19 Jun 2011

Mini Reviews 19/06/2011

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: Mark Sable
Art: Paul Azaceta & Matt Wilson
Image $2.99

Stewart R: This is a promising start for the zombie story with a difference as Sable takes his time setting up the mood and situation, resisting the urge to dive straight into the flesh-eating mayhem. Instead we get an insight into military outpost living in Afghanistan as a group of US troops find the going tough amongst the locals who aren’t happy for them to be there, with some who want to see them all leave in body bags. There’s plenty of tension and a good line in banter to be had in this first issue as the various troops deal with their situation with the necessary amount of bravado and the cracks in the chain of command begin to show as the situation degrades and the casualties begin to mount. This is definitely a war comic first and zombie story second at present but I expect that to switch around as the series progresses and Sable has ensured that there are enough character threads to keep this interesting. Paul Azaceta does a great job of capturing the Afghan setting and the day-to-day events that keep the troops busy and Matt Wilson’s reserved colouring really helps to keep things grounded. My only slight complaint is that I found it hard on occasion to tell which characters we were supposed to be following and who we were looking at, partly due to sparse name use from Sable and partly due to Azaceta’s choice of viewpoint. A small niggle in an enjoyable debut. 8/10

Matt C: There’s a rough authenticity to this tale of US soldiers stationed in the turbulence of modern day Afghanistan. Of course, I’m not basing that on any personal experience(!), rather on various TV shows and movies that featured conflicts in the Middle East during recent years. So, yeah, that may be point of reference, so to speak, but the grittiness and realism of both the writing and art feels truthful. Apart from the zombies, obviously, but there’s not much in the way of any walking dead shenanigans in this debut issue. There’s part of me that likes the way the story plays out until the last few pages enough to want it to carry on without the introduction of the horror element, but I’m curious to see how the genres gel together and the serious tone taken suggests there’s plenty of allegorical legroom. If there’s a flaw, it’s that it’s sometimes difficult to differentiate between certain characters, but apart from that this is an impressive opener. 7/10

Writers: Fred Van Lente & Greg Pak
Art: Dale Eaglesham, Andrew Hennessy & Sonia Oback
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: So Marvel give their Canadian superhero team another shot with an 8-part series headed by Van Lente and Greg Pak. The biggest problem straight from the off with this debut is that it involves a big Fear Itself battle as Nekkrod, Breaker of Oceans, attempts to flood the city of Vancouver and Alpha Flight turn up to rescue citizens and try to pour some hurt upon the ‘Worthy’ and his deep sea followers. While the clash itself is well realised by Dale Eaglesham, with each member using their particular skills and powers to good effect with the established inter-team tensions and banter popping up throughout, the big issue for me is that while this event elsewhere really does smack of an end-of-the-world scenario, with heroes being crushed underfoot in vain attempts to turn the tide, Alpha Flight wrap their battle up in quick time and then it’s back to base for a shower. It almost feels that Van Lente and Pak have been forced to include the cross-title event of the summer but would much rather be writing about this team and their relationship with their government and so they quickly brush the planet-wide doom that is unfolding under the carpet somewhat and get on with their idea. Unfortunately it leaves this opening chapter feeling a little forced and has me looking at issue #2 as the make or break point for my continued interest. 5/10

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Art: Alex Ross, Jack Herbert, & Vinicius Andrade
Dynamite Entertainment $3.99

Matt C: Pioneer 10 was shot out into space back in the ‘70s; it appears to have made contact with alien life and now Earth is receiving visitors from beyond along with a plethora of other strange occurrences. That’s where we up to at this point, viewing everything through the eyes of series protagonist Kirby (!) Freeman and his childhood friend Bobbi Cortez. The characterization is well handed, the slow build of the plot effectively utilizes ‘alien invasion’ tropes, but I’m still none the wiser where this series is headed. I guess I could have a look around the web and see what I could dig up, or I could just let things play out the way the creators are intending. I’m opting for the latter at the moment. 7/10

