6 Sept 2009

Mini Reviews 06/09/2009

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
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: This feels a lot like something Marvel might have published at the beginning of the decade, just after Joe Q signed on as Editor in Chief and the publisher started enticing various indie creators towards their first taste of the mainstream pie. It’s always nice to see a fresh pair of eyes tackle the iconic characters we all know and love and there are some enjoyable strips in the first issue of this volume of Strange Tales, the highlights for me being Johnny Ryan’s two contributions (his Punisher tale and Marvel’s Most Embarrassing Moments), along with the oft-delayed Incorrigible Hulk from Peter Bagge. Trouble with the package as a whole is that its tongue in cheek tone makes it seem very throwaway and not overtly memorable – you read it, giggle a fair bit, then put it to one side and forget about it. It’s not something I can imagine revisiting. It is an admirable endeavour, and I don’t want to be too down on it, but $4.99 is probably a bit steep for these cash-strapped times. 6/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire
DC/Vertigo $1.00

Stewart R: I do have a soft spot for comics which are both written and drawn by the same person as you can be sure that you’re getting the vision the creator actually intended when they came up with concept, story and characters. Here Jeff Lemire paints a stark, lonely autumnal picture as strange deer-boy Gus leads us through the last days of his father’s life as the disease that has affected the rest of the world claims him, leaving naive Gus facing a brutal world on his own. Lemire’s artwork is all about the eyes, with panel after panel of awe-filled, fearful and sad irises staring up at you from the page, making the story carry a rather peaceful if lonely feel. With so much emphasis on the emotion carried by the artwork, Lemire keeps the text to a minimum giving us just enough to offer a few explanations of how Gus and his father came to be where they are, with plenty of questions to be answered down the road. For $1.00 I’d say this is definitely worth picking up to see if this becomes a post-apocalyptic masterpiece. 8/10

Matt C: As with their previous dollar-priced debut issues, there’s really no excuse not to pick up this Vertigo book, especially as Sweet Tooth looks like it may be a keeper. A quirky post apocalyptic tale, Lemire seems to be keeping his cards close to his chest, easing out the details rather than laying them all down for us to see straight away. It’s an approach that works, and you find yourself initially drawn more to the emotional timbre of the story rather than its setting. Lemire’s artwork helps push that impression, mixing a creepy vibe with an affecting, gentle sheen of innocence. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea but giving new material a shot – especially when it’s offered so cheaply - is a sure way of supporting the medium. 8/10

Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Gabriel Hardman & Paul Rivoche
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: This issue is a prime example of why I continue to pick up the AOA title: there are autonomous robots, bizarre scientists, talking gorillas, the son of the Mandarin, and dragons plotting various plots. And the best thing of all? It doesn’t go overboard with any of these concepts; they all just come together so neatly and cleanly under the guidance of Jeff Parker. The Terror Of Jade Claw storyline has allowed us to focus squarely on the team, which comes as something of a relief following all of the guest appearances from various Marvel characters previously. The choice of art style is also refreshingly retro, giving the whole thing a dated edge which helps to build the atmosphere. The dive here into the history of M-11 and his predecessors is certainly interesting as the mystery behind the team’s robot guardian looks set to be unravelled slowly by Parker, and that will certainly draw me back to this comic next month. 8/10

Writers: Alex Ross & Mike Carey
Art: Patrick Bekenkotter
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Alex Ross blatantly loves his Golden Age heroes and while I wasn’t overly impressed by Project Superpowers or Avengers/Invaders I thought I’d at least give this a shot. Apparently this spins out of the events of the final issue of Avengers/Invaders, but even though I missed out on that I didn’t feel like I was left too much in the dark here. Thomas Raymond, aka Toro, the wartime partner of the original Human Torch, has been resurrected into the modern age following a Cosmic Cube related incident, and now finds himself wandering the streets like a ghost, everyone who knew him being long gone. With the Golden Age Vision as his companion he decides to seek out the man who originally killed him, the Mad Thinker. This is actually a really good read, with Carey’s script pulling it up several notches, the intelligence and quality of characterization - particularly the Thinker - being quite considerable. Bekenkotter’s illustrations are also enormously impressive, a blend of sturdy realism and retro stylings. Whether it can stretch things out to eight issues, and whether it can differentiate itself from the similarl ‘man out of time’ elements in recent arcs in Captain America remains to be seen, but as an opening shot this was quite promising. 7/10

