3 Oct 2010

Mini Reviews 03/10/2010

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.


FRANKEN-CASTLE #21
Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Dan Brereton
Marvel $3.99

Andy H: The Punisher has been one of the titles that highlights all the reasons why Marvel frustrates me. Over the past few years it's been renumbered, re-titled, relaunched and finally, re-imagined. Half the time you just don't know if you're coming or going. The death and resurrection as Franken-Castle was the final straw for many. So, what would make me pick up this issue? Dan Brereton, that's what! This is the Brereton art I love. From the cover to the lush, painted interiors, this man rocks! Landing Frank Castle on Monster Island is just great for a man that paints some of the best monsters in comics. Remender brings the Franken-Castle saga full circle in time for (yawn) the next relaunch. Here we get an insight into the full effect of the Bloodstone: it may be the key to the regeneration of Frank but if he cannot remove it, it will drive him mad. All in all worth a read, and as I had given up on the Punisher this is actually good as a stand alone comic. It also includes a lead in to the new series. 7/10


STUFF OF LEGEND VOLUME II #2
Writers: Mike Raicht & Brain Smith
Art: Charles Paul Wilson III
Thi3rd World Studios $4.25

Matt C: The critical praise this book receives is thoroughly deserved and if you were really so inclined you would be hard pressed to locate any flaws. The art from Wilson is gorgeous, retaining just the right amount of childlike wonder to offset the shroud of darkness and pervading sense of danger. The writers utilize the classic ‘quest’ template to their story, and while the various characters take to their archetypal roles (the reluctant hero, the joker, the traitor, etc) there’s enough distinctiveness applied to each individual to ensure they rise above cliché and remain appealing. Lovingly produced and utterly absorbing, The Stuff Of Legend transcends any simple classification and is a fine example of the versatility of the comic book medium. 8/10


ATLAS #5
Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Jeff Parker, Gabriel Hardman, Bettie Breitweiser & Ramon Rosanas
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: There’s something of a hurried feel to the finale of Atlas and it seems that reading Jeff Parker’s sign-off in the back that it was his decision to call things to a halt at this point rather than crawl towards an end a few further chapters down the line. I can understand his wish to finish off this story on his own terms, and the team contribution on show is certainly admirable, but it actually makes for a somewhat average read I’m afraid. Each character’s dialogue seems a little on the forced side and there’s a reiteration of who all of these individuals are and where they’ve come from that tends to sit better in previews and #0 issues than a series conclusion. I appreciate that this is supposed to come across almost as an ode to the Agents of Atlas but it just doesn’t quite feel right. On the artistic side there’s the usual flourishes that we've come to expect from the series, including differing art styles for various dimensional-journeys, with even Parker contributing a few pages himself (Hardman’s work is, as always, the best in the book). Overall I’m sad to see this team disappear from the shelves for now and there’s almost a similar feeling of sadness that permeates through this issue that has possibly detracted from what could have been a top-notch read. 6/10


ACTION COMICS #893
Writers: Paul Cornell & Nick Spencer
Art: Sean Chen, Wayne Faucher, RB Silva & Dym
DC $3.99

James R: Phew. Last month, I was a little worried. After the superb start to his Lex Luthor/Black Ring run on Action, I was concerned that Paul Cornell had stumbled a little; the chapter with Deathstroke was, well - it was just okay. I shouldn't have worried though, as this month's issue is right back on track. Luthor goes toe-to-toe with Gorilla Grodd (complete with his Battle Spoon!) and the two geniuses engage in a round of out-foxing worthy of Nick Fury. I feel that Cornell has the perfect take on Lex - a man with good intentions, but who is constantly sabotaged by his own delusional ego. As a result, it's been quite easy to accept Lex as the warped hero of this title in Superman's absence. The 19 pages of story fly past with a great mix of wit, action and character insight, and there's a terrific finale to boot. The only criticism I have is hidden in that last sentence - 19 pages of story for $3.99! Oh, sure there's extra stuff - but the Jimmy Olsen second feature is underwhelming in the extreme, and the 5 pages of Teen Titans seems wholly superfluous. A shake of the fist to the DC bigwigs, but a tip o' the hat to Paul Cornell for a blast of a read. 7/10

Matt C: Paul Cornell did an excellent job on his debut issue for this title, netting my interest instantly with some smart characterization and what appeared to be a premise well worth mining. It saddens me to report then - especially after bigging up the first instalment to so many friends – that my interest has dramatically nose-dived ever since. My main problem is that the central narrative thread has become increasingly vague, and when it does spring into focus it comes across as a bit confused. Luthor wants the Black Lantern energy but this plot point seems to get shunted to the side to allow for the ‘villain a month’ format. There are some inspired moments but not enough to make me want to continue, which is a great pity when I remember back to my initial reaction to the storyline a couple of months ago. The Jimmy Olsen back-up is amusing and snappy but the package as a whole just doesn’t make me want to fork out $3.99 every four weeks or so for it. 5/10


