2 Aug 2009

Mini Reviews 02/08/2009

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.


THE STUFF OF LEGEND #1
Writers: Mike Raicht & Brian Smith
Art: Charles Paul Wilson III
Th3rd World Studios $4.99

Matt C: This is when Free Comic Book Day really does it’s job – I didn’t pick up the sampler of this book in my initial batch of freebies but a copy came into my possession shortly afterwards and I was quite smitten with the contents. Unsurprisingly the first issue proper is just as impressive, containing the previously published prologue along with the first two chapters of the story as we follow the cast of children’s toys into the realm of the Boogeyman to rescue their young owner. Set in Brooklyn in 1944, it cleverly parallels the nations mood as the toys debate venturing into the unknown to fight evil, while at the same time playing on childhood fears of what might be lurking behind closed doors or underneath the bed. As with all the best tales aimed at a younger audience it avoids sugarcoating its darker elements thus making it a much more appealing proposition for older readers. It’s superbly illustrated, with its sepia tones providing a sheen of realism to a world where toys come to life when no one’s looking. If Tim Burton directed Toy Story it might have looked a little bit like this. 9/10


DARK REIGN: SINISTER SPIDER-MAN #2
Writer: Brian Reed
Art: Chris Bachalo, Rob Disalvo, Tim Townsend, Medoza & Sibal
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Two issues in and Gargan’s pulling out the stops to make J Jonah Jameson’s life a misery. Reed’s doing a good job of filling out Gargan’s character and showing that behind the filthy great symbiote stomach there is actually the calculating, scheming mind of a former private detective. There’s also some nice background building for the Redeemers team of Venom victims as each one recalls their life-altering run in with the Dark Avenger. Chris Bachalo’s art is impeccable as always even in the face of the obvious time constraints placed upon him rather stupidly by Marvel. As this miniseries doesn’t seem to alter anything in the grand scheme of Dark Reign I simply cannot see why the decision to put this back by a month or two wasn’t taken to allow the main artist space to work. Bachalo’s style is distinctive and unique and to have Disalvo attempt – not particularly successfully - to blend his own pencils in is poorly judged. Be warned readers as next issue there will only be some six pages of Bachalo art before he pencils the entire last issue. Grrrr. 8/10


DETECTIVE COMICS #855
Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: J.H. Williams III & Cully Hamner
DC $3.99

Matt C: Not quite notching up the same ‘wow’ factor achieved by last issue, but it’s still impressive stuff with Rucka’s script both tight and exciting and Williams’ art nothing short of incredible. Batwoman is definitely one of the most interesting ‘new’ characters to hit the scene in a while and Rucka has created a great villain for her to tackle in the form of the murderous Alice. The Question backup, while not in the same class as the main story, is a solid read if a bit too brief to really get your teeth into, but that’s a minor complaint of an otherwise stellar package. 8/10

James R: Another month, another great Bat-book. Given our widespread acclaim of this title last month, it shouldn’t come as much surprise that all the good stuff from the previous issue – William’s peerless artwork, Rucka’s characterisation and a tidy back-up story – are still in place. What’s impressed me most is how Rucka is building up the backstory of Kate Kane. She’s gone from being a character I initially saw as a gimmick circa 52 to one of the most compelling things published in mainstream comics. A great title to cheer up a particularly miserable English summer! 8/10


ULTIMATUM #5
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Art: David Finch & Danny Miki
Marvel $3.99

Matt T: I complained before about this comic just offing characters willy nilly, making something of a mockery of the manner in which the Ultimate universe was built. As Jeph Loeb ruined the Ultimates in record time it's no surprise he's torn the entire roster to shreds in equally rapid style, and much like the issues leading up to this final part even more characters meet their end in a gory fashion. As it looks like the whole Ultimate line might go the same way I'm finding myself giving around a third of a hoot about it all, and caring even less what comes out the other side. I can understand that Marvel either wants to create clearer distinction between this and the standard Marvel U, or just send the series out with a bang, but there are cleverer and more engaging ways to do it. 3/10


MUPPET SHOW: THE TREASURE OF PEG LEG WILSON #1
Writer: Roger Langrdige
Art: Roger Langridge
Boom! Studios $2.99

Matt C: More madcap antics on the printed page from Jim Henson’s most famous creations courtesy of Roger Langridge who seems to understand completely what made the original TV show so unquestionably entertaining and how to translate it to a different medium. This new mini basically follows the same format as the previous one from Langridge, with the exception of several plot threads that will obviously be running through the next three issues, so if you enjoyed that one you’ll need to get hold of this. 7/10


