26 Feb 2012

Mini Reviews 26/02/2012

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: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Barry Kitson & Paul Mounts
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Darn it. I like what Hickman has been doing over past issues of this title and its FF sister but there’s something this time out that just seems a touch underwhelming and it comes at a critical point in the story where spectacle and consequence really should seem to matter. The Mad Celestials’ attack is certainly menacing and I do appreciate the efforts made to show that despite the tremendously powerful fighters in the ring, this conflict may ultimately rely on the younger charges of the Reed family. The problem for me lies in the sudden, juddering escalation and the strange turn of events when it comes to the Celestials tackling their opponents - there’s a weird sense of leniency or mercy that makes little or no sense. I have to say that Kitson’s art work seems a little on the ‘light’ side for a situation supposedly heavy with the foreboding inevitability and something inside had me wondering what this would have looked like in Steve Epting’s hands. All that said, the climax is decent and both Hickman and Kitson do a terrific job with Susan as she fights to protect those she loves. Just have that feeling that this could have been better than we’ve received. 6/10

Writer: Brandon Graham & Simon Roy
Art: Simon Roy & Richard Ballermann
Image $2.99

Matt C: I’d initially (and foolishly) dismissed Prophet due to its origins as one of Rob Liefeld’s creations under his Extreme imprint for Image back in the early ‘90s. While I don’t have anywhere near the kind of bile some have for Liefeld, his brand of ‘kewl’ comics back then never appealed to me in the slightest, so it’s not really surprising it didn’t register when I flicked past it in Previews. I didn’t pick up the ‘first’ issue last month but went back quickly for a copy when I saw the wave of praise that followed its release. Once I got hold of Prophet #22 (which, in itself, is a big middle-finger salute to the relaunch culture) it quickly became obvious where all the acclaim was coming from: to put it simply, it’s very good indeed. From what I understand, Graham has taken some bits from Liefeld’s initial concept and jettisoned others, bringing enough of his own ideas to the table to present a thoroughly compelling sci-fi proposition. It’s not an original set-up by any stretch – man wakes up in far-distant, dramatically-different future Earth – but it succeeds due to the resolute determination to create a unique, alien environment and power through it with sparse but intelligent scripting. Roy brings that uniqueness to the page with some exotic creatures and sprawling, acrid landscapes, perfectly coloured by Ballermann. Those with an enjoyment of post-apocalyptic sci-fi should most definitely give this enormously promising ‘new’ series a look, and those with an aversion to Mr Liefeld might be wise to set that aside and also give this a try. 8/10

Writers: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
Art: Francis Manapul
DC Comics $2.99

James R: Another month, another outstanding issue of The Flash! If any title has benefited from DC's relaunch last year, it's definitely been the Scarlet Speedster. Under Geoff John's stewardship, the book did a lot of good things - Johns made the Flash's world three dimensional, fully rounded out the Rouge's Gallery and crafted first Wally West and then Barry Allen into brilliantly ‘human’ characters. However, it's Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato's work that has embodied the sci-fi ethos that Julius Schwartz introduced when he developed the silver age Flash. The creative team infuse every issue with brilliant concepts and convey the world of the Flash as a place where the boundaries of the possible - either in time or space - are constantly pushed. This month, the Flash locks horns with Captain Cold while we learn of Dr. Elias' attempts to harness the speed force. From first page to last, the creative team do not put a foot wrong - along with Scott Snyder's Batman, this is super hero comics at their best - intelligently written, sumptuously illustrated and a blast to read. 9/10

CHEW #24
Writer: John Layman
Art: Rob Guillory & Taylor Wells
Image $2.99

Stewart R: While I tend to pay somewhat close attention to when the titles of Marvel and DC are due to hit stands I seem to have less of a clue when it comes to Image and other publishers, which makes the news that a new edition of Chew will be available on a Wednesday all the more enjoyable. ‘Guaranteed’ is a word that shouldn’t be used too freely but it applies perfectly to the work of Layman and Guillory as, without fail, all 24 issues of Chew have been a barrel of fun and incredibly well executed. Some months ago we learned about Tony’s extended family and since then we’ve steadily seen Agent Savoy attempt to gain the skills of Tony’s daughter, Olive. She’s brilliantly obstinate and withdrawn yet appears to share some of her father’s never-give-up mentality which also allows us to see a slightly different side to the hulking Savoy. The strength of the character work means that the star of the show can be all but completely missing from events and this still be a shining example of how you produce dark comedy comics. When you add in some great visually gags from the mighty pen of Guillory you have the true ingredients for success. 9/10

Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Rafael Albuquerque & Dave McCaig
DC/Vertigo $2.99

