Greetings, 'Rama readers! Hope you're recovering from your Comic-Con hangovers — but if not, Best Shots has just the chaser for you! So let's kick off with a handful of reviews for your reading pleasure, starting with the rock-solid latest issue of Wolverine and the X-Men...


Wolverine and the X-Men #13

Written by Jason Aaron

Art by Nick Bradshaw, Walden Wong, Cam Smith and Guru eFx

Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Click here for preview

How awesome could a one-shot comic about the new Warbird be? Turns out, pretty awesome: This sword-swinging Sh'iar femme fatale snags the spotlight for the latest issue of Wolverine and the X-Men, as Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw weave a compelling character piece among the chaos of Avengers vs. X-Men.

Aaron starts this piece out with a wicked smirk at an industry legend, as we get to know this alien addition to Wolverine's School for the Gifted. We've seen the bad guy making good plenty of times in comics — Marvel especially — but Aaron takes a simple yet extremely effective swerve with Warbird's upbringing: She's an inherently good person who was just raised to believe things like mercy and creativity were a bad thing.

Not only does that endearing, if deeply screwed-up spirit that makes Warbird such a compelling character, but Aaron uses her bizarro morality as a launchpad for the entire twisted decision-making of Avengers vs. X-Men. Torn between two directives — save her king, the all-powerful Gladiator, against the Phoenix-juiced X-Men, or follow his orders and protect his son? It's a simple enough arc, but it makes the most out of its single-issue space.

Artist Nick Bradshaw is an interesting pick for an issue like this — while Aaron's script is all about moral shades of gray, Bradshaw is clean, open, inviting with his linework. He excels in the emotional beats, as you see the heart underneath Warbird's pure white eyes. There are some great moments here, particularly when Warbird abandons her prime directive for the sudden impulse of morality, or when Kid Gladiator's world is turned upside-down. The only downside to Bradshaw's art is it isn't nearly as daring or atmospheric as Aaron's script might call for — you'll remember the twists in the storyline, but the general execution isn't quite as electric with the composition or lighting.

That said, when your only critique is "could have been more risky with the art," it means you've got yourself a pretty darn good comic. Bradshaw's storytelling chops and expressive characters draw you into Aaron's surprisingly human story about an alien warrior who secretly longs for some beauty in her life. The irony, of course, is that Warbird's story might be some of the most beautiful work this title has seen yet.



Batman and Robin #11

Written by Peter J. Tomasi

Art by Partick Gleason, Mick Gray, Keith Champagne, Tom Nguyen, John Kalisz, Allen Passalaqua and Hi-Fi

Lettering by Carlos M. Mangual

Published by DC Comics

Review by Brian Bannen

‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

While Scott Snyder wrapped up in “Court of Owls” story in the last issue of Batman, Peter Tomasi is beginning his big shakedown in Batman and Robin. With similar themes of terrorism and brutal violence, Batman and Robin pushes the conflict further with a city wide attack aimed at civilians, and an unknown threat that is trying to dismantle what Batman stands for by making him the enemy of all the people in Gotham.

Before Tomasi gets into his major story, he settles a dispute in the first few pages — which are the best parts of the issue. The comic opens with a great fight between Jason Todd and Damian Wayne. It seems as if Tomasi has a lot of fun writing Damian because his moments in the book are the best. He’s pure arrogance and knows how to cut Jason deep, both literally and figuratively, and I like that Tomasi came back to the growing resentment that Damian has for Jason. I thought that moment had passed, but this proves that nothing ends until Damian has had the last word.

The rest of the issue is standard fare, with Bruce battling a group of terrorists who brand all of their victims with Bat symbols. The fault with the book is that it tries to cover too much in its given space. The result is a fractured pacing that attempts to build up the threat while also attempting to build up the tension. The ending is a bit abrupt, and it doesn’t land hard enough to create a true climax. Plus, the opening sequence has little to do with the rest of the story, so while I enjoyed it, the connection isn’t lucid. The comic still has great moments involving Bruce and Damian, and a beautiful splash page that feels in line with “Court of the Owls” more than anything else.

The artistic team on this book does a great job with the imagery, particularly on the pages where Jason and Damian fight. One page in particular has panels showing their current tangle set against the backdrop of Jason’s brutal beating at the hands of the Joker. The artists also play a lot with shadows and shading to such a degree that they are tools deftly utilized to convey the dark tone of Batman and Robin. Visually, this book continues to be impressive.

Some people scoff at comics as funny coloring books geared for kids. Clearly, those people have never read an issue of Batman and Robin. Peter Tomasi doesn’t shy away from violence, and he reminds readers that the world in which his story takes place is full of brutality and savagery. And it needs a hero who can save it.



