9 Aug 2009

Mini Reviews 09/08/2009

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.

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Steve Epting
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: An exceptional start to the series that seeks to provide the definite story of the birth of the Marvel Universe as we know it during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Brubaker and Epting bring the same calibre of craftsmanship to this book that they’ve been displaying on Captain America for the last few years; the love, care and attention to detail that have made that title consistently the best superhero comic Marvel are currently publishing are fully in evidence here. Much as I love the old Invaders and Howling Commandos books it’s undeniably thrilling seeing a more mature and intelligent approach applied to this era, whether it’s expanding on the prologue of Marvels or witnessing a righteously pissed off Sub-Mariner extracting vengeance on a Nazi vessel dropping devastating depth charges on Atlantis. The art sees some of Epting’s best work yet; his evocation of the period is magnificent with Dave Stewart’s colours lending the panels a convincing historical hue. A superb debut. 10/10

James R: Neatly timed to coincide with Marvel’s 70th anniversary, The Marvels Project is a great birthday present. The Captain America A-team of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting bring us a tale of the early days of Marvel, with stories of the original Human Torch and Namor. If you enjoyed the Cap issues that flashed back to World War 2 you’ll know what to expect here. Brubaker has a great sense of the past, and sets up an intriguing premise for the next seven issues. Epting’s art also captures mood really well – from the intensity of a burning man to the scope of New York in the ‘30s. This comic takes on an added dimension if you’re really au fait with Marvel history, but it still stands up as a story in its own right. 7/10

NORTH 40 #2
Writer: Aaron Williams
Art: Fiona Staples
DC/Wildstorm $2.99

Stewart R: “I may have to give the second issue a look before completely dismissing this title”. Oh wise, wise words Stewart. Yep, picking up the second issue was a good idea as the picture gets bigger and clearer as to what Williams is attempting to do with this title. It’s evident that the answers to just what has caused the denizens of Conover County to morph, transform and become victims of strange supernatural powers will come further down the line and that we should simply enjoy the ride as everyone tries to cope with the madness. Sheriff Morgan is portrayed fantastically as the tired and grizzled lawman who takes on the other-world chaos flying around him as if it’s just another day on the job. His down-to-earth attitude helps to keep this story from flying off the rails and gives the reader someone to relate to. Staples art is great as she handles the assortment of mutations and powers with aplomb and I dare say that this title is showing some real promise. 7/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Marek Oleksicki
Avatar $6.99

Matt C: This is Ellis’ third ‘graphic novella’ for Avatar following Crecy and Aetheric Mechanics, but while those were both outstanding examples of the writer’s brilliance, I didn’t feel that Frankenstein’s Womb was in the same league. The main bugbear I have with it is that it seems too exclusive – unless you are well versed in Mary Shelley’s life, her wider circle of friends, and the speculation behind what prompted her to write Frankenstein, chances are you’ll feel like you’ve come to a party you weren’t invited to. After I read this I found myself on Wikipedia looking up the various names I wasn’t familiar with and how they connected with Shelly – I guess this is no bad thing in the long run, but I did get the nagging sense that I might have enjoyed this book more if I’d come to it armed with this knowledge. Ellis makes some profound observations about life and death, and there’s the suggestion that Frankenstein was of such cultural significance that it was perhaps the point where the ‘modern age’ came into being. All good, challenging stuff, but again your familiarity with the subject matter will probably factor in to how much you get out of it – Ellis is usually very good at giving history lessons ‘on the fly’ but Frankenstein’s Womb has him possibly too absorbed with his own story to focus on getting his message across to as wide an audience as possible. The overwhelming plus point here is Oleksicki’s art: atmospheric and with an impressive level of detail, it’s yet another brilliant example of Ellis’ ability to unearth hugely talented artists that have thus far escaped most people’s attention. I imagine this will improve after repeat readings but for the first run-through I was sadly underwhelmed. 6/10

