29 May 2011

Mini Reviews 29/05/2011

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.

This week also includes the penultimate instalment of Matt C's Secret Wars Project.

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Art: Alex Ross, Jack Herbert & Vinicius Andrade
Dynamite Entertainment $1.00

Matt C: There’s not an awful lot of indication in this taster issue exactly where the series proper will be heading, but you do get an immediate sense of the sheer love and respect for the genius of Jack ‘King’ Kirby that will be evident all the way through. I doubt anyone will claim that Kirby’s cast-offs and later creations were any match for the like of the Fantastic Four and the New Gods, but the man knew how to draw from the well of possibilities in the superhero genre better than almost anyone else, so even his ‘lesser’ ideas still fizzed with a boundless energy and imagination. Busiek and Ross, in their first collaboration since the groundbreaking Marvels, have scooped up a collection of the characters created by Kirby that are probably unfamiliar to most comic readers today, the idea being to construct a universe where they all coexist (a Kirbyverse?) and then launch a narrative right the way through it. There are only 12 pages of story with the briefest of flashes of the characters we can expect to see going forward but it’s handsomely produced and appears to possess some definite potential. Of course, this could all head down the same road as Project Superpowers (nice idea, dull execution) but I’ll certainly be giving it a look and for only a dollar you’d be wise to pick this up and make your own decision. 7/10

Writer: Sean McKeever
Art: Filipe Andrade
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: And so this miniseries draws to a close with a relative bang instead of a whimper but I’m not 100% sure whether this has been as good as it could’ve been. McKeever does a decent job of selling Onslaught’s current limitations in order for it to be believable that this team of heroes - Secret Avengers and the Young Allies - are just barely capable enough of tackling a foe of this magnitude. He also maintains an emotionally charged level of tension thanks to Rikki’s crisis as she has to decide whether to give up the adoptive world that had finally welcomed her in order to save those that she loves. There are a few missteps; I’m not sure Steve Rogers would go bounding off the millisecond everything looks clear when dealing with a villain as slippery and deceptive as Onslaught and Andrade’s art occasionally makes it difficult to tell what has transpired - I’m still no wiser to what fate has befallen El Dragon despite several rereads. Niggles aside, the ending is gloriously vague in that brilliant comic book way, either offering us hope of further adventures or signing this particular chapter of Rikki and Steve Rogers’ lives off in reflective style. 7/10

Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Rafael Albuquerque & Dave McCaig
DC $2.99

James R: I should be the last geek you'd find reading a vampire book - as I may have mentioned before, I tend to find vampires as a concept pretty old hat (I seem to be one of the few people on Earth who finds True Blood incredibly tiresome!). However, the American Vampire creative team have really surprised me, and after reading this issue I feel entirely sold on the concept, but more importantly, by Scott Snyder's take on it. Rather than sticking with the familiar tropes, Snyder is introducing different vampiric strains into the comic. At the moment, this WW2 arc sees Preston, Sweet and the covert platoon facing off against a strain of vampires that's terrifyingly feral - think Nosferatu meets Geiger's Alien - and this makes for a compelling and creepy read. Snyder is on incredible form, but in this visual medium his words gel perfectly with the art of Albuquerque and McCaig. The art on this book is breathtakingly lush, and Albuquerque is doing an incredible job of conveying the atmosphere of Taipan and the dark overtones of the narrative. The arc is building to high-tension finale and better still, it's clear that Snyder has got plenty more history to explore, with a vampire mythology that's refreshingly original. If you're not on board with this book yet, don't be afraid to take a bite! 8/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Adam Kubert, Mark Roslan & Justin Ponsor
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: When it was announced I suspect a fair few people dismissed this series as nothing more than a cash-in on the popularity of two of Marvel’s most recognisable characters. I have to admit that, even with Aaron and Kubert onboard, I had my doubts, but their names where enough to get me to give the first issue a whirl, and here I am, roughly a year later, thoroughly pleased that I made the journey. Ostensibly a hop, skip and jump through the timestream, at its core the series has really been about the unlikely friendship between Wolvie and Spidey, two polar opposites that have somehow, against the odds, formed a unique connection. The story’s been told with real wit and invention, but what’s made it so successful is an emotional core that felt genuine and honest, nowhere more so than the final few pages of this issue. Then there’s the art from Kubert: I don’t care what dimension you’re from, you can’t knock the quality of the imagery displayed in this book. Along with Roslan, and Ponsor, Kubert’s produced on hell of a good looking series that has proven to be thoroughly rewarding for those of us prepared to drop the cynicism for the duration. 8/10

