14 Feb 2010

Mini Reviews 14/02/2010

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.

Writer: Daniel Way
Art: Dalibor Talijic
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: My initial fears about the schedule change for this and the upcoming issue of Deadpool have proved to be completely unfounded. This works perfectly as an introduction/origin issue, and what a one-shot it is. On the face of it the tailored-suit-wearing, dual-gun-wielding macaque seems a completely bonkers premise, and to some extent that obviously remains the case, but Daniel Way manages to deliver the unpredictable and actually give the story some small sense of believability. It’s a simple ‘lost in translation’ story where the title character learns his skills from an unlikely source in an unplanned situation and though the anthropomorphism throughout is necessary the animalistic side to the tale still comes through. Dalibor Talijic’s pencils and inks are used to bring real expression to the animal ‘characters’ and when the story requires brutal action he brings it across with a canny sense of motion. Don’t get me wrong, this is still completely bonkers but it’s the good kind of bonkers! 7/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Steve Kurth
Marvel $3.99

Tom P: The conclusion of this mini is a bittersweet affair: it’s good but feels rushed. When you think how much Ellis would stuff into a single issue of Planetary I find it hard to understand why this is the case. Maybe it just lacks the jaw dropping art of Cassaday? Kurth’s artwork is good though, improving since the first issue in leaps and bounds and this is certainly his best work on this series so far. The highlight for me is Ellis and his dialogue: he writes Ultimate Stark very well and his work on this and Ultimate Human makes me wish he was writing an ongoing, and then he could have fleshed this story out more. He gives Tony a drunken, cocky, lonely self-hatred that makes him interesting to read. Throw in the high concept science and its fun stuff. 7/10

Writer: Roger Langridge
Art: Roger Langridge
Boom! Studios $2.99

Matt C: The Muppets have taken their show on the road while the theatre is undergoing repairs, but with Fozzie off trying his luck solo the troupe are short a resident ‘comedian’. Enter Clint Wacky, who has his own method of making folks laugh, albeit with a very select audience. It’s delightfully silly stuff, with the kind of cornball humour you’d expect from the Muppets - Langridge excels at translocating the multitude of characters – as well as the format of the TV show – from the screen to the page. With The Muppet Show you get more laughs per issue than just about any other comic on the stands. 7/10

Writer: Greg Hurwitz
Art: Jerome Opeña
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: There’s been something of a gap between issues and that can often lead to readers forgetting what has happened before causing them to start to lose interest. Luckily for this title though Hurwitz and Opeña are on top, top form and bring us a fantastic Moon Knight issue as his arch-nemesis, Raoul Bushman, returns from the dead to drum up a heap of battling nastiness for Jake Lockely to deal with. The action is fast and frenetic and Hurwitz uses some neat little plot points to highlight MK’s tactical and quick-thinking abilities as well as demonstrating the weapons at his disposal. A Spider-Man cameo can often detract from the point that a writer is trying to make but here it really is perfectly realized. Great stuff. 8/10

Writers: Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba
Art: Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Matt C: Last month I stated that I hoped Moon & Ba would give hints of their endgame sooner rather than later, fearing the title might get stuck in a rut quite quickly. This month I open the third issue to find it sticks to a similar ‘day in the life’ template, and ends with the same kind of absolute finality as before. But you know what? I was wrong. If it stays on this course for a while longer I’ll be more than happy. There’s a kind of poetry to the art and writing that’s just intoxicating; a lot of the emotions on display are familiar enough to completely envelope you in this world. I still may not have any idea what Ba & Moon’s endgame is, but they clearly do, and they’ve got me hooked in for the duration. 9/10

Stewart R: I think we’re in the midst of a very special series indeed here. Bras de Oliva Domingos’ life (or possibly the lives never lived?) is being laid out before us and never have I been so absorbed by a comic focusing on the ‘everyday’ before. Moon and Ba’s ability to draw emotion up from each page is quite phenomenal and they manage to use the simplest piece of dialogue to stir the reader and then employ a single panel of protagonist Bras to convey the emotional weight. The brothers have a great touch when it comes to facial expression getting across every ounce of uncertainty, loneliness and hope that the characters portray. This is turning into a brilliant comic series about life and the paths both travelled and not ventured down and you really should be thinking about picking up the first three parts of this ten-issue series. 9/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Takeshi Miyazawa
Marvel $3.99

