18 May 2008

Mini Reviews 18/5/2008

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.

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

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Salvador Larroca
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: This is the book that will undoubtably push Matt Fraction into the big league, and deservedly so as it’s a cracking piece of entertainment. In recent times Tony Stark’s been portrayed more often than not as either villain or a grade-A prick. Here Fraction goes for the much more sensible approach of reminding us that the guy’s a superhero, and a very cool one at that. Larroca’s realistic art is always quite a sight to behold, and the unsurprising reappearance of Ezekiel Stane – a villain I described as “lame” during his stint in The Order – is actually used to great effect. It’s questionable whether the market can sustain two Iron Man ongoings, but it does make sense to put this new title out now because it should click with fans of the movie. 8/10

Writer: Alex Ross & Jim Krueger
Art: Steve Sadowski
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: This book could have gone one of two ways, either being a mess of continuity that never made sense, or a self contained book with some vague allusions to what’s happening in the main Marvel U . Fortunately it’s the latter, with Cap and the heroes of old appearing in the midst of a registration-related battle. There’s certainly potential here, but I’m worried that the twelve-issue quota could prove a stretch, especially with the always-busy Ross at the helm. 8/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Lenil Francis
Yu & Mark Morales
Marvel $3.99

Matt T: After the pure unadulterated madness that was the first issue of this mini, #2 was relatively sedate. Granted, there are more Skrulls present than at a ‘We Hate Galactus’ convention, and the team of 70s heroes are still not what they seem, but the flash-bang start of this book easily beats most of the other big events going on at the moment. It could all go tits up, but I’m hoping we get ‘decent-writer’ Bendis rather than ‘aren’t-I-clever-look-at-all-my-pop-culture-references’ Bendis for the next six issues. 8/10

Matt C: Not as effective as the debut issue but it still has several elements that keep me interested, not least the question mark on whether everyone on the crash-landed ship is actually a Skrull or not. Bendis’s version of Luke Cage is really starting to piss me off now and I wish he wasn’t such a focal character, but while Yu ‘s big fight scenes still lack some cohesion, it is the best art I’ve seen from him in a long while. Okay, but not great. 6/10

Writers: Dan Abnet & Andy Lanning
Art: Paul Pelletier & Rick Magyar
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: If you see some of the enthusiastic reviews floating around online for this book you’d get to thinking this is one of the greatest comics ever written – it’s good, but not that good, and if you’re expecting anything more than a hugely promising start to a series your best bet is to lower your expectations! Fans of Annihilation: Conquest and Nova will already be aware of Abnett and Lanning’s ability to weave exciting tales utilizing a mixture of faces from Marvel’s gallery of cosmic characters, and they’re unlikely to be disappointed with this debut issue (unless they’re anticipating unheard of levels of brain-exploding brilliance!). What this book does so well is appeal to existing fans at the same time as making a thoroughly accessible opening for newcomers. It’s supremely entertaining but it hints – as first issues should – that the best is yet to come. 8/10

Writer: Sam Sarkar
Art: Carrie Gastonny
Radical Comics $1.00

Matt T: The too-good-to-be-true comics of Radical are here, boasting amazing looking art and some intriguing concepts for the introductory price of a dollar. Caliber is a wild west/civil war take on the legend of King Arthur, and looks to be getting off to an entertaining, if slightly complex, start. The artwork is stunning in places, and the splash pages are excellent. Hopefully the rest of the run will live up to this impressive beginning. 8/10

Writer: Clark Westerman
Art: Kody Chamberlain
Image $3.50

Matt C: A fantastic melding of real-life people and fictional events as three notorious Depression-era gangsters get together to take down Al Capone. Brimming with hardboiled dialogue and some excellent, shadowy b&w art from Chamberlain, this should appeal to anyone with an interest in the blood-soaked era of the 1930s when the Chicago Outfit was at the peak of its ruthless power. 9/10

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Chris Weston
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: Without wanting to go too over the top, this book is turning into a real masterclass in storytelling. The man with the most-difficult-to-spell name in comics is turning out some cracking stuff here, with The Witness taking centre stage, adding some depth to his previously ambiguous powers. Another Marvel book that isn’t crossing over into anything else, and uses that to its advantage. With the gritty artwork of Chris Weston complimenting the writing superbly, I see nothing but good things in the future for my favourite Marvel book. 9/10

Writer: John Rozum
Art: Chee
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: A rather disappointing final issue: everything is wrapped up far to quickly for it to really be especially effective, and the main villain’s motivations are never really explained adequately. Overall, it’s been a sharp and imaginative series, but the conclusion reveals that it hasn’t quite lived up to its potential. 6/10

Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Roberto Castro
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: Chris Claremont is a legend, having brought us some landmark runs on X-men and the like. So why, in all that is holy, has he made this book so crap?! This story, seemingly ripping off from the main plot of Shrek, was poor all over. Even the art is completely underwhelming and, frankly, I’ve stopped caring about most of the characters. 2/10

Writer: Jay Faerber
Art: Jon Sommariva
Image $3.50

Matt C: Although my interest in Dynamo 5 and Noble Causes has waned somewhat, Faerber does have a knack of creating new and interesting superhero concepts, so I’m always willing to look over anything new by him. It’s obviously too early to say, but based on this issue alone he might just have come up with his best idea yet. With exaggerated but contagious art by Jon Sommarvia, this story of a guy who’s not aware of his superhero identity skips along at a brisk pace, and the ending is an absolute doozy. Big thumbs up from me. 8/10

Matt T: Mr Faerber is rightly flourishing with Image at the moment, thanks to the excellent Dynamo 5 and Noble Causes. Gemini is a relatively traditional superhero book, except the main protagonist has no idea he’s walking the streets in spandex at night. A shadowy corporation is of course behind it all, and hints of an origin story have been made with no real firm facts established. I’m not a huge fan of Jon Sommariva’s artwork, which seems too cartoonish to me, but the writing is spot on. 8/10

Writer: Jon Fravreau
Art: Adi Granov
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: This was an enjoyable read with some witty writing and some astonishing art, but it’s over so quickly you wonder whether it was really worth forking out $3.99 for. I’m not denying it’s a quality product, but at that price don’t you think it should take up more than five minutes of your time? 6/10

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Eduardo Risso
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: The promise of the first issue didn’t quite pan out, but it was a decent read nonetheless. As with Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas it’s the $3.99 price tag that irks me: a series like this cries out for one-shot treatment at a sensible price because, again, it takes so little time to get through you start to question whether you’re getting value for money. 6/10

FX #3
Writer: Wayne Osbourne
Art: John Byrne
IDW $3.99

Matt T: I’m not going to stop crowing about this book, cos it’s bloody ace! Granted, things move at breakneck pace and plot threads are dispatched with apparent abandon, but there’s something pleasingly retro and naïve about FX. Proof that being the best mate of a superhero is almost as dangerous as being one comes to fruition here, superbly rendered by John Byrne once more. 9/10

Writer: Joe Casey
Art: Jim Muniz
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: The team that’s not a team is still living up to expectations, pulling off unlikely victories in spite of being put together at the last minute and seemingly at random. It’s good to see a non-Invasion influenced Marvel title (for the time being anyway) and it's a pleasant distraction from the paranoia and craziness going on elsewhere. 7/10

Writer: Paul Cornell
Art: Leonard Kirk & Jess Delperdang
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: While I’m enjoying the current run of Clandestine, it’s been a while since I really felt I could get behind a book featuring British superheroes, possibly since the heyday of Excalibur. I wasn’t expecting this series to buck the trend though – I’m not that familiar with Paul Cornell’s work (I don’t watch Doctor Who) and the only comic I’ve read by him (as far as I’m aware) was the first issue of Wisdom, which didn’t do it for me at all. So, based on that, this was something of a pleasant surprise. Sure, it seems to be set after most of the events we’re currently seeing involving Secret Invasion, but Cornell doesn’t over-complicate things: basically, aliens are invading and Brit heroes are responding. With an interesting cast of characters, some nice art from Kirk and plenty of action, this series could have a bright future. 7/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Mike Deodato
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: Well, it had to happen. Just as the T’bolts have gone to crap, Norman Osbourn goes mental. With the psychics in the basement playing merry hell with the team of criminals, the green tights go back on, and pumpkin bombs start flying hither and thither. It seems like no one is safe, and that spells a consistently entertaining read. Here’s to hoping the next issue is just as unpredictable and Normie is still mad as a bag of spanners. 9/10

Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Marcos Martin
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Another great issue. While some of my colleagues have dropped the title, I’m sticking by it because, while there may have been some dips in quality, the good far outweighs the bad. One issue into Slott’s second story arc and I’m already fairly confident that he’ll surpass his first three issues with ease. Some witty banter and an intriguing villain set the tone while some fabulously expressive art from rising star Marcos Martin seals the deal. A winner. 8/10

Writer: Peter David
Art: Pablo Raimondi & Jeromy Cox
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: In spite of the superb cover (Boo, put your cheque in the post!) this book does little other than reinstate Quicksilver into the mutant status quo. He was fun as an anti-hero and mental as a down-and-out, so hopefully that won’t be immediately forgotten while he sinks into the background. The recaps on his recent downturn in fortunes might make this a decent jumping on point for fans of the character, but it adds little to X-Factor overall. 7/10

