10 Jul 2011

Mini Reviews 10/07/2011

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.


FLASHPOINT #3
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Andy Kubert, Sandra Hope & Alex Sinclair
DC $3.99

Matt C: Flashpoint (the main title) has been ticking along nicely, but not really leaping out as something more than a decent summer event until this issue arrived and then – boom! – everything clicked into place, brilliantly. Every plot beat is perfectly timed, every revelation eliciting exactly the kind of reaction it was designed for, every twist enormously pleasing (even if some are somewhat predictable)… I think this confirms, in my mind at least, that Geoff Johns is untouchable when it comes to constructing multi-character crossovers. Sure, he sometimes crams too much information into too small a space, and he has a tendency to overcomplicate matters, but when he nails it, he really nails it in a way that no other contemporary writer can match. Alternate reality tales, where we get to see an 'Elseworlds'-type spin on familiar faces, can be a lot of fun, and Johns is now ripping through this one at a fast pace (natch), but what’s more, it feels like it can stand on its own two feet. I’m enjoying the heck out of the Batman Knight Of Vengeance mini, but at no point do I feel I have to read that to get who Thomas Wayne is in this book. Too often we see crossover events that rely on the reader having knowledge of what’s going on in other connected titles, but sometimes it’s nice to sit down and read a book without feeling like you’re missing out on half the story. We’ve not reached the end of Flashpoint, so that could all change, but right now Johns has knocked it out of the park. Knocked it out with some phenomenal help from Kubert, Hope and Sinclair. The art on this book is electrifyingly good, and seeing it on the glossy paperstock really highlights the visual pizzazz at work. I obviously can’t comment on how things will all turn out in the end, but taken as an individual comic this issue is packed with the kind of adrenaline rush that got me into superhero comics in the first place. 10/10


VENGEANCE #1
Writer: Joe Casey
Art: Nick Dragotta & Brad Simpson
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: An interesting first issue here as Casey takes a look at the operations of the Teen Brigade and their influence on the wider Marvel Universe. Magneto’s place on the cover is a little misleading perhaps as his involvement - a nicely realised clash between the Master of Magnetism and the young upstart punk playboy known as the Ultimate Nullifier - appears to be fairly minimal in terms of influence on bigger story and seems to just act as a display piece to show what the boy is capable of. The same goes for Miss America Chavez’s extraction of a strange boy from an abandoned Nevada base as we get to see what powers she has at her disposal through her mission. As usual for Casey the dialogue is neat and punchy and he instils enough intrigue in this first chapter to make the second issue a definite addition to my pull-list. Dragotta’s art has a slightly retro feel about it - he certainly knows how to play around with panel layout to get some terrific results - and his line work is also complimented by Simpson’s colouring which is nicely varied. A promising start. 7/10


FEAR ITSELF #4
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger & Laura Martin
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: While Flashpoint flies this week, Fear Itself continues to flounder. The fact that they’ve killed off one of the most interesting characters to emerge from the Marvel Universe in recent times, even if it only turns out to be temporary, still rankles. It might have worked if this entire event didn’t continue to be shrouded in complete vagueness. There now seems to be a link – a tenuous one, albeit – to Norse mythology in play, but anyone who’s been reading Thor books for a while (in particular the classic clash between Jormungand and the Odinson in Thor #380) will know this idea has been utilized previously in a far, far more effective manner. The same problems as before are present and correct: Fraction’s a great writer, and this issue’s littered with great moments, but they don’t string together to make a cohesive whole - I still don’t know why the ‘Serpent’ is doing what he’s doing, and why he’s employing his chosen methods to achieve it (surely there would be more efficient ways of getting the job done?). The art is still the best thing about this book (by a clear stretch!) and that’s what’s keeping me going, along with the hope that Fraction actually has something unexpectedly brilliant up his sleeve that will make me eat my words! 5/10


