Saturday, June 9, 2012

Comic Reviews for 6/6

Well, it finally started.  Before Watchmen is upon us.  Avengers vs X-Men also continues, which is staring to have some problems.  The rest of the week was good, with a couple being slightly mediocre.  It was one of the bigger weeks, which sadly killed my wallet.  But enough bitching, let's get started.

DC Comics
Action Comics #10:  Time to go back to Clark Kent.

One of the best things about the New 52 is to tell stories writers couldn't before.  And adding in a new villain like Nimrod the Hunter is a good example of that.  He does seem a little similar to Kraven the Hunter, which just adds to my feeling that Grant Morrison is looking at Spider-Man as a way to modernize Superman.  Action Comics #10 is an interesting story, and an entertaining one at that, but it suffers in the plot development.  It's somewhat uneven.  Superman trying to help hamsters as a way of showing Superman can handle the small scale things?  Eh, not really.  The ending, with Kent being killed, works well, and puts the Superman mythos into an interesting situation.  Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson still haven't been developed to any likable degree.  They are just there in this book.

Rags Morales art, while better than it was, is still suffering a little big.  Character height varies, with Superman being taller than Wonder Woman, then suddenly shorter the next panel.  Faces seem stagnant from panel to panel, even if they are expressive.  Once Superman goes into action, the comic looks great.  The same for when the Daily Star is bombed near the end of the book.  The time has come for DC to start considering a different artist for Action Comics.  Morals hasn't been the worst artist, but it needs an artist who can be on time and consistent.

Action Comics #10 gets 3/5.

DC Comics
Animal Man #10:  The Red gets some much needed development.

Jeff Lemire starts to develop the Red in #10.  While the Parliament of Trees has been explained over in Swamp Thing, the Red and it's mythos has been severely lacking.  Lemire gives it some nice twists here, giving it similarities to the Parliament of Trees without straight up copying the concept.  Buddy Baker and the goat, who has some funny dialogue, could handle this book on their own, but Lemire adds the Just League Dark to the mix.  Their meeting with the Baker family is very funny, mostly due to Constantine.  It's nice to see Animal Man interact with the bigger DC universe.  It's remained in it's own little corner with Swamp Thing.  Speaking of Swampy, all of a sudden he isn't the "Swamp Thing" that Socks has been telling him he needs to find?

Steve Pugh's art is as creepy as ever.  The Red looks great, with these scenes being the highlight.  The fight looks great, with the reader never losing track of who they are looking at or what Buddy is fighting.  Pugh jumps from the creepy Red to the normalcy of a motel with ease.  The haunted Buddy Baker is designed well, with only a slight couple of changes to let the reader know he is the bad Buddy.  I look forward to seeing how Pugh pencils Animal Man vs Animal Man.

Animal Man #10 gets 4/5.

Marvel Comics
Avengers Academy #31:  Time for Sebastian Shaw to fight.

Christos Gage has never been preachy in this arc.  With the fight being all about whose side you are on, it would have been easy for him to preach his side of the conflict and why the reader should agree with him.  But instead we get an equal amount to say their side.  Their is a fight in the middle of the comic, but it's fake?  It's hard to tell, as Gage doesn't give the reader the best understanding of what is going on.  The very big cast is slightly smaller this issue, which does work in it's favor.  Having every character give their idea about what is going on would have bogged down the story and would have become very boring fast.  Gage breaks up the serious subject with a few witty lines.  Gage has shown he has a penchant for humor over on Angel & Faith, and he knows when to stop being funny and be serious.  #31 continues with the old school feel, especially with the ending.  By the way, make sure to read this before Uncanny X-Men #13.

Tom Grummet still has an old school feel to them.  The characters look good, especially during the fight scene.  Characters seem more expressive this month.  The student's body types can sometimes be almost copies, but Grummet avoids that this month.  I still don't understand why X-23 is still just wearing a bikini when she could be wearing normal clothes like the rest of the girls in this series.  Considering this series has been double shipping every other month, it's nice to see Grummet keep up with the pace while not having the art take a dive in the quality department.

Avengers Academy #31 gets 3.5/5.

