Best Shots Comic Reviews: X-FORCE, BATMAN & ROBIN, More

Best Shots Comic Reviews: X-FORCE, More

'Rama readers, get ready, because Best Shots has your weekly dose of Monday reviews! Let's kick off the column fast, as Scott Cederlund takes a peek at the latest issue of Uncanny X-Force...


Uncanny X-Force #17

Written by Rick Remender

Art by Jerome Opena, Dean White, Jose Villarubia and Chris Sotomayor

Lettering by Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Scott Cederlund

‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Click here for preview

If there is one word to describe Rick Remender and Jerome Opena's Uncanny X-Force #17, it is "propulsive."  Yep, that is a word. In Remender and Opena's penultimate issue of "The Dark Angel Saga," the creators continue to tell a story that is barreling forward, that never lets up, as Wolverine and his team struggle to take down one of their own, Warren Worthington III, who is determined to wipe out mankind in order to kick-start the next stage of evolution. Since the beginning of this series, Remender and Opena haven't let anything get in their way as they race to the showdown between X-Force and the minions of Apocalypse, the unseen puppet-master behind this series.

As X-Force has to confront their corrupted teammate Archangel, Remender writes a classic X-Men tale as full of character, emotional intrigue and betrayals as any classic story. Remender channels his inner Claremont in the plot of this issue.  Psylocke's struggle with her feelings for Archangel and the corrupting allure of the dark side, all while Fantomex longs for her, knowing that she can never be his, is the classic soap opera triangle that Claremont set up with Jean Grey, Wolverine and Cyclops. Remender's story is full of the same character-building and world-building that Claremont's stories their lasting power.

Too many writers today get bogged down in the X-Men history without knowing how to push a story forward.  Remender takes everything that we have loved about the X-Men, the soap operas and the multitudinous characters and the forever-continuing plots, and combines them with a speed and power that never lets you catch your breath on this wild ride. In this issue, there are betrayals, alternate universe X-Men and flashbacks to characters' past histories, but Remender never gets bogged down with these things. Instead, he uses them to propel the story forward, even as he builds on plot points that he has set up in the last 16 issues. Remender's story builds on the past,  but hasn't become about the past. It's about where his characters are going, not where they have been.

Opena takes that force and speed that Remender writes and makes these character's conflicts and turmoils completely believable. Opena draws this issue as if he's drawing a superheroic opera. His characters are larger than life on the page, whether it is a gigantic, menacing Iceman or the conflicted Fantomex, who does not quite know what he is fighting for. He makes Remender's fantastical vistas and struggling characters real because of the conviction of his artwork.   There's no doubting the characters or the settings of this issue because Opena just makes them all look so natural.

He also makes you believe in these characters and their struggles. Psylocke goes through the emotional wringer in this issue, caught between the man she loves and the evil that has been part of him for far too long. Opena brings her struggle to life in the way that she looks at Archangel, loving and fearful of the man he is. That creates the conflict in this issue as much as anything that Remender writes on the page. Opena makes the struggles of Psylocke and Fantomex the core of this issue, as everyone else is there to fight. Psylocke and Fantomex are the characters in this issue who struggle emotionally as well as physically, and Opena perfectly captures those personal struggles in this larger than life battle.

Hopefully without giving too much away, Remender has the last page of this issue echo a key moment in the first Uncanny X-Force storyline, a moment where you could say that everything went wrong. So far, while this issue says that it is only chapter seven of a story, Remender reminds you that this is still the continuation of the story he began at the beginning of this series. It's part of that forward momentum that he's been building up. Everything in this series has been building on the action that's preceded it, building pressure and tension without ever letting up.


Batman and Robin #3

Written by Peter Tomasi

Art by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray and John Kalisz

Lettering by Patrick Brosseau

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Click here for preview

Want a father-son dynamic that's truly, well, dynamic? Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have totally leveled-up with their third issue of Batman and Robin, unleashing some serious whup-ass on some unsuspecting readers. With sharp character work, slick fight sequences and a charisma that burns off the page, this once-trailing Bat-book is back with a vengeance.

