20 Jun 2010

Mini Reviews 20/06/2010

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: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Stuart Immomen & Wade Von Grawbadger
Marvel Comics $3.99

James R: I stopped reading Bendis' runs on the various Avengers books as they became so grindingly predictable - pages of 'Bendis-speak' talking heads building to a fight scene that usually didn’t resolve anything. Rinse, repeat. Out of fairness, I thought I'd take a look at New Avengers, as I'm a firm believer in giving things a fair crack of the whip. So what do we get? Umm... pages of 'Bendis-speak' intercut with an action sequence in which, well, at least something happens! So I suppose that's progress. But in all honesty, it's pretty much 'as you were'. After reading the reasons behind Steve Rogers' decision to form a secondary team, well, to save you time, the main reason is 'to make Marvel more money'! I'm sure they'll be people that love this, but I'm not one of them. Unexciting, uninspired, and certainly not deserving of Stuart Immomen's excellent pencils (the fact he's having to draw this and not another series of Nextwave just makes me more miserable!) 4/10

Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Rebekah Isaacs
DC/Wildstorm $2.99

Matt C: This is turning into something really rather special, and that’s coming from someone who had no knowledge of these characters prior to picking up the first issue of the miniseries. The setup of a teen superhero team being dropped onto a stone age era planet for unknown reasons (where they disperse and attach themselves to different warring tribes) allows Wood the freedom to work his narrative with only minimal continuity baggage. He makes his tale thoroughly accessible to newbies without resorting to any dumbing down that would hamper the pacing. Isaacs firm linework is magnetic, and with the assistance of Carrie Strachan’s bold colours, the effect is utterly absorbing. This is probably the most impressive book I’ve seen coming out of the Wildstorm stable since they knocked Joe Casey’s stellar Wildcats 3.0 on the head. 8/10

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Art: Arthur Adams
Marvel $3.99

Tom P: In the first issue of Ultimate X we met mutant Jimmy Hudson, the second then focused on Karen Grant, and now it’s time to meet Derek Morgan. Loeb and Adams take us to a wet, dark Chicago where a mysterious "Guardian Angel" is looking over the streets and protecting the people below. The rule now, post-Ultimatum, is that all mutants are to be shot on sight, so the fact that Morgan's brother is a police officer makes for an interesting and tense home life as he hides his powers and night time crime-fighting from his family. There are some great character moments here and I loved the scene on the train between Karen and Jimmy. It’s great to see Loeb on top form again and a lot of that is down to his focus on the characters. My only complaint would be that the narration at the start of the issue is a bit confusing - I wasn't sure who the narrator was until I got a bit further into the book. But when a comic looks this good I can forgive it and Ultimate X, in my opinion, is easily the best drawn comic Marvel is putting out at the moment. 9/10

Matt T: Like any team origin book, this one's going to take a while to get going. And as much as I've not been a huge fan of Jeph Loeb's Ultimate output to date, Ultimate X at least brings the group together in an entertaining manner. Instead of throwing us right into an action sequence and telling the origins of each character through truncated flashbacks, the three members (so far at least) have had an issue each to bed in. None are particularly dislikeable, and Wolverine Junior is a completely different kettle of fish to his dad without being unfamiliar. I'm a big fan of Art Adams art, and I like the manner Loeb is using the voiceover as a way of misdirecting the reader, so hopefully it'll continue when the team comes together. 8/10

Writers: Andrew Cosby & Michael Alan Nelson
Art: Christian Dibari
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: Pale Horse begins with no real attempt to provide a firm sense of who its central character is before horror befalls him and propels him along a new, brutal path, meaning we’re given a succession of Western clich├ęs in lieu of anything in that displays true substance. It seems that Nelson’s name appears in the writing credits of just about every other Boom! title I take a look at, and while he’s got some decent books to his name (Swordsmith Assassin, Dingo) I often wonder whether he’s got too much on his plate at one time. Dibari has a good feel for the dustbowl lawlessness of the Wild West, but his art doesn’t distract from the general lack of originality. If you’re looking for a comic book Western fix picking up Jonah Hex is still your best bet. 5/10

