13 Jun 2010

Mini Reviews 13/06/2010

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: Grant Morrison
Art: Tony Daniel, Frank Quitely, Scott Kolins, Andy Kunert, David Finch & Richard Friend
DC $4.99

Tom P: A couple people commented on this not being mentioned in Stewart R's Incoming... this week but fear not, trusty Bat-fans, for I wrote about my excitement for this title in Ten Forward a while back and made sure to pick it up. It's a talented line up for this ‘Giant-Sized Anniversary Issue’. Without a doubt, I was looking forward to seeing Frank Quitely's detailed linework and its good to see him in action again as he's one of my favourite artists of all time. That said, it is a shame he couldn't finish his chapter but it's still a real treat to see him draw Batman leaping around with his clubs in hand. I think my unexpected highlight was Andy Kubert and his ‘Tomorrow’ chapter. I knew he was drawing the Damian Wayne section but it was a welcome surprise to find it set in the Batman #666 timeline. That was an incredible issue in Morrison's run, and it included all kinds of references and winks to his work on the Batman And Robin series - I strongly urge you to track that particular issue down if you can. Speaking of Morrison, I greatly enjoyed his writing in this issue and how it all links up nicely. We get a few extras too, including a cover gallery and a Batcave Operational file, which are okay, but nothing mindblowing. I must also congratulate David Finch for his fine cover and interior work - it looks like he's back on track after the horrible Ultimatum. Good stuff – here’s to 700 more issues! 9/10

Matt C: A 700th issue is a milestone whichever way you look at it, and if I were calling the shots at DC I’d be asking for a story that really taps into who the Dark Knight really is as a character. The Finch cover is a great start, but the contents don’t match up to its promise. A story in four parts that takes in various incarnations of the Caped Crusader in the past, present and future, as well as a mystery surrounding the Joker’s jokebook, this sees Morrison in “I’m tremendously clever!” mode but frankly, the artwork aside, I found the whole things somewhat forgettable. They’ve rolled out some big guns for this issue, and unsurprisingly Finch, Kubert and Quitely deliever the goods, but I wasn’t expecting how well Daniel would fit in with this company. Some seriously good work from a guy I’d never paid much attention to before. It’s a pity that Quitely didn’t manage to finish his section of the book though, and they had to rope in Scott Kolins for a rather jarring few pages work. There are some lovely images, a series of decent pin-ups in the back, and Morrison is now too familiar with Batman not to drop in some satisfying moments, but overall this is a wasted opportunity. 6/10

James R: In this age of relaunches, renumberings and rebooting of titles, it's incredible to see that Batman reaches its 700th this week. DC haven't gone overboard with this milestone, but they have given us a corking issue that shows off the talents of the creative teams on the main Bat-books. Grant Morrison serves up a tale of Batmen past, present and future. It's a done-in-one tale, which is really reminiscent of the Batman annuals of old (including plans of the Bat-cave, and I'm a sucker for maps and cutaways in comics!), and it's kicked up a notch by the brilliant artistic turns. Tony Daniel (who can be a bit hit-or-miss for me) produces his best work in ages, Quitely & Kubert are superb as ever, and it's brilliant to see David Finch let loose on the Future-Batman pages. A treat for Bat-fans, pure and simple. 9/10

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Leinil Francis Yu
Marvel $3.99

