Best Shots Comic Reviews: FLASH, CAPTAIN AMERICA, More

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood David Pepose here, coming to you with the crackshot critics of the Best Shots team! We've got a ton of new releases for your reading enjoyment, so let's go the distance by starting off with a dimension-hopping issue of Flash...


Flash #8

Written and Illustrated by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

Lettering by Sal Cipriano

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Out of all of DC's New 52, The Flash has been one of my favorites, just based on the enthusiasm and inventiveness of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato's visuals.

But I'm starting to worry that they might be moving too fast.

I say that because while this book still maintains that crisp visual flavor, Flash #8 is also less of a story and more of a continuity-building exercise, as Barry Allen gains a new adversary (actually, two!) and learns the secrets of the Speed Force. While Manapul and Buccellato do succeed in providing some context for the hazy speedster Valhalla, the question remains — do we really need to be discussing the intricacies of the source of the Flash's power this early on in this series? Shouldn't we be meeting (or relaunching) his Rogues Gallery, or defining his home turf of Central City, or maybe just building up Barry as a character? It's easy to backseat-drive a book like this, but it seemed like the point of the New 52 was as a deck uttering exercise, to make these characters as streamlined and iconic as possible for the widest range of readers. While the explanation of the Speed Force and the time-jumping portals makes a ton of sense, I can't help but shake the feeling that this is a little like the wrong kind of self-indulgence here.

That ambivalence aside, the one thing that does irk me about this book is that Barry Allen comes off as a grade-A jerk in this book. It's mainly because Manapul and Buccellato do too good of a job with their new villain, Turbine — a World War II pilot who was sucked into a time vortex, you feel for the poor guy. You don't get mad at him for forming time portals when he tries to escape the Speed Force, you just feel bad when you realize he's been trapped alone for 70 years, so watching Barry pummel the guy both physically and verbally doesn't exactly endear the Scarlet Speedster. Yet I think Turbine might be the second-saddest character of the bunch, as we get a cameo from former Flash frenemy Piper, who gets his heart broken in the most interesting scene in the book. Perhaps the biggest surprise: That's the only scene that's actually in an ordinary city.

This book always has its looks to fall back on, of course, and Manapul and Buccellato haven't lost their charm on that score... yet. With the talky nature of this script, there isn't as much room for the dynamic action sequences, but that doesn't mean this team doesn't find room to innovate. There's a sequence where Turbine explains the Speed Force that feels like a riff between Escher and Chuck Jones, as Flash nonchalantly walks upside-down and sideways along a rocky crag. When the action does heat up, it really looks great, particularly watching Barry zoom towards us along a wave of debris. Buccellato deserves a lot of props for his colorwork, as well, particularly for keeping the energy going in an environment that's largely white and purple. And while it's a small thing, I still love the yellow accents they've given Barry, as a nice signal of when his powers are in full effect.

Maybe I misspoke earlier in my review, when I said Flash #8 was moving too fast — it's moving too fast towards telling a slow story. Barry Allen may be a release valve for the Speed Force, but honestly, why does that matter? I just want to see him in action, to take down the crooks and creeps of Central City, with no extra justification needed other than he moves at the speed of light. Examining the Speed Force in this level of detail is for continuity enthusiasts only, and draws out the story so far that Barry doesn't really do enough. This detour looks good, and it's clever enough, but it's still a detour — I'm hoping that with the latest cliffhanger, Manapul and Buccellato will leave the explanations at the door and let Barry Allen hit the ground running.

Captain America #10

Written by Ed Brubaker

Art by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer and Laura Martin

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

There's a reason why Alan Davis is a modern master, and seeing him on Captain America is a good reminder of why that is. It's not just that his characters are fluid and dynamic, but that they're some of the most expressive — even melodramatic — characters in comics. Whether they're beaming in happiness or nearly inhuman with rage, the visual moments are what keep this book from otherwise flying beneath the radar.

The problem with this book is that the main hook of the arc — Steve Rogers having his superhuman physique taken away — is over with the push of a button, leaving the subplot, a riot-inducing "Madbomb," as the main course. We've seen superheroes get mind-controlled before, but never the way that Davis draws them. His portrayal of the Falcon is possibly the angriest I've ever seen a comic book character, his eyes impossibly large and his mouth twisted into some unholy union of a scream and a smile. It's damn spooky, and that's just the close-up shots. Davis's action choreography, particularly with the rioting crowds, evokes the claustrophobia and hopelessness of a zombie movie, as Hawkeye gets swarmed and then suddenly ambushed with an almost inhuman surge of power. Colorist Laura Martin uses a lot of browns for her backgrounds in this issue, but what really matters is that Cap and the Falcon both pop off the page.

