26 Sept 2010

Mini Reviews 26/09/2010

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: Jim Zubkavich
Art: Chris Stevens & Edwin Huang
Image $2.99

Matt C: The latest title to receive a huge amount of speculative buzz prior to its release (see also the likes of Chew and Morning Glories), this one allegedly popping up on eBay for several times the cover price before it even hit the shelves. It’s a somewhat bizarre development and anybody wanting to make a fast buck may want to investigate the Speculator Boom of the ‘90s before shelling out for multiple copies, but the fact that this particular trend is focused on creator-owned indie titles rather than foil-embossed covers from the Big Two suggests somebody’s keeping an eye out for the next big critical breakout hit. So, is Skullkickers the next breakout hit? I’m not convinced, but then I’m not really the target audience for this kind of thing. Generally, fantasy stories of dwarves, wizards and ogres leave me cold (there a exceptions of course) so this moderately humorous, irreverent tale of two mercenaries prepared to take any job as long as the money’s right - whether it’s dispatching marauding werewolves or recovering kidnapped regal corpses – has only a mild appeal to me. It’s a brisk read and the cartoonish art revels in the over-the-top violence but while I can see it tempting fans of the genre looking for something more manically anarchic, it’s not something I’ll be picking up again. I’ll be sticking my copy on eBay tonight for roughly ten times the original price though – please start your bidding as soon as possible. 6/10

Writer: Tony Bedard
Art: Ardian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes
DC $2.99

Stewart R: So the first arc under Bedard's reign draws to its conclusion and while there have been moments of quality I have to say that I'm pretty underwhelmed by the whole thing. Syaf's art fluctuates between decent and poor and action scenes are certainly not his strong suit. Admittedly I don't think Syaf's pencils have been particularly enhanced by some heavy-handed inking by Cifuentes, and on the whole this isn't a particularly pleasant comic to look at. Bedard's story is strong enough but when it becomes apparent that Cyborg-Superman has probably just been used as a pawn in a greater, far-reaching game that's being played out in the Green Lantern title it takes away a lot of the tension from the plot and things start to grind along in formulaic fashion offering up little in the way of surprise. For a comic featuring John Stewart and Kyle Rayner it's a little strange to see their bold and prominent personalities left rather to one side and the closing scenes are almost puke-inducing they're so clich├ęd. I did have hopes for the title post-Peter J.Tomasi but they seem to be dwindling fast. 4/10

THOR #615
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Pascal Ferry
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: When Fraction scripted the series of Thor one-shots back in 2008 it became immediately clear that he understood the character and mythos, making him an obvious contender for writer of the monthly series whenever Straczynski left that seat vacant. Straczynski’s long gone, and although it’s been delayed a bit, Fraction’s first issue as writer of Thor is finally here. The verdict? A good start. It’s not the slam dunk people might have expected based on those aforementioned one-shots, or even his exemplary run on Invincible Iron Man, but there’s plenty of promise on display. Ferry’s art is a little ‘cleaner’ than what we’ve seen applied to the Thunder God of late, and while there are elements of blandness in the rendering of the titular character there are enough flourishes (especially the depictions of non-humans) to suggest better will follow. 7/10

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Steve McNiven
Marvel/Icon $2.99

Stewart R: Well, this is certainly a comic of conflict! The conflict between Nemesis and Chief Morrow and the conflict within me as to whether I've enjoyed reading it. It's definitely had the 'two-read' speciality treatment from me and I'm still not quite sure what my overall opinion is. The best to be seen in the pages is Nemesis displaying amazing, lethal, hand-to-hand skills against a wave of riot cops with McNiven delivering the suitable level of visceral destruction. I'm leaning towards saying that the tense phone confession is also handled well but there's just something running under the whole premise that screams that this really isn't that great. I believe that it could possibly be a strange lack of common sense that's pinning me back, an element that would have possibly escalated this comic to greatness. Considering who the antagonist is in this story it seems almost ludicrous that the law-enforcement's abilities are that underwhelming. The key would have been to demonstrate just how damn good the police are and then how Nemesis is another level above that but by showing the police to be ill-prepared and wholly naive Millar has really taken the the impetus away. 6/10

Matt C: I’m never going to sing this book’s praises, but there was something about the relentless nihilism in this issue that began to get increasingly infectious. There’s plenty to find objectionable in Millar’s script, along with a level of cynicism that he doesn’t even try to conceal, and all in all this is something I should probably trash on sight, but it’s so slickly told by a writer who knows how to hit all the right (and wrong) buttons that I can’t deny I got a kick out of it. McNiven’s art is much stronger this time too but I still contend his work is much improved when he has the right inker embellishing it. Millar’s obviously capable of a lot better, and while Nemesis may seem like it was created specifically to appeal to a certain demographic rather than evolving organically, there are signs that the series won’t be the complete write-off it initially appeared to be. 6/10

