Best Shots Rapid Reviews

'Rama readers! Get ready for some rapid reviewing in 3-2-1... let's kick off with Best Shots' Amanda McDonald, as she checks out Aquaman #2...


Aquaman #2 (Published by DC Comics, Review by Amanda McDonald, 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10, Click here for preview)
: After a debut issue with stellar character development, but only a hint of action -- Geoff Johns turns the table and delivers an issue chock full of sea monster butt kicking. This issue heavily features not only Aquaman, but Mera (don't call her Aquawoman) joins in the battle as well. The last issue left off with these underwater creatures eating fishermen, and now they have attacked nearly an entire seaside village. One of the village's deputies goes in search of the fabled Aquaman, and pleads with him to come help them. Met with some resistance from the village's deputy, Aquaman and Mera quickly prove their worth as they fight off hordes of these mysterious creatures that don't speak -- but simply gurgle about wanting food. Johns really surprised me with the first issue of this book, and it is clear that dispelling the perception of Aquaman as a useless hero is a high priority in this new series. There's still a hint at the character development, as Mera and Arthur talk about his upbringing -- but issue two really showcases the physical talents of the duo, and their specialized skills when it comes to creatures from the deep. Ivan Reis and Joe Prado continue to create a book that is a visual powerhouse, with monsters that stay in the mind's eye long after the book is closed. After the month of all the New 52 books came to a close, many considered this to be one of the stronger offerings from DC. Should it keep on this trend, those initial fans are sure to not be disappointed -- and hopefully the once dismissed Aquaman can stage a true comeback.


Captain America and Bucky #623 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10;
Click here for preview): This isn't the best issue that Ed Brubaker and Chris Samnee have done together, but it doesn't change the fact that Captain America and Bucky is high-quality entertainment that is among the most consistent books that Marvel publishes today. These done-in-one stories read like good TV — you get a sense of who Bucky is, his relationship with teen torch Toro, as well as what happens when you push him with horror and depravity… in this case, the Nazi concentration camps. It was inevitable that Bucky would come across the most terrifying symbol of World War II, and Chris Samnee's expressive artwork is what makes the book work — whether it's Toro pouting that he has to stay behind as backup or the terror in Bucky's eyes as he relives the camp in a nightmare, Samnee is Marvel's most underrated superstar, a true talent that never gets the industry-wide praise that he deserves. The one disadvantage that Brubaker has with this story being done-in-one is that I think it's missing a theme here, something to make this book say something other than just what it's saying on the surface. Considering Brubaker's been able to do that with many of his previous issues, that's the only thing holding this book back. Still, a misstep is just that — this book still looks great, reads great, and is definitely worth your time.


Justice League Dark #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10, Click here for preview)
: For me, the second issues of this whole new DCU experiment have been less than spectacular, as if there has been a company-wide downshift from the energy of the debut outings. Justice League Dark, a book I really enjoyed in its first outing, continues in that vein of cruise-control, acting more like a post-script to issue one rather than a second chapter. Mikell Janin's artwork is fantastic, supported by great colors from Ulises Arreola; the visuals are probably the best reason to pick this series up if you're on the fence. Writer Peter Milligan dedicates nearly a third of the issue to the passive-aggressive relationship back and forth between Dove and Deadman that does nothing more than make Boston look like a frat boy experiencing vasocongestion and Dawn like a shivering Bambi in the headlights of an oncoming Mack making it hard to believe that these two are actually heroes. It's boring after a page and deadweight tonnage after seven that nearly grinds the whole issue to a halt. Mr. Milligan could also do better by lightening up on the voice-over narration, too. He's strangling the story by preaching it to us from multiple points of view as opposed to letting his art team show it to us. The writing needs to catch up to the quality of the artwork.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #3 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10)
: Well, that brings up some interesting questions. The revised origin of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is certainly imperfect in its execution, but if it's saying what I think it's saying — and yeah, that's a shame the story is unclear enough that I have to question that — Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz are upending TMNT lore in a way that could really change the dynamic of the team. The problem is that Eastman and Waltz, even with their somewhat self-conscious insertion of exposition, more or less dance around the point of this issue — namely, what would this family be like if they had never even met Raphael — so it takes awhile before you realize you've been essentially reading this book wrong for three issues. That's not exactly reader-friendly material. But artist Dan Duncan makes it all worthwhile, with his kinetic linework that particularly pops every time the Turtles are on the page. Duncan's designs are just superb, and I love the way that Ronda Pattison actually changes the Turtles' coloration just to differentiate between the brothers. In short, this is a book that may be a very imperfect story, but the artwork is totally killer. For me, that happens to swing the scales in this book's favor, but ultimately, that question is the criteria you'll have to bring to this book.


