1 Jun 2008

Mini Reviews 1/6/2008

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.

Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: JG Jones
DC $3.99

Matt T: Ah, crap. A massive DC crossover. Written by Grant Morrison. With ‘Crisis’ in the title. To quote Michael Corleone ‘Just when I get out, they pull me back in!’ or something like that. Thankfully, the mad Scot is in inspiring form, starting off small and offering a mystery to begin what should, hopefully, sort out the last few years of continuity-fuelled mentalness. There aren’t too many high-concept themes happening at once, and some of the minor characters that can often benefit from such a comic are front and centre. I hope to God both art and writing last the distance, and that DC can return to pre-Countdown form. 9/10

Matt C: After anticipating the worst this wasn’t too bad at all. It flowed along nicely without any of Morrison’s usual writing tics jerking me out of the story, and it’s good to see so many Kirby concepts used so prominently. Having said that, it’s not really very accessible for readers not already immersed in the goings on of the DCU and it’s not always wholly clear where the narrative is headed. The art was mostly pleasing and the predictable death of a major character – although no surprise – was effectively handled. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this, as I always find much of Morrison’s work starts promisingly and then goes off the rails, but taken on its singular merits, it was fairly enjoyable. 7/10

Writer: Sam Sarkar
Art: Garrie Gastonny
Radical Publishing $2.99

Matt T: The last issue was confusing in places, so it’s good to see that this one gains a little more focus. Still, it’s useful to reacquaint yourself with the Knights of the Round Table to prevent any ‘who the hell is that?’ moments. Some of the character designs are a little too similar, making a few of scenes confusing, but the painted artwork doesn’t allow for much in the way of character detail. I’d rather do a second read to work out who’s who than sacrifice the gorgeous art though. 7/10

Writer J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales, Danny Miki & John Dell
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Loki begins sowing the seeds of discontent amongst the Asgardians, focusing a lot of her manipulative wiles on a directionless Balder. While I had reservations with Straczynski’s takes on Spider-Man and the FF, he hasn’t put a foot wrong here, and – as impossible as it may seem – Coipel’s art seems to get better with each issue. Hopefully I won’t have to eat my words saying this, but at the moment this is probably the strongest interpretation of the character since Walt Simonson’s seminal run in the 80s. 9/10

Writer: Joss Whedon
Art: John Cassaday
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: And so Whedon & Cassaday’s oft-delayed run finally reaches its conclusion and, as expected, those delays have harmed its impact. I imagine this would read much better in a single hit, and while I don’t want to be unduly harsh, I buy my books on a monthly basis so if it gets to the point where I have difficulty remembering what happened in the last issue it’s bound to affect my judgement. So, while Whedon’s dialogue and Cassaday’s luscious artwork make this a pleasant read, I never felt that much involved in events transpiring on the pages. I guess I’ll come back to it one day, and maybe reading the whole thing in one sitting I’ll come out proclaiming it as some sort of X-masterpiece, but my “ho-hum” reaction to this finale means I’m in no rush to read it again soon. 6/10

Matt T: Having to pay virtually $5 for something that’s hideously overdue and has had the major plotline spoiled months ago leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, no matter how well this book reads and looks. As much as I’m a Whedonite, the man needs to either get an artist than can get stuff in on time or stop putting his fingers into so many pies. I enjoyed the last issue, and how well the major events were treated, but I’m buggered if I giving this anything more than a luke-warm response due to the time I’ve had to wait for it. 7/10

Writers: Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Recently I’ve began to feel like Daredevil has been treading water – still eminently readable but missing the spark that made Brubaker’s first few issues on the book so sensational. With Rucka jumping aboard as co-scripter for this arc, I had my fingers crossed that he, Bru and Lark could recapture the magic of their last collaboration, the incomparable Gotham Central. If this issue is anything to go by, we’re in for a treat because Daredevil is well and truly back on form! Razor-sharp characterization, powerful artwork, and finally a case for Murdock to sink his teeth into rather than wallowing in self pity. 9/10

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

Matt T: After only just recovering from the madness of the first issue, I really didn’t expect this indie comic to hit the shelves quite this quickly. I’m glad there wasn’t the month of delays I was expecting, as the second issue dispenses with the origin story and moves straight onto the main, President-defending plot. Signs that the amazing apparatus (designed by Alexander Graham Bell no less) isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, along with a possible relationship for eponymous heroine, make this book far more than a one-note joke trading off the novelty value of the name. 8/10

Writer: Joe R. Lansdale, Steve Niles and Kim Krizan
Art: Eduardo Barreto, Daniel Lafrance & Jon Reed
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt T: I loves me some horror books, and the prospect of a gathering of stories about the undead certainly peeked my interesting, especially as Steve Niles is involved. I far prefer the two standalone stories to the first, which will probably act as the spine of the ongoing series. Brief, bleak and gory is far more preferable to me than the longer, drawn out tales, but I’m inclined to give this comic a second issue shot to see what the guest writers can come up with next. 7/10

