7 Nov 2010

Mini Reviews 07/11/2010

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: Jeff Lemire
Art: Pier Gallo & Jamie Grant
DC $2.99

Matt C: I'm not a fan of Superboy per se, but I find myself picking up a 'new' book of his for the second time in the last couple of years. Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul's relaunch of Adventure Comics with Connor Kent in the lead started off well, promising much before both creators bailed in favour of Flash (which, ironically, seems to have seen its release schedule slow down to a crawl). So why am I back again? Two words: Jeff Lemire. Admittedly I'm only really familiar with his work on Sweet Tooth (Essex County Trilogy and The Nobody are on the 'To Read' pile) but his writing has a perceptiveness that makes me want to follow where he goes. There was no guarantee he'd be able to jump into the more lucrative superhero genre with ease but based on what he does here I think it's safe to say he has a good idea of what he's doing. He manages to get under Connor's skin very swiftly, making a character created in a test tube from Luthor and Superman's DNA (!) feel like a thoroughly likeable, engaging human being. I guess this could easily end up going down the Smallville route, but I trust that Lemire has some big ideas up his sleeve and won't allow the drama to get too soapy. The artwork from Gallo is clean, clear and has a noticeable warmth to it, and the man seems to know how to draw a hell of a fine Parasite! Definitely one to try as it may just develop into something memorable. 7/10

James R: As a gargantuan fan of Sweet Tooth I've been hugely excited by the prospect of this series. I've never read much Superboy, but I'm a great believer in following a writer rather than a character, and that philosophy has paid off for me here. Lemire is a brilliant writer who, one issue in, has already made some excellent decisions - he's limiting Superboy to being the protector of Smallville, and the use of the Phantom Stranger as a harbringer of approaching doom was terrific. This does what all good first issues should do - introduce the characters and set the parameters of the title, leaving you wanting more. Pier Gallo's art isn't spectacular, but it's nice enough. Hopefully Lemire will have a decent run on the title and we'll see a range of artists who can do justice to his intelligent and thoughtful scripts. 8/10

Tom P: Conner Kent aka Superboy is a character I have never been fussed about before, so why pick this up? Jeff Lemire perhaps? No, not really - still haven't got around to reading Sweet Tooth (SHOCK!). The two factors that swayed me this week were the price and Rafael Albuquerque's wonderfully iconic cover art. It looks fantastic and is in my opinion the most eye-grabbing cover on the shelves this week. So is it any good? I'm pleased to say it is! It's charming, fun and shows just how the right creative team can breath new life into any character. Welcome to the pull list, Superboy! 8/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Jorge Molina, Karl Kesel & Frank D’Armata
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Along with the glut of Thor titles currently filling the shelves, we're also in the process of seeing multiple Captain America books popping up on an increasing basis, and this trend will likely to continue throughout 2011 to coincide with the release of two major movies featuring both characters. Only the most obsessive of fanboys are likely to pick up all the related titles, so those of us who want to venture further outside the regular monthly books will have to choose wisely. This mini appealed to me mostly because I have fond memories of Waid's run on Captain America in the '90s and he seems like a good choice to explore Cap's reawakening into the modern world. The bulk of this debut issue is set in 1945, and a lot of it's the kind of thing we've seen numerous times before, but it's fairly well done, especially when focusing on the bond between Steve and Bucky. When he's woken by the Avengers we get to see everything directly from his viewpoint, and the way his military training guides his internal monologue is quite amusing. I'm not entirely sure why the Avengers disappear from sight upon their arrival in the New York, essentially leaving Steve to wander the streets alone, but that aside, it's a decent read with serviceable art. I'll have to wait until next month to see whether I feel compelled to pick up the second instalment though. 7/10

