19 Dec 2011

Mini Reviews 18/11/2011

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: Zeb Wells
Art: Clayton Crain
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: I’m not the biggest fan of Carnage. I didn’t get the previous miniseries by these creators about the same character who I’m not a fan of. I am however a big fan of these creators’ work in general and so I decided to take a punt and pick this up. Tell you what, it’s pretty darn good! Wells comes up with a rather creepy story that’s punctuated with moments of superhero comedy and it further cements my opinion that he’s one of the best Marvel writers for having fun with the ever-young, always recognisable ‘characters’ of the publishers’ canon. The early scenes here are genuinely freaky too thanks to his sparse use of dialogue and Crain’s brilliantly brooding style and one particular panel in the early stages is really quite horrific upon initial viewing - further thinking about it helps to explain that revulsion away thankfully. When the superheroes turn up, Wells talents really come to the fore with some entertaining banter amongst them about catchphrases and long-running gags and it gives this book a more dark humour feel than pure tense horror-fest. The only negative I have to raise is that while Crain was a perfect fit for the black leather-clad X-Force team back in the day, I’m not sure he’s the best fit for dealing with the more colourful looks of the Avengers but that’s just a small niggle in an otherwise darn fine debut. 8/10

S.H.I.E.L.D. #4
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Dustin Weaver, Sonia Oback, Rachelle Rosenberg & Christina Strain
Marvel $3.99

James R: Jonathan Hickman, could, if you squint a little, be Marvel's Grant Morrison. Hear me out on this one: They are both creators of undoubted talent who bring interesting new perspectives on very well-established comics tropes, and use the medium to convey some mind-bending sci-fi concepts. Both men also seem to be increasingly divisive amongst the fanboys & girls - some say that the writers are geniuses, other say that they're authors who 'Lose the plot', or forget the narrative altogether. See, they are kinda similar! One thing I do know for sure is that when both writers get it right, the results are always a joy to behold. And step forward S.H.I.E.L.D. volume 2 #4, which is a frankly staggering issue. Unlike Hickman's Fantastic Four, this title has had a much greater sense of purpose and this month's instalment sees the protagonists pushed towards a jaw-dropping endgame. Leonid, Howard Stark and Nathaniel Richards et al. travel forward in time to confront an entertainingly barmy Isaac Newton. The real fun here is that we see the confrontation played out in three different possible futures and with each possibility, Weaver illustrates identical characters and dialogue in the foreground, but the backgrounds are different in each 'world'. It's one of those moments that I read comics for - when a creative team do something that I've never seen before and use the medium in a unique and brilliant way. The aforementioned Dustin Weaver and the colours of Sonia Oback and Co. are perfectly suited to the high ideas of Hickman's writing, and at the end of this issue, I didn't just want to re-read the issue, I wanted to re-read the whole series! Brilliant in every sense of the word. 10/10

Writer: Owen Wiseman
Art: Nam Kim, Matthew Dalton, Sakti Yuwono & Ifansyah Noor
Image $2.99

Stewart R: Quite the explosive finale to Wiseman’s tale of revenge this and it certainly gives the series a reasonable conclusion. With the pieces moved into place during the previous five issues Wiseman leaves a lot of the issue in the capable hands of artist Nam Kim to as the sword-swiping carnage unfolds. Kim’s done a great job throughout and he’s demonstrated a wide range of skills through the slower measured periods and moments of frenetic action and this title has had a feel all of its own. Wiseman’s writing has been tight too but, while he brings things to a head here I have to say I did come away feeling that for all of the preparatory character work, the three young protagonists seem to fade into the background for too long during this chapter. Then, all of a sudden, the odd opportunity arises for them to step into the role that they were groomed for over the previous five instalments and it just feels a tad forced in a few places, almost as if it could have done with a handful more pages to tie everything off nicely without feeling cramped. It’s by no means a crippling problem though and I come away from the series with a very positive perspective on the story as a whole and the creators who have crafted it. 7/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Jerome Opeña, Esad Ribic & Dean White
Marvel $3.99

