27 Sept 2009

Mini Reviews 27/09/2009

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
DC $3.99

Matt C: Now Wednesday Comics has reached the end of the road (for the time being at least), it’s time to break it down. Batman: a clever and economic use of the ‘chapter-per-page’ concept bolstered by some terrific art. Kamandi: gorgeously illustrated and the most reminiscent of the Sunday funny books of yore – one of the three standouts for me. Superman: a bit of a threadbare plot that succeeded on visuals alone. Deadman: superb retro-imagery from Bullock although the whole thing would probably be more successful consumed in one go. Green Lantern: not especially original but handled with such aplomb it’s been a real joy. Metamorpho: nice moments but overall felt like it was trying a little too hard to be clever. Teen Titans: generally forgettable. Strange Adventures: Paul Pope is a unique and thrilling talent, and hopefully this has given him a much wider audience – another highlight. Supergirl: kind of cheesy but delivered with enough wit to make it work. Metal Men: okay to a degree, but the art was more interesting than the writing. Wonder Woman: the initial non-reader-friendly approach turned me off completely, so I can’t really comment. Sgt Rock: very old fashioned and probably needed a bit more going on, but alright for an old school kick. Flash: mind-bendingly brilliant and inventive, wasn’t obvious from the start but it ended up being the pick of the bunch. Outstanding work. Demon & Catwoman: this had promise which quickly evaporated, a shame when you consider the talent involved. Hawkman: excellent action/adventure from Kyle Baker – put him on a regular Hawkman title and I’d most definitely buy it. In summary: while there were differing levels of quality between each of the 15 tales, taken as a whole I think DC can consider this project an artistic success. I'll certainly miss it now it's over. 8/10

Matt T: Well, the Wednesday Comics experiment is over, and in my mind it was mostly a success. The choice of characters involved couldn't really be faulted, but every once in a while the execution wasn't great. The Wonder Woman tale, for example, was confusing, not particularly nice to look at, and did little to expand my understanding of the character. The Kamandi story, on the other hand, was superb and a real throwback to the classic serials I picked up as a lad. There were some intriguing creative choices, such as the Metamorpho and Flash stories, so hopefully the more innovative ideas will be able to translate across to the monthly titles. 6/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Alex Maleev
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: The last time I picked up a comic by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev I was spitting teeth over long delays, a lack of effort and what seemed to be a real lack of direction. With this comic they’re back… eventually. Yep, a stupid delay once more but I reckon that’s just Marvel positioning the release to suit their own ends. Time details aside these two creators have actually delivered a fantastic first issue for a character who has had one of the worst years of her life and now has to deal with a world full of mistrust and hidden motives. I’ve enjoyed most of the comics that Jessica Drew has appeared in post Secret Invasion and Bendis sets the scene well with her struggling to come to terms with the deeply personal invasion she was victim to. Bringing S.W.O.R.D back into the equation will be a masterstroke so long as Bendis develops and expands upon that agency’s place in the Marvel world. There’s also a noir-like touch to the unfolding events, thanks in part to Bendis’ script with Jessica narrating but helped significantly by Maleev’s brooding artwork which simply oozes from each page. If the quality manages to remain over the journey I may have to buy a long-term ticket. 8/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Gary Frank & John Sibal
DC $3.99

Matt C: Just how many times could anyone possibly want or need another retelling of a superhero’s origin story?? Well, when you're dealing with the first, most recognisable and arguably most iconic spandex-clad hero the medium has ever produced then perhaps there still remains potential to shine a light on some unseen episodes or look at familiar incidents from a different angle. This proves to be the case with Superman: Secret Origins, the primary reason being the sterling partnership of Johns and Franks, who, when collaborating on the Man Of Steel, have come pretty damn close to producing the definitive take on the character for the 21st century. It's the emotional resonance that runs through the story that makes this debut issue such a resounding success. Young Clark seems more real, more identifiable than he's ever been as he struggles to accept both his newly discovered powers and his heritage. Don't overlook this mini thinking it's all been done before because, in the hands of these creators, it feels as fresh and new as if they'd come up with the concept themselves. 9/10

Writer: Paul Jenkins
Art: Dale Keown
Image/Top Cow $2.99

Matt T: Being only a fan of the Darkness with very little knowledge of Pitt I went into this mini with some trepidation. Fortunately the safe hands of Paul Jenkins have allayed my fears, putting forward a fun comic even if the characterization of Jackie Estacado is a fair bit off, with him sounding more like a crap Mafia movie cast-off. The pace doesn't slow though, and I get the feeling I'll come out the other side with a better understanding and appreciation of the muscle-bound, noseless alien thingy, Pitt. 8/10

Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Steve Lieber
Image $3.50

Stewart R: Well, this is my non-superhero title for the week and it’s not a bad first issue from Mr Jeff Parker. It’s a story of underhand dealings as a small community contemplates and debates the use of one of it’s natural wonders as a tourist trap and certain players are willing to go to extreme ends to see that the money comes their way. Parker mixes up the formula nicely choosing not to reveal all of the plot details in this first issue of five, instead focuses on spunky Park Ranger Wesley’s increasingly complicated relationship with her colleague. It’s a refreshing change and he still manages to keep an element of tension bubbling beneath the surface. Lieber’s artwork is well suited to this type of story as he gets to play with a myriad of terrific expressions upon the faces of the various characters. It’s promising stuff and has me signed up for issue #2. 7/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Alan Davis & Mark Farmer
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: I’m not convinced by Marvel’s insistence on making their readers dig further into their pockets to get the full perspective of something that has been so hit-and-miss like Dark Reign. Apart from this one-shot I certainly have no plans to pick any of the other List titles up. The big lure for me with this particular book is obviously to see how Fraction plays Osborn now that his Cabal and X-Men have become failures and his position of power has become far more precarious. Bringing Namor into the X-fold has been a neat touch and I’m glad to see him involved with the bigger picture of a mutant future. Fraction provides us with a King who’s lost his kingdom and his people and is reluctant to let anyone help him. I personally think the characterisation is pitched perfectly. Fraction also supplies us with some much needed mutant powered-teamwork which has been fairly absent of late, and Alan Davis has the talent to keep the action driven and pacey. My one niggle is once again it seems that Iceman’s power set is altered by a writer to suit the purpose, here having Psylocke temporarily enhance them but to unsuccessful ends. He’s a potential Omega level mutant and Marvel need to deal with that soon in a consistent way. 7/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Juan Jose Ryp
Avatar $3.99

James R: Without doubt, this was the comic that I was most looking forward to reading this week. Given my love of all things Warren and the jaw-dropping finale of the previous issue, I couldn’t wait to see how Ellis put this one to bed. On one hand, it’s a brilliant bit of writing; the ending to the story is contained within the origins of the two protagonists – in finding out who Carver really is, and in learning what the superpower drug FX7 did to Carrick Masterson, both characters are left with only one possible outcome, which Juan Jose Ryp illustrates with aplomb. My only reservation with it is that it was over too soon – Ellis burns through ideas like a hayfever sufferer going through Kleenex on a summer day, and every now and then I want to say ‘Woah, slow down… tell me more about this person, show me more of this world…’ But if he did, I guess he wouldn’t be Warren Ellis. All told, a brilliant miniseries which surpasses last year’s Black Summer and really whets the appetite for the upcoming Supergod. 8/10

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Steve McNiven, Dexter Vines & Mark Molaes
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: After all the waiting around this turns out to be an expensive and ultimately unnecessary epilogue to the Old Man Logan arc (which I already felt lost its bearings halfway through). Seeing Logan hack his way through a succession of the Hulk's offspring may offer some visceral thrills but that's purely down to the book's only saving grace, McNiven's incendiary artwork. It's ferocious stuff and quite possibly the best of his career, it's just a shame the story it illustrates is so vacuous and pointless. On top of that, the back up pages are full of covers from the previous issues of the story, and you'd think most people picking this up would already have those in their possession. So basically Marvel are charging is extra for something we already own - am I the only one who thinks that's taking the piss? 4/10

James R: I’ve said before that there are two Mark Millars. One is a comics auteur who has a deft understanding of the medium, and makes high-concept ideas work really well. This is the guy that wrote The Ultimates, Chosen and 1985. But then there’s the other Mark Millar who never quite sees his ideas through to their full potential – check out his runs on Spider-Man and Fantastic Four. For a long time, it seemed that the good Mark Millar was responsible for this story, writing each issue with dynamic pacing and having fun portraying Wolverine as Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven. So much fun in fact, Marvel declared that the story was going to spill over into this bumper-sized finale. ‘Great!’ I hear you cry. Sadly not. It would seem that the ‘Dark Half’ Mark Millar got out of bed to write this one, as Wolverine takes his revenge on the Hulk and his inbred hick offspring. And that’s it. If you’ve ever read more than five Marvel comics featuring these characters, you’ll be able to guess how this one wraps up. The only mild surprise is the fate of the Hulk’s youngest child, but anyone who has ever read Lone Wolf & Cub won’t be dazzled by Millar’s finale. For your $4.99 Marvel give you a load of covers – which you probably own already! – and some sketch pages. Wooh. I don’t know who to be more peeved at – Millar for serving up another ‘Meh’ of a finale (Wanted anybody?) or Marvel’s editorial team for squeezing our geek wallets so hard. 3/10

Writers: Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Art: Bing Cansino & Roland Paris
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: I’d been looking forward to this since I typed up the preview a couple of months back and now it’s been subjected to a read I have to say that I’m a little underwhelmed by it. I think there are a couple of problems which prevent it from being a great comic. Firstly, bringing Kyle and Yost on may seem like a decent idea considering that the formation of X-Force is their bag and it’s one of the biggest secrets that Scott has been keeping from Emma, but Fraction has been doing all of the legwork with the Frost-Summers relationship and his input is missed. Secondly, I’m not convinced that Emma is being portrayed in a consistent fashion as she appears overly vulnerable here which is a far step from the confident and calculating woman she has been for the past year in the X-books. My last little complaint is that this comic comes across as something of a ‘clip-show’ with far too much of the content showing what has gone before rather than dealing with the fallout of the deep betrayals and secrets that Scott and Emma have taken upon themselves. I would have been happier to see a great deal more reaction from the pair rather than it just come across as a list of confessions. I’m probably being overcritical based upon my expectations, and this comic does neatly tie-off the ‘how did that all work then?’ situation that arose from the recent Utopia storyline. I just think that once again an opportunity was missed by the House of Ideas. 5/10

