2 Nov 2008

Mini Reviews 2/11/2008

While we may not always have the time to review all the comics we get every week, we do try and provide a snapshot of the latest releases, mixing the good with the not so good.

THOR #11
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales, Danny Miki & Andy Lanning
Marvel $2.99

Andy H: The only problem with the regular Thor title is: it's not regular! Saying that, I enjoy each issue so much I can almost forget this and treat it like a surprise present that just turns up when you're least expecting it. So, this issue sees Loki continuing to sow seeds of discontent while Thor is out and about. Coipel captures the slyness of her nature perfectly; sweetness itself when with others but as soon as their backs are turned you see her for the cold and manipulating god she is. It's one year since the death of Captain America and Thor pays tribute to his friend and fellow warrior and has a surprising conversation. A beautifully paced book, with a whole heap of stuff going on in the lives of the entire cast. JMS is a master storyteller. 8/10

Matt C: I’m coming close to concluding that this is current series is Straczynski’s best work in comic books so far; it’s certainly the best thing he’s done with established characters not of his own creation. As Loki continues to gently manipulate Balder, Thor has a meeting with the last person you’ll be expecting to see. Honestly, I definitely didn’t see that coming. I haven’t had a look at fan reaction yet, but my personal view is that while it does seem to offer proof of something many had doubted, if you check the dialogue closely there are hints that the permanence of the situation isn’t quite set in stone. Sorry to be vague but I’m not ruining the surprise! All in all, outstanding work from everyone involved. 9/10

NOVA #18
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Weelinton Alves, Geraldo Borges & Scott Hanna
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: The weakest issue yet. It’s nice to have Worldmind back in the mix but at this stage I’m all Skrulled out, so yet another punch-up between the aliens and a band of heroes just doesn’t do anything for me. As I said in my recent Guardians Of The Galaxy review, once this title puts the enforced crossover behind it and gets back to business the quality should return to its normal level, and the cliffhanger certainly suggests great things are just round the corner. 6/10

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Art: Ed Benes
DC $2.99

Matt T: A pretty pointless issue heading into yet another alternative universe, doing little to alter the status quo other than giving Vixen her original powers back. As much as the Elseworlds are interesting, this particular jaunt is far too half-assed and rapidly over to be anything other than a distraction before the next arc, which will hopefully be a vast improvement. 4/10

Writer: Garth Ennis
Art: Russ Braun
Dynamite Entertainment $3.50

Matt C: If there’s one thing Garth Ennis does better than any of the other contemporary comics writer it’s a war story. It helps that no one else really sinks their teeth into the genre much these days but that shouldn’t detract from some of the fine work Ennis has delivered in the past. Here he returns to WWII, which continues to provide plenty of material for the writer, but this time introduces us to a rather different set of protagonists than we’re used to seeing in the shape of a Russian squadron of female fighter pilots. The book doesn’t shy away from the violence of conflict and it’s gruesomely depicted by Russ Braun (whose work reminds me a lot of Darrick Robertson’s). No indication from this first issue that it will achieve classic status but it’s an impressive opening. If you like your Ennis war books then seek it out. 7/10

Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Art: Mike McKone & Andy Lanning
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: For the most part I’ve been loving Amazing Spider-Man recently, so take heed when I say this is a completely unnecessary purchase. I suppose you could pick it up if you’re really desperate to know the identity of Jackpot, but I can’t imagine there are many people like that out there (we already pretty much had it confirmed it wasn't who we initially thought it was) and by the end of the story it turns out it doesn’t matter a great deal to the current Spidey status quo anyway. Guggenheim has previously rustled up a few examples that show he can craft a decent adventure for the wallcrawler. This is, on the hand, is all very basic and not worth forking out for. 5/10

Writer: Garth Ennis
Art: Mike Wolfer
Avatar $4.99

Matt C: About half way through this series (maybe earlier) I realised this wasn’t going to match up to its initial promise, but my completeist nature had me seeing it through to the end. A tale where a gunfighter of some description sees that the days of the Old West are over and that he no longer has a place in the world is something we’ve seen a whole bunch of times before – that doesn’t mean there’s no merit in coming up with a different variation but Ennis fails to offer new insights or observations, leaving the story looking very hackneyed. The gore quotient is as high as you’d expect from Avatar but there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done a lot better elsewhere. 5/10

