Best Shots Comic Reviews: SHADOWLAND, BATMAN: ODYSSEY, More

Best Shots Comic Reviews

Face front, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, helping you greet the work week with a lucky 13 reviews, as the Best Shots team takes a look at the hits from Marvel, DC, Dynamite, IDW, Avatar and more! Looking for more reviews? Check it, as we've got tons of books at the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, let's let Patrick Hume take a look at the shady streets of Hell's Kitchen, as he takes on Shadowland #2.

Shadowland #2

Written by Andy Diggle

Art by Billy Tan, Victor Olazaba and Christina Strain

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Patrick Hume

Click here for preview

My biggest problem with superhero books at Marvel and DC is that creators rarely have free rein to do what they want, due to concerns from the parent companies over disrupting the source material for what are often multimillion-dollar franchises. Thus, the characters exist in a peculiar kind of stasis, with drastic changes to their lives overwritten or disregarded once the next writer/artist team comes on board. It can be frustrating, because interesting stories often depend on their central characters evolving or changing in some way.

Then, however, we have the opposite extreme: a character that changes so drastically that they don't seem to have any recognizable relationship to what has come before. I feel as if that's the case with Daredevil in midst of this Shadowland event. Over the past several years, writers Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, and now Andy Diggle have really put Matt Murdock through the ringer, and to be fair, he's never been the most psychologically stable hero in the Marvel Universe. Nothing I've seen him experience, however, would lead me to believe that he would betray every principle and every ally to join the Hand and declare martial law over central Manhattan. Besides being a slightly more drastic regurgitation of Bendis' "King of Hell's Kitchen" arc, the basic implausibility of the premise undermines the whole book for me.

Beyond that, though, let's consider the individual issue, Shadowland #2. I found the action happening around Daredevil — the mysterious infiltrator, Cage and Iron Fist discussing how to respond to their friend's behavior, an old enemy recruiting some supernatural assistance — much more interesting than Daredevil himself. In fact, in his few short scenes, Murdock comes off as a second-rate supervillain, with pronouncements that the other heroes are either "with us [or] against us" and lame justifications for his actions. And then, of course, we conclude with the obligatory massive brawl. A couple of neat turns and unexpected concepts, but it really feels like Diggle is just going through the "big event" motions.

Likewise, there isn't much to say on Billy Tan's art. It's very good, it tells the story, and there isn't a single image that will stay with you once you put the book down, except perhaps for the arrival of an unexpected visitor in the dungeons beneath Shadowland toward issue's end.

I think most of us are as tired of hearing about "event fatigue" as we are of the events themselves, but this is really a time where I think the term is applicable. After all the upheaval in the Marvel Universe over the past few years, they need to give the crossovers a rest and let their creators just tell some stories. Daredevil has had enough going on in his own book recently without the need for an "epic saga" that will "change the Man Without Fear forever"...that's only going to get rebooted in six months or two years anyway. If Shadowland #2 had anything exceptional going on, maybe I'd be singing a different tune, but it's just another in a long line of drab, would-be game-changers.

Batman: Odyssey #2

Written and Drawn by Neal Adams and Continuity Studios

Lettering by Ken Lopez

Published by DC Comics

Review by Matt Seneca

“Huh?  What… I can’t hear you… guy… look?  Huh?  What?  Why?” -- Neal Adams, Batman Odyssey #2, 2010

Let’s get one thing straight: this is an incredible comic. If someone who hadn’t read superhero comics before picked up Batman: Odyssey, I imagine they’d think they’re all like this. In fact, the genre would be greatly improved if they were. This is what the superheroes were meant to be: adrenaline on paper. Gasoline explosions, blood explosions, clenched teeth, clenched muscles, speed lines, impact lines, color. Odyssey glories in the cheap thrills and nonsensical crescendos hero comics have discarded in their quixotic attempts at becoming “serious“.  In style, in energy, in its vicious speed and cocky swagger, it comes closest to a digital-era version of the best Golden Age stories; a hacked-out fever dream in which it doesn’t matter how much clumsiness or brillance is strewn over the pages as long as something bangs. And this comic bangs hard.  It’s not trying to be anything but what it is, and what it is happens to be a brutal mess of a story that pits a tourettic Batman against machinegun toting idiots in off-the-rack suits, Mexican terrorists with tears of madness in their eyes, and Americans’ right to bear arms. It’s the slimy guts of the superhero genre sluicing into one book with a feverish intensity, the crack cocaine of action storytelling.

