7 Aug 2011

Mini Reviews 07/08/2011

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: Greg Rucka
Art: Marco Checchetto & Matt Hollingsworth
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: If you need someone to revamp the Punisher and bring him back as a player in the Marvel Universe proper, hiring a writer who’s got a good familiarity with crime fiction and has knack of working with street-level characters is the way to go. I can think of several contenders for that, Greg Rucka being one of them, so it’s a good move on Marvel’s part to give him this gig. On a conceptual level, the Punisher has never really appealed to me - in the wrong hands he’s a one dimensional Charles Bronson with a skull on his chest – but in the last decade some exceptional work, primarily by Garth Ennis, has been done with the character. That was in the MAX Universe, and to be honest I don’t know how interested I am seeing Frank Castle dispensing justice in a spandex-clad world anymore. This ‘debut’ issue is well written, atmospherically rendered (although some of the opening scenes are a bit confusing) but nothing that suggested I won’t be getting something I haven’t seen before. So while it’s good, it’s not good enough to get me to continue reading about a character I’m not hugely fond of in the first place again. 7/10

Writer: Roger Langridge
Art: Roger Langridge & Rachelle Rosenberg
Boom! Studios $1.00

Matt C: His Muppet Show book for Boom! first highlighted for me that Roger Langridge was a comics writer with a real skill for extracting guffaws from his audience (which isn’t as easy as you might think). Meeting him at his own little stall at the Bristol Expo, and picking up a couple of his indie comics, just reinforced that opinion. Okay, so he can do ‘serious’ too (see recent efforts for Marvel) but there’s no doubting that Langridge knows how to tickle the funny bone. His latest effort, Snarked, takes its cue from Lewis Carroll’s poem, The Hunting Of The Snark, reeling in a Laurel & Hardy-esque duo to take centre stage: a walrus always looking for a scam and a dimwitted carpenter who follows him, unquestioningly, into one scrape after another. The art has a joyous, mischievous quality to it, and the gags come thick and fast, with barely any falling flat. Tremendous fun and a steal at a dollar. 8/10

Writer: Kurtis Wiebe
Art: Riley Rossmo
Image $3.50

Stewart R: Image’s campaign of new material for 2011 is proving to be a complete success and titles such as Green Wake have been leading the charge. This particular issue was initially going to be the grand finale of the miniseries but thanks to a good portion of critical acclaim it now acts as the end of the first arc and provides some small tease as to what may happen leading into the second. Wiebe has done a marvellous job of keeping that air of mystery lurking around the streets of Green Wake throughout and even here, when he offers up an explanation of how this town works and why it might exist, it’s done very subtly and still raises some playful questions. The constant themes of former lives, deaths and forgiveness have been kept circulating and the odd glimpses that Wiebe and Rossmo have given us of Morley’s past as he tries to solve the secrets of the town and the reason why he finds himself an inhabitant have really helped to tie everything together. I’ve been very impressed with Rossmo’s art as he’s exhibited a calmer, steadied style to that I experienced with Cowboy Ninja Viking where ‘frenetic’ was the order of the day and that middle splash page is certainly a highlight of the series to date. Great stuff and I’m looking forward to more in October. 8/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Andy Kubert, Jesse Delperdang & Alex Sinclair
DC $3.99

Matt C: I enjoyed the hell out of the last issue of Flashpoint and I think one of the main reasons for that is it focused mostly on three characters: Flash, Batman and Cyborg. Johns is a master at making sure individuals don’t get lost in the mix during an event book, but I think that only works really well up to a point. The more characters he throws in, the busier things get, and certain moments risk getting lost amongst the melee. Which is not to say this issue experiences a dramatic downturn in quality due the expanding cast, or that there are no moments that really make an impact (perhaps the premiere example being the words “Bruce would’ve come.” Along with the panel that follows), just that it doesn’t grip with the same force as #3. It’s still far more entertaining than Fear Itself has been up to this point, and providing Johns doesn’t fumble the conclusion I reckon it’s going to stand up very well as a whole. 8/10

