Best Shots Rapid Reviews

Ready for some rapid reviewage, 'Rama readers? The Best Shots team is here to help, with some lightning fast takes on some of this week's biggest releases! So let's start off the column with a second look at a new Dynamic Duo, as Erika checks out Batman and Robin...


Batman and Robin #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Erika D. Peterman; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): A kid who has gone from assassin to crimefighter before puberty is going to have some issues. Bruce Wayne knows this, and as he ponders raising and (possibly) rehabilitating his son Damian, he can't help but wonder whether he's part of the problem. Batman is no Talia or Ra’s al Ghul, but in allowing another child to fill the Robin role, is he just nurturing a more socially acceptable form of dysfunction? Even more sobering is the question of whether Damian's worst impulses are too hard-wired to overcome permanently. It’s a quietly powerful segment with excellent dialogue and one wordless “whoa” moment of foreshadowing. Penciller Patrick Gleason speaks volumes with a single image. This part of the comic works so well that I’d have been happy for the story to remain the Batcave. However, the final pages are used to unmask NoBody, the man who has waged a sadistic campaign against all things Batman. Tomasi avoids the typical Big Reveal and goes for an almost casual introduction to a pivotal character — one that has a yet-to-be-revealed history with Bruce. Let the games begin.


Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Scott Cederlund; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10;
 here for preview): As Miles begins to understand a bit more of his new spider-like powers and takes a step toward understanding that with great power comes great responsibility, Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli remind us of that point in our own lives where we begin to discover that the world we live in and the people who we know and love are not what we thought they we when we were young enough not to know better.  Last issue, Miles learned more about his father that he never expected and in this issue, he is faced with the reality that he doesn't really know his uncle. Bendis has set up a great family drama, disguised as a superhero comic. Miles is a fascinating focal point, a kid obviously smarter than his age but still a kid with the fears of a child. As he is growing up before us, we get to see the uncertainty that goes along with that nebulous period between childhood and adulthood. Maybe that's what we saw a bit with Bendis's Peter Parker but we already knew so much of Peter's story before the Ultimate line even began. Miles isn't any character we know and Bendis already shows and conveys a great understanding of who Miles is. Pichelli's clean, crisp artwork is full of joy and life. She perfectly captures Miles' trepidation at his new knowledge of his family and his powers while showing his best friend Ganke's elation and wonderful optimism at having a superhero a friend. Bendis and Pichelli have created a cast of family and friends that define what Marvel's Ultimate line should always have been; a refreshingly new take on old concepts and ideas.


Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The momentum that Jeff Lemire established in Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 continues in issue #2. There is no shortage of epic battle scenes as well as some wicked plot twists with a whole lot of science on top. Lemire has Frankie’s character mastered. He is stoic, determined, bad-ass. But issue #2 is all about Nina Mazursky, scientist turned amphibious Creature Commando. Her origin story is a good one, and is drawn beautifully. Alberto Ponticelli’s pencils may be an acquired taste for some, but I love his gritty perspective. He conveys the grand scale of this issue’s events brilliantly, and the action sequences are intense. Major kudos goes to J.G. Jones for the cover art. It epitomizes the book and the characters so well. I am already head over heels for a Father Time as a little girl with pig tales, and Jones has her holding a handgun and throwing up deuces. It is absurd, and perfect. I also feel it necessary to give honorable mention to Pat Brosseau’s lettering. It makes moving through the busy, fast-pace of the story and art seamless. And Jose Villarrubia’s colors couldn’t be more fitting for the tone of the book. Separately, each artist on this title has excellent qualities worth mentioning, but together it creates a fantastic monster mash-up.


Ultimate Comics X-Men #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran
; 'Rama Rating 8 out of 10; Click here for preview): Funny, when Ultimate Comics first hit ten years ago, I was staunchly opposed to the concept and line. Now, it's pretty much the only Marvel I genuinely look forward to reading each month. Nick Spencer is really having fun with this all-new version of the X-Men. With mutants still imprisoned or killed on sight, Spencer is still able to take the familiar and make it interesting. His evolution of Kitty Pryde as a hesitant leader to a bunch of teenage superheroes is smart and balanced. You can understand her drive and dedication in the face of danger, but still see little snips of the young woman that never really got to have a childhood. The interaction between Iceman and the Human Torch makes you smile like the very best buddy cop flick. But, Spencer never once lets their banter and bravado stray into parody. They may never say it, but Bobby and Johnny have been through hell together, they'll always have each other’s back. (Even if they'll rib on each other the entire time.) Paco Medina's art is gorgeous. There is a realistic weight to his pencils and a true sense of movement. Even behind her new persona of The Shroud, Medina draws a powerfully intense Kitty Pryde, all while balancing the chaos of fire and ice ripping through downtown Manhattan. Couple Juan Vlasco's heavy inks and subtle shading with Marte Gracia's colors and you've got one of Marvel's best looking books this week. For all the press DC got, Marvel has quietly been showing folks how you really relaunch a line of books. These are 100% familiar characters that anyone with a passing knowledge of Marvel can pick up, but the stories still read fresh, exciting, and new.


