21 Nov 2010

Mini Reviews 21/11/2010

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: Grant Morrison
Art: Yanick Paquette, Michel Lacombe & Nathan Fairburn
DC $3.99

James R: For us Bat-fans there's a double dose of goodness this week, with the one-two punch of Batman: The Return and this title. Of the two, I was more taken with this one, as it demonstrates Grant Morrison at his best and shows his Batman ethos at work. Back at the start of his run on Batman And Robin he said that one of the great thing about Batman as a character is that he stands up to so many interpretations - the ‘60s Batman TV show was every bit as valid as The Dark Knight to him. I like his way of thinking and it was a treat to see it applied here. Bruce Wayne's attempt to create a global army of Batmen stops off in Tokyo (in an acknowledged nod to Chip Kidd's 2008 book, Bat-Manga) and a confrontation with Lord Death. The bonus for me here was the inclusion of Catwoman, who Morrison writes with the right mix of mischief and hotness! Paquette's art is great, though I thought Tokyo deserved a more vivid neon colour palette. To round it all off, the issue finishes with a nod to the ‘60s TV Batman, aping the cliffhanger hyperbole pronouncements of William Dozier: “Can Batman solve the Reaper's Riddles? Or will curiosity kill the Cat?” You bet your rear ends I'll definitely be tuning in same Bat-time, same Bat-title next month. 9/10

Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Kev Walker, Frank Martin & Fabio D’Auria
Marvel $4.99

Stewart R: So, milestone issue time, and for that we end up with a bumper-sized comic with the usual bumper-sized price, but are we getting quality and value for the extra money we’re paying? The main story sees a couple of the T’bolts make a break for it while on a ride-along mission with Iron Man, Thor and Steve Rogers, and Parker uses the hero/villain history well to keep the various conflicts interesting. While these knockabouts would seem a little pedestrian in other hands the whole thing has Luke Cage’s frustration and self-doubt seeded throughout and that’s what boots this into another level; honestly, there’s a little unexpected, warm and fuzzy moment in there towards the end that put a smile on my face and shows why this is the Marvel book to be getting into presently. There are a few points to pick at - I’m not buying that Ghost hasn’t been able to glean some news on Stark’s current pursuits while in the field, and Kev Walker’s art looks a little rushed in a couple of places - but surprisingly the reprint of Thunderbolts #1 in the back isn’t a problem for me. I’ve never seen where the team originated from and there’s never much complaint with Bagley artwork, even 13 years on. Some may bemoan half of the comic being given up to old material, and they do have a point, but I’ll still lavish this with a 8/10

Writer: Conor McCreery & Anthony Del Col
Art: Andy Belanger & Ian Herring
IDW $3.99

Matt C: After Juliet's rousing speech last issue, which generated some rebellious blood-letting perpetrated by our band of heroes, things quieten down a little as new characters are introduced into the mix and we get an opportunity to get explore the events that made both Juliet and Hamlet who they are today. The entire issue utilizes a neat visual device whereby drawn stage curtains frame every page - it’s an inspired decision as it not only fits in with the content of this particular instalment but also nods towards the original plays the characters are taken from. The further we get into this series the more apparent it becomes just what an ingenious concept lies behind it; it's one of those occasions where an idea seems so obvious in hindsight you wonder how come nobody ever thought of it before. So, kudos for McCreery and Del Col for getting there first and executing the story with such wit and confidence. 8/10

Writer: Tony Bedard
Art: Tyler Kirkham, BATT & Nei Ruffino
DC $2.99

Stewart R: This title was dangling on the precipice after last month and I’m still not convinced by Bedard’s handling of Kyle Rayner, but this issue has a fair amount going for it. The punch up between Rayner and Sinestro is swift and nicely depicted by Kirkham and I enjoyed the brief history lesson that we get about Planet Qward, the Thunderers and Weaponers which adds a neat bit of backbone to the plot. Bedard’s character work with the Weaponer as a man hellbent on focused and raw revenge is pretty decent too and I hope that he gets opportunity to expand on this area of the story as the arc continues. As a comic read it does feel rather brief, and I’ve a feeling that that’s down to Kirkham’s ‘big style’ of pencil work, but nevertheless this title gets a stay of execution for another month. 7/10