Writers: Various
Art: Various
DC $3.99

Matt T: As ever with Wednesday Comics some parts are far stronger than others, with this issue having particularly good showings from Azzerello's Batman, Dave Gibbons' Kamandi and the excellent Superman, which has a relatively run of the mill story that's vastly improved by some incredible Lee Bermejo art. The Metamorpho story is superbly thought out, with the characters having to traverse a table of the elements while somehow working the abbreviations into the dialogue bubbles. There really is some excellent stuff in here, aided by the shorter story format, and as ever this is proof that some of DC's more creative ideas can produce impressive results. 8/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips
Marvel/Icon $3.99

Matt C: Let me just preface this review by saying that I really do believe Brubaker and Phillips are near-perfect collaborators and I pretty much love everything they turn their hands to. It just so happens that I loved their work on Incognito a little less than I normally do. The script and art are up to their usual standard and by the end it was much more similar in tone to Sleeper than Criminal (although not quite as good as either). I guess if anyone else put this out I would be raving unreservedly about it, but when you’re used to sheer brilliance from these guys, anything slightly less than outstanding is a tad disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, this has been a quality mini, but I’m looking forward to the return of Criminal. 7/10

Writer: John Layman
Art: Rob Guillory
Image $2.99

Stewart R: Something of a peculiar sidestep this time around as Tony and Mason jet off to the Arctic Circle where the story goes down some strange political science fiction route that I really wasn’t expecting. I’m guessing that a high percentage of the readership of this rather popular Image title may feel the same way. The same high quality art persists, as does the sense of humour –the morgue fan scene is particularly chuckle-tastic - established by the previous three issues. It just seems that this issue was rather bewildering for reasons which are likely to become clearer in the next instalment when I’m sure Layman and Guillory will bring us into the light, so to speak. 7/10

Writer: James Robinson
Art: Mauro Cascioli
DC $3.99

Matt T: James Robinson is a cracking writer, and Cry For Justice is developing into an impressive, if slow burning read. The team is coming together, keeping me up to date with the various changes to the likes of Captain Marvel, and a main villain has finally been established in the form of Grant Morrison's anti-Batman, Prometheus. Robinson is looking to elevate the character back to an actual threat instead of a walking joke. As ever the art is superb from Cascioli, and has certainly benefited from dropping the artistic colouring in favour of more detailed shades. A very good read, and one of my favourite team books at the moment. 9/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Peter Krause
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: Waid manages to sustain the intrigue and danger without showing signs of flagging, which is no small feat considering this series must have a finite duration. I know we’re told this is an ongoing, but surely there’s only so far this story can be taken? Having a rogue Superman analogue causing catastrophic damage across the planet with only a small band of his ex-team-mates scrabbling to find a way to stop him sounds like the kind of tale that would reach a definitive conclusion one way or another pretty swiftly. Waid, however, keeps throwing out hints that he has plenty more material to play with yet, and so far he hasn’t really put a foot wrong. 7/10

Writer: Daniel Way
Art: Paco Medina and Juan Vlasco
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Paco’s back!! Yes ladies and gentlemen, Mr Medina makes his welcome return this month but to be honest it’s not so much an issue about the artwork, or for that matter the usual Deadpool humour, which takes on a slightly muted tone this time around. This is more about Daniel Way’s reading of a character who is becoming more than just the Merc with a Mouth. Delving into why Wade is the way he is it’s certainly going to be an interesting journey, and having provided the necessary plot work to get Mr Wilson here I don’t see the creative team dropping the ball any time soon. There’s plenty of second and third voice action as Deadpool searches for his true calling in life and the hallucinations are up to their usual wacky best. Certainly a good point to jump on the title if you fancy picking it up. 7/10

