29 Mar 2009

Mini Reviews 29/03/2009

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.

Please note: the Boom! Studios titles The Incredibles and The Muppet Show reviewed below are unfortunately unavailable in the UK, presumably for licensing reasons.

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Butch Guice, Luke Ross & Steve Epting
Marvel $2.99

James R: Right, I’m starting to run out of superl
atives for Ed Brubaker – this was the final part of the Old Friends & Enemies arc, which has been top-draw; there were no surprises, just a well-crafted tale. Particular note to Brubaker’s writing of Namor – a character, who often comes across as a sulky tosser, is transformed into a funny, rock-hard and merciless character here. I hereby demand the Brubaker Invaders miniseries now, and will be buying my Namor green-scaled speedos in anticipation… Imperious Rex indeed! 8/10

Matt C: Even an – albeit brief – appearance of the ridiculously ubiquitous Dark Avengers can’t dampen my enthusiasm for Captain America. This issues rattles along at such a pace that you may well be left breathless when you put it down! Expertly choreographed action sequences that really do set the pulse racing – the credits aren’t clear about who did what out of the three artists, but the visuals are so consistently outstanding the whole way through that they all deserve whatever credit is heaped upon them. When you see Brubaker handle some of the supporting cast – Black Widow and, in particular, Namor – you kind of wish all the other writers who patently don’t get the characters in question are told to keep their hands off while Bru’s utilizing them. An awesome comic, but surely you know that already, right? 8/10

Writer: Brian M
ichael Bendis
Art: Billy Tan, Chris Bachalo et al.
Marvel #3.99

Stewart R: While the Mighty Avengers are off dealing with supernatural beasties and the Dark Avengers
are busy ripping the heads off of sorceresses (see #2 for that treat) the New Avengers are having a Chinese takeaway and discussing team-related issues. Some would raise an eyebrow to this but personally I’m loving it. With the superhero world in disarray - thanks single-handedly to Bendis - it's good to have a central Marvel title where the fallout of the past year is being cogitated over by the characters. The sorcery element is obviously going to be a big part of this book in months ahead and it's been a long time coming. The combination of artists here - Tan dealing with the team and Bachalo handling Dr Strange - works for the most part, though is it me or does Wiccan look like he's either a) had botox injections or b) is suffering from constipation? It's still an enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to finding out where this is going. 7/10

Writer: Garth Ennis
Art: Jacen Burrows
Avatar $3.99

Matt C: I guess on the surface this can be viewed as standard zombie/apocalypse fare with the added bonus of Ennis’ penchant for
pushing the boundaries of taste, but the man never got to where he was today by being a hack, so its best to dig a little deeper to see what he’s really getting at. What I think I found is an allegorical commentary on the way society’s values and morals have been slowly degraded and debased to a point where the population has become desensitized against great horror; an inescapable wave eroding the ethics of the population to the point where the well-being of their fellow man means nothing. Dropping this kind of idea inside the horror genre enables Ennis to take plenty of risks with what he presents – you could even say he’s gone all postmodern on us, commenting on how much it takes to get a strong reaction out of people these days while delivering – with the help from the brutal and twisted pen of Burrows – imagery that is grotesque enough to elicit such a reaction. Well, that’s what I read into it anyway. Either I’m right, or Ennis is just writing a book where a bunch of pervy zombies kill and mutilate folk for shits and giggles. I’d like to hope I am right though! 8/10

James R: Last month I commented that this miniseries was good fun (in a horribly pervy way) but I felt that it was just more of the same every month – with Ennis publicly declaring that this was a ‘real world’ apocalypse – there was no salvation for the survivors, just day-to-day pandemonium… and while that’s all well and good, it makes for a horribly predictable comic. Apply this formula: every issue, there will be a) a flashback that shows how one of the group was killed (as a result of i) naivety or ii) misfortune) and this will be combined with b) a sequence where the survivors question their humanity and future against a backdrop of c) nefarious murder/rape. Hmm. I expect more invention for my cash than this. 4/10

