14 Mar 2010

Mini Reviews 14/03/2010

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 start of Matt C's Buscema Avengers Project.


CRIMINAL: THE SINNERS #5
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips
Marvel/Icon $3.50

James R: Take a deep breath before you start reading this one. Ed Brubaker goes all-out to wrap up Tracy Lawless' tale this month, whilst also rounding off plot threads that he's been running over the last few arcs of Criminal. It's fair to say that this title is a solid favourite of all the contributors on this blog, and given our differing tastes, that should give some indication as to the high quality of the book. Brubaker infuses the story with a sense of Greek tragedy: Tracy Lawless is a man who cannot escape his fate - despite his best efforts, he's standing alone against a dark and unforgiving world. Sean Phillips continues to help Brubaker make Criminal the most distinctive comic available from the Big Two, and even though this is the end of a terrific run, I can't help but be excited about the return of Incognito - surely this is the sweetest one-two punch in comics? 8/10

Tom P: The first part of The Sinners came out in September last year and that was the only issue I had let myself read until this weekend. I knew it would be good; after reading every other Criminal story I could count on that. I decided to wait and leave the rest of the run on the shelf until I had them all. This is the best value comic on the stands today; Brubaker and Phillips make it worth every penny of your $3.50. They reward you with rich stories, gripping characters and impeccable artwork. It’s all topped off nicely with essays on an aspects of crime noir that only encourages you to want to read all the films, books and comics they write about. (My LOVEFiLM list is now full of everything from Australian and Korean crime movies to ‘70s exploitation flicks). In The Sinners: Part Two a letter asked Brubaker what attracts him to this dark material and his answer sums up what is so wonderful about reading these comics: "I think some of what it comes down to is that most of us know there's a line, and that if you cross it, there's very little hope of going back to a regular life, and so we read about the people who went ahead and crossed it anyway, instead." Read this and let a bit of sin into you life. 10/10


Matt C: A vicious conclusion to another fabulously mean and moody Criminal storyline which sees Tracey Lawless take several pummellings as the mystery of the gangland slayings is finally put to rest. Lawless is terrific noir character, with a warped sense of justice that wouldn’t win him any friends in a court of law but makes perfect sense when you consider the milieu he operates in. Phillips’ art seeps danger out of every panel and Val Staples colours seem to make even the relatively static scenes appear to be infused with violence. Brubaker wonders in his prose piece at the end of the issue whether the readers have enjoyed his story; “I am never sure if they’re any good”. Ed, you have nothing to worry about there, you’re making some of the finest crime comics the medium has ever seen with Criminal. 8/10

Stewart R: Well done, Mr Brubaker; you finished yet another series with aplomb! Yep, just as he did with Incognito last year, Brubaker shows that he works the five-issue mini exceptionally well and can keep the tension palpable until the very end. Tracy Lawless' dangerous predicament with the Triads is well handled with no clues given in the early stages as to how, or even if, he will manage to survive the night. The summary and explanation of the events to date which cover the first three pages bring all of the various clues and plot points together nicely and helps to answer some of the questions that had arisen over the course of this series without the need for some great revealing monologue from one of the main characters. We're then left with some deftly delivered final scenes from Brubaker and Phillips, and you're never sure what's going to happen and who might cop a bullet to the forehead until the very last page. Terrific stuff. 9/10


DAYTRIPPER #4
Writers: Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon
Art: Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Stewart R: The theme is certainly set now as nothing much changes in the way this issue of Daytripper is delivered compared to the previous instalments. Ba and Moon make an important decision to focus more on the sadder, greyer part of Bras' life in this chapter rather than the happier event that takes place throughout the comic, and that provides a compelling, downbeat feel to things. There's a good use of the past here as Bras reminisces about the black tie event in honour of his father that he didn't make it to in the first issue, and the Bras that we see here is a tired, haunted and angry version of the man who was so eager to grab a new opportunity last issue. The moments when Bras speaks to his half-sister are tinged with burning contempt on one hand and a deep sadness on shared loss on the other, and the final scenes just ooze loneliness from the page. If you're after an emotional tour-de-force in comic form then you'd best pick up the four issues that we've been given so far. 8/10


