24 Aug 2008

Mini Reviews 24/8/2008

Neither 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: Greg Hurwitz
Art: Laurence Campbell
Marvel MAX $2.99

Matt C: Now it’s time for me to eat my words, and learn to never say never. After announcing last week that I was done with The Punisher now that Garth Ennis is off the book, I happened across Randy Lander’s positive review of the latest issue over at Comic Pants, and decided that perhaps I’d been a little harsh not even considering giving Greg Hurwitz a chance. I’m glad I did rethink my stance, because this is a damn good read. The writer’s first issue has more noir leanings than were present in Ennis’ work on the title, which makes me wonder whether it would appeal to folks currently enraptured with the likes of Criminal and Scalped – certainly Laurence Campbell’s art and Lee Loughridge’s palette can be favourably compared to some of the current crop of crime books. I’m happy to admit I was wrong on this occasion and urge everyone else who’d similarly decided to let this series go, or , indeed, anyone who like their comics hardboiled, to give this a look: it’s a hugely promising debut. 8/10

Writer: Tim Seeley
Art: Emily Stone
Devil’s Due Publishing $3.50

Matt T: I keep dipping in and out of Hack/Slash, being something of a horror fan, and this particular issue definitely piqued my interest due to the appearance of Herbert West, aka the Re-Animator. As the movies featuring the character have been wonderfully gory fun I was hoping it would bring a similar sensibility to Hack/Slash. To an extent it does, introducing the Doctor into the comic‘s universe without feeling forced - there‘s definitely some potential for it all to go horribly wrong, and for West‘s failed attempts at foiling death to run around causing havoc. As a setup story it isn‘t terrible, but I‘m hoping both the art and the pace take a step up in the second of this three-issue arc. 7/10

Writer: Peter David
Art: Valentine De Landro
Marvel $3.99

Matt T: Layla Miller is one of those intriguing characters who exists best as something of an enigma, being observed by secondary characters displaying seemingly odd behaviour before all is revealed that her ’knowing stuff’ allows her to gain the upper hand. It’s an excellent storytelling tool, allowing the writer to present some clever touches and inventive situations. This one-shot focusing on the character doesn’t achieve a whole lot, as one-shots rarely do, especially as it’s set in a possible future that can be wiped out in a single panel. Hopefully this will have something of an impact on the X-Factor main plot, otherwise it’s yet another pointless filler. 7/10

Matt C: I have little interest in the current goings on in the main X-Factor book these days but one of the highlights for me in the recent Messiah Complex crossover was Maddrox and Layla Miller’s jaunt into a possible future where mutants are interned in concentration camps. After being stranded alone there, I was curious to see what was in store for Layla, a character that, while created by Bendis, was given a real identity and distinctiveness by Peter David. After an excellent opening scene this tale followed a fairly predictable route, but stood out due to some particularly sharp characterization. We may have seen a bunch of similarly themed stories ever since Claremont and Byrne’s classic Days Of Future Past, but rarely are they handled as well as this. The icing on the cake is this issue features possibly the best Marvel cover yet from my buddy, Boo Cook (nice one, mate)! Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of the young girl who “knows stuff” real soon. 8/10

Writer: Matz
Art: Luc Jacamon
Archaia Studios Press $3.95

Matt C: So, there was roughly ten months between #6 and #7, and now #8 arrives two weeks after issue #7! How’s that for bizarro scheduling?! It’s excellent as always but I think the time has passed to seek this out in the single issue format, so I would recommend that any fans of crime comics should consider adding the first collected volume of this series to their “to buy” list. It will not disappoint. 8/10

Writer: Peter David
Art: Larry Stroman & Jon Sibal
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: First of all, let‘s get something out of the way: I really don‘t get on with Larry Stroman‘s art. The piggy eyes and overblown expressions are distracting and annoying, really undermining a half-decent story. This sort-of crossover with Secret Invasion doesn’t make for the greatest plotline, but it at least doesn‘t take over and ruin the comic overall. Here‘s to hoping for a return to form next month, or it will be dropsville. 3/10

Writers: Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction
Art: Greg Land & Jay Leisten
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: There‘s nothing like a group of bigots to put the X-Men right back into a familiar groove. The presence of a mutant-hating group, even in supposedly-liberal San Francisco, puts Cyclops’ team up against a bunch of small minded humans like so many X-groups before. Hopefully the unexpected leader of the group will make this a little less predictable, or the considerable talents of those involved would have been put to waste. 7/10

Matt C: It may be credited to two writers but if you’re familiar with Fraction’s work it’s obvious who’s in pole position here, and advance solicitations seem to indicate he may be taking sole control of the book in the next few months. It’s a better all-round read than last issue, especially since we don’t get jolted by the random alternating between two artists; Land seems to be relying less on catalogue model poses here and more on his own intrinsic talent, and it’s all the better for it. The introduction of a character in full bondage gear was slightly ridiculous but while I’m not completely convinced by this “new direction”, there is enough promise for me to keep an eye on this a while longer. 7/10

Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Tyler Kirkham & Blond
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: A relatively decent arc comes to an end, with the FF finally getting rid of the Salem Seven. The twist behind their creation was reasonably unexpected, even if it was dealt with in a rapid and convenient manner. The art had a distractingly unfinished look to it in an otherwise a passable run. 6/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Davide Furno
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Matt C: If you let it, this book will take you to some very dark places with some very fucked-up people. Dashiell Bad Horse seems to be on the road to self-destruction at the moment, and Carol Ellroy is riding shotgun with him into potential oblivion. It’s not exactly cheery subject matter but it is utterly compelling. Not sure where artist Davide Furno came from, but he’s a bit of a find: his expressive linework impresses once again, particularly powerful in the panels that rely on visuals alone. 8/10

Writer: Howard Chaykin
Art: Marco Turini
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: I finally worked out what the second series of Squadron Supreme reminded me of: uch like the sophomore series of Heroes, it’s introduced plenty of new characters while seemingly forgetting about the majority of the old ones. The downside to this approach is that if the newcomers aren‘t as interesting as the old, which is definitely the case in Squadron Supreme. I find myself missing the complex and conflicted Hyperion, NightHawk and Doctor Spectrum, who have been replaced by an Iron Man knockoff, a “spider-woman” and a zombie soldier. None of them hold the same level of interest for me, so hopefully the old favourites will be coming back soon. 6/10

Writers: Dan Slott & Mark Waid
Art: John Romita Jr, Laus Janson & Adi Granov
Marvel $3.99

Matt T: A few months back I said I wouldn‘t buy ASM again until the ludicrous writer rotation settled down, but the lure of Romita Jr and Slott - who in my opinion should be on the book permanently - coaxed me back in. Even one of the characters, the Goblin-esque Menace, calls attention to the fact he hasn‘t been seen for a while, so I‘m satisfied the swap over at least means I haven‘t missed anything major. As a setup to a new Venom-led plot this isn‘t half bad, although the characterisation of the Thunderbolts is a fair bit wide of the mark for me. 7/10

Matt C: It was only a matter of time before Norman Osbourn would make an appearance in the new-look Spider-Man universe and Marvel are understandably making a big deal out of it, roping in fan-favourite Romita Jr on pencilling duties, no doubt hoping to pull back readers who may have strayed from the title since One More Day. Slott provides an accessible script, and the tone and style of storytelling should please long time Spidey fans; the Romita Jr/Janson art combo does look a little rushed in places - not quite up to their usual standard - but it still efficiently brings the tale to life. The backup Eddie Brock story by Waid and Granov more than justifies the $3.99 price tag, positioning the character for a reintroduction as on of the wallcrawler’s deadliest villains. There are several questions that need answering – does Norman still know Peter is Spidey? What’s the deal with Norman and his newly resurrected son? – but this is a great opening chapter, and if you’d waved goodbye to your Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man recently, now might be the time to get reacquainted. 8/10

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

Matt C: Makes sense having Secret Invasion spill over into Marvel’s cosmic books, and the Guardians reaction to the discovery of Skrull corpses is far more convincing than similar scenes in New Avengers. The dynamics of this team always keep the tempo up, whether it’s Warlock and Starlord bickering over leadership decisions or the sizzling animosity between Cosmo and Rocket Raccoon, and the excitement in the script is matched by Pelletier and Magyar’s vigorous art. 8/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Steve Epting & Rick Magyar
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: Just recently I‘ve been starting to bemoan the pacing of Cap‘s recent adventures, and how one of the most laudable points of the run up to now, the long-running main plot, was starting to become a real disadvantage. Don‘t get me wrong, the death of Cap followed by Bucky picking up the mantle has been superbly handled, but there‘s a definite need for new territory to be explored. Fortunately #41 moves things along at a decent speed, making it appear that the next issue will bring about some kind of conclusion. The ‘Hell yeah!’ ending also has something of a blockbuster feel about it, making me look forward to #42 even more. 8/10

Matt C: I never fail to be astounded by how Brubaker and Epting keep the momentum going on this epic, consistently gripping storyline. Thank God there’s not a Skrull in sight – instead, we continue to get the masterful machinations of the Red Skrull and his cronies, always one step ahead of the good guys, but perhaps not for much longer? This book really is in a class of its own at the moment. 9/10

Writers: Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
Art: Rafa Sandoval, Roger Bonet & Greg Adams
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: While diverting, this Secret Invasion crossover has given us the weakest issues of the series so far. Perhaps the temporary focus on a larger cast has taken too much away from the enjoyable dynamic between Herc and Amadeus but I’m positive this blip will pass once the writers get back on track with the stories they want to tell, rather than a shoehorned “event” tie-in. 6/10

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Art: Allan Goldman & Prentis Rollins
DC $2.99

Matt T: When I saw the next arc was approaching worryingly soon, I was concerned for the last issue in the Amazo storyline, which has taken plenty of time to reach a conclusion. Sure enough, everything was wrapped up so fast it made my head spin, and the rest of the issue was dedicated to the next foe for the JLA to face. Although the pacing and delays made the rapid wrap up a necessity, I couldn‘t help but wonder if McDuffie simply got bored and wanted to move onto a more interesting story. 7/10

No comments: