Best Shots Extra: AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #0, AMER. VAMPIRE, More

Best Shots Extra


Avengers Vs. X-Men #0

Written by Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Aaron

Art by Frank Cho and Jason Keith

Letters by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Click here for preview

It's hard to form a strong opinion on what an event may be like based solely on a preview book, but I have to give Marvel credit for putting a good foot forward with Avengers Vs. X-Men #0. While there's less set up for the actual story of the upcoming crossover, and more establishment of the relationships, internal conflicts, and probable sub-plots that are elemental to the major franchises involved, there's enough going on in each 15 page story to build excitement, and possibly encourage people to take sides. If you're going to attempt to use an event story like Avengers Vs. X-Men to bring new readers to the Avengers and X-Men franchises, giving a small taste of the stories they can expect, and the major players of each series. For their part, the creative team really shines, with Brian Bendis and Jason Aaron each overcoming their respective baser urges to deliver some of the best comics either of them have done at Marvel. Frank Cho is, of course, brilliant, and aside from the fact that effectively one quarter of the pages here have already seen print, there's very little not to like about this preview book.

It's kind of interesting to see how Brian Bendis's work with the Avengers is beginning to go to extremes now that his run is heading towards its denouement. Just a couple weeks ago, we got one of his most forgettable issues to date, and one of his most exciting on the same day. Now, with this 15-page story basically centered on a character he ushered out of the book when he came on board, he's showing us exactly why he's been at the helm so long. The Avengers chapter of this story opens with M.O.D.O.K. and some AIM-created monsters attempting to take out an informant who betrayed the super-villain science collective. The erstwhile Scarlet Witch appears, putting the kibosh on the whole thing, with a little 4th quarter assist from her ex-teammates Ms. Marvel, and Spider-Woman. The three return to Avengers Mansion, where the whole story wraps up with a heartbreaking (for Avengers fans, anyway) moment between Scarlet Witch, and her ex-husband, the android Vision. The blend of action and soap-opera drama that Bendis achieves with his script is exactly the kind of thing that the Avengers were built on, as the dynamic of the relationships between the team members is almost always as important to the title as their external conflicts. Even though there isn't a blow-by-blow introduction of each Avenger present, these 15 pages are a great sampling of what the title is (and should be) like for anyone wondering if now is the time to get into the adventures of Earth's mightiest heroes. The real strength here is the economy of Bendis's script, which never lingers to long on a particular beat, but leaves more than enough room for the scenes and characters to breathe.

On the other side of the conflict, Jason Aaron takes on an X-Men team that is usually outside of his wheelhouse, writing the mutants of Utopia, and Cyclops's Extinction Team with aplomb. While most fans will have seen the bulk of Cyclops's confrontation with Hope long before this book's release, it's the events that follow that make up the bulk of the story's charm. After a particularly heated exchange with Cyclops, Hope jets off to confront the Serpent Society, who are hard at work robbing a bank. Hope makes short work of the bungling super-villains, releasing her anger, and her frustration on them with sometimes shocking violence. Aaron's narrative works best when tempered with his sense of humor which, thankfully, doesn't stray into it's often puerile territory in this story. Hope's anger is palpable, and lends more than enough fuel to the fire that's brewing around the return of the Phoenix Force.

Frank Cho's work continues to be downright amazing. It's full of personality and design, capturing the weird essence of MODOK just as easily as the sexy confidence of Spider-Woman, the assured authority of Ms. Marvel, or the hesitant determination of Scarlet Witch. His rendering of the Avengers during the Vision's exchange with Scarlet Witch captures the nuance of everyone present, ending in a gut-wrenching image of the Vision that will be all too familiar to Avengers fans. If I have one complaint about his work in this issue, it's that his Hope looks older than she's probably intended to be. I'm honestly not clear on how old she actually is, but Cho's rendering of Hope looks a little too womanly for Anaconda's comment about super-heroes getting younger and younger.

Overall, Avengers Vs. X-Men #0 does less to set up the impending crossover than to introduce the players involved, showcasing Scarlet Witch, whose return in the pages of Children's Crusade was touted as tying directly into the event, and Hope Summers, whose manifestation of the Phoenix Effect at the end of X-Sanction seems to be the ultimate precursor to what's coming. While some fans may be disappointed that some of the content has been seen before, and that this isn't really the kick-off of the event, the quality and entertainment value of the two parts of this issue set it apart from other such teasers that have shown up in the past. There's no real judgment that can be made about the upcoming mini-series based off of this single issue, but if the level of quality is anything similar, we're in for a hell of a ride.


American Vampire #25

Written by Scott Snyder

Art by Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig

Lettering by Jared Fletcher

Published by Vertigo

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Honestly, I'm running out of ways to say how much I love this book.

This arc has been the strongest since probably the first, and the dots are becoming more and more connected. Our dear rebel with a cause Travis finally has his confrontation with Skinner Sweet, but doesn't go down as I had expected it to. Snyder has crafted quite the young badass in Travis and he ignites each page gasoline-soaked bullet. Travis keeps going back and mentioning that he's heard that the teenage brain doesn't understand consequences, and here he demonstrates that he is out for one thing: Skinner's blood, and he's going to get it or die trying.

