5 Sept 2010

Mini Reviews 05/09/2010

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: Jason Aaron
Art: Renato Guedes, Jose Wilson Magalhaes & Jason Latour
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Jason Aaron penned the best Wolverine story I’ve read in many years with ‘Get Mystique’ (Wolverine #62-65) so I was excited to seem him landing a permanent writing gig for the character with the short-lived Weapon X series. It had some fine moments but was always one step away from being dropped. I guess I built my expectations up way too high, and the series failed to deliver. I wasn’t sure I’d pick up the first issue of the relaunch, but I still have plenty of faith in Aaron (he writes my current favourite title, Scalped, after all) so I decided I’d give it a shot. It starts well with Logan and Wraith involved in a discussion about how born and bred killers can find a place in the world where they won’t always have blood on their hands, but once it switches to a bunch of mutant bozos hunting down Logan’s new squeeze I kind of lost interest. Aaron seems quite keen on the horror genre, and finding ways of making it work with Wolverine (as he did in the insane asylum tale in Weapon X), but it’s not really the sort of thing I want to see with this character. The art’s pretty decent, although it could use a bit more solidity here and there, but I’m not hooked by the story to a point where I’d want to pick up the next issue. The Silver Samurai back-up is excellent though, with some evocative, highly-stylised art from Jason Latour, but even taking that into account, the package as a whole isn’t something I’m willing to pay £3.99 a month for. 6/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Greg Tocchini
Radical Comics $4.99

Stewart R: Long delays between issues are nothing new these days and most comic readers learn to take them in their stride despite the frustration that they bring. With Last Days of American Crime I don't think there was anything so clear cut as a 'schedule' and so the months that passed between instalments were just part of the fun of anticipation. Luckily Remender and Tocchini have brought a terrifically thick and tasty slice of comic brutality and sexiness with each issue and the finale rounds off a brilliant modern crime read. As this series went on it became less about the premise and more about the characters as Remender shaped and moulded the relationships and interactions between Graham, Shelby and Kevin to produce a captivating read. I dare say that in terms of character-driven crime fiction this Radical series has outshone the recent Criminal: The Sinners work by Ed Brubaker which didn't ever have me truly immersed in the world that he was trying to portray. Last Days… on the other hand had sucked me in every time and even had me rooting for minor players in the story when the likelihood of them 'buying the farm' seemed to be a forgone conclusion. Tocchini's art has remained consistently brilliant with the colour scheme being a real eye catcher and I'll certainly be looking out for his future projects. Honestly folks, if you did miss this the first time round I highly recommend having a look at this when the collected version hits shelves as I found it to be one of the most entertaining crime reads that I think I've ever picked up. 9/10

Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Matthew Southworth
Oni Press $3.99

Matt C: Let’s be honest, the delays have seriously neutered the overall impact this book could have had and the loss of the original colourist meant it lacked a consistent visual appeal. Whatever the reasons were, it’s a bit of a shame because Stumptown really hit the ground running initially. It’s another time where it’ll read better in the collected edition, where you can at least remember clearly what happened in the last chapter, but that doesn’t really help the monthly crowd. Pushing all that aside for the moment, it has been a decent little crime thriller. Rucka’s character work is (unsurprisingly) very strong and Southwork’s art is suitably intense and gritty. I hope there are further Stumptown books, but it could be a case of waiting until the last issue before reading them all or even waiting on the trade. Neither option is a preference, but I don’t think I’ll get as much out of it if it’s hampered by erratic scheduling again. 7/10

Stewart R: Now here's a prime example of where delays can really stop a comic series dead in its tracks and finally kill off the promise that it showed at the beginning. The first issue of Stumptown was a terrific read but by the time we got to this end point everything had turned a little pedestrian, a little boring and a touch clichéd. There's double-crossing, blackmail, talk about honour and the occasional tense stand-off but the most promising thing of all – Dex's personality, which was prominent in the early stages of the series – seems to get lost in and amongst Rucka trying to tie off all of the different plot strands and the comic as a whole suffers because of this. The art from Southworth is passable but doesn't grab me as that first issue did all those many months ago. I'm certainly not done with Stumptown as a comic-world, and I’d like to see what Rucka brings to the table next time, but I'll be wary of whether I may need to jump off and spend my money elsewhere. 5/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Alex Maleev
Marvel/Icon $3.95

