1 Feb 2009

Mini Reviews 01/02/09

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.

This week also sees the next instalment of Matt C's Byrne FF project.

Writer: Grant Morrison

Art: Doug Mahnke & Various
DC $3.99

Matt C: And
so Final Crisis reaches its conclusion, and all I can think to say is: what a load of bollocks. Making me not care a jot about characters I’ve invested a good chunk of my life following the adventures of is quite some feat. Morrison manages it though thanks to an incomprehensible conclusion to an incomprehensible series. It’s like he wrote various plots for different characters, cut them to pieces and then picked out enough of those pierces to fill a comic book, without giving a damn whether the finished product made sense to the readers. And I’m not letting him off the hook the way some critics do, stating that the Morrison’s such a smart guy you’ve got to be uber-intelligent to comprehend the finer intricacies of his storytelling. Screw that – shouldn’t the whole point of writing a story be to communicate to an audience, not confound and irritate them? Isn’t art about communication?! Well, all Final Crisis managed to communicate to me is that the senior editorial staff at DC have no fucking idea what they’re doing any more. 2/10

Writers: Dan Slott & Zeb Wells
Art: Chris Bachalo, Pao
lo Rivera & Various
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: The boys at Marvel websling another Extra! Spider-Man comic our way this week and I'm glad that they have. The first story gives us more Anti-Venom goodness for our money as Slott fleshes the bones to Eddie Brock's latest transformation, with Bachalo let loose on pencils. Eddie's continued search for meaning to his new found powers is a refreshing twist on a character who had been left as a flatline of anger and depression for the past few years, almost as if the writers had crafted him into a corner and then run out of ideas. The appearance of Mr Negative is also a relief which confirms that the 'brain-trust' is doing its job and pushing all of the various threads to the wallcrawler world in the right direction and at the same time. Bachalo's art is of a high standard as usual but does not reach the heady heights of the Hammerhead two-parter from a couple of months back.

The second story actually contains the titular hero and explores the friendship between Wolverine an
d Spidey a little further, with Wells being the writer who handled their previous but brief team-up in ASM #555. This duo are pretty much the 'good-cop, bad-cop' of the Marvel Universe and Wells in my opinion seems to nail their relationship perfectly; Logan the embittered, grizzled veteran who's seen too much action and Peter the young kid who still thinks he can see the best in people. With many books being priced up to $3.99 I'm guessing that we'll see this type of title priced even higher in future but if the standard remains this good it should still be worth picking up. 8/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Art: Steve Epting
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: J
ust when I was starting to get worried this title was losing its edge it rebounds with an absolutely terrific issue that ticks all the right boxes in a way we haven’t seen for the last couple of months. The relationship between Bucky and the Sub-Mariner is perfectly realised: Namor may well possess an innate distrust of the surface world’s general populace, but you can tell that James Buchanan Barnes is someone he’d walk through the gates of Hell beside (although he’d never admit it!). It’s good to have Epting back and he rewards us with beautifully constructed action scene in Taiwan, with Frank D’Armata’s ominous colours bolstering the rainswept atmospherics. Add to that Bru’s astute script and you have a book that’s well and truly back on form. 9/10

NOVA #21
Writer: Dan Abnett & Andy La
Art: Wellinton Alves & Scott Hanna
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Another Marvel title that gets back on track after some recent la
cklustre offerings. The reasons behind Ego’s surprise appearance at the end of last issue are totally unexpected, and Reed Richard’s conversation with Worldmind is highly amusing. We shouldn’t really be questioning whether Richard Rider’s gone bonkers – it’s his book after all - but DnA’s clever scripting ensures that there are plenty of doubts on hand to douse our assumptions. 8/10

Stewart R: I'll admit that I've been getting a little worried and a little frustrated with Nova these past few months, but then that may be a good thing and a sign of great things to come. Abnett and Lanning have been leading up to the Nova Corps rebuild for sometime and as an enthusiastic reader of this book I feel like Nova and Worldmind have been Earthbound for too long. Nova's stance in this issue prevents an all too quick resolution to the situation but I'm still confident that we're not going to get a straightforward Nova Corps reintroduction story. The constant doubt that Richard Rider has displayed over Worldmind's motives these past couple of issues would normally begin to grate under any other creative team's control, but DnA have handled it well and I believe that with the events portrayed in this issue everything may not be as it seems... This is not Nova at its best and I believe the readership know that, but it should hopefully point to an exciting couple of months ahead. 6/10