James R: Oh Marvel, stop it already with this polybagging nonsense! I understand that in this internet-heavy world that 'keeping a secret' is a tough ask, but is there really a need for polybagging the last issue of an arc? It's a cheap gimmick that this classy book simply doesn't need. Once again, Remender and Co. come up with the goods, delivering a finale to the Dark Angel Saga that doesn't disappoint. Since the first issue of this title, Remender has teased that there may well come a moment when Betsy Braddock will have to deliver a fatal blow to the man she loves, Warren Worthington, now almost completely consumed by the Archangel aspect of his psyche. What's remarkable here is that when that moment is expected to unfold, what follows is not necessarily that, or any alternative we might have also pictured and clearly shows Remender to be a writer who can wrong-foot an audience at just the right moment. As the issues pass, I think what I'm enjoying the most about the book is, that despite being a grizzled and cynical old comics reader, I'm continuously surprised by the narrative here, and that's definitely bringing me back for more! It's also a feast for the eyes too, with Opeña's pencils beautifully offset by Dean White's distinctive colour palette. I'm amazed at how much I'm enjoying the X-universe at the moment - who says you can't teach a old geek new tricks?! 8/10

Writer: Adam Glass
Art: Fedrico Dallocchio & Val Staples
DC $2.99

Stewart R: For a DC New 52 title that I didn’t initially pick up, Suicide Squad is fast climbing up my list of must-read comics! Adam Glass is doing a superb job of delivering a script that keeps the reader as well as the desperate villainous protagonists on their toes. The team’s infiltration of a Basilisk terrorist cell brings up some neat twists, allows us to get to know the latest additions a little better and also see the odd bit of character development with those squad members who have been there from the very beginning. Unlike Marvel’s Thunderbolts, on which some may naturally look for comparisons, the fact that there is no proper sense of underlying heroism here makes for a harder and darker read as we’re essentially seeing different shades of manipulation and ‘evil’. This is a title about survival as opposed to redemption and Glass’ maintains a great variety of voice amongst these desperate governmental puppets that is consistently engrossing. For me, Dallocchio has been the pick of the artists involved during these four months and his full participation here is a shiny cherry atop a comic bun of goodness....about evil. 9/10

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

James R: Another month, another classy chapter in the saga of Bruce & Damian Wayne. This month sees Damian questioning Bruce's crime-fighting methods and parenting, then being tempted by an offer from NoBody (and yes, I know that sounds a bit dodgy. Sorry!) Every time I review 'Batman & Robin', I worry how slight it must sound, but trust me, this title is an intense read and is being perfectly handled by Tomasi. He's got a great grip on Damian's character, and despite the feeling that (as this is comics) it'll all turn out okay in the end, Tomasi is showing that Damian could easily step to the dark side and turn away from the mantle of the Bat. A special mention to the colours of John Kalisz, which are lush and atmospheric. As is fitting for Batman, the book seems to be taking place in perpetual night, starkly lit by neon, halogen and fireflies and Kalisz handles the palettes with aplomb, and gives Gleason's pencil's and Gray's inks a real cinematic polish. As an avowed Bat-fan, I can find nothing to dislike about this book, and an awful lot to enjoy. As I've said numerous times when talking about Snyder's Batman book, this is a brilliant time for we fans of Gotham's Dark Knight. 8/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne & Alex Sinclair
DC $2.99

Stewart R: This is by far the strongest issue of the new run so far by Johns and that all hinges on his focus on the shift that has occurred in Sinestro. We keep getting glimpses of his doubt and indecision in himself and for a character normally known for his relentless drive and determination it’s certainly an interesting new perspective. Immersing him neck deep in the Corps that he created which now views him as a potential enemy and the homeland that has suffered greatly as a result of his machinations adds further weight to this too. The problem is that we’re still left wanting for an explanation as to why we’re now seeing this shift in Sinestro and Johns will surely have to look into that soon. The other obvious problem is that I haven’t mentioned Hal Jordan here when this is arguably his title and we’re 4 issues into a promotion intended to bring new readers in. Johns takes a look at what demons Hal is having to deal with but there’s no hiding from the fact that he’s clearly not the point of focus presently. It's not a major issue at all, just more of a puzzlement! The art as ever from Mahnke is very strong and I’m enjoying the time he’s getting to portray the various hideous members of the Yellow Lantern Corps these days. And a big ‘Hooray’ for DC only using two inkers this time out (even though something seems amiss on the fifth page of art in that department!). 8/10

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