25 Mar 2012

Mini Reviews 25/03/2012

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: Mark Millar
Artist: Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan & Sunny Gho
Marvel/Icon $2.99

Matt C: As one of Mark Millar’s well-hyped series ends for the time being (see the Kick-Ass 2 #7 review below) another starts rolling in the shape of Supercrooks. You kind of know what you’re getting with Millar now, and while he’s in danger of becoming too predictable, I guess there’s still some mileage to be found in the idea of subverting the superhero paradigm in a variety of different ways. Heck, that’s pretty much what most non Big Two superhero books do anyway with varying success, but the fact that Millar’s now doing it repeatedly means its probably only a matter of time before tedium sets in. The concept/gag here is that most superheroes concentrate their crime-fighting efforts on American cities, particularly New York, and so bad guys plying their trade in those cities are almost always guaranteed to be caught. We’ve all commented before on how silly the idea is that Marvel heroes in particular just all happen to live in New York and any invading alien armies etc always just happen to target that city, and Millar essentially builds the basis of his plot off the back of that. The bad guys realise they’re likely to be more effective if they transplant their activities to a place where spandex-clad individuals aren’t found in abundance (like, duh!), but, as it turns out, the premise is the least interesting thing about this debut issue. It’s excels with its characterization and an impressive level of realism, which doesn’t really jibe with the contrived decision to leave the States. The other major positive is Yu’s art. I’ve never really liked his work much in the past, but it seems less stylised here and more grounded, and as such far more appealing to my tastes. I’m not fully convinced by Supercrooks yet, but at this point the positives outweigh the negatives. 7/10

Writer: Sam Humphries
Art: Romon Perez & Jordie Bellaire
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: John Carter, then. It’s a name I’ve been familiar with for a long while but I never really got around to investigating the famous exploits of the archetypal interplanetary hero. One of those ‘one day’ things really. Then the movie came around, and despite a confused marketing campaign I was well up for a good ol’ fashioned space romp, and that’s exactly what I got. It was a lot of fun and certainly didn’t deserve the kicking it received in some quarters, and if it was given the right push I believe it would have been embraced by a larger audience. That wasn’t to be though, and unless some miracle happens that’ll the last cinematic excursion Carter has for a while. So I’ve decided that aforementioned ‘one day’ will arrive a little sooner, but in the meantime here’s an officially endorsed (*cough* Dynamite Entertainment *cough*) series to tide me over, and what’s very pleasing is that it acts almost like a sequel to the movie. Carter is back on Mars after 10 years absence, and the simple matter of catching up with his wife, Dejah Thoris, kickstarts a plot that really doesn’t mess about in getting going. It is – and I’ll use that phrase again – a lot of fun; it’s colourful, exuberant and can nicely be defined as rip-roaring. Those adjectives could also be easily applied to the art from Peres and Bellaire, and the whole thing exudes a sense of adventure that readily rubs off on the reader. Tremendously entertaining. 8/10

Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Stefano Caselli & Frank Martin Jr.
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: It seems that Marvel likes to go for something of the rollercoaster when it comes to Amazing Spider-Man these days with smaller, medium speed bumps and corners adding some breathing room before those BIG climbs and high speed drops of excitement. Since ‘Spider Island’ flew past in a blur, Dan Slott has been on the case with preparations for the ‘Ends Of The Earth’ storyline which promises to be another big Spidey ‘event’. I like how Slott has managed to manoeuvre everything into place so that Doc Ock’s last big play before his body fails him has coincided with a fresh period of turbulence in Peter’s life with his job at Horizon Labs in a state of insecurity. It certainly looks as if Slott will be delving into the mind games between Octavius and Peter, though I did raise an eyebrow that Peter is ‘unprepared’ for the global level at which Ock’s plan unfolds considering their dealings in the past, and in the last two issues where the villain’s robot minions were found on a space station; how could Peter not suspect that something this big would not be on the cards? Despite playing a little light and loose there, Slott is definitely in A-game mode, as is Stefano Caselli who once again shows why he’s been given the recurring artist gig on one of Marvel’s most important titles. A good start to the latest Spider-event, I just have to hope that it doesn’t become too much of an Avengers event now! 8/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Gene Ha, Art Lyon, Gary Frank & Brad Anderson
DC $3.99