HULK #36
Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Patrick Zircher & Jim Charalampidis
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: I look back three years ago and remember picking up this title when we were all in the dark as to who the Red Hulk was. The mystery dragged on for far too long and I eventually lost interest. Now, under Parker’s guidance, this has developed into a great look at one of the surprising mainstay characters of the Marvel Universe as Thunderbolt Ross learns to live as a version of his own former Moby Dick. This issue highlights just how well Parker manages to keep all of the various plot points and villains circulating in Ross’ world involved. This time we see the new incarnation of M.O.D.O.K. making a play to take the Red Hulk down using one of Ross’ former anti-Hulk weapons and by altering the nature of M.O.D.O.K. to a far more calculating and unpredictable foe Parker has ensured that this and any future duels will be battles of the mind and should make for enthralling reads. Patrick Zircher steps in to deliver some awesome artwork while managing to maintain a style similar to that of regular artist Gabriel Hardman and it’s that level of consistency that makes this one of the surprises in Marvel’s current armoury. 8/10


FLASHPOINT: BATMAN KNIGHT OF VENGEANCE #2
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Eduardo Risso & Patricia Mulvihill
DC $2.99

James R: When picking up my comics this week, Paradox's proprietor and all round good-guy Andy H said to me: "I will be astonished if this isn't your book of the week!" Ah, he knows me so well! This book is superb in every way. Regardless of what you think of Flashpoint, this is working as a stand-alone 'Elseworlds' tale. In this middle chapter we join Thomas Wayne in a desperate race through Gotham's underworld to track down the Joker and save Harvey Dent's kids. From the outside, this sounds like the classic Batman tale template, but shot through this dark prism the story takes on a whole new dimension, delivering one of the best final page twists in recent memory. Risso's art has never looked better, and as I've said before, I think he's a perfect fit for Gotham's garish, neon-lit streets and seedy alleys. What he does so well this month is convey a wealth of emotion - check out the last four pages and the shocks they hold. Azzarello has written a dynamic script, but it's Risso's pencils that deliver the emotional gut-punch. A joy from first page to last, and I now can't wait to see how this one plays out. Given what occurs here, it seems that Azzarello will deliver a finale befitting this Batman - one that takes no prisoners. 9/10


THUNDERBOLTS #160
Writer: Jeff Parker
Art: Declan Shalvey & Frank Martin Jr.
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Not satisfied with providing a stellar read in this week’s edition of Hulk, Parker’s at it again in this Fear Itself tie-in episode of Thunderbolts. Due to the cross-title nature of this event and the fact that the powers that be have set up an eventual meeting between the transformed Juggernaut and the X-Men in San Francisco, Parker’s hands are a little tied with where the relationship between Cain Marko and his Thunderbolt team can end up, but thankfully he’s got a little room to show us Songbird, Ghost and Co’s attempts to save Cain from the grip of the Serpent. There’s some additional development with Man-Thing being heavily affected by the forces of Fear assaulting the planet and a few reminders that this team set-up is one of the most unstable (and therefore entertaining) in the comics world today. Declan Shalvey also gets an opportunity to show the level of breadth in his work and the scenes where the ‘Bolts try to free old Juggers via a spirit plane intervention are well realised indeed. No idea where all of this is headed but am glad I’m on the journey at least. 8/10


SUPREME POWER #2
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Art: Manuel Garcia, Michel Lacombe & Sotocolor Studios
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Hyperion is discovered hiding out on Earth; Dr. Spectrum is beginning to look like he’s turning into a clear and present danger to the world. The mature approach to the superhero paradigm continues here as we’re essentially leading up to a confrontation between two heroes (or former heroes) with blood on their hands. As well as the requisite displays of ‘supreme power’ we also get given some interesting ideas put forth on how the appearance of superhumans could change and redistribute the balance of power across the globe. It’s an idea that Warren Ellis, amongst others, has tackled before (most recently in Supergod) but seeing another take on it, especially one that applies the kind of intelligence it requires, is always welcome. It’s great to see someone breathe new life into this property at last and fans of Stracynzki’s initial run should definitely give this a look. 8/10


GREEN WAKE #4
Writer: Kurtis Wiebe
Art: Riley Rossmo
Image $3.50

Stewart R: Twists and turns aplenty in this fourth instalment of the now ongoing Green Wake and we get a little insight into just what the strange existence is for the town’s occupants through Morley’s realisation of why he has come to be in the dank form of purgatory in the first place. There are plenty of dark and violent undertones throughout but Wiebe ensures that this is an integral part of the story with some neat exposition, especially when Morley is explaining why he thinks Ariel is unleashing her bloodthirsty actions throughout the town. There’s some quite chilling scenes which allow the reader to understand just why Carl has ended up in Green Wake and these follow the introduction of a new character that adds yet another layer of mystery to these unfolding events. I’ll admit that I’m not 100% sure what is happening at every turn but I’ve certainly been sucked in to this afterlife detective story and I don’t think I’ll be able to escape any time soon. 7/10


