16 Oct 2011

Mini Reviews 16/10/2011

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.


ORCHID #1
Writer: Tom Morello
Art: Scott Hepburn & Dan Jackson
Dark Horse Comics $1.00

Stewart R: We're in the midst of October and looking back over the year to date it seems that the shelves have been a little light on $1.00 efforts this year compared to last. Dark Horse help our wallets a little with this debut issue of Orchid and we get a good amount of story for our dollar. Morello gives a brief overview of just what has happened to the world to leave it in it's dangerous, jungle wasteland condition and explains about the different 'classes' of the shattered society. It's certainly a rich and vibrant landscape and artist Scott Hepburn does a fine job of capturing the desolation and brutality on the page. The titular protagonist is absent for much of this first issue as Morello establishes the bizarre legend that the Bridge People seek to reignite as well as introducing bespectacled and eccentric Simon, whose escape and evasion story we follow for the majority of the page count and which somewhat predictably intersects with Orchid's rebellion against her brothel owner. There's huge promise here; Morello has certainly impressed me with his first effort and at this price it's definitely worth picking up for a try. 8/10


WHO IS JAKE ELLIS? #5
Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Art: Tonci Zonjic
Image $2.99

Matt C: This fine miniseries reaches its conclusion with certain questions that have arisen since the debut issue answered, while others are purposefully left to the reader’s imagination to decipher. This will no doubt frustrate many folks who’ve followed the book from the beginning as there’s no definitive sense of closure, but I kind of like the way it avoided revealing too much detail. On a basic level, we do discover who Jake Ellis is, but there’s enough mystery left hanging in the air that’s not flattened by some potentially illogical and implausible explanations. So the first major positive here is Edmonson’s refusal to wrap everything up neatly in a bow (and yet still provide a poignant ending); the second is Zonjic’s moody, superbly choreographed artwork, all infused with some excellent, evocative colour choices. Who Is Jake Ellis? may have not have garnered a huge amount of attention from the comic reading masses compared to more publicised, lesser projects, but it’s quality should help it find its way into the homes of more discerning readers eventually. One of the best minis of 2011. 8/10


AMERICAN VAMPIRE: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST #5
Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Sean Murphy & Dave Stewart
DC Vertigo $2.99

James R: To be fair, I don't feel that there's much I can add in my review that Stew hasn't done in his excellent Cover to Cover review of a few days ago, but seeing that this is easily my book of the week, I feel I should add some more praise! Now, having read the series in its entirety, it really has been the closest thing to a movie blockbuster on paper I've read in a very long time. Snyder keeps the action dial turned up to 10 for the whole issue, and Sean Murphy excels himself on every page. From his depiction of the colossal conflict between the Vampire tribes and the frantic chase, to moments of incredible emotion (the one page panel following the escape is one of my favourites of the year) Murphy delivers in spades. For good measure, the final scene is both touching and cinematic - a perfect end to a brilliant series, and I hope we haven't seen the last of these characters. 9/10


X-MEN: REGENESIS #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Billy Tan, & Andres Mossa
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Schism didn't quite live up to expectations in my opinion, but I am certain that things are going to be very interesting for the X-Men over the coming months as a result of Aaron's event. Uncanny X-Men scribe Gillen gets this opportunity to fill in the huge blank left at the end of Schism where a Blackbird full of mutants awaited Wolverine on the Utopia airstrip, ready to head off to pastures new (or old as it turns out). What Gillen and Tan produce here is an in depth look at the proverbial 'line drawn in the sand' as the huge cast pick a side to follow. A rather cool plot device sees every choice land as a blow in a metaphorical, primal, fire-lit fight between Cyclops and Wolverine, and the back and forth here is neatly balanced, throwing up a few moments of genuine doubt for the reader (despite Marvel's rather stupid campaign of advertised spoilers). There are a few strange portrayals scattered through – Doctor Nemesis' brief appearance almost comes across as a hyper-accentuated caricature of the grumpy genius – but it's clear that these brief moments are necessary, only being limited by the page count and the amount of ground that needs to be covered. Gillen importantly gives a decent amount of insight into the differing perspectives of all involved in one issue, something that readers of the individual X-titles may possibly miss. Realistically this should have been badged as chapter #6 of Schism considering what it represents and where it fits into the very recent continuity. 7/10


DEATHSTROKE #2
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Art: Joe Bennet & Art Thibert
DC $2.99

Matt C: If I were a sensitive, easily-offended sort of fellow I would probably describe this issue as an ‘orgy of violence’ such is the extent of blood-letting and limb-hacking on display in this issue. Well, I’m not sensitive or easily offended, but I’m still going to call this issue an orgy of violence because it’s so over-the-top in it’s glorification of Deathstroke on a murderous rampage that part of me is inclined to think it’s supposed to be a parody! There’s still something appealing about the nihilistic tone of this book but as it teeters towards becoming a ‘90s throwback, that appeal starts to diminish. I liked the first issue a lot but I’m not convinced by this one. It could be just a ‘stepping stone’ chapter as the cliffhanger was intriguing but I can’t say for certain whether it’s intriguing enough for me to continue picking this title up. 6/10


BATGIRL #2
Writer: Gail Simone
Art: Ardian Syaf, Vincent Cifuentes & Ulises Arreola
DC $2.99

