21 Mar 2010

Mini Reviews 21/03/2010

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 next instalment of Matt C's Buscema Avengers Project.

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

Matt C: After last month’s surprisingly excellent instalment, this issue reverts back to the kind uninspiring storytelling Bendis has been peddling for the last few years. The dialogue between the President (let’s call him ‘Obama’ for the purposes of this review) and one of his top military aides, which acts as a voiceover for the unfolding battle, is exactly the kind of irritant that turned me away from the Avengers titles under the writer’s control (and it makes Obama sound like a bit of an ineffective idiot – maybe that was the point?). Norman’s downfall is dealt with way too swiftly, and it isn’t helped by the likes of the X-Men and the FF shown watching the events on TV – surely the FF would get involved in something of this scale, just like they did in the good ol’ days? Having said all that, it does contain enough blockbuster thrills to just about sustain it and the art from the combined talents of Coipel, Morales and Laura Martin is glorious. Still a damn sight better than Secret Invasion, but Siege #2 probably got me way more excited than I needed to be. The final issue will be the clincher, but I’m resetting my expectations accordingly. 6/10

James R: For a while I was eschewing the main Marvel Universe - I'd found the big events like World War Hulk, Civil War and Secret Invasion to be really unsatisfying. I also wasn't enamoured with the whole Dark Reign idea either, so I was reluctant to get on board with Siege. However, the glowing reviews of my fellow reviewers made me pick it up. So far, I've been impressed with how it's been low on Bendis-speak and high on big action. The art team of Coipel, Morales and Martin have given the series a suitably epic feel, but I can't help but feel that this issue is missing a certain something. Perhaps it's the fact that Osborn has been beaten too easily, or the fact that the Sentry remains a frustratingly under-developed character (in this title anyway). Either way, it's a fun read, but I'm still not wholly convinced it's worthy of the praise, or the 'Seven Years in the Making' tag. 7/10

Stewart R: I've mixed feelings about this now I've had chance for a second read through. First, I'll say that I feel something of the grand scale that was evident in the two previous chapters is missing this time around, which surprises me considering that we're given a Thor vs Sentry battle and the Avengers arriving in Asgard. The severe lack of actual Asgardians like Balder and co is rather disappointing and probably adds to the 'scaling down' of the focus which I think hampers things slightly. There's also not enough coverage of the Avengers actually taking the battle to H.A.M.M.E.R and I appreciate that some might have complained that we were just being given another Marvel slug-fest but I'd rather that than the five pages of 'White House Protocols' that we get in the back of this issue. Of course it's still standing head and shoulders (maybe even Stature-sized) above any other ‘event’ book Marvel have churned out in the past couple of years and the final issue should be a doozy! Oh, and how cool is the Iron Man retro armour Coipel gets to draw?? 7/10

Tom P: After the positive reviews on this very blog for the first two parts of Siege, I walked into Paradox and swiftly purchased both of them. I’m very pleased I did, as this is a great event story. I love how it opens in the White House with the President and his staff debating what they should do with a rogue H.A.M.M.E.R and a war-crazed Osborn. They made a hell of a mistake and they know it; the Dark Reign is fading fast, thank Odin. Coipel's widescreen art and Martin's inks shine on every page. It’s truly spectacular, from the double-page spread of the Avengers assembling, to the titanic battle between Thor and the increasingly creepy Sentry, to some awesomely destructive pages – “KRAKKAFA BOOM” indeed. My favourite page however, is the last one: it’s wonderfully dark and unsettling and made me want the next issue as soon as I can get it. I want it and I want it now! 9/10

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

Stewart R: Simply a superb fantasy read this one, all about exquisitely rendered spectacle. Joe gets drawn further into his strange otherworld as the forces of Sir Ulrik pursue him from Feather Forest to the ends of the Grand Drain with Sean Murphy capturing his journey with a terrific sense of wonder. The page where the submarines of Draka Fireface surface in Grand Drain sent me back to some of the great illustrated books of the ‘80s where grand scale and attention to detail could keep you finding new things on a page hours after you first looked at it. Of course the aesthetics aren't the only ingredient of a great comic book and Morrison is spinning a terrific sense of urgency and mystery in his work. I'm well and truly hooked. 8/10

James R: This series started strongly, and three issues in I see no signs of it starting to flag. This month, Joe continues to explore the Universe within his home (or does he?) and finds out that he carries a great weight of provenance and expectation, whilst the shadowy villains of the plot learn that the world of the imagination may not be all there is... I've said many times that Morrison can be a Marmite kind of a writer - people either love him or hate him - and whereas I'm firmly in the former category, I think that his output depends greatly on the artist with whom he works. Sean Murphy is clearly a great foil for him in the same way that Frank Quietly and Cameron Stewart are. His skill in switching from the vastness of the fantasy world to the mundane surroundings of the house are a treat for the eyeballs, and beautifully complimented by Dave Stewart' colours. As we approach the halfway stage, I'm desperate to see what other tricks the team have got up their collective sleeves; this is a classy read for the more discerning fanboy! 8/10

