8 Aug 2010

Mini Reviews 08/08/2010

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: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire
DC/Vertigo $2.99

James R: Since its debut a year ago we've constantly flagged Jeff Lemire's Sweet Tooth as a book you should be reading. This month's issue represents a perfect jumping on point for anyone who hasn't yet got on board with this astonishing post-apocalyptic tale, as this is the first part of the new arc, 'Animal Armies'. However, more than that I'd have to say that this is one of the best single issues I've read of any comic in a long time. Lemire shows a total mastery of the medium, as the plot follows Gus' life in the Militia camp, whilst Dr. Singh recounts how the world has descended into chaos, simultaneously revealing more about the hybrids. What's remarkable is that that Gus' section of the tale is dialogue-free, and Lemire's art alone conveys a huge amount of emotion and understanding to deliver a comic that will stay with you long after the final page. A special salute to the colours of Jose Villarubia, as his sepia tones in Singh's flashback scenes are remarkable. I seldom give out a '10/10', but this comic deserves it. Perfection. 10/10

Matt C: While Dr Singh enlightens us on just how the world turned into the post apocalyptic nightmare that serves as the backdrop for this exemplary series, Lemire continues to rub our faces into the appalling treatment Gus receives at the hands of his captors. I can shake my fist at Lemire for being such a cruel bastard but it’s a testament to his skills as both writer and artist that I find myself so emotionally enveloped by the story. And I think it’s the key thing here, the fact that he writes and draws this book himself, as he shows he can pluck at the heartstrings with visuals alone. Singh’s reminisces are stripped along the bottom but the main bulk of the issue focuses on Gus and the whole thing plays out without a speech bubble in sight. Extraordinary work really. Sweet Tooth is easily one of the most affecting – and best - books on the market. 9/10

Stewart R: I’ll start things off by saying what a bloody brilliant cover to this month’s issue of Sweet Tooth!! I just have to resist painting the other half now! Once you get inside Jeff Lemire provides 21 pages of absorbing storytelling, doing away with dialogue, apart from the contents of Dr Singh’s research tapes, and relying on his artistic talents to let the events unfold, capturing the emotional undercurrent that seeps from every panel. Gus’s current situation is a sad tale of captivity while Dr Singh’s is one of loss, desperation and despair. The moment where Lemire chooses to briefly cross their two days exemplifies that this is not a comic series high in happiness. It had been mooted that this was the ideal ‘jumping on’ point and while that may be true to a degree I would say that you should really be picking up the previous 11 issues for this amazing series anyway. 8/10

Writer: Jonathan Maberry
Art: Scott Eaton, Robert Campanella, Jaime Mendoza & David Meikis
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Up until this point Doomwar has been an excellent mini and a complete surprise considering I had no expectations for it beforehand. It may have spun out of the recent Black Panther series but it didn’t require knowledge of any prior storylines to fully engage with the events depicted. Sadly the winning streak ends with the final issue. It’s not a disaster by any means, but it far from delivers on the promise of the impressive build up. Basically it’s one of those situations where everything wraps up a little too quickly and neatly, and considering what Doom went through to obtain the power he inevitably loses, he seems to roll over and accept defeat a little too easily. I’m sure this will be a decent read in the trade format but after so much potential it ended up feeling rather inconsequential. 6/10

Writers: Conor McCreery & Anthony Del Col
Art: Andy Belanger
IDW $3.99

Stewart R: Things really do take a turn for the action-packed in issue #4 of Kill Shakespeare as one of the bard’s fairest maidens, Juliet Capulet herself, enters the fray as a feisty and even-tempered rebellion leader who’s attempting to rally support in order to fight the dastardly King Richard. Falstaff and Hamlet’s constant bickering is good humoured and keeps the first half of the issue from being overwhelmed by the political tussle between Juliet and Parolles, while the second half siege is dealt with in suitably savage style by Belanger. By bringing a strong female character into focus McCreery and Del Col have once again pushed Hamlet to be defined more by his actions rather than any other characterisation and the further this series goes the more it surprises me that it remains highly readable when the protagonist is actually playing a minor part for much of it. 7/10

