Best Shots Extra: X-MEN: SCHISM, BATMAN, More

Best Shots Extra: X-MEN: SCHISM, BATMAN


X-Men: Schism #3

Written by Jason Aaron

Art by Daniel Acuña

Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

With three issues in the can, Schism certainly seems to be shaping up to be the event Marvel was hoping for.  Despite a large cast of characters, Jason Aaron wisely continues to focus in on Cyclops and Wolverine's ever-growing disconnect.  The tension is built nicely in this issue, as the X-Men's occasional deus ex machina, a team-wide telepathic connection, provides an excellent device for the lead up to the moment that first gives the reader a hint at what the titular Schism will actually amount to.

Aaron continues to nail the voices of every X-character he takes on, though it seems he just can't resist occasional pedantics, such as one of the youthful Hellfire Club enforcers blurting out, "I farted."  Useless moments like that bring the whole affair down a notch, marring an otherwise powerful scene.  That's not to say some of the more over the top bits don't work, either; the scene in which introduction is given to the sociopathic wunderkind assembled by Kade Kilgore is rife with comic book-isms, but still holds up.  Overall, when he can bear to let the tension build, Jason Aaron proves why he's been given the tiller for such a large ship.

Daniel Acuña's art here is a bit different from some of his earlier pages, relying more on traditional comic techniques than the marker/Photoshop combo he's known for.  It doesn't lose any of its kinetic qualities, either, and his bright, vibrant colors offer a stark palette against such dark material.  This looks like a superhero comic, something that it's easy to lose with the X-Men, but more so, it carries weight, and certainly hits home the scope of the event.

I think my favorite thing about Schism so far, is that while, at its heart, this will end up being a story about allies torn asunder, there is still a villain at play, and we're still seeing the X-Men band together despite their tensions.  As a result, Schism isn't as predictable as it could have been, and while it's impossible not to draw parallels to Civil War, an event the X-Men largely sat out, so far this story has been more cohesive, more entertaining, and less heavy handed.  While three books in, the seeds of the X-Men's falling out have only just been planted; the journey is more than paying for the ride.


Batman #713

Written by Fabian Nicieza

Art by Steve Scott, Daniel Sampere, Andrei Bressan, Walden Wong, Rich Perrotta, Rodney Ramos, and Ian Hannin

Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

713 issues of greatness… and Batman had to end on this one.

In a lot of ways, that has to do with the past few years' worth of restructuring within the Batman franchise — first with Batman and Robin being the flagship book, then Batman, Incorporated — but at the same time, there's a certain level of cache here that I think is missing. After all these years of great stories, this final one is an issue that feels less revelatory and more like obligation, like Fabian Nicieza doesn't really have anything new to say about Batman, Dick Grayson, or anyone else in Gotham. With all of the great writers in the DC stable, it feels like a real missed opportunity for greatness.

The thing about Batman is… well, chances are, you already know who Batman is. You know that he teamed up with Robin, and you know what? If you've watched the animated series, you probably even know that there has been more than one Robin. But Nicieza doesn't really stray too far from out-and-out retelling of the Bat-mythos, rather than taking any sort of new spin on it. He discusses a little bit about how Batman is meant for victims more than criminals, but for a last issue? Give me something profound — you could easily read Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure, Batman: Ego or Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, and get a far more powerful character piece.

The art also doesn't quite help. There's a veritable army of talent on this book, but no one that's going to really set the book on fire — again, if you're going to close the doors on a 713-issue run, why not go out with a visual bang? There's some decent composition at the beginning of the issue, and at its best, this issue does evoke shades of Norm Breyfogle, Jim Aparo, and other seminal Bat-artists of the '80s and '90s. But for every moment that works — like Nightwing leaping and flipping over a Gotham City street — there are louder moments that really jar you, including a moment where Robin screams at Batman, who has a slightly comical look of confusion on his face.

With the New 52 on the way, it's easy to understand how Batman #713 came to be. To be honest, there are bigger fish to fry, and DC wants to make sure that the #1s are the top priority. I get it, and from a business standpoint, it makes plenty of sense. But DC is also a company that values its history, considering they were the trailblazers for today's comic market. And that's what disappoints me about this last issue of Batman #713. It's going through the motions, but the spark is lacking. It's a shame that this former flagship book has to go so quietly into the night.


Daredevil #2

Written by Mark Waid

Art by Paolo Rivera, Joe Rivera and Javier Rodriguez

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Colin Bell

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Still wondering where 'The Man Without Fear' tagline for this book has disappeared to? While the obvious answer is that Black Panther waltzed off with it, I'd contend that Mark Waid's probably got it emblazoned on a T-shirt somewhere, as he continues his gutsy reconstruction of everyone's favorite sightless vigilante lawyer.

