17 Oct 2010

Mini Reviews 17/10/2010

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.


SUPERIOR #1
Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Leinil Yu
Marvel/Icon $2.99

Tom P: I liked this more than Nemesis, lets start with that. This is a much better comic from Millar. Sure, there is nothing fresh about a boy who turns into an adult Superhero. Captain Marvel and Bananaman have used this concept but I like the fact Superior is introduced as a fictional character. Simon gets his wish to be this hero that’s branded by his pal as old fashioned and boring, but it doesn't stop Simon from looking up to him and wanting to become that invincible, honourable hero. What I like most about Superior is it has charm; its not a PG comic by any stretch of the imagination - it's Millar after all - but it’s not overly violent and doesn’t rely on a shock value. I also loved Yu's art and have always been a fan of his energetic and expressive style; it’s a better fit for him than Secret Invasion was. My only grumble would be that it all seems to be over too quickly. 8/10

Stewart R: So Millar is at it again, taking a ‘big idea’ and getting a fair amount of hype generated before the finished product hits the shelves. Unlike Kick-Ass and the recent Nemesis, Superior at first glance has a closer, compassionate feel that makes for a refreshing change to Millar’s usual ‘larger-than-life’ style. The early stages dealing with Simon’s deterioration as multiple sclerosis gradually robs him of what was a promising future are tinged with a feeling of melancholy and there’s a neat little swipe at a certain well known Kryptonian that obviously harks back to a certain failed Hollywood pitch from years past. I’m definitely looking forward to finding out more on just where Ormon comes from and what his motives are, but with the end riffing on Tom Hanks’s Big and this being Millar, I do fear that everything may end in disappointment. On positive note, this is the strongest work that I’ve seen Lenil Yu put out in quite a while both in terms of his handling of action and intimate moments. 7/10


GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD WARRIORS #3
Writer: Peter J Tomasi
Art: Fernando Pasarin & Cam Smith
DC $3.99

Stewart R: There’s no doubt in my mind these days that this title IS the Green Lantern Corps comic regardless of the banner emblazoned across the front page. Tomasi has taken all the accomplished work that he put into GLC and carried it right over to Emerald Warriors with nary a beat missed. This particular instalment deals with Guy Gardner’s recent brush with the Red Lanterns and highlights that all is not well with the Green Lantern power set presently. There’s a great dust-up on Odym involving colours red, green and blue and it gives Pasarin yet another chance to flex his action-drawing muscles. All the while Tomasi keeps those mysterious plot threads in sight taking us from Daxam to the Unknown Sectors and back again and making Zardor’s intentions all the more intriguing. This series has ‘hit’ written all over it only three issues in and I really do recommend giving it a chance to impress you. 8/10


WARLORD OF MARS #1
Writer: Arvid Nelson
Art: Stephen Sadowski
Dynamite Entertainment $1.00

Matt C: There’s a real gap in my sci-fi/fantasy knowledge when it comes to Edgar Rice Burrough’s second most famous creation, John Carter of Mars, but no doubt I’ll one day familiarize myself with his adventures. Perhaps that will come in the form of the big budget live-action movie due out in 2012. Or maybe I’ll learn more about the character in this new series from Dynamite – the debut issue goes quite a way in tempting me towards the rest of the series, although it’s not an all out win. Nelson doesn’t rush into things, and sets the twin narratives (which even the uninitiated can tell will join together soon enough) rolling in a fairly compelling manner. Sadowski does a fine job too, although his art seems more robust in the Western scenes than it does when relocated to Mars. The dollar price tag should be a convincing enough reason for people to give this a shot, and I suspect many of them may be back for more. 7/10


THANOS IMPERATIVE #5
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Migiel Sepulveda
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Oh, there’s cosmic poop of all colours hitting a multitude of fans on both sides of the horrific Fault in this penultimate episode of Thanos Imperative. ‘Bleak’ doesn’t quite sum up how desperate a situation Star Lord, Nova and company find themselves in as Mar-Vell’s Cancerverse armies continue their invasion and the hunt for Thanos, the Avatar of Death himself. As with all good events and series this is steadily building to a crescendo of epic proportions with Abnett and Lanning really hitting the high-notes but, as things come to a head, it seems that the focus is shifting and this is becoming something of a farewell for the Cosmic Universe as we know it. Just like Butch and Sundance’s last, fateful trip down to Mexico, I really am fearing that our heroes may be just about to go out in a blaze of glory that will rob us of a fantastic corner of Marvel’s Universe. 8/10


NORTHLANDERS #33
Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Riccardo Burchielli
DC/Vertigo Comics $2.99

