Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Comic Reviews for September 14th 2011

Green Lantern #1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke

Sometimes you can't go home again.

I remember getting back into comics around 2008, not even remembering who or what a Green Lantern was. Now with Geoff Johns, a slew of artists (mostly Doug Mahnke for me), and a big screen adaptation that seems like a big joke now. But what made me interested in the character, or now universe spanning characters, is how much of a great space opera it was. Johns had so many great ideas and storylines for this entire universe that it was compelling to pick up each issue. But then, around the time of Blackest Night, the sparkle turned into a dimmer which then turned into complete blackness. (See what I did there?) I just couldn't find myself caring about Johns was creating because it felt more like he cared about his 'bigger picture' then actually telling a good story. So with the reboot coming and this new predicament of  being a Green Lantern once more I was excited to see what was their to offer.

Apparently not much was offered in this reader's eyes because this book was nothing but problems by (almost) page one. Where to start....Well I think we should start that it's plain as day that Geoff Johns can't write Hal Jordan even to this day. Before the reboot it was obvious that Johns put him aside for the major storylines and just barely put enough effort to connect him to the story. With Hal now being grounded as a Lantern for the time being it was a real slog to read this. I just don't care about Jordan and Johns writes him in the most boring way possible. I find it really hard to believe a man, who's main power comes from an object and I see little reason why he's so muscular in retrospect, be able to jump across buildings and immediately knock someone down. Even if it was a set up for a (failed) joke it still bordered on the unbelievable which is saying something for a book about space cops. Johns writes Jordan in such a bland, and sometimes annoying, manner that it's hard to really care about his love life or trying to become a member of the Corps again. The strongest moments in this issue are, not surprisingly, the Sinestro stuff but Johns plays so little with that that in the end it feels like the focus of the book is decidedly unbalanced at the moment. The cover and interviews would certainly indicate that Sinestro is the main character this time around and while it makes sense to have Jordan be in the spotlight too, it's bizarre not to have a full blown first issue with mainly Sinestro.

While it's great to see Doug Mahnke back on a book it's also not the best way to see him return. I don't know if it's the inking, which he normally has nine million people ink his work, or the fact that he hasn't drawn Green Lantern in a while but it certainly feels un-Mahnke like. There are occasional moments of brilliance such as Sinestro spying on Korugar and the fight scene that comes after it looks great. But other pages such as straight on shots of Jordan, Carol, or Sinestro are uneasy to look at. Maybe I just didn't pay attention to it before the relaunch but Mahnke does drew some ugly faces in this. Sometimes he draws a ton of wrinkles in one panel, the next it's almost a perfect circle to make it look like a head. Carol immediately looked like a mannequin to me after her reveal page. It might have to do with the fact that Tom Nguyen did some of the inks and not Christian Alamy. Alamy has inked Mahnke for a long time now, and again a ton of other artists have inked for the guy so it's hard to keep count, but when it changes to Nguyen (which is easy to spot) it just looks bad. Maybe Nguyen had to come in to make sure this came out on time (which has to be the case here) and that's a shame. Cause maybe with a little more time the pages could look a bit more even in the end.

Here's the biggest problem with this entire comic. Considering this is a company wide relaunch there is absolutely, and I can say with 100% certainty on this, nothing different about this title. I might have dropped Green Lantern before the reboot but I get the feeling that nothing has changed with Hal, Sinestro, or anyone else in this book. Hell, Ganthet is literally wearing the same outfit from before the reboot with no explanation on why he's so different from the other Guardians. Add to that with a really boring story on Jordan trying to life without the ring, and disappointing artwork by Mahnke overall and you got one very disappointed fan. It seems that Geoff Johns just isn't cut out to write this series anymore and his bland writing on this shows it. Maybe it's time to get a new writer in here and freshen things up, especially for the supposed 'reboot' of this character.

Journey Into Mystery #627
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Rich Elson

I have been loving this title ever since it was called 'Thor' and it was during the 'Siege' tie-ins. Kieron Gillen has been able to tell his own Thorverse story even with events bogging him down. This week we get a break from all the Loki shenanigans and get a one-and-done story about everyone's favorite devil: Mephisto. It though it would've been nice to continue the main story, Mephisto is a character Gillen has written well for the past couple of years now. So seeing a suave, almost British in a way, type of devil for a whole issue should be more then enough for me.

