Best Shots Rapid Reviews: BATMAN & ROBIN, NEW MUTANTS, more

Best Shots Rapid Fire: DC, Marvel, BOOM!

Best Shots Rapid-Fire 02-11-10

Your Host: David Pepose

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Greetings, 'Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, ready to rock with this week's Best Shots Rapid-Fire Reviews! With books from Marvel, DCU, Vertigo, Image, Dark Horse, Top Cow, Dynamite and BOOM! Studios, our reviewers are moving fast and furious with some bite-sized nuggets of truth. You still want more Best Shots? If you can't get enough of our team, just check out the Best Shots Topics Page. Now get ready, aim, and fire, because you're about to see the Best Shots crew in action!

New Mutants #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): Just like DC's Teen Titans, the major drawing spoint behind New Mutants is the characters' history with one another, and their place within the greater whole of the X-Men universe. Zeb Wells gives those self-same continuity geeks some more grist to chew on, as his heroes have nice bits of characterization to show that they're not just teammates, but family. Artists David Lopez and Alvaro Lopez have some great linework that's almost reminiscent of Jamie McKelvie; Paul Davidson, on the other hand, starts off a little rough with the sharpness of his characters, but really smoothes it out for a great finale.

The Unwritten #10 (Published by Vertigo Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): When will people learn you just can't trust a Nazi? Especially Josef Goebbels,  Reich minister of Propaganda and one of Hitler's cronies. From the last issue, Tommy, Savoy, and Lizzie barely escape with their lives, but manage to find a magic door and are whisked away to...Nazi Germany. Back in their own time, Lord Ambrosio strikes once more, ever-searching for Tommy. Again, some of the mystery surrounding Tommy is revealed, but in its place are more riddles and confusion than before. We as an audience know about the same information as Tommy, and that instantly draws us in to this captivating story. Any fan of the series should not miss this issue.

B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #2 (Published by Dark Horse; Review by Troy Brownfield): If you haven’t been . . . wait, didn’t I just say that?  How about I change it to, “If you haven’t been reading A LOT of Dark Horse books, you’ve been missing out?”  Honestly, between Buffy, Kane, Hellboy, B.P.R.D., Beasts of Burden and more, Dark Horse has busied itself in the last several years with planting a pretty sizeable flag in that patch of ground known as horror/action.  The always excelled “B.P.R.D.” books roll on under the sure hands of writers Mike Mignola and John Arcudi and artist Guy Davis.  Davis is an absolute master of creepiness; he creates atmosphere almost effortlessly.  Witness pages 14 and 15; they’re a clinic of how to build suspense, showing members of the cast losing contact with another as the shots tighten closer and closer on a panicking Abe.  That’s just brilliant.  This series is heavily traded; you have no excuses.  Get it and enjoy.

Phonogram: The Singles Club #7 (Published by Image; Review by David Pepose): Wait, this is the last issue of the series? Say it ain't so, Gillen and McKelvie! A largely worldless issue, McKelvie really sums up the magic of music in this largely silent medium, really tapping into the fun of just living in the moment. McKelvie makes the club scene seem funny as well as mysterious, with a particular conversation about being "chased by a bunch of dicks" seeming particularly amusing when he gets through with it. Is this book magic? Gillen ends it all on a pitch-perfect note, making a night of musical hipsters transcend into something both mythic and even somehow romantic. The back-up lost me a little bit in terms of content, but tonally, it still has potency, with Nikki Cook, Becky Cloonan, Andy Bloor and Sean Azzopardi's artwork constantly shifting styles from the mundane to the dark and twisted world of Indie Dave. Even if you're not a music fan, you need to check out Phonogram: The Singles Club -- it's a book about making the mundane into magic. And there just aren't enough books out there like it.

Angelus #2 (Published by Top Cow; Review by Lan Pitts): Little can be said that hasn't already been said on the what Ron Marz has been doing over at Top Cow, especially with characters like the ones in Angelus. Dani Baptiste is still learning the ropes of being an embodiment of light, and handling it quite well all things considering. She manages to get a history lesson on her purpose and more Divine situations, and still save her quasi-girlfriend from muggers. God bless her. Marz continues to weave an impressive story, and the conclusion of the issue just opens up a new can of worms, or maybe something more Satanic. Stjepan Sejic's art is pretty good, but not as sharp as it has been in earlier works. Still, I love the imagination he has and how can you say "no" to a demon train? choo choo.

Batgirl #7 (Published by DC; Review by Lan Pitts): If there is one book out on the market now that has grown on me exponentially, it is this one. It's been more than half a year since Stephanie Brown took over the Batgirl mantle, and this book keeps getting better and better as she grows into the role. Bryan Q. Miller has an excellent story-telling style that completes Lee Garbett's art perfectly. Panel construction is solid and not over done. Simplistic, but not insulting to a reader's intelligence. The chemistry between Batgirl/Robin and Batman/Oracle is a nice dynamic that shows nothing really changes in the Bat-family, just expands upon what has already been founded.

