Think fast, 'Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with the quick-draw reviewers of the Best Shots Team! We have a ton of Rapid-Fire Reviews for your reading enjoyment, so why beat around the bush? Let's kick off today's column with George Marston, as he tackles the Man Without Fear in Daredevil...
Daredevil #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10; Click here for preview): In this fun follow up to last week's Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil, Spider-Man, and the Black Cat attempt to track down an experimental hologram projector, and figure out who framed the Black Cat for its theft. It's a fun yarn, and just like Spidey's half of the crossover was all about him and featured Daredevil in a guest spot, this week sees Daredevil take center stage. There are some tremendous character dynamics bouncing around (and I don't just mean Black Cat's) as Mark Waid paints the pages a lusty red with Black Cat's flirtatious advances towards Daredevil, and Spidey practically mopes out of jealousy. She even goes so far as to call him "Horndog." No, Felicia, it's "Hornhead," as the man himself immediately reminds her. It may skew slightly adult for some readers, especially when the scene jumps to Daredevil and Black Cat in bed, but it's a hell of a lot more tasteful than a lot of the scenes I've had to leaf through lately. And, like the best Femmes Fatale, Black Cat certainly has an ulterior motive, as revealed in earlier scenes, to luring DD into the sack. It's all wonderfully rendered by fill in artist Kano, whose style almost magically comes off as the middle ground between regular artist Paolo Rivera, and previous Daredevil draftsman Marcos Martin. Count this as another dynamite issue for one of the most consistently excellent titles on the stands.
Wonder Woman #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10; Click here for preview): I am really enjoying Azzarello's approach to Wonder Woman, and I'm glad DC finally shook off their fear of Diana's more mythical supporting cast. It never made any sense for a character so steeped in Greek myth to then ignore 90% of it. Wonder Woman #5 continues the bizarre family reunion as Diana comes to terms with her role in our world and the increasingly violent world of her godly family. Brian Azzarello is deftly combining concepts of growth and acceptance in his incarnation of Wonder Woman, all while sprinkling in a tasty seasoning of the Sopranos and the Godfather. I'm also enjoying the small moments of joy Diana finds within her twisted world — her smile at the tomatoes in a proper English breakfast, or the happiness in being near her new family, no matter how complicated. Mix that with an over the top appearance by Poseidon and you've got one strong title. Tony Akins takes over the penciling duties while Cliff Chang takes a scheduled break. Akins has a busier style when compared to Chang's simpler lines, but their approaches are similar enough that readers won't be taken back. Though very expressive, I think Akin's facial composition makes characters look a little too young. In a few panels, Diana reminds me of a Disney princess. However, his panel layout and wider scenes are very dynamic and convey a good sense of motion. As has been the case since issue 1, Akins also avoids blatant cheesecake shots, which is tricky with an issue involving a female protagonist and tentacles. While not perfect, Wonder Woman is still one of the best books DC has to offer and one you should be reading.
Chew #23 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): As we begin to catch up to the events that lead to the mysterious Chew #27 life goes from bad to worse for the protagonists, as Tony is force-fed dead baseball players, and John find himself partnered with a cybernetic lion (don’t ask). John Layman puts together an incredibly fun and quirky issue that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still manages to advance the ongoing storyline. The plot makes more sense than it has any right to do, considering the subject matter, and the dialogue is always smart and witty. Rob Guillory’s artwork is up to its usual high standard, and he brings this bizarre world to life perfectly with his slightly cartoonish penciling style and his tight inks. I love the little notes and details he peppers throughout the book for more observant readers to pick up on, for example at one point a TV in the background shows scenes from the baseball comedies “Major League” and “A League of Their Own”. With Chew #23 John Layman and Rob Guillory really knock it out of the park (sorry!).