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi & Keith Champagne
Art: Chris Samnee
DC $2.99

Matt T: Where the similarly-themed Irredeemable started with a bang, The Mighty has maintained a reasonable level of steady pace, building intrigue without throwing away single issue stories. I'm becoming more inclined to believe the ending will be something special, and that there's far more to be revealed between now and the point where Alpha One goes completely bananas. I'm looking forward to the build-up, no matter how long it takes. 8/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Matt Fraction is fast emerging as one of Marvel’s top writers and the way that he can change the tide and direction of a story without throwing the reader too many obscure curveballs is key to that. After last issue’s intense three-way face off between Tony, Pepper and Madame Masque he jumps proceedings on by a couple of hours to leave us salivating over a nice ‘catch-up’ to come at some pont down the line. Instead of feeding us those juicy details he leads us on a neat Fugitive-style run once more as Tony’s degenerative condition really starts to affect our hero to serious ends. The email to Maria Hill is used to highlight this perfectly, aided by Larroca’s neat storytelling ability. And on that note, the image of Iron Man that Mr Larroca puts on page six is just fantastic, really adding to the nostalgia being visited upon us through the old armour variants. Still one of the most consistent titles on the market. 8/10

Matt C: There’ve been a few less than stellar instalments in the World’s Most Wanted storyline (and we’re now up to Part 10) but when Fraction nails it, he really nails it. As Tony’s mind dissolves further to the point where language is starting to become a problem, his friends look like they’ve reached the end of the road as Osborn’s grip tightens. Smart writing, an enthralling narrative, and some potent art from Larroca ensure that, while it might not have really deserved the Eisner for Best New Series (hasn’t there been an Iron Man book for the past 40 years??), it certainly deserves your attention. 8/10

NORTH 40 #3
Writer: Aaron Williams
Art: Fiona Staples
DC/Wildstorm $2.99

Stewart R: Ok, this title may prove to be something of a rollercoaster ride. Last issue we followed the surviving denizens of Conover County as they tried to come to terms with the supernatural plague of mutation affecting the population. This month there appears to be a strange hop forward in time where everyone seems to be interacting and simply accepting what has happened to them with no real sense of panic or fear. Admittedly Williams may well be on to something giving a different view on how a population would cope with something as truly strange as this concept. While it certainly looks like the book will end up being about Wyatt Hinkle in the long run, I get the feeling that Williams is purposefully keeping the focus shifting from place to place and character to character in order to promote an uncertainty in the reader and keep the cards well and truly close to his chest. My only concern is that several townsfolk seem to have agendas, and every time I pick up this title I’m not entirely sure who characters are referring to when they head off to seek vengeance. The school dance setting towards the end of the book screams ‘BUFFY’ at me as well, which I’m not sure is the best of things. We shall see. 6/10

Writers: Steve Pugh & Warren Ellis
Art: Steve Pugh
Radical $2.99

Matt C: What I liked quite a bit: the artwork, which is rich in vibrant detail and shot through with a distinctly British sensibility; it includes some gorgeous panels full of atmosphere thanks to a bright but washed out colour scheme. What I wasn’t so keen on: the protagonist, who just seemed like a stock Warren Ellis female character without any traits that would make her stick out from the pack. Also, the whole ‘ghost bomb’ plot felt a little flimsy; maybe it didn’t grab me from the off, but I did feel like there was more potential there, and idea that could have been explored further. Another Radical book where the art isn’t matched by the storyline. 6/10

Writer: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Art: Giancarlo Caracuzzo
IDW $3.99

