Sunday, May 27, 2012

Comic Reviews for 5/23

Hello all!  My apologies for not posting reviews last week, but I went on vacation.  Read a ton of Gotham Central, Invincible, and Nova.  I'd call that a great vacation.  I wrote a column about Northstar and Kyle getting married over on Comic Book Therapy.  Click here to read that.  But let's get started with the reviews.

Marvel Comics
Astonishing X-Men #50:  This review is over on Comic Book Therapy. Click here for the review.

DC Comics
Aquaman #9:  Geoff Johns steals the spotlight this month from the gorgeous art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado.

Johns story about the Others has been very rooted in the past.  A lesser writer would have difficult establishing an ambiguous team while keeping the present story moving along, but Johns keeps it balanced perfectly.  We get just enough information about the history of Aquaman and Black Manta that it keeps us interested in the story line going on now.  Johns also gives Arthur some character growth amongst the sprawling fight scenes.  It's clear that Aquaman use to be an angrier fellow, but his conversations with Ya'wara delve deeper into who he use to be.  It was easy to figure out why Arthur hates Shin, but Johns still makes the ending have some weight.  Johns has always been a writer who knows how to write towards an artists talents, and Aquaman has always been a great example of that.  Johns gives Reis just enough fight scenes to pencil without the fights seeming unnecessary or tagged on.

Ivan Reis and Joe Prado continue to dominate this book.  Their work on Blackest Night was some of the best of their career, but this is on a whole other level.  Characters have some expressive faces, but their eyes seem almost human.  They carry so much emotion, and in the case of Aquaman, pain.  It's clear he isn't happy about his past and he is desperately trying to change what happened.  The painted flashback scene work well and help establish the reader in the past in a quick manner.

Aquaman #9 gets 4/5.

DC Comics
Batman Inc. #1:  It pains me to say this, but here goes the end of Grant Morrison's run on Batman.

Morrison has stated that once this volume of Batman Inc. is done, he will be done with the character of Batman.  That puts a lot of pressure on this series to deliver.  If the first issue is any indication, then it will in spades.  As with many Morrison Batman tales, it starts with a flash forward, and it sets up the tension for the rest of the issue.  The cliff hanger hits especially hard, even after the reader takes a step back and realizes that it won't stand.  It would have to much of an effect on the DC universe if it's real.  For a book that starts off very serious, the book has a light hearted tone.  I'm referencing Bat-Cow if you couldn't tell. The Leviathan side of the story doesn't work as well as the Batman side, but it will no doubt be set up for something else.

Chris Burnham knocks this book out of the park.  His art has always looked somewhat like Frank Quietly's, and that's a great compliment.  The action scenes flow beautifully, and when the now famous Bat-Cow line is said, Burnham gives Damien such a look.  That smug look that makes him seem serious.  Readers can read what the characters are thinking, even when they are wearing masks and their range of expression is severely limited.  The one page where the art goes onto the wall of buildings is inspired.  It's easy to read, even though looking as a whole page makes it look confusing.  While Morrison's script sets up this book for an epic run, Burnham sets it up just as well.

Batman Inc. #1 gets 4.5/5.

Marvel Comics
Captain America #12: #11 wasn't a strong start to the arc, but #12 more than makes up for it.

Ed Brubaker started this new arc, "Shock to the System" with kind of a whimper.  But #12 puts it back into the old Cap plot type.  Something/someone is doing something wrong, and it usually ties into Steve Rogers' past.  Add a touch of political debate, and you have the makings of a great Captain America.  That's what Brubaker does here.  He references a great character in Cap's past without lapsed readers being left behind.  Captain America #12 also showcases Cap's detective side; a side we don't get to see much.  Watching him go into a HYDRA base and attack then, and knowing it's a trap and dealing with it makes for a compelling read.  I'm probably one of the few readers who didn't understand the ending, but after some research, I'm excited for the next arc.  It's good to see members of the Revengers get some time to shine.

Patch Zircher's art was somewhat stagnant last issue.  Characters looked stiff and action figure like.  But this time around, Zircher's art has improved.  Characters are much more subtle in their expressions, even when they are wearing masks.  The action flows better as well, especially since the characters don't seem like action figures.  There is some photo tracing apparent, but other artists don't even try to hide the fact that they photo trace (I'm looking at you Greg Land).  Cap's shield pops off in a way that hasn't happened since Steve McNiven penciled the book.  I have said before that this book needs a constant artist, and Zircher would be a good fit as a long term penciler.

Captain America #12 gets 4/5.

