7 Oct 2012

Mini Reviews 07/10/2012

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: Jason Aaron
Art: Adam Kuberty, John Dell, Mark Morales, Laura Martin & Justin Ponsor
Marvel $4.99

James R: After what's seemed an eternity, AVX rumbles to its natural conclusion this week as Marvel's heroes make one last desperate attempt to stop the Phoenix, now entirely based in Scott Summers. I won't bother going into a detailed plot breakdown as I'm sure you're probably aware of what takes place by now (and I imagine my co-reviewers will cover it too!). I'll cut straight to the chase and say that this is a finale with very few shocks or twists in it. That's fine - not every story needs an 11th hour revelation - but I felt that this tale, which Marvel have marketed as 'What the Architects have been building to for the last decade!' ends up being a big reset button. The work of the Phoenix Five is undone in pages, and then so is the curse of the Scarlet Witch. At the end of this comic we're left with the pledge that the Avengers and the X-Men will work closer from now on, and a firmly unrepentant Cyclops. I don't know if Marvel are now angling for him to be a villain, or if his redemption will form the basis of many a miniseries to come, but this aspect is the most interesting consequence for me. I appreciate the fact that Marvel now have a character who isn't a simple Good Guy or Bad Guy - that shows a degree of sophistication (and kudos to Jason Aaron's script for highlighting this.) So in total, it's like the series in microcosm - there have been flashes of sublime storytelling, and there have also been some distinctly clunky moments. Let's hope that Marvel NOW! heralds in some genuinely ambitious tales rather than a retread of what's gone before. 7/10

Stewart R: So, as I suspected, the grand finale of the 2012 Marvel event couldn’t live up to the spectacle and drama of the penultimate issue, but it wasn’t for want of trying. Jason Aaron was clearly a good choice for scripting duty here as the inevitable epilogue that is included in this bumper chapter - I was a bit peeved by the $4.99 price which I only spotted a second ago - involves a lot of tidying around the edges and the closing moral arguments from the two sides of this conflict. He ensures that this was definitely a battle where the losses will be felt for a long time to come, unlike previous events such as Siege and World War Hulk where fallout was very quickly pushed aside. That said, I still have issues with some of the plot points and really felt that the Dark Phoenix threat wasn’t used to its maximum potential when it arrived. Here we have some reasonably entertaining sequences where the malevolent force of destruction and rebirth begins to turn the Earth inside out, but at no point whatsoever did I feel that the planet and everyone upon it were just a blink away from perishing - unlike the billions snuffed out with nary a thought during the Phoenix’s journey to Earth!  By keeping Hope out to the sidelines in the preceding chapter it was clear that her part in all of this would come into play at the climax and robbed the entire show of any great sense of tension. Captain America’s characterisation irked me at various stages of this story and once again he comes across as a rather hollow ‘told you so’ voice of justification that just feels for me a little out of place amongst it all. On the artistic side of the coin I think that Kubert delivered a satisfactory performance, but nothing more than that as some of the frame and view choices make this finale feel quite close and claustrophobic rather than epic and globe-spanning. Perhaps that summarises what prevented this series from being badged as a classic as instead it ends up just being one of Marvel’s better efforts amongst recent mediocre summer events. 6/10

Matt C: I don't think anybody was expecting anything like a classic miniseries and perhaps, like me, you may have been dismissive of this event book before it began, but the miracle of AVX is that - even considering the number of creators taking turns from issue to issue - it turned out to be quite so entertaining. It's been a flawed project and could have done with a lot of trimming and tightening up but even though it only scrapes over some interesting ideas it does at least provide the spectacle and bombast required and doesn't leave you feeling like you needed to pick up all the tie-ins to figure out what was going on. This issue works better during the first half with its emphasis on action and some decent scripting from Aaron. Then it gets too preoccupied with setting up Uncanny Avengers and the Marvel NOW! relaunch to really be regarded as an entirely satisfying conclusion and the way it's shifted a hero into the role of a villain didn't quite sit right with me. Kubert's art is a little inconsistent in places, but when he hits his mark it generally hits the spot. Not brilliant by any stretch of the imagination but a lot better than it could have been. 7/10

Writer: John Layman
Art: Jason Fabok & Jeremy Cox
DC $3.99

James R: After safely avoiding Detective for the first year of the New 52 as I'm not a fan of Tony Daniel, I was drawn back this month by the start of Chew creator John Layman's tenure. So with a sense of anticipation, I was anxious to see what he'd do with my favourite character... and, well, it's alright. Sorry to be so uninspiring in my vocabulary, but it's an issue that inspires ambivalence. Layman hits all the right notes, setting up a smart plot where Batman learns Bruce Wayne is the target of an assassination attempt, while the Penguin seeks to usurp Wayne as Gotham's most celebrated benefactor. There's everything you'd want in a Batman comic, but at the same time it all felt a little familiar. Given Layman's wild invention in Chew I was hoping for a little more. I'm well aware that it may take a few issues for him to kick the title into gear, but this was far from an explosive beginning. The best thing about it in fact is the backup tale, also written by Layman, which focuses on two criminals making a score and discussing just how to survive in DC's darkest city. I'm certainly sticking around for a few issues, but I'm hoping for something more remarkable next time. 7/10

