Best Shots Reviews: SIEGE, RED ROBIN, more

Best Shots Reviews: SIEGE, RED ROBIN

Best Shots  02.08.10

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Siege #2

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Olivier Coipel

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

It's hard to view Siege with an objective eye.  On one hand, I know where we're headed, and I'm excited about it.  The entire universe is aware of my level of Avengers fandom, and we've already seen numerous hints and some outright revelations about the coming status quo that have me on the edge of my seat.  Hell, Clint Barton as Hawkeye by itself is enough to guarantee that I'm on board.  Despite this, Brian Michael Bendis has done an admirable job of building tension and suspense, despite the foreknowledge we possess.  This issue does not dissapoint on either level, as we get some great moments from the Avengers and their allies, including the first part of what is almost sure to be Steve Rogers's last hurrah in the red, white, and blue for some time, as well as what is sure to be my "HOLY PUNCTUATION MARKS" moment of the year (only February, and my mind is already blown?).  Olivier Coipel knocks it out of the park as well.  As disappointed as I was that he missed out on the last few issues of JMS's Thor run, if it gave him the time he needed to render these pages so stunningly, I am glad he took the time off. 

Bendis does a fine job of showing a little restraint and telling a story here.  Often I feel that he gets bogged down in spitting out as many one liners as possible, or in getting his humorous asides onto the page at the cost of telling a concise and well rounded story.  Perhaps he got a lot of that out of the system with the pages of straight scripted dialogue at the back of the book, which absolutely seem like pages that were simply trimmed from the book in the interest of keeping things down to 4 issues.  In any case, Bendis gets out of his own way and allows things to move along at a fairly decent pace.  Thor gets back on his feet with a little help from Maria Hill, Ares sees reason in a moment of clarity, and the Sentry gives me one more reason to hate him with all of my brain's ability.  The assembled Avengers and Secret Warriors gather their remaining allies and move forward into the fray.  The book is rife with moments of triumph, from Thor's resurgence in the early pages, to the final scene, in which Norman Osborn becomes aware of just whose ire he has earned with his hubris.

Not everything in this book is so likable, however, as there is a moment of violence so horrific that it nearly colored my opinion of the entire issue.  Was it necessary?  Probably not, but it certainly had the desired impact.  After all, for the light at the end of the tunnel to shine as brightly as possible, there have to be moments of real darkness.  The corruption of someone like the Sentry, who once stood as an example of heroism among his peers at what was perhaps the brightest point in their collective history is symbolic of the way that Osborn has twisted their legacy into something vile, impure, and at its worst even blasphemous.  While I did not like what happened, I am almost certain that more moments like the one in question are to follow in the two issues yet to come, however I also have great hope that what follows will be a clean slate, and that the promised "Heroic Age" will signal the end of the second wave of grit for grit's sake in modern comics.

All in all, Siege #2 is not perfect, but it comes very close to the mark.  Solid characterization, a strong pace, and moments of true heroism do much to outweigh the pure blackness of the issue's defining act.  Bendis and Coipel each excel in their craft, with Coipel constructing every line to exacting detail, and Bendis showing remarkable restraint and haste.  Perhaps the four issue format has added a sense of urgency for both reader and creator, or perhaps this event truly is the culmination of Bendis's years at the helm of Marvel's flagship franchise.  Whatever the case, Siege stands out among it's recent peers in terms of craft and impact thus far.

longtime member of of the Justice Society of America, it stands to reason that a splashy appearance runs the risk of failing to connect with the intended audience.  

May as well come clean on what brought me do finally tune in, right in time for Part One of the 4-part "Collision."  With everything going in among the various Batman titles, I may surprise you to admit that what caught my attention in a recent preview of this issue was the return of Killer Moth.  Better yet, the Killer Moth whose costume I've found to be a Silver Age delight (none of that Charaxes-"Underworld Unleashed" nonsense for me, thanks).  Granted, the Moth only serves Christopher Yost's script in giving Red Robin something to make him happier to revisit Gotham:  a bad guy to hit.  Granted, Killer Moth has historically served that function since Barbara Gordon first put on a Batgirl costume, but I'm a sucker for nostalgia.  Plus Moth alluding to his unfortunate experience recently in "Justice League: Cry For Justice" adds to this story's relevancy.  

