Best Shots Rapid Reviews: WEAPON X, CHEW, more

Best Shots Rapid Reviews: WEAPON X, CHEW

Best Shots Rapid-Fire 03-04-10

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Welcome back to the show, 'Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, bringing you your weekly dose of Rapid-Fire Reviews, along with a contingent of full-length reviews, as well! If you want to read more Best Shots goodness, feel free to check out our Topic Page here.

Jason Aaron WOLVERINE: WEAPON X - Two Ca
Jason Aaron WOLVERINE: WEAPON X - Two Ca
Wolverine: Weapon X #11

Written by Jason Aaron

Art by Ron Garney

Colors by Jason Keith

Lettering by VC's Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Why can't more comics be like Wolverine: Weapon X #11?

It's weird to say that -- while I've agreed with everyone else that Jason Aaron's style was perfectly suited to the Ol' Canucklehead, the first ten issues of this series hasn't exactly blown me away. Despite stories with laser claws and a sick homage to "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," the pacing felt a little slow, the edge not quite there. But with Aaron turning this issue into a veritable character-filled buffet of the Marvel Universe's present and future, Weapon X #11 is likely the most fun book you'll see all week.  

From the very beginning of the book on through, Aaron toes that fine line between homage and parody, and never once slips off of it. Introducing characters like Slag and Buzzsaw just feel right -- it's not too dissimilar to Grant Morrison's creation of villains for Batman and Robin, and it's a quality that is lacking in superhero comics these days. Yet while Wolverine himself doesn't get much in the way of action, he's far from ignored -- Aaron gives him a pitch-perfect set of scenes with a certain Star-Spangled Avenger that range from the hilarious to the surprisingly tender. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say there isn't a wasted page in this book.

And the art. Oh, the art. Ron Garney and Jason Keith must be taking their Wheaties, because this art is pound-for-pound better than the first arc. The composition -- particularly in the introduction, where we meet Slag -- looks fantastic, really drawing the eye exactly where it needs to be. Garney's scratchier, almost Kubert-esque lines are a great fit for the new-and-improved return of Deathlok, who looks as imposing and scary as hell. Keith's colorwork is nothing short of sublime here -- he's got a more realistic color scheme going, but he deftly moves from cool to warm colors with an ease that gives everything a nice weight to it.  

While future issues are still up in the air, the first chapter of "Tomorrow Dies Today" is as compelling as it gets. There's action, there's humor, there's even a little bit of pathos -- and most importantly, you're finally seeing Jason Aaron's boundless enthusiasm for the property in full force. Aaron isn't just the "gritty" Vertigo guy -- he's one hell of a smart writer, to boot, and Wolverine: Weapon X #11 is printed proof of it. If this is the future of the Marvel Universe, let Jason Aaron take the wheel, because I can't wait to see where this story goes next.

Chew #9

Written and Lettered by John Layman

Art and Colors by Rob Guillory

Published by Image Comics

Review by David Pepose

If you take one message from Chew #9, it's this -- everything goes better with Fantanyeros!

No, I'm not going to tell you what that means. But I will say that this secret ingredient supercharges Chew #9 in a big way. While I've found previous issues of this arc a bit slow, this issue brings back enough of its trademark smarts to make you sit up and take notice.

It's not always that way, of course. This is an issue that gets much better upon the second read -- the first time, things seem a bit scattered, a bit unfocused, just in terms of the structure and tone. John Layman at first does a lot of set-up, but about two-thirds through the story, he suddenly takes a left turn that rights the book completely. Building off of this food-based mythology he's created with Tony and Amelia, Layman moves in an entirely new direction that is just... awesome.

Rob Guillory, meanwhile, really pulls more than his own weight in keeping the book running smoothly. His designs are always quirky and fun, and the expressions he gives his characters are priceless (even if Governor Hupai and Chow Chu look sort of similar). There's one panel -- in fact, the entire page where Layman pulls out his issue-making idea -- that looks positively intoxicating. He really is a great communicator.