James R: With each passing month, I find myself more and more under the spell of American Vampire. I've used this forum before to express my admiration that Scott Snyder has managed to write a vampire tale that has been able to engage me (I hate vampire stories for the most part), but it's continuing to impress me with the sheer scope and scale of its story. From the Old West, via the Pacific theatre in WW2, to the California of the 50's, Snyder keeps the peddle to the metal, and serves up a breathtaking ride. Looking back over the arcs, it's clear that with each passing chapter Rafael Albuquerque keeps improving, and the palette of Dave McCaig is outstanding too. Snyder also opts for the time-shift narrative technique that Francis Manapul uses in the Flash this week, and both men use it to great effect, with Snyder building the tale to a brilliantly cinematic crescendo. The battle between Travis and Skinner Sweet has been incredibly compelling over the last few issues, and I can't wait to see how this one pays off. Effortless brilliance from everyone involved! 8/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Pasqual Ferry, Pepe Larraz & Frank D’Armata
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: I’ve been resolving to drop this title once this particular arc ends, primarily off the back of Pasqual Ferry’s art style not being a favourite of mine, but also because I wasn’t convinced by the sudden sharp turn Fraction had taken following the rather excellent Galactus Seed arc. Unfortunately for my wallet, this has been getting steadily better as time has worn on and while the battle Thor has been facing against the god-eating Demogorge has turned a little one-dimensional, the real fun has been found in Loki’s continuing frustration as everyone around him shows no sign of remembering his lightning god brother, only the thuggish brute who has mysteriously replaced him. Thankfully the mists of confusion start to lift somewhat in this chapter and the subsequent showdown between the Weird Sisters is brutal to say the least. I always like it when Heimdall gets involved in the action and Ferry does a reasonable job of depicting the swift action. Fraction also seems to be forming something of a bond between Loki and the Silver Surfer and I have to say I’m now curious to see where all these strange events and plots may lead. 8/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Rod Reis
DC $2.99

Matt C: Six issues in now, and while I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed this series so far (a lot more than I could have ever imagined enjoying an Aquaman comic, that’s for sure) it’s never really moved beyond a status of ‘pretty good’. And I’m not sure whether ‘pretty good is good enough anymore. Comics aren’t cheap, and as I’m beginning to think of trimming down by pull list to a more manageable size, those “pretty good” reads are going to be first for the chopping block. Aquaman keeps feeling like a book that’s about to take off and reach new heights, but never quite does. After a couple of issues that’s fair enough, but after six you expect it to be going places. It often appears as though Johns is focusing too much of his time trying to undo the public perception of the character as a bit of a joke and redefine him as someone worthy to stand beside DC’s more recognizable icons. As far as I’m concerned we should have got past that stage by the three-issue mark. That we haven’t, and that we’re still being teased by a historically-linked Atlantis story (we get sidetracked by a spotlight on Mera here), means I may not be back next month. Reis has turned in some impressive work so far but Prado’s embellishment of his breakdowns in this issue doesn’t quite have the same fizz. Better than expected, but not quite good enough. 6/10

X-MEN #25
Writer: Victor Gischler
Art: Jorge Molina & Guru eFX
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: My brain let out a little cheer when it realised that this week marked the reunion of Gischler and Molina on this title as their last partnership was a real triumph. Here, they come together to continue Storm’s hunt for Jubilee as she and her X-Men ransack vampire haunts across the globe in search of their friend. I’m enjoying Ororo getting more page time, not least because Gischler really manages to show her for the passionate leader that she is and compliments her with a competent retinue with the likes of Domino and Psylocke. The headstrong misunderstanding between the mutants and Jubilee’s ‘captors’ can be seen coming a fair distance away but is not grimace-enducing like similarly sign-posted conflicts can be because it allows Molina to show just what he can do when it comes to the action. I’ll admit that the odd pose or panel here and there don't quite look ‘right’ in my eyes, but on the whole it’s a great effort and his facial expression work really does capture the emotionally-charged situation well. The last couple of pages promise a barn-storming bust up with bounty-hunters and braggards next time out and I personally cannot wait! 8/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Nick Bradshaw, Walden Wong, Jay Leisten, Norman Lee, Cam Smith, Justin Ponsor & Matthew Wilson
Marvel $3.99

James R: The Marvel Universe's unorthodox school opens it's doors for another issue and once again it's a blast. This month, Wolverine and Quire pull the Rain Man card in an intergalactic casino in order to get the school some desperately-needed funding, while the Beast and the class go all Fantastic Voyage and get miniaturised in an attempt to save Kitty Pryde. In some ways, this just shouldn't work; Aaron wears his influences on his sleeve, and you could say that it’s a little derivative, but it manages to transcend this. The scribe writes with such brio, and the narrative goes at a breakneck pace so that the whole package hits you like, well, a Juggernaut (or should that be a Colossus?!) I have been slightly worried that this book will lose it's momentum with the imminent Avengers Vs. X-Men extravaganza - I feel the last thing this book needs is to get dragged into a tie-in seeing that Aaron has many (fantastic) plates spinning here. I'm keeping everything crossed that Marvel's summer mega-event won't result in this great book flunking from an A to a C+... 8/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Gabriel Hardman & Bettie Breitweiser
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Oh this is good, very good. Remender shows those character skills that have served him so well on Uncanny X-Force by really getting into the hearts and minds of this beaten down team. There’s some sublime banter between Pym and McCoy centering around their bulging intellectual egos, a nice touch in barked objections between Barton and Rogers and then the real highlight. Since he was rolled into the Thunderbolts and started to show an intriguing case of conscience I’ve had a soft-spot for Eric O’Grady’s Ant-Man and he’s made a good addition to the ranks of the Secret Avengers even if the previous writers didn’t utilise him or explore his character to any great length. It seems that Mr Remender is making an attempt to fix that and I love how we get to see the thoughts and inner workings of a guy battling to make amends for his past yet doubting that he’s even capable of doing that to any successful level. It gives the latter half of the issue a brilliant level of tension and helped along with the eye-wateringly good artistic stylings of Mr Hardman and Mrs Breitweiser this issue goes a fair way to confirming that we could be in the early stages of an unmissable run. 9/10

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