Greetings, Rama readers, your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with Best Shots' Advanced Reviews! We've got a handful of tomorrow's latest releases, including some zombie-on-robot killer action over at IDW. In fact, let's just roll out right now, and see what IDW has in store with their first Infestation tie-in, featuring the Transformers...
Transformers: Infestation #1
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Nick Roche and Joana Lafuente
Lettering by Robbie Robbins
Published by IDW Publishing
Review by David Pepose
So. Transformers + zombies. Is this a dream team waiting to happen, or a peanut-butter-and-pickle sandwich in comic book form?
When IDW first rolled out its zombie-riffic crossover event, I was more than a little bit amused. It's that crazy-for-crazy's-sake, tongue-in-cheek office pitch that would likely never make it out of the cubicle anywhere else. And so for that, IDW, I salute you.
If Transformers: Infestation is any indication, this event comic is something that's been long overdue. Give a property a big enough threat, and the enduring qualities of these heroes — the qualities that will sell a bunch of books, no less — will be what inevitably solves the problem. Not taking itself too seriously, this book has some fun moments that will make for a great series.
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are at their best when they're off the leash, so to speak. The introduction has that old-school third-person narration, but it's such a clever bit of wordplay (even if has very little to do with what's going on on the page) that you're charmed despite yourself. They also cap the book off fantastically, inserting iconic Transformers catchphrases amid a cryptic warning. The end is near, and I'm convinced that this threat is the real deal.
Nick Roche, meanwhile, has a cartoony flair for this book that, at its best, looks particularly iconic — the introductory page for the Autobots is probably one of the best images I've seen of the Transformers in quite some time. Teamed up with colorist Joana Lafuente, Roche has some amazing clarity with his character design — so much so, that occasionally he overwhelms the eyes, packing in so much stuff that you
The one big problem this book has, however? The middle sags, as the Autobots and Decepticons fight one another while ignoring the greater threat around them. Don't get me wrong, I know it had to happen — but it goes on for way, way too long, eating up pages that could have been shown amping up the robot-zombie threat. Still, I was expecting this book to take a dive into the trash bin, but the fact that IDW is embracing the tongue-in-cheek, grindhouse nature of this book has really swayed me. Talk about two great tastes coming together!
The Last Phantom #4
Written by Scott Beatty
Art by Eduardo Ferigato and Vinicius Andrade
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by David Pepose
When I first read this issue of The Last Phantom, I was pretty surprised for a number of reasons. I thought that I was somehow in the midst of the second arc, or was well further along than just the fourth chapter — because this issue was exceedingly accessible. If you haven't been reading Dynamite's relaunch of the Ghost Who Walks, this is the place to start.
Scott Beatty, in many ways, is giving fans exactly what they want as far as a modernized, reimagined Phantom might go. Playing somewhat like a James Bond movie meets anything with Jason Statham, we're swiftly introduced to Kit Walker's skill set, his reason for being, as well as his history with the previous Phantom. Everything you need to know about this guy? Right here.
But as I was saying before: James Bond, Jason Statham, this book doesn't shirk away from the action. Kit Walker kicks some serious ass in this book, and while you might have seen similar outings from Batman or Daredevil, it's still a good way of hooking audiences in with some stylish sequences. While I'm typically a fan of deeper characterization, sometimes there's something to be said for just diving and showing why our hero is the best there is.
As far as the artwork goes, I'm pretty impressed with Eduardo Ferigato. His lines aren't perfect — he's doing pencils and inks, and so his art has a hint of brittleness to it — but his character design and composition are some of the best in Dynamite's lineup. (In fact, it's very telling when the actual Phantom costume is the weakest design of the bunch — all his characters look great.) There's a very cinematic vibe to Ferigato's work, which means that the explosions and scary stalking all pack a visceral punch.
While there is some occasional overzealousness to the work — giving the bad guy's girlfriend very pronounced nipples or having blood drip in the shape of a skull is a little groan-worthy — this revenge story definitely has all the ingredients to make a compelling, if simple, entree for new readers.
The Sea Ghost #1
Written and Drawn by Jay Piscopo
Published by Nemo Publishing Group
Review by Jeff Marsick
I've raved about the first two volumes of Jay Piscopo's The Undersea Adventures of Capt'n Eli in the past, especially what wonderful kid-friendly fare they are as digest-sized roller-coaster rides of thrills harkening back to the days of Hanna-Barbera animation (y'know, the Golden Age of cartoons). Jay's back, this time with a one-shot of the Sea Ghost, an Aquaman-type with Space Ghost inspirations and arguably one of the best characters from the second Capt'n Eli book.
The Ghost is living in the ruins of Atlantis with his two children, Triton and Coral, when he discovers a dimensional displacement doohickey that pinballs him around the universe to another aquatic somewhere, smack dab in the middle of a war between the underwater people called the Phlan, and land-dwelling humanoid simians called the Simas. Turns out both sides pledge fealty to a Lovecraftian supreme being called Vorrgoth and Sea Ghost smells something fishy about the whole thing. It’s up to Sea Ghost to reveal the truth and get the two warring factions to end their violent ways.
Jay Piscopo’s minimalist artwork is inspired by Kirby and with its bold colors the action practically leaps off the page. This was the kind of book I loved to read as a kid (before I got older and fell for grim-and-gritty), and reading it with my own kids it inspires "oohs" and "whoas" with each turn of the page. The Sea Ghost carries with him good messages for kids, about how choices shape our destiny, and how blind violence is not an acceptable means to an end. I only wish Sea Ghost had a little more going for him other than the cool costume and the ability to re-direct energy used against him.
Still, for thirty-six pages of book, it’s well worth the money. And that’s before I mention the guest artist pin-up of the Sea Ghost by Ramona Fradon, who, back in the fifties, used to draw Aquaman for DC and co-created Aqualad. Very cool indeed, and bravo to Jay for including her in this book. If you’ve got a little one who loves comics and you find acceptable material hard to find, look no further than The Sea Ghost #1.