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

Matt C: A rousing penultimate episode with the battle between the forces of good and evil now in full swing. There are casualties along the way as Hamlet finally sees his role clearly and attempts to convince Shakespeare to join the fray and fight alongside those that still consider him their saviour. There’s a fair amount of melodrama on display but the whole thing sets the pulse racing through pure excitement as the denouement appears upon the horizon. A few ‘characters’ make an appearance here that are most definitely not Shakespearean from whatever angle you look at them, and while that may not sit well with some their inclusion didn’t bother me when considering the general audaciousness and originality inherent in this concept. As for the art, although some of the smaller panels feel a bit inert, when Belanger gets to cut loose on a wider canvas, he does so in grand style, particularly when conveying the carnage and mayhem on the battlefield. For a series I initially overlooked, Kill Shakespeare has turned out to be an unexpected treat. 8/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Tom Fowler & John Rauch
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: It was a little foolish of me perhaps to assume that Remender would hit the ground running with this ‘Flash Thompson and his Symbiote Spy Suit’ comic after crafting an unmissable series with Uncanny X-Force. Unfortunately, while Flash being willingly bonded to one of Spider-Man’s most dangerous foes is a very neat premise indeed, I’m starting to find myself picking at little bits of the plot and not being grabbed by the plight that Remender puts Flash and his various friends into. For me, it feels like the descent into the dangerous realm of the symbiote taking influence and control on our hero has been far too quick and I would have liked to have seen it been a far slower and subtler journey to Flash’s dark side. The inclusion of Spider-Man this early is also a little disappointing as I felt that we could quite easily get through the first arc without having to rely on his appearance to ramp the tension up. Similarly disappointing is the changing of the guard on art duties from Tony Moore to Tom Fowler, and Fowler’s heavy inking style is not to my personal taste. I’ll be seeing the arc through to next month’s finale and then that’s me done with this title. 5/10

Writer: Joe Casey
Art: Mike Huddlestone
Image $2.99

Stewart R: So this isn’t quite on a par with the first two issues but it’s still a cracking read of bombastic, violent superheroics as Baker comes under attack from the lethal White Lightning in a literally electric face-off. Thanks to Huddlestone’s brilliantly varied art-style there’s a great manic pace to the ensuing chase sequence that’s topped off with a lovely moment of sombre reflection from both writer and artist. Casey bookends the chase between plot continuation for luckless lawman Arnie B. Willard and developing the uneasy alliance between Baker’s rogue’s gallery as they try to track the hulking hero down via his usual haunts, attempting to destroy his life piece by piece. I think that’s where the appeal of this comic truly lies: it’s tackling such a range of styles, emotions, characters and story mechanics and doing it in a very successful, effective fashion without getting overwhelmed. The dark comedy edge is what ties all of the parts together but thankfully Casey is showing that there’s far more to this than crass humour and smile-inducing depravity. 7/10

Writers: Various
Art: Various
DC/Vertigo $7.99

James R: Well I never - it's a lesser-spotted anthology book! Ladies and gents, this is a rarity, and you don't need to be a comics expert to see why. This book is a costly indulgence but one that has some absolute gems. It is the curse of anthologies that you get a mixed bag - some stuff that's stupefies, and some stories that are electrifying. In the latter category here are Jeff Lemire's Ultra: The Multi-Alien, which shows that in the hands of a great talent there's no such thing as a bad character. The part man-part-alien recently mocked by Conan O'Brien (he hoped that his creator had been "Fired...then murdered.") is transformed here with an amazing tale about identity and loss. As I've said before, Lemire is the master of the heartstrings, and it's clear from this story that after Sweet Tooth is done, DC should give him carte blanche to write whatever the hell he wants! I also loved the introduction to Azzarello and Risso's Spaceman, which looks like it will be a continuation of Azzarello's 100 Bullets with its reflection on humanity's dark side, whilst pulling in a host of sci-fi tropes and a healthy dose of dystopia. Next to these, some of the other tales read like filler, and in this fanboy's opinion it would have been wiser to run three stories at $3.99 rather than six at $7.99. The tales mentioned warrant a 9, but taken as an overall package, I have to give this... 7/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales & Laura Martin
Marvel $3.99

