Best Shots Reviews: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, GLC, More

Best Shots Reviews: AMAZING SPIDEY, GLC

Best Shots  01.25.10

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Amazing Spider-Man #618

Written by Dan Slott

Art by Marcos Martin

Colors by Javier Rodriguez

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

When you put together Dan Slott, Marcos Martin, and an awesome title like "Mysterioso" into one book, can you really go wrong? The answer is a resounding "no" with Amazing Spider-Man #618, a jam-packed book that looks good and has a lot of promise, with -- one hopes -- the potential for some real change to the life of our Friendly Neighborhood Web-Slinger.

In certain ways, however, writer Dan Slott starts off a little slow, focusing for the first six pages of the book on the grisly deaths of the New York criminal underworld. But once Peter Parker comes onto the scene, Slott really works double-time in tightening his pace, resulting in somehow managing to get a nice chunk of storytelling in just one chapter. Yet in certain ways, you could see a lot of the first half of the book as standard Spidey fare -- but about mid-way through, Slott suddenly takes a sharp turn, really incorporating the Peter-May-Spidey relationship and turning it on its ear. It's this sort of self-examination that I'm particularly impressed with, and it's something I'm very excited to see expanded upon in later issues.

But Slott's writing is elevated to a whole new level with Marcos Martin on board. Whereas Martin's lines seemed much looser for his take on Doctor Strange: The Oath, he's really tightened up his details for Spider-Man -- and it all looks great. Considering this is a story about Mysterio, Martin is such an appropriate pick for this book, as he has a real sense of showmanship that pairs well with Slott's writing -- for example, Spidey gets an entrance that looks utterly fantastic, and looks to be one of the best credits pages I have seen since at least Daredevil #600. Even little touches, such as the look in Aunt May's eyes when she has an encounter with Peter, do so much for establishing mood, emotion and just visceral angst.

Following Joe Kelly and Max Fiumara's masterful last issue with the Rhino, it's tough to imagine a team that could nail the next issue and not seem like a disappointment. But Dan Slott and Marcos Martin do deliver, with a gorgeous first issue that I think will really rev up in its sophomore chapter. That said, I would argue that one problem with the thrice-monthly format is that changes to the character are fleeting at best: if Slott and Martin can keep the action moving and still manage to focus on the human moments from the end of this issue, Amazing Spider-Man may be the sort of quality book will have to be seen to be believed.

Green Lantern Corps #44

Written by Peter Tomasi

Art by Patrick Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, Tom Nguyen, and Keith Champagne

Colors by Randy Mayor and Gabe Eltaeb

Lettering by Steve Wands

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

If there's one thing that friends seem to do better than anybody, it's fighting. Just ask Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner. But when you stick power rings of the green and red variety in the mix, well, it's going to be for a lot more than saving over their perfect Final Fantasy VII run.

With Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason continuing on their Red Lantern Guy Gardner storyline, it's easy to feel conflicted about this issue of Green Lantern Corps. Let's start with what works -- the art. Despite the veritable army of inkers -- five, according to this book's credits -- Gleason manages to pack a lot of detail into his pages, especially revelling in the combat forms of a power ring's constructs. I'm still digging Guy Gardner's Red Lantern design in particular, and seeing him square off with such abandon is always energetic and inventive.

That said, I feel like Tomasi is working so hard to get so much into the book, that some of the weight from these events gets lost. For example, both the Green and Black Lantern Corps get decisive hits on one another, and the impact never really gets elaborated. In addition, the conflict between Kyle and Guy feels a little cartoonish, with the dialogue feeling a little too surface-level for what should be a particularly weighty battle between brothers. This is a shame especially as Tomasi has seven splash pages out of an extended 24-page book -- it just feels like there could have been a little bit more breathing room to make this story sing.

With next issue promising a stronger spotlight on Guy Gardner, I'm confident that this book will get back to its character-driven roots sooner or later. But with all the crazy moving parts of the Blackest Night, it's tough to really connect with the frenetic space battles going on in Green Lantern Corps. If Tomasi and company can take that sort of focus that the book had during Sinestro Corps War -- getting into the heads of characters like Kyle, Arisia and Guy rather than saying "and then Mogo did this!!" -- I think it'll be key to recharging the true energy of this series.

Realm of Kings: Inhumans #3

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Art by Wellington Alves and Nelson Pereira

Colors by Adriano Lucas

Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Try as I might, despite all the love from critics, I haven't been able to get into Marvel's Cosmic line. But with books like Realm of Kings: Inhumans, I can see exactly where all the praise is coming from. For three issues in a row now, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Wellington Alves have taken an almost directionless concept, and have made it one incredibly solid book.

