22 Jan 2012

Mini Reviews 22/01/2012

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

James R: I'm a great believer in 'the zone', the concept that a lucky few people - sportsmen, actors, writers, whatever you want - reach a pitch in their careers that, for a while, means that they cannot put a foot wrong. I think that Scott Snyder has firmly entered the zone and is making it his personal property with this outstanding issue. We join Batman trapped in a nightmare maze constructed by the Court of Owls, a trap that has pushed the Dark Knight to his very limits, both physical and psychological. Meanwhile, out in Gotham, the extended Bat-family grow increasingly concerned for Batman's safety. The issue is a masterclass on a number of levels; firstly, as an exercise in pushing the boundaries of the medium. I loved it when Mike Carey made an issue of The Unwritten a choose-your-own-adventure, as it was an attempt to shake up the conventions of reading a comic. Snyder does the same thing here, forcing the reader to flip the issue in the latter part of the story, neatly mirroring Batman’s own increasingly twisted journey through the maze. Then there's the characterisation; Snyder's Batman is, for me, a far more involving representation than Grant Morrison's - whereas Morrison portrayed Batman as virtually a God, unbeatable and a match to any challenge, Snyder's Batman is far more vulnerable and human but still filled with the unbreakable will that is the hallmark of the character. It also looks beautiful, with Greg Capullo & Jonathan Glapion outdoing themselves with every issue. I could go on and on but I'm sure you get the idea - Snyder is in the zone and long may it continue. You need this comic in your life! 10/10

Matt C: Scott Snyder seems to be raising his game with each successive issue of Batman, resulting in the best of his run yet this month, and when you consider the quality of what’s come before, that’s high praise indeed! Batman’s lost in the maze of the Court Of Owls, desperately trying to a hold onto his sanity as, bit by bit, it’s slowly stripped away. The genius of this is that you become completely convinced that someone with the rigid self-control of Bruce Wayne could start to fall apart following a concerted attack that strikes at him both mentally and physically. As Synder continues to deliver script after script of pure brilliance, Capullo layers on the grandiose, gothic visuals that carry a dark potency which is magnified when the book is literally turned on its head. Amongst all the mind games we also get an emotive reminder of what Bruce/Batman means to Gotham, even as the man himself wonders whether it ever really was his city. The body of Snyder’s work with the character may be relatively small at this point but I think there’s now an immensely strong (watertight?) case for proclaiming him not only one of the great Batman writers of our time, but one of the great Batman writers, period. 9/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Greg Tocchini & Dean White
Marvel $3.99

James R: Any fears that this title might suffer a kind of hangover after the veritable all-night party that was the ‘Dark Angel Saga' are quickly dismissed this week with yet another fine issue of Uncanny X-Force. Fantomex has been dragged to Otherworld to stand trial for his infanticide of the young Apocalypse, and Captain Britain (yay!) tries to convince Psylocke to join him in the battle to save his realm. As I've said before, I was never a massive X-fan as a teen or in my twenties due to the seemingly impenetrable history of Marvel's mutants, but I'm continually amazed at how easy Rick Remender has made it for me to get immersed in this world. It's like he's taking a lot of 'Greatest Hits' from Marvel continuity and placing his own compulsive spin on them. Here, it's Alan Moore's legendary run on Captain Britain, which, as a self-confessed acolyte of the Great Beard, means it's even easier to love the action in these pages. Remender also keeps the team dynamic interesting and fresh with the AoA Nightcrawler in the ranks, and whereas the art isn't as amazing as when the book is pencilled by Jerome Opena, Greg Tocchini delivers his best work yet. One final point of kudos: as an Englishman, I love it when English or British characters aren't written as either toffs or Dick Van Dyke cockneys by American writers, so Gawd bless ya, Rick Remender, you're a diamond geezer, guv! 8/10

Writer: Arvid Nelson
Art: Roberto Castro & Alex Guimaraes
Dynamite Entertainment $1.00

