8 Apr 2012

Mini Reviews 08/04/2012

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: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: John Romita Jr., Scott Hanna & Laura Martin
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: I wasn’t impressed by issue #0 just a week ago and with #1 in my hand (and with no AR app in sight on this read I’ll add!) I have to say that I’m quite underwhelmed by it all presently. As I predicted, Bendis simplifies things too far, once again failing to deliver much in the way of characterisation with his dialogue - the font used for Thor’s dialogue by Chris Eliopoulos does NOT count (har har) - and I don’t like the way that he calls a painfully quick end to Captain America and Cyclops’ discussion - one of the only fairly decent occurrences between the covers - in favour of unleashing the inevitable fisticuffs that will ensue over the following 11 issues. There was an opportunity here to actually analyse just why the relationships between these groups of heroes are strained already, build the tension up properly and then have it snap in a glorious crescendo of powered fun, but no, Bendis (and Marvel) seem to just want a pretty brainless spectacle to appeal to those who want more hero vs hero action and who didn’t get enough with the far better Civil War and wayward Secret Invasion. Romita Jr’s no stranger to event books but compared to his tasty artwork on World War Hulk this is a sub-par display from him and only adds to the too-simplified feel for me. I’ll stick around to see if it gets any better (and for Coipel’s art when he tags in), however this is adding fuel to the argument that Marvel’s policy of yearly events may be losing its way. 3/10

Matt C: Let’s just start off by saying this is far better than issue #0. If you weren’t impressed by that then don’t write off the series proper just yet, because this issue is – believe it! – very good! Yeah, sometimes – sometimes! – Bendis can nail it in the regular Marvel Universe; he did a decent enough job with Siege and this is an impressive start to Avengers Vs. X-Men. Obviously he’s plotted the story alongside Aaron, Brubaker, Hickman and Fraction (with all of them scripting different issues – Aaron’s on for #2) but even so the script is tight, dramatic and does a grand job of convincing us that the stakes are high for the planet Earth, as well as giving solid reasoning behind the confrontation between Marvel’s two biggest selling superteams. The characterization may be simplified, and some of the dialogue clunky (something I expect from Bendis though) but as a broad strokes blockbuster’s opening chapter it’s got me excited about what’s to come. I realise I’ve been here before though, with impressive first issues leading the way to successively inferior ones, but I want to remain optimistic and hope that Marvel can remind us that they can do a big summer event well. The odds aren’t exactly in their favour, but for now this feels like the hype might just be warranted. 8/10

James R: Talk about a cast of thousands! For their big summer event Marvel have called in everyone - all their 'Architects' have been summoned and they’ve turned to the trusted pencils of John Romita Jr. to launch the biggest cross-franchise punch-up in recent memory. So, what did they deliver? For me, it was a distinctly underwhelming experience. Part of me feels this might have something to do with my advancing years, but what was the last truly great big comics event? DC or Marvel, each one hasn't delivered on the hype. Some have had great issues or miniseries, but for me big events have increasingly equalled massive ambivalence. This first issue puts all the players in place; the X-men want to guard Hope Summers against the incoming Phoenix Force, while the Avengers feel they are better suited. Cyclops faces off against Cap, and, well, that's it! The split between the two groups feels oddly familiar - in Civil War it came down to heroes choosing between independence or Government-sanctioned control, and here Hope Summers faces a similar decision. There are some nice moments - Wolverine’s meeting with Captain America, Spidey's catch of the falling civilians - but it feels a little too Marvel-by-numbers for me. The first issue of a big series should make you want to count the hours until the next chapter - this was just standard, and given the plethora of talents involved, that's the least we could have expected. 6/10

Writer: Sam Humphries
Art: Jerry Gaylord, Penelope Gaylord & Nolan Woodard
BOOM! Studios $1.00

Matt C: It was a dollar, and maybe Sam Humphries – who seems to have come out of nowhere to suddenly being everywhere during recent months – could bring something new to a genre that has been flogged like the proverbial dead horse over the last few years. Pitting the undead against fanboys provides the opportunity for a postmodern spin on the genre’s popularity in the comic book medium, but unfortunately Humphries plays it a lot straighter than that, and the numerous pop culture references and stereotypical characters become grating quite quickly. It’s moderately entertaining I guess, and Gaylord’s art has a certain amount of pizzazz, but there’s absolutely nothing here you haven’t seen elsewhere, numerous times before. 5/10