Matt C: Well, this is much more like it! Following the often nonsensical introductory arc we’re now dropped into the ‘present day’ where the League are doing what is now expected from them: saving the world. So far, so unsurprising, but when Johns shifts the focus onto Steve Trevor, that’s when things begin to get interesting. Trevor heads up A.R.G.US., the world’s liaison with the JL, and while he may give off a vibe of feeling redundant when super-powered beings turn up to thwart the bad guys, he’s still fiercely loyal to them, particularly when Congress want to get more access to the heroes who watch over them from an orbiting satellite. It’s been pointed out elsewhere, but it’s here that the superteam come across more like The Autority than ever before, with everyone afraid to really challenge them and ask the hard questions. And I liked that, a lot. No it’s not original, but presenting things from Trevor’s perspective really worked for me. Ha’s art isn’t quite as instantly impressive as Lee’s, but it makes a perceptible impact either way (bar, maybe, the inexplicable appearance of Jonathan Ross!). Then there’s the Shazam! backup. Hardcore fans may baulk at the changes to the origin and the dropping of the Captain Marvel moniker but this was an extremely good beginning, showing that Johns and artist Gary Frank do have a knack of bringing out the best in each other. A regular Shazam! series by these two would definitely shoot straight onto my pull list on the evidence of this. The Justice League story is strong in it’s own right, but coupled with the Shazam! opening chapter, this book feels like it absolutely justifies it’s $3.99 price-tag. At last! 8/10

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

Matt C: This is ambitious, intelligent science fiction storytelling at its very best and one of the true comic book surprises for me so far in 2012. Three issues into this relaunch and John Prophet reaches his goal, the G.O.D. satellite, and what occurs when he completes his mission sets another ball rolling in a way that sends shivers down the spine. Graham seeds his story with so many brilliant sci-fi ideas that it’s sometimes difficult to keep up; he allows some to become essentially throwaway, while others exist to drive the plot, but all of them are expertly conceived, displaying an imagination in overdrive. The earthy textures of Roy’s stunning artwork have a deceptive simplicity to them, conveying the epic otherworldliness that’s required from the story, while also drawing out the personal nature of Prophet’s quest, and the hues Ballerman employs help to reinforce the almost dream-like tone of the book. Exceptional work from all involved. 9/10

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Cliff Chiang & Matthew Wilson
DC $2.99

James R: As the first few issues of the New 52 began to ship, it became clear that for the DC Universe this was a 'soft reboot' - some things had been left largely untouched (Batman, Green Lantern) whilst others were being restarted from a very clean slate. Wonder Woman certainly fell into the latter category, and seven issues in, Brian Azzarello is still re-establishing Diana's world. This month sees her travel to Mount Etna to visit Hephaestus in order to arm herself for her journey into Hell, finding out another harsh truth about her Amazon heritage in the process. I know some readers haven't quite clicked with this title, but I'm still compelled by this version of Wonder Woman - Azzarello has taken the popular 'Vertigo-esque' riff of placing Gods and legends amidst modern man (Peter Milligan tried it very recently in his series Greek Street) and whereas it jars in some places (the arrival of Poseidon last month as a huge sea monster) it's still a neat idea. I was hugely pleased to see Cliff Chiang back on pencil duties as I still think his style is a perfect fit for Wonder Woman, and as fine as Tony Atkins art was last month, the book looks so much better with Chiang's work. I still think that this book could be paced a little better, but I'm enjoying it and I'm willing to say that without the lasso of truth! 7/10

