22 Jul 2012

Mini Reviews 22/07/2012

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: David A. Rodriguez
Art: Sarah Ellerton
Th3rd World Studios $3.99

Matt C: After almost accidentally discovering The Stuff Of Legend,  courtesy of the introductory sampler Th3rd World Studios released for Free Comic Book Day a couple of years back, the preview of Finding Gossamyr that appeared for FCBD 2012 indicated that it might be another all-ages delight that I should follow sooner rather than later. All the signs point to that being the case judging by this debut issue which deals with an autistic genius kid cracking an impossible mathematical theorem and opening the door to a fantastical world. The initial hook here is that the kid also figures out that the theorem is so complex because nobody was meant to crack it at all - it's currently holding an ancient evil at bay - but his inability to articulate this means his warnings fall on deaf ears. There's sharp characterisation as well as a sound take on a mental condition, and the brief looks at the other realm looks promising. Ellerton's visuals are a large part of the appeal, heavily reminiscent of the Pixar/Disney style at points, and adept at conveying the emotions of the characters alongside the more fantastical elements. Most definitely one to watch. 8/10

Writer: Darwyn Cooke
Art: Amanda Conner & Paul Mounts
DC $3.99

James R: After the first issue of this title, which I thought was superb, this chapter felt like it had lost it's way a little. Please don't get me wrong, there's an awful lot to admire here - Amanda Conner continues to turn in career-best work here and, with the assistance of Paul Mounts, her pages are a joy to behold. The nods to the original are magnificent too - this month, check out Greg printing up a copy of the poster we see the police examining in the 'Fearful Symmetry' chapter of Watchmen! Cooke also continues to make Laurie a fully-rounded character - he's actually adding something rather than simply rehashing. The problem for me comes with the threat: Frank Sinatra (in all but name) is behind one of Watchmen's nominal drugs KT-5 (though by 1985, it's KT-28) as a ploy to improve consumption and record sales? Hurm. After such a strong start, I felt suddenly underwhelmed by this development, and I suppose I had just hoped for a little more. With only two more issues left, I guess this will be the central conflict for Laurie. Overall, it's not bad, but after such a strong start, I'd hoped for more. 7/10

Matt C: This is becoming more difficult to categorise as the story starts to get rolling. Although obviously set in the world of Watchmen, the tone here feels a lot different than gritty Cold War stylings of Moore and Gibbons' original work. In fact, there are points where Silk Spectre comes a cross like a psychedelically-enhanced, adult-orientated version of Scooby Doo with its druggy, '60s hippy vibe. If that sounds like a criticism, it's not, because Cooke's tale of Laurie getting mixed up in a plot to introduce a drug into the Counter Culture that makes all the hipsters get a thirst for rampant consumerism is eminently engaging, and Conner's art - in the classic 9-panel grid style - is luxuriantly rendered, evoking not only the reality of the era but the comics of that period too, weaving in several nods to Gibbons work on Watchmen. More than any other of the Before Watchmen books, this one seems intent on doing its own thing, and it may just be all the better for taking that approach. 8/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Christ Samnee & Javier Rodriguez
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R:  Just a week ago Mark Waid was picking up three Eisner awards for his efforts during the past 12 months and the main reason for his success with those accolades has come from his handling of Daredevil.  While previous writers took to turning the life of Matt Murdock inside out, Waid is actually taking the man himself, breaking him down to his base elements and showing the audience just how this hero works, functions and survives as a Man Without Fear.  This Latverian-based plot has almost worked as a reflection of Waid’s own aim with this series as Chancellor Beltane is charged with studying and unlocking the mystery of Daredevil’s radar sense, utilising the most extreme of measures should they be called for.  The sense of isolation and sensory deprivation that Waid and Samnee manage to capture is magnificent and rarely have so many black panels said so much in a comic yet kept us, the audience, feeling like we’re there, suffering with and supporting Matt Murdock every step of the way as he strives to escape his awful prison.  The terrific thing about this title presently is that it constantly feels as if Murdock could be just moments away from either the best day or worst day of his life and it’s the brilliant unpredictability that makes this one of the most important ongoing titles in Marvel’s arsenal at this time.  9/10

Matt C: His success at the Eisners recently was just one more piece of evidence (if it were needed) that Mark Waid is on top of the game again. He's never really been out of the picture, having been crafting superhero stories for a good 20 years or so, but his recent work on the likes of Irredeemable and (especially) Daredevil has shown that he has the kind of grasp on the classic superhero paradigm that few can match. His instinctive understanding of all of the genre tropes means he' s extremely well placed to find new ways to interpret them and locate story ideas that have a freshness and vitality to them. This issue is a case in point: a masterclass in the exploration of Daredevil's power set as Doctor Doom's underlings attempt to ascertain the secret behind Murdock’s radar sense as he lays helpless, nanotechnology removing access to all his senses as he fights to find a way back into the world. Samnee provides another marvellous representation of how Murdock perceives his surroundings, a visual device this series has rightly been acclaimed for, and he injects the Latverian environment with a suitably gothic atmosphere. If you want to get an idea of why everyone raves about this book then this issue provides a stellar example off how Waid has brought both the character and book out of the darkness and into the spotlight of brilliance. 9/10

