30 Aug 2009

Mini Reviews 30/08/2009

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: Michael Alan Nelson
Art: Declan Shalvey
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: I absolutely loved the first movie (Danny Boyles’s best in my eyes) but wasn’t really that keen on the sequel, so my thinking was that maybe this series would fall somewhere inbetween. Unfortunately that doesn’t turn out to be the case: where the first movie was wildly inventive and utterly nerve-shredding, this book (which is a more direct continuation of the events of Boyle's film than we saw in 28 Weeks Later) is incredibly formulaic. Think of any movie, comic or book that features a group of cocky individuals taking a lone survivor back into hostile territory and you’ve pretty much got the template for this debut issue (something like James Cameron’s Aliens would be a good example). I enjoyed the original movie so much because it felt fresh and new; the follow-up just trotted out things we’d seen countless times elsewhere and therefore couldn’t avoid being far inferior. Same deal with this comic by the looks of it. There are some nice artistic flourishes here and there but I kind of know already that I won’t be seeing anything I’ve not already seen before. I’ll sit this one out. 5/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Luke Ross
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: A deep and fantastic "YEEEEESSSSSS" whistled from between my teeth this week – in a public place no less - thanks to this brilliant chapter of the Utopia storyline. Watching the events unfold and Osborn’s grip slowly unravel has been a pure pleasure fest. Fraction has really been hitting his stride while other Dark Reign-related writers have struggled and flagged under the long running, cross-title concept. He really seems to understand what to do with a huge cast of mutant characters with deep histories and familiar quirks and personalities. Seeing Cyclops as a true leader is fantastic as his agonizing and worrying over past years was growing tired very quickly. Of course fans of Dark Avengers may feel a little aggrieved that this is essentially an X-Men issue but I’m guessing the grumbles will be fairly muted in light of the quality on show here. 9/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Dale Eaglesham
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: The release of this issue managed to highlight that I somehow managed to miss the last instalment of Hickman’s Dark Reign: FF!! That’s an error which will soon be rectified, but in the meantime I didn’t have any problems getting my teeth into his first script for the main title. After the less-than-impressive run by Millar & Hitch on Fantastic Four it’s good to be able to finally pick this book up again and get a full dose of the requisite blend of big sci-fi ideas, thrilling action and spot-on character dynamics. In fact, Hickman handling of the family aspects of the team is probably my favourite thing about his take on them so far, particularly the way he’s giving Franklin and Valeria an ample share of the limelight. Eaglesham’s art is on the whole really impressive, although I’m not quite sure he’s nailed the Thing yet (and maybe Reed is a little too bulked up) but if you’re familiar with it from his recent stint on JSA you’ll know he can deliver on the superhero action front. Plotwise, Reed’s secret rendezvous with some familiar looking faces reminded me of the Council of Cross-Time Kangs storyline from Walt Simonson’s stint on Avengers, but there’s more than enough here to suggest Hickman won’t be retreading well worn paths. An excellent start, all told. 8/10

James R: At last, the stellar talent of Jonathan Hickman gets his hands on the regular Fantastic Four after his great work on the Dark Reign miniseries. If you picked that up, you’ll have a good idea what to expect here – Hickman continues to examine the mind and motivations of Reed Richards, and the Marvel multiverse. I loved it, but to be honest, he’s giving me exactly what I want – the ‘Big Science/Big Ideas’ concept is the thing that I enjoy the most about the title. Dale Eaglesham gives the title an '80s feel (something reinforced by the return of the '80s cover title.) I’ve said before that one of my litmus tests for comics is re-readability – do I go back and re-read it when I’ve finished, or is it a bit lightweight? The good news is that Hickman has fashioned a compelling read that makes you think, and prompts you to look at it again. Not quite John Byrne brilliant yet, but a start as solid as the Thing’s noggin. 8/10

