18 Apr 2010

Mini Reviews 18/04/2010

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.

Writers: Geoff Johns & Peter J. Tomasi
ArtL Fernando Pasarin & Various
DC $3.99

Stewart R: What a relief. I had been worried that we were just going to get small, 5-6 page adverts for future DC comics in a $4 issue but what we actually get is small, 5-6 page adverts for future DC comics in a $4 issue... with some sense of narrative linking them together. Boston Brand, formerly the hero known as Deadman, was one of the more interesting plot points to spill forth from Blackest Night's mediocre finale and having him act as the focus for the journey through the DC Universe, visiting and viewing all of those who have been brought back to life, works well to make this feel like an important beginning for Brightest Day. Admittedly I have no intention of following more than three titles in this related event - including obviously Brightest Day itself - and this debut has helped me to pick out those of significant interest. Johns and Tomasi provide some questions and mysteries for each of the involved characters as well as instilling a retinue of emotions throughout this hefty taster. Pasarin's artwork fits the whole thing very well indeed and it's actually a shame that this looks to be his only involvement with Brightest Day for the foreseeable future. Pick this up if you're unsure of which BD comics you might want to shell your cash out for. 7/10

Matt C: We’ve barely had time to absorb the conclusion of Blackest Night, but as DC are eager to milk the cash cow Brightest Day is already upon us. It’s a pretty safe bet it won’t achieve the same kind of popularity as Blackest Night, and already I’m wondering whether this is a miniseries I really need to invest time and money in. Johns and Tomasi do a decent enough job of making a group of characters I mostly have minimal interest in seem appealing, and it’s a testament to their writing skills that I’m even considering getting the next issue of this book because, in all honesty, I’m not feeling that compelled to discover why these particular characters were resurrected. Pasarin’s art is really nice though – it’s very trad DC but with a level of dynamism and detail that impresses. It’s actually the final page that may sway me towards getting the rest of the series, but I remain undecided, and indecision isn’t the kind of reaction you want when you launch a new ‘event’, is it? 6/10

James R: Just before Final Crisis got going, DC brought out a comic for fifty cents called DC Universe #0 and it was largely an extended series of trailers for series that were due to be released in the coming year. Well, jump to today and we have Brightest Day #0 which - hey! - is virtually the same thing. But this time we have to pay $3.99 for it. Johns and Tomasi do place a narrative thread throughout the issue, but really, this is disjointed read. Some of the elements look like they're going to be promising - Deadman and Aquaman look show potential, but Hawkman? Hawk & Dove? Martian Manhunter? I can't say that this title will be going on my pull-list. 5/10

Matt T: As has become something of a tradition in the DCU this book details the attempted return to the status quo of those most affected by it. In the case of Brightest Day, all the characters back in the land of the living are given the spotlight as they attempt to process the events of their resurrection. The whys and wheres are the main crux of this compendium of stories, including Aquaman, the Hawks, J'onn J'onzz and the (formerly) Deadman. Most interesting of all is Ronnie Raymond being forced to combine with Jason Rusch to form Firestorm, as the last occasion the two combined the Black Lantern version of Raymond murdered Rusch's girlfriend. All of these stories are used to promote approaching miniseries or ongoings, and as such are short and sweet, but there are a few standouts to be found within. Johns has done an impressive job again, and I'm definitely going to pick up a couple of the new Brightest Day books. 8/10

Writer: Samuel L. Jackson & Eric Calderon
Art: Jeremy Rock
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: It was somewhat inevitable that Samuel L. Jackson would get involved in the creation of a comic sooner or later. While various "celebrities" who've probably never picked up a comic in their lives have managed to get their names on the covers of (usually short-lived) series in recent years, Jackson is a self-confessed comic geek who's love of the medium recently culminated in his casting as Nick Fury in a selection of upcoming Marvel movies (the irony being that Bryan Hitch based the character of Fury on Jackson in The Ultimates during the first half of the last decade). But, where another celebrity geek - Jonathan Ross - made a hugely impressive foray into the medium with Turf last week, Jackson's debut sees him fall flat on his face. This is lowest-common-denominator space adventure, where a roguish - very familiar - galactic fugitive winds up on a planet in what looks like another rehash of the Yojimbo plotline. Riddled with clich├ęs and verbal clunkers it seems obvious that this wouldn't have received publication if Jackson's name wasn't attached. The art's fine, but doesn't really grab hold of the opportunity to unleash any exciting cosmic visuals. That might have made the experience more engaging, but as it stands this is utterly forgettable and you'd be better served spending your money elsewhere. 3/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Rafa Sandoval
Marvel $3.99

