25 Oct 2009

Mini Reviews 25/10/2009

While we may not always have the time to review all the comics we get every week, we do try and 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.


COWBOY NINJA VIKING #1
Writer: AJ Lieberrman
Art: Riley Rossmo
Image $3.50


Stewart R
: Ok, first point: this comic is not likely to fit in your bags and boards for easy storage due to it’s Golden Age format. Second point: the first point is the only negative thing that I really have to say about this strangely entertaining comic. The artwork and blue-tone colour scheme by Rossmo is captivating and suitably madcap which matches the fantastically bizarre premise - a secret psycho-behavioural programme once trained people with multiple personality disorders to become deadly assassins – to an absolute tee. The jumping from time frame to time frame alongside limited character reveals is a little off-putting to begin with, but a second read through clears everything up nicely. I think I may be drawn to this simply because it loosely reminds me – in artwork and story - of the awesome anime series Cowboy Bebop, but in my eyes that can only be a good thing. 8/10


Matt C: I like the premise – people with multiple personality disorders trained as deadly government assassins – and Riley Rossmo (Proof) has developed a wonderfully distinctive style that’s a joy to look at, but unfortunately this is one of the most unwelcoming debut issues I’ve read in a while. The overall plot isn’t too vague, but once you dig a little deeper, the way the story’s told causes it to become a bit of a head-scratcher. On top of that, you have the titular ‘hero’ with his three supposedly separate personalities that don’t really come across as being that different from each other. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding this book, so much so that Image have decided to change it’s status from ‘mini’ to ‘ongoing’ but, for me at least, Lieberrman fails deliver the goods in a way that makes me want to stick around. A damn shame, as the art’s really nice. 5/10



SKRULL KILL KREW #5
Writer: Adam Felber
Art: Mark Robinson & Mark Getty

Marvel $3.99


Stewart R: Ok, the artwork by Mark Robinson has been the standout part of this limited series and I truly hope to see his efforts put to use on other Marvel titles, hopefully where symbiotes or other Skrulls are involved as he has exceptional ability to portray shape-shifting abilities. As for the story itself, well I’m not convinced that my $19.95 has been well spent to be honest with you! It started so well but by the time we get to this finale it’s increasingly difficult to tell one Skrull from another and trying to establish the specific motivations of each Kill Krew member left me feeling rather ambivalent about the whole thing. I guess in that respect it’s actually like a Skrull: it shifted and changed shape during the entire run and ended up being far less than I expected from a pretty decent idea. 5/10



CHEW #5
Writer: John Layman

Art: Rob Guillory
Image $2.99


Stewart R: You know, the more I read of this title the more I understand the mini-whirlwind of hype that surrounded its debut issue and the crazy number of reprints that have been run to date. This is brilliantly delivered storytelling that has characterization at its very heart and a sweet polish on its exterior. This issue focuses squarely on Tony Chu and Mason Savoy and the fall out of their recent experiences, while leaving the future of this comic balanced very nicely indeed with a astutely worked open-ending. The humour infused into every situation where Tony has to use his cibopathic abilities brings a wry smile to my face and Guillory’s expression work once again comes the fore. The five-part Taster’s Choice has been fantastic and I’m really looking forward to where writer and artist decide to take us next time out. 8/10



INCREDIBLE HULK #603
Writers: Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
Art: Ariel Olivetti, Giuseppe Cammuncoli & Michael Ryan
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: The fact that Olivetti’s work only appears on five pages in total doesn’t do the book any favours because his style just doesn’t gel with Cammuncoli’s. That aside it’s a fairly entertaining issue with Logan and Banner watching their respective sons hook up for a brawl, while not exactly having an violence-free meeting themselves. It’s the first time the main feature has been superior to the back-up Savage She-Hulk tale but, three issues in and with me being conscious over how many titles I’m picking up a month, this is getting dropped from the pull –list. It’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn’t really scream out to be purchased at the moment. 7/10



POE #4
Writer: J. Barton Mitchell

Art: Dean Kotz
Boom! Studios $3.99


Matt C: This started off as quite a promising mystery series, heavy on atmosphere and intrigue, but now we’ve reached the final issue it’s all gotten a bit silly with Edgar Allen Poe prancing about like some sort of Victorian action hero. Poe ends up battling a villain named Usher (!) inside the nefarious fellow’s House (!) while, amongst other things, a Raven (!) flaps around in the background. Hmmm. There are some relatively effective (if a little hackneyed) observations on how people cope with grief, and the art does a decent job of evoking the period, but by the end I wasn’t taking it seriously anymore and had pretty much disengaged from the proceedings. 4/10


INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #19
Writer: Matt Fraction

Art: Salvador Larroca

Marvel $3.99


Stewart R: Mr Fraction appears to have been wearing some magic Hat of Writing Excellence for the past two years – either that or he might just have been damn talented from the get-go! I truly suspect it is the latter. This was as perfect an ending to the Most Wanted arc as a reader could ask for and doesn’t cap off the story with a big fat full stop but instead drops in a delicious comma at the end, meaning that you’ll definitely be back to see what happens next. The characterization of Victoria Hand slowly beginning to crack under the pressure of looking after the most psychotic VIP on the planet is terrific and there’s certainly scope for expansion on that plot point. Fraction manages to reach a crescendo that people were anticipating in this title and while the Osborn vs Stark confrontation skirts along clichéd lines for the briefest of times, it fits so well into the giant puzzle of Tony’s plan that it’s instantly forgivable. Larroca, as always, brings his A-game to the table and to be honest I’m struggling to think of a time when the Iron Man armours have been drawn with such brilliant dynamism. Get the Most Wanted arc in trade when available if you’re late to the party and jump onboard next issue. I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed. 10/10


