27 May 2012

Mini Reviews 27/05/2012

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: Matt  Kindt
Art: Matt Kindt
Dark Horse $3.99

Stewart R: Matt Kindt is proving himself to be a noteworthy comic creator who can find that tremendous balance between dramatic tension and character work full of heart. Having already impressed with his previous works, 3 Story and Revolver, as well as an artistic stint on Jeff Lemire's Sweet Tooth, Kindt is now delving into the mysteries of human memory with Mind MGMT. The idea of the entire compliment of passengers and crew from a flight all losing their memory is a very interesting one and Kindt wraps it up in one heartfelt tale of intrigue as we see the affect that this event has had on the victims' lives. We follow Meru, a sufferer herself and best-selling author in her pre-flight life, who decides to investigate what happened and tries to track down the one passenger from the manifest who has been missing since that day. Alongside Meru's attempts to pull her life out of the barren gutter it has fallen into is a secretive conspiracy thread that promises exciting things to come and revelations galore I should imagine. There's an extra level of generosity on show as well with a bookended view of Mind MGMT's beginnings in the early 20th century as well as a look at one particular agent who possessed certain 'gifts' of the mind which helps to expand the scope of this world greatly. On the visual side of things Kindt is an artist who may not be to everybody's taste, but I like the unique feel he brings to his works and his skills with pencil and ink are clearly growing. A great start and clearly the 'Book of the Week' contender to beat. 9/10 

Matt C: Matt Kindt has been making a name for himself amongst the indie firmament for a long while, with the likes of 3 Story: The Secret History Of The Giant Man getting all the right people excited about his work in the right kind of ways. It seems clear that his star is only going to shine more brightly over the coming months (and years) so instead of waiting around for the moment he gets offered a high profile gig from one of the Big Two, why not take this opportunity to see what he’s really capable of with this first issue of Mind MGMT. There’s a mystery involving a planeload of amnesiacs at its core but the real hint that there’s a lot more behind Kindt’s idea is the cover page strip and the two-page back-up feature which both approach the concept from different angles. Without those it may not have been such an impressive debut; with them it promises so much more. Kindt’s art may be a bit simplistic for some, but although it doesn’t display a level of visual sophistication that you may be used to in a comic from one of the major publishers, there’s an emotional undercurrent to the imagery that some of the more ‘skilled’ practitioners of comic book illustration would no doubt gladly sell a kidney for. It probably won’t click with everyone but this is one of those instances where you need to pick it up now to see if does before it disappears off the shelves and you’re left trade-waiting. 8/10

James R: From the title alone, you might think this was a comic based on the adventures of indie rock champions MGMT helping out British mental health charity Mind, but fear not - Matt Kindt has come up with something way more sublime than that! This first issue of Kindt's attempt to write a comic that "would get me reading monthly books again" is an absolute triumph. He introduces us to a world that has been manipulated by a secret and unconventional espionage organisation with a story told principally through the eyes of Meru, an investigative reporter trying to solve the mystery of a flight where everyone was struck by amnesia... but one passenger on the manifold remains unaccounted for. However, that's not the half of it - Kindt jams his pages with clues, riddles and other bonus content that he openly admits won't be reproduced in the trades. This book grabbed me from the first page, and long time readers of the blog know how much I love comics that stretch the medium or try something new. Not only does Kindt do that here, but he also delivers a compulsive tale from the off. Magnificent - my new comics obsession has arrived! 10/10

Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Chris Burnham & Nathan Fairbairn
DC $2.99

James R: How fast time flies. It seems only five minutes ago we were celebrating Morrison's Batman And Robin as a high watermark in Batman comics. Since then, Bruce Wayne has returned, Batman Incorporated has launched then vanished amidst the New 52, before now relaunching this month. After such a break, how does it stand up next to the brilliant work of Scott Snyder? Well, it doesn't stand next to it so much - it floats next to it in it's own 'mad-as-a-hatstand-Grant-Morrison-ideascape' bubble! Batman and Robin are on the trail of an assassin called Goatboy (a trademark Morrison pop culture reference to Bill Hicks that you'll either love or hate... in keeping with everything Grant Morrison!) but we also learn that Leviathan has put a bounty on Robin's head, an act that has so many twisted connotations it would make Freud faint! It looks beautiful, and Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn deliver some astonishing pages. Morrison leaves us with a cliffhanger which anyone with half a brain will find incredibly transparent, but it does set up a nice cat-and-mouse conceit for the next few issues. Not Morrison's best work, but not too shabby either.   8/10

