Best Shots Advance: ULTIMATE HAWKEYE #1, THE VAULT #2

Best Shots Advance Reviews


Ultimate Comics Hawkeye #1

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona, and Brad Anderson

Lettering by Clayton Cowles

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

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Sometimes you need a little extra context to make the whole picture snap into focus.

For Jonathan Hickman and his foray into the Ultimates universe, I have to say, Ultimate Comics Hawkeye is it. This is a book that, like its sister title, is primarily setup, but it's done in such a way that it not only creates an interesting threat for Clint Barton and company, but it actually makes Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates make a lot more sense and have a lot more weight. There's an interesting structure to all of this that could be considered Crossover-Plus, and if done right, could really reinvigorate the franchise as a whole.

But let's hold our horses for a second, and focus on the here and now. Hickman's Hawkeye, thus far, coasts on archetypes and what we already know about the character from Mark Millar's tenure — namely, picture James Bond with deadly aim and the ability to turn anything from bows and arrows to nearby shards of glass into a weapon — and leads to some pretty sick action beats. On the characterization front, Clint, to be honest, is a bit of a quiet customer in his own book, but at the same time, Hickman gives him that sort of smirking attitude that can make you almost hear Jeremy Renner in the title role.

That said, that's not the goal Hickman has here. Without giving too much away, I'm actually really impressed with this issue, because it seems to show how interconnected this brand new Ultimates universe is going to be come. While occasionally Hickman gets a little verbose, the underlying threat really gives some important weight to what I previously thought was a fairly underwhelming issue of Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates. It's not quite riding the zeitgeist as effortlessly as something like Grant Morrison's New X-Men, but the idea of the mutant arms race evolving even further has a surprising wonky resonance to it.

Artwise, Rafa Sandoval is an interesting choice for this book. In certain ways, he doesn't quite scream "Ultimates" to me, just from a design perspective — his artwork doesn't have that kind of raw voice or pure polish that an Esad Ribic or a David LaFuente would have, but instead is something surprisingly closer to the DC house style, particularly with the extensive use of horizontal panels. But while his faces seem a bit cartoony for a character this dark, I love the action sequences, particularly where Clint gets to fire that bow and arrow for the first time, and Sandoval's use of composition and poses really helps break up some of the more talky sequences that Hickman puts together.

I've never been a huge fan of crossovers, mainly due to their clunkier structure — it's not so much a matter of "buy every book or the story doesn't make sense," but oftentimes I end up feeling that when I do buy a ton of tie-ins, the overall fabric of the story still feels awkward. That's not the case with Ultimate Comics Hawkeye, which I hope isn't just a fluke. Seeing the main Ultimates storyline from this alternate angle is really compelling, and if Ultimate Comics X-Men is tied in similarly, we're going to have a really tightly structured, really rewarding crossover on our hands. Either way, this issue may be setup, but it's such interesting setup that it's clear Jonathan Hickman is back on target.


The Vault #2

Written by Sam Sakar

Art by Garrie Gastony and Sakti Yuwono

Published by Image Comics

Review by Edward Kaye

‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

The Vault is a three-part miniseries about explorers turned treasure hunters, who unearth an ancient evil beneath the waves of the North Atlantic.

With this story, Sam Sakar has essentially taken a classic pulp magazine idea - that of tomb raiders disturbing the rest of a mummy and awakening an ancient curse - and has updated it for the modern age. The location is moved from the deserts of Egypt to the North Atlantic, as the treasure hunters explore the last mystery on Earth - the ocean depths.

In the first issue of the series, Sakar did a lot of strong ground work, introducing us to our cast of characters, as well as weaving an interesting mythology around the mysterious treasure pits that are the focus of the plot, and hinting at a greater mystery than just hidden pirate booty. Much of this second issue is spent building up suspense, as the reader waits for the inevitable to happen, and for the monster that they have unearthed to awaken. At the same time, he generates a lot of internal tension between the characters, which adds a lot of drama to the story. It’s a really well paced issue, which is something I find important with a horror/monster story, because we all know what is going to happen eventually, but the magic is in stretching out the reveal for just the right amount of time without decompressing the plot. Sakar hits this mark perfectly in with this story and displays classic horror movie timing. In addition, he does some really impressive character work on this issue, which is enriched by some engaging dialogue. Again, this is a trait of all good horror, because you want to get your readers invested in the characters, and to actually care about what happens to them... before you do truly terrible things to them!

The artwork on the series is by Garrie Gastony, who is both penciling and inking the book. His art throughout most of the book has a very open and clean look to it, particularly on scenes between characters, but in a number of places his artwork becomes a lot darker in tone, to heighten the tension of the scene. This comes into play mostly on scenes depicting the bizarre monster that the crew has discovered, and external scenes showing the encroaching storm front. It’s a neat trick, and once again plays with the reader to lull them into a false sense of comfort, before unleashing sinister horrors upon them. The trick is mostly accomplished though Gastony’s inking, which is kept to a minimum on the lighter scenes, and then accentuated on the darker ones, to increase the foreboding nature of the scene. I was particularly impressed with his design work on the monster of the piece, which is a gigantic shambling skeleton, with folded up long limbs, which walks about aided by extraneous appendages on its back, which look to be the remnants of charred wings. It’s a pretty horrific creation, and brings to mind the work of H.R. Geiger. For my favorite art from the book, I would have to go with the one-page scene that depicts the battle between the monster and the team’s high-tech R.O.V. - it’s a well composed action scene, with interestingly arranged panels, which shows off exactly how powerful this abomination really is.

The story is colored by Sakti Yuwono, who does a nice job complimenting Gastony’s artwork with a well-chosen color palette that always fits the mood of the scene nicely. He also works to add detail to the art in some places, by using different shades of a color to add definition to facial features, clothes, and many other objects. Something else that I was impressed with was his coloring job on some of the external shots, where he makes the storm-filled cloud cover look amazingly realistic, and incredibly menacing. There are a few computer effects thrown in, like light glare effects and flames, but they come off quite nicely, where such effects can often come off looking very digital.

I have to admit that I wasn’t really expecting a lot from The Vault, and tried it out almost on a whim. I’m glad a that I did though, because I discovered a well-written and interesting adventure/horror story, which is a little bit different from the types of books that I would typically pick up. Definitely give this one a try if you are a fan of the horror genre, it’s a highly enjoyable read.

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