Best Shots Rapid-Fire 02-25-10

Your Host: David Pepose

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Happy Thursday, 'Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood host David Pepose here, with your weekly dose of Rapid-Fire Reviews! With pellets from some of the biggest releases from Marvel, DC, Image and BOOM! Studios, we have some bite-sized nuggets of critical commentary for your reading enjoyment. As always, if you're wanting to catch up on all things Best Shots, take a look at our Best Shots Topic Page here.

Blackest Night #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Russ Burlingame): There’s a lot of stuff going on here, and it seems like the timing element of the story (which has been pretty impeccable with Geoff Johns writing so many of DC’s titles during the crossover) is one of its real strong points; having not yet read “Green Lantern Corps” yet this month, Guy Gardner’s appearance at the front of the onslaught of Green Lanterns was a nice surprise. Of all DC’s recent announcements, possibly the most exciting to me is “Green Lantern: Warriors”, the upcoming ongoing with Guy and Kilowog. And while last week my review of “Green Lantern” #51 complained that Johns’s stories often have pacing problems that throw all the plot into the last half, I’d say that in the core Blackest Night monthly, that’s more of an asset than a liability. It lends this issue a real sense of consequence and of the kind of chaos that it probably should have had the whole time, given that as far as I can tell, the whole of the “Blackest Night” crossover is supposed to have happened over the course of a few days. The twist ending (that’s only really a twist in the particulars, not in the broad strokes) has been made much of, but I think that’s less about “Blackest Night” and more about setting up Johns’ upcoming “New Guardians” storyline in “Green Lantern” and the Green Lantern Corps titles.

Flash: Rebirth #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by George Marston): Flash: Rebirth winds down with a lackluster final issue that comes off as more lightswitch rave than lightning storm.  Perhaps rather than extending this series an entire issue, they should've taken the ten essential pages of this issue and thrown them into #5.  Barry and Wally pursue Zoom into Barry's past until I guess deciding that they were sick of him and putting him in a test tube.  I'm really unsure what happened here, and why it is of any importance whatsoever.  Geoff Johns is one of my favorite writers, but the script here feels hacked up, like it's simply comprised of bits and pieces of older issues cut and pasted like a ransom note.  He's not aided by Van Sciver's art, which is also surprisingly bad.  Van Sciver's stuff is usually top notch, even if it sometimes takes a little longer to get out, but it fell flat starting with the cover.   This team is capable of so much better, and yet we're still getting choppy transitions and questionable anatomy.  I know Johns still has some great Flash stories in him; was my favorite part of the crossover so far.  Further, that same mini-series hinted at some very interesting consequences for Zoom at the end of this book which were sadly never delivered.  I brought my umbrella and wore my galoshes like we were gonna get cats and dogs. Unfortunately, what we got is a light drizzle at best; thunder without lightning, all sound and fury signifying nothing.

New Avengers #62 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): This is a pretty good book, even if there are a few issues with the timing of it all that keeps it from being great. What do I mean? Stuart Immonen still draws a mean set of Captain Americas, and Daniel Acuña is surprisingly effective with his contributions for Spider-Man versus Spider-Woman. In these fight sequences, Bendis gives the heroes a nice bit of characterization, especially with Spider-Woman's reaction to being mind-controlled, or Luke and Spidey's reactions to Steve coming back. But what about those timing issues? By the time you've read this story, you realize that is supposed to be Steve Rogers' big return to the Avengers. There's a couple of problems, here -- first, Steve doesn't really get a "big" reunion moment, a nice iconic image signifying the return of all things heroic in the Marvel Universe. And perhaps more importantly, this issue comes out two months after has already started, so we already know Steve is back, as do the heroes. (Still, this issue does explain why the Secret Warriors are around, something that bugged me in the main storyline.) While these flaws certainly don't cripple the book, they are noticeable, and they do keep New Avengers #62 from the greatness it could have been.

Teen Titans #80 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Russ Burlingame): There’s a spread page that shows both that Henderson is interested in building the characters through humor, and that she doesn’t have a very nuanced understanding of human behavior. Things like Raven telling a police officer, “Being saved by a girl doesn’t make you less of a cop,” followed by the police officer poo-pooing her help, tell a story of someone looking for a quick laugh; when combined with the rest of the quips on pages 2-3 of this issue, it spells a writer trying to make her characters more human, but falling back on old stereotypes and tropes of teenage behavior. Joe Bennett’s dynamic pencils work great for this issue (even if some very weird perspective on one page makes it look like Beast Boy’s iPhone is bigger than his head, making me wonder whether he got an advance iPad), which is about 80% fighting, but the sequences which are the best-written are the ones between Static and Holocaust, where nothing much is happening. Holocaust himself, and Dakota, are such relics of the ‘90s that it’s very interesting to see how a writer who never worked in comics during that time is able to integrate them into today’s DC Universe.

