22 Dec 2008

Mini Reviews 22/12/08

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.

Writer: Andy Diggle
Art: Roberto De La Torre
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: The second issue of T'bolts in Andy Diggle's run had me somewhat concerned as the majority of the characters that interested me seemed to be on their way out. Now they all definitely are I'm not as bothered as I thought I'd be. Diggle isn't breaking up the team for the sake of it, and seems to have a decent handle on those who're left over. I just hope the new team are as good as the old, or it'll merge into Dark Avengers pretty swiftly. 7/10

Stewart R: I jumped onboard with this title last issue to bear witness to the conclusion of one team's arc and see where it picks up with the next incarnation in a post-Invasion world. Where that issue dealt with the in-house cleaning that Osborn is having to go through with the whole team, this chapter focuses on Songbird's fight for survival against the two lethal loose cannons of Bullseye and Venom. Diggle provides an exciting script as the Thunderbolts' only remaining moral voice mounts an escape and De La Torre delivers a visual feast as the cat-and-mouse antics tear through Thunderbolt Mountain. This is frantic storytelling at it's best and I'm glad that the creative team remains the same when the new roster is revealed next time around in the midst of the Dark Reign... 8/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Dan Brerton, Doug Braithwaite, Mike Allred & Miguel Angel Sepulveda
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Fraction’s been doing some great work with his various Thunder God one-shots and Secret Invasion tie-ins recently, but with this latest release he drops the ball. The story – with various Gods finding their memories of Skurge The Executioner either missing or inaccurate – seemed a little unnecessary, not really adding anything of real note to that character’s place in the Marvel Universe, past and present. I also wonder whether Straczynski’s happy with Fraction bringing in the likes of Hela and The Enchantress back into current continuity before he’s had a chance to comment on their whereabouts and “resurrection”. Maybe it’s all been okayed behind the scenes, but I seem to recall a panel in an early issue of the current Thor series suggesting Stracynski had plans for The Enchantress at the very least.

The clashing visual styles don’t work in this one-shot’s favour – I can sort of understand the reasoning but it does jar mainly because there’s some vast differences between some of the artist’s work. Fraction’s made no secret of his love of Walt Simonson’s work on the character back in the 1980s, and we are duly given the bonus of the entire issue of Thor #362 reprinted in the back pages. Within an instant, it outstrips and outclasses what’s come before: air-punching action scenes, heroic sacrifices and melancholy immortals – sheer genius, through and through. Fraction’s got a good handle on Thor, and he’s delivered some top-draw stories so far, but on this evidence he’s still some way off matching the glory of Simonson’s take on the Odinson. 6/10

Writers: David Hine & Fabrice Sapolsky
Art: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: After X-Men Noir I was concerned that this book would be more of the same but with a different central character. Fortunately that’s far from the case – while it carries a similar vibe, Spider-Man Noir does it’s own thing and is all the better for it. The sense of time is more solid here but while the utilization of familiar faces may be more predictable than in the X-book, there are enough tweaks to make the prospect thoroughly appealing. Di Giandomenico, currently working wonders on X-Men: Magneto Testament, brings the same level of excellence to this title. 8/10

Stewart R: I previewed this a couple of months ago hoping for a “darker, grittier feel to the usual Spider-Man story” and it appears that I got what I wanted. Poverty, murder, drugs, vice, corruption; all here, present and correct and it's only the first issue! Hine has managed to fold and manipulate the Spider-Man mythos into a 1930s New York setting smoothly: Norman Osborn plays the powerful and corrupt city kingpin, The Goblin, while Peter Parker seeths for justice from the poverty line after the murder of his uncle. The supporting characters from the SM rogue's gallery are introduced briefly and offer promise of what's to come. With the 'black and white/good and evil' stalls set out and the interesting 'grey' of the protagonist (no spoilers here folks) this promises to be a good, hardboiled series. 7/10

Writer: Kevin Grevioux
Art: David Youkvibch
Red 5 Comics $3.25

Matt T: There's one overlying factor of any zombie story, and that's the inevitability that all will goes tits up pretty soon, more than likely resulting in gory madness. There's the odd clich├ęd character, most of which fill the army archetypes pretty comfortably, but there might well be a bit more intelligence to this than just guns and walking dead people. The political machinations of using zombies as weapons is being explored to some extent, so hopefully it expands beyond the predictable Armageddon. 6/10

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Tony Harris & Jim Clark
DC/Wildstorm $2.99

Matt C: Although I’m sticking with it, I have been loosing patience with this book over the last few issues (probably even longer given its eratic scheduling) due to the way it’s been meandering without clear direction. Consequently Vaughan’s decision to make himself and Harris the main characters in this issue not only smacked of unnecessary self-indulgence but also served to amplify how this book continues to tread water. Vaughan may think he can get off the hook by having his “character” mention the “whole Grant Morrision ‘meta’ thing”, and perhaps if Ex Machina had been firing on all cylinders recently he could get away with this kind of stunt. And, okay, I get that writers often create characters as mouthpieces for their own ideas and beliefs so essentially Brian K. Vaughan has “created” Brian K. Vaughan to do just that, but here it just feels like the writer fannying about rather than getting on with the nuts and bolts of the story. 4/10

Writer: Gregg Hurwitz
Art: Laurence Campbell
Marvel MAX $2.99

Matt C: I think this story arc peaked mid way, but even saying that it’s still been an utterly compelling blend of bleakness and brutality overall. I was a bit gutted to learn that Hurwitz and Campell were only on this title for the short term, and I’m almost inclined to say I’ll wave goodbye to the series right here (especially as it’s one of those included in Marvel’s misguided $3.99 price hike) but I remember say that when Ennis quit, and look what happened there. I’ll give the incoming creative team a chance, but they sure do have a tough act to follow. 8/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Ivan Rodriguez
Avatar $3.99

Matt C: Admittedly I do often feel a bit lost when I start up a new issue of Doktor Sleepless, and I still haven’t got around to re-reading the series so everything slots more firmly into place, but this is one of those rare books that still has the capability to astound even if you do have difficulty remembering what happened last time! Two issues in a row without the title character but Ellis still pours on the intrigue, littering it with some beautifully constructed dialogue and effortless characterization. 'Backmatter' is essential reading too. 8/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Lee Weeks, Jim Cheung, Carlo Pagulayan & Jeffrey Huet
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Out of the rather crappy ashes of the Secret Invasion and its collective tie-ins comes this, a surprisingly touching tale by Bendis, unsurprisingly focusing on Hank Pym. Honestly, does Mr Bendis appear to have something of a writing hard-on for Yellowjacket? The jury may still be out on this point. Regardless of the previously poor efforts focusing on this character in the Avengers' titles, this is a great read and deals with the fallout of the one major casualty of Marvel's 2008 cash-cow. The use of the three differing artists handling the present day story and respective flashback periods works tremendously well with emotion and grief dripping from every page. When Bendis gets it right, it can work, and this issue goes a small way to patching the damage done. 8/10

Matt T: My God, this may well be the last issue of the Avengers to concentrate on one character, and annoyingly it's probably my favourite. Actually having a point to the issue rather than filling space till an event is over seems to make for a better theme, and the characterization of Hank Pym is certainly good enough to warrant Ant Man becoming a major player again. Let's just hope Dark Reign doesn't screw it up again. 8/10


Anonymous said...


Spiderman Noir was a big drop in quality, to me, from Xmen. It looked looked and read like the crappy Elseworlds books.

Matt Clark said...

Although I probably prefered the style and moodiness of X-Men Noir I think the story beats were more successfully paced in the Spidey book, at least for the debut issues.