Greetings, 'Rama Readers! Hold on to your hats, because the Best Shots Team is coming fast and furious with their Rapid-Fire Reviews! So buckle your seatbelts and hang on, as we take a look at the latest issue of Aquaman...Aquaman #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Just because you have a relaunch, doesn't mean that you can't have a backstory. Case in point: Aquaman #7, a short-but-sweet opener that introduces several new characters to Aquaman's world, all the while introducing new questions of what the King of the Seven Seas was up to before Issue #1. While there is a bit of his now-trademark blood and guts in the beginning of the story, Geoff Johns has a real sense of urgency as he shows how brutal the Black Manta can be. Yet the real merit of this issue comes from the introduction of some new characters, including a precognitive sword-swinger and a rough-and-tumble Amazon with a jungle beast, ready to tear her enemies apart. The fact that they seem to have a history with Arthur reminds me a lot of the old Claremont issues of — just because we're starting from a new beginning doesn't mean Aquaman himself doesn't have a past to uncover. Artist Ivan Reis is also really coming into his own with this issue, as several of the new characters have an electric Savage Land-style design, which plays nicely against Aquaman's gold-green-and-scales costume. Reis also gives his characters a nice sense of agility, as they burst through walls and dance around one another with sharpened blades. There is a little bit of decompression to this issue — the last page is an act break that I feel would have been more satisfying in the first few pages — but the book looks good, and promises some fun new additions to Aquaman's world.
Avenging Spider-Man #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10; <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/php/multimedia/album_view.php?gid=4138&page=11>Click here for preview</a>): Imagine a team-up between the stoic, business-first Captain America and the wise-cracking, perpetually insecure Spider-Man. Think that might be kind of awkward? You'd be right, reading Avenging Spider-Man #5. the problem is, Zeb Wells does such a good job at method-writing his way with the webslinger that he... well, he's kind of annoying to read, as well. Focusing on Cap's past as a comic book artist, Wells' Spidey is cloying and persistent, and watching Cap brush him off feels accurate but far from fun. The few action beats do look spectacular in Leinil Francis Yu's hands, with his Spidey being a forward-moving projectile of energy and speed. But considering how many quieter, chattier scenes there are, it feels a bit like a wasted opportunity for what was once the all-action Spidey fight comic. I'm sure there's a reason to have Spidey and Cap dwell on being nerds, and whether or not they need to put away their childhood passions, but it seems a little self-indulgent, a little out of place, even with a Joe Simon dedication in the back. Wells has some crazy chops, and can capture a character's voice better than most of the business — but just because it sounds right doesn't necessarily mean it turns out entertaining.
The New Deadwardians #1 (Published by Vertigo Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart) 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10: Although zombies and vampires have been plaguing pop culture for a while now, The New Deadwardians #1 by creative team Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard actually does present these archetypes in a new fashion. Set in England, 1910, The New Deadwardians sees Great Britain dealing with things like zombies and vampires in a very dignified and almost repressed manor. Protagonist George Suttle isn’t like most vampire leading men who bear the curse but instead lives with it and continues his work in Scotland Yard. Even the infected housekeeper to told to remain calm as they wait till morning to receive a cure for her illness. No gun toting band of rebels, no black pleather nightclubs, and this version of Great Britain has their act together. This is perhaps the most refreshing aspect of an already enjoyable first issue that perfectly sets the story and keeps the pace moving into the next issue. The only real problem was that a reader can feel the 20 pages of story move rather quickly. Although the story kept up, it felt short. Culbard contributes a unique take look to the interior pages that fall somewhere between simple Sunday cartoon strips and haunting manuscript singed around the edges. The sepia tone Chest Gould style is an excellent choice for a story full of charm and uneasy repression. Judgeing by issue one of The New Deadwardians, this will make an excellent collection for zombie and vampire fans hungry for something a little more.
Secret Avengers #24 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): In a comic book climate where the next, big event sees two superhero squads literally just punching it out, it’s truly exciting to see high concept storytelling not get pushed to the wayside. In Secret Avengers, Rick Remender is doing what he does best: crafting continuity-based yarns with a motley crew of characters where the stakes are high and it’s actually accurate to say that anything could happen. His opening arc on the book has Hawkeye failing miserably as the new leader. The team finds themselves in the Core, a city inhabited by the Descendants and ruled by The Father. After sussing out that they are to be destroyed by the locals almost immediately, we find that The Father keeps interesting company including Doombots, Sentinaughts, Deathlok squads and Life Model Decoys. It’s like a meeting of discarded, disposable Dons. But while Remender’s script riddles us with mysteries and questions, it never gets confusing. And though the final reveal might seem almost obvious and unwarranted, it still adds tension. There is an air of familiarity about this book that makes it very similar to , but just like with that mag Remender is using the familiarity to play on our expectations and to blind us to what’s next. Gabriel Hardman’s artwork gives the story a noirish tone and suits the dark setting. There is mystery in every shadow and Hardman communicates that effectively with deep black and thick linework. But his layouts leave something to be desired. Many pages feature thick white gutters around the panels that make the story feel somewhat claustrophobic. The layouts are uninspired and the constant shift between straight horizontal panels and slightly askew panels for action scenes is tiresome. Still the artwork complements the story and as the book enters the final issue of this arc, it’s clear that Remender has something special brewing.
