21 Oct 2012

Mini Reviews 21/10/2012

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.

CYBER FORCE #1
Writer: Marc Silvestri & Matt Hawkins
Art: Khoi Pham, Sal Regla & Sunny Gho
Image/Top Cow $0.00


Matt C: It’s free, and I’m not going to look a comics gift horse in the mouth, but it’s as much the talents of Silvestri, Hawkins and Pham that piqued my interest as it was the lack of any monetary cost. Silvestri is a bit unreliable these days on the artistic front (how about that recent stint on Incredible Hulk for example?), but fortunately he’s only doing covers and sharing writing duties with Hawkins (currently doing great things with Think Tank) so delays should be avoidable. Then there’s Khoi Pham - he’s rendered some things I’ve rather liked in recent times (along with some things I wasn’t overly keen on) but it seems his style is still progressing at a pace as evidenced by some of the impressive imagery on display here (although I’m giving inker Sal Regula credit for solidifying the artwork). As for the story, it’s sort of a good entry point/reboot although there is some vagueness to the plotting that may have benefited with prior knowledge of this dystopian world. There’s certainly enough going on to keep me interested, and while I quite possibly wouldn't pay out for further episodes, the fact that it’s free allows it some time to win me over, and I guess that was kind of the point of this Kickstarter project, so for me, at least, it’s worked. 7/10

HAWKEYE #3
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: David Aja & Matt Hollingsworth
Marvel $2.99


Matt C: Essentially this issue comprises of a car chase interspersed with flashbacks to show us how all the main players came to be in this situation, and while that may sound a slender idea to hang a whole comic on, to put it bluntly, it’s absolutely fucking brilliant, not only the best comic of the week, but one of the best of 2012. Although it exists in regular Marvel continuity, it easily sits outside it, an issue you can pick up without the need to know who’s done what in Avengers Vs. X-Men, or whatever, and just engage in the pure thrill of what the creators are unspooling on the printed page.  The breakneck pacing, the balance of humour and drama, the ingenious use of the comic book format from the witty, punchy script to the almost cinematic artwork Aja lays down… it all comes together in a way that leaves you in awe, breathless. In 2012, this is as good as superhero comics get, and although I try and avoid empty “you must buy this!” nonsense where possible, if you haven’t checked out Hawkeye yet then I guarantee you that you’re missing out on, quite simply, a book that has come of the gates with such force that it’s found itself (deservedly) right at the front of the pack. Magnificent. 10/10


GODZILLA: THE HALF CENTURY WAR #3
Writer: James Stokoe
Art: James Stokoe & Heather Breckel
IDW $3.99


Stewart R: I've just spent the past 15 minutes reading up on Godzilla enemies on the internet, that's how much this comic series has drawn me into the world of Godzilla!! I dare say I may even break my duck soon and watch one of Toho's movies to see what all the fuss has been about these 60 plus years. Stokoe is clearly making this a proper tribute to the whole family of films that the Japanese production company have churned out over the years and this issue displays the crazy and imaginative spectrum of monstrous foes that the huge irradiated lizard behemoth has beaten down or been beaten down by (oh yes, occasionally he's the whipping boy!) through his cityscape destroying career. The crazy 100-storey high scene of carnage that unfolds across the city of Accra is yet another chance for the writer/artist's skills to shine strongly as the ‘battle royale’ forms part of the landscape rather than the main event. This allows the continuing mystery behind the monsters' rampages to be further explored and with it the world-weariness of Ota as the growing losses begin to weigh heavily upon him. There's so much to like here and then Stokoe busts out the comedy with a terrific vehicular sequence and a tongue in cheek look at a military unit only prepared for combating towering opponents. Dive in folks, it's monstrously good fun! 9/10

FINDING GOSSAMYR #2
Writer: David A. Rodriguez
Art: Sarah Ellerton
Th3rd World Studios $3.99


Matt C: It’s been a bit of a wait since the preceding instalment, but opening the finished product it’s clearly been worth it. To be honest, this usually wouldn’t be my cup of tea, but making mathematics the driving force in this fantasy tale rather than magic or any other mumbo jumbo was one of the hooks needed to draw me in. On top of that you’ve got a handful of compelling characters that conform to archetypes to a certain extent but have an individuality to them that keeps you from thinking you’ve seen it all before. And then there’s the artwork from Ellerton which is joyful, exuberant, imaginative and often flat out beautiful. It’s a frequently intoxicating combination, a world you can lose yourself in, and another book from Th3rd World Studios to sit alongside Stuff Of Legend as a premier example of what an ‘all ages’ comic should, and can, be. 8/10