SWEET TOOTH #23
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire & Jose Villarrubia
DC/Vertigo $2.99

James R: I struggled to separate this title and Batman KOV as my book of the week, as once again Lemire delivers an incredible issue. This month it feels that things are starting to fall into place - Walter Fish grows ever-more creepy, and Dr. Singh tells Gus of his fear that Jeppard is the White Demon from his father's prophecies. The devil is in the detail here, and it's a joy to read the palpable tension amongst the characters in these pages - no one feels safe. There's also a beautiful exchange between Gus and Jeppard, whose relationship is, without doubt, my favourite in comics at the moment - it's subtle complex, and really moving. If that wasn't enough we then get a jaw-dropper of a final page - I wouldn't dream of spoiling it, by the Great Googly Moogly, it's shocker! It seems like my two favourite writers (Lemire and Scott Snyder) are trying to make me exclaim louder each week! First Snyder’s finale in Detective, and now this issue of Sweet Tooth, have made me audibly gasp. I love that as a man in my thirties, I can still be astonished and shocked by comics - and it's why I love 'em so much! I know many people like to wait for the trade, but given the last page of this issue, I'm now counting down the hours until I can see what's next for Gus & Co. 9/10


BATMAN BEYOND #7
Writer: Adam Beechen
Art: Ryan Benjamin, John Stanisci & David Baron
DC $2.99

Stewart R: It seems that even the future might not be safe from the September DC relaunch as Terry McGinnis’ origin as the Batman of Neo Gotham may possibly be subject to a few tweaks following the upcoming renumbering (so that’ll be three #1s for this character in the space of as many years if you include the previous miniseries!) as Adam Beechen has said an origin story is in the works and that we won’t believe the twist involved. It’ll be interesting to see how the origin would change, not least because of the involvement of initial McGinnis nemesis Derek Powers through this arc. Considering Beechen’s fine work to date where he’s used the existing characters and villains available to keep a level of continuity, yet developing and expanding the scope to allow for future stories, I’m hoping that things don’t deviate from his initial plans too much. Even here, where things get incredibly desperate during the clash between Batman and Blight, there’s still that terrific feeling that we may not have seen the last of the confrontations between the two enemies and the slight shift in Bruce’s position with his company and legacy shows signs that we’ll be seeing far more of the ‘old man’ in the coming months. 7/10


JONAH HEX #69
Writers: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Art: Jeff Lemire & Dave McCaig
DC $2.99

James R: I'm not normally on board with Western comics - after reading Cormac McCarthy and watching Deadwood (and a host of movies down through the years) I find that comics can't quite get the grit or the epic scope of the Wild West right. However, I'd heard a lot of good things about Jonah Hex from my pals in the Paradox Group, and when I saw that the brilliant Jeff Lemire would be on pencils this month, I knew I had to take a look. Having done so, I've got to implore you to do the same! This is a beautiful one-shot that requires virtually no knowledge or familiarity with Jonah Hex - it's just a simple tale expertly told. In short, Hex manages to track down his transient father, and watches him die a slow death. As he does, the two men discuss the past, fatherhood and responsibility - think Johnny Cash's 'A Boy Named Sue' but with a bullet wounds and cursed faces, and you're halfway there! Gray and Palmiotti do a fine job with the script, distilling Clint Eastwood's badass Spaghetti Western persona into Hex, and it almost goes without saying that Lemire's work is great. For a story that focuses on emotion above rootin', tootin' and shootin', he's an inspired choice (and I loved the nod to Sweet Tooth in the saloon at the start!) This issue shoots at the heart, and shows its aim is straight and true. 9/10


FEAR ITSELF: UNCANNY X-FORCE #1
Writer: Rob Williams
Art: Simone Bianchi & Simone Peruzzi
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Rick Remender has created such a great team and such a great book in Uncanny X-Force that the thought of an event tie-in miniseries AND the writing duties falling into the hands of anyone else really did fill me with a sense of doubt. I shouldn’t have been too worried though as Rob Williams does a fine job in this debut which strangely (but to the story’s benefit) seems to skirt around the main occurrences of the Fear Itself event and deals instead with the effect that the world predicament has on the X-Men and X-Force’s old foes the Purifiers. The danger is that this becomes a simple excuse for a great deal of bloodshed as Wolverine and the others try to put a permanent end to the group of mutant hating zealots, but I think Williams has the skills to ensure that this is a little more cerebral than that. Bianchi and Peruzzi are definitely an art team suited to depicting the affairs of this mutant black ops team and this will certainly be an attractive series whatever unfolds over the next two issues. 8/10

4 comments:

Joe T said...

