22 Mar 2009

Mini Reviews 22/03/2009

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.

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Steve McNiven & Dex
ter Vines
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: After last issue’s misstep this is definitely an improvement but somehow – for me at least – it fails to get fully back on course. Logan’s scene with Emma Frost felt completely off considering not only their previous relationship as team-mates but also the events witnessed in the previous instalment of the story. Millar seems to have reached a point where he’s recycling his ideas within a couple of issues: the Pym Falls scene might have worked better if we hadn’t seen something incredibly similar featuring Loki not that long ago. There are still plenty of B-movie type thrills packed in but my interest has waned rapidly. Fortunately McNiven’s pencils and Vines’ inks are pretty incredible and more than enough to hold my attention as this arc head towards it conclusion. 6/10

James R: The other week
I made the point here that there were two Grant Morrisons – one that writes We3 and All-Star Superman and one that writes New X-Men and The Filth. It must be a Caledonian thing, as I think there are two Mark Millars – the one that crafts The Ultimates and Chosen and the one that lazily hacks out Fantastic Four and Wanted. I’m pleased to say that his second bite at Wolverine has been written by the former. From part one, this story has been told with verve and inventiveness, and McNiven has brought his usual high-quality pencils to each issue. It’s a romp from beginning to end, and knowing how Millar normally writes, were due at least another big twist and a big ol’ action scene. Corking cover too! 8/10

Writer: Marc Guggenheim

Art: John Romita Jr, Klaus Janson & Tom P
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: And so the Character Assassination arc ends in a whimper rather than a bang. Well OK, maybe a small crisp-packet 'pop' but still, this could have been so much better. Guggenheim appears to have run out of ideas somewhat with the final issue of this run, having given us surprises and twists galore previously. For all of the positioning and story weaving that’s been done by the 'Braintrust' to build up the Mayoral election over the past year Guggenheim instead opts to finish it all in a close and claustrophobic manner and it's something of a disappointment. The art change in the later half of the book, this time on inking duties, manages to make a mockery of Romita Jr's pencils and not for the first time has me questioning Marvel's scheduling. To top it off any new shoots of creativity springing from this arc have 'Osborn' written all over them which may prove to be tiresome in the coming year as well. 4/10

Writers: Steve Pugh &
Warren Ellis
Art: Steve Pugh
Radical Comics $2.99

Matt C: There’s an emotional disconnect that features in some of Warren Ellis’ work that keeps the reader at a distance, and even though this has Pugh adapting a story by Ellis, that disconnect is present here too. The central character is too much of an Ellis stereotype: a cocky, kooky, somewhat crazy chick who's smart enough to put the guys in their places, and unfortunately too annoying to really care deeply about. A shame because the idea is 'out there' in a good way (only Ellis can come up with the concept of turning ghosts into bombs!) and Pugh’s distinctly British art is rather splendid. 6/10

Writers: Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Art: Clayton Crain

Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: As we creep nearer to the imminent X-Force/Cable crossover and the time-travel madness to come it seems that Kyle & Yost know exactly what they're doing: the Messiah War is going to fall right a
t the spot where the single X-Force title is on an interesting high point, but because we're going to be led down a side path of chronological carnage we can of course come back to that exact same point and pick it all up later. I have to say that I can't wait. Wolverine's growing frustration with Scott's decision-making is providing some great reading and the appearance of three former members of the New X-Men/Hellions in this issue means that when we do come back to Bastion and the Leper Queen's plans we're in for some excitement. Rahne's storyline seems to be treading water currently and doesn't quite fit with what the rest of X-Force are doing, but the writers must be sticking with her for some reason. We'll just have to see how this little 'war' turns out first and then find out! 7/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Paul Azaceta
Boom Studios $3

Stewart R: The mysterious John Doe goes about his detective duties trying to locate identities for the many nameless dead that turn up around New York. It's an interesting crime story premise and Mark Waid combines it well with a post-9/11 twist that doesn't stick in the throat like so many others before it. The 'nameless dead' has also been a commonly used concept in recent years through various media but here we're spared the usual forensic-science bombardment in favour of good old-fashioned betrayal and mistrust. This is deep, gritty detective writing and Waid keeps the story clipping along at a fair lick aided by Azaceta's triumphant offering on pencils and inks. There are some terrific panels here and Azaceta captures a cold and brooding New York that suits the story perfectly. A great 20 page read and I'd like to see some more if it's coming... 8/10

Matt C: Great to have this back – possibly Boom!’s most appealing comic project – even if it’s only in the form of a one-shot. John Doe’s investigations this time around take in identity fraud and corrupt cops and Azaceta’s moody art vividly nails down the tone of the story. Good to see Waid hasn’t forgotten about this book and hopefully it’ll make more a frequent appearance on the stands – the concept certainly has plenty of mileage. More please, Mr Waid. 8/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Mike Deodato
Marvel $3.99

