20 Dec 2009

Mini Reviews 20/12/2009

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.

Matt C's Byrne FF project continues this week.

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Bryan Hitch & Butch Guice
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Marvel has really dropped the ball with this now. Steve Rogers has already begun parading around in various other books in his Cap suit, so any ounce of suspense that might have been squeezed out of this storyline has now dissipated. On top of that, you really do have to question what the original plan for this series was seeing as they’ve extended it from five issues to six. Is this one the result of that? An issue jam-packed with action and not much else? It’s more than competently put together but it’s so clichéd in its representation of a Cap vs Skull showdown that you wonder where the groundbreaking brilliance that Brubaker once brought to Captain America has gone. A handsome looking product it may be, but I can’t imagine anyone who’s been along for the ride since the very beginning (and by that I mean Bru’s Captain America #1) not being disappointed by the way this is playing out. 6/10

Matt T: Quite possibly the best compliment that has been levelled at Reborn during my reviews of the miniseries has been that the occasional issue could sit within the main series. This issue is yet another representation of that, as the Skull-possessed Cap has to contend with a fight from both inside and outside. Bucky may or may not be Cap for much longer, but he kicks ass and takes names in impressive style here. It may be one long fight, but the panel layouts are incredibly inventive and the tension is amped up in an impressive fashion until the conclusion, making this one of my favourite issues so far. 8/10

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Patrick Gleason, Rebecca Buchman and Tom Nguyen
DC $2.99

Stewart R: Truly wonderful stuff from Tomasi and Gleason this week as Guy Gardner’s transformation into a Red Lantern of Rage is realised following Kyle Rayner’s heroic sacrifice last time out. This book is filled to the brim with emotion - as befits a title linked to the Blackest Night event – and the level of tension is certainly palpable, ensuring that single every page is unmissable. Tomasi has been able to manoeuvre certain characters not involved in the main BN story into position on Oa and the involvement of Star Sapphire Miri and Yellow Lantern Kryb keeps the cast varied and the story unpredictable. Gleason delivers some truly breathtaking work with Guy’s initial ‘conscription’ and subsequent attack on the Black Lanterns being the giddying high point. I have to say that if you’re thinking of dropping any other $2.99 title at the moment then you should definitely start investing that money into this incredibly entertaining comic. 10/10

Writers: Chris Gorak & Pierluigi Cothran
Art: Damian Couceiro
Boom! Studios £3.99

Matt C: The debut issue of this mini was damn impressive; this issue, not so much. Nola’s transformation from regular civilian to an angel of vengeance seems incredibly swift and, based on what we’ve been shown so far, somewhat unlikely. The structure is occasionally confusing too, and at certain points I wasn’t entirely sure whether we were in the past or present. I still want to see where this goes, and hopefully it’ll make more sense when all the pieces slot into place; the art’s very evocative and there’s some nice characterization so I’m rooting fo the promise of that debut issue to pay off. 6/10

Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art: Pablo Raimondi and Andrew Hennessy
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: I gave each of the new Realm Of Kings titles a chance on the debut and then promised I would make a harsh call on one or both depending on the quality. With the Starjammers onboard, the Imperial Guard title is safe on the pull-list for the moment and the intriguing political edge that this Inhumans title is carrying has me now cursing Marvel’s $3.99 policy. There is enough decent plot work, character development and a reasonable guest appearance by the Mighty Avengers to make this a pretty good $2.99 book, and Abnett and Lanning do a good job of showing the troubled position that the Inhumans find themselves in having to prove their worth to a whole civilisation. I do however wish there were a few more pages (or less adverts) to truly warrant the extra buck. 6/10

Writer: Joe Casey
Art: Tom Scioli
Image $2.99

Matt C: A while ago I somehow got the impression that this series was going to conclude with #30 so decided to stick around for that to happen. That clearly isn’t the case so I think I’m just going to have to quit it anyway. When it first debuted, the way Godland channelled Jack Kirby’s creative genius into a story that managed to be both reverent and irreverent at the same time was a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, as it progressed, it began to get a little more self-indulgent, a little less read-friendly, and – I hate to say it – a little bit dull. It still looks beautiful – Scioli can do ‘Kirby Cosmic’ brilliantly - but on the whole the plot doesn’t seem to have much direction anymore, so it’s time to say adiós. 5/10

Writer: Peter David
Art: Bing Cansino & Marco Santucci
Marvel $4.99

Matt T: As one of my favourite team books ever, X-Factor has been hitting the heights with superb plotting and characterisation for a few years now. The jump in time had me mildly concerned, even if the team has returned to their spiritual home of New York. As ever with bumper issues half is barely worth it, but the main plot starts with a cracking mystery in the disappearance of the Invisible Woman. It may sound like, as Valeria puts it, a whimsical tale, but shy of the by-the-numbers punch up Peter David has once more thrown up a twist-laden story that will doubtless have more implications in the future. As a first issue it'll make your head spin, but I encourage newcomers to stick with X-Factor for the long run. There's always an excellent payoff, even if it takes 20 issues to get there. 8/10

