6 Apr 2008

Mini Reviews 6/4/2008

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.


SECRET INVASION #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Lenil Yu & Mark Morales
Marvel $3.99


Matt C: That wasn’t too bad at all. While I’ve been fairly vocal with my displeasure at the lead up to Marvel’s big event for 2008, I kind of liked this opening shot. Yeah, so the first few pages with Stark, Richards & Pym don’t exactly jibe with the events in the final issue of The Illuminati mini (and don’t get me started on Stark’s one-Skrull-equals-invasion theory again!) but taken on it’s own terms it was fairly successful. Not sure how the revelations of who’s actually been a Skrull all along will pan out though – is this going to be a recent infiltration or are we talking years? If it has been a long-term thing it opens the door for a ton of continuity problems and may render certain stories redundant, but then I suppose Mephisto could always appear, wave his hands about, and everything will be okay again!

Yu’s art here is a vast improvement on his work in New Avengers, and I’m inclined to think a lot of this is down to Morales’ inks - which lend it far more solidity - but while the style still isn’t really my cup of tea I’ll admit that there are several immensely effective action sequences and the final page is certainly a doozy. What comes next may render my praise obsolete, but I’m much more optimistic about this series than I was. 7/10

Matt T: After all the build-up, this book was completely bonkers. Like a sweeps episode of Lost, many questions were answered with more questions asked that my head hurt after reading half of it. And there were so many universe-altering revelations I have no idea what the lasting impact will be. Even with the complete chaos occurring, I found the pacing just right and, unlike Civil War, Secret Invasion looks set to be a satisfying anchor to a typically fractured event. The art kept the tension racked up, I just hope BMB can keep the quality high too. 9/10


COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS #4
Writer: Paul Dini w/ Sean McKeever
Art: Jamal Igle & Keith Champagne
DC $2.99

Matt T: I have to say, the art was excellent in this issue. Jamal Igle’s pencils were first-rate, really conveying the emotion as well as the action scenes. Overall this was one of the more enjoyable ones of Countdown, but treading over old ground with Mary Marvel going bad again seemed a little pointless, something that could have been kept going from it’s original thread ten issues ago. 6/10

Matt C: Early on in this issue, Jason Todd comes out with this insightful exclamation: “All I’ve wanted is to be done with this cosmic anomaly garbage and get far away from the bunch of you!”. You said it, pal! I guess I kind of enjoyed the preceding two issues because there was clear story being told, even if it didn’t make much sense as part of the overall plot of Countdown. But then, what the hell is the overall plot of Countdown?! Maybe someone can explain it to me, because I honestly have no idea, but then again, at this point, I don’t really care. 2/10


ANNA MERCURY #1
Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Facundo Percio
Avatar $3.99


Matt C: Just when you think you’ve got Ellis pegged, he has a habit of pulling the rug from under you. For a while, reading this debut issue, it looked like the writer was going through the motions, spinning familiar sc-fi concepts in a not particularly original way, with most of the momentum to being carried by Percio’s playful artwork. You should never lower your guard with Ellis though, as he’s always got plenty of tricks up his sleeve, and by the end of this issue he proved yet again why he’s one of the best writers in the business. 7/10


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #555
Writer: Zeb Wells
Art: Chris Bachalo & Tim Townsend
Marvel $2.99


Matt T: The obligatory Wolverine appearance is supplemented by a story about ninjas, just to punctuate how drastically the comics change with the writer crossover. It annoys me that the Mr Negative story has been left to swing in the wind - it had real legs - and I’ll have to wait until the conclusion of this so-far uninspiring arc to find out how it pans out. 6/10

Matt C: This is much more like it. While Wells seems to hit the ground running with his take on Peter Parker, what really blew me away here was Bachalo’s art. The man’s obviously an extreme talent with an instantly recognizable style, but a criticism often levelled at him is that his panels can become a little too “busy” which
disrupts the flow of a story. Not here. With Townsend’s inks, and colouring from Antonio Fabela and Bachalo himself, this is absolutely gorgeous stuff, Spidey’s iconic costume gleaming against a backdrop of pure white snow. And if the art doesn’t sell it to you perhaps the guest appearance of Wolverine will. After all, we don’t get to see him much these days! 8/10


CLANDESTINE #3
Writer: Alan Davis
Art: Alan Davis & Mark Farmer
Marvel $2.99


Matt T: After a very promising start, Clandestine has started to get a little confused. The characters have been thrown to the wind, and there’s an unnecessary appearance by an otherworldly Excalibur. Although the madness of the first two issues was anchored by some down-to-earth family banter, splitting the Clan up is a bad move in my opinion, especially when the most interesting plot threads come from their interplay. 7/10


KICK-ASS #2
Writer: Mark Millar
Art: John Romita Jr & Tom Palmer
Marvel/Icon $2.99

Matt C: Even before this issue hit the stands a movie version had been announced, with Stardust director Matthew Vaughn rumoured to be attached. Say what you like about Millar, he sure knows how to pitch his high concepts! Kick-Ass is a rather heavy-handed satire (you’d expect nothing less from Millar) but I can’t help being swept along for the ride. For the most part, the humour works, poking fun at the inherent absurdity of the superhero concept while acknowledging exactly what makes that concept so thrillingly popular. It helps that Millar’s roped in one of the best artists in the business to help him out: Romita Jr’s distinctive linework is a major selling point, and he gets to ramp of the blood ‘n’ guts factor considerably more than he’s able to do in his mainstream work. Enormous fun all round. 8/10

