7 May 2012

Mini Reviews 06/05/2012

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: China Miéville
Art: Mateus Santolouco, Tanya Horie & Richar Horie
DC $2.99

Matt C: The only New 52 ‘Second Wave’ book that really took my fancy, and most of that comes from people I trust advising me that Miéville is a fine writer of books (ones without pictures in them). To be fair, the dialogue feels authentic and truthful from the off, and I kind of warmed to the characters quite quickly, but I don’t think I warmed to them enough and perhaps the goofy premise doesn’t quite survive this more serious approach. The art’s rather wonderful – rich and immersive – and I’m almost tempted to come back for another look. It didn’t quite grab me hard enough though, and seeing how some of the initial New 52 books did grab me hard from the get-go only to lose my interest as the months went by, I don’t think I’m prepared for a longterm investment in this. 6/10

James R
: You'd think that all good novelists should be good comics writers, right? If you have a way with words, you should be able to write in any medium. Over the years though, we've seen that some writers can't make the jump to illustrated storytelling - they often miss the opportunity to use the language of comics. I'm pleased to report that China
Miéville has made the transition  magnificently on the evidence of Dial H and this is a wonderfully dark, ambitious and imaginative read. In previous incarnations, the 'Dial H' was a device that bestowed super-powers on seemingly innocuous members of the general public. Miéville has kept the central conceit intact, but has ditched the hand-held device and gone for the old-school charm of a phone booth as the agent of transformation (which has a nice echo of Superman's predilection for that quick-change location). The story focuses on Nelson Jent, who is a stereotypical loser; overweight, jobless and single. His attempt to save his friend from a beating causes him to be transformed into Boy Chimney, and then Captain Lachrymose - two wildly different characters, but Mieville infuses them both with a wild energy. Miéville's dark city, Littleville is superbly illustrated by the art team of Santolouco and the Hories, and I found something compelling on every page of this issue. This has immediately joined the consistently brilliant Swamp Thing and Animal Man to make a superb triumvir of dark DCU titles. I can't wait to see what other creations will be spilled from China Mieville's imagination on this book - I'm putting Dial H on my speed dial. 9/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: John Romita Jr, Scott Hanna & Laura Martin

Marvel $3.99 

Stewart R:  Well shucks, it turns out that this is something of an improvement over the disappointing first couple of issues and that may well be down to Brubaker’s influence. There’s certainly a more serious tone this time out and I enjoyed the underhanded twists and turns that are woven throughout.  It might be the script or possibly JR Jr’s framing, but things have suddenly gone from an attempted ‘epic’ scale to a far more intimate view and that allows for some reasonable character moments that were missing from Bendis’ opener and Aaron’s whirlwind follow-up.  Brubaker certainly gets Wolverine right on the money, but somewhat surprisingly he hasn’t been the man to pull the strange and distracting ship that is AVX Steve Rogers back around and he still remains adrift as the one major participant who seems rather out of character. I enjoyed the cover-advertised dust-up between Cap and Logan, with Romita Jr making each slash and punch carry real weight, but then to temper that high note there’s also a blatant set-up for all the various spin-offs that will be crying out for the punters money over the next few months with a poster-book roll call and assignment double spread that I don’t think was maybe necessary.  Yes, I’m still having difficulty looking past the glaring plot holes, occasional artistic sticking points and the far too obvious ‘buy all the titles’ script inclusions, however this chapter is certainly an improvement and issue #4 will still be on my pull-list.  6/10

Writer: Jim McCann
Art: Rodin Esquejo & Sonia Oback
Image $2.99

Matt C
: You’ve got to hand it to Image; following the debut issues of Saga and America’s Got Powers, this is another meaty comic book that offers absolute value for money. But – and I know I lot of people really clicked with this – I don’t think I’ll be sticking around for further instalments of Mind The Gap. It was a fairly engaging premise– a young woman in a coma following mysterious circumstances, a possible conspiracy, and limbo-like realm – the art was solid and the writing had a certain naturalism to the character interaction. Not too bad in other words, but with so many titles currently vying for my attention – especially so many new Image titles! – I’m finding myself in a place where I have to see something I can really get behind in a comic straight away because I simply don’t have the time or money to invest in maybes. As I said, it has clicked with a lot of people and that’s absolutely fine, but I’m going to bail out here in favour of books that have wowed me from the off. 6/10

Writer: Robert Venditti
Art: Cary Nord, Stefano Gaudiano & Moose Baumann
Valiant $3.99

