3 May 2009

Mini Reviews 03/05/2009

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.


DARK REIGN: THE CABAL #1
Writers: Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction, Rick Remender, Kieron Gillen & Peter Milligan
Art: Adi Granov, Daniel Acuna, Max Fiumara, Carmine Di Giandomenico & Tonci Zonjic
Marel $3.99

Stewart R: What a mixed bag we have here: five Cabal members, five stories, and five varying levels of success. The writers have been given 8 pages each to provide further insight into the motivations of each member of Osborn’s ‘government’ and it appears that everyone has approached the project from a different angle. Doom’s daydream is entertaining enough but offers nothing new, while the story involving his visit from Loki is throwaway at best and simply acts as a thinly hidden advert for Thor #601. Gillen’s Namor short aims to highlight how the Prince of Atlantis governs his people but fails bring anything original to the table. Being an Uncanny X-Men reader myself means that the Emma Frost story holds a little more resonance with the happenings in that book and provides a glimpse at where the White Queen has come from and where she may be heading. The true highlight here has to be the Hood tale which delves into the history of Parker Robbins for a nose around and shows us that his character is possibly the most interesting and tragic of Osborn’s ‘braintrust’. While there is some new backstory offered here I’m not sure it warrants the $3.99 price tag and think that this may have been better served as five separate one shots for each character. 5/10

Matt C: Even though I’m not overly enamoured with the Dark Reign concept as a whole it was the selection of writers assembled for this one-shot that convinced me to give it a punt. But, while there’s a definite quality to the wordsmithery on display, none of the five tales felt particularly essential to the ongoing story arc running through numerous Marvel titles at the moment, with some of them merely telling us what we already know. It falls to the art then to entice the money out of your pocket but, to be honest, although there’s a certain amount of pleasure to be derived from the varying styles within the pages, the whole thing just seems superfluous to requirements. Basically, move along, nothing to see here. 5/10


JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #26
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Dale Eaglesham & Nathan Massengill
DC $2.99

Matt C: And so Johns turns in his final issue of JSA (for now, at least) and it’s one of those 'family' tales where the focus is on the relationships between various members on the team. I didn’t find it particularly memorable, but then I’ve never had any major connection with any of these characters – Johns held my interest more on the strength of his storytelling than the selection of superheroes used over the last 26 issues. There have been high points and low points, but overall I’m not coming away feeling like I must continue to keep up with adventures of Mister Terrific, Power Girl, Wildcat et al. With Johns gone, I’m leaving too. 5/10


NOVA #24
Writer: Dan Abnett & andy Lanning
Art: Andrea DiVito
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: The Nova title gets stuck into the War of Kings but it feels like something of a false start considering that the titular hero is actually on a different mission at this point. As a result we see the inexperience of the new Nova Corps brought swiftly and brutally to light as the Imperial Guard enters the fray and this unfortunately feels like inevitable War of Kings filler to display just how blood-drenched this conflict will become, with DiVito’s delivery certainly not as polished as we’ve seen it before. Richard Rider’s transformation thanks to the Quantum Bands strangely takes a backseat, limited as it is to just 7 pages, but this is obviously due to the story coming to a head next time and so I predict that the final piece of the puzzle might just be something special. 6/10

Matt C: The most entertaining issue in several months as the Nova Corps get mixed up in the Kree/Shi’ar conflict, and their inexperience is highlighted when they come face to face with Gladiator and the Imperial Guard. Elsewhere Richard Rider has Quasar’s Quantum Bands slapped on him, keeping his life-threatening illness at bay, and giving him a chance to sneak around to uncover the real secret behind Worldmind’s transformation of Ego. 8/10


BATMAN: BATTLE FOR THE COWL - THE UNDERGROUND
Writer: Chris Yost
Art: Pablo Raimondi & Brian Reber
DC Comics $2.99

James R: Interesting characters? Yep. Good start. The Riddler has being re-tooled (oo-er) as a man who can act as a detective for the underworld - he can puzzle out stuff after all. In this one-shot he gets hired by the Penguin to track down the Black Mask for him… and that’s that. Seriously. We learn nothing new in this comic, and it tells us absolutely nothing of interest about the world of Gotham post-Batman. Occasionally, I pick stuff up against my better judgement in the hope I’ll stumble upon a new artist or writer – a hidden gem, as it were. Allow me to save you the bother here – this is utterly pointless. 2/10


THE MUPPET SHOW #2
Writer: Roger Langridge
Art: Roger Langridge
Boom! Studios $2.99

Matt C: I did suggest last month that a lot of my enjoyment of the debut issue of this book was probably down to nostalgia. Ok, I’ll admit I was wrong and I now realise the key to this book’s success is writer/artist Roger Langridge. Obviously there is a hint of nostalgia that comes into play here but mostly it’s down to Langridge’s comedic skills and his affection for the iconic characters. Fozzie’s first corny joke in this issue has me giggling away, and the quality doesn’t really drop from there as we get what is, for all intents and purposes, the TV show in comic form (and yes, that includes the awesome Pigs In Space!). Langridge’s art has a definite exuberance to it and it of course helps that the character’s voices are more than likely already stored in your noggin. A fantastically witty read. 8/10


