Rama Readers, ready for your Thursday pellets? Then let's roll with Team Best Shots, as Erika takes a look at the newly relaunched Amazing Amazon, in Wonder Woman #1...
Wonder Woman #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; ’Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Now this is Wonder Woman. After a year of well-documented fits and starts, Diana has been restored to full glory in this thrilling, exquisitely illustrated relaunch. Writer Brian Azzarello provides a story fit for an Amazon princess, coming out of the gate with a narrative chock full of mythology, mystery and some super-heroics. Right away, he establishes Wonder Woman as a warrior with no time for niceties and nonsense. She’s ready for battle even in her sleep, which is fortunate considering the circumstances: Those capricious Greek deities are at it again, attempting to use the human race for yet-to-be-revealed ends. At the center of the paranormal drama is a firecracker of a young woman named Zola. Something (or someone) wicked has come for her, and when she magically appears in Wonder Woman’s bedroom, Diana immediately comes to her rescue — but not before establishing who’s in charge. I’m already convinced that Azzarello gets Wonder Woman. She’s Amazonian royalty, so it makes perfect sense to portray her as haughty and blunt, not to mention physically intimidating. This is where artist Cliff Chiang comes in, and his illustrations are as distinctive as they are dazzling. He draws an appropriately show-stopping Diana, and when she springs into action, it’s on. There’s such energy in Chiang's work, making the action scenes all the more exciting. Colorist Matthew Wilson’s skills are evident from that first, glowing image of a city skyline, and he and Chiang are quite the artistic dream team. Wonder Woman #1 isn’t just a perfect start for the character, but one of the finest first issues of DC’s New 52 to date.
Uncanny X-Men #543 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Nothing can stop… Colossus? And it seems that nothing can stop Kieron Gillen, either. While this Fear Itself-related arc started with some serious wobble, Gillen has built up some serious momentum for his crescendo, and nails the dismount in a major way with one stellar action sequence revealing Peter Rasputin's new status quo. In many ways, showing Colossus really cut loose — "He cannot stop me," Peter thinks. "How could he? I can't even stop myself." — is also a great fit for Greg Land, who is able to cut down some of the more distracting photo-based artwork with some nice use of energy crackles and the ever-shifting helmet of the Juggernaut. But in terms of story — both in terms of execution as well as that visceral "what's going to happen next" continuity compulsiveness — Gillen really delivers a striking story, where Colossus, Cyclops and even Namor the Sub-Mariner each get some great moments that really make you throw up your fists in celebration. Granted, the Namor-Emma subplot does feel a little weak compared to the rest, and ultimately some of Land's expressions look pretty off the mark, but in terms of pure fun, this is the best Marvel book you'll read all week.
Blue Beetle #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Let me be fully honest here, I am really going to miss the original Jaime Reyes. His Blue Beetle was an absolute joy to read. So while I'm happy he survived the relaunch and even gets his own book, this isn't quite the Blue Beetle I remember. This opening issue reveals a far darker and more sinister origin for the Blue Scarab that give Jaime his fantastic powers. Although it does bring him in tighter with the New 52 Universe as a whole with the Scarabs connection to the Green Lantern Corp. Writer Tony Bedard deftly sets up the inevitable confrontation between the rebellious though pure-hearted Jaime Reyes and the very entity that gives him other worldly powers. I know DC is really trying to hook folks with intense action and can't miss cliffhangers, but in this case, I wish Bedard slowed down a bit. Part of Jaime's charm has always been his interaction between his friends and family. That's what helped him connect with so many readers. That, and the fun we had watching him save the world, while still turning his homework in on time. I'm sure we'll eventually get there, but for now is makes the book a little lacking. Ig Guara's pencils are always fun to take in and the same energy he put into the Pet Avengers is evident in Blue Beetle #1. I personally love just how expressive each character is when drawn by Ig. With arms flaying about and faces twisting in emotion, the people in Blue Beetle look like folks you and I run into every day. While I'm going to miss the old Blue Beetle, it should be fun getting to know this one.
Spider-Island: Cloak & Dagger #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): I never thought I'd say this about someone as talented as Emma Rios, but the sophomore issue of Cloak & Dagger is just too much of a good thing. Rios has always been great at portraying action, but as far as this issue goes, the visuals are so frenetic — the lines of motion nearly blotting out Javier Rodriguez's already dark colorwork — that this book was a chore to read. And this is a problem, considering that Nick Spencer has a four-page silent fight sequence of Cloak battling a horde of Mr. Negative's Inner Demons: while the whipping folds of Cloak's cloth look cool enough, there are so many lines running around that the image moves too "fast," even when it's standing still. Storywise, this is fairly standard stuff, with both Cloak and Dagger getting ambushed (although Spencer does manage to give Dagger a pretty sharp line about separating Mr. Negative and his manhood). Either way, this issue both moves too slowly and is executed way too fast. Maybe you need to be more of an auteur than I, but this book was so tough to follow I couldn't even enjoy myself.