James R: After three excellent issues of Flashpoint, this was the first that felt a little flat for me. For the most part, it's really what I call a 'chess issue’ - it serves to move the various protagonists into place ahead of the finale. I don't have a problem with these kind of devices, but as a wise man once said: "It's the journey, not the destination, that's important". In moving everyone around, Johns really doesn't add much to the characters. We get to find out some more about Captain Marvel in this world, and the Atlantis/Themyscira battle kicks off... and that's pretty much it. I also had a slight issue with the arrival of Reverse Flash - I'm sure Johns will say "He's so evil - he just couldn't wait to gloat!" but it did feel as if this chapter was in need of a 'big reveal' finale. Instead it felt a little forced although I think I may also be getting impatient - after a summer of reveals about the DC’s ‘New Universe’, well, I want them now damnit! Here's hoping that the finale to this series will be an apt inception to DC's brave new world. 6/10

Writers: Scott Snyder & Scott Tuft
Art: Attila Futaki
Image $2.99

Matt C: Scott Snyder is clearly a man who understands (and loves!) the horror genre. That’s possibly a bit obvious when you make a name for yourself with a title called American Vampire but the blend of suspense and terror he’s brought to recent issues of Detective Comics shows he can adapt various familiar tropes to different settings and make them work. Severed sees him going the ‘creator-owned’ route (with co-writer Scott Tuft) with perhaps – judging by this debut issue - his most purely ‘horror’ effort so far. An old fellow in the 1950s reminisces about his youth circa 1916 as a secret hidden for decades comes back to haunt him. This opening chapter is all about set-up – putting all the players in place, introducing us to the antagonist – and while it holds a lot of cards close to its chest it starts building momentum through some masterful atmospherics. Part of this is down to the writing but the rest is down to some superbly intricate but remarkably creepy artwork from Attila Futaki. An immersive, unnerving comic – if you want to know why the Paradox Comics Group are always showering Synder with praise (no, he’s not paying us!) this is as good an example as any. 8/10

Writer: Adam Beechen
Art: Chris Batista, Rich Perrotta & David Baron
DC $2.99

Stewart R: And so we reach the end of the line for this volume of Batman Beyond before the reboot and Beechen elects to take this opportunity to bring us a ‘Legends of the Dark Knight’ issue where we explore the background and origin of one of Terry McGinnis’ more slippery foes, Inque! The rogues gallery of the Batman of the Future is quite varied and in the animated show Inque was one of the villains that was developed over the course of three or four episodes. Of course, there’s chance that a lot of the readership may not have seen the show - it was over a decade ago! - so we get a retread and some expansion of her backstory here. It’s just a bit of a shame during this ‘fleshing out’ that Beechen chooses to go down a route that has been seen before, albeit one that should add some emotional weight to any further appearances this shape-shifting femme fatale makes. Luckily Chris Batista does a fine job with the pencil to make sure that this origin story looks decent on the page and his style is a good fit for this title. Unfortunately there’s still so much mystery surrounding the future of this book and just what will be affected in continuity that there is the potential that this could very well be regarded as a ‘throwaway issue’ depending on just what September and beyond holds. 6/10

Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Mirko Colak & Matthew Wilson
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Magneto Testament was always going to be a hard act to follow but it’s looking more and more like Greg Pak has produced something of equal value with Red Skull. While Testament suggested Erik Lehnsherr turned to the dark side, so to speak, because of the events that shaped his childhood (and beyond) in Red Skull Pak appears to be portraying Johann Schmidt as someone who has almost no moral compass and was always destined to head down the wrong path during his life. Any displays of compassion or empathy come across as an act, a way of fitting in during a turbulent time, a way of surviving. There’s an inherent power to the unfolding events thanks to the historically accurate backdrop so – as with Testament – this completely works as a story even without prior knowledge of who the Red Skull is. Exceptional work from everyone involved… oh, an David Aja delivers another sensational cover too! 9/10

