1 Aug 2010

Mini Reviews 01/08/2010

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: Georges Jeanty & Walden Wong
DC $3.99

Matt C: I was dubious about this mini beforehand: the premise appeared to be a bit too kooky, seemingly evoking the off-the-wall concepts of the ’50s. Still, that served Morrison well on All Star Superman, and while I’ve not been taken with a lot of his Batman work over the last couple of years, Batman And Robin has generally been a pretty good book. I'm afraid to say though, after a promising first instalment my interest has progressively waned with each successive issue and now we’ve reached #4 I can’t see it doing anything other than limping towards its conclusion. There have been various complaints about the last minute artist change from Cameron Stewart to Georges Jeanty but I think Jeanty turns in some solid work here and really, that’s the least of this series’ problems. Although the ‘different artists for each issue’ was a neat idea, it hasn’t really paid off; the lack of visual consistency gives the feeling that you’re reading a completely different book each month. This is massively compounded by Morrison’s piecemeal script, and the lack of any real focus. In this issue for example, Wayne becomes practically a supporting player, with the emphasis placed on other characters, and you start to lose track of who you’re supposed to be rooting for. On top of that, the JLA (who’ve been scouring the timestream for Wayne) don’t even get a panel this time, and from where I sit that particular subplot deserves a lot more attention considering it’s overall importance. I’ll probably be told that I should appreciate the broader canvas Morrison has been working with since he took on writing chores for the Dark Knight, and while there’s part of me that appreciates the ambition, there’s a larger part that is believes The Return Of Bruce Wayne has turned into a portentous borefest. 4/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Neil Edwards & Paul Neary
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: There’s been a lot of criticism levelled at Hickman’s run on FF, and basically that’s down to a lot of people thinking the story hasn’t been moving towards its destination very swiftly. I can see where they’re coming from but there’s still been a lot to love in this book since Hickman took over, from the preponderance of big sci-fi ideas to the increased emphasis on the family dynamic. It was inevitable that things would eventually shift a gear, it was just a question of when, and it appears that this issue is where we start to see various plot threads converge. Multiple Nathaniel Richards’, Franklin and Valeria from the future, Doom and Reed in their college days… all these elements slam together and it’s clear that Hickman is thinking BIG, which is pretty much what you want from a Fantastic Four story. Decent work from Edwards – reminding me of Bryan Hitch before he started to lose it (Neary’s inks no doubt contribute to that) – as he shows he can go from ‘normal’ to cosmic without missing a beat. If there was any doubt before, it’s gone, and I’m now hoping Hickman stays onboard for this book for the foreseeable future. 9/10

Writer: Mike Mignola & John Arcudi
Art: Peter Snejbjerg
Dark Horse $3.50

Tom P: An ancient relic! A sunken Soviet U-Boat! Sea Zombies! Abe Sapien! Wonderful! From the team that gave us The Haunted Boy one-shot a while back comes another solo adventure from my favourite aquatic B.P.R.D agent. The first issue came out last month but I put it to one side until the second issue arrived this week to enjoy it in one hit, and a great read it is too. It has all the classic elements of an excellent Mignola comic combining folklore with a spot of investigation into the paranormal. I liked the inclusion of a new UK field agent itching to see something weird and then overreacting when he does. Its fun to see Abe explain to him they don't just blow holes in the supernatural (they also investigate!) as he becomes increasingly frustrated with the ship's crew the bureau hired to help him out. Snejbjerg's artwork is also worthy of praise and his style makes him a welcome addition to Dark Horse’s Hellboy team. The Abyssal Plain might not be in the same league as some B.P.R.D tales but it’s very good all the same. 8/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen & Keith Champagne
DC $2.99

Stewart R: Before now I had no idea of who Hector Hammond was, how he got his powers, or even what his powers actually are. Having read this single issue I now know a fair bit about the giant-lobed psionic powerhouse and what a threat he poses to Hal Jordan and any other Lantern who might get in his way. Johns seems to be having terrific fun in this instalment bringing Larfleeze joyously into proceedings as Hal and Hector both seek him out in order to get their hands on the ‘Avarice Entity’ stored within his Lantern. Mahnke’s pencils are superb: from Larfleeze’s mountain of plunder to the ensuing battle he doesn’t miss a beat and the various inkers on hand make sure his lines stay clean and impressive. This is surely the brightest title in the 'Brightest Day'. 8/10