Writer: Daniel Way
Art: Dalibor Talajic
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: I've recently dropped Deadpool from my pull-list as I felt that Daniel Way was running out of ideas when it came to depicting the Merc With The Mouth but thankfully his skills remain polished with this madcap and entertaining series. Rather than simply have Hit-Monkey and Bullseye go straight at it and stand back to let Talajic portray page after page of carnage for the finale, Way takes his time to explain just how the Macaque on a Mission came to walk the streets of mankind and gives us an insight into his rather sombre existence. The ghostly assassin leading Hit-Monkey on his path to destiny is a terrifically worked premise that succeeds thanks to Way and Talajic allowing the macaque's actions do the talking for him. When it comes to the action there's plenty of gun-totting, fur-flying madness to be had, the creators clearly having great fun with it. At the same time they maintain a level of high-paced tension that helps to alleviate a little of the sense of disbelief that could have rendered this an instant throw-away failure in lesser hands. All in all this is a brilliant origin piece that I really do hope expands into a larger series for a very interesting and fun character. 9/10

HULK #25
Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Gabriel Hardman & Mark Robinson
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: I haven’t given this title a look since its debut issue and really couldn’t see a situation where I’d ever pick it up again. Funny what the right creative team will do though, isn’t it? Jeff Parker may not have generated the same level of buzz as the likes of Fraction and Hickman but he’s been quietly positioning himself as one of the very best of the new breed of superhero scribes. He often works in tandem with Gabriel Hardman, a wise move as the artist brings a level of visual realism to the genre that reminds me of people like Michael Lark and David Aja (in other words, he’s very, very good). Together they managed to hold my interest for the duration; I’m not really keen on the Thunderbolt Ross version of the Hulk, but this worked thanks to a deft blend of characterization and action. I don’t think it’s quite enough to sell me on the concept, but I may be tempted back for more in future. The Rick Jones back-up didn’t work for me though. Ross as a gamma-induced monstrosity is one thing, but taking Jones up that path – at the same time! – is a step too far. Shows a lack of restraint, but I guess that’s a leftover for Loeb’s run on the title. 7/10

Writer: A J Lieberman
Art: Riley Rossmo
Image $3.99

Stewart R: I haven't reviewed an issue of CNV for quite some time but have been picking up each copy without fail as it is yet to disappoint. Lieberman has been delving into just how Duncan's fractured, triplet mind works over the past few instalments and the differing personalities are becoming more rounded and increasingly important when it comes to the unique feel that this comic has. Allowing Duncan to almost be a fourth personality, guiding and coercing the other three into co-operation has given the bizarre, over-the-top yet highly entertaining plot something of an anchor and it's brilliantly brought to the page in the latter stages of this issue by Rossmo. While sometimes his art style forces a second or third read of a page to fully understand what has transpired and who did what - the double-cross that turns up this week being a prime example - he is also capable of deft characterisation work that melds fantastically well with Lieberman's plot progression. The madness doesn't look like it's going to brought to a standstill any time soon and long may this remain on my pull-list. 8/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Steve Epting
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Hickman’s ideas continue to come thick and fast, but while it initially seemed like he was throwing things out there and then moving forward, leaving them in the dust, he’s now bringing some concepts back into play that originally appeared at the start of his run. Basically, he knows what he’s doing and he appears to be weaving this huge, labyrinthine, utterly captivating narrative tapestry. Now he’s got Steve Epting as his co-pilot the book's been elevated to the next level thanks to the artist’s phenomenal skills with the pen. If you want a prime example of why he’s so good at what he does, look no further than his depiction of Doctor Doom. I know it’s early, but already it’s looking like on of the best visual portrayals of the Latverian despot I’ve ever seen. In fact, thanks to the Epting’s imagery and the spot-on characterization, the scenes between Victor and Valeria are possibly the highlight of Hickman’s run on the title so far. Excellent work all round. 9/10

Writers: Roget Stern & Ralph Macchio
Art: John Buscema & Tom Palmer
Marvel $0.75

Matt C: Another disappointing issue of Avengers following Stern’s departure (he once again gets a ‘plot’ credit here). The structure of the story is sound (undoubtedly thanks to Stern) but the dynamics are all off kilter. This is particularly noticeable in the portrayal of Captain Marvel, whose insecurities over her leadership status don’t jibe with the smart, strong woman we’ve seen up to this point. In fact, the whole team seems a little less than the sum of its parts, and hardly worthy of the moniker ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’. You could view it as possibly an essential ingredient of the tale being told (a team in disarray!) or you could look at it as a case of a one writer trying to make sense of a basic story template another writer left behind. Either way, it’s not great, but at least the art team means the book retains some kind of consistency with what’s come before. 5/10

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