SECRET WARRIORS #6
Writers: Jonathan Hickman & Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Stefano Caselli
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Bit of a strange one this. After last issues’ smash and grab mission with all of the excitement that that brought with it, this time things seem to tail off with something of a whimper. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, possibly more action fireworks than were delivered here, but this just seems to end all too suddenly and we’re down to question answering and loose-end tying. Caselli’s artwork in places is not as clean this time around and the scene in Tokyo felt rushed. I am enjoying the fact that the cracks are beginning to show in Hydra’s plan as it becomes clear that there are some members of the villainous bunch who are not singing from the same evil hymn sheet. The shock reveal at the end of the issue is also a nice surprise which mixes things up even more. With the next arc now upon us we’ll see if this title has the legs that we’ve been hoping for. 6/10

Matt C: For me, the weakest issue of the series so far. I’m still finding it hard to get a bead on Fury’s team of teens so watching them in action, no matter how punchy Caselli’s art is, doesn’t really engage me emotionally. I still like all the stuff with Fury, Dum Dum etc, but unless the focus shifts completely onto them (which it won’t) I’m not sure if there’s enough to keep me onboard in the long run. We’ll see. 6/10


IGNITION CITY #4
Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Gianluca Pagliarani
Avatar $3.99

James R: Purely and simply, Warren Ellis is delivering the goods in a double-trailer articulated truck of genius at the moment. In this issue of Ignition City you can see the master at work. Alongside the main narrative of Mary Raven investigating her father’s death and the mystery of what lies to the North of the city, we also get two fantastic interludes – we find out about the lives of Lightning Bowman’s henchmen, and the sad revelation that for all his journeys into space, one never saw anything outside of the engineering room. There’s also more on Bronco, (the man stranded away from the future) who has a cool exchange with Piet Vanderkirk. But the cherry on the topping here is the ‘mad scientist’ character of Dr. Vukovic and his fantastic introductory cry of “SCIENCE WILL FUCK YOU!”. Ellis has a rare talent of throwing tonnes of ideas at you, and moving on while you’re still ruminating on them. All told, a corking comic. 9/10

Matt C: My fellow reviewers on this blog have been raving about this miniseries so far and yet, while I feel like I should be really enjoying it, somehow its supposed brilliance seems to be eluding me. The ingredients are all there – pulp sci-fi from the first half of the century mixed with real life figures and Ellis’ usual big ideas – but it’s just not clicking for me. If I was try to pinpoint my problem with it (which, in truth, isn’t as easy as it sounds) I would go for the characters – they’re just not compelling enough for me to really care what happens to them. I’m not completely down on this book though, it’s still fairly interesting and maybe I’ll need to reassess it at a later date, but as it stands I’m ranking it as one of Ellis’ lesser efforts in recent times. 6/10


WAR OF KINGS: ASCENSION #4
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Wellington Alves & Scott Hanna
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Chris Powell’s day just goes from worse to worse. First he found himself trapped in the Null Zone after being expelled from his suit and then when he gains control again he’s confronted by some seriously pissed off Starjammers and the unstoppable Gladiator. Oh and he’s kinda been framed for murdering the one person who could stop the Interstellar war. I won’t go into details here for fear of spoiling the surprises but it’s one heck of a pacey ride. Abnett and Lanning should be applauded for even attempting to bring Darkhawk back to the reading masses in this financially precarious time and doubly so for doing a top-notch job. Not only have they managed in the space of four issues to add a worthy side chapter to the War Of Kings story but they’ve also taken a second rate Marvel hero, dissected and rebuilt his character, and set the stall out for an ongoing title. They managed it perfectly with Nova and they appear to have repeated the trick here. 8/10


WEDNESDAY COMICS #4
Writers: Various
Art: Various
DC $3.99

Matt C: Four weeks in and its becoming clear what the standouts are: Gibbons and Sook’s Kamandi, with it’s lusciously rendered nod to the comics of the early 20th century; Azzarello & Risso’s Batman, taking the most mature approach of all the tales in this collection, and being particularly effective because of this; and Paul Pope’s Strange Adventures, where the writer/artist gets another opportunity to show why he’s one of the most original talents working in comics today. Deadman, Flash and Green Lantern are the runners up, but out of the rest it’s only Wonder Woman that breaks the flow: the art style's quite nice but you feel like you need a magnifying glass to track what the hell is going on. That one aside, Wednesday Comics remains a weekly treat. 8/10


