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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Comic Reviews: Week of April 14th

DC/VERTIGO:

Batman #698: I find it hard to fairly review issues that come at the beginning of a new arc, especially when it comes to Tony Daniel's Batman, so this time I'll mainly just play the summary game. There's a copycat killer loose in Gotham, and the Riddler is enlisted to help Batman figure out who it is. If there's one thing that Daniel is very good at as a writer, it's creating a case. He leans heavily on Batman's rogues gallery and the detective aspect of the character, neither of which are necessarily bad things. My main issue with Batman right now is that the title seems to be simply coasting through stories, leaving Batman and Robin to carry the burden of the long-term Batman continuity. Guillem March's art is good enough, despite a few flat characters (Commissioner Gordon basically has one expression: "mustache and glasses"). So, this was an alright read overall, but like all of Daniel's Batman comics, it's hard to judge one part without being able to see the whole.


The Flash #1: Nothing against the guy, but I'm not really a Flash fan, so I picked this one up purely to see if Geoff Johns can get me as interested in the Flash as he did with Green Latern. Judging soley on this first issue, it's going to be a harder sell. This was a good, if completely basic superhero comic. I feel during the "Brightest Day"-era, Aquaman and the Flash are going to be the bigger characters when it comes to the next "event." Why do I feel this way? Probably because there's an ad at the end for an upcoming DC event called "Flashpoint." Look, I like events (to a degree), but lately I've felt like the big two are just trying to hook readers by convincing us that we MUST READ every story, no matter how important it really is. They're like crack dealers. First they give me a bit of crack that is just ok, but make sure to tell me that if I want the really good stuff, I should keep buying this mediocre stuff for another year or so. So Flash #1 is like ok-crack. Sorry for the drug-analogy (comics are for kids!). Despite my reservations, Frances Manapul's penciling is really amazing, perfect for a quintessential superhero book such as this. I didn’t hate this issue, but let's say that I have yet to be convinced that I should keep up with The Flash


Daytripper #5: This was an especially beautiful, and especially heartbreaking, issue of Daytripper, as we're given a glimpse of Brás precocious adolescence. Again, the focus is on an important series of events in Bras' life, this time focusing on his first realization of the world's great expanses beyond his childhood experiences. Though their story is firmly set in their home country of Brazil, Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá use Daytripper to tell a much more a universal story, one that we can all relate to in some way. There's something breathtaking about the way that they achieve this, using the story of one man's life to extrapolate a greater narrative on the human experience. This is one of those series that people will end up writing papers on. Once Daytripper is over, I feel that this series be looked as not only a career high for the twin creators, but as a creative high for the comic book medium as a whole.








IMAGE

Chew #10: So we come to the end of Chew's second story arc, "International Flavor," wherein we learn that vampires are not vampires and that Mason Savoy is not as far off as Chu thinks. I've found that second story arcs for ongoing series are usually best used to do two things. First, expand the overall story; second, introduce characters/plot devices that will become extremely important as the story continues. In these regards (and many others), "International Flavor" is a rousing success, proving that Chew remains worthy of the hype. Image looks like they've got the next great comedic epic on their hands. John Layman and Rob Guillory are one of those enviable comic book teams that just get it. Layman's jokes wouldn't work without Guillory's art, and Guillory's art wouldn't be as enjoyable without Layman's jokes. Bottom line, Chew is one of few books coming out that makes me downright giddy to get to the store.







MARVEL

Daredevil #506: This issue deserves to be bought if only for Paolo Manuel Riverera's absolutely gorgeous cover. It blew away every other cover on the rack. Moving to what's inside, though support for Andy Diggle's work on DD has seen it's fair share of detractors, I think he's fairing pretty well. This is no small accomplishment, considering that he's been given the unenviable task of following both Bendis and Brubaker. For nearly a decade, Daredevil has been, and for the most part remains, the best monthly superhero title around. So though there's some naysayers out there, I think that Diggle is on the right track. It's a testament to the story's strength that even though the last issue came out back in February. Watching Daredevil play ninja-politics as the Gaijun of the hand is turning out to be quite compelling, and I think that Bakuto is the best addition to the Daredevil cast in a very long time. It was time for some fresh villains, and Bakuto, though he might not be a straight-up villain is a fantastically unhinged character. Just when you think Matt Murdock couldn't be in any deeper, he finds away to keep on digging; and after last week's announcement of the upcoming "Shadlowland" spin-off, it looks like things are only going to get more complicated. If this story goes in the direction that I dearly hope it will, Daredevil may actually be the badguy of Shadowland. And really, isn't a renegade Daredevil what we've all been waiting for?



Deadpool Team-Up #894: This isn't a title that I usually pick up, but given that it's written by Ivan Brandon, and it features the my new favorite Frankenstein, I had to grab it. Am I glad that I did? Sort of. Although not as funny as Chew (what can be?), Deadpool Team-Up was pretty damn amusing, and provided a nice respite from the rest of the week's books. Sandford Greene's highly animated style is a perfect fit for this story, except that the strangely gore-free fight between Deadpool and the Punisher was a bit of a let-down. Light on substance, heavy on random asides, I think Deadpool Team-Up might have to be added to my pull list.












