Greetings, Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with the rockin' reviewers of the Best Shots team! We've got a ton of Rapid-Fire Reviews for your reading enjoyment, including the latest from DC, Marvel, Dynamite and IDW — and that's just the beginning. We've also got a ton of back-issue reviews as well, over at the Best Shots Topic page. And now, let's kick off today's column with some hammer-time, as Aaron checks out the first issue of Matt Fraction's new series, The Mighty Thor…
The Mighty Thor #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran;
FF #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): Already, I'm really enjoying this book. Opening up with some great character moments, what's so interesting about Jonathan Hickman's relaunched FF title is that even though Spider-Man is the big marquee guest on the team, it's Doctor Doom who truly steels the show. Every family has a jerk in it, but it's rare in the Richards household to have that dynamic of a family member you truly hate, and Doom's presence is a great catalyst for digging into each member of this increasingly large family. Steve Epting, meanwhile, provides a really cinematic approach with his art that I think really suits this new-and-improved team. Epting's not playing any particularly fancy tricks with anatomy or speed, but instead relying on body language, mood and the occasional action beat — watching how Ben Grimm square off against Doom, and how the fights ends, those are great moments. The thing about FF that I like the most is now that the "four" constraint is gone, we can fully explore the Richards' supporting cast without guilt, showing that everyone is an important member of the team. With so many different visual styles to the cast united by those white-and-black suits, the FF are fast becoming my new favorite team in comics.
Action Comics #900 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Colin Bell; Click here for preview): After following his tour of villainy in the DC Universe for close to a year, I was eagerly anticipating Lex Luthor's climactic meeting with the returning regular star of Action Comics. Unfortunately, all tension is drained from the conclusion to Lex's saga due to the awkward, near shoehorning, introduction of the Reign of Doomsday storyline to the book. Interspersed throughout what would otherwise be a compelling, near-classic face-off between an omnipotent Lex and Superman, the pages of a not-massively-inspired 'Supermen face off against Doomsdays' plot suffer in comparison to Pete Woods' work and at the same time interrupt the flow of the final chapter of The Black Ring. Disappointment at the climax of a most enjoyable story being hijacked aside, there's the obligatory page-boosting content you'd expect from an anniversary issue, and by and large it's good stuff—Damon Lindelof and Ryan Sook turn in an original and affecting ten-pager, and Geoff Johns and Gary Frank contribute a winsome short that makes you pine for them to being working on a Superman book on a regular basis again. Elsewhere there's a cracking Brian Stelfreeze pin-up, David Goyer slips in a subtle status quo shift (even if the canonicity of it isn't clear yet) and Paul Dini and Richard Donner bizarrely turn stories with near-enough the same closing line. Of the final two, Dini's fares best because it's an actual comic, whilst Donner's is a script running alongside storyboards and a strange way to round out the issue. As a whole it's a mixed bag overall — those looking for a solid conclusion to the last ten issues will find one, but they'll have to overlook some pages to get there.
Batman Incorporated #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Scott Cederlund; Click here for preview); After last issue's exploration of one of the first costumed loves of the Batman, Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette are firmly planted in the here and now as they present basically a large team up story with Batman, Batwoman, El Gaucho and the Hood (think Her Majesties' James Bond as one of the spandex crowd) all join together to get to the bottom of the mysteries of Doctor Daedalus. Morrison adds character upon character to this book and somehow they've all got to play a purpose but who knows how or when we'll be let in on that secret. This issue feels a lot like Morrison's early issues of Batman, where he was constructing his framework for Batman RIP. Like then, not all of the individual elements make sense on their own but hopefully will when the master plan for this series is revealed. Paquette and inker Michel Lacombe continue to create a wonderfully moody and grim looking book. With the heavy blacks, their artwork borders on being oppressive but adds a weight and solidity to Morrison's story. They create a physical and heavy presence for all of the characters that makes them look and feel more real on the pages.
Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness (Published by Dynamite Entertainment and IDW Publishing; Review by Aaron Duran; Click here for preview): Quick admission. I've never read a single panel of Danger Girl. Shoot, I didn't even realize that wasn't the main characters code name until I read Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness #1. Not that I had anything against the title, it just never connected with me. However, you toss Ash into anything and my inner fanboy demands I read it. You know what? I should have read them Danger Girl books all those years ago. The plot is simple, Abbey Chase (whom I thought was Danger Girl) must exchange a holy artifact for a man's life. Why do this man's captors need this artifact? Because it's the only item that lets one safely use the Necronomicon ex Mortis! Most contrived plot ever? Yeah, probably, but I could care less. This book is full on summer blockbuster action flick. Writer Andy Hartnell has a good grasp on gunplay banter and hard-edged one-liners. In any other book, a repetitive line about blowing up a mini-gun would get old, fast. In this one? Heck yeah, bring it on. Chris Bolson's art does a great job of keeping up with the Hartnell's crazy plot. Every bullet has a speed line, everyone stands with that come hither look, and I'm pretty sure I saw blood spray breaking the panels. It doesn't even matter that Ash doesn't show in this issue. Sometimes you just need a good dose of unapologetic action with a slice of cheesecake pinups. Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness #1 gives it to you with a wink and smile. Groovy.