Culminating in a hilarious set of cliffhangers -- that's right, plural -- this series is making slow but steady steps back to the greatness it had during its first arc. This book is far from perfect, but it deserves points for overall improvement. If Layman can keep building the world as profoundly as he does with Tony, Amelia and his new secret weapon, it'll go a long way towards making Chew the book to beat.

Pellet Reviews!

Ultimate Avengers #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): There's a really punky streak in this book, as Ultimate Avengers gives the finger to expectations before going off on a tear to wreak some havoc. Of course, when you come after success stories like Ultimates and Ultimates 2, how could you not? This is cynical, hostile, angry action that doesn't want or need the sociopolitical bent -- or even much of the characterization -- of Millar's past work. There's also a surliness to Carlos Pacheco's pencils as well, particularly in scenes like the Red Skull kicking up his feet as he oversees a particularly brutal torture sequence, or Captain America effortlessly executing his plans within plans (and digging on the French once more). Is Ultimate Avengers #5 smart? Hell no -- but that's what you asked for. Mark Millar is done giving you a message -- the only story he's telling you now is about Captain America coming back to kick some ass. And you know what? Maybe that's not such a bad thing after all.

Demo vol. II #2 (Vertigo; review by Brendan McGuirk): It's good to see that the new Demo is the same as the old Demo. Becky Cloonan and Brian Wood's outstanding character exploration series turns its eye to a sullen sort of  fellow, struggling to keep a lid on his thirst for a particular brand of flesh. Evocative of an emo “Dexter,” the nameless consumer of meats of the greatest taboo strives for balance between his craven needs and intellectual desires. This issue does what all good Demo stories have done, finding the human nuance in even the most extraordinary circumstances, and doing it in a concise fashion. Cloonan continues to show her unparalleled range, jockeying effortlessly between scenes of heavy blacks and revealing whites. Wood and Cloonan have proven to be masterful at telling these sorts of stories. Really, the only problem with Vertigo's new Demo series is that we're only getting 6 issues out of it.

Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows #3 (IDW; review by Brendan McGuirk): Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez make the creepiest comic on the stands. The strength of Locke & Key is its tremendous depth. The Locke family has proven to be among the most fleshed out in serialized comics, and their harrowing world of mystical keys, worshipers of the dark, and emotionally involved violence bears out in one of the most emotionally gripping titles on the stands. Each volume of Locke & Key has turned its focus to some new powerful and dangerous wrinkle of the power of the Keyhouse, while simultaneously unveiling untold revelations about the Locke family's history. Tensions build with each issue, as if the lack of a tragedy in the near term dooms the family to one in the long term. Crown of Shadows keeps tensions at critical, with visuals that continue to push towards innovation. Wholly original month in and month out, Locke & Key is one of those books you'll want to read when the sun is out.

Dingo #4 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose): A beautiful ending to a beautiful book. Michael Alan Nelson's plot is by and large as solid as it gets, but he is particularly gracious in allowing Francesco Biagini to have one last hurrah with the characters. The visual design in the hulking hellhound known as Cerebrus will easily be this book's defining characteristic -- his jagged lines give the beast power, terror, and perhaps most surprisingly, a sense of tenderness. Stephen Downer's colors are also great, as they give Biagini's art an otherworldly, beat-up feel that feeds into Nelson's deprecating humor. While one could argue that Nelson ties up his story almost a little too neatly, the theme is still reenforced nicely -- Dingo is a screw-up, and he's never going to know exactly what to do... and surprisingly, he manages to even crack a joke about it. It isn't complicated, it's only a little shaken up -- and that's why we like him. Is it weird to already want to see more Dingo comics? Because this dog deserves more than just its day.

