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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Comic Reviews: Week of March 3rd

MARVEL:

Amazing Spider-Man #623:

I was worried when the writing duties for “The Gauntlet” were passed on from Dan Slott. Slott had worked hard at creating a new world for Spider-Man, updating his rogues catalog while at the same time keeping the soul of the characters intact. He succeeded with Rhino and Electro. But would Mark Waid be able to keep up? A few months ago, Waid wrote a two part series with The Shocker as the villain. Not only did it have two of the most attractive covers of ever seen, but the series introduced us to J.Jonah Jameson Senoir! So Waid seems like the write fit to take over for Slott. He picks up where Slott left off, this time bringing the NEW Vulture into the story. Where Adrian Toomes was the elderly, feeble, bald-headed Vulture, the new Vulture is a mutated criminal who spends most of the issue, after being freed by Electro, trying to find out how and why he was created. The heart is still there, but it’s hard to sympathize with a character who vomits acid and eats rats. This is not a bad thing. Plus, the way Waid is writing this, I think J.Jonah Jameson’s tenure as New York’s Mayor is coming to a close. I’ve been continuously impressed with Amazing Spider-Man, but now I’m worried. The writers have done such a good job that I’m afraid to see where it goes once The Gauntlet wraps up.

Spider-Man Noir: Eyes Without a Face #4:

While Spider-Man Noir is published in four issue arcs, it’s evident at the end of this issue that there’s still more story to be told. What impressed me most about this arc was that David Hine wasn’t afraid to make some drastic changes to the Spider-Man Noir universe. Doctor Octopus reads like Sam Raimi’s Otto from Spider-Man 2. Raimi really wanted the character to be redeemed and he shied away from the Ultimate Spider-Man incarnation, instead focusing on Otto as a doctor who is trying to do some questionable, yet helpful science. Hine follows suit with his Otto. Doctor Octavius’s point is valid, and that’s scary considering that his science mirrors eugenics. But the most shocking moments come when Peter stands aside and lets a man die because of some information he received. In the end, Otto is left, pathetically, stranded on an air strip in the rain. Why? Read to find out. Spider-Man Noir is hitting all the right notes, and it seems that David Hine has gotten into a groove now. I can’t wait to see where he’s headed.

Ultimate Avengers #5:

Mark Millar is one fucked up dude. The first two pages of this issue SHOW us everything we need to know about the Ultimate Red Skull. The introduction to this issue is phenomenal, and Carlos Pacheco’s art punctuates the climax of the issue. Millar also introduces the Cosmic Cube which is an object so powerful, it makes the beholder like a God. He can do anything with it. And it’s in the hands of the Red Skull. Some writers just have an uncanny ability to craft continuously incredible stories, and Millar keeps outdoing himself. Ultimate Avengers wraps up its first arc next month, and I will be waiting, anxiously, to see what Mark Millar has planned.

New Ultimates #1:

In his first run on The Ultimates, Mark Millar introduced Thor as guy that was possibly not the Norse god of thunder, but instead a schizophrenic with very powerful toys. When it was revealed that he was indeed who he said he was, Millar gave us Loki, the mischievous brother of Thor. Loeb resurrects Loki in his New Ultimates series, which means that some serious shit is about to happen. This issue is mostly exposition, as is Loeb’s usual M.O., and there are a few references to his son, Sam, who died of cancer at the age of 17. Here’s the rundown: Tony Stark is dying, Thor is trapped in hell, Loki has returned, and Carol Danvers is involved in a potentially dangerous relationship. Frank Cho gets more panel space in the slower parts of the book, which surprised me considering his talent. The action sequences are reduced to small boxes that don’t allow Cho the ability to flex is chops. But any doubts you may have about New Ultimates should be put to rest after reading this issue. Loeb is a heavyweight, and he doesn’t hold back. If you haven’t already, join the Ultimate Universe.

Stephen King’s “N.” #1:

I’ve never read the short story “N” by Stephen King, but after reading this issue, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of it. Marc Guggenheim and Alex Maleev understand King -- this is very evident in reading the issue. Guggenheim has King’s pacing and language down pat, and Maleev devotes single panels to moments in the comic that King probably emphasizes in his story. But the comic is scary has hell, and the mood is captured perfectly. I can’t gush about this enough -- after reading a few issues of The Stand and reviewing The Dark Tower, and feeling that both are falling short in their efforts, I feel that someone at Marvel finally created a worthy adaptation of a Stephen King story. Read “N.” And sleep with the light on afterwards.


DC:

Nemesis: The Impostors #1:


I picked this up because I was intrigued by the cover. My comic shop guy said he thought it was about Wonder Woman, and since I haven’t read a lot of Wonder Woman, I thought I’d give it a shot. Nemesis: The Impostors is not about Wonder Woman. But it is a loping, vibrant read. Save for one section, Cliff Richards doesn’t use more than five panels on a page, so the story feels big without meandering. I haven’t read any Ivan Brandon, but I can’t wait for the next issue of Nemesis. He incorporates OMAC, The Joker, and even Batman. This issue feels like it’s setting up the rest, but Nemesis #1 sprints to its finish. We’ll see how this plays out, but with everything he’s tossed in the first issue, Ivan Brandon has a lot to do in the remaining three issues to keep up the pace.


