Best Shots Advance Reviews: NEMESIS, RED HULK, more

Best Shots Advance: Nemesis, more

Nemesis #1

Written by Mark Millar

Art by Steve McNiven

Colors by Dave McCaig

Letters by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

The cover makes an audacious claim that's become the house style of one of Marvel's most popular writers: "Nemesis -- Makes Kick-Ass Look Like $H!T!" But even an more appropriate tagline for this book might have been: "Nemesis -- By Millar, For Millars."

Perhaps that's an awkward way to say it -- but like Ultimate Comics Avengers before it, Nemesis #1 has a nasty streak to it that plays directly to Millar's dedicated fanbase, with a core concept that soils the carpet of your squeaky-clean superhero collection before setting your curtains on fire. A Michael Bay flick laced with razors, this book lets its action do most of the talking -- it less preaches to the choir, and more of beats the crap out of them. And yet for some sick reason, you may find yourself wanting more...

In terms of the writing, this definitely feels like Mark Millar's reptilian brain taking complete control of the steering wheel -- it may not be the most original pacing in the world, but Nemesis certainly feels like a malevolent character, with all swears and elaborate murders. What's interesting here is that the story here really isn't story as much as it is punctuated by violent acts that surprisingly don't feel as outre as you'd imagine -- perhaps in this regard, Millar's a victim of his previous success. But there's some nice touches here, such as the introduction of Washington D.C. super-cop Blake Morrow, or even the fact that Millar introduces them not by name, but by "Player 1" and "Player 2." If violence is a video game, then Nemesis has unlimited lives -- the better to gleefully maim, blow up and destroy with, of course.

The biggest surprise has to be the artwork for Steve McNiven. I think the jury's still out on how his self-inked art works with this project -- there certainly isn't the lush shadows and full figures of Dexter Vines here -- but instead, there's a real thinness to the lines that I think really gives an interesting tone to the architecture of the world (and lends itself well to the cool color work of Dave McCaig, whose intro pallette is exquisite). While the characters themselves might look a little jarring -- with one moment of Nemesis shooting a pilot in the face that looked a little bit more goofy than bad-ass -- I will say that the violence for violence's sake looks quite nice. When someone gets hit by a train, you almost see an anime-style amount of over-the-top gore, and let's just say that the last page of the book is classic Millar and McNiven.

Ultimately, this book is not for everyone -- there are plenty of people out there who would love to see Mark Millar take his message beyond that of violence and nihilism, and those who would accuse the main characters of being a bit two-dimensional would have some valid points to make. And this is certainly, absolutely, postively not for kids, or for anyone who prefers their books to be targeted at kids. As a Marvel Icon book, this is Millar operating with zero expectations, other than letting his Great White Assassin make him the long green. And that's not a bad thing. This is Predator with the drawn-out thought process of Final Destination. This is Batman meets the Game. And although it may not have a higher message, if you're looking for a violent opening to a book that is more kick-ass than Kick-Ass, go give Nemesis #1 a look.

Dixon Ready to Spin the WHEEL OF TIME
Dixon Ready to Spin the WHEEL OF TIME
Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time #1

Written by Robert Jordan

Script by Chuck Dixon

Art by Chase Conley

Colors by Nicolas Chapuis

Letters by Bill Tortolini

Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Review by Lan Pitts

It is no secret that I am a huge "Wheel of Time" fan. Interviewing Chuck Dixon a while back about the project seriously sent me into nerd overdrive. When I reviewed the zero issue, I wasn't blown away, but at the same time not turned off or automatically shunned it's existence. It took me going to a convention and getting issue one from Dixon himself to actually read it since my store couldn't get a copy.

Now, what Dynamite has done here, is re-release both the zero issue and issue one into one 60-page collection that will probably be a lot more accessible to fans who couldn't get their hands on them before. And I, for one, am all for that since a lot of my friends who are fans of the series were unaware of their existence beforehand. Dynamite have done extraordinary things with their licensed properties, and I am sure they will not disappoint the legion of "WoT" fans out there with this massive adaptation at hand.

I love how Dixon didn't stray far from the source material...if he strayed at all. The text is almost word-for-word from the novel and it's a thrill for a fan like to me to see these characters come alive on the page like they do. The second half of the issue (also issue one when it was published by Dabel Bros.) has a cleaner art style than the first half (previously issue zero), even though some facial expressions left me a bit quizzical. As a fan I know what to expect later on and really can't wait to see it on page.

As he was writing the WoT Prequel "New Spring", Dixon had the consultation of Robert Jordan himself. With his passing, Jordan's widow Harriet (who also moonlighted as his editor) is on board, so that should give some skeptic fans an idea of how well their favorite book series is being handled. On top of everything, there's a bonus sketchbook where artist Chase Conley gives a sneak peek of things to come. A note to my fellow WoT'ers, his rendition of Min and Balthamel are spot on. To the readers out there that have felt intimidated by reading the colossal series, I couldn't recommend this issue enough and hope you give a try.

Now, for $3.99 and 60 pages, including a sketchbook, what reader wouldn't appreciate that?

Red Hulk #3

Written by Jeff Parker

Art by Carlos Rodriguez, Jason Paz and Fernando Blanco

Colors by Guru eFX

Lettering by Simon Bowland

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

For many readers of the regular Hulk ongoing series, a complaint has been the fact that mysteries were set up and then never answered. While readers of the main series won't find the follow-up that they're looking for there, Red Hulk #3 is a decent fix.