Writer: Judd Winick
Art: Hendry Prasetya & Jessica Kholinne
DC $2.99

James R: After a couple of exceptional weeks, all my books this week felt spectacularly average. I'd been tempted back to Power Girl based on some good word of mouth, but yet again, I find myself uninspired by Judd Winick as a writer. To his credit, Winick is good at highlighting social injustice - this story is really about Rayhan Mazin, an American Arab metahuman labelled a terrorist by the authorities, finding himself going toe-to-toe with Power Girl and Batman. Winick moves things along nicely, but this story had huge potential; the old adage that 'One man's freedom fighter is another's terrorist' could easily be applied to superheroes, and with Batman's presence there was scope to compare Mazin with a man who is essentially a vigilante operating outside the law. Sadly, we don't get any of that depth. It's the perfect example of mediocrity. Hendry Prasetya does a nice job on the art, but with Amanda Conner's outstanding run still fresh in the memory, it doesn't quite compare. I was hugely excited to see that Catwoman will be relaunched after DC's reboot, but then was disappointed to see that Winick will be producing the scripts. I fear his cat will lack claws in the same way that his Power Girl fails to pack a punch. 5/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Salvador Larroca & Frank D’Armata
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: There something that tells me that while Fear Itself - the event and the main book - is Fraction’s ‘baby’, he’s getting a true sense of enjoyment out of writing Tony Stark’s individual fight with his fears and a seemingly unstoppable foe. I loved the flashback beginning to this issue where Tony recalls a hard lesson that his father tried to impart upon his him all those years ago and which now resonates as Paris’ denizens literally lie in ruin and Iron Man is unable to fix the situation. The big triumph through this issue and last is that Fraction and Larroca really manage to convince us that Mokk, Breaker of Faith, is an unrelenting being of pure destruction and that Tony is literally only hanging onto the fight by a thread. Despite the huge casualties already inflicted on the European city, each and every subsequent loss that we witness feels like a big deal and adds yet more weight and responsibility upon Tony’s already burdened shoulders. Fraction rightly keeps the rest of the Stark Resilient story ticking over with brief moments that see Bethany Cabe’s arrival at the fledgling company and that leads to a finale that shows just how bad things have got and just how good a handle Fraction has on this character. 9/10

James R: For this month's Invincible Iron Man, just see my comments from last month! It's a continuation of the Fear Itself storyline which I felt was uncomfortably shoehorned into the book in the previous issue. This time out, Tony continues to battle against the Grey Gargoyle/Asgardian demon, while at Stark Resilient, Bethany Cabe starts work as Tony's security chief. Fraction uses one of his best techniques in flashing back to young Tony and Howard Stark's past - I think Fraction has brilliantly filled out the life of the young Tony, and these pages work the best for me. However, this is outweighed by the almost laughable introduction of a character from a previous arc, who is then promptly killed off! It's almost as if Fraction thought: "Ah, I've still got this guy hanging around... hmm, here's a way to get him out of the way!" Fear Itself has entirely derailed this title for me, and while I'll be taking a look when it returns to just being an Iron Man tale, if the next story arc is as uninspired as this I'll have to step off. 5/10

Matt C: I may not be convinced by Fear Itself as an event at present but I have to admit that Fraction brings the concept into his ongoing Iron Man book in spectacular fashion. There’s a real sense of Tony being out of his depth here, and that this is a situation where neither his brain nor the brawn of his suit will help him beat the odds and save the day. This is emphasised by the way Fraction brings in a previous subplot and effectively ends it in an unexpected but fairly powerful manner. If there’s a problem, it’s one I regularly have when comics attempt to display carnage on a monumental scale, and here we see the vast majority of Parisians wiped out by the mutated Grey Gargoyle. That’s a bit excessive and it’s one of those points where it becomes hard to suspend disbelief. Fair enough if it was some fictional city, but Paris?! That’s the nature of the beast though, and aside from that both Fraction and Larocca are still on fire with this title. 8/10

