Greetings, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with the rockin' reviewers of the Best Shots Team! Your dedicated readers have checked out 11 books, including DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, Image and ICON. Want more? We got your back, with hundreds of reviews over at the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, let's check in with Teresa Jusino, who takes a look at the final issue of Buffy: Season 8...
Buffy: Season Eight #40 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Teresa Jusino): In one issue, Joss Whedon has conveyed not only the entire point of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but the importance and brilliance of Buffy herself. Buffy realizes that “the trouble with changing the world is...you don’t.” Sounds depressing, but it isn’t here, and this realization of hers becomes the mission statement for the Buffyverse. While the final story arcs of Season Eight were a bit convoluted, Issue 40 succinctly describes how the aftermath of Season Eight - the deaths of one of Buffy’s dearest friends, the slayer line, and magic - affects the entire gang and every part of Buffy’s life. This issue also hammered home that, most of the time, we take Buffy for granted, getting whiny when she makes a choice we don’t think is right. But as Spike says, “They judge, and they carp, and debate--but put the scythe in their hands and they’d shake like a trifle on a train.” Whedon’s focused storytelling was complimented by Georges Jeanty’s gorgeous artwork. The faces Jeanty draws for all these characters will break your heart. And Jo Chen’s beautiful cover? That just might make you cry. Kudos to Whedon, Jeanty, Dark Horse, and Scott Allie for a brilliant end to this “season” of Buffy. Can’t wait for Season 9 this summer!
Memoir #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel): John Cassaday’s cover of Memoir #1 is ominous and brilliant. It could not be a more fitting piece of art for the story, and the simplicity of the cover is iconic. It is a great first image for this story. The ambitious journalist, Trent McGowan, is a bit of a cad. It seems he will be getting much more than he’d ever anticipated from Lowesville, but so not in a good way. Something is going to hit the fan, and it’s probably body parts. Nikki Cook’s pencil and ink work is stellar. She sets an apt stage for the story as she poignantly conveys the town’s desolation and utter creepiness. The citizens and scenery are something out of one of the gross episodes of X-Files. She also does an excellent job of distinguishing each character. The butcher immediately comes to mind. McCool's characters and dialogue move like a TV show pilot. Memoir #1 is sharp, and the story in the first issue has got a strong hook to it. If sci-fi/horror is your bag, Cook and McCool got a good thing going here. I’m definitely into it.
Superman/Batman #80 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose): Chris Roberson is at his best when he's able to play with a world's rules -- and there are a couple of moments where he really rocks the DC pseudo-science to great effect. Likely only the die-hards will get the internal logic, but that sort of sums up the old-school flavor to this book has in general -- it's not necessarily the deep characterization or thematic heft of some of Roberson's other work, but that's not why you read this book, is it? No, I think the appeal behind Superman/Batman is, well, to watch the World's Finest team kick some ass. And that they do -- Roberson in particular is really getting the original Superman's voice down, and I have to say that Jesus Merino's artwork looks like Tom Raney lushness spiked with some John Bryne classicism. Sometimes, however, Merino stumbles -- there are a couple of five-panel pages that feel a bit cramped as far as layout goes, and sometimes he tries to pack in a little too much at once into one panel. The one thing that took me a couple of reads to pick up, however? Because Roberson is juggling two separate eras of the Superman/Batman mythos (as well as cameos from an additional three generations), no one actually gets the big knockout blow, that iconic finishing image, to justify whose story this really is. That missing ingredient kind of takes the punch out of this return to DC One Million, but at the same time, I think a lot of fans will just be happy to see the 853rd Century's Finest back in action.