But like I said — we have seen this before. Ed Brubaker choreographs the fight, but ultimately, Cap doesn't actually solve any of his own problems in this comic. Really, Iron Man kind of saves the day... twice. I've mentioned in the past that this comic is more of the action blockbuster version of Captain America, but I miss Brubaker's more cerebral, politically-tinged stories. Aside from a random slap at the media, there's really no message or theme to this comic, and the idea of someone fighting their mind-control to prove that they're a better man... well, haven't we seen that already?

While the emotional connection isn't there — which, again, is a shame, since Cap kind of has a movie coming out this week — Alan Davis does put in his time and then some with this issue of Captain America. With his smooth, graceful characters and his dynamic action sequences, we might have seen this story before, but even the most jaded reader would say it at least looks good.


Popeye #1

Written by Roger Langridge

Art by Steve Parkhouse

Published by IDW

Review by Rob McMonigal

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Popeye’s famous saying, “I yam what I yam” can easily be applied to his newest comic outing, as Roger Langridge once again shows his brilliance with licensed characters, turning in an amazing debut in IDW’s Popeye #1 , this week’s selection as my book of the week.

Langridge, perhaps best known for his work on the critically acclaimed Muppet Show comics for Boom! Studios, once again shows that the best way to bring life to an older property is to embrace what makes it unique, not to try to modernize it, where it then has to complete with other comics that are more easily designed to be hipper, grittier, or whatever new direction the author has decided upon. In fact, Langridge’s only change is to make Olive Oil just a bit less passive, channeling her traditional character’s fiery spirit into more proactive behavior. It’s so subtle (and welcome) that only the most obsessive fans of the classic daily newspaper strip could find argument with it, and they have the Fantagraphics Popeye reprints to read if they are unhappy about it.

From the moment we first meet each of the major cast members (all of whom, save Popeye’s father, appear in this issue), it is clear that Langridge has the ear for what makes these characters enjoyable, even over 80 years later. Popeye is the kind-hearted, internal-censor free, best friend you’ll ever have, willing to go down to hell itself if he finds your reasoning sound. Wimpy is already scheming his way into every reader’s hearts, even using his classic “Tuesday” line on the last character you’d expect him to interact with. Bluto will be Popeye’s main rival, as it should be, and my only tiny complaint is in this opening adventure, he’s just a bit too much of a lightweight. We even get an appearance by the Sea Hag, whose role also sets her up as a frequent antagonist, but with a very different set of motivations from Bluto.

The whole story is plotted extremely densely. Though no larger than a typical comic book, Langridge’s story feels like it was three issues worth of material. We have frequent action, snappy banter that rings true to the essence of the characters (right down to their unique speaking patterns), and an ending that rings true to the best Popeye stories, where things end up for the best—but not always how Popeye’s friends would like them to be.

None of this would have been possible without selecting the right artist to collaborate with Langridge. While I know that some readers might have preferred if Langridge was drawing as well as writing this story, I disagree (though perhaps a pin-up or two would be fun). Langridge was the right fit for the Muppets, but I think his figures are too rounded and oddly shaped to properly capture the feel of a strip that originated in the more stilted art styles of the Great Depression. That’s why I love Bruce Ozella. From the cover itself (a homage of Action Comics #1, complete with Wimpy as the screaming man) to the opening splash page, we can see that Ozella has studied the original portrayals of Popeye and company and is ready to hue closely to the source material. Using a combination of tight, small paneling that resembles a daily comic strip converted to comic book form and a refusal to use anything larger than a half-page splash panel after the opener, Ozella takes an often ignored storytelling form and uses it to great effect. There is so much going on in every page it’s hard not to dream of what might happen if a superhero artist tried the same thing. Popeye’s battle goes 12 panels, about the length of a typical fight in comics. The difference here is that Ozella places it in only two pages, but does not skimp on the action one bit as Popeye completely wrecks all of Bluto’s plans in quite a bit of detail across those two pages. He is definitely the perfect fit and makes me look forward to how he illustrates issue two.

I worry a little that there’s not a huge audience for Popeye #1, but I intend to enjoy it as long as the run lasts. Anyone who is a fan of the spinach-eating sailor needs to get on board now.