MISC:

Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows #3 (IDW -- Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez):


I usually praise the hell out of Joe Hill, but I’m going to spend much of my time on Gabriel Rodriguez. This series is good. Because of Rodriguez, it’s phenomenal. His art is clean, his characters fine edged. But he finds a way to accentuate facial features to really convey character emotions. After reading this issue, I flipped through it again and just focused on the characters. Without even reading a word, I could feel what the characters were feeling. Plus, much like a Kubrick movie, Rodriguez will stay with one angle for several panels until he has achieved the desired affect. In other parts, however, he’ll shift so rapidly one can’t help but feel pulled along. This partnership is one that works very well, and I think both players work well with each other, and understand each other’s strengths. Joe Hill is building quite the mythos with Locke and Key, and while I know he has an end in mind, I’ll be sad to see this series end. This is consistently one of my favorite comics.

Dingo #4 (BOOM! -- Michael Alan Nelson & Franceso Biagini):

In its four issue run, Dingo was graphic, violent, painful, and hilarious. Michael Alan Nelson nails the pacing and Francesco Biagini gets a few full page shots to work with. His art is dirty, and it work well within the story. When I reached the end of the issue, I realized something: the point of the story wasn’t important -- it was getting there that was. Where many comics are meant to focus on an end goal, Dingo focused instead on bringing us to that point through messy action sequences and gritty story telling. Plus the four part arc forced Nelson to keep the plot moving, excising what were probably some of the more labored parts of an otherwise straightforward tale. If you haven’t yet, pick up a copy of the series. I wouldn’t call it mindless fun, but it’s fun nonetheless.

Green Hornet #1 (Dynamite -- Kevin Smith & Jonathan Lau):

The purpose of Green Hornet is to introduce a new Green Hornet, update him for the new century. Kevin Smith and Jonathan Lau pay homage to George W. Trendle and Frank Striker’s 1930’s radio serial by making sure the set is clearly pre-1950’s as illustrated by the character’s clothing, language, and vehicles. The new Green Hornet isn’t introduced until the last three pages, and here is the problem with Green Hornet #1. Readers don’t know what Smith’s purpose is until the final pages. If you were to replace Britt Reid and Kato with Peter Parker (as Spider-Man) and the Iron Fist, the story would be no different than any other. The dialogue reads much like a Spider-Man comic -- Green Hornet is always cracking jokes. Kato plays the “straight man” to Reid’s comedian, and both men are pleased to have finally eradicated organized crime in their city. Granted, I have to claim ignorance regarding The Green Hornet. I vaguely remember the television show, and I've heard people shout, "Get him, Kato!" But other than these brushes with the material, I have no idea what it's about. So maybe Kevin Smith is greatly reproducing the original work, but my issues with it stem from the the fact that there's nothing original about it. I was worried this would happen. Ever since I read Seth Rogan was playing The Green Hornet, I knew the story wouldn’t be treated seriously. Just how silly the writing would be, however, was a surprise to me. I hate to bash Kevin Smith because I have a lot of fanboy love for him, but this issue fails for many reasons. First, the dialogue is too silly to be taken seriously. Secondly, the characters fall into every stereotype imaginable (the wise-cracking hero, his fun-loving wife, the bratty son of a millionaire publisher). Lastly, it doesn’t attempt to do anything to distinguish itself from other comics on the market. If this is how the story is going to work, count me out. The Green Hornet seemed like it could be the most interesting series on the market. But Dynamite may have its first misfire on its hands.

Sweet Tooth #7 (Vertigo -- Jeff Lemire):

Maybe the honeymoon’s over because Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth has lost some of its luster. Now that we’ve moved beyond the introduction of the characters, the reality of the story has set in. And it’s scope is much grander than originally presented. Most of the issue is devoted to Tommy, the burly protector of Sweet Tooth in the first five issues. While I was originally interested in Tommy’s backstory, the shift in focus makes Sweet Tooth’s ordeal seem not as important. The initial fear I felt for him has faded, and I can’t even say it’s been replaced by pity. My guess is that Sweet Tooth will eventually be liberated by Tommy, and that is when the story will be interesting again. Because the thing that made the comic interesting initially was the idea that this naive child was taken in by a heartless loner. At the end of the first arc, we could see that Tommy was conflicted, and now, as the story splits between those two characters, the initial urgency has faded. I hope Jeff Lemire reunites the characters soon because the two of them together was what made Sweet Tooth so intriguing in the first place.

2 comments:

  1. Dingo is a series that I'm genuinely upset I wasn't paying attention to, so I'm going to try and track down these issues, or at least pick up the collected version when it comes out. And N was something I passed on, but after reading your review I might have to go nab a copy. I love a good horror comic.

    Ultimate Loeb! I just can't get on board with the guy. But good call on Sweet Tooth. I'm worry about where Tommy's story is going, as I'm much more interested in the horror show of the camp. It made me feel genuinely icky (in a good way), like the first time I saw Re-Animator.

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  2. N surprised the hell out of me because Marvel's King adaptations have fallen flat. This time, however, they nailed it. And Dingo is a fun read. Try to find it and let me know what you think.

    I have the same problem with Loeb. I love him and hate him sometimes. I loved his initial run on Superman/Batman, and I like Ultimatum, but didn't like Ultimates 3. This feels like it may go somewhere, but I'm still hesitant as well. If the second issue doesn't address some of the plot points in more detail, I'm going to pass on it.

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