Neal Adams’ art is a perfect mirror to the unhinged weirdness his story runs on. It’s very accomplished in its own way, full of kinetic movement, bulging anatomy, perfect perspective, miniscule details. But it’s way too much for the eye to handle, especially with the jumbled, rickety layouts Adams crams everything into. Ribbons of sliced-up black shadow scrape against hyperbolic facial expressions and clusters of crosshatching in every panel, destroying any flow or motion the compositions might possess. And added to the gouts of overdrawing is the most ridiculous computer coloring I believe I’ve ever seen, garish flash-tones that recall the psychedelic overdrive of Joel Schumacher’s Batman films. It’s like the folks at Continuity Studios looked at each panel their maestro drew, took a photograph of real people posed into that exact scene, upped the color saturation by hundreds of percentiles, and then slipped it in underneath the linework. This is “sequential art” only in theory — impossible to take in sequence, reduced (or elevated, depending on how you look at it) to exclamation point after exclamation point, its story disintegrating into a series of gloriously overdone action beats with the most tangential of relationships. It’s a pungent distillation of superhero comics, brawn and climax blown up to eclipse everything else. 

Adams’ art made his name, won his fame, and almost certainly got him this gig; but his writing rises to the occasion. Rather than attempt the impossible task of knocking sense into Odyssey’s crispy Dada-Liefeld layouts, it takes a vastly more interesting tack and matches the orderless mayhem of Adams’ panels with frequently hilarious, non sequitur word balloons. This stuff is light years from the typical hero comic’s bland, expository dialogue — every character, no matter how minor, speaks rich, lived-in words that are less concerned with moving the action forward than expressing some kind of ersatz personality. It’s like each panel’s players are striving for their own Iconic Comic Book Moment, no matter how incidental they may be to the larger story: bandits grunt “Gid’ouda da way jerk weeds” as they leap from moving trains, bystanders screech “I‘m hit!  No… I‘m not hit” under gunfire, and an old lady who Batman macks on with vicious abandon assures us that “my Roger won’t believe this when I tell him.” It’s almost enough to make the whole comic feel like a drug-warped joke, but the format and the house ads and the buttoned-down computer lettering are the same as in that issue of Green Lantern we know is meant as a serious piece of modern mythology, so …

So how are we supposed to read this book? It’s probably the most befuddling comic of the year, the sheer bravado of its genre-trope remixes veering crazily between laughable and transcendent. But though it’s tempting to look at Batman: Odyssey as an avant-garde art experiment gone wrong (or right, depends on your mileage), it stands tall as mainstream superhero comics, its venerable creator catering as best he can to the tastes of a populist market that likes its heroes gritty and its trainwrecks searing. (Yes, a literal train wreck provides this issue’s action centerpiece.) People talk about getting back to “pure” superheroes; well, here they are, free of Moore pretension and Bendis decompression, wading through the radioactive sludge-streams of the genre sewer on nothing more than a boundless, deranged energy, kicking the hell out of “art” and “literature” with pure comics.  Hails of bullets, science lessons, chest hair, questionable use of the English language — this is what it’s all about. And Odyssey is the superhero comic of the year. 

Avengers Prime #2

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer and Javier Rodriguez

Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

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As we move into the latter half of what is sure to be known as the "Brian Michael Bendis" era of Marvel Comics, very few threads still dangle from the tapestry Bendis has woven across the last five years. Those threads however, while few, constitute some very important aspects of the larger Marvel tableau. Fortunately, Avengers Prime is already gearing up to clear the last few scraps of the "Civil War"/"Secret Invasion"/"Siege" era, reuniting the Avengers' "trinity," reaffirming their relationships, and re-establishing things such as Asgard's rightful place in the universe.