Writer: Peter David
Art: Ronan Cliquet
Marvel $2.99

Andy H: Now this is better. The earlier issues of this title just didn't seem quite
right; this issue appears to be heading in the right direction. Logan and Kitty are visiting the 'American Japanese Institute and find themselves separated and involved in a face off with the Hand. Being in New York, if there are naughty ninjas about Daredevil can't be far away, and he isn't! All we need now is the ‘lady in red’ and we've got a full house. Peter David handles all the characters well and the plot is not a complicated affair. The art is fine, nice big in-your-face pages, without being too in your face. All in all a good old fashioned Wolverine romp, which I will continue to follow. Also, love the next issue blurb 'more ninja fighty stuff' - you just can't go wrong with that! 6/10

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Wes Craig
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: We get a good finish to the Phyla and Drax centred mini-arc as the duo - with a little help from a special guest - take on the diabolical Maelstrom and the Dragon of the Moon. I wasn't quite sure where Abnett and Lanning were headed with this particular jaunt but th
e payoff may make this book incredibly interesting over the year ahead. Phyla's future with the team is now intriguing and the machinations in the other space-based books have allowed the writers to go down this route. Having two writers working so well across so many titles should be giving other scribes (ahem, Mr Bendis!) an idea of how to handle a universe of characters successfully. Craig's work is decent for a second issue in a row and I'd like to see him given further duties on this or a similar title. 8/10

Writers: Zander Cannon & Kevin Cannon
Art: Daxiong
DC/Wildstorm $2.99

James R: After the fantastic Season Two mini-series I was hoping that this special would tie up some of the dangling ends from Zander Cannon’s detailed plot. There was some sense of continuity, but sadly this courtroom drama, designed to give Top 10 even more of a cop show feel, was a bit of a non-event. Pointless, I’m sorry to say. 4/10

Writer: C.B. Cebulski
Art: Giuseppe Camuncoli and Jesse Delperdang
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: I'll look back at the X-Infernus mini and remember that it was a good read overall but this final piece of the puzzle wasn't as enjoyable as the instalments before it. Witchfire makes her final gamble to release the fiends of Limbo and Nightcrawler's X-Men are still fighting for their lives - or so we're supposed to believe. This book is so focused on the connections between Illyana and Pixie that many of the other characters' roles are made redundant. Rockslide and Mercury's foray into Limbo is almost, almost pointless and even Wolverine and Colossus are simply 'along for the ride' by this time. This wouldn't be a bad thing if the ending weren't somewhat confusing with some strangely written reactions from various characters. 6/10

Writer: Roger Langridge
Art: Roger Langridge
Boom! Studios $2.99

Matt C: You have to be of a certain age to remember The Muppet Show in its classic incarnation (the ‘90s comeback had its moments but failed to take hold and sank very quickly) and the format of sketches interspersed with backstage shenanigans was strong enough that you’ll feel in very familiar surroundings with this book. I have to admit I did get a massive nostalgic kick from reading it, and Langridge has a definite knack for replicating the mix of clever moments and so-bad-its-good comedy. I'm not sure if I’d come back to it on a frequent basis – nostalgia can only take you so far – and I’m not sure if there’ll be enough “kids” out there familiar enough with the Muppets in this scenario for it to gain a sizeable audience. It’s a blast when reading it but I don't know how much of that’s down to the memories it triggers of the old TV show. 7/10

Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Koi Pham & Danny Miki
Marvel $2.99

James R: …or Avengers: The Losers! as Marvel would never dream of calling it, but it’s clear that at the end of this story arc Dan Slott has got a ‘lucky dip’ of Marvel characters that are currently not in their own books (the Young Avengers, U.S. Agent) or are about to have their titles re-shuffled (Hulk, Hercules & Amadeus Cho) and it’s all a bit so-so. Slott always injects a welcome shot of humour to his books and the action is nicely handled, but what can I say? With the fantastic Young Avengers on permanent vacation, and the Hulk books wandering aimlessly, this reads like a fill-in issue rather than an exciting new direction. 5/10