In a lot of ways, writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are masters of economy in writing -- they really pepper the Royal Family of Inhumans with these nice flourishes of characterization using just a handful of word balloons, whether its touching upon the increasing coldness from Queen Medusa, the brashness of Gorgon, or the impishness of Maximus. Combine this with a great sense of action -- heck, even Crystal summoning the rains seems dramatic -- and it's easy to connect with these characters.

Meanwhile, artists Wellington Alves and Nelson Pereira are really swinging above and beyond their weight class with this issue. Reminiscent of Steve Epting with a hint of Alan Davis, Alves and Pereira have a great sense of composition, emotion and clarity to their characters. One panel in particular of Crystal backflipping away from her enemies was just one of many examples of the gears this artistic team can shift between -- light-hearted, swashbuckling, hard-hitting, moody and melodramatic, these guys are the goods. Colorist Adriano Lucas, meanwhile, manages to move between cooler, more "realistic" hues to bursts of hot colors, and it all just looks fantastic.

To be quite honest, editors Bill Rosemann and Rachel Pinnelas deserve a lot of credit for putting together this series, which really has come off as a flawless work. In a lot of ways, with the action, the character dynamics, the overall thrill that Realm of Kings: Inhumans brings, I would have to say that this book feels like a modern-day version of Chris Claremont's X-Men -- that's how good I'd say this is. If you're looking to get into the cosmic end of the Marvel Universe, pick up Realm of Kings: Inhumans -- if you have even the broadest strokes of what this intergalactic royal family is about, you are going to absolutely love this book.

Blackest Night: The Flash #2

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Scott Kolins

Colors by Michael Atiyeh

Words by Travis Lanham

Published by DC Comics

Review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow

"The blue glow whispers one thing as it crackles across my body:  Stop running in place."  -- The Flash (Barry Allen)

Blackest Night: The Flash #2 works nicely as a 3-act play.  Telling two distinctive stories tied into "Blackest Night," we get our first good look at Barry Allen inhabiting the role of Blue Lantern, and it's bookended by the latest war between the Rogues (the dead versus the living).  Needless to say, the storytelling is anything but dull, and you'd half think that Barry's newfound powers were working on the readers themselves.  Despite the dire circumstances that have befallen the heroes and Rogues, there is a definite sense of hope to this issue. 

Here's a Flash Fact for you:  when writer Geoff Johns and artist Scott Kolins combine their immense talents, magic happens.  I can't think of a time when these two have worked on Wally West, Barry Allen and their extensive supporting cast when it hasn't simply rocked.  Sight unseen, it was almost a given when this "Blackest Night" tie-in was unveiled that it would become one of the more essential components to the overall DC crossover.  Crackling with manic energy, this second chapter is every bit as good as what we're getting in the main series.  Seeing as we were getting a break from that book for the month of January, this fills in nicely.

Blackest Night: The Flash #2 begins with the Rogues (Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Mirror Master and the Trickster) taking the fight directly to their deceased counterparts who have been revived as Black Lanterns.  Being proactive rather than reactive, they go to Iron Heights Penitentiary where their former allies are running roughshod over the personnel and convicted population.  Fairly well-matched for the most part, the dead Rogues play their ace in the hole, none other that Captain Cold's sister, Golden Glider.  Will the Rogues leader's frozen heart be thawed out when reunited with his long-lost sibling?  Considering Johns and Kolins' exemplary history with this particular villain, the answer should surprise no one, but it doesn't make it any less compelling.

Just as effective are sequences in the middle of this book focusing on the Flash and his own fight against the Black Lanterns.  Rapidly accepting his new role representing the Blue Lanterns, we see new life breathed into Barry Allen, seeing as he was uncharacteristically slow to embrace his own return to the DC Universe (see The Flash: Rebirth).  Kolins does a fantastic job with the material, pitting speedster against speedster, grandson against grandfather, mentor against pupil.  I was especially pleased to see Firestorm get a little page time in this story, having not seen much from this since the third issue of the main series.  Also welcome is Wally West, and damn if he doesn't know how to make an entrance.  I sincerely hope that Geoff Johns & Co. do right by the Flash of the last generation when they get the new ongoing title off the ground.  In the spirit of the theme found throughout this issue, one can only hope

While the main series has been a creative success on multiple levels, the spinoffs and tie-ins have been hit or miss (mostly hit, but who's keeping track?).  You can squarely place Blackest Night: The Flash in the category of hits.  As Barry Allen himself says on more than one occasion, "All will be well."