I, Vampire #8

Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov

Art by Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Mariolo

Lettering by Pat Brosseau

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Andrew Bennett may be a new type of vampire, but he hasn't quite inspired a new type of vampire story. At least, not yet.

Joshua Hale Fialkov seems like he's on the verge of making that jump, however, in the latest issue of I, Vampire, a story that's more "important" to DC's nascent vampire lore than it is viscerally thrilling. This issue pits the "born-again vampire" Bennett against Cain, described in caption as "primordial evil incarnate," but the real battle here is the feelings of listlessness in this chapter versus the glimmer of potential of where this series can go next.

The thing about this issue in particular is, well... it's simple. And that's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there's not too terribly much to trip over, which has been a huge problem for I, Vampire since the beginning. It's a simple premise: Andrew Bennett is back from the dead (again), and he's packing some crazy new powers to take down Cain and his army. Check. (In fact, you can pretty much ignore the Justice League Dark, they don't do anything for the plot here.) But on the down side, that also means Fialkov has dumbed down this script within an inch of its life, to the point where his own voice as an author is all but indistinguishable — Andrew's new powers aren't just convenient, they're basically one-size-fits-all, fixing all of Andrew's problems with a wave of his hand or a handful of words. The threshold for suspension of disbelief isn't exactly high for superhero comic-reading crowds, but the sheer ease that this story wraps up reminds me of a kid's game of pretend, not a deliberate, thought-out narrative.

But that all said, the art is pretty darn good. Andrea Sorrentino has a style that's very reminiscent of Jae Lee, with sharp lines and harsh shadows making every corner look sinister and menacing. There's a lot of two-page spreads and sequences in his work, and it really does make I, Vampire seem properly cinematic and larger-than-life. The red light that gleams off Andrew's eyes looks ferocious, and a spread that shows him disintegrating vampires (and introducing much of the cast) shows some real chops in terms of panel layout, with the page looking like it was broken by lightning. As much as I'm not sold on the I, Vampire concept yet — more to come on that in a minute — I am convinced that Sorrentino is the right artist for the job. His style absolutely suited for a horror book, and he makes a forgettable story at least look memorable.

Yet underneath the ambivalence, I do have a sense of hope. There's a line in this book that really stood out to me as a hook, if not a promise fulfilled: "Did we just reincarnate a vampire version of Che Guevara?" Without giving too much away, it's interesting to see Andrew's new role in vampire society, and I would like to see this sort of revolution take place. The problem I, Vampire has had, in my mind, is that it's been so generically "vampire"-centric that it hasn't done much to establish its own identity (aside from the occasional riff with superheroes), and when Vertigo is printing the historically focused American Vampire, you need a strong concept to justify this series. We have a new kind of vampire in town, one with great power and perhaps even deeper ambivalence. That sort of stature could lead to some real stakes, some real tension, some real foothold for audiences to latch onto.

It's that foothold that gives me hope for I, Vampire, even if this chapter is as simple, brutal and bloodless as the undead. The crossover with Justice League Dark isn't putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound, but like treating cancer with a pair of crutches — inclusion into the superhero-centric DCU is not the problem this book is struggling with. Identity is. Here's hoping that this new kind of vampire will show us some new and exciting ways to operate.

Battle Scars #6

Written by Chris Yost, Cullen Bunn and Matt Fraction

Art by Scot Eaton, Andrew Hennessey and Paul Mounts

Lettering by Joe Sabino

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10

Editor Tom Brennan concludes the final issue of Battle Scars with an afterword praising Marvel's writers for their "years of planning" towards Battle Scars, a Fear Itself tie-in meant to introduce Sgt. Marcus Johnson as the new Nick Fury.

I don't doubt that a lot of people worked a long time on this book. I don't even doubt that this was a move with some priority — in a weird bit of continuity swallowing its own tail, Samuel L. Jackson became Ultimate Nick Fury, who then became Movie Nick Fury, who now has to become Mainstream Marvel Nick Fury. (Comics, everybody!) But after reading this, I couldn't help but think that the team might have missed the point. Continuity is a weird beast, with the truly half-baked being rejected like a bad kidney (or Two-Face's dead brother), and Battle Scars #6 doesn't feel like it has the kind of longevity to stick.