CAPTAIN AMERICA #610
Writers: Ed Brubaker & Sean McKeever
Art: Butch Guice, Rick Magyar & Filipe Andrade
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: An unexpected and rather pleasing twist in Zemo’s plans is revealed as the ‘No Escape’ arc reaches its conclusion and we learn that the former Thunderbolt’s motivation for going after Bucky hasn’t really been about finishing the job his father started. Brubaker is an expert at adding shade to established villains so they don’t simply appear as variations on the same theme, and he does a great job on Zemo here. The only gripe I really have with the book at the moment (bar the unsuitability of the back-up feature) is the inconsistency of the art from month to month. I’m a great admirer of Guice’s work, but he seems to be saddled with a rotating crew of inkers, colourists and fellow pencillers from issue to issue, which means the book fails to retain a consistent visual identity. If they can sort this situation, it’ll help push Captain America back towards the top. That and lose the Nomad back-up, which, while perfectly readable and occasionally affecting, is still too tonally different from the main story to feel like a good fit. 7/10


SECRET WARRIORS #20
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Mirko Colak
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: At one point I considered this title to be in my top ten monthly reads with Hickman and Stefano Caselli really building a team book to be proud of. Now, with some seven issues in the run remaining it’s almost as if Hickman and Marvel really aren’t that bothered anymore. Firstly, the artistic duties were supposed to have been handed over to Alessandro Vitti but this issue sees yet another change with Mirko Colak picking up the pencil and pen and his work, while a reasonable effort, is not up to the standard of the previous artists. Secondly, all of Hickman’s hard work showing us how Hydra was working as an organisation, the rebirth of Leviathan and the Caterpillar’s steady bonding and training seems to be being left to one side or skimmed over at high speed in order to show ‘the bigger picture’. The biggest appeal of this title was the up close and personal nature of the storytelling and the interesting character development amongst hero and villain alike, but it appears that a great deal of that has been lost or given up. It could possibly be said that this comic about a ‘Caterpillar’ group of superheroes has bloomed into a somewhat ugly and disappointing butterfly of a book. 5/10


POWERS #6
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Michael Avon Oeming
Marvel/Icon $3.95

James R: Come, let us sit down and tell sad stories of former kings! Once, Powers was an essential read - back when it was at Image it was a dynamic comic that made really interesting choices in terms of story and construction (the issue set out entirely like a copy of Hello - advertisements and all - is still one of my favourite issues of the last decade) but for a very long time now it’s read like an afterthought. I picked it up as it was such a slim week this week, but this is officially where we part ways. It's a good job it proclaims 'All New Story!' on the front as really, you could plot this title with your eyes shut now such is its predictability. One high point is Oeming's art - it's been great to watch him hone his style down through the years, and he certainly deserves something better than yet another superhero murder plot which will - I guarantee - conclude with a message of either, 'Hey, if you're not super-powered, you don't understand', or, 'Sometimes super-powered people have screwed up lives too.' If you're looking for Bendis at his best, read Scarlet; it's infinitely better than this. 3/10


CASANOVA #3
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Gabriel Ba
Marvel/Icon $3.99

Matt C: I missed out on this title the first time around when it was published by Image - I did pick up issue #7 (or was it #8?), but by that time it was too late to get a handle on what was going on (and if you’ve read Casanova yourself, it’s easy to see why). Having since become a firm fan of Fraction’s slick, hip and super-smart style of writing, missing Casonova a second time around wasn’t on the agenda. It proves to be a fabulously bonkers read, ricocheting across timelines at a breakneck pace following its antihero protagonist with his dubious motivations, providing a healthy, compulsive dose of wit and energy. Ba matches that wit and energy with some fluid, electrifying illustrations that convey the irreverent tone of Fraction’s script perfectly. A surprising and unexpected addition in the back pages is Fraction’s admission of his past addictions to drugs and alcohol, and how he’s worked through them to leave that part of his life behind (although the experience undoubtedly informs his work). It’s refreshingly honest and sees him go up even further in my estimation. 8/10


AVENGERS #288
Writer: Ralph Macchio
Art: John Buscema & Tom Palmer
Marvel $0.75

Matt C: Roger Stern’s name no longer appears in the credits (and editor Mark Gruenwald elaborates on the reasons in his ‘Mark’s Remarks’ section on the letters page) so without having to follow the plot of another writer Macchio turns in a much improved read. It’s still not up to its former standard, and some of the characterizations (particularly Captain Marvel) seem to be stripped down and over-simplified, but it zips along and there are several memorable scenes and snatches of dialogue. Macchio doesn’t really provide Buscema and Palmer with many opportunities to flex their muscles, but they work with what they’ve got (most noticeably in the larger panels) and the art is easily the most impressive aspect of the issue. 6/10

3 comments:

Joe T said...

Wow, some really negative reviews here! Guess it wasn't a great week.

I'm waiting for my copies of Action Comics, Captain America & I believe it was Amazing Spider-Man(shows my enthusiasm for the title eh?).

Whats this about 5 pages of Teen Titans in action?

Matt C said...

Teen Titans preview of #88 (new creative team! etc) in the back of Action. I skipped it so I couldn't tell you whether it was worth reading.

Joe T said...

Only a preview? Disappointing then. Also, i'm glad someone else agrees with me about the inconsistency of Butch Guice's artwork on Cap.