4 Oct 2009

Mini Reviews 04/10/2009

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: Howard Chaykin
Art: Stephen Thompson
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: My initial reaction upon hearing this series was in the pipeline was, you gotta be kidding?? I mean, what’s the point? The original movie is one of the greatest action flicks ever (fact!!) but the sequels, while competent, were generally massively inferior. Still, there’s something that continues to be compelling about the character of John McLane, so here I am. And you know what? This is pretty damn good! Not “Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker” good, but good all the same. I think a lot of it comes down to Chaykin’s ability as a writer; he’s been on the scene for several decades now and he knows how to put a solid story together. At the moment it looks like he’s aiming for a street-level crime tale rather than a high-octane actioner, and I kind of hope he keeps it on this track. With Thompson providing some atmospheric visuals Chaykin does a great job of evoking the Big Apple in the mid 70’s. This debut issue may be all set-up as it introduces us to multiple characters (along with McLane himself) but it’s paced well, holds the reader’s interest and leaves them wanting more. It could all fall apart in the next issue or so, but taken on it’s own merits this was a very pleasant surprise. 8/10

Writer: Brian Reed
Art: Chris Bachalo, Rob Disalvo, Tim Townsend and Various
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: A big ‘F-you very much’ is aimed at Marvel for this miniseries. After last issue’s mediocrity there remained the promise of a very special ‘cherry-topped’ finale with Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend delivering us some excellent Venom action, rounding off Brian Reed’s comedy-tinged arc with a bang. It comes so, so close to being great but then –WHAM! – right at the end we’re hit with four pages of very average art from Rob Disalvo which completely ruins the whole feel. It frustrated me so much that I audibly cursed on the train while reading it. One of the neat belly-laugh touches from Reed and Bachalo earlier – involving Bullseye and a poodle - is ruined because of Disalvo’s misjudgement on proportions which makes the comedic and very surreal situation entirely redundant. The story from Reed was decent, and if it could have been delayed by a couple of months we would have had a triumphant, consistent piece of comic art. But, as Marvel were too worried about the schedule I wouldn’t consider recommending this as a trade or otherwise. A real shame but not because of the main creative talents involved. 5/10

THOR #603
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Marko Djurdjevic & Danny Miki
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: If you take Straczynski’s recent first issue of Brave And The Bold and then compare it to his work on Thor, it’s light years away in terms of quality. Where the DC book was formulaic and clichéd, his writing on this title has been a stirring masterclass in slow-burn storytelling. Straczynski clearly has an affinity to these characters and understands what makes them tick. It felt like he’d finally find a home with the Adgardians so it’s quite a wrench to know that he’s leaving. Kieron Gillen’s got big shoes to fill and while he might conjure up some decent tales I’m not sure he’s got the chops to keep this at the same level. Same goes for Billy Tan, who has to take over from Olivier Coipel and Marko Djurdjevic, two major talents who’ve furnished the book with same incredible visuals over the last couple of years. Basically, you get the feeling these guys had plenty more to do with characters, so it’s gutting to see them leave too soon. 8/10

Writer: Phil Hester
Art: Phil Hester & Ande Parks
Image/Top Cow $2.99

Matt T: Throwing a supporting character into a book, giving them the main spotlight and reducing the title character to nothing more than a background player is extremely annoying, especially when said title character could have been replaced by just about any no-name superhero. It seems like Phil Hester had a script kicking around and simply deposited the Darkness into it, as while the Bog may be an interesting Swamp Thing cast-off he really doesn't deserve the focus he gets here. Not only is the story jumping around, but the art is as well, which may result in me dropping the title once more. 3/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Alessandro Vitti
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: We’re back into Marvel crossover territory again but it’s actually being dealt with in a fairly neat manner and there appears to be no great need to pick up the related titles if you don’t want to for once. In this month’s issue of Secret Warriors we find Nick Fury, Songbird and the Black Widow captured by Osborn’s forces and in seriously deep trouble. Cue Hickman - apparently now making this title his own with Bendis’ moniker no longer appearing - throwing some clever writing our way and actually getting me to hiss a rather loud ‘YES’ in a public place at Phobos and Ares’ roles in this thrilling story. For months Dark Reign has been building up a head of speed and Hickman’s contribution to the crumbling world of Norman Osborn is, to be honest, a comic delight. He clearly has a feel for how Nick Fury should be written but is also crafting the Secret Warriors into a truly interesting bunch of resistance fighters. Vitti’s artwork is terrific, with Phobos’ interchange with Osborn being the highlight, and I look forward to seeing more of his work on this title. 8/10