Writer: Peter Hogan
Art: Steve Parkhouse
Dark Horse $3.50

Stewart R: You always have to love it when you buy a #1, turn the page and discover a message from the creators quite clearly telling you 'Whoops, well if you haven't gotten your hands on #0 then you might have a few problems with fully understanding where we join this tale!' It's a bit of a shit state of affairs if you ask me and I'm just lucky that my Local Comic Book Store happens to have a copy in stock so I can get a proper appreciation for this tale of murder and intrigue in a sleepy American town (Note: there is a brief, single paragraph on the inside cover explaining things that goes a little way to helping the new reader so it's by no means a dead loss). Okay, so it seems to be bitch, bitch, bitch presently, but there actually is a lot going for this miniseries that looks at a temporary medical practitioner investigating the suspicious end of his predecessor - oh yeah, and the doctor just happens to be a crash-landed alien too! The dialogue throughout is snappy and gives the various cast members clear edges – something that helps in a three (or four!!) part series. There's a great sense that perhaps some people aren't being particularly truthful and there are some interesting threads just bubbling under the surface that I dare say may get expanded upon in the second instalment - the Doc's longing for home is dropped in just at the right moment and helps to remind us that this isn't just a murder-mystery tale. The art from Parkhouse is top-notch and in a story that's relatively light on action it really helps to have a pencil and ink man who can capture subtle character moments. Numbering gripes aside, this is a fine debut and I'll be picking up the remaining two issues for sure. 8/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Ron Garney & Jason Keith
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: After concluding the epic storyline that has been running since he took over, Hickman has spent the last couple of issues of both Fantastic Four and FF going for the done-in-one stories, and this one just might be the best of the bunch so far. It’s a great distillation of who the Fantastic Four are: a tight family unit first, explorers of the unknown second. Hickman shows that he implicitly understands the dynamic that has made Marvel’s First Family so resilient and enduring over the years and while Garney’s rendering of the characters is distinctly his own work it also carries with it the classical stylings that have made them so iconic in popular culture (he draws a great Thing too!). It would give too much of the game away to hint at what sets the ball rolling on the FF’s mission here, and even though it may raise certain moral questions, you have to remember that the team once went to Heaven to rescue Ben during Mark Waid’s run (well, sort of). Plus, we are taking about a group of individuals that were metamorphosized after being blasted with cosmic rays, so some suspension of disbelief is required. I guess it’s too early to unleash any big statements, but it’s entirely possible that Hickman’s run on the book will be looked back as one of the best. Time will decided that of course, but if I was a betting man I would put money on his work in Fantastic Four (and FF) being  revisted by a lot of folks in years to come. 8/10

Stewart R: Okay Mr Hickman, we get it, you can do single issue stories! The problem is that when you do too many of them you start to get one or two that don't quite cut the mustard, so to speak. This instalment of the main 'First Family' title is proof that we need Hickman to get back to a long and complicated story arc quite soon as it certainly doesn't compare to his last issues of this and FF which really did exceed expectations at the time. It was all too clear from the fourth or fifth page just what Hickman was trying to with this story and once I recognised the premise – one it must be said that has been aped a little too often for comfort - I hoped that we might get some neat twist or alternate ending, but sadly it doesn't come. There is certainly a nice line in nostalgia and I'd probably take a guess that Hickman took this opportunity to tell a story close to his heart, but that I'm afraid doesn't result in anything more than mediocre filler this week. On a further critical note, Garney is certainly a decent talent but sometimes he really seems to struggle with The Thing's dimensions, especially when it comes to various views of that rocky head of his. 6/10

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

Matt C: I have to be honest and admit I’m not as wowed by Flash as much as I was when the series initially rebooted, but it still stays on my pull-list as one of the standout titles of the New 52.  The panel layouts Manapul arranges are frequently inspired and there’s been some solid characterization right from the get-go, but – ironically – there’s a sense that the title needs to be more sure-footed. Take this issue as an example: one of the Flash’s greatest archenemies, Gorilla Grodd, gets to make his first proper appearance in the New 52, but where you’d think there was a real opportunity to redefine the character and his mythos in this ‘new’ universe, instead we get a tale that rushes too quickly to get to its conclusion (and yes, I’m aware of the irony in that statement too).  I still enjoy this book an awful lot but it needs to be a little bolder, a little brasher, to really dig in and make its mark. 7/10

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

Stewart R: While I am enjoying this story arc and am very glad that it didn't turn out to be the Avengers-centric piece that I suspected it might become there is something that doesn't quite seem right. Slott has definitely set his lens to widescreen as Spider-Man and his various allies around the globe have battled to prevent the ailing Doc Ock and his Sinister Six from completing their plan, but it does seem that our hero, the man who Slott continuously tells us will not let a single soul die on his watch, is either lost amongst the action or simply reiterating that one-line rhetoric as this progresses. Peter's suddenly found himself overcome with a case of seriousness and much of the witty banter has fallen by the wayside as the yoke of responsibility digs ever harder into his shoulders. I'm guessing that it feels a little off-key purely because I'm never used to seeing this character as a driven leader and for what it's worth Slot has certainly done well to show Peter's unease with having to lead a team and make the hard calls when they arise. The major positive resulting from ‘Ends Of The Earth’ has been the sense of escalation as Spidey and friends have taken down elements of the Sinister Six only to see Ock's vengeance increase with every loss. In this issue it was particularly refreshing to see members of the Six start to doubt the path that they were following and it's that example of steady writing that casts all doubt about my continued following of this title aside. 7/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Mikel Janin & Ulises Arreola
DC $2.99