Tom P: Two set-up issues later and Millar is starting to hit his marks in true Ultimate style here. The team is looking great and a lot better than the last arc with Tyrone ‘The First Hulk’ Cash and the Punisher added to the line up. It's a brutal issue and Yu makes Ghost Rider's killings look truly hellraising. I also liked the use of the neural implants Fury employs to control the more troublesome members of the team. It reminded me of Ellis on his Thunderbolts run and shows what a hardass bitch the new Black Widow can be. All this and it's topped with some great cocky dialogue and amazing visuals. 8/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Salvador Larroca
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: If ever we end up in a time where Marvel starts translating its comic books to the small screen then this 27-issue (so far!) run by Fraction and Larroca must surely be the starting point. This month we get some delightful banter between Tony and Pepper (who’s been given a Nicole Kidman make-over by Larroca which I've just this minute noticed) as they playfully argue over Pepper's desire to have the repulsor tech reinstalled in her chest. Fraction fills Tony with a brilliant dose of tired optimism and Pepper a no-nonsense confidence that brings a smile to my features. Added to that is a great introduction to Bambi Arbogast, a neat action piece involving the Hammer Girls' Detroit Steel, and Rhodey and Tony discussing their concerns about continuously risking everything every time they suit up and head into danger. All this and still only $2.99. Marvel are getting this comic right in every way imaginable and long may it continue. 9/10

Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Peter Gross
Vertigo/DC Comics $2.99

James R: The Unwritten is definitely a favourite of the Paradox Comics Group, and it's now into it's second year. Undoubtedly, Carey is building up to a huge finale involving the return of the mysterious author Wilson Taylor, and I have no doubt that this will read brilliantly when collected in a trade, but as an individual issue this is definitely one of the most unspectacular instalments so far - it's lacking the usual literary nous, and it merely shifts the leading characters into place for the final act in the arc. Not bad, not a waste of time - a solid read, but readers of this title have got accustomed to excellence from Carey & Gross. 6/10

S.H.I.E.L.D. #2
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Dustin Weaver
Marvel $2.99

James R: When I read Jonathan Hickman's Pax Romana, one of the many things I was impressed with was his ability to construct a huge fictional timeline. It's a term that gets overused, but he's brilliant at 'epic' tales, and that's what we've got here. S.H.I.E.L.D. tells of the secret society that has protected the Earth for thousands of years, and in this issue it's more of the same - more Da Vinci, more Richards & Stark, and more brilliance from Dustin Weaver. I may have mentioned before that I was a huge fan of Marvel's Earth X, and until recently, I was bemoaning that the House of Ideas hadn't tried more epic maxi-series. Looks like I've got my wish - my only mild gripe is that the issue isn't bigger! 9/10

Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Art:Jason Pearson
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Aside from the main Deadpool title I’ve grown tired of Marvel's insistence in flooding the market with the Merc With A Mouth much in the same way that I've grown tired of seeing Wolverine pop up in a hundred titles. That said, they occasionally hit gold with some of Deadpool's efforts and I've hopes that this could be another of those times. This is as crazy as a courtroom Deadpool comic should be, and the brilliant use of 'breaking the fourth wall' during a flashback is definitely a highlight. In fact, the idea of Wade Wilson being brought before a Senate committee is comedy genius enough considering just how nuts the character is. Jason Pearson's art is perfectly matched for bringing the madness to the page and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the next three issues pan out. 8/10

Writers: Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba
Art: Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon

Matt C: The issues up to this point, by and large, have seen Bras De Oliva Domingos on the cusp of some sort of event that will alter the direction of his life before the proverbial axe falls. This month, as we draw closer to the conclusion of the series, Bras enters a situation that seems destined for one conclusion only. Before there’s usually been a random element that puts him down, but here he seems to walk straight into something that almost seems preordained. It introduces a different tone to proceedings compared to what we’ve seen so far, and it’s probably the most upsetting issue up to date. The quality of art and writing are outstanding as always, and Daytripper is currently shaping up to become a modern classic. 8/10

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

Matt C: Was last issue the out-of-character nadir for Brubaker’s Captain America run and this issue the point where he rebounds back to the usual level of high-quality storytelling? It’s looking that way (thank God!). Baron Zemo enters the mix, isn’t happy to learn the identity of the new Captain America, and sets in motion a plan to destroy Bucky Barnes. It’s good to see Guice on full art duties following numerous memorable stints as an inker on the book. Some moody images are the order of the day, although I’m not sure how much I’m getting on with Dean White’s rather garish (comparatively speaking) colouring. Maybe that particular aspect will grow on me. Apart from that, back on form. Annnnd….. is that a decent Nomad story I spy at the rear? Yes… yes it is! I still don’t think it’s the right fit for the book, but taken on its own merits this first chapter of a new story is a thoroughly absorbing read with Rikki Barnes attempting to blend into her adopted world with the limited resources she has. The ending of the first chapter is fairly chilling – you initially think (as does Rikki) it’s heading there anyway, but then you find yourself changing your mind, only to realise you were right all along. Good stuff. If you’ve been skipping the Nomad feature before, make sure you give it a shot this time. 8/10

