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Batman and Robin #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Just a few pages into Batman and Robin #1, I half-expected Bruce to grab his son Damian by the collar and deliver one of his best gravel-voiced intimidation speeches through gritted teeth. No parent alive would blame him, considering the stream of scathingly disrespectful comments Robin unleashes early and often in this book. That’s certainly not a bad thing for readers, because writer Peter Tomasi has laid the foundation for a fascinating story about a very complicated relationship. Bruce, whose life has been defined by his parents’ deaths, makes a conscious decision to leave Crime Alley behind him and focus more on how his mother and father lived. Damian’s reaction tells you everything you need to know about the parent/child dynamic here: “Dead is dead. I’m glad you’re putting this sentimental nonsense behind you.” I happen to think Damian’s a great character, so I appreciate the fact that Tomasi has has not softened his edges or reformed him. He remains an interesting mix of outrageous arrogance and insecurity, still striving for his Best Robin Ever certificate. Bruce has the unenviable task of raising this difficult, willful creature while working alongside him, and I have no doubt that Tomasi will mine the situation for storytelling gold. The writer also gets props for introducing a truly frightening villain who plans to personally destroy Bruce’s global crime-fighting initiative. Penciller Patrick Gleason provides one of the most unsettling closing panels I’ve seen in a long time, and while his style is not distinctive, it is classic and clean. I was a big fan of Grant Morrison’s pre-relaunch Batman and Robin, but this issue makes it clear that the title is in good hands.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10; Click here for preview): There are so many angles one could approach Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 from Bendis and Pichelli. Angles I want to delve into myself, but for this short review, there is but one question. Does this issue work? Absolutely. Bendis embraces the concept of “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” in regards to his choice to slowly introduce us to the world of Miles Morales. Bendis understands why readers connect with Marvel's high-flying web-slinger. It isn't his powers or his villains. It's that at his core, Peter Parker, and now Miles Morales, is us. The reader. The everyday person that has to deal with everyday issues. In Miles case, it's getting into a better school and living up to the hopes and dreams of his loving parents. It's wishing your dad and your uncle would stop fighting, because someday you might have to choose one over the other and that choice will be devastating. While there is an argument to be made about Bendis' now signature decompressed storytelling style, I think it's needed on such a paradigm shift with this title. A shift that has nothing to do with the ethnicity of the character, but that this is the new Spider-Man. After so many years, this is the new hero and he needs time to find his place in the world. And, what a world it is under the beautiful pen of Sara Pichelli. With no disrespect intended, I didn't once find myself missing Bagley's art in this comic. Pichelli has such a wonderful grasp of physical nuance, she is the perfect mix for Bendis' conversational writing. Her characters are incredibly expressive, so much so, that some of the strongest moments in this comic lack a single word balloon. When Miles realizes how many kids aren't getting into a better school and he is, it's heartbreaking. With such attention to physicality, I have little doubt Pichelli will excel once the superhero actions kicks in. For now, I am more than content to read about Miles Morales and his world. Although a little thin at 20 pages of content for it's 3.99 price tag, this is still Marvel's strongest title of the week, perhaps month. This is the Bendis I remember, and the Pichelli I want more from. Basically. This is Spider-Man!
Batwoman #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating 10 out of 10; Click here for preview): I was really worried Batwoman would feel lacking without Greg Rucka's guiding the helm. I knew J.H. Williams III would turn in stunning art, but I wasn't sure on his storytelling. With Issue #1, all those worries are gone. Swept aside like the horrific tears of the central villain, the demonic Mexican spirit La Llorona. Williams and co-writer W. Haden Blackman show exactly how one relaunches a title for new and old readers. Whether you've been there since Kate Kane's first appearance in 52 or this is your first DC comic, Batwoman the perfect book. Williams and Blackman not only deal with the central threat to Gotham's children, but they layer the book with so many potential story and character elements, I can already see the next 12 issue planned out. Kate's ongoing personal relationship with her father, villainous sister, Gotham detective Maggie Sawyer, and the lingering question of Renee Montoya. Toss in a proposition from Batman and the return of Agent Chase for us old DC fans and you've got comic gold. And, what can one say about the art of J.H. Williams III that hasn't already been said? It is simply stunning. As was the case in his original run on Detective Comics, a reader can spend hours studying William's wonderful rendition of Batwoman and the world she inhabits. The panel layout alone shows just how powerful comics can be as a vehicle for dramatic and dynamic storytelling. Be it the simple lines of Kate Kane's world, or the hyper-stylize realm of Batwoman, this is a book that visually never allows your eye to leave the page. The art and coloring demand dedicated and focused reading. Simply put, Batwoman is the superhero comic, perfected.
