27 Jun 2010

Mini Reviews 27/06/2010

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.

Writers: James Robinson, Dan Jurgens & J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Bernard Chang, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Eddy Barrows & J.P. Mayer
DC $4.99

Matt C: Another 700th issue, another missed opportunity. I really think DC dropped the ball with both this and Batman #700. The first of three stories here follows on from the recent War Of The Supermen event, with Clark reunited with Lois after his leave of absence on New Krypton. A brief punch up with the Parasite is followed by an unnecessarily protracted and soppy scene with the married couple. Yeah, they’ve missed each other, I get it, but so much focus on this particular aspect to lead off the 700th issue? Not a wise decision. Dan Jurgen’s second tale is very old-school DC, and while thoroughly readable it comes across as much more of a Dick Grayson story than a Superman one. What should have been the ‘best’ is left until last, but the prologue to incoming writer Straczynski’s forthcoming arc felt overly forced and sentimental. Doesn’t bode particularly well for what’s to come, but he’s a fine writer so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. What DC should have really done is given a self-contained story that hammers home who the Man Of Steel really is in the 21st Century, something that could give new readers a chance to hop onboard. Perversely, the best thing in this issue is the preview for Paul Cornell’s upcoming run on Action Comics, with Lex Luthor as the central character. I didn’t really have any interest in it before but I’ll definitely give it a look now. So, yeah, it looks like I’m striking up the 700th issue of Superman’s book (and let’s not forget, he was the first superhero!) as a win for his arch-nemesis. 5/10

Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Kev Walker
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: This book really has changed since the post-Civil War, Norman Osborn era, and while I’m not a great fan of the 'Heroic Age' concept, Jeff Parker appears to be the man to lead this dastardly bunch into the brighter period. With the new team members selected, Parker needs to show just how this band of individuals are going function as a team and he does this with aplomb in just the first ten pages of this issue. He also cleverly pegs some members’ powersets back to ensure that we get a decent level of danger when the eventual battles and missions turn up. Here we have a writer that really likes to bring a sense of continuity to things as well, so he uses this opportunity to tie things into Siege and just what sort of fallout would surface when the home of the gods was decimated above the Earth. Kev Walker’s art is a delight and I can only hope that what we have here is a team that will get the chance to make this title theirs, and theirs alone for a long time. 8/10

Tom P: I recently dropped Thunderbolts; the Dark Reign and Siege arcs were not great reads - something just didn't click - and despite my love for Parker's writing on team books, it had to go. Then Stewart R showed me the last issue and convinced me that I had to read it. He was right! Solid art, great set up and interesting characters with a last page that had me hooked. A big part of my new found excitement over Thunderbolts is Kev Walker and his fantastic artwork. It impressed me in Marvel Zombies but it’s even better here, looking bold, exciting and distinctive, with Frank Martin’s colours making it leap off the page. This issue is also packed with story as we go from the field test to Man-Thing’s lair and end up with a skirmish with Asgardian trolls. It’s a lot of fun. There’s one thing I disagree with from Stewart’s review of last month’s issue... I like Songbirds hair! In Parker we trust. Impressive 8/10

Writer: Matz
Art: Colin Wilson
Dynamite Entertainment $3.99

Matt C: Another European book translated for the English-speaking market, which is something I’m increasingly keen on seeing these days, and as it’s written by Matz, who also pens the excellent The Killer, it was kind of a no-brainer for me to pick this up. Right off the bat it reminded me of Pulp Fiction with it’s two hitmen arguing about shoes whilst on their way to whack a senior political figure. As the story expands outwards, it pulls two cops onto the case, who aren’t liking the way things are heading when it starts looking like a cover up is on the cards. In other words, not highly original, but as with The Killer, it’s handled with such style and intelligence that it seems immediately fresh. Colin Wilson, probably best known for his 2000AD work, compliments the script with some classy visuals, and does a great job of capturing the amoral brutality of professional killers in one shocking scene. If there’s one thing this confirms, it’s that Matz is one of the best writers of comics in the business, in any language. 8/10

Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Greg Land & Jay Leisten
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: This X-event has worked so far, and worked very well indeed. Each and every writer knows what they need to bring to their respective chapters. Mike Carey has obviously had his fingers in the mutant-pie for quite some time now so his grasp of the tension and desperation required to keep this fresh really comes to the fore. The tussle between the Sentinel hive-mind and Cypher is terrific and really demonstrates the young mutant’s powers well. Likewise, Magneto’s foray into the battle in San Francisco is also well realised as he uses the surroundings that he’s so very familiar with to stem the tide of Sentinel menaces. Greg Land does what he does with poster-girls and bizarre expressions aplenty but his artwork when he brings Hope to the page is actually showing that his female-facial style could be growing and developing... thankfully. 8/10