James R: I was a little late coming to the party with Northlanders, but by Odin's Raven, am I glad that I caught up! This is the penultimate issue of one of Brian Wood's longer arcs, and it's been nothing short of awesome. One of my gripes about comics is their inherent safety - established characters always live to fight another day, and even if they do die, well, they'll soon be back in a multi-part rebirth arc. Refreshingly this is never the case with Northlanders - by eschewing a stable cast for a shift in both time and place from arc to arc, the title has a vibrancy rare in modern comics. The 'Metal' arc has been corking too, as Wood examines the conflict between the traditional Norse faith and nascent Christianity. My esteemed colleague Matt C often says that Scalped would make a brilliant HBO series due to the sophistication of its storytelling - for me, Northlanders deserves equal praise. Scalped followed by Northlanders? That would be TV worth staying in for! 8/10



TOMB OF TERROR #1
Writers: Various
Art: Various
Marvel $3.99

Tom P: Maybe it's because its October - full of Halloween and horror- or maybe its after seeing the excellent History Of Horror with Mark Gatiss (currently available on BBC iPlayer). Whatever the reason, I was drawn to pick this title up this week with its "48 All-New Pages In Glorious Black & White" - at $3.99 that’s great value and the cover has a real retro charm. It stars Jack Russell, Man-Thing and the Son of Satan, who I last read about as the Midnight Sons in the excellent Marvel Zombies 4 by Van Lente and Kev Walker (who's currently rocking it on Thunderbolts). It fair to say that these short tales aren’t the most amazing thing I've read this week, but when enjoyed as a pulpy, gruesome reads, they do exactly as advertised. 7/10


BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #5
Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Ryan Sook, Mick Gray & Pere Perez
DC $3.99

James R: My fellow reviewers seemed to have lost faith with this series a little while ago, but I've had fun with it. I'm an unashamed Morrison fan, and in this issue I really enjoyed how he pulled together strands from his Batman: RIP arc and his work in Batman & Robin. Simultaneously, I've enjoyed seeing how Batman is such a force of nature he has become his own mythology (and yes, I know that's a crackers statement!) Bruce tumbles through time to Gotham of the recent past, and Morrison uses it as a template for a hardboiled tale of the Waynes. If you'd never read a Batman comic before, you would wonder what the eff was going on, but this is definitely one for us fanboys. Minus points for having to get Perez in to pick up the slack from Ryan Sook, but to be fair, he does an admirable job. After a great 2010, I can't wait to see where Morrison goes with Batman Inc. 8/10

Matt C: Even though I’m still reading this mini for completist reasons rather than any great desire to see what happens, I have to admit this was a much better issue than the last one. Two reasons for this: I’m a big fan of noirish detective stories, so it appealed to me on that level, and secondly, Ryan Sook is a pretty amazing artist (although it’s a rather poor show to see he only made it two thirds of the way through before Perez took over). So, yeah, I guess I feel I got something for my money this time (still not worth £3.99 though). What really makes me shake my head in despair is how DC managed to balls up the scheduling of an event again. There’s still one more issue of the mini to go, but this week also saw a series of Bat-related one-shots dealing with the after effects of Wayne’s return. At this point I’m not really that interested in the overall story, but it's still a sorry state of affairs when a publisher is releasing a bunch of post-event books before the event in question has actually finished. When are they going to learn? 6/10


THOR #616
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Pascal Ferry
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: The second issue of Fraction's run on Thor stays at about the same level of quality as the first i.e. on the cusp of greatness, but not quite there yet. The reason it fails to build on the promise of the previous instalment is because it pretty much covers the same ground as before; essentially, we're given more of the same without the plot being pushed forward a great deal. So, more of the quantum scientist warning Asgardians of the vacuum that needs to be filled following Asgard's relocation; more Thor moping about his brother’s demise; more alien invaders boasting about their forthcoming conquest of the Nine Worlds; oh, and some additional moping from Kendra thrown in for good measure. Fraction's script is as smart as you'd expect, but it's Pascal Ferry's art that prevents this from being a redundant retread over ground previously covered. Actually, it's Ferry and colourist Matt Hollingsworth who make this near-essential, as Hollingsworth's bold palette really helps add a further level of visual distinctiveness on top of Ferry's soft but powerful linework. Fraction just needs to step things up; we're getting there though. 7/10


