22 Nov 2009

Mini Reviews 22/11/2009

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.


NOLA #1
Writers: Chris Gorak & Pierluigi Cothran
Art: Damian Couceiro
Boom! Studios $3.99

Stewart R: To be honest with you it never really crossed my mind that the devastation of Hurricane Katrina might ever be used as the backdrop to a comic, not least because the comic market is still managing to regurgitate plots based around 9/11 and doesn’t seem to be giving up with that quite yet. Rather than focus squarely on the events that devastated New Orleans, Gorak and Cothran instead level the readers gaze upon Nola, a young woman from the Louisiana city, and the unrelated events that appear to have shattered her life. Part flashback, part mysterious-thriller piece, this is a very interesting read indeed, with past and present events flicking back and forth in parallel and Cothran interlacing the script to bring some cohesion to the two different timelines. The art is terrifically understated: Couceiro keeps a very simple panel format running throughout which helps to keep this a close and intimate story. As usual it would seem that Boom! are putting other publishers to shame with the quality that they demand of a $3.99 comic. 8/10

Matt C: I knew next to nothing about this book prior to reading it – something to do with post-Katrina New Orleans and a gun-toting chick – and I’m kind of glad I hadn’t investigated further since this an unexpected and thoroughly absorbing first issue. It cuts back and forth from before the hurricane hit the city to after it’s catastrophic arrival, and the real hook is how the titular character changes so drastically between the two timeframes. The art captures the emotional resonance of each scene, laying on the intensity where necessary, particularly as the story reaches its back-and-forth crescendo in the final few pages. I still have no idea where this is headed, but based on this debut alone I’m going to continue to steer well clear of spoilers and look forward to whatever lies ahead. 8/10


SPIDER-WOMAN #3
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Alex Maleev
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: OK, onto the difficult third issue where comics can come unstuck and quickly find themselves ripped from pull-lists if they don’t maintain consistency and quality as well as keeping the plot moving along. Initially I had concerns from the sudden reintroduction of Hydra after looking forward to seeing a little more of the S.W.O.R.D angle worked upon first. BMB is evidently trying to show that Jessica Drew’s life is never going to be less than chaotic and mysterious, and this turns into an accomplished character piece as whack-job Madame Hydra tries to bring Jessica back into the multiple arms of the most dangerous terrorist organisation on the planet. There are a few questions to be asked on Drew’s choice to play along and hear Hydra out, but as long as you buy the fact that she fully understands the situation she finds herself in then this should make a decent superhero-thriller to add to your lists. 8/10


FLASH: REBIRTH #5
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Ethan Van Sciver
DC $2.99

Matt C: Unless the final issue has some astonishing revelation that knocks everyone on their ass then, based on what’s occurred so far, it’s looking like Flash: Rebirth won’t be fulfilling its potential as a thrilling relaunch of an icon in the same vein as the excellent Green Lantern: Rebirth. There’s no doubting Johns’ love and extensive knowledge of the character(s), but that sometimes works against him as the story is often so entrenched in Flash lore that it becomes difficult for anyone bar the hardcore elite fanboy to fully engage in the action. Oh, and there is plenty of action, possibly too much. I realise we’re talking about a character dubbed the “fastest man alive” here, but sometimes I wish Johns would slow things down. When he does, for the quieter, more contemplative moments, his brilliance as a writer shines through, but otherwise its delivered at such a breakneck pace, complete with ‘important’ (and admittedly gorgeous) splash pages, that it’s hard not to feel left behind. 5/10


MIGHTY AVENGERS #31
Writer: Dan Slott & Christos Gage
Art: Sean Chen
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: The worst thing about this book is the 'next issue' page, in which it's revealed that the Dark Avengers will turn up for a throwdown. Other than that, this instalment of Mighty Avengers ticks along nicely, making the big battle more layered than a simple back and forth between a hugely powerful foe and a team of all stars. Hank Pym, who has been the undoubted star to this point, makes a last minute save and ensures evil is defeated once more, and that his team of misfits continue until the tail end of Dark Reign at least. I'm hopeful Marvel keeps this book in play for a while longer though, as it's been a pleasant distraction of B-listers managing to fumble a few wins, and up against Dark Avengers it's clearly the better book. 8/10


