12 Jul 2009

Mini Reviews 12/07/2009

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.

Writers: Various
Art: Various
DC $3.99

Matt C: It might have seemed like a headline-grabbing gimmick to some when first announced, but once you get your hands on a copy of Wednesday Comics and take a gander at the artwork it’s blatantly apparent this is a project that exists purely because of the love and devotion the assembled creators have for medium, and has nothing to do with projected sales figures and the like. In its oversized format the art is pushed front and centre and the vast majority of it is an eye-popping joy to behold. Azzarello & Risso’s Batman page gets things off to thrilling start with a brilliant example of how to whet the reader’s appetite within just a few panels. It’s an unsurprisingly (considering the creators) dark, gothic take on the Dark Knight, but the other stories generally aim for a Silver Age vibe, with the odd dash of Golden Age simplicity thrown in for good measure (fitting considering the inspiration for the title). Although Sunday newspaper comics were more of an American tradition, the plethora of weekly comic content available in the UK in ages past should mean that Brit readers feel right at home here too. Personal faves were Busiek & Quinones’ Green Lantern tale with its nods to Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier, and Bullock & Heuck’s Deadman opening with Bullock’s illustrations reminiscent of Cooke’s exquisite work (is there a theme developing here?!), but really all of the pages have plenty to recommend. The exception is Caldwell’s take on Wonder Woman – considering the size and format being used, the artwork and panel design seems far too compressed, and the story confusing and pretty much impenetrable. That aside, this is an exceptional production that isn’t something you can just flick through, put down and forget about – you’ll find yourself picking this up again and again, pouring over each page and discovering new highlights to marvel at every time. The only drawback is that it’s going to be a bitch to bag and board! 9/10

James R: Well, DC always seem to be the comic book publisher that take the risks: from the Vertigo line in the ‘80s, through to such projects as Solo, they are a company that like to try something that pushes the boundaries of comics. This week, they've done it again with Wednesday Comics. It's a fantastic package and great to see the huge variety of talent brought together on one book. I'm not going to go crazy over it just yet, as I'd like to see how the stories unfold, but as a first taste, Wednesday Comics is remarkable, and this is going to be an extra treat in my comics pile for the next 11 weeks. 8/10

Stewart R: Hats off to DC for attempting such a daring concept in today’s market - attempting and succeeding I should add! Unfolding this beauty on a crowded Friday night bus I was aware that I was going to read something special, and artistically it’s phenomenal. The Batman story is sumptuous in sepia tones, Metamorpho’s retro style leaps straight from the page of a ‘60s comic and Wonder Woman comes across with a modern, European or Latin American tinted vibe. There’s something for everyone here and that’s the point. Casual readers who only know about DC’s big three may pick this up and get delightful introductions to characters they knew little about and the bite-size portions keep the writers from bogging themselves down under a weight of ideas. Furthermore, the more dedicated reader can immerse themselves in the nostalgia that comes from reading comics in this format, so essentially everyone’s a winner. The only problem may be the weekly high price tag, but time will tell. 8/10

Writer: Adam Felber
Art: Mark Robinson & Rob Disalvo
Marvel $3.99

Matt T: There's a difficult line to tread with books like SKK, keeping the laughs and the crazy, Skrull-aimed violence up, while trying to inject some form a plot in at the same time. It's never going to be a classic, but goddamn it if there isn't the capacity for a bit of fun in-between the splatters of green blood. This issue seems to get a touch too concerned with the emotional development of the plot, while still failing to give any real hints as to why the Krew are making such rapid recoveries from a slight case of death. It's funny in places, but more focus on where things are actually headed would be good, as it reads like a series of unconnected, slightly clich├ęd sketches at the moment. And removing letters from dialogue and replacing them with apostrophes doesn't make people sound English. It makes them sound illiterate. 6/10

Writer: Matthew Sturges
Art: Luca Rossi
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Matt T: Well, this book is batshit crazy. Completely insane. What started out as a series of unrelated stories with a thread involving a mysterious house has ended up disappearing up it's own arse somewhat, with bigger ideas about the nature of reality and the like. It's not all a complete loss though, as the merry band of storytellers that may or may not exist are going to have to fight off a load of bizarre creatures pretty soon, and if the last ten or so issues have shown nothing else it's that Matthew Sturges can write a damn good twist. 6/10

