Best Shots Advance Reviews: GREEN HORNET, CHARMED, More

Exclusive Dynamite Preview: GREEN HORNET
Face front, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here! Still reeling after Brendan's epic guitar solo for Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour? Let's go back to the future for a one-two reviewing punch, as the rest of the Best Shots team fires at will for some advanced reviews! With some looks at Dynamite, IDW, Radical and Zenescope, there's lots to see as the SDCC craziness heats up. And as always, if you're interested in more reviews, look no further than the Best Shots Topic Page! Now let's let Vanessa take the reins, as she gets acquainted with Britt Reid, Jr. in Green Hornet #6...

Green Hornet #6

Written by Kevin Smith and Phil Hester

Art by Jonathan Lau and Ivan Nunes

Lettering by Troy Peteri

Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Review by Vanessa Gabriel

Click here for preview

I recall when the inter-webs were abuzz with the news of Dynamite’s run on Green Hornet. Not being familiar with the series, I sort of glossed over it then. Upon laying eyes on the smoking hot Alex Ross cover, my interest was thoroughly piqued. I jumped right in at issue #6, which wasn’t nearly as daunting as I thought it might be. I immediately knew what was going on, and followed the story with ease.

Britt Reid, Jr. is given the crash course on the secret life of his now deceased father, who was the original Green Hornet. As Britt steps into the role, his brash youth and budding martial arts prowess is tested ... exceedingly. The result is an amusing glimpse at the relationships of the characters, and the type of guy this new Green Hornet is. I tend to like modern takes on old stories, and it can be great if done well. Smith succeeds in creating an evolution of Green Hornet characters that are likeable and ripe with potential. 

The art in the entire issue has win all over it. The lines are clean, the faces are distinct and beautiful, and the colors are simply delicious. Green, red, and an occasional purple are used for emphasis. Yellow is used to create a nice glow effect during some of the action sequences, and it works really well. Something else noteworthy is the design of the female character, Mulan. Her physical appearance is understated. There is no cleavage, ass-shots, or even the hint of skin. Yet, her presence is solidly felt through the entire story. Kudos to the artist for setting an example on how that is done.

The issue is an effortless read, and certainly a pleasure to look at. But it is clear that this is an adaptation of a screenplay. There are several pages which would have played out like a face-punching movie montage on the silver screen, but were just disjointed and confusing in my magazine. The clutter presses pause on moving the story forward, and lends more to character development.

I was pleased that Smith’s penchant for expletives and witty banter were center-stage. While the dialogue is punchy and entertaining, there were moments where it tries just a little too hard. You know that awkward feeling you get when you are embarrassed for someone? That dampens the aforementioned character potential. I hope the coming months mature the characters beyond such clichés. Currently, I care enough to wait and see.

Spike: The Devil You Know #2

Written by Bill Williams

Art by Chris Cross, Marc Deering and Ronda Pattison

Lettering by Neil Uyetake

Published by IDW Publishing

Review by David Pepose

In certain ways, Spike: The Devil You Know #2 is written for those coming in late for the story, and in that regard this book works pretty well. If you have even the slightest inkling of who Spike is -- ever seen one episode or even one commercial with the Joss Whedon character -- this issue works as a solid, albeit not revolutionary, beat-'em-up thriller.

I think a lot of that goodwill, of course, comes from artist Chris Cross, who gives some speed and mood to the fight sequences. Yeah, Spike himself doesn't exactly look stylish when he's in full-on vampire mode, but that's because of fidelity to the original television designs, and nothing more. What I thought was most visually interesting, however, was Spike's ally Eddie, who is able to transform into one cool-looking demon. While Spike himself doesn't quite have the visual oomph -- again, created for TV, where the look isn't nearly as important as the story and performance -- Eddie translates really well into comics, with his horns and tail and blue skin really bringing a nice change of pace to the fight.

Writer Bill Williams, out of all of this, is pretty well content to stay out of Cross and company's way. He's got a couple of chuckle-worthy moments coming from our bantering heroes -- particularly with Spike defending his "manly scent" to his demonic companion -- but past that (well, past that and one admittedly cool beat at the end of a fight) the characterization is lighter than you might want. Then again, that could be the television influence at play here -- you have to have a character that people can understand quickly, and you can't have "EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG!!" every few episodes. Even still, it's a little disappointing not to get more into Spike's head.

This book, while visually crafted very much for the mainstream comic fan, isn't necessarily a home run. While the art looks good, ultimately the characterization preaches to the choir rather than bringing in new converts. Of course, that's a bit of a double-edged sword: Spike: The Devil You Know #2 is certainly easy enough to jump into, but will new readers want to stick around?

Charmed #1

Written by Paul Ruditis and Raven Gregory

Art by Dave Hoover

Published Zenoscope Entertainment

Review by Vanessa Gabriel

Click here for preview

I dabbled in the Charmed series when it was on the air. I was not an avid watcher, but if nothing else was on it suited my entertainment purposes. There is a potential with a comic book medium to take a show like that to another level. The element of magic, three female leads, and character familiarity is an opportunity for imaginative art and an intriguing mythos (à la Buffy). The book wouldn’t be bothered by lack of chemistry or moments of awkward acting (which there was quite a bit of on the show). I started this issue with an open mind and a hopeful eye.

The story picks up where the show left off. The three sisters, Paige, Piper, and Phoebe have been living their lives rather peacefully after defeating the big bad in the TV series. As it goes for folks with extremely powerful magical capabilities, there will always be another dilemma or evil on the horizon. Of course, trouble is lurking, and we get a peek at it. Let me just say, trouble’s outfit is atrocious. 