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

Stewart R: I’m pretty happy that I’m picking up a handful of Blackest Night titles as it’s expanding the story greatly and, in instances like this, I can fully understand what events have unfolded before. I’m guessing that DC and Geoff Johns are making the general assumption that the majority of readers will pick up Green Lantern as well as BN since Hal’s return to his own title here will certainly raise question marks above some readers heads if they’re getting it exclusively. There’s heaps of fantastic Lantern battling as the various lights of the spectrum start coming together to fight back against the Black Lantern menace. Sinestro’s attempts to wrest control of his corps back from Mongul’s hands are well realised and Johns clearly knows how to portray each and every character involved. Mahnke once again shines with the full-page spreads which never become tiresome, and he handles the weird and wonderful alien races on display with control and skill. If you’ve been picking up the core event Blackest Night book alone I highly recommend digging through the boxes for the associated Green Lantern issues. You won’t be sorry. 8/10

Matt C: After getting beamed away during the middle of Blackest Night #3 by the Indigo Tribe members, Hal finds that he’s left the frying pan and ended up in the fire when he arrives in the midst of another battle against the Black Lanterns. The interesting angle here is that he has to fight side by side with not only his arch-nemisis, Sinestro, but also sometime lover Carol Ferris (who’s now taken up with the Star Saphires). As a whole the issue is a little too busy and hyperactive in places, but it’s the characterization of Sinesetro where the story really comes alive. You can always rely on Johns to add depth and weight to villainous individuals and he does a truly sterling job here. You can probably get by reading Blackest Night without following Green Lantern at the same time, but I reckon you’ll get more rewarding experience if you pick them both up. 7/10

Writer: Peter David
Art: Valentine De Landro & Pat Davidson
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: One of the most consistently entertaining and enjoyable books Marvel puts out, and also one of my faves. With the future and past getting nicely mashed together and people meeting versions of themselves from other timelines, X-Factor could be incredibly confusing, but fortunately Peter David manages to weave it all together with aplomb. What could be a clichéd tale of a dystopian mutant-oppressed future is instead well put together and gripping; same goes for the present day tale of mind-control. The art is top-notch, and when the actual villain is revealed the shock is familiar but somehow welcome and well within the confines of the narrative. 9/10

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

Matt C: Holy cow! There I was thinking that since the first mini was a cracking thriller/mystery then surely this new story would follow the same kind of format with “the world’s greatest detective” Catherine Allingham investigating another hereafter-related case. Well, while that’s partly true, Waid flips the format on its head in a most unexpected fashion, totally catching me of guard right through to the shocking conclusion of the issue. Oosterveer’s art looks a little different than before (I thought it was another artist until I checked the credits) but while it’s not quite as punchy it does serve the plot well, complimenting Waid’s audacious storytelling. Pick this up after you’ve got hold of the TPB of the original mini, but do pick it up! This may just be Boom!’s finest series yet. 8/10

Writer: Andy Diggle
Art: Pop Mahn & Carlos Rodriguez
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Andy Diggle’s run on Thunderbolts has been something of a frustrating read at times, but I feel that that may simply be down to the heavy weight of Dark Reign and the limited characters at his disposal to form the team. His run comes to an end at something of a highpoint as we focus on the Songbird/Black Widow side of events spinning out of the Secret Warriors issue. For once in his tenure Diggle puts the moral questionability of the Thunderbolts to the front; it’s all the better for it as the team appears to split at the seams and turn on each other. He also manages to deal with Mr X’s powers well - and most importantly the potential writing blackhole that they present - for a second issue running. Ghost has been Diggle’s real triumph remaining something of an enigma yet getting decent page time. On the art side, Mahn and Rodriguez go through the paces but like many Thunderbolts artists before them don’t deliver anything spectacular. 7/10

Writer: Jeff Katz & James Kuhoric
Art: Cuddie Torian & Jason Craig
DC/Wildstorm $3.99