MARVEL 1985 #6
Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Tommy Lee Edwards
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: The conclusion to this generally effective mini didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I speculated early on that while Millar’s concept was sound, bringing about a satisfying resolution might prove to be difficult. Turns out I was right: the excellent character work from the preceding issuse takes a backseat to explaining the whys and hows against the backdrop of a superhero brawl. I think revisiting this and going through it in one go would have me warming to the ending a lot more, but as it stands it’s a bit of disappointment after a great build-up. 6/10

Writer/Art: Gary Scott Beatty
Aazurn Publishing $3.99

Matt C: One of the joys of going through Previews each month for our Ten Forward feature is spotting things that would normally never register on my radar. Jazz: Cool Birth takes it’s inspiration form 1950s jazz album covers, using a strikingly stylish blend of colloquial prose and graphic design to tell its murder mystery set amongst the jazz bars of 1957. The imagery and the loose but controlled rhythm of the writing brilliantly evoke the sights, sounds and smoky atmosphere of a bygone era. You could listen to some Coltrane or Monk or Miles while reading this, but even without that extra stimulus the right soundtrack of cool jazz and bebop will be playing in your mind. A wonderful, unique comic book experience. 9/10

Writer: Dan Slott & Christos N Gage
Art: Steve Kurth
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: There's only a few books that are doing something genuinely interesting with the Skrull invasion, and Initiative is one of them. The entertainment value comes almost solely from Ant-Man, but the marauding gang of b-listers at least have the odd interesting character in the mix. Where the gang will wind up is anyone’s guess, but for my money I'd like to see the likes of Ant-Man and Taskmaster given more of a spotlight. 7/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Shane Davis & Sandra Hope
DC $3.99

Matt C: The main purpose of this book is to set the stage for the forthcoming Blackest Night event, which makes it a must purchase for fans of Green Lantern but probably not for those merely interested in it’s Final Crisis tie-in status as it has very little to do with that mini-series. If you’ve not been picking up Green Lantern or Green Lantern Corps recently you’re liable to come away confused as it relies heavily on knowledge of recent goings on in those books. Green Lantern: Rage Of The Red Lanterns would have been a more suitable title. Those clued up with what’s been happening in Hal Jordan’s world(s) will no doubt enjoy seeing the ball finally get rolling on this one with Johns beginning to tie the various plot threads together; Davis’ art adds to the pleasure as he manages to make the anger of the Red Lanterns boil over from the page. Promising. 7/10

Writers: Charles & Daniel Knauf
Art: Mitch Breitweiser
Marvel $3.99

Matt T: Blimey, that's probably the longest comic title since...well, I can't be bothered to type it out, but rest assured it's bloody long! The excellent father and son team of Charles & Daniel Knauf, who recently did some impressive work on Iron Man, bring us the first in a series of one-shots. This comic is impressively gritty and adds a definite human side to Cap that most other writers would baulk at, preferring to portray him as the infallible hero. The art works within the WW2 context, with toned-down colours and well-structured action scenes. If Brubaker ever decides to knock Captain America off his busy schedule the Knaufs have given themselves an impressive argument to put them in the hot seat. 9/10

Matt C: Much as I like seeing Bucky in the uniform I do still miss the original Captain America, Steve Rogers, so a tale set in his WWII heyday will always attract my attention. The Knauf’s turn in a rather predictable tale with all the staples of a Cap wartime adventure present and correct: some crazy future-science, a big bad nazi with a distinguishing character trait and some disposable opponent screaming “Mein Gott!” before Cap wallops them in the face. But while predictable it may be it does offer a pleasant diversion from the character’s contemporary interpretation (even though Rogers is portrayed as slightly more cocksure than we’re used to) and the dynamic artwork is fantastic. 7/10

Writer: Joe Kelly
Art: Chris Bachalo & Tim Townsend
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Forget the Annual, this is where it’s at for Spidey thrills this week: a witty script from Kelly combined with some punchy visuals from Bachalo & Townsend bring the title back into the game following last issue’s misstep. Hammerhead’s resurrection as an unstoppable force completely dissipates his former “joke” status for both the reader and the characters in the story, building up to the one of those situations where it looks like the wallcrawler is done for. Sure, we know he’ll find a way out of the pickle – he always does – but when handled correctly with the right amount of danger for our hero, the joy is in figuring out how he could possibly get out of the mess he’s in. Bachalo’s work on this title continues to be some of the strongest I’ve ever seen from him: exciting, distinctive and full of energy. Awesome cover too! 8/10

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