Writer: E. Max Fyre
Art: J.P. Targete
Radical Comics $1.00

Matt C: You can’t fault Radical for putting out these teasers for their books at such an attractive price, and you can’t help but react to the often breathtaking artwork inside the covers, but it doesn’t mean you can shake the feeling that you’ve seen this all before. Basically this is a complete mish-mash of numerous sci-fi tropes that have appeared in popular stories in the genre for the last 20 years and beyond. Heck, there’s even an incongruous 8-page sequence that offers up a variation on the ideas explored in Avatar (which, of course, was recycled to begin with) that feels shoehorned into the narrative. Some fantastic imagery aside, it’s not an inspiring teaser and it certainly doesn’t make the thought of shelling out $4.99 for the first issue proper later in the year an enticing prospect. 5/10

Writers: Matt Fraction and Allan Heinberg
Art: Whilce Portacio, Ed Tadeo, Olivier Coipel & Mark Morales
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Crikey, I figured with Second Coming drawing to a close we would probably have a somewhat muted and reserved couple of months in the world of mutants but Fraction is keeping his writing to a very high standard as we are whisked straight into the ‘Five Light’s storyline. He covers so many different threads here and in doing so keeps the broad view that this premium X-book should deliver on a regular basis. Hope’s heritage, Kitty’s condition, the strain on Scott and Emma’s relationship are all giving small moments of focus while we learn about the first of the ‘Lights’ and Hope’s increasing abilities. Whilce Portacio’s artwork is okay but he occasionally makes the characters look like they’re asleep or drowsy and I may have mentioned a similar problem with his grasp of expressions before. The backup story from Heinberg and Coipel is superb, leading into the events portrayed in the recently released Young Avengers title. Coipel once again shows that he really is one of the biggest artistic guns in Marvel’s cannon. A terrific $3.99 comic and great X-read. 8/10

Writer: Paul Cornell
Art: Pete Woods & Cafu
DC $3.99

Matt C: Not as strong as the last issue but still a hell of a lot of fun as we follow one of the biggest bastards in the business, Lex Luthor, on his quest to acquire the power of the Black Lanterns. Mister Mind, the alien caterpillar (!) more usually associated with Captain Marvel, is trying to turn Luthor’s mind against him (for reasons only Mind’s unseen employer knows) but he quickly finds that obtaining control of one of the smartest intellects in comics isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Cornell is working the magic here with a script brimming with wit and inventiveness and Woods renders the cold, calculating (and evil!) brilliance of Luthor at work with an assured hand. The $3.99 price tag is questionable, but other than that this is turning into a real treat. 8/10

Writer: Robert Kirkman
Art: Bernard Chang
Image/Top Cow $2.99

Stewart R: Is Pilot Season still going? In fact, are Top Cow still around? For a project that a publishing company once really pushed and promoted it seems that Pilot Season has turned into a bit of a joke with huge delays between issues and I’d be surprised if there are that many people out there still showing any interest. Stellar certainly won’t be changing anything in that respect either. There is definitely promise in a story about a super-powered woman whose abilities mean that physical contact with anyone is nigh on impossible, but it’s nothing new (Rogue, anyone?) and instead of really getting stuck into that idea it seems that this is more a display of Bernard Chang’s reasonable artwork being overrun by the garish colours from Felix Serrano. The first nine pages alone are clearly just about showing off the main character’s powerset and are, to be honest, left redundant by the lack of actual character development in the second half of the comic. Not much bang and barely any substance I’m afraid. 3/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Horacio Domingues
Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: With each passing issue this becomes more and more of a compulsive read with Waid determined to make us realise the book is a lot more than just a spin-off of Irredeemable. Max Damage has become a fascinating, contradictory character; the more we learn about him and his powers, the more his Damascus moment seems both plausible and suspect (I’m still not wholly convinced he’s completely on the level). I’m constantly impressed by the way Waid keeps the Plutonian out of the book but makes sure his presence is felt everywhere. We know he’ll turn up sooner or later but for now he works brilliantly as an unseen threat. Domingues’ art doesn’t aim for realism but is the right side of ‘cartoony’ to guarantee you take the events depicted seriously. It’s looking like Incorruptible is stepping out of the shadow of Irredeemable and forging its own identity as title worthy of the same respect as its ‘parent’. 8/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Rafa Sandoval & Roger Bonet
Marvel $3.99

