11 Dec 2011

Mini Reviews 11/12/2011

While we may not always have the time to review all the comics we get every week (a task made slightly more difficult with a hangover courtesy of the group Christmas night out hanging over our heads!), we do try and provide a snapshot of the latest releases, mixing the good with the not so good.


DEFENDERS #1
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson & Sonia Oback
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: A year ago I would have been all over the title; Fraction was knocking it out of the park with Invincible Iron Man, I’d just discovered Casanova, and he generally just seemed to be bringing a level of creative intensity that was marking him out amongst Marvel’s roster. 2011 changed my perception of him somewhat thanks, largely, to the bitterly disappointing Fear Itself. I had high hopes based on Fraction’s potential but it was possibly Marvel’s weakest event in years, and that’s even factoring in the likes of Secret Invasion and Civil War. His Mighty Thor title started spectacularly but gradually went off the boil and while I’m nearly convinced Casanova is a work of genius and Invincible Iron Man seems to be returning to form, I’m no longer confident that he’s got any sort of Midas touch in the comics arena. Which, of course, won’t stop me checking out new stuff from him, such as this title, reforming a superteam that never really felt like a proper superteam to me, rather a collection of individual heroes that Marvel couldn’t find any communal home for in the ‘70s. I wish I could say this ‘reinvention’ clicked for me, but sadly, coming off the back of Fear Itself, it came across as forced and without any real purpose. I know it’s early, but there doesn’t seem to be a really valid reason for these guys coming together (again) and at $3.99, with so much other stuff out there at the moment, I’m not inclined to see if it improves. The Dodsons’ art is fine, if probably a little too ‘shiny’ for some tastes, and Fraction script does contain a few interesting character moments, but overall there’s simply not enough here to make me think it’s worth investing my time and money in. 5/10

James R: The Defenders have always been something of a comic fanboy punchline - if you've never seen the Twisted Toyfare Theatre's take on the team, I implore you to seek it out! However, Matt Fraction taking a tilt at this title (which features a couple of my favourites - Iron Fist and Dr. Strange) meant that I felt that this first issue was definitely worth a look. So, is it worth your hard-earned cash? Well, it depends on how much you have to spare, as there's a lot to like here but it's far from an essential purchase. This is the typical 'get the band together' first issue with the Hulk rounding up the misfit gang to battle Nul - the Breaker of Worlds. It's a handsome issue, with the Dodsons doing a fine job, and the retro page footnotes were a nice touch. I've read that Fraction has a great plan for this title; an examination as to why everything happens in the Marvel Universe? You can sign me up for that! But how long will Fraction take to get round to this? After his runs on Invincible Iron Man and Mighty Thor, which have run out of steam for me, I can't shake the worry that this title promises more than it can deliver. But as for this individual issue? Not a bad start, but in a year punctuated by some outstanding first issues, not the greatest first chapter either. 7/10


BATWING #4
Writer: Judd Winnick
Art: ChrisCross, Ryan Winn & Brian Reber
DC $2.99

Stewart R: As I predicted (well, it is stated plainly on the cover!), this fourth instalment is less about David’s attempts to track down and stop Massacre and more about the dark upbringing that he lived through as a child soldier. Winnick takes the decision to keep the current chase for the mass murderer ticking over though and there are some nice moments that give insight into just why Batwing is on his mission of redemption. I like the fact that we have a member of the Bat family with some real blood on his hands, albeit from a situation that was more or less out of his control, as it adds an interesting slant on things rather than the victim-turned-hero back stories that seem to crop up with the majority of the other Caped Crusaders. I’ll put it out there now and say that I don’t think we’ve seen the last of David’s family ties with this issue and I’m hoping that the obvious connecting-the-dots I’ve been doing with Winnick’s plot threads doesn’t prove to be the story we end up with. ChirsCross has the undesirable job of following up Ben Oliver’s brilliant artwork and while he doesn’t have the same 'wow' factor as Oliver he puts in a solid effort that captures the brutality of the flashbacks well. One of the new DC titles that’s still going strong. 8/10


SWEET TOOTH #28
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Matt Kindt
DC $2.99

Matt C: Three issues without Gus or Jeppard have allowed Lemire to take us on a journey into the past and give us an insight into where the plague that decimated the human race may have originated. Told through the 1911 diary entries of Dr James Thacker we obviously have his perspective guiding us through the events which means certain aspects of the tale have a ring of superstition to them and science doesn’t get much of a look in. Essentially then, we’re not that much further forward in discovering the reason behind the existence of the Hybrids but that hasn’t stopped this from being an utterly compelling detour that expands on what we’ve seen up to this point in the series, revealing more of the scope of Lemire’s opus. The writer has relinquished artistic duties for this arc to Matt Kindt whose painted images successfully draw us back to the early 20th century – stylistically he’s close to Lemire, but his work has a potency all of its own. Powerful stuff, as always. 8/10

