20 Apr 2008

Mini Reviews 20/4/2008

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.


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #557
Writer: Zeb Wells
Art: Chris Bachalo & Tim Townsend
Marvel $2.99


Matt C: So, now we’ve had our first run through with all the creative teams, what have we got? The good: Mark Guggenheim and Zeb Wells. The okay: (surprisingly) Dan Slot. The skippable: Bob Gale. Not exactly consistent, and perhaps a little harsh to judge the four writers on one story arc a piece, but in all honesty I’ve not had any extreme negative feelings towards anything I’ve read, so I’m prepared to stick with ASM for the foreseeable future. As for this particular issue, well my praise from the last two weeks reviews applies, so I’ll mark it thusly: 8/10

Matt T: It pains me to say this, but for now I’ve read my last ASM. This story was excruciatingly mediocre for me, with Mayan gods attempting to resurrect themselves by getting some nutter to sacrifice people. Not only has it been done before, but it’s been done better. Granted the art is very nice, but it doesn’t make the book any more than ordinary at best. And to make matters worse, Freak is back next issue. Ho hum. 4/10


HACK/SLASH #7
Writer: Tim Seeley
Art: Rebekah Isaacs & Andrew Dalhouse
Devil’s Due Publishing $3.50


Matt T: As someone who hasn’t delved into Hack/Slash before, I was vaguely intrigued by the premise of horror movie survivor-style woman teaming up with a reformed slasher to take on other genre rejects. Within the first few pages the obligatory sex and death quota was filled, but the book felt a bit….off. There wasn’t any Nightmare on Elm Street-style black humour, or the over-the-top gore of Evil Dead. In other words, this felt like any other paranormal investigation book that’s out at the moment. I’m still in for the next issue, but colour me disappointed. 6/10


NOBLE CAUSES #32
Writer: Jay Faerber
Art: Yidiray Cinar
Image $2.99


Matt C: I’ve always had a soft spot for Noble Causes. Superhero comics, by their very nature as a form of serial drama, contain plenty of soap opera elements, and Jay Faerber took that idea and ran with it, basically creating something akin to a super-powered version of Dynasty (it’s much better than that sounds!). The book’s had been on a hiatus, and in the meantime Faerber’s been receiving loads of praise for his latest series, Dynamo 5, but as much I like that book I’ve always preferred the concept, characters and execution in Noble Causes. Now it’s back and we’ve jumped forward five years after the end of the last issue. Initially I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. It was almost like reading a new comic: a bunch of new characters along with the old ones who mostly look unrecognisable from the last time we saw them. Will the magic still be there? I’m inclined to think that, based on the way this issue finishes, the ‘5 Years Later’ thing isn’t a simple gimmick and Faerber’s got plenty more tricks up his sleeve. 7/10


COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS #2
Writers: Paul Dini w/ Sean McKeever
Art: Scott Kolins
DC $2.99


Matt T: My lord, it’s almost over. The past few issues have been completely random, without much in the way of build up to the fights that occur here. Nothing is really explained, such as how Darkseid got so damn big (a character even asks, and is met with “He’s freaking Darkseid!” as a response) and why the whole episode resembles a Godzilla movie. The art is pretty poor as well, making the only real positive point the fact that there’s only one issue left. 4/10

Matt C: You know those back issues you pick up out of a bargain bin, give them a read and realise you’re in the middle of an ongoing story and you can’t quite figure out what’s going on? This issue felt like on of those, the difference being I should know what’s going on because I’ve been reading the damn thing every week for the past year! So we get to see a yawn-inducing smackdown between Darkseid and Jimmy Olsen in his Giant Turtle Man guise, leading up to what should be a shocking dénouement if you felt that it would stick (and images for Final Crisis suggest otherwise). Kolins’ does art a bring a bulky, Kirbyesque level of destruction to the proceedings but apart from that I can’t find any positives. Only one more to go though. 2/10


CTHULHU TALES #1
Writers: Steve Niles, Michael Alan Nelson & Tom Peyer
Art: Chee & Sunder Raj
Boom! Studios $3.99


Matt C: My knowledge of the Cthulhu mythos is pretty sparse to say the least, but it has so many advocates I’ve always intended to investigate further. This comic may not necessarily be the best place to begin, but it’s a number one issue from a publisher that been putting out some pretty impressive product, so I figure, why the hell not? As it turns out this was an okay read, none of the stories really leaping from the pages, but they all managed to contain at least a modicum of entertainment. At a guess I would say this is probably more suited to current fans – or at least, they’d be in a better position to judge – and newbies may not find this strong enough for a conversion. 6/10


X-FACTOR #30
Writer: Peter David
Art: Vantine De Landro & Andrew Hennessy
Marvel $2.99


Matt T: Arcade has always struck me as a character that’s lumped into a three-part arc to fill some room, as his appearances don’t really impact on the long-term future of the characters. Granted his arrival has lead into something more interesting, but we really didn’t need the contrived ‘death traps’ and the annoyingly 2-D ringmaster-style Arcade grinning through two issues. 6/10


INCREDIBLE HERCULES #116
Writers: Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
Art: Rafa Sandoval & Roger Bonet
Marvel $2.99