Unfortunately there are two things that bog this issue down for me. First is that this is an enormous, almost to the point of ridiculousness, talking heads issue. By that I mean so much information and conversation are put forth in this comic it's hard to really care what is going on. One moment Mephisto is talking to the Gods, the next he's talking to Nightmare, the next he's back in Hell talking to his minions. It's a whole lot of talking with word balloons that don't seem to ever end. The other problem is Rich Elson's art which looks really rushed. (Especially for the coloring where Rachelle Rosenberg is very inconsistent from panel to panel. Look at the bartender's hair to get my drift) Some panels look really good, like the overall landscape of Hell or Zeus/Odin having an argument. Other times the panels look unfinished or the characters look so ugly it's laughable. Mephisto always looks great which is good considering it's his issue.

It's not the worst issue I've read this year but it's up there as one of the most disappointing. While Gillen has a knack for writing Mephiso (and he does a good job here) the endless exposition and talking heads ruin what could have been a fun issue. Add in some really disappointing art by Rich Elson and this won't make me go out and yell at people to buy this book. (Sorry Ron) But this has been a fun series overall and this is just a mere bump in the road in an otherwise great title. Hopefully the return of the major storyline will bring this title back to grace.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Alberto Ponticelli

After last week's disappointing relaunch of Animal Man, I was hoping Jeff Lemire wouldn't disappoint me twice in one month. Lemire is a fantastic writer and I'd hate to admit that I dropped two of his new #1 books after one go. But this book, Frankenstein, has a lot of promise in that it's a really crazy premise. Frankenstein and a bunch of other monsters team up to fight other monsters? How can I lose?

This is a comic where a good amount of exposition, or just a huge one-shot origin would have made it better. Lemire drops us right into the thick of things with Frankenstein getting introduced to his teammates and overall universe in a nutshell. But Lemire writes it in a way where it all seems common and not new for the readers. Take for example Dr. Frankenstein somehow having the power to generate into a new body (this case being a small, Japanese girl for some reason) and Lemire writes it in a way where he blows it off. I would have loved a more explanation then what is given here. Or how about how these characters came to be in the first place instead of yet another throw away line. Yes I want a crazy book out of this, and it is crazy with a bunch of fight sequences and Lemire throwing everything to the table. But what makes this book different from Thunderbolts, another 'crazy' book, is that Jeff Parker puts a lot of planning into his pages while Lemire seemed to go writing this and see if will play in the end. It doesn't help that Frankenstein doesn't get much to do here other then being the 'reader' in this case for being introduced to everything he would obviously know at this point. His constant 'My God!' or it's variations got on my nerves quite quickly.

Alberto Ponticelli surprised me in that his style is remarkably similar to Jeff Lemire's. While it isn't a full, 100% likeness to Lemire's art it does beg the question: Why didn't Lemire draw this series in the first place? Considering how quickly he can draw an issue of Sweet Tooth it would seem to be a no brainer to let him draw at least one of these books. Maybe he just had no time considering of the massive workload he has right now. Anyways, back to Ponticelli. On one hand I like Ponticelli because of the Lemire comparison and his double page spreads of the huge action sequences are nicely done. But there is a lot of sketchiness to this, in a way that doesn't make me like it in a Jeff Lemire sort of way. The anatomy and facial structure are very lose with Frankenstein's head seemingly shrinking or enlarging in size in every panel. Dr. Frankenstein also looks pretty weird going from a Japanese school girl to a an American school girl with no rhyme or reason. It's another instance where an inker would've been better in this case because if I learned from the art in Animal Man is that not all artists can ink themselves and do it well. The coloring is pretty good though by Jose Villarrubia which again might link to the Lemire likeness since he also colors Sweet Tooth.

Even though this wasn't a bad book by any means, it's a solid 3-star in my mind, I don't think I'm going to stick with it. Lemire is obviously having fun with this and I'm sure the action is going to come fast and heavy with this title. But it feels like Lemire is just doing individual moments of action instead of making a coherent narrative. (Plus with practically no explanation for a lot of what's going on it's hard to care in my mind) Add in some rough (but not terrible) artwork by Ponticelli and it's a pretty inconsistent title for me. It's an obvious 'trade wait' title in my mind and while I'll be more then happy to wait to read this I'm a bit upset that this didn't 'wow' me enough for an ongoing read.

Sorry Jeff.

Daredevil #3
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Paolo Rivera

One of the hardest things I imagine a comic book writer faces is trying to bring back decades old characters in the modern universe. The ideas behind some of the early creations of Marvel are so crazy it's got to be impossible to make sense of them for the audience. Sometimes a heavy reboot or different character all together is in order to get anything out of them. Give credit to Mark Waid though for doing none of that. He decided to go full gusto on resurrecting a forgotten villain with: Klaw.