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: John Romita Jr., Tom Palmer & Dean White
Marvel/Icon $4.99

Matt C: The sequel to Millar and Romita Jr’s hit series has generally been cut from the same cloth: a successful mix of jet black humour and over-the-top ultraviolence. It obviously wasn’t as fresh this time around, but Millar found enough material to keep the guilty laughs and wanton destruction flowing. Even though I know Millar has been very near the knuckle with the content on several occasions, I can see he knows exactly what he’s doing, pushing things just as far as he can, but no further. Yes, some of it’s unpleasant and offensive but I’m not going to attempt to take any moral high ground and pretend I haven’t had a whale of a time. So it’s a bit of a shame that the finale kind of grinds to a predictable halt and doesn’t feel like it really delivers on the promise of the previous six issues. Millar’s been gradually building momentum but the expected mayhem just misses the mark somehow. There are still some neat observations about the inherent ludicrousness of a guy dressing up in a suit to fight crime, and JR Jr’s art is a cut above some of his regular paying work of recent times, but it’s not the slam-bang ending I was hoping for. Saying that, I’ll probably be back for the Hit-Girl series, as even though the destination wasn’t entirely satisfying, the journey has been a blast. 6/10

Writers: Marc Guggenheim, Peter David, Stan Sakai
Art: Dandy Plunkett, Jeromy Cox, Bill Sienkiewicz, Stan Sakai & Dave Stewart
IDW $3.99

Matt C: Following the success of the terrifically entertaining first series, Rocketeer Adventures makes a welcome return. You don’t really need great familiarity with Dave Stevens’ retro creation to get a sense of the sheer love of the craft and medium that’s displayed in each and every page of this book. Basically it’s an absolute pleasure to read and a grin plastered across your face by the end is guaranteed. David and Sienkiewicz’s Daffy Duck inspired short is the pick of this issue’s bunch, but really no one lets the side down here, and from the cracking Darwyn Cooke cover onwards, it’s a winner. 8/10

Writer: Alex Link & Riley Rossomo
Art: Riley Rossmo
Image $3.50

Stewart R: Another Image #1 you say? With art by Riley Rossmo you say? Ahhh, go on I say! And I did... and I have next to no clue what the heck is going on in this comic! It follows Chuck Neville, a Forestry Firefighter who appears to have fallen on bad times and is seemingly plagued by horrifying flashbacks and possible hallucinations regarding animals in the woodlands surrounding him and aspects of his past. Having picked up some of Rossmo’s previous efforts in Green Wake and Cowboy, Ninja, Viking I was prepared for the occasional puzzling segue between panels as he tends to work with plots involving psychological themes, but here it’s quite difficult in places to gain any grip on what we see unfolding. The initial pages where Chuck deals with a pack of mutated wolves trying to horde a grizzly prize are captivating and to be honest the artwork on the whole is Rossmo working at his best, but there’s just nothing comprehensible at this moment in his and Link’s script to hold it all together. I have a high threshold of patience when it comes to new Image titles so I’ll be back for #2 but I suspect that this debut might be enough for some readers. 6/10

Matt C: A bit of a flummoxing debut issue, this. To be honest, the pitch of this miniseries didn’t really ensnare me – zombie animals! – but I’ve become keen enough on Riley Rossmo’s art since discovering it in Proof that I find myself more willing to check out books with his name attached that I otherwise might pass. His work here doesn’t disappoint: his distinctive, scratchily detailed style provides great depth and emotion along with the action and gore you’d expect from a tale that concerns itself with undead beings. The script, however, is a problem. Mixing current scenes with flashbacks and what appears to be a bunch of dream sequences and/or hallucinations, it unfortunately doesn’t hold much coherence. I don’t have a problem with these kind of storytelling devices per se, and obviously the idea is that everything will become clear as the plot progresses, but it seems a little early – and more than a little off-putting – to do something like this straight from the word ‘go’. As much as enjoyed the art there simply wasn’t enough for me to get a hold of to prompt my return for a second helping I’m afraid. 5/10