James R: I had dropped this book as under the guidance of Pete Milligan I found it lacked coherence or vision - the characters had no real reason to be together  and kept pointing this out, in vaguely meta moments! By the end of the first arc, I felt like it was an opportunity missed. However, I will always look at whatever Jeff Lemire does as I think he is an outstanding talent, and given his work on Animal Man, if anyone could combine darkness with more three-dimensional characters, Lemire can. Straight off the bat, this issue is an improvement as Lemire manages to give the team a decent reason for working together - Steve Trevor employs John Constantine to track down Felix Faust in exchange for a supermarket sweep through the Black Room, the repository of all the mystical objects owned by the US Government. It hums along nicely as a title without ever doing anything stunning or inventive; at the moment it's missing the magic that Lemire brings to Animal Man, and the art from Mikel Janin is solid if a little unspectacular (the first double-page splash for example is awkward and underwhelming). Despite these faults, there's enough evidence here to suggest Lemire could spin some gold from the hay left by Milligan, and I'll definitely stick with it for the current arc. 7/10


Andy C said...

Excellent reviews as ever guys.

I was underwhelmed by JLD #9. It was OK but not memorable in my opinion. I tried JLD as part of the I, Vampire crossover and wasn't particularly impressed. Lemire was the reason to pick up #9 and I totally agree with the comment about missing the magic of Animal Man. Haven't yet decided whether to try #10.

You've totally sold Mind MGMT! Will pick up a copy bandwagon-style if Andy has any left....

Joe T said...

With A-S exams out of the way, I have returned! I've missed posting here!

Amazing Spider-Man. I found this a particularly weak issue. Nothing about this to me says Spider-Man. Glad to see Caselli back on art (the last few Ramos issues were terribly drawn), but his work seems cluttered here by the dodgy colouring. The Sinister Six have gone from being a force to be reckoned with, to being cliche ridden charicatures of villains that would fit well into the Adam West Batman show. A real poor effort, 4/10

Astonishing X-Men 50. A lot of people are going to have a hard time reading this without falling victim to media hype. As a reader of this current arc, and a fan of the creative team, I went into the issue with a love of the title characters, NOT a sense of sensationalism. There are some flaws here, but when you get down to it, this is a damn good X-Men story, and features one of the most sincere relationships I've seen in comics. Perkins art is gorgeous, and I enjoy seeing this evolution of Northstar's character. Not quite sure how they're going to manage to wrap this up to focus on the wedding next issue, but I'm intrigued. 8/10

Batman Incorporated. Reading this made me realise how much I've missed the book. A couple of laugh out loud moments, a great cliffhanger and fantastic art. Most of all, this was great fun. Not the most easily accessible for new readers, but for returning readers it's great fun (despite the fact the reboot throws up a lot of questions). 9/10

The Flash. Agree with what Matt's said pretty much. There were several plot points this issue that didn't make sense to me, and not enough was really done with Gorilla City, but that art was great as per usual, and the supporting cast work is really well done (particularly Singh&Piper) something a lot of titles lack. One thing I love about this title is how one issue seamlessly flows into the next, like a lot of Silver Age Stan stuff did. 7/10, here's hoping next issue returns it to it's previous heights.

Secret Avengers. This one is a bit of a strange beast to review. First it features the return of one of my favourite characters, as the "villain" of the story, a return that shouldn't even be allowed I may add. However, he is written very well. Despite being a brainwashed "villain" his sense of honour is still there, and it's clear he's misguided. Most of the characters are written very well (except Capt.Britain which contradicts Cornell's epic take on Brian Braddock)and the art is fantastic, but is this the Secret Avengers? No. This is a near perfect classic Avengers comic( more of an Avengers comic than most Avengers comics of the past 5 or 6 years)for which it'd earn a 9/10. As a Secret Avengers comic though, it fails with the whole covert ops thing (and half the team are missing) so it'd earn a 7/10. Averaging it out, I'd give it an 8/10. Good stuff, really enjoying AVX

Andy C said...

......got Mind MGMT as a result of your reviews. Great first issue. I love the basic premise of a plane-load of people including pilots suddenly losing their memory. The way this goes on to affect normal people's lives, and that it has already been accepted by the population at large before we join the story makes it feel remarkably real. Nice one! Hope it continues this strongly....