Amazing Spider-Man #652 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): I love Stefano Caselli. Great design sense, wonderful expressiveness. And pairing him up with his former Avengers: The Initiative collaborator Dan Slott? I was excited months ago. What I didn't expect out of reading their team-up was to go back to those old issues, to see what the big difference was with the visuals of this book. Make no mistake, Caselli is still a beast when it comes to the expressiveness of the characters, and there's a beat where Spidey clings to the side of a runaway rocket that will stick with you long after you read the book. But where I think this book could have been tighter? The epic cast of characters -- while Caselli had plenty of six- and seven-panel pages in The Initiative, he didn't have nearly as many people per panel in those days of yore. In this book, however, there are panels with sometimes 20 people in them -- that's a lot, and sometimes it detract from the visual focus. Still, it's hard to fault Dan Slott too much -- while sometimes the amount of verbiage can overwhelm the pages, he's trying to cram in as much story and emotional beats as he can, and the interplay between Peter, Carlie and Mary Jane is extremely gratifying. It goes to show you: Storywise, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing -- but if that's the only issue with Amazing Spider-Man, I'd say this book is still in very good hands.
Supergirl #60 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick): I'm torn. Awful cover aside, the main plot thread is a retread of The Social Network minus the Winklevi, which is just a groan-inducing cop-out in my book (the copycat part, not the missing rowers part). On the other hand, it's Nick Spencer (and James Peaty) on words and Bernard Chang on art which is about as solid a team-up as Aaron Rodgers and, well, any able receiver in a Packers uniform. The integration of the plot threads--Lois Lane discovering a conspiracy involving Cadmus, Supergirl going toe-to-toe with a curious foursome of villains, a Mark Zuckerberg analogue who could body double for Cold Miser developing an app for super-hero sightings--slash-cut across the pages is…interesting, if a little jarring. It's all foreplay, though, with great dialogue and I'm intrigued enough to want to know what's coming next. I haven't read a Supergirl issue since around number thirty and this is a factor of ten better reading experience than that one, so I suggest you get yourself a copy and come along for the ride.
The Invincible Iron Man #500 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick): What I've learned from this issue: Tony Stark is a moron and Matt Fraction should be writing Spider-Man. Tony's memory has gone dodo about a weapon system he's built (he's shocked that anyone with a cause could get their hands on his tech and use it for naught; a bridge I thought was crossed way back in the first arc of the series) so he enlists Peter Parker's help to track it down. Absurd, really, since there's not much more sleuthing than a Google search for materiel suppliers, something Tony could have done from his Blackberry. The trail leads to gang of low-rent wannabes with an odd origin that I'm surprised takes more than two panels for Spidey and Iron Man to defeat. Interspersed with this is a look into the future with the offspring of Tony Stark starring in three vignettes, “Ginny Stark”, “Howard Stark II” and “Tony Stark and the Mandarin.” Three different styles and the one in the middle is the anchor that pulls the other two down. It's the Fraction and Larroca team that is by far the best part of this book, and finally there's a writer who can make Peter/Spidey quippy and smart without ever letting him be cheesy and juvenile. It's a one-off that you can skip and not miss a thing, which is disappointing since it's the big 500 and should be somewhat memorable.
Young Justice #0 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman): Young Justice the comic is true to the spirit of Young Justice the TV show, and that's a good thing. The story by Greg Wiseman and Kevin Hopps is winningly lighthearted, and Mike Norton’s clean, playful illustrations match it perfectly. Having just sprung Superboy from Cadmus Laboratories, Robin, Aqualad and Kid Flash want form their own team, but their mentors are skeptical. Superboy’s adjustment to life on the outside, as well as his desire for Superman’s acknowledgment, gives the story weight. There are also a couple of laughs: Having taken Superboy in, Bart drags his new friend to the mall to buy some regular clothes. However, “Supey” insists on buying nothing but black T-shirts — a clever in-joke. All of the characters’ personalities feel right, and Batman makes an entertaining, grumpy/parental cameo appearance. Young Justice #0 does an impressive job of establishing each characters’ persona without too much exposition, and there’s a nifty cliffhanger to boot. It is a real treat to see another well-executed comic that is appropriate and accessible for readers of all ages. Let the adventures begin.
