14 Jun 2009

Mini Reviews 14/06/2009

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.
This week also sees the continuation of Matt C's Byrne FF project.

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Bryan Hitch, Cam Smith, Andrew Currie, Victor Olazaba & Mark Pennigton
Mavrel $2.99

Matt C: Waitaminute, what’s going on here? Didn’t I drop this title about a year ago following increasing disillusion over the way Millar was handling Marvel’s First Family?! Indeed I did. But recently I’ve been hearing things. Things that suggested I made a rather impulsive decision. One of the phrases I heard was that Millar’s take on the FF was “ripe for reassessment”, in particular this current arc, Masters Of Doom. Ok, ok, it features my fave villain of all time, so why not give it another shot? Well, I went in with an open mind but I have to say all the reasons why I gave on this run before are still in eveidence. Millar is continuing to treat the Marvel Universe as his own personal toybox, knocking things down with abandon regardless of the long-term consequences (or in many cases, with no acknowledgement of what’s gone before). As with Old Man Logan, he goes for the big “wow” moments but fails to back them up with anything of substance. Obviously the quick succession of these moments makes it read like a bit of a page-turner, but ultimately it’s both unsatisfying and infuriating. Hitch’s art seems to have got back on track a bit though, but while the backdrops are rendered in fine detail some of the facial expressions are a bit ropey (I guess it doesn’t help having four separate inkers on one book!). So I tried, but I’m still not seeing the appeal. I’ll wait on Jonathan Hickman’s arrival before I get back on board. 4/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Facundo Percio & Digikore Studios
Avatar Press $3.99

James R: Phew, Warren Ellis is on a fierce streak at the moment, with Doktor Sleepless, No Hero and Ignition City all being highly readable and chock-full o’ ideas, and it’s great to see that Anna Mercury 2 seems to be up to the same high standard. If this issue is anything to go by it's shaping up to be an improvement on the sterling work in the previous run. This time Anna is dispatched to a parallel Earth that’s starting to punch holes into hers, and as with the first series, you feel like you’re watching some ultra-kinetic action movie. Facundo Percio’s art is sharper than before, and because this is Ellis we’re talking about, you know that the next issue will feature some cool high-end science concept or a maniacal homicidal bastard. Or both! If you’re a sci-fi geek, or an action junkie, this book won’t let you down. 8/10

Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Art: Justin Greenwood
Oni Press $3.99

Matt C: A welcome return for this series and it’s good to see Oni getting behind it in a big way (cheap first volume collection; chosen for their FCBD comic; now in colour!) because it certainly deserves an audience that will stick by it and allow it to develop. Regular readers will get no surprises from this issue as it fast-forwards through events for a new group of survivors (although there’s a nice bit of symmetry with the opening chapter of the first volume) but newbies should be well-served with this and get the gist of it fairly quickly. A solid issue of a series that I think will reward fans in the long-term. 7/10

Writer: Dan Jurgens & Matthew Sturges
Art: Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund & Mike Norton
DC $3.99

Matt T: For once a $3.99 comic that actually gives you something extra for the cash! With a Blue Beetle backup story this issue of Booster Gold is pretty good value, especially as BB was one of my regulars before it got canned. The main storyline gives Booster yet another Batman crossover, this time trying to insure he still exists after some tinkering with time by the Black Beetle. The manner in which this book intertwines with Battle For The Cowl goes to show one of its strong points, as it not only rewards regular readers but allows other comics to be introduced in a way which isn't detrimental to the story. I'm intrigued to see how Booster unravels this chaotic mess, especially as his mentor Rip Hunter is clearly hiding something. 7/10

Writer: Dan Jolley
Art: Chris Moreno
Boom! Studios $2.99

Matt C: Another Pixar book from Boom! to add to their Kids imprint, but as much as I love the movies (and I really love them – both modern classics!) this is pitched at a very young audience. Anybody looking for the smart, subtle scripting seen in the films won’t find it here as the book goes for a much more straightforward approach - which is fine, it’s a perfectly okay read that will appeal youngsters, it’s just a shame the all-ages approach Mark Waid is successfully utilising in the Incredibles book isn’t present here. 5/10

Writer: Christos Gage
Art: Robert Viacava
Avatar $1.99

Matt C: Christos Gage joins the likes of Garth Ennis and the prolific Warren Ellis, hopping across to Avatar who've given him the opportunity to produce a superhero tale with a far more ‘adult’ bent than he’d get away with at Marvel or DC. It’s moderately intriguing, with the kind of horrific imagery you won’t be surprised to see in an Avatar book, and there’s some strong work from Viacava, but overall the notion of a serial-killing superhero doesn’t quite grab me in the way it might do in other hands. Nothing particularly wrong with this ‘teaser’ issue, but also nothing that makes me feel like I’d want to pay $3.99 a month to keep up with the story. 6/10

