Best Shots Rapid Reviews
Rama readers, are you ready for your Thursday pellets? Well here they are! Team Best Shots is coming at you like a Gatling gun attack, so let's start as I take a gander at all-new Voodoo!Voodoo #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 9/10): This book, much like many of other DCnU titles was covered in controversy before it was even released. The notion that a "stripper" could have her own book and when a single splash page was released, it caused quite a storm of frustration from certain bloggers and raised a few eyebrows. Well, I guess it's much easier to have an opinion before reading something. Truth be told, I liked Voodoo. A lot. Ron Marz makes a splash here as he re-enters the DC universe once again. Yes, the main character is an exotic dancer, as she was in her previous incarnation. Though, Marz doesn't pander here, he sets up a solid story. The girls backstage talk about their dreams and hopes and how stripping is just another job. It's playing dress up and pretend, that's all. There's an aura of empowerment and how women own their sensuality here. Marz has made a career of writing kick-ass female leads for quite some time, and he doesn't stray from that pattern in Voodoo. Priscilla Kitaen, aka Voodoo, herself is a brutal force to be reckoned with and definitely not what she appears to be. To top it off, you have Sami Basri and Jessica Kholinne on art. Basri's line work is quite fine and simplistic. It reminds me of Joe Eisma, with a hint of Cliff Chiang. I found it not too over-rendered and gets the point across. Panel layouts are neat and clean and easy to comprehend. Kholinne's colors do the book justice and fits Basri's style. Marz rarely lets me down, and his book is no different. I wouldn't let a few naysayers get in the way of a good read, and you shouldn't either.
New Avengers #16.1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating 9 out of 10, Click here for preview): It doesn't make any sense. Why don't I like Bendis' writing on the Avengers, but love it on New Avengers? We may never know the answer to that question, as New Avengers 16.1 does nothing but reinforce this enigma. Bendis' signature style of dialogue is alive and well as Luke Cage's Avengers sit around the table eating dinner and discussing just why they have to be the ones to escort Norman Osborne from The Raft. But have no fear those weary of talking head Bendis. The action kicks in fast as we see just how devious, evil, and dang charismatic Mr. Cornrow Head can be. This is insane comic book action brought to us by a master of the medium. Neal “Ever-Lovin” Adams! It is hard to image he hasn't penciled an Avengers book in almost 40 years. Well that needs to change, now. He perfectly captures each and every character in this book. His tight face shots add a real sense of humanity to Bendis' conversational style of writing. You can almost hear Spider-Man chewing his burger as he talks. Once the fighting starts, it's wonderfully intense. Bodies flying all over the page. Wolverine's face dripping on the floor after taking about 50 shots from five inches out. Iron Fist clutching his hands in pain when the wall won't yield to his punches. Spider-Man, looking on powerless, as the man that took everything from him escapes with frightening ease. This is the kind of visual excitement that made kids write "Make Mine Marvel" in the 70s and 80s. Which brings me to my only real gripe about this comic. It kills as a single book and foundation for stories to come, but not so much as a .1 title. This issue demands you know a bit about the past couple years at Marvel. I don't think it will do much in pulling in those curious about the New Avengers. Still, for all our complaining about $3.99 Marvel books, this is one that delivers on the price of admission — and, like all of Marvel's Point One titles, it happens to be $2.99. Teen Titans #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating 4 out of 10):There have been some comments that The New 52 feel a lot like the “edgy” comics of the mid 1990s. This feeling is no more prevalent than with the titles written by Scott Lobdell and the debut of the all new Teen Titans. In this first issue, we're introduced to a much more dangerous world. One where young metahumans are running amok, with no apparent oversight. Enter N.O.W.H.E.R.E and Tim Drake, one-time Robin, now full time Red Robin. One wants to enlist the teens by threat of death, the other wants to be a force for good. Lobdell does an adequate if rather hasty job of introducing us to this new team, or at least half of it. We only see Red Robin, Kid Flash, a rather jarring Wonder Girl, and a glimpse of Superboy. The bulk of the storytelling falls to artist Brett Booth. There is no question Booth draws with energy and intensity. His action scenes do show a sense of movement, but there is always something lacking. None of the characters in Teen Titans have a sense of weight to them. As if they can't move behind the flat medium of the comic book page. Which brings me back to my opening line. Teen Titans feels a lot like the books that came out of the heyday of Image Comics in the 1990s. They are bright, flashy, and even a little sexy. However, they lack the emotional gravitas many modern comic book readers have come to expect. Then again, one of the goals of the New 52 is to bring in new readers and those that left years ago. Teen Titans might work for them. It just doesn't work for me.
