Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reviews for ASM #653, Flash #9, Heroes for Hire #3 and more

Hello all.  It was the first week back with my column, and I posted the link on the main page.  I hope you all read.  Quick note, after looking at the list of guests attending Boston Comic Con at the end of April, I am seriously pumped.  Amazing list that includes Frank Quietly, and Frank Cho to name a couple.  This weeks column will have to do with stretching characters out to thin, such as Spider-Man and Wolverine.  My apologies for not getting to as many blog posts recently.  I try to find ideas that I can write about thoroughly and not just quick opinion blurbs.  And all the best stuff comes up when I'm about to write a new column, which takes precedent over this blog.  It's my last semester writing the column, so I'm trying to give it my all and make it worth your while.  I'll try my best to keep up though.  Now onto the reviews, which there are a lot this week

Amazing Spider-Man #653:  Long time readers know I love Dan Slott and his writing, so my praise of his writing will keep coming in this review.  The guy knows Spider-Man.  I can't think of any other way to put it.  His writing has a very classic way about it, from the way Smythe talks to the way he goes through with his plans.  That doesn't mean to say Smythe is being unoriginal, as Slott has villains learning Spideys tricks and putting him into situations that he shouldn't survive.  One thing I wished that Slott had capitalized on was Spider-Man's quick interaction with Ms. Marvel.  The two were kind of an item for a few months there, and it would have been nice to see what she said about Peter having a girlfriend (if she knows).  The Scorpion has moved up in the rogue gallery as a major threat to Spider-Man.

Stefano Caselli was one of the best choices for Spider-Man.  His art is flowing, and just looks plain beautiful.  It's great to look at, and his story telling abilities are astounding.  His faces are so expressive I sometimes didn't have to read the words to understand what the characters where trying to convey.  As much as I can't wait to see Marcos Martin return to the title, I will be sad to see Caselli go.

With Ock making another appearance, I wonder what he is up to now.  He is making an appearance in Invincible Iron Man #502, so it will be interesting to see how that ties into ASM in the long run.

Amazing Spider-Man #653 gets 4/5

Carnage #3:  Marvel seems to want to bring back the 90's.  Thunderstrike has a mini-series, last year there was the Clone Saga mini.  And now Carnage.  For the most part, the title has been good, but the art has been making this book lag when the dialogue is some of the best out there right now.

Carnage has bonded to Shriek's psychiatrist and turned into a female Carnage.  Most of the plot is Spider-Man and Iron Man following Carnage while she goes to an unnamed location.  The issue also focuses on Tanis Nieves and her history.  It's interesting for a bit, especially when Carnage starts to mess with her and having her try and focus.  What is high point is Spider-Man actually getting mad.  It sounds weird, but we don't see it enough in Amazing.  Zeb Wells has a knack of writing an emotional Spider-Man and not having any of it feel forced or a plot device.

Now the art......god the art. Clayton Crain and his computer generated art can sometimes be good in a book.  I remember a few issues of X-Force that looked great.  But this....this is just crap.  I really don't like using words like that to describe an artist, as I can't draw for shit myself.  But the art just doesn't look good.  The book has a fog over it that makes everything so muddled I can't see what is happening.  It just irks me because the writing is so good and to have that great dialogue coated in a thick fog just bothers me.  Crain does a great symbiote, but nothing else.

Carnage #3 gets 3.5/5

Deadpool #32:  Everyone is still complaining about how Deadpool is in a ton of books, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be reading the title that started it all.  Daniel Way keeps writing hilarious after hilarious issue that has been making more use of his humor instead of the dialogue boxes.

This one and done issue has Deadpool fighting the supposedly most fearsome merc in the galaxy, named Macho Gomez.  As the name implies, he is stereotypically Mexican and a bad ass.  Deadpool makes quick work of him, but this changes his ambition in life.  Instead of being a hero, he wants to be the most fearsome merc in the galaxy.

I was a fan of Way's trip of taking Deadpool through the ringer to try and become a hero.  It was a natural progression for the merc with a mouth, but it has been wearing thin a little bit.  I'm glad to see Deadpool going back to his old ways though.  Way has always been a big user of the inner dialogue boxes, and they have been funny.  But sometimes Deadpool just needs to be funny on his own.  The boxes make an appearance, but Way sticks to Deadpool doing all the talking this issue.  It's refreshing to see and I hope Way keeps up with it in the future.

The best surprise of this issue was Sheldon Vella on art.  HOLY SHIT does his art suit this book.  It's quirky, cartoony, and over all perfect for the absurd feel of the book.  His characters are hyper expressive and the action scenes look stunning.  Can someone tell me if he is staying on the book for a while?