Matt T: I'm hoping Jimmy Palmiotti doesn't have a whole lot to do with this comic (Er… he’s the writer Matt, I expect he had a fair bit to do with it! – Matt C), as the dialogue is awful. Plotting is reasonably good, but being a bog standard zombie tale means I can see where everything is heading a mile off. Annoyingly the art isn't good enough to show off the gore, making the major reason behind the horror comic null and void. I'm not going to continue buying it, but judging by the first two issues I could probably guess what's going to happen. 3/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Bynre
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: You’d be forgiven for thinking that, after last issue’s cliffhanger, Byrne would launch straight into the action from the get go. Instead he opts to bring us up to speed on both Johnny and Sue’s personal troubles: the Torch is developing serious feelings for his best mate’s girlfriend, while the Invisible Girl is having difficulty processing her grief following her miscarriage. Byrne’s apt handling of the difficult emotions at work makes this absorbing stuff, so you barely even register there are no super-powered fisticuffs on display. When he gets back to the action though, we’re once again privy to a master at work: Terminus is revealed to be a being akin to Galactus, but one who destroys out of enjoyment rather than necessity. Wyatt Wingfoot proves to be a good addition to the cast when he interrupts Reed’s waffling with, “Never mind the philosophical aspects, Reed. How can he be stopped?” Straight to the point. Good man. 8/10


Danny said...

Great reviews guys. It was a quite week for me, I've only picked up Deadpool #15. I quite enjoyed it, but didn't find this issue as funny as previous ones. But it was good to see Paco Medina back, not because I didn't like Shawn Crystal's art but because I prefer Medina's.

Stewart R said...

Thanks Danny. Yeah Deadpool wasn't quite as funny as the previous issues, especially considering the recent pirate antics but the inevitable mutant action to come next issue is probably going to be a laugh-fest. I'm just wondering which X-Man old Wade'll fall for! It'll be good to see how Medina handles the cast of X-characters too.

Unknown said...

And just to clarify my comments on Last Resort, I'm hoping Jimmy Palmiotti has only been involved in plotting, because the central idea is quite sound if a little cliched. The dialogue is rubbish, and there's far too many characters and completely haphazard story-telling.

Matt Clark said...

RE: The Last Resort #2

I didn't get around to reading the new issue before the reviews were published, but I think a second opinion is needed here as Matt T is being overly harsh on it.

There's an enjoyable streak of mean-spiritedness to many of the characters that makes you want to see them dispatched at their earliest possible convenience (preferably as violently as possible!) and, contrary to Matt's assertion, the dialogue from Palmiotti (!) and Gray is often searingly funny. The murkiness of the art fits the tone well, and last but by no means least, the cover's by Darwyn Cooke!

7/10 from me!

Unknown said...

ah, the dialogue is from Palmiotti. Well I'm still a bit disappointed. For a man who watches a lot of horror films and only occassionally sees anything other than machete fodder I was really unimpressed by the cookie cutter characters. The cheating boyfriend honeytrapped by his unbelievably cold girlfriend? The doddery old woman distracted by the carnage? And the extra bit of exposition from the co-pilot that there's 'extra fuel in the wings and rear of the plane that could explode at any minute!' was the last straw for me.

That said I respect Matt's opinion as he reads far more comics than I do, but for me less is more with dialogue and shouldn't replace decent story-telling with unnecessary explanations.

But hey, we can agree to disagree right? :)

Danny said...

Yeah Stewart, it sure will be interesting to see Deadpool interact with X-Men :)

Matt Clark said...

"But hey, we can agree to disagree right? :)"

No, we should settle it like men - pistols at dawn, sir!

Stewart R said...

Just because I share an interest on The Last Resort (I'll be picking my copy tonight kids so watch this space...) I found this...


...which seems to suggest that Mr Palmiotti is deeply involved with the book on a writing level rather than just concept work so I'm going to say that both creators are handling the dialogue here.

Of course there's no need for a hail of bullets over this one. The coming Zombie Apocalypse will surely prove the men from the boys?

Anonymous said...

i loved last resort 1 and 2