Greetings, 'Rama Readers! Ready for some rapid reviews? Team Best Shots has you covered, with more than ten quick looks at the latest big releases. Want to see some more back-issue reviews? Check out the Best Shots Topic Page! And now, let's kick off with the latest chapter of Matt Murdock's life, as Wendy reviews Daredevil #2…
Daredevil #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Wendy Holler; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10; Click here for preview): This series received a fair amount of attention when Marvel released an audio version of the first issue. Happily the series and this issue warrant the press they've received so far. #2 opens with a confrontation between Daredevil and Captain America, the man whose heartbeat, Daredevil reports, sounds "like a Sousa march." Though the dialogue and descriptions do veer toward the cheesy at times, the sense of fun from the first issue is carried through to this one in small, character-based jokes, efficient fight scenes, and some nice forays into Daredevil's point of view. The plot also moves along nicely, and Mark Waid seems to be focusing on the classic territory of barely hidden secret identities and well-hidden threats to the city. While questions continue to circulate about Murdoch's relationship to Daredevil, the bulk of this issue is devoted to Daredevil's discoveries about the Jobrani mistrial. (See that courtroom pun there? Yeah, the comic's like that.) Paolo Rivera's art is energetic, and it's the kind of good that makes proportion and action look effortless. The cliffhanger ending was a nicely timed beat even though the antagonists feel a little too built-for-Daredevil for my personal taste. The issue was fun – perhaps the most significant praise a comic can earn – and this team and the series show a lot of promise.
Green Lantern Corps #63 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Wendy Holler; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): This is a fallout issue, and the emotional arc here is incredibly ambitious. The story charts the victimization of the Corps through the state of a few of its members, and the goal of the story is to move from victim to Lantern, from senseless anger to meaningful action. While the overall design is a good one, a thousand little problems drag the issue down. The vignettes chosen have possibility, but as each one passes, the little frustrations mount up. Small dialogue missteps, for example, and the story-convenient appearance of anti-human sentiment interfere with what the issue's trying to do. The new character Ry'Jll is a nice addition, and this section is when the issue best dramatizes the difficulty and time involved in real healing. Oa, Boodika, Rayner, and Tomar all put in appearances, though those moments are far less successful. Resilience is a powerful force in life, in stories, and in the history of the Corps, so it's a particular shame that this issue doesn't quite manage to capture that spirit. This is the last of the Corps stories before DC's September reboot, but, sadly, this swan remains mute.
Captain America #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10; Click here for preview): If this book didn't look as stellar as it did, it'd be in a bit of trouble — but when you have Steve McNiven drawing Captain America, well, it's almost impossible for this book to be a bad read. McNiven's work can be best described as cinematic — it's clean, bold, and the character designs just look freaking cool. That said, the action sequences are a little bit more stiff than they were last month, as though McNiven still has a few kinks to work out in terms of his angles, to really give Cap some more physical iconography. The thing about this story that I'm not such a big fan of? The plot feels a little loose, and it feels like Ed Brubaker's letting the fantasy aspects get ahead of something a little deeper, with surreal worlds and Hydra alliances taking the place of Steve getting his head around being back in the field. That said, in Brubaker's defense, there is another Cap book that he's writing that does hit all of these notes perfectly — this is more of the Michael Bay version of Cap, and if you're looking for something more flashy than Chris Samnee (you heathens), then this is a fine alternative.
DC Retroactive: The Flash — The 1990s #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10; Click here for preview): If you loved Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn's action-packed, character-driven run on the Flash, you really should check this book out. Augustyn, Waid's one-time editor and partner-in-crime, really creates a breezy, fun comic that looks gorgeous even the few times it stumbles. I love Mike Bowden's pencilwork, and in particular, inker Joe Seung really gives him this manga-tinged Joe Madureira vibe that is just so fun to drink in. Nostalgia really is a powerful lure, isn't it? It's just great to see the different ways that Bowden can make Wally West look tough as he zooms across an interstellar desert, which is a good thing, too — with the wrong artist, this project could have really fallen flat on its face, coming off as too silly and too much of an excuse for action. (But really, the action looks great!) There are a few hiccups, of course — the first page intro is a doozy of an info-dump, and the last page kind of throws you into a whole other storyline that I'm not even sure is readily available to readers. Still, with that and a Flash story from Mark Millar in tow, this is a surprisingly fun read that really taps into one of the heydays of the Flash's history.