Nightwing #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): His tenure as the Dark Knight was lots of fun, but dang it if isn't great to have Nightwing back. Sure, Grayson made Batman his own, but it still felt like he was in the shadow of Bruce every time he put on the cape and cowl. As Nightwing, everything I love about the character can return and grow. Writer Kyle Higgins seems to understand Dick's place within the Bat family. Being, the person that helps everyone else in Bruce's rather dark world find emotional balance, even if his own goes off kilter from time to time. As an intro issue, Nightwing #1 Higgins pens a strong story between an assassin bent on killing Dick Grayson, and Dick's original family, the Haley Circus coming back to Gotham. Grayson always works best when his personal and costumed life come crashing to a head, and I think that is exactly where Higgins is taking us. Eddy Barrows pencils are one of most visually satisfying in all the Bat books. While I adore the art in Batwoman, it is Barrow's work in Nightwing that really captures that superhero fun I want when reading a comic. He doesn't break any new ground with his pencils and panel layout, but there is something to be said for someone that truly knows his craft. His splash pages have the grandeur of character. His short and jagged panels convey action and tension within. And in more personal moments, Barrow's pencils have a sense of calm, asking both Grayson and the reader to just take some time and soak in the moment. With the edgier DC now the norm, it's nice to see a book that's comfortable with slowing down for a page or two. Nightwing #1 isn't doing anything terribly new, but that doesn't mean it isn't welcome. Dick Grayson is home and when you come home, the familiar is exactly what you want.
X-Men: Schism #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Four issues in, and we're making progress… but at the same time, I don't know if we're making progress enough. Jason Aaron has finally sketched out the reasons for the Cyclops/Wolverine divide, but at the same time, the whole premise for X-Men: Schism feels so inorganic that it takes me out of the story every time I try to jump in. Perhaps it's because of the relative newness of the kids of Generation Hope, who are given some newfound importance in the X-Universe that, as a reader, it doesn't quite feel that they've earned yet. Maybe it's because Aaron has to recap why all the various members of the X-Men are KO'd or otherwise indisposed. Maybe it's because Alan Davis, as legendary an artist as he is, feels a little too classical for a story that should be about ambiguity, relationships and mood. Don't get me wrong, there are still some nice moments in this book — particularly, the desperation and fury that Davis draws on Cyclops' face, as he blasts everything he has at a Sentinel as tall as a building — but those moments aren't quite enough to make this story feel as strongly structured as it should be.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Talk about an interesting read. And also, talk about a conflicted one. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles does everything right when it comes to artwork, and feels like a little bit of an odd duck when it comes to story and structure. The good: Dan Duncan, working off the layouts of Turtle co-creator Kevin Eastman and colorist Ronda Pattison, gives a sharp scratchiness to each turtle that makes them so easy to identify, even when they're not wearing their masks. In particular, Duncan's composition is superb, really pouring on the speed as Raphael charges into a drunken dad beating up his son, a teenage Casey Jones. But storewide, I do feel that Eastman and IDW editor Tom Waltz should probably know better as far as the story goes — Raphael and Casey get way more than their fair share of space on this book, and the remainder of the time is devoted to an origin story that makes a pre-mutation Splinter seem crazy unrealistic (even in a book about mutant ninja turtles), almost Lassie-like in his ability to understand and help human beings despite, y'know, being a totally normal rat. By focusing on just one turtle rather than the four as a nuclear family, it does feel a bit like putting the cart before the horse, but at the same time, the art is so strong I feel like coming back for more.
Stan Lee's Solider Zero #12 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Aaron Duran;
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): So this is where Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have been hanging out this past year! If I'd had known they were having so much fun playing in Stan Lee's sandbox over at BOOM! Studios, I would have jumped the good ship Annihilators and read this series instead. Well, better late than never I suppose. This is the kind of cosmic goodness I want and expect from team D'nA. This is, literally, the first issue I've read from Stan Lee's Solider Zero and even then, I had a blast. When the big bad tries to cut off Capt. Trautmann's rather awesome speech while delivering some righteous butt kicking, it just feels right. Again, I don't know squat about these characters and even then I found myself thinking, “dang right, get off my planet sucka!” That's good superhero fun you simply can't fake. While this is an ending of sort, we're left with more questions and the potential of more. If this issue is any indication of the writing quality of the series as a whole, then more is definitely something I want. Javier Pina's art is hit or miss in this issue. His fight scenes pop with energy and Archie Van Buren's vibrant coloring really adds to Pina's pencils. There is a real sense of movement and cinematic action. You can feel every blast when it connects, just as you feel the rush of wind when Soldier Zero swoops between attacks. It is when the action slows down that you see some limitation in Pina's art. Characters feel a little flat and when set against the previous pages, that lack of vibrancy really stands out. Still, that is a small complaint when a series catches you by surprise as Stan Lee's Soldier Zero #12 did with me. Like so many other titles I read this week, this issue doesn't set a new benchmark in superhero storytelling. Still, there is something to be said for popping open a book and escaping for 22 pages.
Legion of Super-Heroes #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): This book is so all-over-the-place that after two reads I’m still not sure what’s going on. It certainly isn’t accessible by someone picking it up for the first time. Knowledge of the recent “Legion Academy” storyline in Adventure Comics would help, as would reading the new Legion Lost #1 to explain why Colossal Boy is stuck in woe-is-me mode. Writer Paul Levitz whisks us from planet to planet where different Legionnaires are operating, but it seems as if someone set off a galaxy-wide Emo-Bomb given how mopey everyone from Star Boy to Mon-El is acting. They’re behaving less like heroes and more like petulant eight-year olds who didn’t get dessert. Well, except for Brainiac 5 that is, who shows that no matter which DCU he exists in, he’s still a pompous ass. Visually, the artwork is passable but fraught with problems, the primary of which is artist Francis Portela’s awkward rendering of limbs: joints bend beyond their physiological limits and given how freakishly long everyone’s arms are it’s apparent that a tankard of Jimmy Olsen’s elastic serum has been passed the Legion clubhouse. And then there’s the weirdness that is Ultra Boy’s hair (that changes color in the distance from cover to page two) which looks like a Medusa nest and is not-in-a-good-way distracting. It’s a rough first issue, lacking anything compelling to bring me back for a second helping. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!