James R: Last week I took Matt Fraction to task over Invincible Iron Man which was so dull and lifeless that I could barely believe that it was the same book that he'd started with such aplomb. Credit where due this week, as it seems that his writing mojo is alive and well in the pages of Mighty Thor. After a great first issue, Fraction keeps up the pace this month as Thor and Sif attempt to train a new Brigade Of Realms whilst the Silver Surfer turns up in Broxton to herald the arrival of you-know-who. For someone who had previously been ambivalent about Thor, I'm finding this an addictive read, with Fraction not overwhelming the reader with the cosmic elements of the story, and developing a great mystery with Odin and the seed of the World Tree. The art from Coipel is as slick as you'd expect, and the sneak peak at next month's cover on the final page promises that we're in for a breathtaking face-off next month. I'll certainly be back for more of this Asgardian epic. 8/10

Matt C: The second issue confirms the first wasn’t a fluke as Fraction shows not only that he’s working with large, ancient canvas packed with weird and wonderful characters, but also that he has the ambition to keep things epic in scale. But, even with all the ominous events taking place in Asgard, the writer still finds the time to bring in the perspective of the ‘common man’, which helps ground things in a semi-believable reality, as well as offering a nice juxtaposition between the lives of the mortals and the immortals. And then the silver Surfer whips into view to announce the imminent arrival of Galactus - Fractions’ not messing around here! Neither is Coipel for that matter – his extravagantly beautiful panel compositions, lushly inked by Morales and given a seductive sheen by Martin’s colours, are a sight to behold. Fantastic work all round. 8/10

Stewart R: It’s always good when a comic puts a smile on your face either due to comedic touch or, as is the case of Mighty Thor, just through the sheer pleasure of reading something so damn good. Fraction has really found an enjoyable sense of epic scale in his writing on this new title, skipping from huge training battles against ungodly monsters, terrifically tense standoffs between the Asgardian elite and visits from incredibly powerful beings heralding the arrival of even greater threats. There’s a lot going on but it doesn’t feel anything like a labour to read through thanks to his succinct dialogue and of course the eye-wateringly beautiful artwork of Coipel, Morales and Martin. I’m a big supporter of the monthly format but, by the gods, this will be one attractive trade when it eventually gets bundled together! Get down your local comic book store and pick up the first two issues of this series if you haven’t already - I doubt you will be disappointed. 9/10

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson & Justin Ponsor
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: While my continuing faith in Uncanny’s place on my pull-list hasn’t been restored by this month’s offering, Kieron Gillen has certainly managed to get the hairs on the back of my neck up with the ending to #537. The big problem for me is just how easy he has the X-Men drawn into such a dangerous predicament in their own home as Kruun pursues his blood vendetta against Colossus and Kitty. I appreciate that after almost 50 years of history it must be hard to come up with threats and scenarios that can elevate the tension, but it occasionally becomes farcical to have these mutants on the back foot - or even bested in the initial stroke - on their home turf time and time again. Looking past that problem for one moment I must say that the tension produced as Kruun’s plan unfolds is gripping and the Dodson’s do a good job to sell the feeling that Utopia is almost paralysed during the attack. I’m sticking with it for now, not least because it’ll be interesting to see how the upcoming Schism affects this main book. 6/10

Writer: Jim Shooter
Art: Al Milgrom, Steve Leialoha & Christie Scheele
Marvel $0.75