James R: Last month, the first issue of Scarlet was a huge hit with my fellow Paradoxers. I could see that the book was certainly quality and looked like Bendis back on form, but I wanted to hold fire until issue two, as to be honest I felt it was covering very well-trodden ground. Now I've had a chance to digest issue #2 I can happily jump on the bandwagon. This is easily the book of the week for me; it's a delight to see Bendis writing like he did back in the Alias days, and Maleev's art is better than it ever has been. This instalment sees Scarlet begin her revenge mission on the corrupt police force, but that's half the story. Bendis & Maleev employ a superb range of techniques to convey time and emotion, and that gives the story a real resonance. The only thing that puzzles me when I read this is: “How can the guy who writes this churn out such dreadful Avengers books every week?” Anyhow, this should be on your pull list if it's not already - it's a strong contender for book of the year. 9/10

Matt C: Two issues in and I feel confident in saying this is the best thing Bendis has done in years. Not only does it see him playing to his strengths, again it also sees him pushing himself creatively in ways we haven’t seen since he left Daredevil (maybe earlier). The fourth-wall-breaking protagonist may be an old trick, but it’s startlingly effective here, making the reader feel like they’re complicit in the unfolding events. Maleev’s dense, intricate artwork is a sight to behold; his ability to capture unnervingly realistic expressions is a skill few of his contemporaries can match. An intelligent, provocative comic that proves the medium is still capable of surprising its audience. 8/10

Stewart R: I only got around to reading issue #1 of Bendis and Maleev's creator-owned series this very week and I have to say that that debut instalment really did get the thumbs up from this reviewer. The whole thing felt very fresh, the breaking of the fourth wall worked particularly well and Maleev was really flexing his artistic muscle. The second issue isn't quite up to that high level of quality but still makes for an entertaining read. The way in which Scarlet retells her first unsure steps into a very violent world is still the most striking thing about this comic, jumping back and forth between her actions then and her narration now quite seamlessly. Maleev helps this connection that we are to have with Scarlet by ensuring that she is sharing eye contact with the reader at key moments and his photorealistic style aids this endeavour immensely. The one problem for me is the slight slip into cliché here and there from the retired cop who wanted to do good but looked away instead to the enactment of Scarlet's first act of pure vengeance; it's all been seen before and it's taken a little of the freshness seen so clearly in the debut and dulled it somewhat. Good, but needs to get to great quickly. 6/10

Writer: Peter Hogan
Art: Chris Sprouse & Karl Story
DC/Wildstorm $3.99

James R: I've left reviewing this title for a few months as my thoughts on it hadn't changed (i.e. "It's great, read it!") but I feel I should give a special mention to the superb art of Chris Sprouse. As a huge fan of the whole ABC universe, I'm really familiar with Sprouse's art, and it's only now that I realise how spoilt we are to have him on art duties for the whole Tom Strong run. His clear lines work well depicting both big science fiction creations and subterranean depths. It's probably an obvious shout, but he would be a perfect fit on Fantastic Four (especially given the mediocre art teams that book has had of late). Storywise, Peter Hogan is also doing a fine work - his pacing is spot on, and he does a brilliant job cross-referencing and tying together stories and themes that Moore established in his run. I know I've often used this phrase in reviewing, but I feel it is very apposite with this book: superhero comics done right! 8/10