Writers: Various
Art: Various
Marvel $4.99

Stewart R: The sunset of the Brand New Day seems to have been dragging out for quite a while now but this oversized issue does mark the end of an important era for the old web-head. Marvel has recently been keen to employ the larger book filled with shorter stories to mark transitions in the Spider-Man story and to be honest they have not always been a success. This $5 book is a little different though in that for the most part it highlights the things that have been done well over the past 100 or so issues since Peter made the deal with the devil himself. The Fred Van Lente and Max Fiumara chapter is the most important, adding some much needed development to Peter’s relationship with Carlie, and the Zeb Wells epilogue is a great example of how Harry Osborn has grown as a man as he continues to step away from the shadow of his father’s villainous history. The other chapters are a little hit and miss but they all focus on the changes that have befallen the supporting New York cast and overall it’s a decent enough send-off for the Spider-Man Brain Trust. Bring on the Big Time! 7/10

Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Cameron Stewart, Frazer Irving & Alex Sinclair
DC Comics $3.99

James R: Without a doubt, this has to be the current Marmite title amongst the Paradox Group - some of us love it, others see it as Grant Morrison running amok... again. I have to say that I'm definitely in the former camp. I've had my occasional reservations about the book, but I felt this issue was a grand return to the cowl for Bruce Wayne. The interplay between Bruce, Dick & Damian was the undoubted highlight, and leads me to think that the 'Two Batmen' idea might just work. I know that many people are already raising their geek-brows at Wayne’s announcement at the end, of the issue but I think Morrison should go for it. After all, as we know, comics are intensely cyclical - if we live in a world where Superman, the Flash and Green Lantern can all return from the dead without too much fuss, restoring Batman to a shadowy mythical figure shouldn't be too much bother! All told, Batman And Robin has been a solid hit for me; with the exception of the frankly weird Flamingo issues, this has been a great chapter in the Bat mythos. 9/10

Tom P: Bruce Wayne is home! Fantastic! Let's start with that. I'm a massive fan of Morrison’s run on this title and his work generally with Batman. To a certain extent this is the end of that run but it does see the start of something equally exciting! It was good to see Bruce back dispensing two-fisted justice again and I’m glad that Dick and Damian will remain as the Dynamic Duo. But my real highlight? The face off between Joker and Dr Hurt. I won't spoil it for you but it’s a riveting read. Cameron Stewart is also back here, and he illustrated one of my favourite arc's of the series. It's a true shame he couldn't draw the whole book but that's a small gripe in an otherwise triumphant finale on this excellent series for Morrison. 9/10

Stewart R: I’ve realised that Grant Morrison is a writer who likes to leave a lot of blanks for readers to fill in themselves; when Batman And Robin #1 came out the less-is-more approach worked terrifically well and continued to do so through the following three arcs. Now, with the return of Bruce Wayne, it seems that Morrison really does need to provide the reader with as much information as possible but elects not to do so. As a result we’re left with a rather disjointed and confusing finale that doesn’t do justice to what was an interesting enough concept. It’s good to see the dynamic trio dishing out the usual brand of efficient fisticuffs to the thuggish henchmen of the Black Glove, but the use of three artists with very different styles is once again a distraction that I could have done without. When it comes down to it I would have preferred Frazer Iriving to have finished what he started considering that it seems now that the moments in previous issues where I put my confusion down to his artwork could possibly be attributed to Morrison’s writing style instead. The big highlight funnily enough is not Bruce’s return but rather the Joker’s brief appearance which signals the end of this story proper in truly creepy fashion. I’m very thankful that the title will carry on with a new creative team as I’m certainly not keen to see where Morrison is taking things in the Bat Universe. 6/10

Writer: Fred Van Lente
Art: Jefte Palo & Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: This is a truly great comic read: funny, tense, brilliantly illustrated and a bona fide page turner. And it’s all of those things because Van Lente and Palo are working in delicious harmony to change the way that we view one of the less well-known members of the Marvel Universe. Yes, okay, so there is a village of Hitlers here, and yes, the way that it is folded into this crackpot story is a masterstroke of creative writing with Van Lente ensuring that it really is just a secondary circumstance for Taskmaster to overcome on his quest to reclaim his memories and his life. This is all about Tony Masters, his forgotten history and the detrimental affect his powers have had on his life and it really is an enthralling read that is already making a good case to be named one of the miniseries of the year. It's $3.99 of pure fun that you should invest in yourself. 9/10