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan & Sunny Gho
Marvel/Icon $2.99

Stewart R: The second issue of any Mark Millar series is usually where the cracks or overblown ego really start to show but this issue of Superior may prove to be an exception to the rule. There’s the expected and acknowledged nod to ‘80s boy-trapped-in-man’s-body flick Big and then Millar thankfully whisks us off to show us what two teenagers really would do if one of them was imbued with super-powers. The dialogue is reasonably crude and teenage-like but it does occasionally read like a man in his 40s writing what he thinks teenage boys sound like. The best bits come when Millar is transposing Simon’s previous struggles with his condition over his current struggles to control and use his powers, and it’s possibly the strongest writing that this ideas man has come up with in a good few years. Yu is really showing us what he can do with Superior, capturing a huge range of emotion on the faces of the characters and then showing off his technical skill with a brilliant splash page that makes next months’ chapter unmissable. 8/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
DC $2.99

James R: I had such high hopes for this book. I was a big fan of Geoff John's first run (forgive the pun!) on Flash, and after Flash:Rebirth I was looking forward to making this a firm fixture in my pull list. Sadly, for now, this will be my last issue. Why? Well, this is obviously just my opinion, but the book feels very flat to me. There's an air of plodding predictability to it, and given the wealth of possibilities Johns could have gone with in featuring a squad sent back from the future to arrest the Flash, it struck me as a particularly dull resolution. For a book about a speedster, it reads as surprisingly sluggish, and worst of all, I found that I just didn't care about the characters or the situation. On the plus side, Manapul and Buccellato's art is beautiful, but it can't salvage the lack of excitement or peril here. Johns' teaser pages about history being corrupted looks like it could be a good arc to come, but I'm going to have to utter the dark words “wait for the trade.” 5/10

Matt C: A rather disappointing finale to this story arc which has me wondering whether my search for a Flash series I can really get behind may have come up empty again. The bit I couldn't get past is the Renegades announcement that their intention is to eradicate crime from history. Now, I've read my fair share of sci-fi stories over the years, and it was my understanding that one of the standard conventions is that going back and changing the past will create an alternate timeline from that point, which then continues concurrently to the existing one. Yeah, I know we're talking about something that's only theorised by top boffins, but it's the kind of thing that’s ingrained in the minds of geeks, so going against one of the accepted norms of the genre kind of jars. This is probably making me sound like one of those hardcore nerds who interrupt interesting talks at conventions to ask about a ridiculously specific continuity question that no one else cares about, but I do believe you have to adhere to the internal logic that's been set up in a shared universe (and anyway, I seem to recall Johns playing around with the notion that certain events in history couldn't be changed in Booster Gold, so having a group going out with the intention of removing all crime from the timestream seems like a whopping contradiction). That aside, Manapal's art continues to win me over; his light, breezy style suits the character, with Buccellato’s restrained colours enhancing the sense of constant movement, and Johns is still an expert at mixing character and action. I'll stick with this book for the time being, and see how it develops during the lead up to Flashpoint, but this was one instance where suspension of disbelief just didn’t to cut it. 5/10

HULK #27
Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Gabriel Hardman & Bettie Breitweiser
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: I picked up issue #25, liked it quite a bit but wasn’t sure it was a title I needed to add to my pull list. Tom P convinced me to give #26 a shot, and again, I liked it, but committing to a new ongoing is a big decision in these cash-strapped times. I figured I’d give it one more issue to change my mind (third time lucky?), purchased this and… yup, I liked it quite a bit. Parker has an incredible knack of taking characters you had next to zero interest in and making them interesting and compelling, and Hardman continues to mark himself out as one of Marvel’s brightest ‘new’ talents. But, as much as I enjoyed it, I’m not ready to make it a permanent fixture in monthly haul. The price point’s the deciding factor really – if Marvel put this out at $2.99 and dropped the amusing but inessential Rick Jones back-up feature I’d probably stick around, but if they’re not going to follow suit when DC drop their prices next year then they’re going to have to realise that peoples wallets will start doing the talking. If I could justify the cost I’d pick up further issues of Hulk, but I can’t find enough reasons to, unfortunately. More than likely I’ll be keeping an eye out for it in back issue boxes in the not to distant future. 7/10