For the better part of three years, we've been wondering what the match-up between Bruce Wayne and his wayward son Damian might look like — and in this issue, Pete Tomasi delivers. As he's been since his inception, Damian is really the star of this book, driving the plot forward with chips on both shoulders — chips that he's looking to share with the scum of Gotham City. Lashing out at friend and foe alike, he's the kid brother you love and hate, particularly when he tries to get a leg-up over trusty butler Alfred.

Bruce, meanwhile, plays the straight man to Damian's bundle of energy, bringing some real heart to this book. The Batman, at his core, has always been about righting a wrong done to an impressionable child. This new Robin is on the razor's edge of being irredeemable, all based on Bruce's inaction and absence. Is it any wonder that, underneath all of the craziness of costumes, weapons and supervillains, Bruce might try a hint of normalcy in his parenting? It's a subtle note in an action-heavy story, but it's enough to give a bite-sized issue some nice heft.

But this issue wouldn't be nearly as memorable if it wasn't for Patrick Gleason. Aside from one wasted splash page, Gleason is punching way above his already-considerable weight class — one page in particular, where we see Batman perched on a gargoyle like a twisted, gnarly demon, evokes shades of Kelley Jones, really using those extendable capes and costumes to make our heroes look something more than human. There are a few moments in this book where the anatomy almost can't keep up with the lightning strikes of brute force, particularly as Robin dishes out some vicious punches against some unsuspecting goons — it's visceral as hell, and has plenty of moments of pure creepiness laced in there for good measure. To say this is the best work I've seen Gleason produce since he joined the Bat-group is an understatement — it's clear he's really hit his stride here, and has catapulted his way to some of the best the New 52 has to offer.

Whatever Wheaties Tomasi and Gleason have been eating, they definitely need to share with the rest of the class, because Batman and Robin #3 is probably one of the most enjoyable comics I've read this week. Considering the 20-page space they had to work with, this team produces some really compelling characterwork and dynamics, pushed along with some truly kinetic action. This is the sort of execution that most superhero comics would kill to emulate. At the very least, Batman and Robin has truly spread its wings, and is back to its rightful place on the top of the heap.


Fear Itself #7.2: Thor

Written by Matt Fraction

Art by Adam Kubert, Mark Roslan and Laura Martin

Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

Click here for preview

Turns out there is one thing worse than laughing at a funeral — and that's just not giving a damn. And despite having Adam freaking Kubert teaming up with the incomparable Laura Martin, that's the inevitable result of Fear Itself #7.2. Despite the issue laying Thor to his final resting place — that is, until he's brought back — this comic has an air of sadness and loss that never really connects with a reader. Stories end, heroes shuffle off this mortal coil… but can you really feel invested in a character that's already made this journey before?

I guess the problem here is matching the artistic talent with the story at hand. If you read Matt Fraction's dialogue, it's got that sort of stammering shock and sadness that does read like Anthony Hopkins's portrayal of Odin in the recent Thor film. But Adam Kubert's artwork doesn't pull off the sort of acting chops that really hit it all home. The first page of the comic, which would have been a great place to show the moments after Thor fell, instead has a glassiness to the characters' eyes. Kubert is definitely strong with his designs, that's been the not-so-secret of his success for years, but that's not what this comic needed. This is a comic about a father burying his son — this should be hitting the depths of human misery. Instead, we're barely going through the motions, with flashy introductory panels eating up any emotional investment we were supposed to have.

But back to the writing for a second. The thing that gets me is that there's just so much of it not actually doing anything, it's hard not for your eyes to glaze over — what are we supposed to be learning here? Is it just that Odin is sad? Is it just that Odin is changing Asgard's status quo? As far as goodbyes go, it's not like Fraction is saying anything definitive about Thor as a character, it's just build pyre, insert match, bring in substitute hero, repeat. And to add onto that fairly simple plot, the way Fraction introduces these characters is pretty cringeworthy — "Captain America. The Leader." "Iron Man. The Opposite." "Dr. Jane Foster. The Unrequited." I understand the need for economy, but these sorts of captions are pretty rough on your ears, and not at all what I would have expected from Fraction.