Tom P: "That’s more like it!" This is what I proclaimed on finishing this issue, folks. I didn't like the last ‘50s Cap arc, and Reborn was something of a disappointment, but my love of the first spectacular 42 issues of Brubaker's run on Captain America kept me around. This is a vast improvement in both art and story, with an excellent first scene setting up Zemo and his discovery of the identity of the new Captain America. It helps establish a more personal antagonist for Bucky which I think is just what the title’s been missing. I feel this series suffered a great deal following the story arc involving Aleksander Lukin's Red Skull possession as he was a great villain and that made for a gripping read. Guice's artwork is excellent and the last few pages are truly dark and creepy - I’m now well and truly hooked again. Intense, well-written and action-packed, but why the $3.99 pricetag? Is it because of the Nomad backup? With Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D. at $2.99 I have to question this. I'll admit that the Nomad feature is vastly better this month but it just seems unfair for an ongoing to be priced like this because of the backup. That would be my only problem with this otherwise fine comic book. 8/10

CHEW #11
Writer: John Layman
Art: Rob Guillory
Image $2.99

Stewart R: In recent interviews Layman and Guillory have outlined their plans for this terrific series; a 60-issue run is planned and we're due for some real shake-ups in the near future. With that in mind, we enter the ‘Just Desserts’ arc with a familiar feel to things as Tony Chu gets stuck into another bizarre investigation, this time dealing with a mysterious group who only dine on the rarest, most endangered food stuffs in the world. Another great concept from Layman is superbly backed up by Tony's continued growth and confidence in his relationship with the lovely reporter Amelia Mintz. There's love, action, comedy and crime all wrapped up together to make for a great read and I really do recommend this if you like your comics to have a humorous edge. 8/10

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Steve McNiven
Marvel/Icon $2.99

Stewart R: "Crime is awesome and so am I!" That's how the cover reads and it's a little hard to know whether this is a statement by the hyper-criminal mastermind protagonist or Millar himself. This is dark, explosive stuff, shifting along at breakneck speed as Nemesis' scheming continues to drag the United States into dangerous times. There is a real cinematic feel to this comic thanks to the pacing, reliance on action sequences and McNiven's simple, clean style, and while enjoyable enough there are glaring holes. Millar is going 'high-concept' on us again but doesn't seem too willing to explore the effects of Nemesis' disastrous actions. We're simply told that all of the Pentagon's secrets have been released to the world but are given no visible consequences of this action. The inevitable chaos that a kidnapping of the President would bring is ignored completely and I feel it's an opportunity lost. By focusing too heavily on driving the plot forward he deprives us of some needed gravity and emotion that would draw us in and probably make this unmissable. Without it, I'm afraid this is starting to show that Millar may prefer once again to show us style rather than substance. 6/10

Matt C: I gave the first issue a shot, wasn’t impressed, came back for round two in the vain hope they’d be an uptick in quality, and even though it wasn’t much cop either, I think that, having reached the halfway mark, I’ll be seeing this through to its conclusion. And it’ll be painful, because this isn’t a very good comic book. If you wanted a one-word criticism, I’d say “lazy”. This is Millar sleepwalking through the script, tossing in crass attempts to shock (to limited effect) and doing so in a very cynical manner. There’s something slightly off with McNiven’s art too – whether it’s the washed-out colour scheme or the fact that he’s inking his own pencils, it just doesn’t impress in the way it did in these two guys last collaboration, Old Man Logan. Check out page 7: is that supposed to be an old dude or a some sort of shrivelled zombie?! Nemesis sees Millar barely even trying, and after Kick-Ass that’s a damn shame. 5/10

