Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Comic Reviews for September 7th 2011

Secret Avengers #16
Written by: Warren Ellis
Art by: Jamie McKelvie

This book has been faltering for quite some time now. Ed Brubaker gave us a fun, if not flawed, twelve issues and Nick Spencer just....well let's just forget about Nick Spencer. So with no direction in sight it feels like the Avengers book I only really liked is gonna end soon. But we have salvation my friends! First we have Warren Ellis come back to the Marvel Universe. While he may not enjoy writing mainstream comics anymore, his last few have been pretty good. Also we have a cornucopia of artists for the next six issues starting with Jamie McKelvie on this issue. That should be more then enough to pique anyone's interest right?

This is a no brainier for me: This book rocks. Everything about this comic works for me from the story to the art. First we have Ellis writing a pretty good cast of characters. Black Widow reminds me of Elsa Bloodstone, who is prim and snobby but it's entertaining with Ellis's writing. Then you have a good 'mad scientist' with Beast, and finally a stoic Captain America who is always to the point. Moon Knight is involved with the book as well but to be honest he doesn't do much for him other then to point the story forward. Overall though the plot is entertaining with the Secret Avengers trying to stop the Shadow Council from razing Cincinnati with a time machine. What really makes this issue work for me though is the incredible artwork by McKelvie. Everything is so sharp and colorful to look at, even in a grey-ish abandoned city. That two page spread of that said city is the best sequence in the entire book. The scope of it from how tiny Moon Knight is in comparison is amazing. There are some times where I think McKelvie draws Rogers or Natasha to be smug when they shouldn't be. (Roger's "looks" more British if that makes sense). But it's 99.9% perfection for me in this case.

This is the best issue of the title in a very long time. Whether Warren Ellis likes it or not he is great at writing superheroes. Almost everyone in this book has the voice of Ellis but just enough of their own characterization without making them feel like strangers. Plus he has some amazing ideas in what is only a one-and-done issue (for now). Add in some of the best work I've seen from Jamie McKelvie and you got yourself one grade 'A' comic. It's a shame we don't have McKelvie doing the whole run but I'll be saying that for the next five months. Bring on Kev Walker!

Animal Man #1
Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Travel Foreman

I'll be brutally honest with you guys right now: I have not read Grant Morrison's Animal Man run. I know, I know shame on me. It's not like I don't want to read anything by Morrison, it's just that I am not really interesting in a book starring Animal Man. The character to me feels like a very lame 60s hero (which he is) where the creators gave him a routine power. Maybe having the power of any animal could lead to interesting stories, but I just don't see it. So when the time came for the new 52's to be announced I was surprised to see Lemire's name on an Animal Man book. So far Lemire has won me over with Sweet Tooth, Superboy, Essex County, and the like. So it's definitely a step in the right direction for this series.

Unfortunately what ultimately fails this book, and the big problem I had with it, was the art. I've never heard Travel Foreman before and my only judge of his work is that horrible Loki cover he did last year. So right off the bat my first impression of him before opening the book is pretty iffy. Opening the book, and it pains me to say this but, I don't think Foreman is a very capable artist. On the surface it all looks fine, character models in one panel look decent enough and he emotes the characters very well. Also, Lemire seems to have the knack of getting artists who are creative in panel layouts. (I guess if Lemire can't do the art like that he'll find someone close) But then you really look at these pages and you see the mistakes throughout. Basically, Foreman does not draw these characters on model from the first to last page. Once in a while a character will look 'okay'; but their facial structures, to anatomy, to their eyes are all over the place. Sometimes Foreman will use a 'manga' effect for the eyes (see Maxine on page four) other times they'll just be simple circles with a dot to express pupils. Buddy just doesn't look the same from panel to panel so when the big moment of the issue comes with his eyes; I couldn't tell if it was that serious since he never looks the same. (Although bleeding from the eyes is kinda fucked up) Maybe it's because he had to ink himself for the most part because the inking does seem to change once and a while (Dan Green helps with inks). I would like to see how Foreman's pages look outside of his own inks. I bet there will be a 100% improvement if that were to happen.

The story itself is pretty good for the most part. Lemire is always great at writing stories about families and relationships and that seems to be the crux of this run from the start. Buddy is a very good father and husband with his relationship with his daughter Maxine being the strongest. (Obviously more of her 'powers' will be discussed after that final page) But I think Lemire doesn't do much to really convey the powers of Buddy. Or maybe that's because Foreman fails to really showcase them, it's hard to tell. But when Buddy does go to his animal powers it does nothing for me. I never get the sense he becomes a Rhino to deflect bullets or be a dog to scare someone. (He just looks like a guy who barks like a dog) If you take those moments away all I know for certain is that Buddy can fly. And that to me is very boring once you boil it down to that.

