12 Sept 2010

Mini Reviews 12/09/2010

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.

Wrters: Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba
Art: Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Matt C: I suspect there’ll be many theories and interpretations regarding this final issue of Daytripper (there’s no explanatory twist, so it is left open to interpretation to a certain extent), but one thing I’m sure everyone will agree on is that Daytripper has been a moving, inspiring and utterly brilliant series, an undeniable highlight amongst Vertigo’s exemplary roster during 2010. Moon and Ba’s meditation on how a man’s life can be defined – their achievements? those other lives they’ve touched? – was written with a perceptive insight into the human condition that came as a totally unexpected surprise from two creators primarily known as artists. Their scripts have been consistently mature, intimate and truthful, and they’ve matched the quality of their wordsmithery with some astonishing illustrations that displayed a richness and warmth that proved to be utterly captivating. As I said, there’ll be plenty of different interpretations, (I haven’t personally settled on my own, so I’ll avoid spoiler-filled analysis here) but by its very nature Daytripper will require repeated visits and, when this year reaches its close, I think it’ll be clear that few other works in the medium during the last 12 months have matched its emotional impact. 9/10

James R: This tenth issue marks the end of Moon & Ba's affecting miniseries. Over the previous nine issues we've seen Bras Domingos’ life end again and again. Each issue has been like a parallel reality or a 'What if?' where Bras has met his end at a different time in his life, and as we found out last month, the philosophy of the series has been that how our life ends gives it meaning - our mortality is what gives our lives context. So this coda marks a fitting and yet contrasting end to the series. Here we see Bras at 76 and facing a terminal illness, but the events of the issue are more about the richness of life. They write: "Only when you accept that one day you'll die can you let go and make the best out of life." It's fine advice, and this has been an exceptional series. It's now added to the list of titles and collections that I'd give to people who don't read comics to show them how good the medium can be. A tip of the hat to the Brazilian brothers for a year of exceptional comics and to Karen Berger at Vertigo, who is continuing to make this imprint full of interesting and compelling tales. 9/10

Stewart R: As a series, this title would easily garner a 9/10 from this reviewer; it's been a well thought out and emotional look at how we can perceive our lives and the lives of those around us. As for this finale, well I'm a little torn. On the one hand I was expecting a little 'more' than what Ba and Moon actually give us, but on the other hand we’re given a last, poignant glimpse into the life of Bras Domingos and an ending that does stay true to the feel of the series as a whole. Bras' characterisation through his various ages has been brilliant as he has matured and grown wiser and that development reaches a nice crescendo here. In fact, at the time of writing this review, this is the only comic of the thirteen I picked up this week that I have given a second read through so far and that has been something that has happened quite frequently whenever this title has found it's way into my hands. Any comic that makes me do that on a consistent basis has to be applauded. 8/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Salvador Larroca
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: I'll admit that I wasn't quite sure what had occurred at the end of the last issue with Tony whisking Sasha Hammer out of the party in a quick, flirtatious fashion, but it's all thankfully explained here and had me uttering a relieved “Ooooh, that's what it was!” Where the past couple of issues have taken a more leisurely approach to Tony's latest attempts to get his company and life back in order this adds that extra dimension of intelligent action and tension that Fraction displayed so magnificently through the 'Most Wanted' arc. Of course, having the hugely talented Larroca rendering said action in his instantly recognisable style helps take things up that extra couple of notches. Fraction is playing the smart game, making every encounter - be it touched with spoken venom or met with armoured menace - count for something and by ensuring that Pepper has regained her identity as Rescue he’s added a further touch of genius that keeps every page a 'must read' moment. This is getting back to it's consistent best and I'd like a lot more please. 9/10

Tom P: Fraction and Larroca continue their magnificent run on this book and if a lesson is to be learned from Invincible Iron Man it has to be that long-term collaborations of this quality should be encouraged. Take a look at most Marvel books these days and you’ll see that artists change so frequently it can be damaging when a writer is trying to maintain a consistent tone to their work. I always think a good artist is akin to a good director as a bad director can turn even the best script into a terrible movie. So I can only applaud Larroca and Fraction and their continued collaboration - these are truly comics of the highest quality. 9/10