Writers: Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Art: Mike Choi & Sonia Oback
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: With the rather pointless Cable crossover (ok Stew, let it go now) well and truly behind us we are back into the happy readership territory as X-Force go about solving those problems that call for action first and thinking later. Kyle and Yost are completely comfortable with these complicated mutants and I’m glad that they have bothered to flush out the ending of the Leper Queen’s plan here, bringing all of the time travellers’ stories back together. Other writers may have passed over this quickly but allowing us to seeing Warpath’s ever-unforgiving nature is a good reminder that no one is passing through the membership of this team unscathed. The only misstep here is Rahne’s rather bonkers outing with Hrimhari and the Snow Giants, but when followed so well by a tense Wolverine/Cyclops meeting it’s no biggie. Choi is doing some great work on this title and the X-23 scenes are truly harrowing thanks to his touch. 8/10

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Brad Walker, Victor Olazaba & Scott Hanna
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: "I AM GROOT!" One of my favourite lines from any comic book in the past few years and it gets better every single time thanks to the writing talents of Abnett and Lanning. No other writers out there seem able to craft a truly tense, team-based story and fill it with belly-wobbling humour. Their other skill is to drag you off to one side of the universe in one issue and then back the next without ever losing scope of the bigger picture. In light of the twists in this particular issue it also seems that they are aware that characters inevitably come and go but half the fun is wondering who may reach a premature demise. Brad Walker is a revelation indeed and I’m hoping that he gets a regular run on this title soon as his ability to capture the cosmic-craziness is immense and the level of detail on a page is truly amazing without being overwhelming. Oh go on, just pick up a copy and see what I mean! 9/10

Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Frank Quitely
DC $2.99

James R: Dan DiDio described this issue as being a cross between The Dark Knight movie and the Adam West TV series from the '60s. It sounds bonkers, but it’s an apposite description. This is a comic that, when you look at the individual components it shouldn’t work, but thankfully it does. Firstly, it’s tough to get new characters to stick, but Professor Pyg is a brilliantly creepy invention, disco dancing and all. Even more surprising is how much I’m taking to Damien – like a lot of fandom, I thought he was annoying brat when introduced in Batman & Son but Grant Morrison has developed him magnificently. However, my admiration for this issue is now tempered with trepidation – given Frank Quitley’s excellent art, we will now have to see how the book looks without him. Philip Tan is an admirable replacement, but as to whether he can bring the same feel and level of quality to the title… time will tell. But for now, this has been a treat for even the most jaded of Bat-fans. 9/10

Matt C: It’s the art and characterization that succeed in this issue as the plot doesn’t really deliver on the promise of the first two instalments. To be honest, I was a little confused at points and I did wonder, “Is that it?” on more than one occasion. The positives outweigh the negatives though: the dynamism and kineticism in Quitely’s linework is frequently astonishing while Morrison has not only made Dick Grayson a worthy replacement to Bruce Wayne in a short space of time, but has also added facets to Damien’s personality that make him far more appealing proposition. The fact that the release of this, only the third issue, has been delayed is a little worrying though. 7/10

Writer: Brian Reed
Art: Rob Disalvo, Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Mendoza & Sibal.
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Sigh. It’s not that Rob Disalvo is a poor artist to any degree but it’s just that he’s not Chris Bachalo and no matter how hard you try you will not be able to meld the two artists well. It previously worked on New Avengers with Billy Tan but that was because two stories were running in parallel; here the difference is plain to see. The story is pretty decent with the Redeemer’s bunch of villains luring Gargan out with a threat to the city that only he can diffuse, and the actual battle is a delight of Bachalo carnage. It’s not often in a mainstream title that you also read the line “I’m… in… his… sphincter” either and Reed has the black comedy element sewn up nicely. It’s just a terrible shame that Marvel couldn’t have held off for one darn month to allow a single artist to work on this. Pure Bachalo next month though.YIPPEE! 7/10

