Best Shots Advance Reviews: DAREDEVIL, ULTIMATE X-MEN, More

Best Shots Advance Reviews


Daredevil #4

Written by Mark Waid

Art by Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

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It's not a word I use often. It's not a word, to be perfectly honest, that many comics earn these days. But Daredevil walks the tightrope and comes out on the other side untouched, a perfect read that I'd recommend to anyone interested in superheroes. Don't get me wrong, Mark Waid brings some punch to the scripting, but ultimately, this book is a showcase for one man, and one man only: Marcos Martin. Like our sense-heightened hero, Martin is perfectly calibrated, a virtuoso of an artist, and he makes every page a true pleasure to drink in.

And thing about this issue? It's something simple, made oh so satisfying. It's like expecting a burger and getting a steak — it's all beef, right? Not hardly. Mark Waid knows he's working with someone who can sell just about anything, including a high-flying scuffle with some pretty hairy customers in the Bronx Zoo. So what Waid does is he plays with structure — nine-panel fight sequence? Martin can handle it. 15-panel introduction, told mainly through silhouette and sound effect? Martin's got it covered. A three-page montage of Daredevil cleaning up crime throughout the city? Martin's golden.

Martin, for lack of a better description, is the industry's next Tim Sale. Stylistically, Martin has that same sort of narrow linework, that pinched expressiveness and deliberate character design that is as telling to his style as a fingerprint. But whereas Sale relied on shadows and mood to make his point, however, Martin uses enthusiastic, almost elastic levels of action. Seeing Daredevil's body stretch and kick as he swings toward a burning building, or seeing words literally drop from the sky as he senses trouble, it's absolutely gorgeous. There's a ton of cool iconography that Martin brings to this book, from radar senses to heart rates, and it's raised to the next level by some very smart colorwork by Muntsa Vicente.

Ultimately, it's the execution for a script like this that makes Daredevil one of the best books I've read this year, a book that is for 2011 what Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III's Detective Comics was for 2009. Do I necessarily like Matt Murdock's new status quo as basically a legal tutor, helping the undependable defend themselves in court? It is a bit of a stretch, but ultimately, the moment-to-moment reading experience is so immaculate, so detailed, so fun to take in on both an artistic and writing standpoint that it ultimately doesn't even register. I've always resisted using this word to describe a book, but you'd have to be blind to not see that Daredevil is a perfect read.


Ultimate Comics X-Men #1

Written by Nick Spencer

Art by Pacos Medina, Juan Vlasco and Marte Gracia

Lettering by Joe Sabino

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10

Click here for preview

Without giving too much away, if Nick Spencer had started this issue out with the second-to-last page rather than the first, I'd bet that Ultimate Comics X-Men would have been a very different read. But right now, what should be Marvel's most forward-thinking book already has a very "safe" vibe to it, a sort of retreading of tried paths rather than blazing a new one.

Even though I know Marvel headhunted Spencer pretty intensely to pry him away from DC Comics, it's interesting to note that, as of yet, none of Spencer's work at the House of Ideas has seemed to come close to his nigh-near perfect run over at the Distinguished Competition. Instead, books like Ultimate Comics X-Men seem to pound the originality out of him — while this issue certainly is accessible, Spencer ultimately spends an enormous amount of time explaining that, yes, mutants were created by humans (at least as far as this universe is concerned), and that's a Big Deal to mutants. Unfortunately, that doesn't really translate well off the printed page, as we're told of riots and told that characters feel weird about it, rather than showing us. The exposition chokes off the action and detracts from the characterization, causing us to feel more like we're seeing a teaser than reading a full issue.

But to be honest, Spencer's also running uphill, because Paco Medina and Juan Vlasco don't bring the sort of visual heft or artistic innovation that many of the Ultimate books prided themselves upon. No, Medina plays it safe through and through, a sort of Immonen-style cleanliness that doesn't obscure but also doesn't convey mood or precision of expression. Everything is literal here, and considering how much talk there is in Spencer's script, Medina ultimately doesn't transcend the talking heads. The big problem is a shared one, of course, in the fact that there really are no big moments that stand out and stay with you, which, considering Spencer's chilling introduction to this book, is almost criminal. The story just kind of slogs along, but doesn't give you any reasons to really pump your fists and get invested.

