Best Shots Rapid-Fire 03-25-10
Your Host: David Pepose
Brought to You by ShotgunReviews.com and Awesome Awesome-ness
Happy Thursday, 'Rama readers! With New Comic Book Day in the rear-view mirror, it's time for -- you guessed it -- a clip of Rapid-Fire Reviews! With looks at new releases from Marvel, DC, Image and IDW, we've got bite-sized nuggets of critical commentary perfect for any sort of reading consumption. So sit back, take the ride, and it's on with the show!
Nemesis #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Brendan McGuirk): This issue reads like someone's recollection of “Dark Knight,” through the prism of a fever dream. Sadistically brutal, it re-envisions the archetype of “all-capable man with access to everything,” from benevolent guardian to the civilized society's bane. Steve McNiven seems to be trying on a new hat here. Without the authoritative line of inkers the artist has worked with in the past, there is a new sense of looseness to his work. Shedding a new light on the artist's strengths, it is intriguing to see his own taste and sense of shading and crosshatching throughout. This story proves to be an able vehicle to show McNiven's propensity towards dynamic posturing and blockbuster imagery. It's still too early to understand exactly what it is this book means to say, either about the superhero genre or the role of chaos in society, but whatever it does say it is sure to proclaim loudly. Will fans even root for the agent of good in this story, or will they instead kick back for the visceral appeal of Nemesis, the “Batman,” with a propensity towards murdering top-cops? And will there be any sort of justification, or does chaos sneer at the very concept?
Green Lantern #52 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose: Another appropriate name for this issue might be "History of the World, Part 2," by Geoff Johns -- because the ever-expanding mythology of the Green Lantern series is blowing up even further. But what really steals the show is Doug Mahnke, an epic artist for some epic set pieces -- there's one double-page spread of "the sky is falling" that looks spectacular, even as it's looking at most of the heroes' backs. The Black Lantern hordes look great as well, with Mahnke having a surprising amount of fun flinging the undead into the air. Where the book stumbles, a bit, is with the various amount of threats compressed into this book -- there's the Black Lanterns, Nekron, Xanshi, and a whole host of other problems that could easily be catastrophic to Earth -- well, it's a lot to have in 22 pages, and I think the rushed pace might have minimized the threats a bit. But Geoff Johns is certainly making this as big as it gets -- the question is, will the last issue pull it off?
Batman: Streets of Gotham #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow): Behold, THE issue of any Batman comic out there that sold me on Damian Wayne as Robin. The kid is skilled, and it's cooler and cooler to see him care. Oddly enough, though, this issue is far more revelatory regarding the identity of the mysterious "Abuse," the big ol' lug who's been on Batman and Robin's side over the last year. Actually dug the origin, a definite wish fulfillment one at that. But back to Robin, Paul Dini gives us a terrific inner monologue for Damien, not to mention Abuse, sometimes side by side. Not that there was ever a question, but Dustin Nguyen's art is out of this world. Such a solid creative team, I will hold this book up to the proponents of the other Bat-books any day. Oh, and the "Manhunter" backup was one of the most riveting to date. By far the most urgent Batman book for me on a monthly basis.
Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #61 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): If I were a kid just getting into comics today -- or a parent looking to get their kids hooked on the medium themselves -- Marvel Adventures Spider-Man would be the kind of book I would have wanted to start with. The fact that Paul Tobin can go nearly halfway through the story without Spider-Man making an appearance is a testament to how strong he makes the supporting characters -- although Christian Nauck really does swing for the fences when the Wallcrawler does show up. What I particularly like about this book is the fact that it doesn't talk down to its audience by any stretch of the imagination -- it's got just the right balance of humor and teen angst, but it doesn't succumb to the urge to wreck Pete's life just to establish depth. You want to know what'll bring in more readers to this industry? If Marvel promotes the hell out of books like this.
Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows #4 (Published by IDW; Review by Brendan McGuirk): It is easy to go on and on about the structural masterpiece that is Joe Hill's delightfully thrilling Locke & Key story, but this issue shows just how integral the remarkable work of Gabriel Rodriguez has been to the series' success. As the Locke family nightmare thickens, the children are attacked by every shadow cast throughout Keyhouse. Monsters everywhere are shaping and reshaping themselves into every demon imaginable, and the sheer range of these creatures, as well as the manic emotional state of the children, illustrates the versatility Rodriguez has shown throughout this book. Furthering this case is a silent exchange older brother Tyler Locke has with the shadow-beast. The shadow converses pictorially, and the clarity of this exchange is unmistakable. Hill has done a wonderful job envisioning a world with a comprehensive set of rules and mysteries, but it has been the skilled penmanship of Gabriel Rodriguez that has brought that dark dream to life.
Captain America #604 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): Go Falcon go! If you're a fan of Cap's feathered friend, then this is the issue for you. The story starts off a bit jerky, but once Ed Brubaker settles into the Falcon's plight, it looks great. The specter of Steve Rogers hangs on the Aerial Avenger even when he's not in the book, as this issue is primarily a struggle of one man who is outnumbered and overpowered. Luke Ross almost reminds me a bit of Roger Robinson with his portrayal of hand-to-hand combat -- the musculature really comes off as particularly strong and moody, due also to the diligence of inker Butch Guice. A special shout-out needs to go to colorist Dean White, who really hits the right balance between realism and pure pop. While I think Ed Brubaker's political undertones may be a bit clunky, at least in comparison to "The Man That Bought America," this is a different angle that really works.
King City #6 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Brendan McGuirk): This issue wraps up the previously-published portion of Brandon Graham's cat-masterpiece. It's got drug-spoiled relationships, Western-style showdowns, and a monster shaman. Oh, and it has cats of mass destruction. And allusions to a Korean xombie war. And a “Godzilla,” reference. And structural resolution. And sweet comix extras. But I guess all that might not be your thing. Y'know, if you're a nutjob.
New Avengers #63 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Brendan McGuirk): In many ways, this latest issue of New Avengers typifies what Marvel's flagship team book has come to represent. An exploration into the relationships both of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, and Clint Barton and Bobbi Morse give depth to humanize the struggle of these few heroes who have chosen to bear the standard of valiance in the face of a world that seeks to diminish their worth. Luke and Jessica have long been the heartbeat of this title, and the evolution of their relationship, both with each other and the team, has mirrored the broader arc of the title.
Each of the larger “event” stories has found its way into their personal struggles, whether it was driving them into separation during Civil War or losing their baby in the wake of Secret Invasion, and now, finally, Cage believes their resolve is on the verge of paying off should they be victorious in Siege.
Similarly, the Bartons' story gives grounding to the unbelievable aspects, both of the book and life in the Marvel Universe. Both characters were dead when the first issue of New Avengers shipped, but due to the extraordinary circumstances of superheroes' lives, they have been reunited. But despite that reunion, there is still a sense of unease that it could all be taken away again. There are other ways to tell superhero stories, by showing their grand acts and total power, but what Bendis does here is to instead make central the motives for the efforts of these heroes; he shows exactly what it is they are fighting for, and what they have to lose. Further in the traditions of this book, this issue is a showcase of one of superhero comics' shining stars; Mike McKone. McKone has an effortless style, able to portray players emotively both in quite moments and loud ones. Despite a obvious buoyancy to his work, he employs exceptional use of deep blacks, balancing the page without sinking the imagery into darkness. His Spider-Man, for example, features fully inked black trim instead of blue, and that figure work is masterfully blended to panel borders and page bleeds. An obvious Siege tie-in, this is a support book. But not only does it support the larger crossover, its emotional core shows the very mores fundamental to the foundation of any team that dares call itself “Avengers.”