3 Jan 2010

Mini Reviews 03/01/2010

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.


CAPTAIN AMERICA: WHO WILL WIELD THE SHIELD? #1
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Butch Guice & Luke Ross
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: With Reborn #6 not due on the shelves for another couple of weeks it’s clear that Marvel have well and truly ballsed up the return of Steve Rogers now. Saying “Sorry Folks!” on the credits page just doesn’t cut it. Ignoring the scheduling ‘mishap’, this is a half-decent read, eschewing the high-octane antics of Reborn for a more introspective look at the two men wearing the star-spangled uniform. There’s a smidgeon of action, some insightful dialogue, and some cracking art, but the feeling remains that Brubaker needs to re-inject the verve and intelligence that made Captain America such an essential read over the last few years. 6/10


BLACKEST NIGHT #6
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert & Joe Prado
DC $3.99

Stewart R: What a nice little post-Christmas present this was! Having been a little less impressed with each instalment of this event since the great debut issue, things finally get back on track to a degree as the forces of light begin their fight back against the forces of darkness and death. Each and every event worth its salt needs moments of grin-inducing awesomeness and this issue has them in spades: from Barry Allen’s confidence in his powers and use of the speedforce, through to Ganthet’s last act as a guardian which leads to a terrific sequence of ‘deputizations’ that Johns must have had planned from the very beginning of this story. While these moments are fantastic I still get a feeling that this book merely acts to summarize the deeper and more drawn out occurrences elsewhere through the DC Universe at this time, but when you summarize to this level of quality it really is hard to complain. 8/10

Matt T: Once again Johns has pulled a cracking issue out of the hat. The gathering darkness has prompted our old pal Ganthet to use one of his final fallback plans, evening up the odds against the zombified masses. Instead of switching between countless sub-plots Blackest Night has streamlined into a single story, which benefits the end product hugely. Now the tension is building to a final fight between the forces of good and evil, and, knowing Johns, there'll be a fair few twists before the end. 9/10


GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #21
Writers: Dan Abnett and & Lanning
Art: Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy and Victor Olazaba
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Things just don’t get any easier for the Guardians and this time their troubles include religious zealots, annoying space-station politics and a particularly nasty case of alien possession. With a dwindling roster that barely ever get any time to recover from the last huge emergency before dealing with the next we’re really starting to see their frustration and exhaustion take a toll. Abnett and Lanning make sure to develop a little more background to The Fault and what nastiness may lie just over the horizon and, by making sure that things are far from simple on the ‘safe’ side of the big rip in space, they will no doubt ensure that we can never guess what just might happen around the corner. Walker, as I’ve mentioned a good few times before, is a terrific talent and he delivers some superb moments of tension and panic. Go on, let this book lay a few alien eggs of its own inside your brain; trust me, it feels great! 8/10


CROSSED #8
Writer: Garth Ennis
Art: Jacen Burrows
Avatar $3.99

Matt C: The penultimate issue, and things can’t really get any bleaker than they are now. The survivors are barely hanging on to their humanity at this stage, and shocking violence has become so commonplace it barely registers with them anymore. Even though the cover suggests otherwise, the Crossed don’t actually make an appearance here, but their deadly presence is felt throughout. It’s the encroaching feeling of doom that hangs over the characters that gets to you, that and the knowledge that everything’s bound to come to a suitably graphic head when the next issue hits the stands. I guess the overall success of the series will hinge on how Ennis wraps things up, but based on what he’s achieved so far I can’t imagine he’ll fumble it before he reaches the finishing line. 8/10


AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #31
Writer: Christos N.Gage
Art: Rafa Sandoval
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Some comic titles can just surprise you with a consistent level of quality and an ability to make you look at characters in a completely different way. The one thing that Dark Reign has managed to do very well is blur the lines between standard hero and villain archetypes and bring a very human element to the table. Nowhere is that better displayed than in The Initiative title, and Gage has been working some magical storytelling since grabbing hold of the reigns. This time out the writer puts Taskmaster under the spotlight who begins to realise that he is punching well above his weight yet could end up with everything he ever wanted if he has the guts to accept a higher position in Osborn’s regime. There’s a terrific discussion between old bone face and Constrictor on what it used to mean to be guys of dubious morals who just wanted to make a quick buck, and how the world has been turned on its head, leaving them questioning just what they want from this life. There’s, dare I say it, a soap opera feel to the events in this book but I mean that in the most affectionate and enthusiastic way as it really does wring the very best from this wide and varied cast. If you’re looking for a new Marvel title to try in 2010 then you should really be looking here folks. 9/10


GREEN LANTERN #49
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Ed Benes, Marcos Marz & Luciana Del Negro
DC $2.99

