1 Mar 2009

Mini Reviews 01/03/2009

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.

NOVA #22
Writer: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Andrea Divito
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: That’s a cracking
cover right there for a start, and the contents aren’t too shabby either! Has Richard Rider lost his marbles then? Well, it was never to hard to figure out the answer to that, but while the truth regarding his mental state may have been predictable, DnA squeeze every drop of excitement out of the scenario. Divito’s art isn’t quite up to the standard he’s set himself in the past, but that splash/credits page is quite awesome. Although still Earthbound, this title is in good shape once more. 7/10

Stewart R: And we’re back! Yep, as I predicted with my previous review there is indeed “something else” going on in the Nova/Worldmind story and my faith in DnA should
not have faltered. These guys evidently know what they’re doing with Richard Rider and this beloved title that they have made their own. My only criticism is down to the current Marvel continuity that we, and these two talented writers, find ourselves in. This is the post-Invasion world where Norman Osborn is King and yet he and H.A.M.M.E.R don’t seem to be interested in Project Pegasus or the fact that Ego the Living Planet has settled in orbit at all. I personally would have thought that he’d be very interested in Earth gaining a second moon and thousands of people being recruited from around the globe, but not a single mention here… 7/10

Writer: James Robinson

Art: Javier Pina
DC $2.99

Matt C: Think this’ll be my last Superman issue, for a while at least, especially considering the Man Of Steel will be leaving both this book and Action to set up shop on New Krypton (got no real interest
in what the creative teams have planned for both titles in his absence). This was a generally yawnsome read, replete with a completely misleading cover, and although Pina’s art has merit it didn’t really seem a good fit with the tone of the story. For a while there it looked like DC had finally twigged how to return the industry’s first icon back to the top, but in recent months that potential has dissipated. 4/10

Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Leonardo Manco
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Only three issues in and monotony has already surfaced. The previous two issues seemed to be offering something new with War Machine’s greater abilities and the neat delivery angle of Jim Rhodes’ heads-up display to help the plot progress. Now however, War Machine is just being played as the deadly energiser bunny that’ll just keep picking itself up and putting itself back together and there’s no real feeling of danger or urgency. There are already plenty of ‘healing factor’ characters in the Marvel canon and giving the reader this technological slant on a worn out formula is going to get tired really fast. Rhodes’ impending biological meltdown has all but been forgotten and that just smacks of carelessness. Chucking Ares into the mix here was obviously meant to be symbolic with the God of War facing off against a living weapon but Ares has been something of a joke for too long now and what had potential to be something special has fallen woefully wide of the mark. 2/10

Writer: David Petersen
Art: David Petersen

Archaia Studios Press $3.50

Matt C: All the acclaim is thoroughly deserved for this exquisitely written and illustrated series which provides obvious fantasy elements with a sheen of realism. Though the panels occasionally don’t flow together perfectly it’s a quibble that can be easily overlooked thanks to the sheer beauty of each image. Unsurprisingly the delays the title has experienced have had their impact, particularly when trying to keep track of which character is which. Sorry, but mice all look the same to me! However, in collected form I reckon the experience would be something very special indeed. 8/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Art: Butch Guice

Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Normally I’d g
ripe about the artist change mid-story, but Steve Epting’s replacement this issue, Butch Guice (aided by Frank D’Armata earthy colours), not only keeps a consistent and tone and style running throughout, but also provides some superbly gritty and exciting action scenes. There’s a gripping speedboat chase that felt like something out of a Bond movie (the Daniel Craig reboot, of course) and Professor Shang Chin even seems to take on the role of Bondesque villain. Brilliant writing from Brubaker (again) in this skilfully constructed espionage tale with added superheroics. 9/10

James R: Ah, now we’re talking! After hitting
a lull in the last few issues in the wake of the epic Red Skull arc, Brubaker produces the goods again this month. Bucky is back to being the Winter Soldier and Professor Chin’s dastardly plan is revealed (now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write!) – it’s a cracking read, and it’s great to get into the head of Bucky a bit more. Brubaker also uses Namor really well in this issue, both in characterisation and as the subject of the cliffhanger. Guice’s art is great, and all told this has the feel of a Saturday morning serial from the ‘30s – and I mean that in the best way possible! 8/10

Writer: Alex Grecian
Art: Kelly Tindall & Riley Rossmo

Image $3.50

Matt C: This issue provides us some further insight into where El Chupacabra (Proof’s nemesis in the opening arc of the series) came from and where she intends to go
next. Grecian and Rossmo are confident enough in their subject matter that they can shift focus away from the title character and onto members of the supporting cast without worrying whether the reader will lose interest - the individuals (human or otherwise) that populate the book are generally interesting enough to take some time in the spotlight. Tindall’s art makes an effective change from usual but Rossmo still manages to knock it out of the park in the short “present day” back-up. 7/10

Writer: Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Art: Clayton Crain
Mavrel $2.99