Marvel Comics
Avengers vs X-Men #5:  This review is over on Comic Book Therapy.  Click here for that review

DC Comics
Before Watchmen Minutemen #1:  This review is over on Comic Book Therapy. Click here for that review

Marvel Comics 
Defenders #7:  I still don't understand why everyone rips on this series so much.

Matt Fraction brings the Defenders to Wakanda, to research why John Aman attacked Iron Fist and the rest of the Defenders.  It's nice to see Black Panther be in a book, considering we haven't seen much of him since his last series ended.  One thing I'd like to see this series change is it's focus.  It seems to find small tangents and then explore them till they are done.  While not the worst thing a book has done, it keeps making me forget about the Engine.  Then again, that's what the Engine does, so maybe that's the intended purpose......probably not.  Black Cat is a funny addition which keeps with the lighter atmosphere that Fraction has been going for.  Defenders seems to be more long term than short term, with his arc being a better trade read then single issue.  And one of the better uses of "UP UP DOWN DOWN A B" I have seen.

The Dodsons are back on art, but it seems a bit rushed this month.  Once characters enter the background they lose a great amount of detail.  The Dodsons always need a great amount of time when penciling a book.  Their work is beautiful, and it deserves the time it needs to be great.  The Dodsons still deliver the best Black Cat in the business.  Silver Surfer's gigantic head had me stop and stare for a minute.  It's creepy, but still funny.  I have always been big fans of the Dodsons, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I was excited to see Jamie McKelvie start on art next month.

Defenders #7 gets 3.5/5.

DC Comics
Dial H #2: DC's little odd book just keeps getting better.

When I first read Dial H #2, I was little confused at what was going on.  But after a second read through, I completely understood it.  Dial H is all about our age of the internet and how we need an escape.  China Mieville subtly conveys this amongst the superhero work, which only takes up about half the book.  The rest is Nelse coping with what he has stumbled upon.  We feel for Nelse because we do this every day in ways such as video games, or comic books.  It's great stuff, and something you don't see much today in superhero comic books.  The book is also a showcase for Mieville to create tons of new heroes.  Most of them only last a few panels, but they all leave a lasting impression.  The reader still doesn't know much about the villain of this book, but damn am I going to stick around for a while to find out.

While Mievill's writing is great, Mateus Santolouco's pencils are the other perfect piece of the puzzle.  Every new hero has the look as if they have been around for a while.  They are that fully realized.  The action scenes are very chaotic, but the reader never loses sense of who they are looking at.  And I now want an Iron Snail book to be in the works.  Please?  Cancel Batman: The Dark Knight and we can have an Iron Snail book.

Dial H #2 gets 4/5.

DC Comics
Earth 2 #2:  After a mediocre start to the series, #2 brings up the quality.

James Robinson ties Earth 2 more into the main DC universe with Mr. Terrific appearing.  This isn't a good thing, as it was one of the worst series from the New 52, so naturally I didn't read it.  And I still don't know what the hell is going on.  But otherwise, this is a very enjoyable issue.  The team is still being set up, and the character work is great.  The big thing for me was that this book needed to set these characters apart from the normal heroes.  Why should I read this book when I'm already reading about Green Lantern and the Flash?  Earth 2 does that just here.  This Flash is every bit just as interesting as Barry Allen.  The big media event that was Alan Scott being gay doesn't take up much of the issue, but is handled very well.  Between this and Dial H, the second wave of DC books is starting out very strong.

Nicola Scott's artwork continues to impress.  The Flash runs through a good chunk of this issue, and while it's not as great as Francis Manapul, it's still impressive to look at.  The Flash's costume looks great, and is a nice blend of old and new.  When Alan Scott and Sam kiss, it's clear these two are in love, and have been in love for some time.  Hermes gradual cracking looked good, and good job of Scott for not screwing continuity up where the cracks were on his body.  The final page hits with the emotion it should, even though the reader knows it's fake.  I barely noticed the hint of green where Alan Scott was in the train.

Earth 2 #2 gets 4/5.

Marvel Comics
Hulk #53:  Of course Red Hulk needs to punch an Aztec.

