16 Aug 2009

Mini Reviews 16/08/2009

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: Mark Millar
Art: Carlos Pacheco & Danny Miki
Marvel $3.99

James R: Oh, I had this terrible nightmare… The Ultimates, that really cool re-working of the Avengers which set a new standard in superhero comics… well, I dreamt that Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch left it… and, oh God… it became the worst comic you can imagine! Then Marvel decided to kill off most of the Ultimate Universe in an embarrassingly bad non-event called… Ultimatum, and… what? It’s not a dream? It’s real…? Noooooooo! Well, fear not my friends. Wake up and smell the printing ink. It’s all ok now. The Ultimates are sort of back. The Mark Millar who’s not a narcissistic ego-maniac is back onboard, and he’s brought a grade A art team of Carlos Pacheco & Danny Miki with him, and this feels like The Ultimates again – brilliant action, and a cool final page that guarantees I’ll be back for next month. Phew, the nightmare is over! 8/10

Matt C: I quit the Ultimate Universe a while ago but this ‘new’ series is just the kind of thing to draw me back. No matter what came afterwards, the first two series of The Ultimates were relentlessly exciting riffs on characters we thought we knew as Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch took the ‘widescreen comics’ concept to the extreme in blockbusting fashion. I’ve heard nothing but bad things about the recent character-culling that took place in the Ultimatum mini but with Millar being one of the architects of the universe, if anyone can inject some genuine vitality back into it, it’s him. Hitch maybe occupied elsewhere but Pacheco, to my mind, is easily in the same league even though he – for some unfathomable reason – hasn’t attained a similar ‘superstar’ status (yet). His stylish visuals are the best thing about this debut issue as Millar’s script relies heavily on action and not so much on substance. It’s difficult to judge so far as there’s not much to it beyond an extended high-octane sequence, and Millar’s trademark final splash-page could potentially be either his most ingenious or his dumbest yet. I’m quietly intrigued, and I will stick around (for the time being, at least), but I’m not convinced this will match up to the previous Millar-penned volumes. 6/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Ivan Reis & Oclair Albert
DC $3.99

Matt T: Reading the latest issue of Blackest Night I'm getting a sense of foreboding that's cutting a swathe through the DC Universe, with there seemingly being nowhere to hide for the Lanterns or anyone else, even if they're innocent bystanders. There have been few comics that have gotten so dark so quickly, but only two issues in and we've already been faced with much loved characters going all undead and eating the still beating hearts of former friends. It's definitely one of the best executed comics events in a long time, and Geoff Johns is expertly weaving in the fates of numerous heroes without cheapening the major dramatic impacts or losing track of the main plot. The art is suitably detailed and even disturbing in places, and all over this is a cracking read. 9/10

Matt C: Only two issues in but I’m already beginning to worry that Johns may fall into that old ‘event’ trap of juggling too many characters to the detriment of a clear narrative. You kind of need a central figure (or figures) to hook the story around, and during the lead-up to Blackest Night I assumed it would be Hal Jordan (and maybe Barry Allen) – from this evidence that’s clearly not the case, at least not yet. Jordan still figures prominently this issue, but more space is given over to a resurrected Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, battling with Aqualad and Mera. The characterization’s spot on once again and Reis is pulling out all the stops with his art - the image of Green Lantern crashing into the Batsignal is pretty awesome – but I want to see the plot threads coalesce further to ensure this mini delivers on its promise. 7/10

Stewart R: While the first issue of Blackest Night was a definite success this issue is not quite up to that same standard. I’m unfamiliar with Aquaman and the associated family of characters so that puts me at an immediate disadvantage with that particular plotline, but it is interesting to see how Johns concentrates upon the emotion of love throughout the ensuing battle. There’s also some neat little points made about the anomalous individuals who Black Hand must deal with before the Blackest Night can fall proving that this is not going to be a clear-cut “battle in the face of adversity’ event. With Black Rings flying across the universe Johns attempts to keep the sojourns to the various locales brief and to the point, but it’s this brevity that keeps the reader a little at arms length, unable to get immersed in the story before being whisked off to another gaggle of characters who’re dealing with lost friends now returned as Black Lanterns. It’s on the chaotic side but then I suppose that’s how these supernatural, super-powered shenanigans would actually go down. 7/10

James R: Did I ever give a squid’s tentacle about Aquaman before? No. Did I enjoy his zombified corpse commanding Sharks and – lordy! – a Conga Eel to attack the Atlantean Guard? Hell yes! Whereas I’m confident that we’ll be seeing the wider galactic implications of the Black Lanterns soon enough, for the time being this comic embodies what event comics should be – the superhero version of a good summer blockbuster (which hasn’t hurt my wallet too much either – cheers DC!) I said previously that the series was yet to hit a bum issue, and this is no different. Although I know you have to go for suspension of disbelief in every comic you ever read, I did think while during this one: “I would be narked off living on Earth-0 – last summer, we all got mind-controlled by Darkseid, and had to be miniaturised and frozen while the Earth got repaired, and I don’t mind telling you that work wouldn’t let me count that time off as sick days. Now we’re all under attack from unkillable super-powered zombies! And we’re in a recession!” 8/10