Matt C: At last, as he reaches the penultimate issue of the series, Shooter nails it. Mostly he’s admirably attempted to say something profound about certain aspects of the human condition through the superhero medium, and up to this point, while a couple of astute insights have sneaked through, he’s failed to really achieve his aim and elevate this series into something ‘important’. Here though, he succeeds (and, yes, this is all relative, I’m not trying to claim this is high art or anything). The Beyonder’s frustration reaches fever pitch as he comes to the conclusion that human beings appear to treasure life so much because it is so brief and fragile. This concept seems beyond his grasp and so he decides perhaps the annoyance known as the multiverse should be wiped out once and for all. Some of the superhero cameos appear to have been shoehorned to sell more comics but on the whole we're given the most believable depiction of the Beyonder so far by, ironically, presenting him at his most human. The art remains perfunctory with occasional flashes of visual ingenuity here and there, but even factoring in that this is still a very good issue. 8/10


The Fed's Files said...

I live for these review. LoL. Now that that's out of the way. I'm pretty much done with Uncanny X-Men for this arc at least. I really don't care for Breakworld. Dodson's art is awesome though. Then for VENOM, I thought that was going to be good too. I haven't really gotten into it, but but now I won't. I mean, Remender is awesome, so too bad. Also Thor and Spidey/Wolvie is awesome! Kubert's art is just the beez neez.

Tom P said...

Im glad you liked ASTONISHING SPIDER-MAN & WOLVERINE #6, Matt. I haven't been buying it mainly because of the time and money. I have been Trade waiting for this so I will just order that bad boy. Do you think it will enhance the read? The Mighty Thor was completely awesome. This is what I was hoping from Fraction. Love it. I WILL have to get the PTB, Coipel is knocking it out the park. I allways get his hardcovers, he is the best.

Stewart R said...

Cheers for the comment Fed File's; it really is a shame about Venom as there's bags of potential there.

And may I just congratulate Matt C on reaching his 300th post for the blog. Quite the acheivement sir. So do we have to plan a renumbering of you posts now? ;)

Matt Clark said...

Yes - coming this summer, Matt C's No.1 post! Because you demanded it.

Joe T said...

Knew I was going to regret not getting The Mighty Thor or Kirby:Genesis this week! For me this week it was Detective Comics, Captain America, FF, and Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern Emerald Warriors.

Geoff Johns has plummeted in regards of his writing ability, as he has written anything really good since Blackest Night 8. Green Lantern use to be the best title on the market, now it's a chore to read, and the crossover with the other titles is absolutely abysmal!

FF was quite nice though. It annoys me we already have a stand in artist, but man did Barry Kitson do a great job on this issue? We see the black variations of Sue, Alex Power, and Spider-Man's FF suits, and they really are something. Everyone that's not overly impressed with the Spidey FF costume should be pleasantly surprised at how great the suit looks with the colours are reversed.

Captain America is back on high form again, with Brubaker set to close his Bucky Cap-centric tales with a bang! The dividing it into 3 separate stories works surprisingly well, and I was also pleasantly surprised by how well Chris Samnee can do darker scenes, and I am definitely looking forward to him on the title full time when it becomes Captain America & Bucky.

Detective Comics was book of the week though, and absolutely phenomenal. Whilst I think the Dick Grayson Batman has been handled very well in general, it's in this issue that the nail is finally hit on the head, and Grayson's Batman fully emerges in his own right, with his own attitude separate to Bruce's, without being too flippant & happy. Absolutely great stuff.

Matt Clark said...

I agree with you about the Green Lantern title, Joe - it's lost the magic it once had - but I wouldn't say Johns' writing ability has completely deserted him as some of his recent Flash stuff has been very good. And wasn't Superman: Secret Origin post Blackest Night (or some of it at least)? That was some of the finest comics work he's done!

I agree with you on FF, Cap and Detective too - didn't have the time to review them this week but all three are worthy of praise.

Joe T said...

@Matt, I've only read the first issue of Superman: Secret Origin, which I did think was very good, although I remember that coming out around the time of Blackest Night

The first 6 issues of his current Flash series were okay, but nothing special in my opinion. Issue 7 wasn't bad, but that's where I dropped the title, and seeing as issue 12 is the final issue of the series, I may head back and get the back issues just to complete the run. Whilst on the topic of Johns, Flashpoint #1 didn't especially impress me, though I think it's better than Marvel's crossover effort this year, with Civil War.