Best Shots Extra


Green Lantern #65

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Doug Mahnke, Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Mick Gray, Tom Nguyen and Randy Mayor

Lettering by Nick J. Napolitano

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

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What do you get when you strip four Green Lanterns of their power rings?

Turns out, you get character.

For those who have been not quite as enthusiastic about the multiple power rings and ever-expanding mythology of Green Lantern, this issue is just for you. While there is certainly some high concept closer to the end of this issue, this issue reminds me of why I liked this series in the first place: It’s not the rings that matter. It’s the guys who wield them.

What I think Geoff Johns does in this issue that really got me was the fact that he’s really putting the Lanterns through their paces here. In particular, Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner have a great tension between the two of them, as Hal’s the devil-may-care lone wolf, while Guy is the blunt bruiser who’s uncouth enough to have a spaceship pour him a beer for the road. And the other thing Johns brings to the table is that he’s expanding the mythology and operations of the Green Lantern Corps in different ways other than just the various new power rings — seeing the secret of the Green House, an emergency bunker on an uncharted planet, shows that the Green Lanterns do have other means rather than just point-and-shoot. They have tactics, they think, they plan.

Artwise, Doug Mahnke is still bringing the thunder, particularly showing the human characters. While I think the colorwork on the first couple of pages is a bit too overpowering — Kilowog is looking super-pink on the page there — once we’re looking at less garish-looking character, Mahkne is actually bringing a nice sense of mood with the freezing winds of the Green House. Sometimes his expressiveness looks a little rubbery — this fluctuation may have to deal with the five inkers he has on 20 pages — but overall, this book is picking up visually.

Now, that all said, there’s a part of me that knows that this breather from the mythology is just that — a breather. I don’t have a huge problem with the way the ending goes, only that I’m going to miss seeing these little bits from Hal — including the use of the line from the first arc, “you’ve never flown with me before.” But this issue is, perhaps surprisingly, one of the ones I’ve enjoyed most in quite some time. While War of the Green Lanterns isn’t quite as easily digestible a concept as Blackest Night, if Geoff Johns and company can have more moments where we see the men behind the masks, I could definitely get behind this event.


Avengers #12

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson, and Dean White

Letters by Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

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I think sometimes Brian Bendis gets a bad rap. Even if some criticisms against his writing are founded, I think that very often he’s judged more for what he isn’t than for what he is. There have been a lot of ups and downs in his now record-breaking run on the various Avengers titles, especially in the 12 issues of the current, adjectiveless series, and I haven’t always enjoyed what he’s done, but I’ve stuck with it, because when his formula works, it’s aces.

The second arc of the current volume of Avengers has certainly been better than the first. I feel like, at least, the moments that have been building in the title have actually arrived, and most of them arrived this issue. And that’s what Bendis does; that’s his formula. A series of big moments, woven together mostly with intimate character scenes. In a lot of ways, it’s more like television drama than comics, and very often, the moments he’s building to kind of fizzle. While I can’t say that the end of the Infinity Gauntlet arc was full of jaw-droppingly powerful moments, I will say that it was probably the best issue of this book to date, and fulfilled at least its own promises.

This issue picks up directly from the last issue’s big final page. Sadly, Thanos doesn’t stick around, because I really, really enjoy the way John Romita, Jr. draws the big gray galoot. While this scene is brief, it does include one of Bendis’s best uses of Dr. Strange to date. Surprisingly, not a lot of time is wasted on chit-chat after the Hood’s conversation with Thanos. It’s all actually pretty fast paced, with several action sequences that actually do a little earth-shaking.

