Best Shots Rapid Reviews: SECRET AVENGERS, GL, Much More

Marvel First Look - SECRET AVENGERS #1

Rama readers, it's Thursday, and you know what that means -- your weekly Rapid-Fire Reviews! This is your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, and we've got some top-name books from DC, Marvel, Dynamite, IDW, BOOM! Studios and Archaia! As always, if you're looking for more reviewerly goodness, check out our Best Shots Topic Page!

Secret Avengers #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): Not a bad start, and one that really heats up when Brubaker ventures outside his typical comfort zone. I will give him a lot of credit in that the composition of this team is fascinating, and I think will lend itself to even better interpersonal beats than even Bendis' current Avengers team. Don't think you're just reading an offshoot of Captain America, though -- the "Mission Impossible" vibe is definitely there in terms of speed and tone. While that's well and good, it's the introduction of Nova that makes me think this book has some serious potential to go anywhere, do anything, going from the shadows to the stars fast enough to give you whiplash. Yet I feel in certain ways that the book could be a bit more catchy visually, whether its Mike Deodato not really delivering the "money shots" for introducing many of the characters, or even the lettering by Dave Lanphear, which I felt left some of the captions (like Worldmind) a little bland instead of giving this series a striking personal style. Still, this is a fun collection of characters, and if the rest of the team can start tearing off like Brubaker does, this might be the best Avengers book on the stands.

Green Lantern #54 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): This is a book that looks absolutely great, and that combined with some character moments with Hal and Atrocitus allows you to overlook the occasionally schmaltzy moment. Doug Mahnke just seems recharged after all the craziness of Blackest Night, with Atrocitus (and another popular Red Lantern) getting some great moments that really pop thanks to the color work of Randy Mayor and Gabe Eltaeb. There's another moment, as well, where Mahnke goes absolutely crazy, with Hal's power ring interacting with a White Lantern that is pure imagination distilled to the page -- yeah, it's great to look at. Where the book occasionally stumbles is with the awkward romantic beats, whether its Hal and Carol reconnecting or Atrocitus shouting "I have NO love!" Still, it looks like there's a nice globe-trotting aspect that'll come into play soon, which will bear watching.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep: Dust to Dust #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose): Chris Roberson is one smart S.O.B. Seriously, there's not much else you can say about Dust to Dust, which is an eminently smart first issue that sets up exactly what you need to know for a rip-roaring prequel to the Philip K. Dick opus. Needless to say, characters and their "powers" are linked seamlessly, and everybody leaves their mark. Robert Adler looks great, as well -- at times, he reminds me of Unthinkable's Julian Totino Tedesco, but when the lights go down and his shadows rise, he shows flashes of sketchy genius that look like Emma Rios spliced with the harsh lines of John Romita Jr. himself. Even if you haven't read the original Electric Sheep book (or BOOM!'s previous comic), this is absolutely reader-friendly, and is far from intimidating. If you like your stories smart and your structure immaculate, give Dust to Dust #1 a read.

Green Hornet #4 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by David Pepose): It's a fairly predictable chapter -- and one that could have been a great chapter as opposed to just a good one with a little bit more character work -- but what it does do well is action. Jonathan Lau and Phil Hester are a great team, who really pull off composition and movement with panache. And the last page -- well, if there's any one page that likely sums up the tone of Kevin Smith teaming up with Lau and Hester, this is officially it. (It's great.) But where I think this issue falls just a little flat are with Smith's contributions -- namely, I don't buy Britt's motivations for assuming his new costumed identity -- but that said, Smith could certainly touch upon it in the next issue. It may feel a little hollow, but the visuals are enough of a treat that I think Green Hornet is doing fine. Definitely my favorite series that Dynamite has put out yet.

Mystery Society #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by David Pepose): What if Mr. and Mrs. Smith founded their own Umbrella Academy? That's the vibe that exudes from Mystery Society #1, which has a writer who is so confident with his characters and his premise that the book manages to swing way above its weight class. Steve Niles manages to take the husband-and-wife team that he and Ashley Wood created and gives them a strong voice, down to Anastasia telling her husband "I plan on molesting you tonight, so come home in one piece." Of course, the super-spy stuff is well intact, with gas-grenades and taser fists and huge giant robots that will certainly whet your appetite. Fiona Staples, meanwhile, has that weird distended vibe that IDW occasionally has with their horror titles, especially due to the washed-out colors she uses. Still, there's a punk sort of rebelliousness with the movement, like when we Nick Hammond kick over a frozen-solid robot, or watching Anastasia take care of an unwelcome intruder. And one other thing that deserves mention -- Staples' panel layout is absolutely wonderful, with circular edges really giving a unique perspective to things. It's still unclear where this book is headed, but I'm definitely looking forward to next month, where we'll see if this series will find its own voice, or rest on its not-inconsiderably high concepts.

