26 Jun 2011

Mini Reviews 26/06/2011

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

Matt C: While he appears to be failing to provide the requisite epic scope in Fear Itself, Matt Fraction's not having that problem in Mighty Thor. It probably helps that there's a tighter focus, a clearer threat and a smaller cast of characters, but there's no sense that the narrative is escaping his grasp; he has complete control of his story and he squeezes every drop of drama and excitement out of it. As we've seen in Fear Itself (which is set after this tale), there's a bust-up between Thor and Odin, and the seeds of that are effectively sown here through dialogue and the artwork. Oh yes, the artwork. There are very few other contemporary artists I'd want to see render a confrontation between Thor, Odin and the Silver Surfer than Olivier Coipel. Electrifying and enticing, the sheer command of the page that Coipel exhibits is frequently awe-inspiring. With Morales's inks enhancing the intricacies of Coipel's pencils and Martin ensuring that every page gleams, it is unquestionably one of the best looking books on the stands. Alongside Journey Into Mystery, Mighty Thor is making a strong case for Asgard being the place to be in the Marvel Universe right now. 9/10

James R: In a word, corking! Fraction's run on everyone's favourite Hammer-throwing Asgardian (admittedly, he doesn't have much competition) goes into overdrive this month. I know Stewart R has already been fulsome in his praise for this title the other day, and all I can do is agree. For your $3.99 you get a magnificent face-off between Thor and Silver Surfer - and a cosmic headbutt! Asgard declares war on Galactus, and if that phrase doesn't make your fanboy monocle pop out... well, this whole blog probably isn't for you! I love it when Marvel toss about the cosmic ideas; this month I loved the idea that the seed of the World Tree is not only a remnant of the last Universe, but also the thing that could end Galactus' hunger once and for all. This is Fraction at his best and yet again, he's matched by Coipel's epic pencils and Morales' tremendous inks. I'm not picking up a lot of Marvel stuff at the moment, but this has quickly established itself as a must-read for me, and I can only implore you all to do the same. 9/10

Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Harvey Tolibao, Sandu Florea & Wil Quintana
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Here we go folks with the big grand finale, and you know what, Pak does a very good job of wrapping up a tale with a somewhat inevitable and predictable ending. The key to this success is showing the magnitude of the eternal task that a man once took upon his shoulders and how love can conquer all... the majority of the time. Things build to a crescendo thanks to Pak’s willingness to bring Galactus into the fold and the high level concepts that govern the union between master and herald, creation and consumption, clash head on with the intense and personal love that Norrin and Suzie have experienced, albeit fleetingly. I was really pulling for Suzie and Norrin through these five instalments and it’s testament to great writing when your heartstrings get tugged in spite of inescapable destiny. The inclusion by Pak of the Future Foundation actually adds to the story rather than distracting from it and serves to highlight the peril that this situation has put the Earth in. The artwork from Tolibao, Florea and Quintana has been a true success throughout this series and I’d really like to see this creative team get opportunity to tackle another Surfer or maybe Cosmic title again. Well worth picking up in its entirety. 8/10

Writer: David Liss
Art: Patrick Zircher & Andy Troy
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Reminiscent of both of The Twelve and The Marvels Project, although more concentrated in its approach and reliant on the staple ingredients of the pulps, Mystery Men is developing into something of a pleasant surprise. You think somebody should tell Marvel because, at least from where I’m sitting, they haven’t made much of a fuss about this book, with unhelpful Previews solicitations and a lack of any major promotion. Okay, so this was never going to be a huge hit, but a little more time taken selling it in advance might have seen me pick up the first issue when it was released rather than going back the next week to purchase it after reading several glowing reviews across the web! But anyway, here am with the second instalment, and while not as instantly impressive as its predecessor (the element of surprise is gone) it’s still a compelling read, as a mystery develops on the streets of New York City during the Great Depression with various early iterations of costumed crimefighters attempting to stop a nefarious villain with designs on ultimate power. Well written with some superb, noirish art from Zircher, Mystery Men is one mini that doesn’t deserve to remain in the shadows. 8/10

Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Scott Eaton, Jaime Mendoza, Rick Ketcham & Frank D’Armata
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: I've not been convinced by Nick Spencer as a suitable replacement for Ed Brubaker on Secret Avengers so far. There are elements I like - there's some sparkling dialogue in his scripts - but while the basic ideas behind his plots are sound, they often enter into realms where suspension of disbelief just doesn't cut the mustard. Last month it was an omega-level mutant in the US capital who had apparently evaded discovery for decades (and his power was somewhat ridiculous when revealed). This time we get a tale that works on the surface (Valkyrie leading SHIELD agents into a battle where the death toll will be high, juxtaposed with a retconned origin for her) but it's predictability and implausibility scuppers it before it really gets going. The lovers on the battlefield angle isn't a bad way to go, but the character's reactions to the potential threat don't ring true and there's very little sense of imminent catastrophe. Eaton's art's quite tasty, there are some effective moments, and Adi Granov's cover is superb; there is potential here but it doesn't look like Spencer will get the chance to find his feet before Warren Ellis takes control. 5/10

