13 Nov 2011

Mini Reviews 13/11/2011

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: Matt Fraction
Art: Adam Kubert, Mark Roslan & Laura Martin
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: This is a far more direct epilogue to the Fear Itself than last week’s Cap-centric instalment, and where that was essentially a Captain America issue by any other name, this one’s a Thor comic to all intents and purposes, but differs dramatically in one way: Brubaker made his offering an utterly essential read that felt vitally important; Fraction on the other hand turns in something utterly superfluous, covering ground we’d already crossed in the last proper chapter of Fear Itself. And considering it’s not been that many years since Thor met his untimely demise (and was subsequently resurrected) it seems a little too soon to be attempting the same thing. Is Thor about to become the new Jean Grey?! The appearance of a new Thunder God (and the fact that everyone seems to know him) is, I imagine, intended to get us excited about forthcoming developments in the Mighty Thor title, but that, along with the fact that said title started so thrillingly before flatlining at the end of it’s first arc (along with Fear Itself, er, itself), has me thinking it’s time to walk away. A year ago I wouldn’t have guessed I’d be saying this (Thor is an absolute favourite character of mine) but I think I’ll be dropping Mighty Thor and sticking with Journey Into Mystery, a book about a teenage Loki. Kubert’s art is impressive here but the one thing I’m taking away from it is that Fraction, totally unexpectedly (from my viewpoint, at least) has managed to push me to a point where I’ll be leaving a book called Mighty Thor on the shelves for the foreseeable future. Let’s hope he doesn’t repeat the trick with Iron Man next week! 4/10

Writer: Kyle Higgins
Art: Joe Bennett, Art Thirbert & Jason Wright
DC $2.99

Matt C: The first issue impressed but the second came a little too close ‘90s violence overload, although there was the possibility it was coming from an ironic angle. The third issue however seems to confirm that that’s going to be the non-ironic way forward for Deathstroke and while I don’t have a problem with that per se there has to be something substantial to back up the constant limb-hacking and head-chopping. So far though, it seems the focus is on the violence with a rather slender plotline just about making its presence felt. And that’s not quite enough for me. There’s a kernel of interest resulting from Deathstroke’s dogged determination to sustain his reputation but there’s not much to him beyond that, and frankly when the carnage kicks off it’s not that appealingly rendered. I kind of wanted to get behind this book as it seemed to be one of the underdogs of the New 52, but while it’s not especially bad it doesn’t have enough going for it to warrant a continued place on the pull list. 5/10

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

James R: Three issues in and Tomasi's run is starting to take shape. Batman's run in with the League of Shadows forms the narrative drive, but what's really interesting is the focus on Bruce Wayne's responsibility as a parent and Damian's psychotic tendencies. Even though it doesn't take a genius to see that *whispers* he'll turn out okay in the end, it's still compelling to see the nature/nurture argument acted out on the streets of Gotham. If there's any criticism, it's that it felt a little slight; I didn't feel like I got a lot of bang for my buck, but it's still great stuff. If you compare this to some of the last Batman And Robin issues before the relaunch, this is a vast improvement. Tomasi and Gleason are giving the book a definite identity, which is vital when there are a plethora of Bat-titles to choose from. Years ago, I always said I found Robin to be a ridiculous character (whichever Robin you happen to think of) but Damian Wayne continues to prove me wrong. Damn kids! 8/10

Stewart R: This is developing into a terrifically moody first arc from Tomasi as he deals with Bruce’s growing paternal instincts and Damian’s increasing frustration at being held back from his desire to take the fight to Gotham’s scum. Tomasi keeps things incredibly focused by keeping the cast tight and there are only four characters of real note used through the entire 20 pages; anyone else is merely there as the vaguest of plot tools. While Tomasi does the positioning, it’s Gleason who’s left to capture those odd, brilliant moments of clarity where we get to see these two heroes in moments of doubt, raw anger and vulnerability. Be it Damian’s face upon realising that he may have gone too far or Bruce’s as he attempts to protect his kin, Gleason hits every beat on the money. Once again writer and artist combine their talents for a great cliffhanging final page and long may their partnership continue. 9/10

Matt C: The iffy cover aside, this is another brilliant, propulsive read from the Tomasi/Gleason team which highlights that Bruce’s continuing effort to keep Damian on the straight and narrow may be a lost cause. We’ve seen Damian ignore direct commands from authority figures before, but this time he goes one step further, his disobedience resulting in a situation where he ends up with blood on his hands. Nobody, the villain of the piece, is perfectly placed to draw out Damian’s baser instincts, and the dynamic Tomasi has set up between Batman, Robin and Nobody is very compelling. Gleason brings this dynamic to life, skilfully displaying the struggle for Damian’s soul through an intense action scene that ends in a most unexpected manner. Even if I weren’t already convinced that this is one of best books of the relaunch, the tantalising cliffhanger would ensure I’d be back for more. With this, Batman and Batwoman, Gotham has become the place to be in the DC Universe once more. 8/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Jerome Opeña, Dean White, Jose Villarubia & Chris Sotomayor
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Perception is a funny thing indeed. While I showed disappointment at Avenging Spider-Man’s pricey debut a few days ago, this $3.99 issue of Uncanny X-Force has only 20 pages of actual panelled storytelling yet it reads as if we’ve been given so much more than that. Remender and Opeña jump us back and forth across the battlefield that has unfolded throughout Archangel’s stronghold bringing us heroism, death, surprises and neat tricks to show us the struggles of some characters on the psychic plane. We’re 17 issues into this series and X-Force are still struggling tooth, nail and claw against the very force that they set out to stop in the initial chapter. Lesser titles would have succumbed to stagnancy by now but this one has remained breathtakingly compelling throughout the run to date and proves to be a glorious read every single month. Archangel under Remender’s hand is a truly captivating foe, villainous in intent yet calm, almost caring in his general demeanour and he borders on the unsettling in the best of ways. I used to wax lyrical about Fraction’s consistency on Invincible Iron Man but this is now standing head and shoulders above every other single title that Marvel has on the shelves today... and we haven’t even reached the end of this arc yet! 10/10