James R: There seems to be a new cycle in my comics reading life: every month I read Sweet Tooth, think "This is the best ongoing comic being published today!", and then by the end of the month, somehow, this knowledge fades from my mind... and then the next issue comes along and reminds me that this is the best ongoing comic being published! This month sees the finale of 'The Taxidermist' interlude in which the narrative has leaped back to the early 20th century to give us a few tantalising clues as to how the plague that has decimated the world of Sweet Tooth came about. Simultaneously, the book is also jaw-dropping insight into the dark heart of mankind - what happens when humans meet that which they don't understand, or that which is different to the norm? As always with Lemire's writing, the story is punctuated with incredible moments of emotion and incredible twists. Matt Kindt does a fine job of filling in for Lemire, but I can't wait for him to be back on pencil duties next month. Sweet Tooth continues to set the standards by which other comics should be judged for me - an essential read! 9/10


RED LANTERNS #4
Writer: Peter Milligan
Art: Ed Benes, Diego Bernard, Rob Hunter & Nathan Eyring
DC $2.99

Stewart R: There’s much to like about this series and the potential that it has as Milligan steadily expands the characters in the ranks of the Red Lanterns from mindless, near-unstoppable rage monsters to something with more personality and, essentially, something that you can use to ensure that an ongoing title has legs long term. Having already asserted that Bleez is going to play a very important part of the Red Lanterns’ future, Milligan starts to cast the net a little wider and invests some time into three different characters and their painful origins. To that end we get a couple of flashbacks which give us a proper introduction to Ratchet and Skallox and it’s a safe bet that Zillious Zoxx will get some page time next issue. Atrocitus’ continued spiral into paranoia, thanks to a lack of direction following Krona’s death, remains an interesting sight but once again things seem forced whenever anything related to Earth comes into view. I’ve concerns that a possible new recruitment that seems likely to occur soon may accentuate the one weakness this title currently displays. The art side of things is still in safe hands and Diego Bernard’s contribution with the flashbacks shows that he really has potential. 7/10


SWAMP THING #4
Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Marco Rudy, Sean Parsons, Michael Lacombe & David Baron
DC $2.99

James R: So far on this book the illustration duties have been handled masterfully by Yanick Paquette, and the sight of a small army of replacements on this issue was a moment of concern. My worry was totally unfounded however as Messrs Rudy, Parsons and Lacombe do a fine job of keeping up Paquette's style. While we're talking continuity, it almost goes without saying that this is another fine instalment from Scott Snyder. As with Batman, where he shows a great love for the heritage of the character while taking him in a terrific direction, it's the same for Swamp Thing. So far, there's been many respectful nods to Alan Moore's classic run, while continuing to deliver a compelling (and disturbing!) new chapter to the big green fella! Along with Lemire's Animal Man (which you should really be reading too!) this is the reason why DC's relaunch has worked; ambitious and smart narrative storytelling, delivered with panache. A must read! 9/10


VOLTRON #1
Writer: Brandon Thomas
Art: Ariel Padilla
Dynamite Entertainment $3.99

Simon M: I was really looking forward to reading this, but it wasn't quite what I had hoped for. It might be down to the fact that I have such fond memories of the animated series from the '80s and if this is the case then it's possible that I would have been disappointed regardless. Don't get me wrong, it is a decent read and if I came to this with no preconceptions I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more. There is however a major change: in the previous TV series and comics there are five pilots that control five robot lions which have the ability to join together and form the giant robot Voltron. In this incarnation Voltron seems to either be a separate entity or piloted by a sixth member of the team as the five pilots are on the ground trying to save the people of New York while Voltron battles to save the city. We are also treated to a glimpse at the possible origin of the main villain Zarkon. Brandon Thomas has dived straight into the story without any real explanation of how we got there so hopefully he will be able to enlighten us sooner rather than later. The art by Ariel Padilla is good, but not spectacular, and is certainly more suited to the large scale action then the close up of the characters. The covers by Alex Ross are exceptional as always. There is just enough to bring me back for issue #2, but it will need to improve quickly. 5/10

1 comment:

Justin said...

Thank GOD that someone else (besides me) wasn't impressed with The Defenders. I was beginning to feel like the only sane person in the looney bin! Every review I've seen so far has been positive, and I just don't get it.