Justice League: Dark #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 8/10): This is the book I've anticipated the most since its announcement. I'm a huge fan of the supernatural cast of the DC universe and a book that spotlights the supernatural superstars is just the thing I'm looking for. What we have here is Madame Xanadu, Enchantress, Shade, Zatanna, Deadman, and John Constantine in a magical alliance that acts as the last line of defense when one of their own goes out of control. Peter Milligan has scripted some eerie imagery and Mikel Janin brings that to the page. I was big fan of both Madame Xanadu and Zatanna's solo series, so it's good to see these staples of DC's more arcane side do their thing. It's good to see Milligan acknowledge that the JLA isn't the only solution to a threat by having Superman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg get taken down by a swarm cloud of teeth. Yes, you read that right. I have to admit, I was a bit thrown off at first when their costumes had been revealed. I still believe that Zatanna's new outfit is too "Criss Angel" for my tastes, but I've been assured she still has her classic attire when performing. It's a great first issue and doesn't give you all the answers, making you want to come back next month.
The Mighty Thor #6 (Published by Marvel; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10, Click here for preview): The book still looks good… but I guess all great things must come to an end. Whereas the past few issues of The Mighty Thor have featured some of the best fight sequences I've seen all year, now Matt Fraction has to wrap everything up, and structurally it feels a lot more talky and expositional than the streamlined awesomeness that has come before. Olivier Coipel, of course, makes that a bit more palatable, particularly with a hilarious first page featuring Loki, who sadly gets the short end of the stick as far as this plot goes. (Am I the only one who was angry at how Thor treated him in this book? The kid is so cute! Loki, you can be my little brother anytime.) Coipel's designwork is still legendary, particularly a moody-looking page of the Silver Surfer having a chat with an all-too-mortal man — his characters have that Jim Cheung-style feel, but so much smoother, even as his layouts do get a little threatening this issue. But ultimately, I guess what soured the experience for me somewhat is that Matt Fraction had all these great threads running around, but when it came time to tie them together, it felt really inorganic. Why would the pastor take the path he did? What really happened with Volstagg and the town? And how about Thor himself? What role did he ultimately play here? These questions weren't satisfactorily answered, and without the epic fight scenes to back it up, this book is still good, but is proof that everything that goes up, must also come down.
Aquaman #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Amanda McDonald; 'Rama Rating: 10/10; Click here for preview): Honestly, I picked this book up thinking, "oh this will be fun, I can write a review and make fun of Aquaman!" — and I couldn't have been more wrong. This book is actually really good! Geoff Johns has constructed an introduction to the character that has a solid story structure as well as takes a tongue in cheek look at a character that has been ridiculed for decades. The book opens with foreshadowing some dangerous underwater adversaries, but most of the story is set above water as Arthur thwarts a bank robbery and tries to have lunch at his local seafood joint. In this venture, the restaurant's patrons grill him about his choice of fish and chips for lunch as well as his reputation as a worthless "hero," and he deflects their allegations with a fair amount of grace and logic. Ivan Reis' art is in his characteristic, highly detailed style and Jo Prado's inks enhance the detail, not overshadowing the talent. Colors by Rod Reis up the ante, giving Arthur's suit a great glow and clearly distinguishing flashback scenes of his childhood. In what could have easily been pages of talking heads, these artists use differing angles and expressive faces to keep the story interesting, alongside Johns' clever dialogue that addresses the concerns so many of us have with this character in general. If this isn't enough to make you want to check out the title, you may want to take a look at Newsarama's Ten Reasons Aquaman is a Bad Ass for even more reason to give this book a try. Oh, and in case you were wondering -- he doesn't (and can not) talk to fish, though dolphins are a different story. This isn't at all what I expected from the book, and it may just be one of the sleeper hits of the new DC 52.