MARVEL 1985 #1
Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Tommy Lee Edwards
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Not exactly an original concept - superpeople in the “real” world - but Millar’s take on it is different enough to be worthy of attention. I imagine one of the reasons this resonated with me so much is down to me being of a similar age to the main character in the year 1985, when Secret Wars and Marvel comics in general were the absolute business and there probably wasn’t a day that went by when I didn’t imagine a world where the likes of Spider-Man and Captain America were real. There were a couple of jarring moments – the comic shop scene felt too contemporary – but overall it was a successful opening issue with Edwards sketchy, pseudo-realistic style grounding the events in a world that seemed familiar enough. There have been several occasions were I’ve been initially enthusiastic about something new from Millar only for that enthusiasm to turn quickly into disappointment, so I’m being cautiously optimistic for the future, but as a debut this was very good. 8/10

Writer: Will Pfeifer
Art: David Baldeon & Steve Bird
DC $2.99

Matt T: The last few issues of Blue Beetle have hit something of a road bump, moving into standalone comics that don’t particularly hint at anything larger being on the horizon. I hope this doesn’t spell disaster, as in the right hands this book can be something special, as the first twenty or so issues showed. 6/10

Writer: Steve Moore
Art: Admira Wijaya
Radical Comics $2.99

Matt C: Up to its regular price of $2.99, Hercules still remains value for money and it’s a mini I’ll definitely see through to completion. Although it’s sometimes difficult to get to figure out who’s who in the rather large cast, the general barbaric nature of the book and it’s pleasingly austere mix of history and myth holds my interest. The superb, redolent painted art from Admira Wijaya seals the deal. 7/10

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

Matt T: It’s clear that the inner conflicts within the New Warriors aren’t going to end soon, and that they add an extra dimension to this book. The fact that they can stop squabbling long enough to face off against a bigger foe is a miracle, and the perils of relying on tech where powers did the job before is exposed in superb fashion. Kevin Grevioux may be hit and miss, but this was a damn good issue and I’m certainly looking forward to the next. 8/10

Writers: Various
Art: Various

Marvel $3.99

Matt C: The lead story – Vanguard by Marc Guggenheim – has been pretty much the only reason why I continue to pick up this book: it’s been fairly entertaining and I want to see how it resolves, but other than that I can take or leave the Weapon Omega story and nothing else in the nine issues so far has really been all that memorable. It’s an admirable book for Marvel to put out, allowing new talent to get some time in the spotlight, but as soon as Vanguard finishes in #12 I’m bailing out on this series, and I’ve got a feeling cancellation won’t be far behind. 5/10

Writer: Kevin Grevioux
Art: Mitch Breitweiser & Brian Reber
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: The backup book for Young Avengers has been flicking between pointless origin story and interesting character-led plot on an issue-by-issue basis, and fortunately this one is more the latter. Although I’m still confused as to who is and isn’t registered in the YA, Stature’s teen angst is one of the elements that stands the team out from the countless others in the Marvel U. There’s only one issue left before another Runaways crossover, which makes me hunger for the standalone book that must be somewhere on the horizon. 7/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Billy Tan
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: In places, Bendis can be awesome. When his tendency to add too many pop-culture references takes over, it can get too annoying to bear. There are places in New Avengers when he’s let loose but, fortunately, the instances of ‘Hey aren’t I clever look what I can reference!’ are few and far between. Billy Tan’s artwork is superb as well, making this throwaway issue far more entertaining than it should have been. 7/10

Matt C: Unexpectedly, the main stars of this issue of New Avengers turn out to be Ka-Zar & Shanna, and once again the lack of any significant appearance of the Avengers themselves (bar Spider-Man) makes for an enthralling read. I’ve given Bendis I hard time in recent months but I find myself quite taken with the last few issues of both Avengers books – plenty of stuff happens, and that stuff feels important, and he seems to have moved away from crowding the pages of his books with one inconsequential fight scene after another. The Secret Invasion mini hasn’t quite grabbed me yet, but these tie-ins are doing an excellent job of keeping my curiosity levels high. 8/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Mike Choi & Sonia Oback
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: For the last few issue’s Uncanny has been a game of two halves, to use an old cliché. The 60s story has been pretty dull and formulaic, while Colossus, Nightcrawler and Wolverine tearing it up in Russia was far more entertaining. The 60s story has grown slightly into a more interesting tale of a mutant confused by a few ageing hippies, but is still a little too kitschy and predictable for me. The Russia story is classic X-Men though, for better or worse, and is the only thing keeping me onboard. 7/10

Writer: Alexander Grecian
Art: Riley Rossmo
Image $2.99

Matt C: A wonderful little book that deserves a wider audience since the wit, imagination and inventiveness on display are too abundant for it to be relegated to cult status. Proof is a fascinating character and he’s surrounded by a supporting cast of equally interesting individuals, all of whom are essential to the structure of the overall narrative. Put simply, if Grecian and Rossmo can continue to conjure up more weird cryptids for the agents of The Lodge to investigate, then I shall continue to pick this book up. 8/10

Writer: Matthew Sturges
Art: Phil Winslade & Mike Atiyeh
DC $2.99

Matt T: This one kind of creeped up on me. The last issue, for the time being at least, ends with the kind of mad battle that stands the comic out from the crowd. The art is a little lazy in places, with backgrounds non-existent on a few panels, and large groups given vague detail, but the overlaying story is decent enough. I’m hoping the ’Pact has a big part to play in Reign in Hell, otherwise it’ll be a waste of a well-balanced group. 7/10

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