Writers: Jason Aaron & Daniel Way
Art: Adam Kubert, Tommy Lee Edwards & Mark Farmer
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Daniel Way’s biker story runs out of steam this time, too hackneyed to be anything more than diverting, although Edwards gritty art is still effective. Aaron’s tale doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of the first instalment, but Logan and Spidey’s barroom conversation is nicely handled and there’s a good amount of humour to intersperse the soul-searching. Next issue sees the book turn into Dark Wolverine and me run off in the opposite direction! 6/10

Writer: Scott Beatty
Art: Carlos Rafael
Dynamite $3.50

Andy H: While the zero issue left me a little bemused, #1 gets off to a much better start. I'm guessing most of us know the story: modern day chap finds himself stranded in the future. The question is, how will this version differ from what's gone before? This issue deals with Buck's crash-landing and first meeting with Wilma Deering. There's also flashbacks to the events prior to Buck leaving the 21st century. All in all a promising start, story flows nicely and art is good (Wilma looks great in her Trans-suit!). Oh, and did I mention the bear with the ray gun? 7/10

Writer: Peter David
Art: Marco Santucci, Valentine De Landro & various
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: Monet is a character who, to me, has had far more personality than her powers would normally allow. Being a super-strong psychic makes her capable of kicking most people's asses, but the fact that she plays the spoiled princess so well means half the time she doesn't bother. Putting her front and centre, and having her unashamedly flirt with Darwin, makes this issue of X-Factor a real winner with me, even if we don't find out if Rictor and Strong Guy get beaten down by a possessed Shatterstar. The future stuff with Jamie, although my least favourite element, is starting to come into line with the other plots meaning a superb finish should be on the cards. 8/10

Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Peter Gross
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Matt T: After the first issue of this book I was mostly positive, with a hint of concern that the weight of the ideas behind it could potentially bog it down. Fortunately #2 establishes the core of a mystery/thriller, rather than a psychological investigation of our relationship with fiction. The central character is an interesting quandary of a man completely at odds with his apparent origin, and the unfussy artwork really emphasises the real-world setting. For once I'm going to congratulate the colouring in a comic as well (from Yuko Shimizu), as The Unwritten keeps things suitably muted until the plot calls for otherwise. Good stuff. 8/10

James R: After last month’s spectacular start, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the second issue of The Unwritten to see if it Messers Carey and Gross could keep the tale of Tommy Taylor to the same level, and I’m pleased to report that chapter two is just as compelling as the first. Taylor starts to ask questions about his murky past and finds that the worlds of fiction and reality may not be as separate as he thought. It might not sound much, but Carey keeps us on our toes by shifting characters around, leaving us to question who remains friend or foe in this title. (And any comic that features my old university, UCL in London, gets double points!) Erudite and fast-paced in ideas, and beautifully illustrated by Peter Gross, this joins Incognito as a buy-and-devour-at-all-costs title. 9/10

Matt C: Not quite the home run of the first issue but still a compelling read. Carey continues to play with the various methods of communication of the modern world and Gross’s clean linework is absorbing and effective. There are some minor concerns – whether Tommy Taylor is likeable enough to sustain a series; whether or not the mystery of his identity will be resolved quickly and what could come next – but Carey’s writing exudes a confidence that forces any doubts to the back of your mind. 7/10

Writer: Steven T. Seagle
Art: Marco Cinello
Image $3.50

Matt C: Looking back at this mini now it’s reached its conclusion the plot feels a little too slender to make it have any lasting impression. It was nicely handled, with a good amount of black humour, but there was nothing especially original dropped in to avoid it becoming predictable. What was quite special though, was Cinello’s striking, stylised art – check out his splash-page rendition of Hell, and then compare it to the Darwyn Cooke-esque final page. The guys got plenty of tricks up his sleeve so hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more of him. 6/10

Writer: Chris Eliopoulos
Art: Ig Guara
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: The team now assembled, Lockjaw sets off for the Savage Land to safely reclaim the next of the Infinity Gems. Well, that would be the case but you can rarely mention the words ‘safe’ and ‘Savage Land’ in the same sentence. Suffice to say there’s some amusing prehistoric action to be had as another famous pet makes an appearance and helps the team with their quest. This is good, clean fun and the sort of story that reminds me of Saturday cartoons in the ‘80s where animals often played the lead characters. The artwork is bold and bright and the jokes and laughs frequent. There are hotheads, leaders, and the signposted comedy relief, but it doesn’t feel clich├ęd. Eliopoulos appears to be moving this title around the various realms of the Marvel world and this visit to the Savage Land makes sense in the grand scheme, but my only concern at present is that the pacing over four issues may not do the finale justice when it arrives. 7/10

