Greetings, 'Rama Readers! Ready for the lightning round? Best Shots has you covered with today's Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with some thunder, as Aaron Duran takes a look at The Ultimates...
The Ultimates #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10; Click here for preview): Don't let the title of this comic fool you, this is Thor's show all the way. But don't let that prevent you from picking up this book. If you're familiar with Hickman's work over on Fantastic Four and FF in Marvel proper, then you know this is a guy that loves the slow burn. And somehow, in a title that suggests big team action and page after page of superhero brawls, that slow burn really works. With the rest of the team sidelined or MIA, Thor dives headlong into a fight he fully expects to be a one-way ticket to Valhalla. Which Hickman provides, with just enough of a twist to make me interested in a character that never really found his footing in the Ultimate Universe. I think the real strength in Ultimates #4 lies in artist Esad Ribic and colorist Dean White. Ribic's pencils are a strange mix of the organic and synthetic, and when paired up with White's subtle and earthly tones, you have a beautiful and haunting comic. But within the visual mix of science and magic are some very human moments. As Thor is faced with the brutal truth of this final and vengeful conflict, we can read every emotion on his face. In a flash, we see the transition from unstoppable god of thunder to a very human man. These images carry more weight than most “death of” stories in recent memory. Hickman, Ribic, and White are crafting a wholly believable world. And like real life, it isn't perfect, but I have to see it through to the end — whatever that might be.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Vol.2 #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The first issue of this second volume of Nick Spencer's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents didn't grip me quite the same way that the first issue of the last volume did, but it's a pretty outstanding read nonetheless. Picking up right where the previous volume left off, this issue continues primarily telling the story of Toby Henston, the latest Agent to take on the powers and codename of "Menthor." While I wish the other team members had more to do in this issue, the interaction between Toby and his partner Colleen Franklin is somehow both tense and casual, making their interactions, while occasionally a little wordy, very engaging on their own. New series artist Wes Craig is a force to be reckoned with; his linework comes off somewhere between Emma Rios and Katsuhiro Otomo, with an expressive energy that you won't find in any other DC title, period. T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is not just one of DC's strongest titles right now, with Nick Spencer's just-shy-of-too-precious, challenging plotlines, and Wes Craig's dynamite cartooning, it's unquestionably DC's most stylish book.
Uncanny X-Men #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 7 out of 10; Click here for preview): Well, I’ve been waiting ages for Marvel to finally do something with the sleeping Celestial, I just didn’t think it would be so... weird. First it offered up a “death seed” to Archangel in Uncanny X-Force, and now its head enables Mister Sinister to turn the residents of San Francisco into doppelgangers of himself. It’s certainly a quirky concept, but Kieron Gillen pulls it off, for the most part. That is to say, that if this coming Celestial showdown is just one of the things Marvel plans to do with the sleeping giant, I’ll be fine with that, but if it’s intended as the resolution of the storyline, it doesn’t feel anywhere near as climatic as it should. Well, only time will tell on that front, but as far as this issue goes, the majority of the book consists of Sinister delivering a rather long monologue, doing the classic super-villain explains his master plan thing. This works well, because it’s pretty much Sinister’s modus operandi, and because Gillen writes the character so well as the eccentric English gentleman. The artwork comes courtesy of three pencillers, four inkers and four colorists, and despite this looks quite fluid throughout. That said, being mostly a talking head issue, there aren’t really any standout scenes, but the Celestials looks very Kirby-esque, so I’m looking forward to seeing more of them. Uncanny X-Men #2 is a good story-building issue, but may disappoint those looking for action and excitement from this relaunched title.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #4 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10; Click here for preview): Raphael was always my favorite Ninja Turtle, and even if I didn't realize it at the time, I think the reason why was that Raph, more than any of his siblings, was an active character. He didn't just react to fights, he looked for them, he sought them out — he was the irritant of the team, the source of internal conflict. I get that — and it's clear that Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz feel the same way. But here's the thing — we've seen the Raph-centric story told again and again, and we've seen it told better than this. In a lot of ways, this first arc should have been called "Raphael and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," with the way the balance ended up going. This series looks sharp as hell, thanks to Dan Duncan's kinetic, fluid compositions, but did we really need four issues to create brand-new holes in logic for the Turtles' simple origin story? For me, the end result comes off as a huge missed opportunity — namely, who are the Ninja Turtles? Tell me more about Donatello. Tell me more about Michelangelo. Hell, tell me more about Leonardo, who traditionally has been more of a foil to Raph's rebellious instincts! Instead, the other three brothers come off as interchangeable ciphers, at times literally getting crowded for space in order to make way for Raphael. It also ends up killing the emotional reunion between the brothers, since we never really connected to them in the first place. So yes, there is a huge visceral appeal to Duncan's fisticuffs, since this book has never had a problem with its looks — the real issue here is intent. This could have been a golden opportunity to build up a new fan base for the TMNT, but instead, we're thrust into a family of people we barely know.