Amazing Spider-Man #678 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10; Click here for preview): It's back to business for Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos with this entertaining, if a little breezy issue of Amazing Spider-Man. After a fun, but somewhat lackluster story about the Vulture, and a terrific detour to follow the Sinister Six for an issue, it's nice to read a fast-paced, sufficiently pseudo-scientific tale of what would happen if Spider-Man just disappeared for a day. Basically, Peter gets a glimpse of what the world would be like after only a day of his absence. Not knowing what caused the destructive future he witnessed, Peter enlists the help of one of his fellow scientists to peruse a newspaper from a future where he didn't disappear, and retrace the footsteps he would've taken on the missing day. What follows is a charming, jokey look at Spider-Man's busiest day ever. It's a little lightweight, but the pacing never lets up, and by the end, the real threat is revealed. Humberto Ramos's depiction of Spider-Man is also getting better and better, and his angular take on Spidey's anatomy really stands out as a highlight. I do wish that the inking were a little bolder; some of the finer details seem to get lost in the finished art, and the scene where Madame Web kind of fades away doesn't come off exactly right. The energy in the pencils is bounding and bright, however, and suits the book like a glove. We'll have to wait for the next issue to see how things turn out, but if these are the kind of fun, small arc stories that Slott and Ramos are gonna be telling for a while, then I'll be there with bells on.
Batman #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Whoa. OK. I've got to tell you, everything you're going to hear about this issue (and I think you'll be hearing a lot) is absolutely true. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have really done something special with this book, pulling out all the stops to convey a more concise and powerful version of Batman's mental breakdown in a single than Grant Morrison did in his entire run on the title. This is the real deal; a book that pushes boundaries while still telling a story that gets directly to the heart of the character it's portraying. This is the first issue of this title that I was able to completely lose myself in, through both Bruce's tattered internal monologue, and the high contrast art, full of stark blacks and piercing whites. I gotta say, I loved the rotating pages, as well. It threw me off at first, but I caught on immediately, and man, it really made an impact on my reading of the story. Batman #5 is one of those rare books that kind of made me step back for a second, take a breath, and re-read it immediately. Truly breathtaking; a masterpiece.
Star Trek #5 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): When IDW started publishing Star Trek within the JJ Abrams setting, I was less than enthused. The first stories felt like blatant a rehash of classic episodes, with just a younger looking cast. Now a few issues in with Star Trek #5 and I'm finally down for this voyage. Retelling the original series episode, Operation: Annihilate (that's the one with the flying “fake vomit” aliens that make people go all nut-so), writer Mike Johnson shows the potential in these comics — namely, the potential in bridging the gap between long-time Star Trek fans and those that really only started enjoying these characters after the new movie. (Trust me, there are a lot of them). Johnson finds the tricky balance of providing new information about these characters, all while remembering that Star Trek is that warm blanket of familiarity. Some of the writing reads like Johnson took Star Trek 101, but that's an inherent danger in writing characters with 40 years of established cadence; and if we're being honest, pretty dang forgivable. Artist Joe Corroney is a mixed bag in this issue. When he draws characters without a known look, his pencils are natural and have a realistic quality. However, there are times when drawing Kirk or Spock where his art feels very static and wooden, with perhaps far too much reliance on photo referencing. Again, the very nature of a Star Trek comic makes photo referencing hard to avoid. But, when a reader can recognize actual photos, it's time to slow down a bit. Still, as a long-time Trekkie, it's fun to go back and read these episode re-imaginings. I know it may not be everyone's cup of Raktajino, but I'm having fun. But I'll be the first to admit, your mileage may vary.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The central "spies-as-superheroes-as-spies" conceit behind Nick Spencer's take on T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is so elementary, that it's almost shocking it hasn't been done this well more often. The only stories I can think to compare it to offhand are Stan Lee and Jim Steranko's "Nick Fury: Agent of Shield" stories from the '60's, but even that's not exactly the same premise. In any case, the concept sets the perfect stage for the theme of loss of control, which is felt heavily in this arc, wherein the Agents go below the surface of the earth to fight against some weird green people who have not only captured some of their teammates and technology, but may be in league with some former allies turned enemies. The sci-fi weirdness of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is in full effect, and the hauntingly contrasted NoMan takes a bit of center stage, lamenting the way in which his inventions have been used, even as he uses them himself. There are some great moments here, such as when Mento reluctantly dons his psychic helmet, subduing a group of enemies in one fell swoop. Somehow this books seems like one of the most natural extensions of a long-dead, but much clamored-for Silver Age property. It's certainly one of the best books that DC's putting out these days.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10; Click here for preview): There's something missing here. I don't know what it is, but the energy for Ultimate Comics Spider-Man dropped a lot this issue, perhaps due to decompression as well as a switch-up for the art. Brian Michael Bendis spends a lot of time focusing on Miles Morales's criminal uncle, the Ultimate universe's Prowler, with a fairly dark, somewhat action-y scene — the problem is, it runs counter to the surprisingly sweet (if really short in retrospect) introduction we already had with the character. Unfortunately, it makes it feel like Miles got short shrift, with a fairly lackluster conversation with his mother that doesn't quite evoke a big emotional beat. Artist Chris Samnee also seems to need some loosening up here — his great strength is facial expressions, but Spider-Man is a character that lives and dies on body language, on fluidity of movement, and Samnee's compositions don't quite stretch those flips like some of his predecessors. (He does make the Prowler sequences look really menacing, however.) Six issues in, it feels like this issue is an interlude, which is Bendis's prerogative — after all, he and Samnee are quality in general — but we need more meat and higher stakes, fast, or the energy for Ultimate Comics Spider-Man will continue to flag.