Stewart R:  Romans and Visigoths and Aliens; oh my!  A fairly decent effort from all involved on this debut that drops a smattering of sci-fi into a historical setting with plenty of savage swordsmanship.  Aric’s bravery/pigheadedness makes him a slightly difficult protagonist to get behind, though every crazy charge in the face of larger and better skilled numbers is at least sold with a sense of noble intent.  The ‘alien abduction’ element certainly adds an extra level of intrigue that prevents this from being an all machismo and no brains affair. To be honest I like the fact that there’s no line made yet that definitely marks the strange visitors out as the evil, malevolent ‘bad’ guys who must be stopped at all costs; sure, it could go that way, but I can see the room to have things turn out to be far more complicated than that.  On the visual side of things Cary Nord does a damn fine job of capturing the fields of battle in the early part of the book and then transporting us to the deep space setting without having the experience feel too jarring considering the splicing of genres in play.  All in all an enjoyable effort and I look forward to the next chapter. 7/10 

Matt C: Valiant first appeared on the scene during the brief (and foolish – what was I thinking?!) period of my life when I decided comics weren’t for me anymore and I should be focusing on more adult pursuits (yeah, the myth of sex’n’drugs’n’rock and roll). Obviously I returned to the fold and became dimly aware of their existence, but in those days I was all about Marvel with a small dose of DC. So that preamble basically means I know next to nothing about these characters but I was curious enough this time around to have a look. I think Cary Nord’s art was a major reason for me being attracted to this debut issue as I have fond memories of his work on Conan several years ago, and he doesn’t disappoint here, the historical setting playing to his strengths, with Guadiano’s assured inking beefing things up, resulting in a attractive looking comic book. The protagonist of the piece, Aric, is pretty much a generic sword-wielding muscleman (it’s impossible not to think of Conan, especially with Nord’s pencils amplifying the similarity) but I always like the idea of alien visitations in the distant past and this definitely ticks plenty of boxes in that respect. At the moment it’s a bit formulaic but there’s enough going on plotwise to hold my attention, and I love the art, so I’ll be back for a second helping to see where it goes from here. 7/10

Writer: Larry Hama
Art: S L Gallant, Gary Erskine & J. Brown
IDW $3.99

Stewart R:  Bah, it seems that every time I praise an issue of this series I then follow up with some complaints or reservations about the next.  Where last month’s effort was tense and enjoyable, this feels a little too over the top in comparison and Hama’s occasional clumsy characterisation once again comes to the fore.  The major antagonist of this arc, the multi-limbed cyborg BN-001, was far more threatening when he wasn’t gas-bagging so much and for a supposedly superior being he doesn’t half like to narrate his own actions which seems a) a touch inefficient, and b) damn, frickin’ annoying!  I still get a kick out of Snake Eyes and the Baroness working well together as a team and the scene involving a Crimson Guardsman actually highlights how well Hama can do G.I. Joe when he gets it right, but then you get that stupid ice cream truck of destruction and I can’t help wonder if less certainly wouldn’t have been more in this case.  Gallant and the art team do a good enough job with what they’re given, but it is just a little too far into crazy town for my liking this time out. 5/10

Writer: Grace Randolph
Art: Russell Dauterman & Gabriel Cassata
Boom! Studios $3.99

James R: Three issues in and Grace Randolph keeps adding in great elements and twists to her superteam book. This month, we see that reformed supervillain Helen Heart may not have left her old life entirely behind her as the Meta Legion fight for survival. What I like about Supurbia is that Randolph and Dauterman haven't been constrained by the fact this is a four issue miniseries - they've thrived with it (Let’s hope James is happy with the news that this is now an ongoing series! - Stewart R). Every issue has been a dense read, with not only the personal lives of the Meta Legion but also an ambitious plot that's building to a explosive finale. I have said it before, but superhero tales told away from the big two of Marvel and DC often have an extra frisson, as there's every chance one or all the characters won't make it out alive. Given how this issue finishes, it looks like it's going to be a hi-octane conclusion next month. Given how flat Justice League is at the moment, DC could do worse than to look at Supurbia to see a superteam book done right. 8/10