Matt T: What did I expect from this book? Gore, teenagers being gleefully murdered by disfigured nutcases, and some marvellous one-liners from a one-handed misogynist. On those fronts I guess JvFvA delivered, but after the last mini I expected something..... more. It doesn't really help that Katz and Kuhoric throw so much machete fodder at the book, with plenty of characters being dragged up from movies past, making Jason's plot seem a bit like filler compared to the far more interesting Ash vs Freddy angle. What the outcome will be is anyone's guess, but I hoping even more crimson will be spilt, preferably in a more coherent manner. The art could do with a bit more finishing off lest I start making jokes towards the artist being named 'Cruddie'. 6/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Ron Garney
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: This doesn’t quite manage to equal the visceral thrills witnessed during the one-on-one fisticuffs last month but it’s still a pretty fierce conclusion to the first story arc. Aaron has an excellent grasp of the character as someone who will zero in almost entirely on the task at hand and attack it with unmatchable determination and brutality. Garney seems to take a similar approach to the artwork; I particularly enjoyed the furrowed brow close-ups which leave you with no doubt that Logan means business. It was a bit of a shaky start, but both of the creators seem to have found firm footing now, which bodes well for the future. 8/10

Writer: Joe Kelly
Art: Diego Greco
Image $2.99

Stewart R: Well, it’s been a bit of a delay for the third issue of this entertaining title – try some five or so months - and the question that you always have to ask is, "Was it worth the wait?" After a little thought I’d offer up an unsure "Yes" to that one. My trepidation comes from the slight change of focus and feel that transpires in this comic. The dark comedy and colourful language of the first two issues are pushed gingerly to the background (though not entirely absent: Ms Chico’s office visit from Wendell is priceless) in order to develop Lou’s mysterious background and get to the root of his introspection and soul searching. Kelly mixes issues of a political nature (migrants across the Mexican border) with the otherworldly aspect of the title (vampires and werewolves) and it does gel together nicely. Greco’s main artistic success for me has been managing to bring a human element to Lou’s wolf-like features, and his skills are called into action here to portray a character with an inherent vicious side countered by a compassionate heart. As long as we don’t have to sit on our hands and wait until next year for another instalment then I’ll be sticking with this interesting title. 7/10

Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Kyle Hotz & Scott Hanna
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Everything comes to a head in Jeff Parker’s close look at The Hood’s criminal and personal life and it doesn’t quite reach the crescendo that it could have done. The writer seems to have too many avenues to cover with Parker Robbins’ personal life, his crew, his threatening and dangerously addictive powers, and those individuals who want to bring him down… permanently. While White Fang’s vendetta against The Hood is brilliantly delivered it all starts to fall apart once Parker tries to sum things up in double-quick fashion. Not nearly enough time is spent on Robbins’ home life and the devastating effect his powers have there, and the final showdown with Force is stupidly swift. Admittedly that might be down to Hotz’s artwork which I don’t feel really captures just what Parker Robbins has opened himself up to at this point. The one other criticism for this whole series is that all that’s occurred here was reduced to ‘history’ by the recent New Avengers arc which revealed the identity of the new Sorcerer Supreme. Good but nowhere near great. 6/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne & Al Gordon
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: You can’t help but come away from this issue feeling a little bit cheated. First off, Byrne relinquishes inking duties to Al Gordon and the results, while not terrible, aren’t up to the usual standard (Reed looks like he’s aged 30 years). Secondly, the FF only feature in a few pages with the rest of the issue being given over to the Thing. Yeah I know he will always be a member of the FF, but here we’re given the second part of a story that started in Thing #19, and there’s no real reason why this couldn’t have been finished off in Grimm’s own title, besides maybe highlighting to people that the solo book exists. The weakest issue of Byrne’s run so far, primarily because it doesn’t really feel like an issue of Fantastic Four. 6/10


UPLOADER said...

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Andrew Wahl said...

Hey, Gents:

I first started visiting for Matt C's John Byrne FF reviews, but find myself sticking around to check out opinions on the new books, too. A well-done — and useful — site.


Matt Clark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt Clark said...

Thanks Andrew. Glad to have you onboard. And rest assured I'll be visiting your site for nostalgia, back issue purchasing ideas and more!

Danny said...

Hey guys, great reviews. For me it was pretty awesome week, I got Green Lantern #46( which I thought was amazing) and also i picked first two issued of the Jonathan Hickman's and Dale Eaglesham's Fantastic Four and was pleasantly surprised, I really enjoyed this both of the books.