21 Feb 2010

Mini Reviews 21/02/2010

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: Rich Johnston
Art: Saverio Tenuta & Bagwell
Image $3.99

Matt C: Rich Johnston is primarily known throughout the industry as the premier purveyor of comics scuttlebutt, formerly over at CBR’s Lying In The Gutters and now at his new home of Bleeding Cool. He ruffles plenty of feathers, and folks like to turn their nose up at what he writes, but everyone reads his columns all the same. He’s penned several comics in the past, although nothing that’s sold by the bucketload, and if you were being cynical you may wonder if he gets half these gigs by blackmailing various high up bods at the publishers in question. Based on Chase Variant, that would be a wholly unfair assumption, since it’s an entertaining and cleverly constructed one-shot. Briefly, the idea is that two god-like beings are playing a kind of Top Trumps-esque card game, the characters profiled on each cards having no idea their strings are being pulled from afar. It’s not an entirely original premise, but it’s propelled along at such a pace that you aren’t really given the time to question whether you’ve seen any of these tricks before. Johnston’s writing is solid and displays a blatant understanding of the genre(s) he’s riffing on, but the art really kicks everything up a notch. Both Tenuta and Bagwell turn in some stylish visuals, full of energy and intensity, with Bagwell’s work being faintly reminiscent of Clayton Crain in spots. It’s doubtful this would have much potential beyond it’s one-shot status, as Johnston says pretty much all he needs to here, but as a single burst it delivers the goods. 7/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Alex Maleev
Marvel 2.99

Tom P: Jessica Drew faces the Thunderbolts, aka the team you send to lose a fight. Setting aside the standard plotting of Norman’s black ops team, this is a great action packed issue. The fight with Ghost (who still continues to be the best character from Thunderbolts) is very good indeed and is set out wonderfully by Maleev, his depiction of the energy discharged in this smackdown looks very cool. I watched the first Spider-Woman Motion comic and decided it wasn’t for me as I found the voice acting distracting and I prefer being able to read it at my own pace. I feel this is a better format for this story and I’m glad I’m reading this sexy and fun comic book. 7/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Greg Land
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: There's something about Magneto, sat in the lotus position, blood dripping from his nose, that just has an exciting air to it. A man of action like Magneto doesn't stay still for long and it's evident that Fraction knows how to get the very most out of such inaction. He also knows that when you send three X-Men heavy-hitters like Wolverine, Colossus and Psylocke to Japan on a mission you've got to make the action count. Bringing Fantomex into the fold works really well and he's a character I'd like to see more of in this book if he's handled like this. Land manages to pull out another quality issue without the previous niggles turning up again. Not bad, not bad at all. 8/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Doug Mahnke
DC $2.99

James R: Or: 'The issue where Blackest Night begins to strain under it's own ridiculousness.' So far, I've loved Blackest Night, and been impressed with the blend of all-out action and delving into the concept of death and rebirth in the DC Universe. Sadly, at the moment Johns has neglected this more philosophical strand and just opted for a WWE-style slugfest. I can't deny that there is a certain fanboy joy to be had in watching the Spectre getting his face torn off (and yep, that is the most ridiculous sentence I'll write all year) and Mahnke does his usual stellar art job, but for me, Green Lantern has just become a little repetitive. I'm hoping Johns turns it round in the next issue proper of Blackest Night. 6/10

Stewart R: I love it when I get to the end of a comic and it feels an age since I read the first page. I got that very feeling when closing the cover to Green Lantern #51 this week and any concerns I had had about the return of Parallax in this title have washed away in a sea of green willpower. Johns has set out his stall with Blackest Night and has demonstrated that through this unnerving wave of black there are anomalies and exceptions that even the force of death cannot deal with in one fell swoop. In this issue Johns looks at just what the Spectre is and why he has been turned into a Black Lantern, and also explains why Parallax and similar emotional life-forces manage to trouble the Spectre so. While that's the over-riding story to this issue there's some delightful development of Larfleeze and Lex Luthor's battle for the Orange Lantern and Johns even gets time to drop some hints as to what Atrocitus and the Red Lanterns might be looking for once the Brightest Day arrives. Mahnke is still managing to eclipse Ivan Reis' work on the main title for me and I hope he's sticking around on this title for a good while yet. I don't think anyone is likely to disagree when I say that DC are succeeding in giving us the almost perfect event! 8/10

