Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Comic Reviews for October 12th 2011

S.H.I.E.L.D. vol.2 #3
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Dustin Weaver

Alright I gotta level with you guys on this issue: I am totally undecided on whether to drop this or not. It has been a year and a half now with nine issues to its credit and I don't know what the point is. Jonathan Hickman is a man with a ton of ideas and his creativity is what got me to be a fan in the first place. But after this issue, it's clear as day that there is no story here. This entire issue, sans one panel and a final page, there is no dialogue in this. The Celestial Baby, which has been an obscure part of this entire run so far, has grown to Godzilla like proportions and is now wrecking havoc in the hidden city. While I'll get to the incredible art in a minute, the issue overall reeks of laziness. We presumably only have three more issues to go before this entire story ends and Hickman only gives us this massive fight scene. It's frustrating because I still have no idea why I should care about anything in this book. From the pointless main character whose name I don't even remember (even the solict doesn't bother to mention him) to the more bizarre mathematical portion at the end; nothing makes sense. Why did we have to spend an entire issue on this predicament when bigger things are obviously dire right now?

The only thing that justifies this issue, and makes me uncertain on my future on the book, is the art by Dustin Weaver. Good lord did he knock it out of the park with this issue. I can certainly see why a bi-monthly schedule is needed when Weaver is doing wonderful stuff like this. The detail in the destruction in each page is staggering. You can see individual cracks in buildings, debris falling everywhere, and energy particles just scream 'Kirby' in each panel. Sonia Oback's color really helps with this issue because the energy wouldn't be there without the bright colors. Lots of oranges, blues, and purples to indicate who is shooting what and we never lose track of what is going on. Well in a staging sense it might be a bit confusing; but I lay that more on Hickman because his definition on what the forgettable main character's powers are. I really am starting to think that this series is still around because of the art. Because it obviously isn't for the wealth of story being offered each issue.

I just find it amazing that people are enjoying the story out of this series. Now I don't mean that you can't like this comic, because lord knows there is one massive thing to like about this series. The title wouldn't be even 3/4ths the comic it is without Dustin Weaver's brilliant layouts and detail and this issue is no different. He certainly is trying to go for the Eisner with this issue that's for sure. But to like the story, more specifically the writing, baffles me. There is no story here! It's just a collection of half baked ideas somehow being mixed into a two volume series. The fact that nothing really happens in this issue expect for a long fight scene is pretty frustrating. When you put the poor storytelling on one hand and put it up against the brilliant artwork; you can see why I am torn on dropping this or not. I guess maybe my sickness for Hickman in general might keep this in my pile just to see it how it ends. But like all sicknesses, it's going to take a lot of medication to bare with it.

FF #10
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Barry Kitson

Unlike the last Hickman book I reviewed this week, I know certainly well what to expect with a FF book. So far Hickman has written himself a damn fine Fantastic Four run. Every issue that comes out is full of drama and action you would come to expect from Marvel's first family. Last issue ended a bit weirdly though with Reed, Nathaniel, and Spider-Man seemingly walking into a portal to go to where they are needed. I was curious on just what Hickman was going for with that ending and I thought it was going to go somewhere big. But I was wrong.

It was quite obvious that portal for the three characters purpose was to get them where they need to be (A mini Deus Ex Machina if you will) and Hickman had no idea how to get them there in the first place. So the issue has this weird feel to it because the time gap between issues is a bit big and sudden. Reed is talking to his Sue about getting Ben back into the family, Nathaniel is with the evil Reed and Doom, and Spider-Man is just....well 'hanging' around (pardon the lame pun). Considering we just had two issues of these three going full out postal against the evil Reed's it is a bit weird to see the tone of the book switch gears. Mind you that doesn't mean it is a bad issue by any means. It is quite fun to read and Hickman does have a great voice for the Sue/Reed romance and Ben is as lovable as ever. The only problem I had again is that Spider-Man seems to have no purpose in this title. He is literally used as a joke machine or, in this issue's case, a character to use to push the story along. It's cool to see Spidey dress in FF colors and fight along side them; but it is obvious Hickman has no real use for him.

