29 Apr 2012

Mini Reviews 29/04/2012

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.

AVX: VS #1 
Writers: Jason Aaron & Kathryn Immonen
Art: Adam Kubert, Morry Hollowell, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger & Jim Charalampidis
Marvel $3.99 

Stewart R: Despite my growing ambivalence for this event I’m still willing to look for the diamonds in the rough that may be scattered in the spin-offs and regular series tie-ins, and this proved to be a better addition to proceedings than I honestly expected. For your four dollars you get two, 10-page fight sequences that expand upon the fisticuffs briefly glanced or hinted at within the various issues of the main Avengers Vs X-Men comic; here we get an Aaron/Kubert Iron Man vs Magneto scrap followed by a big Namor vs Thing punchup brought to us by the Immonens. Aaron does a pretty decent job of tackling the thoughts of Tony and Erik as they try to out manoeuvre the other, both being weary of the other’s potential threat yet relying on confidence to see them through, and the quick upswing in tactical escalation does a decent job of showing the powerhouse potential of both combatants. Kubert’s work here is a very strange bag of inconsistency with a couple of fine posterbook moments and then other panels where it’s as if he had a rush on to be somewhere, or do something else. Stuart Immonen’s work on the second half is far more stable and he portrays the underwater brawl between Ruler of the Deep Blue and possessor of the ‘ever lovin’ blue eyes’ with the necessary amount of fun. I enjoyed the way that Kathryn Immonen sets things up to be very much a one-way conversation thanks to the submersed locale and she makes all the right nods to the combatants shared history. The big ‘BUT’ here is that the way things are left in both stories shows how ultimately throwaway this miniseries is going to be and for a 20-page, $3.99 investment I’m not sure that’s quite what I’m looking for. 7/10

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Chris Weston & Chris Chuckry
Marvel $2.99 

Matt C: It took an awful long time to get here but we’ve finally arrived at the finale of The Twelve. The previous chapter was where everything really came to a head so now we get to the aftermath as the survivors mull over what happened and decide where they go from there. This was never a team as such, but a collection of characters forced together by circumstance, and one of the main draws of the series has been how the different personalities reacted to one another. Many of them wouldn’t normally wish to spend more than five minutes in the room with the others, but their situation created a common bond, a fragile bond at that, one that unavoidably doomed certain members of the group. As well as telling an arresting superhero murder mystery with a backbone of strong characterization, The Twelve offered Straczynski the chance to ponder the ways the world has improved since the ‘40s, the ways it hasn’t, and the ways it’s remained the same. Weston’s artistry was perfectly suited for the tale; it harks back to classic comic book art of an earlier age while investing a level of detail that kept things fresh. It’s tenuous link to the current Marvel Universe means it’ll be able to stand on its own two feet for a long time to come. We got there in the end, and the result was an extremely satisfying conclusion to a fine series. 8/10

Writer: Jamie Delano
Art: Leandro Rizzo & Digikore Studios
Avatar $3.99 

James R: What's that whooshing sound you can hear? Ah, that's my interest in this book dissipating! In fact, if ever you wanted to explain to a new comics reader that it's often wise to follow a creator and not a title, this would be a perfect example. The last three issues by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows were another brilliant display of horror and a meditation on human nature, but this is just a mess. The action is now focused again on the States and two survivors who have made an uneasy alliance. Jamie Delano keeps his cards to his chest in not telling you everything about them, but following Ennis, they come across as the dullest 2D people imaginable. Under Ennis' watch, the Crossed are a terrifying unstoppable, unrelenting force that were always at your heels. Here they can be avoided by hiding behind a rock or on… bikes. Delano's dialogue doesn't feel right either. It was rightfully pointed out to me that the two 'sexy' sisters we're introduced to wouldn't recap what their Dad had said and done if it was so traumatic - surely the visuals alone should have been left to do the job? Isn't that how comics work? Speaking of the visuals, Leandro Rizzo might be a proficient artist, but after Jacen Burrows, the contrast is unfavourably stark. I'll keep an eye on Previews to see if a new creative team comes on, but for now, that's me done with the Crossed. 2/10