Baltimore: The Curse Bells #3 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden continue to explore the fascinating characters and world they first visited in their novel Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire. Whether you’ve read the original novel or not, there’s plenty here to please fans of horror and the supernatural, as Lord Baltimore battles with hordes of vampire nuns, in order to stop a madman from awakening an ancient evil. The plot is enthralling, the dialogue is gripping, and the action is exhilarating. Ben Stenbeck brings the world of Baltimore to life in beautiful detail with his smooth and expressive linework, and a wonderful inking job that favours heavy blacks and gives the final artwork a very Mignola-esque quality. Dave Stewart’s color work here is completely flawless - it’s easy to see why Dark Horse have him working on half of their catalog! If you are a fan of Hellboy or B.P.R.D. you really should be picking up Baltimore: The Curse Bells, it’s one of the best books that Dark Horse is putting out right now. I hope that we see many more comics set in this world, because it’s becoming every bit as exciting as the Hellboy Universe!


Batwoman #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Scott Cederlund; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10) In the first two issues of Batwoman, the life of Kate Kane is far more interesting than Batwoman's costumed vigilantism. The story of a woman pissed off at her father and at the world while she tries to dance and flirt her way through life builds off of Greg Rucka's Detective Comics run and adds more color and flavor to her story. J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman's writing is not as subtle or nuanced as Rucka's but they give Kate more room just to be, particularly with her budding romance with Maggie Sawyer. Williams's art and Dave Stewart's colors becomes even more inventive and evocative this issue as they begin to mix up styles and palettes in this issue even more than they have before. Williams moves in and out of art styles, giving each character and each scene its own mood and texture. Gotham detective Maggie Sawyer is always Maggie Sawyer but visually there is a difference between the Maggie who is on a date with Kate Kane and the Maggie who is called into work to investigate a brutal killing. Williams shows that comic art can do much more than just show what's happening, as he changes his style to reflect every individual detail of this comic.


Legion of Monsters #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Full disclosure. That rating isn't exactly how I personally feel about this book, but I'll get to that in a minute. I am such a sucker for weird monster books. This newest Legion of Monsters miniseries has me all kinds of giddy. Morbius the Living Vampire leads an MIB style team that maintains order in the world of Marvel Monsters . And, of course, all hell breaks loose when Elsa Bloodstone literally explodes into their world. They realize they've got a common enemy and the hunt is on — pretty standard team-up stuff. And I love it. But, I can see where others might not. Dennis Hopeless writes with a heavy dose of humor and likes to play with monster movie stereotypes. However, that's part of the issue one can have with Legion of Monsters. Much of Hopeless' writing reads like a Joss Whedon mix-tape that's been played one too many times. Also, with such a diverse cast of freaks like Morbius, Manphibian, Living Mummy, and Werewolf by Night, very few seem to have their own voice. Artist Juan Doe is the real highlight for me. While I know his style isn't for everyone, it isn't wrong to call him a less whimsical Scottie Young. His line work keeps a fast pace with the rather insane world of this book. Although it does feel like the work was a little rushed with this issue. His backgrounds and facial expresses lack the detail I know Doe's capable of producing — hence the rating above. As a stand-alone work of comic art, Legion of Monsters is a book with potential that firmly falls in the “nice try” category. Then again, if you find yourself quoting flicks like Monster Squad when out with your buddies, then this book is for you.


My Greatest Adventure #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran;
'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): 
Anthologies can be a real gem when they're pulled off correctly. To do so, you need one of two things: Instantly recognizable characters that anyone can enjoy, or tight storytelling that allows for a bit of confusion, but the read itself is compelling. I really wish My Greatest Adventure had either. The first entry starring Robotman is easily the most approachable and enjoyable of the lot. While I don't really know how he fits into DC anymore, I do like the idea of Robotman acting as a superhero for hire. Writer Matt Kindt gives us some fun moments with Robotman's internal monologue and Scott Kolins' art is functional if not all that exciting. Aaron Lopresti's Garbage Man piece is pretty to look at, but will be completely lost on new readers. You could even forgive new readers for thinking this was Swamp Thing. Picking up from the last time we read the character, Garbage Man Returns sadly does nothing to pique my desire to read more. Which is a real shame, because visually Lopresti is trying his hardest to capture that 1970s House of Secrets vibe. It just doesn't work. Tanga: Restrained from writer and artist Kevin Maguire suffers from much the same. Unless you read her previous adventure in Weird Worlds, you won't have a clue about what's going on. To be honest, I did read it and I still don't know. I do like the cast of stellar freaks Maguire writes, in a Douglas Adams kind of way. Visually, Maguire draws a crisp and clean Tanga. Her body language and facial ticks are very expressive and go a long way in revealing her character. I wish each story in My Greatest Adventure had a few more pages to remind the readers what came before. Something to get us hooked. Because as it stands now, I doubt I'll be back for Issue #2.

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