Writers: Paul Cornell, James Asmus and Shane McCarthy
Art: Leonard Kirk, Jay Leisten, Jesse Delperdang, Andy Lanning and Ibraim Roberson
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Marvel have been chucking out these ‘character piece’ comics with fair regularity since the jump to a $3.99 price tag and they frustrate as often as they impress. There seems to be a mixture of both results here. The Norman/Namor story would normally be a recipe for a good battle of wills but for some reason Cornell weighs the meeting in Osborn’s favour, which doesn’t seem to quite match what has been happening with the Prince of Atlantis elsewhere. The Mimic tale is a simple history of the mutant’s powers and past, which goes into more detail than a lesser character deserves and makes me question the extra dollar I’ve parted with a little more. The Dark Beast story is the best of the bunch as he appears to get under Osborn’s skins, both pink and green, and it hints that the darker the villains that Norman surrounds himself with the worse his downfall is likely to be. Decent artistic efforts all round, though Kirk seems to have issues with Norman’s head from certain angles… 6/10

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

Matt T: I get the feeling that I'm going to pick up much more from this book when I can go back and read the story arcs in one go, but for the minute I'm enjoying the basics of a cracking mystery and some impressive tension building. The Harry Potter-esque hero still doesn't want to accept he may be more than meets the eye, and frankly is being a bit of a dick about it, making the bearded stalker all the more likely to take his head off. If that's what he wants to do. I'm still anticipating some amazing plot twists down the line, and I'm fully confident at this point that Mr Carey is at the beginning of what will become a classic series. 9/10

Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Art: Pat Olliffe & Andy Lanning
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Has it been a year since the last annual when $3.99 last slipped from my pocket for a bizarrely timed story? A strange release point for this tale considering that the events depicted must happen after #600, but never mind. What’s more worrying than the schedule is what we seem to be dipping back into with this storyline. I won’t spoil it for the many Spidey-fans out there but I’m sure there were groans aplenty when a certain premise and a certain name reared its head here. I’ll be a little upset if this indicates the track that the ‘Braintrust’ want to go down to resolve the Brand New Day scenario but these are early days. The Raptor character is reasonably interesting in terms of powers and motives but the fact that he can go toe-to-toe with the webbed wonder is not explained. Olliffe shows that he can kick-it with the best of the ASM artists though. 5/10

Writer: Dan Jurgens & Matthew Sturges
Art: Dan Jurgens & Mike Nnorton
DC $3.99

Matt T: I'm not sure if being less au fait with DC continuity hinders me when reading Booster, as this particular story seems more entrenched than usual. This isn't to say that it's not a good read, I'm just getting the impression Titans fans will be more onboard with this plot than me. With the Black Beetle returning and being all nefarious, and yet another shadowy string-puller in the background, we're almost back to Geoff Johns territory, but I'm more concerned that the twists won't be quite as clever in the hands of Dan Jurgens. I'm hoping he proves me wrong, as I'm really enjoying this book. 7/10

Writer Warren Ellis
Art: Juan Jose Ryp
Avatar $3.99

James R: I've said recently that Warren Ellis is in a rich vein of form at the moment, and the latest No Hero is yet more proof of this - in this issue we see that the world of The Front Line is very different to our own, and Ellis gives us a brilliant glimpse into this alternative universe. What comes across so well is the idea that any desire to change the world by force always ends in failure. On top of that we get a fantastic twist, and we're left with no doubt that next month's finale should make for a fitting conclusion. This may have started as a spiritual cousin to Black Summer, but for me, it's far surpassed it. Well worth tracking down when it comes out in trade if you weren't on board at the start! 8/10