UNCANNY X-MEN #20
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Carlos Pacheco, Roger Bonet & GURU eFX
Marvel $3.99


James R: As with Brian Wood on X-Men last week, this issue represents a run stopped too soon as Kieron Gillen bids farewell to Uncanny X-men. This book won me over with some outstanding individual issues and a great cast, and I'm sad to see it go. The coda ties up threads from both this title and of AVX. The Cyclops & Mr. Sinister face-off was brilliant, but the Danger & Unit tale felt horribly cut short and perhaps Gillen alludes to this with Unit's line of dialogue. When asked what his grand plan was he, replies: "The actual specifics... You'll never know." On one hand, kudos to Gillen for not dotting the i's and crossing the t's but it's also frustrating to see this book cut down to make way for, yep, Bendis' All-New X-Men. I will, of course, give that series a go, but it has some Colossus-size shoes to fill following on from this. 8/10

Stewart R: And so Kieron Gillen becomes the first writer to get Uncanny X-Men cancelled... twice... as Jamie McKelvie joked on Twitter a few weeks ago! That of course is tongue-in-cheek banter and couldn't be further from the truth as Mr Gillen has done a sterling job on one of Marvel's biggest titles since he lifted the yoke from Matt Fraction's back some 3 years ago. From the get-go he has understood the depths and intricacies of the characters in his charge and put them in positions that have truly tested all and broken some over the course. He managed to compliment the Avengers Vs. X-Men event with tie-ins that explored the effect that the Phoenix Force had upon the workings of the Extinction Team and now in the fallout he goes about wrapping up the major plot points that he put into play. The Colossus vs Magik confrontations have been interesting in the past few issues as the brother/sister kinship has been torn apart by the lesson that Magik has been trying to teach her older sibling, but here unfortunately it does feel as if Gillen had little choice but to hit the quick reset button due to time constraints and Marvel NOW! requirements. Similarly the way that the Danger and Unit storyline is wrapped up feels rushed, like the grand plan that Gillen had been building to will never see the light of day. The Cyclops elements are the highpoint in this edition as a certain reveal really does surprise and jar the emotions at the loss of a minor character, leaving one rivalry terrifically open-ended. Overall this is nowhere near the quality that we experienced earlier in the series yet it still makes for a reasonable sign-off for Gillen's mutant exploits. 7/10

BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN #4
Writer: Darwyn Cooke
Art: Darwyn Cooke & Phil Noto
DC $3.99


James R: Now, I worship Alan Moore, and my natural tendency would be to support him in any matter pertaining to the comics industry, but when it comes to Minutemen, we'll have to stand separate as - ruddy hell! - this is good stuff! When the project was announced I hoped that Darwyn Cooke would deliver a companion piece to Watchmen that wouldn't damage the integrity of the original. Not only has he done that, he's added to it too. In this issue he handles the death of Silhouette, the horror of war that shapes the philosophy of the Comedian, and the ongoing mystery surrounding a child murderer. His representation of this material both harks back to Watchmen's trademark 9-panel grid, whilst simultaneously stamping his own mark on the story. This issue held my attention from the first panel, and it's a treat to watch Cooke absolutely at the top of his game. My initial position on Before Watchmen was "Wait and see", but with this issue Minutemen shows that a fanboy's faith sometimes gets rewarded in a spectacular way. 10/10

Matt C: An issue like this completely justifies the existence of the entire Before Watchmen project. The detractors have made many valid points since the whole enterprise was announced, and admittedly some of the miniseries have been firing blanks, but when you’re presented with something as fearsomely brilliant as Minutemen #4 it seems to crush all criticism underfoot. It’s arguably the only title that’s managed to step outside the rather large shadow cast by Moore and Gibbon’s original to stand loud and proud on its own two feet.  This issue is all about that those supposedly little moments in life that appear unexpectedly and are potent enough to dramatically alter your perception and trajectory. It’s an idea that’s filtered through several different characters to varying degrees and it’s successfully conveyed thanks to the mature tone, the attention to detail and the trademark retro-infused genius of Cooke’s art style. Smart, insightful and provocative, Minutemen is inching ever closer to classic status, and another example of why Cooke is virtually peerless in the medium. 10/10

JUSTICE LEAGUE #13
Writer: Geoff Johns & Jeff LEmire
Art: Tony S. Daniel, Brad Walker, Richard Friend, Batt, Drew Hennessy,  Tomeu Morey & Jay David Ramos
DC $3.99