This was officially the first DC 52 book I read and I'm sorry to say it disappointed me. The art by Foreman, in my eyes anyways, was atrocious from beginning to end. There might be some 'okay' panels here and there but for the most part the comic is inconsistent and pretty ugly. Maybe it was his inks again but for the most part another artist should have sufficed. With the story, Lemire puts a good foundation on why family is important but the superhero aspect of Buddy is pretty generic in my view. (Also I got a huge Sweet Tooth retread with the fantasy). Ultimately I will not be giving Animal Man a second issue which is a shame. It might not have been the most anticipated book out of the new 52, but Lemire's comics never steer me wrong.

Sweet Tooth #25
Written and Drawn by: Jeff Lemire

If only we could 'rub the blood' on this cover!

I'm amazed that this series has lasted for over two years and twenty five issues. Because it's such a strange story and a slow burn at that. But if there's one thing that's completely accurate (and don't argue with me) is that comic fans have patience. Sure some issues have been really fast to read and the story crawls along at points, but Lemire is really telling a good story in the long haul and that's what important.

In this issue we get a conclusion of sorts with Gus getting shot, Jepperd dealing with his friends and Walter, and what's next for these group of survivors. Each storyline in the issue is handled pretty well and they get their own time without taking over one another. My only gripe about the story is that I find it very hard to believe to trust Walter in any shape or form. Yes his apparent disability would make you believe he's okay; but you know Lemire has added some elements to him to make him 'unhinged' in a lot of ways. So who would I rather be with? An unhinged paraplegic or a walking, killing machine? That answer is simple enough. The art by Lemire is strong as always but there was another thing that bugged me about the issue. He uses the watercolor effect like he did last time to distinguish the real world and Gus's fantasy. But he doesn't offer much reasoning behind it like he did last time. Don't get me wrong, I like the style of it and it makes the book be distinguished from other comics. But there are no real visuals to go with it like last time. It's mostly talking heads in both the dream and real world so not much can be done to visually showcase the issue.

Maybe this series suffers from being a slow burn, but I enjoy the series none the less. In this issue we get some good revelations to keep me interested in the future of the series and some more good art by Lemire. It's just a shame that there isn't much visually interesting, like layouts or designs, from previous issues to make this issue truly memorable. It's a solid book all around with no real hiccups along the way. That makes it a good comic in my book.

Thunderbolts #163
Written by: Jeff Parker
Art by: Kev Walker

For me, there were two issues packed into this one comic. I'll critique both to be fair:

For one part of the comic we get MASSIVE exposition to not only get us away from Fear Itself but to explain the new situation with the T-Bolts. While Parker is more then able to keep this interesting I was wondering what happened to the exciting, no hold barred, Jeff Parker from the previous issues. Especially after doing a successful tie-in arc for Fear Itself. Again getting a feel for where this series is gonna go now is fine enough and Parker does a good job. But this comic can get boring to read sometimes and I felt like I said 'get on with it' a lot. At least Kev Walker's pencils make it pretty damn gorgeous to read.

Then we get to the second comic in this issue and before I confuse you more, yes this is all just one story. But then we get a big, action packed second half to this comic and that's where the issue comes alive. It's a big creepy to say, but others have said it before, Nazi's though somehow make a comic better. It's because they are such easy targets and not likable at all so you'll have more fun seeing them get killed. The moment the team realizes they are back in time and Nazi's are attacking them; that's when the book comes alive. There's a moment I literally giggled with delight as Satana goes full out demoness on the soldiers. When the action gets going this comic turns into a whole other comic. That and Kev Walker just makes it look so much fun. Again Satana is going postal on Nazi's which looks great (I like the effect of the 'ghosts' of Allie's attacking Nazi's), Moonstone is shooting anything that moves, and Troll spearing anything that moves looks pretty too.

I was worried for a bit about this comic. After the huge Fear Itself tie-in, I thought Parker had to tone down the action of the comic to explain what is going on. While I didn't mind the huge exposition scenes, I also didn't miss them once the T-Bolts started fighting some Nazi's. Considering Kev Walker makes this a gorgeous looking book as always the second half of this book is more then enough for me to enjoy a comic. Now that we know where we're at with the team, and what time period they're in, I know Jeff Parker is gonna make this an extremely fun arc. Can't wait to some Nazi's getting killed by Man-Thing when the time comes!

Swamp Thing #1
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Yanick Paquette

Unless you don't have the computer (if that's the case then how are you reading this!?) then you know all about Scott Snyder's love of Swamp Thing. Well that and his continuation on Batman, but like that he had an epic Twitter 'rant' about his goals and expectations for Swamp Thing. Now, unlike Animal Man, I've read a lot of Swamp Thing comics so I definitely know the backstory for the character. Also, I'm not gonna try and compare Snyder's first issue with Alan Moore's run because that would be a disservice to Scott. It's a bit risky to do a Swamp Thing comic though, in that I can't imagine a lot of today's readers know who or what Swamp Thing is. But hey that's the point of this comic and clearly Snyder has the entire universe to make this his own baby.

