7 Feb 2010

Mini Reviews 07/02/2010

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 sees the last issue reviewed for Matt C's Byrne FF project.

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

Matt C: Whoa, what the hell?! Is it time for me to eat some humble pie? As the premiere Bendis-disser at the Paradox Comics Group I’d all but given up on the man after increasing frustration and disappointment at his mainstream Marvel output. If that’s the case, what I’m I doing reading this book you may well rightly ask? Well, I love Coipel’s art and I figured I’d get a kick out of his luscious imagery if nothing else. So colour me surprised when I found myself completely absorbed by Bendis’ blockbuster storytelling too! I probably enjoyed the preceding issue a lot more than I admitted, but put that down to Coipel’s art alone. I can’t deny it now: Bendis is knocking this one out of the park. The action beats are dead on, there’s no trace of wasted space or meandering, and the dialogue packs a punch, with only minimal signs of the writer’s trademark waffle. Coipel’s art is fantastic, and it makes you wonder how Bendis got it so wrong with House Of M and Secret Invasion. Third time lucky? I’ve been burnt enough times before not to get too excited, but as a single issue of a major Marvel event, this was great stuff. 8/10

Stewart R: What a difference a year really makes. This time in 2009 we were all sat around and ripping Secret Invasion to pieces for its complete misfire and inability to deliver on a great premise. Now in 2010 we’re in the midst of another Bendis event and I believe that there is likely to be nothing but praise heading this comic’s way. This is epic storytelling from writer and artist as the Dark Avengers and H.A.M.M.E.R forces attack the Asgardians with unwavering ferocity. There’s a sturdy speech from Captain America, some heroic action from Maria Hill, but the two standout highlights are THAT fight and the magnificent final four panels. I can’t remember the last time I re-read a comic so many times in two days; it’s just so tense, bold and beautiful. Halfway through this four-parter and I’m chomping at the bit to get hold of next issue! 10/10

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

Stewart R: A new arc arrives from Jeff Lemire and thankfully he’s giving us a little more insight into the mysterious Jepperd and actually gives us a look at the world before the apocalypse descended. While the first arc worked brilliantly well because it was understated and didn’t need to give us answers to the many questions that were building up, I think Lemire may realise that the same trick is unlikely to work for much longer and the audience is going to need to have the back-story fleshed out to keep the interest there. Of course he’s not giving all of the goods away too soon and the brief interactions between the animal children offers small hints of the possible nastiness to come. Lemire’s artwork also lends a freakish edge to the mutant children that actually creeps me out a little and that’s what good, unique art styles should be able to do. I can see that this title already has the legs to go for a good while yet. 7/10

James R: I haven't reviewed an issue of this yet, which is an oversight on my part – Lemire's post-apocalyptic tale is one of the most emotionally effecting comics I've ever read. I'm always a sucker for anything set in the aftermath of a great disaster, and Lemire knows the secret of making a tale that rises above the generic, to make us care about his characters. I'm genuinely worried about Gus, the eponymous Sweet Tooth, who has been dropped off in the hands of a nefarious militia group, and he's starting to realise that salvation is an illusion. But best of all, we get to learn about Jepperd, the Eastwood-esque stranger who has been Gus' saviour and his betrayer. Lemire's tale is both gripping and haunting – long may it continue. 8/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Salvador Larroca
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Things haven’t been moving much in this title for the past few issues and after the whirlwind ride of Most Wanted I’m ready for this series to get a sharp kick in the butt and knock the pace up a little. Stephen Strange’s mystical interactions with the remnants of Tony’s shattered being are certainly necessary to explain the process that Stark is having to go through to bring himself back, but it’s crawling along at a snail’s pace. The more interesting side to this title is the change in Pepper since she had the repulsor technology removed and her constant discoveries about Tony’s dealings and dalliances. I’m not quite sure where the plot-thread with Ghost is really going and I’d like to think that Fraction has something of a twist hidden around the corner to keep things interesting. At least that’s the hope. 6/10

James R: I feel lucky that I was one of the few readers who got to read this issue over the weekend – after the Marvel truck crash, we had our weekly delivery denuded! But this issue is way more like it from Fraction. After feeling a little underwhelmed with last month's offering, this confirmed for me that the current creative team are in fine form. Dr. Strange does his Morpheus from The Matrix routine and gets Tony to realise that – hey!- he is Iron Man! Whilst Pepper and Maria get to realise – hey!- Tony Stark is a dawg! The Ghost gets ever closer to the hideout, and it all builds to a tasty finish. I know I'm preaching to the converted, but you need to be reading this. When the new truck gets in, anyway... 8/10

Writer: Dennis O’Neil & Greg Rucka
Art: Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz & John Stanisci
DC $2.99

Matt C: I guess I picked this up purely for the fact that I like Rucka’s take on the character and I’ve been impressed with what he’s done with Renee Montoya over the last few years. The backup tale in Detective Comics is a bit average but out of all the Blackest Night ‘extra issues’, this was the one that appealed to me the most. Turns out it’s a completely superfluous read. The art’s nicely gritty and the script isn’t exactly bad, but the real crime is it’s forgettable. So much so that that’s all I’ve got to say - I can’t really remember anything else about it. 5/10