The action that gets "Collision" Part One" under way comes to a halt once Killer Moth exits the scene, but the artistic team of Marcus To and Ray McCarthy make even the more mundane, conversational scenes look sharp and gorgeous.  Every now and then I wonder where the powers-that-be have been keeping some "ready for prime time" talent, and here's such an instance.  To and McCarthy capture the youthful vibrancy that befits a title like this, and I could also see them nailing it on a Supergirl or Superboy title as well.  But Yost & Co. cover a lot of territory in Gotham in a first chapter that's clearly a place-setter, letting the readers who have been following the various Batman books know what's getting attention here.  Vicki Vale's figuring more prominently here, though we'll just have to see how wise she gets to the true nature of the “Bruce Wayne” with whom she gets to break bread for an evening.  A young lady's occupying Tim's headspace as well, recent DCU creation Tam Fox, daughter of Wayne colleague Lucius Fox.  Lord knows I'm always happy to see some diversity expanded upon, so the more of her the better.  Speaking of Superboy, while it's welcome to see him bond with his brother in heroics in a quick stop through Gotham, it was rendered so much better in a recent issue of "Adventure Comics," here it feels a little more redundant.  

Fortunately that’s the only minus I could find in a new book (to me) that's full of pluses.  Definitely giving Red Robin the courtesy of another three issues to take in to see how "Collision" progresses since they more than earned it here.

Legends: The Enchanted #0

Written and Illustrated by Nick Percival

Edited by Renae Geerlings

Lettering by Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt

Published by Radical Publishing

Review by Lan Pitts

"As a professional giant-killer, most folks think I know a thing or two about the ugly bastards. That's true, I know some stuff. I know that axe to the head is a good way to kill one. I know the female ones can be a tad sensitive...and I know you always need to be prepared."

As a fan of re-imagining fairy tales, I have been waiting to see the full product after an interview with Nick Percival a while back. So what we have here are classic Brothers Grimm tales set in a cyberpunk environment sprinkled with dark magic. The characters transition well to this new setting as Jack is still a giant-killer, and has special skills from the aid of his "magic beans". Red Hood still kills wolves that prey on the weak, and Pinocchio, well that's just a horror story in itself.

The plot centers around the murders of some of the Enchanted, and it's up to Red and Jack to track down the killer of their kind before it is too late. With the grisly details of the first death, I can only imagine what is in store later on. Hopefully this won't get confused with "Legend of the Talespinners" with some costumers because this one isn't for the kiddies.

Percival's dark and twisted visual style is apropos for the world he has created. The "grimm" landscape (see what I did there?) is fantastic and imaginative, especially with the Hag; who is a being of straight up, concentrated nightmare, and various creature designs. Some of the figure construction during action scenes seemed a bit weird and stiff, aside from that, I can't really complain since Legends: The Enchanted #0 is only $1. You read that correctly. For what it's worth, it's a good set up for things to come and Radical has hardly let me down in the past.

If you have a dollar, and looking for something different to add to your pullbox this week, look no further than this title.

Double-Shot: Legends:  The Enchanted #0

Writer:  Nick Percival

Artist:  Nick Percival

Colorist:  Nick Percival

Letters:  Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt

Radical Publishing

Review By:  Jeff Marsick

What in the wide wide world of Jessica Alba did I just read?!?  Jack the giant killer is some sort of neo-apocalyptic assassin of grotesque monstrosities, with a magic bean for every ability-altering occasion.  Pinocchio is a hideous menagerie of organics and technology that even Swamp Thing would give a wide berth to, held prisoner and tortured in the Bionic Woodlands by the enigmatic Hag.  And Red Riding Hood is a kind of cybernetic bad-ass, psionically linked to hand scythes which she throws with eviscerating accuracy.  If Fables is the thinking-man's book of fractured fairy tales, and Grimm's Fairy Tales is the drive-in B-movie version, then Legends is the Fourth of July weekend big budget box-office vision by Guillermo del Toro.