Perhaps the real heart of the matter is that it's 2011, and I can't honestly believe Thor is dead. Not in a "that was sudden" sort of way — I mean that this story doesn't even try to convince you that this is going to be a lasting change. I mean, didn't J. Michael Straczynski bring the character back from the dead barely four years ago? Stories don't end for this guy, they're just put on hold to try to add some emotional stakes to your miniseries. If there's magic to this sort of concept, it's akin to doing sleight of hand while your fly is down. Unless you're an absolute Thor/Kubert completist, you can pretty much skip Fear Itself #7.2 — you can pretty much guess everything that's happened in it without even cracking the cover.


Witchblade #149

Written by Ron Marz

Art by Stjepan Sejic

Lettering by Troy Peteri

Published by Top Cow

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

The end is almost here for Ron Marz and Stjepan Sejic's fantastic run on Witchblade, and while this issue has some great moments we've come to expect from the duo, they don't let you forget that changes are about to take place. Old time baddie Tiamat is on the attack and more gruesome than ever. Sara is backed up by Dani and the two slug it out with the malevolent goddess and her beastly "son". All the while in front of an IA investigator and Patrick Gleason.

Stjepan Sejic unleashes whatever beast he's held dormant and let's it all out. There a few splash pages here that demonstrate that this guy is serious business. He's created quite a bestiary over the years and his Sarlacc-like creature here is another example of his talent and imagination. The issue, like most of this run, is action-packed is the climax to one of the longer battles Sara has fought. It's so fast-paced, it almost seems like the events in the story lasted about twenty minutes tops. Not a bad thing, but the end you kind of saw coming, and I felt the dialog drifted away and fell flat.

Agent Phipps has been hunting Sara almost in a way Kavanaugh hunted out Vic Mackey in The Shield. Him coming across Sara's long-dead partner Jake's notes about Sara's little secret ignited a great start, but Phipps' reaction here almost seems implausible. Though, Marz has constructed him to be a by-the-book individual, but at the same time I wouldn't even know what to think should I have witnessed what he saw and still wanting Sara's badge would be far from my priorities. Marz does excel, as usual, in constructing a great battle scene and writing bad ass women characters that sometimes comic fans overlook. Seeing Sara give a whole new meaning to "exit wound" is not something you see a lot and is usually reserved for characters like Wolverine or maybe even Lobo.

Being a big Marz/Sejic fan, it is going to be interesting seeing these two make their exodus, and this issue sets the stage for the next step in Sara Pezzini's life. 


Batgirl #3

Written by Gail Simone

Art by Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes and Ulises Arreola

Lettering by Dave Sharpe

Published by DC Comics

'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

Review by Amanda McDonald

Click here for preview

I'm trying, here. I'm trying so hard to love this incarnation of Batgirl, but it often feels like the odds are stacked against me. Each issue keeps giving me a glimmer of hope that it's going to get better soon, and this issue is no different. How many times am I going to pick up the next issue in this hope? Probably as many times as Harley Quinn goes back to her 'Puddin.

Continuing the story of the first two issues, Babs is facing off with a villain called The Mirror, who is hell-bent on disproving the idea of miracles... by killing people who had previously escaped the jaws of death. Considering Barbara didn't die according to his schedule, it is on with this bitter, angry bad Samaritan. You think that'd be the gist of the issue, right? Not quite, as Simone takes it a whole other direction. Sure, Babs faces off with The Mirror for a bit, but nothing is resolved. Judging the book by its cover might come in handy here, as our hero finally has an encounter with. . . . Richard Grayson. You read that right, Richard, not Dick. Romantic as the two once were, she refers to him only as "Richard," and keeps a level of formality that I really wasn't expecting to see. However, Barbara's inner thoughts show us otherwise, and it's clear she's simply trying to keep her walls up and not let on to him how she really feels.