Matt C: A little less ‘essential’ than recent issues of Green Lantern for those following Blackest Night as the focus shifts away from Hal Jordan and onto Jon Stewart. Still, while you could easily pass this one by and not really miss anything integral to the overall plot, it’s yet another great example of Johns brilliant skill at distilling the essence of a recognisable character in the course of a single issue. If this was your first meeting with Stewart chances are you you’ll come away with a solid understanding of the type of guy he is. Benes art is good but often a little too slick for my tastes – it does the job though, so no real complaints there. The Tales Of The Black Lantern Corps backup is a bit throwaway but maybe it will provide a detail or two that could be useful down the line. Or maybe not! 7/10


WOLVERINE: WEAPON X #8
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Yanick Paquette & Michel Lacombe
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: This storyline has looked and felt like an excursion from the main business of Logan being the best he is at what he does. It has been fun seeing the ol’ canucklehead in b-movie horror surroundings, but the entire tale should have been over in three issues, tops. With a fourth instalment on the way to conclude things it does seem that this has outstayed its welcome somewhat – it certainly could have benefited from faster pacing. Not bad, but as a $3.99 title this isn’t providing value for money at the moment. If it wasn’t for the strong first arc, and the promise of more like it, I might have considered bailing. 6/10


CHEW #7
Writer: John Layman
Art: Rob Guillory
Image $2.99

Stewart R: These boys do like to keep this title interesting! After being united with his old partner last time out, this issue now sees Tony jetting off around the world on a little quest of his own as he searches for a mysterious fruit which seems to be popping up in some strange places. The introduction of super-spy and hard as nails USDA agent Lin Sae Woo is pretty cool and keeps in line with Layman’s use of brief page-long histories from the first arc. Her inclusion here works well to show that Tony is once again rather clueless when it comes to the unfolding events he continues to find himself neck-deep in and also highlights just how malevolent a force he may find himself up against in issues to come. This book continues to sell out at distribution and so far it’s blatantly obvious to see just why that is. 7/10


SPIDER-WOMAN #4
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Alex Maleev
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Not the strongest issue so far in this run that’s for sure, as Jessica is forced to face her fears about herself and what she has the ability to do and become. It is basically a ‘fight and escape’ issue and is a little sparing on the dialogue and plot-building but with the way BMB tends to work that may come as a relief to many of you. What we therefore get is a chance for Maleev to get his action talents out and provide us with some sumptuous visuals. While his use of viewpoints and angles is wide and varied I am starting to notice that he doesn’t seem to be fully comfortable with person to person contact, and some of the fisticuffs can seem a little too poster-like for their own good. Of course that same quibble means that when he needs to demonstrate breathtaking actions and feats of athleticism it all comes together tremendously and the last couple of shots of Jessica leaping away from Madame Hydra are spine-tingling to say the least. It’s certainly been better but taken as a brief sequence in a longer story this issue will prove necessary. 6/10


IRREDEEMABLE #9
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Peter Krause
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: I’m continuously amazed by how Waid manages to keep what could have been a limited concept moving forward without slowing the pace, adding new layers and potential avenues to explore along the way. This issue sees the surviving US military bods bring a new, and probably catastrophic, player into the mix, while Qubit’s search for Modeus leads to a totally unexpected place. The Plutionian takes a backseat this month as we see the beginning of what will possibly be a meltdown for Charybdis, and Krause provides some splendid visuals for this individual’s bump in power level. I’ve stopped second guessing Waid now, because I literally have no idea where he’s taking us anymore, and that is – sadly – somewhat refreshing these days. The writer has the tropes and conventions of the genre so ingrained into his consciousness that he seem to be able to throw just about anything into his plot and make it work. 8/10


CRIMINAL: THE SINNERS #3
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips
Marvel/Icon $3.50

Matt T: This tasty little bit of noir is ticking along nicely, as Tracy tries to complete the task given to him but only ends up upsetting some unsavoury characters, including his boss. A lack of stealth on the protagonist’s part isn't helping, but you also get the distinct feeling that there are bigger, badder forces waiting to give him a good kicking. I'm glad I picked this miniseries up, as it's so different from most of the other stuff I'm reading, and I always look forward to seeing who Tracy beats-the-snot-out-of/annoys-so-much-they-try-to-kill-him each issue. Top stuff. 8/10


FANTASTIC FOUR #288
Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne & Joe Sinnott
Marvel $0.75

Matt C: “Doctor Doom versus the Beyonder” screams the slogan on the cover. Only neither of them seems to recognise the other, which strikes as somewhat strange considering what Victor Von Doom got up to during the Secret Wars series. Reed has to employ his vast intellect once again to prevent the Beyonder atomising Doom and inadvertently causing a collapse of the space-time continuum. Ingenious usage of some big sci-fi ideas, some masterful character work (of Doom in particular, natch) and numerous wonderful visuals from Byrne and Sinnott. Classic stuff, in other words. 9/10

2 comments:

Matt C said...

RE: Stew's Guardians review:

"Go on, let this book lay a few alien eggs of its own inside your brain; trust me, it feels great!"

Brainwashing occurring here? Can we expect something to burst out of your stomach in the not too distant future?

Stewart R said...

There'll only be stomach bursting if IDW insist on making any more issues of the terrible Last Resort which could bring on some indigestion of Red Lantern proportions.