Writer: Zeb Wells
Art: Chris Bachalo, Emma Rios, Tim Townsend et al
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: This has been hands down the most engrossing Spider-Man story I have read in... hmmm... a couple of months actually, as the Joe Kelly/Max Fiumara ‘Rhino’ arc was immense as well! In fact, Amazing Spider-Man is proving to be an unmissable read of late. The ‘Shed’ storyline is wrapped up in brilliant fashion by Wells and Bachalo as Peter struggles to find a way through to the Lizard in order to bring a halt to his rampage through the minds of hundreds of New Yorkers. Wells carries the mammal brain/lizard brain plot strand through to the end and then gives it an interesting shift that should ensure that his cold-blooded foe will never be the same again. It’s a brave move indeed but, with the returning gallery of villains ‘The Gauntlet’ has thrown at us, it’s become clear that Marvel have decided that evolution is required if things are to remain fresh in ASM. Bachalo, Townsend and colourist Antonio Fabela keep things simple, explosive and sumptuous - the use of black and white space that these artists employ is a delight. Honestly, if you haven’t picked up ASM in a while you should... harf... switch off puny mammal brain. Be strong. Read arc of Wells’ and Bachalo! Harf! 10/10

Writer: Joe Kelly
Art: Max Fiumara
Image $3.50

Stewart R: We may have been forced to wait for what seems an age since the last issue came out, but when a writer and artist bring a comic as polished as this to your waiting, willing hands then you can do nothing but forget everything and enjoy it. Young Enrico was last seen entering a nest of dragons and Kelly picks up the story with the brooding Abraham Fawkes recalling the events that followed the bloody and costly dragon hunt. It helps to show us just what sort of mentor Enrico could have as well as highlighting just what a nasty piece of work Mr Boccioni is. The flashback/dream sequences with Enrico and his father act as a fantastic vessel for Enrico’s character development as he begins to learn from life’s hard lessons and become a tenacious young man. Fiumara uses his cleaner inking style - the man appears to have a brilliant range when you compare his ASM #634 story to this - to deliver a clear, bold picture of a dark and desperate world. For a book based in a world of dragons, this comic is all about the human heart, and it’s terrific. 9/10

Writer: Geoff Johns & Peter J Tomasi
Art: Ivan Reis, Adrian Syaf, Scott Clark & Oclair Albert
DC $2.99

Matt T: Ho hum. The splintered story arcs that DC have been putting out in these event books only really work when the stories are interesting, but, in the case of Brightest Day, they’re sorely lacking. Deadman is drifting around without meaning, the Hawks are wandering into vortexes and Firestorm is alternating between being in two parts to one superhero from issue to issue. None of these tales are exactly setting the world alight, as the characters seem too confused with their own situations to give the readers any reason to invest in them. The art is nice throughout, but that's about the only upside to this meandering, dull excuse for a comic. 2/10

Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Gabriel Hardman * Ramon Rosanas
Marvel $2.99

Tom P: The first issue was good, not great, but I’m a huge fan of Parker's team so was happy to pick this up again to support the book. I think the problem last issue was that it was mostly about 3-D Man and I wanted Atlas! This time I get my Atlas fix from the great ‘50s cover art to the team fighting zombies, saving 3-D Man from dragons and diving into his mysterious memories. The short story at the end of the issue with Ramon Rosanas is also a great extra and his art is fantastic with some excellent iconic pulp imagery. That's what's so great about this book: pulp, super heroes, sci-fi and robots. All for $2.99! What’s not to like? 8/10