Let me explain, from another angle. Look at Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury — he's not exactly a runnin', gunnin' kind of dude, but instead he exudes menace, he implies it. He's the kind of guy who's so smart, so connected and so confident that you don't even want to test him. In other words, he's a superspy, not a superhero. Marcus Johnson, on the other hand, is both a superhero and a super-victim — he's diving into the fray, muscles huge and guns out (and eventually even wears Steve Rogers' hand-me-down costume), yet at the same time, Chris Yost has him fretting on the inside. Marcus isn't confident, and he isn't particularly cool — this is the guy who, when landing a killing stroke against the guy who killed his mother, manages to also get set on fire. I don't want to say I laughed at this... but yes, okay, I laughed.

It's also the art that I think makes this gap between the comics and the films seem more pronounced. Scot Eaton concludes this comic with Marcus/Nick and Agent Coulson diving into the fray, picking off enemy agents with guns and knives as their muscles pop through their suits. Now, I like Clark Gregg — but he ain't no muscle man, you know what I mean? And this is a shame, because in other regards, Eaton starts off really strong, with a sort of Alan Davis-meets-Mark Brooks smoothness to his characters (particularly the original Nick Fury, who gets an effective torture sequence in the introduction). But again, considering the character of Marcus Johnson is supposed to be the all-too-human liaison for Marvel's super-community, seeing him as this crazily-proportioned Rambo type seems to be missing the point entirely. Nick Fury doesn't do his own dirty work — and when he does, it's in a way that you would never see coming.

The thing is, the ending of this book has been telegraphed since the first issue — and if Marvel's writers somehow walked into this project not thinking they were going to relaunch Nick Fury, there's a big problem at work. So why introduce such a milquetoast character when you literally have Samuel L. Jackson as a working template? I understand not wanting to retread Mark Millar's work in Ultimates, but isn't that exactly the goal in play here? This could have been an easy bunt, and considering Marvel got from Point A to Point B in terms of aligning their IP, that might have been enough for them. But I expect more out of my comics, and I think this could have been worlds more interesting. Here's hoping that these Battle Scars leave some character on Marvel's newest addition.


The Li’l Depressed Boy #10

Written by S. Steven Struble

Art by Sina Grace and S. Steven Struble

Lettering by S. Steven Struble

Published by Image Comics

Review by Jake Baumgart

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

As immensely enjoyable as Li’l Depressed Boy #10 is, perhaps the highlight is how well this book works together with the tracks off Childish Gambino’s (aka Donald Glover) newest album Camp. As mentioned in the letters section in the back of the book, this is the Childish Gambino issue that everyone had been waiting for that features the rapper on stage and as a character in the protagonist’s daydream. S. Steven Struble (writer, colorist, letterer) and Sina Grace (pencils, inks) seem genuinely captured by the tracks on Camp and it shows in an issue that, while fitting into the long form story of LDB’s life, works nicely as a stand-alone issue for rap fans checking out the series for the first time.

What could have easily been an issue concerned with hero worship or a heavy-handed cameo, Issue #10 gently utilizes the main characters wandering thoughts that place him in a summer camp environment where, much like his new job at a theatre, he feels like an outsider. It’s camp counselor Gambino that encourages LDB to get off the bench and get into the game. It’s a nice way to suggest the mental process Li’l Depressed Boy goes through while listening to tracks of Camp that get him off the couch and pumped up about going into another shift at work after a disastrous first few shifts. Dialogue is at a minimum in the story which is fine, the creators would rather have the audience’s attention on what is going on in the panel instead of handing everything over in tons of exposition or internal monologue that might come off as drippy. Issue #10 can definitely be a quick read because of this but certainly warrants a second run through. On second glance, some of the imbedded references are more obvious and enjoyable and the flow of the story can be better appreciated. The series is still at the beginning of a new arc and chapter in LDB’s life and a reader should be able to notice the new faces and trends that are shaping up nicely.

Sina Grace’s pencils and S. Steven Struble’s inks work in a minimalist space that reflects the tone of the main character. It’s this initially sparse approach that might cause some readers to breeze through the issue too quickly. Again, if this happens, go back and reread the issue (it’s worth it). The color palette is earthy and muted and the reader can almost feel the malaise in the air when LDB wakes up for work. When the assistant manager, Spike, comes into Li’l Depressed Boy’s life its all the more powerful seeing her in brighter colors than the rest of the issue has seen.