John Carter: A Princess of Mars #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Wendy Holler; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10; Click here for preview): Filipe Andrade's elongated and iconic art turns the familiar John Carter story into something dark and strange. Heavy inking and saturated colors also emphasize the art's portrayal of the fantastic, foreign setting. This Princess of Mars is a retelling of an old story, and the bones of the original are clear and recognizable. John Carter, a human from earth, travels via mysterious ways to Mars. On the red planet, this ordinary human finds himself with extraordinary abilities such as telepathy and tremendous strength. The original story's themes also remain intact. Physical strength and violence breed respect, traditional and hierarchical political structures are the norm, and the sequel to the comic will surely be "The Search for Pants." So, yes, many of the foibles of the pulp narrative here. At the same time, thanks to Andrade's art, so are unnerving designs like apes as scary as anything that crawled out of Mordor. Roger Langridge also does a good job of rewriting pulp for a modern sensibility. He's a writer with a sure sense of how to do a bit with a dog, even if that dog is larger than your average man. The overall result is comic with a comfortable outline but intriguing moments and a lot to offer both old and new readers.
Buffy Season Nine #1 (Published Dark Horse Comics; Review by Teresa Jusino; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It has been a long while since Buffy has been this funny and Issue #1 of Buffy Season Nine, written by Joss Whedon, hearkens back to the original television show after an ultimately good, but slightly wayward Season Eight in comics. Buffy is finally allowed to cut loose a bit, reminding us of the cheerleader that was as she gets ridiculously drunk at a party in her new San Fransisco apartment and adjusts to life in a magic-free world. The Scoobies are there, and we get caught up with where everyone is in the new status quo. Concerning encounter with Xander aside, all the relationships seem to be exactly where they should be. Buffy is thirty now, and she and the gang have a deeper maturity even as they maintain their sense of playfulness. But it isn’t all parties and humor. There are forces building against Buffy; forces that aren’t very happy with what Buffy’s done to the world. Knowing the slayer future that is depicted in Whedon’s other slayer comic, Fray, I’m looking forward to seeing how this story will unfold and lead to centuries without a slayer. George Jeanty’s pencils are gorgeous in this issue, particularly in the slightly more elegant style he uses to differentiate reality from the more bold party flashbacks, and Steve Morris’ cover matches Jeanty’s elegance, giving us an arresting image of Buffy falling through the air. Season Nine of Buffy is off to an amazing and hilarious start.
Legion Lost #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating 4 out of 10): The Legion of Super-Heroes is one of those DC titles that sticks around for legacies sake. On paper, it's an easy sell. In the future, super powered, time-traveling teenagers protect the galaxy. All while dealing with their own personal and social issues. Come on, that just screams prime-time CW television gold. The problem with each incarnation of the book however is continuity. When your characters are so deeply rooted in the Silver Age and have a tendency to jump all over the DC history, it's a daunting read for all but the most dedicated DCU fan. With the New 52, writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Pete Woods have the perfect opportunity to take the concept and run without decades of history. I only wish they had. There is a reason I've burned about half this review and haven't said much on Legion Lost. To be honest, I don't really know what's going on. The team time bubbles into modern Earth searching for a killer bent on revenge. In transit, they become, well lost. While I'm a fan of tossing readers right into the middle of the action, I don't think it's something one can do with Legion characters. Even with a fresh start, it's the new readers that'll be lost. We're told very little on the whys and hows of the team, because Nicieza spends most of the book infusing the dialogue with rather tedious exposition on member powers. Pete Woods, an artist I quite enjoy, feels a little off his game. Indeed, it looks like he's trying to grow his style. A commendable quality I wish more artists tried. But, not every experiment is a success and Legion Lost is the perfect example of such. I really wanted to like this book. Nicieza and Woods are both talented creators and the Legion Lost cast is like coming home to friends. It just doesn't work this time.
Star Wars: The Old Republic — The Lost Suns #4 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Wendy Holler; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): This series is the perfect guilty pleasure. It's a licensed property, a video game tie-in, and far more fun than it has any right to be. Fair warning, though: #4 is a dark and slow issue. A bit too much villain monologue and the torture of a main character are definite low points in the series. Fortunately, the complaints of the bounty hunter Teff'ith and the machinations of the spy Theron Shan keep the core feel of The Lost Suns alive. Although small details like Theron's cybernetics seem to appear and vanish irregularly, the art maintains a sense of adventure and movement. The ship and droid details are quite nice, and the coloring uses the warm, bright tones of a Saturday morning cartoon to good effect. The comic also goes to respectable lengths to present the backstory of the Jedi Ngani Zho, which both rounds out the already-fun character and explains a fair portion of the story's overarching threat. Lost Suns is a comic of practical rakishness set in the larger-than-life Old Republic, and while this issue might be a pause in the cloak-and-dagger action of the series as a whole, it promises a nice resolution.