Writer: Alex Grecian
Art: Riley Rossmo
Image $3.50

Matt C: The previous Savage-Dragon-guest-starring arc didn’t really float my boat and I did worry whether this once great title was beginning to slip. First indication that Proof was back on form was when I got a proper look at Rossmo’s gorgeous cover for this issue. Simple, evocative and sending out a clear signal of what to expect when you turn the page. The contents are exactly what I was hoping for: Grecian captures a sense of time and place perfectly while Rossmo continues to impress with his rich, unique artwork. On this evidence, if the creator’s suddenly decided to set this book solely in the 19th century I don’t think I’d have any major problem with such a decision at all! 7/10

NOVA #23
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Andrea Divito
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: It's as if the DnA boys read my previous review! Here are H.A.M.M.E.R knocking on the door of Project Pegasus! Let normal play commence! This is a solid issue that reminds us of the distance Richard Rider has travelled from young, arrogant hot-head to wise, burdened hero. Even faced with his unpowered demise he still sticks to his principles and does what he believes to be right, even if it seals his end. The revealing of a supporting character's allegiance is interesting and further highlights Rider's ethical standing. While this issue is somewhat action-lite it still shows that Abnett and Lanning have sculpted this book and character over the past 23 issues with a good amount of care and it must, MUST be considered one of the most consistent reads in Marvel's canon. 7/10

Writer: Josh Lobis & Darin Moiselle
Art: Yair Herrera
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: Oh great, yet another Batman analogue! This one has an added dash of a Clark-Kent-style-secret-identity but you quickly realise this ground has been covered plenty of times already. The twist here is that all the major superheroes have personal assistants taking care of all their everyday requirements that don’t involve slapping around super-villains, from dry-cleaning capes to ensuring Christmas cards are sent out each year. There is a smattering of mirth to be found with this but nowhere near enough, and while Herrara’s art is very impressive its look is pitched more towards realism rather than the goofy tone the book requires. 5/10

Writer: Chris Yost
Art: Dustin Weaver, Paco Diaz et al
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Marvel's scheduling over recent months has hit some turbulence meaning that some of the plot reveals here will already be known to readers of the War Of Kings title. The Kingbreaker finale is a fine read, allowing us to find out just how the Starjammers escaped their perilous situation on the prison planet and this four-issue run has certainly fleshed out the drives and motives of certain characters who will play a major part in WOK. There's a brutal dust-up between the Starjammers and the various versions of the Imperial Guard and Yost writes a clever little play for Havok's powers. There are enough unanswered questions here without leaving readers feeling it was all for nought and could help people on their decision to pick up the main War Of Kings book. 8/10

Writer: Joshua Dysart
Art: Alberto Ponticelli
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Matt C: I can’t fault this book for its intelligence, its research, its passion, its humanity, nor can I fault the effectiveness or the edgy intensity of the illustrations. Where this book has fallen down for me is its inability to make me care or understand the central protagonist. If there’s been an attempt to explain why a pacifist doctor has become a violent force of vengeance it was too subtle for me. Without great knowledge of the Unknown Soldier prior to this series, the hows and whys are just way too vague for me. I admire it and can’t deny it’s very well written, but it’s managed to keep me too much at a distance. I’m done for now but will keep an eye on it for a potential trade paperback purchase down the line. 6/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Following the news that Brubaker is leaving this title to be replaced by Andy Diggle I’m guessing we could be beginning his final arc here as he brings the Kingpin back into the fold. Although the title dipped in quality slightly during the middle of the writer’s run, recently its picked up steam again as he’s introduced some of the kung fu energy he employed so well in Iron Fist. All the signs point to this being a ‘big’, ‘important’ storyline, and Bru has delivered so many times in the past I can’t see him dropping the ball here. That goes for the art team as well: the few pages with Izo taking out Hand flunkies in a snowstorm are beautifully rendered. 8/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Marcio Takara
Boom! Studios $2.99