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

James R: I love considering what makes a comic truly great. I often say it's ambition, intelligence and pushing the medium to the limits, but this week, Scott Snyder's incredible Batman has made me consider another factor of greatness: the long game. In some ways, a good TV show can do this too - make you invest in storylines that run for such a long time, that the narrative payoffs hit you much harder than a movie or a novel can. However, in comics that have a shared universe, you can plant seeds and themes in another title altogether, thus making your reading experience all the sweeter. This is exactly what we get in Batman this week as Scott Snyder harks back to his first issue on Detective Comics (the brilliant 'Black Mirror' arc) and reveals that Dick Grayson's opening monologue about Haly's Circus "pulling out all the stops for Gotham" had an altogether different meaning. Bruce Wayne makes it back to the Batcave and uses his investigative nous to learn more about the Talons, the agents of the Court of Owls, and we learn that they have a link to one of the Bat-family. It's a jaw-dropping read, and with every issue the creative team are just getting better and better. Greg Capullo does some amazing work here, conveying Bruce's terror and anger with a single eye, and infusing the body of the dead Talon with a creepy menace that I've not seen for a long time in comics. It's a thrill from first page to last and it seems that whatever he's writing - Batman, Swamp Thing or American Vampire - Scott Snyder can do no wrong. This is mainstream comics at their best! 10/10

Matt C: It’s going to get to a point where I’ll struggle to find new ways of applying the same enthusiastic praise to this series, as it now appears to be running at some kind of high-water mark for the title. In a nutshell, Batman hasn’t been this good in I don’t know how long. If I was really intent on finding problems, I could probably focus on how improbable it is that Batman has had absolutely no inkling of the existence of the Court of Owls since he first took on the role of Gotham’s protector, but you know what, it just doesn’t bother me one little bit. Long-running superhero comics are packed with improbabilities, and if you haven’t got past that now, you never will. And, when a writer and art team are working at the top of their game with such obvious confidence in what they’re presenting, it feels churlish to offer in response anything but superlatives. In fact, such is the level of confidence on display that I have no concerns over the impending crossover with the other Bat-titles. Whatever the quality of the other books it’s seems apparent that this creative team are currently incapable of putting a foot wrong. 9/10

Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Christian Ward
Image $3.50

James R: Nick Spencer's reality-warping series hits its penultimate issue this month, and Mark finds a chance to rest and take stock of his life in a universe where he has managed to marry Claire and find happiness. After this life-affirming moment he's back across the multiverse to stage a rescue attempt before the Infinite Vacation Company 'box' his existence... As with the rest of this series it's a fantastically inventive read, and as a bit of a SF fan myself it's great to read a comic which plays with such grand ideas (for what it's worth, I wish Fantastic Four was more like this book, but that's another argument!). If I have a criticism, it's just that it's felt too short - five issues for a series that could have easily run to double that length, and given the metaphysics employed here, I'd say it needed more time too. I can understand that the title must have been a huge undertaking for Christian Ward given the ambition and layout of the pages, but still, it's felt more like a delicious starter than a fulfilling main course. A great read though, and it's firmly established the creative team on my fanboy radar. 8/10

1 comment:

walkeri said...

Nice to see the Justice League getting a good review,after all it is the number one selling comic,and I agree the back up strip of Shazam would be great in his own comic with the same team.
Nice review of John Carter as well ,althou I will point out I'm not picking up Marvel's take on John Cater this time,as I'm collecting all of Dynamite Entertainment's Warlord Of Mars comics and Marvel did a good job of adapting John Cater in the late 70's,and I have the full run of that one and if you like the comic check out the books that started it all, I've read all 11 of them and they are fantastic.
Supercrooks was what I've come to expect from Mr Miller,and I loved it,and did anyone else pick up Stan Lee'S Mighty 7,nice 70's Marvel feel to it.