Venom #6 (Published by Marvel Comics, Review by Scott Cederlund; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10; Click here for preview): So, what do you do when your big Spider-Man story is about people getting spider powers and your main character already has those powers, a la Venom? You have him fight even bigger and uglier spider monsters. At least that’s the path that Rick Remender and Tom Fowler take as the Venom-suited Flash Thompson is sent to fight a spider creature who may hold the key to what is happening on Spider-Island (a.k.a. New York City.) Remender’s story dances around the whole Spider-Island story and tries to be more nudge-nudge, wink-wink clever than actually clever? A Lionel Richie “Hello” reference? (BTW, thanks Remender, because I now know that I’ll be humming that song and imagining the creepy video when I go to bed tonight.) A C-lister like Gravity not knowing who Venom is? I don’t remember that last Sam Raimi major motion picture starring Gravity? Now, who’s the C-lister? Remender throws these “cute” moments into the story that just interrupt the story as the only thing they do is remind you that Remender can write these ha-ha one liners. It gets distracting as there’s actually one neat reveal in this story that adds an ominous tone to the whole Spider-Island thing. There’s a good story being told here, but some of the attempted cleverness calls too much attention away from that story. Remender’s lighthearted writing gives Tom Fowler a fantastic sequence to draw as the Venom symbiote has to look for host other than Thompson to fight the monsters. Fowler pages are exciting and expressive as he gives every character and every scene its own personality. With the groundwork they lay in this story, you’ll wish that they were telling the whole Spider-Island story, rather than this small part of it.
Deadlands – Death Was Silent (Published by Image Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Soon as you open the cover to Deadlands: Death Was Silent you're going to wish Sam Elliott was sitting there next to you, reading this here comic. Our tale opens with a stranger and his dead bounty riding into a rain soaked town. However, this is the Deadlands setting, where weird and western go hand in hand — all is not what it seems. Being a one-shot, Ron Marz doesn't waste any time in getting to the meat of this twisted yarn. By the time the stranger plugs his second target in the face and the green goo flies, you are raring for more. Boy, do you get it. In no small amount of time, Death Comes Silent turns into a supernatural Wild Bunch by way of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Marz is even able to pull off a fun little twist towards the end of the story, and considering how little time he's got, that's a fine trick indeed. Bart Sears art is flat-out mean, dirty, gritty, and even a little ugly. So, you know, just what you want in this Grand Guignol of a Western. Never once does Sears draw the stranger's complete face, and I'm pretty sure I'd be mad if he did. Working with colorist Michael Atiyeh, Sears creates a wholly believable and highly cinematic world. In fact, part of me wants to read this comic without a single world balloon. Not to take away from Marz's enjoyable story, but all this book really needs is some Ennio Morricone and a shot of whiskey. The only bad mark on this otherwise fun romp into the west is the rather forgettable back-up story. If you haven't been reading the previous Deadlines, the back-up will make little sense and won't hold your interest. Maybe as a whole, it will play better. Still, Deadlands: Death Was Silent is worth the bounty paid.
Spider Island: Spider-Girl #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10; Click here for preview): Anya Corazon is just trying to have a normal life. Or, at least as normal as one can have when one swings around New York City as Spider-Girl. A task made even harder when darn near everyone in the city sprouts web-slinging powers, Ms. Corazon included. So begins the Spider-Girl tie-in for Spider Island. Writer Paul Tobin jumps right back in Anya's chaotic life with his gift for witty dialogue that would make Whedon fans the world over squee with delight. I mean, you can't help but grin when Anya tries out her new spider powers including “cracking a few lame jokes” and leaps into battle with a “Damn the Torpedoes!” Come on, that's just good fun. Tobin sets up an interesting adventure with poor Spider-Girl caught between the Wasp Society, the Hand, and just for good measure... the Kingpin! Artist Pepe Larraz has quite the task in translating Paul's fast-paced storytelling, one that he simply nails. Larraz keeps the excitement coming with great line work and panel popping layouts. Like Anya herself, the art in this book never slows down. Even in the quieter opening scenes, with Anya and her roommate, Larraz draws constant movement in the background. Considering darn near everyone in the city can do whatever a spider can, the constant motion works for the greater story. The book is a little packed with story elements, but considering Tobin and Larraz only have three issues to wrap it all up, the density is understandable. If you miss Anya Corazon's adventures as much as I do, then Spider Island: Spider-Girl if the book for you!
