3 Feb 2008

Mini Reviews 3/2/2008

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 weeks' releases, mixing the good with the not so good.

Writers: Alex Ross & Jim Krueger
Art: Alex Ross, Doug Klauba & Stephen Sadowski
Dynamite Entertainment $1.00

Matt C: Even though they’re very different in execution, it’s impossible not to think of Straczynski’s The Twelve when reading this book. Both are dealing with forgotten Golden Age characters, both use genre-friendly devices to bring these characters into a modern setting. Where they do differ is that while The Twleve is basically pitching itself as a mystery, Project Superpowers has an aura of importance attached to it, which may, or may not (depending on your point of view), be justified. Ross and Kruger have used similar approaches before (Justice and Earth X), viewing superheroes as mythic beings who shape the world around them. However, where those books were dealing with recognisable Marvel and DC icons, this series is populated with unknown quantities for the majority (unless you’re a hardcore Golden Age collector or really, really old). Attaching importance to the likes of Superman and Batman worked because those characters are important to us – they’re the reason most of us read comics. Doing the same thing with Fighting Yank and Green Lama doesn’t resonate in the same way because we wouldn’t know these individuals if they came up and punched us in the face.

Still, I’m quietly intrigued by how this issue is set up, so I’ll give the series a chance, but judging both books by their debut issues (which is unfair, I know), The Twelve is a much more appealing proposition. 6/10

Matt T: You wait years for a Golden-Age-Heroes-come-back-into-our-time-to-defeat-a-major-menace book to come along, and all of a sudden two hit at once. On the surface there are similarities between this comic featuring out-of-copyright Golden Age heroes and Marvel’s The Twelve, but there are plenty of inventive touches in this book. I’m liking the characters, the back-stabbing and the intrigue enough to keep on buying it, and the art is excellent throughout. 9/10

Writer: Chris Morgan & Kevin Walsh
Art: Wilfredo Torres
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt T: Another little gem from Boom! Studios. As someone who had to study The Crucible at school I appreciate the period this book is set in, and the promise of witchcraft-based action. The main character is interesting, and the series seems to be loaded with potential. 8/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Steve Epting & Butch Guice
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: Damn the Marvel hype machine. We’ve seen months of covers, art and hints at the identity, but any fans of this book knew who the new guy in the suit would be from day one. Even though Bucky is now wearing the shield and star, he’s still the same guy we know and love, and the differences in fighting style and strategy show a superb handle on the character. I just hope Marvel can leave this alone now and let us enjoy this consistently excellent comic. 9/10

Matt C: When the only major criticism you have is that Black Widow’s hair is way longer than it is in Mighty Avengers, well, you really are clutching at straws. I still find it incredible that this series hasn’t sagged when, 34 issues in, we’re still ensconced in the Red Skull storyline that began in #1. While I may miss Steve Rogers, the first splash page featuring Bucky as the new Cap is a showstopper, and the ensuing fight sequence is expertly staged by Epting. There’s no better book on the stands right now. 10/10

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Pia Guerra & Jose Marzan Jr
DC/Vertigo $4.99

Matt C: It reminded me of the feelings I get when watching the final episode of one of my favourite TV series: a bittersweet farewell; you’re sad to see the characters go but you can’t stop being moved by the conclusion. Y: The Last Man has been consistently brilliant, a high-concept pitch that worked wonderfully thanks to Vaughan’s thoroughly believable characterizations and Guerra’s expressive line work. After the heartbreaking previous two issues I had no idea how the writer was going to wrap things up, and although how it played out was unexpected, it was a wholly satisfying denouement. I will certainly miss Yorrick’s adventures, but the five-year journey since the debut issue has been an amazing, perceptive and emotionally affecting ride. 10/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Carlo Pagulayan & Jeff Huet
Marvel $3.99

Matt T: Cats will start chasing dogs, people will be wearing shoes on their heads and it will start raining up... the unbelievable has happened: a quality issue of New Avengers! I’m not going to go crazy - the book still has its problems - but the Skrull element is all but removed, Dr Strange’s appearance in the team is explained and some character-led subplots arise. Now stick them in a decent story Bendis. Pleeeaaaasse. 7/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Mark Bagley & Danny Miki
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: Just as one Avengers book seems to be turning the corner, the other one continues to disappoint. Granted the Marmite-style love-‘em-or-hate-‘em thought bubbles are all but gone, but how long has the Symbiote story been dragging on for? And does anyone care anymore? Heading over to Latveria to kick some ass might help the next issue, but knowing Bendis it’ll be an 82-part arc with lots of ‘snappy’ dialogue. Count me out. 4/10