X-Men Legacy #259 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10; Click here for preview): X-Men Legacy is probably the biggest surprise for me so far, coming out of "Regenesis." I hadn't read any X-Men books for several years before this title switched from it's previously "adjectiveless" state, and until this one, hadn't read a single issue since the re-branding either. But, I decided to give most of the X-books a shot at this jumping on point, and I must say, I really enjoyed this issue. Mike Carey has traditionally been hit or miss for me, but his storytelling in this issue made me feel like I'd been reading all along. That's not to say that Legacy requires no previous knowledge- almost all X-Men titles require some pedigree to truly understand- but the characters were on point, the voice was distinct, and the charm was in full effect. Additionally, Khoi Pham's pencils have really evolved to a great point. I loved Pham's work on "Hercules," but felt it took a bit of a dive afterwards. It seems like he's back in his comfort zone, though, since this issue has some of the strongest work I've seen from him yet. His faces and "acting" are much more believable, and his characters are much more distinct and fluid. Inker Tom Palmer and colorist Antonio Fabela have a lot to do with that, as well. This may be one of the most cohesive art teams in Marvel's X-family. If you haven't been reading X-Men Legacy, now is a great time to start.
Legion: Secret Origin #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): There's still some major static going on this book, but at the same time, I'm also finding some pleasure in some of the smaller moments of this book. Let's start with the surprisingly good: artist Chris Batista, who reminds me a bit of Phil Noto spliced with Joe Eisma, with a hint of Barry Kitson's open-space sensibilities. He's got some surprising heart to the artwork, particularly with Brainiac 5 and Phantom Girl, who are pretty cute, all things considered. The downside, though: this story's direction still seems needlessly convoluted, not quite streamlined enough to be revolutionary and not quite adding enough to the mythos to seem important. The Legion has always been a tough group to crack, and isn't the point of a Secret Origin is to have that sort of instant access point? New readers beware, but diehards may find this (slightly) new angle one to watch.
Wolverine #19 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10; Click here for preview): Wolverine, Gorilla Man, and Fat Cobra sneak into a gang lord’s stronghold, hidden in the bellies of dragons - and that’s just one page. After the incredibly dark and bleak events that Wolverine has been through recently, Jason Aaron treats fans to a light-hearted story, filled with heads being smashed, kung fu, and plenty of witty banter. The outcome is inevitable, so Aaron serves it up front, and just lets readers enjoy pages and pages of Ron Garney’s wonderful artwork, which features well choreographed fight scenes on nearly every page. It’s not all fun and games though, as with this story, Aaron is tying up all of Wolverine’s loose ends in San Francisco, particularly the Black Dragon storyline, which he started way back in Wolverine: Manifest Destiny. At the same time, he sets things up for Wolverine’s girlfriend to move to the east coast, and plants the seed of the next major storyline. The best thing about this issue is the dynamic between Wolverine, Gorilla Man, and Fat Cobra - I’d like to see a lot more of this team up! Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!