Best Shots Extra: FEAR ITSELF #3, FLASHPOINT #2, More

Is Bucky a FEAR ITSELF #3 Goner?

Is Bucky a FEAR ITSELF #3 Goner?
Is Bucky a FEAR ITSELF #3 Goner?

Fear Itself #3

Written by Matt Fraction

Art by Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Laura Martin and Larry Molinar

Letters by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Colin Bell

Click here for preview.

It’s fairly difficult to talk about Fear Itself #3 without spoiling what will invariably be the issue’s, possibly even the series’, main talking point. Suffice to say, in this book stuff gets real.

Following on from the last issue, the story continues with more characters being anointed “The Worthy” as Sin (or Skadi, if that’s your thing) carries on waging her Blitzkrieg U.S.A. in Washington D.C. To date there doesn't seem to be much to the Serpent’s acolytes other than they get a hammer and set about tearing down whatever’s nearby, and to this end it feels of little consequence. The scenery of the Marvel universe can get torn down every other week and be rebuilt good as new in time for the next issue, so it feels like Fraction’s missing a trick in showcasing the rock-'em, sock-'em aspect of the possessed hammer-wielding characters when exploring the emotional fallout of their possession could be more interesting, especially when considering this issue’s new recruit to their ranks. With four issues to go, I may just be jumping the gun expecting more from the scenario, but the consistent smashing is beginning to feel a little stale.

Elsewhere, characters are moved about in a plate-spinning fashion, so it’s left to the closing moments of the issue to finally add some gravitas to the story. Poignant and brutal, these last few pages hit home on an emotional level that previous installments of city wrecking just didn’t reach. While it’s definitely a step in the right direction, you’re left wondering why it’s taken so long to get to this point of urgency, especially given the fact that we’re nearly at the midpoint of the whole event with little in the way of solid plot.

Stuart Immonen continues to produce art that is the pinnacle of his superheroic work as he cuts from Asgardian war machines to Nazi death robots and any other idea Matt Fraction throws at him without letting his standards drop. There’s a wonderfully effective two-page splash of the destruction of one the Marvel Universe’s most famous streets that blew me away with its sheer power. Laura Martin and Larry Molinar’s colors are bright and complementary to Immonen’s clean pencils, particularly in the final few pages where they factor in heavily. While the story may only just be starting, the art team on this book hit the ground running from the start and continues to make it a joy to look at.

Overall it's a passable read, elevated and made noteworthy with what may be a key Marvel event for years to come. This may just be the beginning of Fear Itself kicking into high gear. Here’s hoping. 


Flashpoint #2

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Andy Kubert, Sandra Hope, and Alex Sinclair

Letters by Nick J. Napolitano

Published by DC Entertainment

Review by George Marston

I confess, I hadn't planned on reading Flashpoint. I skipped the first issue entirely, and would've skipped the second, if not for yesterday's Big News. Now, with a rebooted DC Universe looming on the horizon in a way that may even surpass what was done with "Crisis on Infinite Earths," I felt like I needed to see if there was any measure of what was coming contained in these pages. Sadly (as I found myself actually enjoying Flashpoint), it looks like the book is less of a catalyst for what's to come than an excuse for the timing of the reboot. All of that aside, if you can bring yourself to ignore the fact that DC has all but made it explicit that their current crop of titles are headed nowhere fast, Flashpoint may be worth a look.

Geoff Johns Super-Fan, Geoff Johns, manages to pull back the throttle a little bit with this story, wherein a de-powered Barry Allen finds himself thrust into an alternate timeline created by his nemesis, Eobard Thawne, better known as Zoom. In this world are many familiar faces, but few familiar stories. I'd liken the effect to Marvel's "Age of Apocalypse," wherein some of the situations, and even some of the characters are similar, but there's always a twist. Last issue found Barry Allen in a sparsely decorated Batcave, wherein he discovered that this timeline's Batman is not Bruce Wayne, but his father Thomas. Barry manages to explain the situation, with a little bit of taunting from Zoom, and Wayne agrees to help him regain his powers by strapping him into a lightning rod, and throwing chemicals on him. Meanwhile, cameos from Deathstroke, Steve Trevor, what may possibly end up being Superman, and a name-check for Lois Lane (all framed by a war between Wonder Woman and her Amazons, and Aquaman's Atlanteans) all go to great lengths to show that this timeline pulls no punches. The final page of this issue is certainly not the outcome I was expecting for the main event of the story, and, in a way, the knowledge that Geoff Johns doesn't have to worry about how rough he plays with his toys kind of makes the unexpected twists and turns a bit more enjoyable, if a little sadistic.