This week I ORDERED Flashpoint 3 & Fear Itself 4, but also read Flashpoint Batman, Flashpoint Green Lantern, X-Men, and Uncanny, as I was up in Central London for a Grant Morrison signing, and a friend of mine had bought those comics in store so I read them in the queue.

I could not agree with Matt's review of Flashpoint anymore. The issue was perfect, and delivered all the sorts of excitement that should come with a comic book. The cover promises the unveiling of Project Superman, and doesn't it deliver? The Johns/Kubert Flashpoint last son of Krypton is certainly one of the most stand out takes on the character, and the explanation for his appearance actually really works in my opinion. Marvel may do tie-ins better, but theres no question that DC know how to throw a good event. I honestly can't wait for next month with issue 4,issue 5, and then the relaunch/"soft reboot"

Fear Itself? Ehh. This event is lacking. Admittedly I did find myself enjoying this issue, if only for the scenes featuring Steve Rogers(avoiding spoilers, but I really want to talk about it!) For me, the last few pages worth of artwork went downhill. Oh and Tony Stark's "sacrifice"? What a load of sh*t! Would have given it a 6. The Steve Rogers moments were 7 worthy though.

Uncanny X-Men of which tied in to Fear Itself? Utter crap. 5/10. So glad I didn't by it. Lackluster story, made even worse by Greg Land's art.

X-Men. This was pretty decent actually. I like these retcons that arent retcons storyline's which unveil secret history, this one being no exception. Whilst the Evolutionary's origin has been very very predictable, and not too much(until now) has been happening in present day, the flashback sequences with the original X-Men have been superb. This issue was very enjoyable, and I think that anyone that's written this story off as not being essential should take another look at it 1.) because it's good, and 2.) because some seeds for Schism have been planted subtly. 8/10, need to pick this up for myself.

Flashpoint Batman. Meh, this issue didn't do much today. The whole nature of Thomas Wayne's not-so-secret identity continues to confuse me, and speaking of identity's, the reveal of who Flashpoint Joker really is? My first guess before I'd even read a single Flashpoint comic. A fairly bland story with some nice art, rates at a 6 probably, but doesn't have any "7 worthy" moments like Fear Itself did.

Flashpoint Green Lantern? I didn't read the first issue, and..wow. I couldn't bring myself to read the whole of this issue. The art is awful, scenes ripped straight out of the awful movie, but with Sinestro in place of Hal, and Abin Sur in place of Sinestro. Oh and I know movies influence the comics when they're successful, with things such as the holywood suits heavily inspiring the ones seen in the comics afterwards, but, the Green Lantern ones need to stay on the screen. There aren't words for how bad this is to be perfectly honest. 2 out of 10 maybe? It's a shame they got such a crap creative team on the book, as there is an interesting "what if" idea presented here surrounding Abin Sur's earthbound crash.

& speaking of bad, it wasn't until now that I just remembered I read Moon Knight issue 3! For those wondering about the identity of Bullseye? Go with your first guess like I did, and then don't bother with this issue. Post Civil War, Bendis forgot how to write comics, with the exception of a few Siege issues, and this is probably his worst one yet. & Maleev's art is also bad. This issue was abysmal, and without one of the worst comics I've read this year. This issue gets a 1 out of 10. & that's being generous.

Matt C said...

The real question is whether anyone thinks Fear Itself is the superior event to Flashpoint.

Stewart R said...

Not being a reader of Flashpoint I'd give Fear Itself a 1-0 victory! :)

I actually thought Fear Itself #4 started moving things in the right direction this past week and I'm looking forward to seeing where Fraction takes this and what sort of Marvel Universe we're left with afterwards.

Joe T said...

@Matt, sites like Ign & CBR seem too. God knows why!

& @Stewart, I kind of agree Fear Itself did start to get things moving, though it's still lacking plot and substance in my opinion.