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

Stewart R: Let me just start by saying that Doug Mahnke’s artwork on this Blackest Night storyline is truly superb. The number of double and single ‘splash’ pages ( often used as something of a cheap thrill in lesser hands) are a real treat as we skip from pillar-to-post in search of other nervy and tense Lantern battles. This is rather light on the Green Lanterns but there’s plenty of other shades that get covered; the main focus on Carol Ferris and Sinestro is thoroughly entertaining as they battle while brutally ‘discussing’ the merits and downfalls of each others’ philosophy. Johns’ is fully aware that he has a lot to cover through this multi-title event and he manages to keep the location-hopping fairly cohesive with some great teasers as the payoff. Finding out what part Agent Orange will play is high on my list of things to do next month. 8/10

Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Ariel Oliveti
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: The first issue of the Loeb/McGuiness Hulk was enough to make me steer clear of the character for a while, but now that Greg Pak has returned to the main title I’m more than willing to give the Green Goliath’s adventures another look. It’s a pretty good start: Banner’s ‘meeting’ with the “smartest people on the planet” was well executed and the exaggerated realism of Oliveti’s art seems like a good fit for the tone of the story. I’m still not completely convinced by Skaar, but at least the “Who’s Conan?” comment shows Pak’s got a good sense of humour when it comes to the criticism levelled at the character. Perhaps the most surprising thing for me is how much I enjoyed the All New Savage She-Hulk backup – it features the same kind of witty, restless vibe that you see in writer Fred Van Lente’s contributions to Incredible Hercules, so I’m now wondering whether I made an error completely ignoring the recent mini. A nice package; not quite a definite addition to the pull-list quite yet but I’m willing to give it an opportunity to make the grade. 7/10

Writer: J.T. Krul
Art: Ed Benes, Rob Hunter, Jon Sibal & JP Mayer
DC $2.99

Stewart R: My knowledge of the Teen Titans only extends to the recent animated series but that has been enough to get me through this great first issue. I really enjoyed the focus on the new Hawk and Dove - Ed Benes’ artwork can do no harm to that whatsoever - and I’m loving the intrigue brought up by the Black Ring having serious problems with the Doves, both past and present. It’s these anomalies that are going to make Blackest Night even more enjoyable as the tale progresses. Benes brings his action talents to the fore to present the clash between Hawk & Dove and the newly resurrected Black Ring Hawk, and Krul maintains the girls clashing personalities nicely. The emotional rollercoaster with Beast Boy and Donna Troy is sure to kick off next issue and I will certainly be onboard for that. 8/10

Writer: Christos N. Gage
Art: Rafa Sandoval & Roger Bonet
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: The free ability to create new heroes and villains in this title has been a masterstroke and Mr Gage delivers a great double-chapter format this time out. The first concentrates on the origin and lives of Johnny Guitar and Dr Sax as they go from petty thieves to teched-out minor villains to Initiative heroes, and it’s a rather sad and poignant tale of camaraderie and doing ‘the right thing’ regardless of the cost. The second chapter gets back to current events as the Initiative are thrown into a costly battle against Blastaar’s forces at 42, and the inclusion of Butterball and Dragon-Man is highly entertaining. Sandoval is a truly talented artist and I can see him rising quickly up the ranks to become one of the industry’s best. 8/10

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

Matt C: The concluding part of this excellent miniseries did seem to let the side down a bit as it rushed through events a little too swiftly for my liking. It wasn’t a major problem though – certainly nothing to diminish the book’s overall quality – as even though it felt like it was over rather quickly, the content was still thoroughly riveting, the ideas genuinely arresting. And anyway, even though this mini’s done, another’s on the way soon so I get a chance to spend time with these engaging characters again. Not a solid gold finale but the series as a whole has been pretty special and it's definitely something to pick up as a TPB if you missed out this time around. 7/10