Now, this is just a twenty-two page tease, simple foreplay to get the saliva dripping for the deluxe hardcover graphic novel due out in a few months.  I normally shun these previews of Christmases future, but for a buck you can't beat it, and it's simply mind-blowing in its coolness and originality.  While the story isn't much more than set up for a greater mystery involving familiar characters of fable. it's the artwork, in its ghoulish deliciousness that sells the book:  think Simon Bisley meeting John Bolton, tempered with Bernie Wrightson.  Lush and dark, with a thickness that you can almost chew on, this portends of Legends probably being the best book that Radical has put out since Hotwire.  

Superman: World of New Krypton #12

Written by Greg Rucka & James Robinson

Art by Pete Woods & Ron Randall

Coloring by Rei Ruffino

Lettering by Steve Wands

Published by DC Comics

Review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow

So Superman takes a year off (at least in comic book, monthly release chronology) from Earth and gets a series dedicated to just that sort of sabbatical (not to say there was rest), and after 12 issues what have we established?  Well...  that's a good question.  Not the biggest surprise who shows up at the end the book bearing ill will and bad tidings to the New Kryptonian settlement, but earlier when a conspirator is uncovered it is so beyond underwhelming, well, editor Matt Idleson shouldn't have too long a trip around the office suite when looking for those who continue to keep the Man of Steel irrelevant.  To be fair, Superman: World of New Krypton (#12, the finale here) has been terrific as a police procedural, so if you ever wondered whether Superman could make a Law and Order series happen, or if Smallville ever felt like making a serious change in creative direction, here you go.  But in spite of an ever-so-brief lead-in that was crackerjack to the point of wondering what was going to come next, a door was shut too quickly in favor of a lot of reflection over an underwhelming conspiracy within New Krypton.

In looking back on 12 issues, I cannot believe how infrequently Superman was rarely super.  I mean SUPER super.  Give us some pizazz, brother!  Seeing him for a year as a man among...  well, men?  Yeah, I can only wonder how that will ever translate to comic book sales.  I'll give credit where it's due, in that Greg Rucka, James Robinson and Pete Woods knew how to make Kal-El useful in frequent instances when red sun exposure may have leveled the playing field.  At times I thought Bruce Wayne would've been beaming with pride in the way his friend and ally, Clark Kent, handled himself as a more genuinely competent law enforcement agent.  However, if the big bad is to be taken seriously in a multi-part series, only making him important -- not to mention evident -- in the final episode is a bad way to go.  Wish I could say THAT was exciting, sorry.  Seeing Superman function as effectively as he does with General Zod is unsettling only when offset in the instances when it gets surprisingly entertaining to see him work it with a legendary foe.

I stuck through Superman: World of New Krypton all 12 issues, not that I can speak for everyone, but there is little doubt that a good, consistent thread throughout was found in the work of artist Pete Woods.  Kudos to Ron Randall for nudging him through the finish line, and seeing things remain artistically true over the last year was welcome.  I just wish he had more "super" opportunities along the way.  I think a lot of people from all sides may be saying them same thing.  Didn't it seem like more interesting stuff was happening on Metropolis while Superman was elsewhere?  Yeah, that what I was thinking too.

Great Ten #4

Written by Tony Bedard

Art by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens

Colors by the Hories

Lettering by Steve Wands

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

Hold on to your seats, Great Ten fans -- this is where the book takes flight.

While the past few issues of the series have been clever pastiches of characters like Superman, Hawkeye and Doctor Strange, the Immortal-Man-in-Darkness is a beast all his own, showing that writer Tony Bedard doesn't need comics history as a crutch -- he can make a character breathe all on his own.

By using the irony behind the Immortal-Man-in-Darkness, Bedard is able to make this issue run electric. Just as he did last issue with Thundermind, Bedard is finally nailing that balance between the Great Ten's war against the gods and the flashback sequences with our hero -- but as I said before, the best part of this book is how the Immortal-Man-in-Darkness just leaps off the page. Out of all the characters, he has the strongest voice, and between that voice and his own tragic status quo, the writing really sinks its hooks into you, and won't let go.