SHERLOCK HOLMES #1
Writer: Leah Moore & John Reppion
Art: Aaron Campbell & Tony Avina
Dynamite Etertainment $3.50

James R: Now, those of you who know me will know that Alan Moore is my personal god, and I’d be happy to read his scribbles on the back of a bus ticket, so I'm aware that there will be an accusation of nepotism and favouritism about this review, but honest – I’m really objective here! Leah Moore & John Reppion’s Albion was a lot of fun, but I really didn’t care for their Wild Girl series, so their first issue of Sherlock Holmes was potentially in the balance - I’m pleased to report that this was easily the best comic I read this week. I have a soft spot for Holmes anyway, and I really like detective stories with a seemingly intractable problem (and yes, I guiltily admit that I like Jonathan Creek) and as a result, this debut's a corker; Holmes is accused of murder in a classic ‘locked room’ scenario, with a dastardly espionage plot thrown in for good measure. The only weak spot is Aaron Campell’s art - his characters are fine, but his backgrounds fail to really get the feel of Victorian London that is intrinsic to a good Holmes tale. However, this feels like classic Conan Doyle, and I’m certainly on board for The Trial of Sherlock Holmes. I can’t wait for the next part, and I managed to write the whole review without saying “It’s elementary…” 8/10


PROOF #19
Writer: Alex Grecian
Art: Riley Rossmo & Dave Casey
Image $3.50

Matt C: Rossmo’s cover for this issue is striking and memorable; rich in detail and unexpectedly moving, it’s the best image to adorn the cover of Proof since it launched. Inside his art continues to grow and develop, his unique style superbly complimenting Grecian’s melodramatic script (that’s a compliment, by the way!). This Victorian-set tale is shaping up to be one of the strongest yet in this unique series. 7/10


DARK AVENGERS #4
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Mike Deodato
Marvel Comics $3.99

James R: Well, colour me surprised. Against my better judgement, I really enjoyed this issue - Bendis finally seems to be getting a grip on how to write Doctor Doom, and despite my mild annoyance that dinosaurs and man are shown to be living together (look, I’m a teacher, I have to spend hours dispelling myths like this y’know!) I have to say that this little run of Dark Avengers turned out to be pretty good fun – like Ellis’ superlative run on Thunderbolts I hope they don’t drag it out for too long, but for now this stands as my guilty pleasure every month. 7/10


GREEN LANTERN #40
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Philip Tan & Jonathan Glapion
DC $2.99

Matt C: I hope this isn’t an indication of how the long-awaited Blackest Night will turn out because, even as regular reader of GL, I found this almost impenetrable. Too many characters, too many different voices and not enough cohesion to make it easy to follow what was going on. Hal Jordan himself brings a little clarity to the proceedings momentarily, but for the most part this proved to be a head-scratcher. And, even while though Tan’s art is generally effective, some of the panel positionings are almost as confusing as the plotting. A great series but not a great issue. 4/10


THUNDERBOLTS #131
Writer: Andy Diggle
Art: Bong Dazo & Joe Pimentel
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Part 4 of Magnum Opus ends the brief crossover arc and it’s entertaining enough with the usual mix of Deadpool’s crazy gunplay antics and the occasional pop-culture comedy reference. Which leads to the big question: when has any of that been anything to do with the Thunderbolts? This has been hands down a Deadpool story and cannot be construed as anything else, and the two T’bolts issues have been the weaker instalments of the run. Diggle does a reasonable job at wrapping up the story but can’t compete with Daniel Way for writing the Merc with a Mouth. Likewise Dazo’s art simply doesn’t compare to Paco Medina’s pencils and certainly isn't helped in that respect by Pimentel’s rather heavy-handed inks. 6/10


FANTASTIC FOUR #253
Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: More Star Trek style adventuring in Negative Zone for the FF while Annihilus answers phone calls in the Baxter Building (really!). This is a neat tale of an alien race who’ve been searching for a new home for countless millennia unsuccessfully… until Reed Richards sticks his nose into their business! A couple of nice twists with none of the dodgy morality of last issue and it’s good to see the foursome in explorer mode again, even if it’s only temporary, as their inevitable confrontation with Annihilus will arrive sooner rather than later. 8/10

2 comments:

Rob N said...

James: Nothing to be ashamed of because you like Jonathan Creek – it's a great show! Not only do I enjoy watching it, but I get to steal all the locked room mysteries for use in role-playing games, though one of these days I'm going to have someone in the game who watches the TV show too. My scenario will be screwed then and I'll have to switch to stealing ideas from some obscure pulp writer instead.

Matt C said...

Cripes! Who knew there were so many closet Jonathan Creek fans amongst the Paradox Comics Group!