JEFF SMITH Hopeful for RASL, BONE Movies
JEFF SMITH Hopeful for RASL, BONE Movies

Written and drawn by Jeff Smith

Published by Cartoon Books

Review by George Marston

 If I have one complaint about RASL, it is that I want more of it.  Fortunately, it is scheduled to move to a bi-monthly schedule, albeit with a few less pages, beginning with this issue.  If that schedule can be met, it would go quite a long way to making issues like #6 feel like less of an afterthought.  With only six issues in two years, the fact that RASL #6 focuses more on a history lesson about Nikola Tesla than the central story narrative, apropos as it may be, is a bit disappointing.  On the other hand, there is something inherently joyous about Jeff Smith's comics, and as such, any piece of his work is more welcome than many of his contemporaries.  The simplicity of his line work, and the expressiveness of his characters are almost unparalleled, and the black and white format is perfectly suited to his style.  Smith is truly a master of the cartoon form, and while a single issue biography of one of history's strangest figures can't exactly show without telling, his narrative is succint enough to satisfy. 

I chose to reread the previous five issues of this series before diving into #6, as it has been about six months since the last issue was released, though when I finally cracked the cover, I realized it wasn't as necessary as I thought it may be.  While there are bits that further the story of RASL, the issue is primarily spent exploring the history of Nikola Tesla, a man who's real world experiments play heavily into the central plot device of the title.  Presented with a framing device based on RASL and his former partner equating the title scientist of the 1931 "Frankenstein" film to Tesla himself, the story provides a decently enlightening, if a bit clipped narrative of his life.  Interspersed with the biography are scenes of RASL embarking on yet another cross-dimensional heist, culminating in a surprise meeting with his lizard faced nemesis.

While the story of Nikola Tesla certainly plays heavily into the mythos of RASL and his universe hopping antics, almost an entire issue spent on the topic after six months of thirst for more of the title isn't super exciting.  On the other hand, it is a beautifully crafted issue, and did feel natural when read in succession with the preceding issues.  If the book can maintain a bi-monthly schedule from here on out, interludes like this won't detract as much from the momentum of the book as a whole.  Further, the readiness of collected or bundled issues of the series so far should make it easy for new fans to jump on board, though the relevance of this particular issue will certainly be in question if you haven't been following along so far.

Power Girl #8

Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti

Art by Amanda Conner

Colors by Paul Mounts

Lettering by John J. Hill

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

If there's anything that I've learned from reading Power Girl #8, it's this -- I love Vartox of Valeron.

Maybe its the cheesy moustache. Maybe it's the hilarious vest-and-thigh-highs costume combination. Maybe it's his ability to switch from preening to normal in the span of 22 pages. Or perhaps it's the fact that he has technologies such as the Fertilizor and the Pregno-Ray. But either which way, I hope we see Vartox again soon, because when he's teamed up with Power Girl, the dude is just comedy cold, and gives this issue a lot of it's charm.

Of course, much of this issue's charm comes from artist Amanda Conner, who remains Power Girl's secret weapon through and through. Whether its seeing PG punch an alien in the face, or seeing her blissful look after eating a pizza, there's so much character to her characters that it's hard to put this issue down. (And wait till you see Vartox's formal eveningwear. It's a mistake to drink Sprite while you're reading this book, that's for sure.) Meanwhile, Paul Mounts just does a fantastic job of making the images pop off the page in this book -- seriously, whether it's a supervillain den or Vartox's Space-Head-o'-Love, the range of color really lends a great energy.

With the art being this good (and this funny), it's easy to give the writing a bit of a pass. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti hit and miss in this issue -- while seeing PG and Vartox interact is sweet enough, the subplots suffer, with a two-page scene of a badger bemoaning American cultural values being slow enough that you'll likely end up skipping it. That said, they do get points for the connectability of their main characters -- despite the cover, this is more of a date comic than a straight actioner, and if you dig Bendis-style conversations, you'll be fine reading this.

Either which way, Power Girl #8 makes me hope that Vartox of Valeron -- with his bad suits, his brashness, and his hippie-influenced planet -- becomes a longer-term supporting character, because he is just too weird and ridiculous to go ignored anymore. With Amanda Conner's fantastic art and Gray and Palmiotti's new character really invigorating this series -- seriously, they got away with saying the word "Pregno-Ray," which I'm still chuckling at -- I really can't wait to see where Power Girl goes next.

The Chill

Written by: Jason Starr

Art By: Mick Bertilorenzi

Letters: Clem Robins

Published by: Vertigo Crime

Reviewed By: Tim Janson

The Chill is part of the relatively new DC Comics/Vertigo Crime label, a series of graphic novels that have a crime noir theme but with a tinge of horror or fantasy.  Jason Starr’s tale revolves around ancient Celtic black magic known as “The Chill”.  A father and daughter from Ireland are on a killing spree in New York City.  The Daughter, Arlana, seduces men and during sex, uses the chill to nearly freeze them to death.  Her father then takes over, killing the men with an ancient rite and stealing their life force to keep them eternally young.  A victim who escaped their attack and is now living in Boston as a detective has tracked the pair to New York and attempts to aid the police there.  They of course think the man is a raving lunatic after he relates his tale but as the bodies pile up, even the hard-nosed NYPD detective begins to realize these are no ordinary killers.