Matt C: More of the Bard’s creations enter the mix this issue and while it may seem like we’re being sidetracked slightly at times it’s good to see the cast being fleshed out with more ‘familiar faces’. It does mean Hamlet takes a bit of a backseat but I imagine he’ll be at the fore again soon and when you get to see Othello on the rampage you can’t really complain. Some of the “thees” and “thous” feel a bit clunky but overall it’s a great concept delivered with wit and panache, and Belanger’s rustic art ensures it hits the right spot. 7/10

Written by: Warren Ellis
Art by: Garrie Gastonny
Avatar Press $3.99

James R: So, four issues in and Warren Ellis' tale of super-powered weapons with delusions of omnipotence heads for the home straight as things start to get out of control. The fun found in this title has been two-fold. Firstly, it's great to see Ellis blow things up - anyone who has read his run on The Authority will tell you that he can write a particularly jaw-dropping level of destruction. Secondly, it's a smart read - Ellis suggests that humanity's need for a God figure to worship results in self-destruction. You'd only need to pick up a newspaper to see the man has a point. If anything, I'd like this to slow down - it seems like such an interesting universe, I feel there would be more fascinating stories to tell inside of it. However, given Ellis' phenomenal work rate it's a minor grumble, and there will inevitably be something equally grand from the seer of Southend in the next few months. 8/10

S.H.I.E.L.D. #3
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Dustin Weaver
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Isaac Newton did what now??? Wowsers, what was a rather subtle look at the history of the Marvel Universe has spun into a complex reimagining of science’s greatest names and their involvement with The Shield. Hickman uses this third issue to concentrate on the order of The Shield and those individuals who have led the organisation through various points during the past 12 centuries rather than continue with Leonid’s journey. Considering the ideas and scope that Hickman deals with in this single issue it’s probably a succinct move to deliver it in one dose as it could have had a lesser impact if threaded through the course of several issues. Upon finishing my first read through I really could feel the question marks floating above my head but a further trawl through... well it didn’t really change much apart from the fact that I knew I was enjoying the experience! Dustin Weaver’s artwork is a triumph and, working in tandem with Christina Strain and Justin Ponsor’s colours, manages to bring a sense of age to the flashbacks and retellings of historical events. I dare say I’ll have to bring out the term ‘bat-shit crazy’ for this review but it’s a damn entertaining ride. 8/10

Matt C: Having followed Jonathan Hickman’s work for a couple of years now it’s becoming obvious that when he gets it right he gets it really right, but his skill at pulling bold sci-fi concepts from the ether often – ironically - keeps him one step away from greatness. Case in point, this issue of S.H.I.E.L.D. – while he sprinkles some energising ideas throughout the early history of the Marvel Universe (Imotep vs the Brood! Galactus in 16th Century Rome!) there’s a lack of cohesiveness in the narrative that makes it difficult to engage with the story. So, while there are plenty of ‘wow’ moments (amplified by some gobsmackingly epic artwork from Weaver) you can’t help wishing things were brought into focus a little more. A headscratcher on a frequent basis, but it’s continuous ambition will keep it on the pull-list for now. 6/10

James R: All us Englishmen are well-versed in the life of Issac Newton. One of the fathers of modern physics, Newton marked the start of the scientific era with his theories of motion. Why, any ruddy-cheeked 13 year-old will tell you how Newton came up with his theories - by rolling like thunder under the covers with the beast Morda in the Deviant Cit….whaaaaaa? Yup. That's right. This month Hickman really goes fast and loose with history and gives us perhaps the most disturbing scene in a Marvel comic we'll see this year. Inter-species boot-knockin' aside, the issue feels a little unfocused. True, the tale tells us about Newton, but at the same time it offers us further teasing glimpses of the larger story. When read as a whole, this will probably make a lot more sense, but at the moment I'm worried that this series might not be as good as the sum of its parts. The art again is outstanding, but I'm hoping Hickman starts pulling the various plot threads together next time. 7/10