Nightwing #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10; Click here for preview): I think my favorite part of Nightwing #5, written by Kyle Higgins and art by Eddy Barrows and Paulo Siqueria, is the seeing one of my favorite characters truly on his own. The story reaches back into Dick Grayson's past with Haly’s Circus and doesn’t touch on his time as Bruce’s ward. We get a story that fleshes out Dick Grayson’s life as an independent hero and not part of the larger Gotham roster. Having spent the better part of last year folded completely into the world as Batman, it’s nice to see the former Boy Wonder on his own again. Although this issue featured Nightwing fighting an unnamed voodoo monster (a common motif in the New 52), the story sets up a promising future. The art team does a fine job capturing Nightwing’s unique fighting style that is more acrobatic than his peers and fits nicely with the in-battle jeers of our hero. The art does a nice job of capturing a more adult world for Dick with realistic characters and design. The overall tone of the book really sets up the New 52 version of Nightwing (not all that different from the old one, really) and the visuals make me forget about the costume change. Although this issue seems like filler in the big picture of the story arc, it’s still a fun ride for fans of the first Robin.
Memorial #2 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): In this second issue of his new creator-owned series writer Chris Roberson continues to reveal enticing glimpses of the rich fantasy world that he’s created to tell this story in. When I read the first issue I was a bit afraid that the concept might be a bit close to that of Fables, but the details revealed in this issue define this as a succinctly different fantasy world, with its own internal logic and highly three-dimensional characters. I was particularly impressed with the idea that Roberson comes up with to bind the story’s many worlds together, it’s an incredibly smart concept with lots of potential. My only real qualm with the book is that the whole amnesia thing has been done to death, but Roberson has given us such a well-developed and highly likable protagonist, and performed such brilliant world building, that you can forgive this minor flaw in the story. The characters and world are brought to life in fantastic fashion by Rich Ellis, whose elegant line art and rich inking make this enchanting world seem almost real. Memorial #2 is a fantastic second chapter in what looks set to be a contemporary classic in the world of urban fantasy.
DC Universe Presents #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10; Click here for preview): There's some nice thematic closure to the end of this Deadman adventure, but a last-minute swerve in DC Universe Presents winds up snatching disappointment from the jaws of victory. What Paul Jenkins does well is that he takes this visually interesting superhero and lets him tackle a cerebral negotiation. Superheroes don't have to be about punching, and seeing that Boston Brand has learned something gives this book more depth than plenty of others. Artist Bernard Chang is the real workhorse here, as he has to keep this extended dialogue interesting. Thanks to his edgy character designs, his striking layouts (particularly with the shape-shifting goddess Rama Kushna) and some really bold colorwork from Blond, you have a book that looks good. The problem? The dismount, which feeds into superhero self-indulgence, complete with a double-amputee swinging on a rope and firing a rocket launcher at people. It's a shame, because it takes all the thoughtfulness out of this book, with all the ingredients for a smart ending being twisted into something shallow and inorganic. Perhaps that's why I have such a bad taste in my mouth — this was an interesting premise of redemption that becomes its own worst enemy. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!