To Bendis's credit things move with relative expedience here. After merely two issues, a clear objective and threat have been established, and the story continues to progress nicely. If I have one real complaint, it's that the presence of the "big bad," revealed at the end of this issue, seems to conflict with the ongoing story taking place in "Thor." It's possible that all will fit together seamlessly by the end, or maybe I'll just have to put on my "continuity-free" hat. Bendis' script is needfully reticent from his trademark snark, though some of the "thees" and "thous" feel a little forced.

Alan Davis puts in some fantastic work here, transcending some of the flatness that his work often has. Some of his visual tricks, such as implying a Captain America uniform on Steve by way of cleverly placed shadows are really nice, and manage to stand out while staying tasteful.

All in all, Avengers Prime manages to feel as essential as it should. Bendis and Davis strike a very nice balance between the Avengers-nouveau style that Bendis has cultivated, and the classic feel that Davis was a big part of during Kurt Busiek's legendary run, a dichotomy that is necessary to bring the Thor/Tony Stark/Steve Rogers triumvirate into the modern age.   

Brightest Day #7

Written by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi

Art by Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Adrian Syaf, Scott Clark, Joe Prado, Vicente Cifuentes, David Beaty, Mark Irwin, Peter Steigerwald, John Starr, David Finch, Scott Williams

Lettering by Rob Clark Jr.

Published by DC Comics

Review by Erika D. Peterman

Click here for preview

Boy, that Ivan Reis can draw. His close-ups of Boston Brand — the no longer appropriately named Deadman — are like clinics on illustrating facial expressions. Brand’s bewilderment over being brought back to life is endlessly endearing, at least when Reis’ pencils are doing the talking. 

Moments like those make me wish I were enjoying Brightest Day more, but despite the Costco-like surplus of stuff going on, this book has been remarkably stagnant at times. Of course, there’s been action in the literal Crack! Pow! sense, and significant nuggets of information are revealed in this issue. However, at this point in the series, the Brightest Day scenery still looks far too familiar.

Writers Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi have been democratic, giving each member of a large cast some time in the spotlight — a little Martian Manhunter here, a little Hawk and Dove there. I’ve got my own character biases, but certain threads are clearly so much stronger than others that it’s frustrating when they’re forced to make room for B-list drama. Is there anyone who finds the bickering Firestorm matrix duo as riveting as tragic lovers Hawkman and Hawkgirl? Anyone? Bueller?

To be fair, Carter and Shiera’s tour of the hellish Hawkworld (aka the Island of Dr. Moreau) occupies a decent chunk of this issue, and their storyline ends on a solid, cliff-hanging note. Most importantly, the world’s bossiest light fixture finally gives the resurrected heroes and villains their marching orders. Unfortunately, it does so while tossing out greeting card wisdom about embracing life and dancing like no one is watching. OK, I made that last part up, but it’s not that much of a stretch.

Considering the long list of artists working on Brightest Day, it’s not surprising that style shifts several times across this issue. It’s noticeable, but not too jarring, and the coloring is nicely done. There’s a simple but eye-catching panel of Aquaman kneeling on the beach, and the golden part of his costume gleams in the sunlight. And speaking of gleaming, the white lantern visual sequences, in particular, are pretty terrific. Brightest Day can’t coast on its good looks for too much longer, though, and this issue could be the turning point for all but the most committed readers. Even if the paint is beautiful, watching it dry gets old, quickly.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #3

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Dustin Weaver, Christina Strain and Justin Ponsor

Lettering by Todd Klein

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

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Well, this is an interesting choice — a full issue devoted to the villain of the piece! But no one's ever said that S.H.I.E.L.D. has ever been a conventional read. And while I'd never call this a bad book — esoteric, maybe, but never bad — there are a few touches, both big and small, that keeps the third issue of this series from its typical stellar output.

It's interesting, because in a lot of ways, for a book that is so into innovation, this issue feels almost ... playing it safe? Perhaps that's not the right word. But this villain-in-the-making piece has shades of Grant Morrison's Prometheus origin, mixed in with the surprisingly recognizable mythology of the Deviants. Yet writer Jonathan Hickman's strengths lie not just with his poetic turns of phrase, but when he focuses back on the Order of the Shield itself — you've probably heard about the Shot That Shook Galactus, and it's a great moment. And surprisingly, Hickman's prose pages at the back of the book? Easily the most interesting part of the issue.

