TGIF, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, helping deliver to you your weekly dosage of Rapid-Fire Reviews! With books from DC, Marvel, Image, Archaia and even Albatross Exploding Funny Books, we've got tons of books for your perusal. Still want more? Then you're in luck, because you can check out our Best Shots Topic Page for the rest of our high-flyin' review team. So now that you're ready, let's take a read, starting with what's going on with Brightest Day... take it away, Huxford!
Brightest Day #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Kevin Huxford): There’s something about how the different segments of this issue were weaved together that was not entirely satisfying. Each bit feels less substantial than the number of pages devoted to it suggest it should be. Without using Deadman as an obvious tool of the story, it seems like the team is unable to or unwilling (for some unknown reason) to make all of the scenes read like parts of an overarching story rather than a weirdly structured anthology title with possibly one too many stories than it can service in the room available. Which isn’t to say the book isn’t enjoyable. It manages to be well illustrated and entertaining enough to be worth purchasing and continuing to follow, despite the nagging feeling that it could be better executed.
The Thanos Imperative #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): While I've dug the Marvel Cosmic books, Thanos Imperative: Ignition showed me that you've got to take the sci-fi continuity sparingly -- it was a rough intro, even for someone who knows the books. This issue, thankfully, lets the reader come back up for air, focusing primarily on the Guardians of the Galaxy and their struggles with the newly resurrected Thanos. Miguel Sepulvida does some great work with this issue -- he knows how to really nail the iconic aspects of even a small panel, whether its Rocket Raccoon threatening Thanos with "eternal life," or the Silver Surfer finally seeing what might be taking place across the galaxy. There's still a decent learning curve here, and the side characters like Nova and the Inhumans get a little short shrift, it's a fun read for those who have been keeping up with Guardians of the Galaxy.
Superman/Batman Annual #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): There's a relaxed pace that Paul Levitz gives this book -- and I think a lot of fans who have missed Terry McGinnis wouldn't have it any other way. Renato Guedes, in certain ways, reminds me of Phil Noto -- while the masks might look a little off, seeing the faces underneath (particularly Terry's) looks great. Guede's also does some great things with the panel composition, particularly when you see some Jokerz tearing off on a motorcycle to take on Metallo. But what I really enjoy about Levitz's story is that it builds up some nice subtleties to Superman's future status quo, whether its the proliferation of Kryptonite or how he's taken a new twist on justice. (Honestly, that part should almost get another issue in and of itself -- I wonder how Bruce would have reacted to that news.) All in all, it doesn't reinvent the wheel, but with 46 pages for $5, it's a nice leisurely ride through the streets of DC's dark future.
Invincible #72 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose): Um. Wow. This book is extremely hard-core. You thought the last fight with Conquest was brutal? This issue makes it look like a schoolyard fight. It moves as fast as lightning, but I will say that Ryan Ottley takes a lot of glee out of having these guys smack each other around like superpowered wrestlers -- and it shows. The composition is fantastic, and he discovers new levels of pain for Invincible and company. Robert Kirkman, in many ways, steps out of his own way to let Ottley sing, but he gets some nice licks in as well -- particularly with Tech Jacket, who might be able to get a new lease on life as a supporting character for the series. If you're looking for heartfelt characterization, this might not be the issue for you -- but if you want a book that will kick ass and take names, well, you don't get much more of that than in Invincible.
Chimichanga #2 (Published by Albatross Exploding Funny Books; Review by Brendan McGuirk): Eric Powell's strangely heart-warming tale of a bearded young girl and her beastly and beloved wild chimichanga is a lot like an early-era Disney film. If, that is, said Disney film was infused with modern-era abject pessimism and an unapologetic flair for the grotesque. So Disney filtered through early counter-culture era Mad Magazine, maybe. Little Lula wants only to save the family freak show, but her fellow freak-folk, too wrapped up in jealousy to know what's good for 'em, treat poor Lula and her precious Chimi with all the scorn one would expect of hostile and unimpressive freaks. With The Goon, Eric Powell forged himself a particular brand of comics; his bigfoot-inflected visual style meets perfectly with his late-night-at-the-bar style humor. Chimichanga is a tonal extension into an almost fairy-tale like world of circus-frontiersism, and, however discordant, corporate malevolence. Powell is singular and unique in his voice and approach to comics, seeming to need no justification other than “this is how I think it ought to be done.” Pay attention to Chimichanga. Don't let the petty freaks and evil suits win.
Red Robin #13 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): Well, it's official -- Marcus To has hit his stride, but good. You'd think that a book about Tim Drake would be kind of low on DC's priority list (especially since his raison d'etre has been taken over in Return of Bruce Wayne), but honestly, it's one of the more visually striking books of their entire publishing lineup. I also have to say that Guy Major's color work is a big part of that, as well -- maybe I'm just imagining it, but it feels a lot more nuanced, especially in the nighttime scenes. But you shouldn't discount Fabian Nicieza, either -- it's setting up a new status quo that, while it feels a little similar to Geoff Johns with Adventure Comics, it's got a unique flair (even, dare I say, a sense of humor) that only Tim Drake can provide. I'm still not quite sure where this book is going -- unlike the rock-solid high concept that the book started with of "find Bruce Wayne" -- but there's a lot to like about this issue. I'm excited to see where next month takes us.
28 Days Later #11 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose): Okay, seriously, badass commandos are a great visual tool to hook in readers. How do I know? Because Declan Shalvey draws the hell out of some badass commandos. The rabbit hole is certainly getting deeper with Michael Alan Nelson's story, but I think taking these survivors out of their traditional settings and pitting them against the human plague in their midst is a nice way to change things up a bit. Does the overall plan of the black ops people feel a little James Bond-ian for my tastes? Maybe. Do I feel that a little bit more Infected -- some real fear -- might help this series out? Maybe. But is the characterization still there? The despair? The very voice that seems to be lifted from the original film? Definitely.
Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard (Published by Archaia; Review by David Pepose): The magic of the mice is still there, but in other ways, this anthology shows that David Petersen's work is often imitated, but never duplicated. The best story of the bunch definitely has to be Jeremy Bastain, who seems the closest in visual and story themes with a story telling the very origins of the Guard. The only weak point Bastain has is his lettering, which is a bit too stylized and on at least one occasion actually draws your eyes to the wrong part of the story. Where Ted Naifeh and Alex Sheikman's stories trip up a bit is the fact that the set-up is there, but the resolution is a bit too sudden and predictable for my tastes. Shiekman, however, does get some otherworldly art for his contribution, aided by the color work of Scott Keating. All in all, if you're a Mouse Guard completist, this is a good book -- but when it's compared to some of the superlative other issues that Petersen alone created, it's still only second-best.
Mighty Crusaders Special #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Kevin Huxford): If you can get over the feeling that this was made into a special just to be able to milk an additional #1 out of the upcoming series, it is an enjoyable read as a primer on the Red Circle characters. There are several writers involved in this special, but only one pencil artist…and you come away with the sense that it benefited from both of those creative choices. Each of the Red Circle characters seems to have their strong/unique voice (possibly made easier by the team of writers vs a single writer from the previous series), while a single artist helps make for a consistency to the visuals that was sorely needed. If more of the Red Circle titles had this type of artwork, I’d hazard a guess that they might have been more successful , ironically keeping this special from ever being needed.