Writers: Ed Brubaker & Sean McKeever
Art: Luke Ross, Butch Guice, David Baldeon & N. Bowling
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: The hoo-ha following last issue and it’s teabagging reference kind of flummoxed me until I bothered to look into it and find it had nothing to do with a bizarre sex act and instead concerned some political protesters in the States. It’s all seems to be a bit of a storm in a teacup (sorry!!) so let’s set all that nonsense aside and get down to the real important business, namely stating that Captain America is back on track again! This is the kind of pre-Reborn storytelling that got the book at the top of critics’ lists all over the place and it’s great to see it returning. Brubaker’s on form, and Guice’s inks bring a familiarity to Ross’s excellent illustrations – the whole thing’s a gripping read from start to finish. The Nomad backup still feels out of place, but it’s certainly not terrible and is a more-than-passable diversion. That said, this needs to go back to being a $2.99 book again. 8/10

James R: After last month's return to form for this title (and the frankly insane media storm surrounding it) this month sees it hit an awkward patch. The plot itself is fine – Ed Brubaker steps up the action as Bucky tries to outwit ‘50s Mental Cap (as I feel he should be called by everyone – including his friends and co-workers!) and the Watchdogs' insidious plot. The problem for me is this is one of the ugliest and poorly rendered comics I've brought in a long time. I always feel bad attacking artists, as I can't draw stickmen, and I appreciate what skill it takes to produce a monthly book, but jeez, this is poor. This is an issue that should be all about action and dynamism, but Ross' art is so awkward, it only serves to distance the reader from the narrative. When you consider the superb art teams on both Thor and Iron Man, I can't help but feel the Sentinel of Liberty is getting a rough deal. 5/10

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

Stewart R: MOGO!! After his great introduction to the Blackest Night event last issue, Mogo is proving to be one of the most promising and interesting characters in this title and Tomasi is doing a terrific job of showing us some of the planetoid’s unique abilities while not giving us too much to spoil the appetite. These abilities are really needed as the remnants of the GL Corps try to save Guy Gardner from the rage that is flowing through him and the red ring that threatens to kill any one of them at a moments notice. It is my belief that Tomasi and Gleason are one of the strongest writer/artist partnerships working in comics today and this issue is yet again evidence that I'm probably right. Every ounce of emotion and tense excitement that Gleason wants to invoke in his audience is translated so dramatically by Gleason's pencils, with delightful help from inkers Buchman, Champagne and Nguyen. That cover alone demonstrates the abilities of an artistic team using dynamic layout, focused colours and superb use of dark space. Keep it coming guys, I'm loving it! 9/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Mike Deodato
Marvel 3.99

Tom P: Dark Avengers has travelled a rocky road, a mixture of good and bad. The Sentry hasn’t been doing much for me, he seems to die nearly every time I read it! However, after reading the quite wonderful Siege I can see Bendis has been setting the Sentry up slowly (often badly) over the past 14 issues. This is one of the better Dark Avengers instalments as the Void is now in control of the Sentry and it sets up Siege #2 nicely. Deodato’s two-page spread of the Void wreaking havoc over New York is great, as is Osborn struggling to control the Sentry. Miss Hand also gets a cool moment, taking care of Moonstone effectively and proving why she’s Norman’s second-in-command. Much Better. 6/10

Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Sean Murphy
DC/Vertgo $2.99

Tom P: Not as strong as the excellent debut issue but still bloody good. The walk through Joe’s house last time makes a lot of sense now. He seems to be having these mad visions due to lack of sugar - he needs glucose and is trying to get to some soda in the kitchen - but this is getting more and more difficult as his condition gets worse and the fantasy world gets more dangerous. Sean Murphy’s art work is the real winner here; I love the page with a crashed Batmobile in Lego rubble, mini figs being marched away and a teddy bear in an Aliens style loader fighting the spooky black knights. 7/10