James R: I tried Uncanny X-Force a little while back on the overwhelming advice of my fellow Paradox Groupers, but as handsome as it was, there was something missing for me - perhaps it was me being more of a DC guy, but I felt that it left me a little cold. However, with each passing issue, I've started to think that maybe I was a little hasty. So I picked up the ‘Dark Angel Saga’, and well, let's just say I get it now! This issue is a no-holds-barred read, as Remender builds to a thrilling finale. The arc has been epic in scale, spanning two different dimensions and millions of time-accelerated years. It's breathless stuff, but Remender shows that you don't need a multi-part crossover featuring every character and their aunt to tell a big tale. I'm also hugely impressed by the art team of Opeña and White - Opeña makes the world of X-Force suitably gritty, but this is balanced out by White's watercolour effect. All told, a cracking read, and the best second chance I've taken this year. 9/10

Writers: J.H. Williams & W. Haden Blackman
Art: J.H. Williams III & Dave Stewart
DC $2.99

Matt C: I know a lot of people raved about this title right from the beginning, but for me it didn’t quite hit the ground running. The art was fantastic, no question, but the story didn’t grab me by the lapels and demand that I pay attention. I had faith though, and that faith has paid off with this masterfully constructed issue that combines action, emotion and intrigue to thrilling effect. As always it’s the artwork that catches the attention instantly and that’s basically because it’s genuinely gobsmacking, confirming once again that Williams is in a class of his own. The way he designs his pages, the way he positions his panels and adapts his layouts to fit the story has to be seen to be believed. The gorgeous art is now a given but the story has become tighter, more focused, with Kate Kane’s personal and professional life becoming increasing beset by problems that are making everything a lot more complicated. Williams and co-writer Blackman are inching ever closer to the heights the character reached when Greg Rucka was in charge, and if you remember how good that was you should have an idea of how good this is becoming. 8/10

James R: There's no doubting the artistic skill of J. H. Williams - whilst re-reading one my favourite series ever, Promethea, I'm still amazed at the breadth of his talents. Picking up Batwoman really does feel like picking up a work of art rather than a comic. However, I have to say that in comparison to Williams' first run with Kate Kane in Detective Comics, this solo series feels like it's lacking a little narrative drive. The story about the missing kids feels very secondary, and whereas I like the focus on the difficulty Kate has in balancing her personal life with being Batwoman, well, it just seemed a bit too soap opera for my liking. There's no way I'm dropping this title (especially since the next arc is an espionage-heavy affair) but at the moment I think that Williams and Blackman need to tell a tale more deserving of such jaw-dropping art. 7/10

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Whilce Portacio, Allen Martinez, Jeff Huelt, Arif Prianto & John Rauch
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: I don’t know how Gillen does it. The reorganization of Asgard depicted in Fear Itself #7.2 felt leaden and uninspired, with Fraction completely failing to make me interested to see he was going to take the story forward. Gillen manages to take the same idea, and in a two-page recount makes it seem like an exciting new chapter for Asgard before directing the spotlight onto how Loki fits into this new structure. Again, the key is how Gillen’s recreated the teenage Loki into a manipulative, ingenious, deceitful, but thoroughly likeable character, someone who appears to have the best intentions for the realm so long as he comes off better for it. The supporting cast continues to be well observed and the task set by the All-Mothers for Loki offers plenty of potential for the future. Portacio wouldn’t be my first choice of illustrator for this title, but he acquits himself admirably here with his best work for the book so far, especially the final page that sees an old foe positioned as a future threat. Another superb issue of what is now the only essential Asgardian comic book on the shelves. 9/10

Writer: Adam Glass
Art: Cliff Richards & Val Staples
DC $2.99

Stewart R: A little bit soon for a change on art duties - especially considering we had two artists working in tandem on issues #1 and #2! - but nonetheless we end up with Cliff Richards (don’t, just don’t! One for the UK readers there...) picking up pencil and pen to illustrate this third instalment and what a good job he does. It looks like this team is going to have their backs to the wall at pretty much every turn but as yet that hasn’t become a boring prospect and despite the third-rate nature of some of the characters involved I’m starting to root for this core group and hope that they make it through safely to another issue. There are interesting developments involving Harley Quinn and Deadshot which may or may not play out further and it’s that sort of uncertainty that will keep me coming back month after month if Glass can keep this standard of writing up. He throws further unknown quantities into the mix at the climax of this issue and ‘Uh-oh’ was definitely the first thought to run through my head at that point. 8/10


Anonymous said...

With writers such as Bendis, Fraction and, (mercifly) to a lesser extent, Loeb, the quality of Marvel comics has been spiraling downward for at least the last 3 to 4 years. If you enjoy reading about heroes sitting around bantering and doing little to nothing for six issues that resembles super heroics, or if you enjoy meaningless decompressed stories that never end but simply spill over into the "next earth shattering event" then you can dismiss the above as the ramblings of a lunatic. Marvel's business plan, as it exists with said writers giving us the same tired and vapid annual events, will lead to continued dwindling sales.

ian said...

I totally agree with the above comment,nothing more else I can say on that,