Writer: Michael Alan Nelson
Art: Francesco Biagini
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: This bizarre hybrid of thriller and Greek myth succeeds through both the overt strangeness of the situation as well as the general attitude of it’s world-weary, three-time loser protagonist. Dingo’s voiceover narration is shot through with black, self-deprecating humour and it makes what is essentially an entirely ludicrous premise a lot more palatable. It also helps that Biagini’s art is bursting with the kind of chaotic energy that really makes the fight scenes come alive. I have no idea where this is going, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the ride. 7/10

NOVA #34
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Mahmud A.Asrar
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: DnA have surprised me somewhat with their lack of originality in this current story. The weird gladiatorial game of chess has been done time and time again with handpicked warriors facing off against each other while more powerful forces manipulate events. The greater concern is that this issue is certainly less about Richard Rider and more about what the Sphinx has planned and just how Darkhawk may affect events. This title is called Nova for a reason but of late it seems that the writers are not quite sure where to take the titular hero next. The fun was surely leading him on his journey of growth and discovery to become the Nova Prime he is today. Now he’s attained that level it’s almost as if the writers would rather use the opportunity that the Fault has presented to trawl through the histories of the Marvel cosmos to bring back any old villain or omnipotent being that hasn’t been around in a while. The art from Asrar is also lacking a level of quality that previous artists brought to the table and at the moment this title has moved a little closer to its own Fault by sitting at the edge of my pull-list. 5/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips
Marvel/Icon $3.50

James R: Alright, copper – I'll tells you this one last time. I don't know who got the loot, and I don't know about any goddamn diamonds... but my lawyer says I can say that Criminal remains the best thing I read every month. I'm willing to take a lie-detector on this, man... Brubaker and Phillips are one hell of a team, and this is one of those times I feel for the schmucks that say 'I'll wait for the trade...' as this read is a visceral treat that continually ups the ante and leaves you wanting more. Anyway, that's all I'm sayin'. Now get me my phone call! 9/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: R.M. Guera
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Matt C: Sometimes you feel like you need a bath after reading this book. The final chapter of The Gnawing arc rattles off in directions you would never suspect as its cast of fucked up characters seem to go out of their way to fuck themselves up even more. Based on what occurs there every issue there’s no way in hell you’d ever want to visit the Prairie Rose reservation but it’s nigh-on impossible not to be completely riveted by what occurs there. This is one of the few comic series out there where practically every issue all the main characters are in a worse position by the end than they were at the beginning. That may be off-putting to some, but for me it’s one of the many reasons why Scalped is the best book being published right now. 9/10

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Art: Arthur Adams
Marvel $3.99

Tom P: I was going to give up of Jeph Loeb, I really was. After the horrible Ultimates 3, the dreadful Ultimatum and the dull antics of the Red Hulk, I felt he’d lost his spark - this was the bloke who had written some of the best Batman comics ever remember. He seemed to just not click with Marvel and he wrecked The Ultimates. It felt like he was trying too hard to write like Mark Miller and it was a mess. When I heard about Ultimate X I was unsure, but Adams' art was definitely a strong factor when I was thinking of picking this up. When I started to read this I expected to find another badly written and conceived comic book. I was wrong, this is a wonderfully scripted comic and a meaty first issue that’s stuffed to the brim with great character work. I can’t wait to see more of this. It’s Loeb at Superman: For All Seasons and The Long Halloween levels of craft. Adams' art is also incredible to look at; it's gorgeous stuff full of detail and energy. This is why I read superhero comics. 9/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: C.P. Smith
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Am I really that interested in Logan’s sex life? The occasional aside would suffice, but almost an entire issue devoted to it? No thanks. When it gets to Jubilee handing out relationship advice to Wolverine I did start to ask myself, what the hell is Aaron up to? This isn’t really the kind of thing I want to see when I pick up a Wolverine book. Smith’s art reminds me quite a bit of Alex Maleev, but while single panels are beautifully rendered, taken as a whole I found it all quite distancing. Basically this book is on thin ice with me at the moment; it needs to pull it’s socks up, and it needs to do it soon, because as it stands it’s not worth the $3.99 price-tag. 5/10

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

Matt C: A huge, jet-black bubble envelopes Reed’s old hometown of Central City, so the FF naturally zip over to investigate. The art’s a bit ropey (Gordon’s inks really don’t bring out the best in Byrne’s pencils) but the dialogue and characterization are bang on. This is the first part of a three-issue storyline but for Byrne…. that’s it. Yep, Byrne was never again to write and draw an issue of Fantastic Four. He’s credited with the plot of #294 and gets a “Special Thanks” in #295 but to all intents and purposes he was done. No exactly a great way to bow out, and the real reasons for his departure have only been hinted at, but by that point he’d well and truly made his mark on the title anyway. Look out for my summation of the Byrne FF project very soon. 7/10


Tom P said...

Ok I better get me some SIEGE. I hate Missing out...

Stewart R said...

I don't think you'll be disappointed Mr P!

Matt T said...

finally got me comics. Bloody postal service. Awesome issues of Siege, Ultimate X and Criminal, although I think Siege was the most pleasant surprise. Perhaps Bendis had been playing us for fools all along and he's actually been planning this. Or he's just lucked out and the rest of the run will be utter tat. Wait and see I suppose....

Justin Giampaoli said...

Ditto on Scalped! That book is just on an entirely different level.