Trivial as this might sound, the bubblegum color palette and the characters’ wardrobe — think Barbie and Ken circa 1992 — is a huge distraction.  In fact, the players themselves often looked like they stepped out of the old Jem cartoon. The art was stiff with gratuitous amounts of mid-riff and pink. While the artist manages to convey some emotion on the face; that hardly matters when you can barely tell the difference between the characters aside from hair color. I expected this comic to have a more sophisticated look.

The story in and of itself was okay, and fairly typical for an issue #1. We get a glimpse into each main characters situation as a sort of jump-off point, there is a set-up for what is to come, but no real suspense was established. The dialogue was clean and straightforward, and there was a “charming” moment or two. Given the sister’s new and improved plights in life, that makes them all the more vulnerable as characters. This has the potential to open the door for tons of stories that could demonstrate their various strengths. Awesome, strong female characters! The writer would first have to make me care about the characters. No such luck.

With a book like this, there is a chance to draw in some people who may not read comics, to read this comic based on the name. Unfortunately, I don’t think this issue sets a very good example. Fans might like the story, but will be disappointed by the art. I’d say that $3.50 is a hefty price to pay for disappointment.

Legends: The Enchanted Hardcover Graphic Novel

Written and Drawn by Nick Percival

Lettering by Comicraft

Published by Radical Comics

Reviewed by Tim Janson

When Radical Comics first came on to the scene a few years ago I really didn’t think they’d last long due to the production quality of their books.  Oh, not that the production was poor, in fact it was just the opposite—It was almost TOO good!  Square bound books printed on the highest quality stock with fully painted interiors…I mean how could these guys possibly survive in the competitive comic book marketplace without pricing their books twice as much as everyone else?  Hell, I still don’t know how they’re doing it but I don’t care!  The other thing you have to love about Radical is that they’ve had their success without venturing into the already too-crowded superhero genre.  Good for them!

Legends: The Enchanted is an all-new and original graphic novel written and illustrated by Nick Percival.  Think of it as Mother Goose & Grimm’s Fairy tales Meets Steampunk.  The fairytale worlds of the children’s storybooks are replaced by a world that is dark and industrialized.  Those characters are brought to life by Percival in stark reality… Jack the Giant Killer is a mercenary, hired by villagers to take care of menacing giants and other monsters with a seemingly endless supply of magic beans that confer various powers on him… Little Red Riding Hood hunts down mechanically enhanced werewolves with a pair of razor sharp scythes… Goldilox is a leather-clad badass who teams up with the gargantuan “Baby Bear” to rid the world of evil… Rapunzel Can control her long tresses to tear the heads off her enemies… they are joined by other members of the Enchanted: Hansel and Gretel, Jack Nimble, and Miss Muffet.   

As in most fairy tales the protagonist is an evil witch, a repulsive, rotting hag who finds a way to kill Pinocchio and destroy the charm that protects the Enchanted, making them mortal.  The Hag unleashes her ultimate weapon on The Enchanted, her son, the destructive troll who lives under the bridge, an unstoppable force!

Percival has done something damn near impossible…he’s breathed new life into old fairy tales that have become irrelevant in a politically correct world where it’s considered bad parenting to read children stories that have any hint of terror or the weird.  These fables have been replaced by The Wiggles and Elmo (who frankly are more terrifying than any wicked witch).  Legends: the Enchanted thus becomes a fairy tale for adults.

Percival’s art is both dazzling and brooding, with hints of influence of the great fantasy artist, Brom.  You can almost smell the stench of decay coming off the pages.  Think of a long abandoned manufacturing facility in any rustbelt city and multiply that a hundred times to get the feel of Percival’s world.  The story is self-contained in this book and hopefully we will see more new stories from Legends: The Enchanted in the future.

Pellet reviews!

G.I. Joe: Real American Hero #156 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by David Pepose): For those who aren't die-hard Joe fans, this might be a good place to start. Seminal Joes writer Larry Hama gives a nice ensemble feel to this book, introducing all the main characters, one-by-one. Some of the introductions -- like Duke and Roadblock -- gives the team some serious street cred, while a few other characters -- namely, Scarlet and Snake Eyes -- get a little bit of short shrift. There are some hiccups to this book, however, that I lay at the hands of both Hama and arist Agustin Padilla -- namely, for new readers it might be a bit difficult to understand that Cobra has taken over the country, or the last page that doesn't really nail a cliffhanger as much as bring a big question mark over a fairly minor plot point. It isn't perfect, but there's definitely something

Sci-Fi & Fantasy: Red Banned #1 (Published by Zenescope Entertainment; Review by David Pepose): Think Blade Runner meets Friday the 13th, and you've got yourself a pretty good idea of Zenescope's Sci-Fi & Fantasy: Red Banned, a book whose genre-spliced credentials make it both a good fit for Zenescope's style. Writer Tim Cox really does a great job at setting up this dingy, claustrophobic future, where everyone's a whore and murder is just made for your entertainment. (In fact, when you think about it, isn't that what the exploitation horror genre is all about? Interesting meta-indictment there.) Penciler Anthony Spay, in a lot of ways, reminds me of a rough-around-the-edges Dave Gibbons, who doesn't have to rely on splashy pages to get the fear across, only the look in someone's eyes as they see a knife glint in the darkness. Is there the cheesecake that a lot of people associate with Zenescope? Yes -- but I think that in this case, it manages to piggyback off the exploitative nature that many slasher stories have. Ultimately, I think the story does get derailed by the end -- it's not the most satisfying conclusion in the world, but I think the setup and the chase makes Red Banned something that's worth a look.

what books are you looking forward to?

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