25 Nov 2012

Mini Reviews 25/11/2012

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.

Also this week, Matt C's New Mutants Project continues.

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: John Romita Jr, Klaus J
anson & Dean White
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: There’s a lot to like about this Marvel NOW! debut issue. For a start, Remender wisely opts not to follow on directly from Ed Brubaker’s acclaimed espionage-centric run, instead going for the kind of frenetic mix of sci-fi and superheroics that Kirby brought to the title in the ‘70s. Then there’s the art, which sees Romita back on form after some relatively sloppy work in some Marvel Universe titles of late (which discounts Kick-Ass, of course), obviously reinforced by Janson’s inks and White’s colours. It starts with an effective flashback to Steve Rogers’ youth in the 1920s before returning to the present and zips through it’s page count with very little let up. And I really expected to like it more than I did. Remender seems to be going for  a similar mad-science vibe to the one he’s utilizing in Uncanny Avengers, but I think I preferred the first issue of that book more than this, and if Marvel are insisting on putting a lot of their flagship titles out every two to three weeks then the cost involved means books I may have given a little time to find their feet before are now going to have to impress immediately to get me back for another issue. This was quite good, and could very well get better, but in all honesty, unless I hear some really positive chatter over the next couple of months, it’ll be one I seek out in back issue boxes at a vastly reduced price. 6/10

Writer: Ed Brisson
Art: Michael Walsh & Jordie Bellaire
Image $3.50

Matt C: I certainly like the premise for this one: a company involved in illegal time travel activities, plucking people out of the past who died prematurely, at great cost to their grieving families. The execution is pretty nifty too, as we see how the company goes about the business without screwing up the timestream, although writer Brisson (perhaps wisely) doesn’t get too involved with the science behind it all. The art has a noir flare to it, and Bellaire’s colouring is really strong, particularly when he limits his palette to boost the tone of certain scenes. There is a bit of vagueness to the plot (especially when trying to connect the dots between certain characters) but there’s enough that had me intrigued to, er, come back for the next instalment. 7/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Phil Noto & Frank Martin Jr.
Marvel $3.99

James R: Maybe the Mayans were on to something after all. I don't think for a moment that the Earth will come crashing to an end next month, but it is amazing how many great series have drawn to a close in 2012, giving this year a suitably cataclysmic feel. With Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force we still have a final epilogue chapter to come, but this week's issue is the grand conclusion to one of the best runs on an X-book. In a week where there seemed to be a fair few books that were middling at best, this title stood apart - a read packed with the qualities that have made this one of the most essential titles from Marvel. Evan finally steps into the Apocalypse suit to accept his destiny as the scourge of both humanity and mutantkind... or does he? Since the first arc, Remender has played with the Nature vs. Nurture concept magnificently, and made it the central theme of the title. Can we really escape the long shadows of both our genes and our history, or are we beings who are doomed to repeat the same flaws and failings time and again? The writer also addresses the father/son tension between Daken and Wolverine in a compelling and heartbreaking sequence that - as Sabretooth points out - you won't forget any time soon. Phil Noto produces his best work on the book so far, giving the pages a cinematic feel that suits Remender's script perfectly. Heartfelt, intelligent and thrilling, Uncanny X-Force is far better than it had any right to be, and as good as Uncanny Avengers might get, it won't replace the dark majesty of this book. 9/10

Writer: David Schulner
Art: Juan Jose Ryp & Felix Serrano
Image $2.99

Matt C: So what would you do if a clone of yourself turned up in your kitchen with a gutshot? A highly unlikely scenario but it’s one this debut issue presents in an arresting manner as protagonist Luke Taylor finds himself in that very position, his individuality disappearing when he discovers he's one of many. It's a premise that raises plenty of philosophical questions but at this stage it's only really scratching the surface of the concept, potentially leaving the meditation on identity for later issues. Instead we get a fast paced thriller with our hero on the run, becoming embroiled in a kidnapping plot and getting introduced to a world he never knew existed. It's an impressive first attempt at comics writing from TV writer/producer David Schulner and has enough promise for me to stick around for a second helping, particularly when backed up by the supremely detailed illustrations from Juan Jose Ryp. Image continue to do their best to keep me broke! 7/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Lenil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: I think Waid is one the premier writers in the superhero genre, a position he’s generally maintained for almost two decades, so I’m always happy to give his work a shot. Yu on the other hand, well until recently I never had any real affection for his work but I must say I’ve warmed to it quite a bit, especially in this year’s Millar-penned miniseries, Supercrooks.  So I was quite keen to see what they'd both cooked up for this relaunch, and how the whole ‘Agent of SHIELD’ thing would work, but as with Captain America #1, although there are many positives, there wasn’t enough to persuade me that I need to put the UK equivalent of $3.99 down for it every few weeks. It’s a well-constructed script (the ticking clock is an effective metaphorical device) but I guess one of the reasons that makes Waid’s Daredevil so compelling is that we totally get inside Matt Murdoch’s head, whereas here Bruce Banner remains a bit distant, and actually comes across as a bit of an asshole. I like that it’s a new take on the Green Goliath (something the character withstands quite well) but it wasn’t a take that really grabbed me. Yu’s art continues to gradually woo me, although some of the angles are a bit off, a problem I've had with his style from way back when. Not a bad book but not the most convincing debut in the Marvel NOW! reboot. 6/10