Deadpool #32 gets 5/5

The Flash #9: With the big Flash centric event coming this summer, it's time for a prelude.  This issue leaves a lot of questions to be answered, but I'm going to enjoy every second of the ride.

After a couple of issues with out the star of the book, Barry Allen is back to what he does best......solving murders.  It's kind of funny that this issue is so slow for a book that's title is "Flash."  I didn't notice this until IGN pointed it out, but when Barry Allen is finger printing the dead man, the fingers switch.  Now this may be a small goof by Francis Manapul, or it could be the Prof. Zoom messing with history like we saw in issue #8.  I'm going to give Manapul the benefit of the doubt, as he is a great artist.  Barry also skips hanging out with the rest of his Flash family to solve the case, much to the chagrin of his wife.  Part of me wants to say that this will have ramifications in the Flashpoint book, but that might be me being fanboy and looking to closely into things when nothing is there at all.  The last page reveal is interesting, but for some reason didn't hit me as hard as I thought it was going too.  Maybe I'm a jaded comic book reviewer.  Who knows, but the reveal still leaves me interested for the road ahead.

Manapul makes his return after taking a few months off.  His art is as good as it has ever been, and I hope he doesn't need a break for a while.

The Flash #9 gets 5/5

Heroes for Hire #3:  Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (DnA) have been some of the best writers at Marvel for a while, but don't ever seem to get the recognition that really deserve. They have done an amazing job with Marvel cosmos for the longest time, but none of the books ever sold that much.  Well I hope Heroes for Hire will finally alleviate that, and it looks to be.

This issue starts off with Paladin trying to figure out what is happening to Misty Knight.  While the reader knows that she is under the control of the Puppet Master, none of our heroes do.  It's interesting to see Paladin in a somewhat hero role as he has been perceived as a villain for the longest time.  And it was only a matter of time before Iron Fist came into the book.  Luke has been getting plenty of time at New Avengers, but our favorite kung fu master has sadly been left a little short.  Hopefully he will play a  bigger role in the coming months.  Moon Knight is the main hero for hire in this issue.  After finding some seedy men kidnapping Savage Land girls, he attempts to stop them.  Only to be attacked by a raptor.  I shit you not.  Moon Knight fight  a raptor.  And it looks amazing.  Walker's art looks it's best this month and that is saying something after the first two issues that he pulled off.

Fact is, if you aren't reading this book, there is something wrong with you, and you need to be

Heroes for Hire #3 gets 5/5

New Avengers #8:  Many have complained that this book hasn't been able to find it's voice after the massive reboot that took place in May and June.  I'm not sure where people are getting that.  This is the street level Avengers, and street level is what Brian Michael Bendis does great.

This is a one and done issue and looks at Luke Cage and Jessica Jones going on a date.  Naturally nothing goes as plan.  Most the issue act as character development for Jessica, as she decides what she should do with her life.  It's very funny at some points, including the discussion for if she should be Power Woman.  The dinner gets interrupted by a Doombot and Ms. Marvel makes an appearance.  I'm not sure where the Doombot came from, but I'll take a guess that it has to do with Fear Itself.

Daniel Acuna makes another appearance after doing for a few issues before the relaunch.  His art looks great, especially the action scenes.  Some of the talking head panels are a little lack luster, but they are still pretty for the most part.

New Avengers #8 gets 4/5.

Ultimate Comics Captain America #2:  The Ultimate Captain America has always been some of a bad ass (and as we saw in issue #1, somewhat of hating British people).  But the first issue was a load of fun that had a Vietnam feel to it, and issue #2 keeps with that.  As you can see by the awesome cover by Ron Garney.

Most of the issue is Cap getting the low down on how Frank Simpson became Captain America during the Vietnam War and what could have possible shoved him over the edge to turn into the flag hating person he is today.  Including how he got that massive flag tattoo on his face.  The entire book has a big Vietnam-esque feel to it, and Aaron (being the great writer that he is) uses that feeling to it's potential without the book feeling like a spoof of the era.  If this were a movie, it would have "Fortunate Son" by CCR playing the background.

Garney's pencils aren't as detailed as they have been in the past.  That's not to say they aren't good, and it' might be the inkers fault.  Some of his characters just blend in with the background.  But his action scenes are as kinetic as they ever have been.

Ultimate Comics Captain America #2 gets 5/5.

Due to me not having enough hours in the day, I'm just going to put the reviews for the other books I read this week here.