First and foremost, its to the editing team's credit that the art switch between Carlos Rodriguez and Fernando Blanco is more or less seamless -- it's only after re-reading the issue a few times and counting pages that the differences really stood out. Rodriguez effectively branches that divide between artists like Incredible Hulk artist Paul Pelletier and Hulk artist Ed McGuinness, and working with bulky characters like Red Hulk and A-Bomb seem to fit his strengths well.

That said, there is a slight problem with the visuals -- one that effects Fernando Blanco even more so -- the power and motion just isn't there. Ultimately, that's the effect that really sells two red-and-blue behemoths (and a robot suit) smacking on each other, and without it, it's hard not to look too goofy. Additionally, when the art team also has one hand tied behind their backs, having to sort of pause the action (and even a bit of the expressions) with a number of continuity explanations.

Jeff Parker's writing, on the other hand, is the real draw for this book. It'd be easy to simply brush off Red Hulk as a cash-grab, as a tie-in book that is more dead weight than heavy-hitting. But he manages to take a convoluted continuity issue and give it character -- even as it remains the slug-fest a lot of Hulk fans are rooting for. Certainly there is a bit of an info-dump here and there, but with the Hulk's recent continuity, I think a lot of readers are going to appreciate it more than not, even if it does hamper the action a bit.

While I don't think I'd recommend this book to anyone other than those who have been following Fall of the Hulks, Red Hulk is a surprisingly readable book that fills in some extremely glaring holes in the entire Hulk line. It may not be as strong as its previous issues -- last month's team-up with Thundra is admittedly gamma-powered leaps and bounds ahead of this installment -- there's enough characterization to bring this chapter together to a satisfying conclusion.

Avengers: The Initiative #34

Published by Marvel

Written by Christos Gage

Art by Jorge Molina and Andrew Hennessy

Review by Troy Brownfield

There are a lot of practical reasons why this issue shouldn’t work.  There are dozens of characters running about, multiple parallel plots, bits that need to be incorporated wholesale from other books while hitting the same story beats as closely as possible.  And yet, it all pulls together quite nicely due to the terrific effort of Christos Gage.  As a writer, Gage may be the ultimate collaborator in comics these days.  Not only does he do great work in a regular team environment (as he has with Dan Slott), he can pick up threads and scenes from a massive crossover to incorporate and make it look easy.  That’s talent.

If you read SIEGE #3, then some of these moments will be familiar.  Nevertheless, Christos and Crew flesh them out.  I particularly enjoyed the clash between New Cap and Taskmaster, and I hope to see that get played to a resolution.  Similarly, I shared Tigra’s frustration that The Hood bugs out (to join SIEGE #3, already in progress, of course), because he’s earned his beating at her hands.

If I have one gripe about the issue, and it’s minor, it’s that the art isn’t quite up to what Molina would normally pull off.  That said, it probably owes more to the size of the cast, the scope of the action, and the need to bring in and mirror scenes from other books that lends it a bit of a rushed appearance.  Still, it’s not a bad job at all, and some individual scenes (the emergence of the Shadow Initiative, for instance) are quite good.

There may be some debate on whether this is a crucial part of the SIEGE tapestry, but it’s certainly a fun part.  Gage writes great action and solid character, and he does it with sharp pace and balance.


X-Factor #203 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): The only problem with writing for a niche audience like X-Factor is when you effectively segment that audience even further. Focusing solely on M and Strong Guy, Peter David's story flows organically enough on a pacing scale, but there are a few hiccups that really stand out -- the scenes that he seemed to work the hardest on, unfortunately. There's a somewhat jarring political back-and-forth in one scene and a saccharine "tell her your feelings" moment later on in the book that, combined with the out-of-left-field ending, doesn't do a lot to bring in converts. (And this is a shame -- anyone who's read the first few trades knows this book has more creative fodder to mine than almost any other X-book on the stands.) Meanwhile, Valentine De Landro's art looks full and weighty, not unlike a rougher, more shadowy Mike McKone, but the composition in some of the action sequences looks a little too zoomed out, and having House's Lisa Edelstein suddenly pop out as Senora Piernas was a little much for even this die-hard Cuddy fan. Surprisingly enough, I feel that a few more subplots -- really focusing on the rest of the team, rather than solely a hard-to-follow main storyline -- could have made this book a stronger read.

Hunter's Fortune #4 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose): I've really dug this series, with the light tone and the cartoony art making Hunter's Fortune one of BOOM! Studios' most compelling non-genre options. But that makes this concluding issue feel that much more disappointing -- the story by Andrew Cosby is fractured from the very beginning, making it not just difficult for new readers, but even returning ones. Additionally, while they set up a sequel book -- which this series, despite what I might write here, really and truly deserves -- Cosby and his collaborator, Caleb Munroe do so without really wrapping up the arc they're written here. Matt Cossin's artwork is still as compelling as ever, but the material really bogs him down. Ultimately, the problem with this issue is that no character really ever undergoes any sort of arc -- something I hope that BOOM! Studios will pick up on with a future series.

Mighty Avengers #35 (Marvel; by Troy):  Dan Slott crams in a lot of crazy ideas and big fun, and Khoi Pham clearly has a ball drawing it.  Though some fans of this book had fretted that it wouldn’t get a natural conclusion with the impending four-title press, the ending that this issue appears to be chasing actually feels rather organic (no pun intended, considering the nature of the threat).  Pym’s been a complicated character for a long time, and Slott deserves credit for trying to do different things with him during his tenure on the title.  I hope that this one gets to play to a worthy conclusion, because the last page promises something pretty interesting for the finale.

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