Fraggle Rock #2 (Published by Archaia Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald) Square in size, with a matte finish cover, virtually no ads, three stories, character bios, and a "how to build a doozer structure" feature-- Fraggle Rock feels very different than many other popular all ages friendly titles. This book feels more like, well... a book! In a size format that will seem more familiar to the picture book reading youngsters, I can see this being a really fun book to share with a child. As someone who grew up loving the television series, it seems logical that I would want to introduce the world of the Fraggles to my children (that is, if I had any). But since I do not, I will happily enjoy them in this comic format by myself for now!

Power Girl #12 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): Fun fun fun fun fun fun fun. This issue (Goodbye, Justin! Goodbye, Jimmy! And perhaps even most heart-breakingly, goodbye Amanda Conner!) has whimsy, sexiness, friendship, a nice honkin' fight, and some moments of utter cute. A lot of that, obviously, has to do with Amanda Conner's fantastic art. Did I mention I'm going to miss this creative team? There's just a lot of different things here that PG is up to -- pretty much no page feels wasted, except for a sequence with Satanna and Dr. Sivana (which feels a little icky, I won't lie). But it's nice to see all the different facets of PG's life that come back for this final issue -- I will say that any issue with Vartox in it is now a must-buy for me, thanks to Justin, Jimmy and Amanda's hilarious handling of the over-the-top chaps-wearing would-be Power-suitor. A softer exit than I would have ever expected, it's going to be a real shame to lose the unique tone of Power Girl in this industry. Here's hoping that DC will keep a good team together, and put this tremendous trio on another book, because Power Girl was unlike any other book in their publishing line-up.

X-Force #27 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): An extremely mixed bag if I've ever seen one. Let me start with the bad -- no matter how much I dig Mike Choi's art, it's tough justifying dropping $2.99 for half a book of silent action. I understand that it's to keep tabs on all the various X-Men as they pull no punches, but there are ways to weave it into the story that Craig Kyle and Chris Yost simply don't for the first half of the book. But the second half of the book is definitely some solid work, whether it's Prodigy freaking out about the sheer number of Nimrods against them, or Cyclops making some seriously tough calls in the name of mutant survival. The ending of this book has a lot of potential for an interesting conclusion -- ultimately, that'll depend on how far Kyle, Yost and Marvel are willing to go with Wolverine's black ops team.

Thunderbolts #144 (Marvel Comics; review by Brendan McGuirk): It makes so much sense. Why shouldn't the team of sorta-reforming super-criminals be led by Marvel's most heroic ex-convict? Luke Cage has accepted the gig as the Thunderbolts' new warden, and being that he isn't a total sociopath, he's likely to run a tighter ship than that his predecessor, Norman Osborn. This first issue of Jeff Parker and Kev Walker's run is somewhat of a boilerplate “Thunderbolts Assemble!” story, touring and justifying each cast member, and laying the groundwork for the group's ongoing dynamic. There is a lot of posturing in the selections, both between Cage and the new 'Bolts, setting up the characters' boundaries and foreshadowing the inevitable internal conflicts. The last few iterations of the Thunderbolts struggled to gain traction, competing somewhat with the Dark Avengers, which, despite efforts to differentiate between the two, still undercut the central premise of Marvel's premiere baddie- team. Parker makes some inspired casting decisions, most notably with the Man-Thing, who, with the Sentry out of the mix, is a good bet to be the biggest wild card in ensemble comics. The success of this run on Thunderbolts will predicated on the the ability of the creators to make Luke Cage a dynamic enough lead and leader to shoulder the title, and define it in his image. And his t-shirt even matches the lightning.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #2 (of 6) (DC Comics; review by Brendan McGuirk): So it's Batman, right? And he's, like, in a crazy episode of “Doctor Who,” bouncing throughout history while mysterious time-merchants look on. What Grant Morrison is doing with The Return of Bruce Wayne is vaguely akin to what James Cameron did with “Titanic;” we all know where this is going, so you had better wow us along the way. Of course, when Morrison stumbles, he does so out of ambition, so there is an even more pronounced sense of urgency to make this story as coherent as it is grandiose. Strip away the bat and the belt, and there is Bruce Wayne, still a champion of justice and deduction. In this issue, Wayne finds himself in opposition of the cowardly and superstitious lot that inhabit the Salem-era witch-hunt Gotham. Frazer Irving is pitch-perfect for this story, as his deep and dark renderings perfectly match the paranoia of the era. There are many loose threads bursting every which way in this series, but its biggest mystery may be whether or not Morrison can stitch them all together by the end.


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