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

Stewart R: With Destroyer carving his way through his own rogues gallery with lethal intensity over the previous four instalments I was unsure as to how Robert Kirkman would round out this highly enjoyable miniseries. Issue #5 demonstrates a writer working with ideas clearly and concisely and never overstepping his goal on delivering a vision to the audience. While Keene has had his adversaries throughout, the ultimate showdown was always going to be with death itself and it’s handled in a fashion that sits perfectly with the feel that this title has been aiming for. As expected Keene Marlowe refuses to go down without a fight and that brings an edgy, black-comedy atmosphere to this final showdown. Cory Walker’s art on this run has been nothing short of a triumph and he now sits firmly in my list of artists to watch. With all five issues in the bag I say to you now, trawl through the long-boxes at your local comic shop and pick this up in its entirety. Any illusions that this wasn’t going to be any good have been well and truly destroyed! 9/10

Matt C: After a promising beginning this went rapidly downhill for me. There may have been ultraviolence and cuss words aplenty but take that out of the equation and you’re left with a rather pedestrian tale of an old superperson on his last legs ready to pass on the mantle. There were a few nice touches here and there, and Kirkman does have a good ear for dialogue, but by the end I was reading it because I’d already crossed the halfway mark rather than because I was eagerly anticipating the final instalment. I like Walker’s art quite a bit, but I’m not sure it was the right fit tonally for this tale. 4/10

Writer: John Layman
Art: Rob Guillory
Image $2.99

Stewart R: A slightly brighter and lighter issue this time around from Layman as he expands on Tony Chu’s love interest, Amelia Mintz, and her position as the 'saboscrivner' writer for the Mercury Sun. It’s a clever touch bringing in the one skill – she can articulate the taste of food to the point where the sensation can be felt by the reader – that makes her even more attractive to cibopath Tony. The early pages where her skill is demonstrated upon the patrons of New York City are very funny and brilliantly rendered by Rob Guillory. The comedy in this title is working all the better for his art style and the ability of writer and artist to know when to up the laughs and then draw back for a small dose of tension. There’s even a neat, black comedy case of mistaken identity that doesn’t go for the belly laughs but instead induces a solemn chuckle. While this issue doesn’t thrust the overall plot along in any apparent direction it does introduce a few new elements and hints at mysteries to be revealed further down the line. This is still worth every penny of your $2.99. 8/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Salvador Larroca
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: I’m loving this title at the moment. Truly loving it. Not many books manage to pull off such a frenetic sense of energy from the events portrayed within but the Fraction-Larroca combination is really working well to choreograph the spiralling degradation of Tony Stark’s psyche. Bringing in the similarly unstable Madame Masque is a touch of genius and adds to the sense of history that Fraction seems to be aiming for, allowing Pepper’s character to come to the fore once again. Of course that’s not the only piece of the World’s Most Wanted puzzle and we get to see that Maria Hill’s woes aren’t over yet as it becomes clear that the after affects of her run-in with the Controller may not go away anytime soon… This is a thrilling, pacey title at the moment and I can’t wait to see where it’s headed. 8/10

Writer: James Robinson
Art: Mauro Cascioli
DC $3.99

Matt T: Where the first issue defined the main player's in this mini, the second gets most of them together in some convoluted fashion. I'm hoping the next issue will get on with pitting the team against a major foe, as so far it's followed the standard heroes-have-fight-then-unite-against-common-enemy pacing, but as the usually-excellent James Robinson only has five issues left to put a stamp on this series I'm looking for something spectacular by the end. Still, the interplay between the Green duo of Lantern and Arrow is cracking, and Ray Palmer's soul search is dark without being completely soul-destroying. Mauro Cascioli's art looks great once more too. 7/10