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Greg Land, Jay Leisten & Guru eFX
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: It’s not quite there yet but I have a feeling this title stands a pretty good chance of being a keeper. Gillen turns in another smart, wordy script and his grasp on the world of Tony Stark seems to be tightening. Land doesn’t look like he’s going to be over reliant on magazine poses and inane grins, and there’s no denying the sleekness of panels where armoured warriors are kicking seven shades of shit out of each other. The only thing stopping me saying I’m categorically down with this series of Iron Man is that there’s been something of a throwaway quality to what we’ve seen so far. It’s all very well done but, while I think Gillen is planting a few seeds here and there for future growth, there is a feeling that he needs to introduce a weightier plotline, or at least up the stakes with the Extremis angle. It’s getting there though, and unlike some of the other Marvel NOW! titles where I’m relying more on first impressions, there’s enough good stuff happening that I’m happy to give Iron Man some time to breathe. 7/10

James R: It was the last page of this issue that really grabbed my attention. Kieron Gillen takes it to explain his vision for this title... and he says he doesn't really have one! After his 'meticulous clockwork titles' Uncanny X-Men and Journey Into Mystery (both beloved by the various members of the PCG) he says that Iron Man isn't going to be like that... he says "I want to be surprised as you" to see what Tony's journey of discovery reveals. On one hand, I salute Gillen's bravery here, but at the same time I'm worried that this will give the book a listless feel that I could already sense from this issue. The story sees Tony accepting an invitation to take part in a tournament to win back some Extremis enhancements from a mysterious, Arthurian-obsessed circle, with Tony's Iron Man tech as collateral. It felt oddly dated, reading like an ‘80s issue of Iron Man, and it's self-contained nature meant that the whole thing was too short to be involving, and lacking any real insight into Tony Stark or which direction this book will be heading in. Greg Land's art is a little better this month (Tony's overbite is fortunately a little less prominent) but by the time I got to Gillen's mission statement, I felt distinctly underwhelmed. I'm certainly not dropping just yet, but you'll probably be aware that at the PCG we all have to vote with our wallets as comics become an increasingly expensive hobby, and $3.99 for a distinctly by-the-numbers Iron Man title isn't the surprise I'd hoped from Gillen. 5/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Javier Pulido & Matt Hollingsworth
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: Cool, stylish, funny, energetic … I could keep the adjectives coming and I’d still only be scratching the surface of what makes this book effusively brilliant. It seems to be one expertly constructed and beautifully executed adventure after another, and this issue is no different: Hawkeye was involved in a SHIELD endorsed assassination of a terrorist, somebody made a tape of it, the tape’s been stolen and has ended up in an auction to the highest bidder, which could result in a potential PR catastrophe for everyone from the President of the USA down. So who do SHIELD send to retrieve this tape? The guy with the most to lose if it enters the public domain: Hawkeye. Cue some wonderfully snappy dialogue as Clint Barton (a character who Matt Fraction has transformed into the coolest cat in the Marvel Universe) waltzes straight into a lion’s den of criminality with familiar faces like the Kingpin and Madame Masque all eager to get their hands on the rare item for sale. You might have thought this issue would have suffered without David Aja’s involvement (bar another memorably effective minimalist cover) but Pulido acquits himself to the task admirably with retro stylings that evoke the very best in ‘60s spy capers, and as always Hollingsworth has an innate sense of which colours will add the most to the visual magic. It may possibly be too early to say this, but based on the magnificence of the four issues in the can so far, I’m going to say it anyway: Hawkeye is the best superhero book currently being published. 10/10

Writer: Grace Randolph
Art: Russell Dauterman & Gabriel Cassata
BOOM! Studios  $3.99

James R: In my alter-ego profession as a teacher, I'm sad to admit that I've recently found myself resorting to a lot of nostalgia: "Ah, gentlemen, let me tell you about the Sega-Nintendo wars/Britpop/the excitement of Phantom Menace/Myspace...etc etc." One of the things I've said to some of my comic-reading charges is: "You'll have to believe me, Powers used to be really good!" It seems like an eternity ago, but Bendis and Oeming's series about the lives of superheroes beyond and behind their epic deeds was a genuinely innovative and absorbing read. Well, now I can tell them that there's a book that has got the potential to match Powers in its glory days. Superbia focuses on the lives and families of a Justice League analogue, the Meta Legion, but whereas you always know nothing that traumatic or permanent will ever happen to Superman or Green Lantern, there' are no such guarantees here. I thoroughly enjoyed this title when it started as a miniseries, and it was clear that Grace Randolph had way more ideas for this world than could be packed into four issues. This issue serves as a great recap as well as signposting some potentially great plots to come, and so Superbia goes straight onto my pull-list - it's superb to have it back (sorry, couldn't resist!) 7/10

Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Bob McLeod, Mike Gustovich & Glynis Wein
Marvel $0.60

Matt C: After last issue’s general lack of action, this one makes up for it by piling in the Hellfire Club, the Brood, Henry Gyrich and a squadron of Sentinels! It’s very entertaining, very much endemic of Claremont during this period, but it can’t shake the feeling of being X-Men Lite. The New Mutants are mostly likeable characters but none of them are really standing out from the pack and making an indelible mark. It’s early days though, and there’s every suggestion here that the book will find its feet soon. 7/10

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