ZOMBIE TALES 2061 ONE-SHOT
Writer: Kim Krizan
Art: Jon Reed
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: What got my attention is the writer’s prior involvement in both Before Sunset and Before Sunrise, two exceptionally fine movies, so I was intrigued to see what she would do with the legions of undead. Apparently this was published in several parts during Boom!’s Zombie Tales series and initially it looked like this collected version would prove to be a winner. Set in a future where zombies have become the ruling class with humans now treated like slaves (of the edible variety!), the premise was very appealing, kind of like an undead spin on Planet Of The Apes. Shame that all the good ideas are in the background then, with the main plot centring around a rather flaccid human uprising. It’s all over too quickly which seemed like a real waste – I’m sure someone more versed in the genre will tell me this idea has been done before, but while it ended up a disappointing read after a strong opening I wouldn’t be adverse to seeing the concept utilized again as there’s plenty of potential there. 4/10


BLACKEST NIGHT: TALES OF THE CORPS #3
Writers: Peter J Tomasi & Geoff Johns
Art: Chris Samnee, Mike Mayhew & Ivan Reis
DC $3.99

Matt T: With so many different back-stories being interwoven throughout Tales Of The Corps it can be tricky giving it an overall rating, but this particular issue makes things far easier by offering two very similar stories. The first, Kilowog-centric tale is a slightly clich├ęd take on the 'war is hell' theme, but at least gets across the difficulties of going into battle with the various horrors the Corps have to face. Second is another Green Lantern-based story about members of a family being nominated, and reaching a sticky end until the youngest finally gets her chance. Both do the job of showing the Green Lanterns as the thin line between order and chaos, but unfortunately that's about all you get in this particular issue. The rest is filler, with a Superboy preview and Director's Cut of Blackest Night #0, which is extremely annoying for a limited series that could have packed the spare space with more backstories about the other Lanterns. It's done a fine job of filling me in on info I wasn't aware of about the main players in Blackest Night, but it's left something of a sour taste to only have half an issue worth of content and still charge me full price. 4/10

Stewart R: Ok, this is the first time that DC have missed the mark since I’ve been picking up the related Blackest Night titles. What we’re given here, to end this brief series of one-shot stories surrounding the different Corps, is two reasonable but by no means spectacular Green Lantern Corps tales and a pencilled-reprint of Blackest Night #0 with ‘director’s commentary’. Oh yes and of course there’s the five-page preview of Adventure Comics which is nothing to do with Blackest Night and should not be present in this $3.99 book! The Kilowog story involves the usual baptism of fire initiation, explaining little more than where the phrase ‘poozer’ came from and we’ve seen this so many times before. The Arisia instalment is pencilled with panache by Mayhew but unfortunately he’s given only six pages to work with and there’s not much to the writing there. The director’s commentary is interesting enough but to be honest I’d rather DC had put this on their website as a freebie. The completists out there will pick this up regardless but I will say that it’s certainly not an essential piece of the puzzle and should really be left on the shelf. A shame. 3/10


FANTASTIC FOUR #265
Writer: John Bynre
Art: John Byrne
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: And here Byrne shows just how confident he was by this stage as he removes the most popular member of the foursome and replaces them with someone quite unexpected: the not-so-savage She-Hulk. I don’t know how much controversy this caused at the time, but even though Ben Grimm is an absolute favourite of mine Byrne’s take on Shulkie as a sexy and sassy powerhouse had me besotted from the get-go and she swiftly became a new favourite (with Byrne’s visual rendition becoming definitive). That only takes up a part of this issue though; the rest sees the writer packing in an unsuccessful but amusing break-in of the Baxter Building as well as giving as a look at what Sue got up to while the other three FF members were off scrapping with bad guys in Secret Wars. When they get back (yes, it’s in the same issue – Byrne hasn’t got time to wait for a 12-issue maxi-series to conclude!) they don’t even have the opportunity do some explaining as another adventure begins (this one with potentially tragic consequences). 9/10

3 comments:

Justin said...

Re: Ignition City...

Matt,

For me, it's the art that feels off in this series. Typical Ellis sci-fi fun, but the art just feels very awkward and clunky to me, sometimes passable, sometimes really bad use of perspective and proportion. It tends to push me out of the otherwise enjoyable read.

Justin

Matt C said...

Justin.... I don't mind the art so much but I do think the facial expressions are a bit lacking and it's not quite up to the same standard as Pagilarani's work on Aetheric Mechanics. Ellis churns out so much stuff these days that I guess it can't please everybody all the time. But when he gets it right he has few equals! Matt

Justin said...

Yeah, thought the work on Aetheric Mechanics was *much* better. Also enjoy his other Avatar cohort, Juan Jose Ryp.

But hey, you're right, when Ellis is on, he's ON. Planetary #27 this year, yeah? ;-)