Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Comic Reviews for August 17th 2011

Superboy #11
Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Pier Gallo

One of the most underrated comics to come out in the last year, in my opinion anyways, has been Superboy. Jeff Lemire has written one of the strangest Superman related comics by having it be more of a character study then just a non-stop, action packed comic book. Well except for that one issue tie-in into that Doomsday storyline. But hey lets all forget that ever happened shall we? With the DC reboot just mere weeks away, and with Superboy changing radically too, issue eleven is sadly the last issue of this really entertaining comic. Does Lemire and artist Pier Gallo end on a bang?

I will give this to Lemire: He puts a lot of story in such a short amount of time. If we aren't dealing with Superboy and Phantom Stranger fighting Tannarak, we see Simon and Lori deal with Parasite. Lemire is able to juggle these two big set pieces really well without ruining any of the flow. Once again I like how they take a bit of a different approach to stop these villains. Even though the way they get Stranger back into the mix if a bit of a dues ex machina. However there are some problems I had with the end of this. Even though Lemire does a good job rushing to get to an ending, it sure feels like a lot more should have happened at this run. Psionic Lad's mission of killing Superboy is completely dropped which is a bit frustrating. Plus the final message at the end of the book is pretty good, but it seemed like another issue or two could've put that point of across a bit clearer.

To this day I will always claim that Pier Gallo is a great find for DC. Every issue he's worked on this series has been a joy to look at. It's so unconventional in regards to what normally the DC books aesthetically that it's a breath of fresh air. I especially love his attention to detail in regards to how many people he can put into a panel and how some of the backgrounds look. The shed that Lori and Simon are stuck in really looks like it's made of wood. Plus I like his take on those electric special effects on throughout the pages. The coloring has always been a bit of a problem though with this book and unfortunately the final issue isn't no different. It has a 'orange-yellowish' hue to it all and it isn't the most pleasing looking book at times. Hell the sequences involving Superboy looks completely different to the pages involving Lori and Simon.

So this isn't the most perfect issue to end on. The coloring is still not doing justice to Gallo's pencils and Lemire clearly had to drop plot points in order to finish his run. Those problems aside, I did like this finale overall. It's a shame because we'll probably never see a 'Super' title like this again. I'm not sure why DC didn't let Lemire go on with Connor in the DC relaunch. Superboy turning into a cyborg might be the best thing for Lemire, because he could do a whole theme on humanity which would be perfect for him. Oh well, Scott Lobdell with have to do for now.

DC Retroactive: Batman-The 90s
Written by: Alan Grant
Art by: Norm Breyfogle

Since I was born in I'm old....anyways, since I was born in 1989 I technically grew up in the 90s in regards to comics. But I never really read that much comics when I was little, it took until the late 90s and early 2000s to really get into them. So the Batman I technically grew up with was the Bruce Timm animation version and the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher film adaptations for the most part. But looking back at older Batman comics, I did love reading the Alan Grant/Norm Breyfogle era of the character. It was action packed but it had this weird, campy value to it. Plus Breyfogle is a pretty damn fine artist. So the Retroactive book I was looking forward to the most was this 90s one-shot. Is this one-shot a great blast to the past? Or should we just stick with the original?

Well it definitely feels like a 90s comic, that's probably the biggest praise I can give to this thing. Alan Grant certainly hasn't changed in the twenty or so odd years since writing Batman. This book can be preachy at times and at other times it's nothing more then just a huge punch-fest. But to be honest the story really isn't that strong. I mean it's enjoyable in one aspect but in another it just feels like another Batman story and nothing is really special about it. The moments involving action is pretty fun to read, but Grant really does nothing with The Ventriloquist here other then to be a macguffin for this bizarre plot of a dead mafia guy coming back to life killing people. It really feels like Grant had no idea how to get twenty pages or so out of this new story.

It's also amazing to see just how different the style of Breyfogle has changed. I guess not doing a Bat book in twenty years will do that for an artist. But when you look at this new story in regards to the reprint in the back of this thing, the change is staggering. In this new story, Breyfogle just looks so cartoony now, although not as cartoony as it shows on the cover. At first I thought I was looking at a Bruce Timm comic more so then a Breyfogle comic. It doesn't help that there are two colorists involved in this issue, even though I think the colorists are the least of the concern here. His Batman just doesn't look the same as you see in the reprint. He actually looks like Scott McDaniel to be frank....which isn't a good thing. At the end of the day it's something good to look at, but I would've preferred to see the old Breyfogle if that was somehow possible.

I don't think this is a disappointing comic by any means. The story is good enough to get a new Grant script out there and Breyfogle's art, while incredibly different then before, is still good to look at. But when you read the reprint in this comic I think you'll be with me in that you really can't go home again when it comes to particular creators. Again I'm glad to see these two work again a Batman comic, but it's not as strong as I thought it could be. I'm sure we're never gonna see another Retroactive series again because of the reboot but how about this for a creative team for the 90s: Doug Moench and Kelley Jones. Now THAT's a comic I wouldn't be disappointed at!

Thunderbolts #162
Written by: Jeff Parker
Art by: Valentine de Landro and Matthew Southworth

It's funny how I've been enjoying this series more so since the Fear Itself tie-ins started. I'm not sure why that is but it might have to do with the fact that Jeff Parker is going full out on the story since the event started. He's juggling so many characters and so much plot into each issue it's amazing to see it actually work and not be confusing to follow. I'm not sure if this is the final Fear Itself tie-in issue but it certainly feels like a solid end of an arc and Parker even puts more craziness on the pages.