Scott McDaniel, meanwhile, makes me feel conflicted. The expressiveness of his characters is easily the best work he's done on this series yet -- indeed, the final panel of the Immortal-Man-in-Darkness is such a cool look of defiance and self-assuredness. And the visual style of our hero is very much in tune with Yet with a character whose main power can be boiled down to jetfighter combat, the sense of speed and motion was pretty much non-existent. It's a shame, because while the premise of the character could have led to some very different kind of storytelling for a so-called "superhero," the action scenes feel like standard fare.

That all being said, this is probably my favorite issue since the first, with the Immortal-Man-in-Darkness being a breathe of fresh air for all involved. If you're looking for a book that balances character beats with high-flying action, take a look at the Great Ten, an underdog book that is still going full throttle.

Sweet Tooth #6

By Jeff Lemire

Color art by Jose Villarrubia

Published by Vertigo Comics

Review by Brendan McGuirk

Sweet Tooth came thundering out of the gate as Vertigo's most unique series in a long while with it's Out of the Deep Woods, arc, which introduced readers to Jeff Lemire's quirky blend of “Mad Max” meets “The Isle of Doctor Moreau.” This latest issue kicks off the next arc, In Captivity, where the mutated deer-child Gus has been left for dead by his once-caretaker, the brutish Jepperd. The dark, twisted world of Sweet Tooth is getting darker still.

Jepperd was shrouded in mystery to begin this series, and here we begin to fill in some of the gaps. In fact, were this title carrying a different insignia atop it, this issue might even be called "The Big Man: Year One" because of how much we learn about the man's motives and means. Fans of Lemire's work on Top Shelf's “Essex County,” will no doubt relish the repeated nod to hockey, the author's pastime of choice. With his build and demeanor, there's little doubt that Jepperd made one mean enforcer on the ice. Yet hockey heavy-hitters are usually known for their loyalty, and with his abandonment of Gus, Jepperd's loyalty is seriously in doubt.

Lemire, though, is an expert at character redemption. Again echoing his work on “Essex County,” Lemire's masterful use of flashbacks provides the emotional groundwork to inspire empathizing pity for the steely and reserved Jepperd. This is where Lemire is at his best. He is an emotive storyteller whose drumming story beats can downright haunt a page. Capable of conveying a scene through the unsaid just as effectively as many can with pitter-patter dialogue, there's something about these stories that simply connect, like Jepperd's fist to a face.

Lemire is a rarity in comics. His art style and range is evocative of literary, alternative style comicbooks, but he's not afraid of plot. He doesn't shy from genre or adventurous excitement, but he doesn't rely solely on those tropes to find resonance with readers, either. It is this clash of conventions that make Jeff Lemire such an intriguingly fresh creator, and that same clash that makes Sweet Tooth substantively more than any “X meets Y,” description does justice.

The House of Mystery Vol. 3: The Space Between  

Written by: Matthew Sturges

Letters: Todd Klein

Colors: Lee Loughridge

Published by: Vertigo Comics

Reviewed By: Tim Janson

The third volume collects issues # 11 – 15 of the comic series and is the most revealing yet.  The House of Mystery is beginning to give up some of its secrets (pun intended).  As with the previous volume side stories of the House’s past (or future) are mixed in with the main story.  Fig has been reunited with her jerk of a father who seems to know a lot about the house’s past and relates some its tales.  Miranda, the House Bar’s waitress has been removed from the House and is being coerced by the devilish Ceorel to show him how to gain access to the House.  He is working for the Conception who wants to take the House over.

The House’s origins are hinted at and were at least told that it is very ancient and a “lost relic of a dead world”.  Most importantly, the devious figure behind the mask that is trying to take over the House of Mystery is finally revealed.  A startling revelation about Harry, the bar’s proprietor also comes to light.

The side stories are done by a variety of artists including Jim Fern, Eric Powell, and the legendary Neal Adams.  Some of the stories give great insight into the House’s origin and purpose while others tend to be a bit flat and are like puzzle pieces that don’t seem to fit.  Still, writer Matthew Sturges continues to make this a compelling story to read.  Delving into just what the House is rather than concentrating solely on those who encounter it, has been a long time in coming.  Sturges has successfully turned this revamped series from a run-of-the-mill horror anthology into a dark fantasy that fits in nicely with the rest of the Vertigo line.