The art by Mick Bertilorenzi is capable certainly, but it is a bit too cartoony and clean for the subject matter and doesn’t convey the sense of crime noir that the imprint usually strives for.  It ends up looking like a black & white comic that someone forgot to color.  The Chill earns a definite R-rating due to gratuitous nudity and profanity which all became a little much and didn’t contribute much to the story.  This isn’t a bad story but its not one that seems to be deserving of an original graphic novel as say “Dark Entries” which featured John Constantine.  While I’ve quite enjoyed the Vertigo Crime imprint, The Chill is the weakest entry thus far.  


Starman #81 (DC Comics; review by Rev. O.J. Flow)  There's many things one may have expected from James Robinson's return to his groundbreaking series, but personally I never expected one of them to be a terrifically sweet love story.  For all the many ways that this "Blackest Night" tie-in worked, the romantic angle featuring the Shade and Hope O'Dare was what I found to be particularly moving.  Just as moving is some brilliant art by Bill Sienkiewicz and Fernando Dagnino.  Listing Sienkiewicz first is very intentional on my part, in case you were wondering.  Dagnino does the layouts allowing Sienkiewicz to really go to town on the graphics, providing the perfect compliment to Robinson's well-crafted script.  Robinson's overall return to DC has been anything but smooth, but it's genuinely nice to see that coming back to a series that redefined superhero storytelling, even if just for one issue, that this ended up being an effective revival of a dead series.  From the Shade's always snappy dialogue to the menace of Black Lantern David Knight to Hope's blend of will, rage and, well, hope, Robinson's affection for these characters all too familiar to him from years past shines on every page.  And we never do get any sort of appearance of Jack Knight -- and it still works!  Lord knows that the original "Starman" series ended on such a satisfying note, but it's encouraging to see that were they ever inclined to revisit it on a more consistent level that it could be just as enjoyable.  Easily one of the top highlights to "Blackest Night" here when it's all said and done.

The Outsiders #26 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Robert Repici): And so the reign of Dan DiDio and Philip Tan on the beleaguered book known as The Outsiders has officially begun. Following an extensive advertising campaign inside the pages of numerous DCU books over the past couple months, the new creative team's debut issue on the title finally hit the stands last week, much to the chagrin of many devoted fans of this current incarnation of the Outsiders team. So what's the verdict? Well, unfortunately for those same dedicated Outsiders fans (not to mention many other comic book readers), DiDio and Tan's debut issue is chock full of clunky dialogue and inconsistent art, making it rather easy to state that their run on the title is off to a rocky start right out of the gate. DiDio appears to have a hard time capturing the respective voices of some of the book's main characters here, as both Geo-Force and Katana just seem to be written out of character. As far as the artwork is concerned, Philip Tan brings many of the problems that plagued him on his three-issue stint on Batman and Robin to his debut issue on this title. Not only does he continue to struggle with his figure work in this issue, but he also continues to have a difficult time crafting coherent action sequences. In addition, it should be noted that Tan doesn't even draw this entire issue. I guess something happened that prevented him from finishing his first issue on this series, but unfortunately, it just comes across as yet another artistic stumbling block here. But this issue isn't all bad. DiDio's cliffhanger ending makes a solid and intriguing connection to the Superman books, and it will definitely be interesting to see how this new development will play out in future issues. All in all, however, this is nothing less than a disappointing and lackluster debut for the DiDio/Tan duo. I'm still going to give the rest of their first story arc a chance, but one can only hope that they can start turning things around next month.

The Phantom Stranger #42 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Robert Repici): As an avid and devoted fan of the Spectre, I have to confess that I was really looking forward to this one-issue revival of The Phantom Stranger title, seeing that the Spirit of Vengeance (well, the Black Lantern version of the Spirit of Vengeance, anyway) is featured prominently on the book's cover. Unfortunately for me, the Spectre only appears in the first half of this issue, as the Phantom Stranger and Blue Devil do everything in their power to prevent the possessed entity from seeking out its former host, Hal Jordan, for some nefarious purpose. Peter Tomasi succeeds in scripting a brief, yet rather compelling battle scene here, and up-and-coming artist Ardian Syaf proves that he certainly has what it takes to draw an epic confrontation between two of DC's most iconic supernatural characters. The rest of the issue isn't nearly as captivating as the Phantom Stranger's showdown with the Spectre, but it still manages to be a pretty entertaining read, mainly because it effectively expands on Deadman's role in this ever-evolving Blackest Night event. In that regard, this one-issue Phantom Stranger story essentially serves as a conceptual sequel to Tomasi and Syaf's Blackest Night: Batman miniseries. And, yes, once again, Tomasi does a tremendous job writing Deadman, and Syaf shows us all that he was just born to draw Boston Brand. Here's hoping that both creators get a chance to return to the character during DC's upcoming Brightest Day event. Yeah, that would make me happy.

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