Best Shots Rapid Reviews ASTNSH SPIDEY/WOLVIE, HELLBOY, More

Aaron & Kubert Ready to ASTONISH

Happy Iron Man 2 Day, Rama Readers! (Midnight still kinda counts as today, right? Right?) Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you live with your regularly scheduled Rapid Fire Reviews! As always, if you're looking for more reviews, just check out the Best Shots Topic Page here!

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): I dig Jason Aaron. I dig Spider-Man and Wolverine. And I absolutely adore any book with the word "Kubert" on it. So why am I not a huge fan of this book? Ultimately, I just chalk it up to there not being a whole lot of chemistry with Jason Aaron's premise -- he absolutely, positively nails the voices of both the characters, but because of their situation, we never really get to see them team-up in their natural environment. I give Aaron a lot of credit, however, for thinking outside of the box on this -- and you absolutely can't deny that Adam Kubert's art looks exquisite, whether it's watching Spidey knock some guy into next Tuesday, or seeing a crazy gunman make his eerie final escape from Wolverine. But ultimately, this doesn't quite feel like a case for Spidey and Wolverine, and that's what makes the book feel a little disappointing.

Brightest Day #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Kevin Huxford): When #0 came out, I was fairly critical of it. I felt it jumped around haphazardly and had no flow to it. Whatever it was trying to do, it didn’t seem that successful at it. But issue #1? Much better. In his BSA of the issue, Troy Brownfield draws a favorable comparison between BD & 52…and I couldn’t agree more. This is due to fixing many of the problems in the #0 issue. Deadman seems more like a character and is used less clumsily as a transitional tool. We’re given a better sense of what the cast is going to encounter in the series. We’re shown that there’s something more than just observing a day in the lives of the characters going on here, which is better than what we were given in the initial issue.

Hellboy in Mexico (Published by Dark Horse; Review by Brendan McGuirk): Luchadores, Day of the Dead iconography, the occult via a convergence of Catholicism by way of the Aztecs; the only way for a geek to have more fittingly celebrated Mexico for Cinco de Mayo would've involved a cool cerveza and Robert Rodriguez' new `Machete' trailer. Mike Mignola is joined by Richard Corben in telling one of the lost stories of Hellboy's youth, and, as Hellboy's life story tends to be, it is rife with punching, intrigue, and tragedy. Corben is a total stud with the pen; his Hellboy work is less chiaroscuro-centric than Mignola's when he owns art chores, but is no less emotive. Corben does Corben. There's a reason he's been able to do it for this long. His grotesque monsters seem to scream for their lost souls. It would be misguided to say he instills humanity in his renderings of the undead- but it is almost as if the lack thereof fosters a twisted sense of empathy in readers that so perfectly suits the book whose hero is a devil charged with warding off the dark. Hellboy's Mexican vacation ends with a hangover, and it ends as any hangover does; with a heavy head and heart, a deep sense of regret, and an understanding of the underlying truth- it will probably all happen again.

Artifacts #0 (Published by Top Cow; Review by Lan Pitts): Oh Top Cow. It's been a long time coming, but you finally have a mega cross over event that spans thirteen issues. The cool thing about the starting off point is that this issue was for free, so it's a whisper of a hint of the things to come and we can expect. Knowing that Ron Marz is behind it, is enough for me since the guy knows story structure and how to tell a compelling one at that. Now he's handled Witchblade for some five years or so, and he's gotten the supernatural cop mom angle down pat. He's writing Angelus and Magdalena now, and that's currently unfolding. It's going to be interesting to see how he handles thirteen plus major characters in this event and I can't wait to see how it all goes down. In this issue, the cyborg Aphrodite basically has all the data, or at least what is available, about the bearers into her database. So it's cool that you're learning as a reader what she's learning as a character. Stjepan Sejic brings his A game in panel construction and not his usual style, it's a bit edgier. Now of course the best part about this issue is that yes, it was free. So non-Cow readers can get an idea of what is going on because it sums it up pretty well.

I, Zombie (Published by Vertigo; Review by Brendan McGuirk): It's not easy to tell a zombie story that feels totally untrodden and original, but lo and behold, Chris Roberson and Mike Allred have done just that. I, Zombie seems to be less of a zombie story than one that seeks to use all of the monsters in the horror-tool shed, but at the end of the day, it's about eating brains. So I guess it is what it is. Gwen Dylan (get it?) is just your everyday, ordinary, young and pretty grave digger with a ghost for a best friend who sometimes has to eat grey matter to stay alive and whatnot. She lives in your ordinary town where being hunted by vampires is a sport, and guys with puppy dog crushes... well, I won't spoil it all. Vertigo seems to have discovered something with some traction here. The esteemed art team of Mike and Laura Allred lend their visual voice, bringing a clear pitch that coalesces the many disparate pieces in a way more palatable than a traditional murky, sullen horror artist might. Allred is going against type with this project. His well known style, clean and direct with a hint of nostalgia, could lead to the sort of typecasting that haunts some Hollywood A-listers, but instead his projects always seem to ambitiously bounce across the spectrum. Roberson gives the lay of the land, sketches out the personalities involves, and sets up our first conflict with a solid first script that shows a flair for both structure and charisma. After this opening salvo, it is not a question of whether I, Zombie will be a success, but how long with its success be sustained. Insert your own “food for thought,” joke of choice.