The only real downside, for me, is Andy Kubert's art. While it certainly tells the story effectively, I'm just not interested in it stylistically. It certainly lives up to DC's vaunted Jim Lee standard, so if that's your bag, you'll probably find it more appealing than I did. There's nothing technically wrong with it, it just smacks of an outdated standard, and because of that, I couldn't get into the book the way I wish I could've. The pacing of this issue is right on point, progressing the main story, and still managing to check in with some of the global changes. Perhaps by creating his own sort of mythology, Geoff Johns has managed to divest himself of his interest in his own stories. If these toys get broken, well, they're going in the trash anyway.

While it doesn't particularly speak to what's on the horizon, that may be one of Flashpoint's strengths. It lacks the investiture that comes from knowing that you're looking at the blueprint for the future of DC, such as in any of the recent "Crises," and for that, it serves only itself, something any DC story has failed to do for some time. Who knows? Perhaps, if any of us are willing to give the Johns/Lee vision of the DCU a chance, we may see a return to this type of story telling, wherein all that really matters is the next issue. 

C2E2 2011: SUPREME POWER Returns
C2E2 2011: SUPREME POWER Returns

Supreme Power #1

Written by Kyle Higgins

Art by Manuel Garcia, Michel Lacombe, Mark Pennington and Sotocolor

Lettering by Dave Sharpe

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

Out of all the books he worked on at Marvel, I'd argue that it was Supreme Power that truly had the strongest voice from J. Michael Straczynski. Sort of an Ultimate funhouse-mirror version of the DC Universe, the book had a dark, menacing tone from the very beginning that reflected on the government and the media's controlling nature, and how that might twist and eventually despoil any idea of "heroism" to come out of the United States.

With that all in mind, it's interesting to read this second volume of Supreme Power, written by newcomer Kyle Higgins, as it represents such a tonal break from what's come before. Focusing on accessibility above anything else, Higgins and artist Manuel Garcia deliver a fast-paced opening chapter that requires no prior reading, even if that means some of the more deliberate worldliness of Straczynski's earlier work is lost in translation.

That said, it's clearly unfair to try to compare Higgins to Straczynski. Whereas Straczynski had years of experience writing for mass audiences, Higgins is a fresh face, and so this book definitely has Marvel playing against type. Considering JMS left the book without completing it, it almost seems to explain the approach for this book: namely, starting off clean, and referencing the incomplete past works as little as humanly possible. Higgins accomplishes this with technical proficiency, as we meet Captain Joe Ledger, the Green Lantern-esque character known as Doctor Spectrum, and learn about the fallout from his predecessor, the Superman-gone-rogue Hyperion. The cuts feel almost filmic, which makes sense considering Higgins' background as a filmmaker, and that helps move the story along very smoothly.

Where I think this book ultimately veers, however, is the message behind it. Make no mistake, the reason why Straczynski's take on Supreme Power was as acclaimed as it was because it was such a clear allegory on today's society. That story might have had its moments of ham-fistedness, but it had an undeniable tone and message — not unlike the wildly popular Ultimates books from Mark Millar. Higgins is, in that regard, damned if he does, damned if he doesn't: He chooses not to ape Straczynski, which is understandable, but unfortunately he isn't able to bring anything as deep to replace that theme. There are a couple of great moments here that go by so fast, you'll likely miss it on the first read — there's a sharp line about world power being like energy, where it can't be created or destroyed — but ultimately this issue is about introducing characters with slightly tweaked status quos, even if most people reading this know who they are already.

Part of me wonders how much the change in art style has affected the work. Manuel Garcia has a clean, comic-y art style that's almost reminiscent of Rick Leonardi, with a very clean composition that really strives to make every panel look good — but again, that more traditional superhero style definitely flies in the face of expectations of what has come before. Gary Frank was such an important part of the original Supreme Power's success, because the characters looked so lifelike; Having such a different artistic style on the book reads like Marvel trying to establish a new visual tone and identity for this book, which is sort of a shame: No matter what the problems were behind-the-scenes for JMS's Supreme Power, the end product was not something that was broken, so trying to "fix" it ends up not working so well.

