30 Oct 2011

Mini Reviews 30/10/2011

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: Jason Aaron
Art: Marc Silvestri, Michael Broussard et al
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Jason Aaron seems to be taking a similar approach to the Green Goliath that his predecessor Greg Pak did; in other words, he’s avoiding the well worn man-on-the-run take on the character. There’s an argument that this circumnavigates one of the core elements for a successful Hulk story, but personally I think various writers (Pak and Peter David spring to mind) have proven that Bruce Banner’s alter ego is resilient enough to survive numerous interpretations. Speaking of Banner, the twist here is that the Hulk and Banner have split into separate entities, the Hulk hiding out with the Moloids and Banner… well Banner’s up to something else entirely. It’s an arresting debut with a plotline that definitely has me curious to see what happens next. Silvsetri (with the help of Broussard) is an artist I really connected during his run on Uncanny X-Men back in the ‘80s and while his art is a lot ‘busier’ than it used to be, it’s still very appealing. The $3.99 price tag smarts a bit, but the rough, melancholy vibe mixed with a killer cliffhanger will have me back again next month. 8/10

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Eduardo Risso, Patricia Mulvihill & Giulia Brusco
DC/Vertigo $1.00

Matt C: For a dollar, there’s no question that this is an essential purchase. The pedigree’s all there so there’s not really a valid excuse to skip Spaceman, because while it may not be a book for everyone, I think a lot of people will be pleasantly surprised. A future-set tale centring on Orson, a man who’s been genetically engineered for space travel (but appears to be entirely earthbound currently), it’s offers a smart and absorbing read for those willing to come along for the ride. There’s not a lot to it beyond getting us submerged in this strange but familiar world (bar a kidnapping that seems destined to impact on our hero’s life) but that’s more than fine because the world Azzarello and Risso are depicting is rich in detail, from grimy, dilapidated cityscapes to an understandable but distinctly different urban dialect that feels wholly authentic. Looks like another win for Vertigo then. 8/10

James R: A couple of weeks ago Dark Horse released Orchid, a story set in a post-apocalyptic world where the seas have risen and only a select few oligarchs live in luxury. I thought it was pretty so-so, and right on time Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso return to show us how this type of tale should be told. We've already had a prologue to this 9-part tale in Vertigo's Strange Adventures - our protagonist is Orson, one of the genetically bred and altered astronauts designed by NASA to work on Mars, and in this first issue we get a lush introduction to his world; he's haunted by dreams of Mars and is living hand-to-mouth salvaging scrap from the now submerged Earth. That would be good enough for me, but seeing that this is the creative team that brought us the brilliant 100 Bullets, there's also a mysterious and high profile kidnapping that Orson has managed to stumble into the midst of. Azzarello really delivers a lot of bang for your buck - I appreciate that it might not be for everyone (the dialogue is a mixture of urban slang and invented neologisms) but that adds to the reading experience for me. Once gain Eduardo Risso and Patricia Mulvihill show that they can illustrate urban decay like no-one else, but it's also a blast to see them moving (very successfully) towards sci-fi too. This is one space odyssey I'm on board with for the long haul. 8/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Jamie Mendoza & Al Vey
Marvel $4.99

Mike S: This is the first of the spin-offs from Schism and it isn't bad at all. The story is packed with lots of character-based stuff as the various X-characters seek to establish the Jean Grey School For Higher Learning, there’s some cracking art from Bachalo and the impending threats of the new (Junior) Hellfire Club come together with the return of a past menace at the issue's climax. Nice to see someone remembered Husk, Chamber and Karma, even if all didn't appear in this issue. And to top it all off, I really enjoyed the faculty list and school brochure at the end of the issue - I'd sign up for some of those classes! It's not perfect but it is a gripping first instalment with an interesting mix of humour and danger, an old school tone, some good cameos and character vignettes, as well as some great additions to the cast - Broo and Kid Gladiator look like stars in the making to me! 8/10

Writer: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
Art: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
DC $2.99

James R: Wowzer! Last week I dished out a bit of criticism towards Captain Atom as I felt that the potential of the story wasn't being pushed far enough. Seven days later, and here is the book that does it absolutely right… and then some! I've always had a soft spot for the Flash, and I'm astounded at the first couple of issues Manapul and Buccellato have put together. I like Manapul's art, but now he's free from Geoff John's scripts he's pushing the boundaries with Barry Allen. This month, the speedster learns that it's not just his physical form that can move at a super-human pace, but also his mind. Manapul goes all out to illustrate Barry 'opening his mind' - and it's an absolute blast to read. At the same time, he continues to dig into the mysterious case of Manuel Lago and uncovers a plot involving clones, regeneration... and pigs! This isn't just superhero comics done right - it's comics, period! It's always satisfying when a quality creative team deliver the goods, but I got an extra geeky fanboy thrill over the way that these two have surpassed my expectations. I'm hoping that this Flash run is going to be a marathon rather than a sprint! 9/10

Matt C: Just like the title character, this book zips along at a furious pace, barely pausing for breath, and it’s utterly fantastic because of it. Well, that and the compelling, well-conceived plot and some simply stunning, inventive artwork. It’s interesting to note that Manapul’s art didn’t feel this alive and packed with frenetic energy when he was working from Geoff Johns’ scripts; the fact that he’s working from his own (and Buccellato’s) story seems to have given him the opportunity to fling as many visual ideas as he can at the page. From the Flash dispatching several goons in a single frame, to Barry Allen’s sudden realisation that his brain has tapped into the Speed Force, to the moment he figures out he can prevent various accidents from happening before the occur, it’s electrifying stuff. If Manapul and Buccellato can keep this up this has the potential to be one of the very best of the New 52 titles. Right now, it’s pretty damn close to the top of the list. Brilliant. 8/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Rod Reis
DC $2.99

