Greetings, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with the rock-solid reviewers from the Best Shots team! The team has been hard at work with yesterday's haul, as we've got some big releases from DC, Marvel and Image for your reading perusal. As always, if you're looking for even more Best Shots goodness, check out the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, let's think fast with George Marston, as he rides the lightning with The Flash...
The Flash #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by George Marston; Click here for preview): Ironically, I kind of wish this story was moving a little faster. We've finally gotten to the next twist, and while it's a good story development, parts of it certainly seem a little out of the blue. I definitely appreciate wanting to bring Barry Allen back to his old title with a good old fashioned Rogues tale featuring his old arch-enemies, but I can't say I wouldn't appreciate a bit more haste in reestablishing things. More than anything, I can't wait for Barry Allen to really shine. Geoff Johns displays a good understanding of the character, but sadly, the character doesn't really move past the old complaint that he's kind of flat. On one hand, Barry works perfectly as a normal dude surrounded by crazy happenstance such as time travel, talking gorillas, ray guns, and the like, but those things have to come at him a little quicker to effectively convey that he's the bastion of normalcy in the tornado of sci-fi weirdness. Francis Manapul really steals the show, however, as his art is just getting better and better. The story may be losing me a little, but the Flash sure does look cool running around and getting hit with freeze rays and stuff. Overall, of the ever-decreasing list of DC titles on my pull list, this is the one I look forward to the most, but right now I want more killer and less filler.
Thor #615 (Marvel Comics; Review by Brendan McGuirk; Click here for preview) As a creature of myth in a world of science, Thor has always occupied a unique space in Marvel's broader tapestry. In some stories, Thor is a god whose chief concerns surround godly matters. In others, it is the expansive cosmos that have drawn the lightning. With this issue, Fraction and Ferry seem to strike a balance that emphasizes less on the definitional parameters of godly science than on the storytelling possibilities of their intersecting points. It is telling that Thor himself doesn't make an appearance until halfway through this story, as nuanced long-form groundwork is laid by new ideas and threats. The harmony of the Nine Worlds is in danger from new and alien threats, and the Asgardians are at their weakest point in an eon. The stage is set for a taxing trial for the greatest of the gods. Meanwhile, Thor's characterization is rough and abrasive, battle-worn from the trials of Siege and its aftermath, and hearkens back to his pre-Donald Blake headstrong days. This issue promises huge potential to longtime Thor fans. With his Eisner-winning Iron Man run, Matt Fraction has proven to be an expert at challenging and redefining stalwart characters. With searing lighting and almost ethereal line work, Pasqual Ferry and Matt Hollingsworth have captured an entirely new voice in their visual execution of the Asgardian worlds. Finally, John Workman, famously familiar with the title after lettering Walt Simonson's classic tenure, brings the reading experience together with his comprehensive narrative flair. A new age of Thor is upon us, and it brings promise of bilateral action, regal melodrama and comedy most voluminous. So gather and rejoice, for the telling of a new epic poem has begun. And we're not even a stanza in.
Secret Avengers #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): A pretty good comic in its own right, with one flaw that isn't fatal... at least, not yet. Ed Brubaker does something unusual, taking a step back from Steve Rogers' new team and going down the continuity rabbit hole with a character from Nick Fury's past. It'd be disappointing, except for the fact that there's a lot of panache to this globe-trotting espionage detour — it almost reads like an issue of Secret Warriors, but can you really complain about more opportunities for Nick Fury to look ultra-cool? But I think the real pull here is with the art team — David Aja, Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano really tear it up, even if I'm not altogether convinced that colorist Jose Villarrubia gave the mood enough darkness. There's a panel where Fury disappears, with the newspapers he was reading fluttering across a park bench, that looks absolutely stunning. But the question, the potential fly in the ointment, is this: Why do we need this new character? It seems like an awful lot of continuity acrobatics — 22 pages, no less — to justify one semi-curious cliffhanger. If there's a plan, then I'll be interested to see where this guy ends up. If not, well, this super-spy may end up being the Secret Avengers' worst enemy after all — he'll be kneecapping their first arc.
