19 Feb 2012

Mini Reviews 19/02/2012

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: Kurtis J.Wiebe
Art: Tyler Jenkins & Alex Sollazzo
Image $3.50

Stewart R: A decent enough start for this comic book series that looks at the story of a young, bold war hero fighting the Nazis French-side during World War II. The comparisons to J. M. Barrie’s tale are clear to see but work so very well in the context of the story of survival that the young group of orphans face as the shells pound around their ears. The visuals from Jenkins and Sollazzo do a fine job of grounding this in the period of deadly conflict, with some great poster-book moments from the penciller and a deft palette consisting of ‘military’ greens, browns and greys from Sollazzo that really helps to set the tone. I’ll admit that Jenkins facial work occasionally leads to a little confusion as to who the minor characters are panel to panel, but it doesn’t derail anything because Wiebe’s script whisks us along as they all run for their lives. Another promising debut from Image that’s for sure, and I’ve high hopes for this moving forward. 7/10

Writer: Judd Winick
Art: Guillem March & Tomeu Morey
DC $2.99

James R: As is fitting for a comic based around a master thief, almost unnoticed, this title has gotten up from the (largely deserved) critical pasting of it's first issue, and at the end of it's first arc has re-established itself on my pull list. How has Judd Winick managed this? Well, he's emphasised what makes the character of Selina Kyle work - he accentuates the fact that she's someone who walks a fine line between crime and justice, and inhabits a Gotham that's dark and gritty. Case in point: this issue sees Selina being tortured on behalf of Gotham's corrupt cops, and while there's part of me that has to raise an eyebrow at the treatment of women, Winick handles the sequence well, underlining just how tough Selina is. It's written with the same kind of grit seen in last year's movie Drive, rather than for titillation’s sake. It ends with a status quo being established that promises the next few arcs of the book should be compulsive reading. The only thing that doesn't work for me is March's pencil style - it lacks the dark element that, say, a Sean Phillips style would bring to the comic. However, with Adriana Melo due to take over with issue #8, I'm confident this cat will continue to get the cream. 7/10

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Greg Land, Jay Leisten & Guru eFX
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: The terrific science-fiction continues in this month’s instalment as we learn more about the relationship between the remaining two survivors of the Apex civilisation and their thoughts on what has become of their people. Admittedly it does feel that the X-Men are passengers for much of the issue, with only Cyclops, Storm and Danger getting much in the way of proper involvement, but that doesn’t prevent this from being an engrossing read. I love the way that Gillen has managed to give the Apex an air of superiority yet has seen fit to provide ‘Good Apex’ with a calming level of respect for his allies; this title is full of egos as it is and one more added to the pile would be pure overload. Things take a slightly more action-oriented turn during the later half of the book and Land keeps things simple and effective with some tasty single splash pages that compliment the story well. Not sure my constant praise for this title is convincing many presently but this is really up there with some of the best X-Men work of the past few years. 9/10

Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Art: Mitch Gerads, Joseph Frazzetta & Jordan Gibson
Image $3.50

Matt C: I wasn’t sure I’d be picking up this third issue after appreciating, but not really falling for, the previous two. It was a relatively light week though, so I figured I’d give it another whirl, and I’m so glad I did as it turned out to be the best instalment yet. The first two issues covered two separate – and successful – missions; this time we focus on the aftermath of an operation that went south. The journey back to base has the team mulling over what went wrong, processing the mistakes made, and engaging in heated discussion about whether they would have acted differently if given a second chance. The dialogue is tight and feels authentic, and the crisp artwork helps evoke the feeling of a morally grey environment where words like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ don’t normally apply. There are hints at the end that the team are about to be pushed into more perilous no-win situations, and that was really the kind of hook I was looking for to keep me going with this book. Ironically enough, by the time that point was reached, I was already more than convinced by the quality of the rest of the issue to know I was sticking around. 8/10

Stewart R: Despite the two solid issues that started this series, I was starting to wonder when we were going to get away from merely learning what the ISA do and get stuck into where Edmondson might be taking the plot. While this chapter, entitled 'The Long Ride Home', certainly doesn't propel us off into seat-of-our-pants story development territory, it does a damn fine job of providing us with some keen character work that will no doubt make what comes next all the more engrossing. Edmondson shows us that this team of skilled individuals are not infallible and that mistakes and turns of misfortune can unfold in an instant but linger long in the mind. This is a brilliant example of a comic book that revolves around nothing more than conversation, banter and accusation between a close-knit team and it held my attention tightly throughout. With much of the issue limiting Gerads to one single cramped locale, he still delivers a terrific line in expression work and the sheer variety of panels and angles shows an artist working at the top of his game. In addition to that, the creators even chuck in a glossary of the various military terms used throughout which is a nice touch and no mistake. A strong title that is still on the up. 8/10