I really enjoyed the Avengers’ answer when the Hood questions how they plan to stop him — “Hulk with a Power Gem!” and a big red fist to the grill. I’ve actually really appreciated Red Hulk’s inclusion in this title. Bendis writes him with a kind of curt demeanor that belies his determination. It’s a nice counter-point to his usually talkative cast. After the Hulk and Hood duke it out, the promise made by the cover of the book is fulfilled, and we see Tony Stark wield the Infinity Gauntlet. Bendis really manages to bring out some of Tony’s actual personality; not Bendis’s voice through the filter of Tony Stark, but Stark himself. And with one fell swoop, Tony proves why he’s a hero, and also why he’s kind of a douchebag. It’s pretty damn good ending to a pretty nicely told story, and the last page really hits home.

I can’t say that this is the issue that’s going to change your mind about Brian Michael Bendis, or his run on Avengers, nor can I say that I don’t approach it with skepticism. I do feel like there are about 45 characters in the background of every shot that kind of don’t do anything, and I feel like the title would be better served if Bendis just wrote the characters that it seems like he’s interested in writing about at this point, like Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and Steve Rogers. You know — The Avengers. A lot of fat could be trimmed from the franchise, and it would probably be a lot more effective. To his credit, JR Jr.’s pencils on this issue are the best they’ve been on this title. He actually comes across as interested in drawing the story, rather than simply obligated to do so, and the energy is evident on the page.

Overall, this issue was a solid ending to a decent story. The people who hate Bendis’s Avengers will still hate it, those that love it unconditionally will probably swoon, and those that, like most of us, simply take it issue by issue will probably get the best they can hope for. If you’re a fan of the characters involved, or you like the concept of the Illuminati, this is probably an issue you’ll want to read. However, I wouldn’t recommend trying to get on board at this stop.


Marijuanaman Volume 1

Written by Joe Casey

Art by Jim Mahfood and Justin Stewart

Lettering by Jim Mahfood

Published by Image Comics

Review by Scott Cederlund

Either I’m too square for this book or I’m nowhere near stoned enough to get it. I’ll let you decide.

Marijuanaman is all about the responsible uses of hemp, from an alternative to petroleum in production to insulating homes to being a nutritional supplement. Oh wait a minute, that’s just the last page. The rest of the book is about an alien sent from a dying planet to earth who gains super powers when he smokes pot who takes on evil pharmaceutical companies who are trying to synthetically create the effects of pot.

Yes, seriously. That’s what this book is about.

Marijuanaman is a stoner hero. He sits around all day, smokes, has sex and occasionally takes on big business. Casey and Mahfood, creating a story around a character that Ziggy Marley created, are trying to create their own underground superhero comic while wrapping it up in a big deluxe hardcover. This is actually the type of character that Casey should be comfortable with, an uncanny outcast that’s commenting on other comics as well as on the story. He’s taken characters like Automatic Kafka, Adam Archer in Godland and even the recent Butcher Baker and created intriguing and insightful meta-characters. These have been characters who are about comics as much as they are fully formed characters. He can make characters operate on multiple levels but Marijuanaman falls completely flat, trying to fulfill a pro-pot agenda more than trying to develop the character in any way to actually builds and develops a story or a cast.

Too many of the characters in Marijuanaman are just types; there’s the foxy babe, the sidekick, the hero, the wiseman and the greedy corporate bad guy. That’s it. That’s all you need to know about any of the characters in this book. Well, you need to know those types and that the good guys smoke pot. There’s sadly no depth to any of the characters or their situations in this book. There’s no investment in them or any nuance that would make this a book you would want to return to over and over again to discover anything new.

Jim Mahfood’s art captures more of a freewheeling spirit that the story lacks. It’s sexy, dangerous, inviting and expressive. It’s exciting but it’s never strong enough to overcome the complete lack of any development of the characters. Mahfood creates fantastic images, creating a sexy and exciting mood that the story never is able to live up to. With bright, vivid colors and wild imagery, Mahfood gives the book the only energy it’s able to have. His artwork creates a different perception of reality. Everything is bolder, more colorful, more beautiful or grotesque than normal. Through his imagery and Justin Stewart’s colors, he conveys the feeling of an altered state even as the story rolls on with clichés and stoner dreams. Mahfood creates the experience that Joe Casey’s script is reaching for.