PunisherMAX #6: Do I really have to review this one? I love Jason Aaron, so it hurts me to say that I'm seriously doubting his work on PunisherMAX. Maybe my hopes were just too high for this series, but given his absolutely brilliant work with Scalped, how could I not be excited? Unfortunately, PunisherMAX has been pretty spotty so far, jumping from the obnoxiously pithy introduction to Bullseye to the overly grim Frank Castle moments. Actually, the scene between Frank Castle and an old comerade is really great, but thanks to what came before, it feels oddly out of place. The comic deserves credit for seamlessly moving from the last arc to this one, and the final sequence here is enough to get me to come back for the next issue, but even still...yikes. For an issue I thought would've been a sure highlight for the week, PunisherMAX #6 is an unsatisfying, uneven issue with more than its fair share of problems.








The Savage Axe of Ares #1: Marvel's recent run of black-and-white, 48-page "Super Issues" have been pretty amazing so far, and The Savage Axe of Ares is the best yet. One thing is for sure: the tag-line doesn't lie. Savage Axe of Ares is indeed full of "skull-spliting metal mayhem." It's also a hell of a lot better than I thought it would be. The stories weave together almost seamlessly create an overlying picture of not just Ares, but also of War in general. If only for the first story, you should pick this one up. Written by Gregg Hurwitz and drawn by C.P. Smith, "Red Mercury" follows two Russian army defectors as they attempt to cash in on the fall of the Soviet Union. Not only is this a timely story about the theft and resale of nuclear weapons, it's also bloody as hell; at one point, Ares guides our protagonists by using the disembodied arms of fallen soldiers. Savage Axe indeed. Without having Ares speak a single word, Gregg Hurwitz has written the best Ares story I've ever read.








MISC.

We Will Bury You #2 (IDW, Brea Grant, Zane Austin Grant, Kyle Strahm): After a lackluster first issue, I was willing to give We Will Bury You a second issue chance, but I think that's it. This book has a lot of problems, but chief among them is the fact that it fails to tell a really original zombie story. It's not horrible, but now that zombies have overrun popular culture, there is a need for a new standard of excellence for the re-animated dead; putting it in a different time period isn't enough anymore. This is but one of the main problems plaguing We Will Bury You. Another major issue is that comics are best when they don't bludgeon you in the face with a message 3/4ths of the way through the story, which this issue does. The characters at one point actually say something along the lines of “the moderns of the marvel world won’t save us.” And if the book is supposed to be about sexual politics, it's also falling pretty flat there. The politics here seem to be, "Mirah is a bitch." All of this is a real shame, because while I think We Will Bury You is a pretty weak in the story department, I absolutely love the art. Kyle Strahm draws such a strange, exaggerated version of the world that it’s hard not to be enchanted by his grotesque portrait of man. Unfortunately, any sense of terrified awe is immediately undone by this stereotypically one-note zombie story.


Hellcyon #1 (Dark Horse, Lucas Marangon): Though this book relies a little too heavily on it’s influences (chiefly Robotech and Akira), it’s actually worth checking out. Hellcyon tells the story of the rebel planet Helcyon seeking to establish itself a soverign planet from Earth. Again, it’s hard to review based on a first issue, but I have to say that Hellcyon at least LOOKS great. Now it's just up to the story to catch up with the art. However, Marangon has enough ideas building here that I think Anime fans owe it to themselves to at least page through Hellcyon. This has the potential to be something huge; at the very least, it’s a satisfying tribute to the world of SciFi Anime, which feels fitting for a week that saw the passing of the great Carl Macek.










GATTS BOOK OF THE WEEK

Green Hornet Year One #2 (Dynamite, Matt Wagner, Aaron Campbell): Now this is one hell of a comic. There’s so much good going on with Green Hornet Year One #2 that it’s hard to find a place to start. With this title, Wagner has already created a satisfying and fully realized origin story for both Green Hornet and Kato. The keyword there is story; not event. This is a huge difference. These are heroes who are the result of a combination of experiences, not just one traumatic event. Many retellings of origin stories seem to miss this point. The scope and influence of WWII on pulp heroes and pulp comics is given its due here as well, creating a much deeper and more rewarding read. It's fast becoming clear that this isn’t just a comic about the Green Hornet, but rather a story of how pulp heroes came to be. Pulp stories and the fictional pulp heroes they feature are direct products of that time. Artist Aaron Campbell has outdone himself yet again, firmly placing the Green Hornet in a very recognizable world without too rigidly confining the story by the rules of reality. In the end, what I loved best about this issue is that I could’ve picked it up having read virtually nothing else about the Green Hornet, EVER, and not only understood the story, but also enjoyed it. If only all comics were this good.

4 comments:

  1. My big problem with DD is that it just doesn't feel much like a DD comic. I'm happy Diggle is going his own way, off of the streets of Hell's Kitchen, and the premise is cool, but I'm just not getting that DD vibe. This could easily be a Wolverine or Iron Fist comic.

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  2. This...is true. I still like it and know that he'll be back in New York soon, but yeah. Well played.

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  3. You have to admit though, that is one great cover.

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  4. The cover is amazing. Marvel has been knocking it out of the park with their covers. Johnson's Punisher covers are just the Cat's Meow, and the Amaz. Spider-Man covers have been stellar. Impressive stuff.

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