I try to look at a comic issue on its own two legs, regardless of the issues proceeding it. But if I were to pick up this issue, I don't think I'd know what was going on with the Mirror, and I'd be confused as to why that storyline just drops from the book less than halfway in. If this issue is meant to bridge the previous arc to the next one, I'd be a little more understanding of the change in direction from action to emotion, but when the action hasn't been resolved — a romp on the rooftops with Dick Grayson seems like a story better saved for later.

Yet the pages with her Nightwing encounter are the glimmer of hope for me in this book, that it has a potential to be really great. Simone writes these pages so that while the words being spoken say one thing, the inner thoughts say another, and Syaf's pencils further support that story. These pages flow, in large parts thanks to the smooth acrobatics, better than any other pages I've read in this series thus far. The pages with Barbara's conversation with her father are moving as well, and the strong inking adds more heft to Gordon's grizzled characterization. I like this kind of story. I've always had a soft spot for Babs and Dick together, and I want to see more of it. This just doesn't seem like the right point in the plot. This Barbara Gordon has seemed so different than her previous self, and it's jarring to see her slipping back into her old continuity so early in this new series. I don't feel like we're getting a clear characterization of this woman at all, between page after page of action shots and then tiny morsels of her relationships with her father and former best friend.

The next issue is titled "Final Showdown." After I get over singing "Final Countdown" in my head, I start to wonder — is this Mirror business going to get wrapped up? I hope so, it's kind of snooze-worthy. But is there more to it? Now that Nightwing is back in Bab's life. . . is Bruce going to be too far behind? While I'm all for empowered females headlining their own books, it would be remiss to not show the side of Babs that is a member of the Bat-family. While this issue is an improvement over the previous two, now it seems like Simone is trying to pack too much story into these few pages. I'd rather see her resolve this Mirror matter, and then move on — this issue starts several potential subplots, and the quantity doesn't necessarily translate into quality.


Ghost Rider #5

Written by Rob Williams

Art by Lee Garbett and Rob Schwager

Lettering by Clayton Cowles

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Edward Kaye

‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Click here for preview

To be honest, after Jason Aaron’s insanely epic run on the last Ghost Rider series, I really didn’t think there was much else that could be done with the character. At the end of that storyline, he’d pretty much told the definitive story of Johnny Blaze, and also that of Danny Ketch. So while I was curious to see what angle Rob Williams would take with this new series, I approached the book with some trepidation. Well, I needn’t have worried, because Williams found a great way to wipe the slate clean, and not have to deal with the immense weight of 40 years of continuity — he passed the demon Zatharos on to a new host. It’s a trick that’s been used before, but this time Williams has taken a bit of a gamble, and made the bold move of choosing a female host for the spirit. Why do I say this? Well, the Ghost Rider is a rather masculine character when you think about it, and superficially comes off as a joint advertisement for Harley-Davidson, Rock Star energy drink, and Ed Hardy. So to take this overtly masculine appearing demon and place it in the body of a woman, seems quite the risk. Thankfully though, in the hands of Rob Williams, this risk seems to pay off.

As new series go, this one got a bit of a raw deal, having to have its first arc tie in to Fear Itself. However, Williams has managed to weave the events into the overall mythology of the series, and at the same time used the story to introduce us to the character of Alejandra, tell her origin, and pass the beacon on from Johnny Blaze.

With this fifth issue of the series, the storyline breaks away from Fear Itself, and Williams brings us a done in one story that serves as Alejandra’s first solo mission — as such, the issue works as a great jumping on point. The story is a relatively simple one, which involves Zatharos sending Alejandra to Mexico to put a stop to a human trafficking ring. Williams uses this as an opportunity to showcase Alejandra's talents as the new Ghost Rider, and her seemingly much greater understanding of the potential powers of the demon to which she is bonded. While the story at first seems pretty straightforward, Williams sneaks an interesting twist in near the end, which reveals unknown details about Alejandra’s past, and establishes exactly how far she is willing to go to fulfill her new mission. It’s an action-packed issue, but Williams still manages to do a good amount of character-building, delivered via some engaging dialogue, and some light expository monologue that refreshes readers on what came before, and establishes Alejandra’s newfound purpose as the spirit of vengeance.

