4 Dec 2011

Mini Reviews 04/12/2011

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.

Writers: Eric Trautmann & Alex Ross
Art: Daniel Indro, Slamet Muijiono & Alex Ross
Dynamite Entertainment $1.00

Matt C: Even though a recent live-action series was critically mailed then swiftly cancelled and a comic series from Ardden Entertainment failed to pull in readers, Flash Gordon remains a potent force in popular geek culture. Nearly 80 years after the initial publication of the Flash Gordon comic strip we’re still seeing people go back to Alex Raymond’s creation to spin new iterations on the character in attempt to reel in new readers. I’ve never been a HUGE fan – I watched the old Buster Crabbe reruns as a kid and have fond memories of the 1980 movie – so while the aforementioned TV show and comic series passed me by, I had to pick this up because the dollar price tag was irresistible and that cover is one the most evocative I’ve seen from Alex Ross in a while. It takes a lot of plot beats from the Mike Hodges film - obviously a homage rather than a rip-off - but it works well and adding the Nazi element offers up lots of possibilities (although I hear its an idea that’s been utilized before). If you hold the film in mind when you read this you’ll likely connect with the pulpy sci-fi fun it contains – the art is solid with some flashes (sorry!) of visual invention (Ross’ influence no doubt) and the script is tight and propulsive. It’s doesn’t replicate the film’s camp tone and there’s a much more serious element at play, but not too serious as to exclude the kind of adventure and thrills you’d expect from the character. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting great things from this so I’m more than pleasantly surprised to discover how much I enjoyed it. For $1.00, it’s an essential purchase. 8/10

James R: "Klytus, I'm bored... What plaything can you offer me today?"
"Well, your majesty, it was a quiet week, so we have this, an obscure title from Dynamite publishing, home of a million Green Hornet comics and, er, Alex Ross' vanity projects."
"Bah! Why should the ruler of Mongo - no laughing at the back! - waste his time on such a folly?"
"It features us, your highness. And what can only be described as a galactic-sized feeling of deja vu."
"What weapon has caused this deja vu, Klytus?"
"It appears that the creative team behind this book have decided to take the plot of the 1980 film and copy it in its entirety."
"GAH! Remove this effrontery! Does it have any redeeming features?"
"The persons responsible have noticed that your mortal enemy - Flash Gordon - had his first adventures in the 1930s, and have thus decided to stick the movie plot over the backdrop of the period... which could be interesting... but it's not. Oh, it also features Hitler. But only at the end. It is unbelievably stupid, even for a comic."
"Hmmm. I feel these graphic terrorists should get a dose of hot hail!"
"Your majesty... the issue was only $1.00. May I suggest a session with the Bore Worms for all concerned?!"
"Excellent Klytus! Mwa-Haaaaa-haaaa." 3/10

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Carlos Pacheco, Jorge Molina, Rodney Buchemi, Cam Smith, Roger Bonet, Walden Wong, Frank D’Armata, Rachelle Rosenberg & Jim Charalampidis
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Having enjoyed the first issue enough there are just a few things here that don’t quite feel right. Gillen really goes for the motives and philosophy of Sinister in this issue and as a result the X-Men are pretty much along for the ride as we witness the self-confessed ego trip of their longtime foe. Gillen sets up Sinister as some kind of systemic, engineered and evolved off-shoot of humanity and mutantkind but that sort of threat has been teased and seen in Marvel comics before - the Phalanx and Deathloks are two that come to mind and there’s similarity to anything the High Evolutionary has done recently too. That’s the big issue but also little points like Scott being able to remove Colossus’ helmet so easily seem a little ‘lazy’ I guess, like they’re just there to get the plot to the next period of Sinister’s gloating. It’s not a complete loss by any means as moments such as Scott’s backup plan involving Hope and Jorge Molina’s flashback pages work well. I was just expecting a bit more from the return of Sinister and I’m just a little underwhelmed by what I’ve received here. 6/10

Writer: Brian Azarello
Art: Eduardo Risso & Patricia Mulvihill
DC/Vertigo $2.99

James R: I fell in love with this book from the preview pages in Vertigo's Strange Adventures a few months back, but after issue #1 last month I was surprised that a number of my comics-guzzling comrades didn't feel the same way that I did. I've tried to be a little more objective this month, but in a very thin week for comics this still struck me as the best read by a mile. It sees Orson, the eponymous Spaceman of the title, holding off Tara's kidnappers, whilst flashing back to his time working for NASA... or is he? One of the intriguing things about the book is that the flashbacks featuring Orson and his genetically altered brothers seem to be dreams - in the promotional material for this series, we were told: "Orson was created for a space program to Mars that never happened" - so how many of these pages are real, and what’s a dream? It makes for a compelling read, and I'm gambling that Azarello has got something brilliant up his sleeve here. As always with Risso and Mulvihill, the art is beautiful and instantly recognisable, and the creative team make pages that read like dark poetry. This may be a bit of a marmite book, but I can't get enough of it! 9/10