It’s nice to see that, while the panels are large and mostly bare, there is attention paid to the characters and their figures along with the environment they inhabit. Background characters are modern and realistic instead of vaguely conceived figures floating somewhere between 1985 and 1999 as far as style is concerned. This lends to the books appeal to a generation stranded in the same space as the protagonist. The main characters are rendered in a style that avoids making the characters look too cartoony. Even though LDB is some sort of ragdoll, Gambino and his coworkers don’t look like caricatures of themselves. The series has this excellent way to express hand motions by illustrating the imaginary object in people’s hands with a dashed outline. The heavy brush work in the inking is a great way to add texture to the panels without clogging up the works with lots of hash marks or details. It is aspects like these that help The Little Depressed Boy stand out on the racks.

Although the series Li’l Depressed Boy isn’t exactly treading new water with the melancholic main character trying to get by in the world, that doesn’t matter. Like Gambino and the other artists referenced in the story (Andrew Jackson Jihad and They Might Be Giants) it’s more about making art that the creators want to see and the audience can connect with together. By doing this, Struble and Grace have managed to create something genuine and, frankly, pure for the comic racks that can proudly stand amongst the big summer tentpole books and overhyped relaunches.


The New Deadwardians #2

Written by Dan Abnett

Art by I.N.J. Culbard and Patricia Mulvihill

Lettered by Travis Lanham

Published by Vertigo

Review by Edward Kaye

‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Stories featuring vampires and zombie are a dime a dozen in comics right now, so when you learn that The New Deadwardians features both nocturnal blood-suckers and rotting flesh-eaters, you may be tempted to dismiss the series; however, that would be a huge mistake, because Dan Abnett has managed to put an new spin on an old theme here, to create a refreshingly intriguing tale.

The premise of the series revolves around a zombie plague outbreak in the early 1900s, a period commonly referred to as the Edwardian age. Fortunately, a cure is soon found in the form of vampirism - being infected with the vampire disease makes people immune, and in fact unattractive to zombies. The only side-effects of course being increased longevity, fangs, and an overwhelming desire to drink the blood of humans. The “cure” isn’t made available to the general populus though, and only the upper classes are able become one of the “Young,” leaving the working classes, or “Brights,” vulnerable to the flesh eating “Restless.” As can be imagined, the Brights aren’t happy with this situation, and take to the streets in protest of this unfair treatment.

The protagonist of the tale is Chief Inspector George Suttle, the only murder detective left working for Scotland Yard - murder being something of a rarity in a world filled by the undead. This all changes one day when a mysterious corpse is found on the Thames Embankment, close to the Houses of Parliament. The corpse is of a vampire, and what makes this case interesting is that he was not killed by any of the traditional methods for killing vampires, i.e. impalement of the the heart, decapitation, or incineration. This presents Suttle with something of a conundrum, and one that only gets more troubling when it’s discovered that the deceased is a prominent member of British aristocracy. Now Suttle must race to solve the case before the general populace gets wind of the case, and realizes that the cure that they’ve all been forced to make sacrifices for may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Dan Abnett has created an astonishingly fully-formed world here, and over the series’ first two issues has performed some fantastic world building and character work, to create a strong backbone upon which to weave his detective mystery. The story is incredibly rich and nuanced, and crime is a confounding enigma that would challenge Holmes himself. Speaking of whom, Sherlock Holmes is clearly a strong influence on the character of Suttle, but the character is not at all derogatory, as Abnett manages to take the comic’s many influences, and combine them into something that is greater than the sum of its parts. The dialog throughout the issue is very authentic and representative of the era, with the working class Brights all speaking in cockney accents, and the upper class Youngs speaking in Received Pronunciation, or The King’s English. This is a nice detail, because Abnett is also using the opportunity to explore and comment on aspects of British culture, such as the class system.

The artist on the series is I.N.J. Culbard, who is somewhat of a newcomer to the US comic scene. However, over in the UK, he’s worked with Ian Edginton on three separate Arthur Conan Doyle graphic novel adaptations. As can be expected, this makes him the perfect choice for illustrating a period detective mystery such as this, and he’s clearly very comfortable with what he’s doing here. Culbard brings Edwardian Britain to life beautifully with his clean and aesthetically pleasing linework that has a cartoonish style to it, but at the same time remains firmly grounded in reality. In some places a Guy Davis influence is apparent, particularly in his depiction of the zombies. In terms of inking, he tends to stick closely to his pencils, and avoids use of heavy blacks. This makes for some very neat and clean looking pages. Then for the occasional morbid scene, he uses lots of brushy inks, and turns up the blacks to make the scenes that much more intense when viewed in contrast to the rest of the issue.

