15 Feb 2009

Mini Reviews 15/02/2009

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.

Matt C's Byrne FF project continues this week.

THOR #600
Writers: J. Michael Straczynski, Stan Lee & Chris Giarrusso
Art: Olivier Coipel, Marko Djurdjevic, Mark Morales, David Aja, Chris Giarrusso & Jack Kirby
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: Talk about value for money! This issue we get a staggering 42 pages of the Straczynski-scripted main story, with some astounding artwork from both Coipel and Djurdjevic. In addition there's a likable but predictably corny short from Stan Lee with some nice retro-rendering by Aja, then it’s a dollop of humour from Giarrusso, and finally some classic Tales Of Asgard by Lee and Kirby, featuring a look into the Asgardian pasts of both Balder and Loki. If I had criticisms they’d mostly centre around the inclusion of a certain ‘Dark’ superteam and the nagging feeling that the buildup of Loki’s machinations promised something a little more decisive than what we get here. Other than that, it’s yet another impressively composed chapter of one of the best ongoing series on the stands, and the eye-popping battle scenes that take up a good chunk of the lead story are worth the cover price alone. 8/10

Writer: Phil Hester
Art: Mark Timson, Michael Broussard & Mark Silvestri
Top Cow $4.99

Matt T: For the anniversary issue we travel into the future to see how the life of Jackie Estacado pans out and, unsurprisingly, it doesn't go massively well. In fact 'spectacularly tits up' would be an accurate description. The Darkness has taken over the world and the last clutch of human survivors are hoping to strike back with the help of a 'chosen one'. Normally I'm not a fan of 'far future' stories as they rarely serve a purpose, but in this case the book was so well put together I didn't really mind if it meant bugger all to continuity in general. A good read, and hopefully an indication of things to come. 8/10

Writer: Neil Gaiman
Art: Andy Kubert & Scott Williams
DC $3.99

James R: This two-part storyline has been hyped up to stratospheric proportions – Neil Gaiman writing a tale that is a Bat-version of Alan Moore’s classic ‘final’ Superman story Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow
! So how does it read? Well, at the moment it’s pretty much ‘As you were’ – it’s very reminiscent of Grant Morrison! The disembodied voice of Batman watches his own funeral with an as-yet-unseen companion, while we are presented with some very different takes on Batman’s life and death. So, it’s all very metaphysical, which is fine, and Kubert’s artwork is nice. It’s also amazing to see how much story Gaiman packs in – after years of decompressed storytelling (yes, I’m looking at you Bendis!) it’s a treat to read a story from a skilled hand in the medium. Final judgement will have to wait until this gets resolved in the next Detective Comics, but still a quality issue. 7/10

Writer: C.B. Cebulski
Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli & Jesse Delperdang
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: The quality doesn't let up for this title as the X-Men head into the depths of Limbo to seek out the newly transformed Darkchilde only to find themselves besieged by Witchfire's monstrous hordes. Cebulski is really cranking up the pace with the writing as everyone in the title finds themselves in a delicately balanced battle of some sort. There's some nice teamwork between the various mutants as they fight to survive against their magical opponents and Wolverine's berserker rage is handled superbly by Camuncoli. I've gone back to those two particular pages three or four times already, they’re that good. With only one issue remaining in this series I'm really hoping that this creative team get another chance to work on another X-title as they seem to know the characters inside out and I'd happily part with my money to see more work of this quality. Superb stuff. 9/10

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Art: Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund
DC $2.99

Matt T: Booster Gold has done well in the last year or so because it didn't get mired in the complexities of the time travel element which forms the crux of its plotlines. Unfortunately it looks like that may come to an end, as the title character loops back into his own past to find a vital ancient dagger. There's plenty more to it than that, but the feel of the book has shifted from being a bloody good laugh to an overly sensible comic that takes itself far too seriously. I'm hoping it's going to revert to type after this arc otherwise I may leave the following issue in the shop. 4/10

