8 Mar 2009

Mini Reviews 08/03/2009

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.

Writers: Dan Abnett
& Andy Lanning
Art: Paul Pelletier & Rick Magyar
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: While I loved the Annihilation minis I was slightly apprehensive about this one, mainly because I wasn’t overly interested in a large bunch of the focal characters being utiliz
ed. The prologue issue last month did whet my appetite but there was always the possibility that it could go either way for me, but since DnA have delivered the goods on so many occasions in the past I chose to trust them once again. And, damn, has that trust paid off! This was a hugely entertaining opener that started relatively quietly only to go into overdrive swiftly, delivering the thrills and spills at breakneck speed. Gorgeous art serves a story from two writers who understand how to play successfully with multiple characters as well as delivering action scenes with meaning. 8/10

Stewart R: What a start to the series proper! The Shi'ar bring the battle to the Inhuman-led Kree in one mighty issue of cosmic quality.
The months of preparatory work that DnA have put into the various space-based stories has led to this brutal opener and it's a wonderful read from beginning to end. Crystal's marriage to Ronan the Accuser was never going to have an easy start but to have a wedding day this disastrous?? Abnett and Lanning set the pace at brisk, reminding us of previous events in character conversation and moving forward with a neat inner-dialogue by Gladiator as he leads the new Imperial Guard into battle. Pelletier does a magnificent job throughout with wonderful full-page splashes with the odd special touch here and there (the flowers and blossoms in and amongst the panels of the wedding day - nice!) and Quintana's colours give the whole thing a polished, classic look. I simply cannot wait for the next five issues to arrive! 10/10

Writer: Duane Sw
Art: Jamie McKelvie & Ariel Olivetti
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: With a massive crossover looming on the horizon this issue of Cable feels like filler… which it i
s. The trip into the future at least gives us some much needed character development for Hope, a sort of mutant Jesus, while Cable lays prostrate. The pace is snail-slow and the swap-over in artist only made me appreciate Olivetti all the more, making me even more annoyed that I've got to read the rest in Messiah War. 5/10

Glen Brunswick
Art: Dan
e $3.50

Matt C: A Darwyn Cooke cover isn’t quite enough by itself to get me recommending a comic book, but it certainly helps! Fortunately the contents have plenty of merit too as this playful clash of suburban drama and cosmic beings beating the crap out of each other continues to contain plenty of wit and energy. McDaid’s frenzied visuals are influenced by many definable sources but have developed their own identity quickly here. It’s early days, but if Brunswick and McDaid can keep this kind of momentum going we’ll be in for a treat each month. 7/10

Writers: Brian Michael & Jonathan Hickm
Art: Steffano Caselli
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: After last issues'
big reveal the second instalment sensibly concentrates on the antagonists of the piece, Hydra! While Fury spits feathers over his newfound knowledge, Hickman makes sure to let us know just who it is who'll be gunning for old Nick. It's a good move as we get a trip through the past three months of Hydra continuity, taking in the events that befell them during the Skrull invasion, the beginnings of Dark Reign, and leading us on to their latest plans for world domination. Hickman also throws a nice prediction piece into the mix as the godly Phobos gives his own little future reading to each of the Secret Warriors during a lunch break. It's delightfully loose stuff allowing us to digest and cogitate over what may or may not happen to each team member and raising the interest levels in this continuing series greatly. No secret files or schematics to sate our information appetites this time around but we can't expect gold like that every issue. 8/10

James R: … and relax. After the ho-hum start last month, this was a much more satisfying read. Two words: monacled Nazi! We find out what Baron Strucker, the
head of Hydra, has been up to, and we find out that Phobos has another power apart from his ‘scare you into oblivion’ trick; he can see the future, which makes for a for a more compelling after-dinner conversation than “Did anyone see the X-factor final?” We also get more Nick Fury reflecting on his illustrious past, and that’s my hope for Secret Warriors – we get a 21st century version of the Jim Steranko Nick Fury, Agent Of SHIELD run. After this issue, that looks a distinct possibility. 7/10

Writer: Ma
tthew Sturges
Art: Luca Rossi

go $2.99

Matt T: This little slice of madness is finally trying to explain itself, much to the detriment of the book itself. There's so much going on in trying to make sense of it all that the end product is a complete mish-mash that doesn't provide
many real answers. As much as I've enjoyed House Of Mystery up till this point, I'm not too keen on trying to find the secret of the House - I'm more than happy with it being a Mystery. 5/10