Of course, that's not to say there isn't some hope for this book. One of the most interesting Ultimate X-Men — here's a hint, she's been used to great effect elsewhere — gets a fantastic line near the end of the book that really made me perk up, even if it made me wonder if Spencer's picked the wrong protagonists to focus upon. Out of all of the Ultimate comics, the X-Men were the ones who were the most badly off-center, the ones who really needed to find their identity and their purpose, and in that regard, I'm not sure if Spencer has been able to get them back on track yet. But with the politics involved in this storyline, there may be a chance to pull it back from the brink — but as far as first issues go, Ultimate Comics X-Men is sadly the weakest of the relaunched lineup.


Severed #2

Written by Scotty Snyder and Scott Tuft

Art by Attila Futaki

Lettering by Fonografiks

Published by Image Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft have crafted something quite disturbing here.

Severed is becoming a great example of American horror, and does not pull any punches. There are two narratives here, one belonging to Jack Garron, and the killer; a man with shark-like teeth. Jack is on a mission to find his real father and the killer continues his macabre streak of murders.

Set in 1910s America, it's a chilling tale of that resembles almost something out of vintage Stephen King. There are no modern forensics and it almost seems the killer is unstoppable and untraceable. We get the hint that yes, eventually, Jack will come across the shark-toothed man, but it's all build up at this point. Snyder and Tuft have lighted a slow burn that I'm sure is headed towards a proverbial powder keg.

Along with the creepy script, Atilla Futaki's art supports the atmosphere and adds the level of American goth that the Scotts are aiming for. It's reminiscent of Bernie Wrightson with slices of Mike Ploog, especially in the coloring palette. It's muted and almost like everything is rinsed through a murky fog. It's a great match up between artist and writers. The gore is still there, but there's still the horror of the unknown which grants readers to use their imagination and all the dark places that it could go.

This issue it's not lacking, but it's strictly all setting up the rest of the plot, but doesn't really advance the story. Of course, I do think everything will get going and the pay off will be worthwhile, but here we see how optimistic Jack can be and how merciless the shark-toothed killer really is. I remain intrigued though and is perfect pre-Halloween reading.


Games of Thrones #1

Written by George R. R. Martin and Daniel Abraham

Art by Tommy Patterson and Ivan Nunes

Lettering by Marshall Dillion

Cover by Alex Ross

Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Click here for preview

Along with the Wheel of Time comic adaptation, Dynamite has added the Game of Thrones to its fantasy roster. This book has been in the works for a while, and I hope the popularity of the show on HBO propels the book into a top-seller.

I've been a fan of the book series since I was in high school. No surprise I'm a mega-fan of the show and, again, no shocker, to learn I really dug this adaptation. Games of Thrones mirrors the novels with the multiple point of views and you get the proper insight of each character. The narration can bog things down a bit, but it adds that little bit of characterization the show might not be able to get across.

Daniel Abraham's adaptation is accurate and gets the feeling of the books down. This first issue is from Will's and company's patrol to Daenerys meeting Khal Drogo. It does have some back stories sprinkled so people who are unfamiliar with both novel and TV series aren't so lost. Though I think that with most fantasy books, an index would be nice to have, just in case.

The art team of Tommy Patterson and Ivan Nunes is pretty good here. Patterson has a good eye for detail, but doesn't weigh each character with too much rendering and it comes through as visually appealing. He has solid line work and comprehensive panel layouts, and dealing with numerous characters can be difficult, but he handles himself well. Nunes' colors are equally impressive. His grasp on environments and skin tones really advances each character as you can really differentiate each character and who they are. From a snowy forest to a bustling city, each panel really pops.

As mentioned, I hope fans of the series support the comic here. It's fun to see characters I've known for years come to comicdom and I hope to see more in the future. 

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