Ultimate Comics Avengers vs New Ultimates #1 gets 5/5
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #152 gets 5/5
Widowmaker #4 gets 3/5
Wolverine 5.1 gets 3.5/5

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Column is Up

Hello everyone.  My new column is up.  I talk about death in comic books and if we as a fan base are becoming jaded.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Reviews of ASM #652, Avengers #9 and more

Hello all again.  It was a small week for comics, as I only picked up four at the store and got a few in the a mail.  But either way, was a good week for the most part, and here we go.
Amazing Spider-Man #651:  A lot of people have been kind of ripping on Dan Slott for his direction and how it is to opportunistic for Peter/Spidey.  What else were you expecting?  That's what happens for every character.  Well either way, I think Slott has been doing a stand up job and #651 keeps the great issues a-coming.

Spider-Man and Black Cat finally make an attack on the Kingpin, with the Hobgoblin there to back him up.  Well Spidey has his shinny new suit, Cat makes a break for the valuables the Kingpin has. The issue ends with Peter and Carlie going out for dinner with Aunt May and (Uncle?) Jay.

Slott had a hard time of keeping the humor from falling flat during Brand New Day, but the humor aspect of these recent issues has been spot on.  The jokes may annoy some, but are genuinely witty, and are in classic Spider-Man fashion.  The friendship between Cat and Spidey gets some much needed development and will eventually affect his relationship with Carlie.  Speaking of Carlie, she has had some great characterization in this arc.  She is starting to stand out as someone who isn't MJ and someone who is actually a better person for Peter.

Humberto Ramos' art can turn off a lot of people, and his art has been a mixed bag for me during this arc.  Sometimes it's hyper detailed, then other times it's sketchy and hard to make out what is going on.  Thankfully his art lends more towards the first in this issue.  maybe it's because he is being rushed and still has to pencil #654.1, but it's not his best.  Once he gets more time though, I bet his pencils will get a lot better.

The backup feature is nice to have as it sets up the next arc.  This is going to be very useful in future issues.

Amazing Spider-Man #651 gets 4/5.

Amazing Spider-Man #652:  After bringing back one of the classic villains in Hobgoblin in the last arc, Dan Slott brings back the Spider-Slayers.  Peter and friends go to a roller derby game to watch Carlie play.  Smythe goes after JJJ and his family as they are naturally pissed at him.  The new Scorpion (Mac Gargan) makes his triumphant return and gets a "Gauntlet" like revamp. This leads to a fight on the side of a rocket that will no doubt be awesome.

The issue starts off strong enough with the roller derby scene, but there is some weird dialogue by MJ.  She has never seemed to be a jealous person and now that Peter is doing well with Carlie, she is?  It just seems weird and a sad attempt to keep MJ in the stories.  One thing I noticed which I'm very eager to see developed is Flash dating Betty.  With him becoming Venom soon, I'm eager to see how Betty fits into this and if Rick Remender will develop her at all.  The conversation MJ and Peter have about telling Carlie about Spider-Man is interesting.  It also leads to a comedic moment that had me laughing out loud.  But the argue about telling Carlie about Spider-Man is one that needs discussing.

She is a person who will no doubt handle it better than anyone else in Peter's life.  She already likes Spider-Man and even says that she considers him one of her friends.  And with Pete being the genius he is and her appreciating it, it doesn't seem far off that she would be supporting.  Naturally she would be surprised, but that would go away.  I could even see her eventually being fine with Peter lying to her after a few months.

Stefano Caselli's art is very good.  Some of his Spider-Slayers seem like Leviathan throwaways.  It still looks good, especially the new Scorpion suit, but maybe I'm looking for problems were there aren't any.

Amazing Spider-Man #652 gets 4/5.

Avengers #9:  Yep, the Illuminati have been revealed.  It's about damn time.  And Steve Rogers was the best person to find out.  We also find out how the Hood escaped prison and got to be so powerful.  It's all very interesting, but a little light on the action side, something that isn't bad, just something we aren't use to in a big title like this.

As much as I love Tony Stark and his recent mission of trying to be a better person, sometimes he does need some help.  And with Steve Rogers finally giving him the lesson he deserves.  Tony won't ever NOT be on the Avengers; he is to big a character to get rid of.  But Thor speaks some words of wisdom and that's how it most likely play out.  The side characters seem less like just talking heads and add a little more personality than usual.  This is nice and one of the bigger complaints about Avengers since it's relaunch.  The history of how the Hood got out of prison and got the Infinity Gems is interesting enough.  I like the Hood, so it's good to see him in power again.

I'm a fan of John Romita JR and every thing he does.  His recent Avengers issues though have been slightly lacking.  I'm guessing he is trying to do Kick Ass 2 and this, which is commendable to say the least.  So I will forgive these.  This month though, Romita steps up his game.  It also helps that Scott Hana inks the Hood scenes.  Scott Hana was the inker during his stellar run on Amazing Spider Man with JMS.  Klaus Janson is a great inker, but JRJR needs his lines to be bold.  His characters just look better.