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Wellinton Dias, Eddy Barrows, J.P Mayer, Eber Ferreira & Rode Reis
DC $2.99

Matt C: The first issue after last week's disappointing announcement that Straczynski is leaving early to concentrate on the sequel to Superman: Earth One also turns out to be my last issue of Superman for the time being. I get what Straczynski's trying to do here - send the Man of Steel on a walk across his adopted homeland as a way for him to rediscover what he means to people and what he represents in the 21st century - but the approach he's been taking has generally been a bit too simplistic, obvious and uninspired. There's the odd moment that really hits the spot but overall there's a feeling that this is just going to hammer the same point again and again, ad nauseam. I was excited about 'Grounded' in advance, but even if Straczynski was sticking around I'd still make the same decision to drop this. 5/10

X-MEN #5
Writer: Victor Gischler
Art: Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco & Marte Gracia
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: I remember many moons ago scoffing at this title when it turned up in Previews, especially as it seemed to show Marvel jumping on the horrific bandwagon of everything vampire-related. Well I’m not scoffing now, as this has really proven the age old adage of not judging a (comic) book by its cover. Gischler has handled the presence and menace of the Vampires in the 'Curse Of The New Mutants' with aplomb, making them a true threat to mutant-kind and forcing the X-Men to bring their A-game to the fight. This issue highlights Gischler’s masterful handling of the X-roster in terms of abilities as well as a near-perfect depiction of Cyclops as the tactical leader that he is. I think I was loving this so much that I even laughed out loud at how good a time I was having watching the two sides go at it. Paco Medina and the rest of the art team have been a great pick to start this series off and I’m not sure there are many artists out there who can render a mutant battle much better than he can. Terrific stuff and I’ll happily suck that earlier scoff back in. 9/10

Witer: Matz
Art: Luc Jacamon
Archia $$3.95

Matt C: Sleek, intelligent and bursting with tension, The Killer: Modus Vivendi could possibly be close to outclassing the original miniseries in terms of sheer brilliance. Our unnamed protagonist is in deeper than ever before now he’s mixed up in a huge plot involving various shady organizations and the destabilization of a South American government. Once again, what makes this such a thrilling read is the prefect blend of Matz pulling the meditative cynicism from the mind of the title character and Jacamon’s glossy, vibrant, beautifully composed panels. Archia may have a slightly cavalier approach to scheduling their titles, but they earn my eternal thanks for bringing this exceptional series to the English-speaking market. 8/10

Writer: Kelly Sue Deconnick & Warren Ellis
Art: Emma Rios, Jose Villarrubia , Matt Wilson & Jamie McKelvie
Marvel $3.99

James R: On the surface, I had no reason to pick this book up. I don't get any of the Spider-books, I stopped reading Thunderbolts the moment Ellis stopped writing it, so why get a Norman Osborn book at all? Well, the pitch alone perked my interest: Osborn is in prison (inevitably planning his escape) and it involves being in a maximum security facility with a group of extraordinary criminals, including Xirdal (an alien trapped on Earth since the ‘50s, hell-bent on wiping us out) and Al Apaec (a South American Chimera God). Trust me, it's fun! Osborn is clearly going to start to use everyone around him for his own nefarious ends, while on the outside Norah Winters and Peter Parker (refreshingly not in Spidey threads in a single panel) try to figure out just what the cardboard-haired sociopath is up to. It's a compelling read in and of itself, but the cherry on top is the back-up feature: Warren Ellis & Jamie McKelvie give us the back story of one of Osborn's cellmates - June Covington, 'The Toxic Doxie'. It's brilliant, but what else would you expect from Ellis? Definitely worth a look if you're looking for a break from ‘the norm’. (Jeez, that's my second bad pun of the week. I'm off to beat myself over the head with a Walking Dead compendium until I learn my lesson!) 8/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Randy Mayor & Gabe Eltreb
DC $2.99

