Best Shots Rapid Reviews: BATMAN INC., SPIDER-MEN, More

Ready for some rapid reviewage, 'Rama readers! Then get ready, because Best Shots has a host of our quick critiques for this week's latest releases. So move fast and start scrolling, as Vanessa Gabriel takes a look at the sophomore issue of Batman Incorporated...


Batman Incorporated #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): In much the same way Gail Simone showed how Scandal Savage came of age at hands of her father, Vandal Savage, in the pages of Secret Six; Grant Morrison gives us Talia Al Ghul. Batman Incorporated #2 is a rapid-fire origin of the daughter of Ra's Al Ghul. Intricately webbed with references to his entire Bat-run, Morrison successfully gets us to empathize — and almost root for — one of the most ruthless villains in the DCU. Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn render a beautiful Talia, and poignantly capture the heartbreak and resilience that has shaped her fate. Engaging and robust, Batman Incorporated #2 is an exquisitely paced, satisfying chapter in Morrison’s Batman manifesto. While many have underestimated Talia along the way, Bruce and Damian won’t. Game on.


Spider-Men #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): After a slow opener, we finally get the Spider-Man showdown we've all been waiting for — and it is sweet. Well, half of it, anyway. Sara Pichelli sells Peter Parker and Miles Morales' prerequisite misunderstanding-fight with aplomb, especially with a bullet time-esque dodge from Miles. That said, I think the timing is suspect — because Miles is so new, it feels like Bendis has to pump him up by having him trounce a superhero with a decade of experience. I did like Brian Michael Bendis's explanation of Ultimate Mysterio traversing two universes. That said, the second half of the story stalls, as Bendis leans too hard on his wordy banter. If he can build up the action and make the interactions more organic, Spider-Men will be worth the hype.


Justice League Dark #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Brian Bannen; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Writer Jeff Lemire wastes no time delving into the mystery of the magic tesseract (not to be confused with the Cosmic Cube), and in showing readers that, yes, John Constantine is a manipulative jerk. The issue is completely character driven. While Lemire gives these characters no reason to want to be together, their chemistry is palpable and his ability to convey their individuality is impressive. He is able to give each character equal space to develop over the course of the issue. Artist Mikel Janin’s panel construction and character designs are visual eye-candy. Characters are illustrated with stark realism, and since the issue has some action heavy moments, Janin is given the space to do some great character designs and close-ups. I passed on Justice League Dark last month. I’m glad I didn’t this month.


Amazing Spider-Man #688 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There's something very old-school about this issue of Amazing Spider-Man, perhaps made all the more apparent after the high-concept "Ends of the Earth." Dan Slott spins a lot of plates with all of Spidey's supporting cast, reminding me of that old soap operatic feel. That said, MJ and Morbius and Horizon and the Lizard can be overwhelming in one go, actually dampening the message of Peter's unrealistic expectations of himself. Giuseppe Camuncoli draws in that bulkier John Romita, Sr. style, amping up the force of the fight scenes with well-placed motion lines. Pacing-wise, this issue's great. The end twist? Superb. But in the end, Amazing Spider-Man #688 lacks the new insights to Peter Parker that has made the rest of Dan Slott's run so great.


Star Trek #10 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Kirk saves the Enterprise and liberates a people who aren’t supposed to exist, but larger problems loom for the loose-cannon Captain. Finishing the story from last issue, Mike Johnson runs the crew through the perpetual problem of the Prime Directive and making moral choices. I like how the results of Kirk’s actions might have serious implications and that each character has a unique voice/perspective. (I just wonder how the conspiracy squares with the movie continuity.) Stephen Molnar’s artwork is excellent, echoing the new actors without copying photos. There is a lot of strong framing in each panel, either with people, places or machines, and a better focus on action and movement this issue, a big artistic fix. Star Trek continues to be a solid adaptation. 


Ame-Comi: Batgirl #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating 8 out of 10: While it's packed with a bit more innuendo, few current Bat-titles come as close to the colorful fun of the Adam West series as Ame-Comi: Batgirl #2. And yes, that is a good thing. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti continue the adventures of Barbara Gordon and her cousin as this world's dynamic duo. Surrounded by enemies, the heroic two keep the fists, feet, and quips flying in a rather tightly packed slice of storytelling. With limited space, Gray and Palmiotti don't give the reader a chance to breath. And neither does artist Sanford Greene. Characters are perfectly exaggerated when the scene demands, but rein it in for the rare quiet moments. With a style that better fits the toys that inspired them, Ame-Comi: Batgirl #2 is a solid win.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #11 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Splinter fights for his life against an old enemy, even as the Turtles draw closer to their missing master in an action-packed issue that moves closer to what could be a deadly conclusion. This might have been nothing but a slugfest, but Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman craft a story that provides character moments for everyone from Splinter (“Believe me when I say, I am a very tired old rat.”) to Casey Jones to even Shredder’s granddaughter. The dialogue is crisp and combined with the tight, well-constructed panels of Dan Duncan, this issue packs a punch. Despite the many creatures Duncan must draw, there’s plenty of emotion on the faces, even in the action scenes as he continues the anime look of this great series.