Ultimately, Higgins and Garcia are up against a particularly tough challenge, and considering how vastly different they are from their predecessors, they come up with a surprisingly good first shot on Supreme Power. Now, do I think that this issue is as good as Straczynski's aborted run? No — and considering that this book is produced by two unknowns as opposed to two fully established talents, that's not something anyone could reasonably expect. The depth behind Supreme Power may not be what it used to be, but it's not because of any lack of effort on these creators' parts. What I'm most curious about this book is how Higgins and Garcia plan to put their stamp on this book: If it's not allegory, what is it? Now that the setup is over, I'm hopeful that this team can take a bold new direction, one that defies the expectations readers had already set for this book.


Shinku #1

Written by Ron Marz

Art by Lee Moder, Matthew Waite, and Michael Attyeh

Lettering by Troy Peteri

Published by Image Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

Vampires: They've been a staple of folklore for centuries, and in pop culture for almost a hundred years. They've been perceived anywhere from noble monsters, to inhuman abominations, to even teen heartthrobs. Ron Marz, Lee Moder and company strive to bring vampires out of their sparkling image and back into the consensus that vampires are demonic creatures that will maim and kill you with Shinku.

The story follows young Davis Quinn as he wanders into the world of an ancient blood feud between the last of a Samurai clan, the titular Shinku, and the vampire warlord Asano. Shinku saved Davis' life when a local vamp takes a certain, shall we say, liking to Davis and took her head before she could get to third base. Davis is a witness to the existence of the vampires and the ongoing struggle Shinku's ancestors have had with them. His purpose is still unknown, but here's hoping he can survive because the glimpse we get of Lord Asano is disturbing enough.

Marz has been hyping this book for a while now. I have one of the ashcan sketchbooks when he was first promoting it, and that was at least a year ago. It is good to see this finally come into fruition. While Marz handles more mature themes in Witchblade, it's interesting to see him able to really cut loose and let the blood flow. He's also no stranger to the supernatural and Samurai stories, so this almost like a "duh" for him to write.

I haven't been too familiar with Lee Moder's work outside Wonder Woman and Dragon Prince (another creator-owned book which he teamed with Marz), but boy, this stuff is just excellent. The layouts are key here, as they feel natural and not cramped at all. Even when you have a lot thrown at you, it is still cohesive. Great use of colors here, too, by Michael Attyeh. His pallet meshes well with Moder's style, especially with Shinku's origin story. It just comes across very well put together.

If there was one complaint, I feel that Marz showed his hand too soon. I would have been more intrigued had I known less about Shinku, and more about Davis, besides him being a fish out of water guy in Japan looking to get laid. Marz can build a mystery, he's done it for decades, but I don't really feel anything for Davis, but I'm still interested in why he's so important to Shinku's quest, so Marz succeeded on that front.

Summer is here and with the big two flexing their event muscles, this was a nice break from that. I just wanted a bit more, so I'll be sticking around to see if I get my fill.


50 Girls 50 #1

Written by Doug Murray and Frank Cho

Art by Axel Medellin and Nikos Koutsis

Lettering by Thomas Mauer

Published by Image Comics

Review by Deniz Cordell

What a strange beast this book is. A title that riffs from a somewhat obscure musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb, a high-concept science-fiction idea, hyperbolic action, and good girl art are just some of the ingredients tossed with wild abandon into this slickly-drawn stew. I’m not quite sure the book knows what it wants to be – and, as it’s merely the first issue, it’s impossible to tell if that quality will end up being a strength or weakness for the overall structure of the series.

The opening splash page of 50 Girls 50 seems to promise space opera writ large – with more than a tip of the hat to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (and the Paul Verhoeven/Ed Neumeier adaptation) – but the fast-paced action at the top is another in the in medias res openers, which quickly flashes back to set-up everything that has led up to the predicament two of the intrepid female astronauts find themselves in.

