23 Sept 2012

Mini Reviews 23/09/2012

We may not have time to review every book on our pull-lists but we do aim to provide a snapshot of what's been released over the past week, encompassing the good, the bad, and those that lie somewhere in between.

Writer: James Stokoe
Art: James Stokoe & Heather Breckel
IDW $3.99

Stewart R: Following last month’s glowing debut, James Stokoe has delivered a sturdy second issue here that doesn’t reach the awe-inspiring thrill of that first ‘zilla spotting in 1950s downtown Tokyo, but does succeed in developing the plot alongside the characters ageing and hardening as the giant monster has now become a task to be dealt with. Ota’s naive surprise has now been replaced with weary understanding after a decade working within the Anti-Megalosaurus Force and I like to think that in his knowing looks and serious demeanour, Stokoe has echoed the battle-toughening and scarring that has become synonymous with the many Vietnam movies that have been delivered over the years in his protagonist. One thing‘s for certain though, watching Godzilla trample his way across the war-torn Vietnamese landscape and then clash with a force offering more of a challenge than the humans have been able to muster to this point is terrific fun! Rendering two giants engaged in an animalistic bout of fisticuffs (or is that clawicuffs?) is no easy feat yet once again Stokoe’s grasp of scale within his own drawing style is spot on and, due to the size of the combatants, we get some great viewing angles and panels. 8/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson, Ethan Van Sciver & Hi-Fi
DC $3.99

Matt C: I suppose it does seem like a rather strange decision to give over DC’s big-hitter title to Shazam for the Zero Month, but you could then argue that we’ve already seen the origin of the Justice League (badly) presented in the first arc of the book and there’s nothing more to add (I’d argue that there is, due to the hamfisted nature of said arc, but obviously DC thought better of it). So, while we don’t get an appearance of Batman, Superman et al, we do get to see Billy Batson utter that immortal word for the first time, and watch as Johns skews the standard origin into something new and generally impressive. What it shows is that Shazam! deserves its own ongoing title, and not relegation to the back of Justice League, as it’s been one of the few highlights of the entire New 52. Frank’s art is naturally exquisite, the immense detail he deploys on the page providing a full range of emotions and eye-popping drama. This books should really have been entitled Shazam! #0, but I guess that wouldn't account for the backup, featuring more portents involving Pandora, which really does nothing bar reminding me how little interest I have in the where the DC Universe is currently heading. 7/10

Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Tony Parker & David Curiel
Aspen $3.50

Stewart R: Six months is a long time to wait for a chapter of a comic series, especially one that’s still in its infancy, but then when it comes to Aspen this does just appear to be standard practise in my experience (Lady Mechanika anyone??). Luckily it only took a few pages for my memory to be significantly jogged and I was back following cartographer Sam Tinker’s attempts to find his sister and escape from the very bowels of his hellish prison. What I particularly like about this title is the less-than-innocent bunch of prisoners Sam has been forced to throw his lot in with in order to maximise his chances of breaking out. While Captain Rogers and Morazzi definitely fall into the category of ‘not to be trusted’, the rest certainly fall into that grey area of characters you tend to root for despite their previous deeds or the reasons why they're in prison. Clara’s demonic possession is a really interesting plot point and I enjoyed the way that Pak deals with her manipulation and transformation. The art from Parker is better than serviceable, but on occasion things can seem a touch cluttered or require another reread to establish who is doing what to whom. The important thing however is that this still remains an entertaining horror/prison break story that's clearly got the legs to withstand a protracted delay. Fingers crossed we get the next issue before November creeps around. 7/10

Writer: Roger Langridge
Art: Roger Langridge & Lisa Moore
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Matt C: This Eisner Award-winning series reaches its conclusion in the same infectiously likeable, irreverent and slightly surreal manner as it began, but also manages to add a bit of an emotional kick into the proceedings. There’s an exuberance to the writing and the art that’s coupled with a healthy dollop of general silliness that guarantees a smile on the face for the duration, and while the narrative holds to a familiar fairytale template, Langridge has a lot of fun with the details, ensuring it never gets predictable. The $3.99 pricetag may be a bit much for a sizeable section of the book’s potential young audience, but the inevitable collection should be something that finds its way into the hands of anyone who likes a good, brightly coloured, comics-based chuckle, regardless of their age. 8/10

Writer: J. H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman
Art: J.H. Williams III & Dave Stewart
DC $2.99

James R: In a week where Greg Rucka announced that he'll probably never work for the Big Two again, this issue #0 is a poignant reminder of he did to bring this character to life, and shows us what the book has been missing since its relaunch. When Rucka was on script duties, Kate Kane felt like a fully realised character - her origin formed a large part of the arc when Batwoman was the focus of Detective Comics in Bruce Wayne's absence. This issue is a retread of that arc, and as you'd expect from J. H. Williams III, it is a work of art. He switches style to illustrate different aspects of the past, and every page provides a stunning image or a great example of illustrative storytelling. However, despite this being easily my book of the week, it's a bittersweet choice - for all of Williams' brilliance, I've felt the whole supernatural plot that has been the focus of the book hasn't really engaged me. I remember reading Williams saying that the next arc would be an espionage arc, but a year into the title there seems to be no sight of it. This issue reminded me of how good the character could be - I'd love to say that it's the beginning of an exciting new chapter, but I fear this represents a fin de siecle of Greg Rucka's contribution. A fantastic comic, but we'll have to see if it becomes a fantastic new arc. 8/10