Stewart R: 'Magnificently Bonkers' is probably the phrase I'd use to describe this comic. The $1.00 price tag last time out lured me in and now the rush of the ride is going to keep me here for a while longer yet, though I've no clue where Morrison is going with this. The strange world that he has come up with is certainly intriguing and helps to keep the questions coming as Joe begins his heart-pounding journey through his own house and the fantastical-hallucinatory other world. Chakk the Rat Warrior is a guilty character pleasure dating back to the madness of the toy-driven 1980s and I'm especially looking forward to any character development that he might experience as this title runs. Sean Murphy produces some breathtaking work which makes all of the unexplained events certainly bearable while we wait for some clarity on Joe's predicament. I also really like the occasional use of dot colour and shading which gives this book an additional retro feel to go with all of the subtly placed toys from decades past that are strategically dropped in from time to time. 8/10

James R: This is very quickly becoming one of my favourite books. Joe is a beautiful read which shows off an artist and a writer working in perfect harmony. In this issue, Morrison spells out what Joe's quest will entail, whilst at the same time enhancing the mystery of his transformation. It cracks along without being ponderous or indulgent (and once again, I feel the need to play my 'See? Morrison can produce the goods!' card) whilst Sean Murphy's artwork is stunning, striking a balance between a fantasy landscape, and the mundane everyday world of Joe's home. I feel there's many more twists and turns in this tale, but I'm well and truly hooked. Sorry to sound repetitive, but Vertigo has an incredible series of titles out at the moment. Long may it continue. 8/10

Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Mr Negative has to be one of the best things to come out of the ‘One More Day’ ASM-event and Dan Slott is certainly the writer who seems to know best when to bring him back into the fold. With Negative's Devil's Breath gas now tuned to Spider-Man's DNA the old wallcrawler has every right to be concerned about coming into contact with the monochromed super-villain and so he asks a favour of everyone's favourite buxom thief, Black Cat, to help 'procure' the deadly toxin. Mr Negative is essentially a crime boss and bringing former Daredevil artist Michael Lark on board adds a great noir feel to the events here as the darker side of Martin Li gets to show Spider-Man just what his powers can do. The plotline showing forensics specialist and Peter Parker plaything, Carlie, starting to influence control over her own life is well judged but the whole badass Aunt May is starting to get on my nerves. 7/10

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

Stewart R: This is shifting along nicely as Max, Jailbait and Armdale continue stumbling through their uneasy alliance while learning new things about each other in the process. Max's stance of not relying on his ill-gotten gains is well noted and yet he's still running the dubious line with his dealings with other super-villains and former associates. Waid seems to think that society would still follow some form of order in the face of such a powerful and unpredictable threat and he's at least sticking with that consistently which I think works very well. There's still the issue surrounding Diaz's portrayal of Jailbait but we're obviously set with that now so it's not worth going on about. Aside from that niggle the art suits the story well and all in all this looks like being a Boom! comic to stick with. 7/10

Writers: Kurt Busiek & Roger Stern
Art: Jay Anacleto
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: I think it’d be fair to admonish Marvel over the scheduling of this book (the penultimate issue came out last April with the finale only arriving this week), but it wouldn’t be fair to judge the last part of this sequel to the seminal Marvels as a standalone issue. Basically, ten months have gone by and in all honesty my recollection of what happened in the last five instalments isn’t as fresh as it would be if they’d come out in a timely manner. Certainly any emotional weight the series carried has essentially dissipated, and the poignancy of the ending suffers a significant loss of impact. I can say for sure that it doesn’t come close to matching it’s predecessor – the concept’s not as fresh and Alex Ross was a rare discovery – but the mark at the end of this review would no doubt be higher if I’d been able to read it without a substantial gap between the last two chapters. 6/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Scott Kolins
DC $2.99

Matt C: Following both this mini and (the still incomplete) Rebirth my anticipation for the new Flash series has nearly flatlined I’m afraid. This is another of those superfluous Blackest Night tie-ins where you wonder why you got duped into buying it in the first place. Bar a few interesting scenes with the Rouges and a couple of nearly-affecting moments featuring Bart, this really didn’t have much to say for itself; certainly nothing that hasn’t been said – in less time – over in the main Blackest Night book. I still find Kolins’ art an acquired taste but to be fair there is some imagery that’s pretty effective. It’s an ongoing challenge of mine, to find my way fully into the Flash mythos – I’ve failed to do it so many times in the past, and based on this evidence it’s looking like that’ll happen again. I do hope I’m proven wrong though. 4/10

Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art: Wes Craig and Serge Lapointe
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: *Sigh* My big quandary over Wes Craig's artwork rises to the surface once again. The guy's talented, there's no doubting that, but his style is similar to that of Michael Avon Oeming and when running in relay with the vastly differing (and breathtaking) style of Brad Walker it just doesn't seem a good fit. The story work from DnA is decent enough with some tasty reveals this issue that may have some Guardians fans jumping for joy and others asking just how final anything is in the comics. Abnett and Lanning have stuck by their guns with Phyla's transformation into Martyr and it gives an extra emotional dimension here which works very well. 7/10

Writer: Tony Daniel
Art: Tony Daniel
D.C 2.99

Tom P: This hasn’t got the class of Detective Comics or the crazy retro charms of Batman And Robin, but it’s still a solid Batman tale. It suffers in the shadow of those terrific books, and is the weakest of the three, but is in no way a bad read. It’s nice to see Daniel draw and write this even if it is quite by-the-numbers with corrupt cops and mind controlling gas. However, he stuffs it full of the Dark Knight’s rogue gallery and his Catwoman looks great. There are some strong hints at who the Black Mask is in this issue and I for one am looking forward to finding out his true identity next month. 7/10

Writer: Daniel Way
Art: Carlo Barberi, Juan Vlasco & Sandu Florea
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Ok, seems that I had a detail wrong in my Incoming... report this week as Paco Medina was not on artistic duties for this shift, but I have to say that I read the majority of the comic before noticing! Barberi's art style is a very good match for Mr Medina and when you have the same inkers and colourist doing their jobs this also can help 'blend in’ an artist. With the Hit-Monkey one-shot out of the way it helps here to not have to ask too many questions about the furry-primate's presence in New York but when you deal with a Deadpool title questions and answers don't tend to be a high priority. There's some tasty little comic touches with a great 4th wall breaker regarding the last Spidey-Pool team up as well as a certain 'alibi' that the Merc with a Mouth has to use. It's not laugh out loud funny at the moment but I'm guessing with a nutter monkey assassin on the loose there'll be comedy poop hitting giant fans any time now. 7/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Jefte Palo
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Strongest instalment of the run so far which is apt I guess - always better to end on a high. Where some of the previous issues had floundered and become bogged down in Nightmare's remade reality, with far too much double-crossing and possession going on, this actually uses all of those points to produce a strong, concise and exciting story. Keeping Doom in the loop was a nice touch and really paid off at the end and I get the feeling that Remender had some real plans for Brother Voodoo in this role - a shame that we won't get to see them all but I don't think the character is going away anytime soon. Jefte Palo is also another talent that Marvel have done well to offer fresh work to and I really look forward to seeing him on another title soon. 8/10

Writer: Jonathan Mayberry
Art: Scott Eaton, Andy Lanning & Robert Campanella
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: I’m out of the loop with the current goings on in the X-world, I have no idea what’s been happening in Wakanda with the Black Panther et al, so you may well ask what am I doing picking this book up? Take the first syllable of the title, and there’s your answer. Doom. Certainly my favourite comic book villain, and more than likely one of my favourite characters in the medium (ever!), sticking his name on the cover often gives me an irrational urge to purchase a title my rational mind tells me I have no interest in. Sometimes that works out in my favour though, and this is definitely one of those occasions. Doomwar #1 is an excellent opening shot, positioning all the players in the unfolding drama, keeping the stakes high and the tension bubbling towards boiling point. Yeah, it’s superhero world politics so you can’t take it too seriously, but Mayberry applies a great deal of intelligence to the situation and Eaton’s art generates some foreboding atmospherics (helped greatly by Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s muted colours). And Doom himself? He’s (unsurprisingly) in malevolent bastard mode, manipulating everyone for his own nefarious ends. You don’t need to primed with backstory to jump onboard this one, and it’s definitely worth a punt. 8/10