Marijuanaman is a stoner’s dream of what a superhero comic should be like. Casey and Mahfood get too wrapped up in their ideas for the characters and their situations that they never actually develop any of those characters. This book is filled with intentions but it all falls flat with the execution. And then, after showing a whole story about drug use, they throw in one page that outlines more responsible uses of hemp, as if they were trying to justify the other 50+ pages. Ultimately, Marijuanaman is a crass book, developed around a shaky idea and never given the room it could have used to develop to be something more than a doper superhero.

But then again, maybe I’m just too square or straight edge for this book.


Generation Hope #6

Written by Kieron Gillen

Art by Salvador Espin and Jim Charlampidis

Lettering by Dave Sharpe

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Colin Bell

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It’s a sad state of affairs, but superheroic youth teams in the Marvel Universe haven’t had the greatest of times of late. Runaways are still ‘on hiatus’, the Young Avengers’ appearances until recently were sporadic at best, and Young X-Men and Young Allies barely made it out the gate before being brought to an end. So what makes Generation Hope so different? Well, lots — and it’s exemplified perfectly in this issue.

These five mutant kids are not teen sidekicks. They’re not “The X-Men’s Pals, Generation Hope.” They might live with the X-Men, but they don’t idolize them — maybe Gabriel does — and they certainly don’t want to become them… one of them doesn’t even want to be a mutant. They train with firearms. They get in over their heads. Above all they, and their leader Hope Summers, want to change the way things are done — they eschew the advice of their seniors, they’re defiant in the face of authority and reckless. In other words — they’re punk rock, or in other other words, adolescence encapsulated. This ain’t your parents’ New Mutants. They’re strong young characters, blessed with a lack of quip-spouting that seems to be vogue in their peers these days.

All of this is on the page in the sixth issue, which sees the Five Lights, in their first outing as a team, head off to help the sixth light – the sixth new mutant to appear since M-Day halted mutantkind in its tracks. One of the more interesting aspects of the book is that its cast aren’t duty-bound to remain in San Francisco, giving Generation Hope a truly international feel – last time took them to Japan, and this month they’re in Germany. When do you ever see comics take place in Germany outside of Maus? Not enough for my liking.

Writer Kieron Gillen often wears his influences on his sleeve, so you’d be forgiven for surmising that his time in video game journalism is perhaps feeding into the current arc - if the first storyline was Japanese body horror devolving into giant Gojira punch-up, then this one looks to evoke survival horror in the vein of Silent Hill or Resident Evil, as Hope and the gang find themselves cornered in a dimly-lit hospital, meeting the sixth light in a creepy twist that’s not unpredictable (especially if you’ve seen Mike Del Mundo’s haunting cover), but still genuinely chilling. Asides from the spooky, Gillen brings the funny in the form of classic teen awkward crushes and inter-team jibes, where teammates mock each other for destroying Tokyo in previous issues. While we’re on the subject of humor, kudos has to go to letterer Dave Sharpe for making the word ‘thud’ funnier than it has any right to be.

Just as the title improves issue upon issue as the characters become more surefooted, so too does the art. Salvador Espin’s work grows stronger each month (barring the occasional fill in from regular Gillen cohort Jamie McKelvie, which is No Bad Thing), whether it’s imbuing Gabriel with an awkward geek-charm, or showing Kenji’s powers in all their freakish glory. Coupled with Jim Charalampidis’ colors you have a book that can shift gears from bright and cartoony to foreboding without feeling slightly jarring.

Generation Hope #6 is the best issue of the series yet, wrestling the title away from the cold, dead hands of the last issue. It’s all leading to issue nine — the issue that Gillen himself describes as “the issue, even if I wrote the book for a forty-issue run or whatever, that people most remember.” With that in mind you really should get on board and start reading Generation Hope before it became fashionable.

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