Writer: Mark Sable
Art: Julian Totino Tedesco & Juan Manuel Tumburus
Boom! Studios $3.99

James R: After last month’s high-concept opening, how did #2 pan out? All told, this one is worth your $3.99! I was a huge fan of Vertigo’s The Losers and I certainly feel that the genre of real-world based epic blow-outs is one that comics should delve into more. At the moment we’re in the midst of blockbuster season at the cinema, and one truism that gets trotted out about the movies is that the bigger the budget, the stupider the plot attached will be. Reading Unthinkable is like peeking into a parallel dimension where big-budget action movies are made for people with a more sophisticated sensibility. In this issue Mark Sable nicely splices together the mystery thriller elements of the Think Tank with a cool action sequence that the Bond movies would be proud of. The series has found its voice very quickly, and is moving at breakneck speed. Three issues to go and I feel there’s a lot more fun to be had from this title. 8/10

Stewart R: A great first issue followed by a great second effort as Sable sets out his stall for where he plans to take this title over the next four instalments. The fallout for the ‘attacks’ has governments pointing fingers at each other, with the same thing happening to the former members of the secret Think Tank who may or may not be responsible for the crisis the world finds itself in. Sable manages to keep the mistrust amongst the group to a believable level with various members having suspicions and secrets hanging over their heads. Keeping the story revolving around Alan Ripley and his family ensures that, while the plot is free to play the ‘cross and doublecross’ card when it’s necessary, the pacing doesn’t go spinning off into a confusing game of Guess Who. Todesco does another fabulous job with the pencils and inks to help with this, delivering every emotion required to keep the tension bubbling nicely, and the scene on the oil rig proves that he can produce brilliant work when there’s no call for speech or explanation. I have to say that it’d be truly unthinkable for me to miss the third issue! 9/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Greg Land & Jay Leisten
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: There really isn't much point in me once again illustrating how this book plays to Greg Lands strengths, and how the majority of the female characters look alike. This is a fluffy, featherlite comic with little in the way of dramatic weight or understanding of the characters, instead being a series of battles in which groups of Page 3 models get sliced up. My biggest gripe is that it isn't even half as clever as it thinks it is, and there sheer amount of characters introduced then thrown away with similar thoughtlessness and lack of invention really puts a black mark against Matt Fraction in my mind. 3/10

Stewart R: Well, I had the knives out last issue but this is actually a decent end to the Sisterhood arc. Fraction brings the fighting to a head as Madelyne Prior makes her last play to install herself in Jean Grey’s corpse and half the team take on the resurrected Psylocke. There are some really nice touches here from writer and artist alike; yep I’m sending a small amount of praise in the direction of Greg Land. While we’re still bombarded with generic catalogue-model beauties, he handles the action with some aplomb. The double-page fight at Westchester where every character only utters a single word in each panel is terrific and the Dazzler vs Psylocke throw down is well realised. While this is an improvement on previous issues there are still some questions, for instance, why has Storm’s presence throughout been so muted considering her powerset? Fraction may just have too many characters at his disposal at the moment, but even including Ororo here seems a little forced and unnecessary. Special note has to go to the final two pages of the issue which brings a lot of the mistrust, misdirection and secret dealings that have been occurring in the Graymalkin complex recently to the surface, and it’s these points that will surely play out in the upcoming run of Uncanny Norman Osborn (writers' liberty has been taken with the title there…) 7/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Ethan Van Sciver
DC $2.99

James R: Three issues in and I’m really enjoying Flash: Rebirth. It’s by no means redefining comics, nor is it even the best thing I’ve read this week, but dang it – there’s something cool about this comic that’s kept me coming back. Maybe it’s Geoff Johns’ expansion and elaboration on the speed force (in this issue, he draws parallels with the Hindu concept of Brahman, religion fans!) or perhaps it’s Ethan Van Sciver’s pencils (and excellent layouts) or maybe it’s just the fact that the part of me that’s still ten years old loves the idea that the Flash and Superman would ever get into anything as illogical and fantastic as a footrace, but still the fact remains – this is a quality book, and it’s good to see DC giving the Flash universe the title it deserves. 8/10