Now I know nothing about Klaw from his powers to his origin (although a little research says it's a Lee/Kirby idea). A pure 60's character if I ever saw one, Mark Waid had the task to make the first real villain of this run be an obscure character. Waid is somehow able to make this idea work by giving us only glimpses of Klaw and how he works. In the beginning we see a complicated series of wires and other technology and little else. Then when Daredevil is fleeing away from Klaw we get little of how Klaw is actually fighting him since Daredevil is literally blind (he can't see from his sonar vision) and Rivera designs the pages where we see little of him as well. So with that design choice Waid basically goes for the mysterious approach for the character and it really works in the long run. We get a great chase scene out of it and with that we go right back into the main problem of the arc with Murdock trying to get back his career. Without revealing much, Waid is going to do some interesting stories out of it and I'll be amazed to see how far he can go with this new 'career path' for Murdock.

What else can be said about Rivera that hasn't been said already? He opens the issue perfectly with a unique panel layout of the contraption Daredevil is stuck in. Plus the effects of the Klaw clones being slightly transparent is a nice touch.  There's also some great lighting effects in this from the 'Klaw' helmet to Daredevil's busted sonar vision. Again it must be said that the creative team behind this book is practically flawless with Rivera, Rivera's dad doing the inks, to Rodriguez's beautiful color palette. It's so gorgeous to look that, that it's hard to think of new things to say in this review!

It's only been three issues but I think that it's easy to say this is the best Marvel title on the stands right now. No offense to the creators of FF or Journey Into Mystery but....well it's really hard to compete isn't it? Perfect writing with perfect art is one tough act to follow month in and month out. I don't buy the idea that this book is the template for a 'Marvel reboot' to compete against DC. But if there is one thing to go with this title is that Marvel should pay attention to this title critically. If this is the best reviewed book for the company then there might be a reason for it. Which is: A care in writing and art and not throwing things together and call it a comic book.

Batman and Robin #1
Writer: Peter Tomasi
Artist: Patrick Gleason

Earlier I complained that Green Lantern failed because it literally did nothing to differentiate itself from the previous version. Well....Sometimes I do contradict myself it must be said. Because other then Batman going back to Bruce Wayne in this title, nothing is different about this book. You would think that this would be a bad thing right? But with Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason back together again the same truth is that....I don't care.

It really feels like these two didn't miss a step once they left a few months ago. Tomasi, once again, introduces a new villain who is both unique and ultimately terrifying at the same time. We only get a glimpse at who this 'Nobody' is but suffice to say that he's an intriguing villain who dispatches his enemies in disturbing ways. (The final page sequence is something I didn't see coming) With regards to Bruce and Damien, there is a completely new take on Bruce in this and I'm not sure if people will realize it right away. Bruce is essentially changing his motto from focusing on death to being more update and living for life. It might be a bit controversial for some (especially for major Batman fans) but I like the way Tomasi handles it. By making it the focus of his parents it'll keep the idea of Batman still strong without making it feel like an arbitrary change. Also, Tomasi does suffer a tad with making Damien go back to square one in his attitude. The changes he made throughout the old Batman & Robin run is practically gone so now he's back to being uptight and downright nasty again. But since it's a relaunch the change in attitude makes sense and hey it also makes sense  that Damien isn't all that comfortable running around with his Dad yet. I'm sure over time Damien will be back to what he was before the relaunch and for now he reads perfectly fine.

Then we have Patrick Gleason back on art and boy how I've missed him. The opening sequence of the Russian Batman being taken out by 'Nobody' was so great to look at. He puts a real effort in the layouts of his panel and his action sequences are some of the best in the industry. I would love to get a poster of that two-page spread of Batman and Robin kicking the bad guys in the face. (Sans lame joke that Damien says) The coloring does look a bit different though at times which threw me off just a tiny bit. It's not Alex Sinclair so maybe that's why it looks a bit weird to me. It's not a deal breaker but it is noticeable. But hey, when you got pages of a sub-sphere swimming through a pool, to someone dying in acid it's hard to complain.

So yes, I loved this book for the same reason that I hate another nuDCU book earlier. With the combo of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason though it's hard to find much faults in the book. Tomasi is putting a subtle new spin on Bruce Wayne and it'll be interesting to see where it goes from here. Even with Damien going back to square one Tomasi is able to keep it fresh without making it annoying to read. With Gleason art it's gorgeous to look at from the first page to the last. If this is how Batman and Robin is going to be for the near future then I'm all aboard for this 'new' take on the dynamic duo.

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