NOVA #28
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Andrea Divito
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Well, aren’t we just spoiled these days for the ‘Space Police’ concept: Lanterns one side of the fence, Nova Centurions on the other, and both throwing excellent examples of storytelling in front of my eyes! With Marvel’s offering it really is Abnett and Lanning who take full credit for taking a second-rate character and, rather than reinventing him on the spot, ensuring that Richard Rider has grown and matured into a truly great leader. Here they demonstrate this change perfectly with a brilliant meeting between the Nova Prime and King Blastaar – yep, that makes me wince too! – which displays Rider’s political skills perfectly. There’s also a great scrap between Nova and the second strongest Strontian which shows that he’s also got what it takes when a fist full of power is required. Divito has been getting the goods to us for months now and his use of silhouettes makes up for the times when his line work is possibly a little too simple. 8/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: R.M. Guera
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Matt C: And so the proverbial shit looks like its about to hit the fan once again following Red Crow’s point blank assassination of a prisoner in front of a multitude of witnesses. Whether or not the fan’s going to get covered is another matter as the world of Scalped always seems to teeter on the brink, just waiting for that single nudge that’ll push into chaos and carnage. Aaron’s script boils with danger and Guera translates the bleak atmosphere into some incendiary imagery. Scalped is ferocious – ignore it at your peril. 9/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: So, a quick summary of what occurs in this issue: Reed blows shit up in his lab; Sue – potentially the most powerful member of the foursome - gets narked that her hubbie is treating her with kid gloves; with Ben out of the picture Johnny seems to be considering getting his mack on with Alicia; and a giant outer space robot informs the denizens of Earth of his intent to take over the world by using a massive laser beam to burn the words on the planet’s surface! Seriously, how could anyone not love this comic?? 9/10


Danny said...

Great reviews guys. This week was a bit light on the tittles but they certainly didn't luck in quality. My favorite books of the week were Green Lantern #45 and Flash Rebirth #4.

Matt Clark said...

Didn't get around to reviewing Flash: Rebirth #4 but I did enjoy it quite a bit and thought it was the best issue since #1. Still not 100% convinced by it though, certainly not in the same way I was by Green Lantern: Rebirth.

Danny said...

What was your favorite book of the week?

Danny said...

Book or books?

Matt Clark said...

Scalped gets top honours from me this week. Superhero-wise it would have to be Jonathan Hickman's Fantastic Four.

I'd be interested to know what Stewart's book of the week is as he seems to have picked up more titles than the rest of us combined!

Anonymous said...

I suspect I'm probably the lone dissenting voice here when I say I was disappointed by Hickman's debut on the Fantastic Four book. The problem is my expectations were high based on Pax Romana, so I was expecting something a little less commercial and run of the mill (within the standards of the superhero genre). It felt too much like an ordinary Marvel book, when I was expecting a fresh and original take, much like Grant Morrison provides with his new Batman and Robin series. Dale Eaglesham's art isn't to my liking either, which doesn't help. I'm probably going to be dropping this. Sadly this comes in the same month as my decision to drop Daredevil once Billy Tan takes over art chores (I don't think his art style is at all suited to Daredevil). At this rate I'm not going to have many superhero books left on my standing order. :( - Rob N

Tom P said...

Fantastic Four was great this week, Hickman has been doing some excellent work for Marvel. (Secret Warriors #7 was also a good read) His Dark Reign FF run was very cool, I miss Chen's artwork and find Eaglesham's Reed to be a bit to bulked up but that would be my only problem with this comic. Can't wait for more! LOVED batman and Robin #3, “sexy disco hot.” Creepy...

Justin Giampaoli said...

Matt - how insane was that issue of Scalped!?

Stewart R said...

Hmmmmm, 'comic of the week'? Hmmmm, tis a real toughy this time around not least because of the sheer volume AND quality involved. Dark Avengers almost had it in the bag until I opened up Guardians of the Galaxy #17 and that's the one title that I've been reminiscing about this weekend. In fact I may give it another read tonight... Just have to hope that Disney don't make Rocket Raccoon too cute now...

Matt Clark said...

Justin - you're worried Scalped might get cancelled, I'm worried that Aaron will write his characters into a bloodbath, effectively ending the series if he carries on the way he's going!!

Justin Giampaoli said...

