14 Sept 2008

Mini Reviews 14/09/08

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

Matt C
: The first few pages I thought we were onto something, and it looked like Bendis had finally found a handle on the scope of this series. It was soon back to business as usual though with a jumble of shoddy dialogue, erroneous characterizations, a disjointed narrative and no sense of ambition. Oh, and we get the Skrull Empress, the big regal cheese and the mastermind behind the entire invasion, coming out with a line so puerile and unbefitting as “Well, you should have thought about that before you found it funny to turn our brothers into cows.”. So Bendis manages to reduce a worldwide alien invasion down to the level of a playground spat. It’s moments like this that ensure Secret Invasion has no real credibility and any half-decent ideas get quickly swamped by banality. Bendis is great at street-level writing but Marvel need to steer him away from this kind of mega-event because he continues to give every indication that he’s out of his depth. 4/10

Matt T: Only two issues of Secret Invasion left, and it looks like we're going to be left with a massive fight. To be honest, the majority of the uncertainty and second-guessing is proving to be utterly pointless, making most of this event a complete bust. That said, I quite enjoyed the old school 'putting internal squabbling aside to fight a common enemy' standpoint of this issue, and the final two splash pages were quite entertaining. If I was reviewing the event as a whole I'd be far more annoyed, but I've given up trying to work out what the hell Bendis was trying to do and have just been enjoying the ride. 6/10


Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art: Mike Perkins

Marvel $3.99

Andy H
: I wanted to check this one out despite not being the biggest Stephen King fan; I always found he over-wrote characters only to bump them off leaving me feeling cheated. Well this is comics, you can't (or shouldn't) be able to do that and so far so good. Straight in with a three-page prologue, then onto introducing our main cast of characters without the waffle but enough information to know who’s who. A plague is about to engulf America and it starts with a family fleeing a virus outbreak on a military base. It's quickly passed on from person to person so you know it can only get worse from here! Mike Perkins gritty art works well, from the depiction of everyday life in small town America to those 'innocent' moments where the virus is passed on. 8/10

DYNAMO 5 #16
Writer: Jay Faerber

Art: Mahmud A. Asrar & Ron Riley

Image $3.50

Matt T
: I solidly believed that the team breaking up would last one or two issues tops, but after the third it doesn't much look like a resolution will be swift. The cobbled together lot have some interesting personalities and it's intelligently written, especially as the group is compiled from characters that have already appeared in the book. Rather than grouping together a bunch of randoms which need some contrived and retconned reasons to join up, the group have already been established and needs little in the way of introductions. The dynamic is interesting, but I'm pulling for the old crew to be back together sooner or later. 7/10


Writer: Dan Slott
Art: John Romita Jr & Klaus Janson

Marvel $2.99

Matt C
: This is great – it reminds me of the Tom DeFalco/Ron Frenz run in the 80s which I have a bit of a soft spot for: load of things going on, loads of characters in the mix and Spidey bouncing around in the middle of it all, barely getting the upper hand. Slott’s pretty much doing everything right in this issue and after a bit of an uncharacteristically uneven start, Romita Jr and Janson are now delivering grade-A artwork. It looses a point for Bullseye out of the cuffs at the end of the issue (don’t they keep him under lock and key almost permanently unless he’s needed on the front line? Or did I make that up?) but that aside, this more than satisfies that Spider-Man itch. 8/10

Matt T: After giving up then delving back into ol' webhead I'm enjoying where Dan Slott is taking this arc. Anti-Venom is just the kind of conflicted character that Spidey has become known for, and including the Thunderbolts stacks the odds firmly against him. Even Menace is proving to be more of an enigma than the Goblin ripoff I thought he was, and the secrets behind his identity could well make me stay on board beyond the Slott/Romita run. 7/10

Writer: Phil Hester
Art: Michael Broussard & Ryan Winn

Top Cow $2.99

Matt T: One thing you can be sure of with each issue of The Darkness is that it's always a surprise as to how it will end. As the title character is drawn into a seemingly unwinnable situation with plenty of twists and turns until the relatively gruesome conclusion is reached. The bleak nature and black comedy of the book certainly make it entertaining, and I'm looking forward to the next issue, as Jackie isn't exactly left in the best condition for #6. 8/10

Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Carmine Di Giandomenico

Marvel $3.99

Matt C
: You have to be real careful when applying something as frivolous as the superhero concept to something as appalling as the Holocaust because you immediately run the risk of coming off as crass and inappropriate. If this first issue is any indication of where the rest of the series is heading then it looks like Pak may very well pull it off. He builds the story with subtlety but there are moments where it’s necessary for him to hit the reader across the chops with the sheer ugliness of the Third Reich. At the moment there’s only a hint that the boy-who-will-become-Magento has anything out of the ordinary about him, so this is not even close to being anything like your standard book with the words “X-Men” written on the front. I wasn’t going to look at this as I’ve decided to steer clear of Marvel’s pricey card-stock-cover minis for the foreseeable future, but that moody cover from Marko Djurdjevic prompted me to pick it up. And I’m glad I did. 8/10

Andy H
: So, another X-Men mini-series. Great! Really don't need yet another one. Hang on; this is good, really good. Greg Pak writes a moving tale of Magneto as a boy. A young Jew in a German school, he’s looked down on by his fellow students and when he does excel at something it's just another thing to be persecuted for. Di Giandomenico's art works perfectly, capturing the emotions, high and low, of all the characters involved. This could be the definitive origin of Magneto but also a history lesson, showing the horror and despair of the Holocaust that was to come. This is more than 'just another X-book' and I'm happy to have been proven wrong. 8/10

Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Art: Ken Lashley & Paul Neary
Marvel $4.99

Matt T
: It's rare that a one shot annual is anything other than a pointless diversion from the main story and, although this issue fits that bill to some extent it also provides more insight into Bishop as a character. The reasons for him constantly being one step behind Cable are revealed and should have some bearing on the rest of the run, making this more than just a pleasant diversion. 8/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips

Marvel/Icon $3.50

Matt C
: Dames. One day you’re minding your own business when a good-lookin’ dame walks across your path, gives you a certain look, and from that moment on you’re trapped: she says jump, you say how high, not caring if you land neck deep in shit. Okay, so it’ll come as no surprise to anyone I’ve never found myself in such a situation personally but I’ve watched enough film noir and read enough crime novels to know that’s often way things go down. Brubaker understands the genre implicitly and his use of the various conventions is never hackneyed, instead feeling fresh and surprising. Phillips’ dark, shadowy artwork magnifies the brilliance of this book, and the articles at the back, particularly Steven Grant’s appraisal of the late crime writer Eugene Izzi makes this an essential purchase. 9/10

Writer: Ben Templesmith

Art: Ben Templesmith

IDW $3.99

Matt T: I've enjoyed the work of Ben Templesmith for many a year now, from the likes of 30 Days Of Night up to the modern stuff. As much as I appreciate his artwork, the writing isn't quite there for me. The dialogue seems far too self aware for a bunch of nutters, and the twist isn't particularly unexpected. The art is superb as always, but I'm not sure the conclusion it's headed for is anything other than standard horror fare. 6/10


Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Tony Harris & Jim Clark

DC/Wildstorm $2.99

Matt C
: Somehow I managed to miss this off my recent pull-list thinning project, which was an error, as I have no intention of giving it up. Having said that, there are reasons why I would have missed it: the delays for a start. Also, and perhaps more importantly, the vitality that once made this series so compelling seems to have gone AWOL. It’s still an intelligently written book with plenty insightful commentary on the post-9/11 world, but it’s been treading water recently and has lost some of its bite. As I said, I have no intention of giving this up because I trust Vaughan has a memorable denouement planned, but it is becoming a bit of a drag getting there. 6/10

Writer: Steve Niles

Art: Kyle Hotz & Tom Smith

IDW $3.99

Matt T
: I'm guessing there's going to be plenty more to this story than yet another 'dark defender' tale, but at the moment it seems like a disappointingly straightforward affair. I expect more from Steve Niles, so I'm going to stick with it, but Epilogue #2 needs to pick things up a fair bit. 5/10


Writer: Chuck Dixon
Art: Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund

DC $2.99

Matt C: The conclusion of this diverting two-parter suggests this series can survive and perhaps flourish without the guidance of Johns & Katz. Certainly the art from Jurgens and Rapmund ensures the book has an energetic, light-hearted feel and the Quantum-Leap-in-the-DC-Universe approach has plenty more mileage. 7/10

Matt T: This is turning into one of my favourite books by far, simply because the time travel element doesn't become overly confusing and Booster isn't exactly a typical hero. I'm not sure what purpose his sister is really serving at the moment, as she just seems to be 'there', but at least the quality hasn't dropped off severely since the departure of Johns and Katz. 7/10

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