22 Feb 2009

Mini Reviews 22/02/2009

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 con
tinues this week.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Art: Mike Deodato
Marvel $3.99

James R: The Avengers are called to Latveria, where time travelin’ Doctor Doom is up to his old tricks, they're accompanied by America’s top espionage force, and The Sentry gets involved in some eye-popping action in this issue of Dark Aveng-... oh, hey waitaminute! I already read this storyline! Mighty Avengers #9 anybody? Now, I’m sure Bendis/Quesada would declare: “Aaah, you see, this is clever comic book writing – by making the Dark Avengers deal with a similar situation to the, err, Avengers last year you can compare and contrast how different this team is… etc etc.” I prefer to see it as Marvel being particularly dull at present. I like the idea of ‘every villain is the hero of the story in their own eyes’, but this is already feeling like a diluted version of Ellis’ run on Thunderbolts, a fact punctuated by Deodato’s art. All told, a pedestrian comic at the moment. 4/10

Stewart R: I rather enjoyed last issue's introduction to Osborn's posterboy team in the Dark Reign world. This issue however, while being filled with plenty of action, has me concerned as to whether we need three main Avengers titles and a Thunderbolts title; there's almost too much grey area between the four for my liking. With dubious heroics intended for the Dark Avengers we get this current situation where Osborn has to pack his mix-and-match team into the car and drive off to help Doctor Doom who's gone and scorned the one mystical temptress you don't turn your back on, Morgana Le Fay. Bendis handles the moral-ambiguity of his team pretty well, with a rather shocking tactical move made by one member being the prime example. The only problem of course is that wherever magic turns up in the Marvel Universe there's usually a quite handy reset spell waiting in the wings and I'm predicting that it's probably just waiting to be pushed next issue. Add to that the fact that most of this team are unlikable in the first place, so do you care about any peril that they find themselves in, temporary or otherwise? 6/10

Writer: Joe Casey
Art: Tom Scioli
Image $3.50

Matt C: Casey is a writer who excels at twisting the superhero template wit
h a surrealistic, irreverent bent, and Godland has been one of the best examples of this approach. The self-aware, mocking tone never quite masks a love of the genre, and Scioli’s Kirby-inspired visuals are gorgeously inventive. Unsurprisingly, delays have hampered the narrative momentum, but it remains an enjoyable read even if you do get a nagging feeling it would work better with the addition of hallucinogenics. 7/10

Writer: Marc Guggenheim

Art: John Romita Jr & Klaus Janson
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: So, big case of déjà vu here and I’m trying to rack my brains and remember whenabouts Matt Murdock got Spidey out of a court case jam by getting a bunch of his friends to pose as the wallcrawler in
the court room. It wasn’t that long ago but the exact circumstances escape me – perhaps someone could put me out of my misery and provide an answer?! Anyway, with some blanks to fill I couldn’t figure out why we needed a rehash of that scene, but apart from that this was a fairly solid, if unspectacular, issue. I’m still not sold on the secret identity of Menace, but the police corruption angle is well handled, if a little unlikely. The art is, of course, delicious, but it can’t quite patch over the ‘ho-hum’ feeling I got from this issue. 6/10

Stewart R: Last week's 'Interlude' issue in the Character Assassination arc is making a little more sense this week as we are now treated to a full issue concentrating on the various threads of the 'Spider-Tracer
Killer' storyline. It's a packed issue and so much happens in terms of cross and double-cross, not too mention a nice link back to the courtroom events of issue #550. If Guggenheim had left the Menace reveal to play out amongst the plot here, confusion would have reigned and taken something away from the story as a whole. The entire thing is paced so well with realtime urgency that I'm convinced that this material would make a successful jump to a televisual medium. I've also been quite slow to realise that this is also helped by the fact that nary an advert (Marvel or otherwise) appears before the 20th page. This lack of disruption would help any artist and having Romita Jr back on pencils to fill the pages is the glorious cherry on a mighty fine cake of an issue. Seconds for me please! 8/10

Writer: Scott Allie
Art: Mario Guevara
Dark Horse $2.99

Matt C: I love me some Conan, the Kull mini h
as been a blast, but Solomon Kane hasn’t struck me in the same way the other Dark Horse Robert E Howard adaptations have so far. Maybe it’s the character, maybe it’s the telling, but bar the occasional bright moment I’ve found this series to be a little dull. Art was nice in places, if a little loose at times, but there really isn’t anything here that would convince me to come back if a second mini was announced. 4/10

Writer: Duncan Rouleau
Art: Dun
can Rouleau
Image $3.50

Stewart R: Duncan Rouleau has been responsible for some of my favourite comic work over the past few years both in ideas and delivery. With The Great Unknown he's tackling the themes of idea ownership and of lost potential and he is tackling them very well indeed. Usually I would spout on and on about Rouleau's ta
lent with pencil and pen and while his hand here is strong it's ultimately his brain, and particularly his character work, that shines through. Zach Feld is the unfulfilled potential of Generation X wrapped up into one superbly over-confident, brilliantly unenthused and possibly exploited drop-out. It's him against the world as far as he's concerned and just when he thinks he might be onto a winning strategy he's always mysteriously second best. Rouleau seems to be addressing issues which he has an interest in and even brings the pointlessness of reality television in for the briefest of laughs. Set it all against a palette of black, blue and the occasional splash of yellow and you've got my stylish book of the week. 9/10.

