Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Comic Reviews for August 24th 2011

Batman Incorporated #8
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Scott Clark with Dave Beatty

Although the series, and notion, of Batman Incorporated isn't going anywhere with the reboot it is disappearing for a little bit. With that said we have the 'final' issue of the first volume (sans a double sized one shot apparently coming out this Fall, but nothing mentioned in the solicitations) this week and it's got a lot to live up to from the incredible seventh issue. Grant Morrison seems to finally be giving us the title that was hinted at when first announced: An action packed, somewhat Silver Age return to Batman but still having those big ideas to tell the stories. For the 'last' issue of this run we have the debut of something called 'Internet 3.0'....Now that's a Morrison idea if I ever heard one.

Here's the thing about this issue, and it's ultimate downfall: The art. Geez whiz....How can I explain this without going into a fit of rage? Well it's ambitious that's as much of a positive comment as I can make. Now on one hand, it totally makes sense for this entire issue to be drawn digitally. Hell you can see this type of digital style all over the internet that make 'webcomics' based on this program. But on the other hand: It's almost near impossible at times to tell what the hell is going on. At one time a dog magically appears in the comic and I can't even fathom how and why it happens. It certainly is a colorful looking comic (which maybe is what Dave Beatty does in this issue, I don't know the roles are specified) but at times it makes the issue even worse to look at. I feel like I'm gonna go blind when seeing the bright pinks or yellows peppered throughout the comic. Maybe someone will like how this comic looks, I don't know. All I know is that if this is the future of comic books then I'm out.

The story for the most part is what you expect for a Morrison comic. It's confusing and sometimes hard to follow. To be fair, if the art was more comprehensible I don't think the comic would be that hard to understand. I do like the idea of the 'zombie terrorists' being malware viruses and it's nice to see Morrison take a stab at Stephanie (Batgirl). However, her avatar looks so much like Batwoman I'm confused why Morrison didn't just make it Kate Kane at the end.

I'm sure glad there is more Batman Incorporated in the future. Because if this was somehow the final issue of the series I'd be might pissed. Again it might sound good on paper to make an 'Internet 3.0' issue be drawn fully digitally, but the execution makes this one pain in the ass comic to look at. It's ugly at times and the action  from panel to panel makes no sense to me. The story is fine enough for a Morrison comic but the art makes the story even more confusing then it already is. I'm excited to hear the ninth and tenth issues of the first volume being turned into a massive one-shot before 2012. But at the end of the day this is a bad way to end a volume for a big comic such as this.

Xombi #6
Written by: John Rozum
Art by: Frazier Irving

The only title that I'm gonna miss with the DCU reboot is Xombi. It's the little title that could in that I had literally no expectations for this thing when it was announced. Hell I didn't even know it was considered a continuation of a previous story until an interview the day before the release. It also puzzles me that this was never considered to be a Vertigo title. Maybe the previous volume had ties to the DCU but with literally no connection with the heroes of today, there seems to be no reason to not start (or continue) the series as a Vertigo print. But as it stands this is the final issue of Xombi vol.2 with John Rozum and having some of the best work of Frazier Irving to date. How does this final issue fair out?

Overall this issue does end the series on a high note even though it's clear the story had to be rushed a bit. But Rozum handles it in a way where the ending feels natural and not forced. Maybe this story wasn't destined to end after only six issues but Rozum makes it feel like this was a one and done series. There's also a ton of crazy ideas thrown in for the finale. We got 'blood mummies' wrapped in spider silk, flying demons with eyes for heads, and 'Dental Phantoms' that use ticker tape to talk. It's stuff like that that made this series for what it is: Crazy as hell but a lot of fun. There's also a ton of action in this that balances the obvious (and massive) amount of exposition to finish the story. But again Rozum is able to make it work in the end and I am pretty much satisfied on how it ended.

I said it before but I'll say it again: Frazier Irving did his best work with this series. He's able to handle all the craziness with the script and makes it look so beautiful. You got the obvious, and bizarre, coloring style Irving uses that makes this issue a highlight. Again I doubt any sane artist would use pinks, blues, or reds the way Irving does. But the creatures look great, the effects like explosions look really good, and overall Irving makes everything visually interesting without making it just a lot of boring exposition panels. Although to give one sort of nitpick in this pretty fantastic look issue; it's clear Irving reused the first page of the first issue in the ending and did nothing to change it. It's a bit of a cheat that I couldn't really let it slide.

