Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for the lightning round? Best Shots has your back, with this week's Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with Rick Remender's final issue of Venom...
Venom #22 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): A-plus to Rick Remender. Wrapping up his run on Marvel's symbiote-powered soldier, the writer adds in a lot of metaphor and a lot of heart to his final issue of Venom. To say it's beautiful is an understatement — Remender really ties together the themes of rage being transmitted from father to son to everyone else in their lives. In a lot of ways, Remender reminds me of the old-school Spider-Man comics, with Flash monologuing as he gracefully swings through the city. Artist Declan Shalvey makes that look fantastic, as you really see the abandon in Flash's movements — this is a man with some serious problems, and the way he waits as he drops makes you almost wonder if he's just ready to let everything go. Gorgeous fight choreography, a message that punches you in the gut, a well-earned ending from one of Marvel's rising stars. Don't miss this.
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The only improvement that could possibly be made to the second installment of Before Watchmen: Ozymandias regards the quick pacing. It might put off some readers — or it could be part of this story's genius. The comic reads like the hyperbolic memory of a megalomaniac on the eve of his greatest achievement. It’s hard to tell what parts are factual and what parts are grandious manifestations of Adrian’s ego-driven memory. Jae Lee’s exquisite art compliments this element of Len Wein’s script. The entire page seems to spiral and twist at the edges of characters and shapes. The backgrounds are left most blank suggesting that Adrian’s memories only captures what he wants and not the superfluous details.
Sensational Spider-Man #33.1 (Published by Marvel Comics ; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): There are vultures involved in more ways than one when Officer Cooper teams with Peter Parker in order to stop a human smuggling ring in round one of a two-part Spider-Man 50th anniversary tribute. Perhaps the story will work better as a whole, but right now it feels more like an inventory story than a special comic, doing nothing to highlight Spidey’s history. Carlo Barberi and Waldon Wong don’t do the pedestrian script any favors, drawing in a '90s style with few details, non-descript faces, and a lot of thin body shapes. The action is stilted, with too many poses, and I don’t get a sense of menace from the bad guys. So far this one needs work to shine in Part Two.
Creator Owned Heroes #3 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): I'm telling you right now, Creator Owned Heroes is probably the best way to spend $3.99 in a comic book shop. Trigger Girl 6 just barely edges out American Muscle as my favorite of the two shorts this month. Although both are compelling and well-written stories, Trigger Girl 6 feels like a complete story, while continuing the larger arc; whereas American Muscle reads like a chapter. Jimmy Palmiotti's interview with comics legend Mark Waid was interesting, but I wish they had taken an extra page or two to really dig in deeper. Most fans know the history, but when pros talk to pros, barriers come down and I wanted more of that. Creator Owned Heroes is turning into the great experiment that just might work.
Conan the Barbarian #7 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Conan learns you can’t go home again, especially when there’s a man burning villages in your name in a step backwards for the ongoing series. After getting everything note-perfect in the three-part “Argos Deception” storyline, writer Brian Wood detours us into a controlled and restrained Belit along with a Conan who respects the old order that he should be rejecting. Becky Cloonan returns on art, bringing her slimmer, distinctly un-rugged Conan back as well. While Cloonan’s layouts are impressive and her figures expressive, I don’t think she’s the right fit for a series that is often brutal in tone, given her polished look. The idea of an impersonator is cool enough to carry me, but those looking for more like Issues #4-6 will be disappointed.
Batman #12 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): I already love Harper Row. Snyder fleshes out a character that I truly wish will be a part of the Bat-family for many years to come. It's interesting that Tim Drake receives more than a few mentions in this issue, as Harper's fleeting moment with Batman have a ring of familiarity to them. Becky Cloonan's art brings a much-needed sense of humanity to both the citizens and vigilantes of Gotham City. Her action scenes are viciously efficient, with most taking no more than a single insert panel. My only complaint is the artistic switch with Andy Clarke. It feels like an attempt to make a stylistic connection with Harper's first appearance, pre-New 52. But it's jarring and unnecessary. A hiccup in an otherwise great issue.
The Massive #3 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Cal’s grip on control of Ninth Wave may be slipping, as he clings to ideas that don’t reflect reality and the mystery of the missing Massive grows slowly in a story marooned by its pacing. Despite the dramatically changed world, Cal and the crew of the Kapital end this first arc effectively where they began, with only a few hints of potentially interesting plot points down the road. The artistic narrative devices from Kristian Donaldson and Dave Stewart remain strong, but there’s so little action it’s hard for them to create drama. Donaldson continues to excel at getting the most from the script with reaction shots, but Brian Wood is moving too slowly here, and I’ve lost interest in what The Massive might become.
Batgirl #12 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): The hunt to take down the criminal-killing Knightfall continues in Batgirl #12. But what everyone really wants is the long awaited meeting between Batgirl and Batwoman. Simone and Syaf do not disappoint. Simone does a great job of capturing Kate Kane's all-business voice as she fights. And yet. she never loses the youthful banter with Barbara Gordon. These are two strong women that won't let ego get in the way of justice. Ardian Syaf's pencils have never looked sharper or more brutal. His stylistic homage to J.H. Williams whenever Batwoman tosses into the action is perfectly balanced with his own style. Adding an interwoven story of James Gordon, Jr., Simone and Syaf are telling one heck of a story and have me hooked.