Artwise, it's amazing what color does to a book's look. When I was reading the book, something seemed a little "off" about the images — in certain pages, such as the capture of Nostradamus, it didn't quite have the same ubiquitous "pop" to it all. Looking back on the credits, it wasn't all that surprised to see that colorist extraordinaire Christina Strain was paired with Justin Ponsor — and not that I don't like Ponsor, but you could certainly see the "seams" between the two. Artist Dustin Weaver, surprisingly, doesn't rock the boat too much with his panel layout, which is a real shame — that said, the pages he does go crazy with, like a shattered page of Isaac Newton climbing the stairs, it's just understated and completely beautiful.

All this being said, there's still a lot to like about this book — it's just that the subject matter, focusing on Newton instead of Leonid, does flat-tire the creative momentum that Hickman, Weaver and Strain had been building. There's some fireworks here to be sure -- and just because it isn't this series' strongest issue doesn't mean that S.H.I.E.L.D. still isn't a most refreshing read compared to just about everything else on the stands -- but it seems like this issue is a victim of the team's previous successes.

Red Robin #15

Written by Fabian Nicieza

Art by Marcus To, Ray McCarthy and Guy Major

Lettering by Sal Cipriano

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

Click here fore preview

Have you ever seen an ending to a story that's so out of left field, so in-your-face unorthodox that it colors the entire rest of the arc? Like High Tension or Signs, Red Robin #15 looks great, reads great, but ultimately will stick with you not because of its stylish interiors, but because of a puzzling story choice that may end up more distasteful than dramatic.

But let's back up a second, and let's get one thing out of the way here — Marcus To. Jeez, Marcus To's linework looks great. Is it too early to call him his generation's Mark Bagley? Because he manages to handle the conversation scenes with some real smoothness and personality before exploding into the action. (One shot of Tim standing on a rooftop in the distance, waiting for an assassin to strike... wow, who'd've thought one panel would look so dramatic?) His composition just really helps establish the flow of the story, whether it's Batgirl practicing her acrobatics, or Tim swooping in the air away from a defeated villain. The one complaint I have art-wise is Guy Major's colors do occasionally look a little too bright, a little too flat on the last few pages.

Now let's go back to the writing for a second. I'm not trying to pick on Fabian Nicieza. First off, he writes Tim Drake like Tim Drake — and that's no mean feat. And the thing he does that I particularly like is that he sets up Tim's world and his supporting cast very quickly on (and he even makes Damian his usual charming self). But what you'll likely hear about this story is that, while it sets up quickly and has some real stakes, it also wraps up a bit too neatly (which, to be fair, is hard not to do when you're cramming a standalone story into 22 pages). But it makes Tim's adversaries seem a little less than hardboiled, as it looks like sufficient prep time can create just about any victory in Gotham City.

Here's the thing, though. The ending. Jeez. It's tough to talk about it without giving it away ... but ultimately, there's going to likely be some folks who cheer it, and some who throw up their arms instinctively and say, "whoa, too soon!" It certainly feels a little questionable, to say the least. On the one hand, I can understand Nicieza's rationale -- he's trying to keep distinguishing Tim as his own character, and now that the search for Bruce Wayne is in the Justice League's hands, this certainly adds a wrinkle to the secret identity factor. But it also seems a little callous, a little dismissive of some people with some real-world issues. It's obviously too early to say what the masses will think of this new status quo, but if anything, it'll likely at least make you raise an eyebrow.

But will this be the ending that launches a thousand blog posts? If it didn't look this good, I'd tell you differently, but Marcus To has made Red Robin a charmer for months now. Ultimately, that visceral joy of just looking at the pretty pictures is this book's main strength, as Fabian Nicieza sacrifices a little bit of the story logic to keep things tight and accessible for new readers. And you know something? Maybe that's the best way to look at the ending -- the ambition comes from the right place, even if the execution falls a little short.