FF #12
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Juan Bobilo, Marcelo Sosa & Chris Sotomayor
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Although I was left disappointed by Fantastic Four #600, I can’t deny that Hickman’s sprawling storyline has got its hooks into me and I’m curious to see how it all pans out. Whether it’s really necessary for said storyline to encompass two titles remains to be seen but I’ve liked the idea behind the Future Foundation and Hickman’s handling of Valeria Richards in particular has been on the money. I found this a more engaging read than #600, perhaps because of the tighter focus employed, but even saying that, it certainly didn’t bowl me over. Again there’s a feeling that Hickman needs to introduce more momentum to his tale because, bar a few interesting reveals, he doesn’t move things very far forward. I’ve enjoyed Bobillo’s work in the past, and it has plenty to recommend it here, but I’m not sure the chunky inking is the right way to go. It’s entertaining enough but I’ll have to see how Fantastic Four #601 is before I decide whether I need both titles, or for that matter, either of them. 6/10

Stewart R: It’s quite clear now just how Hickman has paved the way for the Future Foundation to go in a separate direction to the Fantastic Four title following the events that transpired in the bumper #600 and also the past three issues of FF. What we end up with here is the children whisked off to Latveria by the Baxter Building which puts them in the neighbourhood of Grandpa Nathaniel Richards and Uncle Victor Von Doom. This makes a lot of sense considering Valeria’s previous plotting, planning and deal-making with Doom along with Nathaniel’s time travelling antics. The only slight problem is that the rest of the Foundation remain a little redundant currently because of the focus on the strained alliance between Val and the adults. No doubt things will be reigned in a little once this arc has run its course but it’s once again evidence that Hickman can occasionally have too many plates spinning at any one moment. I’m also not a big fan of Bobillo’s art and I had difficulty picking out who was who from the human children and on a title about such characters that’s not a great situation to have. I’ll have to see how Fantastic Four #601 turns out now before making a decision on which title to buy in future I think. 6/10

Writer: Gerry Duggan
Art: Phil Noto
Image $2.99

Matt C: Ideally, if I’d had the time, I would have dug out all the issues of this mini and read them in one hit to get the full impact of the story, but then, ideally, I wouldn’t have to had over two years wait between issues #4 and #5. If I’d know when the series debuted back in December 2007 that it would take FOUR YEARS to wrap up (I’ve had two kids in that time!) I might have trade-waited! So, bearing in mind my knowledge of what had preceded in this interpretation of Homer’s Odyssey was a bit hazy to say this least, this finale was actually pretty effective. Purely on its own terms it’s a fairly riveting look at a man taking back what’s rightfully his against the backdrop of a near-future, decaying society. It’s masterfully paced, full of flashes of determined violence and well illustrated by Noto. Obviously the scheduling harmed this as an episodic read but I think it will come across quite strongly in collected form. I’m certainly now of the opinion that I’ll need to investigate it again at some point down the line. 7/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Marcos Martin & Muntsa Vicente
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: What a very good end to an impressive first arc from Mark Waid! He brings things involving Matt’s attempts to protect blind language specialist, Austin Cao, to a head with several representatives of some of the Marvel Universe’s most devious organizations all involved and interested in silencing the young guy once and for all. What I’ve enjoyed the most about these past six issues is Waid’s focus on Daredevil’s powers, giving the reader an inside view of the experience that Matt goes through when combating various opponents. Bruiser has made things even more interesting with a powerset that has Daredevil on the back foot throughout their confrontation and I always enjoy seeing a superhero really have to think about how to take down an impressive foe. I also like seeing a writer weave a story that sets things up for future plot lines and things are certainly left in an interesting position moving forward that will no doubt bring further obstacles into the life of Matt Murdock over the coming months. 8/10

James R: In what, for me, has been an exceedingly weak year for Marvel, Mark Waid's Daredevil has been a complete success; in 6 issues he's reworked the tone of the book, and with some exceptional collaborators, delivered some stunning visual images too. This month sees the conclusion to the Austin Cao plot as Matt Murdock goes toe-to-toe with every ridiculously attired criminal collective in the Marvel Universe along with Bruiser, a career criminal in a very different sense of the term! As a comic, it's a fine read, but as a conclusion it felt a little flat. There's absolutely nothing wrong the book - which is simply and strikingly illustrated by Martin and Vicente - but after such a brilliant set-up I felt that this could have run for another two issues. Despite the curtailed feeling, it ends with Daredevil purposefully putting himself in the crosshairs of a lot of the Marvel Universe's despicable fiends, an act that promises some double-barrelled action in the arcs to come. Not a gold-standard issue, but bravo to Waid et al for saving Daredevil from the comics hell he was firmly in at the start of 2010. 7/10