Matt C: One of the undoubted highlights in Marvel’s current line-up, Incredible Hercules is propelled along by some humour-filled modern day superheroic hi-jinks and pertinent flashbacks to the demi-god’s past in Ancient Greece. The welcome addition of Athena to the Herc & Amadeus double-act, plus an encounter with the post-Gaiman Eternals which leads to an amusing case of mistaken identity, mark this issue out as one of the best yet. Which basically means it’s very, very good indeed. 9/10


DARKNESS #3
Writer: Phil Hester
Art: Michael Broussard & Dale Keown
Top Cow $2.99


Matt T: Man, I love this book. It’s like a horror film crossed with The Sopranos, with a slight touch of Spawn thrown in for good measure. Jackie Estacado had a really sweet deal with his own South American country, but the natives got restless. With big guns. Add to that the double-crossing underling who’s generally screwing things up, and the status quo has lasted all of three issues. The fact that the supposedly all-powerful lead character is given a metaphorical kick in the balls makes the future far more interesting. A damn good read which doesn’t look like it'll be letting up anytime soon. 9/10


CAPTAIN AMERICA #37
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Stev Epting
Marvel $2.99


Matt T: Whenever I get concerned about a plot line in Cap, I go back to the evolution of the Winter Soldier and slap myself for being so stupid in questioning the Bru. Agent 13 has put herself into a right mess, and to make matters worse a certain person obviously isn’t who she thinks he is. There are so many potential killer plots and sub-plots here that it impresses me how they’re all being kept moving without losing any pacing, and how Armin Zola is being utilized with such impact, despite having a TV for a head! 8/10

Matt C: If I had to find criticism with then I would question whether Bucky is really that easy to sneak up on, particularly with regards to his first visitor in this issue, but otherwise it’s business as usual i.e. this is consistently the best book Marvel are publishing. I’ll even go as far as to say that unless Brubaker suddenly drops the ball (yeah, like we really believe that’ll happen!) this will be viewed in years to come as one of the greatest runs in comics history. If it isn’t viewed that way already. 9/10


ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST #6
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Tom Raney, Wellinton Alves & Scott Hanna
Marvel $3.99


Matt C: A suitably explosive conclusion to this excellent mini-series that brings all the main players together for a final confrontation with Ultron. Abnett and Lanning have managed the not-to-small feat of crafting a superior sequel to the original Annihilation series, and by doing so have helped make Marvel’s galactic milieu become an exciting place to visit once more. Throughout the past six issues they’ve thrown artist Tom Raney some big-budget action sequences to render and he’s knocked them out of the park every time. All in all, this is probably the best “event” book I’ve read in recent times, it’s just a pity that it's escaped a lot of people’s attention. If you’ve been at all curious but not quite taken the plunge, lookout for the spin-off series. Guardians Of The Galaxy, next month. If it’s anywhere near as good as this (and Nova) it’ll be an essential purchase. 8/10


CATWOMAN #78
Writer: Will Pfeifer
Art: David Lopez & Alvaro Lopez
DC $2.99

Matt C: It’s been on the cards for a while but it was still something of a shock to learn that this book is being cancelled. When Brubaker left the title way back when I didn’t think it would remain on my pull-list for long, but Pfeifer has done a sterling job of holding my interest in Selina Kyle’s escapades. DC’s lineup will be worse off with the loss of Catwoman, and so will my collection. 8/10


AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #11
Writer: Dan Slott & Christos N.Gage
Art: Stefano Caselli & Daniele Rudoni
Marvel $2.99


Matt T: The end to a pretty long arc that surprisingly hasn’t dragged, and we're provided with a reasonably satisfying conclusion. The mix of comedy and drama has been pretty consistent, so the tension of the ending didn’t come from nowhere. I was a little disappointed Ant-Man and Taskmaster didn’t show up again, but the development of the other characters has been enough to keep me interested from issue one. Which probably means we won’t see them again! 8/10


POWERS ANNUAL #1
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming
Art: Michael Avon Oeming
Marvel/Icon $4.95


Matt C: Another title which has skirted close to being dropped, and that's something I never thought I would say considering the brilliance of the book when it initially launched at Image. The killer premise was always the key, but in recent times Powers has wandered into territory I find myself having less and less interested in. The current story arc in the main book has brought the spotlight back on the detectives-working-superhero-cases concept, but in this annual, with Walker reminiscing about his caveman days, nothing of any real consequence (unless I’m missing the point) happens. With a $4.95 price tag the story’s way too slender to make this anything more than a bit of a rip-off, and even the multi-creator interview in the back pages doesn’t qualify this for a worthwhile purchase. 5/10

1 comment:

Rob Nott said...

For what it's worth, the debut issue of Cthulhu Tales was not a very good introduction to the Lovecraft mythos at all. Hack storytelling with sub standard art, it's not the sort of thing you expect from Boom Studios, who've been putting out some interesting material on the whole. Frankly I thought your 6/10 was rather generous after I read the issue myself. I'd have barely given it a 3/10.

My recommendation for an intro to the mythos would be Robert E Howard's story, 'Worms of the Earth'. The comic book adaptation in Savage Sword of Conan 16 to 17 is particularly splendid, but failing that just read the original REH prose piece. Think the film 'Descent' crossed with HBO's Rome series.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worms_of_the_Earth

Knowing your tastes you might also like Robert E Howard's Doctor Strange story for Marvel (okay – so REH didn't actually write it as a Doctor Strange story, but that's how Marvel adapted it...) that uses all the traditional Lovecraft stuff. Circa Marvel Premiere 4 to 5, but that's from memory.