Writers: Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
Art: Reilly Brown & Nelso DeCastro
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: The most fun I’m having reading a Marvel book at the moment. Herc has always been a favourite of mine so I’m thrilled to see that Pak and Van Lente are still finding immensely clever and witty tales to tell with him. Getting him to pose as Thor to aid the Asgardians (who, as Thor readers will know, have recently seen the Thunder God banished from the Golden Realm) is one of their best ideas yet, and having a now-teenage Zeus in tow (don’t ask – just read!) is a masterstroke, creating something wholly different from the Herc/Amadeus dynamic. It’s difficult to keep up with the endlessly changing roster of artists on the title, but Reilly Brown (have we seen him here before?) nails the humour of the characters as well as conjuring ups some impressive fantasy visuals. 8/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Francis Manapul & Clayton Henry
DC $3.99

Matt C: Never had much interest in Connor Kent’s Superboy but, now they’ve sorted out (some of) the legal problems with the Seigel family, I thought I’d give this a punt, primarily because of Geoff Johns involvement. He does a decent job with the script, giving a clear idea of who Connor is, namely a guy trying to figure out where he fits in - somebody looking to carve out their own identity so he’s not always in the shadow of his more famous ‘parents’. The art’s ok, but not really my thing (felt a little bland) and I didn’t really engage with the Legion Of Superheroes backup. I’m sitting on the fence with this one because, while I’m not exactly waiting for the second issue with baited breath, I wouldn’t be adverse to giving this title another look. We'll see. 7/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: What a great X-Men issue this is. Firstly I’ll say that bringing the Dodson’s onto Uncanny has been a coup for a Marvel title that has struggled under inconsistent art since Ramos and Bachalo went elsewhere. And now onto the writer… after a couple of years of various scribes portraying Cyclops as a rather gruff, occasionally loathsome mutant leader, Fraction seems to be giving us the great tactician that readers want and deserve. Add to that the fact that he has resisted dragging Emma Frost and the Dark X-Men into the villain camp and you have an intriguing comic where the various shades of grey mean it’s anything but a boring read. Leaving Norman Osborn out for once is a good move as it allows the focus to settle on the characters that matter and Fraction also appears to be keeping a few other cards close to his chest. The conversation between Iceman and Cyclops actually had me laugh out loud in – dare I say it – geekish joy as I got to the final panel. As long as he manages to keep his vision and focus this could prove to be one of the best Dark Reign tie-ins so far. 9/10

Writer: Peter J Tomasi
Art: Patrick Gleason, Rebecca Buchman & Tom Nguyen
DC $2.99

Stewart R: This was the action-packed Blackest Night fix that I was looking for this week while the main title failed to make me love it. The events here pick up with Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner as they head back to Oa and this fleshes out the Black Lantern ‘recruitment drive’ at the Green Lantern Crypt which was shown at the very end of Blackest Night #1. It’s becoming apparent that Tomasi and Johns are working closely with each other to maintain a certain ‘feel’ to this event as a whole and that's demonstrated here with a further study of various loves and losses for Corps members. Tomasi also resists the urge to dive straight into a full blown Black vs Green throwdown by skipping off to other corners of the universe to check in on Green Lantern Arisia and various Yellow Lantern interests. When the action does kick in Gleason excels himself as he depicts the GLC’s attempts to halt the advancing Black Rings. Great stuff. 8/10

Writer: Chris Eliopoulos
Art: Ig Guara & Chris Sotomayor
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Hmmmm, this had been a rather entertaining and lighthearted read as a miniseries but I just couldn’t get onboard with what was portrayed in this final instalment. It was always leading up to a Thanos appearance but to have one of the most intelligent, malevolent and powerful beings in the Marvel Universe characterised as someone who would monologue at a menagerie of animals who don’t understand him is a little misguided, and that portrayal doesn’t even remain consistent through the issue. Eliopoulos had an opportunity to provide a clever twist that would have handled and explained such a confrontation but instead it’s left the finale for what had been a fairly entertaining series feeling a little flat. The advert for a possible ongoing next year certainly doesn’t have me as interested as I once might have been. 5/10

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

Matt T: I get the feeling Unwritten will be a real classic when it's all over and done with, as right now the mystery is unravelling in front of me and I really can't wait for the next issue. The supposedly non-fictional character of Tommy Taylor is still trying to get to the bottom of his existence while all sorts of weirdness happens around him, including a mentalist with a scythe hacking up his friends. As Mike Carey makes hints at the secrets behind the various odd goings on behind the scenes, the action on the surface doesn't let up, turning surprisingly gory for a few pages in a horror movie-esque sequence. The art remains more downbeat than the majority of comics, although not to its detriment, and a special nod to the colourists for keeping the tones so muted. 8/10

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Adrian Syaf, John Dell & Vincente Cifuentes
DC $2.99