Matt C: Dynamite seem intent on bringing as many of these iconic characters from yesteryear back to a modern audience as possible, and if they keep on with this ‘$1 for #1’ incentive I find myself much more willing to check out what they have to offer. I’ve seen various interpretations of the Tarzan character over the years, and perhaps I may seek out the original Edgar Rice Burroughs stories at some point, but I can’t say I’ve ever delved too deeply into the archetypal legend of the Earl of Greystoke. This debut issue appears to be setting out its stall as a serious, faithful adaptation of Burroughs work, and while it’s a solid read, it’s not quite strong enough to convince me that I need to pay $3.99 for the subsequent issues. The art’s rustic and evocative (although a touch confusing in some spots), the script has a certain measure of eloquence, but there are probably only so many pages of monkeys going “Oo! Oo!” and “Aah! Aah!” at each other that I can take. Not bad, but not something that makes me want to pound my chest! 6/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Kano & Javier Roderiguez
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: The concluding instalment of this two-part crossover with Amazing Spider-Man offers further evidence that Waid is on a roll at the moment. The first part was a buoyant affair, exhibiting the writer’s perfect grasp of both Spidey and Hornhead, but this title is where he’s made his current home, and his near-reinvention of the character is so successful that it’s not difficult to see why lots of people are now pointing at this being their favourite Marvel title. It’s not just that he’s brighten things up a fair bit, it’s also because he’s playful with the idea of an ‘outed’ superhero, and, perhaps most importantly, he’s bought Daredevil’s powers back to the forefront in the most inventive of ways. This last point has had a lot riding on the artists chosen to depict those powers visually, and there hasn’t been any disappointment in that department so far, a trend that Kano refuses to buck (check out the brilliant helicopter scene as one of the finest examples here). The series continues to race in a new direction (thanks to the Omegadrive) but Waid still throws in curveballs to keep readers on their toes, as that final page ably demonstrates. If you’ve ever liked this character but drifted away at some point over the years, now is most definitely the time to return. 9/10

CHEW #23
Writer: Johm Layman
Art: Rob Guillory & Taylor Wells
Image $2.99

Matt C: I often find myself passing Chew over when choosing which books to review in its release week in favour of other, frequently lesser, titles. This has to stop really as I should be getting behind the book at every available opportunity and singing its praises. Not that it needs it as it does pretty well for itself as far as I can gather, but if I can turn one person onto Chew that hasn’t already tasted its delights (sorry!) then I guess I’ve done my job. It’s just such a hugely likeable series thanks to its outlandish premise, even more outlandish characters, and the way it seems to continuously takes those characters down unexpected, hilarious avenues. Layman obviously loves his creations but does seem to enjoy putting them through the ringer (again and again!) for the readers’ entertainment, and Guillory’s idiosyncratic, over-the-top illustrations (packed with humorous incidental detail) are now so tied in with the concept that it’s kind of impossible to imagine anyone else drawing the book. A genuinely funny, relentlessly surprising and constantly mischievous comic, it’s always a pleasure to find a new issue of Chew in my weekly stack. 8/10

Writer: Judd Winick
Art: Guillem March & Tomeau Morley
DC $2.99

James R: I didn't pick up Catwoman as part of the New 52 as I felt that the creative team were facing an uphill struggle. I'm a big fan of the character, or to be more precise, I'm a fan of Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke's version of Catwoman. When they relaunched Selina Kyle’s solo book in the last decade, they not only made her an interesting and strong female lead, but they also carved out a nice niche for her in the midst of noiresque tales of Gotham's underworld. When I saw that Judd Winick had been picked to kick things off this time, I was convinced that he couldn't live up to the book's last run, and that Guillem March was too much of a 'cheesecake' (ugh, I hate that term) artist for the book. However, I'd heard good things about the last couple of issues, so having invested in the prior four and this week's issue #5, I'm pleasantly surprised! Winick understands that gritty noir crime should be the heart of this book, and March seems to be keeping his slightly *ahem* revealing tendencies in check. It's good to see that Selina is portrayed as a character living on her wits, and the narrative feels suitably breathless. I'm still not entirely won over by March, and I don’t think the book is quite up to the standard of the Brubaker years, but it has managed to get me back on board. Slinky! 7/10


Andy C said...

Totally agree with your Batman reviews. Awesome issue, each issue seems somehow better than the last. I've only been reading comics about 9 months so I don't know if it's been done before but the page layout thing works so well and came as a total surprise to me. I'm loving how the Batman title continues the Gates of Gotham feel as I loved that series as well. The inclusion of the history of Gotham gives a grounding to the series and makes it feel more 'real'. Still can't believe how it's possible to get so excited by an issue at nearly 40! I'll shut up now!