Writer: David Lapham
Art: Javier Barreno & Julien Hugonnard-Bert
Avatar $3.99

James R: Two issues into the Crossed spin-off and that's far enough for me. With the debut, I felt that Lapham failed to supply the constant threat and total revulsion that Ennis wrote so well in the original series. I thought I'd give it a second shot to see how Lapham expanded on the Crossed concept, and ‘not particularly well' is the answer. Here we see the family Pratt set up base in 'New Paradise', a safe haven from the Crossed, but it seems the biggest threat is inside their compound. I'm sad to say that I felt bored and disinterested reading this. Ennis' original series seemed dynamic and shocking, whereas this seems dull and predictable. A shame. 4/10

Writers: Joe Kelly, J.M. DeMatteis & Stan Lee
Art: Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Max Fiumara & Marcos Martin.
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: I’ve left Amazing Spider-Man on the shelves since issue #601 for a variety of reasons but this particular storyline proved too difficult to resist. A sequel (of sorts) to ‘Kraven’s Last Hunt’, my favourite ever Spider-Man tale? I’ve got to take a look at the first instalment at the very least. Good decision on my part, because this is a cracking read, with Kelly wasting no time putting Peter through the wringer once more. The icing on the cake for me is the art from Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudinao – these two make a tremendous team, injecting some wonderfully kinetic realism into the proceedings, reminding me how much I’ve missed them since they finished on Daredevil. The back-up has ‘Kraven’s Last Hunt‘ writer, J.M. DeMatteis, delve into Sergei Kravinov’s past, and it proves he has a much firmer grasp of the character than most. The Lee/Martin two-pager is a lot of fun and, really, you have to ask if Marvel can put out this amount of content for $3.99, why aren’t they doing it more often? 8/10

Stewart R: Well, here comes Marvel’s bombardment of our wallets and senses as their $3.99 price-point finds the title that we’re supposed to pick up three times a month. Thankfully I’m so mesmerized by this opening chapter of ‘The Grim Hunt’ that I can overlook the forced extra dollar for the meantime. Kelly batters the readers with Kaine encounters, Kraven-kin aplenty and the odd appearance here and there of various Spider-family members. It’s edge-of-the-seat stuff thanks to the preparatory groundwork that ‘The Gauntlet’ laid down, emotionally wearying both Peter Parker and the readers (in a good way). This accomplished writer is the perfect guy to handle such a deadly ASM storyline and since first reading this Thursday I’ve revisited the scenes involving Mattie Franklin - the ‘other’ Spider-Woman - a few times on page and in my mind. It’s powerful stuff. For the extra buck we also get a Kraven/Kaine flashback tale that is rendered nicely by Max Fiumara as we visit the turmoil that Sergei Kravinov endured towards the end of his life. The Stan Lee/Marcos Martin two-pager I can take or leave but in a $4 book at least it’s not two pages of adverts! 9/10

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

Matt C: With the assistance of his Avengers teammates, Namor heads to Atlantis to rescue the incarcerated Marrina from the clutches of evil tyrant, Attuma. You need quite a significant suspension of disbelief this issue to buy that Captain America and colleagues can engage in fistfights several thousand fathoms under the sea, but then if you manage that you shouldn’t really be reading superhero comics! Alpha Flight make an appearance (naturally, as Marrina is a member of their team) but it’s one of those occasions where they lose their individual personalities when written by someone not used to dealing with them. There’s something a bit ‘off’ with the art too, but this could be down to the printing quality of the copy I have rather than any dip in brilliance from Buscema and Palmer. And, really, has anyone else ever drawn a pissed off Hercules as well? 7/10


Stewart R said...

Ahhh bumlets! Didn't realise Atlas #2 was out this week! Minus points for Stewart and his Incoming...research then. Time to make amends.

Anonymous said...

Quote: James R: I stopped reading Bendis' runs on the various Avengers books as they became so grindingly predictable - pages of 'Bendis-speak' talking heads building to a fight scene that usually didn’t resolve anything.

Y'see, you've just gone and described what I like about the Bendis Avenger books! :)

- Rob N