James R: This is a review about second chances. After last month's issue, I found Batgirl to be the weak link in my New 52 choices - it was a generic read, and I was far from impressed with the art team. However, due to a stroke of poor luck (for me) with Orchid #1 selling out at Paradox (lucky customers with a copy, Andy H and Dark Horse!), I decided to give Babs Gordon another try. I'm certainly pleased I did, as this issue is a massive improvement on the first. This month, Batgirl digs deeper into the identity of The Mirror, which, I must admit, is a terrible name for a villain - what next, The Lamp? - and Gail Simone also spins out the mystery of just how Barbara has regained the use of her legs. Simone portrays her heroine with a nice mix of smarts and vulnerability - she's far from indestructible or a fighting machine, and the comic is all the better for it. The art of Ardian Syaf looked much better too and I loved the panel that shows Jim Gordon's shock and realisation that his daughter has donned the cowl once more. Still not the most amazing thing you'll ever read, but there's enough here to keep me on board for the rest of this arc. 7/10


GREEN LANTERN #2
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne & David Baron
DC $2.99

Stewart R: 'Underwhelmed' was my feeling having read the first issue of this series and I wasn't optimistic that this follow-up was going to be much better. I'm glad to say that this is actually an improvement and seems to get things close to being back on track. Sinestro outlines the deal that he's prepared to make with Hal in order to gain his help with freeing Korugar from the grip of the Yellow Lantern Corps and the most obvious thing is that Johns seems to be enjoying writing Sinestro's part far more than Jordan's. While it's clear that the Green Lantern Corps' most dangerous foe is currently in turmoil thanks to his recruitment into the ranks of his sworn enemies and his creation running wild, Hal comes across as a one-note addition that's almost surplus to requirements. My guess is that this will eventually change once the arc gets into full swing but it's still a strange move considering that DC's aim with the relaunch would've been to capture new readers and introduce them to the famous human Lantern. One other plus point of note is that DC are managing to keep the number of inkers touching Doug Mahnke's accomplished pencils to a minimum at present. 6/10


SUICIDE SQUAD #2
Writer: Adam Glass
Art: Federico Dallocchio, Andrei Bressan & Val Staples
DC $2.99

Matt C: While not quite as successful as the brilliant, torture-centric debut issue, this sophomore instalment of Suicide Squad does carry over the same bleak tone with every member of this government-sanctioned team of supervillans remaining expendable. You could argue this makes it hard to invest in any characters if they can potentially receive a headshot at any moment, but I like the way the book keeps me on my toes. There are a couple of characters that are more likely to come out the other side unscathed but Glass has my attention because I literally have no idea where the series is headed. There’s still an issue with the art though, as one of the two artists (and not being familiar with their work I can’t tell which is which) has a style much more suited to the rough, darkly comical vibe Glass is going for. It’s an annoyance but not to the extent that it hampers my enjoyment of this unexpectedly good series. 8/10


BATMAN & ROBIN #2
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray & John Kalisz
DC $2.99

James R: First off, I have to say this comic features the worst cover I've seen on a comic in a while - all I can think is that Patrick Gleason must have had either a heavy night or a very bad morning before committing this one to paper. Fortunately, it bears little resemblance to the great issue inside. One of the (very fair) criticisms I've heard about the New 52, is that the Bat-books weren't a re-boot at all - and to new readers, this title (and Batwoman) seemed incomprehensible. Perhaps Tomasi should have shuffled things around as this issue goes a long way to explaining who Damien Wayne is and his relationship to his father. Here, he really focuses on Bruce's ongoing attempt to both be a father and to temper the killer instinct inside his son. Writer and artist deliver a terrific and moody read and, for the first time since this books inception, there is the feeling that perhaps Damien won't be able to accept his father's mantle. There's also the small matter of the League of Shadows who are determined to curtail Batman Incorporated... I can concede that this might not be for everyone, but in concerto with Scott Snyder's outstanding Batman, fans of the Dark Knight are in good hands at the moment. 8/10

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey, so when are we going to get the next "Project" series like Byrne FF or Stern/Buscema Avengers? Its been too long since the last.

Matt C said...

It's in the pipeline. I've barely been able to stay on top of the weekly releases recently so I've not had the chance to dig into the boxes. But I know what series it will be and it's on its way.

Anonymous said...

I'll bet its Simonson's Thor

Joe T said...

For me this week, Amazing Spider-Man, Batgirl, Batman & Robin, Green Lantern, Demon Knights, and Uncanny X-Force.

Uncanny X-Force continues to be one of the top 3 Marvel books being published, whereas Amazing Spider-Man wasn't as good as previous issues, and the art felt a tad rushed.

Loved Batman & Robin, in my mind the best of the Batman (as in Bruce Wayne, as appose to the Bat-Family). Best description for it would be the dark knight Adam West.

Whilst I enjoyed the first issue of Batgirl, I felt this issue took a dip in quality since last issue, though it did have some nice character development.

Unlike the Paradox team, I really enjoyed the first issue of Green Lantern, and felt after over a year of bland storytelling, Johns had returned to form, and this was a title worth collecting again. Along comes Green Lantern #2, and we're back to the same bland storytelling. Not impressed.

Really enjoyed the second issue of Demon Knights. I use to be very into swords and sorcery type stuff when I was younger, but haven't really bothered with it in years. Cornell and team have come along and reignited my interest in the genre, and magic type books. Wonderful book, strongly reccomended.