Best Shots Extra: THE MASSIVE #1, SILK SPECTRE, More


The Massive #1

Written by Brian Wood

Art by Kristian Donaldson and Dave Stewart

Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher

Published by Dark Horse

Review by Scott Cederlund

‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

When Brian Wood first started DMZ, the Bush-era war on terror already seemed like something we couldn't win. Pictures of a war being fought in city streets half a world away.  Imagining a split America fighting another civil war in the heart of New York City actually seemed like something that couldn't happen.  Those were the days before the Tea Party, Zuccotti Park and the Occupy movement.  By the end of DMZ, it was frightening to realize that Wood's dystopian NYC was not as improbable as it seemed only a few years earlier.  

Even as the United States has felt more and more divided into the haves and have nots, we've seen one natural disaster after another seemingly attack a world that had foolishly believed it had subdued nature.  Earthquakes, typhoons, floods and tornadoes have at times seemed even more destructive to the environment than man has been. Wood and artist Kristian Donaldson's new The Massive #1 shows us a future that seems even closer than the civil war of DMZ, as the crew of the trawler The Kapital tries to lead an environmental rebellion in a world that is falling apart more and more every day.

In three short stories in Dark Horse Presents, Wood and Donaldson introduced Callum, Mag and Mary, the crew of The Kapital.  Part environmentalists, part rebels, The Massive #1 opens with them searching for their missing sister ship, the eponymous Massive. Getting a radar ping for a ship they hope is their lost counterparts, they find something that never changes on the open sea: they find pirates.  Wood and Donaldson cut back and forth through time in this first issue, documenting just how the world has fallen apart over the last couple of years while they show us the very present threat of pirates in the present day.  

Donaldson's is not as stylized as it was in his first collaboration with Wood, Supermarket, but his solid storytelling makes this a world that is very easy to believe. With Dave Stewart providing the colors, Donaldson creates a realistic world that feels like it should be better than it actually is. It's a fascinating dichotomy that Donaldson's line is the cleanest that we've seen in any of Wood's books like DMZ, Northlanders or Conan. It's similar to Rebekah Isaac's on Wood's DV8 miniseries, very clean and sure of the world it's building. Stewart creates the moods with his vivid coloring, setting a fog over the present day, hiding the world from our view.

The odd thing about The Massive #1 is that it's hard to tell if this is a book about the environment or an adventure book about life on the high seas. Those introductory short stories in DHP really placed the character's in their broken environments. We saw how the world's upheavals affected the lives of people. In the first issue of the series, Wood and Donaldson are still finding a balance between their story and their themes.  With the whole world as their stage, their first issue's broad storytelling doesn't seem angry at the world or yet overly concerned with these environmental changes. Like his earlier work, Wood’s writing on The Massive #1 feels eerily prescient but Wood and Donaldson focus more on the characters in this issue rather than the environment.  The thought of activism exists in the deep background of this issue, waiting for themes and issues to emerge to inject some emotion and energy into an otherwised reserved first issue.


Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #1

Written by Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner

Art by Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts

Lettering by Carlos M. Mangual

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Forget the headiness, forget the apocalyptic themes, forget the overwhelming darkness that made the original Watchmen the masterpiece it was.

Because besides the protagonist of the book, Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #1 isn't like its predecessor. Not hardly. This is a story about mothers and daughters — and that's all it needs.

The secret to this book's surprisingly sweet appeal is Amanda Conner. Don't get me wrong, Darwyn Cooke knows how to structure a book, but Conner knows how to give it a heart and soul. Laurie Juspeczyk, who is struggling with the idea of inheriting the role of the Silk Spectre from her overbearing mother, has a vulnerability and enthusiasm in her smooth lines that makes you instantly care for her. (The cartoony asides when she's on the dating scene are even more endearing.) There's one silent page that pretty much says it all — Julie looking at herself in the mirror, grumpily noticing she doesn't fill out the chest yet. She's not the neurotic, jaded mess she was in Alan Moore's story, but in every way that matters, she's just as human.

Of course, Conner has the best tag-team partner in the business working on the script with her: Darwyn Cooke. There are a few times where he uncomfortably takes some of Moore's stylistic tics — the snow globe imagery, the radio balloons taking over certain claustrophobic pages — but the story quickly shrugs off the drive to be like Moore and blessedly decides to be itself. This story is about a mother and a daughter trying uncomfortably to deal with the other one's decisions and legacies. There's plenty of sweet moments here, but that makes the darker moments seem that much more sad.

Despite the title, this book isn't Watchmen. It'll never be. But as its own story, Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre is a heartfelt, gorgeous story that feels less like a cash-grab, and more like art for art's sake. As crazy as it sounds, maybe DC will have its cake and eat it, too — at the very least, Conner and Cooke have earned your attention.


AvX: VS #3

Written by Jeph Loeb and Chris Yost

Art by Ed McGuinness, Terry Dodson, Dexter Vines, Rachel Dodson, Morry Hollowell and Guru eFx

Lettering by Albert Deschesne and Joe Caramanga

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

The visceral appeal of AvX: VS hasn't changed, even if this issue's bouts aren't quite as hard-hitting as they have been in the past. With a Who's Who of Marvel talent pitting the company's strongest heroes against one another, you'll probably still find something to like here — that is, if you like the contenders involved.

For me, Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness's opener with Colossus versus the Thing was a little bit of a non-starter, due mainly to the fact that out of all the characters in this event, Colossus has already gotten his fair share of excellent moments — just look at his throw down against the Red Hulk over in Uncanny X-Men or his fight with Spider-Man in the last issue of this very book. Since we saw the Thing in Issue #1, there's not much new for Loeb to do that we haven't seen already. (Plus, opening with pages of Colossus squaring off against the Red Hulk first hurts the momentum even further.)

What's more surprising about that fight is Ed McGuinness's artwork. Considering the guy was born to draw huge, musclebound behemoths, it's a little disappointing to not see more oomph to this clash of the titans. Don't get me wrong, the designs look great, with a real animated smoothness to the linework that makes Colossus look like a real beast, but the impact on each hit is lacking. With a matchup like Colossus versus the Thing, you expect to see earthquakes with every haymaker, craters with every roundhouse, debris flying with every blow. Sadly, the speed and power of this fight gets dialed down way too low.

Yet the welterweight fight has more than enough style to draw some eyes. Riding the wave of the Avengers movie, Chris Yost makes the Black Widow into a tricky, tough-as-nails combatant as she goes one-on-one with another Russian bad girl, the mutant sorceress known as Magik. Natasha gets more than her fair share of awesome moments in this book, showing that even the "weakest" Avenger in terms of power sets is still a force to be reckoned with. That said, the ending of this fight comes out of nowhere, and will lead you to call for a rematch.

Meshing well against Ed McGuinness is Terry and Rachel Dodson. Considering Natasha and Illyana are both gorgeous superheroines, the Dodsons are perfect choices with their lush linework — yet just like their work on Defenders last week, they do a great job on establishing some slick fight choreography. While there are a couple of awkward moments with the strobe effects (Black Widow gets three arms in one panel while looking in random directions), both characters have never looked better.

With one fight feeling a little old hat and the other ready to knock your socks off, the end result of AvX: VS is still a win, albeit not the cleanest one. Those who buy this book are doing it not for plot development or even so much character dynamics, but seeing a good old-fashioned throwdown drawn by the best and the brightest. Right now, they've got half that. In order to keep the momentum going, Marvel has to keep the brackets shuffled a little bit better than this. 

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