With this new storyline, we also get a new artist, in the form of Lee Garbett. I would describe Garbett’s artwork on the issue as being very clean looking. Which is odd, because when you think Ghost Rider, you sort of expect to see gritty and dark artwork. I have to say though that Garbett’s approach works really nicely, and gives the story a feeling of high adventure, which is very refreshing, and promises great things to come. His linework has a very open look to it, which isn’t overly detailed, but at the same time doesn’t scrimp on the details. For example, with faces he mostly just draws the basic features, and doesn’t clutter them up with too many extra details and shadows. The facial features he draws are very emotive though, and his characters sport a number of very fitting expressions. Amazingly, he even manages to imply emotion when drawing the Ghost Rider, who doesn’t actually have features with which to express it. His inking job is a pretty light one, and mostly consists of shading and filling blacks. He also throws in a few interesting touches here and there, like a bit of hatching and cross-hatching, and some nice finishes. Overall though, he avoids using heavy blacks, which is part of what gives the book that clean look.

Rob Shcwager finishes off the look with a color job, that while not amazing, is still rather nice. He’s especially good at coloring flames, which is very important on a book like this.

Ghost Rider #5 is a great standalone story, which serves as a great jumping on point, and really showcases what we can expect from this new series.


Penguin: Pain and Prejudice #2

Written by Gregg Hurwitz

Art by Szymon Kudranski and John Kalisz

Lettering by Rob Leigh

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

It's amazing to see how much comics have changed even over the past 10 years. Don't get me wrong, we had plenty of crossovers back in the early 2000s, but since widescreen storytelling became so popular with The Authority, Civil War and The Ultimates, it feels like the industry has favored flash over substance, of spectacle and high-concept over a good story told well.

And that's how I'd describe Penguin: Pain and Prejudice — it's just a good story told well. Which is kind of crazy, considering this is miniseries about the Penguin, a character that most Bat-writers try to pretend doesn't even exist, he's so goofy. But Gregg Hurwitz and Szymon Kudranski have taken the challenge and torn into it with gusto, diving deep into the heart of darkness with one of Gotham's worst criminals. By giving this monster a human face, it's even more terrifying — we don't just see how far this traumatized, brilliant child has fallen. It's that we empathize with his trail of death and destruction. We're not just spectators here — we're willing accomplices.

Now doesn't that sound better than a giant mechanical rubber ducky? You're welcome, Tim Burton.

Whereas the last issue Gregg Hurwitz established the Penguin's mean streak, this issue we get into the deeper nitty-gritty. Body issues, sexual issues, the Penguin's kind of messed up, projecting on everyone from his mother to the Batman himself. But that's also, perversely, the reason you empathize with the character — regardless of how creepy it becomes, regardless of how far it goes, the Penguin is, at his heart, a boy who loves his mother, and wants to take care of her when she's at her most vulnerable. And while the level of constant abuse to young Oswald comes across as almost Millarian in its relentlessness, toeing the edge of parody in some cases, Hurwitz uses this foundation to have some other cool riffs, with the Batman acting as a wild card, and Penguin's rock-bottom moment being a true moment of sadness and despair.