Writers: Scott Snyder & Kyle Higgins
Art: Trevor McCarthy & Guy Major
DC $2.99

James R: As perhaps the biggest Bat-fan of the group, this book is definitely ticking all the right boxes for me. I love any 'Old Gotham' tales, and it's brilliant to see that Snyder and Higgins have got Grant Morrison's knack of being able to use all of the Batman family to good effect. This month, I loved the interaction between Damien and one-time Batgirl Cassandra Cain (or lack of it in Cassandra's part!). This fledgling relationship really drove the issue, and gave the finale a tremendous kick. There's also a healthy dose of detective work, and I'm continuing to enjoy Trevor McCarthy's art. My enjoyment of this issue - and the reveal of a new criminal threat - is a bit tempered by the idea that this fine work will be rendered moot by the DC relaunch/reboot in September. I'm delighted both these writers are playing their parts in DC's new beginning, but when you see how well they use the current Gotham toy box, it will be a real shame to lose this part of the current DC Universe which has brought me hours of fanboy enjoyment. Still, three issues of this left, I plan on following this title down all of Gotham's twisted streets. 8/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Butch Guice, Chris Samnee, Stefano Gaudiano, Mitch Breitweiser & Bettie Breitweiser
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: It’s a little obvious to see that Brubaker’s hand has been forced by the Hollywood engine to ensure that Steve Rogers is back in the red, white and blue garb by the time July rolls around. Following one of the greatest runs on this title for many a year where he successfully convinced us - and a sidekick - that another man was worthy to wear the uniform and carry the shield, this talented writer has done very well to essentially undo, or transform, much of what he accomplished. This is the issue where it becomes clear just where Bucky could be headed and I nearly wiped my brow in relief to see that there is at least a future for this character. Tackling this story from three different angles and with three different art teams has really worked well with the ‘Gulag’ sections by Butch Guise being my favourite for the incredibly desperate situation Bucky finds himself in. There are renumberings and new titles aplenty headed our way shortly and we just have to hope that they can match this quality. 8/10

Matt C: The last episode before the title breaks in two: Captain America is being relaunched as a new #1 with Steve Rogers in the costume and the current numbering for this book continues under the new name of Captain America And Bucky, which, from what I can gather, focuses on the two men's relationship during WW2. So, Bucky's inevitable (and exciting!) escape from the Russian Gulag results in him making a decision about his future (as well as giving Rogers the push he needed to get back in the iconic stars'n’stripes suit). It's gripping stuff with Guice and Samnee splitting art duties, and while their styles don't really gel, they both have plenty to recommend them (although Guice's work is where my preference lies, particularly when joined with Guadiano & Mitch Breitwesier’s gritty inks and Bettie Brettweiser's deliciously moody colours). Brubaker is at point now where constructing thrilling episodes of Sentinel-of-Liberty-related adventure is almost second nature, and his grasp and understanding of the characters he utilizes is near-definitive in contemporary Marvel. With recent events in Fear Itself there's a worry that the Winter Soldier will be taken off the table for the near future - I hope this isn't the case, as his transformation from dead sidekick to tortured warrior has been one of the main high points for Marvel in the 21st Century. 8/10

Writers: Jeff Parker, Joe Caramagna, Jen Van Meter & Frank Tieri
Art: Declan Shalvey, Frank Martin, Valentine De Landro, Chris Sotomayor, Eric Canete, Fabio D’Auria & Matthew Southworth
Marvel $4.99

Stewart R: $4.99?? They’re robbing us blind! Do they think we’re made of mon... oooooh actually, nope, sorry, this is worth every darn penny! Splitting a bumper issue into four parts and chucking an extra dollar or two at the price tag often leads to a comic that entertains for three-quarters of the time and disappoints for the remainder, but everyone who contributes here adds something to the greater Thunderbolts future. Parker and Shalvey arguably deal with the most important chapter as the new Thunderbolts 2nd team attempt to find the opportunity of freedom amongst the carnage of the Raft’s decimation and I like the way that Parker sets wheels in motion that will keep future pages of T’bolts issues stacked with tension. Moonstone’s run in with the survivors of the women’s wing and a look at what Crossbones does with the opportunity of a jailbreak are well realised instalments but the pure highlight is Van Meter and Canete’s depiction of Warden Walker’s attempts to salvage the situation as best he can with whatever tools and manpower he can come across on the way. Balancing Ghost’s withdrawn demeanour with Walker’s own icy facade works well as we get to see how both of them view the issue of the incarceration and rehabilitation of inmates from two differing perspectives, and it really does show just how wide and deep Parker’s groundwork on this title has led the team roster to be. In a week of Marvel-ous consistency this bumper effort garners an 8/10

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