Matt C: Another “unavailable in the UK” title from Boom! and while it provides about the same level of enjoyment as The Muppet Show ultimately I think it will prove to be the more successful. It’s more skewed to a younger audience than the Pixar movie, not exhibiting the same kind of smarts, but it still brings a smile to the face with Waid tapping into the same irreverent vein of humour that made the film so satisfying. Takara wisely avoids trying to copy the look of the animation and instead captures the spirit of the characters in his own style. A lot of fun and hopefully young readers in Great Britain will get a chance to sample it one day soon! 7/10

Writer: Zeb Wells
Art: Clay Mann & Mark Pennington
Marvel $3.99

Andy H: When we last saw Elektra she'd just been released after being a captive of the Skrulls. She was taken to a SHIELD facility to be cared for and given time to heal. Time moved on, SHIELD has gone and been replaced by HAMMER and Norman Osborn. Elektra is now a captive again. She must escape but even if she does, there's a price on her head, so maybe the outside world may not be any better for her. The opening issue didn't grab me the way the first of Wells’ Venom mini did but there's enough there to get me back. Elektra, when handled properly, is a great character and deserves to be brought back into the Marvel Universe. Plus if you are a fan of multiple covers there's a choice of two quite stunning ones for this issue. 6/10

Writers: Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost
Art: Mike Choi and Sonia Oback
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: I don't quite understand why Marvel isn't just doing a dedicated Messiah War series and putting the respective Cable and X-Force titles on hold for a couple of issues until the story has reached an impasse or conclusion. That way they could charge $3.99 for issues as good, if not better, than this and get everyone involved. And this is a very good one-shot in terms of presentation, plot progression and reveals, and will be essential to anyone jumping on this time travelling merry-go-round having not read an X-title for the past three years. Those who are aware of what has happened in and since Messiah Complex may however feel like half of this book was unnecessarily treading over the ground of what’s gone before. Not essential but worth getting if you're a completist. 6/10

Writer: Jamie Smart
Art: Jamie Smart
SLG $3.50

Matt C: It’s the kind of comic you put down and wonder what the hell it was all about, but not in a bad way. The “plot” has something to do with the apocalypse brought on by the titular daemon trapped in a pussycat and contains enough profane humour to utterly offend your mother, but while there are moments of inspired genius here it’s not one of Smart’s best creations. His work is most successful when it features solid, memorable characters (Looshkin & Bear from, er, Bear, Space Raoul) that worm their way into your hearts, but unfortunately Ubu Bubu himself didn’t have any endearing qualities to manage that trick. Amusing, but no classic. 6/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: Johnny an emotional wreck, Reed whipping up an impossibly complicated piece of machinery within a matter of seconds (or so it seemed!), Galactus wondering aloud if he’s finally found on Earth “those he might dare name… friends”, and of course the fate of Frankie Raye! She always seemed a bit unhinged and morally challenged so her career-changing decision in this issue shouldn’t have come as a surprise to the foursome… but it does, of course! Not the knockout we had last time but with two prologues setting up future storylines there’s blatantly plenty more excitement on the horizon. 8/10


Tom P said...

Ok, now Ed Brubaker that you have finished your Old Friends & Enemies arc, can you release the 2nd Captain America Omnibus!!! i have yet to read it and am gagging!!! Also looking forward to seeing how Elektra turns out always loved her as a character. Got to pop to Paradox on Sat, so got around to reading Secret Warriors this weekend, Its good eh!?!

Matt Clark said...

I'm waiting on the third issue of Secret Warriors to make up my mind as I'm not quite convinced yet.