COWBOY NINJA VIKING #2
Writer: AJ Lieberman
Art: Riley Rossmo
Image $3.50

Stewart R: A little more clear-cut this time around and that should hopefully win this great comic some fans who may have been a little wary after the first instalment. With Pirate Gladiator Deep Sea Diver Ammo racking up a small body count in Tokyo it’s up to Duncan (Cowboy Ninja Viking – I’ll refer to him as CNV in any review from here on out!) and agent Nix to head across the Pacific and stop him before any more heads roll and tridents are thrown. This is gloriously madcap stuff, part Deadpool-esque psychological yarn, part… well I don’t know quite what really, and the superb ‘pencil-scratch’ style artwork from Rossmo really adds to the bizarre feel that this book is going for. I anticipated that the muted colour scheme may change from issue to issue and that itself shows that this comic may have a real personality of its own as the story continues. Now I just have to find a comic bag that fits its damn gloriousness in… 8/10


KOOKABURRA K #1
Writers: Didier Crisse & William Hicks
Art: Humberto Ramos, Carlos Cuevas & Leonardo Olea
Marvel/Soleil $5.99

Stewart R: You start plastering this kind of price on a Marvel title these days and unless its got Cap America or ol’ Webhead adorning the cover you’ll probably find yourself cramming your money back safely into your pocket. Of course Kookaburra K isn’t strictly speaking a Marvel title, having been released in French the first time around under the Soleil banner, and comic readers are probably aware of Humberto Ramos’ artwork from various other popular titles in recent years. This is pure space-opera in illustrated form as the last remnants of the human race try to escape a relentless tear in the universe which has swallowed Earth. Seven children with special, unique abilities, along with a handful of various survivors, find themselves in an unknown part of the galaxy aboard the mysterious K starship. It is a little on the confusing side in places and the reader is on occasion left guessing as to the motivations of certain characters, but my gosh, this is a pretty thing to look at. Ramos has been refining and experimenting with his own distinct style for a couple of years now, but this dates back to 2006 when I believe his work was at its most clean and sumptuous. I’ll be picking the remaining two issues up just to see if I can grasp the scope of this story. 7/10


IRREDEEMABLE #8
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Peter Krause
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt T: Well, there was bound to be at least a brief flirtation with the heroes getting some payback against the insane and ridiculously powerful Plutonion. Even though the chances are that it will all go spectacularly tits up, at least we've been treated to more of the mental superhero's motivation behind his rampage of wanton destruction and general death dealing. While it's just another straw to break the unhinged donkey's back, it's at least making him appear more of a rounded person instead of a vague concept with little direction. The art is superbly consistent, and switches between action and dialogue without losing any tone or drama. 7/10

Matt C: Another solid issue as the Plutonian finds himself facing a foe he can’t just incinerate in an instant. I remain impressed by the way Waid is keeping all his balls in the air (oo-er!) – a story like this could easily be started and wrapped up within a miniseries, but Waid is still managing to keep the narrative intriguing, adding layers to the characters as he goes. Even though I continue to question how long a story like this can go on for, for now both Waid and Krause are delivering the goods. And, I know you shouldn’t really base your judgement on a final page but damn, the last image in this issue was a stonker! 7/10


WOLVERINE: WEAPON X #7
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Yanick Paquette & Michael Lacombe
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Although it looks unlikely to be as exhilarating and ferocious as the debut arc, you’ve got to give Aaron a whole heap of credit for doing something completely unexpected and different (for a Wolverine comic at least). With Logan banged up in an asylum with no knowledge of who he is and what he’s doing there, Aaron brings in a darkly comic horror vibe to the proceedings, and it’s not the kind of setting we’re used to seeing the character in. It works though, and the Paquette/Lacombe art combo helps things along with some gruesome imagery (although they can’t match that great Adam Kubert cover). I do feel we need something more for our $3.99, but this comic retains its place on the pull-list due to Aaron’s desire to deliver interesting Wolverine stories, something that’s been lacking for a good long while. 7/10