Writer: Damon Lindehof

Art: Lenil Francis Yu

Marvel $2.99

Matt T: It's been so long since the last issue of UWvsH that half the comic is spent recapping what went on before. There's a little bit of new story and at least one big reveal, but it wasn't really worth waiting 104 years for. Irritatingly I will have to buy the rest to find out what occurred, but I hope something interesting happens soon or Marvel will lose however many readers still care. 5/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Juan Jose Ryp
Avatar $3.99

James R: If you’ve read any of my past reviews, you should know I have a lot of time and love for Warren Ellis. I’m a huge fan of the sheer weight of ideas he can get across, and he’s one of the few comic writers that inspire me to go on and find out more based on what he’s writing about. Of late, I found that his current project with Ryp at Avatar (after Black Summer, the one I enjoyed the least), when measured up against the genius final issues of Planetary and Fell, felt a bit too formulaic. I’m pleased to report that No Hero is bang back on form. This issue we see the real world cost of being a hero in the world of Carrick Masterson – and it sure ain’t pretty. It also asks you one of the fundamental questions of philosophy: “Would you want super strength if it made your wang fall off?” It was reminiscent of the excellent Global Frequency #1, but the good news is that Warren Ellis has got another few issues to explore the notion of what super powers would cost a normal man… although peeing sitting down forever seems too pricey to me! 7/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Art: David Aja & Stefano Gaudiano
Marvel $2.99

James R: Ah, me of little faith. After last week, where the current Heavyweig
ht Champion, Ed Brubaker, showed that Captain America was still an essential read, this week he does it again with Daredevil. As much as I enjoyed the Lady Bullseye story, I was starting to feel that the title was simply becoming little more than Matt Murdock getting a new trauma to deal with every month. Looks like I shouldn’t have worried – this month sees an excellent curtain-raiser to the Return Of The King storyline as we find out just what Kingpin has been up to since his exile from NYC, and lordy! – it’s quite a comic that can make you feel sorry for Wilson Fisk! A compelling read that makes me want to read the next part immediately. Corking. 8/10

Matt C: It’s very clich├ęd – bad man tries to get on the right path after a lifetime of evil deeds only to discover that a leopard doesn’t change its spot – and although the predictability hampers the telling somewhat, Brubaker’s talent is strong enough make this an effective prologue to the Return Of The King arc. 7/10

Writer: James Kuhoric
Art: Jason Shawn Alexander
Dynamite Entertainment $3.99

Matt C: While the gothic splendour of Alexander’s art is something to behold, the story is proving to be difficult to get a handle on; the ch
aracters are written in broad strokes and their motivations are too vague. It’s only a mini, and it’s appealing enough for me to risk seeing it through to the conclusion, but some further dramatic weight and substance wouldn’t go amiss. 6/10

Writer: Daniel Way
Art: Paco Medi
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Yet another rather misleading cover... Ok, 'you shouldn't judge a book' and all that, but seriously, I can't see the justification for loading characters onto the first image you see as a reader and shopper if those characters don't show up until the very, very end. Anywaaaaayyy.... this issue IS actually fun to read and writer Way knows how to deliver Wade Wilson's kind of crazy to ensure grins aplenty. It's almost turning into a team book with the differen
t voices of Deadpool's subconscious (at least that's who I'm assuming they are...) adding to the comedy. Paco Medina - who I have complimented before - just doesn't let up, and the hallucinations just get better and better in his hands. My only complaint now is that readers of this title seem almost doomed to have to fork out an additional $2.99 to pick up Thunderbolts this month to see what happens next. That's fine by me as I'm getting that title at the moment, but with the X-Force/Cable crossover coming up soon as well it seems that Marvel might be taking the piss a little with the mutli-title writing. 7/10

Matt T: Why t
he hell is it that Norman Osborn is turning up in bloody everything? At least Deadpool does little more than take the piss, but does he really have to be everyone's archenemy? Anywho, I'm glad the tone isn't badly altered by the appearance from a decidedly dark Thunderbolts, although I'm not holding out too much hope for the return fixture. For all of the comedy and the questionable mental status of the title character this is one of the most reliable books in the Marvel stable, and always a good read. 7/10