Tom P: At C2E2 this weekend Marvel announced the second chapter of this trilogy of miniseries that will see the dawn of a dangerous new foe into the Ultimate universe. The sequel to Enemy will be called Ultimate Mystery. With Bendis and artist Rafa Sandoval returning… hey, if it ain't broke…. The most exciting thing is seeing what’s happening to Ben Grimm, picking up from a plot point Bendis used in Ultimate Power with his thick rocky skin starting to break up as he transforms into something new. The tension between Fury and Danvers is also a lot of fun. Bendis is doing a good job building this story from his previous Ultimate work and I just hope he can pull it off. I felt he created a terrific build-up to Secret Invasion but that series failed to live up to its promise. However, his work with Ultimate Spider-Man and Siege has impressed me recently so I’m definitely up for the ride. 8/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Francis Manapul
DC $3.99

James R: I really loved what Geoff Johns did on his last run (forgive the pun) on Flash - he's brilliant at fleshing out the supporting cast of the title, and he has an obvious love for Barry Allen. So, this is a nailed-on slab of comics gold? Well, yes and no. Johns sets up a great conceit for his first arc - the idea that the Flash's time-travelling exploits in the past are now going to have grave consequences, and it looks beautiful (as you'd expect from Manapul) but it's lacking a certain something. It might just be because this is a set-up issue, but there's a lack of dynamism in these pages, and in a comic all about a fast character I think it's something you need to establish from the start. I'll certainly be sticking with this, but I'm hoping issue #2 shows a cleaner pair of heels. 7/10

Matt C: I've always wanted to be a fan of the Flash; I love the concept of the character but every time I've tried to get onboard with his adventures something hasn’t quite clicked and I usually find myself parting ways pretty swiftly. This is my umpteenth attempt to become a Flash acolyte then, but after being underwhelmed by both Flash: Rebirth and Blackest Night: Flash my expectations weren't particularly high. On top of that, the creative team behind this new series, Johns and Manupal, recently commenced a pretty impressive relaunch of Adventure Comics with Superboy, only to abandon it several issues later. Still, even bearing all that in mind, I had to give this book a go. It's actually a pretty decent start: Barry and Iris' relationship is often a little too reminiscent of the Clark & Lois template, but if there's one thing that sets Flash apart from his JLA colleagues it's the Rogues, and here's where Johns has the opportunity to make this book unique. The signs are generally positive, and the cliffhanger is enough to make me want to return next month. It's way too early to say for sure, but maybe - just maybe - this could turn out to be the Flash book I've been waiting for. 7/10

Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Art: Brett Weldele
Image $2.99

Andy H: The dark. That's what scares us when we're kids. It can still scare some of us now, you just don't know what could be lurking there and your imagination will do the rest. Let's turn that on it's head. What if the dark is our protection from... the light? In this atmospheric tale it's the light we must fear. The art and especially the colouring really add to the mood. It's all quite a grim and muted palette but that makes the light look brighter, colder, even dangerous. The lead character, Coyle, is a loser. He's a drunk, his wife has left him and he's fired from his job within the first two pages of the book. Now his family and friends are being consumed by the light. Why? We don't know, yet. Let's hope Coyle will stay sober long enough to save himself and his daughter. Until then 'Don't look into the light'. 8/10

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Art: Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund
DC $2.99

Matt T: Giffen and DeMatteis take over the reigns from the current creative team starting next issue and I, for one, am glad. Mainly because much of the fun of the early run of Booster has been lost in exchange for too much sentimentality, making Booster appear much like a moping teenager rather than a glass-half-full kinda guy. This installment wraps up Booster's issue with his sister, and softens Rip Hunter's outlook somewhat, but otherwise serves as filler till the changing of the guard. 6/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Paul Azaceta, Emma Rios & Howard Chaykin
Boom! Studios $3.99

