Best Shots Rapid Reviews: AVENGERS #1, LEGION #1, More

Marvel First Look - AVENGERS #1

Happy Thursday, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, hitting you with a few of the top stories from this week, in handy-to-digest Rapid Fire form! As always, if you're looking for more reviews, just check out the Best Shots Topic Page!

Avengers #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): There are some nice beats in this issue, but ultimately I have to quote the King himself: "A little less conversation, a little more action." Brian Michael Bendis does raise the stakes in a way we haven't seen before, but honestly, I want to see the Avengers strut their stuff, to fight foes that no single hero could withstand (and have their character illuminated in the context of where they stand and how they interact with the rest of the Marvel Universe). It's not that Bendis doesn't know how to do this -- he did it just last week with Ultimate Spider-Man. Maybe it's because in that book, he has Peter's secret identity to fall upon, to humanize him -- here, the Avengers' "home life" (outside of a real interesting few moments with Wonder Man) just doesn't wow me. John Romita Jr. gets some decent moments in here -- if you were worried about how Thor might look against Bendis' largely street-level team, don't sweat it any more -- and combined with colorist Dean White, there's a lot of mood, even with pages that don't have much more than head-shots. That said, with the threat the Avengers will be facing, it's clear there's narrative gold in them thar hills -- I'm just hoping that the next few issues will start mining it.

Legion of Superheroes #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): Despite the #1 on the cover, this is very much geared towards the people who read Geoff Johns's "Superman and the Legion of Superheroes" arc from 2008 and his later Legion of Three Worlds story arc. Paul Levitz packs in a lot of storytelling in his first issue, but the way that he lays out the big surprise of the issue, I'm a little surprised that it just gets laid out there with just dialogue, as opposed to a striking image. (That said, there's a twist on the last page that is really interesting, and should prove for some fascinating conflict going into the future.) Levitz's Brainiac does steal the show, however, and I think that'll be a particularly strong voice for issues to come. Artist Yildiray Cinar, meanwhile, is a bit of a mystery to me -- there are some moments, like with Saturn Girl, where his clean style really wows you, where he actually feels like a spiritual descendant of Legion of Three Worlds artist George Perez. Other times, like Brainiac railing against the government for a particularly counterintuitive degree, the faces feel a little smooshed out like silly putty. I don't know if this is necessarily a great jumping-on point for new Legion readers, but for those who are rock-solid fans of the franchise, you will want to check this book out.

The Anchor #8 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Lan Pitts): One Anchor...two Anchors? Well, sort of. See, Clem is reunited with his spirit that is sparkly clean in contrast to his rough and practically beat to shreds body. If you thought Clem had unleashed his inner Hell before, you haven't seen a percentage of what this guy can do especially when he tries to rescue his granddaughter, Hofi. This issue carries a certain amount of Clem recognizing what he really is, and actually calls himself the Anchor. It also carries more of the same level of action and supernatural goodness Phil Hester and Brian Churilla have brought to the table for almost a year now. The book started off strong and hasn't let up thus far. It's a wonderful book with creepy imagery, yet the main character is one of the most righteous out there.

Ultimate Avengers #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): Maybe this review will say something about my reading habits more than the above Avengers one. It's a guilty pleasure, through and through, but it also scratches that itch that the other Avengers books aren't -- namely, it's a knock-down, drag-out, smack-down fight that also illuminates character in the middle of it. Is the first Hulk necessarily the most P.C. character in the world? Absolutely not. But the way that Leinil Francis Yu portrays him, beating the tar out of War Machine? It is absolutely gorgeous. (Extra props need to go to colorist Laura Martin, who really gives the whole she-bang a strong yet sedate sense of energy and build-up.) Pacing-wise, it does feel a little light, which happens when so many of the pages are three panels. But ultimately, this book does feel like Mark Millar on autopilot, without the actual political ideas he built the franchise upon -- it isn't groundbreaking, but at the same time, if you're looking for a fight, there's no better place to find it.

The Spirit #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): Wow. While this book has a few rough edges visually, the Spirit has his own style, his own way of doing things, and that alone charms you in spite of yourself. Mark Schultz has a sharp sense of humor that winds its way through the noir landscape of Central City -- "Why aren't you mice in school?" he asks some pint-sized sources. "Good morning and go take a flying leap, Spirit," of them replies -- there's a music inside Schultz's patois that sticks its hooks into you. Moritat is the real conundrum here -- on the one hand, there's a real dirtiness to his lines that kind of turns me off, but his composition for the characters is out of this world. Whether it's watching the Spirit's legs kicked up as he watches some street kids or watching him burst through a window with a lady in tow, it looks fantastic. I also really dig his faces -- just some really smooth lines in the midst of some harsh shadows. I didn't think I'd like this book so much, but this is an underrated book that really will surprise you.

War of the Supermen #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Russ Burlingame): Having avoided most of the "New Krypton" storyline, it's hard to be truly invested in the characters being massacred throughout the "War of the Supermen" story. That said, one of the pet peeves I've had about the way Superman has been handled since "The Final Night" is that his body seems to have lost its "living solar battery" thing (which was on display for a good chunk of that story before he ran it out--attributed in no small part to having been recently exhausted by Doomsday back then), in favor of the kind of "turn out the lights and my powers go away" philosophy that was the hallmark of "Birdman and the Galaxy Trio" cartoons in the '60s. The silliness of a superhero whose powers vanish the minute he's deprived of the sunlight that powers him--thus making him less effective than most solar-powered calculators--was alright in Saturday morning cartoons, but when it's the premise of a life-or-death issue of a Superman comic, it's more troublesome. That said, the art is terrific and the writing and pacing of this story has been some of the best James Robinson has done since returning to DC. While fans are likely to find the bodies of defeated DC heroes strewn about the pages a little frustrating, it's all part of Robinson's greater scheme to make the whole thing seem abrupt and brutal. And it works.


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