Tom P: Be warned: there be spoilers ahead! This is the debut issue of the second in a trilogy of miniseries that sees the Ultimate universe under attack from a dangerous new foe who appears to know a little too much about our heroes. Rafa Sandoval continues to amaze (he's a fantastically talented artist, just check look here to see what I'm talking about) and Bendis also impresses as he makes increasingly bold moves to change these characters from their 616 counterparts, especially the Fantastic Four. Reed Richards was murdered before his intellect could pose a threat to this new attacker and Ben Grimm is no longer the Thing (the explanation being that his rocky form was a cocoon to gestate his powers). Despite Sue's dream I hope they keep this change as it removes that constant plot point used time after time with Grimm regarding his appearance. He's happy to look human again and frankly who can blame him! This issue also has a lot of terrific dialogue from Bendis between Spider-Man and his Johnny-Storm-dating clone, Spider-Woman, a situation that makes Peter understandably feel grossed out! 9/10

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Rags Morales, Rick Bryant & Bob Almond
DC $3.99

Matt C: I really want to get behind this book and sing its praises because I love what Azzarello is doing with this ‘universe’. Or, at least, I love the idea of what he’s doing as the reality isn’t really matching my expectations. The bi-monthly schedule probably doesn’t help matters because the writer is weaving in quite a few plot threads without it becoming clear (at this stage) exactly where he’s headed with them. There’s some really nice moments here (the opening page is electrifying) and Morales is doing a fine job of making these characters work together visually, but at the end of the day I can’t deny one simple fact: I’m lost! There’s an obvious intelligence and love of the pulp origins of the main players that’ll bring me back for the rest of the series, but at the moment I feel like I need a bit more clarity. 6/10

Writer: Robert Kirkman
Art: Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion & Todd McFarlane
Image $2.99

Stewart R: Something of a transitional issue this time with Kirkman and co giving Daniel and Kurt time to trial their joint powers and discover their limits without having to do so in the heat of battle. Aside from the acrobatic workout that Capullo captures brilliantly in a dynamic couple of pages there’s not a great deal happening to pushing the story forwards. Cobra and Kurg’s scuffle helps to highlight the tension that can be found within the ranks of the ‘bad guys’ and we’re introduced to a few more faces at the Agency who will obviously be helping or hindering Haunt’s training over the coming months. While not exactly edge-of-your-seat stuff this shows that the book isn’t always going to be about frenetic spectacle and ass-kicking which hopefully means that this great comic series may pick up some more readers along the way. Of course, the spectacle and kicked asses are set to turn up in a big way in issue #9! 6/10

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

Matt C: The Avengers get back on their feet following the Masters Of Evil incident. The mansion may be a shambles, several members may be worse for wear, but the Avengers are more than the sum of their parts, and while heroes may come and go the team continues to thrive because there will always be someone out there willing to fight the good fight. It’s one of the great things about the Avengers: the revolving door approach to membership. Having Cap, Iron Man and Thor present isn’t always essential for the team to exist and function successfully. So, when the Wasp decides the burden of leadership needs to go elsewhere after her long tenure in charge, there are plenty of candidates to rise to challenge of picking up where she left off. A transitional issue then, with some members departing, others arriving, and the question of who will be the Chairman (or Woman) arising once more. All this, and a fistfight with an Atlantean warrior! Seriously, how can you not love superhero comics?! 8/10


Tom P said...

New Coipel artwork! Fantastic will have to give that a look!

Joe T said...

I agree with Matt, Return Of Bruce Wayne 4 was absolutely awful! Green Lantern was an immense read, and has got the series back on form. Also this week I got the second print of Action 890, which was great and had me wishing i bought 891 also. Also ordered Legion Of Superheroes 2 from another source, but that hasn't arrived yet. First time ever i've had an all DC week!

Matt T said...

I also though Return of Bruce Wayne was a pile o' shit. This issue was so badly written, drawn and presented it was a struggle to get through. I took a punt on a couple of Radical titles in Driver for the Dead and Time Bomb, the latter of which was a cliched and generally dull attempt at an interesting premise and the former, which was actually reasonably good.As I only got them yesterday (damn postal service!) I couldn't review them, annoyingly. Bah!