Writer: Joe Kelly
Art: Max Fiumara
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Here we go ladies and gentlemen, Stewart's Book of the Week right here, hands down, no contest! Joe Kelly and Max Fiumara produced a fantastic Spider-Man read back in ASM #617 which got us under the tough hide of the first Rhino, Aleksei Sytsevich, and showed us that some Rhinos can change their, er, spots! While that story was about the hope for better things and new beginnings, Kelly brings us back round for a ride of pure despair and it is a true example of breathtaking storytelling that's constantly tinged with sadness. Kelly uses Norah Winters as the objective viewpoint from which to unwind his tale and running her article for Frontline as the narration for the devastating events that take place is a noteworthy touch. Kelly also makes me think that Peter Parker is now really running through ‘The Gauntlet’, hitting the usually 'buoyant-in-the-face-of-adversity' hero with a further blow to his hope in the good things of life. Fiumara is an absorbing talent who can mix dynamic line work with softer character-driven storytelling and I cannot wait until these two creators get a further chance to work together. 10/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Peter Krause & Diego Barreto
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: Waid could have easily wrapped his ‘Superman-gone-bad’ tale up in, say, a six-issue miniseries, but he’s already doubled that figure and appears to show no sign of running out of steam. Every apparent victory the Paradigm achieve is followed by defeat – two steps forward, three steps back. Meanwhile, the Plutonian is delving into his past with devastating results – this issue contains one of the most disturbing sequences I’ve seen in a comic in a while (outside of Crossed, of course), the kind of shocker that leaves your mouth agape. I still have questions regarding the exact levels of the Plutonian’s power set (can he not ‘hear’ the Paradigm battling Orian?) but overall this is stellar work from everyone involved. 8/10

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

Matt C: Not quite as impressive as the first issue but still way smarter and exciting than you might expect. The rather lame cover aside (seriously, what’s up with JR Jr at the moment?) this is a compelling blend of action, politics and general nefariousness on the part of a certain Latverian dictator. The art generates an atmosphere of foreboding (helped largely by Jen-Francois Beaulieu’s moody colour palette) and Mayberry makes his script accessible without having to resort to dumbing down the ideas he’s playing with. With Doom viewing the events as something akin to a game of chess between him and T’Challa this looks set to be a little more cerebral (relatively speaking) than your usual 'event' book, and therefore worth sticking with. 7/10

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Patrick Gleason with Rebecca Buchman, Keith Champagne & Tom Nguyen
DC $3.99

Stewart R: While other $3.99 titles were underwhelming me this week, the boys over at DC were pulling out the stops to bring us a bumper issue of GLC which demonstrates that they can provide fantastic quality for that extra dollar. To be honest, I felt that we'd almost had a delicious issue's worth of Lantern goodness by the time Kyle and Guy had dealt with their personal battles with former loves, but then, dontcha know it, the second half of the book showed up and wowed me some more. Tomasi seems to be in his element with all of the various Lantern corps used perfectly in the battle with the Black Lanterns, and what more can I say about Mr Gleason that I haven't said before? The man is a phenomenal talent. It's a shame that this creative partnership will soon be moving on to other things but this is so damn enjoyable while it lasts. 9/10

Writers: Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente & Paul Tobin
Art: Ariel Olivetti, Reilly Brown & Jason Paz
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Hercules recent adventures have seemed to ricochet backwards and forwards from brilliant to passable on a regular basis; every time I started thinking it’s time to opt out, Pak and Van Lente fired off a bolt off brilliance out of nowhere that ensured the book stayed firmly in place on my pull-list. I’ve no idea if Incredible Hercules is coming back, or what the future holds for the character, but I felt I needed to check this two-part mini as it’s essentially the same book under a different name. It involves a wake for the apparently deceased god, which means guest stars aplenty, and while it’s fairly amusing in places it doesn’t really progress the story forward much. Olivetti’s art works really well with a cast of immortals, something I wasn’t expecting, I just wish he’d add turn the brightness down on his colour scheme a tad. The Agents Of Atlas backup is a pleasant but superfluous diversion, but neither Herc and the Atlas group are really making a particularly strong case for me to want to keep reading their adventures at the moment. 6/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Alex Maleev
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: WTF Bendis? WTF Maleev? WTF Marvel? So that's it? You peddle the concept of the digital comic at us (which I didn't think worked anyway), delay the title due to work constraints, and then, when you're actually producing top-notch work on it regularly, you call it to a halt because the artist got bored with drawing the main character?! Poor bloody show and it's evident in this over-priced finale that Maleev was far too eager to wrap things up and move on. That splash page of the Avengers, for example, is pretty damn goofy and has a rushed quality to it. For what it's worth, Bendis does a reasonable job of trying to tie up the loose ends and plot points, but the inclusion of the New Avengers is just too damn convenient and the most interesting point of all - Jessica working for S.W.O.R.D. - just gets brushed to the side in the end. The apology page at the back just makes me more disappointed and to say that there's no one out there to take on the artistic duties just means that they didn't look very hard! 4/10

