5 Apr 2009

Mini Reviews 05/04/2009

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: Geoff Johns
Art: Ethan Van Sc
DC $3.99

Matt C: Regular readers of this blog will know that I've got a burning desire to become a full-fledged Flash fan but up to this point a suitable gateway into his world has eluded me; I love the concept behind the hero, and enjoy him as a supporting player in various series, but, bar the odd issue here and there, I’ve never really clicked with his solo adventures. Consequently I’ve been pinning my hopes on Johns and Van Sciver’s proper reintroduction of Barry Allen to the DC Universe (let’s forget Final Crisis!) following their successful relaunch of Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern a couple of years ago. First impressions are mainly positive – there’s a heck of a lot of information packed into the pages (and that includes Van Sciver’s gloriously detailed art), which may exclude people with zero knowledge of the Flash mythos, but it’s absorbing and mostly exciting. I particularly liked Barry’s new outlook to life: every second matters because you never know when it could all be taken away (again). Not quite as compelling out of the gate the way Green Lantern: Rebirth was, but a good start all the same. 7/10

Writers: Brian Michael Bendis & Jonathan Hickman
Art: Stefano Caselli
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: This third issue needed to pick the story up and shuffle it along at speed lest the readership become bored with character introduction and team-setup. Luckily Bendis and Hickman appear to know this and so we have a great plot and action instalment where the Secret Warriors begin their war on Hydra while Fury catches up with an old friend for a quiet dinner. Hickman's portrayal of Fury is working well as the once confident and resourceful underdog now seems slightly lost and unsure where to find his answers. That's not to say that he's lost any of his bite but this is a former SHIELD leader who really has had his world turned upside down. Caselli continues to churn out the highly polished pencils and inks, providing some excellent expression work and fast-paced action sequences, but the special praise goes to colourist Daniele Rudoni who transforms each location with some delicious palettes. The first three issues of this book have been great and I'm looking forward to more. 8/10

Matt C: The last issue of this new series didn’t really grab me and I was considering dropping this if the latest instalment lacked the kind of punch I was looking for. Fortunately Hickman gives the bulk of it over to what’s basically a conversation between Fury and his sometime lover, Contessa, and its so masterfully handled with dialogue that really zings that it more than makes up for the fact that I’ve not really warmed to any of his team yet (with maybe the exception of Phobos). That being said, their confrontation with Hydra was exciting, Caselli delivering some frantic action in his distinctive style. I haven’t been disappointed by Hickman yet, and did fear that Secret Warriors would be the first time it happened, but if he can keep it on this level I‘ll keep on buying the series. 8/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Peter Krause
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt T: As is the norm with first issues set in a completely new universe, Irredeemable is going to take some time establishing the characters, boundaries etc. of the world in which the likes of the good-guy-gone-bad, the Plutonian, live in. The pace isn't frantic, and the slight hints of the reasoning behind the Superman-esque character becoming a stone-cold villain are vague and seemingly less important than showing how big and scary he is. How about showing us what happened sooner rather than later? The Doc Manhattan-style dialogue does little more than establish what we already know, so here's to hoping that #2 will pick up the pace. 6/10

Writer: Glen Brunswick & Mark Waid
Art: Dan McDaid & Joe Infurnari
Image $3.50

Matt C: I think this offbeat but thoroughly engaging mix of cosmic gods and suburban romance has finally hit its stride with this issue. The approach reminds me a lot of what Joe Casey’s been doing with Godland and Charlatan Ball, channelling Kirby-style concepts into a more contemporary setting with an irreverent slant, but Brunswick and McDaid – so far- seem to be more successful at making it accessible to the reader. Waid and Infurnari’s Tales Of Asgard type backup is great fun too, making an already appealing package even better. 8/10

Writer: Robert Kirkman
Art: Cory Walker
Marvel MAX $3.99

Matt C: I guess Marvel must’ve been sitting on this for a while what with Kirkman jumping ship for an exclusive deal with Image (and all that included!) but on the whole I’m glad its finally seeing the light of day. An ultraviolent take on an aging superhero who’s warned by his doctor that his body’ll give out if he keeps battling criminals, what surprised me was the amount of humanity Krikman brings to the characters – I guess it’s something the writer is well known for but I was anticipating something darker (which is not to say I was disappointed with the end result). Walker’s bright, slightly cartoonish art no doubt helps give the book its humour and irony, with some of the disembowelling on display looking rather pretty. A good opener. 7/10