Brilliant #1 (Published by Marvel/ICON; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Sometimes its hard to believe that Brian Michael Bendis — the same Brian Michael Bendis that has done such a great job with Ultimate Spider-Man — is the same Bendis that writes some of his other books. Brilliant is one example, a self-conscious, clunky read that fizzles from decompression and bland artwork before it even gets anywhere. If you hadn't read the description of this book elsewhere — namely, brilliant kids developing superpowers to achieve their own criminal ends — you wouldn't get that from actually reading this first issue, which starts off with a bank robbery and then becomes 21 pages of nondescript college kids hanging out. It's about as much fun as it sounds. That bedrock Bendis "teen" dialogue, the dialogue that makes Ultimate Spidey have so much heart? Drops like a rock here, with swear words being sprinkled in to show that feel more gratuitous and awkward than anything distinctive. Artist Mark Bagley doesn't really help elevate this non-starting story — the problem is, we've seen all this before, in Ultimate Spidey and elsewhere, and while Bagley is certainly reliable and solid as an artist, he's not exactly giving this book its own visual voice, or really anything to make it stand out in an already crowded marketplace. This book isn't offensive, if anything, it's just far too quiet. From high concept to execution, there's nothing brilliant, bold or new about Brilliant.
Magdalena #8 (Published by Top Cow; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 7/10 ): It's Magdalena on Magdalena violence in this latest issue. Not having the church on your side and thinking you've gone rogue isn't the best way to start your week. Patience goes up against another Magdalena, and the impostor even manages to steal the Spear of Destiny. The issue is mainly a fast-paced fight scene between the two with church politics sprinkled in. But if you're going to come back after a slight delay, come out swinging. Keu Cha's art is pretty solid, but really could have used an inker here. The background assists by Jacob Grippen add that extra bit of detail, but I think Bill Farmer is the real artistic hero here. He does his best to paint over Cha's pencils and make everything come to life, but the pencil shading is still visible and is very distracting in some places. Ron Marz continues giving Patience a voice unlike any other character out there, I just wish the art were more put together.
Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz #1 (Published by Marvel Comics, Review by Amanda McDonald; 'Rama Rating: 10/10): The award winning duo of writer Eric Shanower and artist Skottie Young are at it again, as Marvel releases the start of a new Oz series. Far and away one of my favorite all ages series, this book takes Dorothy on an adventure into the land of Mangaboo — deep below the earth, via an earthquake that swallows her up along with her second cousin, his horse, and her cat. Adapted from the classic tales by Oz author L. Frank Baum, Shanower takes source material that is admittedly already a joy to read, but forms it to fit the sequential storytelling form so well that you forget it was once a very wordy, language rich, story. The dialogue that needs to be there, is there — and I'd love to take a peek at his scripts to see how he translates Baum's settings into direction for artist Young and colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu. Not only is Young's style unique and appealing to all ages, but Beaulieu's colors are simply stunning in this book. As Dorothy travels from the surface world's muted tones down into Mangaboo's ethereal glass buildings reflecting pinks and purples, I found myself forgetting to read the words and marveling at the beauty of the panels. Newsarama recently spoke with Young and Shanower here, where you can also see a few art previews. Or, you can be a smart cookie and go pick up the book at your LCS. The book is all ages in the truest sense. Yes, it's great for young comic readers, or to read with a child, but one certainly doesn't need a kid to enjoy this book — just a love of the comic medium of storytelling.
Fury of Firestorm #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating 8 out of 10): No question, Fury of Firestorm has the deck stacked against it. History has shown he isn't the most popular character in the DC Universe. While he's pretty dang cool visually, he's always been hampered by lame villains and too much power to tell really dramatic stories. Which makes this debut from co-writers Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone all the more impressive. Opening with some seriously messed up scenes between an innocent family in Turkey and Black Ops style killers; we readers get a little reminder of how Simone can write horrible moments without being offensively graphic. From there, it's all about the worlds of Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch. The Jock and the Brain. Although their beef with each other feels a little forced, Van Sciver and Simone do a good job of capturing teenage anger and uncertainty. Once the Firestorm matrix consumes them both, those emotions are amplified to dangerous and very satisfying levels. Yildiray Cinar's art is a little flat when he's drawing Ronnie, Jason, and others in their civilian garb. However, all bets are off once the two Firestorms make their rather dramatic and explosive debut. Cinar seems to fully grasp the visual potential of Firestorm. Panel layout goes from basic squares to sharp angels and chaotic movement breaking all the conventional comic book design rules. It's a jarring shift, but one that works perfectly with the tone of the book. Two rather sheltered teenage lives are forever changed in a moment of chaos and physics. This will still be a hard book for DC to sell to new and old readers. But it sure as heck deserves the shot. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!
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