Best Shots Rapid Reviews: X-23, BIRDS OF PREY, More

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Happy Thursday, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with a ton of team Best Shots' special Rapid-Fire Reviews! We've got books from DC, Marvel, Image, BOOM! Studios and much more for your bite-sized review-reading enjoyment — and we've got tons more at the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, let's let Teresa start us off with the first issue of X-23...

X-23 #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Teresa Jusino; Click here for preview): Marjorie Liu doesn’t eff around. She writes female characters the way I wish everyone would write female characters. Liu’s women are always women, not girls — even when they are girls, as is the case for X-23. Liu isn’t afraid to have women be cold or ruthless or ambitious. She respects their life experiences, and she manages to give them a feminine sensibility without putting too fine a point on their gender. Liu’s Black Widow has successfully made Natasha Romanoff more than just a badass in a slinky outfit (though she remains a badass and still does wear the slinky outfit), and she seems to be going in the same direction with X-23, which pleases me, because X-23 is one of the most interesting and underserved characters in the Marvel Universe. She’s too good not to be done well, and Liu is writing her well. However, I was grateful for the guide to X-23’s story in the back of this issue, because a lot of the issue was dependent on X-23’s rather convoluted backstory. I would be remiss in my reviewer duties if I didn’t mention Will Conrad’s gorgeous art which, like Liu’s characterization, manages to be hard and soft at the same time; and Danni Shinya Luo’s spunky cover, which drew me to the issue in the first place. X-23 #1 is a great start to what has the potential to be an amazing series.

Birds of Prey #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald): As we enter issue five, Black Canary is all alone in facing the mysterious adversary, White Canary, that the team has been dealing with since the start of this new run. This issue reads smoothly as it switches among her storyline, Oracle mending fences with Savant and Creote, Huntress dealing with the Penguin, and Hawk, Dove, and Lady Blackhawk and the hospital. Gail Simone has a real handle on this team and I've got faith the story will play out to be amazing. However the art in this issue detracted me a bit from really getting into it. With dual pencillers and inkers, there are noticeable inconsistencies. Zinda and Dinah look annoyingly similar, aside from their settings and costumes. If two people have similar styles, a team up like this can be a real joy. Unfortunately, I found myself liking some pages much more than others. That small quibble aside, this still is one of my favorite series to look forward to each month. Simone has a great group of characters to work with and I look forward to seeing the challenges they face as they are spread out around the world.

Morning Glories #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; Click here for preview): When a comic has this much buzz, it’s impossible not to read it with unreasonable expectations. So I’m relieved to have thoroughly enjoyed Morning Glories, a comic that has so far seamlessly combined humor with horror and teen angst with action. It’s not easy to juxtapose a scene of a girl being tased after her parents are murdered with a Judd Nelson joke, but writer Nick Spencer wields a deft pen. All of the characters do embody classic types and exchange the kind of hyper-intelligent, snappy dialogue we’ve come to expect from teen movies, but shorthand is working for Morning Glories. Rodin Esquejo’s oh-so pretty cover art is undoubtedly a big draw for this comic, but Joe Eisma's inside panels are more abstract and roughly hewn. Still, Eisma’s artwork does a very good job of capturing each character’s personality, and thanks to him, I am now deeply frightened of Miss Daramount, the teacher from hell with the intimidating bun. This is good stuff, so try to put he deafening hype aside and just enjoy the spooky Morning Glories Academy tour.

Thunderbolts #148 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): "Ninja, please." This is the Avengers title that not enough people are raving about, which is too bad — because Jeff Parker and new artist Declan Shalvey are tearing this book up. Parker makes this book easy to jump into, walking us through all the various inmates' personalities (although I will admit, some captions with name and power would have been a little bit helpful in the scenes in the Raft, where all the characters are out of costume) and bringing this team of super-scumbags right into the thick of things quickly. It's nice to see Luke Cage have a little bit of a moral conundrum on his hands, and I hope Parker sees that through as this crossover book continues. Now let's talk a bit about Declan Shalvey — he transitions fantastically from the extremely underrated Kev Walker, as he really pours on the moodiness of all these characters. (His Luke Cage is easily the best of the bunch, particularly when he bashes a Hand ninja with a trash can. Wowza.) The fact that this team actually is more of a threat without its leaders is the makings of a strong dynamic — this is the Avengers book that you're likely not reading, and that's too bad. Because even if it's tying in from crossover to crossover, it's one of the best of the bunch.

Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel): Any book with Kilowog is alright with me, but I suppose that may not work for everyone (even if it should). As the second issue unfolds, it is definitely better than the first. Guy's jokes were not over done this time, and the scenes felt more authentic. There was some fleshing out of the character, and I'm certain we'll see more depth to Guy in the coming months; something I doubted previously. Whoever this Zardor of Kralok is, he's almost as creepy as Kryb. He's merciless, maniacal, out for revenge, and slobbers eye-ball eating snakes. Guy is totally going to have some wicked one-liners for Zardor come confrontation day. That'll be fun. Tomasi is a talented writer in general, but nobody writes gratuitous gore better than he does. Fernando Pasarin delivers said gore gloriously. I am, again, impressed by Pasarin's pencils. Sure the art is the traditional spandex style, but his proportions and lines scream epic talent. He also does well with fine detail, his rendering of faces is believable, and the splash pages are visually striking. I think Pasarin is a perfect fit for Tomasi's writing, and the Green Lantern characters. Honorable mention goes to Rodolfo Migliari's cover art which is sexy in a twisted way. The colors and the realism cause the violence of the scene to be secondary. Migliari is definitely a new favorite of mine. After the first issue, I wasn't sure how long I'd stick around on this title. With Guy Gardner heading into the Unknown Sectors accompanied by Arisia and Kilowog, I'm in for another issue or two. Let's see how good it gets.

Best Shots Extra: MYSTERY SOCIETY #3
Best Shots Extra: MYSTERY SOCIETY #3
Mystery Society #3 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Erika D. Peterman; Click here for preview): This a book with style. And it’s not just about the art, though Fiona Staples’ finely rendered illustrations are so distinctive and sophisticated that they’re a treat unto themselves. Her work is an excellent match for Steve Niles’ story, which is like a “Hart to Hart” for the 21st Century, only with robots and conspiracy theories. Despite all the gunshots and stuff blowing up, this issue maintains the same airy, humorous quality of the first two. (The portly robot that houses Jules Verne’s brain delights me to no end.) As for Society founders Nick Hammond and Anastasia Collins, they are such good-looking, unflappable and mutually smitten types that in other hands, they could become annoying, and fast. Niles keeps the charm factor high. The book also has its serious moments, especially with Society members Sally and Nina, African-American twins with special powers who underwent mysterious experiments in the early 1950s, and were essentially frozen in time. With only two more issues to go, Mystery Society doesn’t appear to be in a big hurry to tie up all its loose threads, including the search for Edgar Allen Poe’s skull. However, it’s a fun ride on a scenic route, one I plan to enjoy to the end.

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): It's funny, because I was just asking online what's the model of an effective first page for a comic — and Jason Aaron manages to touch down and create the perfect one. Who cares if Wolverine has a convoluted backstory? "I've done it all," Wolverine says. "I've had enough sex and killin' and drinkin' and drama to last me ten whole lifetimes. Maybe more." And that's when it hit me — that's why we love this guy! Jason Aaron knows what makes Spider-Man and Wolverine tick, and it shows throughout this entire story — yeah, the jumps in setting from issue-to-issue are a little jarring, but I think this is the issue that's really made me a believer. And let's not forget Adam Kubert here — he's got an image of Wolverine versus a planet that is absolutely to die for, and he just manages to pack in so much style in so much pages. This book is a total trip — read it.

