Best Shots Reviews: DEAD MAN LOGAN #3, HEROES IN CRISIS #5, STAR TREK - TNG IDW 20/20 #1

Star Trek: The Next Generation IDW 20/20 #1
Credit: Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW Publishing)
Credit: Marvel Comics

Dead Man Logan #3
Written by Ed Brisson
Art by Mike Henderson and Nolan Woodard
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Ed Brisson and Mike Henderson go for the jugular in Dead Man Logan #3, a light-handed crowd-pleaser as we watch Old Man Logan fall prey to Mysterio’s illusions, pitting him head-to-head against the Avengers. Evoking a similar concept to Mark Millar’s Wolverine arc “Enemy of the State,” Brisson and Henderson are never able to channel the heaviness of that 2008 arc, but instead revel in the crazy fan-service of this crossover battle royale.

Just imagine: an adamantium-clawed berserker has been let loose in Times Square, thinking Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are actually the Sinister Six. You’d think that’d be terrifying, but in Brisson and Henderson’s hands, the effect is more free-wheeling and action-packed - which is probably a good thing, since the internal logic of Logan succumbing to Mysterio’s illusions a second time might be a little shaky under deeper scrutiny. But thanks to Brisson’s choreography, you might just throw your hands up and say who cares, since he’s able to throw these toys against one another in effective fashion. Watching Iron Man desperately fire his boot jets against Logan as his suit of armor hangs in tatters is a great beat, while a sequence of She-Hulk car-surfing a building with Ghost Rider feels like as strong a tryout for an Avengers tie-in as I’ve seen from the writer lately.

Part of the breeziness of the issue also comes from Henderson’s artwork, which feels cartoony in a way that, say, John Romita, Jr.’s didn’t in Enemy of the State. That’s no insult, of course - it’s just hard not to notice how much Old Man Logan has changed since his deeply dark origins, now flying around with the Avengers in a hyperkinetic and deeply exaggerated style. (Including a double-tap for Henderson’s hilarious Glob bit from earlier issues, which shouldn’t still be funny but definitely is). But the tradeoff for Henderson’s style is that Brisson’s script is robbed of a lot of mood and tension - while action beats like Logan carving up Ghost Rider’s car look explosive and fun, important moments like Sin and Miss Sinister discussing their evil plans feels a little less than dramatic, bringing down the tempo of the whole issue.

And while the overall high concept should thrill a lot of readers of this book, the departure in tone for Old Man Logan still reveals a few structural issues to the narrative. In particular, the conclusion of what could have been a giant battle ends with a real anticlimax, less of a handwave than pure convenience (and this is coming from a series that already has used the healing serum Regenix as a crutch for far too long), while the scenes of the villains talking at one another overstay their welcome by a long degree.

But creaky joints aside, it’s funny that a character who was born in misery like Old Man Logan winds up finding its whimsical streak so close to his presumed end. Ed Brisson does a great job with his Earth’s Mightiest Guest-Stars for this issue, and Mike Henderson certainly is swinging for the fences with the over-the-top action sequences. While this book will certainly be an acquired taste for some thanks to its tone and its narrative contrivances, there’s something altogether charming about Dead Man Logan #3 that makes it a surprisingly fun read.

Credit: DC

Heroes in Crisis #5
Written by Tom King
Art by Clay Mann and Travis Moore
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

As readers, we best connect with any mythology that reflects a bit of ourselves in the text. Typically these are the best qualities that we aspire to: truth, justice, and a great powerful sense of responsibility. Yet the best stories and characters showcase heroes with human frailties, a traditional that has only intensified since the experiments with “realism” in comics in the 1960s and 1970s. Heroes in Crisis has so far been an inheritor of that tradition while following in the legacy of the equally divisive Identity Crisis.

After some spectacular deaths and dramatic reveals, the issue that crosses the series’ midway point is a strangely sedate affair. Indeed, much of this issue plays out like the establishing shot of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle: sitting on the sofa while sipping on a brew or two. As the duo quite literally pull “the dumbest move” of repeating their previously failed plan, Batgirl and Harley Quinn take matters into their own hands.

Largely narrated by Superman, who is giving a confessional speech to the media about the Sanctuary, King seems to be more interested in using this issue to cutaway to hitherto unseen characters in the series (such as Adam Stange, Mr. Terrific, and Zatanna, for example). With King having stated elsewhere that there’s a clue to a future project here, readers will no doubt spend some time poring over the panels for clues. When they are done, they might just come to the realization that we have learned virtually nothing that we didn’t already know at the start of the issue.

