9 Oct 2011

Mini Reviews 09/10/2011

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: Roger Langridge
Art: Roger Langridge & Rachelle Rosenberg
Kaboom!/Boom! Studios $3.99

Matt C: Roger Langridge’s irreverent spin on characters and ideas from the mind of Lewis Carroll launches into a full-blown series with a seemingly endless supply of visual and verbal gags that should bring a smile to the face of even the most sullen comic book fan. It takes the classical comedy staple of two buffoons - one who thinks he’s smarter than he is, one who clearly acknowledges his own stupidity – and runs with it, plonking them in a magical, slightly unhinged world that allows for a multitude of weird and wonderful characters (Peter Cook and Dudley Moore even make an appearance!). The humour in the script is matched by the art, with Langridge injecting an exuberant wit into ever panel, every contorted face, ever joke he nestles into the background. It’s a genuine pleasure to read this delightful comic book. 8/10

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan & Sunny Gho
Marvel/Icon $2.99

Stewart R: With a heroic protagonist who can travel faster than a speeding bullet it’s a shame that the creative team in charge appear to move as fast a tranquilized tortoise when trying to get this title on shelves. It’s a good thing that they happen to be doing a rather fine job in terms of story and content with Superior then. Millar has Simon jetting around the globe, solving all manner of problems, situations and issues in the mere blink of an eye. Despite sticking to real-world scenarios - Superior tackles modern day Afghanistan’s volatile position here - Millar steers clear of much of the politics and simply sticks to showing what an adult - or child in this comic - could do with such power and the will to carry it out with no casualties. Some may find the requests that Simon makes to the President a little on the ridiculous side but then this just helps to add a layer of fun and also amp up the inevitable confrontation that we’ll see with the brooding and dangerous Sharpie at some point. The reveal and cliffhanger at the end isn’t much of a surprise but Millar gets the timing and pacing just right and I have to say that I believe this series could prove to be one of his best to date. Yu is also contributing with work of high quality and he hasn’t put a bad line on the page yet. Bit of a shame that a printing error has turned up with a few copies, the odd page having suffering from colour ‘shadowing’, but that’s the only blemish on a very decent read. 8/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Travel Foreman & Lovern Kindzierski
DC $2.99

James R: It seems to be the common consensus that Animal Man was one of (if not the) outstanding issue #1s from DC's relaunch, and this month shows that we’re in for a quality run rather than a one-issue wonder. Buddy Baker learns more about the Red Place here- an almost supernatural source of all living things – and his daughter Maxine informs him that the Red Place is in danger, and if it dies, everything dies. This leads Buddy and Maxine on a quest to find the tree whilst the incredibly creepy Hunters Three start to track down the Baker family. This book is pitched perfectly, a talent Lemire has shown time and again in the sublime Sweet Tooth - the mix between the horror elements, the interaction of the Bakers and the supernatural elements of the story is brilliant and artist Travel Foreman delivers a comic with a unique look (the final page alone is incredibly unsettling - in fact, this feels like a Vertigo book in all but name!). Foreman’s pencils have an incredibly natural feel which makes the horror all the more visceral and unsettling. I've been telling everyone with a modicum of interest in comics to get on board this title. Lemire is two for two on the New 52, and long may the winning streak continue. 9/10

Writer: Peter Milligan
Art: Ed Benes, Rob Hunter & Nathan Eyring
DC $2.99

Stewart R: This was one of the New 52 that was balanced precariously on the edge of my pull-list and could well have fallen off this week if my ambivalence towards the debut continued after reading this instalment. Well, it seems that Milligan and Benes have done a terrific job of pulling it back from the precipice as this is a well thought out look into just what it means to be a Red Lantern. Basing a comic series on an unthinking Corps, fuelled purely on the power of their rage, would surely die under the weight of its own tedium and limited scope, but Milligan, having been handed an Atrocitus beset by self doubt and reflection following the events of Geoff John’s War Of The Green Lanterns story, delves deep into the Red Lantern leader’s moral quandary as he tries to establish a new code and direction for his vision. The flashback to a warring land of misunderstandings and atrocities offers up obvious comparisons to many 20th and 21st century conflicts and while certainly not a new plot device, does perfectly highlight the previous problems that the Red Lanterns offered as a group aiming to bring vengeance to the galaxy through the use of blind rage. As mentioned, Benes also contributes to the upgrade in quality and he really gets to display his repertoire of skills, aided competently here by inker Hunter - that panel where Rixx peers out from under the rock is exceptional! It seems that Atrocitus has a decision to make next issue whereas I don’t; this is a title that definitely stays on the pull-list! 8/10