Writer: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Paul Pelletier, Rick Magyar & Andrew Hennessy
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Not quite the stellar conclusion to this mini I was hoping for. Any way you look at it, the Inhumans T-Bomb plan was a ridiculously naive gambit from the get-go – the idea that setting off a weapon which would mutate all races across the galaxy to the same degree, and believing it would bring to and end the need for war is the kind of foolish, half-baked scheme you’d expect from some deluded supervillain. The Inhumans are supposed to be super-smart!! The art is top draw and the action relentless, but it’s difficult to get beyond Black Bolt’s dumbass plan, which is Abnett and Lanning’s first real misstep since going ‘cosmic’ at Marvel. 6/10

Stewart R: These guys simply don’t seem to step away from their ‘A-game’ too often. Six breathtaking issues have past; from Kree-Inhuman wedding through to Inhuman/Mutant cosmic dust-up, and Abnett and Lanning have brought us a fantastically realised interstellar war. In this issue the titular Kings go at it in a hand-to-hand and power-to-power fight that was on the cards from day one but this is certainly no disappointment despite the slight predictability. With two of the most powerful individuals in the cosmos slugging it out Pelletier does well to convey the savagery that the combatants are displaying by using his angles well and Quintana, who has done a fabulous job through this title, uses blues and yellows perfectly to show the two sides in conflict. Where previous Marvel events have either crumpled under the weight of the ideas or suffered from severe mismanagement of the plot, DnA have held onto the reigns with confidence, utilising tie-in stories to enhance but never detract from the main title, and never letting their vision wander from the tale that needed to be told. Perhaps it’s the partnership that helps to cement the ideas in place and prevent them losing impetus or focus but whatever it is it really mustn’t stop any time soon. Cosmic stuff. 9/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Peter Krause
Boom! Studios $0.99

Matt T: Nice to see this book taking a turn for the better by adding some intrigue behind the Plutonian's transformation from good to evil. It seems there's far more to him than meets the eye, and the heroes’ willingness to bring in a potential supervillain. Rather than the death and destruction of the last few issues this change of pace fills in some of the blanks and raises some new questions, making me think there's far more to this series than a build-up to a big fight. 8/10

James R: Irredeemable is a great concept of course – who doesn’t want to see Superman go bonkers and terrify the world’s population? However, after a strong start, I was starting to worry if the concept could keep going indefinitely. This month’s issue goes some way to proving me wrong. The Plutonian shows that he is a psychological as well as a physical terror for the people of Earth, and we get more clues as to what role Modeus, the former arch-villain, may play in the coming issues. To round it off, the people at Boom! are charging you less than a buck (and way less than a pound) for the ride. The only drawback to this is Peter Krause’ art which looks a little rushed in places (check out pages 14-15). However, this doesn’t take away from a compelling tale, well told by Waid. 7/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Bryan Hitch & Butch Guice
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Man, that cover is so misleading. You see that image of Cap with der F├╝hrer in a headlock and you’d have every right to expect an issue of wall-to-wall action with Sentinel of Liberty opening a can of whup ass on any Nazi that crosses his path. Well, obviously we don’t get anything of the sort here because a) that’s not what Reborn is about, and b) Cap brawling with Hitler isn’t something Brubaker would put in a story unless he had his tongue firmly in his cheek. Having read the issue now I wonder whether Steve Rogers engaging in fisticuffs with the upper echelons of the Third Reich might have livened things up considerably, because at the moment this minseries is failing to excite the way it should be. With Rogers trapped in his own body, witnessing events that have already transpired, we’re in a situation where we aren’t being shown anything new, and the contemporary stuff with Bucky etc versus Norman Osborn and his cronies isn’t really a heck of a lot different to what’s going on in countless other Dark Reign titles. On the plus side, Hitch’s art continues to outclass his recent work on FF (and I have a sneaking suspicion Guice may be the secret weapon here) and the scene with Rogers and Erskine was wonderfully written. I just want a lot more out of this book than it’s currently delivering. 6/10