Supergod #4

Written by Warren Ellis

Art by Garrie Gastonny, Rhoald Marcellius and Digikore Studios

Published by Avatar Press

Review by Patrick Hume

Supergod completes the loose trilogy Warren Ellis began in Black Summer and No Hero, examining the idea of the superhuman and what its existence would truly mean for contemporary society. In the grand tradition of books like Watchmen and Miracleman right on down through Ellis' own The Authority, Supergod posits a superhuman arms race between the major world powers over the latter half of the 20th century that ultimately results in catastrophe.

Ellis' macabre humor is in full effect here, with the grisly framing device of British scientist Simon Reddin transmitting his thoughts on what went wrong to his American counterpart, as he looks out over the grisly tableau that is London. Reddin isn't exactly a protagonist, but certainly has Ellis' two favorite character traits - mild insanity and a sense of understated irony in the face of unspeakable horror. Ellis' critics point to his dependence on this kind of voice in his work; my response has always been that, if he does it this well, is it really a problem?

Ellis' other main appeal to me as a reader has always been his examinations of the possible real-world consequences of various science fiction and fantasy tropes, and Supergod delivers that in spades. Mankind's combined hubris and naïveté when it comes to our technology is obvious whenever we turn on the news. As Reddin narrates and we see the disaster unfold, it becomes clear exactly how our collective need for a messiah would lead us to build superhumans, and what a mistake that would be. Even as Ellis envisions a reality completely alien to the traditional idea of the superhero, it becomes all the more unsettling for hitting so close to home.

Ellis' "superhuman trilogy" at Avatar is also notable for his collaboration with some up and coming overseas artists, with Juan Jose Ryp on the previous two series and here with Garrie Gastony. Gastony's style is not quite as hyper-detailed as Ryp's, but is also much cleaner, helping to ground this subversion of the idea of the superhuman in a visual context that wouldn't be out of place in any mainstream superhero book. Ellis does a great job of stepping back and letting Gastony's art carry major portions of this issue, particularly the earth-shattering battle that forms the main sequence. There's also a great sense of movement in Gastony's work, letting us track the flow of events with ease.

The single unifying theme behind Black Summer, No Hero and Supergod has been that we can't wait for a superman to save us, because an individual with that kind of power is no longer "us" -- they are something different, and alien. As the elements slide into place for next issue's final confrontation, Supergod #4 demonstrates exactly why, combining cutting-edge concepts and widescreen mayhem to create that mythical wonder, a sci-fi/action comic that might actually make you think.

Hawkeye & Mockingbird #3

Written by Jim McCann

Art by David Lopez, Alvaro Lopez and Nathan Fairbairn

Lettering by Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Click here for preview

A thought went through my head when I read the third issue of Hawkeye & Mockingbird — where I think Jim McCann's biggest strength lies is not in writing either Hawkeye or Mockingbird, but particularly when the two of them are teaming up (or, more likely, at each other's throats).

That said, the plot of this issue focuses less on the duo's rocky relationship, and more of seeing the various seeds of McCann's plot threads bearing fruit. As a result, the emotion doesn't so much rise and fall as much as it stays on a hard 10, robbing this third issue of some of the more compelling characterwork, in exchange for some hard-hitting action. Yet the argument here, in a lot of ways, feels a bit shrill and one-sided — does Hawkeye feel any guilt over what happened to Mockingbird's mother? Are there any regrets on Bobbi's part for just not hanging up the mask and living a normal life? When you have characters that have so much potential to fight -- and grow, and learn -- from one another, it feels like I'd like a little more talk and a little less action.

Of course, that's not to say that David Lopez doesn't sell said action. In particular his take on Mockingbird is the highlight of the book, as she cuts a mean silhouette with her triangular shades — and seeing Hawkeye track down a sniper's shot using just his own powers of perception is a great study in expressiveness in a nine-panel grid. And I'll give McCann a lot of credit, he uses Clint and Bobbi's backstories to let Lopez give some real creativity in the use of weaponry here, whether it's Bobbi using her bo staff to break up a fight, or Clint pulling out a suprising weapon and going full-on swashbuckler with it. There's some hints of Ed McGuinness-style cartoony art here, and I will say, colorist Nathan Fairbairn does a fantastic job in giving the night sequences some real energy with his palettes.