Tracker #3 (Published by Top Cow Productions; Review by George Marston: It took me a few pages to get into Tracker, but it hooked me by the end of the issue.  The plot is interesting; an FBI profiler and his partner seek a mysterious killer, only to become embroiled in a mystery of supernatural proportions.  While the supernatural elements seemed at first like an afterthought, as the issue went on, they became more of a focus and much more interesting.  In this issue, several important secrets are revealed about the serial killer known as Herod, and Alex O'Roark begins to come to grips with the horrific affliction he now faces.  The police procedural bits tend to drag, and Jonathan Lincoln's dialogue isn't exactly gripping, but it serves the story, things move along quickly enough not to be bogged down too much.  The art stands out, though it is a bit one-note in its "acting;" many characters wear the same expressions regardless of the scene or context.  However, the watercolor finishes are nice, and there are certainly bits where Francis Tsai certainly shines.  It is clear that he puts a lot of effort into using interesting angles and compositions to keep long scenes of conversation interesting, though occasionally this distorts his proportions more than necessary.  All in all, I was pleasantly surprised with Tracker #3, and look forward to more.

Batman and Robin #8 (DC Comics; review by Brendan McGuirk): Without slighting the many able-bodied artists who have provided services along the way, the fact is that when Grant Morrison's Batman work is rendered by one of the true aesthetic A-listers, be it J.H. Williams III, Frank Quitely, or now Cameron Stewart, the enhancing impact is tenfold. Somehow these Bat-adventures seem fundamentally smarter when they are penciled by less-than-conventional superhero artists. Morrison's cheeky nods and spiraling story structure becomes both more digestible and more enjoyable. It makes readers pine for a long-term visual partner on the book, if only to avoid the distraction of changing styles, and to allow focus on the multi-layered text. Stewart is expressive enough to relay the more farcical aspects of the book, while also literal enough to maintain the gravity of the book, and completely up to the steep task here. Morrison's “Blackest Knight,” story seems to be something of a soft- crossover. It involves rage and resurrection in the vein of Blackest Night, but there's not a Black Rings to be seen. Instead, readers are treated to a low-fanfare, high stakes adventure that touches on open story threads from bothFinal Crisis and 52 and involving the better part of the Bat-clan. This issue is a true rarity in that it utilizes the entire tapestry of the DC Universe, while simultaneously serving as a self-contained adventure. It is a shining example of how best to utilize a shared narrative. Oh, and if criminals fear the Batman, we all fear the Bat-Monster.

Strange #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): It may look gorgeous, but I don't know if I could say that this miniseries was necessarily an effective way to get readers to bond with Doctor Strange. While Mark Waid's surgery metaphor is particularly clever, it almost feels like he introduced the character of Casey only to toss her away in the final issue. Do I believe that anyone will really follow up with this story? No, which is too bad, because it does hit in all the right spots. That said, Emma Rios is just on fire with the art -- it's lush, it's energetic, it practically sizzles with colorist Val Staples' work. All in all, it's an okay read, but as far as endings go, it feels like this book is only about halfway finished.

Solomon Kane: Death’s Black Riders #2 (Published by Dark Horse; Review by Troy Brownfield): If you haven’t been reading Dark Horse’s take on Robert E. Howard’s monster-slayer, you’ve been missing out.  Scott Allie nimbly juxtaposes well-written dialogue with captions that capture Kane’s inner monologue (via an omniscient narrator) with a literary flair. Mario Guevara combines fluid action and menace, both of which get added propulsion from the colors of Juan Ferreyra. Though the ambush element of the plot may be familiar territory for the horror genre, Allie’s writing rises above that, aided by some unique monster designs. Rock solid stuff.

Legendary Talespinners #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Lan Pitts): I have been wanting to get my hands on this ever since I saw the solicitation in my Comic News pamphlet from my local comic store. I always find myself drawn to stories that have a re-adaptation to fairy tales and such, and this one looks like a keeper. Legend of the Talespinners follows a young woman named Abby, who had a mother that forced her to suppress such "childish" things as make-believe and pretend in order to succeed in the real world. By all accounts, she did succeed becoming a top medical student, and now works at a hospital. Her world is turned upside down and inside out when an elderly man comes into her care, who may be the legendary Baron Munchhausen. In a story about young imagination, fairy tale hit men, and a corrupted Mother Goose, what more could you really ask for? How about some excellent art by Grant Bond. His animated style reminds me of some the Disney cartoons from my childhood like "Darkwing Duck" and "Bonkers". His coloring pallet meshes well with his style that add a certain depth to the aesthetic of it all. Best of all, it is a solid PG-rated read that I encourage you to give for a new reader in your life. I am all about comics in the hands of kids without worrying about quizzical looks from parents having them wonder if it's "too graphic" or "mature." Kuhoric has spun an intriguing set up and already has me hooked. There is a lot of story, so believe me, you are getting your money's worth.

The Muppet Show #2 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose): When it comes to the Muppet Show, I can't really describe it as gut-bustingly funny or repellantly cringeworthy. The only accurate way to describe this book is: wakka, wakka, wakka. Taking a look at the ethics of comedy (only in a less stodgy way than I just described it), my all-time-favorite Scooter has to deal with a nasty comedian who takes on manager and audience member alike. Some of Roger Langridge's gags are pretty funny -- like onlookers thanking heaven that the bus has come, to spare them from Clint Wacky's abominable jokes -- while others, like the cars yukking it up to one another, are a little flat. (See what I did there? A-ha.) The back-up story, with Fozzie, Statler and Woldorf is actually even more impressive, as Langridge just uses images alone to convey complexities such as Fozzie's street performance being not just garbage, but "garbage on ice." If you're a big Muppets fan and this humor is your cup of tea, this is definitely a book to check out.

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