Uncanny X-Men #524 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): It's a funeral for a friend in this latest issue of Second Coming, as Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson bid "auf wiedersehen" to everyone's favorite furry blue teleporter. It's a nice, quiet issue, that still works based on the military tactics that Fraction laces throughout the book. There's a lot of nice nods to continuity, as well, whether it's Bobby Drake's background as a Methodist or Wolverine finally distilling what made his friendship with Nightcrawler such a powerful bond. Terry Dodson, meanwhile, draws a mean Cyclops, and just draws with such style that Fraction's talky scenes work. Tonally, there is a little bit of a disconnect, however -- this feels remarkably low-key and edgeless, considering a guy just teleported on the X-Men's doorstep with an arm through him -- and one could certainly argue that there's a bit of fat that could have been dropped. Still, it's certainly not a boring book, just one that feels a little repetitive.

Great Ten #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): Issue Seven, Seven Deadly Brothers -- you get it? The difficult balancing act that Tony Bedard has to accomplish is the fact that he's running out of pages to tell his main story, while still doing justice to actually telling the origins of his main characters. Unfortunately, this issue doesn't quite do it, due partially to sideplots regarding the Republic of China and a character whose main conceit is still a little too fresh to be re-used. Seven Deadly Brothers feels a bit like a cross between Multiple Man and Lady Shiva, but it's hard to actually care about a character like that. Surprisingly, Scott McDaniel doesn't tear it up with this hard-hitting hero, either, with many of the action beats feeling a little undersold here. There's a lot of potential to this book, but it's clear that Seven isn't the Great Ten's lucky number.

Vengeance of the Moon Knight #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): As a fan of Moon Knight (yes, we do exist), this book has been my "must have" from Marvel. Gregg Hurwitz and Jerome Opena made a dynamite team for the first six issues, and it's sad to think I might just drop this book altogether, because the last two issues have just come across as weak story-telling, and art that is less to be desired. Deadpool and MK have another slug out and yes, a swordfight, and MK lets loose a bit of that rage he's been suppressing and maintaining. At the end of the issue, it's clear there's a reason why this book has the word "vengeance" in the title. My biggest complaint here is the art. Huat's art goes from stiff and stoic to wobbly-looking and there's one instance of a child's face that is borderline creepy. I can see where Hurwtiz might be going with this, but I hope it's not just random cameos after cameos (next issue has Spider-Man again), and just let MK do his thing.

Irredeemable #13 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by George Marston): I was a little nervous about jumping into this book at issue #13, but a nice recap page and some solid storytelling made it easy to follow along.  I was familiar with the basic premise of the book; the world's greatest hero goes rogue, panic ensues, but I didn't realize how in depth the story would feel, or how far Mark Waid would go into the ramifications of a Superman level being running amok.  This issue was a great jumping on point, partly because it is the beginning of the next chapter of the story of the Plutonian, and moreso his former colleagues in Paradigm. There were a few bits that left me mystified, such as the ominous final panel, but it's entirely likely that a read through of the previous issues will shed some light on those moments.  Further, if this issue is any indication, I won't even need to to understand what comes next, or why those moments clearly held weight.  The art in this book is also stellar.  Diego Barretto does a fantastic job capturing the essence of the classic superhero style, and there are definitely echoes of Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway in his figure work.  This book was a great read, and I will be checking out the next issue, as well as the back issues.  Irredeemable manages to provide the "real world" style superheroics that many modern fans crave without abandoning or betraying the classic elements that many of that type of book take for granted.

Star Trek Captain's Log: Harriman (Published by IDW Publishing: Review by David Pepose): If you're a fan of Captain Kirk -- whether the original or the jazzed up one from the J.J. Abrams movie -- this is a pretty good read. Even though the titular captain isn't even in this book, his spirit weighs heavy on all involved, as Marc Guggenheim really distills Kirk's bravado under fire for a new captain. It's part memorial service, part coming of age, and the way Guggenheim gets everyone out is pretty smart. Andrew Currie's art is a little rougher than I think many would expect from the sleekness of Starfleet -- he reminds me a little bit of Kelley Jones, in terms of the way his shadows and faces turn out -- but it actually makes the photo-referencing of these real-world actors a bit more palatable. John Harriman has a lesson for leadership that's an interesting read, and I give Guggenheim a lot of credit for making what could have been a throwaway comic into something that's got more heart than you'd expect.

Avengers the Origin #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): This issue acts more of a character piece for Thor, Hulk, and Loki if anything. That was the main concern about this series in the beginning is the pacing. How does one transfer one issue and make it five? Apparently very slowly. I do like the Hulk being adopted by carnival side show, and the rest of the Avengers not realizing Thor is really a god. Besides that? I just found it boring. I'm not sure if that's aging the original concept, or if Joe Casey is taking his sweet time with the story. I know it's already the second issue, but in retrospect, I think this could have easily been three issues just pacing's sake. Phil Noto is slightly better from the first issue and that's the problem. This guy draws GREAT super-heroes, but I don't think he's letting himself loose.

Leaves of Yggdrasil #1 (Published by Fallenmage Productions; Review by Lan Pitts): Jesus Christ. You know considering on paper, this looks like something I would be interested in: schoolgirl uniforms and Norse mythology. However, actually ON paper, it's one of the most dreadful things I've seen. It's just simplistic, it's overly simplistic. I know art is supposed to be objective, but when the story falls through, what then? It's the story of a girl who learned she is a child of Odin and is bestowed gifts of magical nature to fight an impending evil and to discover her fate at Ragnarok. Now while it sounds like a video game from 1993 that belongs right next to Secret of Mana and Illusion of Gaia (it does) I can't get over how the art plays out. Figure construction? Forget about it. Facial configuration? Not here. The main character looks at times she has a wonk eye. Crows seem to be as big as cars and it's like Picasso meets anime in the worst possible way. There's a story after "Leaves" where the same artist is somehow worse than he was. I have to admit, it's pretty ballsy for somebody who has no artistic sense or direction to put yourself out there like this guy has.

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