Matt T: Where gritty realism has the potential to depress and annoy, Millar’s dark sense of humour shines through to make Kick-Ass an enjoyable oddity. The central character is difficult to sympathise with, but easy to admire, and the pop culture references are a little less annoying here, so although the hype hasn’t been fully lived up to, I’m pleasantly optimistic for the future. 7/10


CABLE #2
Writer: Duane Swiercynski
Art: Ariel Olivetti
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: The sci-fi western feel of this book is superb and unlike anything else out there at the moment. I found Ariel Olivetti's art to be a real acquired taste before, but on Cable it really works. Where planting a baby in the middle of such a dangerous environment could lower the book into farce, here it leads to increased tension, and any questions raised from the first issue are tackled quickly, cleanly, and intelligently. 9/10


THE TWELVE #4
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Chris Weston & Gary Leach
Marvel $2.99


Matt T: Blimey, this book just keeps getting better. Without being overly showy or spectacular, it gets to the heart of those involved and presents a dramatic and involving story. The burgeoning romance between the Black Widow and the Phantom Reporter is complicated by her tendency to eviscerate people, as well as his crap pickup lines. There are so many dramatic elements and interesting plot threads to be followed I’m completely in the dark as to where it’s going next, and that’s fantastic position to be in with a modern comic book. 9/10

Matt C: Straczynski is a master of the slow-burning story – although things don’t move at a swift pace (yet) there’s plenty of attention given to fleshing out the characters and providing believable motivations for their actions. Weston impresses again, particularly where Rockman recounts his origin. 8/10


PROJECT SUPERPOWERS #2
Writers: Alex Ross & Jim Krueger
Art: Carlos Paul
Dynamite Entertainment $2.99


Matt C: It’s unfortunate for all those involved in this book that similarly-themed and vastly superior The Twelve is being published simultaneously. Where Marvel’s book has convincingly resurrected a forgotten group of Golden Age heroes, Project Superpowers has done nothing but disappoint. Sure, the cover is nice and shiny and great to look at, but the interior is both pompous and confusing, the action unexpectedly cutting to new, unknown (unless you’re really old!) characters all too briefly. You're barely given a chance to get a grasp of why we’re suddenly being introduced to them before you're swiftly returned to the main storyline, which is becoming excessively dull. I’ve given it a chance, but from now on my money’s on The Twelve. 3/10

Matt T: With more compact storytelling the events in this issue could have been covered in the first, along with character introductions and the basis of a storyline. As fractured as it would have been, two tighter comics would have been far more involving than the current slow pace and the often confusing characters who need a more concise introduction for those not prepared for hours of searching on Wikipedia. 5/10


DETECTIVE COMICS #843
Writer: Paul Dini
Art: Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs
DC $2.99


Matt C: Sometimes it’s hard to believe that Dini is the same guy responsible for both this book and Countdown because, quality-wise, they’re light years apart. Grant Morrison may be getting all the recognition for his run on Batman but I’ve found Dini’s work to be far more engaging, with the kind of satisfying conclusions to stories that Morrison’s tales of the Caped Crusader seem to lack. I kind of strayed from the title while the deathly dull Ra’s Al Ghul crossover took place but a combination of Dini’s one andr two-parters along with Nguyen’s slick artwork has brought me back into the fold. Solid storytelling and an awesome cover by Nguyen make this a worthwhile purchase. 7/10


ANGEL: AFTER THE FALL #6
Writer: Joss Whedon & Brian Lynch
Art: Tim Kane, David Messina, Stephen Mooney, John Byrne & Illiara Traversi
IDW $3.99


Matt T: A real piecemeal issue, covering what happened to the various characters directly after the TV show ended. Some are good, such as Spike’s typically selfish outlook, but the prize for complete lunacy must go to Lorne’s back story which is told in rhyming couplets, and drawn by the legendary John Byrne. Each tale needed to be told, but they might have been better served as a backup to the normal story rather than a standalone issue. 6/10

2 comments:

Matt C said...

Ah, Matt T - looks like you need some schooling in the joys of Excalibur! Their appearance in this month's issue of Clandestine wasn't as "otherworldly" as you may think!

Those of us with a few years on the clock probably got a huge nostalgic kick seeing the return of Exaclibur during their Cross Time Caper. Memories of a great, great book came flooding back for me. A note perfect collaboration between Alan Davis and Chris Claremont.

In fact, that's ripe material for a From The Vaults feature, methinks. Watch this space!

Justin Boatwright said...

I don't quite know what it is about Alex Ross but none of his projects have excited me for a long, long time. Maybe even since way back on Kingdom Come. It seems that his involvment in creative direction and plot is especially a deterrent and I can't help but think that his involvement with the most recent Gog arc on JSA is why I'm not really enjoying it. That said, Marvels is still one of my favorite comics works of all time, so he's not a complete hack. :)