Artistically, we know the drill by now: Watchmen-esque nine-panel grids of B-heroes talking to camera, cut up by various close-ups of caped crusaders discussing the morality of what they do. The aforementioned shot of Booster and Beetle on the couch is actually an iconic pin-up, not least of which for revealing the former’s choice of socks. Mann maintains the tight grid to rapidly convey the mundanity of cracking open multiple beer bottles and channel changes. Later Mann serves up the complete opposite in a cracking smack-down with Flash that smashes its way out of the boundaries of the panel borders.

Travis Moore is given three pages to showcase his wares. While they might be slightly incongruous with the rest of the issue, he keeps it all in the Bat-Family. A shadowed introduction of Batgirl is silhouetted against an iconic depiction of Batman. Later, some gorgeous use of orange sunset light reintroduces Harley Quinn in a full-page splash that’s sure to inspire cosplay photoshoots for the next couple of years.

Heroes in Crisis #5 feels more like a tie-in issue than a main event chapter. It’s not until the final panel that a pretty major character confession occurs, an admission of domestic violence that is unfortunately used as a throwaway cliffhanger. It’s a particular shame, given that even an extra page of attention would have built nicely on the character arcs of the previous issue. With four issues to go, there’s still plenty of time for nuanced discussion of these topics, but that just makes this outing even more of a missed opportunity.

Credit: J.K. Woodward (IDW Publishing)

Star Trek: The Next Generation IDW 20/20 #1
Written by Peter David
Art by J.K. Woodward
Lettered by Gilberto Lazcano
Published by IDW Publishing
Review by Richard Gray
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

IDW is celebrating its 20th anniversary. If that doesn’t make you feel old, then consider that Star Trek: The Next Generation turns 32 this year. The latter is just one of the properties that the comics publisher is celebrating in its IDW 20/20 event, creating new stories that take place either two decades in the past or the future of that world. With Jean-Luc Picard set to make his triumphant return to television later this year, Star Trek fan favourite writer Peter David looks back at one of his earlier adventures.

20 years before he took over as Captain of the USS Enterprise-D, Picard was the captain of the USS Stargazer alongside Commander Jack Crusher and his fiancé Beverly Howard. A period covered in episodes such as “The Battle” and “The Wounded,” here David opens on a wounded Picard in the care of the future Doctor Crusher. From there it’s a straightforward piece of classic Trek, as Picard ignores his first officer, goes headlong into a dangerous negotiation, and learns to rely on the expertise of his crew.

While Jack serves as connective tissue for the story, this is effectively a two-hander between Jean-Luc and Beverly. There’s a certain reliability to the narrative, with the duo initially at odds with each other. The good doctor, a cadet at this stage in her career, finds her voice by standing up to an armed combatant on an away mission. Meanwhile, the characterisation of Picard is consistent with his early appearances on The Next Generation, slightly acerbic and insistent of going on away missions so as to not look weak to his subordinates.

J.K. Woodward’s fully painted art brings cinematic realism to this one-shot, perfectly capturing younger versions of Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden, not to mention Doug Wert as Jack Crusher. Woodward has even managed to replicate the infamous hairpiece from the fifth season episode “Violations,” except here it won’t haunt your dreams. The alien creatures, in this case the slightly squid-like residents of Tellerux 4, are just as expressive. There’s a three-panel sequence in which Woodward changes an expression ever so slightly as the alien’s facade slips for a moment.

The choice of colors in the painted art adds a dreamlike quality to this full-length flashback. Those qualities extend to the choice of props that make up the retro mise en scène, including communicators that look like old theater microphones. It falls on the right side of Mars Attacks, especially as the climactic moments build to a series of fluid action moments involving a transporter fake-out.

For longtime viewers of the series, and consumers of the extended universe of novels and comics, this IDW 20/20 issue doesn’t offer many surprises. Then again, as it builds to a super-happy conclusion, David makes it clear that it’s not really supposed to either. This one-shot is a chance to slip into a familiar world, spend some time learning some more about well-trod characters, and get a little bit nostalgic about Picard while safe in the knowledge that it’s all going to work out just fine.

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