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

Stewart R: I was somewhat surprised to see that the writing talent behind Marvel’s premiere X-Men title was not going to be involved more heavily in the big (stupid) crossover event of the summer, but then it could be said that Kieron Gillen may well bring the best contribution from within the pages of Uncanny X-Men alone - on the strength of this effort I’d predict that this title could well be where I find my most enjoyable AVX experiences over the coming months. Here, Gillen keeps his previous plot threads ticking along while adding extra layers of meaningful commentary to the events that I found so mediocre in #1 and #2 of Bendis’ battle royale. I really enjoyed seeing Namor’s perspective on why he’s in this fight and I think it worked especially well when placed over Greg Land’s replication of John Romita Jr’s initial confrontation between Cyclops and Captain America. Yes, Gillen subtly moves around Cap and the Submariner’s friendship and instead leans more on Namor’s role as a leader and representative of a marginalized people, but it works very well, especially considering how the King of Atlantis has been portrayed in the pages of this book for many moons now. The heavier hitting is handled by the two characters adorning the cover of the issue, but this is all about Colossus and the continuous struggle he faces with the yoke of Cytorrak sat angrily upon his metallic shoulders and I don’t think any readers know how much longer the poor Russian can carry his dark burden. One of my main criticisms of AVX has been the characterisation of Hope and thankfully Gillen even gets time to address her concerns at the unfolding events and the lack of trust she’s received from those calling themselves friends, family and protectors. This is a fine Uncanny X-Men issue and by far the best piece of AVX writing that’s hit the stands so far. 8/10

Writer: Roger Langridge
Art: Bruce Ozella & Luke McDonnell
IDW $3.99 

Matt C: I’m not major fan of Popeye, but I can appreciate his iconic status and his longevity, and I do have fond memories of the cartoons I watched when I was a kid. Oh, and I like spinach. What really drew me to the first issue of this miniseries was writer Roger Langridge; having seen his take on some other classic characters – the Muppets – along with the infectious wit displayed in Snarked (his current series for BOOM!), I felt that he was certainly well placed to show why Popeye needs to be dusted off for a contemporary audience. Having now read this debut issue all I can say is I kind of enjoyed it. It’s a different beast to Snarked, or indeed The Muppet Show – there’s hardly any of the irreverent wit either of those titles contain, it’s much more straight down the line and seems to be targeted more directly at a younger audience. Which is fine, but at $3.99 I’m not sure who that audience could comprise of (although it is value for money compared to certain mainstream books charging the same price). Ozella’s art is wonderful, fully capturing the look and the spirit of the original comic strips (and that cover’s fantastic) but as I said, I’m not a big fan of the character, so it would take something more striking than this to get me to come back for another issue. 6/10

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Eduardo Risso & Patricia Mulvihill
DC/Vertigo $2.99 

James R: With three issues to go, Brian Azzarello starts putting all the pieces into place in his dystopian tale. A few issues back, I noted that the series wasn't really SF as such, but a crime tale told through the prism of a dark future. This is really confirmed here as we learn that Orson and his genetically altered brothers were part not of a mission to explore Mars, but to mine it for profit. Once again, mankind's greed drives this fable, and no one does such tales as well as Azarello. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Orson and Tara look to escape over the 'Fence' - the line between the haves and the have-nots in the submerged and ruined America. Eduardo Risso brings page after page of quality art - he makes desolation look strangely beautiful, and Patricia Mulvihill's colours are perfect for this dark tale. As a series, this may have been a little slow to start, but it's building to a terrific finish. I get the feeling that this will make a fine collected edition, although any readers waiting for trade will have missed out on the striking covers by Dave Johnson that round out this top-draw comic! 8/10

Writers: Alex Link & Riley Rossmo
Art: Riley Rossmo
Image $3.50 

Stewart R: So I’ve given it the second good old go and I have to say that this is where I step off the Rebel Blood trail of the utterly bizarre. Reaching the end of this chapter I’m still no clearer as to what the heck is going on, what is supposed to be ‘reality’ and what is potentially hallucination in Link and Rossmo’s horror tale. Characters appear but are never properly introduced or explained and Rossmo often sees them dispatched in violent style, in a quick-sharpish manner at the hands of seemingly unstable and suspiciously sympathy-worthy Chuck. When reading this I’ve found it hard to get a clear grip on the flow and I’ll make the guess that the jarring, stuttered storytelling is supposed to give us a sense of the confusion that Chuck is suffering from and that possibly the huge payoff, revealing the golden chalice that is understanding, will be unveiled at the very end. Unfortunately I don’t feel obliged to continue to take the risk on the payoff being worth issue after issue of confusion and I’m afraid that the blood of this comic was a bit too rebellious for my tastes. 4/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Marco Checchetto & Matt Hollingsworth
Marvel $2.99 