Marvel Comics
Deadpool #55:  After a great end to "Dead," Daniel Way gives a good start to "Deadpool: Reborn."

As you might of guessed, "Deadpool: Reborn" is all about Wade rediscovering himself.  Not having his healing factor is going to change a lot about him.  And Way deals with these ramifications nicely.  Way's script hits home that Deadpool isn't sure how to be normal anymore.  Way has never handled subtle well though, and it shows here.  Deadpool's inner voices have to spell out everything that Wade is feeling.  If they were put on silent, the scene would have been perfect, and this issue would have received a higher score.  While Deadpool isn't the most subtle character, it's something that Way should consider when Wade is going through emotional scenes.  The new direction, having Wade kill people who deserve to die, isn't new, but it works with this story.  The ending works well too, but falls into the "voices describe everything" category.  The Intelligencia scenes offer some good commentary on Marvel comics, although it doesn't hit as hard as Action Comics #9.

Shawn Crystal has penciled Deadpool in the past, and his artwork has always fit Deadpool.  While his pencils are cartoony, they can be very expressive.  Crystal also gives a nice nod to the past, with Wade's pinkie finger being missing.  Crystal gives Wade a sense of sadness throughout the issue, especially the final few pages.  Way's script might not be subtle, but Crystal gives the scene a sense of sadness.  The reader really feels for Wade.  He finally gets what he wants, and it prevents him from doing what he loves the most.

Deadpool #55 gets 3.5/5.

Marvel Comics
Fantastic Four #606:  What a sweet self contained story.

Jonathan Hickman gives us a story that is classic Fantastic Four.  It's a problem that only the Fantastic Four could solve, and they do it in dramatic fashion.  Hickman drops hints throughout the book about what is going on, although an astute reader will be able to figure out that the Four are traveling in someone's body.  That someone isn't revealed until the end, and that's what makes this story classic Fantastic Four.  Fantastic Four #606 is a great example of why these characters are a family, and why they have stood the test of time.  With Hickman's run coming to an end in a few issues, this issue reminds me why I'm going to miss him so much once he leaves.  

Ron Garney pencils a great issue.  His work on the human anatomy isn't as detailed as Nick Bradshaw's was in Wolverine & the X-Men, but it's good.  More of the focus is on the characters and their reactions to what is going on around them.  His scratchy style sometimes doesn't work with a book like Fantastic Four, but it's all good this month.  Except the final page, where it's clear that the panel was zoomed in.  It just makes the somewhat scratchy nature of his pencils that much worse.  This is fine on a Wolverine book, but not one that stars the Fantastic Four.  If I worked at Marvel, I'd start making plush toys of those rabid white blood cells.  If Valve can sell all the plushes of disgusting things, then Marvel can make them of a white blood cell.

Fantastic Four #606 gets 5/5.

DC Comics
The Flash #9:  Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have done a great job reinventing the Flash, but do they do a good job with Gorilla Grodd?

The way Manapul and Buccellato have been reinventing the Flash reminds me of the way Geoff Johns reinvented Green Lantern.  Taking classic continuity monsters and simplifying them for a different time.  It's been working wonders so far, so why wouldn't it work with Gorilla Grodd.  While everything isn't explained about the character, enough is given for readers to get a grasp on who he is and what this society is about.  A lot goes on in this issue, with Manapul and Buccellato giving glimpses of the crime lab and Iris as well.  But the issue never feels rushed or compressed.  The ending, while nothing new, is an angle that hasn't been used much with the Flash.  And it looks like Barry will finally be back to Central City, so it's safe to say that I'm excited.

The artwork is beautiful as it always has.  But with the plot line not in the Speed Force, the panel work isn't as creative as it could be.  Sometimes the plot doesn't call for this, so it's no surprise that occasionally the artwork wasn't going to be as stunning as the past couple of issues.  The detail is still there, especially on the gorillas.  Even when the panel is zoomed out, it's easy to point out individual hairs on them.  Sadly, the Flash doesn't run much in this issue, so that beautiful artwork is absent.

The Flash #9 gets 4/5.

Marvel Comics
Hulk #52:  "Haunted Hulk" is going to be haunted by a bad ending.

Jeff Parker has set up "Haunted Hulk" for a big ending.  And having the Legion of Monsters was a great addition to the story.  It would have been a great opportunity to show how much of a monster the Hulk is next to these guys.  But the only thing that I remember after reading this issue is the very abrupt, and dissatisfying ending.  While it fits well with the overall story that Parker is telling, it deserved more than a few pages.  The resolve should have been examined more, or even not be resolved at all.  Having the character stay around a while would have been very interesting.  But Parker does save this issue to a degree, with the Legion of Monsters delivering some great lines.  Hopefully with the Mayans coming next month, the book's quality will improve.