X-MEN #19
Writer: Victor Gischler
Art: Jorge Molina, Norman Lee, Terry Pallot & Guru EFX
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: And so, after four lightning quick issues - this arc seems to have flown past as if produced by Pietro Maximoff himself! - the 'Betrayal In The Bermuda Triangle' comes to its explosive conclusion. On the face of it there are no character defining moments or earth-shattering surprises but considering the cast involved and the premise, that was probably to be expected. What we do get though is a superhero team-up to enjoy every minute of. Gischler has a great grasp on the large group of characters at his disposal here and all of the interactions that take place make this feel like a proper event book. Doom is once again following the sound of his own voice, albeit in semi-heroic fashion, Pixie and Lee make for an enterprising pair of heroines and the Thing gets to say that famous line once more where it counts. Jorge Molina returns on pencils and unleashes with high-detailed, high-action panels and it’s once again a pleasure on the eyes. This has been a story of spectacle and fun and truly proven that Marvel made the right decision in commissioning a third X-Men title. Reed and Cyclops part with gestures that they should work together more often and I think that sentiment is also true for writer Gischler and artist Molina who really seem to have a good thing going. 8/10

Writer: Judd Winick
Art: Ben Oliver & Brian Reber
DC $2.99

Stewart R: A scintillating debut is followed up by a sturdy effort from Judd Winick and Ben Oliver as David’s life hangs in the balance at the hands of the brutal Massacre. Winick elects to keep the motives of the bloodthirsty villain to himself for now as he continues to target members of the Kingdom, a former team of African superheroes. Incapacitating your lead character for much of a second issue could be regarded as a brave move but it becomes clear that the writer is using this opportunity to show us just what a tenacious and headstrong young man we are throwing our support behind and I for one am hooked on the thrill-ride. Ben Oliver thankfully still gets a decent amount of action to capture on the page and there’s no mistaking that he is one incredibly talented artist. I’m a sucker for his near photorealistic style and the shock factor surrounding Massacre’s actions is definitely enhanced thanks to his efforts. 8/10

Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Rags Morales, Brent Anderson, Rick Bryant & Brad Anderson
DC $3.99

James R: One of the complaints I've heard about this book is that it features an 'arrogant' Superman that doesn't sit well with the long-established view of the benevolent demigod that most of us have grown up with. For what it's worth, I'm thoroughly enjoying Grant Morrison's take on Superman's early years. Firstly, I think it's a good idea to only reveal his origin one piece at a time, and secondly, there is a tangible sense of youth to this book. Whereas previous Superman 'Early Years' titles (specifically Geoff John's Secret Origin and Mark Waid's Birthright) showed us Superman as fully formed, just naive, this book sees him learning and growing before our eyes. Grant Morrison has an almost unchallenged understanding of DC's icons, and when he's focused and fired up, he delivers a breathtaking read. When I got to the final page of this issue, I immediately wanted more - a feeling which was amplified by the preview art and concepts at the back of the book! This is a comic that cracking with energy and potential - the Man of Steel is in good hands! 8/10

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

Mike S: Okay, I am a self confessed fan of all things X (well, Generation Hope aside!) and I have really enjoyed watching the tension grow through this miniseries, so I was eager to see how it would resolve itself. The result? Almost total disappointment. There's a HUGE killer Sentinel (how original) looming over Utopia so our 'beloved leaders' spend four whole pages fighting it out with each other in the literal manifestation of their ideological battle, while the ‘kiddie generation’ engage and defeat it. A Sentinel that could hold off the X-Men suddenly can't withstand the kids? I don't buy it. Added to this, the whole battle scene seemed poorly drawn and over in a flash. It just seemed a means to an end, with the end being the showdown between Cyclops and the overused one (sorry, Wolverine). The whole thing felt false, rushed and with so much of the essential narrative missing that it came across as totally disjointed. I guess the aim is for you to buy Regenesis next week to fill in the blanks! Overall, I’ve enjoyed X-Men: Schism, but this issue? A resounding anticlimax. 3/10