The basic conceit behind the series is a curious one – a wild MacGuffin makes it so that only women with three X chromosomes can safely travel across the galaxy. Their mission: find resources to bring back to Earth. Naturally, something goes awry on the return trip, and two of the fifty crewwomen find themselves on a curious planet filled with giant insectoids, and something in the air that causes plastics to slowly break down.

It’s a side effect of the latter problem that causes the women’s spacesuits to slowly break down, and its here that Frank Cho’s imprimatur shows. The women are all lovely, and artist Axel Medellin gives them enough unique features so they can be clearly delineated. However, the increasingly revealing illustrations and poses are perfunctory – they don’t add to the story – even though Cho and co-writer Murray provide some other, more story-driven side-effects to the plastic that are far more interesting, and complicate the narrative and create further issues for the protagonists.

The scripting is fine, if not brilliant. The dialogue has enough variation to give an idea of each character’s voice. My main problem though, lies in the way the initial conceit is delivered. Fragments about the nature of their mission are mentioned in the story proper, but it is not until a supplemental text piece written by Murray that we learn anything of substance and detail about it – I wish a way had been found to integrate more of that into the actual comic.

The tone shifts wildly – there’s a cold science-fiction vibe onboard the spaceship (the ESS Savannah), and the adventure on the planet feels much like one of Heinlein’s “juvenile” books mixed with any number of Edgar Rice Burroughs stories – so fans of either of those should find much to enjoy here. The characters prove intelligent, with enough humor and human frailty to add a touch of realism. A high-flying climax escalates tension nicely, and the fact that it is built upon the resourcefulness of the characters not only meshes character and plot in an entertaining way – but also creates a genuine emotional concern that our heroes emerge unscathed. There is also a somewhat bizarre final panel, which hints at all manner of mysteries related to everything that happens before the events of the comic. It’s a curious enough image that could easily impact future issues in any number of directions – and the more I think about it, the more interested I am to find out what route the creative team takes with it.

Axel Medellin’s art is solid – in addition to his well-rendered human figures, his aliens are frightening, distinctive looking arthropods, even if they owe a debt to Earth insects, and various cinematic extra-terrestrials. His interiors for the Savannah are futuristic without seeming implausible, and his planetary backgrounds combine the arid and the verdant in an eye-catching fashion. His action poses are kinetic, thanks in part to some strategically placed blurring which guide the eye, providing the sensation of motion. Nikos Koutsis’ coloring work is sensational. Bright, eye-catching – and providing each location a unique color scheme – and plumbing each for all its worth. Make no mistake, this is a very aesthetically pleasing book.

But are aesthetics enough to recommend 50 Girls 50? As a first issue, it provides enough action and character to throw us into the crew of the Savannah, but the core of the plot thus far is cobbled together in an uncertain mélange. On the other hand, given the hints placed in Murray’s text piece of what may come next, and the quirky appeal of the story’s wildly veering tone, I am still reservedly curious to see how the creative team moves everything forward, and which elements they decide to emphasize.


The Tooth

Written by Cullen Bunn and Shawn Lee

Art by Matt Kindt

Lettering by Christopher Sebela

Published by Oni Press

Review by Scott Cederlund

More fun than an orthodontist visit.

You won't need any laughing gas to enjoy The Tooth!

Cullen Bunn, Shawn Lee and Matt Kindt take a bite out of periodontal adventure!

A tooth that comes to life and fights monsters and madmen sounds really ridiculous. It's one of those silly kind of ideas that we've all had at some point in our lives, usually when we're about 12 years old and the sound of a battling bicuspid strikes us as the most original and groundbreaking books ever. And then as we grow up, we usually realize that no one has ever done a story about a monstrous tooth because it's a silly and juvenile idea. Unless you're Cullen Bunn and looking for something to follow up The Damned and Sixth Gun with.

The Tooth is that comic that the kid with dreams of comic stardom in all of us thinks about making but can never really commit to. Bunn, Shawn Lee and Matt Kindt dive into it fully, blending old monster stories with Bronze Age Marvel comics. The story of a monster fighting other monsters is hardly original but it's the outrageous notion of a tooth becoming a monster that holds most of the innocence and charm of Bunn and Lee's story. Wrapping that story up in a 1970s era Marvel comic book homage, including nostalgia-inducing letter pages and flowery overwritten captions, Bunn and Lee clearly know how silly the story is it looks like they had a great time pushing the stories, the humor and even the horror as far as they could without ever getting lost in the jokes.