Writers: Kieron Gillen, Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art: Carmine Di Giandomenico & Andy Troy
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: The introductory issue to a short crossover between Journey Into Mystery and New Mutants; I probably would have avoided this if I didn’t think Gillen is in the midst of a creative winning streak on Journey, which is right up there as one of (if not the) best superhero books Marvel are currently putting out. I’ve not really followed the adventures of the New Mutants since their ‘80s heyday, but I felt comfortable back in their company almost as soon as they appeared. It’s pretty obvious Gillen is writing the Loki/Asgard sequences and DnA are doing the mutants sections, but the brilliant thing is how it gels together perfectly. It doesn’t feel forced for an instant, and that’s one of the things that makes it so successful. On top of the writing you’ve also got some sterling art from Di Giandomenico, one of those guys I totally root for when ever I see his distinctive linework, and I’m quietly confident he’s destined for bigger (although not necessarily better) things. He was the artist on Magento Testament so he’s the man as far as I’m concerned. A must-have for followers of Journey and I’m guessing it’ll be required reading for New Mutants fans too. 8/10

EARTH 2 #1
Writer: James Robinson
Art: Nicola Scott & Trevor Scott
DC $3.99

James R: I picked this up this week purely on a whim.  I haven't been impressed with Justice League since the DC reboot/relaunch, and so the thought of another JL-style book didn't exactly fill me with joy. However, I am a sucker for a good Elseworlds tale, and I've always thought that DC do them very well. Earth 2 continues this tradition as we see a universe where the events of the first issues of Justice League unfolded differently, with DC's trinity sacrificing themselves to halt the Apokolips invasion. As a result, this Earth needs a new band of heroes, and we're introduced to new versions of Green Lantern Alan Scott and Flash Jay Garrick. James Robinson cleverly eschews the speed force and brings in the Greek god Mercury which ties in nicely with Brian Azzarello's relaunch of Wonder Woman. It's also commendable that Robinson drives the narrative forward at pace and covers a lot of ground in 28 pages. Geoff Johns take on the invasion story was crazily inconsistent, but this story felt compact and focused. I would have been more impressed if Supergirl and Robin's tale remained part of the book rather than spinning off into another comic - I simply can't afford another title! The art from Nicola and Trevor Scott is nice if not spectacular, and until the Trinity War ramps up, I'll probably stick with this Earth rather than Justice League.  7/10

 X-MEN #28
Writer: Victor Gischler
Art: Will Conrad & Guru eFX
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R:  Throughout his run on this title Victor Gischler has consistently managed to work with a wide cast of characters and capture the individual traits and nuances that we’ve loved about each one over the years and make them all work together in one book.  His previous dalliance with the Fantastic Four was a winner and he comes up with a plot to involve them again here along with a certain popular web-slinger while maintaining this as a clear X-book.  Heck, he even delves into the dubious matter of earth-based Skrulls - I’m guessing some readers out there may still wince when Secret Invasion gets a mention - and comes up trumps with a fun and involving story.  Pixie is the X-Man in the midst of all the conspiracy and action and Gischler sells her convincingly as a competent young woman who is just a little too green around the edges sometimes when it comes to forming a course of action and spotting when she’s being taken for a ride.  Evidently a writer on a gloriously prolonged streak of high quality, I’d go so far to say that on this evidence he’d be a good call to succeed Hickman on Fantastic Four now that his tenure here is sadly close to an end.  Will Conrad comes onboard to throw in his clean and eye-catching pencil and ink work at your brain and, on the strength of what he brings to the page here, he really should be a contender for more premiere Marvel work in the near future.  8/10

Writer: Dan Slott

Art: Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba & Edgar Delgado
arvel $3.99

Stewart R:  Mr Slott has got a great handle on what makes a Spider-Man ‘event’ work and the 'Ends Of The Earth' storyline has shown Peter Parker in yet another different light as he takes point and holds his nerve in the fight against Dr Octopus and the rest of the Sinister Six.  I’ve really enjoyed those odd moments scattered around where we can see Peter wavering on the edge of doubt as to whether Octavius’ intentions could in fact be honourable and every time he stands by his gut and his convictions to say that one of his greatest foes should never be trusted despite overwhelming popular opinion. Teaming the webbed wonder up with Black Widow and Silver Sable has added a further dimension to things as it’s brought up Peter’s previous nervousness around strong women, yet we can see that he’s maturing under Slott’s guiding hand, coming across as a character who is starting to believe in himself and the faith that others have in him.  I certainly have faith in Humberto Ramos’ ability to deliver a lovely looking book and he once again doesn’t disappoint, even getting to dabble with a fun bunch of international heroes ranging from Big Hero Six to Sabra as we’re reminded of the global-level threat at hand.  It still remains a good time to be a reader of Amazing Spider-Man.  9/10

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