Matt C: This uneven miniseries reaches its conclusion leaving me unsure as to whether I want to keep following the continuing adventures of the X-Men when they split in two. Last month’s issue was electrifyingly good as the disagreement between Cyclops and Wolverine reached boiling point, all beautifully rendered by Alan Davis. Even though the usually excellent Adam Kubert delivers the pencils here, it looks rushed in places, diminishing the overall effect of the action (although I’m inclined to cut him some slack and apportion some blame to the inking and colouring departments). It’s a generally intense read, with Aaron bringing the emotions right up to the surface without letting them spill over, but by the end I was wishing that there’d been the same artistic team for the entire duration and that the enemies introduced here hasn’t been so close to laughable. There’s also the argument that Scott and Logan have been at loggerheads over much worse scenarios than this but as the continuity of the X-Men is so varied, longwinded and malleable I suppose you have to let things slide on occasion. Overall a decent mini, with some fine moments that suggest that Aaron may have some truly great work ahead of him with these characters. He’s just not reached that stage quite yet. 6/10

Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Yanick Paquette & Nathan Fairbairn
DC $2.99

Matt C: I guess this is considered to be the ‘sister’ title to Animal Man as they appear to be operating in a similar milieu (and will apparently see plotlines cross over soon) but where Animal Man is enthralling me with it’s twisted, disturbing take on a superhero’s family life, Swamp Thing is leaving me cold. It’s not badly written – with Snyder in the driver’s seat, how could it be? – nor is the art off-putting as Paquette shows he’s another artist that brilliantly ignores conventional panel grids to create something visually arresting. I think the problem is I’m just not connecting with this character – one that I’ve had limited familiarity with beforehand – and no matter how hard Snyder tries, even when he adds some effective moments of horror, my interest simply hasn’t been ignited by either this, or the debut issue. Perhaps in a leaner time for new comics I might have given it a few more issues, but with the amount of stuff currently vying for my attention this is getting the chop. 6/10

James R: I was recently talking to an occasional comic-reading friend of mine who is a huge fan of Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing and when he asked me what Snyder's relaunch was like, I was effusive in my praise. After I outlined Snyder's plot to him, he seemed genuinely interested: "Actually... that sounds really good!" I told him that it was as if it was a respectful combination of elements introduced by Moore (the Parliament of Trees) and Snyder's own excellent ideas. Issue #2 reinforces this - after the portentous first issue we start to get a feel for what Snyder has in store for Alec Holland. It seems the Parliament of Trees still need him as "the fusion of man to Green is what gives the Swamp Thing it's greatest strength - restraint." Just as with Lemire's Animal Man, Snyder brings in a distinctly unsettling foe to the book in the shape of the Black Death; in fact, the two men working almost in concerto on the 'Dark' corner of the DCU is a fanboy dream come true. Paquette's bold lines and panel layouts are the icing on top of this tasty title. Another quality issue - I'm very happy to be immersed in the Green! 8/10

O.M.A.C. #2
Writer: Dan DiDio
Art: Keith Giffen, Scott Koblish & Hi-Fi
DC $2.99

Stewart R: This title seems to have found itself at the bottom of the pile of New 52 comics in the recently released sales figures for September and that’s something of a shame as DiDio and Giffen have done a great job so far. DiDio doesn’t seem too keen on setting up Kevin Kho as an engaging protagonist presently, opting instead to have him be the underdeveloped victim of the piece who’s simply being moved into position by Brother Eye, and while this may put off some I like the way that it’s allowed the various members of the extended cast to come into focus. It’s entertaining to see that the different agencies of dubious moral nature - Cadmus and Checkmate have been introduced so far - are prohibitively stand-offish towards each other despite the fact, unbeknownst to them both, that they’re supposedly singing from a shared hymn sheet. The fight between the Amazing Man and O.M.A.C. is terrifically thuggish, in an old-fashioned way, and it’s in these action sequences that Giffen appears to be excelling himself. If you’ve been disappointed or underwhelmed by any of the other titles in DC’s relaunch then this might be the place to look for something a touch different. 7/10

