Best Shots Rapid Reviews: NIGHTWING, DARK AVENGERS, More

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Let's cut to the chase with Best Shots' latest round of Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's get things started with the first post-"Night of the Owls" issue of Nightwing, this week's #10...


Nightwing #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Now that the "Night of the Owls" crossover is finished, Kyle Higgins, Eddy Barrows and Geraldo Borges are putting the pedal to the metal with a really satisfying issue of Nightwing.

The thing that got me about this issue was just how much Higgins packed in here — we've got Dick Grayson following an investigation, we've got him fighting, we've got police intrigue, we've got the circus angle... while the villains at the end seem a little too similar to the Court of Owls, Higgins still delivers one of the best-paced chapters I've seen from DC in ages.

Eddy Barrows and Geraldo Borges also pull some solid work in this issue. The speed and wildness that I think Nightwing deserves isn't quite there, but their composition is pretty stellar. There's one panel in particular, where Dick leaps at an impossible angle to get the jump on some gun-toting thugs that really popped off the page, and watching Dick leap through a glass window while on the phone looks great. All in all, this is a great effort for this creative team, one that'll definitely bring me back next month.


Dark Avengers #176 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Sometimes I wonder what a pitch meeting is like between Jeff Parker and The Powers That Be in Marvel editorial. In my mind, there are lots of animated arms waving and pew-pew noises. And just as Parker gets the green light; he runs out screaming: “Also. I'm not gonna use the Dark Avengers in the issue, suckers. Parker, out!” At least that's how it felt after reading Dark Avengers #176 — and I couldn't be happier.

A month after the Dark Avengers debut, Parker ditches them and returns to the time-lost Thunderbolts. In doing so, he brings their journey to a wonderfully satisfying end. And yet in this ending, he adds greater depth to the book with two big reveals that had me grinning like a rabid fanboy that could only ask “please sir, could I have some more?”

Visually, Kev Walker feels stronger when he's drawing Marvel's misfits. Under his pencils, the characters move with grace, be it Troll's unchecked aggression as she flies through panels or Boomerang's frat-boy grin at the prospect of a Moonstone vs. Satana fight. The inks from Terry Pallot are a little too heavy for my taste, as they cut into Walkers's pencil details. However, this is a minor fault in a book that's simply a blast to read.

Up against Before Watchmen and AvX events, Dark Avengers #176 isn't going to make any headlines. But it's easily the most fun you'll have all week with superpowered folks in tights.

Mars Attacks #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Based on the cult Topps trading card game of the same name, this new Mars Attacks series is a pulp sci-fi story that plays on the post-WWII hysteria that Mars was populated by little green men, who wanted nothing more than to take over the Earth and to enslave humanity.

Rather than taking the predictable route of giving us a human protagonist, and relating the story of how they survive an onslaught of faceless Martian invaders, John Layman opens this series by taking the rather interesting tack of telling the story through the eyes of a Martian invader. By making this subtle change to the premise, John Layman has managed to put a refreshingly original spin on an old classic. The issue has some great action and some hilarious moments that utilize a much more subtle brand of humor than the camp slapstick of the Tim Burton movie.

John McCrea illustrates the issue in a fun cartooning style that takes its cues from Wally Wood’s original artwork — so much so that each chapter of the story opens with an illustration of a trading card depicting the scene that follows. It’s a great way to lay the story out, and looks very striking.

I don’t have the usually highest regard for comics based on licenses, but Mars Attacks #1 really took me by surprise with its fresh, fun, and exciting story.


Daredevil #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): I hated last month's cliffhanger to Daredevil, but damn if Mark Waid and Chris Samnee didn't absolutely sell the payoff. The man with the super-senses deals with his deepest challenge yet, and I'm stoked to see what comes next.

Waid, like Matt Murdock himself, works in terms of the senses, adding to Chris Samnee's artwork to conjure up a real sense of tension. Matt's prison cell in Latveria is a great example, particularly as the Man Without Fear suddenly pieces together exactly where he is. James Bond wishes he had introductions this good.

But Chris Samnee is what seals the deal. I am so happy he's going to stay on this book, you have no idea. Perfect composition, perfect choreography — I adore the strobe effect he gives Matt, for example, as he flips and tumbles down a building. He's got expressive characters, great page layouts, the whole she-bang. Now that Matt has lost his greatest gifts, we've got a great cliffhanger here, as Marvel's best series keeps its record intact.


Green Lantern Corps #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): With Green Lantern John Stewart imprisoned for killing a comrade to save the universe, Peter Tomasi is dealing with pretty heady stuff over in Green Lantern Corps. That said, smart premise aside, this issue sputters a bit in pacing, rescued only by the muscular artwork of Fernando Pasarin.

The trap that Tomasi falls in is that he sets up an appropriately somber tone, but doesn't really get his theme across — in other words, the Last Temptation of John Stewart feels sad for the sake of sadness, not really giving a solid point of view other than John saying "you play with the cards you're dealt."

Thankfully, the book does pick up by the end, making excellent work of Fernando Pasarin's style. Pasarin has the composition of a Dave Gibbons, the expressiveness of a Kevin Maguire, and the clean figures of a Barry Kitson. Watching the Lanterns go to war against an ominous force has the widescreen appeal, but Pasarin also sells the quieter moments with aplomb. There are worse ways to score a win than by looks alone.


Baltimore: Dr. Leskovar's Remedy #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Monsters above, monsters below! Lord Baltimore, on a quest for revenge against the vampire that took his family’s life, crash-lands in a community with a supernatural problem of its own. The tireless warrior must face new foes in this story that requires knowledge of the main character to be fully enjoyed.

Anyone who reads Mike Mignola’s Dark Horse comics knows that he’s expanded the world of Hellboy but may not know all the other characters. This short story does not do enough to help new readers understand this protagonist. We get a bit of Lord Baltimore’s history, but he comes off as cold and unlikable here. He will help the villagers, but only because it will help himself (and lead to a cliffhanger). The nuance, inner turmoil and secret desire to help that shows in a longer arc is not sufficiently present in a two-parter, and Lord Baltimore suffers as a result.

While  Ben Stenbeck does an awesome job with creating a Magnola-like setting and monsters that will terrify you in their abhorrent nature, he continues to draw his human figures with little to no expressions on their faces a majority of the time, which robs the art of a lot of its power. This is shaping up to be a good Baltimore story, but there’s just not enough to hook a new reader. It’s hard to recommend this one unless you are already a fan of the character.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Microseries #5 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Memories come to us at the strangest times. For Master Splinter, leader of the Turtles, it’s when he’s facing certain death at the hands of Shredder in this fight/flashback issue that complements the ongoing series.

While the first four issues of the Microseries had only loose links, this issue reads more like a direct tie-in issue, not unlike how Avengers Versus X-Men has a separate series just to focus on the battles. Erik Burnham is careful to make this issue readable on its own, however. We open with Splinter fighting for his life and then cut to the reason why the animosity between Splinter and Shredder is extremely personal. The results open up a depth to his character that I don’t remember seeing elsewhere, showing that Splinter’s calm center did not always come so easy — and may yet be put to a final test.

It’s a deep story that’s harmed a bit by the choice of artist. Charles Paul Wilson III does not seem to get Splinter’s body shape right while in rat form, though I liked how he choreographed the battle scenes. Wilson does a better job with the flashbacks, but even those felt a bit flatter and stiffer than you’d expect from a martial arts story. Overall, this issue of TMNT Microseries follows in its predecessors’ footsteps, expanding on the spotlight character and providing a great story for fans of the Turtles.

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