Bloodstrike #29 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Confession may be good for the living soul, but it has mixed results on the resurrected dirty ops Bloodstrike team in this breather issue. Returning to the trick he used earlier, Tim Seeley gives us an introduction to each of Cabbot Stone’s partners via interviews mixed with scenes of them killing the superpowered terrorists who were associates of Stone’s father. The dialogue is crisp, enlightening, and mixes well with the visuals, which are split between Francesco Gaston and the Rob Liefeld/Jacob Bear team. Bear eases the angular lines of Liefeld, making his work look more like the slick style of Gaston, and the split is psychiatrist/battles, which also helps minimize reader distraction. The mind-game aspects of Bloodstrike keep me checking in on this one.
The Creep #0 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): A stylish crime noir about a PI suffering from Acromegaly (think André the Giant), who accepts a case from an ex-lover to investigate why her seemingly normal son, and his friend, committed suicide. First printed in DHP this #0 issue is a prologue of sorts to the main story, in which John Arcudi introduces us to several interesting and instantly engaging characters, and sets the scene for things to come, with an intriguing plot that begs the reader to come back for more. Jonathan Case is the artist, and brings the story to life with exquisite linework, moody inking, and some beautifully painted colors. The Creep #0 is a fantastic prelude to what I am sure will be a brilliant series.
Pantha #3 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Pantha's enemies may revere chaos, but a coordinated attack places her in deadly danger in another action-packed issue. While not slowing down the pace, Brandon Jerwa’s script doesn’t try to do as much this time, introducing no new characters and keeping explanations brief, as Pantha goes for Round Two against the incredibly creepy snake villainess Mamba in order to save the reincarnation of a girl she failed in the past. It doesn’t go any better this time but Pow Podrix is able to portray it much better, doing a good job of building tension with panels and positioning. Podrix really brings a great sense of horror to the proceedings in an extremely bloody fight scene that’s very creepy. As a pure pulp comic, Pantha delivers.
Kevin Keller #4 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Veronica’s drawn to the spotlight like a moth to a flame, and her desire to be near the Kellers as they march the Olympic Torch could turn into a gold medal-level disaster in this topical comic with great timing. Writer/artist Dan Parent gives each character a distinctive voice and uses Veronica’s narcissism for broad comedy (with Kevin ironically playing straight man) as she gets him in trouble and leads to slapstick that reads like a well-done sitcom, if just a bit contrived in its setup. The art was a lot better this time, with inker Rich Koslowski laying down thinner lines that don’t call as much attention to themselves while Parent’s layouts and reaction shots maximize the comedic potential of this enjoyable current events story.
Mega Man #16 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): “Spiritus Ex Machina” wraps in epic fashion. With terror group the Emerald Spear on the ropes, Megaman saves his creator and teaches the ambivalent robot Quake about the importance of hope and friendship. Ian Flynn packs the issue full of action and teaches a lesson without being too preachy. Jonathan Hill delivers the best art that we’ve seen on this book so far. A flashback page featuring the leader of the Emerald Spear and his connections to previous arcs reveals his motivations with a beautifully laid out page that oozes emotion. Plus, longtime Mega-fans finally get a good look at a fan-favorite character. All-ages comics are rarely ever better than this.
Godzilla: The Half Century War #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It’s 50 years of gray hairs for our narrator as he begins his story of struggling against the nuclear giant in yet another strong Godzilla comic from IDW. I love the idea of writer/artist James Stokoe to show how the beast impacts on one man over the decades. This issue is their first encounter, with plenty of explosions and a sense of desperation that almost removes all hope, as even victory leaves a high cost. Stokoe draws his characters in an indie-manga style, merging Western and Eastern artistic ideas while his backgrounds share the same level of epic scale, scratchiness, and destruction of the ongoing Godzilla series—though more focused on Godzilla himself. This is sure to be a winner for Toho enthusiasts.
Hoax Hunters #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; ’Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The idea of Hoax Hunters is similar to the SyFy show Fact or Faked, in that it’s centered around a reality TV show that investigates the paranormal. However, what makes the series interesting and original is that all of the monsters and ghouls are all real, and the show is a government funded effort to make them look fake. The premise is certainly packed with potential, and this second issue shows that Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley have the goods to back it up, with a strong plot, good characterization, and interesting story developments. Axel Medellin provides creepy visuals to accompany the words, utilizing a nice cartooning style that has a fun quality to it that compliments the slightly tongue-in-cheek feel of the story.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Color Classics Micro-Series Raphael One Shot (Published by IDW; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It’s Raphael versus Casey Jones in a no-holds-barred scrap across New York City as the most aggressive Turtle gets a new perspective on his own rage in another reprint of the original Kevin Eastman/Peter Laird run. Given the new take on Casey in the ongoing series, seeing him as a raw, Punisher-like lunatic was a bit of an adjustment, but I love how Eastman and Laird use Jones to show Raphael (fresh off losing his temper while sparring) how uncontrolled rage can become destructive. The layouts and battle choreography are top-notch, with the fighters roaming and sparring in dynamic ways that make up for some artistic shortfalls. These reprints continue to be an excellent look into the early history of these fan favorites.