Joe T said...

For me this week, I picked up the latest issues of Amazing Spider-Man, Avenging Spider-Man, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Batman, Daredevil, Uncanny X-Force and Venom (along with lots of back issues)

Amazing Spider-Man was a fun read, with what felt like a really fresh new concept. The plot wasn't really Spidey-like at all, and yet, Slott made it feel like a proper Spider-Man adventure. Ramos is very much a hit and miss artist for me, but this issue was definitely a "hit". Great fun all round, 8/10.

Avenging Spider-Man was also an enjoyable read, and as of this moment in time the only "Avengers" book I'm buying. Most people I know love Joe Mad, and whilst I do enjoy his work, I feel at times his work looks unfinished, due to a lack of inker. Luckily, this was only really noticeable in a few panels,with the scratchy pencil like quality adding to the speed of the action. Some beautifully drawn panels this issue (the stand out 2 would be the one with the baby moliods, and "heee is not wearing underpants") though Mad's Red Hulk doesn't look the greatest (and the colouring on Steve Rogers really wound me up), but all in all was a fairly nice story that harkened back to earlier comics of the 70's/80's. Oh and I'm a massive fan of the digital download codes. 7/10

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man is a hard one to review. Story wise, this is the best issue of the relaunch yet. Art wise, not so much. Usually I'm quite a big Samnee fan, but the guy really can't draw the new Ultimate Spider-Man. All the Prowler scenes were gorgeous, and the ones with Miles talking to his mum and his best friend weren't too bad either, but the rest left a lot to be desired. Bendis's characterisation of the cast members is on point (genuine suprise), proving that he can still write decent comics. Miles Morales is a character that is just as relateable as Peter Parker, and in some ways, maybe even more so (consider, this is a kid that wants to be Spider-Man, and now is. Try and tell me at no point in your life you haven't wanted to be Spider-Man?). Much like Avenging Spider-Man, the digital code is a step in the right direction. 7/10. It could have been a 9, but held back by the art.

Batman now, and I must be the only person who ISN'T gushing with praise over this issue. Sure it was great and all, and the whole "flipping" thing was really smart, and the artwork was great, but somehow it just fell flat. I did enjoy it, and I do like that Batman ISN'T 100% invunerable, but I didn't feel convinced that he was loosing his mind. Regardless, Synder is one of the best Batman writers of all time, though this series doesn't hold a candle to the whole "Black Mirror" thing he did over in Detective. Still, 8/10.

Daredevil. Well, 9/10. Not much I can really say without going into plot details, or gushing with praise. Absolutely loved it. Can't believe I was ever worried when Marvel announced Waid was taking the character back to his swashbuckling roots. Near perfection. Also, I hope we see more of Kano's work on the title. His artwork is halfway between Rivera's and Martin's. Perfect fit for the title. So excited for the next issue...and each issue following. If someone asked me why Daredevil is my favourite superhero, I'd be just as likely to point them to Waid's run as I would be Miller's.

Joe T said...

Uncanny X-Force. Another case in which a great story suffers due to bad art. This latest arc seems to be dealing with more of the wackier X-Men concepts, yet still managing to tell it in a dark fashion. The artwork here really wasn't nice at all, and having come from the conclusion of an 8 issue epic that featured the work of Brooks and Opena, Tocchini really is not the way to go. Loving Remenders use of Fantomex, easily the most engaging X-Men related character. I do want to know though, when exactly DID the Captain Britain Corps reform? Last we saw of Brian Braddock, he was being granted Avengers membership over in the I Am An Avenger anthology? 7/10, due to the art. On that note though, the cover was gorgeous.

Venom. FINALLY! The series has been pretty slow going so far, and has been nowhere near as good as Uncanny X-Force, but here, here Remender really hits his stride. In this issue, Flash looses control. He really looses control, and we see the animal that is Venom for all his glory, lashing out through vegas. Absolutely fantastic issue, made even better by the art by Lan Medina. & when you see why Venom goes mental, you know Marvel are planning some major Venom related stuff this year. 9/10, really loved it.