Jeff Parker decides to go an odd route with the Mayan apocalypse.  The reader doesn't know 100% of what is going on at the moment, as this issue acts as just set up.  But Parker gives us enough to bring us back next month.  The always great character work continues this month.  And good of Parker to bring in Alpha Flight, their first appearance since their mini series ended a while back.  While the story doesn't progress much, there are quite a few great ideas swirling around here.  I just hope that the arc doesn't end with a dud like it did on the "Haunted Hulk" arc.

What really drew me to this issue was Dale Eaglesham on the art duties.  After his brilliant work on Alpha Flight it's great to see him continue to up his game.  And ironically enough, Alpha Flight is in this issue.  All the Hulks look great; being hyper muscular without it looking weird.  The tech Aztecs (hehe, puns) look weird without them being bad weird.  The majority of this issue deals with talking heads, so Eaglesham isn't given a whole lot of room to shine, but when things start to heat up, so does his artwork.  There is a lot left to this arc, so no doubt that Parker will give him plenty of big battle scenes and things going boom to pencil.

Hulk #53 gets 4/5.

Marvel Comics
Invincible Iron Man #518:  Tony is mostly absent this month, in his own book no less.

The majority of #518 is about the supporting players.  The reveal of who is in the new Iron Man suit isn't a no-brainer, even if it makes a lot of sense story wise.  It goes to show how much the supporting cast is vital to this book when Tony only appears for two panels.  Mandarin's thought out plan seems to be fraying at the seams.  Ezekiel Stane's change finally comes to fruition, which I'm interested to see Fraction work on.  Stane has been the main villain in this book since it launched almost five years ago, so having him suddenly be on the good side (to a degree) is a big treat for long time readers like me.  I didn't realize until the second read through that Tony Stark was barely in this issue.  It's interesting to see Tony suddenly ask for help from some, or just rely on others to do their job correctly at the right time.  It's nothing the old Tony would have done.

Salvador Larroca's art is still what you see.  His artwork has been consistent throughout this run.  The new suit has a good look to it, but the faces leave something to be desired.  This many years in, it's hard to say anything new about his artwork.  Any scene with someone wearing a suit of armor looks great.  But his work on faces has improved over the years.  Characters still have a slightly shiny look to them.

Invincible Iron Man #518 gets 4/5.

Marvel Comics
Journey Into Mystery #639:  Oh Loki, you witty bastard you.

Kieron Gillen has always put a great sense of humor into these issues.  No more is that on stage than #639.  I knew I was going to be laughing my ass off when Loki starts quoting James Bond in the recap page.  The rest is a trip to Britain, with Loki making the standard set of British jokes.  While many have heard them many times, the context makes them seem fresh again.  The plot is fairly simple, with the All-Mothers sending Loki to fix a problem in the Otherworld by using his trickery.  It creates an interesting problem for Loki, as he mostly just makes crap up as he goes along.  Even the politics of Asgardia seem interesting under Gillen's script.  While the story is very funny, Gillen does ad some drama that will probably come to fruition in the next few issues.

Richard Elson's pencils have been great on this series.  Characters have some great expressions, which always help the punchline in Gillen's funny script.  Demons and monsters have always been Elson's strong point, and that is put on display here.  While Leah was created to not be as open with her emotions, I'd like to see the occasional other expression than glum.  But that's just me.  This book is becoming harder and harder to review, as all the great things about it have been said.  I just reiterate the previous reviews in some form or another.

Journey Into Mystery #639 gets 5/5.

Image Comics
Morning Glories #19:  Mother of god that ending.

Most of this issue delves into Hunter's backstory.  We learn about how he came to Morning Glories Academy, and why we haven't seen his mother yet in his other flashbacks.  This is juxtaposed around Zoe chasing Hunter after Hunter saw her kill another classmate.  It's tense, and adds a tragic air to the issue.  Yes, more questions are raised, and I could see stuff winking and nodding at the reader.  As if to say "pay attention to me I'm going to be important in a few minutes."  Not terribly annoying but something to note. The plot is fairly thin this month, but it's still a good read.  I was surprised that I didn't read the issue faster, considering half the issue is one thing.  But Nick Spencer still sucks the reader in, even when trivial things are happening.