Mighty Avengers #34 (Marvel Comics; review by George Marston) Dan Slott moves into the home stretch in his run on this title, and does a nice job of actually starting to wrap things up.  In this issue, Quicksilver finally discovers, much to his dismay, that not only is the Scarlet Witch that has been appearing throughout Slott's run not his sister, but that everyone else knew and refused to tell him.  Hank Pym moves back towards the D-Bag territory he was treading in the early issues of this run, admitting to Pietro that he kept the secret from him because Quicksilver was one of the most powerful members of his team.  He finally convinces Pietro to aid him in capturing Loki, who has been masquerading as Scarlet Witch.  Upon successfully capturing Loki, Quicksilver begins to question him regarding his sister's whereabouts.  Thor interrupts, leading to a fight that ends in Thor taking custody of his half-brother, but not before Pym asks Loki to join the Avengers!  You heard that right.  Anyway, everybody abandons ship, which culminates in a glimpse of Ultron in the eyes of Jocasta.  This issue was one of Slott's strongest, and Pym's request of Loki felt absolutely inspired.  The art, provided by Neil Edwards looks great; clean and expressive.  If I have one complaint, it's that the colors feel a little subdued, making some scenes feel plain.  For the curious, this issue definitely takes place before Siege, so continuity remains intact.

Detective Comics #862 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): You just gotta love it when writer's write to their artist's strengths, and 'Tec right now is showcasing how well Greg Rucka possesses that talent. Working with the astonishing J.H. Williams III in the previous arcs, we got some of the best looking pages in all of comicdom. Jock may have a more grounded style in comparison to Williams', but it flows with the feel of an action movie (as any Batman comic should). Also, big props to colorist David Baron who really sets the mood between Batman and Batwoman's stories with using cooler colors for Batman and warmer colors with Batwoman. With Rucka working with Cully Hamner on the Question still, it just keeps getting better and better. Hamner has stepped up his game as of late, especially when it comes to usage of facial features, and it really comes out in this issue.

Adventure Comics #8 (DC Entertainment; review by George Marston) Adventure Comics #8 returns to the title's roots as an anthology, with three stories that serve to bridge the gap between "World Against Superman," and "Last Stand of New Krypton."  In what was a pleasant surprise, all three stories were concise, effective, and while there weren't many big reveals being thrown around, the importance of this issue in setting up the next chapter of the Superman mythos resonated nicely through the issue.  Sterling Gates, James Robinson, and Eric Trautmann all turn in great scripts; of particular note is James Robinson's effective storytelling, which is a big step up from some of the low points in his run.  The three artists who team with their respective authors do a fine job of turning what are essentially three separate conversations into visually dynamic and appealing stories.  If you're looking for a place to jump into the ongoing Superman stories, you could do a lot worse than picking up this issue.

Witchblade #135 (Published by Top Cow Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): For the first part of this issue, I thought I was reading a Saber Rider adaptation. Top Cow is a mix of supernatural books (for what they are most known for) and sci-fi/cyber-realm books that emphasize superheroics via technology. This issue was a good mix of both visions with Witchblade teaming up with Aphrodite IV. Writer Ron Marz constructed a pretty good middle of the arc issue here, with a recap page just in case you missed the previous installment. Stjepan Sejic's art is better looking to me when he's dealing with more of the metal and gears side of things in comparison to his take on more fantasy elements. I don't know much about Aphrodite IV, but there's enough interest where I want to learn more. Plus, who doesn't love robot on robot violence?

Punisher: Butterfly #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): It's weird, as Valerie D'Orazio actually had two Punisher stories out this week, with the other being in this week's Girl Comics. Comparing and contrasting the two is enlightening -- the Girl Comics short story was a wonder of irony and timing (and indeed was my favorite of the bunch), but Punisher: Butterfly left me cold. It starts out strong and has a neat sense of structure, but ultimately, as the parallels to D'Orazio's own life and career become more and more transparent, the book waxes either autobiographical at best, or self-indulgent at worst. In many ways, this book feels less like a story and more of a manifesto -- or even an exorcism. And without that truly engaging story, Laurence Campbell's moody, shadowy art, while technically similar to someone like Michael Lark, doesn't have much to hold onto. If you've read D'Orazio's blog, you know what she's talking about -- but ultimately, fictionalizing her stories may open her up to more readers, but at the cost of diluting the message.