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

Stewart R: Having already delved into the powers of Daredevil from the hero’s own perspective terrifically well in the past year and a half on this book, Mark Waid is now getting us behind the mentality of Matt Murdock and starting to show us how he handles things when his everyday life begins to unravel without a great deal of explanation as to why it is happening. Considering everything that he has gone through as the Man Without Fear, it’s something else to see Matt so unsettled at the hands of Waid’s plotting, while his once best friend Foggy Nelson has really broken out as a big part of this title, his exasperation at the trouble his former partner’s life brings with it wonderfully captured in the facial work of Chris Samnee. With Rivera and Martin gone there was the chance that the classic, retro style that had made this title really stand out visually could have been lost, but Samnee has kept that feel running through every page and his character work is especially strong. Not part of the upcoming Marvel NOW! initiative, but definitely a title you should be reading NOW! and probably should go back and pick up the previous 17 issues too! 8/10

Writers: Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir
Art: Christopher Mitten & Bill Crabtree
Oni Press $3.99

Matt C: This is one of those books that I do enjoy but due to the increasing cost (and number) of titles on my pull-list it loses its place as it doesn’t quite make the grade. It operates in a similar sphere to the likes of The X-Files and Fringe but differentiates itself by leaning heavily on the medical world rather than the supernatural or unexplained, and contains a generally engaging cast of characters. What helped me make my decision to knock it on the head with this issue was the various inconsistencies in the art. Overall I’ve liked what Mitten’s done in the series but here there are too many occasions where it wasn’t entirely clear what was happening and one panel didn’t flow smoothly into another. Sometimes that’s all it takes for the axe to fall. 6/10

Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Peter Gross & Chris Chuckery
DC/Vertigo $2.99

James R:  With Scalped finished and Sweet Tooth into its concluding issues we’ve recently found ourselves talking about finales at the PCG and have agreed that in a medium where a story can run on for all eternity, knowing when to stop is a considerable skill. I was reminded of this as I read The Unwritten this week. Since its debut in 2009, this book has reached some exceptional highs, but for the last year its become increasingly flat. There was a point where it felt the story was coming to a natural conclusion as the Leviathan was revealed and Tom Taylor faced off against Pullman, but Carey has decided to keep the plot going, and at this moment I'm beginning to doubt if it was the right decision. This issue focuses on Richie, the journalist-turned-vampire as he keeps watch over the comatose Tom. Issues like this can be brilliant; a pause from the action that gives us a deeper insight and understanding into one of the characters, but this isn't one of those. I'm sure Mike Carey is incapable of turning in a sub-par script, but this is just... uninspiring. As comics become an increasingly expensive hobby, I stick with a title if it's offering me something challenging or thought-provoking. I loved The Unwritten for providing that in spades, but in all honesty I feel that this is a title that needs to read its final chapter fast. 5/10

Writer: Ann Nocenti
Art: Adriana Melo , Julio Ferreira & Jason Wright
DC $2.99

James R: I make no secret of the fact that Catwoman is my favourite female comics character, and I was really pleased when DC announced she'd return in her own title as part of the New 52. Then came the whole bonk-a-rama first issue (and let's all steer clear of discussing that again!) but despite my scepticism, I stayed with the title. I never felt Judd Winick fully understood Selina Kyle - the fact that she had to call on Batman to help her out in issue #12 seemed to be a case in point for me - so I was pleased to read that Ann Nocenti had taken up the writing duties on the book. She was responsible for one of my favourite Daredevil runs when I was a fresh-faced geek in the early late ‘80s and I like to see more female writers in comics as a general rule. This issue doesn't quite hit the ground running (I'll always judge any new start against the incredible Brubaker/Cooke run) but it does set up an intriguing premise for the arc to come - Selina Kyle has been seemingly erased from existence, and Catwoman will have to track down who has been deleting all traces of her life. There were a couple of missteps - the echo of Tim Burton's Catwoman origin from Batman Returns sat awkwardly, and while Adriana Melo's art is nice, reminding me of Mark Bagley, this comic should have a real noir look and feel. I was also pleased that Guillem March's original anatomically-impossible cover got redrawn - not only is it less demeaning, but it's a better image too! Here's hoping that Nocenti builds on this strong start - I'd miss Selina not being on my pull-list. 7/10

Writer: Simon Spurrier
Art: Jeffrey Edwards, V Ken Marion, Vladimir Popov & John Charles
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Stewart R: This tale of post-apocalyptic, super-powered survival is developing into a really interesting read as Si Spurrier shows that he’s having plenty of fun with the various hero and villain tropes that exist in comics today while also sewing plenty of mystery and questions amongst his narrative. Nox and The Red Reaper have become a great double act with it not being clearly apparent as to who we’re supposed to be rooting for; the hero is dark, secretive and disconnected while the villain offers up much of the comedy and plenty of new world common sense despite it being a somewhat harsh line. It’s this ambiguity that keeps me reading and in this issue Spurrier even adds further analysis and alternate commentary to DC’s ‘big two’ with Nox and Absolute’s rivalry providing a view of heroes finding themselves immune to the poisons of jealousy and literally offering up a pretty nasty pissing contest. When Spurrier brings an expanded cast into play it’s done with a superb tongue-in-cheek style, with the odd cultural reference sliding in for good measure, and with the potential cannon fodder now in place I look forward to the possibility of a good old-fashioned massacre next month. 7/10

1 comment:

Matt Clark said...

RE: James' review of Unwritten #41, while I agree that it does feel like the title has been treading water for the last couple of months, it's certainly not been a problem for the past year (which wouldn't discount all those excellent 'point five' issues!).

Speaking to Carey at the London Super Comic Con earlier this year, he said they'd gone past the halfway point and there was definite plan to where the story was heading next (another year and a half left, I reckon). In other words, a couple of lesser issues doesn't mean it's time to bail out!