The Unwritten #17 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Teresa Jusino): The Unwritten is one of the most well-written, intelligent, and engrossing comics series out there. Issue #17, which focuses on the series’ most fascinating character, Lizzie Hexam, is its best issue to date.  The series uses different children’s book tropes to tell its stories. “The Many Lives of Lizzie Hexam” is brilliantly formatted like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, making this a fun, long-lasting read! Lizzie, who is both a real person and a character from literature, is the perfect character to spotlight in this way.  What makes the story even more interesting is the theme of choosing one’s own identity that is weaved throughout the issue. Is Lizzie/Jane a schizophrenic? Or does she have the right to choose who she wants to be in this life, even if it doesn’t jibe with the personality with which she was born.  Does a desire to be a character from literature make her crazy, or true to herself? Mike Carey and Peter Gross ask a lot of difficult questions in this series, and this issue is a prime example of how brilliant comics can be as a medium when in expert hands. 

Batman Beyond #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): I've been really digging this series in the past, but there's no way around it: This issue is a little disappointing. While I'm totally for the idea of expanding Batman Beyond's mythos to include a Catwoman, Batman robots, Hush, and the like, there's a choppiness to the pacing here that is pretty distracting — we see Catwoman fighting Hush, and pull a new bag of tricks from her predecessor? Well, let's check out Dick Grayson now! Wait, what? By the time Oracle analogue Max abruptly drops in from a "trip to Opal City," you get the sense that the story by Adam Beechen is going where it's going because that's where he needs to go, not where it would organically follow. I don't really buy Bruce's motivation to have a replacement in the wings anymore than I buy Dick Grayson's reasons to leave the Bat-family — sure, there's tension, but the suspension of disbelief shatters. It doesn't help that artist Ryan Benjamin's work has gone from cartoony to just looking really rushed — there's one panel of Terry kicking hush that looks so unnatural that it looks more like Batman is doing a dance party than kung-fu fighting. Nostalgia and some good previous issues are what's kept this fourth chapter on its feet — as someone who's really enjoyed the past few issues, I hate to say that this book is disappointing me. But it is.

DV8 #6 (Published by Wildstorm; Review by Teresa Jusino): DV8, Brian Wood and Rebekah Isaacs’ series about a group of superpowered twentysomethings who are mysteriously dropped onto a primitive planet and seen as gods by its inhabitants, started out as a thought provoking series about the nature of power and the value of religion. However, as we’ve arrived at part 6 of its first story arc, the series seems to have gone off the rails. Nothing happened in this issue to move the plot forward, and while there were some character moments that received focus, I’ve lost track of who believes what and which characters want what out of this entire situation. Isaacs’ art, however, remains gorgeous, and is enhanced beautifully by Carrie Strachan’s colors.  This story arc has two issues in which to pick itself up again, and if the narrator’s story is going where I think it’s going, it could be very cool, indeed. (Hint: do you remember the last episode of M*A*S*H?)

Muppet Sherlock Holmes #1 (Published by BOOM Kids!; Review by Amanda McDonald): When BOOM! first announced Muppet titles, I was excited. I never guessed the series would evolve to where it is at now, with multiple titles. Newest in the line up is Muppet Sherlock Holmes, with Gonzo as Holmes and Fozzy as Dr. Watson. The issue had me laughing most every panel. Amy Mebberson has provided art on previous Muppet books, and she does the franchise justice. These are the Muppets we all know and love, but in 2D format. The book is sure to have visual appeal to kids. Although the title is published by the BOOM Kids! imprint of BOOM! Studios, Patrick Storck writes a story that seems very clearly aimed at adults that grew up loving these characters. Sure, kids will enjoy the book — but well over half the jokes will go over their heads. I've been reading the Muppet books on and off since they debuted, but this is a series I'll be looking forward to more consistently. I love Sherlock Holmes, and Storck has put a fun twist on it, full of winks and nudges for the adult reader. Don't dismiss this one as a kids only book; it really is a great example of all-ages.

What has been your favorite comic so far this week?

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