Writer: Steve Moore
Art: Admira Wijaya
Radical Comics $1.00

Matt T: Of the two Radical releases, this was my least favourite. I do appreciate the historical tales of heroes of old, but this book was overly verbose and took too long to get going for my liking. As someone who’s not normally a massive fan of the sword and sandals stories I wasn’t expecting much, but at least the art was nice. 5/10

Matt C: An impressively bloody and brutal first issue from this new publisher that should appeal to fans of Conan and HBO’s TV show, Rome. Moore captures the decadence and depravity of the era while Wijaya provides some dark, violent, but alluring painted artwork. All this for a dollar – bargain! 7/10

NOVA #13
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Wellinton Alves & Scott Hanna
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Inevitably every Marvel book of a cosmic nature is going to be due an appearance by Galactus sooner or later, but the question always is, how do you make it different from what’s been before? Naturally Abnett & Lanning, who’ve displayed such confidence writing this series, find a unique spin on a World Devourer cameo, ensuring this is yet another brilliant issue of one of the best books on the stands. 8/10

Writer: Joss Whedon & Brian Lynch
Art: Tim Kane, Nick Runge & Stephen Mooney
IDW $3.99

Matt T: It’s difficult to judge this comic at the moment, as the constantly jumping artists and stories means there’s only a few pages of the main thread to read. As much as the backup stories are appreciated, trying to get involved in a comic that’s so piecemeal is tough. After impressive beginnings Angel is slowing to a halt and needs a serious shot in the arm from Whedon and co. 6/10

Writer: Ivory Madison
Art: Cliff Richards & Art Thibert
DC $2.99

Matt C: I’ve always found Helena Bertinelli to be one of the more fascinating of Gotham’s crimefighting contingent, so some positive advance buzz on this mini was all the reason I needed to pick up the first issue. As expected, it’s not exactly a barrel of laughs, but the dark undercurrent works in the character’s favour and, barring a rather rushed final few panels, it was solid enough to encourage me to come back for more. 7/10

Writer: Mark Benson & Chralie Huston
Art: Mark Texeira
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: Mind control stories only ever work if they acknowledge that most readers are intelligent enough to see where they’re headed. Knowing that the status quo will return at some point, it’s useless trying to pull the wool over reader’s eyes. Moon Knight is heading wholeheartedly into such a story, and the previous issues have shown a flair for the brutal beat-downs but not the subtlety needed to successfully pull off such a complex storytelling device. I hope I’m wrong, as I usually enjoy this book. 6/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Ron Garney
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: This has been the best Wolverine storyline I’ve read in some time, and as I said before, putting the creative team of Aaron and Garney on the book for the long run would be a wise move by Marvel. That doesn’t seem to be the case though, with the revolving-door policy for creators looking like it’s set to continue - a shame because, as good as this was, you get the feeling it was just the tip of the iceberg in regards to what Aaron and Garney are capable of doing with the character. 8/10

Writer: Jay Faerber
Art: Fran Bueno & Ron Riley
Image $5.99

Matt T: For such an important character to their universe, little is known about Captain Dynamo, the father of the kids in Dynamo 5, other than he liked to put it about. This Noble Causes crossover helps to establish where he sits within the Image universe, how his womanising ways were often obvious to everybody, and the trouble he got himself into as a result. Once more, this one-shot doesn’t really add enough to justify it being so pricey, but the story needed to be told in one way or another. 7/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: JM Ringuet
Image $3.50

Matt C: In this issue of Hickman’s “documentary” look at two genetics companies trying to break the next evolutionary leap onto the market, the venture capitalists get involved. Due to the format, we’re essentially confronted with a succession of talking heads, which can make for a somewhat static read, but Ringuet works hard to make each panel interesting and Hickman’s concept remains provocative. 7/10

Writer: Stefan Hutchinson
Art: Tim Seeley & Elizabeth John
Devil’s Due Publishing $3.50

Matt T: Hide the sharp objects before reading this, as the ending isn’t exactly a happy one. The whole four-issue run has been well in keeping with not only the Halloween mythos, but the horror genre overall. The final issue amps up the tension, and makes for superbly nail-biting conclusion, with a typical ‘scary movie’ last panel. Good stuff for fans of the films, and horror in general. 9/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Alex Maleev
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Another hugely rewarding issue as Nick Fury corrals a group of unknown super-powered kids to aid him in his fight against the Skrull infiltration. This, along with last month’s installment, is the best writing I’ve seen from Bendis in a long while, possibly since he left Daredevil. At the moment this Secret Invasion crossover is far superior to the main miniseries. 8/10

Matt T: Bloody hell, another good issue of Avengers without the Avengers in it. And it’s written by Bendis. Crap, I think I need a lie down. Nick Fury is putting together his team of insurgents with God-knows-what purpose in mind, and it should have wider reaching consequences than just another limited run team book. If nothing else this is making me salivate for a Fury solo book, but it’s an impressive backup to the Secret Invasion that should provide some important plot points if nothing else. 8/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Steve Kurth
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: The previous newuniversal series came to an abrupt halt with #6, and I figured either the plug had been pulled or Ellis had moved onto to other projects, discarding this one. I was fairly surprised to see this mini listed in Previews but as it turns out it pretty much picks up where the last issue of the first series left off. Kurth’s art reminded of Bryan Hitch’s in places, and while not as reliant on celebrity look-alikes the way Larocca was, it fits the tone well. Hopefully this mini (if it is a mini?) won’t leave us hanging at the end, and provide us with some sort of satisfactory conclusion. 6/10

Writer: Duane Swiercynski
Art: Ariel Olivetti
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: I’m going to keep singing the praises of this book - few other titles can boast being a futuristic western and so cleverly encapsulates both genres. Cable is a complex and interesting character in the right hands - as is Bishop - and both are getting adequate time to shine. The art is growing on me, and somehow the bulky style of Olivetti fits, so overall there’s very little I dislike about Cable at the mo. Highly recommended. 9/10

Writer: Garth Ennis
Art: Goran Parlov
Marvel/MAX $2.99

Matt C: As Ennis draws closer to the end of his epic run on the title, all the signs point to this being one of the best storylines yet. A group of corrupt generals, fearing that Frank Castle will come after them for revenge, enlist a unit of elite US soldiers to take him out. Of course, the Punisher hasn’t survived this long without gaining a plethora of skills to avoid capture. Interspersed with prose pages from a “book” depicting the events and fallout from Castle’s last stand in Vietnam, this is an expertly structured, intelligently written and beautifully drawn visit into the most dangerous corner of Marvel’s various universes. 9/10

Writer: Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz
Art: Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund
DC $2.99

Matt T: The ‘little book that can’ keeps kicking on, and it’s nice to see the JLI back together. Johns and Katz are definitely hitting all the right notes for a cracking underdog story, with just the right balance of humour and drama. With a subplot started a few issues ago coming to a head, Booster Gold doesn’t hang around either. 8/10

Writer: Christos N.Gage
Art: Ben Oliver
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: Other than explaining that Norman Osbourn is still a crazy son-of-a-gun that’s got his finger in more pies than the piemaker’s son, this book does little for the main story. Venom is given a bit more depth than the flesh-eating psycho he seems to be devolving into, but this is one of those one-shots that is a nice distraction from the delays of the main books without being particularly necessary. 7/10

Writer: Ed Burns & Jimmy Palmiotti
Art: Siju Thomas
Virgin Comics $2.99

Matt C: Although it initially hinted at greatness, Dock Walloper has quickly settled into a formulaic period crime drama which, while readable, has hardly set the world on fire. What does stand out is the ever-improving art of Siju Thomas – the versatility and power of his lines are lent further weight by the atmospheric use of colour employed by R.C. Prakash and Thomas himself. While Dock Walloper will soon fade from the memory, Thomas’s name will remain as an artist to watch. 5/10

Writer: Harold Sipe
Art: Hector Casanova
Image $2.99

Matt T: Who would’ve thought an issue about a drunk werewolf at a sci-fi convention could be so entertaining? The various spoofs and swipes at over-zealous fans and sad has-been actors keep things interesting, not to mention the unpredictable nature of the wolf-man himself. Normally backup stories annoy me, but Screamland gets things just right, and Hector Casanova’s art is quirky enough to be in keeping with the script’s tone. 8/10

Writer: David DiGilio
Art: Alex Cal
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: This has been a rather predictable tale relying heavily on post apocalyptic clichés, but it’s been reasonably entertaining all told. Cal’s art has been suitably desolate and while DiGilio has basically been dealing with genre stereotypes he’s handled them fairly effectively meaning that, while not especially memorable, North Wind has never been boring. 6/10

Writer: Alan Davis
Art: Alan Davis & Mark Farmer
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: Members of the family are strewn across the various dimensions, and the sinister Guild finally reveal their plan for the Clan. Alan Davis clearly has his own plan for the characters, and even though there are a couple of eyebrow-raising moments (involving vampires, no less) there’s a sense of an internal continuity that works. With only one issue left I’m really interested to see how all the various threads can be wrapped up. 7/10

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