Matt C: There’s absolutely no doubting he’s a great writer – DC’s best – and that he has the knack of breathing new life into dated concepts, but on occasion Geoff Johns does seem to bog his stories down with impenetrable continuity. Most times he does the opposite, but with Flash: Rebirth there’s way more than one occasion where I’m feeling like my knowledge of the character isn’t extensive enough to get the full picture and, to be honest, there’s more than one occasion where I’m left wondering what the hell is going on! I love all the flashbacks of Barry’s first dates with Iris, but although the colourful, dynamic art makes it a fairly brisk and energetic read it still doesn’t prevent me from feeling lost in the plot fairly frequently. More clarity is needed to make this series fulfil its potential. 6/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Mink Oosterveer
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: Waid’s Irredeemable is currently getting all the hype and plaudits – deservedly so of course – but it does seem to have caused this gem of a miniseries to fly under many people’s radars. That’s a real shame as The Unknown is developing into something special. A world-renowned detective witnessing brain-tumour induced hallucinations while trying to solve the mystery of a stolen device that can measure the human soul on a quantum level(!), this is a gripping read that delivers a bristling mix of action, adventure and intrigue with real skill and verve. On top of that, Oosterveer shows he can whip up fast-paced sequences as well as dropping in some freaky imagery. If you’re a fan of Waid’s writing and you haven’t given this a look already then I urge you to seek copies of the first two issues out at your earliest opportunity. 8/10

Writer: Daniel Way
Art: Paco Medina
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Seriously? No? Surely it hasn’t been a month already since my last dose of fourth-wall breaking mayhem? Well evidently it has been, and this Way-penned, wacky Wade Wilson wagon wheels back into town (go on, six times fast!). We left Deadpool last issue having something of a William Tell moment with Bulls/Hawkeye and the story picks up again with Bullseye trying to decide just what to do with his ‘prize’. The radio station phone-in and Deadpool’s ‘antenna’ are amusing enough but it’s how the Crimson Nutcase gets back into the fight that steals the show with the emphasis once more shifting to the various parts of Wade’s personality. We’re getting closer to the first anniversary of this title and I’m struggling to think of a single poor moment in the run to date, or for that matter when I last saw a comic cover where the main character spoke… The only things to maybe worry about at the moment is the number of other Deadpool titles finding their way to the shelves and the possibility that the creative team may be in for a shake-up. 8/10

Matt T: This issue shows the depth of understanding of the spandex ball of insanity that is Deadpool that Daniel Way has. After an arrow to the brain he shambles around, with only one of the voices in his head making any sense. A writer with a lesser handle on the Merc With A Mouth would have simply had him pull the arrow out and get on with killing people, but Way manages to create genuine humour and some thrilling battles along the way. As a character study this book is top notch, but it’s even better as a laugh-out-loud comic which breaks just about every superhero comic rule along the way. 9/10

Writer: John Byrne
Writer: John Byrne
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: No exaggeration, this is probably one of the greatest issues of Fantastic Four ever published, but surprisingly neither Reed, Sue, Ben nor Johnny make an appearance. So how can I lavish an issue of FF with such praise if the titular stars don’t even turn up? The brilliant cover should give the game away – Doctor Doom gets all of the 22-pages of story to himself, and it’s absolutely, well, fantastic! I grew up with Byrne’s interpretation of the Monarch of Latveria so for me it will always be the definitive version of the character, and this is one of the finest examples of why the writer was so adept at handling Doom. Surveying his kingdoms, he muses “The people are happy and content. As I have commanded they be….” – lines like that bring an instant grin to my face, and there’s plenty more where that came from. We see the FF’s greatest adversary attending to matters of the state, teaching his new ‘apprentice’ the variety of tasks required of an absolute ruler, as well as putting all the pieces in place for his latest venture, “the ulimate destruction of the Fantastic Four!” (You know, that phrase has a familiar ring to it…). All that and you also get Byrne on fire in the artistic department: wonderful panel composition, intricate detail and powerful imagery. When it comes to superhero fiction, it doesn’t really get much better than this. 10/10


Anonymous said...

QUOTE Matt C (re Millar's FF): But recently I’ve been hearing things. Things that suggested I made a rather impulsive decision. UNQUOTE

If you're referring to my comments in the pub to you a few months back, they were specifically re: the two part H P Lovecraft/Wicker Man story line set in Scotland, and not any of the issues before or after it. I thought the Wicker Man story was very atmospheric, but I certainly wasn't recommending any of the other issues. - Rob N

Matt Clark said...

No, I wasn't! Other folk are responsible for the recommendation!

Stewart R said...

A bear you say? With a ray gun you say? I might just be sold...

Stewart R said...

My Deadpool worries about a creative team shake-up have been dispelled somewhat from the September solicitations which have Way and Medina back together after a small break of 2 issues. Ahhh all's alright with the world...