First Wave #1; Published by DC Comics, Review by Jamie Trecker: Buy it. I’d buy anything drawn by Rags Morales (Identity Crisis) and written by Azzarello (100 Bullets) anyway, but this really is a good read. DC’s aim with the series — which actually got a soft launch some months back with the Batman-Doc Savage one-shot — is to merge its pulp licensees (The Spirit, Doc Savage, Rima the Jungle Girl) with old-school DC continuity. To that end, Azzarello has smartly decided to play a bit with not only the characters, but the conventions of pulp itself; the opening features a giant robot in a jungle and the book smoothly segues into international conspiracies and fisticuffs. While I’m not sure how many fans of the pulp era are still alive, this is a sleek and well-done update that should attract some new fans. (It also might remind some older readers of the still-beloved Shadow book from Andy Helfer and Kyle Baker.) This is smart stuff, and a lot of fun.

Cinderella #5; Published by DC Comics, Review by Jamie Trecker: This ain’t your mother’s Cinderella: Cindy’s a rootin’, tootin’, shootin’ riff on James Bond, charged with international espionage and suffering from a rough divorce. Her ex might not be so charming, but this book has been. Think of it as “Moonlighting,” with talking bears. McManus’ art is as gleeful as ever and Roberson — a relative newcomer to comics, but with a long background in sci-fi —has deftly mixed classic spy set-pieces and romantic tension in this limited series spun from the wildly popular Fables monthly. This is the penultimate issue of a limited series, and while I won’t spoil the big bad, I can tell you the reveal will be right up Vertigo readers’ alley. It’s good stuff — and makes this reviewer a bit sad that Jack of Fables got an ongoing, and not our fair princess.

In Case You Missed It...

Broken Trinity: Pandora’s Box #1

Written by Rob Levin & Bryan Edward Hill

Art by Allessandro Vitti

Colors by Sunny Gho

Published by Top Cow Productions & Image Comics

Review by Kevin Huxford

My only previous experience with Broken Trinity directly involved the Darkness and Witchblade. So I was a bit surprised after picking this up to find them completely absent. Not necessarily a bad thing, just not what I had expected. It clearly puts me into the new reader camp when it comes to the properties being used here.

Through the use of the opening re-cap page and an efficient use of exposition, the writers do a really good job of bringing the uninitiated up to speed. There are two opposing forces that have been around for millennia have recently found new people to carry their artifacts and powers. For some reason, they are compelled to find the rest of the thirteen related artifacts scattered across the globe and tear each others’ heads off.

 They do such a good job of laying things out that I honestly thought this might have been the first appearance of the characters. It wasn’t until preparing to write this review where I decided to verify what characters pre-dated this issue that I found out most of the players have been around for at least a year. Other than a few minor quibbles, this had as much info as might be required to start a movie with a similar subject matter.  

While they did a really good job of introducing us to Michael Finnegan and the Disciples of Adam, better establishing the Glorianna Silver character would have really made the book virtually flawless in its new-reader-friendliness. While it is obvious they tried and I’m sure all her interactions with her mentor ring true to the character, I suspect they seem to be much more effective than they actually are when viewed through the eyes of someone already familiar with the property. When she tells Wulgar that she won’t be felled like the dragon, there aren’t enough contextual or visual clues to tell us whether she’s saying that defiantly or more sheepishly. It makes it hard to get a proper read on the character or really care about her, if you’re coming relatively fresh to this first issue. For those already a bit familiar with the character, I’d imagine it all works smoothly and avoids going so far in trying to coach new readers as to turn off established ones.  

The story is setting up two mystically-powered, diametrically opposed beings in a conflict where they share a common enemy. The “two enemies somewhat united by a shared enemy”angle isn’t new. Neither is a global scavenger hunt, which seems to be where this is leading. But it is the execution here that makes the difference. That includes the art. Vitti’s art (with Gho’s coloring) reminds me, in places, of Leinil Yu’s work on Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk. At the same time, you can see some work that is more like traditional Top Cow art styles. Both are pleasing to the eye in the book and, while somewhat different, really don’t clash along the way.

The highest praise I can give a book that isn’t part of or related to my regular purchases is that I will seek out the next issue. Guess what #2 I’ll be looking for in a month or so?

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