Avengers Academy #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): I have to hand it to Christos Gage -- this is probably the hardest-hitting issue of Avengers Academy yet. While many mainstream comics play it safe with their material, this issue goes in the other direction, taking a hard look at the emotional fallout of Tigra being assaulted in the pages of New Avengers. To his credit, Gage doesn't shy away from the reactions, or the slightly grimy feeling you get when you realize how the academy students found out about it. "Powerless" is a good description for this book, as Gage takes an unflinching look at power and revenge. The artwork by Mike McKone is also largely a plus, with some great expressiveness from Tigra and the Hood -- that said, when there isn't an emotional beat to the panel, sometimes the characters can look a little plastic. Furthermore, Gage's dialogue could have used a bit of cutting to focus the product, and overall, I don't know if the theme of dealing with powerlessness necessarily gets the concrete conclusion that it should have. Still, the beginning of this issue and the very end will really resonate with you -- the idea of personal assault isn't the easiest thing to tackle, and while I won't say Gage and company always hit a home run with it, the ambition is enough to merit reading this book.
Scarlet #4 (Published by Marvel/ICON; Review by Teresa Jusino): The best new comic of last year kicks it up a notch in its fourth issue by pushing its revolutionary heroine to the next level of her revolution. She’s implicated us, and has gotten others involved in her quest for justice in the face of corruption....now, what? As she prepares to become the public face for this movement she’s started, she is not let off the hook so easily. She’s killed someone, and has professed a willingness to kill again. These are not matters to be overlooked. For the first three issues, we are clearly in Scarlet’s corner and ready to scream “Damn The Man!” Now, we are forced to acknowledge the wrong in Scarlet’s methods, even as we applaud her convictions. This balance between praise and condemnation of what Scarlet does is the best thing Brian Michael Bendis accomplishes in this issue. He gives us her partner in crime and her mother on one side, criticizing and questioning, and on the other a police detective who believes Scarlet has a point. Alex Maleev’s cover also conveys this balance, placing a silly Scarlet with her tongue sticking out in front of riot police, wearing paper bags with a smiley face on one hand, and a dead-looking sad face on the other. Scarlet continues to provoke and amaze, and this issue is an easy jumping-on point if you haven’t read the first three.
Streets of Gotham #19 (Published by DC Comics; Review by George Marston): With this later chapter of "House of Hush," Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen prove why they're one of the most capable Bat-teams around. Despite featuring only a small appearance by Batman, and very little action, this book sizzles, as more connections between the rich families and the mob in Gotham are explored. Dini's dialogue and pacing sing, particularly his writing of the Joker, which has always been one of his strengths. The entire art team, penciller Dustin Nguyen, inker Derek Fridolfs, and colorist John Kalisz all put in flawless work as well. This sequel to the fantastic "Heart of Hush" is quickly turning out just as essential. Must read!
Superior #4 (Published by Marvel/ICON; Review by Teresa Jusino): WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH THAT MONKEY IN A SPACESUIT?! This issue of Superior begins to really examine the issues that would realistically come up if an actual movie superhero came to life and suddenly decided to help everyone - there’s the reporter who wants the exclusive interview, the best friend of the boy inside the superhero’s body being helped with his bully problem, and the actor who plays the superhero in the movies - what happens to him? Mark Millar is exploring all of these things beautifully while striking a fine balance between saccharine and caustic. I’m not sure how willingly the President of the US would “let Superior help” with the war in Afghanistan, but I can let that go until the next issue. Now, I just need more answers about this DEVIL-WORSHIPPING MONKEY! IN A SPACESUIT! (it’s absurd that that’s a sentence I could ever write in any context, but there it is.) While I think Leinil Yu’s artwork is perfect for this title, his cover for this issue was a huge misstep and unnecessarily “cheesecakey.” The reporter’s enormous breasts don’t even look like real fake breasts. And the strap of her shirt has broken, allowing her breast to practically fall out? Really? From falling down? Was that really necessary?