1 Nov 2009

Mini Reviews 01/11/2009

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.


BLACKEST NIGHT #4
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Ivan Reis & Oclair Albert
DC $3.99

Stewart R: As this huge story continues I’m steadily realising that I’m looking forward to the associated tiles a little more than the main comic itself, and I’m not entirely sure why that is. It could possibly be because Johns seems to be using the main title to show the larger effect of the Blackest Night descending upon the DC Universe while he elects to deal with the potential forming of a fight back in Green Lantern. With every issue of Blackest Night focusing on the struggle and gradual fall of each earthbound hero, I’m wondering if this isn’t becoming a little one-dimensional as a single title since equally important interweaving happenings are scattered amongst the pages of another $2.99 tie-in. Luckily for me I’ve been picking up three other associated titles so I’m well apprised of what is going on and am enjoying the ride. Ivan Reis continues to prove that he was the right choice for an eight-issue epic of this quality. 7/10

Matt C: There’s a real sense of desperation and hopelessness setting in during this issue as the Black Lantern’s begin their endgame with the appearance of Nekron. Since Hal Jordan's busy elsewhere this is Barry Allen’s chance to shine, and it’s the pure heroism he displays that makes it abundantly clear why he’s such a revered character. When it comes to producing note-perfect characterization for DC’s finest – from the icons to the c-listers – there is no one better equipped than Geoff Johns. That’s not just an opinion anymore, either; with Blackest Night it’s become a fact. The art is stunning – career-best work from Reis – and now it’s hit the halfway mark it’s really looking like Blackest Night might turn out to be that rare thing: and event book that lives up to its promise and potential. 8/10

Matt T: Once again a cracking issue from Johns involving the apparent destruction of all things DC, yet this isn't the dirgefest I thought it would be. The last, Firestorm-centric tale of death and woe didn't exactly capture my imagination, but thankfully there's a few slivers of hope breaking through all the carnage and destruction, even if the last panel reveals the main foe for Flash and friends. How is Johns going to end this? God knows. But with the halfway point reached I’m guessing the heroes will start the fight back soon, setting up a barnstorming finish. 8/10


NOVA #30
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Kevin Sharpe & Nelson Pereira
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: There was a time not so long ago when Nova was right up there as one of my favourite ongoing titles, but it began to steadily slide down the ranks to the point where I’m going to have to knock it on the head. I think the moment it stopped being a really vital and unique series was when the focus shifted more onto the creation of the new Nova Corps and away from the engaging partnership of Richard Rider and Worldmind. There used to be a sense that they were always flying by the seat of their pants, and that feeling’s now no longer present. It still retains a decent amount of entertainment value and if money was no object I’d probably continue with it, put with the increasing amount of $3.99 titles giving my wallet a battering (and ones I’d prefer to keep onboard with) I have to start looking at what I can live without. DnA’s Guardians Of The Galaxy has also lost some of its fizz, but that’s only over the last couple of issues so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and persevere. For now though, me and Nova are going to have to part ways. 6/10

Stewart R: I’ll say it now: DnA have done some creative backtracking on a few of their ideas for Nova and I’m not convinced at this time that they are for the best. The likes of Morrow, Irani and Fraktur were previously portrayed to be decent Nova centurions who could handle themselves in a tight spot and now they’re demoted to rookie status and seem to be a rather incapable bunch. I get why the writers have seen the need to do this but it’s a little frustrating to see it not handled quite as subtly as it could have been. The resolution of the Nova Corps dangerous predicament with the Black Hole Suns and a reawakened Ego is dealt with creatively but the evident shoehorning of a new, old-school drill-sergeant into the current Corps is also a little clichéd. I am willing to accept that these are changes necessary to ensure this remains a consistent and high-quality read in the future and the book is certainly in worthy hands. 6/10


FVZA: FEDERAL VAMPIRE AND ZOMBIE AGENCY #1
Writer: David Hine
Art: Roy Allan Martinez
Radical $4.99

Matt T: You can be sure of two things with this comic: that the art is going to be stunning, and the horror will be well crafted. Martinez has certainly come on in the detail stakes, which was my main criticism of his work on Caliber, and the colouring is superbly moody and atmospheric. There are still some hefty clichés floating around waiting to ruin the narrative, what with a secretive government agency controlling the undead and a family torn apart by vampires, but I'm fully trusting Hine to deliver the goods. 8/10


SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN #2
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Gary Frank & Jon Sibal
DC $3.99

Matt C: The appeal of the Legion of Superheroes has always proven to be elusive for me, so after last month’s stellar debut I had a feeling this second instalment wouldn’t be able to match it. Obviously the Legion are integral to the mythos, so I’m not complaining about their inclusion, but to be honest that whole aspect of the story left me cold. Far more interesting is Johns take on Lex Luthor as the arrogant small town genius waiting for his plans to fall into place, and never doubting they’ll reach fruition – absolutely fantastic character work. The art’s generally outstanding, although that cover is a little goofy. 7/10


FANTASTIC FOUR #572
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Dale Eaglesham
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: This first arc on the monthly title sadly hasn’t matched the promise of the Dark Reign: FF mini, and I think the overriding issue here is the pacing. I’ve nothing against a three-issue storyline – far from it – but when you take your time in the first two issues setting up the plot only to rush headlong into the conclusion in the third, things like characterization and subtlety inevitably suffer. There’s still plenty to like about the concept Hickman’s playing with here but it felt like he should have allowed it more breathing space and perhaps not have the entire Council of Reeds turning out to be completely altruistic without a bad seed among them (probabilities, and all that). Eaglesham’s doing a bang up job in the art department and there’s electrifyingly cosmic colouring from Paul Mounts. Overall, I’m keen to continue with this series - I really hope Hickman doesn’t shortchange his ideas because there’s a lot of potential here. 6/10


DYNAMO 5 #25
Writer: Jay Faerber
Art: Mahmud A Asrar
Image $4.99

Matt T: Normally I'd cry gimmick on this title for both pulling out the power-switch storyline and sticking it all in an Annual-sized book, but God bless Faerber if he hasn't made it all good fun. I'm actually looking forward to the next couple of stories as a result, especially as the manner in which each character is using their powers makes the team dynamic all the more interesting. 7/10


X-FORCE #20
Writers: Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Art: Mike Choi & Sonia Oback
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: X-23 has been used as a vicious tool of death by these writers for most of this X-Force run, but they have on occasion given us glimpses of Laura’s caring side and delicate psyche while also expanding on Wolverine’s strangely paternal instincts towards her. This has ensured that while X-Force shifts from blood-soaked page to blood-soaked page, it's really all about the loyalty and camaraderie that the team-mates have for each other as they tread their dark paths. X-23’s capture by the Facility and near-successful rescue by Agent Morales has been a captivating read as the one enemy that Laura can’t apparently hurt or kill tries her best to extract an excruciating revenge upon her. The pages where the Trigger Scent fills X-23 with bloodlust are a true triumph of brutal comic storytelling and Choi and Oback should be very proud of the artwork on show here. When you couple such action with the emotionally tinged scenes at the end with Morales and Laura, you can stamp the ‘Success’ mark squarely across the cover. 9/10


IGNITION CITY #5
Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Gianluca Pagliarani & Chris Drier
Avatar Press $3.99

James R: I've already used my reviews to say how much I love this series, and it will come as no surprise to hear that this final issue is every bit as good as the previous four. Last year the Western High Noon was remade as a film called Outlander, which was based on the idea that the world of frontier living could obviously be translated to science fiction conceits. It didn't work too well as a movie, but Warren Ellis shows exactly how to make the idea succeed. This issue is a good ol' fashioned showdown on ‘Main Street’, with Mary Raven finally revealing the truth behind her father's death and establishing a new Sheriff in town. Recently, Ellis has been declaring that his comic output will drop in 2010 due to the demands of Hollywood on his considerable talent, and that's a huge shame - he's been in rare form this year, as well as a terrific source of ideas: no-one blows things up and swears with such aplomb! 9/10


X-FACTOR #50
Writer: Peter David
Art: Valentine De Landro
Marvel $3.99

Matt T: As much as I'm happy this particular arc is over, and the way it ends is at least satisfying, it does feel a bit rushed in places. The future-set end of things reaches its conclusion pretty rapidly, with the old chestnut of the voiceover narration being employed to minimise the amount of panels needed. However, the manner in which Peter David weaves Layla into Marvel lore, and explains her own powers, is absolute genius. Up till this point this has been one of my favourite team books since I began reading comics, and the fact that the next section heads back to New York makes it all the better. If you aren't picking this up, for God's sake grab the collected edition. You won't regret it. 9/10