Stewart R: 'Special' is a word than can instil excitement or trepidation in a comic reader, so random is the occurrence of high quality writing and artwork in titles emblazoned with the term. Luckily Boom! provide you with an effort worthy of your investment should you happen to be a keen follower of the Irredeemable universe. Mark Waid takes the opportunity to provide three separate vignettes which give some insight into previous events from the main title as well as fleshing out certain character backgrounds. He masterfully takes things back to issue #1 where we bore witness to the quick and fiery end of The Hornet's resistance and actually shows us the brief and strained relationship that developed between the Plutonian and the everyman who was almost the world's first superhero. The origin of Kaidan is beautifully delivered over a mere 8 pages and Waid manages to pack in a great feeling of sadness and tragedy to such a simple tale. Finally we're shown the very first meeting of Max Damage and Jailbait, an introduction that is depicted in succinct, to the point fashion and is just the type of start to their partnership that I'd expect from these newly-reformed ne'er-do-wellers. The artist choice throughout is perfect, Paul Azaceta being the top pick for me, and I'm pleased to see that all of their respective pencil and ink styles make a very good fit for this increasingly expanding and absorbing comic world. 8/10

Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Peter Gross & Kurt Huggins
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Stewart R: Mike Carey you mad literary genius you. After last issue’s reveals about Tommy Taylor's powers and ability to manipulate the written world I figured we'd still be following him through his journey of discovery this month. Instead, Carey and Gross provide a comedic and, it appears, relevant interlude as they weave us an entertaining and expletive-filled story of Mr Bun's attempts to escape his book-based prison. There are small nods to the Br'er Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh tales along the way but the grin-inducing high point is Pauly Bruckner's anger and exasperation at failing time and time again to find his way out of his cute and fluffy hell. Carey adds a Beatrix Potter-esque narration to the whole thing that counters Bruckner's bitter resentment and really adds to the sense of sugary torture that he's being exposed to. Everything Carey has brought to this book tends to have important repercussions later on and I suspect that the introduction of Eliza Mae Hertford is the real reason that we've been given such a bizarre and wonderful chapter which seems quite removed from what we have read up to now in this title. Terrifically well-delivered and worth picking up this week. 8/10

James R: Well, I never saw this coming! Last month's The Unwritten marked the end of a story arc, and having not looked at Previews, or any online solicitations, I expected this to be the next instalment in the Tom Taylor saga, but it seems Mike Carey had a killer diversion planned. The issue takes place in a world which seems so close to being familiar - anyone who has even taken a cursory glance at the work of Beatrix Potter or A.A. Milne will recognise the simple, fairytale world of anthropomorphic animals that we see here. But there's a dark twist. This world is a saccharine prison - the consciousness of one of Wilson Taylor's enemies has been trapped in a talking rabbit, and he's determined to escape. I know it sounds insane, and it is! But in the best way possible. The juxtaposition of the fairytale art with Pauly Bruckner's foul-mouthed tirades as he tries to escape is genius, as is the concept of being trapped in somewhere so child-like and seemingly innocent. Gross' art is incredible, and it's augmented by the superb inking of Kurt Higgins and the colouring palette of Zelda Devon. Inspired stuff, and it seems that a plethora of great Vertigo titles are raising the bar every month. This is a vintage year for the discerning reader. 9/10

Matt C: As with the Kipling excursion in #5, we take another break from Tommy Taylor’s adventures as a fictional character in the ‘real’ world, and focus here on a ‘real’ character trapped inside a fictional world. And it’s utterly brilliant. Mr Bun is a talking rabbit attired in a smart waistcoat and caveat. At least that’s what his furry friends see. In actuality his name’s Pauly Bruckner, but following some sort of altercation with Wilson Taylor he’s found himself stuck in a quaint fairytale world where excitement comes from the prospect of a nice cup of tea. Cue endless profanity as Bun/Bruckner attempts to escape back to a place where ‘cute’ companions don’t surround him. This is my favourite issue of The Unwritten so far, with Carey clearly having a ball writing such a foul-mouthed contradiction, and Gross altering his style to ape the kind of Beatrix Potter characterizations that form the basis of the fictional setting of Willowbank. It’s times like this when you get a sense of the scope of ideas Carey is playing with. A real treat. 9/10

Matt T: A welcome break from the Tommy Taylor storyline brings us to Eliza Mae Hertford's Willowbank Tales, a sort of Wind In The Willows/Winnie the Pooh hybrid in which a character from the real world has been trapped within the body of a lovable bunny called Mr Bun. His profane tirades create an interesting paradox with a child's tale being inhabited by a foul-mouthed, violent arsehole who seems determined to ruin tranquillity surrounding him. The narration seems undeterred by Mr Bun's attempts to free himself from the fictional land, after seemingly being double-crossed by Taylor's father, making the comedy all the more entertaining. This delightfully twisted issue is made all the better by the fantastic artwork, which again punctuates the fact that the alter ego of Mr Bun doesn't belong there. A top read, and I hope Carey goes off the beaten track again before this series ends. 9/10