SWORDSMITH ASSASSIN #4
Writers: Andrew Cosby & Michael Alan Nelson
Art: Ayhan Hayrula
Boom! Studios $3.99

Stewart R: Well, I think that this little feudal Japan mini series can be judged to be a success! Not only did it manage to use cliché to its advantage but it also threw some neat cliffhangers and surprises into the mix as well and deliver a gripping and emotional story of loss and retribution. With this fourth issue and the surprising turn of events that had unfolded beforehand, I was completely unsure of where Cosby and Nelson could be taking us. That in turn ensured that I was reading each page in eager anticipation to see how Toshiro’s quest might reach it’s finale. Hayrula’s art is a touch confusing at times – there’s a panel during a fight sequence where an additional sword appears apparently from nowhere – but has suited the story perfectly. At first glance this looked like it was going to be a simple samurai comic but in the end it delivered something more than that. 7/10

Matt C: A predictable dénouement means it’s the weakest issue of the set by far. Although some of the success of Swordsmith Assassin has been down to the smart utilization of familiar samurai clichés, it did need something unexpected just to spice things up a little. Also, while the art in the previous instalments has conveyed a healthy sense of kineticism, the final battle – the one the whole story has been leading up to – is badly choreographed, confusing and not particularly well rendered. Taken as a whole, this has been an enjoyable series even bearing in mind the lack of surprises. Perhaps not worth $3.99 a pop, but if you can find the eventual collected edition at a reasonable price, and you’re a fan of the genre, then I would recommend giving this a look. 6/10


DARK AVENGERS #11
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Mike Deodato & Greg Horn
Marvel $3.99

Matt T: It's rare that I curse myself for buying a book, even after I've been fully aware of it's lack of merit for a while, but in Dark Avengers I've found such a title. The characters are so far from their pre-Dark Avenger's personas as to be unrecognisable, and Norman Osborn is spouting more self-aware pop-culture referenced tripe by the issue. How did Victoria Hand come to be in charge? Don't care. What's the conclusion of this tale involving the Molecule Man likely to be? Care even less. For God's sake Bendis, destroy the team and hand over the reigns to someone who knows what they're doing. Please. 2/10


TRANSFORMERS #1
Writer: Mike Costa
Art: Don Figueroa
IDW $3.99

Stewart R: I grew up with the UK version of the Transformers comic and have dipped into the various other incarnations that have popped up from time to time from different publishers. While the TF world I know and love has subsequently been replaced with the new bastardised Michael Bay/Hasbro incarnation for the general media public, there still exists an element that longs for the glory days of the much-loved G1 characters. IDW seem to be catering to both audiences with this new ongoing title keeping the original G1 Autobots as the focus, albeit with some aesthetic alteration by Figueroa to blend slightly with Bay’s techno-organic vision, and bitter tension between humans and the Transformers as the plot driver. It’s pretty decent work from all involved and hints at a desire to recover a lot of what has been lost since the likes of Simon Furman brought us a dose of Robots in Disguise on a weekly basis back in the day. There’s also a brief look at an Andrew Wildman cover for issue #2 that has me hoping that he might get a brief run on this title at some point in the future. Fingers crossed! 6/10


ADVENTURE COMICS #4
Writer: Geoff Johns & Sterling Gates
Art: Jerry Ordway & Bob Wiacek
DC $3.99

Matt C: Ok, so Superboy Prime is back (I believe DC are legally allowed to call him Superboy again) and apparently he’s now in ‘our’ world, reading this week’s comics and getting stressed by what’s going on in the DC Universe. Johns is using a metafictional approach here, acknowledging fanboys general dislike of the character while at the same asking us to root for him. It doesn’t really work though, but the real crime is that I don’t care – this isn’t why I’m picking up this book. I’m picking up this title for the continuing adventures of Connor Kent so this feels like a bit of a con, making me pay for something I have no desire to read. On top of that, just as I’m getting acclimatised to Francis Manapul’s art, Jerry Ordway comes onboard with some completely different retro stylings, compounding the feeling that this isn’t the book I thought I would be buying. Johns is too good a writer to let his script go by with out some effective moments but there’s simply not enough, and while the Legion back-up is pretty decent, I’m not really getting this title for the ‘Second Feature’, am I? 4/10