Matt C: There were a couple of points early on where I felt the narrative wasn’t really going anywhere and maybe it was time to jump ship, but Fraction turned things around pretty swiftly and in the final analysis World’s Most Wanted has been a smart, gripping and ultimately audacious story arc. Even though I’m not entirely sure where Fraction’s going to take things from here, the ending provided a real “Yes!” moment, and in amongst the Dark Reign saturation the characterization of Osborn here really sticks out. In fact, it's the characterization in general that helps put this in the top tier of current Marvel titles, and with the superbly rendered action scenes from Larroca ratchetting up the excitement levels, come next summer it will surely be one of the rare occasions when a superhero hits the big screen in style while the character’s book on the racks is equally as good. 8/10


RESURRECTION V2 #4
Writer: Marc Guggenheim

Art: Justin Green Wood & Dominike Stanton
Oni Press $3.99

Matt C: I’ve got to tip my hat to Guggenheim here, the introduction of a new – and familiar – character to the mix is a really ballsy move. It’s the kind of thing that, if handled badly, could derail the entire narrative, but on this evidence the writer just might pull it off. Resurrection would make an excellent TV show, certainly a lot better than the above average FlashForward Guggenheim has been working on (although he’s apparently been booted off that) – the characters are compelling and it’s an intriguing spin on the usual clichés trotted out for alien invasion storylines. Having said that, I’m glad Guggenheim’s still pursuing this in the comic book format – there were some inconsistent and wonky facial expressions in the back-up story, but that aside this issue delivered a compulsive reading experience. 8/10



SPIDER-WOMAN #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Art: Alex Maleev

Marvel $2.99


Stewart R: I have to say that my past experiences with these creators do have me turning every page of this particular comic waiting for everything to fall to pieces into unreadable, unfathomable nonsense, and yet every single one of those pages is terrific. While the rest of Marvel’s Bendis’ titles seem to be stocked to the gills with heroes and villains which leave little room for characterization and occasionally even plot, the Spider-Woman comic is a piece of inspired focus as Jessica Drew continues through her first day as a S.W.O.R.D agent tracking down Skrulls in Madripoor. The few pages that Bendis includes here to give a broader view of her powers are spot on, showing that not all superheroes have full control of their talents and gives a taste of what would happen in a ‘real world’ setting with pheromones and similar chemical-based abilities. When the action cranks up a notch Maleev displays some exceptional talent, especially with his use of shadow and panel layout. If it continues down this path we could have another keeper on our hands ladies and gentlemen. 8/10


THE STUFF OF LEGEND #2
Writer: Mike Raicht & Brian Smith
Art: Charles Paul Wilson III

Th3ird World Studios $4.99


Matt C: I’m pleased to see the words “Volume I” on the cover because there’s plenty more to explore in this wonderful world Raicht, Smith and Wilson have created. This issue isn’t quite as strong as the debut, but the characters are beginning to come into their own a lot more here as they find themselves trapped in the strange town of Hopscotch. It’s pure fairytale, but with a dark edge that broadens its appeal considerably, and the realism that Wilson brings the imagery ensures that it transcends any age-range categorization. The format size The Stuff Of Legend is presented in is the same as Archia’s Mouse Guard; I wonder if that’s intentional because those of you out there who’ve been enthralled by David Petersen’s excellent series would be advised to give this book look if they haven’t done so already. 8/10


DARK AVENGERS #10
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Art: Mike Deodato

Marvel $3.99


Stewart R: Conti-fecking-nuity! Please? Seriously Mr Bendis; last issue we were left with the Sentry having had his face melted off by his own wife with an alien gun and now he is flying around like nothing’s happened. Even the rather bizarre ‘workshop corridor’ scenes from last time are just left without any explanation here. It’s these little points that really get my back up when reading comics on a regular basis as, even if there’s some great explanation further down the line, the level of aggravation and annoyance is probably not worth the pay off. Norman steadily losing the plot is handled reasonably well but then Mr Bendis has been trumped on that front by Mr Fraction in Invincible Iron Man. Even Deodato isn’t impressing me like he did last issue with some rather pokey panel layouts and the sad Venom face further making me ‘tut’ in disgust. I came back to this title only recently due to tie-ins and might drop it just as quickly. 4/10



FANTASTIC FOUR #277
Writer: John Byrne

Art: John Byrne & Jerry Ordway

Marvel $0.65

Matt C: This issue sees Byrne in experimental mode again, with two stories running concurrently: the first, featuring the Thing’s return to Earth, takes up the top half of the page; the second, with Reed, Sue, Franklin battling Mephisto with a little help from Doc Strange, fills the bottom half. You might think it would get a little bit confusing, constantly jumping back and forth, but surprisingly, due to the strength of storytelling on display, it works brilliantly. Even though I love any appearance of Mephisto when he’s handled right (as he is here), if I had to choose a winner I’d go for the Thing-centric tale - now back from the Secret Wars planet, he’s decided to go tell Alicia that they’re just going to be friends only to completely lose the plot when Johnny opens the door in his pyjama bottoms. Alicia slapping Ben across the face is one of those shocking but memorable panels that has stuck with me for a good 20 odd years. Byrne and Ordway are starting to conjure up some real chemistry on the visual side of things in this near-perfect instalment of Fantastic Four. 10/10

4 comments:

Andrew Wahl said...

Gents:

Another fine batch of reviews. For new comics, Paradox is currently my favorite review site (to the point that you actually influence new purchases).

Keep up the great work.

Cheers,
Andrew

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

Thanks for your comments Andrew. Hopefully we don't steer you wrong too often!

Anonymous said...

Well, on the strength of Matt C's recommendation (and since I'm a fan of Mouse Guard) I picked up issue 1 of 'The Stuff of Legend' today, which I'll read later in the week. Looks good already from a cursory flick through of the pages.

-Rob N