Legion: Secret Origin #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10)
: This book… kind of confuses me. When I heard Paul Levitz talk about how he was going to look at the secrets behind the Legion's founding, I thought he'd get to the point a little faster than this. But we're one issue in, and pretty much all we know is that R.J. Brande met with a secret government cabal while he was forming the Legion of Superheroes, and that Brainiac 5 met Phantom Girl while working for the government. That's… kind of insubstantial for a first issue, where you need to cut to the quick fast in order to keep readers interested. What about a theme? A purpose? A psychic prediction that the Legion founders are going to be "important" really isn't enough — they're a DC franchise, of course they're going to be important! Levitz's other big problem is that his dialogue is really tough to read through — thankfully, Chris Batista is a good enough visual storyteller that you can read through most of this book and still get the point even as you slog through the marble-mouthed balloons. Barring a weird sequence with Triplicate Girl (that you would not understand at all unless you already knew who the Legion was), Batista brings some good moments to the script, like Brainiac 5 freaking out when he learns Phantom Girl can move through his force field. I know it's too much to ask for this book to lay all its cards out on the table in the first issue, but even getting a taste of the theme would have given this Secret Origin the resonance readers need to stay invested.


Stitched #1 (Published by Avatar Press; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 7 out of 10):
Garth Ennis brings his latest horror creation to comics. Based on the script of his upcoming short film of the same name, the comic follows a group of soldiers stranded in the Afghan desert, as they are hunted down by a group of bizarre savages. I’m a huge fan of Ennis’ work, and have loved everything that he’s done since his 2000 AD days, so I was eager to try this one out. Though, I was a bit hesitant, because word from early screenings at SDCC was that the film was very poor, and I have to say that the trailer makes it look a bit amateurish. However, I’m pleased to report that the debut issue is highly enjoyable, but it’s not exactly the “modern masterpiece” that Avatar’s marketing would have us believe it to be. It feels a bit like The Hills Have Eyes set in Afghanistan, with baddies who reminded me a bit of Pyramid Head from Silent Hill. Mike Wolfer’s art here is some of the best I’ve seen from him in some time, but it does have a slightly uneven quality - his art looks great in most places, but then there will be a weird facial expression, some odd anatomy, etc. Something he’s good at though is gore, and this book has it in spades! All in all, a fun horror comic, but so far doesn’t quite match up the hype.


Voodoo #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10;
Click here for preview): Hey, folks. Voodoo #2 has left the strip club, but there is still plenty of skin. It is girl and boy skin this time, but mostly girl. What do you expect when you shape-shift after getting it on with the guy-you-just-slaughtered’s partner? Voodoo. Priscilla. Reptilian alien-chick. Whatever her name is, she’s on a mission. That is about all we know. Is she supposed to be the protagonist? If so, I have yet to sympathize with her. She is ripping out intestines to supposedly prevent capture and experimental torture at the hands of the U.S. government. The self-defense angle is not enough to get past her lizard skin and giant teeth to care at all whether she lives, dies, or does anything, really. And when the green spandex shows up, the tone becomes abruptly campy. Where there is camp, you can usually find cheesecake. I like a lot of John Tyler Christopher’s work. His style is crisp, and he does fantastic things with negative space. There is no doubt the cover of Voodoo #2 is striking. But the enormity of her breasts and the angle from which they are portrayed caused me to flip the book facedown when the offspring walked by. So, there is that. I really enjoyed the interior art. Sami Basri’s style is clean and beautiful. The story may not be giving up the goods yet, but Basri is enough to make me hang on for one more issue. Also, I have a bit of faith in Ron Marz.


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