One of the highlights of this arc has been Carlo Pagulaya penciling the Hulk.  He looks fantastic, even when in human form.  I stared at the transformation page, as it one of the best Hulk transformations I have seen.  Pagulaya would be a great choice for any future book to feature the Legion of Monsters, as all of them balance a monstrous, but sympathetic look.  The ghost that has haunted the Hulk throughout this arc looks great, and Pagulaya gives the scene some emotional weight, even when the script does not.

Hulk #52 gets 3/5.

Marvel Comics
Journey Into Mystery #638:  "Exiled" seems to be turning around.

"Exiled" hans't been the strongest mini event.  It's focus is all over the place, not being able to advance the plot well.  But this seems to have changed.  Journey Into Mystery #638 is heavily focused on exposition, but it's written in a way that is very entertaining.  The plot is finally moving along as well.  By the end, it leaves the reader very excited about what could happen in the final issue of the event.  It's still written with the trademarked wit, and even goes into some forth-wall breaking.  While nothing new for this series, it's handled very well.  The ending looks to make the final issue a blast.  The entire event was suppose to be a mixture of the Thor and New Mutants, but it seems to have focused much more on the Thor side of the equation.  Oh well.

Carmine Di Giandomenico's art continues to be one of the better aspects of this crossover.  Characters occasionally have some odd body shapes, but it's not that big of a problem.  They have some great range, which helps separate the more dramatic plot points, but let the comedic lines have some great laughs.  Some of the New Mutants' powers don't come across the way they should though.  It looks like the colorist might have messed up, but Sunspot's powers don't look anything like they have in the past.  He doesn't appear much in this issue, but when he is a background character in numerous panels, it starts to become a problem.

Journey Into Mystery #638 gets 4/5.

Marvel Comics
Secret Avengers #27:  Another solid example of what a tie-in book should be.

Rick Remender's story has been solid all around.  I'll start off by saying that the way Ms. Marvel and Protector are "brain washed" is never explained and it really hurts the story.  Even after reading #26 again, I still have no clue how they became brain washed.  Otherwise, this issue is good.  Remender keeps his overall plot going, with Beast and Captain Britain continuing their problems.  The dialogue between Mar-Vell and the rest of the original Avengers really hits home, and the reader can feel the hatred and anger in Thor's lines.  The scenes between Ms. Marvel and Mar-Vell are handled beautifully, and I hope that this plot point becomes something we see in her ongoing title in July.  It's a great way to set up the series, even if this story doesn't exactly lead into that series.

As much as Remender's script has been doing a great job of creating a great tie-in book, Renato Guedes art continues to falter.  It's not that the art is necessarily bad, it's just that his style of art doesn't match a cosmic story well.  His art works on a book that is grounded and gritty.  For this issue specifically, it's good.  There are scenes, like the aforementioned Thor talking to Mar-Vell scene, that compliment the script perfectly.  But when the Kree are running for their lives, it's downright ugly.  I'm eagerly looking forward to Gabriel Hardman coming back to the title.

Secret Avengers #27.

Marvel Comics
The Mighty Thor #14:  Matt Fraction's slow burning might not work as well with Thor.

As a long time reader of Fraction's work, I'm use to the slow burn nature of his story telling.  It has worked well in his Thor work before, but it doesn't seem to be working as great here as it has in the past.  It seems to be decompressing of the sake of decompressing.  The goth child that is peppered throughout this story is shoved in for no reason, and given no tie into the rest of the story.  But the other plot points are interesting.  Donald Blake trying to be a god via the Enchantress is a great angle for the character, and the dream monsters are fun to read as well.  It just seems like Fraction is treading water for this issue instead of moving the plot along.  This issue seems like it will read better in a trade, or marathoning a bunch of issues in a row.

Pepe Larraz's artwork redeems this issue though.  His artwork has always looked like Pasqual Ferry's, but he is able to keep up with the deadlines.  His pencils fit the fantasy world of Thor well, but also work well  when the story shifts to the more down to earth scenes.  While most of the stories that Ferry penciled had to deal with the fantasy side of the story, his occasionally down to earth scenes suffered.  Every character is very expressive, even when there is a lot of action going on in a scene.  It's easy to read every character's emotions, even when the panel is zoomed out.

The Mighty Thor #14 gets 3.5/5.

Old Comics


Avengers #26 gets 3.5/5.
New Avengers #26 gets 3/5.
Uncanny X-Force #25 gets 5/5.

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