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Fernando Pasarin, Scott Hanna & Gabe Eltaeb
DC $2.99

Stewart R:  When I came to the world of the Green Lantern Corps, back with the previous volume’s issue #38, Tomasi was then delving deep into the problem that the Guardians had created with the Alpha Lanterns’ unblinking, unquestioning devotion to the letter of the law found within the Book of Oa.  As we approach the eve of the ‘Third Army’ storyline, Tomasi is getting the perfect opportunity to once again turn the focus onto these powerful Lanterns and highlight how the Guardians have continuously failed in their mission to create the perfect embodiment of law and order for the universe.  I cannot applaud this superb writer enough for his ability to bring a single question, issue or perspective to a comic book storyline and address things so well from a multitude of character angles - seriously, he rarely leaves a base untouched and in the same stroke ensures that this reader never gets bored by repetition or lingering monotony.  Here Guy and John still bicker and disagree briefly over the finer details of their plan despite knowing what they’re both fighting for, while there is even moral questioning amongst the emotionally repressed and usually unswerving ranks of the Alpha Lanterns which helps to once again maintain the rich and fulfilling feel that this 20-page, $2.99 book continuously provides.  Combining so well with Tomasi’s scripting is Pasarin’s artistry and while, for the briefest of scattered moments in this issue, there are points where it seems that either he or inker Hanna may have been a tad rushed, it does contain one of my favourite illustrated single pages from the whole of 2012 to date.  If you’ve been disappointed by the New 52 and haven’t looked at this series yet, I highly recommend giving it a try.  9/10

Writer: Paul Gardner
Art: Khari Evans, Hoang Nguyen, Kinsun Loh & Joffrey Suarez
Image $3.99

Stewart RCarbon Grey was something of a revelation for me last year; a beautifully rendered diesel-punk epic that captivated and confused in equal measure, it often left me in a state of pleasurable befuddlement by the time the final page was turned. Following the first volume there was doubt that a second would ever be realised in print, but luckily a very successful Kickstarter funding project has made that dream a reality and once again we’re plunged into the convoluted tale of the Sisters Grey and the pivotal roles that they play in the present and future of Mitteleuropa.  This opening chapter picks things up where they were previously left with the Sisters scattered and each either trying to piece together the mysteries of the Kaiser’s death or establish just why such turmoil has now ravaged the land and their lives.  I’ll admit I’m still at a loss to remember who each of the Grey women are and just what prophecy applies to whom, but for some reason that just makes rereading each issue of this story as compelling as it is; there’s an understanding to be earned here and where it doesn’t work with other comics I really do enjoy the challenge with Carbon Grey.  I did like the recounting of yet another Gottffaust legend in order to narrate Mathilde’s exploration of the city of Morah and the art throughout is sumptuous to say the least.  I would find it hard to recommend that anyone to dive in fresh at this point as I think it’d be a struggle to fathom just what significance any of the events portrayed have on the greater story, especially considering that I also struggle and I've been onboard from the start(!), but I’d still advise giving the first volume a look in collected form.  7/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Jonathan Glapion, Alex Sinclair, Gary Frank & Brad Anderson
DC $3.99

James R: With every issue, the horrible nightmare that was this book's opening arc falls further away. The current arc featuring David Graves and his revenge plot against the JL has been a compelling read, and - yes! - features the team acting in a far more genuine way. This instalment sees the JL try to contain the rage of Wonder Woman as she realises the peril Steve Trevor has been placed in, and then head to the Valley of Souls, the source of Graves' power. Johns gets the interplay between the heroes right, and Jim Lee delivers the goods with two splash pages of Wonder Woman laying the smackdown on Green Lantern and Superman. I enjoyed Johns' script highlighting the fact that guilt is a common motivating factor for DC's big guns. I've not personally mentioned it before, but it's also nice to have the Shazam! backup - if I am paying $3.99, I like to get a little extra bang for my buck. I'd not bought a Justice League book for years prior to the New 52 due to it being largely awful, and it got very close to being dropped during the farcical opening Darkseid story, but I'm now pleased that I didn't - the plot and interplay in this book are delivering what I want from what should be DC's leading title. Sometimes fanboy perseverance pays off! 8/10