Writer: Fabie
n Nury
Art: John Cassaday

Devil’s Due Publishing $3.50

James R: Matt C has already flagged up this title, and I would like to add my hearty agreement to his endorsement. Nazis! Vampire Zombies! My favourite living artist! Top draw, and to the Big Two: this is a value for money comic. In comparison to, say, Dark Avengers, it’s weeing on it from a very great height, and then stealin
g its BMX, and doing an endo on it before running away laughing. Dense with content, beautifully illustrated and keeping a number of plot strands running with consummate ease. A comic for those with discerning taste, and a tip of the hat to DDP for bringing this to the English-speaking world! 8/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Art: Sean Chen & Lorenzo Ruggiero
Marvel $2.99

James R: This issue was a pleasant surprise. Despite the fact that it’s written by one of my favourite emerging talents, Jonathan Hickman - and I do have a soft spot for the FF due to the excellent Byrne run (Thanks Matt!) and the Waid run a couple of years ago - in these credit crunchin’ days I couldn’t see the point of shelling out for a five-issue mini-series when I’m not entirely sold on the whole Dark Reign shebang. However, when I heard that Hickman was due to take over monthly duties on FF the second Millar & Hitch have finished their frankly bonkers journey up their own posteriors, I realised that this series was the prologue to what Hickman has planned. On that basis, it’s well worth getting in on the ground here – despite not being, in his own words, a massive Fantastic Four fan, Hickman shows a great understanding of what makes for a good FF tale – the family dynamic fused with ‘big science’ ideas. I’m pleased to say that those boxes are ticked here. Well worth seeking out if, like me, you checked out of Millar’s Fantastic Four the second you read the line “We’ve built a second Earth.” 7/10

Matt C: I’m always wary of writers taking over books and saying in advance interviews that they weren’t familiar with the characters beforehand, but have since stuffed as much reading into their brains as they could manage – doesn’t always fill me with great confidence. More often not, although they may understand the essence a character (or group of characters) they don’t capture the magic. So Hickman
– a writer I’ve been massively impressed by over the last year – grabs my attention based on his past work even though I honestly didn’t think this mini was going to make the grade. But you know what? He gets it. I know it’s only one issue, and there’s always a chance it’s fluke, but I’ll stick my neck out and say that FF fans should get onboard here because Hickman may be the writer we’ve waiting for to take control of Marvel’s First Family. 7/10

Writers: Garth Ennis & Jimmy Palmiotti
Art: Mihailo Vukelic
Image $2.99

Matt C: Although extremely vicious in places this has been an entertaining crime tale with Ennis tapping into the same dark vein that informed a lot of his twisted and brutal work on Punisher. Although technically very good, Vukelic’s art does seem – for me at least – to be a bit lifeless, which stops me from being pulled into the unfolding events completely. Palmiotti’s childhood reminisces in the back are h
ighly amusing and make a nice addition to the package. 7/10

Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz & Gabriel Paz
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: I get the feeling some people will be put off by this series as it does show signs of being slightly inaccessible to those who didn’t experience the delights of the mini. The flashback device doesn’t quite gel the past and present together with any real meaning (yet) but the characterizations are strong and there’s a lot more going on here than most other team books playing in the same sandpit. 7/10

Stewart R: Something of a dip after the great first issue but there is still quality here as the Atlas guys and gals continue their business dealings with various Osborn lackeys (c'mon, The Grizzly???) Breaking the issue up into current-story and flashback-piece-in-the-‘50s works well and may hint at how Parker intends this arc to run; the AOA are a relatively unknown group to many Marvel readers and unravelling their history in this fashion is probably the sensible way to go while still allowing for decent plot progression. However, this issue brings up more questions than it answers about the Agents, especially Namora, and we're still no wiser as to what their long-term plan is. I'm hoping that the answers start flowing a little more freely from the next issue. 6/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: An ancient hidden city, and emperor with stolen alien technology, Frankie Raye giving further hints that she’s far from suitable FF material, the Thing dressed in Indiana Jones clobber, a ludicrous but brilliantly crafted bad-guy origin story, Reed tackling his self-doubt, and a Black Panther guest star appearance, all in the space of one issue! This is how you do it!! Bendis would string out a tale like this into an 8-issue “epic”. Byrne fits it into one. Maybe the old days were better after all? 8/10

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