James R: At a Paradox Group meeting earlier this month, I made a shocking pronouncement: outside of Batman, I felt that I was almost done with superhero books. My argument? Marvel don't seem to be doing anything interesting to me at the moment - I've even dropped the great Ed Brubaker's Captain America and DC's Brightest Day push has been largely underwhelming for me. I then said that even Invincible Iron Man was on the wane - after the fantastic ‘Stark Deconstructed' arc, I felt that the title was treading water, and the current 'Resilient' story hadn't engaged me. Right on cue this week comes issue #30, which shows me that I may have been a little hasty. Stark takes Sasha Hammer out for a memorable ride that gives us a lot of what we like about Tony Stark's world - cutting-edge science and very cool action. Fraction brilliantly references both his first arc on the book and New Avengers for extra geeky coolness, and leaves us with the prospect of a Hellzapoppin' issue next time out. Much more like it, and still safely on my pull list. 7/10

Matt C: With Captain America still not quite back to its former glory there really doesn’t seem like there’s much competition for Invincible Iron Man when it comes to Marvel’s mainstream superhero output. Fraction’s tightly-written scripts brim with wit and intelligence and Larroca matches the quality of the words with art that combines photorealism with kinetic high-octane action. It really seems keyed into the 21st Century world in a way few other titles are; it feels like its pushing things forward rather than remaining in thrall to almost 50 years of continuity. Now 30 issues in, there’s no signs of the creative team flagging, and at this point its fair to say this is one of the definitive runs of contemporary superhero comics. 8/10

Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Frazer Irving
DC Comics $2.99

Tom P: Fantastic. I loved this issue so much, was so completely gripped, that I can’t imagine waiting for a trade on this as every issue has been captivating, extremely well-written and plotted. All the elements are starting to click together from Pyg and his addictive qualities to Batman and Robin being forced to work with the Joker. On the subject of the Joker, it’s a great notion of his to use the current Bat-team to get revenge on the Black Glove and return his Batman to him. He needs Bruce Wayne to define him. He needs his Batman so he can truly be the Joker; he's just too much fun. The opening scene in prison is the highlight of this issue for me. “I’m not mad at all. I'm just differently sane." I will be very sad when Morrison finishes his time on this book as I think its been terrific. 9/10

James R: Yesterday I was talking to fellow reviewer Stewart R about this title and Grant Morrison in general. I pointed out that when he's kept together with Frank Quitely, the result is always spectacular (All Star Superman, We3, the first arc of this title). However, the second Quitely’s replaced by someone who isn't quite as brilliant, the comic can go wildly off the rails. Exhibit A: New X-Men. Incredible first two arcs and then... Igor Kordey.) Exhibit B: Batman & Robin #14. This month Morrison starts to pull together the arcs of both 'Batman RIP' & this title to build to an inevitably explosive finale, but by the Great Googly Moogly, I have no idea what's going on at some points here! Frazer Irving is a fine artist (I loved his work with Morrison on Klarion) but he's not an artist who excels with action. For example, Batman's arrival toward the end of the issue seemed confused to me - sequential art is all about context and Irving simply doesn't give us any. This had been one of my titles of the year, but I'm now awaiting the finale of the arc with apprehension rather than excitement. 6/10

Writers: Craig Kyle and Chris Yost
Art: Gabriele Dell'otto
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: The three issues that have made up this X-Force miniseries clearly highlight just how well this pair of truly talented writers know how to write Wolverine, how to write Domino, and how to bring everything together to make one heck of an entertaining read. Sex and violence have been prominent as advertised in the title but the underlying wry comedy that has wound its way through this book has been a delicious surprise. This finale rounds off the visceral show tremendously well with a surprising amount of tension for a comic involving the indestructible Logan and luckier-than-a-leprechaun Neena. Kyle and Yost don't throw anything particularly new into the mix and instead try - and succeed - to make this their 'Ode to X-Force' by bringing in all of the elements that have made their tenure with the team so enthralling. The art from Dell'Otto is simply mouthwatering and based on his artwork alone I think this would make a terrific addition to anyone's collection when released as a trade. Things in the comic biz obviously change but I can't help but feel that these writers moving on to other things is a great loss to X-Force fans everywhere. 9/10

Writers: Darwyn Cooke, Ivan Brandon & Jan Strnad
Art: Darwyn Cooke, Nic Klein & Gabriel Hardman
DC $3.99

Matt C: I’m sure there’s some strong storytelling to be found in all these ‘War!’ one-shots DC are publishing during the month of September, but budget reasons meant I was only going to pick one, and there was no contest which one it would be. Two words: Darwyn Cooke. Do I really need to explain further? The man turns in a humorous skit that looks at those dead souls who thrived on the battlefield, the ones more likely to cry “War is great!” rather than “War is hell!”. It’s good, if not up there with this best, but it’s essential if you’re a fan. Brandon’s claustrophobic tale is the standout while Strnad’s is slightly mawkish in places to be really effective. The art throughout is excellent though, with Hardman’s style in particular displaying the kind of grit and intensity that really suits the WWII environment. 7/10