Writers: Ryan Ottley & Jason Howard
Art: Jason Howard & Ryan Ottley
Image $4.99

Stewart R: Hahahahahaha... this comic is BONKERS!! Seriously. The title is not even the half of it as these two comic creators throw bionic spies, Sea Bear Priests, yokel hunters and disembowelment after glorious disembowelment into the mix. Howard’s Sea Bear kick’s things off with a relatively simple revenge story, which then skews off into super-spy territory as Pete Kukri tracks down the creature that robbed him of his family. Howard’s line-style is simple and reminds me slightly of animated series of recent years like Ben 10. This simplicity keeps the gore, when it turns up, to an effective and not overwhelming level. The ending also offers a neat twist and should this prove popular enough could maybe lead into sequel territory. Ottley’s Grizzly Shark is, for me, the true gut-buster, with plenty of madcap comedy jumping from every page. Donnie and his dad’s constant joking about the horrific scenario had me chuckling away before Ottley’s excellent Grizzly Shark attack montage turns up, brilliantly highlighting just how two panels can be used to tell a joke or story. This is great, comedic writing with a bloodthirsty edge. Both creators should be very proud of what they’ve created from the basic seed of a late night conversation. Well done guys, and well done Image. 9/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: John Romita Jr & Klaus Janson
Marvel $3.99

Tom P: I decided that I was going to give the first arc of Avengers a fair go, it is Marvel’s flagship title after all, and John Romita Jr still draws a good-looking book in my opinion. I know some of my fellow reviewers feel his art is not as strong as it was but I think it still looks great. I also enjoyed the return of Marvel Boy aka the Protector (or whatever he's calling himself these days after he got his new look in the Dark Avengers Annual). I still think that was the best thing that came out of Dark Avengers to be honest. I must admit this isn't the most gripping comic out there but part of that is that it’s still finding its feet so I’m going to give it a chance. Ultimately my choice to read this beyond the first arc will be one based on price. At $3.99/£2.85 a pop that’s £17 for the first six issues! No way would I ever pay that for a trade, and it’s those kind of sums that have me looking at my hobby very carefully. I will always be a Wednesday Warrior (even if we Brits get our comics on Thursday) but when a book’s just ‘okay’, for that kind of cash you do have to question your spending and pull-list. 6/10

Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Yanick Paquette & Michel Lacombe
DC $3.99

Tom P: Ahoy, me hearties! The comic I was most looking forward to spending me pieces o' eight on this week was without a doubt Part Three of The Return Of Bruce Wayne. And what a swashbuckling tale full of traps, danger and scurvy dogs it is! I do love this miniseries and can't wait to see where Bruce ends up each time. It’s great to see Morrison tell his multi-arc mega Batman story with this vast range of talented artists, and Paquette this time out makes it a handsome looking book. I’m sad that Cameron Stewart had to pull out of the next issue as his work on Batman And Robin was incredible, but I cant help but get excited about Bruce’s foray into Wild West! Yo-ho-ho and what a great adventure! 8/10

Writer: Matz
Art: Luc Jacamon
Archaia $3.95

Matt C: A detour into Cuba that doesn’t really push the plot forward too far, but gives the unnamed protagonist a chance to meditate and philosophise on a variety of different matters, from political hypocrisy to basic human morality. That may sound strange in a comic about a professional assassin, but he looks at the world around him as a detached outsider, commentating on how things really are but with no intention of ever getting directly involved. He’s like a shark, always moving, self-preservation a paramount, and if he wants to remark on how fucked up the world is, that’s his prerogative. He’s under no illusion that he could change things, even if he wanted to. So, in a nutshell, this is totally not your average crime comic – with Matz’s smart script and Jacamon’s super-slick visuals The Killer deserves the attention of anyone interested in comics that focus on people who operate on the wrong side of the law. 9/10

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

Matt C: Plot threads that have previously been weaved into the background finally come to the fore as arguably Stern’s finest Avengers arc begins. Baron Zemo’s plan to bring down Earth’s Mightest Heroes kicks into action – as well assembling a variety of hardcore villains he’s been studying his opponents to uncover their weak spots. Therefore, he’s spotted Hercules increasing resistance to Wasp’s command, the Black Knight’s simmering attraction to the Wasp, and so on. Of course, getting a group of bad guys together will always present it’s own problems: distrust, paranoia and potential challenges to Zemo’s leadership. Beautifully illustrated by Buscema and Palmer, this sees the fuse being lit – the explosions are just around the corner. 8/10

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