CHEW #25
Writer: John Layman
Art: Rob Guillory & Taylor Wells
Image $2.99

Stewart R: The first couple of arcs of this Image series followed Tony Chu’s complicated life and career as he grew into himself and became less afraid of the bizarre world that he discovered he was living in. Since then John Layman has been able to bring the intriguing and entertaining support cast to the fore and with Tony being absent from time to time for one reason or another they’ve been used to drive the story onwards and upwards. Issue #25 lends the limelight to Tony’s saboscrivner girlfriend (she has the ability to describe food in written form so vividly that people actually taste it when reading!) as she sets out to discover just why her boyfriend seems to have disappeared off the face of the Earth. Cue a great display of Amelia’s determination and guts as she faces down danger in a baddass way and all for love. This ends the brilliant ‘Major League Chew’ arc in fine style and the air-punch-worthy finale involving Agent Colby and his new partner screams hilarious things for the future. This is one issue that has home-run written all over it folks! 9/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Chris Bachalo & Tim Townsend
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: It’s interesting to see just what difference to a comic and a writer’s scripting an artist change has. With WATXM the visual difference between Nick Bradshaw and Chris Bachalo is quite stark; where Wolverine’s current crippled condition was comedic in Bradshaw’s last issue, under Bachalo’s pencil things take a far more adult feel as he and Beast try to come up with a solution and the antics of the students feels far more danger-tinged under the latter’s vision. Aaron’s writing for this issue certainly adds to the sombre, serious feel as he outlines the type of threat each of these mutants could face while in the sights of the Hellfire Club and any menacing member of the rogues gallery they might call upon. The completely unexplained and bonkers concept of Sabretooth and Agent Brand ending up where they do is a little hard to take considering the scope and power of S.W.O.R.D., but once you push any sense of logic - what’s it doing in a comic book anyway, some might say? - out of the way it actually provides the perfect battlefield for Beast and Sabretooth to tangle and show why Henry McCoy is tested and underestimated on so many occasions because of who he is and who he’s ‘supposed’ to be. The students’ story running alongside isn’t quite as engaging and has me questioning why Wolverine and Quire had so many problems on Planet Sin, but it does allow for a great scene between Angel and Genesis that seems to promise enthralling times ahead! 8/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire & Jose Villarrubia
DC/Vertigo $2.99

James R: I'm sorry if my pick of the weeks sometimes get predictable (I know that Messers Lemire and Snyder pretty much own it at the moment!) but when one man is producing work of such a remarkable standard, it's hard to look beyond the pages of Sweet Tooth. This issue is the culmination of the 'Unnatural Habitats' arc, in which Jeff Lemire has ratcheted the tension up to a ridiculous degree. He confounds the reader’s expectations in some respects, but then delivers a magnificent payoff. The real reward here for the longtime reader is that if you've been on board with the series from the start, its amazing to see Gus - the eponymous hero of the tale - ageing almost in real time, and it's a credit to Lemire's skill that his rendering of the character and the other main protagonists has altered gradually from arc to arc. I'm also psyched to see that Jepard now has a new (and equally gnarly) ally on the quest north. It was once said that only cockroaches would survive the apocalypse; in Sweet Tooth Jeff Lemire proves that it's going to be cockroaches and ice hockey players! Seemingly effortless brilliance that shows no signs of letting up any time soon. 9/10

Writer: Landry Q. Walker
Art: Eric Jones & Michael “Rusty” Drake
Image $2.99

Stewart R: I imagine there’ll be a lot of comparisons to the work of Mark Millar by people who read and maybe review this new title and for me they’d be spot on the money. The very good thing about this is that Walker and Jones’ Danger Club is akin to Millar getting things right - something he only seems to do half of the time. I like the idea of a world left with only super-sidekicks that has descended into anarchy as a result of their youth and inexperience and the creators steer clear from a straight ‘good and evil’ standpoint in the plot and with the characterisation for the most part. We’re certainly supposed to follow and root for one group here as we see their plans come to fruition, but I enjoyed how the conflict - rendered with a nice mix of cartoon simplicity and blood-soaked brutality by Jones - was presented as more of a lethal schoolyard scrap than philosophical battle of right and wrong. Kid Vigilante does come across as a Robin clone most certainly, but the other sidekicks seem fresh and original and after this incredibly promising debut I look forward to seeing how they develop as the series continues. Safe to say that there’s no danger of me missing this club’s next issue! 8/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Khoi Pham & Javier Rodriguez
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: This could probably be the most successful ‘Point One’ issue yet, if we’re to understand the idea is catch new readers with a sort of ‘mission statement’ that makes it clear what the book is about while also being an integral component of an ongoing plotline that will reward existing fans. I’m an existing fan of this book, and I thought it was one of the finest issues of the series so far, with a narrative that doesn’t have one ounce of fat on it. Waid storms through this, doing absolutely everything he needs to do to get newbies and regulars pumped up for what comes next. It brings you up to speed (or refreshes the memory) on the Omegadrive and the five megacrime gangs that are after it, but does so in a way that adds something tangible to the story Waid is crafting. Pham may not provide the kind of stellar visuals that the likes of Marcos Martin or Paolo Rivera have laden this series with up to the point, but barring a couple of iffy panels he gets the job done. If you’ve been wondering what all the fuss is about but still haven’t taken the plunge with Daredevil, now might just be the perfect time to do so. 9/10

Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Marco Rudy, Yanick Paquette & Nathan Fairbairn
DC $2.99

James R: After the last issue, I thought this chapter of Snyder and Paquette's Swamp Thing was locked in to be the best book of the week - the only reason why it's not? It turns out that the huge climatic battle between the newly re-swamped Alec Holland and the Rot is going to be stretched over two issues, so we're denied a finale in this issue. However, it’s still a brilliant read - it now goes without saying that Snyder turns in a great script, but this month it's all about the visuals. Yanick Paquette's considerable talents are invested in depicting the clash between Swamp Thing and the forces of Sethe, and it really is something to behold as he skilfully blends action with stomach-turning horror. The first pages are rendered by Marco Rudy, and it's a tribute to him - and the colours of Nathan Fairbairn - that it's a seamless link. I'm still loving every page of Swamp Thing, and with Snyder teasing that the upcoming Animal Man/Swamp Thing crossover 'Deadworld' is "mega fun to write", I can't see that changing any time soon. 8/10

Writer: Simon Spurrier
Art: Paul Davidson & Rachelle Rosenberg
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: It’s all over...*sniff*... and what a way to end things! Spurrier wraps up this terrific miniseries in style as Madison Jeffries fights to save the life of Danger, Kavita Rao fights to understand how faith plays a part in her life, and Dr Nemesis gets to fight a Nazi across the multi-planed existence of a non-dimensional thingamabob (my description there, and that’s why I will leave science-fiction writing to talented guys like Spurrier!). I did wonder if the series would possibly peak too soon and I’m overjoyed to see that the story and tension has built and built over the five issue length to almost unbearable levels. Davidson excels himself in this finale, having to bring three very different planes of existence to the page, and the work that he and Rosenberg have put in over these months has been fantastic, especially when it has come down to capturing those all-important emotional moments. With (arguably) C-list characters such as these it really is a case of heads on the chopping block when the danger surfaces and they’ve been so well fleshed out and crafted with a thoughtful hand that the prospect of anyone’s demise added to the gravity greatly. No spoilers from me though folks - you’ll have to seek this superb series out to see just how things were wrapped up and witness a bona fide contender for miniseries of the year yourselves. 9/10

Writer: Grant Morrison, Rag Morales, Brad Walker, Rick Bryant, Bob McLeod, Brad Anderson & David Curiel
DC $3.99

Matt C: Action Comics isn’t the only series in DC’s New 52 to hit the ground running before losing its momentum quite swiftly, but perhaps it’s the most high profile one to do so. This is the end of the first story arc and to be honest I felt like I was reading it out of inertia rather than a desire to see how it wrapped up. I blow hot and cold with Morrison’s work, but I really think it’s his stuff in the regular DC Universe that I don’t get on with above all others. Surprisingly though, where it often seems like he’s got his head up his arse with some of his spandex fiction, this has come across as a bit pedestrian and predictable. The tweaks to mythos can’t camouflage the feeling that this isn’t that dramatically different an approach to Brianiac, Kandor etc to what we’ve seen before countless times. My best advice is go back and read All Star Superman to see Morrison’s best take on the character and hope that DC realises this wasn’t the kick up the backside the Man of Steel needed to return him to the top. 4/10


walkeri said...

Got to agree with two out of the three reviews for Avengers Vs X-Men.
This just seems to be yet another run of the mill event comic for Marvel.
I do wish Marvel would step back from all kinds of events and just concentrate on the monthly titles,it seems that they never give the Marvel Universe a bloody chance to recover from one event until we are thrown into the next one.
It would be a good idea if Marvel just did event comics say every few years and just slowly build up to it.
But these days it seems Marvel listen less to there fans and more to the money men.
I wonder what Stan Lee and Steve Ditko think of the Marvel Universe these days.

Andy C said...

I agree. The priority should be maintaining the highest possible standard with the ongoing titles. This would bring in more readers and sell more comics, without resorting to lame excuses for an event every 5 minutes.