So while I hope that one day we'll see these two guys work on Xombi again in the future, I'm not gonna hold my breath. Even still, this final issue sums up everything about this entire run. It's fun, gorgeous to look at, and it was one of the most creative comics on the stands today. Maybe it'll be more likely to see Rozum and Irving work on 'a' title and not this series ever again. Either way you need to do yourself a favor and grab these six issues or get the trade when it comes out. If you don't you'll be missing out what could be one of the top five comics of 2011. (Well at least in my opinion anyways)

Batman: Gates of Gotham #5
Story by: Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins
Written by: Kyle Higgins and Ryan Parrott
Art by: Trevor McCarthy
Layouts by: Graham Nolan

The last issue of this mini had a big change to it with a set of different writers and artists taking over. I still have no idea who Ryan Parrott is and he isn't even listed on the cover which is weird. What made that a bad thing in my eyes is that issues #1-3 clearly had Snyder's voice in the story but Higgins was doing a good job translating it to his own writing. With Parrott taking over for issue #4 I sensed no input with Snyder which isn't a good thing. Dustin Nguyen and Derec Donovan took over as artists and now we have Trevor McCarthy back for the final issue. So in short: None of these changes in creators make sense (except for Snyder for obvious reboot news) and it hurt the mini. But now everything seems to be back on track for the final issue so how is this gonna end?

Even though Parrott is still credited as writer for this issue, it definitely feels like Snyder got a few cracks of dialogue for this final issue. It makes sense since he's been giving us some cryptic clues to connect this mini with the rest of his Batman work. Dick monolouging  in his head during the big fight and the final talk with Dick and Bruce feels like something out of a Detective Comics issue. But I'm sure Higgins and Parrott put a lot into this comic when it comes to the final confrontations and the big twist at the end of the issue. It's basically a fun little end to a fun little mini with some brilliant moments by Snyder to cap it all off. Maybe it didn't need to take five issues to tell the story (especially with the really weak twist in my opinion) but overall this issue makes me glad I picked it up in issues instead of a trade.

Again Trevor McCarthy is back for the final issue and before you groan (if you don't like him that is) it definitely feels like there was a good reason to not do issue #4. This might be the best issue I've seen of McCarthy in the entire mini. There is a fantastic two page sequence involving the two big set pieces and it's handled really well. It makes the tension that much more exciting and it shows a lot of creativity on McCarrthy's part. Although to be fair the layout artist, Graham Nolan, might've had to do a lot with that (and other great pages) so credit should be given to him too. Also, the flashback pages have been the highlights of each issue and this is no different. Hopefully we see this style used more often in old timey flashbacks.

At the end of the day, this might not have been the strongest mini-series to come out. The erratic change of creators mid-run and a pretty standard villain didn't make it the most memorable. But there are some great Snyder moments in this final issue that only Snyder can write. Plus Higgins and Parrot do a great job pacing the action of the book with some great art by McCarthy and Nolan. This final issue is definitely the strongest of the bunch and I guess in the long run you guys reading this review will enjoy the trade when it comes out whenever. (More likely 2013 at this rate in the trade program)

Chew #20
Written by: John Layman
Art by: Rob Guillory

You know what this issue made me think of? When in the history of entertainment; whether it be comics, movies, TV, etc; have undercover operation ever work out? No matter what happens something always goes wrong and the batting average of a successful operation seems to be zero. Anyways, after what seems like forever since the last issue we finally have an issue to look over in enormous detail. I prefer a microscope myself. So what does this issue have in store with us?

Well surprising little in terms of the story. For a final issue of an arc it definitely doesn't reveal much of anything. It reintroduces a character, possibly kills him/her off, and then tells us nothing about the signals in the sky. It makes for a weird issue to critique because while it should frustrate me that after twenty issues we still have no clue what the overall story is yet for the series, I can't see myself doing it. There are so many great jokes in the script by Layman and it's a fun issue to read overall that the overall story complaints can't really be thought by me while reading. I am loving the new technique by Layman to have a panel show us a glimpse view of the future and bringing it around for a joke. I've never seen in done in a comic before so maybe it's original? It's still funny anyways.

The art is obviously the highlight of this issue. Sure after seeing the forth double page spread in a row it might cause some people to go 'Come on!' and get on with it. But Guillory just makes everything look so beautiful but so cartoony at the same time. The pages involving Mason does have a gritty, or 'noir' feel to them (sans the double page spreads) but it still involves a man with a huge gut and the skinniest guy you can imagine. But the pages involving Tony are so animated that it feels like your seeing stills of a cartoon at times. Unfortunately I'm not turning my issue around in different angles to look at jokes because there isn't as much as last issue. There are some good ones to be sure (notice the posters inside the FDA's briefing room) but overall Guillory put a lot of detail into the layouts more so then adding jokes. Not a negative though so don't get confused with that by the way.

This is yet another solid issue by Layman and Guillory. While it might not be as memorable as issue #19 it does have a lot of great jokes and gorgeously drawn sequences to make you not care about last issue. This series has just been a lot of fun since the first issue and it doesn't seem like this series will ever miss a beat. Considering how this issue ends we may get a lot of intrigue with the next story arc.