James R: The formidable Warren Ellis once defined a particular kind of emotion as a comic fan: ‘Manic Indie Thrill’ – when a hardened comic fan stumbles across a nascent comic talent. Duncan Rouleau might not quite fall under the ‘Indie’ umbrella having done a handful of works for the Big Two, but The Great Unknown certainly gave me a welc
ome shot in the arm this week. It’s all about Zach Feld, a boy genius who has grown into an adult loser (think Ziggy from Season 2 of The Wire) who has a thousand ideas, but finds that another inventor beats him to the punch every single time. In true comics tradition, there is something nefarious afoot – and Zach learns that his ideas are being stolen from his mind…

It’s a great idea, and it has a distinctive look – both are down to Rouleau, who is one of the Man Of Action studios along with Joe Casey, (and in their spare time have come up with cartoon juggernaut Ben 10.) At the moment, it’s
a five-issue mini series, which means it could fizzle out, or feel half-baked, but as first issues go, it’s well worth checking out – I’ll let you know next month just how great it gets. 7/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Terry & Rachel Dodson
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: One of these days I’ll knock this title on the head for sure, but some
sort of twisted fanboy logic has me continuing to buy it – hey, I’ve got more copies of Uncanny then any other series in my collection, why stop now?! Well, maybe the time to stop is when you’re not receiving the full quota of enjoyment you expected, and while I like some of what Fraction’s doing here it hasn’t reached the level where I can wholeheartedly endorse it. I don’t know…. one day there will come a straw, and it will be the one that breaks the camel’s back, but it’s not arrived yet. So I guess Uncanny’s place on my pull-list remains unaltered once more. For now. 6/10

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Art: Jose Luis, JP Mayer
DC $2.99

Stewart R: I've stuck with latest JLA series for the full run so far and for the past 12 months it's always hovered on my 'to-drop' list. The world's greatest heroes, working as a team to react to the biggest events that are too big to be handled alone. All well and good on paper but it always seems to be an afterthought to whatever giant crossover DC are currently running. It's borderline pointlessness. Don't get me wrong, some of the scraps and scrapes that the Leaguers have found them
selves in have been entertaining enough and some of the character interaction, Kendra and Roy particularly, has been handled with some skill, but the level of peril doesn't ever seem to warrant the line-up. This issue is no exception as Shadow Thief makes a rather unexplained move which doesn't really seem to trouble anyone too greatly and at the slightest sign of a catastrophic event everyone bands together and it's job done. 'Hooray' and just a little ho-hum. 4/10

Writer: Jay Faerber
Art: Yildiray Cinar
Image $3.50

Matt C: There have been some great moments but generally I don’t think this title ever returned to form following its short hiatus. With
this being the penultimate issue I guess I have to pin my hopes on it going out in style because, while this was a pleasant read, it wasn’t anything to get too enthusiastic about. 6/10

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Brad Walker & Victor Olazaba
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: A gun-wielding, wise-cracking Raccoon and a giant, hard-as-nails Tree with a battlecry to match that of The Tick; two main reasons why I look forward to this title each month but there are many more beyond that. This issue sees Star-Lord backed into a corner as Blaastar's hordes bear down upon the Negative Zone Prison with the current GOTG roster attempting to mount a rescue. Abnett and Lanning obviously have their hands full laying all of the
groundwork for the epic War of Kings to come but they haven't let the ball drop once here. It's almost as if this book is their guilty pleasure where they can really cut loose. Rocket's banter is a constant source of amusement and I love the fact that the 'Mission Debrief Log' plot-tool pops up, albeit once, to keep a sense of continuity in the title. A nice double-page visit to Earth serves to reiterate that the WOK will remain a space-based affair while also drumming it in to us that cosmic comedy of this quality should be appreciated while it's here. 8/10

Matt C: A bit of a weak issue as the prison-based rescue of Star-Lord isn’t quite as thrilling as it could have been. There’s some nice character moments sprinkled throughout (particularly when the Guardians confront Reed Richards) but I’m now wondering if having the team scattered across the cosmos is doing the book many favours. There will inevitably be some sort of regroup – I presume during War Of Kings – and to my mind it should come sooner rather than later. 6/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: I’d only be exaggerating slightly when I say this comic took more time to read than all the new releases I picked up this week combined. They certainly knew how to give plenty of story for your money back in those days, long before any fanboy knew what the phrase ‘decompressed storytelling’ meant. This issue Aunt Petunia’s favourite nephew is reunited with…. Aunt Petunia! Yep, the Thing’s relative that even Reed had written off as “a figment of Ben’s imagination” makes a surprise appearance leading the famous foursome (plus Frankie Raye) on an adventure in the middle of nowhere (or Arizona, to be precise!). It’s a well-crafted tale, culminating in a situation where the FF are confronted with a foe they are unable to defeat - this is another issue where character dynamics take the lead, with Byrne showing complete mastery of the medium. 8/10


Matt Clark said...

Well there you go - Stewart answered my Spidey court-related question! ASM #550!

So, as I can't be bothered to go digging it out of a box, remind me what happened there again, plus the context, plus why it reappeared in this issue?!

Stewart R said...

Our beloved wallcrawler saved a builder in #549 who then visited a lawyer in #550 who told him he could sue for damages and wait until Spider-Man 'slipped up'. The main ruling on that courtcase was covered in ASM Extra #1 (the one with the great Hammerhead story in it)and we get a small segment of it featured in this latest issue before Matt Murdock gives Spidey the book. *Phew*

Matt Clark said...

How about that? So Stewart has now singled himself out as the Paradox Comics Group fountain of all Spidey-related knowledge. Any questions, he's your man!

Still not sure how all the court stuff fits in timewise though.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see that you like the Kull mini-series but don't go much on the Solomon Kane one. For me it's very much the other way around.

- Rob N

Stewart R said...

I'll admit that I actually had to dig out ASM Extra to confirm that the last page of that story is the same as the page from this current issue of ASM...and I can only cover so many Spider-Man questions! I've only been picking it up since Civil War...