X-MEN #32
Writer: Brian Wood
Art: David Lopez, Alvaro Lopez & Rachelle Rosenberg
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: A strange thing has happened in the last couple of years. After a long stretch of abstinence, I now seem to be buying more X-books than I have done in almost a decade.  It's a measure of the creators involved that this situation has occurred as they've made the X-shaped corner of the Marvel Universe a compelling place to visit again. It's therefore kind of disheartening that many of them are going to be moving on to make way for Bendis et al to arrive for 'Marvel NOW!', but before that happens, another book has found a slot in my monthly pile in the shape of the adjectiveless X-Men. Brian Wood's the obvious draw here, and over the course of three issues he's stamped his mark on these characters, bringing the same intense intelligence and devotion that is familiar from his creator-owned books like DMZ and The Massive - in other words, you can tell he's not doing this for the money. The solid art helps ensure the super-serious tone of the story doesn't come off as hokey, and even if this creative team aren't allowed a long run on this title, what they're cooking up at the moment is strong enough to make it an essential purchase for any X-fan. 8/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Adam Kubert, John Dell, Laura Martin & Larry Molinar
Marvel $3.99

James R: As we head towards the climax of this series, I think it offers us a fascinating compare and contrast experiment. As the Marvel creative teams roll on and off of this title, you can quickly see whose writing style and illustrations you prefer. For me, after the show-stopping issue #6 (brought to us by Hickman and Coipel) reading this chapter feels tame by comparison. After a couple of really interesting issues where it seemed the book was about to deal with more weightier and thoughtful issues, now we're back to characters beating the snot out of each other. The real developments here signpost where this title is going; we learn that if one of the Phoenix Five is defeated, they lose their power and it gets redistributed to the remaining avatars. So it's quite clear this book will now build to one of the four holding the total power and being overwhelmed. What we're left with is an event-by-numbers book. Big fights, double-page spreads, and two pages of plot. Kubert does a nice job on the art, but after Coipel's fantastic efforts it's simply not as spectacular. One thing I did really love was the sound effects - it was great to see some very old school FAKABOOM!’s and the like being thrown in! As with the early AVX issues, this was a diverting enough read, but I'm now worried that it’s peaked too soon - I'm hoping Marvel's big hitters come off the bench to turn this one around. 7/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Salvador Larroca & Frank D’Armata
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R:  It’s now not much of a secret that come the worrying dawn of the ‘Marvel NOW!’ movement, both Fraction and Larroca will be leaving the adventures and traumas of Tony Stark’s life behind, and in some ways that has become evident as Fraction has begun to tie up various plot threads and loose ends in the past few issues.  Now working to an obvious deadline, events seem to have escalated quickly and with a reasonable amount of shock as the Manadarin’s manipulation of Tony has been revealed and the creators seem eager to push everything a little closer to the desolate future depicted to us back in #500.  With this increase of plot pace comes a surprising feeling that perhaps Larroca is straining to keep up, as there are moments where things seem less than polished and not to the high standard I’ve come to expect from him (the new Iron Man’s attempts to prevent a super-powered prison breakout is a definite example).  Luckily Fraction’s scripting and dialogue hasn’t deserted us and despite the unbelievably quick turn of events that have seen Stark now become slave to the Manadarin’s whims there is still joy to be found in our hero trying to adapt and plot his way out of his nightmarish position.  7/10

1 comment:

Joe T said...

For me this week, it was Avengers Vs X-Men #7, Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #2, and Daredevil #15.

Avengers Vs X-Men was a decent enough read, but as much as I love Adam Kubert, I really missed Olivier Coipel's art this issue. This was suppose to be the end of "act 2" of the series, but it didn't feel anywhere near like an ending as much as issue 5 felt like the end to act 1. It was an alright issue, but nothing spectacular, and not a lot really happened. Good action and dialogue though. 7/10

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre. Issue 1 was probably my favourite thus far of the first issues, and issue 2 proves to be the best of the Watchmen Prequels yet. In terms of story content, this is the furthest from what you would expect from a Watchmen prequel but artistically it's the perfect precursor to the original series, using notable motifs such as the nine panel grid and the quotes at the end of the issue. This mini is my first time encountering Amanda Connor's artwork, and it's absolutely gorgeous. I particularly like the dream sequences she draws (the way they don't stick to the 9 panel grid shows how the title character is breaking away from the structure of her life perhaps?). Sure the plot is wacky, but it just emphasises how odd an era the 60's were and perfectly hits that hippy vibe. Loved the inclusion of The Beatles too. At the SDCC Before Watchmen panel, they described this series as Watchmen meets Archie Comics. I think that's the perfect description for this series, and whilst it shouldn't work as a concept, it really does. 10/10.

Daredevil. Not much I can really say about this that hasn't been said, or I haven't already said with regards to the series. It's still perfect, and Samnee's artwork is golden (though there were a few dodgy panels, and his Iron Man wasn't the greatest). Yet another brilliant issue, from an incredible run, that I still can't believe I had reservations about. 9/10.