Writer: Chris Yost
Art: Harvey Tolibao and Sandu Florea
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Meh - not sure what I really think of this miniseries now we've reached the end. I've certainly been wowed by Harvey Tolibao's talent as he’s delivered some terrific fighting set-pieces with Betsy's powers at the forefront of the action. Chris Yost has done an admirable job of making this something of a mystery piece with some good character development of Psylocke as she comes to grips with her latest incarnation, but I can't help but feel that this comic was not quite what it could have been. Using Wolverine as a surprise element is okay until we get up to the point where he once again becomes the unstoppable animal of rage, which is getting oh so very tired. I also question Logan's final response here considering the lengths that he has gone to and the story does just seem to just peter out at the end. There has to be a smarter way of using such a convoluted character and I can't help think that a trick was missed there. Pretty decent overall but not nearly as good as it could have been. 6/10


Danny said...

It was great weeks for comics. I thought Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps were fantastic and I'm eager to see what's coming next. Speaking of Green Lantern Corps, I'm quite sad about not having the awesome duo of Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason soon as DC stops GLC and puts out two new titles. I'm also don't like having Kyle and Guy in two different books either.

Matt T said...

still not got my comics yet. How rubbish. But back in b'town this weekend so I'll be able to read and review hopefully. I love the London postal system. Like I love being stabbed repeatedly in the arse with a fork.

Stewart R said...

Yeah I just heard about the Tomasi/Gleason news today Danny and it's a little disappointing considering how well they work together. Just have to hope that the Brightest Day is worth it I guess!

I also got to have a little look at Dark Avengers this week and have to agree with Tom by saying this week's issue was one of the stronger that I've seen from Bendis. Still no real explanation about that bleedin gun and Bob's wife!

Danny said...

What do you guys think about Avengers #1. I am can't wait for the book. Having original trio back on the team is awesome, but having Spidey as well is just too awesome 'cause I was not really sure if he was going be on the team after New Avengers Finale. Also the first arc is going to be about Kang, how cool is that?

Tom P said...

To defend Bendis the explanation about that bleedin gun van be found in Dark Avengers #13 chum :) The New Avengers book looks ubër cool Danny. Can't wait to get my grubby mits on it!

Danny said...

:D:D Great

Matt Clark said...

RE: James's Captain America review:

I'm flummoxed that James looked at the same book as me and considered it "one of the ugliest and poorly rendered comics I've bought in a long time". Particularly since I can't spot any discernible dip in the quality of the art from last month's instalment.

While Steve Epting remains the gold standard for artists on Brubaker's Captain America, Luke Ross is no slouch, and the excellent inking abilities of Butch Guice (a great illustrator in his own right) lend the visuals a consistency with what's gone before. Personally I can't spot any anatomically incorrect anomalies or a lack well choreographed action.

The one element that does differentiate the artwork from what we've been used to on this book for so long is the lack of Frank D'Armata's colouring. Dean White's palette seems to be slightly more garish than D'Armata's (one of the best inkers in the business, no less) although I don't think it detracts from the storytelling in any way.

As I said, I'm flummoxed.

Stewart R said...

I certainly noticed something... look at Bucky's legs as he dives into the truck. It just looks plain weird.

Matt Clark said...

Ok, there's a certain wonkiness there, I'll give you that one - but look at the following three pages with the Falcon & Cap attacking the 'grunts' - that look poorly rendered to you?

Anonymous said...

In the words of Jules Winfield - alow me to retort!

First few pages are fine, but it starts with the Falcon carrying Cap - just looks odd! Then as he dives into the truck...just a bad drawing!
Same again when Bucky jumps 50s Mental Cap, and then there's more odd poses and rushed-looking pencils during the fight with Falcon at the end.
Might just be me, but I hope that de-flabbers your ghast a little!


Matt Clark said...

Man, I still don't see it through these eyeballs. I'm not making any claims for it being a perfectly illustrated book, and I feel the Epting/D'Armata combo are the ones to beat, but there's a lot worse out there!

I hope the art doesn't turn you away from the title in the long run because I'm certainly more optimistic about it again.