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Doug Mahnke &, Christian Alamy & Rodney Ramos
DC $2.99

Matt C: I’m pretty sure we leave Black Adam here where we found him at the beginning of Countdown (I can’t be bothered to check though) so it was a forgone conclusion in a sense - and a little disappointing as a result -but viewed as a whole this has been an excellent mini, both relentless and bleak, but with a streak of black humour that prevented it from becoming too depressing. If you didn’t pick this up I would highly recommend seeking out the collected edition. 7/10

Writer: Paul Dini w/Tony Bedard
Art: Tom Derenick & Wayne Faucher
DC $2.99

Matt T: Thankfully the final battle between Monarch and one of the Supermen (I forget which one) wasn't drawn out for ten issues, and is well portrayed here with plenty of explosions. This paves the way for an even bigger menace, but with 12 weeks remaining it seems like Countdown is turning into a slightly rudderless ship. And bring back Piper and Trickster! I’m even starting to bore myself saying it. 6/10

Writer: Jamie Delano
Art: Jeremy Rock
Avatar $3.99

Matt C: What the heck was that all about?! I read the thing from cover to cover but I’ll be damned if I can give you a plot summary! At first glance it looks like it will read like one of Warren Ellis’s tales of a dystopian hi-tech future, but that changes once you hit the first piece of dialogue – Delano has invented a sort of riff on George Orwell’s “newspeak”, peppering speech bubbles with words like ‘spendays’, “mamadream”, and “idiotsmouth”. You’d get the gist if there wasn’t so much of it – it gets to the point where huge chunks of dialogue are impenetrable, like reading another language. It Narcopolis is a little too pretentious for its own good, and I don’t have the time or money to read comics that make me feel thick! The art’s impressive though - very Avatar-esque - and I’ve got a feeling we’ll be seeing some great stuff from Jeremey Rock down the line. 3/10

Writer: Dwayne Mc Duffie
Art: Paul Pelletier & Rick Magyar
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: The last arc of McDuffie’s run has been immensely enjoyable, wrong-footing me on a number of occasions with the antics of a time-travelling Victor Von Doom, and I just love the fact that there exists in the Marvel Universe a scientific theory known as Kang’s Third Law Of Time! While it may seem that the concepts being thrown around in this book are there as a way to explain why the magical tampering by a certain satanic villain in another book hasn’t caused multiple time paradoxes across the whole line, McDuffie serves them up with such confidence he makes it work, and it’s abundantly clear from the final few pages how much genuine affection he has for Marvel’s First Family. 8/10

Writer: David Lapham
Art: Tony Harris & Jim Clark
Marvel $3.99

Matt T: Well, you couldn’t ask for a better lineup in terms of writer and artist, and telling the story of the ‘in-between’ period of Spidey’s life post-powers but prior to Uncle Ben’s death seems strangely apt in the aftermath of Brand New Day. There are a few elements borrowed from the film, but this feels right and looks great. I’m not sure what the series will achieve in terms of the bigger picture, but a bit of Spidey nostalgia is just what I need right now. 8/10

Matt C: I found it hard to muster much enthusiasm for this book – I don't know if this phase of Spidey’s early days really requires further investigation. I’m not really that familiar with Lapham’s work but I keep being told he’s something special - if that’s the case, why get him to rake over familiar ground, why not give him something new to work with? Tony Harris’s art is up to the same exemplary standard seen in Ex Machina but for me at least, it’s not enough to warrant the price tag. 5/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Gary Frank & Jon Sibal
DC $2.99

Matt C: Now that the rather underwhelming co-writing gig with Richard Donner has been put to bed, Geoff Johns is back to what he does best: telling smart, exciting superhero tales. He has an enviable knack of utilising past continuity but not relying on it to heavily, making his stories rewarding for long-time fans and totally accessible to newbies. Case in point: I’ve never been that au fait with the Legion Of Super-Heroes but Johns brings neophytes like me up to speed giving a clear understanding of their personalities and relationships using the Man Of Steel – brought to life by Gary Frank’s typically realistic pencilling - to anchor the reader into the story. The best Superman story I’ve read in quite a while. 8/10

Writer: Dan Slott & Chris Gage
Art: Stefano Caselli
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: Hmmmmm. I really like this book, but I’m a bit confused as to where it’s headed. This looks to be the start of a wrap-up arc, tying off plenty of loose ends before something major happens. I’m not going to second-guess though, as there've been plenty of curve balls thrown by the writers in the past. And more Taskmaster please! 7/10

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