Matt C: Sometimes I feel like I’m experiencing something akin to Batman-fatigue; he’s a character I inherently love but recently it’s felt like I’ve been reading new stories featuring the Dark Knight and coming away thinking, been there, done that. Seeing that John Layman is one of the guys behind the hilariously oddball Chew I figured he might approach Gotham from an entirely different angle than everyone else, but – whaddya know – it comes across as completely run of the mill. Twenty years ago and this might have been considered as edgy and vital but that’s just it, it feels hackneyed and dated. I feel guilty criticising it as there’s nothing bad about it per se, but it just left me cold. If it wasn’t for Scott Snyder I don’t think I’d be spending much time in Gotham City anymore. 5/10

Writer: Landry Q. Waler
Art: Eric Jones & Michael “Rusty” Drake
Image $2.99

Stewart R: Now this is turning out to be another one of Image’s success stories for me. What began as a rather bloody and bleak tale of a world of superhero sidekicks on the brink of tearing itself apart has managed to get even more interesting and darker in the process. This fourth chapter explains the happenings depicted an issue ago where one of the heroes of the piece meets his end and I really enjoyed how the surprising turn of events interweave with another character’s brave journey and potential sacrifice that could yet again turn everything upon its head. What’s truly refreshing about this is that Walker just doesn’t let up with his brutal storytelling; this is a terrible situation with next to no chance of a happy ending it would appear and though there are the brave kids willing to throw their crimson into the mix to see the hair thin chance of a win come to fruition, there have also been those kids who have buckled under the pressure or been crushed underfoot. Jones’ art definitely helps to define the desperate situation and while he is excelling himself when it comes to action and fight sequences the highlight for me is some of the expressions he manages to capture upon the faces of the characters as the weight of responsibility presses harder and harder upon them. Exciting stuff indeed! 8/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire & Jose Villarrubia
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Matt C: To say things are getting intense would be an understatement - it's the inevitable showdown between the good guys and the bad guys and while we can take a decent guess at which side will emerge triumphant it's clear that not every character we're rooting for will make it through to the last page of the concluding instalment. As the battle commences we bear witness to scenes of heroism, cowardice, desperation and, unsurprisingly considering how we got to this point, evil. There's an emotional eloquence to Lemire's scratchy artwork that really whirls its way deep down and, as has been pointed out on numerous occasions, the emphasis he places on character's eyes - the proverbial windows of the soul - is key to all this. With Scalped now finished we're again looking at the end of another of Vertigo's premiere series, and everything is pointing towards another writer who knows when and how to wrap things up. 8/10

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art:Tom Derenick, Andres Guinaldo & Stephen Downer
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Stewart R: This series is quickly shifting itself into an ‘unmissable’ slot on my pull-list as Abnett and Lanning expand upon this universe that they have created and raise the level of intrigue on what I would have to describe as a space-opera, murder-mystery. I love how the enigmatic Sublime is a villain of extraordinary measures yet it’s still not clear what influence or part he has had to play in the massacre of the previous iteration of the Hypernaturals and the entire population of a planet. By including him so regularly - either in direct interaction or by using flashbacks to his previous deeds - Abnett and Lanning have kept the team’s tensions running at boiling point as they struggle to piece what little information they have together and fear about what could possibly happen next. The constantly expanding cast of heroes is great fun and I have to say that I’d happily read about the adventures of any of the various groups these writers continue to throw into the mix if they ever surfaced, they’re just that interesting! Derenick is now the main art force on the title it appears and he has a great feel for the cosmic settings and action sequences, but I have to say that I was particularly taken by Guinaldo’s contribution this time out and would certainly like to see him get some page time on future issues too! Safe to say that Hypernaturals is shaping up very nicely indeed!  Get on it!  8/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Steve Pugh, Timothy Green II, Joseph Silver & Lovern Kindzierski
DC $2.99
James R: There's always something darkly enjoyable about an apocalypse. I've always liked a tale that depicts humanity laid waste, and so the 'Rotworld' saga is certainly a win for me. It was tough to choose between this and Swamp Thing as my book of the week, as the two titles complement each other beautifully, but Lemire's Animal Man gets the nod for me as I loved the face-off (literally!) with the Rot-infested Hawkman and the parallel tale of Buddy's family continues to be compelling and horrific. Buddy finds one of the last refuges on the ravaged Earth thanks to an unexpected group of survivors - Steel, Beast Boy and Black Orchid. I was impressed that Lemire resisted the obvious move of having Superman, Wonder Woman et al as the last survivors, and that's representative of the invention in the book as a whole. Steve Pugh continues to do a fine job on the title and it's fantastic to see Lemire adding layer after layer of despair onto Animal Man - I'm loving that I have no idea how he and Swamp Thing are going to undo the damage of the Rot (I'm crossing everything that they don't break out the retcon punch!). Certainly not a book for all the family, but some very dark fun all the same. 8/10


Andy C said...

I have to agree with the comments about Detective #13. Nothing spectacular but let's see what Layman can do with the next few issues....

Sweet Tooth was fantastic. No surprises there - I'll really miss this title when it's over but can't wait to see how it ends.

The two issues I loved this week which did not get reviews were Uncanny X-Force and Harvest, both of which were up to their usual quality. Both titles are building nicely to a tense conclusion (neither likely to be particularly pleasant!).

Matt Clark said...

Eep! Harvest! Totally missed that last week, another to add to the pile this week!

Andy C said...

Enjoy, it's a corker!