James R: After giving this title a bit of a kicking last month for being a re-tread of Mighty Avengers, this month’s issue is a definite improvement. It starts with a neat scene between the Sentry and Norman Osborn – both men with dual personality issues. On top of that, the action gets taken up a notch. Finally, the issue finishes with what every good episodic comic should have – a final page that makes you want to read the next instalment. Now! Fingers crossed that Bendis actually manages to write a decent Doctor Doom this time… 7/10

Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Diego Greco
Image $3.50

Stewart R: This is pure, crude, hilarious fun and I highly recommend that you at least read through several pages when you next step into a comic shop. It won't be to everyone's taste: debauchery-led Werewolf Bounty Hunter stories tend to be a niche market - especially where they involve Neo Nazi's getting forced to parade around naked and the female boss discussing the many sexual methods that she wants our hairy protagonist to subject her to - but if there are other titles in that market then they need to look here to see how it should be done. Kelly's writing is superb with some of the best tongue-in-cheek banter I've read in a long time, while under the in-your-face humour there is a deeper heart to the tale of Lou and Wendall which promises to make this series a classic. Fantastic. 9/10

Writer: David Hine & Fabrice Sapolsky

Art: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: A strong
er conclusion than X-Men Noir, probably because it takes a more formulaic storytelling route which, while it makes for a satisfying read, it leaves a nagging feeling that a little more originality could have been squeezed out of the concept. It was a fun Elseworlds kind of twist on the Spidey mythos, and Di Giandomenico’s frenzied, dynamic art bought the whole thing to life in style, but I don’t think I’m sufficiently excited enough to be looking into any more of these Noir books from Marvel. 7/10

Writer: Arvid Nelson
Art: Will Conrad
Dark Horse $2.99

Matt C: Solid storytelling from Nelson has sustained this mini throughout – even though
conceptually it’s not far off from Conan, the writer has brought a distinctive flavour to the proceedings that makes it stand out. Conrad’s art seems to have become bolder and more detailed as the series has progressed, and considering his work was in pretty damn good shape to begin with, that’s no bad thing. I have my doubts whether a Kull ongoing book would work alongside Conan, but further miniseries would certainly be welcomed. 7/10

Writers: Phil Jiminez, Marc Guggenheim & Joe Kelly
Art: Phil Jiminez, Fabrizio Fiorentino, Patrick Olli
ffe & Dale Eaglesham
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: The Extra side to Spider-Man this week offers up a better quality $3.99 read than the main title. Guggenheim actually produces a nice piece in the aftermath of Character Assassination arc, here focusing on the impact that Spider-Man has on the people in Peter Parker's life and reminding us that every person, even a superhero, can be susceptible to rage and anger. The second story takes us back to Harry Osborn's childhood and reminds us what the relationship between father and son was like back before the green masks and pumpkin bombs made regular appearances. I tend to enjoy it when writers flesh out the troubled backgrounds of characters and while Norman and Harry are constantly sniping and snapping at each other, this brief tale gives those battles some body. The final story, written and drawn by Jimenez, concentrates on the new Kraven and gives us a tantalising hint at where Amazing Spider-Man is likely to be taking us at some future point...seems it might be someplace Sinister....! 7/10

Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Allan Gladfelter
SLG $9.95

James R: Every now and then I like to try something a little left-of-centre, and Strongman certainly falls into that category. A black & white one-shot about a washed up Mexican wrestler living in present day New York City who gets called out of retirement for one last battle for justice and a shot of redemption. What’s impressive is the sheer number of tropes and themes Soule packs into 56 pages – Noir Detective, Mexican Wrestling, Exploitation Movies… it’s all here! It’s not revolutionary, and it’s not redefining comics, but it’s a breath of fresh air. Soule could certainly be a name to watch, as I can’t remember another writer who has such a wide scope of interests, or one who tries to blend them up in such a way. It’s the kind of comic I know I’ll be telling people about in a year’s ti
me, which is more than I can say for something like Secret Invasion. This is a walk on the wild side that you won’t regret. 7/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: Terrax uses the threat of Manhattan’s destruction to sic three members of the Fantastic Four against a weakened Galactus, but as Marvelites know all too well, a weakened Galactus is still infinitely more powerful than your common-or-garden foe. Byrne’s take on the Big G is second only to the Lee/Kirby template: an omnipotent but melancholy being propelled by an insatiable hunger; beyond good and evil and aware of his cosmic necessity. He also provides one of the best renderings of the character ever seen on the printed page (again, only Kirby topped him), his linework encapsulating the fearsome majesty of the World Devourer. Taking that into account, the cover isn’t all that hot (looks a bit rushed) but the interior more than makes up for it: high stakes action, a plethora of guest stars and a highly unexpected but utterly pleasing conclusion. Byrne's best issue so far. 9/10

1 comment:

James said...

This was the issue that made me totally fall for Byrne's take on the Fantastic Four - I'd liked the issues up to this point, but this issue...Yikes-a-hooty! The amount of content Byrne squeezes in is pheneomenal, and I've always loved the scene where Spidey and DareDevil look on and conclude 'We could get involved, but this is way out of our league!' Can you imagine Marvel doing that today? An astonishing read you should track down at your earliest convenience!