Taking a character that was arguably nearing broken in prior events, and spinning him into a less-burdened adventurer without contradicting anything that had gone before is no mean feat, but Waid makes you feel like it's perfectly within reach. The wise-cracking lawyerriffic (it's a word) dialogue helps, but it's heartening simply to see a confident Matt Murdock calmly deal with Captain America without shirking responsibility, before swinging across town for further escapades.

And what escapades they are! This is a comic book with no less than a guest star, sub-plots continuing Daredevil's investigation, surprising supporting cast developments and a villain that's left-field enough to make it interesting (like last issue's appearance by The Spot) that in hindsight makes absolutely perfect sense to be going up against ol' Hornhead. It's wall-to-wall action and developments that make it feel if not a complete story, then certainly an episode that won't leave you unfulfilled.

It's notable how Waid also makes a point of referencing Marvel Universe history - from the modern age there's nods to both Daredevil Reborn and recent stories over in Captain America, and going further back there's callbacks to the first issues of both Daredevil itself and even The Avengers. All these little tips of the hat underline Waid's determination to reintegrate Matt Murdock into the Marvel Universe and not have him be segregated in Hell's Kitchen. I for one couldn't be happier to see this happening.

These efforts could amount for nothing however if there wasn't an artist capable of keeping up with all this development, but thankfully Paolo Rivera is more than capable of the task. His Daredevil is gracefully acrobatic, nearly always moving and sometimes spread across multiple poses in the same panel or double-page spread. Like Waid, Rivera also pays homage to the past - there are panels here that all red, shadow and pure David Mazzucchelli, and the colorful renderings of Matt's radar sense put me in the mind of John Romita Jr.'s stint on the book. His silver age styled and deceptively simple penciling is the perfect complement to Waid's mission to drag the book to a happier place.

Daredevil #2 is a fun, satisfying book that's beautiful to look at, which sadly these days isn't something you can always expect from your comics. Captain America may not be on Matt Murdock's side, but as long as Waid, Rivera and company keep turning in books of this caliber, I am.


Generation Hope #10

Written by Kieron Gillen

Art by Tim Seeley, Val Staples and Sotocolor

Lettering by Dave Sharpe

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

It's funny, because in certain ways, Generation Hope #10 is almost the exact same story as X-Men: Schism #3. There's a plot point that the two share — I wouldn't say it's a huge plot point, but it's a plot point — but the difference between the two books is that it's really Kieron Gillen's baby.

What do I mean by that? Well, without giving too much away (and if you've seen the cover, well, it gives some stuff away), one of the Generation Hope kids has to cross a line to save the day. It's not a perfect dilemma — I'll get into that later — but Kieron Gillen at least earns the human drama behind it, whereas in Schism, it feels inorganic to me. It's funny, because Marvel has been doing so well with their teen heroes lately, with Gillen on this book and Journey into Mystery and Christos Gage on Avengers Academy, and it's because you can see how much care they put into these new characters. Seeing how Idie looks at mutant rights — why shouldn't governments build Sentinels, if that's what makes them feel safe at night? — versus someone like Laurie, who has become a voracious reader of mutant-poli-sci.

In that regard, this book works, since Jason Aaron is doing a lot of the more thankless plot setup over in Schism. Because he doesn't have to introduce the Hellfire Club, Gillen is able to get into the more interesting debates, both emotionally and politically — which, considering mutantkind isn't an actual subculture, that's a pretty big notch in the "win" category. Of course, there's one thing that kills the tension and gravity to this situation — namely, that we know from the very beginning what's going to happen. Gillen tells us. The cover tells us. And the thing is… this character is still so new to the scene, she sadly doesn't feel important enough to really be the wedge that may drive Cyclops and Wolverine apart. It's a big step for her, but it's not a big step for us. If anything, it's a macro-level plot point that I feel I've already read before.

In terms of the art, Tim Seeley is a nice, if occasionally understated choice. The climactic beat of this book looks superb, and reminds me a lot of Carlos Pacheco over on Ultimates — the design isn't anything revolutionary, and there's not a ton of room for visual drama, but it's clean and accessible and has some nice room for expressiveness. (Particularly a sly smile between Hope and Gabriel, who continue to steal every scene they're in.) Ultimately, this comic isn't so much about the crazy visuals or the high-octane action, so Seeley is far from hard on the eyes — but at the same time, there's a part of me that feels like there's a little bit of a spark missing.

To be honest, the idea of the morality of killing has been discussed again and again and again in comics. When does it become self-defense? When it does it become out-and-out murder? That's the real problem with this plot point, rather than this book as a whole — these are kids. If they're outmanned and outgunned, I certainly wouldn't judge them for taking a supremacist out. We've already seen plenty of comics where characters struggle with blood on their hands, and in that sense, I'm not sure if even Kieron Gillen can put a new spin on that concept. But just because I'm not a fan of the idea, doesn't mean I'd turn my nose up at the execution. There's some humanity behind all this heady mutant rights discussion, and that actually makes Generation Hope a much better book than its flagship sister title.

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