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #624
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Paul Azaceta with Javier Rodriguez
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Now I'm not as die-hard a Spider-Man fan as some out there who cry 'foul' whenever movie rumours suggest there's to be 'toying' with the established history, or when characters are played 'out of character' by new writers, but I really cannot stand one point that Mark Waid brings to the table this issue. Last time out saw the new Vulture out for vengeance on those who transformed him into the acid spewing monster that he is now, with J.Jonah Jameson being put squarely into his sights. All good, and the scrap between Spidey and the Vulture this time out is handled pretty well by Waid and Azaceta as webs and wings fly back and forth. And then we get to the completely unforgivable part. Waid rather lazily seems to reverse-engineer a plot point from the Spider-Man 3 movie and imbues a nativity into Peter Parker which goes against the intelligent, moral (and yes, occasionally unlucky) lead character that this book tends to stand upon. Yes, I can understand that 'The Gauntlet' is supposed to be the ultimate test for Parker/Spider-Man, but some ingenuity rather than a rehashed idea to get him to this stage would have been better appreciated. 4/10


RESURRECTION #9
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Art: Justin Greenwood
Oni Press $3.99

Matt C: Yeah, Resurrection has the potential to become the basis of a great TV show, but it also has the potential to be a lot better than it is. The narrative is dragging where it needs to be more propulsive; it needs to dig those hooks in to keep the reader around for the long run. There’s some solid characterization at work for the most part, but the portrayal of Bill Clinton is a little nondescript, and in all honesty, if you’re going to plonk him in the middle of your story you need to make sure he has some real impact. The art’s fine; it’s not going to see Marvel and DC banging at the door, but it does it’s job well. This month’s back up feature is competent, if a little obvious, but it emphasises an argument made in the main story. I’m sticking with it for the time being, but unless they crank things up a notch I may find myself having to part ways with it. 6/10


BATMAN & ROBIN #10
Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Andy Clarke & Scott Hanna
DC $2.99

Tom P: The Return Of Bruce Wayne starts here in another fantastic issue, the theory being that Bruce has been displaced in time by the Omega Effect and has left clues in the ancient Wayne Manor for Batman and Robin to find. Its great fun watching Grayson finds hidden clues and secret passages! The character work with Damian is also a real highlight. He loves being Robin and he's started to form a bond and respect for Dick’s Batman. Its good to see him defend his new mentor, and I imagine this is the first time he's felt that anyone cares about him. Like me, he doesn't want to see this great partnership end and Clarke’s pencils really put that across as he struggles with nature vs nurture. This issue also gives more time to Oberon Sexton, who already this week has been the source of much debate down the pub. Is he Bruce? Is that too easy? I know not, but I do know this is comics gold. 9/10

Matt C: This is more like it. I’ve never been 100% convinced by this series, and during the last arc I was questioning my reasons for continuing to buy it. This is easily my favourite issue so far though, even if – as others have pointed out – it occasionally has you expecting Robert Langdon to appear from a door to aid Dick Grayson in deciphering possible clues that Bruce Wayne has left in the past. Elsewhere, the complex relationship between Damian and his mother is explored, and questions are raised over whether his final allegiance will be with the Bat or the Al Ghul clan. Andy Clarke’s art is a bit ‘stiff’ in places, but it works well and is easily the closest visually to Frank Quitely out of the current rotating team of artists. I haven’t exactly been thrilled by what I’ve seen of The Return Of Bruce Wayne so far (Caveman Batman? Pirate Batman? Sounds like one of those camp Silver Age oddities rather than something worthy of serious consideration) but this issue has warmed me to the idea a hell of a lot more. 8/10

