Face front, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, ready to take aim and pull the trigger with the Best Shots team and our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Get ready for some fireworks, as we take on books from Marvel, DC, Vertigo and BOOM! Studios, ranging from close encounters with the New Gods to the last showdown for May Parker. Looking for more? We got your back, with the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, let's fill in the blanks with Bruce Wayne, as we take a look at Batman #702...Batman #702 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): "There are holes in my awareness and they seem to be getting bigger." You're not the only one, Bats. Grant Morrison moves fast, sometimes even faster than you can follow with Batman #702, giving us a long-delayed look back at the DC megaevent of 2008, Final Crisis. But in a lot of ways, I now really appreciate the embryonic idea Morrison is cooking with the New Gods, the idea of multiple meanings and everything they touch turning to myth. The New Gods may be living metaphor, but Batman is above war and pain and fear — he is survival. Meanwhile, I'm really digging Tony Daniel's style — it's like a rougher, almost claylike version of the Jim Lee style, as he inks his own work and really seems to be stretching with his panel composition. Daniel may not be my favorite artist, but I give him a lot of credit for pushing himself. Colorist Ian Hannin also deserves some real credit, for making pages — particularly the evocative red and violet credits page — really pop. There will be those, however, who are less than impressed with the return to this oft-maligned period in recent DC history, and of course the learning curve might be a little bit high. And there will also be those who might find Morrison is almost trying too hard with his time-travel/New Gods story logic — I know I had to reread it a few times to properly digest it. But I like that — I like being able to unlock new meaning in a book by looking at it at new angles. While the Omega Sanction may be too unwieldy for most continuity artists to grapple with, high-experience Bat-fans should definitely make the plunge.
Wonder Woman #602 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): Reading this book, it reminded me of J. Michael Straczynski's background writing for television — because I think that this issue of Wonder Woman would have worked far better as a cinematic work. When it comes to film and television, I think comic fans end up sometimes appreciating it even more — it's all that spectacle, all that exacting detail, put on "just for them." Because there are a lot of moments here that Straczysnki comes up with — whether it's Diana's heart-to-heart with a statue of a goddess, or the two splash pages of Diana tearing through crowds of people — that I think would have translated better with more detail, more movement, more time. Yet in this static medium of comics, I think a lot of JMS's stage direction is getting lost, even with the art of Don Kramer and Eduardo Pansica. For those who weren't such a fan of Wondy's new costume, unfortunately, Kramer and Panscia don't really sell it to you — it's funny, because while I know there were a lot of people who felt her star-spangled swimsuit was too sexed-up for their tastes, this new costume is all bosom, with the thin chest symbol emphasizing Diana to levels that might make even Power Girl jealous. (That said, once the jacket goes, Diana's outfit looks a lot better.) I think the ending might be, in certain ways, a little too subtle for its own good, particularly since Diana's personality is still in flux. Is this really the birth of the all-new, all-different Wonder Woman? If JMS, Kramer and Pansica can play to each other's strengths and capitalize on the emotional content rather than the fireworks, next month could show some real promise.Spider-Girl: The End (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald; Click here for preview): It was a light week in my pull box this week, so I stood in front of the wall of new books wondering what else I could pick up to feed my comic addiction. Enter this Spider-Girl one shot. While not part of Marvel's "Women of Marvel" one shots that we've been seeing lately, this was yet another good chance for me to get to know the ladies of Marvel, as I'm admittedly more of a DC and Indie book reader. Another plus was that the book is marked as all-ages, a definite interest point for me as a children's librarian always on the hunt for comics to recommend to my young patrons. Set far into the future, a mysterious Auntie M. is telling the story of Spider-Girl to a group of children. The issue is very heavy on dialogue, but it seems necessary to sum up this character in just one issue and is well done. It tells us the story, without seeming overwhelming or convoluted. We travel back in time to witness the showdown between May Parker and her clone, April, also known as Mayhem. I was a bit confused and lost a bit of interest as we went back to the future setting to find out more about this Auntie M. character, but it turned around and made sense by the end. I'm glad I stuck with it and didn't dismiss it at that point. With solid art and well-compacted storytelling, this was an enjoyable issue. Diehard Spider-Family fans will definitely want this one in their collection. As for the rest of us? It is a fun read, but unlike other one-shots it doesn't make me want to run out and pick up another series to learn more about the characters.
