Greetings, 'Rama readers! Get ready for the lightning round, as Best Shots takes on this week's big releases! So let's kick off with Alan Scott, Jay Garrick and company, as Aaron Duran takes aim at the latest issue of DC's Earth 2...Earth 2 #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): I'm still waiting for Earth 2 to pop for me. Each month they get closer and Issue #4 is no different. James Robinson does get in some decent character moments. No small task when you consider this issue is one giant fight scene. Penciler Nicola Scott is joined by Eduardo Pansica and continues to make the art the biggest draw of this title. With strong panel layout and nuanced character poses, this title feels as real as a superhero title can. Considering this book is still introducing new characters, it's managing to maintain a rather compelling story. But once the dust settles, I sincerely hope Robinson gives these new heroes time to breath. They've got my attention for now, but I need real reason to keep coming back. Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Cullen Bunn takes the idea behind Garth Ennis’ infamous Punisher one shot, substitutes in Deadpool as the protagonist, turns the crazy dial up to 11, and lets him loose on the Marvel Universe. This comic is all about the big dumb fun, and to that end doesn’t take itself too seriously, but nethertheless, Bunn establishes a solid premise in this opening issue, and provides some interesting and unforeseen plot twists. Dalibor Talajic is no stranger to Deadpool, and draws the issue in a dark cartooning style that fits the silly and gory story really well; particularly impressive is his melting Reed Richards. This is probably one of the best Deadpool stories that I’ve read in a long time. The First X-Men #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10; Click here for preview): The First X-Men is a real mixed bag. It's fun to watch iconic Marvel mutants playing in the past, but I don't know how it fits the overall narrative. Neal Adams and Christos Gage have a good lock on Wolverine, were this story taking place in 2012 and not the 1960s. As it stands, his sympathetic actions and almost rabid desire to form a team feels very out of place. Adams art is also a mix. We he cuts loose, the energy on the page is darn near infectious. But this older Adams seems to have forgotten how to tone it down. Regardless of the scene, everyone is lunging, or posing, or shouting at the reader. To be honest, were it not for the great book ending moment with Erik Lehnsherr, I don't know if I'd come back for Issue #2.
Dark Shadows/Vampirella #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): A pair of protective vampires clash as they work to stop a serial killer before he strikes again in this licensed match-up that was surprisingly enjoyable. I have no attachment to either of the primary characters but after some standard vampire fare Marc Andreyko hooked me in by adding Jack the Ripper to the mix, who works well in the vampire context. Andreyko does a good job with dialogue/scenes to establish context, but there’s no strong explanation of the characters. Artist Patrick Berkenkotter draws the story as realistically as possible, with some nice close-up shots and a ton of restraint, despite the bloody nature of the plot. Those who like horror stories should check this out, even if you aren't already a fan of the properties.
Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Although the father/son Kubert combo is interesting to look at on the page, it isn’t enough to pull this book up to the level of its Before Watchmen peers. With so much Rorschach in the issue, it’s hard to say this is a Nite Owl book. It resonates more like the early Denny O’Neil/Neil Adams Green Arrow/Green Lantern book. However, with a Rorschach book around the corner, it would be nice to have a little more Nite Owl. The books theme seems to be all over the place. Is this a team-up book? A story of the young, damaged Daniel Dreiberg? The morally gray Nite Owl? It doesn’t know what it wants to be, and could leave readers wondering if it’s worth continuing.
Garfield #4 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10):
Garfield saves the day twice in two different ways in short stories that don’t showcase the usual wit and cleverness of writer Mark Evanier. Regular series artists Gary Barker and Dan Davis use a very on-model style filled with knowing looks to both reader and characters to tell a story that lampoons the comic industry but anyone who is a fan of Evanier has seen him do the same riff far better elsewhere. Skewing down to the all-ages set, Mike DeCarlo gives too much of a Warner Brothers-inspired exaggerated look to Garfield while Evanier pens a heartwarming message about being open to friendship that feels forced, given that Garfield is the one delivering it. This is a rare miss from Evanier and company.Avengers vs. X-Men #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The narrative in the latest installment is more shattered than Spider-Man’s face. So much is packed into this one issue that, instead of leaving the reader full and satisfied, it feels like a mess. There are bits and pieces of the Avengers, Cyclops, Spider-Man and everything in between, but nothing long enough to drive a story. Both groups are so splintered that it’s hard to follow any one storyline. The best aspect of the issue, Spidey’s arc, is so rushed and choppy that his sacrifice feels hollow. Adam Kubert is better than he was last time. However, there are still some awkward faces and rushed story telling. The X-Men are abandoning Cyclops, and readers might soon follow.
Courtney Crumrin #4 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): As this chapter of Courtney Crumrin's story comes to a close, I can't help but think things are about to get hellaciously ugly for the Crumrin Crew. This issue packs a lot of story and those who aren't familiar with instances that occurred in previous volumes might want to stay clear as they could get lost. This is definitely the end of one character's arc, but the beginning of something much more dangerous. Ted Naifeh has poured some serious work into these pages and mixed with Warren Wucinich's moody colors, it's gorgeous to admire. This whole collection can easily be described as the Empire Strikes Back of the series, as it ends one downer of a cliffhanger. Longtime fans of the series, consider this a warning to have some tissues ready at hand.
Hawkeye #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Colin Bell; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10) This book sees Matt Fraction and David Aja pick up where they left off when they departed Immortal Iron Fist – which is to say that both writer and artist are on tremendous form. Eschewing any notion of setting up a grand arc from the offset, Fraction writes a snappy, entertaining and relatively straightforward day-in-the-life introduction of Clint Barton that deftly showcases the archer’s personality, ability and general outlook. Conversely, Aja’s presentation of this story is anything but straightforward. The book is bristling with immersive, drawn-in lettering and dynamic panel layouts, helping make this a delightful done-in-one where the only hook for you to come back next month is that this is simply damn fine comics. Hopefully this confidence will take Hawkeye a long way.Beasts of Burden – Neighborhood Watch (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Very few teams pull off the “darker” all-ages work like Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson. The three short tales found within Neighborhood Watch run you through a gamut of emotions. One moment, Evan Dorkin has you chuckling at the whimsy of a sheep dog scaring some pups. Only to tug at your heart over the plight of an undead sheep herd. Jill Thompson's art is wonderful expressive as she works the balance between animal exuberance and the real dangers these dogs and cats face. Beasts of Burden – Neighborhood Watch is a perfect example of what a team can create within comics. On the surface, three simple tales of paranormal adventure. But look deeper, and you will see very real and powerful human emotions coming into play. Simply wonderful.
Hypernaturals #2 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Bewilder and Thinkwell take the Hypernaturals rejects out on a trial mission, and things go south, prompting them to try and recruit long retired team members. This is very much a character issue, as Abnett and Lanning introduce us to members new and old, and establish their motivations. The duo excels in this regard, providing readers with three-dimensional and well fleshed out characters. The art team of Brad Walker and Tom Derenick illustrate the issue in a high-energy style that fits the cosmic/superhero theme of the story well, and it’s hard to tell where they pass the art baton. Hypernaturals feels a bit like a Legion of Superheroes story that DnA never got to tell, which is really DC’s loss.