And the art. Putting Szymon Kudranski on this book was the smartest thing editor Mike Marts could have done. With a moody, deliberate style, Kudranski really makes this book a visual, if not spiritual, successor to Lee Bermejo's Lex Luthor: Man of Steel. This is a book that, in the hands of a lesser artist, could have been really slow, really unmemorable, really just bogged down with the narration. But Kudranski picks some strong images and peppers the book with them, whether its young Oswald sneering after his father's death, or the ruby red lips of his unseen mother, or the universe-quenching sadness when, at the end of the day, Oswald's reason for being is finally, inevitably lost. Kudranski just drenches the book in shadow, and that's to the Penguin's benefit, giving some mystery and menace to a design that often comes across as goofy and far from threatening. Colorist John Kalisz is a perfect choice for this book as well, washing out the pages with a haze of brown and blue that gives it the color of dirt and ice.

The thing, though, that impresses me most about Penguin: Pain and Prejudice is that, like its main character, there's nothing flashy about this book. There's no universe-spanning high concept, there's no crazy double-page splashes to eat up page count. This is a story that has to get by on its own merits, has to enthrall you based on its own execution. This is a comic that absolutely does that in spades. There are a few moments in this book which, yes, are a little predictable — who else would have killed Oswald's entire family besides him and his mother — but on the whole, this book bats way out of its league. I never thought I'd be excited to read a miniseries about the Penguin, but this is the sort of comic I wish more comics were like these days. It feels like a reminder of yesteryear, when they were bringing the character back into comics. 


Point One #1

Written by Ed Brubaker, Jeph Loeb, David Lapham, Chris Yost, Fred Van Lente, Matt Fraction, and Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Javier Pullido, Javier Rodriguez, Ed McGuiness, Dexter Vines, Morry Hollowell, Roberto De La Torre, Lee Loughridge, Ryan Stegman, Michael Babinski, Marte Gracia, Salvador Larroca, Guru EFX, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, Sonia Oback, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary,  and Paul Mounts

Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos, Comicraft’s A. Deschesne, Cory Petit, Joe Caramagna, Joe Sabino, and Clayton Cowles

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Edward Kaye

‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Click here for preview

Point One #1 is an anthology one-shot that is intended to showcase stories coming up in the Marvel Universe in 2012. The comic opens with a framing sequence written by Ed Brubaker, which features two villains infiltrating The Watcher’s base on the Moon. While there, they get a glimpse of the past, the present, and the possible future - with each glimpse being one of the stories told in the anthology. It’s a really interesting and engaging way to  frame the stories, and even teases a potential story of its own. The sequence is brought to life with some wonderful artwork from Javier Pullido and Javier Rodriguez, which pays tribute to the work of Jack Kirby, and is perhaps some of the best art in the book.

First up is a Nova story by Jeph Loeb, which reveals a game-changing return that will jump-start Marvel’s big event in 2012. The story is only five pages long, and really doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know from various teasers. While I approached the story with an open mind, I have to say that I found Loeb’s dialogue to be exceedingly bad (from Terrax shouting "flee, coward. I will make war with any being in the universe" to Nova's tearful reaction to an entire planet dying: "Epic fail"), which doesn’t bode well for things to come. Ed McGuiness’s artwork on the story is really nice, with his characters exuding power and speed through their clean, exaggerated musculature, but it’s definitely overshadowed by Loeb’s tin ear.

Next, we’re treated to an incredibly gripping preview of David Lapham’s upcoming Age of Apocalypse series, which takes the unique approach of looking at the alternate future through the eyes of the last remaining humans, who have formed a strike team to overthrow their mutant oppressors.The story that Lapham tells is incredibly intriguing, and draws you into its world with its engaging script. The artwork from Roberto De La Torre is really gritty, and perfectly brings to life this dystopic vision of the future.

Chris Yost is next, with a preview of his upcoming Scarlet Spider series. The story follows the continuing tale of Kaine, the last remaining clone of Peter Parker, and his decision to take up the mantle of the Scarlet Spider, and become a hero again. Readers’ enjoyment of this one will depend mostly on how favorably they remember the Clone Saga. Yost doesn’t do himself any favors here though, with a script overloaded with expository monologue, that at times is so busy that it’s hard to follow the flow of captions. The artwork by Ryan Stegman, while a little cartoony for my taste, reminds me of Humberto Ramos on Amazing Spider-Man.