James R: ...Or, Batman: The Dan Brown Adventures! This month Grant Morrison's rollercoaster ride through the many different Bat tropes focuses on the 'Detective' side of things. Having established that Bruce isn't taking a dirt nap after all, Dick & Damien start to comb Wayne Manor for any hidden clues that Bruce may have left whist cut adrift in time. I hate to use the adjective, but this is the very definition of a fun read. Morrison has written a fantastic tale, and best of all, filled it with beautiful character touches. Damien has gone from an annoyance who I hoped would be thrown under a bus in the nearest story arc to being one of my favourite characters in the DCU. His evolution from brat to a worthy Robin has been one of the myriad treats of this brilliant run. A final word on the art - I feel this is a title that requires artists at the very top of their game, and it's great to see Andy Clarke bringing his best work to this issue. Properly brilliant. 9/10


ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #8
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Takeshi Miyazawa
Marvel $3.99

Tom P: This week we find Spider-Man and co trying to convince Rick Jones that his newfound powers are a good thing. Struggling to control his abilities he transports the group to the location that his power originated from, Project Pegasus, a S.H.I.E.L.D storage and research base in Wyoming. If you've read Ultimate Power then you'll get the same strong sense of deja vu as I did as they encounter an almost identical problem that the Fantastic Four did in the first issue of that series. I can forgive that however as it’s handled with a lot more fun as they flirt, punch and have a good old scrap. It been an enjoyable little two-part arc and leaves us with a new hero in the Ultimate Universe. I’m eager to get to the next storyline and the return of regular artist David Lafuente, but Miyazawa has been a fine replacement in this continuously entertaining comic. 8/10


UNWRITTEN #9
Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Peter Gross & Jimy Broxton
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Stewart R: As I hoped, we get some further insight into not only Tommy's powers but also the strange 'written' world that he Lizzie and Savoy have found themselves in. While it's Carey who has obviously come up with this concept, hats off to Gross for translating that vision to the paper so damn well. The scenes involving the crazy Jud Süß whirlwind are tremendous as Gross plants dozens of characterisations from the text in a brilliantly rendered black and white maelstrom of Jewish and Nazi imagery. Carey delves a little into the issue of film adaptation and the 'torture' of original text, which struck a chord with me. My fears of a stall last issue have thankfully come to nothing it would seem. 8/10

James R: Phew. After last month's issue I was worried that the much-championed Unwritten was wobbling a tad - it seemed to be, well, a bit too Vertigo-ish, with a lack of drive and focus. However, it's clear this was just a blip. Carey uses this instalment to finally reveal who (or what) Tom really is, and what his gifts are. His notion of the twisted story is inspired (and the creative team's mini-essay on Jud Süß truly enlightening). For good measure, the issue ends with a great sense of foreshadowing - the publication of a new Tommy Taylor book is bound to cause fireworks. Well, in a literary sense anyway! 8/10


AVENGERS #255
Writer: Roger Stern
Art: John Buscema & Tom Palmer
Marvel $0.65

Matt C: One of those ‘inbetween’ issues where various loose threads left hanging from the last arc are tied up while the seeds of a new storyline are planted, ready to germinate across the next few months. So we get the Vision turning himself over the government following his failed attempt to take over the world (complete global domination was a popular choice for villains or corrupted heroes back in those days) while Captain Marvel is confronted by a gang of space pirates on Thanos’ abandoned ship, Sanctuary II. Stern’s script jumps back and forth from team politics and banter to cosmic action, and it’s beautifully rendered by Buscema and Palmer. Brilliant characterization throughout with the promise of great things on the horizon. 7/10

4 comments:

Stewart R said...

A quieter week but one of quality...and may I just offer a small nod of congratulations for Matt C making it to 200 blog entries! Well done sir!

Siwelkire said...

A decent amount of reviews. I like the way you guys team up on them.

Matt C said...

Thanks for stopping by, Siwelkire!

200 posts, eh? Where did all the time go?

Matt T said...

Blimey. 200 posts. Surely a party of some kind needed? Good reviews though guys, I have to say I think Unwritten is starting to unravel in a good way, even if this felt like a filler issue. And Criminal was a cracking read. The Rise and Fall One Shot was a decent enough read, but I think DC are heading in the opposite direction to Marvel to thier detrement. Anywho, hopefully some reviews from me next week as this round of comics got to me on time! Whoop!