Matt T: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. We all saw Reborn coming a mile off, but I secretly hoped Brubaker could turn it into something special. Instead we have an issue of reruns with modern Cap getting involved in a punch-up with the Dark Avengers. I have to say the involvement of Norman Osborn is to the detriment of this book in my mind, as he just seems to be a moustache-twirling villain and little else. At least the likes of Faustus had some interesting reasoning behind being so bad, rather than just looking for public approval. The sooner this title is done with and we can get back to normal Cap, the better. 4/10

Writer: Peter Milligan
Art: Davide Gianfelice
DC/Vertigo $2.99

James R: After last month’s $1 opener, which was the comic equivalent of someone setting a whole box of fireworks off simultaneously – interesting but bewildering - I was curious to see how this month’s issue fared. I’m pleased to say that it’s much better. It’s becoming a lot clearer who the characters are (the Furys, for example who appeared virtually interchangeable last month actually come across as individuals here.) The tone is also a lot clearer, with the supernatural mixing with the crime elements to make a unique read. I can understand why many people might not enjoy this, but there are few comics writers with Pete Milligan’s eye. If you like a tale that doesn’t involve super powers, and engages the mind, this is worth taking a look at. 8/10

Stewart R: Nope. Sorry. I’ve not a clue what’s going on here. Milligan seems intent on having several incoherent threads flow in and out of each other without passing on directions for where this little ride is heading. There’s evidently some feud between mob factions occurring, the vaguest hint of some mythical or supernatural players attempting to resurrect one of their own, and a bloke who self-mutilated because he slept with, and then accidentally killed, his mother when drunk. If I’m missing something I’m not sure I really care to know what it is - my $2.99 goes towards something else next month. 2/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Mario Alberti
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: After the successes and strange cliffhanger of the main story in ASM #600 there was always a chance that this issue may have to offer up some further explanation of the events at May Parker’s wedding. Of course this also meant that there was a chance that we might get a glimpse of the Braintrust’s plans for how they intend to continue with the Brand New Day storyline. Now, I’m not convinced that I’m going to be happy with how this all plays out in the long run but Mark Waid is certainly one of the writers who seems to understand how to deal with Peter Parker’s crazy life in the post-BND world. There’s a decent amount of Peter being down on his luck again – even when he’s ‘getting lucky’ – and I appreciate Waid throwing in Spider-Man heroics to act as a distraction from his everyday woes. Alberti’s art is not my usual cup of tea but it actually works through this story quite well. The back up tale from Bendis and Quesada harks back to the usual power/responsibility equation and isn’t anything other than an indulgence from them. 7/10

Matt C: I think I’ve reached the stage where picking up a Spider-Man book on an almost weekly basis isn’t such an exciting proposition anymore. Now in its second year following Brand New Day it seems that the ‘soap opera’ elements of Peter Parker’s life are getting a little bit too pronounced for my liking. Now, obviously I realise that’s always been an integral part of the Spidey Universe but it’s got to a point where I’m not overly fussed with Peter’s personal life – maybe I just feel like I've OD’d on the more melodramatic elements due to the title's regularity. I’m going to lay off this ASM for a while, although certain artists may draw me back on occasion (Martin, Bachalo) – it’s a perfectly competent Spider-Man comic (bar the atrocious Bendis/Quesada back-up – what the hell is with the lumpy-face Spidey?!) but honestly, how many of those does one man really need? 6/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: Kerry Gammil & John Byrne
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: A filler issue. With Susan in hospital and Reed, along with various ‘celebrity’ doctors, at a loss over her condition, Alicia tells She Hulk of an incident that occurred a few months previously, where the Invisible Girl got to show what she could really do when a mind-controlled Thing went on the rampage. This is the first time since taking over the book that Byrne allows another artist at the pencils, although his inks ensure there’s a visual consistency with what’s come before. Fun, but not really on a par with the preceding issues. 7/10

1 comment:

Tom P said...

The Marvel Project was an incredible first issue. I loved the Human-Torch stuff and the Sub-Mariner smacking some Nazi was very cool. I think it more than deserves 10/10, It all begins here indeed.