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Eduardo Risso & Patricia Mulvihill
DC $2.99

James R: Ah, parting is such sweet sorrow. After only three issues, this brilliant miniseries bows out, but it was fun while it lasted! This month sees Thomas Wayne bring the Flashpoint world Joker to justice - but of course, this is a far more annihilating encounter than Bruce Wayne ever experienced. After the revelation last month that the Joker here is none other than - gasp! - a psychologically traumatised Martha Wayne, this book could have fizzled out, but Azzarello gives us an incredibly bleak finale, suggesting that poor Martha is torn apart by Bruce's fate whatever world she's in. Once again, Risso and Mulvihill provide a suitably dark look at the Wayne's twisted relationship, either in the shadow of Wayne Manor or in the washed-out memories of their past. The creative team now move on to the sci-fi series Spaceman, and even though I can't wait to see that, I'll be hoping that they get another take on the Dark Knight soon. Regardless of who wears the cowl their Gotham is too good to lose to a reboot! 8/10

Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art: Kyle Hotz, Bob Almond & Jay David Ramos
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: I’m finding myself comparing this title to a tiny boat riding the waves of a big, old storm; when it’s at the top of the waves it’s exhilarating and fun, but when it’s at the bottom of the swells it really is struggling to remain afloat. Unfortunately with this Fear Itself tie-in it really does seem to be struggling. There’s just too much going on with Paladin and Gargoyle trying to help where they can on Yancy Street following the Thing’s rampage, Elektra and The Shroud - two heroes I’ve got minimal interest in - trying to protect Puppetmaster from The Purple Man - two villains I also have little interest in - and Misty Knight trying to oversee it all. Throw in a mystery demon for good measure and it just resembles a messy pot of ingredients. Kyle Hotz is also not one of my preferred artists with his style erring a little to close to ‘cartoony’ for my liking. When DnA are focusing on Misty or Paladin and their personal battles this title really works but when they start exploring the greater Marvel Universe cast available for hire it tends to start falling to bits. A shame but once again this is in danger of falling from my pull-list. 3/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire & Jose Villarrubia
DC/Vertigo $2.99

James R: Before I tell you why this is such a fine book, I feel I should share how I pick my ‘Book of the Week’. When returning home from Paradox, I'll sit down with a refreshing beverage and devour my pull list for the week in a single hit. It's an overdose of geeky goodness for the most part, but when I've closed the last issue, I decide that my pick of the week will be the one that's left the biggest impression on me. Step forward then Sweet Tooth, as yet again my favourite ongoing series delivers the goods. This month it's Lemire's art that elevates this title. Last time, Gus was wounded by a gunshot, and now we see the consequences of his wound. Lemire colours his own work on the pages where Gus travels through an enigmatic limbo whilst Jeppard tries desperately to save his life. The limbo sections are not only sumptuously illustrated, but have the distinct characteristics of a dream - equal parts disturbing, mysterious and compelling. Once again Lemire shows that he also writes emotion with incredible aplomb - not for the first time I felt myself choke up a little as Jeppard makes desperate plea for Gus' life. A moving a beautiful read, and head and shoulders (or perhaps antlers) ahead of anything else I read this week. 9/10

1 comment:

j.swift said...

Re Matt's review of Punisher. I am wondering why review the comic in the first place if your not fond of the character as it would seem to me that even before you've turned the cover you already have a negative view of what's to come, be it a concious or sub-concious one,and it doesn't exactly make us want to go out a buy this comic,but like I've said before we are all entitled to our opinions, I myself love the work of Mr Rucka and I'm willing to give this one a try,and as for Matt's review of Snarked I have to agree with him it's a real fun read and I myself think that's what's missing from most modern comic's FUN.