And what a baby this comic is. Boy I was a bit worried about this comic especially after reading the disappointing first issue of Animal Man. Here though Snyder is able to not only give us a sizeable history lesson of Swamp Thing, but he's able to make it entertaining too. I'm not lying when I say there is a lot of exposition in here; Snyder basically has to give us the entire history of the character (or the sparknotes anyways) in the span of twenty pages. It's no easy feat but he's able to accomplish this. First he does it by making Alec Holland a pretty interesting character. He obviously did his research with botany and has made Holland a smart character in the world of plants. He also gives us a pretty interesting conversation with Holland and Superman; and with this being his first ever stab at Superman he does a pretty good job. Finally he brings the 'fucked up' or 'disturbing' elements towards the very end with some....creature. He only gives us a glimpse of what this thing is but not only is it disturbing but I know I can never see a fly the same way again.

What could've been the deal break for me in this issue is surprisingly a real high point for me. Yanick Paquette on Batman Incorporated was not the strongest in my opinion. A lot had to do with his inking because he inks himself and sometimes the lines he makes can be too thick. When I first opened the book I was pissed because I saw that same problem and I was prepared to see it for the rest of the issue. But give credit where credit is due; Paquette immediately stops this after the first page. Even if most of the issue is talking heads he is able to make the characters look visually interesting and not have any inking problems. You then have pages like the opening two page spread or the reveal of that 'thing' and it balances the issue with visually interesting moments. Nathan Fairburn's colors can be a bit too muted at times but I think it fits with the overall 'dread' feeling of the book. However the thing I will nitpick on is the panel layouts. At times they can be a bit confusing to follow. The one sequence where the flies are attacking the people (don't ask, read it) I couldn't tell how to follow it. It doesn't happen to often but in the one critical moment of the book it was a shame it happened there.

So count me in for this new run on Swamp Thing. Scott Snyder's epic Twitter rant has, so far, lived up to expectations. He clearly has a great voice for Alec Holland and he's done his research for the character. Paquette's pencils are really good too with no real inking problems to speak of but there is a layout problem towards the end that hampers the issue a bit. On the whole though this is a very good debut issue for the two and I can't wait on where Snyder is gonna take us. I will say one thing: he's made me scared of flies...

Action Comics #1
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Rags Morales

For me, this is the comic that will make or break the DC 52. Before this relaunch we had seventy-three consecutive issues with over nine-hundred issues to claim. (Yes Detective Comics has had just as many issues and years as a comic. But to me, Action Comics has a much bigger lore in history then Detective) Now we have not only a new volume for the biggest title in the company, but we have a whole new take on the Man of Steel. The good news is that legendary writer, and the most badass Scot in history, Grant Morrison. It's a weird mix to be sure with a new Superman with Grant Morrison (known for 'killing' Superman in All-Star) to get the ball rolling.

For my money, this is the perfect way to introduce Superman to new readers. This is a completely new Superman and Clark Kent for us to read. This Superman is cocky, smug, and too sure of himself. It's kinda like how Frank Miller introduced a young Batman in 'All Star Batman' but much, MUCH more toned down. It really works for me though because I'm tired of seeing the always perfect or too nice Sups running around the DCU. Yes I know this takes place long before anything else in the newDCU but I hope we see this personality bleed into JLA, Superman, and other titles. More on this series we get introduction to other mainstays like Luthor, Lois, and Jimmy Olsen. But Morrison doesn't put much focus on them except for Luthor, who to be honest had an All-Star vibe to him especially on how he's introduced. Instead Morrison just keeps his focus on Superman and how he's constantly getting attacked by the army. I like that Superman isn't fully trusted by the world yet so we'll see what type of stories he'll get to play with down the road.

For the most part Rags Morales draws a pretty damn good issue to start the new Action Comics. He's able to draw the quieter moments with Clark while also handling the seemingly endless parade of army men for Sups to fight. Moments like Sups using the wrecking ball or handling the sequence of dropping 'Mr. Glenmorgan' are handled nicely. However, it's plain obvious that Morales had to rush to get this issue done in time. Towards the end of the issue, or maybe even starting at the second half, I noticed Sups's face being contorted a bit or the placement of characters seemed a bit lazy. Plus I didn't quite understand what was happening in the train with Lois and Jimmy. Were they following the right guy or did this guy always come packing heat in a moving train? It makes sense why Brent Anderson has to come in for future issues because thirty plus pages are too much for his schedule. But again what is here, for the most part, is pretty damn good looking.

So the art had to be rushed a tiny bit, but it doesn't hurt my overall thoughts of the issue. Morrison made this issue work for me from the beginning with his characterization of Superman. He's cocky and dangerous; a great mix to give us new stories for the new DCU. It's also the most straightforward comic I've read of Morrison in a while. But I wonder when the over the top ideas are going to come into play as we go on. I have a good feeling that I'll never see the day when/if Action Comics Vol. 2 will reach nine-hundred issues. All I know is that it's exciting to get the first ever issue and it's a solid one at that.

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