10 Jan 2010

Mini Reviews 10/01/2010

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.

This week also includes the next issue in Matt C's Byrne FF project.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Olivier Coipel & Mark Morales
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: While I feel that Bendis’ influence over the Marvel Universe has sent it in directions that at best don’t appeal to me and at worst are plain idiotic, there remains a part of me that wants to give myself over to the multi-charactered hugeness of a crossover event. To be honest, I came at this with knives out ready to eviscerate, so I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be not too bad, all things considered. Much of my positive reaction towards Siege #1 is due to the striking visuals from Coipel and Morales (and wonderful, vivid colouring by Laura Martin). Anyone who picked up Straczynski’s run on Thor will know what Copiel can do with an energetic, destructive battle scene, and he doesn’t disappoint here. Scriptwise, I was pleased to see that the trademark Bendis-speak (“Did you see that?”, “ I did see that. Did you see that?” - that kind of thing) is kept to a bare minimum. The plot is rather rushed though – I’m not particularly keen on the way Volstagg is used to trigger the events since he’s essentially being treated as a device to move things forward rather than a fully-rounded (!) character. While it rips the idea straight from Civil War, it does carry a certain logic to it, but unfortunately the aftermath is skipped over in an effort to get straight into the fireworks. There’s no way I’m recommending this – Secret Invasion also showed initial promise before diving head first into cack-handed mediocrity – but I did get a certain amount of enjoyment out of Siege #1, so I guess that’s saying something. 6/10

Stewart R: I get the feeling from my fellow Paradox Group members that there’s a sense of event fatigue setting in with their opinion of Marvel. The fact that this high profile debut of a story ‘7 years in the making’ (if we’re to believe that??) contains a six-page preview for the Fall of Hulks event, and three pages of Joe Quesada justifying where this story has come from, may prove that the House of Ideas is giving us too much to deal with at the moment. The events and set-pieces detailed here are fairly clear, simple and entertaining as Osborn rallies his troops to prepare for the invasion of Asgard. My problem is that it is pretty much all action and no heart, and though I applaud Marvel for keeping this title down to four issues, I have to predict it will be all sizzle and no substance and that we’d have to shell out lots of money on the associated titles to get the full, rich picture. Speaking of which, Copiel’s work is as exceptional as we all knew it would be and he’s certainly the guy to turn to if you want to make an aesthetically pleasing façade for a rather hollow story. 6/10

Writers: Peter J. Tomasi & Keith Champagne
Art: Chris Samnee
DC Comics $2.99

James R: This issue sees the end to Tomasi and Champagne’s miniseries, with Gabriel and Alpha One facing off in typical superhero stylee. I have been a huge advocate of this series, and far preferred it to Mark Waid's similarly-themed Irredeemable. Kudos to DC for publishing a stand-alone series not featuring a character from the DC universe, but this final chapter felt a little flat – given the incredibly dark moments that the writers have served up previously, the end felt a little too simple, and 'happily ever after'. I know there is much talk in fandom at the moment about a return to 'lighter' comics after the dark tones of the Nineties and Naughties, but this read like a Hollywood movie with an ending altered by a nervous studio. A shame as the series had much to recommend (and it'll certainly be worth a look in trade if you've missed it) but it ends with a timid shove rather than a knockout blow. 6/10

Writer: Steve Moore
Art: Cris Bolson, Mauel & Leonardo Silva
Radical Comics $2.99

Matt C: This serviceable swords ‘n’ sandals tale comes to its conclusion and, while diverting, it wasn’t as enjoyably bloodthirsty as the first miniseries. The characters are all rather two-dimensional, the plot is largely predictable but if you like watching bemuscled men gruesomely despatching their foes with abandon then you could do a lot worse than this. The art is generally impressive (no surprise coming from Radical) but required a little more detail in places, and is sometimes a bit too ‘shiny’ for its own good. It passed the time but I doubt I’ll be back for more should a third series materialise. 6/10

Writer: James Stokoe
Art: James Stokoe
Image $2.99

Stewart R: Wowsers! What a lavish world James Stokoe has created here. It’s wonderfully bonkers stuff with bizarre scenes of the protagonist trying to lockpick a safe contained within the belly of a bear-like creature, and an Orc Warlord trying to brutally unify the savage world under his one flag. There’s an adult-tinged feel to it all with some nudity and drug-references but it doesn’t feel out of place in this strange, raw world. Stokoe gets over enough history and explanation of this peculiar setting in this first outing to keep me interested for a couple more issues at least, and I get the feeling that One-Eye could prove to be a great anti-hero. 7/10

Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Matthew Southworth
Oni Press $3.99