Avengers #9 gets 4/5.

Brightest Day #19:  As loyal readers will know, I have had a love/hate relationship with Brightest Day. #19 is on the better side, but still straddles the line of being "eh."  Aquawar is starting, which means Aquaman's story progresses along nicely.  Aqualad gets some development and some believable development.  He seizes the moment and stands up and will be a great character in the future.  Aquaman gets his ass somewhat kicked but will most likely survive.  Deadman also feels the fallout of the end of #18, and we finally see the villain of Brightest Day.

The villain of Brightest Day doesn't feel original though.  It seems to much like Blackest Night for me.  The Aquaman story is good, but goes by a blazing speed, especially with most of his pages taking place just swimming.  The dialogue is good, but I would have wanted to see more action.  The cliffhanger seems false though, as we know he won't die.  Deadman will probably save him in the end.

Ivan Reis art looks AMAZING.  The fish look borderline like they were a photo.  The action scenes are kinetic and the panel flow is brilliant.  One thing about Brightest Day, is that the art always steps up even when the story isn't there.

Brightest Day #19

Invincible Iron Man #500.1: I picked this up for the hell of it, and I'm so glad I did.  The book is a great retelling of the history of Iron Man with Tony being at an AA meeting. 

I'm not going to give a big review of this, but Tony leaves a lot of his history ambiguous in the retelling.  This could turn off some new readers, but the scenes shown give enough history to get the gist of it.  If the reader wants to know the nitty gritty, they can go to Wikipedia.  The ending also gives a nice hint of the Pepper/Tony relationship.  Safe to say, I have found a new reason to add to the "not being able to wait for next months Invincible Iron Man" list.

The double page spread is kind of a waste though.  The pictures are just there and don't look connected at all.  I love me some teasers, but these are so vague that I can't guess anything.

Invincible Iron Man #500.1 gets 5/5.

Ultimate Comics Thor #4:  Jonathan Hickman has done a good job of tip toeing through Ultimate Marvel universe history, so this makes me sad when this issue doesn't live up to the past three issues.  We learn about how Thor gets his hammer and who Donal Blake really is.  It's interesting, but the issue feels like it is only there to set up the Ultimates.  I know the Ultimates series already came out, but did this issue have to lead in?  It couldn't have been it's own story that just hinted at the Ultimates?  Don't get me wrong, it's enjoyable and a fun issue, but the bar was set up to high for it.

Carlos Pacheo falls under the same group as Hickman.  His art in the past three issue has been great.  Every panel had motion and the panel transitions were great.  Sadly there are a few spots where I had to go back and reread a panel to try and figure out how they got to the next panel.  It again goes with the bar being set very high in past issues.  

One personal problem, is that this isn't going to be an ongoing.  Hickman seems to have a lot of ideas for Ultimate Thor that I would love to see on a monthly basis.  Maybe we could have another mini-series very soon?  Maybe after the fallout of "Death of Ultimate Spider-Man?"  Ultimate Thor really seemed to like Spider-Man in Ultimate Spider-Man #150.

Ultimate Comics Thor gets 3.5/5

Spider-Girl #3:  This title has been one of the shining lights in my comic pull list.  The past two months have been great reads.  It makes me sad that this month is slightly sub par.

Spider-Girl deals with the fallout of her fathers death.  She talks to a few people, acting like any teenager would.  It's refreshing that she wants to talk to normal people and not super heroes.  The story also sets up a nice direction for Anya after talking with the Red Hulk.  I'm happy that Paul Tobin didn't just make Rulk a mindless killing machine after everything Jeff Parker has done to make the Red Hulk a likable character.  What I most enjoyed was the end talk with Sue Storm.  It seemed natural and Sue is a natural mother type in the Fantastic Four.  Jon Hickman, maybe have Anya make a guest appearance in F.F.?

What kept me from giving this series another perfect score was the massive switch in artists.  Clayton Henry has done an amazing job of making Anya look like a teenager and not a hyper sexualized hero in a black skintight suit.  Tim Seeley penicls part of the issue and throws that completely out the window.  She looks like a 22 year old model who doesn't eat all of a sudden.  Sergio Cariello's art works nicely for the flashback sequences.  But the change is never smooth and it takes the reader out of the book.

One thing this book has done well is making Spider-Girl be an example female superhero.  This has been greatly missed since Ms. Marvel had her ongoing cancelled back in February.  She is strong, assertive, and doesn't just listen to the male superheroes.  She talks to Spider-Man, but wants to more listen to Sue Storm.  It's refreshing and one of the main reasons I love this book so much.

Spider-Girl #3 gets 4/5