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Miguel Sepulveda
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: These writers and the one artist are keeping this the one Marvel series that can be truly dubbed 'EPIC'! After last issues’ rather surprising and powerful conclusion, we're dropped straight into the action as Nova and his posse of powerhouses mount a rescue mission in the heart of the enemies' stronghold. Sepulveda is a man transformed it would seem - his art work for this event has far exceeded anything I have seen him produce before and he is incredibly well suited for the action-orientated events that take place within the pages of this comic. While Nova's attack relies on brute force it is the scenes involving Thanos, Drax and Star-Lord that requires a somewhat darker, brooding touch as tempers move beyond frayed and take a more lethal turn. We're still two issues from the end of this series and there's still a feeling that things could get nastier still. If you loved how Guardians and Nova started their runs then I highly recommend picking up all four issues released so far; it's a gripping read. 9/10

Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Rafael Albuquerque
Vertigo $3.99

Stewart R: So Stephen King's name no longer graces the front page and this is now Snyder's tale to tell in full. After the first interesting arc - with backup 'history lesson' from King - I was certainly eager to see where Snyder would take this. What I had not really been prepared for was the jump in time and location, moving things from 1920s Los Angeles to the mid-1930s in the bright lights of Las Vegas, but it works very well indeed. Rather than focus back on Skinner Sweet and Pearl's ongoing story Snyder instead chooses to introduce a host of new characters in the city that never sleeps amidst the chaos of a Vampire-based homicide. Chief McCogan is brilliantly depicted as a tired, no-nonsense lawman who's struggling against the tide of lawlessness sweeping his growing city and I suspect this arc will hang on how his fight against bloodsucker and criminality turns out. Albuquerque keeps things suitably dark and the art certainly fits this series but - and this is only a slight criticism - occasionally during action pieces it appears that the character's stunt doubles are in shot as they don't quite resemble the person in the previous panel. Aside from that small point this is a strong start to the second arc. 7/10

Writer: Joe Quesada
Art: Paolo Rivera, Joe Quesada, Danny Miki & Richard Isanove
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Wow, this is one thick comic! Now, is that a statement about the amount of paper used or am I making a comment about the pure bilge that this story, and Quesada's attempts at being a writer, represent? Probably a bit of both. We all knew that for the die-hard Spidey fans out there Peter unmasking himself and then his marriage to Mary Jane being unwritten were changes that took things a step too far. I personally liked the freedom it presented and for the most part enjoyed the 'Brand New Day' concept. This 'One Moment In Time' bullshit however is even too much for me. What Quesada has managed to do is actually take Peter Parker and make him rather unlikeable without the aid of a morality-warping symbiote or touch from Mr Negative. Mary Jane's reasoning for her actions and attitude go against the strength that she showed in the first place when the original deal was struck by her with Mephisto some 100 issues ago. To top it off, the plan concocted by three of Spider-Man's allies goes beyond far-fetched despite it being obvious that the writer thinks he's actually stumbled upon a decent way of explaining how to return Peter's anonymity. If the art were something to write home about I could probably find a positive in here but unfortunately Paolo Rivera's style is ill-suited for a story of this nature. So there we go: utter bobbins! 1/10

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

Matt C: The Olympian arc reaches its conclusion with plenty of physical and emotional fireworks as a reawakened Hercules enters the fray. It’s expertly paced, building to a thrilling crescendo, followed by a more composed aftermath, and topped with the usual cliffhanger ending that ensures you’ll be back for the next adventure. Near faultless and an unquestionable high point of Stern’s run on the book. The only mark against it is that there are a couple of instances when it looks like someone else may have had a hand in the art, but aside from that it’s pretty much required reading for anyone with an interest in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. 9/10


Joe T said...

Major bad review for amazing! Did you at least pick up the first chapter of origin of the species? It's supose to be an improvement over OMIT. Looking forward to reading Invincible Iron Man, and hoping it can pick itself back up to the first 24 issues level of quality.
Am looking forward to Batman & Robin even more though, and i'm of the mind that Irving's art is the best the title has had, and is far superior to quietly's(whom i think is slightly overrated)

Tom P said...

Cant comment on Spider-man Joe, but I also like Irving's art, from the sounds of it you should dig Batman and Robin too! But i have to disagree about your feelings on Quietly, New X-men, WE3, All Star Superman, The Authority, Batman and Robin have all rocked my world. He is slow but his art is worth the time it has a rare quality and always looks stunning! Take a look at WE3 he renders a double page spread with such craft and detail it looks 3D without any gimmicky glasses. LEGEND. :)