Black Widow #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Teresa Jusino; Click here for preview): I was disappointed when I saw that Marjorie Liu wasn’t on writing duty for Black Widow this month. Thankfully, Duane Swierczynski competently steps up to the plate in the first part of his new story arc, “Kiss or Kill.” Poor Natasha can’t get a break, even as she’s trying to help someone who, based on wrong information, is trying to kill her. I was glad that Swierczynski has given Black Widow a difficult, emotional story worthy of her, and the ending was, quite literally, mindblowing. One thing: I don’t know that I bought that Natasha could ever convincingly disguise herself as a man, even in a mask and baggy clothes. This is a woman who made a burqua-like garment look good in House of M (I think!). However, Manuel Garcia’s harsh drawing makes everyone look a bit mannish, so I guess that helps? I miss Daniel Acuna’s style. Garcia’s hasty pencils are vague and inconsistent, save one or two panels, and much of it looks as though it was drawn in a rush. It may well have been, but I shouldn’t know that. “Kiss or Kill” had a strong start as a story, and I’m looking forward to knowing what happens next. I just don’t particularly want to look at it.Green Lantern Corps #52 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): It starts a bit clunky, but Tony Bedard makes Lanterns into Lantern-ade with the conclusion of his Alpha Lantern-centric arc. Let's start with what works, first — while I don't necessarily think Bedard has really done away with the Cyborg-Superman, he manages to tie together bits of his mythology with that of the Green Lantern Corps, making his defeat really make some sense (and give a fallen hero a bit of a chance to redeem herself). That's well and good. What doesn't work, however, is the pacing — some bits, like the ending, feel like a lot of padding, whereas crucial plot details, like Boodikka clawing her way back to the land of the living, takes place off-panel. As far as the artwork goes, Ardian Syaf is an interesting case — he's certainly rougher around the edges than his counterparts on the other two Lantern books (which makes me wonder how he'd fare on Emerald Warriors, which seems to be more raw with its protagonists). I like the fact that Syaf experiments a bit with his panel layout, but I think where he could improve is what he fills those panels with — the character composition and anatomy sometimes gets a bit shaky, particularly with a page where no less than five people are flying with their mouths hanging open. Not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination, but Green Lantern Corps might need a recharge in its art if it's going to survive. Batman: Streets of Gotham #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald): With the return of Bruce Wayne coming up, I thought I should take a look at what's up in the Bat-universe outside of my usual reads. Upon finding out that Zatanna makes an appearance in this issue, I decided this was as good a time as any and I was very pleasantly surprised to find myself really enjoying this book. Sure, I haven't read it since the early issues — but much like the soap operas I watched in college and occasionally indulge myself in now, it doesn't appear I've missed all that much in between and it was pretty easy to jump right in. As Hush continues to push his agenda, circumstances lead to a date with Zee. I absolutely loved Nguyen's design of her gown. I don't want to give any spoilers, but if you are a long-time Zatanna fan you have GOT to take a look. After enjoying the Dini/Nguyen team up in this issue, I'm definitely interested in reading back a bit to catch up on this series. Dini's dialogue is heavier, but intriguing and flows well and Nguyen's art is always one of my favorites. I'm really glad I picked this one up. The Walking Dead #77 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): I'm not sure what I was going to expect after not reading Walking Dead for quite some time. I'm not a fan of the series, the story, the art, although the fact it originally took place in my hometown of Atlanta always intrigued me. But why not try it again, right? Well, it seems to this tentative Walking Dead-head that this was indeed a filler issue or Kirkman has run out of ideas for Rick Grimes and company. Sure, the dialogue isn't bad, but it comes across as just stoic. Nothing really happens but more set-up, and while that might satisfy the die-hards, I'm just cavalier about the whole situation. Artist Charlie Adlard's style doesn't appeal to me either. The way he doesn't give the characters distinguishing features, could make it confusing for a first-time reader. I'm not expecting every issue of a book to be a home-run, but with a book like this, my attention just wandered after the first few pages. Superman/Batman #76 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): Books like this are always a challenge to review, because it's got the good, the bad and the ugly all wrapped into one. Is there another book this week that oscillates this much in tone and visual style? As far as the emotion goes, Judd Winick starts off pretty strong... and eventually flies off the handle. In certain ways, it's just a matter of pacing — there seems to be a little too much story to cram into 22 pages, and so crucial points of set-up like the loss of Clark's father or Nightwing's emotional fallout feels satisfying, but altogether a little short. And Winick isn't without some missteps — having Superman furiously shouting at Batman to "take it off" is more chuckle-worthy than cathartic. What I think sets this book apart is the artwork from Marcos Rudy, in the fact that it veers from genius to rushed and back again, sometimes on the same page — his opening sequence with Superman in silhouette is gorgeous, as is the shadow across Batman's face as he stares into the infinite. Yet other panels, like Superman during Batman's autopsy, looks so flat it almost looks like it was by a different artist. If you're a fan of Winick or Rudy or just curious about Superman's reaction after the Final Crisis, this could be a decent book to check out — if not, though, this might be one untold story that you can afford to miss. Ultimate Spider-Man #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Teresa Jusino; Click here for preview): Issue #14 is the final part of an intense story called “Tainted Love.” This issue, as was the one before it, is surprisingly dark, and Brian Michael Bendis has managed to bring Peter Parker to a really damaged place while maintaining the title’s lightness and humor when appropriate. Bendis has done amazing things to the Ultimate Universe dynamic, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Peter’s recent experiences change him, as well as the other young superheroes who live with him. David LaFuente is the perfect artist for this title, and Justin Ponsor the perfect colorist. Their pages have a youthful exuberance that’s appropriate for this cast of characters, and LaFuente’s faces do a lot to convey the emotional roller-coaster of the script. Also, there’s nothing creepier than Peter Parker’s head on a corseted woman’s body. (I just really made you want to read it, now, didn’t I!) Ultimate Spider-Man has been one of my favorite series for a long time, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here. Power Girl #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald; Click here for preview): Remember when I said I was removing this from my pull list? Well, I forgot. So there it was, waiting for me at the local comic shop yesterday. It's like an old friend you see going down the wrong path. It's hard to just look away. So I keep reading it, and I keep waiting for it to charm me the way it once did. If you're in the same boat, I'm sorry to report that this isn't the issue that's going to do it. After revealing to PeeGee that he knows her secret, much of this issue is spent with her trying to convince her employee Nicco to not spill the beans as well as finding her former accountant who has run the business into the ground. I do have to say that I enjoyed the fight sequence that kicked off the issue. I think that alone exemplifies my problem with this book — I just can't get into Winick's story telling. The art in the book works for me; Basri has grown on me and makes a very attractive book. However when it comes to the major plot lines and the dialogue, there's not the spark I'm looking for from this series. I imagine there is a fan base that gives a hoot about what is going on with Karen's company, but I'm just not one of them. Casper and the Spectrals #3 (Published by Ardden Entertainment; Review by George Marston): Casper the Friendly Ghost may be just about the last character you'd expect to find facing off against demons in an action/adventure comic. Just hearing that premise conjures the image of a direct to DVD movie done in bad CGI, or a mid-nineties "CASPER EXXXTREME" type of comic. Here's the thing; it's actually not that bad. Sure, the idea of Casper, Wendy the Witch, and Hot Stuff getting into scrapes with powerful evil forces is still a little jarring, but really, what actually goes on isn't much of a stretch. The three friends find themselves face to face with an evil spirit, freed from his ancient prison, and trying to take over the realm of magic. They end up overcoming this obstacle with, naturally, teamwork and the power of friendship. Todd Dezago is hardly a newcomer to comics, and he nails the tone, and Leanne Hannah and Kieran Oats turn in some charming art. All in all, this may not quite be the kind of trouble Casper used to get in, but this is a pretty decent kids comic with the same positive vibes that the classic Harvey characters used to throw around. Frankie Stein (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose): Say it with me now: "Daaaaaaaw." Frankie Stein is monstrously fun to read, as we follow a charming mini-monster with whom any kid (or any former kid) can instantly relate. Whether it's the way that Frankie talks about his hometown of Transylvania, Pennsylvania or his concern that there's a monster in his castle (or in the surrounding town), Steven Seagle establishes the cutest little Frankenstein monster I've ever seen. Meanwhile, Marco Cinello's designs are super-endearing, including Frankie's tendrils of curly blond hair or his ginormous wooden shoes. And that there's a strong message inside that any kid can and should pick up is just icing on the cake — this is simple, but oh so satisfying. And funny. And cute. Within about two pages of this, not only will you fall in love, you'll be reading this book out loud to girlfriends, children, even random pets that come by you. And they'll fall in love with this book, too. If you have kids, buy this book — heck, if you're even thinking about having kids someday, but this book, and get ready to wibble your face off. You really don't get much better than Frankie Stein. What has your favorite comic been so far this week?