Writer: Kevin Grevioux
Art: Reilly Brown & Casey Jones
Marvel $3.99

Matt T: The last issue of the New Warriors is pretty downbeat at the end, but at least it goes out with a bang. The time travelling group finally right the future wrongs as Night Thrasher is forced to fight his own brother, leading up to an unsurprising conclusion. The series on the whole has been a missed opportunity in my mind, with a superb premise of ex-mutants fighting the good fight under the radar of the government with the use of hi-tech gadgetry. It could easily have been more subversive, but instead ended up as another run-of-the-mill team book. A shame, although with the sheer amount of Marvel books out there I'm sure the publisher will revisit it before long. 6/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: R.M. Guera
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Matt C: A new character is introduced in this opening chapter of the High Lonesome storyline, and whether his name really is Moses Johnson, or whether that’s another of his multiple aliases doesn’t matter: after being subjected to his vile, ugly, fucked-up thoughts throughout the issue, all that matters is the knowledge that he’s a nasty piece of work. He’s a con man, a hustler and a murderer, and the way he manoeuvres himself into the world of Red Crow and Dashiell Bad Horse is brilliantly executed. This title continues to go from strength to strength as it puts the darker side of human nature under the microscope. Sublime. 10/10

Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Pencils: Barry Kitson & Karl Kesel
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Hmmmm, not sure what has happened here. The previous issue was a great read with the Character Assassination arc getting into its flow, John Romita Jr hitting us with his delicious artwork and the ‘Braintrust’ giving us a nice story reveal. Now we're hit in the face with a rather poor 'Interlude' issue where all of the details of the last issue's cliffhanger are delivered in a rather slow, predictable way. I can hear the word 'conned' somewhere in the back of my head. I know the backstory has to be fleshed out but I can't help but feel a little robbed that it's taken an entire $2.99 of my money to do it in the middle of the arc. The Braintrust are obviously building up to an explosive climax in the next two issues but this slow-burning rubbish has spoiled the urgency somewhat. Additionally, Kitson's artwork is something of a puzzlement; the man actually seems to be trying to make his own style look like JR Jr's in places and is nowhere near his best. The fact that JR Jr is the named artist on the Marvel website also shows that Kitson was probably a late in the day substitute due to his speed. We'll be back to normal service next week hopefully. 3/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips
Marvel/Icon $3.50

James R: To use a musical analogy, this issue is like the moment the drums kick in a particularly rocking tune. After a first issue where Brubaker introduced us to this pulp-inspired world, this second issue ratchets everything up several notches. Mixing together the best elements of Sleeper (the interaction of super-powered beings with the everyday world) and Criminal (a cracking plot featuring not so much good vs. evil, but more evil vs. evil & twisted) this is a top-draw read in every department. As a cherry on the cake, there’s a cool mini-essay from Jess Nevins on Doc Savage. Being bad has never felt so good! 8/10

Stewart R: With the punchy first issue out of the way the second issue has to show us where this title is heading and introduce the other players who will drive the story along. We're given brief glimpses of the criminal mastermind and his underlings at work, all trying to understand why Zack is still alive and still has his powers, and I'm looking forward to seeing how their plans will come together. Zack's continuing study of his own post-villain life is still interesting as he lives out his vice in secret and witnesses the vices of the others around him. Everyone in the book seems to be in a dark place and Brubaker keeps Zack's motives for his powered out-of-office activities in the foreground; it's a release of aggression and frustration first and then heroism only as an afterthought. It's gritty stuff and it's refreshing to boot. 7/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne & Terry Austin
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: This issue sees Frankie Raye revealed to be something a little more than just another in Johnny’s unending stream of girlfriends, her origin story giving a nice nod to a certain flaming 1940s crimefighter. Elsewhere, the question of whether Ben Grimm keeps himself in the form of a “rocky orange monster” for fear of losing Alicia’s heart raises its head once more. Fairly low-key again, but by bringing us closer to the foursome as human beings Byrne ensures he’s got his audience onside when he inevitably cranks things up a notch. 8/10

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