles has actually works in his favor this time, allowing Ahmed to give Miles a partner that feels unexpected but organic. The resulting sparks are well worth your time.

Credit: DC Entertainment

The Green Lantern #3
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Liam Sharp and Steve Oliff
Lettering by Tom Orzechowski
Published by DC Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Grant Morrison mixes Training Day with 2000AD in The Green Lantern #3. After getting to the bottom of who has been stealing planets across the last two issues, Hal and a squadron of Lanterns bust up an intergalactic planet auction where the bidders are the worst of the worst the galaxy has to offer - which only gets more complicated when God himself takes the highest big. Morrison gotta Morrison, right? But it is the grittiness that dwells underneath the bonkers science fiction that makes this issue really interesting, along with Liam Sharp and Steve Oliff’s consistently jaw dropping artwork. Last issue, Hal Jordan said that he had “always been a bastard,” but The Green Lantern #3 proved just how true that really is.

That all said, readers who were hoping that The Green Lantern would somehow ease up with the exposition will be sorely disappointed by this third issue. Grant Morrison is an infamously dense writer with certain characters, and Green Lantern is certainly one of them - throughout the issue, readers are subjected to wordy, plot-heavy dialogue, backed by some pretty dense artwork from Sharp and Oliff. While it makes the overall experience of reading feel big in scope, it doesn’t have the same zip as say Morrison’s Action Comics run or JLA, which were much more set piece-oriented.

But The Green Lantern #3 is in no way boring. On the surface, we have the very concept of the issue, which is all sort of insane and perfect for a spacefaring title such as this. I have enjoyed Morrison’s loose serialization structure of this first arc, and Issue #3 is another neat example of that. Readers that have kept up from the start get a fairly substantial new installment, while readers just jumping on get a wacko story of Hal arresting “God” and then turning full dirty cop, a twist that folds nicely into Morrison’s “intergalactic lawman” concept. Though it has all the trappings of space operas, The Green Lantern #3 feels more raw than previous modern runs, bringing a whole new energy and stakes to the final frontier.

While Morrison’s heady science fiction and wicked streak provide the bedrock of The Green Lantern, Liam Sharp and Steve Oliff continue to steal the show with their expansive, black-light poster-ready artwork. Formed from some sort of starcrossed mixture of Neal Adams and Jim Starlin, Liam Sharp’s pencils bring back the pulpy science fiction of older space based stories, further graced by his eye grabbing layouts. A lot has been said about Sharp’s detailing, and #3 is no exception, but I think we should be talking about Steve Oliff’s colors a lot more, as he enhances Sharp’s details and provides a metric ton of vibrant ambiance as they zoom us around the weird, wild world of the universe, like a tense space battle between the Lanterns and the Blackstars, or “God’s” ship, in which whole worlds hang on strands of amber in a star-sailing tesseract.

Super-weird, gorgeous, and more than a little mean is how I would describe The Green Lantern #3. Grant Morrison may be moving at his own pace and overwriting a touch, but fun and interesting things are happening - couple that with the consistently impressive, operatic artwork of Liam Sharp and Steve Oliff, and you have a first arc that is shaping up to be something pretty ambitious. We will see where this month’s cliffhanger takes us, but for now, The Green Lantern continues to be a knockout read.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Captain Marvel #1
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Carmen Carnero and Tamra Bonvillain
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Richard Gray
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Captain Marvel has a long and storied history at her namesake publisher. The front-matter of Kelly Thompson, Carmen Carnero, and Tamra Bonvillain’s debut issue gives us a taste of just how complex that narrative has been over the last year or so. “I’ve made enough mistakes to fill a book,” comments Carol Danvers in a meta aside. “Several books. Okay, a whole shelf.” As we rapidly barrel towards Captain Marvel’s cinematic debut, Thompson and co have taken on the unenviable task of funnelling it all into something accessible for new audience. On this level, they are mostly successful.

Thompson’s script doesn’t necessarily rationalize it all, wisely remembering that every comic is someone’s first. After immediately throwing readers into a giant monster battle alongside Spider-Woman, Carol is summoned to speak to Tony Stark, thus satisfying the presumed legal requirement of having Iron Man in every comic book debut in the future of the medium. Following her sabbatical, he’s chosen her as the PR rep for the Avengers and set up interviews and other press. He also asks her to mentor Hazmat, one of the Avengers Academy kids.

As a set-up, most of this issue is a straightforward action piece that doesn’t set the price of admission too high for accessibility for newbies or lapsed Carol Corps members. The dialogue is snappy, and it’s great to see that the core of the book still remains the relationships in Carol’s circle. Yet there’s a lot going on here as well: in the midst of all of the above, Thompson throws in a scrap with Nuclear Man, seemingly only there as a segue between a liaison with Sam Wilson and an Avengers cameo. There’s no question that Thompson maintains the momentum of the opening act, but it’s awfully busy.

When it isn’t covered with Clayton Cowles’ finely lettered speech bubbles, Carnero’s art maintains a balance between lighthearted and the conventions of modern comic bookery. (Seriously, there’s an average of 20 overlapping bubbles per page during the second act.) Despite the talky nature of the issue, Carnero’s layouts steer away from static panels by finding a series of interesting angles to depict his characters. The warm Bonvillain color art makes the scenes between Sam and Carol positively glow.

Bookended by a deuce of action scenes, the fisticuffs are still the main event for now. Carnero’s rapid panels give the illusion of a piece much bigger than it actually is, while the aftermath of Carol’s biff with a tentacled kaiju is a sticky purple mess that comically drips from the page. Here Bonvillain’s color art pops off the panel.

Captain Marvel #1 leaves us on a cliffhanger that takes Carol in a very different direction to what has come before, and this rapid change of direction signals a creative team willing to take some chances. It also means that there’s still some more exposition to come. After this kitchen sink approach to the first book in the series, it’s evident that these creators have the core of the character down pat, and it will be great to see this team settle into something more focused.

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