Writer: Bryan Q.Miller
Art: Pere Pérez & Guy Major
DC $2.99

Stewart R: I do occasionally like it when writers decide to have a bit of fun with the Batman family and of the current Incorporated roster it’s likely to fall upon the shoulders of Stephanie Brown to bring a slice of comedy and entertainment to her crime-fighting shenanigans. Miller decides to cut loose with the international flavour that the new financial Bat status quo brings by having Batgirl take a trip to London in order to liase with the big boss himself. This leads to a team up with Squire that really does emphasise just how good a writer Miller is as the girls attempt to stop the Orphan and his gang of Urchins from messing with time in order to exact their revenge. There’s some great moments where Miller pokes fun at the typical British clichés and almost lobs every one he can think of into the mix to show just how unrealistic those stereotypical views of these fair isles can be sometimes and I couldn’t help but snigger as Squire just shrugs it all off. Pere Pérez does a terrific job once again, capturing all of the fun and humour in some neat and varied panel work, and I’m still looking at that fight sequence where the girls take on the Urchins at the jousting tournament and saying to myself “Yep, that’s how you do that!” Yet another example that this writer fully understands his character and I will miss her adventures when the relaunch comes around. *sob* 8/10

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

Stewart R: The ‘Breaking Point’ arc comes to its conclusion in this issue and I’ll admit that my opinion of what Gillen was doing with this story has changed somewhat since my moments of disappointment a couple of issues back. This finale is not the explosive, grand-standing end that I had predicted that we could see unfold, and Gillen instead opts to draw things to a close in far more reflective and peaceful manner - don’t worry though, this is Uncanny X-Men, there’s still fighting to be seen! He manages to show that Kruun is far more complex a character than he’d initially been portrayed as, though in the same stroke he leaves Kruun’s motives a little cloudy even at the very end where he plays a cruel game with his victims. We never learn just what his final aim was other than playing the games themselves and that prevents the story reaching a crescendo like it could have. It was, however, good to see Gillen branch out with the X-Men roster and keep the likes of Cyclops, Emma Frost and Magneto away from the action in a comic that has focused on them more than most in recent times. I’m still of the opinion that the Dodson’s style is not brilliantly suited to delivering the gritty, tense scenarios that the X-Men face but I can’t fault them on the polish of what they accomplish. At the end of the day this series remains on my pull-list. 7/10

Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Marian Churchland
DC/Vertigo $2.99

James R: So, it looks like this title is soon to depart to Valhalla. The writing is on the wall for Brian Wood's Viking series, and I'll be sad to see it go, but of late I can have a little sympathy with the Vertigo editorial decision. The strength of this title was always that Wood could jump all over Europe and across a huge period of time to tell a dazzling variety of tales. When it's good, it's brilliant, (as with last month's single issue tale) but of late, it's been distinctly underwhelming. 'The Siege Of Paris' was uninspired for me, and this month's tale, 'Thor's Daughter' (nay, not that Thor!), feels like it could have been a whole lot more. The daughter of a popular trader has to stand up to the men who killed her father and seek to take his territory as their own. I expected this comic to reflect on gender issues and give some illumination into Viking justice, but both these things were sadly lacking. I finished reading this, and had all but forgotten about it by the time I put it down. I hope Wood finishes this series on a high and give it the flaming funeral its innovation and uniqueness deserves, rather than a story like this, which melts away like Nordic snow in summer. 5/10

1 comment:

Matt T said...

Might I also offer a recommendation of the superb Screamland, which started it's second series this week. Great script work by Harold Sipe, super artwork and a great storyline. As I got my comics a bit late I'm not 100% sure when it came out, but my lord is was a cracking read. Here's the synopsis;

In a world where movie monsters are real, most of them are just looking for work in an industry dominated by 3D, CGI and other scary acronyms. Forced to hustle their past glory on the convention circuit, Wolfman Carl London and 'Space Path' star Travis Walters put their scheduled appearances aside to stop the screening of a legendary monster porn film that threatens to ruin the careers of feature creatures everywhere.