Like the story, Kindt has a style that makes you think, "Hey, I can draw like that." Only, you can't, because you didn't. Kindt's not the best draftsman and he isn't going to give you big, awesome, splashy images that look like they'd make great posters but he has a nice, easy style that perfectly matches the tone of Bunn and Lee's story. In his Super Spy and 3 Story, Kindt has shown how adaptable he is and how he can wring emotion out of his simple art. With The Tooth, he demonstrates that he can do big, dumb action with a hint of melodramatic backstory as well. Kindt keeps the story airy and moving as Bunn and Lee try to emulate the wordy captions of bygone eras. Kindt's artwork looks simple but it's not what he draws that you should be paying attention to. It's how he draws it, how he moves from panel to panel and page to page that's fascinating in his artwork.

If you've read The Damned or Sixth Gun, you know how Cullen Bunn likes to play with genres, mashing them up to give you something that feels a bit familiar while you still enjoy that you're reading something new. While maybe not as intense as either of those stories, The Tooth, a comic that only children raised on Steve Gerber, Man-Thing and a heavy dose of Stan Lee-inspired prose, could create and could love, provides the same thrills with extra doses of pure charm and fun. This is the comic that you wish you made when you were in 4th grade.


Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers #7

Written by Ian Brill

Art by Morgan Luth and Lisa Moore

Lettering by Jason Arthur

Published by BOOM! Studios

Review by Deniz Cordell

Chip 'n' Dale: Rescue Rangers is a comic with a surplus of charm. Each page is suffused with good nature, and the characters possess an innate amiability – there is never a moment that feels insistent or forced. Though there’s a whimsical, vaudevillian spirit on display, there’s still time for dire jeopardy and gentle pathos that aren’t just shoehorned in. Here is a comic that is just plain likable.

The story itself is a continuation from the events of the last few issues, and splits the narrative between the titular characters, who are on the run from porcupine ninjas, and their support team – the Terry-Thomas-esque Monterey Jack and technological genius Gadget, who have been kidnapped and are being held captive by an unknown antagonist. The identity of the kidnapper provides a tantalizing last-page reveal, setting up a curious new dynamic.

Ian Brill has been expanding both the cast and the light-adventure template of the original cartoons, developing the characters, particularly Dale, in ways that provide shading and depth without taking away the qualities that make the characters who they are. Brill’s pacing is breezy and gentle – there’s no rush from set-piece to set-piece – he lets us spend time with the Rescue Rangers, and he creates a very droll moment in the forest that creates an air of tension, while still getting a chuckle. It’s something of a tight wire act, but Brill manages to stay up, maintaining a pleasant tone throughout.

His opening action sequence uses character counterpoint to escalate the situation to its comic catharsis, and this emphasis on character runs through the whole issue. All of the leads are given their own moments to shine in some way or another – be it a cleverly executed glimpse into Gadget’s analytical process; a moment of introspection and vulnerability that the usually jokey Dale shares with Foxglove – their bat companion; or Chip pulling out a porcupine quill, noting: “There’s no time to worry. This is the time for bravery!” The individual elements that Brill uses aren’t remarkable in and of themselves – but it is the way he synthesizes them that lends the comic its warmth.

Morgan Luth’s artwork is perfect for a story like this – cartoony, expressive, with its own sense of humor to complement the script. His facial expressions are quite good at capturing emotions in a very pure, unfettered state. His panels are uncluttered, and the overall effect that of “simple without being simplistic.” The whole enterprise has a distilled quality – everything has a directness that supports the book’s winning qualities. Lisa Moore’s colors are very fine, her use of different shades lends depth to the drawings – but having just read a couple of BOOM!’s “Uncle Scrooge” reprints, filled with their bold, bright colors, I found myself wondering how the comic would have looked with that kind of approach.

This is a comic that you can give to your grandparents or grandchildren. It may not be the Moby-Dick of the comic world – but to even think that that would be its intention would be ridiculous. This is a warm-hearted comic filled with friendly heroes, freewheeling humor and zippy adventure. It’s something to be shared and enjoyed. 

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