NORTH 40 #1
Writer: Aaron Williams
Art: Fiona Staples
DC/Wildstorm $2.99

Stewart R: Been there, done that. Yep, North 40 brings nothing new to the table in its first issue. The small American town besieged by supernatural/alien evil has been covered many times before in various media – Buffy, The Faculty, Cliffhanger’s Out There – and it seems that Williams has attempted to take ideas from all of these and insert them into one single comic, and it just doesn’t feel fresh enough for the effort. There are some good points though – the lockjaw comment surrounding a rusty scythe is a neat, ‘realistic’ touch and the sheriff’s no-nonsense approach to events can’t help but raise a smile. Staples’ expression work is broad and detailed and I may have to give the second issue a look before completely dismissing this title. 5/10

Matt T: Ah, the first issue fun of trying to cram in a heck of a lot of plot into 25-odd pages. And North 40 does that in spades. Much like a Deep South Evil Dead, a couple of idiots open a haunted book and all hell breaks loose. Introducing so much stuff in a short space of time is difficult enough, so I'm going to suspend any concerns about it being so reminiscent of Village Of The Damned and various 'people wake up with superpowers' books, but next issue needs to crank up the interest a bit to keep me on board till #3. 7/10

Writer: Christos N Gage
Art: Mahmud A. Asrar, Jeffrey Huet, Carlos Magno & Norman Lee.
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: This is by no means a necessity in terms of the wider WOK picture but Gage’s tale of Gladiator’s initiation offers an intimate look at how Kallark excelled himself through his cadetship to become head of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. I’m actually glad that Gladiator’s devotion and loyalty above his own beliefs has been fleshed out and makes me appreciate where he finds himself now in the midst of intergalactic war. Blastaar’s story is also intriguing in that it simply and perfectly outlines that while the rest of his species moved on to become a race of learning and understanding, the King of the Negative Zone is every bit of the beast that we have come to loathe. The artist choices for both tales are on the money and they both capture the mood of each piece perfectly. 7/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy
DC $2.99

Stewart R: The furthest I’ve ever dipped into DC’s mainstream titles is with the monthly Justice League Of America comic, so I’m treading on new ground here to try to get the most out of the upcoming Blackest Night event. I’ve heard nothing but good things from my fellow Paradoxers when it comes to Geoff Johns’ writing, and he has supported their praise with this great issue. Johns’ depiction of William Hand’s transition from undertaker’s son to Black Lantern is top notch, clearly showing that from a young age he was on a dark path which Mahnke captures perfectly in William’s detached, staring expressions. The art is of the best quality and I’m surprised that with talent like this I haven’t stumbled across Mahnke before now. There’s a potential roll call here that could give away a little too much a little too soon but I’m sure we’re just being pleasantly teased. 8/10

Matt C: Geoff Johns has always had a great knack of taking characters that have previously seemed flimsy and two-dimensional (especially villains), fleshing them out, adding shade and colour, and generally breathing new life - and a new sense of purpose - into them. I remember a particularly impressive example of this approach when he gave over an issue of Flash (#218) to Heat Wave, a member of the Rogues I’d previously had little knowledge of, but I was completely absorbed by the tale the writer presented. In this prologue to Blackest Night Johns pulls a similar trick, taking Black Hand – a character I’m entirely unfamiliar with – and transforming what looks like a rather lame baddie into a disturbing and damaged soul. Mahnke’s creepy artwork adds to the unnerving vibe and after feeling a bit nonplussed by recent issues of GL I’m now far more confident that it’s back on the right track again. 8/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: Written by John Byrne, drawn by John Byrne and….. guest-starring John Byrne?! It’s an undeniably egotistical move from Byrne, depositing himself in the middle of his own fictional story, but somehow – due to the sheer enormity of the ideas and concepts he’s playing with – he pulls it off. Reed Richards is on trial for saving Galactus’s life, with the Watcher acting as defence counsel (he just can’t stop meddling in the affairs of mortals!) who trots out a succession of gradually more omnipotent beings in order to prove Mr Fantastic’s innocence. Loads of nice little touches in amongst the cosmic splendour, my particular favourite being the splash page highlighting how the multitude of different alien races perceive the Big G. 9/10


Justin Giampaoli said...

Glad to see I wasn't the only one underwhelmed by North 40.

Stewart R said...

Yeah, there's a small amount of promise there but it's only going to get one more chance to impress. Nice artwork from Staples though.