Writer: Garth Ennis
Art: Jacen
Avatar $3.99

Matt C: It may push the boundaries of taste
on numerous occasions - even for Ennis book! - but what keeps me coming back to Crossed is not so much the intriguing tweaks on the zombie genre, but how the survivors cope and adapt to the new world. It’s the way they slowly begin to reject the accepted notions of how humanity should behave and what constitutes a universal moral code in favour of something new and more suitable to their current environment. Actions that would have been reprehensible beforehand have now become a necessary part of existence. If Ennis continues to play with these ideas this should be an fascinating series. Sickening in places, no question, but fascinating all the same. 7/10

James R: Now I love a good apocalypse. Ever since I was a wet-behind-the-ears geek, I’ve always loved a good ‘End of Days’ tale. (If you haven’t read Max Brook’s World War Z, go seek it out – it’s great!) So I was as happy as Ray Mears with a sharp stick in the Sahara when Crossed started. But now, three issues in, I’m starting to have my doubts. If zombies are a smart metaphor for the times we live in then Ennis’ wild ones are just suggesting that death isn’t going to creep up on us – it’s going to seek us out, shoot us up with spunky bullets and then shag us to bits. Even though I trust Ennis to come up with the goods (as he did in the excellent Chronicles Of Wormwood) at the moment Crossed feels like a 10-year-old boy peeling off his scabs to gross out his friends – it’s all very well, but what else? He gets two more issues to pull this one around for me. 6/10

Writer: Christos N Gage
Art: Humberto Ramos
el $2.99

Stewart R: This book's futu
re must be in the balance now that the world is in the hands of Norman Osborn, the 'Disassembled' sticker has been slapped under the title on the cover and we have a new writer in control. Of course this doesn't mean that the quality of the title has to slip at all. While the other Avenger-related comics (are we up to four now?) can seem to go off on any tangent they like, this book has remained grounded for the most part at Camp Hammond, and this is where its strength lies. Gage has taken over from Dan Slott as the creative driving force and I take heart from the fact that he seems confident he can stay with the school for superheroes premise. Bringing back the Thor-robot seems a sensible touch as it provides a genuine lethal threat while giving a little reminder of everything that’s happened since Civil War. Ramos covers both pencils and inks this time and his usual clean-style seems to be a little rough around the edges compared to some of his previous work. I'm thinking that his dual artistic duties must be the cause, or it could just be that I'm getting picky as I grow older. 7/10

Writer: James Robinson

Art: Jesus Merino

DC $2.99

Matt C: The Superman books haven’t been consistent in terms of quality of late, but this is definitely one of the better efforts. The Parasite scenes are very effective (an awful lot of that being down to Merino’s rendering of the character) and there’s a bit more of energy during the Man of Steel’s visit to New Krypton than has been apparent in his recent dealings with the Kryptonians. I’m still not convinced I’m going to stick around after the forthcoming shake-up on this book and Action Comics, but this is a step in the right direction. 7/10

Writers: Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
Artists: Slava
Espin & Clayton Henry
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: The Love & War arc comes to a close with the weakest effort of the run. We're
given the general (and brief) overview of what has happened in Artume's female-dominated reality and then left with a generic story where the heroes come through and solve the situation in quicker-than-usual time without putting a great deal of effort into it. The potential would have been to have this reality stick for an issue or two and run with Hercules being the 'weaker sex' for a while, but it just seems that the writers have a deadline to stick to and didn't want to explore the comic potential. Espin's art is adequate and acts as a visible gauge for the change in reality but given the naff story it was hardly worth bringing him onboard. All of the interesting conversations and interactions happen in the last four pages when Clayton Henry is given back his pencil and normal service resumes, just later than it should have. Bah. 4/10

Writer: Kurt B
Art: Jay Anacleto
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: It never really had a chance of matc
hing the industry-shaking impact of the original but what I like about this sequel to Marvels is that it creates a vibe that’s noticeably different to its predecessor. Where before the focus was on the birth of a new breed of heroes, now we see the media willing to lambaste them over even the slightest slip-up, ignoring the positive in favour of the negative. It’s the tale of a man searching for a glimpse of hope in a world he’s soon to leave behind. 7/10