Matt C: I didn’t have any intention of picking this up but then I saw it on the shelf, the words ‘Blackest Night’ combined with ‘Batman’ were enough to prompt me to add it to my pile. Blackest Night has been pretty great so far, and the Batman line has been revitalized recently, so surely they’re onto a winner with is mini, right? Well, not quite. It’s a solid read but there’s nothing here seems that essential or important to what’s going on elsewhere as the Black Lanterns continue to “rise”. It also feels like it should’ve been titled Blackest Night: Batman & Deadman considering the prominent role Boston Brand takes in the plot. Art’s decent enough and the colouring gives it a necessary gothic tinge but I can’t guarantee I’ll be picking up the second instalment next month. 6/10

Writer: Steev Moore
Art: Cris Bolson
Radical $2.99

Matt C: The second comic featuring Hercules this week, although this is a far more traditional take on the Son of Zeus than Marvel’s Prince of Power. Radical’s previous Hercules mini was great bloodthirsty fun, and this is more of the same really, so as they say, if you liked that you’re sure to like this. Some of the dialogue is a bit ropey and the painted art is a little too polished for my tastes (though, as with most of Radical’s stuff it 's still quite impressive) but if your looking for a band of battle-scarred men (and lady) wading into the thick of it with weapons covered in crimson red, you could do lot worse than this. Hardly a meaningful or thought provoking read, but on a purely visceral level it works well. 7/10

Writer: Daniel Way
Art: Shawn Crystal & John Lucas
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: After the rather sombre ending to last issue where would Daniel Way take Wade Wilson? Off pirating of course! With the shackles of various tie-ins now well and truly taken off Way appears to be able to crank up the crazy a notch or two and with that the amusement and laughter increases. Way brings back the ultimate fall-guy sidekick in Bob: Agent of Hydra to aid Deadpool in his latest harebrained exploits and reduces the internal diatribe accordingly. Deadpool’s training of Bob had me chuckling to myself throughout and while Paco Medina is missed on artistic duties Crystal does a decent enough job of delivering comic book hilarity – though I must ask what the heck is going on with the blind girl’s mouth?? 7/10

Writers: Various
Art: Various
DC Comics $3.99

James R: So, we’re at the halfway point of DC’s much-applauded experiment. I’ve heard a few of my fellow Paradoxers voice concerns that the title had a little too much padding in it to justify the cost. Fair enough; it’s not a cheap read. However, using this issue as a yardstick, I’d say that the good outweighs the not-great, and that crucially, the good is outstanding. Of the 15 stories, I’d say that 9 are brilliant. I won’t bore you all to tears by giving you a run down of each, but a few deserve special praise. The Flash by Kerschl & Fletcher is superb. The two have a clear grasp of the one-page story, and each week have done something clever with the format. Previously, we saw the story split with an Iris West section, and this week we get Gorilla Grodd. When the stories are split, Fletcher does a superb job of altering his art to give each a distinct feel. For the record, this is the type of Flash tale I wish DC would do more – time travelin’, dimension hoppin’ physics defyin’ fun. These two should be given a run on the monthly title ASAP! That also goes for Azzarello & Risso’s Batman as well. Of course, the two did have a run previously with Broken City, but with 100 Bullets now done and dusted, it looks like they’ve got a much better grip on the Dark Knight; their strip represents an artist and writer working in total harmony. Finally, I’ve been massively impressed with Paul Pope’s Strange Adventures, which has been fun before, but this week went up another level with Pope showing the Earth-bound Strange as an old man who finds his life on Rann resembling a dream. This is an inspired take which reminds me of a Borges’ short story – this is a gem that shows why Pope is held in such high regard. So, can we call Wednesday Comics a success? Undoubtedly. It’s shown that given a tough parameter – one single page - the potential for comics to tell distinctive and idiosyncratic tales is still huge. 9/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: Real-life tragedy invades the world of the FF in this issue as, in a last ditch attempt to find out what’s ailing his wife, Reed Richards pleads with an incarcerated Otto Octavias for aid. Byrne cleverly wrongfoots the reader into believing this is another potential disaster that Reed and co can avert, but then the whole thing comes crashing down in a shocking – but low-key - conclusion. They’ve beaten Galactus, Doom, Annihilus, Mole Man, and many more, but Byrne wisely reminds us here that there are some things that even the Fantastic Four are powerless to prevent. 9/10


Danny said...

Hi guys, I really like your reviews and visit the site all the time. This week was great, so many awesome book came out. Personally I really enjoyed Blackest Night #2, Green Lantern Corps #39, Adventure Comics #1 and Deadpool #13.

Andy H said...

Thanks Danny. Glad you enjoy the reviews and really enjoy your comics. There's a lot of great books out there at the moment. Keep checking the blog and if you have anything to say please let us know.

Happy reading


Danny said...

Thanks Andy.

Matt Clark said...

Thanks for the comments Danny. Blackest Night seems to be getting praise across the board and it's definitely one of the reasons why I'm picking up more DC books these days.

Danny said...

Blackest Night is really awesome, I think with few more issues it will reach and hopefully surpass The Sinestro Corps War in level of greatness. I'm not buying any tie-ins like Blackest Batman or Superman, but at Comic-Con Geoff Johns announced tie-in I'm definitely going to get - Blackest Night Flash which will be written by Geoff Johns with art by Scott Kolins.