Writer: Zeb Wells
Art: Ibraim Roberson
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Looks like my 'too many cooks' fears are pretty well buried in the ground now as this issue of New Mutants feels like a simple continuation of the last chapter of 'Second Coming' in Uncanny X-Men #523. The great success here is to make this a New Mutants book - the team are sent by Cyclops to deal with technological nut-job Cameron Hodge - while also providing plenty of other X-Men action. Wells continues Wolverine and Co's desperate fight against Stryker and the Purifiers, utilising neat tricks and strategies to counter various mutant abilities and make the conflict less one-sided that previous X-scraps have been. Ibraim Roberson does a great job himself of keeping the darker feel present in the other two issues’ artwork and his depiction of Cameron Hodge's transformation was particularly creepy in its simple delivery. The big question now is whether this event has the legs to span over the full 14 chapters. 7/10

Matt T: I'm more than a touch confused as to what this added to 'Second Coming', as it just seemed to include yet another fight into the mix. If Marvel are going to drag out the back and forth between separate X-teams and Bastion's teams of nutcases I may just have to skip it all and wait for the conclusion. Spotlighting a team I'm not particularly familiar with has its benefits, but things take so long to get moving, and don't conclude in a meaningful manner, I'm struggling to see the point of it. 4/10

CHEW #10
Writer: John Layman
Art: Rob Guillory
Image $2.99

Tom P: This is the last part of Chew Book II: International Flavour, and I'm still enjoying this wacky and truly original comic. While I’m a little disappointed not to find an explanation to the shocking and funny last page in the previous month's Chew, I feel confident that Layman wont let us down. The vampire stuff in the book is also a great twist and it’s nice to see Tony kicking some ass and getting a bit of romance. If you like something a bit different than I strongly recommend you pick this up in trades. 8/10

Matt T: The last part of the second arc of Chew ends in a manner expected of this quirky little book, in that yet another random aspect is thrown into the mix. In this case it's a Vampire-ish character who's been tweaking strings since a previous adventure. I'm enjoying how relentlessly inventive Chew is, and how the situations are rarely as straightforward as they seem. Bringing Tony Chu back to home shores is a safe bet, and hopefully the results will keep the momentum of this title going. The art hasn't dipped either, and Rob Guillory's cartoony style is what keeps the series from straying too far into gory horror territory. 8/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Michael Avonm Oeming
Marvel/Icon $3.95

Matt T: Regardless of the other tosh he can chuck out, Bendis can normally be relied on to turn out the goods in Powers. The mystery which has been the central plot of the first four issues is unravelled pretty quickly as the killer of Z is revealed, but more interesting is how Walker reacts to one of his old team mates being murdered, and the reappearance of another face from the past. Where Bendis goes from here will be interesting, but the police procedural element which gave this book meaning earlier on now seems to be playing second fiddle to bigger ideas and I, for one, am glad for it. 8/10

Writer: Joe Kelly
Art: Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano
Marvel $0.00

Matt C: I left Spider-Man’s corner of the Marvel Universe behind around issue #600 but the prospect of a return to the same creative well that produced ‘Kraven’s Last Hunt’ (still my favourite Spider-Man storyline) is possibly strong enough to tempt me back. The art in this free preview is quite something, reminding me how much I’ve missed Lark’s pencil work since he moved on from Daredevil. Having said that, the pencil ‘sketchbook’ pages really serve to show just how much inker Guadiano and colourist Matt Hollingsworth bring to the visual experience. Alone Lark’s art is great; with the two other guys adding their skills, it becomes something wonderful. As well as the short precursor to the story that properly commences in Amazing Spider-Man #634, you get a brief history of the Kraven clan as well as biographies for both the Chameleon and Kraven. Hats off to Marvel for continuing to put out these ‘Saga’ freebies. 7/10

Writer: Brett Matthews
Art: Sergio Cariello
Dynamite $3.50

Andy H: Something of a patchy read at times but still worth sticking with for the overall story. This issue amps up the tension with every turn of the page. As the Ranger and Tonto head out to take care of business little do they know they are being watched and nor do they realise the danger those close to them are in. The dastardly Cavendish has found the Ranger's family and has only evil in mind. The pacing of this issue is just right. Moving the story along while switching from character to character only adds to the build up. One of the best issues to date 7/10

Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Humberto Ramos & Carlos Cuevas
Marvel $3.99

