2 Jan 2011

Mini Reviews 02/01/2011

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.

Writer: David Finch
Art: David Finch, Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair
DC Comics $3.99

James R: Hush, anyone? As a Bat-fan I was always going to take a look at David Finch's new book seeing that it marked not only his new regular pencilling gig but also his first chance to show his skills as a writer. Naturally, it looks fantastic, but as a read, well, I sensed I'd been here before. Back when Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee started their epic Hush storyline it began with Batman reminiscing about a childhood friend - just like he does here - who turns out to have an intrinsic part to play in the plot - as they appear to have here - and then saw him facing down Killer Croc... yeah, you guessed it. A couple of years ago I probably would have back flipped over this title, but with Grant Morrison still pulling surprises and now Snyder and Jock's Detective Comics joining in, this felt a little pedestrian in comparison. There's nothing wrong with it, but I'll be hoping for a gear change during the next two issues. 6/10

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Steve McNiven & Dave McCaig
Marvel/Icon $2.99

Stewart R: Arrrggggghhhhh!!! Mr Millar, you do confound me so! There are moments of greatness in this final issue but at the same time there are elements that nag at me and prevent me from loving this comic. It’s certainly no spoiler to say that the twist is well thought out, hinting at a far more interesting bigger picture, and that the President has a fantastic moment which I didn’t see coming and actually made me chuckle. Unfortunately the big showdown between Chief Morrow and Nemesis fails to reach the thrilling heights that I was hoping for with excuses, contrivances and luck playing into the action in order to reach a point predicted by the titular super-villain issues ago. McNiven and McCaig’s art is steady for the majority of the finale apart from the same showdown where it all gets a little muddy. It is miles away from being a failure but was only a few short steps from being an excellent ending. 7/10

Matt C: I guess it was inevitable that this series would finish off with some sort of twist ending and while I’ll admit it is a very clever one there is an overriding sense that the ending came first and everything else was drawn back from there. Millar’s a smart guy and knows the tropes and conventions of the superhero genre like the back of his hand, but there’s a nihilistic streak that often appears in his work, and sometimes that makes sense within the context of the story, other times – as in Nemesis – it’s completely off-putting. Nemesis has been a cleverly constructed but ultimately soulless enterprise. It’s probably worth a look to admire the execution (and to try and figure out how Tony Scott can turn this into a two-hour movie) but you may feel a little empty after reading it. 6/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Doug Mahnke, Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Mark Irwin & Randy Mayor
DC $2.99

Stewart R: Some out there may bemoan the actual lack of a Green Lantern anywhere betwixt these fine pages, especially after last issues big reveal, but I really did enjoy this close and intimate look at the embodiment of Rage and how Atrocitus and the Red Lanterns don’t quite fit into the ‘villain’ category in the same way as, say, Sinestro does. The Butcher is the last free entity and evidently an important one considering Atrocitus’ blood pact with certain Green Lanterns to prevent the mysterious prophecy coming true, so giving a whole issue to this encounter with Atrocitus and the Spectre feels well timed. Johns appears to like the Spirit of Vengeance having used him during Blackest Night and he does a fine job of keeping the struggle fairly brief, steering clear of the issue that the Spectre has near limitless power (so ‘struggle’ should hardly factor into any mention of the universe’s judge, jury and executioner!) Speaking of which, Johns does pick well when looking for earthbound backdrops and situations to tie us to these alien visitors and their experiences! The art as ever is a treat to the eye and colourist Randy Mayor is the man when it comes to beautiful contrast between the various coloured Corps and beings. Comic of the week for me folks! 9/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Scott Kolins & Brian Buccellato
DC $2.99

Matt C: I’m so glad I stuck with this title after the shaky end to the first arc because this was a terrific issue. It focuses solely on Eobard Thawne, aka the Reverse Flash, aka Professor Zoom, as he invades the time stream repeatedly, attempting to eradicate any instances during his past that derailed his future. It’s brilliantly conceived and it’s structured in a way that avoids confusion (always a pitfall in time-travel themed tales), although a second read-through would probably reveal just how ingenious Johns’ script is. I’ve never found Kolins style particularly to my tastes but here he seems to have developed his style into something much more robust, punchy and energetic, and thus it becomes far more palatable. Basically this is a real winner, and it’s one of those comics that sits in a title’s continuity but has a self-contained quality to it, meaning it could be picked up and enjoyed with only minimal knowledge of what’s going on in the world of Barry Allen. Or, to put it more simply, give this issue a punt, it’ll be more than worth the $2.99 you’ll plonk down. 8/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Val Staples
Marvel/Icon $3.50