Captain America #609 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): It's interesting to see where this book is headed — even though it's still as solid as it ever was, you can't help but feel that Captain America's edge has been dulled a bit, that the book is running in its imminently stylish tracks. Seeing Bucky and his supporting cast gear up for a battle royale feels a bit familiar, given the circumstances of the Fifties Cap arc that concluded a few months back — Ed Brubaker certainly makes you feel that this is going to take a major toll on Bucky, but where's the newness here? That said, he continues to reinforce Bucky's character traits, which is a necessary part of making us root for this guy: He's not the cool cucumber that Steve Rogers was, this is a character that gets mad, makes bad decisions, gets captured and has to fight his way back to civilization. But Brubaker's normal deftness with the supporting cast kind of feels like he's passing time — particularly with Steve Rogers back on the scene, there's a weird vacuum that's going on here, making the story almost self-conscious as our heroes pummel one of Zemo's underlings. Butch Guice's artwork is particularly interesting, however — he's definitely veering from the more photo-realistic tendencies of Steve Epting or Bryan Hitch, sometimes moving towards Buscema blockiness or Breitweiser's lined expressiveness. He still makes his silhouettes — an unsung strength of this book, particularly with the black in Bucky's costume — pop, but it's interesting to see the more esoteric stylings come to the fore. In a lot of ways, this book is almost too organic — ordinary bad guys just aren't enough. With a little bit more spontaneity, it's time for Captain America to be all he can be.
Shadowland: Moon Knight #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): It's funny, because typically I am always averse to tie-in issues — and with Shadowland going all over the place, it was almost on accident that I picked up Shadowland: Moon Knight. But it's actually not a bad book, taking the issues of identity and destiny and really tying them up nicely within the current battle over Hell's Kitchen. Gregg Hurwitz returning to the character is probably the smartest decision that editor Axel Alonso made with this book, as Hurwitz's snappy dialogue gives some nice continuity for the loyal readers of yesteryear, while Bong Dazo's fluid pencils bring something extremely new to the proceedings. In certain ways, you almost get a Spider-Man-esque vibe from Dazo's figure composition, with the whipped lines of Spector hanging upside-down from his moon-copter. It's certainly not as grounded in reality as one might expect from a grim-and-gritty hero like Moon Knight, but tonally it's a surprisingly good fit, as Dazo really brings the speed and shadows that this book needs. And Hurwitz's story really brings you back to speed about Spector's world, whether it's his multiple personality disorder or his relationship with Marlene. The idea of Spector's tensions with his spiritual benefactor Khonso is also spun in a smart way, even if Spector's new rival accepts his mission just a little too quickly to be believed. It may tie into Shadowland, but with Daredevil only making a quick appearance, this gives Moon Knight more than enough room to bring in readers. This may even do what few tie-ins seem to accomplish these days: Have a lasting impact on the character. Definitely worth a look.
Dracula: The Company of Monsters #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Lan Pitts) Let's be honest, vampires are everywhere. They are on your television with shows like The Gates, Vampire Diaries, and True Blood (the two latter shows based off book series that pre-date the Twilight Saga). In our cinemas, with the mentioned Twilight Saga's adaptation, and of course numerous re-imaginings of our titular character: Dracula. Dracula is no stranger to the world of comic-dom, but here he doesn't take center stage...yet. Kurt Busiek has set up the dominoes and Daryl Gregory is ready to knock them down. It's part history lesson, part dark fantasy, that comes neatly wrapped up in art by Scott Godlewski and Stephen Downer. The question isn't should you buy this, that goes without saying an astounding yes, but what cover should you get? Dan Brereton and Ron Salas bring their A-game to the violent and historic imagery that is Dracula.
Madame Xanadu #26 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Vanessa Gabriel): Matt Wagner writes an absolutely touching story in the third chapter of the Extra-Sensory story arc. Drawn by Chrissie Zullo, her style could not be more suitable for the pure emotion this tale evokes. I love, love, LOVED her covers for "Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love." Madame Xanadu #26 is her first professional sequential art. I'd say she did a fine job. Sammy, a young boy, is lost and trying to find his way home. He can't remember where he's been or where he's going and help is hard to come by when you smell as bad as he does. Zullo immediately makes you fall in love with him; his honest face and big brown eyes. She creates a whimsical feel in a potent story, striking balance that reads well. The art is just friggin' delightful. Once again, the vignette-style of the issues in this arc is executed impeccably. Wagner manages to tap into an array of emotions in 22 pages, while keeping the reader guessing; each time creating a profound experience. I just get absolutely giddy inside when Madame Xanadu makes her appearance. Wagner has evolved her character into something serene, someone to be rejoiced. Her purpose is strong and clear, particularly here. And, she is by far one of the best dressed chicks in the DCU. I'd really like to get my vintage on in her closet, that is, if Zullo is designing. This is another excellent story in what has consistently been one of my favorite books. I read it twice.What's your favorite comic of the week thus far?