Matt T: See that title? Complete bollocks. In fact I'd encourage every comic shop owner to cross it out and write 'Hulked out Deadpool wanders about in time cracking wise, much like he could have easily done in HIS OWN FRICKING BOOK'. Granted it's not as snappy as Hulked Out Heroes but it's a damn sight more honest. DP tooling about in history after being gamma-irradiated is a good laugh, but don't sell me a book on the promise of seeing the Marvel Universe all hulked up. ‘Cos it's a complete and utter lie. 3/10

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

Stewart R: This book continues to impress and as we hit the halfway point it seems that we're not being thrown any particular twists just yet. What we are given by Ba and Moon is a lovingly crafted story of innocent familial childhood with Bras' trips to the Brazilian countryside as a young boy, the setting for this month's outing. I've begun to notice that these artists alter their palettes subtly whenever trying to depict shifts in mood and emotion and because of the general jovial demeanour of young Bras we end up with a lush and sun-flecked countryside filled with yellows, blues and greens which are only really tempered by darker sections involving and highlighting the relationship with his father. With another five issues to go it's getting hard to predict what these writers may have in store for us in terms of any shocks or revelations, and how many instalments it may take to deliver them should they appear at all. The mystery there alone is worth buying this and digging out those back issues. 7/10

Matt C: There's a certain sense of frustration with this book as you try to figure out exactly what Moon and Ba are aiming for. A series of vignettes reminding us how fragile and transient life is, and how it could all come to an end in an instant? Or perhaps a sci-fi themed tale dealing with alternate realities? That's not a criticism - while you may feel like you're being teased by the brothers as they lay out their narrative puzzle in front of you, this is such a wonderfully written, beautifully observed and exquisitely illustrated series that you become utterly absorbed while reading each chapter, and it's only afterwards that the questions start popping up. This actually works perfectly as a monthly series; the episodic format allows time for various thoughts and theories to swirl through your mind before you reach the next instalment. In that respect, feel lucky if you're picking this up in comic book format rather than waiting for the trade, because I get the feeling something will be lost if you can jump straight into the subsequent chapter before you've had a proper opportunity to digest what's come before. 8/10

Writer: Sean McKeever
Art: Mahmud A. Asrar, Scott Hanna & Victor Alazaba
Marvel $2.99

Matt T: The return of the Young Avengers is something I've been looking forward to ever since their hiatus, and this one-shot gives me all the more reason to anticipate something special. The characters and interplay are superb, and in Asrar there's a safe pair of hands on the art side. The plot has the Young Avengers simply tidying up after the Asgard incident, but they do have the time to lay some smackdown on the Wrecking Crew. I'm really looking forward to any new ongoing with this set of characters, as well as Stature and Vision, so it can't come soon enough. 8/10

Writer: Andy Diggle & Antony Johnston
Art: Marco Checchetto
Marvel $2.99

Tom P: I have been enjoying Diggle's run on Daredevil a great deal. Its been interesting, exciting and dark. This issue sees Matt struggle to keep order in the Hand as he attempts to prevent an assassination of one of the more brash members of their leadership. Any comic that features the red-ribboned super killer that is Elektra will always get extra points from me, even if Matt is only dreaming… or is he? Add that to some moody art and an unseen twist and you have a great read! 8/10

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

Matt C: Imagine a space battle akin to the Rebel’s final assault on the Death Star in Return Of The Jedi, but with the addition of the Black Knight riding an ‘atomic steed’ and Hercules tearing apart spaceships wearing nothing but a helmet and his pants. In other words, absolutely awesome. Where previous issues have had their fair share of chatter, here’s it’s wall to wall action, and it’s visually glorious thanks to the exemplary skills of Messer’s Buscema and Palmer. I first read this issue back in the ‘80s when it was reprinted as part of the UK version of Secret Wars II. It was effortlessly exciting then and hasn’t lost any of its potency now. From the exceptionally powerful first splash page of Firelord in flight to an ending that sees the Beyonder appear in the guise of a superhero only to royally screw things up, this is a cracking piece of superhero fiction and a worthy (and cheap I suspect) addition to any collection. 9/10


Stewart R said...

Bumlets! I hadn't realised that Hulked Out Heroes was out this week! Well considering that this week's order looks to be in jeopardy thanks to a few billions particles of ash and silicone hovering in the skies I might have to pick it up this Thursday just to have something to read!!

Andy H said...

Bumlets? Now there's a word that should be added to the dictionary immediately!

Matt T said...

One euro to whoever can use it in their next review!

Hulked out Heroes was a smidge of false advertising though. A good giggle for a DP fan such as yourself Stew. I might pick up a copy of The Light if our comics are grounded for a week.