DIE HARD: YEAR ONE #2
Writer: Howard Chaykin
Art: Stephen Thompson
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: This continues to be surprisingly good series – the sophomore issue has the plot coming further into focus (although there’s still plenty of mystery to it) and it becomes a little clearer how Officer McClane might wind up being in the wrong place at the wrong time again (or for the first time!). The reason why this is succeeding is mostly down to Chaykin mixing some wisecracking dialogue with an authentic feel for the period; this is bolstered by Thompson’s visuals which effectively generate the look of ‘70s NYC. Shit hasn’t really hit the fan yet, but Chaykin is making me want to stick around for when it does. 8/10


X NECROSHA #1
Writers: Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Zeb Wells & Mike Carey
Art: Clayton Crain, Ibraim Robertson and Laurence Campbell
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Oh Marvel, what are you doing to me? Firstly as a reader of DC’s Blackest Night I have to wonder about the timing of a Marvel event where the dead rise to seek revenge against the X-Men; it sounds like a similar situation we had when Armageddon and Deep Impact both came out in the cinema in the same summer and one lost out badly to the other in terms of reception and box office. Secondly, I have to ask why once again the rather marvellous X-Force title is subject to yet another crossover event which may force readers to purchase other titles to keep abreast of what’s going on? This is made worse by the fact that this is actually a high quality read. The Kyle/Yost/Crain combination has been working well for a couple of years now and the main story details Selene’s initial attack on the X-Men’s home with a suitable amount of darkened menace. Well’s second short showing us just how the dead forces invade Utopia is interesting enough but won’t get me picking any unnecessary New Mutants titles anytime soon. Likewise, X-writer supreme Mike Carey’s tale of Destiny attempting to foil Selene’s plans is well handled, particularly when paired with Campbell’s ‘scrappy’ artistic style, but doesn’t make me want to shell out $2.99 for X-Men: Legacy again. I may have to check just how long this event is due to last and make a wallet-based decision. 7/10


GREEN LANTERN #47
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen and Mark Irwin
DC $2.99

Stewart R: While I personally feel that Johns may just be ‘getting the job done’ in the main title at the moment I really think that he’s revelling in the fight that the various Lantern Corps are putting up against the swarms of fallen comrades vying to rip out their hearts. He clearly knows how to weave all of the necessary characters into an issue despite their relative distance from each other. Developing Atrocitus’ current position is well timed and Johns has obviously thought hard on the little plot points that make this battle with the Black Lanterns more interesting by the minute. I’m also betting that when the coalition of the Lanterns does come together that it won’t be a simple fight of light and dark and that Johns has a couple of surprises up his sleeve. Mahnke is delivering the visceral nature of these battles with some serious style and that first panel of Larfleeze in this issue had me chuckling for a good few minutes. 8/10

James R: Out of all the Paradox reviewers, I'm sad to say that I was the last one on board the Green Lantern bus. Despite my respect for Geoff Johns I had never been a huge fan of the character, and space epics in comics often left me cold. However, it's very nice to say that I was really, really wrong on this one. The last few issues of GL have been exemplary examples of how to write a superhero comic - Johns packs his pages with plot, characterisation and a series of cool sequences. This month, Sinestro & Hal Jordan have to temporarily put aside their differences to start the fight back against the Black Lanterns, and we get the latest on how the other Lantern troops are holding up against the chaos. I've been really impressed with Mahnke's art too - his clean, crisp lines lend themselves well to both the other-worldly quality of the cast and the explosive action. This comic is shot through with a real sense of urgency, and I can't imagine how anyone can say, "Ah, I'll wait for the trade..." after reading an issue like this. 8/10


ULTIMATE AVENGERS #3
Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Carlos Pacheco, Danny Miki, Dexter Vines & Allen Martinez
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Pacheco’s really knocking it out of the park here, a more than worthy successor to Bryan Hitch – his actions sequences bristle with kinetic energy. Without him on art duties my focus would switch to spotting even more flaws with the writing. I have this love/hate thing with Millar: he’s fully capable of moments of genius, but also has a tendency for sheer lowest-common-denominator laziness. I’m not quite sure which category Nerd Hulk falls into yet, but it’s a concept worrying close to the abomination that was Clor (the Thor clone from Civil War). And, for a book that’s supposedly about a group of heroes, there’s not really any likeable characters amongst them. This ain’t Dark Avengers (or is it?). 6/10