The Question #37 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Robert Repici): To be another formulaic Blackest Night tie-in, or not to be another formulaic Blackest Night tie-in, that is the question. Yeah, as corny and clichéd as it sounds, that seems to be the central question that went into the making of The Question #37. Heck, after reading many of last month's resurrected DCU titles, that seems to be the central question that every writer not named Geoff Johns faced when crafting their respective one-issue revival stories for this Blackest Night event. And unfortunately for readers currently being plagued by Blackest Night event fatigue, most of the masterminds behind those one-issue revival stories ultimately ended up following the same basic formula that has sadly come to define almost all of the Blackest Night tie-in books. In many ways, however, the creative team behind The Question #37, the last of DC's resurrected titles to make its one-month return, is somewhat more successful in that area. Dennis O'Neil and Denys Cowan, the original creative team on the classic Question title, join forces with current Question scribe Greg Rucka to tell a compelling story that not only reflects on the life and legacy of Vic Sage, but also works to add some more breadth and depth to the world of Renee Montoya. Oh, and did I mention that Lady Shiva randomly shows up to fight Renee in this issue? Well, she does. And, yes, their fight is awesome. Before long, however, the Black Lantern version of Vic Sage arrives on the scene to seize the hearts of his old comrades, and sadly, that's when this story starts to follow the same basic Blackest Night tie-in formula that many fans are exhausted from. Still, kudos to the creative team for coming up with a unique and innovative way to end the conflict between our heroes and the Black Lantern Question here. Suffice it to say that Renee and Shiva don't find a way to destroy the reanimated corpse of Vic Sage, but they do manage to find a way to defeat it. All in all, this is certainly a quintessential Question story worth reading, and I sure hope that there's a home for Vic Sage and Lady Shiva in Rucka's current Question co-feature.

Queen Sonja #4 (Dynamite Entertainment; review by George Marston) While I certainly wish I had read the issues that preceded this one, I did enjoy Queen Sonja #4 on its own merits.  Mel Rubi's art is above average, and writer Joshua Ortega rightfully allows the panels to speak for themselves more often than not.  The clarity of storytelling in the art goes a long way to drawing the reader in to the story, despite the continuity that is clearly at work.  The story it self sees Sonja appointing one of her allies to her inner circle, meanwhile two armies clash on the border of the Druidlands.  I enjoy the tone of the book; it's very reminiscent of Marvel's Robert E. Howard books of the '70's, and very nicely conveys many of Howard's familiar sword and sorcery tropes.  While I had a difficult time jumping in to a story that is already well underway, the quality of the art and storytelling were enough to draw me in for another issue, and most likely to drive me to seek out those I missed.

Sci-Fi & Fatnasy Illustratred #1 (Zenescope Entertainment; Review By Jeff Marsick): This new series from Zenescope is really nothing more than The Twilight Zone, a mixture of science fiction and horror capped with a macabre O Henry twist.  In this issue's "The Perfect Mate", geeky cubicle drone Andy buys himself what is essentially the Cadillac of Real Dolls, a fully functional fembot who lives only to serve and service.  Andy quickly realizes that there is more to life than circus sex on a triple-D trapeze, and when romance blossoms with a real live co-worker, the mannequin goes to an extreme length to win Andy's love back.  It's a predictable script, Roger Corman in its delivery, and would be more entertaining if the artwork wasn't so tragically unsupportive.  Al Rio's cover of (what looks to be) Starfire emerging from a sewer drain is the best pencil work of the entire issue and indicative of nothing you'll find inside.  Claudio Sepulveda can draw boobs and butts, but everything in between lacks any sense of not just of the human form, but also of proportion and cohesive composition and is persistent in its inconsistency from page to page.  Maybe issue two can pair writer Joe Brusha with the likes of Vic Drujiniu or Daniel Leister for a more satisfying comic.

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