11 Nov 2007

Mini Reviews 11/11/07

New Avengers: Illuminati #5
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis & Brain Reed
Art: Jim Cheung & Mark Morales
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: This misguided mini finally reaches its conclusion, taking us up to date by leading is into 2008’s Skrull-led crossover, The Secret Invasion. It’s no surprise to learn that one of The Illuminati turns out to be a Skrull in disguise, and while I won’t reveal who it is here, I actually have my own theory: all The Illuminati are Skrulls! It’s only thing that could explain why they all act so out of character and spend most of their time together bickering like idiots. Namor doesn’t act like the monarch of an entire continent, Reed doesn’t behave like the smartest man in the world, etc, etc.

Okay, so that theory won’t hold any water but with all the ridiculous retconning that’s gone on in this series I’m thinking that Bendis and Reed are making it all up as they go along. A great concept badly handled which has wasted the stunning art of Cheung. 4/10

Uncanny X-Men #492
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Billy Tan, Danny Miki & Allan Martinez
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: After Matt C’s review of the first issue of the Messiah Complex crossover, my anticipation wasn’t exactly high for Uncanny. There was far too much Civil War style dependence on other books, and with World War Hulk still going did Marvel really need yet another crossover? Thankfully Uncanny is something of a return to form. It doesn’t dwell on the destroyed town or ultra-powerful mutant baby, instead bringing X-Men back to what makes the series so successful. There’s some excellent interplay between the characters, a decent fight halfway in and a tense exchange between Cyclops and Prof X. The best thing about this particular issue of Uncanny is, barring a few dialogue references, the lack of need for the reader to be up-to-date with the X-universe. Hopefully this will continue in Uncanny, as it seems like a self-contained book that keeps within the feel of the Messiah X crossover. 8/10

Matt C: Yeah, this is more like it. Brubaker’s on form again here. The character interactions are livelier and I loved the fight sequence, which had Wolverine looking more badass than he has in a long, long time. I’m a bit more positive about this crossover now. 8/10

Annihilation: Conquest #1
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Tom Raney & Scott Hanna
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: While I wasn’t blown away by this issue the way I’d hoped, I’m happy that Marvel’s gallery of cosmic heroes and villains are continuing to get their chance in the spotlight. After the build up in various titles over the last few months I didn’t get the impression that this was the next stage in the story, rather that we were still seeing all the players being put into place before it kicks into gear. Hopefully things will pick up next time, but for now this is a solid issue with a few surprises that I definitely didn’t see coming! 7/10

Countdown to Final Crisis #25
Writer: Paul Dini & Adam Beechen
Art: Ron Lim, Jimmy Palmiotti & John Staniscu
DC $2.99

Matt T: Along with just about every comic fan I was extremely impressed with how 52 not only kept going on a weekly basis, but managed to create a few breakout characters as well as decent storylines over the course of the year. Lightning doesn’t seem to strike twice in DC’s case though, as Countdown is floundering with directionless storylines and a lack of interesting characters. Halfway through the run things aren’t improving massively, as the dull Karate Kid story takes centre stage and shoehorns Firestorm in, Black Mary gets far too little time to shine and the Pied Piper-Trickster tale, which is by far the most interesting, again only gets a few complimentary pages. The stronger elements really need to be given more page space, ditch Olsen, ship the Search for Ray Palmer to another book and resolve Karate Kids aliments sooner rather than later DC, or Countdown will seriously lose steam before the end. 4/10

Matt C: I actually found this to be a fairly involving issue. The Karate Kid story may not always be particularly riveting, but I like that most of the issue focused on this one plotline rather than giving us a couple of pages of each. I’ve noticed they’ve begun to bring out a much more familiar selection of artists for this weekly series: last week we had Scott Kolins, this time we get Ron Lim, and I think if they keep this up it should benefit the series. Still far away from being a great book though. 6/10

Fantastic Four #551
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Art: Paul Pelletier & Rick Magyar
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: No sooner has the original team regrouped than Doctor Doom resurfaces with some unlikely allies and a surprising agenda. I’m liking what Dwayne McDuffie’s been doing with this book recently – his characterizations ring true and he’s brought back a sense of fun to the title that’s been missing for a while. A lot of elements on display remind me of some of the all-time classic FF stories, and although this current run may not quite fit into that category it’s a damn fine read all the same. 8/10

Astonishing X-Men #23
Writer: Joss Whedon
Art: John Cassaday
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: This has dragged on too long now, and I don’t just mean the delays between issues - the story as a whole seems to have taken way to much time to reach it’s resolution. I’m thinking the entire Breakworld thing could have been wrapped up in a six-issue arc instead of being padded out to four times that length. Obviously Cassaday’s art is as gorgeous as ever and Whedon does have a good grasp of the character dynamics but I find myself waiting for this tale to be over and done with so we can get on with Warren Ellis’s run rather than feeling any excitement as we near it’s conclusion. 6/10

Matt T: The storyline has dragged, but I love Whedon's blockbuster pacing in this issue. Granted, I had to reread a few issues to get some of the details down, but there were plenty of superb moments and each character was well fleshed out. Cassaday keeps consistently decent, giving the whole story an otherworldly feel without being too fantastical. I'm looking forward to the end of this arc, and the last issue should be a flash-bang of an ending. 7/10

World War Hulk: Gamma Corps #4
Writer: Frank Tieri
Art: Carlos Ferreira
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: Of all the World War Hulk titles announced, Gamma Corps seemed the most likely to catch readers out. With the potential to be something of a sleeper hit, having only four issues to cram in the back-stories of all five characters and tie in with the Hulk’s rampage while keeping a decent internal story arc seemed a bridge to far. Now the final issue has hit, it’s apparent that at least another two issues were needed. Both the back-stories and conclusion were rushed, and for a book building up to a huge battle the final fight was something of a disappointment. The team dynamic was interesting, but all of the build up was too compressed to allow any of them to become more than two-dimensional. As the ending leaves the fate of then team ambiguous, hopefully the World War Hulk involvement will have them as more than just cannon fodder. 4/10

Silver Surfer: In Thy Name #1
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Art: Tang Eng Huat
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Having been very impressed by Simon Spurrier’s Image mini-series, Gutsville, I had high hopes for his take on the Surfer. Unfortunately, while he seems to have a good feel for the character he places him in a rather formulaic and inconsequential storyline that offers no strong hook to draw the reader in. Tang Eng Huat’s art has an distinctive other worldly quality to it, but overall there’s not enough here to have me return for the second issue. 5/10

Matt T: I have to agree with Matt's sentiments about the slightly clich├ęd storyline. The artwork was also something of a disappointment, as it seemed as if these wondrous worlds were a little underwhelming in terms of colour. Hopefully a few twists are on the way, otherwise I may miss out when #3 hits. 5/10

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