James R: I know we've all been looking forward to this issue in the Paradox Group - 'The Town That Was Hitler!' screams the cover! It’s smart, fun, illustrated with great dynamism and verve and full of genuinely funny moments. If Marvel have any sense, they'll offer Van Lente a Taskmaster ongoing series and a licence to go hog wild. He's pretty damn good at making a potentially pedestrian series both memorable and an instant pick on the pull list. 'Nuff said! 8/10

Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Rebekah Isaacs & Carrie Strachan
DC/Wildstorm $2.99

Matt C: With an Extinction Level Event looming on the horizon, the team finally set aside their difference as the very real danger of dying far away from home renders their extravagantly staged quarrels moot. It’s a bittersweet finale to an excellent series because while it suggests Wood had more adventures with these characters up his sleeve, now that DC have pulled the plug on Wildstorm it seems unlikely that we’ll ever get to see them. It’s disappointing in a way, because we don’t receive any real closure, but even without the prospect of more DV8 comics from Wood, the work he’s put in here has been tremendous, a prime example of incisive, dexterous character work in comics. A great script needs a great artist to bring it to life, and Isaacs has risen to the challenge with consummate ease, producing some sumptuous imagery that is as adept at relaying quiet, human moments as it is at producing epic, sweeping landscapes. She’s most definitely one to keep a steady eye on throughout 2011. Strachan’s beautifully light and varied palette compliments Isaacs’ art perfectly and Fiona Staples striking, carefully composed covers (some of the best of the year, no question) round out the package. If DC, in their infinite wisdom, decide that DV8 is a property worth pursuing in a post-Wildstorm world, there’s no question that this is the creative team they should call on in the first instance. 8/10

Tom P: Inevitably this is where me and Wildstorm part ways. I will miss the imprint and the characters but it's fair to say the line had become a little stale. But DV8: Gods And Monsters has not been stale, it was a jolt that reminded me of when Ellis and Hitch were working on The Authority all those years ago, and it made the Wildstorm Universe feel exciting again. This last issue of the series is bittersweet; the ending did leave me little cold. I'm not sure if it was the big reveal or the fact that it's all over. I have loved this comic and it's been a real highlight of the year for me and I strongly recommend you read the trade. if you missed it. Brian Wood is an extremely talented writer and Rebekah Isaacs’ art is a revelation - I will definitely be following her work in the future. In the back page Jim Lee claims we will see these titles again one day, and if this is indeed the case he should definitely give Wood and Isaacs a call when that day comes. 8/10

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

Stewart R: Scarlet’s violent quest for a better world continues this week and it has to be said that Bendis has really found his writer’s touch again here. Scarlet is an instantly likeable protagonist despite her extreme methods and it’s her unlikely status as a vigilante for the people that adds an element of unpredictability to the story while Bendis keeps her fourth-wall breaking narration as effective as ever. Maleev is producing some of the best comic artwork of his career and when Bendis ramps up the tension in the second half of the issue it’s the artist’s excellent use of shadow and limited colour that takes things to another level, showing just what a quality comic this pair of creators have delivered to us. My big gripe is that not long after we pass the staples the chapter ends and we’re left with page after page of Bendis interviews and fan letters which I would happily swap for 4-6 more pages of story, especially when handing over $4 for the effort. 8/10

Writer: Walt Simonson
Art: John Buscema, Tom Palmer & Max Scheele
Marvel $1.00

Matt C: The Marrina situation comes to a head as her trail of devastation through the high seas leads her to Namor's homeland, Atlantis (although she may just have been pushed in that direction by a devious Doctor Druid). Watching his people die prompts Namor to realise there's only one real way to put an end to all the carnage. A potential solution from Hank Pym offers a faint glimmer of hope, but ultimately Marrina has to be put down, and the weapon Namor chooses to perform the deed ends up putting a fellow Avenger is serious jeopardy. All this and the Council Of Cross-Time Kangs too! High drama all the way, the team barely functioning as an effective unit thanks to Druid's machinations, and at this stage the future of the Avengers as a viable team looks rather rocky. Great writing from Simonson and some marvellous visuals from the art team who are blatantly relishing the opportunity to portray an enormous sea monster in full-on destruction mode. 8/10

1 comment:

Andy H said...

Have to agree with you Tom, that Superboy cover is a cracker!