Matt C: I’m not sure I can follow the thinking that led to the second year of the New 52’s Justice League commencing with the entire League facing off with Wonder Woman nemesis Cheetah. I’m sure Johns will spin it out so the danger is greater than usual, but these guys are supposed to band together to take down threats that they can’t tackle alone. Whichever way I look at it, Cheetah doesn’t fall into that category. Aside from that, and even though I don’t particularly like the whole Superman/Wonder Woman thing they started rolling last time, Johns does get some decent character moments out of the situation and Daniel uses it to pull some fine panels out of the hat, particularly the one with Supes and WW standing silently with the world between them (literally). Elsewhere though there’s some pretty dodgy imagery, especially when Steve Trevor’s ethnicity seems to fluctuate. It’s all perfectly readable but it’s a long way from being a necessity on the pull-list, and with the absence of the excellent Shazam! backup (instead we get a perfunctory lead-in tale for Justice League Of America) I’m now seriously considering dropping yet another DC book. Shazam! is probably the clincher, so if that’s back next month  I may well be too, but then again it may be a more financially sound decision to wait for that in the trade. 6/10

X-O MANOWAR #6
Writer: Robert Venditti
Art: Lee Garbett, Stefano Gaudiano & Moose Baumann
Valiant $3.99


Stewart R: Now this is starting to get somewhere. The initial Manowar vs Ninjak clash was a very brief affair and with Aric out cold, Venditti gets further into the Vines' plans for Planet Earth. While the battle suit antics are good fun I really have been enjoying the sci-fi politics and space-opera elements that have shown up sporadically. The idea that this armour is of such a threat to an entire galactic empire is really interesting and I'm looking forward to seeing just how Venditti ensures the balance in that potential David vs Goliath confrontation down the line. Here he goes about the difficult task of beginning to soften Aric's prickly, barbarian side, expand the central cast, and set out the stall for the next few issues. When the explosive hand to hand combat begins anew, Lee Garbett is there to deliver some great visuals, employing that same superior skill that he brought to the Bryan Q. Miller Batgirl series - I'd happily welcome him onto this series on a permanent basis if that were possible (I don't believe it's going to be the case). This is definitely a solid series on Valiant's roster and it's actually starting to make me look a little more closely at what else they're putting on the shelves. 8/10

CATWOMAN #13
Writer: Ann Nocenti
Art: Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona & Sonia Oback
DC $2.99


James R: Now this is more like it. I was never entirely convinced by Judd Winick's take on the character - his heart was in the right place, but I think he failed to see that Selina Kyle is smart enough to take care of herself, and not have to rely on Batman to dig her out of a problem. Now, with Ann Nocenti at the helm, while it's still notches under the premier book it was during the Brubaker and Cooke run, it's certainly a great read. This month it's a 'Death Of The Family' tie-in, but Nocenti doesn't break stride in incorporating the Joker to this tale - it's more a tale that continues to flesh out Selina's past in the New 52. The art from Rafa Sandoval is terrific, and the sequence of single-panel pages that open the book are the most remarkable that the title has seen since it's relaunch. That makes Nocenti two for two on this comic - certainly the portents for this book looking much better than this time last year. 8/10

5 comments:

Living Tribunal said...

Just another friendly reminder that we are waiting anxiously for the next "Project" series. Are we near?

Matt C said...

Man, you're persistent!

There's been a delay due to me abandoning the original project I was doing. An accidental file deletion meant I lost a bunch of stuff I'd already written and I didn't fancy starting again with the same book (I'm saving it now for a later date).

You'll be pleased to know I quickly selected a new book and have several reviews in the can, so I think you'll be seeing it in the next few weeks.

Stewart R said...

Let me start the inevitable (it's possible!?) Mexican Wave of 'huzzahs' here at that news!

HUZZAH!

Living Tribunal said...

To Matt C. Sorry, don't mean to be a pest. I just looked forward to those quick reviews of classic runs.

Andy C said...

Last week also wrapped up the American Vampire Lord of Nightmares mini-series. Saw from On the Pull that you guys are reading it but obviously not enough time to review it amongst a bumper crop! I felt #5 was tense, atmospheric and a outstanding final issue to what had until that point been a really good but not incredible series. The main Dracula sequence was for me reminiscent of Arkham Asylum and brilliantly executed.

I re-read all 5 issues together in one sitting and the mini definitely benefitted from this. Another (predictable and inevitable) success from Scott Snyder!