Avenging Spider-Man #9

Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Art by Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson and Edgar Delgado

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Brian Bannen

‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Click here for preview

In this month’s issue of Avenging Spider-Man, the Webhead teams up with Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel. The results are a cleverly written story that makes characterization its main focus, while throwing some action because, hey, what’s a Spider-Man book without a little action?

Kelly Sue DeConnick, who’s written an eclectic array of books for Marvel, takes her turn at writing Avenging Spider-Man. DeConnick captures the humor that has consistently been found in this book, and she clearly had fun creating a connection between the everyman hero Spider-Man, and the heroic and powerful Captain Marvel. DeConnick’s Carol Danvers is strong and confident, and a bit mischievous. Her Peter Parker is goofy and silly, but when the characters are given the opportunity to take on their hero roles, they don’t lose the tone set at the beginning of the issue. While the book is formulaic (good guys end up in a situation where they need to be heroes), the story still feels fresh and DeConnick splices in character moments in between the action sequences.

Terry Dodson draws Avenging Spider-Man and he utilizes the same clean imagery as that found in his run on Wonder Woman. The illustrations have very little cross hatching and fine shadows and inks done by Dodson’s wife, Rachel Dodson. Captain Marvel isn’t depicted as buxom as Wonder Woman, but this is really due to the panel construction. A lot of the shots are tight and the comic has no full or splash pages. If anything, Terry Dodson is limited by the amount of story he needs to tell in such a short book.

That said, while I liked his Carol Danvers, I didn’t like his Peter Parker. Dodson draws Peter in a way that makes him look big and muscular. But when he has to draw Spider-Man, the character loses size and becomes more lithe. It’s a noticeable change, and one I would feel remiss in not mentioning. Given this minor critique, the rest of the book is great. It has the polished look of a Paco Medina image and smooth colorization found in books like Ultimate Spider-Man.

Avenging Spider-Man continues to be a fun read. The series continues to find writers that keep the tone light, and the banter and humor high. Non-canonical books are freeing in that they don’t have to adhere to the minutiae found in a continuous series. For those looking to get a break from the continuity-heavy Amazing Spider-Man, this is your book.



Bloodshot #1

Written by Duane Swierczynski

Art by Manuel Garcia with Aturo Lozzi

Published by Valiant Comics

Review by Pierce Lydon

'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

Click here for preview

Tell me if you’ve read this one before. A career killer who is the best he is at what he does finds his life turned upside-down as everything he thought was real was actually a product of mental tampering at the hands of the government organization that birthed him, bub. That’s not to say that the title character is anything like a certain yellow-spandexed Canadian but the big beats in Duane Swiercyznski’s Bloodshot #1 do bear an uncanny resemblance.

Bloodshot mainly sets itself apart from the rest of the Valiant launch titles with its grueling violence, but that’s part of the fun of a having a main character who can put himself back together again. The nanites in Bloodshot’s body work overtime in this one. He gets burnt to a crisp, shot at, shot through, blown up and endures more physical pain that some heroes see in an entire arc. All the while, he’s struggling with the idea that everything he thought he loved is potentially a lie, merely smoke and mirrors designed to motivate him to finish his missions.

Bloodshot is a tragic figure and Swiercynzski plays to normal expectations of a black-ops superhero quite well before putting such a crushing twist on the character. We’re joining a life already in progress and now we have to take the journey back through Bloodshot’s damaged memories to find the truth. But there’s not enough here to make us really want to go with him on that journey. Despite Swierczynski’s best attempts, Bloodshot doesn’t come off as a human being we should care about and connect with.

Manuel Garcia and Arturo Lozzi’s art is interesting. Scenes of Bloodshot’s home life and family are rendered with a photorealistic by way of Photoshop shine to them that it’s almost unnerving. They exist in stark contrast to scenes depicting his missions which use heavier lines and are much more raw.

It’s hard to tell if this is the art team executing a metaphor about Bloodshot’s life through the differing styles or not. On one hand, I could see the overly touched-up, “plastic” look of Ray’s home life as a tip to readers that it isn’t real. Compare that to the visceral nature of the battlefields that Bloodshot finds himself on and it should be clear to us what is what even if Bloodshot himself isn’t aware. Unfortunately, even if they were attempting to play on our sense of reality, it makes for a very uneven reading experience.

Bloodshot #1 is fuled by cool factor and driven by “whoa!” moments. It’s meant to shock you into reading on while still providing a few main plot points about Bloodshot’s past and origins. But it’s not enough. It feels like we’ve been down this road before with other series. If this book continues to be dragged down by inconsistent art and recycled plot points, it’ll have a hard time getting its hooks in with the current comics market.

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