Stewart R: I previewed this a few months back and must say, right here, right now, that the wait was worth it! Any writer given five issues to introduce a character, a story and the drive behind events has to set out the stall quickly and Kirkman delivers a first issue that does this perfectly. Keene Marlow is an old man who's been in the game for far too long but does what he does extremely well, efficiently and with plenty of bloodletting. Now that he has a time limit he needs to tie up as many loose ends as possible. Walker's simple yet effective linework creates a slightly cartoon-like world with a large dollop of visceral violence and for me it works. With the next four issues now set to cover the Destroyer's unrelenting mission this could be the blood'n'guts mini to pick up for 2009. 7/10

Writers: Stephen Baldwin, Andrew Cosby & Caleb Monroe
Art: Julian Totino Tedesco
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: Okay, Stephen Baldwin may not be the most credible actor of his generation (he’s not even the most credible actor in his own family!) but let us not forget the man did star in undisputed classic The Usual Suspects, so that cuts him quite a bit of slack, and to be fair this series has been a rather intriguing, well-crafted mystery. His pre-story waffle on the credits page is pretentious nonsense, but the story itself has had plenty of merit. A lot of the praise should, however, go to Monroe and Tedsco: Monroe's script is firm and propulsive, and he has a particularly good ear for convincing dialogue; Tedesco’s art has a touch of breezy lightness where necessary put pulls out the stops for the action when it arrives. Just a shame this turned out to be an unsatisfying and vague conclusion to the mini. Considering the pacing of the preceding three issues I did wonder how on Earth they were going to tie it all together in #4; seems there are some huge hints of religious involvement (the Rapture? the Second Coming?) but it’s all wrapped up way too swiftly for the reader to be left with any concrete answers (I’m not aware of any second series on the horizon). A shame as this was showing a lot of promise, and should have perhaps had a few more issues allotted to enable it to tie up all the loose ends. 6/10

Writer: Daniel Way
Art: Paco Medina and Juan Vlasco
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: This book should be making you smile if you're picking it up. I honestly sat on a bus this week chuckling rather loudly regardless of my surroundings thanks to Daniel Way's Deadpool exploits. While the first Thunderbolts instalment of Magnum Opus was moderately entertaining, this issue returns to the quality of Deadpool #8 and reminds us that this story is primarily a 'Merc With A Mouth' tale with the newly formed Thunderbolts tagging along for the ride. It means great things for Deadpool fans but I can't help think that followers of Thunderbolts may question why this team is being made to look foolish so early in their run. I've heaped so much praise on Medina over the past few months that it's almost becoming sickly but the guy just doesn't allow his quality to drop. I'm just left praying now that Marvel keep writer and artist working together as a team as that seems to be the only thing that could spoil this terrific series... 9/10

Writers: James Robinson & Joe Simon
Art: Marcos Martin & Jack Kirby
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Hot damn, I felt like standing up and saluting when I was done with the main story in this book! Robinson clues us in on how Steve Rogers was chosen for the Super Soldier programme, retconinng the origin a little but in a generally pleasing fashion. The real draw for me picking this is up was Martin’s vivacious artwork and the man doesn’t disappoint – the double-page spread as Rogers walks through a Brooklyn street in 1940 is guaranteed to bring a smile to the face (especially when you spot a future team-mate!). The back-up reprints a Simon/Kirby caper from ’41, and while it’s as naive and illogical as you’d expect from the era, there’s something tickling about a supervillain named The Toad (who looks suspiciously like Batman) trying to sabotage a baseball game! 8/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Francesco Francavilla
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Matt C: Although the writing remains outstanding I didn’t think the art worked all that well in this issue. I do like Francavilla’s work (most recently seen in Zorro) but I’m not sure he has it in him to really get sucked into the dark depths of human nature that Aaron puts his characters through. It works fine but it’s not really as depraved and unnerving as what we’re used to from Furno and Guero. This is still a cut above most other books on the stands though, and while I’m still unsure – three issues into this arc – where Aaron is taking us, it’s impossible not to be utterly gripped. 8/10

Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Art: Ariel Olivetti
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: Confusingly enough, this follows on from the last issue of X-Force in the Messiah War crossover, in which the whole group have been dumped in the future alongside an increasingly mental Deadpool. I haven't quite worked out the maths yet, but I'm probably buying twice as many issues as I was for a single story, as there's no chance of finding out what happens otherwise! To add to the annoyance this is essentially an issue of bickering and discovering that Deadpool has been locked in a freezer for a few hundred years, explaining his mentalness. It's something of a filler, with an amount of relevant back story, but at least there's potential for a cracking fight next issue (which, irritatingly, is X-Force). 6/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Sean Chen & Lorenzo Ruggiero
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: If this is the kind of thing that Hickman has planned when he takes over the main FF title then sign me up now because this issue was an absolute joy to read! While Reed uses his massive brain to figure out why the Earth is in the state its in - with the help of a machine that lets him look at several million other realities! - he continues to inadvertently throw the remaining three members of the FF into one after another of those realities, while Franklin and Valeria fend of H.A.M.M.E.R. agents single-handedly. The debut of this mini was no fluke and it looks like we can expect big ideas, thrilling adventure and a healthy dollop of humour while Hickman is at the reins of Marvel’s First Family. 8/10

Writer: Jay Faerber
Art: Yildiray Cinar
Image $3.50

Matt C: As Faerber himself says in his piece at the end of the story he’s become burnt out with this book after working on it for 8 years straight. That’s fair enough, a refreshingly honest admission, but I’d have to say the spark really left during the short hiatus the title went on before returning with the ‘5 Years Later’ storyline. It never really found its feet again after that, which of course doesn’t mean some of the cracking tales the writer gave us with these characters in the past are in any way tarnished. I’ll miss the adventures of the Noble family (although the whopping great thread left dangling at the end makes it obvious we’ll probably see them again one day), I’m just of the opinion that the series should’ve hit the brakes a little earlier. 6/10

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

Stewart R: It's war people! What is it good for? Well simply put, it's great for showing us how Abnett and Lanning can craft a book containing so many different characters and elements and, importantly, make it work. After last issue's devastating attack during the Kree-Inhuman wedding the various groups and sides set their guns to 'annihilate' and plan the very best way to ensure their enemy's defeat. These big crossover events can succumb to pointless big battle after pointless big battle in the wrong hands (see 2008 in the Marvel Universe) but we know that these are the right hands to be dealing with a story so big and so significant to Marvel's SBU - Spaced Based Universe.... c'mon it surely needs a collective name these days it's that good! - and they don't take it too far. The development of Crystal's character is looking like the crux that this series is going to hang on and demonstrates that this is going to be more than just a deep space slugfest. Two issues in and Pelletier is proving hands down that he is the penciller for this job and his style is occasionally reminiscent, in this reviewer's humble opinion, of Mark Bagely's work in the early to mid-nineties. Cosmic stuff. 8/10

Writer: Peter J Tomasi & Keith Champagne
Art: Peter Snejberg
DC $2.99

Matt T: Although this will be compared repeatedly to Irredeemable, the two are chalk and cheese at the moment. The Mighty is far more of a slow burner, with very few obvious hints at any kind of a background conspiracy but plenty of intriguing incidents stacking up to make the hero in this tale, Alpha One, look like far less of shining knight than initially believed. I'm slightly more confident that the payoff will be worth the wait, but at the moment the build up needs to be far more active than it is. 7/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: Sue returns home from putting a patronising TV chatshow host in her place to find the rest of the team taken out by a blonde and bearded stranger. At least, he appears to be a stranger initially but when his identity is revealed (if you hadn’t guessed it beforehand!) it’s an exceptional demonstration of why Byrne was playing a superior game to most other writers of the time. His art brings the right level of warmth and emotion when required, counterpointed with by panels packed with action and bristling with detail. 8/10

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