REALM OF KINGS #1
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Leonardo Manco and Mahmud Asrar
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: The $3.99 miniseries madness seems to have taken over the Marvel SBU (Space Based Universe!) with the Imperial Guard and Inhumans five-parters hitting shelves. It probably has many readers looking at their wallets and having to make the hard choice. This one-shot however is a very interesting Realm Of Kings instalment as it studies the Fault and the abominations that lie beyond its periphery. Abnett and Lanning elect to use Quasar, still in his Quantum Energy form, as a probing adventurer who dives into the Fault to collect data on its makeup. This type of alter-world story has certainly been seen before but the scenario here feels slightly fresher and delivers a feeling of impending danger. The use of two artists can often lead a comic to fall flat or lack cohesion but here it acts as a neat plot device to show the difference between locations/dimensions. My only concern is the ‘one-shot’ status which could render this particular story redundant if the ending here isn’t dealt with in its entirety under one title at some later point. 6/10


DR. HORRIBLE #1
Writer: Zack Whedon
Art: Joelle Jones
Dark Horse $3.50

Matt T: I've yet to see any of the Dr. Horrible webisodes, but thanks to the positive recommendations I've heard I thought this one-shot was worth a crack. Inside I found a fair amount of wit from the other Whedon, who seems to be of undetermined relation to the more famous Whedon, Joss. The dialogue contains a lot of the Buffy creator's trademark humour and an interesting insight into the fledgling career of a slightly useless supervillain, so I think I'll be downloading a few episode's of Dr. Horrible to see what all the fuss is about. 8/10


FANTASTIC FOUR #281
Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne & Jerry Ordway
Marvel $0.65

Matt C: Anyone who hadn’t guessed the identity of Malice last time doesn’t even have to crack open this issue for it to be revealed thanks to the not-to-subtle cover! The two-page splash of the Hate Monger crowing before a blazing New York City is really powerful, and Byrne’s knack for distinctive characterization makes this another excellent instalment in his seminal run on the book. Perhaps the final confrontation with Malice could have been a bit more lengthy, but the way Reed snaps her out of her brainwashing is brilliantly portrayed. What really sticks out is how far Byrne has taken Susan away from her ‘token female’ role and really pushed her to the forefront of the team, emphasizing just how formidable she can be. 8/10

8 comments:

Matt C said...

Matt T, do you need any recommendation of books you could pick up instead of Dark Avengers? I've got plenty of suggestions. I don't think you should be waiting for Bendis to "destroy the team and hand over the reigns to someone who knows what they're doing" as there's unlikely to be a book to read if that happens!

Just bail and spend your money elsewhere. You know it's the right thing to do.

Stewart R said...

I'd certainly suggest picking up Spider-Woman where Bendis seems to be doing a pretty decent job for once rather than destroying team books. It's almost as if he has a tipping point when too many characters need to be involved in a comic and it all disintergrates into unfathomable pap.

Matt T said...

a few recommendations could do me the world of good actually. I could certainly do well with saving the cash and getting meself a Criminal collected edition or something.

Matt C said...

Try Chew, or Sweet Tooth?

Matt T said...

Chew would be good. Not sure is Andy has any issue 1's in at the mo. Andy?

Stewart R said...

The TPB of the first arc of Chew is out soon, possibly this week so that might be worth a look.

Justin said...

Matt C,

Wow. I almost bought Adventure Comics #4... glad I didn't. I don't recall the last time you gave something a 4/10 rating!

Justin

Tom P said...

I'm very temped by COWBOY NINJA VIKING. I like the look of it, definitely has style. IF Andy has a #1 left it will be hard to say no.