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

James R: I've sat in front of my keyboard for ten minutes trying to find new superlatives for Snyder’s work on Batman, but I feel my vocabulary is falling short. The end of the first Court of Owls story (which in many ways acts as prologue to the first big Bat-event of the New 52) finishes on a terrific note. After last month's barrier-breaking, reality-warping issue, I was worried that the series had peaked, but fear not, it seems Snyder has a plethora of tricks in his storytelling utility belt. This time out, we see Batman fight back as only he can against the Court. What would be a standard Batman ass-kicking issue takes on a whole new dimension here as both Snyder's script and Capullo's outstanding pencils display an intensity and a desperation that you don't normally see from the Dark Knight - I found myself taking a relieved gasp of air as Batman breaks the surface of the water toward the end of the issue! We've often discussed amongst the group the correlation (or lack of) between the performance of comic book movies and the sales of their paper counterparts. I only hope that audiences who are impressed by Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises this year find their way to this title - it's in every way the equal of the best of Hollywood, and one of the finest comics being published today. 9/10

Stewart R: That awesome Greg Capullo cover just about sums up how freaky and mind-bending this Court of Owls arc has become as the mysterious group have poked and tormented Gotham's Dark Knight in an attempt to break and put an end to him. It's been terrific to see Bruce truly up against the ropes, really fighting the odds and almost feeling like a stranger in his own city, his own life. Snyder has managed to take one of the most ingrained ideas in the DC Universe – that Batman IS Gotham – and shake it to its very foundations, throwing protagonist and reader for a heart-stopping loop. The great thing from this is that rather than being a pure, universal understanding, it is now more a subjective perspective that allows for this unfolding battle to remain tense and awe-inspiring at every beat. Capullo has proven month after month that he was the definitive choice for this book and the skills in his artistic repertoire never fail to amaze. Exceptional from beginning to end. 9/10

Matt C: A striking cover followed by a equally striking opening page tells us that the creative team mean business once again. Capullo is at the top of his game at the moment, and with the aid of Glapion he’s producing some wondrously gruelling imagery for Snyder, who has Bats (inevitably) turn the tables on his oppressors in an exhilarating, unbelievably tense instalment of what is arguably the best of all DC’s New 52. Beyond the obvious (the electrifying, exquisitely detailed art and the taught, gripping script) what’s so impressive about Snyder’s run on the title so far (and Detective before that) is that he’s introducing ideas that are fresh and inventive and not simply variations and rehashes of stuff we’ve seen multiple times in the past. The Court Of Owls is proving to be a rich concept and my only worry is that DC might milk it dry too quickly with the upcoming crossover with other Bat-related titles. We’ll wait and see how that pans out but for now we can continue to revel in the sheer brilliance of what is surely one of the most eagerly anticipated books for a large number of fanboys each month. 9/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Butch Guice & Bettie Breitweiser
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: A gun-toting, jetpack-wearing gorilla? Check. A mad-as-hell Latverian despot caught up in an assassination plot? Check. A catsuit clad, sexy Russian spy engaging in probably-anatomically-impossible-but-utterly-thrilling acrobatics? Check! This is at least as good as the debut issue, and as that was pretty damn good it’s hugely pleasing to see Brubaker’s still got the ability to pump out a decent slice of superheroic espionage action. The book operates on the periphery of the Marvel Universe, which is the perfect place for it to be as it can incorporate various familiar faces but avoid getting sucked into the vortex of any passing events. Guice turns in some powerful illustrations again – check those silhouetted figures in front of the holographic displays for an example of atmospheric visuals – although some of the firmness of the figurework appears to disappear halfway through (fortunately Brietweiser’s on hand to ensure there’s consistency in place at least!). That (minor) quibble aside, the plot looks like it’s gaining momentum, and the balance between realism and the more fantastical elements is just right, so as long as Brubaker can keep things relatively self-contained then I reckon this’ll be a keeper. 8/10

Writer: Peter J.Tomasi
Art: Fernando Pasarin, Scott Hanna & Gabe Eltaeb
DC $ 2.99