Writer: AJ Lieberman
Art: Riley Rossmo
Image $3.99

Stewart R: So we're venturing into unknown territory here as the initially planned miniseries heads properly into a new arc and ongoing status. To mark this, Rossmo takes an artistic shift to colour code specific settings, scenes and times rather than having a single palette for a single issue. This, I have to say, instantly helps to ease some of the confusion I occasionally found myself subjected to in the first arc, re-reading pages over to make sure I was properly comprehending events. The new story seems to be promising, and with the Triplets project essentially being in the pocket of, and at the mercy of, the Government, it seems certain that things are unlikely to ever go to plan with even the simplest of missions. Lieberman really starts to flesh out Duncan's character with some really enjoyable scenes of his psychotherapy sessions which lead onto a fun twist at the very end which could have a profound effect on how the next few issues pan out. Enjoyably bonkers stuff. 8/10

Writer: Roger Stern
Art: John Buscema & Tom Palmer
Marvel $0.75

Matt C: Someone is breaking super-powered crooks out of jail, and while the reasons aren’t clear yet, it’s a situation that’s registered firmly on the Avengers’ radar. The team are currently low on numbers with Cap on a mission elsewhere, Namor shooting off for some personal business in Atlantis, and Hercules getting hammered following a chauvinistic bust-up with the Wasp. This leaves the Wasp and the Black Knight (with the help of, er, Paladin) to square off against three supervillain escapees: Grey Gargoyle, Yellowjacket and Screaming Mimi (really!). A bit of first-class character work here, a bit of well-rendered action from the art team there, and a lot of hints dropped for what we can expect over the next few issues. Sterling work by all involved. 8/10


Joe T said...

I was disappointed with Batman 700 if im honest. It was a decent story true, but the dick grayson segment was crap and pretty irrelevant to the rest of the story-as were the final david finch pages.Not alot really happened and it seemed unrelated to everything else Morrison is doing(although I have a strong feeling there's definitely something major to the jokers joke book). The art was good throughout but yeah, it was low on content also and no way should have cost me that much. Also really annoyed that both dustin nguyen pin ups were rejected streets of gotham covers, and that many of the other ones were drawn in 2003/2008 which really annoyed me!
Invincible had some good character to work, but little actually happened in terms of story. Plus the art was ugly and the cover was just awful.
The real highlight of this week though was Captain America 606. Real pleased with this issue. Brubaker's cap is back on form with some real Steranko-esque art! Some real developments in character here, glad to see an appearance by Steve-and Bucky in his Captain America costume! In nearly every Bucky Cap issue we've had so far, he has been undercover or as the winter soldier which has annoyed me greatly. Good to see someone other than the skull being used as the main villain, but I think it would be great if Brubaker could create some new villains for Buck to face. The Nomad co-feature was pretty decent, even if ridiculously clich├ęd! Main complaint about the co-feature? It's not the confrontation between Nomad and Cap that was promised last issue and in the solicits. What happened there!?

Matt Clark said...

I with you on Batman #700. It just didn't connect for me. And I'm glad to see Captain America back on form again - was getting worried there for a while!

Joe T said...

Just read this and it still doesn't make me feel that much better about the issue( http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=26671 ). The fact it does tie into Grant's larger plan frustrates me-shouldn't issue 700 been more of a some up issue? Or just a stand alone story that WAS decent. Also, that bit about readers interpreting it as Damien mentoring Terry was something I had never thought of-I just thought it was Morrison chucking on a couple of extra pages for the sake of David Finch's pencil, whilst paying no attention to previous continuity to the t.v show or that of the story itself! I said it before, but those David Finch pages were just pathetic-no relevance whatsoever to the remainder of the story, and that last page off Batman & Robin was pretty poor and should of just been off Batman as it was Batman, not Batman & Robin.