6 Jan 2008

Mini Reviews 6/1/2008

None of us have time to review all the comics we get every week as there are just too damn many of them! Instead, we try and provide a snapshot of the week's releases, mixing the good with the not so good.

This week sees our bumper post-Christmas catch-up edition...



AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #545
Writers: J. Michael Straczynski & Joe Quesada
Art: Joe Quesada & Danny Miki
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Where to start? Well, I will say that parts this issue are very well written and the art is some best I’ve seen from Quesada, but beyond that….. Peter Parker making a deal with f***ing Satan?! What kind of shit are they smoking in the Marvel offices these days that they thought fans would be happy to swallow that idea?!! And aren’t we repeatedly being told in the likes of What If (and Straczynski’s Bullet Points for that matter!) that even the smallest change to the past could dramatically alter the future. So dissolving Pete’s marriage to MJ won’t be sending shockwaves throughout the Marvel Universe? I mean, wouldn’t the fact that he was married in the last 20 years of comics have affected his every decision? Is it possible a single & free Parker would have made a bunch of different decisions? Does this mean Spidey never unmasked during Civil War? And if so, wouldn’t that alter the events that took place during that series? Would Spidey even need to be in the New Avengers? Some many questions that we just shouldn’t be asking! On top of that, bringing Harry Osbourn back from the dead opens an entirely different can of worms. All in all, this has been a bad idea, badly handled. 4/10

Matt T: No comic in the past five, ten, even twenty years has made me want to curl up into a foetal position and wish I’d never started reading the bloody things. Marvel has just shat on much of my comic reading youth, and I’m disappointed more than anything. Mostly because it shows such a painful lack of creativity that they’re going back to the status quo from many years ago, essentially ruining any character development. As much as the story tugged at the heartstrings, and I felt a bit emotional at the end, I have no idea how this is going to work in the Marvel Universe as it stands. JMS did the best he could, and actually crafted a decent story, but the whole ‘event’ has shown Spidey’s steady decline over the past few years. Now excuse me while I do that curling up I was talking about! 2/10


JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #16
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Art: Joe Benitez & Victor Llamas
DC $2.99


Matt T: The ‘A Brief Tangent’ title says it all, as this story seems to be a distraction before a more major story kicks in. It’s well written and drawn as per usual, but needs to get back onto the bigger picture. 6/10


ULTIMATE POWER #9
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Art: Greg Land & Jay Leisten
Marvel $2.99


Matt C: Yet more evidence that the Ultimate Universe has completely lost its way. There was enough story in this mini to fill four issues so God knows why they strung it out to nine. But really, beyond the fact that I didn’t really care what was happening throughout most of this issue, the final straw was seeing them toss away the character of Ultimate Nick Fury in such a rushed manner. His revamp as an eye-patch wearing Samuel L Jackson look-alike has always been one of the most memorable things to come out of the Ultimate Universe so to see him discarded in this fashion irks me no end. The best thing I can say about this book is that the art was pretty. 2/10

Matt T: The conclusion to this crossover has been far too long in coming. The impressively consistent Greg Land and some hyper-kinetic fight scenes make this book flow, but with the Ultimates 3 pretty much ruining any continuity this is nothing more than an entertaining flash-bang of a story. 5/10


THOR #5
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Olivier Coipel & Mark Morales
Marvel $2.99


Matt C: I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Straczynksi’s resurrection of the Asgardian gods – while some may have found the pacing slow I’ve always perceived it as being stately which suits the majestic quality of the characters. Coipel continues to knock it out of the park with some absolutely stunning panels, and the battle between Thor and the Destroyer is beautifully depicted. Anyone worried that we would be looking at a never-ending series of issues where we uncover a new hidden Asgardian each time will no doubt be thrilled by the surprises in this issue. An all-round excellent book. 8/10


COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS #18
Writer: Paul Dini w/ Sean McKeever
Art: Scott Kolins
DC $2.99


Matt T: One of the most focused issues story-wise caps off the Challengers story, and uses an intriguing Elseworlds take on a ‘Perfect World’. Unfortunately the art is, well, crap in places and passable in others. What I presume to be an overweight Zatanna looks like some kind of blob woman, and the lack of detail ruins some of the more dramatic moments. 6/10


PAX ROMANA #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Jonathan Hickman
Image $3.50


Matt C: The best debut issue of a comic I’ve read in a long while. The concept is ingenious: the Catholic Church in the near future discover time travel and send a bunch of “missionaries” back in time to alter the past and correct all their “mistakes”. I initially thought I wouldn’t get on with Hickman’s artwork but soon found that it perfectly complemented the text. And really, the text is where it’s at. Brimming with fascinating ideas and some excellent use of language, this is one of those books that will suck you into it’s world completely. The thought and detail that has gone into the creation of Pax Romana is dazzling. I’ve only been dimly aware of Jonathan Hickman before now, but on the basis of this issue I’m thinking were looking at a major talent in the making. 10/10