Joe Eisma's pencils, as I have said before, have been steadily getting better since this series started.  The chase scene is tense, and Eisma doesn't miss a beat when shifting back to the more tender moments.  The ending, which I will not give away here, gives the reader the shock they need.  This book has never held back on adding a little blood to scenes, but Eisma goes above and beyond with this.  It's not overtly gore, but the detail on the scene is just as striking as the act itself.  Just read the issue and you will see what I am talking about.

Morning Glories #19 gets 5/5.

DC Comics
Swamp Thing #10:

With the main battle with the Rot over, you'd think Scott Snyder would give Swampy a little of a rest.  But nope.  He has Alec Holland face off against Anton Arcane.  Snyder frames the issue around Arcane supposedly winning a fight against Swamp Thing, which makes ever scene that much more tense.  Is the fight going to happen now?  How do they start fighting?  It's terrifying.  What else is terrifying is the history of Abigail.  Leave it to Snyder to make a sweet innocent girl a horrible killing machine.  I would have liked to see some back story for Anton Arcane.  I'm not familiar with the Swamp Thing mythos, so knowing a little about him would have helped.  But it doesn't break the story.

Francesco Francavilla fills in this month, and his artwork is stunning.  While the normal rotation of artists give this book a greenish hue, which sits well with the atmosphere Snyder is going for.  But Francavilla uses his trademark reddish hue, which throws off the reader.  It adds to the terrifying atmosphere, making the reader think that the Rot are coming in from all sides.  It's a slight thing, but one that works wonders.  The intricate panel layout isn't as impressive as normal, but who cares.  It's hard to make out what is going on when Swamp Thing is slightly incapacitated, but it took a few pages for me to realize that was the point.  I loved it on the second read through.

Swamp Thing #10 gets 4.5/5.

Marvel Comics
The Mighty Thor Annual #1:  Why was this even printed?

Like the .1 books, I question why an annual exists if no one from the current creative team is on the book.  While it doesn't mean that the issue is going to be terrible, it has it's work cut out for it.  Sadly this issue does hold to that rule though.  J. M. Dematteis pens a tale that takes place BEFORE The Mighty Thor #1. Not off to a good start.  It's not the current status quo readers are use too, so why tell the tale?  This issue also screws up continuity with the first arc.  What bugs me the most about this is the fact that there is an interesting tale at the center of this tale.  It's classic Thor.  But Dematteis script is insanely wordy and takes forever to read.  Multiple times I stopped reading because I was simply bored.  If you were on the fence for this issue, it's safe to skip it.

Richard Elson pencils this issue, and his artwork is rather good.  I'd say it's not on par with his recent Journey Into Mystery work.  His pencils have always suited the more fantasy side of comics, with his work on Thor being good as well.  But his cosmic work here works well.  Galactus is as menacing as he needs to be.  I hate to say skip this book when Elson is on pencils, but his pencils still don't make up for the fact that this book wasn't needed in the first place.

The Mighty Thor Annual #1 gets 2.5/5.

Marvel Comics
Uncanny X-Men #13:  I'm really starting to feel bad for Kieron Gillen.

More and more these issues of Uncanny feel like Gillen is being forced into plot points that he doesn't want to deal with.  Having the characters sit there and talk about the fight that's happening is great for some character work, but it doesn't make an interesting story.  Unit could be a great villain if given the right amount of time to develop, but Gillen is begin forced to tie into Avengers vs X-Men.  It is nice to see Gillen writing the Five Lights again.  His work on them was always the best, even though James Asmus did a great job on the title after Gillen left.  I'm going to look forward to this book more after Avengers vs X-Men.

Billy Tan's artwork has vastly improved over the years.  I remember reading New Avengers and thinking the artwork was terrible.  But his artwork here is good.  Not great, but good.  Characters occasionally have some odd facial features, and can seem a tad boxy in the body.  But he does remember to make Psylocke an Asian, so he wins points for that.  The characters can be a little stiff as well, especially when the action starts to ramp up.

Uncanny X-Men #13 gets 3.5/5.

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