Stewart R: What a delicio
usly beautiful issue to look at and a sinisterly dark and brooding one to read. Kyle and Yost have once again delivered a superb 24 pages of gripping entertainment which confirms this title as the top read of the X-pull-list. While the other books stumble along presently, suffering under the weight of roster changes and the need to go deeper into individual characters' back-stories, X-Force has drive and focus, and the writers seem to know when this is all going to reach a peak. The Leper Queen inner-monologue through various parts of this issue allows us to catch a glimpse of the situation she has found herself in and reminds us of the machinations that Bastion has set in place without detracting from the pace. The growing ranks of the X-Force crop has served to increase the team banter without falling into daft comedy trap and the dialogue remains suitably punchy. It may already be clear to some readers here that I'm a sucker for good artwork and Crain's work in this issue is some of the most mouth-watering pencil and ink wizardry that has graced an X-title for many months. 9/10

Geoff Johns
Art: Ivan Reis & Oclair Albert
DC $2.99

Matt C: A disappointing conclusion to the otherwise e
ntertaining Rage Of The Red Lanterns - there’s a frenzied approach to plotting here that leaves you feeling like you’ve been battered across the face with a rainbow. There were several instances where the story completely lost its grip on me as I attempted to figure out who was who, with some characters seemingly appearing out of nowhere. I’m still looking forward to Blackest Night but I hope Johns can show a bit of restraint, otherwise we’re just left with uninvolving bluster and bedlam. 4/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Art: Billy Tan, Matt Banning & Various
Marvel $4.99

James R: Another week, another Avengers title! Last week I complained that Dark Avengers was a re-tread of last year’s Mighty Avengers and lo and behold, it’s déjà vu all over again! Spider-Woman is doing some cross and double-cross action, and the Avengers have a big scrap in an abandoned location with the Hood’s gang…and that’s about it! And it’s issue #50, so we also get an ‘artist jam’ – which I can never really see the point of – (and I have to say that I’m amazed that Greg Horn gets paid work!) all for $5! Last week Marvel announced it’s biggest ever profits, largely due the performance of it’s films, but the cynic in me also thinks it’s because they’re good at getting money for old rope. All these fantastic characters producing such an uninspiring read – Dark Reign
indeed. 3/10

Stewart R: Many may still be seething with Bendis for the tripe that he shovelled our way with the
Secret Invasion last year but he seems to be doing well in his post-Invasion efforts. This milestone issue deals with the fallout of Osborn's Avengers reveal last issue as Captain America's team decide on a course of action that will remind everyone just who the Avengers actually are... something that is pretty difficult for Marvel readers at present with the large number of titles bearing the name. The initial couple of pages with our heroes gathered around a TV debating and cogitating on the identities of Osborn's Avengers is very amusing as each member reacts to seeing a counterpart on screen. Tan's layouts help to keep this moving and his repetition of panel work to show time progression is top notch and well judged. The second half of the issue is also a triumph with the guest artists being used to good effect for each individual Avenger as they battle through a horde of villains while we follow their thoughts through the carnage. My only gripe amongst the praise this time around is the price: $4.99 is obviously a figure we're going to see more often on these larger titles but if I'm going to pay that sort of money, which I have happily done here, I'd really like to not have lost ten pages to a Fantastic Four preview and two adverts. The extra dollar should be throwing me more Avengers awesomeness. 8/10

Writer: Richard Starkings
Art: Chris Burnham
Image $2.99

James R: I picked this up for two reasons – firstly Boo Cook’s excellent cover and secondly because it was that rarest of things: the self-contained story. Warren Ellis is the master of this, and Paul Dini is also pretty adept at the skill of getting a punchy tale wrapped up in 28 pages… but sadly, Richard Starkings isn’t. I love the Elephantmen concept, but this felt derivative and obvious. He mentions in the back of the issue that he wanted to do a pu
lp-inspired issue… well, I have one word for him: Criminal. That’s how you do it! Not an awful lot of bang for your buck, and nowhere near interesting enough to be considered a regular read for me. The one other good thing apart from the cover is the mini-essay about Marvel UK in the late ‘80s/Early ‘90s – Dragon’s Claws, Transformers, Death's Head… ah, those were the days! 2/10

Matt C: Starkings sidetracks from the main storylines as we’re (re)introduced to The Silencer, an assassin for hire, in this enjoyable homage to noirish pulp fiction. He may pile on the clichés but underneath that there are further layers being added to the world of the Elephantmen and I’m assuming the central character here will reappear somewhere down the line. Burnham’s art is nice and gruesome in places but it’s only during the cleverly semi-replicated body-dumping sequences that he captures the essence of the Blade Runner-esque futurescape. 7/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: Another case of Byrne packing an incredible amount of information into a single-issue story and you can imagine today’s writers spreading the same plot over a six issue arc. Having said that, this is one instance where perhaps Byrne could have stretched this to a two-parter, considering the scale of events that occur. But, despite feeling a little short-changed in some regards, there’s still plenty of bracing drama within as the Inhumans begin dying, their immune systems no longer able to cope with the pollutants in Earth’s atmosphere. Their FF-assisted relocation to the Watcher’s neighbourhood conveys the majesty of Black Bolt and his race in a way that often seems absent in recent interpretations. 7/10

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