James R: Well, it all kicks off this month as the newly-assembled Avengers team throws down in a major city to stop one of their number who have run amok - yes, the Hulk is going to cause carnage in Manhat.... what? Oh, sorry, that's what happened in The Ultimates a couple of years back. I know superhero comics are, for the most part, cyclical series, but this is a stretch too far. Millar has done this story before, and whereas it looks very nice, with great work from Pacheco, this feels like the same old, same old. The two new elements of the story - Tony Stark's elder brother Gregory, and the mystery behind the 'new' Spider-Man can't overcome the ennui I felt reading this. With a yawn, this title is dropped; can we have the good and innovative Mark Millar back please? 3/10


BLACKEST NIGHT: TITANS #3
Writer: J.T.Krul
Art: Ed Benes
DC $2.99

Stewart R: Quite an enjoyable BN read all told and I can’t help but feel that there’s an important development in this very comic which will certainly make my further reading of the Blackest Night titles more interesting. J.T. Krul has spun us an entertaining Titans tale ensuring that he dredges up all of the painful memories and haunting events for several of the team, utilising the spectrum of emotional light to enhance his storytelling. While much of the focus falls upon Donna Troy’s loss of husband and child along with Beast Boy’s personal struggle with the memories of Terra, the important plot point falls upon the new Dove who serves as an ‘anomaly’ to the Black Lantern’s plans. Don Hall’s brief appearance here has left me feeling that we might in fact be witnessing some permanent (well, as far as artistic and commercial license allows!) changes to the DC Universe with this whole event. Ed Benes is always good for the money when it comes to a DC scrap but there are just a couple of pages here where it appears that he might have been struggling against the deadline as his inking gets a little heavy-handed. 7/10


GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #19
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Wesley Craig
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: These writers certainly know the right moment to pull out the various famous faces of the Space Based Universe (SBU). This time around we get a little Kang the Conqueror (a villain I’m steadily growing to like) for our money, and he’s a superb addition to a really interesting arc which has shaken the foundation of this team and the cosmos as a whole. Abnett and Lanning are obviously aware that you need to stir the emotions in a readership; they’ve made some hard choices here for the near-term future of this comic that definitely pull on the heartstrings and bring some shocked expressions to faces out there. Of course, whenever writers swing that axe you can never be sure just how permanent the effects will be, not least when dealing with space-time phenomena. Wesley Craig’s artwork puzzles me; in some instances I think he rates up there with the great artists who have worked on both this title and Nova in the past couple of years, and then on certain pages I think that his style may be a little too simple for its own good. 8/10


FANTASTIC FOUR #278
Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Bynre & Jerry Ordway
Marvel $0.65

Matt C: You can just imagine how Victor Von Doom’s Last Will & Testament might read: “In the unlikely event of my death please ensure a young boy is placed in the care of my Doombots so my mind can be downloaded into his, thus insuring that Doom will live forever. Mmwahahaha!” Kristoff, who first appeared way back in #247 (proving Byrne was always planning for the long haul), is brainwashed into believing he’s the good Doctor, and so sets about perfecting a plan that originally failed to destroy the Fantastic Four: launching the Baxter Building into outer space! Yay! Elsewhere a rather controversial subject rears its ugly head as Byrne plants the seeds for a future plot, but the meat of the tale here is all Doom, and if you like the character as much as I do (and agree that Byrne probably wrote him better than just about anyone else) you won’t be disappointed. 9/10

4 comments:

Danny said...

This week was packed with awesomeness!!! :)

The Acrobatic Flea said...

"the good and innovative Mark Millar is too busy being the 'Big I Am' in Hollywood to bother putting any effort in to writing original comics any more... they just don't pay enough!

Anonymous said...

I remember when I first bought FANTASTIC FOUR #278. I was a bit hung over that day and my first thought when I looked at the cover was, "why is Doctor Doom holding a giant cheese grater?" - Rob N

Stewart R said...

Did anyone happen to pick up Avengers: The Initiative this week and is anyone starting to think that Constrictor could be a seriously interesting character if given the chance? Of course the Trauma thing is starting to look bonkers...