Writer: Joe Casey
Art: Nathan Fox & FCO Plascencia
Image $2.99

Stewart R: The changing of the creative guard has taken place and with it come a lot of changes for Daniel and Kurt Kilgore as Casey shuffles things around and shows quite clearly that the previous stories of secret organizations and espionage are not likely to be surfacing with the same cast of characters any time soon. A jump this big has the potential to be a risky move but Casey addresses things in a matter of fact way that, considering the rather bizarre central premise, doesn’t really feel out of place and certainly adds a very interesting aspect to the relationship between the two brothers. The introduction of the Second Church offers up a new and very dangerous threat and suggests that we might be getting Joe Casey on one of his philosophical good days in a similar mould to his recent work on Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker. Nathan Fox’s style is a great deal different to that of Greg Capullo but it works with the chaotic and fluid powers that Haunt possesses. If anything, his art is more raw and visceral and it certainly suits the slight shift that we witness in the characters. Too soon to say just how safe a couple of pairs of hands this title finds itself in now but it looks promising. 7/10

Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Mirko Colak & Matthew Wilson
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: This miniseries was always going to live in the shadow of Magento: Testament and to be fair into doesn’t quite reach the same level of magnificence as Greg Pak’s earlier work. But then again, that’s one hell of a tall order as Testament stands as one of the best series Marvel have produced in the 21st century and it would be foolish to assume that lightening could strike twice. Red Skull is still good though; in fact, it’s very good indeed, with this final issue finding Johann Schmidt arriving right on Hitler’s doorstep, putting him that much closer to becoming the Red Skull of Marvel lore (a transformation we don’t see here, just as we didn’t see Erik Lehnsherr becoming Magneto in Testament). In many ways this series is actually the flip side of Testament; that was about a boy forced onto a path outside of his control but with Red Skull Pak seems to be siding more with the nature side of the nature versus nurture debate. Schmidt has been presented with opportunities to redeem himself at various points in the series but has avoided them, steadfastly remaining on a course that’s more or less purely immoral. Mirko Colak captures this aspect of the story quite brilliantly, providing Schmidt with certain facial expressions designed to send chills down the spine. Red Skull is one of the most effective representations of evil inside the Marvel Universe you're likely to see and is a worthy companion piece to Testament. 8/10


Joe T said...

Out of this weeks(technically last weeks) comics, I picked up Daredevil, FF, and Uncanny X-Men.

Daredevil continues to be in the top 3 Marvel titles right now, and rightfully so. This is a fun comic book. As a major lifelong Daredevil fan, from most things Miller onwards, I honestly never thought I would enjoy a more traditional superhero take on The Man Without Fear. When Waid was announced as writer, I was worried. I had no need to be-he's the perfect fit. I was also worried about Marcos Martin as an artist for this title. Martin is nowhere near as good as Rivera, but I did come around to him this issue (and was actually quite dissapointed to hear this was his last issue). For anyone that's reading Daredevil, I reccomend picked up Punisher as seeds for an impending crossover are being planted in both titles. Book of the week, 9/10.

FF. Wow, that's a dissapointment. The story was perfectly fine, but a.) was nowhere near a worthy follow up chapter to Fantastic Four 600 and b.) was horribly harmed by the artwork. This looks like it'll be dropped. 6/10.

Uncanny X-Men. For a long time now, I've had nothing but hate for the X-Men, the concept is ridiculous, theres too many of them, and none of it makes any sense to me. Other than Remender's X-Force, I couldn't read anything from the X-Men line until Gillen's run on Uncanny. Issue one of the relaunched Uncanny won me over. Issue 2 reminded me why I hate the franchise. Poor effort Marvel, 4/10

Also picked up The Flash #3 (again very good, but not as good as previous issues) and Superman #3 (a let down)

A pretty "meh" week for me.

Eric Trautmann said...

@James R: Sorry you didn't enjoy Flash Gordon. I did have one comment, in regards to your (admittedly amusing) dig: "It appears that the creative team behind this book have decided to take the plot of the 1980 film and copy it in its entirety."

The 1980 film was surprisingly faithful to the original Alex Raymond origins (and certainly, we cherry-picked some elements from the film that we liked, notably the inclusion of Klytus) but the similarity isn't simply "swiping" the plot of the film. Both our series and the film are drawing inspiration from the Raymond strips, drawing water from the same well.

There will be some significant differences between film and comic as we intend to more closely follow the Raymond strips.

In any event, thanks for taking the time to read the book.


-Eric Trautmann

Anonymous said...

Hi Eric!

Well, that's me put in my place! : ) After such a considered reply to my (frankly) 2-bit review, the least I can do is check out issue 2 - which I most surely will now!

Thank you for taking the time to feed back to us, and good luck with 'Zeitgeist' - you can consider the Bore Worms called off!

Cheers, James R