James R: This is normally the title that I will praise to the rafters - since being introduced to the Brubaker/Phillips team by Matt C during their superb turn on Sleeper, I've gone on to become a huge fan of their hardboiled crime title Criminal as well as Incognito, which features the murky pulp hero/villain adventures of Zack Overkill. Every issue is infused with either a magnificent plot twist (last month had two!) or a brilliant bit of Brubaker characterisation. This month, well, it's lacking both of those, but that's just because it's a transitional issue - Brubaker has to get Overkill back into the criminal underworld, and he does so via a bucketload of action (illustrated with usual aplomb by Sean Phillips, who also provides a stunning cover.) However, taken as an individual issue, it didn't grab me like it usually does. No doubt it'll read really well in a trade, and it's still head and shoulders over 95% of comics on the shelves, but by the title's own high standards, it lacked the dynamism seen previously. 7/10

Matt C: With Zack Overkill now going undercover to bring down a rogue S.O.S. agent, and considering the creative team involved, there is always the danger that we could see this title covering the same ground as the brilliant Wildstorm series Sleeper. Fortunately Brubaker is far too intelligent to repeat himself and by injecting heavy pulp overtones into the proceedings he ensures Incognito remains an entirely different proposition. Besides, Zack is still far too morally-challenged to ever get mistaken for the more troubled Holden Carver from Sleeper. Phillips and Staples’ visuals continue to create a dangerous, sleazy and seductive world for the characters to inhabit, bathing things in dark shadows and lurid colours. Incognito is a scandalously entertaining walk on the wild side of superhero (pulp) fiction. 8/10

Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Jock, Dave Baron & Francesco Francavilla
DC $3.99

Matt C: This is the kind of Batman story I’ve been missing. Snyder doesn't give us any of that pretentious bollocks we’ve been getting elsewhere in the Bat-universe (not saying any more than that!), just an honest-to-goodness, gripping Caped Crusader tale that employs all the elements I want from the character: visceral action, sleuthing, weird and wonderful crooks, and a sense that Gotham City is a place that breeds danger in its multiple dark corners. Jock’s scratchy, shadowy style fits this character like a glove and his time as a cover artist on a number of titles really comes into effect for some gloriously evocative splash pages. The back-up story, scripted by Synder and illustrated in a delightfully vivid fashion by Francavilla, is equally good, tying into the main events rather than being a completely unrelated tale that has you questioning its inclusion. Seems like someone figured out how to use the whole back-up thing in the correct manner again just as DC decided to jettison them and go back to the $2.99 price point! Oh well. At least we can take comfort in Detective being in a safe pair of hands once more. 8/10

Stewart R: Matt C and James R’s reviews of #871 along with support from other PCG members convinced me that I should pick Detective up once again and I’m glad that I did. With Batman having gone global as an institution it’s a relief to see that Snyder is still managing to keep the Bat in the shadows with Dick Grayson seeming to prefer the old tried and tested methods of crime-fighting in Gotham, only resorting to new hi-tech toys when the situation really requires it. The ‘Black Mirror’ storyline is also proving to be quite a brooding affair with secretive auctions of the very worst props and items from Gotham’s darker past keeping the page-turning at a high and eager rate. Jock has captured the oppressive and lonely feel of Gotham’s underbelly and managed to use the creepiness that gas masks can project to a truly effective and freaky level. With only one issue to go of this arc I’m now intrigued to see how Snyder will leave things and just how and if Dick will escape his latest predicament. 8/10

James R: I was hugely impressed with Scott Snyder's first issue on Detective, but this month sees it hit it’s stride. Dick Grayson starts his investigation of the nefarious Mirror House, employing the classic Batman ruse of a cunning disguise (though using a flash-o-rama smart mask rather than a fake nose!). Snyder really starts to up the darkness ante by conveying a sense of decay and malevolence that you seldom see in mainstream comics. By point of comparison, last month Paul Cornell opened his Batman And Robin tale with a meeting of a secret society but the difference between these books is massive. Jock's art is superb again, with his illustration of Gramercy Row looking like the worst parts of Detroit, and I'm really loving the back-up (soon to be the main tale), illustrated by Francesco Francavilla, who brings a striking colour palette to the intriguing Commissioner Gordon tale. I've now got everything crossed that Snyder has got a whole city of dark Gotham tales to tell. 8/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Davide Furno & Giulia Brusco
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Matt C: Another issue of Scalped that zeroes in on one particular member of the cast – this time corrupt FBI agent Bayliss Nitz – and once again we get to marvel at the way Aaron gets under the skins of the kind of characters you would cross several streets to avoid in real life, making their own personal hells such compelling places to visit. Regular guest artist Furno brings his shadowy, violent style to the proceedings and it’s a completely riveting read that’s topped off with a heavy dose of brutal irony. Scalped is one title guaranteed never to disappoint. 8/10

1 comment:

Matt Clark said...

Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted a lack of Marvel books reviewed this week. This wasn't intentional on our part - apparently the delivery firm Diamond use had a week off between Christmas and New Year (a strange decision for such a company) so while DC books got through before Christmas, we have to wait until next week to get our hands on Marvel's goods (not sure if this is a UK-wide problem?). Anyway, don't go thinking we're boycotting the House of Ideas - not yet, anyway! ;)