Deadpool #42
Written by: Daniel Way
Art by: Carlos Barberi

Once again props should go to Dave Johnson for such a great cover. I really think he's the best cover artist in the business today. His ideas for covers, especially for this series, are so imaginative and I'm sure you couldn't get another artist to come up with covers like these. Anyways, on the site I said that this particular issue had to be downright perfect for me to continue and guess what? It wasn't perfect. But can you also guess this? I'm actually going to continue this series.

Before you roll your eyes and say I'm suffering from 'Deadpoolitis' (also known as X-Menitis which Ron suffers from) I will say that this issue had a lot going for it. I loved the opening sequence of this issue with Deadpool being a slob of a 'husband' to Death. It was a nice series of images and it got me thinking that Death has rotten luck with men. Death is still a female in Marvel continuity and if her idea of men are Thanos and Deadpool then she needs to raise her standards a bit. Further on we get a nice action sequence in this with a riot and it's handled pretty well. The issue does suffer a bit from an overly long explanation of Foolkiller getting parole....Or is he? Plus I realized how much I missed the narration boxes because it hasn't been used in a while and there are some good jokes in here.

Carlos Barberi also delivers some pretty good looking pages. With the sequences I already mentioned he puts a good amount of detail into each page. A lot of blood, are in these pages with some shocking skeletons to be shown too. I definitely liked how over the top the tazering was in this issue. Also there's a nice nod to previous adventures of Deadpool with his 'reruns' in the opening sequence. A nice Easter Egg if you can see it. The only problem I had with the art was that Dr. Whitbee still looks pretty inconsistent. The script actually mentions she is suppose to be 'ugly' (in Deadpool's standards) but her looks constantly change from page to page.

So while the issue wasn't perfect, this issue was pretty damn good overall. I wasn't expecting anything out of this after two previous, poor outings. But this issue had a good amount of strong jokes and also good action sequences as well. Maybe this issue only gave it one more shot for me in the long run, maybe I won't be reading this title a couple of months in time. In the end it's nice to see that Daniel Way has some surprises up his sleeve to make the decision of dropping all the more painful to decide for a huge fan like myself.

FF #8 (Sorry couldn't find a cover)
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Steve Epting

Hold on give me a minute here.....

*Shutters in Ecstasy*

Oh yeah that's the stuff.

You know how sometimes when you see something you love, that feels like it's been gone for a long time, comes back to you? And then all of a sudden you get this brief feeling of joy? Well maybe it's just me but....God damn how great is it that Steve Epting is back on this series? Seriously, after two issues of TERRIBLE work by Greg Tocchini we finally have 'the' guy back on this series. It didn't take long to make me love Epting all over again.

You open the book and you get these great pages of the Inhumans attacking the Attalians with the Evil Reed Richards. There is so much going on in those pages you gotta really look at them in detail to see every individual fight going on in the battle. Plus you see all of these homages to Jack Kirby in these pages throughout it's almost like the spirit of Kirby is in Epting. (Of course Epting will take all the credit) But Epting also manages these great character moments throughout. The pages with Susan question Nathaniel over the course of the story (so far) has a lot of great reaction shots you normally wouldn't see in comics. It's like seeing storyboards for a movie in seeing what you want the actors to emote in the scene. Finally, Epting handles the 'poster' like moments really good too. The pages with the 'Evil FF', or Black Bolt's return, to the final page reveal are handled as dramatic as you can imagine.

The story goes back on track too with Hickman finally going back to the story at hand. I'm not sure why but I love the Evil Reed Richard's. They have a lot of great lines in this issue with one being REALLY happy to see Dr. Doom appear considering their previous histories with other Dooms. Again the sequence with Susan and Nathaniel talking is the best moment of the comic. A lot of tension with these pages and I'm so sure there is more to Nathaniel then meets the eye. But there are also some great moments with The Wizard, The Mad Thinker, and Doom himself that I would kill to see a 'Council of Doom' comic by Hickman. (Instead of FF turning into the kid's series in the future) Hickman is just perfect for all of these characters it's amazing. I haven't had fun with a Fantastic Four comic since....well since re-reading the Lee/Kirby books. (I'm not a fan of a lot of the 'classic' runs of FF)

Maybe I made this POTW because the 'orgasmic' return of Steve Epting. (Sink that image for a minute) Maybe it isn't the strongest issue by these two in both iterations of the series. But this issue was just a lot of fun and Epting returning gives us some really damn good looking pages. It took a long time for me to accept this change in the team but I think it's finally set in for me. Even with a two issue hiccup it's the most fun Marvel comic you'll have to read right now. Let's hope Hickman has a long time, a very long time, with this family even with the 'finale' of the FF coming soon.

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