In the two years and some change, American Vampire has had a timeline to things, and here, more pieces to the puzzle are put in place. We see Pearl and Henry in the epilogue, which sets up the next arc and such. The best part is that Travis' story isn't over and I can't wait to see him possibly return later down the road. There is some really strong fight scenes here. Well to be more accurate, a good chunk of the issue is nothing but a fighting sequence. However, with Rafael Albuquerque calling the artistic shots, you really can't go wrong. Rafael has a strong cinematic eye as he keeps the pace quick and in your face. He's gotten down drawing vampires as the nightmarish creatures they are down to a science. The level of energy he puts in the back and forth brawl that Travis and Skinner get into, and he just doesn't let up. Dave McCaig's usual pallet of reds and golds are quite visible here, and it's hard to imagine a lesser colorist try to breathe life into these pages as he's done.

Snyder has written multiple characters' narration and point of view since the book's conception. Travis just has spunk and a certain je ne sais quoi that made him a guy to root for. While he's a tad more reckless than say, Pearl and Felicia, you can't help but want to see him stake some vamps. Another thing about the rotating door of characters is that Snyder doesn't write the same thing twice. With Travis, he's given a chance to be as cynical with a rock n' roll edge with the dialog. There's a certain scene in particular where he shoots another character point blank. No words. No one-liners, but afterwards, you can see this kid is all business.

American Vampire #25 ends on a high note and a cliffhanger that leaves me with anticipation on how I'll make it to next month without knowing what comes next. This arc has been quite the high note for the series, and if you've been missing out, you might want to start here.


Atomic Robo Presents: Real Science Adventures #1

Written by Brian Clevinger

Art by Ryan Cody, Yuko Oda, Chris Houghton, John Broglia, Joshua Ross,

and Matt Speroni

Lettering by Jeff Powell

Published by Red 5 Comics

Review by Aaron Duran

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

For years I've been watching and enjoying the slow, but steady growth of Atomic Robo. It's almost been a case study in building a strong and highly vocal fan base. The addition of an anthology series from Red 5 feels like another smart step in making Atomic Robo as popular and beloved as Hellboy over at Dark Horse Comics. Which makes a good deal of sense, as they share some common themes (being the not very understood hero that fights the baddies we can't). With Atomic Robo Presents: Real Science Adventures, we get four fresh new tales from the setting, and one reprint from the original miniseries.

Co-creator Brian Clevinger does all the writing in this anthology and opens with a tale that never once features our favorite robot. Focusing on female resistance fighters in occupied France during World War II, To Kill A Sparrow - part 1 is one of the strongest character-driven pieces in the book. With action composition that hints at the best of Michael Oeming and Batman: The Animated Series; the art by Ryan Cody is deceptively simple with very clean lines and strong character profiles. It's also the only serialized piece with a definitive opening and closing, something I find exceptionally satisfying.

The Revenge of Dr. Dinosaur is a fun short with whimsical art by Yuko Oda. Each panel tells it's own quick little tale, with gleefully implied maniacal laughter that leads to the punchline. Which is really the point of the short. Indeed, it reminded me of those incredibly long and drawn-out jokes we love to tell as kids. Jokes that have your friends sitting at the edge of their seats for one killer of a punchline, only to go in a completely opposite direction. Which itself sels the entire setup. While it might help to know just who Dr. Dinosaur is within the setting, it still doesn't lessen the joy of watching an evil Raptor get his revenge.

City of Skulls is definitely the short that shares the strongest thematic ties with Hellboy. Lacking the squishy bits that make us so susceptible to radiation, Robo delves deep into Russia to put down a robot built by uncaring masters. Chris Houghton pencils a setting that has little hope or even life, save for the unintentionally destructive robot still wandering the streets. It's a strong inclusion within the anthology, giving credence to the saying that what you don't see if often more powerful than what you do.

Leaping Metal Dragon - part 1, while one of the longest shorts in the book was also the one I felt most wanting. Perhaps because, unlike To Kill A Sparrow - part 1, this installment lacked any real form of narrative to drive the reader forward. We have a hint at what is to come, but only the inclusion of a great cameo helps to maintain any interest in the story. I did enjoy the art by John Broglia. He's a great fit for the high pulp setting that is Atomic Robo. Everyone is barrel-chested and moves with just the right amount of exaggeration to keep things interesting. Although it has a weak story for now, the art (and that cameo) has me excited for future visuals.

Finally, a reprint from an earlier volume with Rocket Science is a Two-Edged Sword. A fun little romp as fringe science crashes headlong into even weirder techno-magic. I'd normally feel a little cheated by such a reprint. However, not many people are able to find and read earlier Atomic Robo tales, so this feels like a smart little addition to the book. And, something tells me it will lead into larger stories into the future. As always, Joshua Ross' pencils are a joy to take him. His composition and paneling has a true sense of movement and if we ever get that Atomic Robo movie, I sincerely hope Ross is involved.

As anthologies go, Atomic Robo Presents: Real Science Adventures #1 is a strong debut from the crew at Red 5 and I hope to see more. While they weren't all total home runs, this is still a great title to read, for both new and old fans of Atomic Robo. 

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