Matt C: A bit of a disappointing conclusion to the ‘Omega Effect’ crossover considering it promised so much. It’s not been a bad read at all, and it’s always nice to see these ‘street level’ characters crossing paths and banging heads over their differing approaches to crimefighting. It’s just a pity, for Daredevil readers at least, that the whole thing can be viewed as a somewhat superfluous diversion from the main plotline, as all told it doesn’t really push things forward. There’s also an outburst from Daredevil that seems slightly uncharacteristic and more like Waid’s own voice speaking directly through the character. Still, as diversions go, it’s been enjoyable, but the terrific cover aside it’s not as strong as we’re used to from the title since Waid took over. Normal service will hopefully be resumed next month. 7/10

Writer: Joe Harris
Art: Ed Benes, Rob Hunter, Jack Purcell & Jeromy Cox
DC $2.99 

James R: At the moment there is much debate among the Paradox Group as to whether the DC relaunch has been a success, as we seem to be getting to a point where a lot of the New 52 are starting to falter. I'm still of the belief that DC are still putting the best mainstream books out - Batman, Flash, Animal Man and Swamp Thing are continuing to set the bar at staggering height - but the other titles are noticeably weak by comparison. The first arc of The Dark Knight was fine, but in a time where a lot of us are having to keep a watchful eye on our cash, I can't justify buying comics that are, well, only okay! This issue is a one-shot, and sees Batman going up against the Mad Hatter. I'm often a big fan of the done-in-one issue but this was so uninspiring I forgot everything about it the moment I finished reading it. Seven days after Scott Snyder delivers a masterclass in how to write Batman, this just seems weak in contrast. There's nothing inherently 'wrong' with it - Joe Harris does a passable job, wisely utilising Commissioner Gordon as the second narrative point, and Ed Benes is proficient on pencils - but this is the most generic Batman comic I've read in a while. My second drop of the week, and a note to all Bat-writers - Scott Snyder has set the standard, please try to keep up! 4/10

FF #17
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Nick Dragotta & Chris Sotomayor
Marvel $2.99 

Stewart R: I elected to read this during a lunch break at work and that essentially meant that a fair few people in the canteen got to see me laughing out loud, comic book in hand, while they tried to enjoy their sandwiches and a quiet respite from the grindstone. At this particular moment, I’m having to think hard on whether I’ve read anything this fun in 2012 and I don’t believe that I have. The idea of Peter Parker and Johnny Storm being housemates isn’t particularly new, but by the Mad Celestials when Jonathan Hickman puts his comedy cap on and hands over a script this funny to an artist with Nick Dragotta’s skill and near-perfect timing, good things may well always happen! There’s a superb Odd Couple vibe throughout and Hickman writes the tired and increasingly annoyed Parker perfectly with every page adding glorious fuel on which his brotherly despising of the Human Torch often burns. Dragotta has very quickly risen through the ranks of my favourite artists in the past year and now sits in that club of ‘unmissable’ for me thanks to this sterling effort that has so many sublime and smile-inducing expressions and panels from cover to cover. I dare say that this issue is so damn good and doesn’t rely too heavily on any previous plot points that would prevent it from being worth every single penny of the $2.99 you should most certainly invest, here and now in this brilliant comic book. 10/10

1 comment:

Andy C said...

Totally agree with the comment about the Omega Effect crossover not moving things forward. As predominantly a DC reader, I REALLY enjoyed the 3 issues with only two negative comments - the fact the whole thing achieved nothing, and that Daredevil speech which was the most embarrassing thing I have so far experienced in my (albeit short) comic reading 'career'. Otherwise, great characterisation and artwork.

I dropped out of The Dark Knight after issue 6 as it had no substance whatsoever. I had assumed the arc was 9 issues as this is the size of the DC collected edition. Sounds like I dropped out just one issue from the end of the first arc...Doh! Can't believe I missed much though?