DYNAMO 5 #10
Writer: Jar Faerber
Art: Mahmud A.Asrar & Ron Riley
Image $2.99


Matt T: Another great issue from Faerber and co., making this one of my favourite reads. There’s a heftier plot brewing, which would be my one criticism of previous issues, and a shadowy figure pulling the strings in background. What more could you want? 8/10


X-MEN #206
Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend & Jon Sibal
Marvel $2.99


Matt C: Messiah Complex has been a bit up and down but this is the strongest issue for a while, particularly when it centres on the future escapades of Jamie Maddrox and Layla Miller in the mutant internment camps. Still not sure about X-Force being a group of Cyclops-endorsed killers, but overall the writing and art were solid, and it was good read. 7/10


ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #49
Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Mark Brooks & Jaime Mendoza
Marvel $2.99


Matt T: A woman-monkey-monster thingy takes on the Invisible Woman. And Russian robots have a fight. In other words, this book is fun again, and has stopped being the annoying bundle of mentalness it was in the last arc. The art is great, the story fun, and there’s an excellent setup for the next issue. 8/10


DAN DARE #2
Writer: Garth Ennis
Art: Gary Erskine
Virgin $2.99


Matt C: I’ve said my bit and I’m not going to repeat myself, so I’ll ignore the wider context and focus on where the plot’s headed this time around. So, while I may have had problems with other aspects of issue #1 I did find the story set-up quite intriguing. Alas, #2 offers up what comes across as a rather pedestrian sci-fi tale with shades of a below par episode of Star Trek, and the art is still a real turn off. I’m dropping Dan Dare then, not because of the issues documented in my review of #1 but because, unfortunately, it’s a little bit too dull. 4/10

Matt T: Although I’m not disliking Dan Dare, it seems to be borrowing a little too much from clearly recognisable sources. Worse still, the second issue takes a slightly random about turn and goes from Star Trek into Aliens. 5/10


MOON KNIGHT #14
Writer: Mike Benson
Art: Mark Texeira
Marvel $2.99


Matt T: Much better. Going back to the roots of Moon Knight almost erases the dreadful annual, but the art is still a little below par. The sinister dude at the end looks far too much like the title character out of his hero duds, making the final pages a bit confusing to say the least. 7/10


THE END LEAGUE #1
Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Mat Broome & Sean Parsons
Dark Horse $2.99


Matt C: An impressive first issue. Following a cataclysmic worldwide event, the population is severely diminished and a huge chunk of the survivors manifest superpowers. Rather than doing the honourable thing the majority use their newfound gifts for personal gain and after several years the remaining small band of superheroes are no longer fighting for truth and justice but for survival. The End League shows a lot of promise – fans of post-apocalyptic tales of super-heroics would be advised to check it out. 7/10


UNCANNY X-MEN #494
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Billy Tan
Marvel $2.99


Matt T: Messiah Complex is starting to become one of those crossovers that’ll only make sense if you get every title, and this issue is a perfect example. It picks up from another book, so I’ve got no idea what’s going on, and I’m guessing it’ll be continued in another book I’m not getting. The solution: get every X-book under the sun, just in case. My response: balls to that, I’ve got rent to pay! 6/10


THUNDERBOLTS #118
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Mike Deodato Jr
Marvel $2.99


Matt C: With half the team seemingly losing their marbles, the situation in Thunderbolts Mountain is edging ever closer towards boiling point. Ellis has taken a rather unlikely premise and turned it into an intelligent read, and Deodato Jr’s art has moved into another league during his time on the book. This continues to be one of the smartest and most compelling comics Marvel is currently publishing. 8/10

Matt T: Ever since the start of this book it’s been a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ the new team will implode. Now it seems to be doing so in spectacular fashion, and the next few issues should be excellent. 8/10


NEW WARRIORS #7
Writer: Kevin Grevioux
Art: Jon Malin &Victor Olazaba
Marvel $2.99


Matt T: After the various red herrings, theories and mad suggestions, the new Night Thrasher is revealed. It made sense, but in a boring and obvious kind of way. Someone completely unexpected would have been good. Like Howard the Duck. But generally, this comic seems to be ticking along nicely, and the team dynamic has some interesting possibilities. 7/10


PROOF #3
Writer: Alexander Grecian
Art: Riley Rossmo
Image $2.99


Matt C: If there’s one negative thing I can say about this book, it’s that it’s too damn short! I understand Grecian and Rossmo’s desire to add extra material to back up the main story but it’s still incredibly frustrating when you hit the words, “To be continued…”! This is hardly a criticism though, because the best books should always leave you wanting more. 7/10


COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS #17
Writer: Paul Dini w/ Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Art: Ron Lim & Jimmy Palmiotti
DC $2.99