Writers: Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Art: Alina Urusov & Clayton Crain
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: The first ten issues have flown past and we’re now left with something of a lull while Kyle and Yost reposition everything for another X-related bloodbath (well, here's hoping!). The Eli Bard backstory will be necessary for the story to come and getting it out of the way now
should hopefully allow the future events to flow without having to provide filler-flashbacks every couple of pages or so. Ok “getting it out of the way” may seem a harsh phrase to use but this book, until now, had been belting along at a brisk pace and the ancient Rome setting for the origin of Bard and Selene's relationship makes me think it would have been better served as a back-up story in an X-Force annual or one-shot. I just have to hope the money shelled out for this issue will pay off in the long run. 4/10

Writers: Geoff Johns & Jerry Ordway
Art: Jerry Ordway & Bob Wiacek
DC $2.99

Matt C: I thought this Black Adam arc – Johns’ last on the title – would kick things up a notch after the disappointing dénouement to the Thy Kingdom Come storyline, but it seems I was mistaken. I found it extremely difficult to get involved in the unfolding events and it barely contained a fraction of the intensity displayed in last year’s superb Black Ada
m: The Dark Age mini, for which it is a loose sequel. Ordway’s retro art just can’t capture the malevolence of Black Adam and only the Alex Ross cover makes any lasting impact this month. 4/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Michael Lark, Tonci Zonjic & Stefano Gaudiano
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Brubaker continues to channel the Kung Fu coolness he brought to Iron Fist into the current arc of Daredevil as it reaches its conclusion. It’s an action-heavy issue but the art team are more than up to the task, making certain every page bristles with kinetic energy. Enormous fun. 8/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Art: Billy Tan & Matt Banning
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Dark Reign is here, the Dark Avengers have been revealed to the world and there's the odd Skrull here and there just waiting... to be eaten by Venom! Seriously Bendis, stop using Venom as a
means of cleaning up the Skrull problem, we get it already, he's something of a monster who needs to eat, now just let it lie! Right, got that out of my system and relax... The previous issue took me a little by surprise with Luke Cage turning to Osborn for help and I wasn't certain where Cage's place in the post-Invasion world would be. That situation is addressed this time around and there's some really nice character work from Tan as the search for the baby continues. I'm a little disappointed that the Skrulls are being swept under the carpet (or into Venom's gob, as the case may be) so easily - Bendis seems to have had his fun and is now bored with them - but the latest New Avengers line-up is exciting and I'm leaning towards this being the $3.99 Avengers title that I stick with. 7/10

Writer: Paul Dini
Art: Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs
DC $2.99

Matt C: My first foray into the Bat books for some time ends in disappointment with the instantly forgettable concluding part of the Catwoman/Hush face off. I still find Hush to be an uninspiring villain and the portrayal of Selina Kyle here doesn’t hold a candle to the layered characterization seen in her recently-cancelled solo book. On the plus side, Nguyen’s art is always a pleasure and the Alex Ross cover is fantastic, the best I’ve seen from him in a while. 5/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne
Marvel $1.00

Matt C: A triple-sized extravaganza, celebrating the Fantastic Four’s 20th Anniversary, sees Byrne bring Doctor Doom into the mix for the first time since taking over creative control of the book. Doom’s plan – to transplant the FF’s minds into miniature robot bodies living out their existence in a tiny fake town with no knowledge of their superheroic identities (!) – isn’t one of his better ideas, although he might have pulled it off if it wasn’t for that accursed Richards fellow and his companions! Byrne later proved himself to be one of the finest writers to ever place words into the mouth of Victor Von Doom, and although he’s not quite there yet at this point, he already shows ample signs that he has a firm grasp of the character’s rampant ego. The back-up story, an adaptation of a script for one of the episodes of the ancient FF cartoon show (featuring Herbie!), is a bit unnecessary, but considering the number of pages of entertainment you get in this issue, you can’t really complain. 8/10


Ian said...

Re:Final Crisis 7. Matt, I agree 100%, absolute bollocks. I haven't picked my comics up since before christmas so last night I had the 'pleasure' of reading 6 & 7 back to back. It just doesn't make sense! IYou can almost see the promise of a good story trying to fight its way through all the random scenes and failing. There are enough interesting moments in there to make you long for the great comic it COULD have been..

Matt Clark said...

The real question on everybody's lips this week, I'm sure, is does Incredible Hercules #125 feature the first use of the word "spermatozoa" in a mainstream Marvel comic?

Tom P said...

Ans JSA nudges closer to the chopping block...