4 May 2008

Mini Reviews 4/5/2008

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.

Writers: Grant Morrison & Geoff Johns
Art: Various
DC $0.50

Matt C: So, this one-shot is supposed to bridge the gap between Countdown and Final Crisis? Well, maybe it’s just me but that sounds like a crock of marketing bullshit because I can’t find a single thing that connects it to the events in Countdown, beyond the fact that it takes place in the DCU. It took me several pages to finally realise what this book actually is: a teaser for a bunch of other books DC has got lined up over the next few months. Ok, fair enough, but after reading this it’s clear that only a fan with significant knowledge of the goings on in the DCU will figure out what’s going on here. A lot of people are going to left scratching their heads, which - for a book with a new-reader-friendly price of 50 cents - isn’t exactly the best approach. Still, if you are pretty au fait with DC’s current status this isn’t too bad, some nice art in places and, hey, even the cast of 300 turn up at one point! Oh, and someone returns from the dead, but again, if you’re new to all this the surprise will fly straight over your head. 5/10

Matt T: DC have developed a habit of releasing these cut-price previews to big events, split into sections for each character. It’s an intriguing way of enticing otherwise uninterested readers over to a new title, but can backfire badly when the snippet isn’t up to much. True to form, the Final Crisis section was a pretty awful mess, but the Batman and Wonder Woman parts seemed interesting. 6/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Patrick Zircher, June Chung, Khari Evans & Victor Olazaba
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: It’s a good time to be a Thor fan. Straczynski is producing some of his best work for Marvel over on the main book and now Matt Fraction is getting in on the act with a look at the character’s pre-superhero/Don Blake years. Based on his prior work you wouldn’t think Fraction would make a great fit with the Thunder God but he acquits himself admirably. Here Thor is a rather unlikable fellow, a bit of an arrogant bastard with little interest in his fellow Asgardians. It’s a nice contrast to his current status as the wise and noble immortal superhero we all know and love, and it quickly becomes obvious why Odin eventually decided to send his wayward son to Midgard for a much needed dose of humility. 7/10

Writer: Kevin Grevioux
Art: Paco Medina & Juan Vlasco
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: I’m on the verge of dropping this comic with every passing issue, as the early promise seems to have petered out into yet another bland team book. The dynamic of an outsider set of ex-superheroes has potential, as seen in The Loners, but New Warriors seems content with being run-of-the-mill. I’ll give it a one-issue stay of execution and hope for the best. 6/10

Writer: Richard Starkings
Art: Moritat
Image $2.99

Matt C: Having given us a closer look at the Elephantmen’s origins as conscience-free killers, this excellent mini-series draws to a violent conclusion. Some evocatively bleak black and white art from Moritat sets the tone perfectly, and even though the events occur against a backdrop of murder and mayhem, Starkings manages to draw out a few rays of hope from an otherwise grim situation. 8/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Jim Cheung & John Dell
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: It seems strange that yet again an issue of an Avengers book where the title team don’t make an appearance is actually pretty decent. This Skrull backstory links a few dangling elements, explaining some Illuminati plot threads, and the power struggle for leadership was reasonably entertaining. I’m not sure why this story deserved an entire issue, but the last page reveal at least confirmed a few rumours as well as giving the Skrulls some much-needed reasoning for their continued assault on Earth. Jim Cheung does some sound work on pencils again, making me miss Young Avengers all the more. 7/10

Matt C: I know I made a song and dance a couple of months ago about never buying another issue of New Avengers again, but here I am with a copy of the latest issue in my hand. Why? Well, based on the unexpected quality of last week’s Mighty Avengers and the fact that this issue doesn’t feature the title characters either, I thought I’d give it another punt. Turns out to be the right decision. While not as strong as the Nick Fury led issue of MA, this is yet another surprise from Bendis. Finally exposing the Skrull’s reasons for targeting Earth, it’s fairly impressive stuff. Of particular note is Cheung’s vibrant artwork – check out how he frames the first scene, zooming in on the action and then zooming out again at the end. Very cool. There’s still some rather clumsy dialogue from Bendis in places but for some bizarre reason it seems the more he keeps the Avengers out of these books, the more I enjoy them. 7/10

Writer: Jay Faerber
Art: Yildiray Cinar
Image $3.50

Matt C: I don’t think this “new” team has really clicked with me yet – I miss the “old” characters and their relationships too much at the moment. That said, people are always saying that change is a good thing, so maybe I’ll just shut up and let Faerber get on with it. New readers, particularly fans of Dynamo 5, are still advised to pick this book up though. 6/10

Writer: Jai Nitz
Art: Mike Norton & Trevor Scott
DC $3.50

Matt T: After I saw this issue coming up in the Previews, I thought the concept of an entirely Spanish language edition of Blue Beetle was interesting. The story is pretty straightforward, but the use of language is handled intelligently and not simply as a novelty, with the Beetle’s new girlfriend as much in the dark as a non-Spanish speaking person at a Spanish family gathering. The translated script at the rear helped, although barring the deus ex machina in the last few pages everything else seemed self-explanatory. Clean art and inks too. 8/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Barry Kitson, Javier Saltares, Scott Hanna, Victor Olazaba & Nelson
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Sad to see this series go – Fraction says it was his decision, but you look at the low sales figures and you wonder how much Marvel helped him reach it. The real disappointment though is that this final issue is easily the weakest of the whole run. Previously I’ve found myself thoroughly invested in these characters, but this time it was difficult to muster much enthusiasm for any of them. It’s like Fraction’s mind was already focused on future projects, particularly Invincible Iron Man in which we’ll no doubt see the return of the rather lame villain, Ezekiel Stane. Not bad by any means, but not a patch on preceding issues, and not the best way to go out on. 6/10

Writers: Matt Fraction & Ed Brubaker
Art: Tonci Zonjic, Clay Mann, Stefano Gaudiano & Kano
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: The way Brubaker puts it, Fraction has been the real creative force behind Immortal Iron Fist, so just as we're saying adios to The Order, we’ll be seeing him walking away from this book (along with Brubaker) after the next issue. That will be a one-shot, so it’s here we get to see the conclusion of the winning Seven Capital Cities Of Heaven storyline and, as expected, the writers’ high-octane blend of pulp-adventuring and kung fu ass-kicking doesn’t disappoint. From a second-tier, regularly overlooked character, Brubaker and Fraction have reinvigorated Iron Fist, giving him depth and adding fascinating layers to his existing mythology. I know it’s unfair to judge before trying, and no disrespect to the incoming creative team (and I’ll gladly be proven wrong) , but chances are pretty remote that they’ll come anywhere near matching what’s gone before. 8/10

Writer: Andrew Kreisberg
Art: Matthew JLD Rice
Arcana $2.99

Matt T: I’ve been waiting a while for this book since spotting the title in Previews and thinking it was a superb idea, and thankfully it displays plenty of potential. The fact that the central character is Helen Keller seems to be of little consequence at the moment, but I’m sure it will factor in later. The artist handles the sign language excellently, which could have been a stumbling block, even if the faces look chubby on occasion and the expressions exaggerated. There are definitely some clever ideas in here, so hopefully the next few issues will explore them in a similar manner to this. 8/10

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