Fred Van Lente treats us to a story featuring the origin of a brother and sister superhero duo called Coldmoon and Dragonfire. Raised in isolation, with each believing the other died at birth, Van Lente works closely with his artist to tell the story of their upbringing in parallel, until they finally meet in a spectacular collision of fire and ice. Salvador Larocca’s art on this story is fantastic, and quite a different style from his norm, making this look like a heck of a fun book.

Matt Fraction’s entry is a preview of his upcoming Defenders series, staring Doctor Strange and a Greenwich Village denizen called Notebooks Joe. It’s a quirky little story, and hints about the series in only a very general way, but if this is anything to go by, we’re in for a treat. The artwork comes courtesy of the Dodsons, and has that lovely clean look to it that typifies their work.

Brian Michael Bendis uses his story to give readers a preview of the return of Ultron in The Avengers. The preview is purposely vague, but contains a few interesting lines that hint at what led to the chaos in which the Avengers find themselves. As intriguing as this is though, Ultron has been done so many times that it’s hard to get excited about yet another showdown with him. I’ll still pick the arc up though, if only to see more of Bryan Hitch’s marvelous artwork, which makes the story look quite epic.

Overall, Point One #1 makes for an interesting taste of what’s to come from Marvel in 2012. I really enjoyed the angle they took with the Watcher framing sequence, and of the stories showcased I was most impressed with those from David Lapham and Roberto De La Torre, and Fred Van Lente and Salvador Larroca. Not all of the stories were my cup of tea, but some of that is down to personal taste. I’m sorry to say though that Jeph Loeb’s Nova story was nowhere near on a par with any of the other stories, and was a definitely a low point in an otherwise impressive anthology.


The Intrepid Escape Goat #2

Written by Brian Smith

Art by Brian Smith, Mike DeVito and Jon Conkling

Lettering by Sarah Smith

Published by Th3rd World Studios

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Review by Amanda McDonald

From the same publishers that brought us the eccentric mix of characters and poignant story telling of Stuff of Legends, comes Brian Smith's own mix of eccentric characters and story telling. Don't let that fool you, they are indeed two extremely different books and The Intrepid Escape Goat stands on its own two feet. . . or hooves, in this case.

Thomas Fleet is an anthropomorphic goat with a wildly successful career as a stage performer, a la Houdini. His assistant is the two thousand year old Princess Isis, who he saved from the tomb of a pyramid, and who has magical abilities, is cute as a button, and has an affinity for ice cream. In the first issue they got caught up in a mystery involved a rare gem called "The Buddha's Tooth," owned by a Sri Lankan princess, Ayani, who also happens to be a cat. It appears that a mysterious entity is killing citizens and casting a marionette spell upon them to try to capture this exclusive artifact.

It's been a while since I've found a new all-ages title that I'm excited about, and even longer since I've found one that will appeal to fans of more than just capes and tights. If you've been looking for the same, The Intrepid Escape Goat is the place to look. For the youngest readers, Smith's art (colored by DeVito and Conkling) tells the story sufficiently to know exactly what is going on. And for older readers, that dialog amplifies the story into something that is truly a joy to read with subtleties and humor for even the most seasoned comic reader. Smith's art is cartoony and will appeal to young readers, but is not overly simplistic as to detract older readers. And for those with a true love of sequential storytelling, don't close the book at the end of the story! There are mini comics penned by Polly and Daisy Watson with art by Gregg Schigiel that are wordless and highly enjoyable. The first issue had this as well, and I plan to use these pages to introduce my elementary school students to storyboarding.

Th3rd World Studios doesn't put out a lot of books, nor do they come out often — but when they do, they are gems. Be sure to search this one out. It's only a three-issue series, but hopefully we see more of these books on the shelves if readership supports them. Whether you're looking to get a young one into comics, looking for ways to support your already comic loving youngsters, or just want a taste of something fun, fresh, and different — The Intrepid Escape Goat is a must-buy.

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