Let's get to the elephant in the room though and say that the change in artists is a bit of a shame here. Declan Shalvey was doing some of his best work during this arc and it's weird to not see him do this issue. I guess since he's doing the .1 issue coming up this month he didn't have time to do this. Instead we get Valentine de Landro and Matthew Southworth to do the pages and to be fair they do a pretty good job here. It's difficult to figure out who's doing what page though since I'm not familiar with their work. Sometimes it's obvious to see a drastic change in the pencils. For example, I'm sure most of the pages is by Lando until Man-Thing becomes huge by the end. The character models completely change by that point. But give credit to colorists Frank Martin and Fabio D'Auria to make it look consistent with the change. There are some great pages in this though from Songbird putting a barrier up, to Thunderbolts tower firing on the monsters, to Satana putting everything in her way on fire. However there are points where I get completely confused on what's going on and the story does get lost at some points. But it's not frequent enough to be a deal breaker.

I'm excited to see where this story is gonna go now. Jeff Parker just wrote himself a huge revelation here and I'm curious to see where it goes from here. Also, how in the hell are they going to get Man-Thing back to normal? It's stuff like that, that makes me interested to keep reading in one of the most hectic comic books printed right now. But Jeff Parker continues to write a great story with some great artists helping him out. If it wasn't for some of the poor storytelling choices with the art in these pages this could be a strong contender for best title at Marvel. Still, it's one hell of a ride to read each issue.

Journey Into Mystery #626
Written by: Kieron Gillen
Art by: Doug Braithwaite

Here's how you know you have a great comic book on your hands. When you actually want to read the recap pages at the very beginning because they are so fun to read, that's when you know it's a great comic. I mean where else are you going to have a writer put that much effort into a recap page? No where, that's where. That aside, this is yet another strong issue by this duo into making this one of the best comics on the stands today.

What makes this comic so great is that Gillen just knows how to write Loki. Your along for the ride in that you have no idea what Loki is scheming while reading this. So when you have great moments with Surtur or the mysterious benefactor at the end, you have no idea where that's gonna lead until the very end of this story. Now to be clear, Loki isn't a villain in this comic. Far from it and you know that he's got some ulterior motive at the end of the day. So when you see him make a deal with Surtur to destroy Asgard, let's say, you just think to yourself: "Oh Loki's got some way to make sure that doesn't happen.' Again it shows how great Gillen is at writing Loki but also how great he is at writing the Asgardians in general.

I think this is the strongest issue by Doug Braithwaite in that the scope of the issue is pretty vast. Surtur is so massive in these pages that sometimes he can't even fit into a panel. I mean the Hel-Wolf that Loki has had for a couple of issues have been pretty big in terms of scale. So when you see this massive red demon pick the Hel-Wolf up it's pretty impressive. Other moments like Surtur giving Loki his sword, or the final page reveal are also showcases on why Braithwaite's pencils are perfect for this series. What helps is the painted style coloring by Ulises Arreola and Andy Troy. If it wasn't for them then this book wouldn't look half as good aesthetically without them.

So yeah, I really think this is the best Marvel title on the stands right now. Kieron Gillen and Doug Braithwaite have redeemed themselves after their first Thor run by telling a great story with Loki. Gillen is perfect at writing these Asgardian characters and Braithwaite (along with Arreola/Troy on colors) have given us some gorgeous looking issues with the art. This issue is no different by being a pretty damn fun story with Loki once again scheming his way into getting what he wants but not having any idea what the ultimate goal is. I can't wait to see just what Loki has in mind next issue especially with his new 'pal' on his shoulders.

Daredevil #2
Written by: Mark Waid
Art by: Paolo Rivera

Let's face facts here: This comic is magical.

Everything about this book is magical from the writing to the art. Oh my lord how gorgeous is this book? There are so many things to love about the art in this. From the attention to detail of Cap and Daredevil losing a 'horn' from their outfits, to the gorgeous two page spread towards the end of the issue. Hell there's two gorgeous two page spreads in this issue. How can you not look at the first one, with Cap and Daredevil with the constant ribbons floating in the air, and not be like: "Wow!" I'm gonna have that image of Daredevil floating in the air with Cap's shield in my head for a long time. But the pages not involving any superheroes are pretty good too. Basically this comic has an old school aesthetic to it and the coloring by Javier Rodriguez makes it all the more beautiful. Seriously we should give some props to Rodriguez for his incredible colors because the book wouldn't look half as amazing if it wasn't for his colors.

The story is pretty good too, and I feel bad saying this for Mark Waid but, it's really more about the art for me for this series. The mystery involving those robot creatures though is pretty intriguing though. Plus I liked it that a good amount of this book takes place with Daredevil hiding under a fixture to talk to some lawyers. Not sure why but it's a funny image that Waid puts Matt in for the majority of the issue. The conversation with Cap though is a bit of a cheat though. Okay so a demon, like that makes any sense, made Murdock go into 'Shadowland'. Still....he killed a bunch of people! Why would Cap allow that to be a pass? Also, it's clear this book takes place before Fear Itself because Bucky is still alive in this universe. It's a nitpick but still, it's a shame it's so prevalent early on in the issue it did bug me a bit.

God this book is just amazing isn't it? The book has a lively attitude with some gorgeous artists working on this. I don't know if this is the best book overall at Marvel (Journey Into Mystery has that vote for me) but it's quickly getting up there as one of my favorites. It's definitely the most gorgeous looking comic right now at Marvel and probably anywhere else in the industry. I mean look at that cover! That alone should make this pick of the week for me.

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