Best Shots Advance Reviews: THIEF OF THIEVES, BIONIC MAN

Best Shots Advance Reviews


Thief of Thieves #1

Written by Robert Kirkman and Nick Spencer

Art by Shaun Martinbrough and Felix Serrano

Lettering by Rus Wooton

Published by Image Comics

Review by Edward Kaye

‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

I have to admit that I’m one of those comic fans that finds a creator they like, and follows them around from series to series. So when I saw that two of my favorite writers, Robert Kirkman and Nick Spencer, were collaborating on a project, I was in, no matter what the book was about. As it turns out, Thief of Thieves is a book about a master criminal who turns his back on his life of crime, and tries to go straight and pick up the pieces of his old life. However, the FBI are hot on his trail, and the solicitation teases that this is “the least of his worries.” It’s a solid concept, if not a bit clichéd, but I really don’t think that the premise is presented very well in this debut issue — if I’d not already read the solicitation text, I don’t think that I would have figured out that this was what the book was about.

As it is, the issue opens with a heist scene on a luxury ocean liner, before diving in to a six-page-long flashback, which introduces us to how the main characters met. The plot then jumps back to the present for a brief scene that ends in the protagonist announcing to his financial backer that he is quitting. All of the scenes are well-written, particularly the heist scene, which features an interesting plot twist. However, the issue failed to grab me in any way, and the last page didn’t leave me with that sense that I to get my hands on the second issue. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be picking up the second issue, as I typically give any new series a couple of issues to win me over, but it just didn’t feel imperative. I hate to say it, but this felt more like the first chapter of a book than the opening issue of a comic series. I think this may be mainly due to issues with the pacing of the story, and the fact that we get a flashback so early in the narrative. I think that the issue could have benefited from a longer prologue that better illustrated the situation in which the protagonist finds himself, before jumping back and showing us how things got to this point.

It’s worth mentioning here that the story is by Robert Kirkman, who is creator and owner of the property, and the series is only scripted by Nick Spencer. Other than the pacing issue noted above, Spencer’s script for the issue is actually rather good, and he tells the story without use of narration, or any inner monologue, for that matter. He sticks to dialogue featuring only light exposition, leaving the artwork to do its fair share of the storytelling. His dialogue is very engaging, and the back and forth between the protagonist and his apprentice exhibits a great dynamic and some strong characterization.

The series artist is Shawn Martinbrough, who comes to the book from an acclaimed run on Marvel’s . I really like Martinbrough’s artwork on this series, and it has a nice gritty feeling to it that really suits a crime book like this. His linework has a nice and detailed look to it, and he has a strong sense of composition, highlighted by some unique and interesting angles that he chooses to drawn scenes from. His characters are all illustrated with realistically proportioned anatomy, and they display a good range of emotive facial expressions. Though he has a good sense of anatomy, there is one glaring exception in the last splash page, where the protagonist is pointing toward the reader, and it looks like his arm is floating free of his body and his torso is twice as wide as it was in previous scenes. I’m not sure what went happened there. In terms of inking, he favors heavy blacks, with scenes draped in abundant shadows and characters occasionally being illustrated in silhouette. It’s a good look and really emphasizes the dark crime feel of the book.

I had high hopes for Thief of Thieves #1, but this debut issue feels like a bit of a false start. It’s not a bad comic, but it definitely failed to wow. I’m hoping the Nick Spencer can grab me with the second issue.


Bionic Man #6

Written by Kevin Smith and Phil Hester

Art by Jonathan Lau and Ivan Nunes

Lettering by Simon Bowland

Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Click here for a preview

Talk about some rock 'em, sock 'em robots. Or cyborgs, if you want to get technical. Six issues into Bionic Man, Kevin Smith's retelling of the classic TV series , readers are being treated to a fast and furious fight comic that needs no exposition, only an appreciation of steel raining blows on steel.

All of which, of course, makes Jonathan Lau the star of the show. There is a of energy to his fight choreography, whether its a rogue cyborg deflecting a hail of bullets, or our hero, Steve Austin, flipping a table into the air to deflect a runaway chandelier. It's some pretty sick-looking stuff, with a real flow to the visual continuity and details like chairs and clouds of dust kicking up everywhere. The sense of scale gets pretty enormous as well, where the sheer level of destruction shows you just how powerful these guys get. And when Steve whips a tablecloth into the air after saving a crowd full of officers, you pretty much have to have no pulse if you're not thinking "holy hell, this guy is ."

With the fight really taking up the bulk of the comic, you'd be forgiven if the writing took a backseat. But once the stakes start to ramp up, you feel Phil Hester's influence more and more, particularly as Steve handles some challenges that you might feel are more the purview of a different kind of Man of Steel. But these are the sorts of feats that really drive up the coolness factor for a hero, which is pretty important when you have to compete with costumed crusaders that have 60-plus years of continuity. And even though the frenetic action is the main draw of the book, there is a hint of some deeper character development right at the book's conclusion.

Of course, there are some flaws to this book, as well. I've been a casual reader of The Bionic Man, but for those who been reading since the beginning, I imagine that a lot of readers would have probably dropped off the radar, waiting six issues for Steve to actually stretch his cybernetically enhanced muscles. And for those who aren't as immediately taken with sick fight choreography (although I'd argue that Lau does it just as well, if not better, than many of his peers over at the Big Two), there's not much here to get you invested in Steve Austin as a character — his problems are largely put on hold, aside from the here-and-now, don't-get-killed-by-a-bigger-cyborg kind of issues.

But if it's a fight you want, then it's a fight you'll get, over in Bionic Man #6. There's a lot of panache to this issue, with some fast and furious visuals that never fail to entertain. If you're going to make a comic about a man armed to the teeth, why you want to see them cut loose? The only compliant I'd have about this comic is this: I just wish it had come sooner.

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