HELLBLAZER: CITY OF DEMONS #1
Writer: Si Spencer
Art: Sean Murphy
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Tom P: My horror kick continues with a spot of John Constantine and, hands down, this is the best thing I picked up this week. When I found out that Murphy (whose dazzling artwork on Joe the Barbarian has had me spellbound) was the artist on this standalone miniseries, I put in the call into Paradox straight away. His work is fantastic: his sense of scale, perspective and space is masterful, his characters are emotive and detailed. In short, the man’s bloody good! Spencer also turns in a solid read, his dialogue is a lot of fun and I liked Constantine's world-weary grumpy opinions. The last page definitely succeeded in grabbing my attention for the rest of the run. City Of Demons: good-looking, gripping and very British. 9/10


EDGE OF DOOM #1
Writer: Steve Niles
Art: Kelley Jones
IDW $3.99

Stewart R: So after all of the scheduling fun - see this week’s Incoming for more details on my previous confusion - I actually got my hands on Edge of Doom. It starts off interestingly enough with divorcee Richard Stallman struggling to come to terms with his lonelier existence and parts of his former life trying to draw him back in. It then gets a little strange with firearms offences against answering machines before diving head-first into a goblin’s nest of bizarre when Richard discovers that he’s sharing his property with a colony of vicious, carnivorous nasties that aren’t too keen on letting an unfortunate transgression go unpunished. Cue some gruesome scenes and a man facing the last straw fighting back against lethal odds. Jones’ art style is suitably visceral in all the right places and brings a definite black comedy feel to things. That said, there isn’t much more to it; Richard isn’t particularly developed as a protagonist and it’s not clear where this can head as a series when it all gets wrapped up as a one-shot would. It just hasn’t impressed me enough to keep making the investment for further chapters I’m afraid. 5/10


INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #31
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Salvador Larroca
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: There may have been a couple of dips here and there, but there’s a strong case to be made saying Invincible Iron Man has been the most consistently brilliant Marvel superhero book of the last couple of years. One substantial reason for this is that the creative team has remained in place throughout. That’s a real rarity these days, and is especially impressive when you consider the regular monthly schedule has remained more or less intact. It helps of course that both Fraction and Larroca continue to bring their ‘A’ game to the title. I know this is a dodgy pun, but you can tell they’re working on the same page. They make a great team. This book is slick, smart, sophisticated and eminently cool. It’s hard to believe that only a few years ago, around the time of Civil War, that we were used to seeing Tony Stark portrayed as a bit of a bastard (some even went as far as describing him as the biggest villain in the Marvel Universe). The success of the movies didn’t do any damage, but Fraction has done a damn fine job of returning Tony to the top. From what I can see, there’s no reason why he won’t be staying there for a long time to come. 8/10

James R: Hmm. Every now and then there's a comic that you know is a quality production, and all your friends like it, but there's... just something missing, damnit! This is how I feel about Fraction's Invincible Iron Man - it's beautifully drawn and neatly written, but somewhere it's just not doing it for me. In this issue, Stark figures out there's industrial espionage afoot (but, hey, when isn't there in Invincible Iron Man?!) and the Hammer family (sadly, still not reconciled with MC Hammer) try to destroy the debut prototype of the Starkmobile. As contradictory as it sounds, it didn't feel like an awful lot actually happened. It felt like a filler issue, and that's served to compound my feeling that this title isn't as grand as some think it is. For me, this arc has been in a low gear, and I still remain unconvinced. 6/10


AVENGERS #290
Writer: Ralph Macchio
Art: John Buscema & Tom Palmer
Marvel $0.75

Matt C: Ralph Macchio ends his brief (last minute?) stint on Avengers on a relative high. After replicating Kubik's power (the being evolved from the Cosmic Cube) the Super-Adaptiod dubs himself the Supreme Adaptoid and begins birthing new adaptaoids who venture out with the intention to replicate and then destroy every living being on Earth(!). Macchio handles the power-mad arrogance of the artificial lifeform imbued with reality-altering abilities very well, but then he goes and cheats by roping in Captain America (currently in his guise as The Captain following his 'defrocking' by the US government) who up to this point has been engaged in adventures in his own book. It's a shame that the writer couldn't have used one of the existing players to defeat the Adaptoid rather than relying on Cap to swoop in and save the day but it's good to see the Sentinel of Liberty using psychological techniques as well as brawn to bring down his mechanical opponent. Buscema and Palmer finally get a decent chance to strut their stuff (the opportunities eluded them the past few issues): the full-page splash of the Adaptoid 'giving birth' is awesome. Not bad at all. Next: Walt Simonson! 7/10

2 comments:

Matt C said...

Tom - I'm pretty sure your review of Superior will be the only one anywhere in the world to mention Bananaman!!

Tom P said...

Why thank you, When you think about it one uses a banana to transform and the other a monkey, you must admit there is a certain symmetry. Tune in next week for my review featuring Super Ted!