James R: Now, sit down younger readers, and let me tell you of a time now past, when we fans were blessed to see two of the finest comics writers of modern times, Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, working together on the same comic. It showed off their strengths as writers who could make compelling crime tales filled with characters with complex motivations and lives. Yes, children, such a comic did exist – and its name was Gotham Central. If you've never read Gotham Central I advise you track down the trades as soon as possible, but in the meantime, it is great to see that the two men remain firmly on top of their respective games in crime comics; Brubaker continues to excel with Criminal and Rucka works similar magic in Stumptown. This second issue continues the high standard of the first with P.I. Dex juggling her case, her home life and her disastrous personal relationships. Equally pleasing is the work of Matthew Southworth, whose pencils give the comic a distinctive and realistic feel. As an added bonus, his essay in the rear of the book on how he composes his pages is a fascinating glimpse into the artist's world. In a week that sees the release of yet another bloated Marvel event, its comics like this that allow me to keep the faith. 8/10

Stewart R: There are new introductions and new questions asked in Stumptown #2, which shows that we should be getting a great in-depth look at Dex’s life in the issues to come. Rucka is keeping the suspense bubbling and the dialogue witty, dark and succinct, making this a terrific crime/private investigator read. Characters are playing mind games with each other and Rucka is managing to keep us guessing as to who is telling the truth and who is manipulating Dex’s investigatory diggings for their own ends. Matthew Southworth’s artwork is consistent and his inking in particular is keeping the feel of this book deep and moody, while Lee Loughridge’s palettes are purposefully simple and muted. It’s a fantastic combination and long may it continue. 8/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Stewart R: While the end of this arc is not a surprise-filled jaw-dropper, it still fits in fantastically with what has come before and displays Lemire’s talent for making the smallest event last a lifetime and keep you wanting more. The dream sequence with Gus and his Dad is very dark and brought out a real feeling of sadness in me as Gus’s guilt and innocent doubts start to overcome him. The ending was always likely to pan out this way in my humble opinion but there are so many unanswered questions that I wouldn’t even consider dropping a title of such quality from a comic creator who blatantly has a plan set out in his mind. 7/10

Matt C: A heartbreaking finale to the first arc of this wonderfully unique series that marks it out as something very special indeed. The mysteriousness and raw violence of Mr Jepperd is made all the more vivid when placed against the pure innocence and gentleness of Sweet Tooth. It’s been mentioned before, but it’s worth pointing out again: the way Lemire renders the eyes of the characters (the windows to the soul, lest we forget) draws the reader in so completely that it ensures a solid emotional connection – to Sweet Tooth in particular – which amplifies all those tender (and distressing) moments. It’s markedly different from the usual post-apocalyptic stories around at the moment (no zombies for a start!) and has the ability to really get under your skin thanks to some magnificently convincing characterization. Another first-class offering from Vertigo. 9/10

Writer: Robert Kirkman
Art: Greg Capullo, Ryan Ottley & Todd McFarlane
Image $2.99

Stewart R: I’m still not 100% sure that this won’t implode under the strain of trying to avoid a barrage of clichés but it still remains entertaining in a seat-of-the-pants fashion. It’s taken four issues but the limits of the Haunt powers are starting to be revealed and the lifeforce-sapping dilemma is not something I’ve seen used much in comics of late. I’ll go with it for now but I’m not sure that the mole/saboteur side-story isn’t going to seem too tired and make a mockery of how high-tech and accomplished the agency is supposed to be. The artwork is not quite reaching the standard seen in the previous three issues and I get a feeling that the whole thing is a little rushed, but everyone’s allowed a drop in quality from time to time. It’ll just have to pick back up again next time or it might find itself on the chopping block. 6/10

Writer: John Byrne
Art: John Byrne & Al Gordon
Marvel $0.75

Matt C: The art’s a little lacklustre this issue (relatively, speaking) and it’s also the first time Byrne seems to be getting close to treading on old ground, throwing the FF back into the Negative Zone for the first time since their extended jaunt 20-odd issues ago. Blastaar puts in an entertaining appearance, if a little one-dimensional (“I am Blastaar! Blastaar!!” – yeah, we get the point, pal!), and Nick Fury joining the foursome on their mission gives the interplay an extra dynamic, but – and maybe I’m reading too much into this with the benefit of hindsight – there is a sense of Byrne winding things down. Good, but not up there with his best. 7/10

1 comment:

Matt Clark said...

I'll add my voice to the chorus of approval for Stumptown. If you're not onboard already it's not too late to catch a ride. Shaping up to be one of the best books on the stands.

(While I didn't get around to reviewing it, if I had Sweet Tooth would still have come out on top this week for me though.)