Generation Hope #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Having never read an issue of Generation Hope before, I picked this up solely because of the Schism tie in. I've gotten to know Idie a little bit from the first three issues of Schism, and I think that she's an interesting take on what some might call the "self-loathing mutant." It's not an archetype you see very often from this perspective, and it doesn't feel like she's been crammed into her role in Schism, which is definitely refreshing. So, I picked this up to get a little more insight into Idie's character, and I definitely was not disappointed. While Tim Seeley's art doesn't particularly appeal to me (there's nothing really wrong with it, it just isn't my style), this may be one of the best issues I've read from Kieron Gillen yet. His use of the narrative timestamps is brilliant, and there are moments where I really felt anguish at what some of the characters were going through. For a book that I previously ignored due to disinterest in the characters to do that is pretty special. It may have even convinced me to continue on with this title.
DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman — The 1990s #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Talk about conflicted. There's a part of me that really didn't like this book — I thought it was preachy, it was unsophisticated, it didn't really do much to flesh out the character of Diana… and for hard-core readers, yeah, it won't really do that. But at the same time, you know who this book is probably good for? Young readers. Flipping through this book, you're treated to a very "girl power" message — sometimes Bill Messner-Loebs hits you over the head with it, but for young girls, why not live vicariously and hang out with an Amazonian princess? Artwise, though, I feel bad for Lee Moder — I'm not sure how long ago this book was illustrated, but you compare this to the fantastic visuals of Shinku, and this retroactive just doesn't compare. The worst part is, it's not Moder's fault — his inker, Dan Green, just comes off as really brittle and sketchy, and colorist Chris Beckett is working uphill against the old-school paperstock. Is this book for me? Probably not, and it's important that readers recognize that. But if you have a little sister who you're dying to get into comics, this book might be a good gateway drug.
Uncanny X-Men #542 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10; Click here for preview): I'm gonna take a stance that probably isn't popular, especially on the internet, and say that, when he's forced to actually draw something out of his own brain, Greg Land can be pretty damn good. He handles the Juggernaut and his master Cyttorak quite deftly, and while his layouts occasionally get choppy (most notably when Cyclops takes out a would be assassin), the action scenes in this issue are some of the better work I've seen him do. And hey, if he's swiping, at least he gave each character the same face every time. As far as the story goes, this is one of the better "Fear Itself" tie-ins, managing to actually progress some of the plot lines that have been going on in the title rather than going on hold for them. Granted, the end of this issue, and the way its addressed in the letter column, add some doubt as to how this story lines up with X-Men: Schism, but the story's not over yet.
Journey Into Mystery #626 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10; Click here for preview): Fantastic. Just utterly freaking fantastic. I feel like a broken record, but this may be my favorite monthly comic at this point. From the tongue-in-cheek "L is for Loki" cover to the surprisingly funny dispatching of a supporting cast member, anything goes for Kieron Gillen, as he makes young Loki into the most entertaining teen character since Amadeus Cho. What's great about Loki is that he's a character who has a central theme — namely, making mischief — but outside of that True North, he's a blank slate, giving Gillen so much room to define him and, even more importantly, to make him sympathetic. And when you have a character as easy to follow as Loki, it gives you so much room to start playing around with continuity and mythology, including Surtur and the ebon sword Twilight. And that last page — Gillen has already used a similar cliffhanger before on his Thor run, but this one comes off as so much better. I'm also really appreciating Doug Braithwaite's painterly artwork, which really gives this sort of mythic quality to story — yet this issue he actually gets a little bit looser with his composition and layouts, and it's a huge step up, adding onto the speed and expressiveness. If you're not taking this Journey Into Mystery, you're missing out. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!