Dark Wolverine #83 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): Despite the last few moments of the last issue getting "Dallas"-ed away, this isn't a bad book -- I just think the message is getting muddled. Or at the very least, Marjorie Liu and Daniel Way are taking an extremely circuitous route to tell it. In a lot of ways, this arc feels less like an out-and-out "story" -- complete with beginning, middle, and end -- and more of a poetic character portrait. If you look at it in this sense, the writing works a bit better -- but the problem is, it doesn't tell us anything we don't already know. Daken joined the Dark Avengers for a reason, for a purpose -- and the fact that we still don't really have an inkling of what that purpose is or what he's doing to get there is what's most aggravating about this book. What saves this book is still the fantastic artwork of Guiseppe Camuncoli, who brings a great sense of energy, even as most of this issue is just talking. The look in Daken's eyes in the climactic moment of the book is pretty fantastic-looking, and even his use of the Fates looks sweeping, insectoid, just dangerous. But the unsubstantial storyline is still really chafing, and certainly doesn't make this character one you jump at the chance to read.

King City #5 (Image Comics; review by Brendan McGuirk): If you aren't reading King City yet, there may be no hope for you. It's jam packed with painstakingly rendered extra images and goodies, it's got lovely ladies and crafty kitties, it's got drama and intrigue, and with its album-sized trim, it is one of the most well presented comicbook packages on the shelves. This is comics' cutting edge, and it uses that sharp edge to slice the blandness of the licensed serials that dominate the market. Brandon Graham is a skilled and versatile storyteller, able to pivot between humor and sensuality in a naturalistic way. This book has perfect pitch. It's probably the best 2.99 clams you could spend this week.

The Marvels Project #6 (of 8) (Marvels Comics; review by Brendan): The Invaders have never been so fascinating. Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting are deep in their element with this project. It strikes a unique tonal chord by blending modern superhero storytelling methodology in a mid-20th century pulp backdrop. Characters are punching Nazi's like they would in a 1940's Timely/ Marvel comic, but their motivations are complex and nuanced in the vein of today's books. Epting's rendition of the original Human Torch obviously owes its inspiration to Alex Ross' work on the character in the Marvels series, and its brightness plays very well against then deep hues of 1940 New York City. As evidenced by Brubaker's crime work, his style is most effective when the stakes are life and death, and the world at war provides the ideal backdrop. The Marvels Project is an evergreen series in the best sense, and should remain imminently readable and relevant for years to come.

Irredeemable #11 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose): Mark Waid said in a recent interview with us that one of the characters he was most surprised by was Bette Noir, and this issue of Irredeemable shows it. When it comes to Bette, you can see that Waid is invigorated, as he tells a story of taking a walk on the wild side -- and the consequences therein. That said, for every organic moment of backstory here -- and the Bette Noir story is as solid as it gets -- there's a moment of over-the-top tragedy. Yes, Tony could be betrayed by his one true love, or be tossed around from foster family to foster family, or accidentally commit a shocking act seen in this book -- but when you put it all together, it seems like overkill. Veteran penciller Peter Krause is paired up with Diego Barreto in this book, and I have to say, Barreto is definitely helping continue the book's increasingly strong art. There's something about Barreto's artwork that just makes you fall in love with Bette, despite her admittedly unfaithful ways -- I think its the cleanness of his characters' expressions, like Bette throwing a flirtatious glance, or even a panel of Gil smiling at her with a Valentine's Day heart, it looks great, and also manages to mesh well with Krause's scratchier, more shadowy style. If you've been keeping up with the mystery, this is definitely a book to check out.

Thor #607 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Russ Burlingame): With his universe playing such a big role in Marvel’s current event, it’s not surprising that the story has taken over his monthly; when Volstagg, sitting in jail, sees Thor being attacked on television and blames himself, this issue really takes off.  This book itself feels a little bit like it’s just an expanded version of what would ordinarily be the background or character-development portion of the miniseries, with a lot of backroom conversations happening at Asgard and only brief glimpses of Thor himself. Volstagg’s eventual problem is the appearance, at the end of the issue, of the Clone Thor from , who apparently has taken on the name Ragnarok; it’s funny, because while the name fits, I almost feel a little pang of sadness knowing that he’s got a name now, as opposed to just wandering around as “Clor.” I remember feeling the same way, though, when they started referring to Hank Henshaw as “The Cyborg” ten years ago, and we all know how long that lasted.

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