Mr. Terrific #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Wendy Holler; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Mr. Terrific #1 is OK, which is actually saying a lot since the very first plotline involves mind control. (If nitpickers wish to argue with this term, please be aware that I wanted to use another one here, but didn't want to lose my T rating or get David in trouble. Let's just agree that the main plotline messes with minds, shall we?) To back up: the comic introduces Mr. Terrific in London, where he defeats a villain in an armor suit and explains that, "Some people call me the third smartest person in the world." This Michael Holt is a snarky fellow, a man with friendships and alliances but few close emotional ties. His personal and professional origin stories are designed to provoke an emotional response, but I found myself warming to the character because of his coolness. The supporting characters are equally likable, including Karen Starr and Aleeka, though the conversation between them is one of the low points of the issue. The comic's art, by Gianluca Gugliotta, maintains the perfect superhero perspective. The panels are active, but not frenetic; the action is clear, but not too explicit. While Eric Wallace's writing tends to push the character into emotional spaces, Gugliotta's art resists the pull, and the result is a comic with a mix of engagement and reserve. The confidence of the first panels never quite pays off, though, and while Mr. Terrific is a neat and engaging character, well worthy of his own series, the trappings of this comic aren’t worthy of him. This was a frustrating read in large part because all of the elements of a great comic are right there. Here's hoping the next issue makes better use of them.
Resurrection Man #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Resurrection Man was one of the most intriguing series of the late '90s, but I always felt like each issue fell short. The stories were okay but not great and the artwork was eye-catching but not Jackson Guice operating at one hundred percent. This initial chapter on the series' return plods pretty much in line with the status quo established in that first run. Mitch Shelley can die and come back tout de suite. Each resurrection comes with a power, a gift, different from the one he expired with. Cool, right? Sometimes it's useful, sometimes it's crapola. If you had never heard of Mitch or his ability before picking up this book, you'd be starting off somewhere near the deep end, since the belabored opening requires a modicum of familiarity in order to get the gist of what's happening. Mitch is reborn with Magneto-ish powers (Groan along with me at this direct quote: "This time around, it seems, I have a magnetic personality.") that he puts to use at thirty thousand feet when an angel thingee, hungry for his soul, starts a ruckus inside Flight A613 to Portland. There's no established connection between the reader and Mitch, nor do we know what his motivations or drives are, so there aren't any risks at stake for us to care if he lives or dies. The best part of the book, actually, is the two-page scene with the Body Doubles who are looking for Mitch's once-a-corpse in the morgue. But they aren't named as such and unless you're Resurrection Man savvy, you won't get their significance. Even though they're the only sign of life in this issue, they ultimately come across as just a piece of flotsam thrown in to boost the page count. In actuality THEY should probably be headlining and Mitch doing the cameo. Just because Abnett and Lanning created the guy way back when doesn't mean they should be bringing him back to life now. Someone else should have been given the reins who could have given this issue a pulse.
Blue Estate TPB (Published by Image Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): There are so many moving parts to this gonzo-noir story it'd take a few pages to fully get the whole picture painted for you and with the series already five issues in the can, I still don't know what the whole picture is. Suffice it to say this is a highly-addicting roller-coaster ride through a crime story built from seemingly disparate and unrelated events acting as pieces to some greater puzzle. There's Roy, struggling private eye hired to play patsy by Steven Seagal-allegory and action movie star Bruce Maddox, who himself is laundering money for a Russian mobster that is financing Bruce's craptacular blockbusters. Bruce gets found out by his once-a-starlet wife Rachel who is secretly having an affair with her AA sponsor who is actually a part-time hitman. Rachel knows things and these things she knows she brings to Roy's office where this is sure to be Roy's greatest (if not only) case. Where this is all going, only writers Viktor Kalvachev and Kosta Yanev know. The artwork is a little too scratchy and cartoony at times, but it will grow on you after a few issues and adds to the over-the-topness of the story. What's absolutely stunning, though, are the covers: each one is something of an homage to classic noir and hard-boiled novel cover art from the fifties and sixties. They're gorgeous and almost worth the price each issue alone. This trade collects the first four issues of the series is a perfect spot to start reading. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!
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