Looking at the ending of this book, of course, you feel like the structure of this issue didn't quite come together the way the rest did — I mean, it's only three issues in, so as dire as Clint and Bobbi's situation is, the very nature of this ongoing series kind of takes the teeth out of McCann's death traps. That's not to say that this book doesn't have some serious strengths -- but it doesn't quite cut to the heart of the series' premise. Forget the swords, arrows and killer robots, that's not what Hawkeye & Mockingbird is about — it's about the daily struggles with love and relationships, and the bonds that not even a supervillain can break. Here's hoping that with this cliffhanger out of the way, we can toss aside the faceless cannon fodder and get back to what makes this superheroic power couple great.

Green Hornet Golden Age Re-mastered #1

Written by Fran Striker

Art by Bert Whitman Associates

Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Review by Vanessa Gabriel

The Golden Age comic books are a genre entirely their own. In the 1940s, America was coming out of the Depression, but engaged in another war. Roughly half the US population at the time read comic books. They were escapist entertainment and wildly propagandized. The re-mastered issue of Green Hornet is not the capes and tights that became popular, but it clearly had its place as a social commentary of the times.

There are four ten page stories of cops, robbers, reporters, and a vigilante. The plots are as straightforward as you can get. A crime is being committed; racketeering, extortion, money-laundering and the like. The police can't quite solve the case, but journalist Britt Reid tends to have the inside scoop on everything. The Green Hornet steps in and gases the criminals in to telling on themselves. Justice is served. Problem. Reaction. Solution. I guess irony wasn't a popular notion then. 

Folks wanted to know that the good guys were going to win, even if the cops fumbled or were corrupt themselves. The idea of a vigilante on the side of justice would have placated real life fears while simultaneously serving wish fulfillment. Perhaps the comics of today do that very same thing, but with much better art.

The comic art of the 1940s reminds me of your grandpa's “heart with a sword through it” tattoo. The lines aren't crisp, the colors are common, but you can tell that at one point it was probably a cool piece of artwork. Measured against the standards of the today, it's not much more than cliché. For the Golden Age Green Hornet the lines are simple, only primary colors are used, there is limited detail and everybody is wearing a suit. I imagine, once upon a time, that sort of thing worked just fine.

The “40 Pulse Pounding Pages” that the cover boasts is the most exciting line in the entire book. The characters are overly verbose to the point of comedy. The art is not enough for the reader to infer anything. All exposition is done in text; imagine very large speech bubbles. The 1940's dialect makes for an amusing read. Talk of worker's unions, butcher shops, and dames is hard to take seriously, yet they were quite serious.

My curiosity of comics of yore has been sated. A book like this is less entertaining than it is an education in anthropology. It's fascinating how far American culture has evolved in the last 70 years. The comics then and the comics now, are clearly a reflection of that. If you are into men in suits as saviors, women as secretaries, and criminals getting sent to “the cooler,” then you might have some fun. I was done when the only female character said she was “weak in the knees.”

Secret Warriors #18

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Alessandro Vitti and Imaginary Friends Studio

Lettering by Artmonkey's Dave Lanphear

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

Click here for preview

Secret Warriors has kind of been spinning its wheels since day one.  What started with a great premise, aided by compelling characters, and a fantastic artist, has kind of become the scraps of a promise that was never fulfilled.  Months of build up and investment in a set of characters and storylines has built to a climax that eschews all of those things.  What should be a catharsis instead feels like the remainder of a story I haven't been reading.

Perhaps it's a symptom of what may have been an unexpected ending date for the series, but the exactly wrong thing to do seems to have been dumping the entirety of the 16 issues preceding the current story arc in favor of what would normally be a story I want to read.  On it's own, "The Last Ride of the Howling Commandos" is a fine story, and while it does tie directly to what's come before, the absence of the characters whose stories I've come to care about, and whose arcs have yet to come to fruition is a glaring and damning omission. 

For nearly all of its 16 issues, Secret Warriors has planted the seeds of stories, and bloomed very few flowers in return.  With a limited lifespan now in sight for the book, I would have liked to see more of those threads played out, or at least given shape for whatever comes next for these characters.  While there's probably still time to reach that point, I worry that by the time the book gets around to it, it will be too little, too late.