Writer: Tony Daniel
Art: Tony Daniel
DC $2.99

Tom P: Oh dear, I was quite looking forward to finding out who the Black Mask was and now I feel let down. That’s it? I have said before that I felt sorry for Batman - it’s just not the flagship title for this world any more. Batman & Robin is constantly incredible and Detective Comics is so classic and definitive that this just feels like a bog standard Batman book in comparison - just change a few names and you would think this was Bruce Wayne and not Dick Grayson. I must point out that up to this point its not all been bad, and its nice to see an artist write and draw a book, but this issue left me cold. 4/10

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Wes Graig & Serge Lapointe
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Sometimes, when you’re really into a particular comic, it feels like the creators have invited you to personally share their trip, and you’re riding shotgun right beside them, seeing everything exactly the way they do. That doesn’t always last though, and you can often find yourself suddenly feeling like you’re no longer beside the creators but following them from behind, without really caring too much what direction they’re heading in. This happened to me with Nova, and it’s happening again with Guardians Of The Galaxy. I tried to ignore what my gut was telling me, but I have to face facts: I’m not getting the same buzz from this book anymore. Whether it’s me that’s changed, or the stories themselves, I’ve not been able to put my finger on. Suffice to say, I’ll stick around for #25 as it features the return of one of my favourite Marvel villains (no surprises if you’ve seen the cover), but after that, despite being such a staunch supporter of it a couple of years back, it looks like I’ll be getting out of the Marvel cosmic business. 5/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Mike Deodato
Marvel $3.99

Tom P: Much better. Out of all the Dark Avengers issues up to now, this is by far the best. It lives up to its premise of villains masquerading as heroes with a perfect storyline about Bullseye doing Osborn's dirty work and killing the Sentry's wife, thus severing his last connection to the human race. Its a great scene because he's such a bastard, and he seems like he’s properly Bullseye again - the killing machine the Thunderbolts used to keep locked up until they had no other choice. He uses his fake heroics and crocodile smile to get her alone with him and in a great bit of writing turns from friendly and respectful, to the twisted murderer he is. The painted style that Rain Beredo brings to the book this month is fantastic, really making Deodato’s art pop. It also sets the Sentry up well for Siege and goes a long way to explain whys he's become such a monster. If only the other 14 issues had been this good... 8/10

X-23 #1
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Art: Filipe Andrade & Nuno Alves
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: I rather enjoyed this pricey one-shot focusing on the troubled mind of everyone's favourite Wolverine clone. Kyle and Yost have been giving us little tidbits of Laura's past coming back to haunt her over on the X-Force title and they've been electing to keep her barriers up and giving us only the slightest glimpse of the softer side behind. Marjorie Liu gets the opportunity here to bring those barriers down and give us a hefty dose of self-harm, loneliness and despair over the abuses Laura previously suffered. This acts almost as a quick history lesson for those who weren't aware of what X-23 had been through and I actually appreciated the way that Liu handled all of the various elements. The Gamesmaster side to this story is interesting but I'm wary when beings that communicate via a psychic plane turn up with prophecies and future plans for characters, and I guess we'll have to see if that's a plot point that sticks with X-23 through other titles. It does have a kind of throwaway feel to it but overall this is a better offering for the ‘Women of Marvel’ line than the slap-dash Girl Comics #1 I reviewed a few weeks back. 6/10

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

Matt C: That’s an awesome cover, rightly suggesting adventure on an epic scale, and proof positive that the art combo of Buscema and Palmer knew how to make a comic stand out on the racks. The inside doesn’t disappoint: a bit of soap opera and group politics spilling over from last issue before the team hop into a Quinjet to investigate a trail of carnage through the South Atlantic, leading them to the fabled Savage Land. Add to that we have a few more scenes with Captain Marvel on Sanctuary II which pretty much confirms a huge space excursion is on the cards. This is the kind of Avengers book I grew up, and always loved: you’ve got one or two of the heavy hitters (Iron Man, Cap, Thor) and then you make up the numbers with interesting second-tier characters, one’s who probably couldn’t sustain an ongoing themselves but added together they create a unique and compelling dynamic. Highlight of this issue? Cap uttering the words: “As God is my witness, I swear that this man will be avenged!” Now that’s what I’m talking about. In your face, Bendis! 8/10


Matt T said...

Good reviews guys. Didn't delve in too deep as mine have yet to turn up (London post....again) but I'm loving the Buscema feature. My anticipation is building for Iredeemable, if only because I've heard so many...bad things about it in terms of the shocking content.

Danny said...

I thought Siege was phenomenal. I was geeking out about every page so it was quite surprising for me to see that you guys gave it 6s and 7s(except Tom). GLC was awesome. I agree with you Stewart, it's sad to see Patrick Gleason leaving. Him and Peter J. Tomasi make such a great team.

Tom P said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom P said...

Yeah I loved Siege, I enjoyed reading it loads. Good clean epic fun, cant wait for more! Great write up on JOE THE BARBARIAN #3 Mr R's! Morrison is kicking ass and chewing bubble gum! And i agree SPIDER-WOMAN #7 was a grand fail. A real shame as it was quite solid up to now. Thats my only "Boo Bendis!" for the week!