Matt C: Almost 60 issues into this series and I think I’ve reached the point where I’m experiencing Lantern fatigue. Ever since Blackest Night was put to bed, this title has become increasingly convoluted, juggling too many characters in a narrative that’s too tied up with Brightest Day to really feel like it’s retaining its own independence. There’s still a lot to like – Geoff Johns is great with the character interplay and Mahnke has a strong command of his subjects – but I’m kind of wishing they’d scale things back now. I yearn for the days when we had a proper Hal-Jordon-up-against-a-villian story; something a bit more concise and without the need to include numerous multi-coloured Lanterns. I’ve devoted a lot of time to Hal since the Green Lantern: Rebirth mini, and I don’t really want to bail out now, but this is getting close to falling into ‘chore’ territory. 6/10

Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art: Brian Hurtt & Bill Crabtree
Oni Press $3.99

Stewart R: The Sixth Gun has been a series that I’ve picked up month after month but never felt the need to write about for some reason. Here, at the end of the first arc, I find myself looking back over the series with a real feeling of respect for creators and publisher alike for making a supernatural Western story work and work well. This finale brings everything with it: terrific tension, a real sense of spectacle from Brian Hurtt’s art, and a sense that this is simply the beginning of what may turn out to be a high-quality, long-running series. Bunn brings all of the plot threads together, spinning some surprises as he does - Mrs Hume’s powers can do that?? Wow! - and showing that Drake Sinclair is the kind of reluctant hero that makes a comic book like this a really interesting prospect. Pick up the trade when you can and then jump in with #7 people. 8/10

Writer: Walt Simonson
Art: John Buscema, Tom Palmer & Paul Becton
Marvel $1.00

Matt C: Nebula pulls Grimlock from the Dinobots from another dimension and deposits him Washington DC where he proceeds to wreak havoc. New Avengers chairman Doc Druid quickly dispatches Thor to the US capital to put stop the rampaging robot. Okay, so it's not really Grimlock, but try telling an old school Transformers fan that they don't look the same! Druid becomes progressively less sneaky and more blatant in his manipulations of the Avengers (who are now down to four active members), while the Kangs discover that Nebula's endgame involves the ultimate weapon that they themselves have been pursuing. It's gripping stuff because you're just waiting for the moment when the team implodes and the sparks start flying - Simonson practically has the reader in the palm of his hand as only he knows exactly when that moment will arrive. Buscema and Palmer still make the magic happen on the page - they way the render some fantastic, contorted facial expressions for Druid is worth the price of admission alone. 8/10


Tom P said...

I'm so excited about Batman Inc. Just need to find time to swing past Paradox and pick it up! Arg. Loads of good stuff out this week. I agree Matt it would be great if Hulk was a 3.99 book, I expect I will stick with it mostly out of love for Parkers writing and it is super good looking!

Stewart R said...

I'm quite enjoying the Rick Jones backup in Hulk but then it helps being a big fan of Mark Robinson's art in the first place. I'll admit I did turn back to the cover after reading Hulk #27 and did wince slightly at the cost.

Oh and Matt, that's not Grimlock, that's Trypticon! ;)

Anonymous said...

Re: (From Kill Shakespeare review) "It's one of those occasions where an idea seems so obvious in hindsight you wonder how come nobody ever thought of it before."

Essentially this has been done before. The basic concept (fictional characters who share a common theme, but would otherwise not have encountered one another as they belong in separate stories) is the core premise of 'Fables'.

- Rob N

Matt Clark said...

Pulling characters from classic literature and placing them in a shared fictional universe isn't a new thing in comics (League Of Extraordinary Gentleman is another example) but as far as I'm aware this approach hasn't been applied to the works of Shakespeare before (unless anyone can tell me otherwise!).