Hit-Girl #1 (Published by Icon; Review by Brian Bannen; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Known for her foul mouth and penchant for violence, Hit-Girl stole the show in the pages of Kick-Ass. Now, Mark Millar focuses on another aspect of Mindy Macready -- her humanity. While the issue goes back to the old reliable mafia conflict, the newer elements, namely Mindy’s painfully embarrassing school existence, offer readers a different view of the character. By the end of the issue, readers can sympathize with her and feel the alienation she’s experiencing. John Romita deftly conveys characterization and emotion, and Tom Palmer’s finishes add a richness of texture that makes Hit-Girl’s visuals shine. Even though Kick-Ass and an old villain appear, Millar succeeds in making Hit-Girl to true focus of the issue.


Fatima: The Blood Spinners #1 (Published by Dark Horse; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Legendary alternative cartoonist Gilbert Hernandez gives us his unique take on the zombie horror phenomenon. Set in a strange dystopian future, a drug called “spin” gives users the ultimate high, only to turn them into mindless zombies within hours. Enter Fatima, a beautiful drug enforcement agent turned zombie hunter. The plot is fast-paced, action-packed and filled to the brim with violence. The script is smart, gripping and gritty. Hernandez is no stranger to creating realistic female characters, and the protagonist in this tale is one of his best yet. Hernandez’s linework is filled with intense detail, and his brushwork is just out of this world. Every panel is packed with voluptuous women, zombies, gore, and ultra-violence. This comic is crazy — it’s like Love & Rockets & Zombies. 


Legends of the Dark Knight #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating 8 out of 10): Hey, that's where my DC's been keeping the real Tim Drake! Legends of the Dark Knight #3 tells a story that's a great fit for the digital format. A tonally perfect morality tale by Tom Taylor, Issue #3 reads like it would be just as comfortable as an episode of the Batman Animated Series. Nicola Scott continues to show why she's one of the best at drawing realistic people, in and out of tights. It isn't that often we get to see Batman and Robin actually prevent a crime. As such, Nicola does a great job of showing a strong, but still sympathetic Dark Knight. With a rotating crew, this digital series is quickly becoming the crown jewel of DC Digital.


Savage Dragon #180 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Death, destruction and cameos from across the Image Universe dominate in this issue that continues the story of Dragon as a ruthless alien leader and its fallout. Writer/artist Erik Larsen’s art and dialogue are as strong as ever, with multiple examples of intricate backgrounds, Kirby-like monsters/effects, and exchanges that evoke old-school heroism. Larsen’s layouts pack a ton of story within a single issue and do so with gusto. However, there’s such a strong need to know what has been going on that it’s hard for a new reader to enjoy it. Why are these aliens attacking? Why is Dragon no longer a hero? Who are these two kids anyway? The book is visually appealing, but it’s just too obtuse to jump in right now.


The New Deadwardians #4 (Published by Vertigo Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The New Deadwardians #4 is the midway point of Chief Inspector George Suttle’s story. His investigation into the death of an immortal has reminded him of the plight of being Young. Various iterations of vampire lore present cons to eternal life; through the words of George, it is a truly unfortunate existence birthed out of necessity. As the Restless stir outside this carefully caged civilization and the Bright remain discontent with their station, something else is stirring under George’s dignified facade. Abnett’s romantically urbane story is unlike any other comic, and that is refreshing. Culbard’s lines and Patricia Mulvilhill’s colors are as tidy and couth as the characters, bringing a wonderful cohesion to the book. The New Deadwardians #4 continues with sophistication, which I suspect will make its unraveling that much more interesting.


Courtney Crumrin #3 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): As a fan of the Courtney Crumrin series, the fact that she is now in an ongoing is all the more better for my summer reading. However, this issue itself alludes back to certain events in previous books, and I could see where it might be hard for new readers to follow along. I had actually forgotten some elements of the third volume ("The Twilight Kingdom"), but it's great to see creator Ted Naifeh bring back some elements and characters from previous installments, even if for a moment. Warren Wucinich's colors fit well with Naifeh's Gothic and mystical world nicely. His palette is just the right mix of not oversaturating characters, and just putting a nice layer of purples and grays to add to the moodiness of the environment.


Atomic Robo: The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #1 (Published by Red 5; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Atomic Robo returns with another “weird war” story. Ambushed by foo fighters while test flying a prototype jet, Robo is rescued by a society of jet pack-flying female mercenaries. Together they must stop the Japanese from dominating the Pacific with their new experimental weaponry. The story is fun, action-packed, easily accessible, and can be enjoyed equally well by readers of all ages. Brian Clevinger’s script is smart and involving, with great characters and witty dialogue. Scott Wegener's artwork is enchanting and done in a fun, chunky cartooning style with some manga vibes to it. The colors are bright and bold, and make the artwork pop out of the page. This comic was just a lot of fun, we need more all-ages books like this.


Supreme #65 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Mean Supreme works to take back the life he feels he lost while the remaining versions of Supreme deal with being powerless in this breather issue. Writer/co-artist Erik Larsen works on setting up the new status quo with potential subplots, giving the story the feel of an older comic but with modern sensibilities. It’s fun to see Larsen tweak the nose of the early days of Image, and amazingly he actually makes Mean Supreme look sympathetic. Larsen and Cory Hamscher keep the art varied, with ever-changing camera angles and layouts that emphasize action. As with past issues, so much is said with eyes, body posture and emphasis —the art helps drive the story. Supreme continues to be a great read three months into its reset.

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