Writer: Allan Heinberg
Art: Jim Cheung & Mark Morales
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: There is something quite different about this series compared to the last run of Heinberg/Cheung Young Avengers and the artist's stint on New Avengers: Illuminati, and that is the sense of scale. Where those titles involved time-travelling scenarios, epic battles across foreign worlds and Skrull invasions, this book is a great deal more close, confined and personal, and just at this minute it really does feel that there is a big story just waiting to burst out. This is down to both writer and artist; Heinberg is intent on dealing with the emotional undercurrent that comes with the potential to reunite a family divided and the true unwavering value of friendship and team spirit. Cheung's artwork feels somewhat confined by this need to portray emotion-heavy dialogue as we get a hefty number of pages that simply comprise of talking heads which is not this pencilling master's best talent – take a look, the guy simply does not like to draw the back of anyone's head, at all, ever! Of course when it comes to skirmishes and the aforementioned sense of scale, well that's where Cheung really hits home – that cover is a prime example of him at his best – and the shocker ending here certainly suggests that we'll be getting some of his top quality work next time out. I suspect this will divide many a reader and the pace may put some off but over the course of nine issues I think this is still showing plenty of promise. 8/10

Writer: Larry Hama
Art: Agustin Padilla
IDW $3.99

Stewart R: Choosing this series to dive back into the world of G.I. Joe and Cobra has definitely been a good idea as Hama has really hit the ground running. This issue sees the Joe's mysterious rally point revealed and it certainly brought a wry smile to my face when Hama brought that little surprise out of his bag of tricks. There's everything here that a Joe comic should have: ninja fights, subterfuge, Battle Android Troopers being blasted to pieces and a small amount of sexual tension here and there whenever The Baroness, and to a lesser extent Scarlett, grace the page. Padilla deals with the frenetic pace of the action well, though occasionally his facial work gives the characters the glazed look of the 3 ¾ inch plastic figures that the license is predominantly known for. The most promising thing about this comic is the fact that we're now three issues in and enjoying the ride yet we still don't have a clue at just what the Joe's ultimate aim with their 'balls to the wall' plan is. It's certainly going to be fun reading on to find out. 8/10

Writer: Alexander Grecian
Art: Riley Rossmo
Image $3.50

Matt C: The final issue of the current series (a mini is due in December) is frankly a bit bewildering. Maybe I was a bit tired when I read it, but some of the revelations left me as confused as various cast members appeared to be. I was hoping it would end on a high note, to whet the appetite for its return, but it left me scratching my head when I reached the final page. Still, there’s no question about me coming back for more as I love the characters Grecian and Rossmo have created and the weird and wonderful universe they inhabit. Proof has it’s own unique identity and thoroughly deserves it’s place on the comic racks. 6/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Andrea Mutti
Marvel $2.99

James R: I was interested by this title when I saw the premise in Previews: an ordinary man gets powers, but the downside is - surprise, surprise - he's only got one month to live. I'm a big fan of the 'Ordinary People In An Extraordinary Universe' idea - Gotham Central remains one of my favourite books ever, Brian K. Vaughn's original The Hood miniseries was superb (before Bendis inexplicably decided to make him the main villain in the Marvel Universe, but I digress…) and of course, Greg Rucka's Spider-Man story ‘Severance Package’ (Tangled Web #4) was rightfully hailed as one of the best of the last decade. As a result, I thought this miniseries was well worth a look. Sadly, it doesn't have half of the magic of any of the aforementioned titles. Featuring a couple of needlessly shoehorned Marvel cameos (the Thing & Spidey) this issue is really let down by a poorly written protagonist. Dennis Sykes is a man with the weight of the world on him, but after developing his super powers, he becomes a man who changes his outlook every page. Some may say that he's going through the grieving process (anger, denial etc) but given the covers of the next few issues, I'd say that looks unlikely! One issue to impress... sadly, time's up on this mini for me. 4/10

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

Matt C: Although the Avengers have accumulated plenty of allies in Olympus at this point, even their combined might is no match for the power of Zeus. Thor notes that the ruler of the Olympians is ‘possessed by the warrior madness’, which basically means reasoning with him is totally out of the question. Seeing the Odinson go toe-to-toe with an unhinged Zeus is the undisputed highlight of the issue and there’s plenty of magnificently rendered beard action on display once again thanks to the exceptional art team. The large cast of Olympian characters are rarely seen in Marvel comics (certainly in comparison to their Asgardian counterparts) so it’s a real thrill spending so much time in their realm, especially with such a cracking creative team in charge of the visit. 8/10

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to agree that Scarlet issue 2 was another cracking read. It's definitely the comic I'm most looking forward to at the moment.

- Rob N