Stewart R: It's big, it's bold and it's a tiny bit brash, but by golly it's brilliant! Guy Gardner and his gang of Green Lanterns go about their rescue mission on the home planet of the Keepers as John Stewart is left with yet another life-and-death decision that is likely to cast far reaching ripples for him and the principles of the Corps. With the Keepers' motivations and intentions now clear to see, Tomasi switches focus to the action and once again he proves that he has a masterful understanding of pacing and escalation – some writers have a tendency to prolong the spectacle but here Tomasi and Pasarin ensure that this feels like an intense skirmish, lasting mere minutes and packed to the brim with lethal intensity. Pasarin's splash pages are chock full of detail and they make you want to scan every square inch of the glossy paper to make sure you don't miss anything. The Guy Gardner/John Stewart team-up seemed a good idea some six months ago and in the hands of such talented creators it's been proven to be a true hit. 9/10


Andy C said...

Great reviews as usual but what does Scott Syder have to do to get 10/10?! Scared you might have to go to 11/10 if it somehow gets better?!

Andy C said...

....or even Scott Snyder...

Matt Clark said...

He's getting there, he's getting there!

Andy C said...

You tease!

ian walker said...

Nice reviews guys and it's nice to see someone else is picking up Catwoman,after all the negative comments and reviews it got when it first came out it seems people just may be catching on to what a great comic it is.
I've followed Catwoman's adventures for some years now,and for me this is one of the best interpretations I've read of her.

Joe T said...

Yeah, okay, Batman was easily a 9/10. Not much to say about this that wasn't already said. The only thing holding it back, was also the part was so good, Capullo's art. Really didn't like the whole monster bat thing shown in the issue. Seemed out of place. Otherwise, Capullo's art is flawless. Jim Lee via the way of Chris Bachlo.

This weeks point.1 issue of Amazing Spider-Man was certainly enjoyable enough. Enjoyable, but particularly goofy. And considering the fact the last 2 issues featured time travel and not too long before that we had Spider-Island, that IS saying something. Art wasn't too bad, and they dealt with the whole Morbius in lab 6 thing quite nicely, and also offered a good tease for an upcoming story featuring a certain 2012 movie star villain... also nice to see in the fleshing out of Uatu Jackson (even if he ruins the believability of Peter's life), along with Grady last issue. Nice to see them fleshing out Horizon. I'll give it a 7/10. Bring on next issue (SPIDEY IN SPACE!!)

Daredevil was awesome, once again. That opening double page spread is absolutely fantastic. Before reading this series, I always though inkers and colourists were overrated. I was so wrong. Credit shouldn't solely go to Rivera here, but in fact the whole art team as the all bring important elements to the book (just check out that double page spread!!). Love, love, love this title. Any other week this would be a 9/10, but it wasn't quite as good as Batman, so I'll call it an 8.5/10

Winter Soldier. The Cap book I've been missing for the past 7 months or so!! Whilst I miss Bucky in his role as Cap, I couldn't be happier with the fact he's sticking around as The Winter Soldier if it's resulting in stories like this. The artwork here is absolutely gorgeous, and again is another example of how important a role each of the art team plays. 8/10

Now onto my most anticipated book, of the year. The origin of the Star Wars Universe is here! Star Wars: Dawn Of The Jedi: Force Storms #1 (try saying that 3 times fast!) Despite the mouthful of a title, I love this. Set over 36 thousand years before the events of A New Hope comes and era before the users of the force have lightsabers, or have even split in to the fractions of Jedi & Sith. Everything about this book is wonderful, and perfect for any Star Wars fan. The artwork is beautiful, the concept is great, and we're introduced to some fantastic villains to a new, old, age of Star Wars mythology! It's really hard for me to give this a rating, but I'm probably going to say an 8, though it's very very nearly a 9 out of sheer epicness.

Stewart R said...

Have to say Joe that I did enjoy Amazing Spider-Man #679.1 but for the life of me can't understand why it's called a 'Point One' issue when it clearly involves enough important plot information to be considered an actual fully-fledged issue!? Things change so damn much at Horizon labs in this issue - Morbius' situation, the announced increases in security which matter a great deal - that I'm just waiting to count how many "see ASM #679.1" asides we'll be provided with in the issues to come.

Joe T said...

"Noticed something fun/weird about the online reaction to ASM #679.1: For every comment/post asking "Why did this have to be a .1 issue?"...

...there's a post or comment from someone ELSE saying that's WHY they picked it up. :-)"

Dan Slott said this via Twitter