20 Nov 2011

Mini Reviews 20/11/2011

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: Salvador Larroca & Frank D’Armata
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: I think we can all pretty much agree that as a sole entity, Fear Itself did not manage to live up to the hype that preceded it and possibly added another nail to the ‘Big Yearly Event’ coffin. That said, the off-shoot and side stories that accompanied it on its turbulent journey often shone with pure quality. Tony Stark, a character who has been handled with some skill by Fraction over the past few years, was involved in a terrifically horrifying battle early on - both with an unmerciless foe and his own demons - but his tale then felt a little isolated and forced when he travelled to Asgard. Now, back in the land of Midgard (Earth), he’s dealing with the horrors that he faced in Paris and the moral and ethical questions relating to the individual at the heart of that destruction. Some of the best Iron Man issues have seen Tony almost sharing a discussion with himself and this is one of those times where he reveals the important questions he’s been asking of himself - and the cosmos - and the decision or answer that he has come to. It makes for a terrific read, tense, well paced and unpredictable; here’s hoping that Invincible Iron Man now returns to this high level of quality. 9/10

Matt C: These three ‘additional’ issues of Fear Itself appear to have been commissioned specifically to reverse all the ‘shock moments’ of the miniseries proper. Without getting into spoilers, Marvel look like they’ve decided to backtrack on all those Fear Itself-related seismic events that we’re always told are designed to send shockwaves throughout the Marvel Universe. I finished Fear Itself with the impression that the event had been rather pointless, a veritable bag of hot air, even if it was often a well illustrated bag of hot air. Now? Now it seems even the House Of Ideas are suggesting Fear Itself was something of a waste of time with no real, lasting impact. I’m losing confidence in the direction the publisher looks like they’re taking by the day. Moving all that to one side for a moment, this issue does have a handful of bright spots. Larroca’s art is of its usual high standard and there are certain amount of power in both the scenes with Stark and the Grey Gargoyle and those with Tony and Odin. Whereas I made a decision to leave Fraction’s take on Thor on the shelves after last week’s issue, this one has convinced me that the writer really gets Tony Stark and hopefully he’ll get back to telling smart, engaging stories with the character again now all this Fear Itself nonsense is out of the way. Fingers crossed. 6/10

Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion & FCO
DC $2.99

James R: I'm going to start running out of superlatives soon for the work of Scott Snyder soon. Since bursting into mainstream comics with American Vampire he has barely taken a misstep, delivering issue after issue of brilliant sequential storytelling. Issue #3 of Batman is a perfect example of all that he does so well. It’s rammed with great ideas (the 'Thirteenth floor'!) brilliantly cinematic action (the sequence in the tunnels beneath Gotham is inspired) and shows he has a terrific understanding of the Bat-universe and it's characters. We've commented a lot recently on the slight nature of many of Marvel's books and how executives at the House of Mouse should take a long, hard look at how much entertainment DC gives the reader for $2.99 here. The other thing I'm loving about Snyder's tenure as a Batman writer is how little he has to resort to the old tropes - true, we did see the Joker in Detective, but it was a an incredibly effective cameo rather than ‘another Joker story', and it's the same here - we saw the rogues gallery in issue #1, but since then, the story has driven forward without having to rely on them. As a result, it's a fresh book too, and with the terrific work of Greg Capullo adding to the cinematic feel, this is truly a Dark Knight to savour. 9/10

Matt C: Synder now seems to be incapable of putting a foot wrong with this character. Where we marvelled at his take on the Dark Knight when Dick Grayson was donning the iconic cape and cowl, with Bruce Wayne back in charge the writer has taken things to the next level. Over the last decade I’ve enjoyed a lot of Batman books to varying degrees but I think we’re at the beginning of a special run, on the cusp of true greatness. That might sound like hyperbole but after putting this issue down that was the conclusion I reached. It may be unlikely that a secret society controlling Gotham behind the scenes would have escaped Bruce’s attention but Snyder pulls it off thanks to the intelligence of his ideas-laden script. Capullo’s detailed, dynamic compositions continue to impress and moody colour palette employed during the nighttime scenes adds to the feeling that we’re viewing a world that’s both secret and rife with danger. Smart and gripping, Batman is unquestionably one of the main successes in the New 52, and it looks like the only way is up for Snyder and co. 9/10

Stewart R: There were moans and groans from many of us last year when DC announced that they were cutting the page count of their comics to 20 pages from 22 in order to guarantee the continued $2.99 price promise and it was recognisable, almost subconsciously so in some cases, that it seemed as if stories at the time were being cut short to fit in each issue. All these many months on it seems that some comics are hitting the shelves with the revised page count and upon reading them it feels as if I’ve read a book almost double in size, such is the wealth of story involved. Snyder’s Batman is a prime example with the writer treating Bruce and Batman as one and the same person (something that not all Batman creators necessarily do), his day and night lives crossing seamlessly and giving a sense that an awful lot has happened from cover to cover. He’s helped in this greatly thanks to Capullo’s ability to deliver story on both macro and micro levels and every edition of his run so far is better than the last. The Court of Owls represents a shift in the way that Bruce perceives his place in Gotham City and it’s a neat move made by Snyder to produce an enemy that can strike to the very heart of what has made Bruce Wayne the hero he is today. 9/10

Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Klaus Janson & Frank D’Armata
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Dan Slott’s ‘Big Time’ story was a superb piece of recent comic history but once that arc finished the following period was something of a lull that threatened to have me dropping Amazing Spider-Man from my pull-list. Thankfully ‘Spider Island’ came along and restored my faith and now it seems that Slott is in full stride as this new ‘Great Height’s arc, focusing on the return of the Vulture, is superb. We get to see Peter and Carlie dealing with the fall out of their break-up and realising that their knowledge of each other can be beneficial for a greater good. Meanwhile, the city of New York goes through it’s recovery following everybody’s transformation into giant, 8-legged beasts and Slott takes care and attention to show that many of the citizens have been deeply affected by the physical and psychological trauma of what they have experienced - something that is often brushed aside in such superhero comics. I had looked at the introduction of a third artist to this comic a little sceptically but Camuncoli delivers some truly great work and the page involving the Anti-Spider Patrol’s humiliating defeat has me craving more. 9/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair, Hi Fi & Gabe Eltaeb
DC Comics $3.99

James R: At the moment, Justice League still feels like a book trying to find it's feet. To me, the pacing is a little strange and rushed - it's as if Geoff Johns wants to put on the biggest firework display of all time, and is setting off all his rockets at once! As you'd expect from the talents involved in this book, there's much to admire; John's characterisation in places is spot on - Hal Jordan calling dibs on Wonder Woman was great - and Jim Lee is none too shabby at this superhero lark! But despite these positives, the book isn't really 'breathing' - for a point of comparison, I think that Geoff Johns is trying to write a Justice League version of the early Authority issues, but it's lacking the nous that Warren Ellis brought to that title. I've also got to call DC out on putting the flimsiest backmatter in comics into this issue - five pages of 'The Secret History of Atlantis', which was essentially two pages stretched out incredibly thin! At the end of the book, I'd certainly enjoyed reading it, but I want it to be blowing my head off, and it's not there yet. 7/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Mark Silvestri & Various
Mavrel $3.99

Matt C: I like the approach Aaron is taking here, offering us something familiar but different enough to feel fresh and justifiable. I’m not too keen on the price though, but Marvel seem to be insisting that $3.99 is the way to go and I guess I can always vote with my wallet if necessary. What really flabbergasts me (enough to use the word ‘flabbergasts’) is the number of artists roped in to assist Silvestri with this, his second issue of this relaunch. It’s been reported in plenty of other places so I won’t spend too much time raking over ground already well covered, but seriously?! Two additional pencillers, two guys credited as ‘Pencil Assists’, Scott Hanna listed for ‘Finishes’ and four other guys down for the inking job. I imagine there were a lot of people placing bets on how long it would be before Silvestri ran into trouble before exiting, but was anyone really expecting it to be this swiftly? Unsurprisingly some pages look far superior to others, but I’ll be damned if I can tell who did what. It’s a shame really, as the ridiculous artistic situation on this title is overshadowing the good work Aaron’s doing. Not completely, thankfully, but part of me thinks they should get shot of Silvestri now, no matter how good he is, and back up Aaron with some reliability and consistency. 7/10

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Cliff Chiang & Matthew Wilson
DC $2.99

James R: This book is really turning into the surprise package of the new 52. Three issues in, and Brian Azarello is showing that his new take on Wonder Woman is compelling and unlike any other book on the stands, by being a winning blend of mythology and excellent characterisation. In this issue we learn that Diana wasn't a 'miracle baby' forged from clay, but as a result of Zeus and Hera rolling like thunder under the covers! (And reading back that sentence, I'm aware of how ridiculous comics can be!) The book continues to look beautiful - I've been a huge fan of Chiang since his work on Azarello's brilliant Doctor Thirteen miniseries. Before the relaunch, I was confident that he was a canny choice for Diana's adventures, and I'm delighted that his work has been made bolder by the colours of Matthew Wilson. Now matters on Paradise Island are concluded, I'm looking forward to this story returning to the world of man next month - it's a delight to read a book that continues to surprise. 8/10


That One Guy said...

So, Matt, what do you think just of the Iron Man 7.3 on it's own. That's what these reviews are really for, right? Not just about how a company is handling their business.

Matt Clark said...

The mark at the end reflects the content of the issue. I wasn't scoring Marvel - they'd get much lower than a 6/10 at the moment!

Tom P said...

I must say I side more with Stewart on Iron man 7.3, fear itself was a dud, but I felt Invincible Ironman was handled very well over the course of the event, from his first show down in Paris to the Workshops of Asgard it's been a good arc. However, I do agree, Matt, MF is better suited to Stark than Thor.

Living Tribunal said...

In my opinion Marvel has lost its way and is creatively bankrupt. The only kind of books they want to publish are prelude stories that set up the "event" and so on and so forth - one event leading to another. They don't let their books stand on their own feet so the only way to hook you on a new book is to tie it into the "event." That's MARKETING, not creativity. Whether its editorial or the writers themselves, they need to drastically cut back on decompression and events, and focus on telling interesting SUPERHERO stories.