Writer: Larry Hama
Art: Agustin Padilla
IDW $3.99

Stewart R: I did have concerns about Larry Hama’s ability to keep this return to a G.I. Joe Universe he left some time ago fresh and modern but those concerns have surely been vanquished with a second issue that oozes quality. Stalker’s sniper duel comes to it’s inevitable conclusion, Rock & Roll finds himself on a deadly run through the park in Washington DC, while Duke, Scarlett and Snake Eyes are in something of a moral bind in the Sierra Nevada, with each scene being wonderfully tense and depicted with measured precision by Padilla. Importantly, Hama is fleshing out the Cobra personnel, expanding on their personalities and showing that more often than not there is no clear cut ‘good and evil’ in this fight. Without this development the comic could feel outdated as we'd simply be left with Cobra Commander’s despotic posturing which would get tired very quickly indeed. Thankfully the whole thing comes together to make a very satisfactory Joe read! 8/10

Writers: Peter Milligan, Rick Spears & Ann Nocenti
Art: Jason Latour, Mick Bertilorenzi & David Aja
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: The Batman: Black & White series in the ‘90s proved the concept (short, colourless stories from a variety of creative types) could invariably be a winner so I figured Marvel could be onto something by applying said concept to their most Batman-esque character, Daredevil. Visually it’s a treat (there’s always something striking about black ink alone on a white page) but for the first two stories at least, it’s disappointingly unoriginal. First tale from Milligan and Latour deals with Murdock regaining the gift of sight, something that’s been done before, a prime example being the Secret Wars II tie-in, Daredevil #223. Spears and Bertilorenzi’s short brings to mind the classic ‘Severance Package’ from Tangled Web #4. Only Nocenti’s prose story (with illustrations from the wonderful Aja) really hits the spot, her written style brilliantly evoking the violent undercurrent found on the mean streets of Hell’s Kitchen. Almost worth the price of admission alone, but for $3.99, not quite. 6/10

Writer: Stephen Scott
Art: David Hahn
Image $2.99

Matt C: It was the Boo Cook flip-cover that caught my attention initially but I was swayed further by the book’s title and the possibility of another fine crime comic to add to the collection. It starts well, with a chameleonesque female assassin going about her business as a voiceover informs us of the similarities between her profession and the role of an actor in a movie. It’s handled really well, the art’s nice and clean and punchy but once the supernatural elements reared their heads my interest started to dive. It’s not bad – the dialogue's crisp and it’s drawn in a successfully atmospheric manner – but straight-up crime is more my thing so I’ll probably be giving this a pass. 6/10

Writer: Daniel Way
Art: Dalibor Talajic
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Daniel Way brought Bullseye into the Deadpool comic with terrific results and he’s managed to repeat the trick here as the truly psychotic assassin with the penchant for delivering collateral damage is a welcome addition to the plot. It still requires the reader to completely forget about asking all of the niggling little questions regarding the fact that the main protagonist is an actual macaque - no superpowers, no mutant abilities; we are just talking furry, faeces-flinging, gun-slinging macaque here folks! - but if you can do that then there is a great comic book read to be had. Talajic’s art brings a strangely ‘classic’ feel to proceedings and his panel depicting Hit-Monkey with a roll of tape has me chuckling every time. While darkly entertaining I was not expecting the ‘shock’ moment towards the end which was certainly a jawdropper. Now I just have to figure out how the little guy managed to put the tie on... 8/10

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

Matt C: “Who will lead the Avengers?” Captain Marvel gets the nomination but spends the majority of the issue weighing up the pros and cons of accepting the role. That may sound a bit dull but it’s anything but thanks to the work Stern has put in during his tenure to make her a thoroughly likable character. There’s a bit of rescuing going on rather than any punching of villain’s faces, but that’s about the extent of the action this time. Mostly it’s pure character work, and in lesser hands that might look flat on the page but thankfully Buscema and Palmer guarantee things are visually interesting even when it’s only two people talking. The highlight of the issue though has to be Doctor Druid and his thought bubbles. He’s barely been a member for five minutes before his intellect is working up various schemes of a slightly dubious nature. I guess you just have to look at him to realise he may not be the most honest character to have been called an Avenger! 8/10

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