Wonder Woman #610 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman): Diana seems more like herself in this issue than she has throughout the run of the infamous “All-New” reboot. As the storyline nears its conclusion, writers J. Michael Straczynski and Phil Hester are restoring the Amazon to her rightful place as a full-fledged superheroine. The grating sulkiness that (re)defined Diana at the outset is mostly gone, replaced by a confident edge that better suits her. Much. As she puts it while decking a demonic foe, “I’m not the stupid kid you beat before.” Message received! This has been the most enjoyable Wonder Woman issue since Diana landed in an alternate reality and began her journey to maturity. Here, she’s taking down her enemies with the combination of strength and compassion that her character is known for. The fill-in art is solidly good, and penciller Eduardo Pansica presents a combat moment with Giganta that’s badass and funny. The serious and the lighthearted coexist well here. There are more clever nods to Wonder Woman’s history, and for the first time in a long while, I’m genuinely optimistic about the next chapter. It finally feels like we're getting somewhere.
Venom #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): Rick Remender is a creator who deserves more credit in this industry — in particular, this guys is all about bringing back the self-contained issue. This sophomore issue of Venom is a one-stop shop, and I definitely dug it a lot more than the previous issue. The reason why? To swipe from Kelly Tindall, that's so Kraven. Kraven is the perfect lunatic foil against straight-man Flash Thompson, and the madness in the hunter's eyes is perfect for the energy and expressiveness of Tony Moore's pencilwork. And there is a ton of crazy to this book, including Kraven killing a giant spider with his bare hands and then eating the juices. Eating. The. Juices. With all these crazy images of Kraven skittering around the ground like a spider, or sneaking up on Flash high on voodoo dust, in certain ways, Flash actually gets left in the dust in his own book — he's definitely got a strong motivation in making sure his girlfriend Betty Brant doesn't have to "bury another liar," but as far as his characterization, he's still feeling like a bit of a blank slate. But with the action running high — and some serious stakes in the form of the suit trying to take over — there is still plenty to like here, as Remender and Moore show that a hero can only be as good as the villain he goes up against.
Xombi #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel): Xombi #2 finds David Kim in the in the throes of a supernatural showdown, and in the unfortunate predicament of get his arm mutilated by a snow angel. What is a snow angel you ask? It is just one of the many bizarre creations from the mind of John Rozum that inhabit the pages of Xombi. Rozum makes Chloe’s Wall of Weird look like paranormal preschool, and it’s only issue #2! The momentum is turned up a notch in Xombi #2 as the chase for escaped prisoner James Church lands David up against a monster that will give his nanites a regenerative run for their money. For all the intensity and weird contained in this issue, Frazer Irving executes it flawlessly. His eerie style is perfect for the tone of the book and he does absolutely phenomenal things with color. What is most striking is the individuality that he gives each character making it easy to get to get to know them. This is great for new readers on a new book. Rozum’s Xombi is fantastically creative, and Irving is a force to be reckoned with. Xombi is bringing something fresh to the DCU, and nuns with guns are just awesome.
Locke and Key: Keys to the Kingdom #6 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by David Pepose; Click here for preview): There are some books where the plot just takes a sharp left turn that hits you right in the gut. The final issue of this arc of Locke and Key is absolutely one of those books. Even though there is a fine recap at the beginning of this book, if you haven't been reading these books, go back to the beginning and do not collect $200 — because those who have been following this series, you'll find out that this is the payoff. If you've been following the Locke family, this issue makes your investment all that much sweeter. There are a lot of messed up qualities to this book, including what I believe is incest followed by brutal maiming. Did I mention this is not for kids? The main appeal for this book, of course, is Gabriel Rodriguez, one of the strongest talents in the industry today. I do feel like his pencils are just a hair sharper than I'm used to, evoking a little bit of that Doug Mahnke chiseledness to some of his faces rather than the more rounded David Lafuente style, but Rodriguez is so damn smooth with his artwork that the change is just that, a change. The story twists and turns a ton in this book, and it definitely bears watching later. If you're not reading Locke and Key, you're missing out on one of the best books in the industry.
Rasl#10 (Published by Cartoon Books; Review by Scott Cederlund); I'm sorry to say it but the story in Jeff Smith's Rasl got away from me issues ago. The slow pace in both the story and the of each issue hasn't created any kind of urgency in needing to keep caught up with how one issue flows into another. The sad part, which may say more about my old and decrepit memory, is that I'm pretty sure I've read every issue of this series. For most comics, that would be a strong drawback in the entertainment value of the series but Jeff Smith sidesteps that problem in Rasl #10 by making this issue all about the loves and parallel world lives of Rob, the multidimensional art thief who is in over his head. You don't need to know exactly what kind of trouble Rob is in because Smith lets you know at the beginning that Rob is racing to try and protect someone he loves. That's all you need to know about this issue as Smith deftly makes this issue more about the characters than their specific troubles at this time. This issue plays much more with the heart of the series main character, as he tries to race and hold on to some constant in his life, a life that's almost nearly the same yet is constantly changing. Like all the past issues, Rasl #10 sucks you into new worlds as Jeff Smith continues to show why and how each and every issue of a comic book should be important.