Mike S: For me, this was the stand out title from the first month of the New 52 with its character driven, stunningly presented premier issue. Naturally I had high expectations for issue #2 and Johns and Reis certainly do not disappoint. The tone is a little different - we move from the character heavy storyline of issue #1 into a more action based sequence. However, there are still plenty of nice touches - Mera (don't call her Aquawoman!) and Aquaman looking at photos and the display of her power - but it is the engagement of the enemy that is the most stunning section. The sense of growing menace, before we even meet Arthur and Mera, is beautifully presented by Reis. When they arrive to investigate and then the enemy is engaged the artwork becomes fluid and intense in its action as the pace picks up and kicks into high gear. Another cracking issue then - this is the sleeper of the New 52. Who'd have thought that Aquaman would one day be this cool! 9/10

Matt C: I guess it’s no surprise that the pairing of Johns and Reis would boost Aquaman’s popularity to new heights but I’m sure I wasn’t alone in having doubts that they’d pull it off. I’m still not 100% convinced they have done though – at the moment it’s the art from Reis that’s really deserving of the most praise, as he’s turning this into a handsome, elegant book, his level of detail and staging of action really impressing. This is not to say Johns is slouching in the script department, it just feels like he’s giving us broad strokes characterization rather then getting right into the heads of Arthur and Mera. I guess there’s plenty of time for that but then again it doesn’t help matters that the villains of the piece, while visually impressive, are rather one-dimensional. There a bit of work need to get this book on the right track, but it appears to be headed in the right direction – when it comes down to it, I’m buying an Aquaman book, so I’m chalking this up as a success. 7/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Raulo Caceres & Digikore
Avatar $3.99

James R: This week sees both the best and the worst of Warren Ellis. In terms of the good, you should definitely check out Secret Avengers (Or: 'Global Frequency: Avengers' as I think of it) as it shows Warren Ellis writing a tight script, choc-full of mad science ideas and all wrapped up in a single issue. Awesome. This on the other hand... ugh. Firstly, we've had an interminable wait for it - my esteemed co-reviewer Matt C has rightfully railed against Ellis' seemingly haphazard release times, and here I can entirely sympathise. I wouldn't mind so much if this was a breathtaking crescendo to the series (in the same way that No Hero had) but this is one-note and as simplistic as it comes. Early on, I was impressed that Ellis seemed to be aiming to tie this steampunk tale to his (you guessed it) long-delayed Doktor Sleepless, but nope, that plot thread is just left hanging. What have instead is a mindlessly violent finale, which (and I hate to say it as a man who can draw no more than stick figures!) is rendered in a shoddy looking style from Caceres. I'm sure he can do better, and I know Ellis can - in a week full of good books, this looked half-arsed. 3/10

Matt C: Before we get into the content, let’s just remind ourselves that the first issue of this miniseries was released in February 2010. So that’s only taken 20 months to put out a four-issue series then! That in itself is an absolutely ridiculous situation, and you wonder why Avatar even solicited the first issue without a guarantee that Warren Ellis and Raulo Caceres had the rest in the can. Ellis is one of the worst culprits in the industry for delayed and abandoned projects but I guess as he’s frequently capable of extreme brilliance people let it slide. It doesn’t help those of us who pick up the floppies though, as remembering what happened last time is often a stretch for books that come out on a monthly basis, let alone ones that have seven months between issues! That helps to explain some of the difficulty I had really connecting with this finale, the other being it felt like a bit of a damp squib of an ending. Initially, Ellis looked like he was aiming a lot higher with this, but bar the usual intelligent trappings it ended up as a more of a throwaway tale than something to revisit again and again. If they put this out in a trade it may have more of an impact, but as it stands I can only sum it up as a ludicrous wait for eventual disappointment. 5/10

Writer: Peter Milligan
Art: Mikel Janin & Ulises Arreola
DC $2.99

Mike S: I picked this up on the recommendation of the other Paradox reviewers and, I have to say, I am very pleasantly surprised. The last time I bought a DC Magical team book it was the short-lived Shadowpact and that never seemed to have huge impact. This time, however, there is a lot more going on - a dark, sinister storyline with a real growing sense of menace as the team begins to draw together. Some of the writing doesn't quite work for me - Dawn/Dove is out of character and what's up with Deadman's attitude? - but the real saving grace of this book is the stunning artwork of Mikel Janin which complements the storyline's darkness beautifully. Some really atmospheric, creepy artwork, especially on the Enchantress. Well worth coming back for issue #3. 8/10

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Richard Elson & Jessica Kholinne
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: A few pages are utilized to wrap up the plotlines from Fear Itself that have been running through the title for the last few months, but once that’s out the way the spotlight shines (and shines brightly) on Volstagg for the remainder of the issue. Yet again, we’re shown how Gillen has acquired complete mastery of Marvel’s Asgardian milieu, from the rhythm of the language, to the incorporation of Norse legends, to the inclusion of strain of humour that elicits proper belly laughs. Volstagg tells his children the tale of the recent battle with the Serpent on Midgard, positioning himself as the central player in the events, and I have to say it’s a vastly more entertaining version of the story than we saw in the whole 7-part Fear Itself mini! Elson collaborated with Gillen when Gillen was writing Thor, and his exuberant, cleanly detailed style is far more suited to the title than Whilce Portacio’s was in the last couple of issues. Still one of Marvel’s premier ‘superhero’ books and I’m very much looking forward to where it goes once it’s free from the shackles of Fear Itself. 8/10

1 comment:

Ross said...

Spaceman sounds great. Hope Andy has some left. Sign me up.