Writer: Enrique Carrion
Art: John Upchurch
Image $2.99

Stewart R: If you’re looking for value for money when it comes to picking up your comics this week then Vescell #2 should surely grab your attention! 30+ pages dedicated to story, not a single erroneous advert in sight and all for $2.99! This second issue also expands on some of the themes and ideas brought up in the first issue as Agent Barrino carries out further missions for Vescell, a company that specialises in transferring the mind and soul of an individual from one body to another. Split into halves the first deals with Barrino’s complicated relationship with the faiemorai, Machi, while the two of them investigate the operations of a rogue Vescell scientist. The second half gets a little more cerebral as Barrino is called in to investigate the requests of an AI to have itself downloaded into a human body in order to look after the child of its deceased creator. Both parts really add a lot of depth to this bizarre world and Carrion is doing a fine job of portraying it as a morally grey landscape with a myriad of special rules. It’s refreshing to also see the ‘hero’ sitting in a big pool of moral ambiguity when it comes to his womanising and that adds a further layer of tension to proceedings as I’m sure we’ll see that catch up with him at some stage. Upchurch’s artwork looks a little rushed compared to last month’s issue but considering how many pages he’s had to deal with that’s hardly surprising! 7/10

Writer: Ivan Brandon & Jonathan Vankin
Art: Tom Derenick, Matt Wilson, Phil Winslade & Thomas Chu
DC $3.99

Matt C: The first issue of Men Of War showed a hell of a lot of promise (the main feature at least; the backup was pedestrian); watching regular soldiers on the ground dealing with the effects of full-scale brawl between metahumans in a Middle Eastern country was quite thrilling, kind of like Gotham Central but with marines instead of cops. Well, that was the first issue anyway. This issue brings in a superpowered being right into the middle of proceedings and while I’m not against that idea per se (although it does make it less of a ‘war comic’) the way it’s handled here isn’t particularly encouraging. In fact, I had to flick backwards on several occasions to get my head around what was going on. I don’t want to blow my trumpet, but that’s not a situation I often find myself in! There are some effective moments where Rock reflects on pivotal moments in his life, but it’s hardly an original device, and by the end, as well as scratching my head, I wasn’t keen on seeing what happens next. The backup is again completely run-of-the mill, and ultimately pointless, so where this title initially seemed to be an addition to my pull-list for the foreseeable future (or until it gets cancelled!) I’m afraid I’m going to have to bail out now. 5/10


Anonymous said...

Schism was editorially mandated. We didn't need to have a rift between Wolverine and Cyclops just to get Wolvie to Westchester. Moreover the rift itself was pretty hollow. Much as I hate the renumbering, I will continue with Uncanny, but am not interested in Wolverine and Gen X - Gen Hope, whatever, jr.

ian said...

Well I found Men Of War #2 to be a very good read and I'm very interested to see where they go with the superhero side of things and how Rock and his men cope with it,as for the back-up strip,yes it is a bit run of the mill,but never the less I find it to be a nice little back-up,as for Swamp Thing,where it's no where near the Alan Moore standard I think it's a damn good read and I think you should give a comic at least a few issues to hit it's stride before dropping it as there's not many comics that hit the ground running these days,and as for Snarked, having read the issue #0 I didn't really find it that funny,so I'll leave that one to the market it's aimed at...the kids.

Andy C said...

I have to agree with Matt C's review of Swamp Thing. Snyder's work on Detective (pre the New 52), American Vampire, Gates of Gotham, Severed and Batman #1 has been awesome but Swamp Thing #1 and 2 did nothing for me. Glad I am not alone!

Matt Clark said...

You're not alone, Andy! I felt guilty for not enjoying Swamp Thing based on the rest of Snyder's output!

ian said...

This one's for Matt,sorry it's taken this long but I would like to apologise for calling you a Misogynist, I was way out of line with that remark,but I would say it's nice to come across someone with the same passion for comics that I myself have and who's willing to engage in a good healthy debate,so again sorry for that remark and happy reading.

Matt Clark said...

Keep the criticism constructive and friendly and we'll all be happy.

Ross said...

I'm loving swamp thing. It did feel a little heavy of the exposition, but the art made up for that I feel. The reveal at the end was a bit cliche after the dying breath warning though. Looking forward to the red and green storylines merging. this is my kind of story. Glad I've found it in my venture back into regular book buying :)

Hey Matt. Who's your most hated female super hero then?