Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your weekly dose of rapid-fire reviews? Best Shots sure is, so let's kick off today's column with a bang, as we check in with the latest issue of Justice League...
Justice League #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10; Click here for preview): The best parts of Justice League #5 aren't the over-the-top action sequences — even if you'd think that's Jim Lee's major appeal — but the flashes of character that appear underneath. It's fairly easy to gloss over beats like the Flash and Superman racing Darkseid's Omega Beams, but seeing the nearly manic desperation in Green Lantern's eyes, as he throws himself again and again into the fray? That's the sort of stuff that makes you sit up and get invested, and shows that Geoff Johns has a few more angles to show for each of these characters. Jim Lee's pencil work does have some really effective moments, such as the weight behind Darkseid's massive fists, but at the same time, he also runs his army of inkers ragged, giving the book a somewhat scratchy vibe. That all said, there are plenty of moments of weirdness to this script as well, whether it's Batman randomly unmasking (or speaking in sports metaphors) or Wonder Woman's glee at possibly blinding Darkseid. But at the very least, the decompression has abated a bit, and shows there's some potential for growth for these relaunched characters. Here's hoping Johns and Lee can dig a little deeper into the League's heads next go-round.
Fantastic Four #602 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10; Click here for preview): You want "epic"? Jonathan Hickman will show you epic. If you want a comic with some big names, big explosions, big stakes, big solutions, Fantastic Four #602 is about as blockbuster as it gets, particularly for a book that's been known to be super-cerebral. The only thing I think holds the book back? Some tonal inconsistencies with the book's stellar artist, Barry Kitson. His characters look gorgeous, with few shadows to mar the mood, but the problem with that is it also robs the visuals of the end-of-the-world-style tension. That all said, continuity buffs are going to be suitably wide-eyed with where Hickman is taking this story, combining the Kree, Inhumans and more. Ultimately, even if their styles don't quite mesh well for this story, Fantastic Four #602 is two craftsmen coming up to the plate with some serious ambition and scale.
Infestation 2 #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): I really enjoyed last year’s Infestation crossover event, so was eager to try out this year’s follow-up. When I saw that they were going with a Cthulu theme my confidence was shaken a bit, because it’s been done to death recently, especially in comic books. However, IDW give the idea a fun metafictional twist, and have Lovecraft’s stories set in a fictional world within their fictional world, and have the monsters leaking out into other fictional worlds (got that?). The problem with the book though is that it isn’t the bookend issue it’s purported to be, and the entire concept of the crossover is explained succinctly in the 4-page prologue, which leaves the rest of the book showing how the Cthulu outbreak has affected the world of IDW’s CVO team. As such it will likely leave readers a little confused about what is going on, especially with its references to events from the CVO title, and things like Artillca. It’s not that Duane Swierczynski does a bad job with the script, but this would have worked a lot better if the 4-page prologue was expanded to fill the whole book and was a lot more in-depth. The artwork comes courtesy of David Messina, who does a great job visualizing all of the classic Lovecaftian monsters, while making them fit in with the style of the CVO Universe. Infestation 2 #1 isn’t a bad book, but it really should have been labeled as Infestation 2: CVO #1, because that’s what it really is, and as such isn't necessary reading to understand the other titles in the crossover.
The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10; Click here for preview): Despite my earlier apprehension, Firestorm, written by Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver, has proven to be one of the more refreshing takes on a maligned DC favorite. Sure, the dialogue can be a bit hokey and the antagonist is a shadow government that makes monsters — like in every other DC title — but this one stands above the rest. Issue #5 finds Firestorms Ronnie and Jason starting to accept their new role working as symbols for the corporation/government/whatever that attacked them in the first few issues. The characters of Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch are enjoyable to read; even though I doubt that is how teenagers talk today, I like the unconventional route they take in accepting their new powers. The Odd Couple meets super heroes? I’m game. Yildiray Cinar's interior art fits the tone of the book, accessible and easy to read. A fun story featuring teenagers that is accessible both in art and story is perfect for DC if they hope to capture that younger audience. Z-Tech may want the Firestorms as mascots for the company, but DC might want to think about using Firestorm as a gateway for new readers.