Matt, I just went back and re-read issue #24. I'm starting to get all kinds of suspicious now. On page 6, Shunka is talking about "sustained post mortem lacerations" and such, that's cop-talk, dude. I think he's going to be a cop or with BIA or something.

Also, in this ish... I get the sense Red Crow might be revealed to be Dash's dad. We know him and Gina used to be together back in the day... and I don't recall, but have we ever seen Dash's dad or heard anything about him?

It's crazy trying to out-think Aaron and what his next move might be... any theories?

Matt Clark said...

Justin - I think the only characters that we can count on seeing it through to the bitter end are Bad Horse and Red Crow (although I have a feeling Officer Falls Down may come up on top).

The world of Scalped is quite incestuous so your theory on Dash's parenthood may be on the moment.

I really don't have any idea what Aaron has got planned next - but that's one of the joys of the series: you can expect genuine surprises on a frequent basis!

K Scully said...

Hey guys, another great set of reviews there, keep em coming! I'm really looking forward to seeing what you guys make of Strange Tales 1 next week.

I'm feverishly excited about Jason and Johnny Ryan taking on some Marvel characters, now if only they could tempt Charles Burns and Chris Ware...

Has anyone picked up Arkham Asylum this week? I would give it the utmost recommendation, I hope it doesn't sound grandiose when I proclaim it to be the greatest comic book video game ever!

Anonymous said...

Re: K Scully on Arkham Asylum game - I have it on good authority that Matt C doesn't play computer games, but Stewart R said some good things about it on Sunday. I may check it out myself, though I mostly play Resident Evil style games. I have to say though that the comment 'greatest comic book video game ever!' isn't really very confidence inspiring since I can't think of any previous comic book games that were any good! It's not a medium that has crossed over well onto console games in the past! - Rob N

Tom P said...

Arkham Asylum rocks!!! Just playing it now and love every second, I want the Perfect Knight Achivement! It's a good time to be a Bat-fan!

K Scully said...

Yeah, the collection of 'good' comic book video games is not one bursting at the seams, but there have been some moments of gold, recently Marvel Ultimate Alliance and the PS2 Spiderman movie titles were worth playing.

There are a few classic arcade titles that perhaps don't retain all the nuances of the characters, but are incredibly fun; the Punisher capcom game that has the 2nd player along for the ride as Nick Fury, or the Xmen Konami title with the beautiful mis-translations "I am Magneto, master of magnet!"

I will also never hear a bad word against Marvel Vs Capcom 2, some puzzling character omissions, but anything that pits Zangief against Hulk is an automatic win.

Good luck with that Perfect Knight achievement Tom, I think getting gold on some of the extreme brawl challenges may be stretching my abilities a touch too far.

But I cannot stress how good a game it is, from the incredible voice acting, the nods to unseen villains, just down to the style of the combat and stealth.

Tom P said...

Hulk Ultimate Distruction was also a good play on my first Xbox, the main thing that I think go's wrong (with Super Hero games) is the Multi-platform games that come with the summer block busters. Arkham is a fantastic example of can be done with a heroes rich world.

Stewart R said...

I've been enjoying Arkham Asylum a great deal, not least because they did the darn decent thing and got Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy in to bring their vocal talents to the Bat-World once again. Detective mode is also a touch of genius. I just need to find the time in the day to get some worthy crime solving and thug-bashing done...and then maybe play Arkham Asylum.

Marvel Vs Capcom 2 is a terrific Marvel-related game as they stuck faithfully to the characters and signature moves that fans know as well as bringing in some worthy additions. Here's hoping that Capcom get to make the threequel at some stage.

X-Men Legends 2 also deserves a mention from back in the day... Tom's right though, you link a game to a film and you're normally on a hiding to nothing.

Matt Clark said...

Where do you people find the time to play these games??

I dunno.... maybe when my son grows up a bit I can get some sort of console. For him, you understand.

Anonymous said...

Our time spent playing games is the time other people spend watching Big Brother! - Rob N