Tom P: This is the start of a two-issue arc with artist Miyazawa taking over the art duties till David Lafuente returns in #9. Miyazawa continues the manga style of this book which I think works well to give it a distinct look. This is the best title in the Ultimate line and I love reading it. For me it works better then the regular Marvel webhead titles as I prefer to read about a young high school Parker. If someone asked me to recommend any current Marvel comic it would be this or Invincible Iron Man. This month we meet a young Rick Jones found glowing on a burnt lawn in his back yard by his mother. Is he a mutant or something more? He wakes from a coma with amazing powers and is scared to death as he tries to understand them. Spidey decides to lend a hand and Bobby Drake’s highly-trained, sensitive experience with helping young mutants backfires a bit. This is Bendis at his best. If his work on Siege has impressed you I strongly urge you to try this. At $3.99 it’s not cheap but worth every cent. 8/10

Writer: Bryan Q.Miller
Art: Lee Garbett & Trevor Scott
DC $2.99

Stewart R: The inclusion of Batman and Robin in the ‘Batgirl Rising: Core Requirements’ arc has been a brilliant move and has helped to clearly show that Stephanie Brown and Barbara Gordon have every right to continue their crime-fighting activities. Miller seems to be having great fun with this comic, bringing out the older character parallels when necessary to highlight his point and then throwing nice new touches – Barbara’s Ricochet is a tasty piece of kit – when he feels like it. Because the writer is having fun I guess it must be easier for the artist to step up and put some terrific work onto the page as Lee Garbett is really knocking it out of the park. There are some awesome single page splashes and delightfully effective panels – check out the simplicity of the Phosphorus/Batman grapple with superb use of white space. Things are pretty good in the world of the Bat at the moment. 8/10

Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Peter Gross & Jimmy Broxton
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Stewart R: I was predicting an issue that looked more closely at Tommy’s growing ‘powers’ but this was a little unexpected and I’m not convinced that Carey couldn’t have taken this issue down a different path rather than treading over the WW2 history for his inspiration. The event that the strange Nazi-filled scenes lead to is obviously going to be an important revelation for Tommy and I think when looked at in the ‘bigger picture’ this will make a lot more sense. However, the number of questions piled upon outstanding mysteries is threatening to bubble over into nonsense unless we’re given something soon. Carey is obviously a highly competent writer and I believe he will give us the answers we need to keep this entertaining book on track very soon. Gross, it must be said, does a great job of portraying the strange manifested world that the trio find themselves in and the inking style is highly effective. 6/10

Matt C: Easily one of the smartest books on the stands thanks to Carey’s skilful subversion of one of the most popular and recognisable fictional icons of 21st century culture into the kind of nuanced character whose appeal can reach those who couldn’t give two shits about Harry Potter. His inventive approach to the narrative, employing various metatextual tricks, obviously helps, as does the expressive simplicity of Gross’s linework. This issue sees Carey weave Joseph Goebbels into his story, as the lines between reality and fiction become increasingly blurred, proving that Carey’s ambition for Unwritten is far more wide-reaching than a cursory consideration of the high concept might suggest. 8/10

James R: Ok, I'm fighting with every fibre of my being not to make Nazi gags or puns in this review, as Tom Taylor finds himself floating through the Third Reich in 1940, desperately trying to unravel the mystery of his own existence and track down Lizzie Hexam. Given the brilliance of Carey's last dip into fiction and history in this title (the Rudyard Kipling issue) my hopes were sky high here. Maybe a little too high, as I felt this was a bit flat. So, we learn Goebbels was a master of propaganda, and propaganda is all about manipulating the truth to suit one's own ends. Well, I'm guessing that 90% of this book’s audience will be familiar with that idea! I expected a bit more insight, and a touch more peril – the three main protagonists floating through 1940 like ghosts meant that the issue lacked a little dynamism. It's still a great read, and the most innovate book on the racks at the moment, but that's the problem when you set such high standards early on – anything less than stellar feels like you’re being short-changed. 6/10

Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Cameron Stewart
DC $2.99

Tom P: “What is it with these crime coven people and their obsession with stories for kids?” And so starts #8 of Batman And Robin. Morrison is doing impressive work here and clearly having fun with his cast, letting Batwoman poke fun at her own exploits. And Bruce Wayne Batman is back! Or is he? Its great to read this and see all the work Morrison’s done on the various Bat-titles weave together. I’m not giving much away saying that this is not Bruce Wayne and it’s a clever explanation of who this crazy mofo Batman is. It’s also nice to see Damian back; he’s a cocky little bugger and it works so well. Stewart’s art is also pitch perfect for this, and matches the quality that Quitely established in the first three issues. I can’t wait for the next instalment - I want more and I want it now! “The new age of crime has come and the broon’s on me!” 9/10

James R: Ahhhhhh! So that's what happened to Batman then! Not frazzled after all! Darkseid, in his evil way, decided that keeping one of the aborted Batman clones dead and dressed up as the Dark Knight would serve his own nefarious purposes – perhaps to win the coveted 'Best Dead Superhero Costume' at next year's Evil-Con? Anyway, this is the issue that opens the door for Bruce Wayne to return (and given the covers that have been released by DC this week, it looks like that will be a must-read series) whilst unleashing the said clone in a Lazarus-pit freakout. All told, this is 'As you were'. What I said about the previous issue applies here – I loved it again, but it was blighted again by a word-balloon typo – which was even more annoying as it broke the pattern of a beautifully illustrated fight sequence by Cameron Stewart. I'm not sure if it's the fault of Assistant Editor Janelle Siegel or Editor Mike Marts, but c'mon Bat-team - two glaring errors in two issues is weak. That aside, this stands up as superhero fiction done brilliantly. 8/10

Matt C: Something happens, and I don’t know what it is, but me and most Morrison comic book series (a handful of exceptions besides) seem to part ways sooner of later. I see people raving about this current arc but I fail to fathom the reasons for the fuss. I desperately want to like this series but with each passing issue I find myself caring less an less. The major distraction from the plotting initially was Quitely’s spellbinding art, but with him out of the picture I’m scrabbling for something to hold on to. Don’t get me wrong, I like what Cameron Stewart does – a lot – but his style doesn’t quite fit the tone of the story for me. There’s a relative lightness to it when it warrants something with a bit more shade. Not that I’m really fussed about the story here either though; as is often the case when it comes to me reading Morrison books, I like the central concept but the delivery doesn’t hit the spot. For me this reads like a pale emulation of the excellent work Rucka’s been doing on Detective. But, because everybody else seems to think it’s great, I think I’m going to have to stick around for a while longer, see if I can figure out exactly what I appear to be missing. 5/10

Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Marcos Martin & Javier Pulido
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Ok, I hold my hands up, I really thought that 'The Gauntlet' was going to suck in both premise and as a fully-realized comic, but in actual fact it’s making ASM a really enjoyable book to pick up! That’s made better of course thanks to the thrice-monthly format which keeps the story bombing along. Dan Slott has handled this Mysterio chapter with great skill, balancing a wide and varied cast with the need to bring this to a head fairly quickly. He’s kept Carlie’s part in events interesting, developing her role in Peter’s life nicely, and when it comes to Spidey antics and banter the Slott/Martin combination is a triumph with the artist’s talents really getting a chance to shine. The best thing this issue? Beck’s face three pages from the end! Classic. 8/10

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

Stewart R: The first arc draws to a close and sets the scene well for Daniel and Kurt’s adventures to come. There’re some interesting developments here as certain elements make their play for Shillinger’s Notebook and the inevitable firefight turns up in explosive and bloody style. Kirkman deals with the brutal emotional scenes towards the end very well without moving too far from the action/espionage feel that this comic is going for. That said, there are some bizarre choices made by big players that makes me think that Kirkman just couldn’t come up with an alternative to the clichéd Spider-Man-esque shootout between two factions with the hero in the midst of it all. It’s not perfect but this comic certainly has potential. 7/10


Matt T said...

Haven't quite got my haul yet, but looking forward to loads. Hoping haunt keeps up the pace, especially as there's a change of artist next issue

Stewart R said...

Well I had a big old response drafted and Firefox died on me so I'll summarize:

1. Ahhh yes
2. Hmmm
3. Oh no I don't think so!


Basically Greg Capullo does the next 'standalone' issue of Haunt and then we're on to a new artist as Ryan Ottley has decided to leave which is a real shame. Here's hoping Cory Walker gets the gig.