Writers: Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
Art: Ariel Olivetti & Michael Ryan
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Olivetti is proving to be a good fit for the character, or at least his similarly-featured offspring as Bruce has yet to Hulk-out since the relaunch of the title. It’s the writing I’m beginning to have a problem with: Pak seems to be aiming for a more humorous approach, giving it the same kind of vibe as Incredible Hercules, but where it suits that book down to the ground it’s not entirely appropriate here. A few chuckles here and there would be fine, but I kind of want a more serious tone when it comes to the Green Goliath. We’ll see how it pans out but I’m not entirely convinced so far. The All New Savage She-Hulk on the other hand continues to be a surprising delight (need to pick up that recent mini at some point!) making this worth the extra dollar…. but only just. 6/10

Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Art: Amanda Conner
DC Comics $2.99

James R: The 21st Century comics market is a horribly predictable place sometimes: the Big Two will keep on putting out ‘event’ books every summer, characters with movies coming out will suddenly have a slew of new titles & reprints, and inevitably there will be a comic that gets brilliant reviews but not enough readers, and you have to watch as it gets cut down in its prime. The last series that befell this fate was Captain Britain for Marvel, and I just have a horrible feeling that the same fate might befall Power Girl. I’ve read comparisons with Dan Slott’s She-Hulk, and I can see where they’re coming from – the comic shares the same sense of fun along with its female lead surrounded by a cool supporting cast. What puts this above She-Hulk for me is the outstanding art of Amanda Conner who has developed an instantly recognisable style that blends action with human emotion beautifully. More than anything, it’s a blast – to me, it’s what a lot of comics have forgotten to be over the last few years: a fun read. But it needs your support, and deserves a chance to flourish. If you only try one new comic book this month, give issue #5 of Power Girl a chance – it’s certainly more fun than the X-Men at the moment… 8/10

NOVA #29
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Kevin Sharpe & Nelson Pereira
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: This is the time when Nova has to truly fend for itself and prove that Abnett and Lanning have what it takes to deal with this as a comic solely in its own right rather than skirting too close to bigger events and tie-ins. That may seem a little strange for me to say but the previous 28 issues, while superb, have mostly been concerned with overlapping plots and storylines. They’ve positioned the Nova Corps as a more manageable force to deal with as they rebuild and can take them in whatever direction they see fit. Here they bring back the little known Monark Starstalker for some bounty hunter fun as well as establishing a possible new enemy in the Black Hole Sons. It’s pretty decent sci-fi fare and DnA certainly seem to have done their research with Starstalker’s abilities, employing them well to show just how deadly an opponent he could prove to be. The Sharpe/Pereira team do a good job on artistic duties but I can’t help but miss the artists who have come and gone before them. 7/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: Not one Byrne's best covers by a long shot (Sue looks about 12!) and the contents are something of a let down too, relatively speaking. The reunion of Reed and his dad only gets a single page, and after such an impressive build-up the whole thing kind of fizzles out too quickly. I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that there would have plenty of fascinating material available having Reed see his father for the first time in a couple of decades. A wasted opportunity. That aside there's still a lot to admire, whether it's the impressively realised alternate Earth where the Dark Ages never occurred, or the thrilling two consecutive pages of battle scenes, divided into three action-packed vertical strips each. Overall what it gets right is great, but the few missteps are disappointing (although thankfully a rarity in Byrne's run). 7/10


Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to wonder whether I wrote Matt C's retrospective review of Wednesday Comics in my sleep as his assessment of each individual story is precisely my opinion as well! Spooky. Yes, well, um, yes – I agree! With it all! - Rob N

Matt Clark said...

I'd like to point out that no telepathic manipulation was employed during the writing of my Wednesday Comics review. The opinions presented were my own!

Andy H said...

Old Man Logan wasn't all bad. I personally like the post apocalyptic, possible futures stories but I agree, the main disappointment is once again Marvel punishing their loyal readers for, well, being loyal readers. $4.99 for this book is a bit rich. Sure we get 32 pages of story but 11 of those have three panels or less on them. Then as a 'bonus' we get 21 pages of cover art and sketches. Did we need these and after the long wait I would have thought it would be in Marvels interest to say thanks to the fans that have bought the series and waited so long for the climax. In contast you could buy Superman: Secret Origin for $3.99 with 40 pages of art and half the number of splash pages, nuff said!

Justin Giampaoli said...

Matt, indeed a nice summary of Wednesday Comics, seems that your thoughts mirror mine as well. Looking forward to a volume two, despite its many flaws.

Danny said...

Superman: Secret Origin was absolutely amazing. I can't wait for the next issue :D