The New Deadwardians #2 is an absorbing issue that grabs readers with its enticing mystery and keep them gripped to the very last page. If only all zombie and vampire comics were this good!


Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City

Written by Brendan Leach

Art by Brendan Leach

Lettering by Brendan Leach

Published by Top Shelf

Review by Scott Cederlund

‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

It's wonderful to imagine that New York at the turn of the 20th century may still be living under the threat of prehistoric pterodactyls. Brendan Leach's story starts out with that great concept. In 1905, it seems that only two or three pterodactyls remain, most recently thanks to Eamon Sullivan, a true-hearted hero of the city. Maybe more proud-hearted than true, Eamon is the hero of New York City as he carries on the family business and kills every pterodactyl that he can. And he's going to kill them all before his younger brother Declan has a chance to even find out if he could be half the civic hero that Eamon is.

Leach has this great concept of pterodactyl hunters, but that is not what his story is really about. Declan is a kid on the verge of being a man, but even he doesn't know what kind of man that he wants to be. Everyone seems to assume that he'll only be a fraction as successful as his brother and, it's implied, somehow not as mature or respected as his brother. Even their father, an old pterodactyl hunter himself, equals success in bringing down these old beasts as being the equivalent as being a successful person. He has one successful son and then he's got Declan who is always going to be just not as good as his brother. Even Declan himself, without ever coming out and saying it, seems to feel this way about himself; he's never going to get the chance to prove himself in the eyes of his father, his brother or the city.

So instead of telling a story about something fantastic and magical like dinosaurs, Leach builds a very personal story about all of our doubts of what we're going to be when we grow up. The one person who seems to understand the self-doubt that Declan is going through is his childhood friend Bridget. Even though she is now a nun, Declan obviously still sees the girl he used to know because he can't refer to her as "Sister Bridget," even though he's repeatedly reprimanded by an older nun to do so. She looks like she's made her choices but in her own way, she's just as adrift as Declan. As Declan, sitting on the church's steps confesses "it's just not turning out the way thought it would," Bridget pauses for a moment before agreeing. "I know the feeling," she says.

There’s some wonderful things happening with the art in this book. Leach is a solid storyteller, picking just the perfect moments of the story to show us. Eamon’s pride and Declan’s doubt are on display in every page but this is also an action story. While Leach knows that the story is about the characters, he shows how their actions mirror their inner turmoils. With his thin pen lines and shaky, sometimes uncorrected figures, he creates this world that’s always in motion, always shimmering with promise. That’s what all of these characters want: the promise of tomorrow and even if the story doesn’t deliver that, Leach’s artwork does.

But his artwork isn’t perfect and neither is his tomorrow. Even his today, with its questionable actions and outcomes, has these little mistakes and ghost images peppered through it. It creates a sense of the imperfect world when a pterodactyl has two heads, one obviously a rough sketch that wasn’t working for Leach but that he left in anyway. There are a lot of little moments in the book like that, showing the imperfections of the story while all of the characters are searching for their idea of a perfect tomorrow.

Pterodactyl Hunters In the Gilded Age is more about the idea of a gilded age than it is about pterodactyl hunters. Leach sets us up for a great fantasy story and then delivers a story about characters who maybe aren’t quite ready to grow up. It’s the past smashing into the present while the future is the big unknown. 

Pellet Review!


The Goon #39 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): I could be wrong after reading Goon #39, but I think that Goon creator and writer-artist Eric Powell might be angry at the state of the two major comic book companies. Fortunately, he channels that anger into an entertaining, done in one skewering of all the things he hates. Using the title character, a mob enforcer turned gang leader who usually fights zombies and other twisted pastiches of old EC comics monsters, and his sidekick, a hyper little man with a short temper, Powell takes us on a tour of modern superhero clichés, as he sees them. Thus, the Goon and his pal go through costume changes and reboots every few pages, ramping up the angst, faux shock, and fourth wall-breaking commentary as the story builds to a chaotic conclusion that sees the Goon deliver a line that’s clearly Powell himself talking. Though he never leaves his essential art style of big, bulky characters, I love how Powell manages to evoke a Mad Magazine feel by aping the poses of other artists while making them look ridiculous by never adjusting the characters themselves. It takes a lot of time and effort to create a visual parody that works, but Powell keeps the reader’s eyes entertained through what is ultimately a commentary on the industry but doesn’t feel preachy. Goon #39 is a hand grenade, but is explosively funny and worth picking up this week.


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