Writer: James Robinson
Art: Mark Bagley, Rob Hunter, Scott Hanna and Marlo Alquiza
DC $3.99

Stewart R: I rarely review an issue of this title despite having all 40 issues in the current run; my major problem has been that the actual premise and heart of the Justice League has been weakened and diluted for quite some time which is something thankfully being addressed now, though not yet resolved, by the creative team currently behind the wheel. This Blackest Night tie-in has the bruised and battered makeshift line-up fighting for their lives against former friends and foes in Black Lantern guise. There’s some great character analysis by Robinson here as the team members are forced to realise some of their worst fears and justify not only their presence in the League but as superheroes as well. There’s a well thought out dynamic to the whole confrontation as the female-centric Leaguers battle against some really creepy and nasty individuals. Bagley’s art suits the book at the moment but I’m hoping Ed Benes will find his way back to it at some later date. 7/10

Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Art: Humberto Ramos & Carlos Cuerva
Marvel $3.99

Matt T: About ten issues ago Bishop was within a hair's breadth of killing Cable and Hope, and now he's.... no closer. In fact, if Hope hadn't sprouted into a Jean Grey-lookalike then this book would've had painfully little to stop it from being the same issue after issue. Chances are all and sundry will make it back to this time, and the fight will end when someone eventually puts Bishop in the ground. Until then, the intelligent original plot has been dragged to wafer-thin breaking point and I, for one, am very bored. 4/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Jean Diaz
Boom! Studios $3.99

Stewart R: Mark Waid is crafting his own little universe of awesomeness over at Boom! and, now that a world living in fear of the maniacal Plutonian has been established (pick up Irredeemable for more of that) it seems that Waid has plenty more planned. Incorruptible comes at this world from the exact opposite angle with a near-indestructible career villain realising that the rules that governed life on the planet have changed and he might be the only person who can chalk up a win as a hero. This first issue doesn’t try to chase over Max Damage’s past but instead deals with his initial actions in the present, tackling his former partners and establishing a connection with the cities law-enforcement to try to show that he’s on the level. Diaz’s art style fits the ‘gritty capes and powers’ feel that Waid seems to be going for though his delivery of Jailbait seems a touch confused considering her name and the references to her age. Obviously taste and decency might be playing a part there but she looks like a mid-twenties female character to me. All in all it’s an interesting, though not entirely original, story but if Irredeemable is anything to go by this should show promise of being a good accompanying title. 7/10

Matt C: An okay start to the ‘sister’ series of Irredeemable, even if I remain unconvinced that this new superhero universe Waid has created can sustain two ongoing titles. It’s a neat idea when you’ve got the ultimate hero going rogue to have the ultimate villain turn legit, but nothing in this debut issue suggests that this couldn’t have been dealt with as a sub plot in Irredeemable. Max Damage does seem a bit two-dimensional compared to the Plutonian – it’s early days though, I guess – but Jailbait (underaged female supervillain) is a wonderfully wrong creation, and I have a feeling she’ll be a real highlight once this series gets moving. The art from Diaz has its own identity, but (and I don’t know whether this is intentional) there is a certain similarity to Peter Krause’s work on Irredeemable that lends a consistency to the shared universe the characters inhabit. This isn’t an essential purchase in the way Irredeemable #1 was, but I do trust Waid, so I believe there is potential for greatness down the line. 6/10

Writer: Greeg Hurwitz
Art: Jerome Opeña
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Yep, four issues in and I’m hooked. After last month’s reintroduction of Bushman I had wondered whether Hurwitz might peak too soon and rush in an ill-timed rematch against Marc Spector/Jake Lockley’s uber-nemesis. Luckily Hurwitz instead chooses to prolong the build up and place the focus on Lockley’s need to steer clear from the dark and blood-filled path he previously trod. There’s some terrific work from Opeña who not only deals with Moon Knight’s particular brand of crime-fighting well but also uses a neat trick in only showing the detail in a characters eyes when absolutely necessary, which brings a heightened feeling of foreboding to the whole comic. If the level of quality is maintained we could be looking at one of the ongoing titles of 2010. 8/10

Writer: Brian K Vaughan
Art: Tony Harris
DC/Wildstorm $2.99

Matt C: A series where I’m just waiting on the conclusion now, which is a shame because when it started it was genuinely surprising and packed with thought-provoking, intelligent ideas. Now I get the feeling Vaughan’s heart’s not in it as much because, while there’s a bona fide shocking moment in this issue, it doesn’t carry the emotional resonance it should, at least not for me. I wonder if perhaps it would hold together better in the collected format, because the erratic scheduling it’s suffered from probably helped add to my lack of engagement at this point, but I honestly don’t know if I’d ever be willing to revisit it in the future. 5/10

Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Miguel Sepulveda
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: With Jeff Parker now at the helm, the Agents of Atlas were always likely to make an appearance here and the timing is just right. The Thunderbolts are a team trying to find their feet after a string of continuous losses and embarrassing defeats, not to mention constant infighting and double-dealing. Parker seems determined to dig a little deeper into the team dynamic than Diggle did during his short creative stint and I think it should make this comic stronger for it. Who better to pit this misfit bunch of mercenaries and killers masquerading as heroes against than another team who are the exact opposite? Thankfully we’re being guided through all this by a writer who knows how to get the best out of characters’ strengths and weaknesses and the fist-fight proves to be a well thought out set piece with a gut-wrenching cliffhanger. Good stuff for a title that was in definite need of a lift. 7/10

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

Matt C: For me, this is the crown jewel in Boom!’s roster: supernaturally tinged mysteries that have the ability to surprise even the most jaded comic book reader. There’s no way in hell I would’ve guessed the reason behind the murders that world’s greatest detective Catherine Allingham is currently investigating, and it’s a testament to Waid’s skill as a writer that he can throw such a curveball into the plot and make it seem perfectly natural and obvious. Add to the tight, ingenious script some great action rendered by Oosterveer and basically this second Unknown miniseries is a winner. I sincerely hope there are more in the pipeline. 8/10

Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Steve Lieber
Image $3.50

Stewart R: Not many writers could get away with a comic revolving around two people trapped in a cave system and running for their lives but Jeff Parker has once again hit his A-game to deliver a great little read. With last issue's subterranean tensions being about misunderstandings, gunfights and strangulations, things are a bit more subdued and claustrophobic this time around. Seth and Wes’s struggles to avoid their pursuers and stay alive ‘underground’ are fantastically tense and, thanks to writer and artist working in harmony, brilliantly realized. The use of a greyscale palette for Wes and Seth’s scenes is inspired and really brings the close surroundings in that bit tighter. Little conversations on coping with the fear of the conditions and trying to stay positive keep things moving along nicely while the brief trips to the overground rescue efforts keep the plot on course for what I’m sure will be a well-rounded finale next issue. 8/10

Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Art: Giancarlo Caracuzzo
IDW $3.99

Matt C: More than anything it was the Darwyn Cooke covers that drew me to this mini as there’s only so much zombie madness I can take, but it has been a reasonably enjoyable series all told. This final issue was a bit of a let down as I hoped the writers might have had something a little different lined up, but as it goes they stick pretty closely to genre conventions and there isn’t really anything in the way of surprises. Caracuzzo’s art has an agreeable earthiness to it, and he doesn’t skimp on the gore factor, while Palmiotti and Gray imbue their script with a sexed-up flavour and an obvious glee in dispatching various characters. It’ll be a decent read in collected format but I’d really only recommend it to those who are already fans of the genre as I honestly think the appeal is a bit limited outside of that particular audience. 6/10

Stewart R: Oh dear, where did it all go wrong? Well, actually thinking back it really started to fall apart in the second issue when the pretty undistinguishable cast members started being fed upon by the infected hordes or dying in bizarre and accidental ways. This final issue ties the main story of the ‘survivors’ up in a rather hurried and uninteresting fashion and then tries to spin a shock epilogue at you that actually has me really hoping that IDW decide to save the paper and ink instead. The art from Caracuzzo certainly hasn’t helped my opinion of this miniseries as the lack of detail and consistency in his work was occasionally off-putting. If you spot this one in a box in your local comic shop at some point in the future don’t be fooled by the excellent Darwyn Cooke covers; just slide it back in its place and pretend you never saw it. 2/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne & Joe Sinnott
Marvel $0.75

Matt C: Sue, Jen and a guest-starring Janet Van Dyne (aka the Wasp) seem a little to eager to aid a costumed chap attacking an embassy in New York, even if it is the Latverian embassy, so it’s not really much of a surprise when things go pear-shaped. Reed surely wouldn’t have allowed him teammates to run into the fray without properly assessing the situation, but then he’s busy tinkering with the Fantasticar at this point in time. Byrne picks up a plot thread he left dangling back in FF #260 to allow the team’s greatest nemesis to return after a long hiatus. It’s great to see Joe Sinnott back on inking duties again: having lent his skills to some of the greatest artists ever to have transformed the pages of FF into things of wonder, he brings a classic feel to the book almost instantly. A lot of this is really prologue to what comes next, but it’s damn fine prologue all the same. 8/10


Unknown said...

I didn't buy Last Resort this week, as there's only so long I can survive on Mr Cooke's awesome covers. By the looks of Stu and Matt's reviews, I didn't miss much.

Stewart R said...

It really was just a mess of ideas thrown at a page like a incohesive pile of brains and gore. I suppose it can occasionally be the fate of the medium lengthed mini-series but it wasn't helped this time out by the artwork. A shame really as I did actually like the way the first issue set everything up.