Batman: The Dark Knight #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Although David Finch and Paul Jenkins’ Batman title keeps chugging along and introducing long time villains into the DCNU, that seems to be the only thing that it’s doing. Issue #7 sees the final half of the throw down between Batman and Bane and for all the build-up in the last issue of a stronger, smarter Bane, the end game seemed very anti-climatic. Almost every issue of this title so far has seen Batman face off against hulked-out versions of his rogue gallery or at least featured a violent cameo of the others. This is no exception for Bane, who Batman just knocks over the side of a cliff to be washed away. This issue had an off model Poison Ivy giving Batman, and the reader, no new information. She was just for a few pages and then that was it. Another distracting aspect is, even though Batman is suppose to be ravaged after each fight with a over muscled villain, he doesn’t come across half as broken as he does in these past few months. The writers bring him to that edge and then just let the Dark Knight walk away. Except for Bane’s red, glowing, eyes, the artwork is fun with Finch’s heavy inked style complimenting Batman’s classic tone. Although some details may be distracting (Ivy’s new new look and Bane’s eyes), Finch has an excellent handle on action driven story telling with figures that never seem askew or warped. Although Finch and Jenkins make a good art team, their writing work on Batman: The Dark Knight #7 seems unfocused, concerned more with using the characters like action figures.
B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Pickens County Horror #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The world of the B.P.R.D. is heading to hell right now, and to highlight all of the strange goings on in the world, Dark Horse have ramped up their output of B.P.R.D. titles to record amounts. This current mini sees Mike Mignola team up with Scott Allie to tell the story of a B.P.R.D. task force dispatched to South Carolina to investigate a strange fog that is making people go missing. What is interesting about this mini is that it features only “normal” B.P.R.D. agents, and none of the series’ name characters - meaning that we get a glimpse at the more day-to-day operations of the organization, rather than the huge world-altering events. Sadly though, the execution isn’t perfect, and the plot ends up feeling a bit scattered - there’s a fog, there’s some strange mushrooms, and some vampires, but it doesn’t seem to come together at all. The vampires here also seem to overlap greatly with those seen recently in and i.e. an American variant descended from the original European stock - making them feel a bit clichéd. The artist on the series is Jason Latour, and his work here has a very dark and gritty look to it that suits the story well, and is similar to his work on , in that it has a slightly sketchy appearance, is heavy on the blacks, and makes liberal use of screentone. B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Pickens County Horror #1 has the potential to be an interesting tale, but falls short in a few key areas. Hopefully the plot comes together in the next issue.
Justice League Dark #7 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): I wish we’d end the fascination with vampires. I understand that our culture’s obsession with youth, overwrought romance and Robert Pattinson’s quaff have endeared us to the eternally lovelorn bloodsuckers but enough is enough. I told myself I wouldn’t take a break on this book until Jeff Lemire took over but here I am. Justice League Dark #7 is the first issue of the crossover with and right from the start is has no oomph. Madame Xanadu has a vision. John Constantine tries to avoid helping and then suddenly things go awry (!) and the team finds themselves in the only city that could boost sales, Gotham (!!). Forced attempts to add tension to the narrative abound from here on out. Throw in a couple of cameos from the Bat family and Peter Milligan has succeeded in making me immediately regret plunking down three ducats for this book. Even the promise of Cain’s return leaves a bad taste, considering how much this New 52 version could pale in comparison to the excellent work done with him by Neil Gaiman. Admira Wijaya and Daniel Sampere split art duties this time and apparently neither of them thinks that vampires ever close their mouths (except for the one vampire who, inexplicably, has no mouth whatsoever). I get that biting people is their thing but still. Ultimately the art is nice to look at but lacks any sort of motion or energy. Almost all the characters look like they’re posing rather than actually doing anything. It’s a shame because the characters are generally well rendered and have expressive faces but they end up just looking like very emotive statues. I took a chance and sunk my teeth into this one and unfortunately, it’s about as cold and dead as its antagonists.
The Unwritten #35.5 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): “Tommy Taylor and the War of Words” came to its exciting climax last issue, bringing to an end the storyline that has been building up over the last 35+ issues. For the last six months of the storyline, Mike Carey and Peter Gross decided to make the series bi-weekly, with “.5” issues intended to tell stories set within the Universe that enhanced the overall tale, but didn’t contribute directly to the plot. These issues have all been highly enjoyable, but this final one really took the idea to another level. The story here focuses on a man who is chosen to be one of the readers in the cabal’s “grid,” and tells the entire story of the so far, from his perspective. As the story unfolds, it also becomes apparent that this man has a special link with Leviathan, which may make him an important player in the new post-cabal world. It’s a fantastic story, that weaves itself intricately into the plot of the main tale, and gives a new perspective on key events of the series. The artist for the issue is Gabriel Hernandez Walta, who illustrates the issue in breathtaking fashion - choosing to go with an urban fantasy style more reminiscent of his work on Clive Barker’s , rather than that seen on his recent Marvel work. He makes great use of ink washes, which together with Lee Louridge’s watercolors gives the comic the look of a children’s storybook. The Unwritten #35.5 is an enchanting standalone tale that greatly enriches the storyline’s recent climax. Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!