Matt T: Another one of those rare issues that actually makes Countdown worthwhile, and not just a book that’s easy to follow because it’s a weekly. The revelations of last issue are moved on, there are twists and turns afoot and a decent conclusion is being built towards. Plus, the art is a vast improvement. 8/10


CAPTAIN AMERICA #33
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Steve Epting & Butch Guice
Marvel $2.99


Matt C: It now seems like just about every hero in the Marvel Universe has gone one-on-one with Iron Man in recent months, and while it may be getting a bit tiresome elsewhere, this is the throwdown we’ve really been waiting for. It doesn’t disappoint either, and though it leads to an ending that I’m sure everyone already guessed, Brubaker makes an idea that would have seemed objectionable several years ago utterly thrilling. 9/10

Matt T: And the lords of Marvel came together, and said ‘Brubaker shall write Cap, and it shall be good’. And it was. And the fans rejoiced. Another cracking issue, with the new Cap being partially introduced in this issue - there’s really no better Marvel, DC, Image or A.N.Other book at the moment in my mind. Long may it continue. 9/10


EXILES: DAYS OF THEN & NOW
Writer: Mike Raicht
Art: Carlos Ferreira, Zach Howard, Paul Azaceta, Mario Gully, Arnold Pander & Wayne Nichols
Marvel $3.99


Matt T: The next incarnation of the Exiles team is taking shape, but this one shot is extremely lumpy art-wise. The story doesn’t have any real impact on the Exiles universe, making this issue a bit pointless. 4/10


CONAN #47
Writer: Timothy Truman
Art: Tomas Giorello
Dark Horse $2.99


Matt C: Tomas Giorello joins the team as new regular artist in readiness for the book’s relaunch as Conan The Cimmerian in the summer. While he’s not quite up to the same standard as Cary Nord yet, his style isn’t too dissimilar so the change isn’t really jarring. Otherwise it’s business as usual with Truman continuing to prove he has an excellent grasp of the title character. 7/10


BLUE BEETLE #22
Writer: John Rogers
Art: Rafael Albuquerque
DC $2.99


Matt T: Much like trying to cram an hour’s worth of story into fifteen minutes, this issue gets plenty of exposition and revelations in just a few pages. As the arc of this story has been more like ten issues rather than three it’s been tricky to remember what happened before, but needless to say it sets up a decent looking finale. 6/10

5 comments:

The Acrobatic Flea said...

Couldn't agree with you both more on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #545 - have Marvel even considered the implications of this bizarre turn of events ... is the last 20-odd years of continuity condemend to the "what if..." pile?

Is this like Bobby Ewing stepping out of the shower in Dallas - does this mean every mainstream comic we've read from Marvel (that Spidey has touched) didn't really happen???

As Andy knows, I've thrown in the towel and dropped this title. I shall be sticking to Ultimate Spider-Man... which is now my 'definitive' Spider-Man :-)

gem said...

Hello my lovelies!
I thought I would just let you know how much I am enjoying your reviews. I do so miss the group therapy and sound off that we used to have once a month. This little corner of the interweb plugs a small hole in my psyche.

Now I never was really a Marvel reader-DC and indies all the way, that was until Matt C made me make Marvel mine, so I never really got into Spidey so I don't share your pain on that on. However one of my pals has read Spidey since he was tiny kid and his mum and Dad have just split up at the same time and he is just distraught. These darn comic book writers and their emotional wrangling. Don't they realise we are an emotionally frazzled bunch? We like comics for their escapism dammit!

That Pax Romana looks right up my alley and with Matt's seal of approval I will be trying to track it down.
Of course I dont have the luxury of Andy's service so I might need a post out on that one. I will let you know directly.

Thanks again for the reviews, I might even contribute one or two myself. Anyone reading Crossing Midnight? You should be.

joy and comics to you all
gem

Matt C said...

I wonder how the fan reaction to One More Day will affect sales of Amazing Spider-Man? With JMS distancing himself from the whole thing here you have to wonder whether the once redoubtable Quesada will ever be able to get back in the fans' good books.

The Acrobatic Flea said...

I don't understand where Quesada says: "... that he wasn’t comfortable with Straczynski’s method of retconning the marriage out of existence, saying: “Also, the science that Joe was going to apply to the retcon of the marriage would have made over 30 years of Spider-Man books worthless, because they never would have had happened. We would have also had a "Crisis" in the Marvel Universe because it would have reset way too many things outside of the Spider-Man titles. We just couldn't go there and in the end we weren't expecting that kind of story..."

Isn't that exactly what hashappened?

Matt T said...

This link does explain a bit http://www.comicbookresources.com/news/newsitem.cgi?id=12701 but I'm still very confused. They seem to be removing the bits of continuity they don't like, and leaving plenty of continuity holes as a result. It just seems like incredibly lazy writing and a great way of annoying fans the world over.