Pocket God #1

Written by Jason M. Burns and Jim Hankins

Art by Rolando Mallada, Lucas Ferrerya and Paul Little

Published by Ape Entertainment

Review by Lan Pitts

Licensed property comics are nothing new and are becoming more and more frequent these days. If you haven't heard of this game, I wouldn't worry, you can still enjoy the misadventures of immortal islanders in Pocket God. Based off of the popular game, that is only available through the Apple app store (and is currently the number 11 top-selling item in said store) Pocket God follows six primitive islanders who are called pygmies. Now in the game, you play their omnipotent being and you can do whatever you'd like to them from earthquakes to hurricanes, to just plain levitating them. In keeping with the theme that these pygmies go against the worst scenarios, that is what the comic is all about: a vengeful deity who is constantly killing them, or so they believe.

Jason M. Burns has proven time and time again, that he has a knack for fun, all-ages type stories and this book continues that trend. While it may seem pretty brutal with the notion of killing these characters over and over, it's no more violent than a Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote cartoon (and who doesn't love those?). All six pygmies have different personalities, but have minor differences in appearances which, I admit, was confusing at first. Ronaldo Mallada has a great style and captured the essence of the game with his environments, and the pygmies themselves. He can also draw one mean laser-shark. The layouts are easy to read and is nothing avant-garde, but still enjoyable. Paul Little's colors are simplistic, yet not overbearing and suits the story. The back-up feature by Jim Hankins and Lucas Ferrerya gives us a hint at what might be exactly causes the pygmies to have their disasters and such. The art is more non-traditional, yet still cute and easy on the eyes.

For fans of the game, there are several in-jokes, probably even more than I realized. The Pocket God game has constantly been in the top-rated and this comic is on the fast track to follow suit (it's already number twenty-one on the top-sellers). Ape will release an actual hard copy of the comic in September, so be on the look out for that. I think while licensed comics are around, Ape is exploring new options with the app market. Now, I'm not saying there should be a Bejeweled comic out there, but I'd easily browse through a PandaMania comic.

Pellet reviews!

Kill Shakespeare #4 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Amanda McDonald): In this series, Hamlet is on the search for a wizardly William Shakespeare, Richard III and Macbeth are a deadly team, and Juliet Capulet and Othello are an item. Taking classic characters such as these and ret-conning their histories is a big risk to take. If done well, you've got a smart series for the more open minded and literary comic book readership. However if not done well, you've got a book that will leave readers scratching their heads, and not in a good way. Unfortunately Kill Shakespeare does the latter for me. I love the concept of this book, but it simply falls flat in execution. Authors Conor McCreary and Anthony Del Col probably have a great story thought out, but when it comes to execution on the page, the depth is lacking. There has been little in this book to engage me with the characters, aside from the curiosity of how Shakespeare will be portrayed. The dialogue is tongue-in-cheek at times with allusions to the classic works of Shakespeare or the times in which he lived, however those times are too few and far between. Art wise, Andy Belanger and colorist Ian Herring have done a solid job. Sadly, that's not enough for this book to stand on. With too little story to hook me and art that is good, but not spectacular, there simply is no reason to keep shelling out money for this one. Give it a flip through at the store, maybe it will find it's target audience with you, but for now I'll pass on this one myself.

The Murder of King Tut #3 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Amanda McDonald): I admit, I'm jumping on here at issue three, but on a quick look through this book I was intrigued enough to want to know more. This is yet another James Patterson adaptation; IDW is also home to the adaptation of his young adult novel, Witch and Wizard. As with the other series, it is very reader friendly and provides a concise but thorough summation of the preceding issues right at the beginning. Cutting between scenes of King Tut's time and the early 20th century archeological exploits of Howard Carter, the balance is just right for sucking me into both story lines. Knowing Patterson, as time goes on these two stories will be intricately entwined, but as the story is still getting set up Alexander Irvine is adapting what is essentially just the setting for now. He does so in a way that really does feel almost cinematic in nature switching back and forth between these two main characters separated by many centuries. Having separate artists on each story (but with a colorist in common), adds to the distinct difference between the settings and make this a book that seems well planned, well crafted, and with very high promise for continued entertainment.

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