Astonishing X-Men #46 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10; Click here for preview): This isn't a story that reinvents the wheel, but Greg Pak and Mike McKone have put together a breezy, low-calorie story that has a nice blend of action and characterization. Pak's Cyclops is still the standout of the bunch, with his voice really standing out well, and the little hints of alternate universe history he drops (particularly with a Wolverine with "adamantine" bones) is a great touch. Mike McKone's artwork is clean and open and really inviting for the casual reader, with some striking composition for those who are experienced enough to appreciate it. Considering this comic is meant to be largely continuity-free, there are lots of great little nods to things ranging from Schism to X-Men: Evolution, and the moral quandary underneath it all is really surprising. It won't reinvent the X-books like some of its sister titles, but Astonishing X-Men can still exist as a book that's merely just good.
Transformers: Robots in Disguise #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): IDW recently did a soft reboot of their Transformers line of books, by cancelling their existing titles and relaunching with two new main titles. I’m not a hardcore Transformers fan, but do have a fondness for the characters from my youth, so with this new title being touted as a jumping-on point for new readers, I thought I would give it a shot. Something to note is that the war between the Autobots and Decepticons has now ended, with the Autobots victorious. There’s a bit more to it than this, but thankfully we are given a highly explanatory recap on the book’s inside cover. The Autobots now rule Cybertron, with Bumblebee in charge. However, a number of Decepticons and non-affiliated robots still inhabit the planet, so an uneasy accord has been reached between the various factions. This makes for an interesting background against which John Barber tells a politically charged story, focusing on dissension amongst the non-affiliated robots, and rebellion brewing amongst the Decepticons. I’m not sure what continuity this is set in, but I was happy to find that while the setting is different, this feels very much like the cartoon I remember so fondly. The series artist is Andrew Griffith, who brings the story to life with fresh and vibrant images that belie incredibly detailed designs and fantastic inking technique. Transformers: Robots in Disguise #1 is a highly accessible debut with a gripping plot and brilliant artwork. I’ll definitely be back for more.
Blackhawks #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10; Click here for a preview): Blackhawks #5 is quick and dirty. It is an action-packed issue with swift dialogue and plenty of momentum. CAFU’s art is sharp. He uses some great perspectives for the action panels. I found the inking and use of shadow to be a bit heavy, but Guy Major’s brilliant coloring all but made up for that. Costa is finally able to start fleshing out some of the characters. We get some brief but defining moments with a few members of the Blackhawks team – Canada, Wildman and Lady Blackhawk. Also, Mother Machine is proving to be a complex and interesting villain. While Blackhawks #5 is an exciting read, it is not a standalone issue. Without at least reading issue #4, there is not much in this issue that doesn’t rely heavily on previous exposition. Still, Blackhawks #5 is a high impact issue and Blackhawks is a solid book overall. Mike Costa knows his way around a special-ops team, and there is a ton of potential with these characters. This makes its pending cancellation that much more unfortunate. Blackhawks is ending at issue #8. It looks like one story arc is all we are going to get. If issue #5 is any indicator, Costa’s Blackhawks run will read great collected.
Deadpool #49.1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10; Click here for preview): I actually had some hopes for this one, as Deadpool has surprised me in the past with being a bit more clever than it was letting on. Unfortunately, that's not the case for this "musical" Point One issue, which overplays one bad joke ad nauseum, preaching only to the converted in what should have been a prime point of entry for new readers. If you have read this book, Daniel Way's story feels like a clip show, summing up every storyline with the character for the last five years. If you haven't read the book, it probably won't make any sense. Either which way, the "musical" element isn't very funny, inviting readers to tired "Chocolate Rain" gags. Artist John McCrea dutifully follows Way's script with his smirking, cartoony figures, but he plays the concepts a little too straight, with none of the ridiculous over-the-top "Glee" kind of moments that could have make this story laughable. Deadpool: The Musical is a good idea, but this musical outing falls flat. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!