Once again we do not have Steve Epting to do an issue, which makes me very sad. But at least he is replaced by the much more competent Barry Kitson then the horror that was Greg Tocchini. Well 'competent' is a bad thing to say to the guy, Kitson is actually very good in this issue (as in the previous fill-ins). He certainly has the style of Epting which keeps the pencils looking somewhat consistent. Plus he is very good at acting with Sue in the garden a prime example of that. His layouts though aren't as impressive, even if they are good for the issue. The one sequence of the evil Reed about to attack Nathaniel is a good example. While that particular panel looks good, the next panel of an extreme close up of Reed seemed to be a bit awkward. Especially since he indicates Nathaniel is looking at him in a weird way. If he added another panel of Nathaniel looking smug then it would've been fine. Stuff like that is peppered throughout the book and while, again, it's not a bad looking comic you can tell Epting brings a lot to each issue and it's noticeable.

This is a solid issue all around for the series. We're getting close to 'the' Fantastic Four coming back into print so it'll be interesting to see where this title is gonna go. There is a lot of good characterization in this issue as always by Hickman even if Spider-Man seems a bit pointless. Kitson also does a great job too filling in for Epting even though both styles are night and day in the end. My only big problem with this issue is the ending, which I'll try and avoid to specific spoilers. But the way it ends is a bit confusing in that Hickman has clearly made this a 'family' book. It's all about the Fantastic Four, their kids, close allies, and enemies. To suddenly add a mix of other Marvel Universe character to the mix seems to contradict the overall theme of the book. It'll be interesting to see where Hickman is going to take it and see if it's a swerve.

The Unexpected #1
Written by: Various
Art by: Various

I really love anthologies. No matter if its trades or one-shots (like this baby right here) I just love to go seven to eight stories deep in a single read. So once again DC/Vertigo is giving us a big 'ol one shot, with this having an emphasis on horror. So we're right on time for Halloween and there is a wealth of stories in this one-shot. Time for another (patent pending) TNC PELLET REVIEWS!

Cover: (Rafael Grampa) Normally I don't gush over a cover but this is an exception. Look at this cover, look at it! It is so beautiful in a twisted way. The insane amount of detail on the killer's outfit, the blood, the background filled with goodies. This is an amazing cover/pin-up and I wouldn't expect anything else from Grampa. Hell, let's get a comic going on this one image! (5/5)

The Great Karlini: (Story and Art by Dave Gibbons) One of the legends of comics certainly has done his fair share of anthologies lately. This one in particular I found to be really, really strong. He tells the entire story in a simple, 2x4 panel grid and we get so much insight into this guy. It's kinda like The Illusionist but without Paul Giamotti getting in the way. Or more seriously, you get a lot of background into the guy and get seriously invested in his story. His panels, at first, seem a bit simple; but I think there is a load of detail when it comes to how the characters react in each. You can see a lot of emotion in each panel is what I'm saying. Easily the strongest story in the whole anthology. (Story: 5/5, Art: 5/5)

Dogs: (Story by: G. Willow Wilson, Art by: Robbi Rodriguez) This is a very strange story. I'm not sure if I buy the reasoning behind it. Dogs rising up to their owners can certainly work but the way Wilson introduces it doesn't make much sense to me. Okay, so they're upset that a kid died and I can certainly see why that would provoke anyone (yes I am somehow relating to fictional, killer dogs). But wouldn't it have made more sense for these dogs to act humor after seeing, I don't know, a dog dying? If they have no problems enslaving the human race then why did they care about another human dying? The art certainly makes up for the strangeness with Rodriguez giving some beautiful designs. It probably wasn't easy to make the dogs stand up on their hind legs but it kinda looks believable here. Plus everything has this dirty side to it which helps the tone of the story. A weird, but definitely enjoyable story. (Story: 3/5, Art: 5/5)

Look Alive: (Story by: Alex Grecian, Art by: Jill Thompson) I grew into liking Thompson's art with that Hellboy one-shot so seeing more of her art is a boon here. She certainly made the idea of a zombie dressing herself up as a human believable. In fact the overall story is pretty cool in that I don't think it's ever been done before. It certainly leads to a predictable ending but the overall idea of it worked enough for me. (Story: 4/5, Art: 5/5)

The Land: (Story by: Josh Dysart, Art by: Farel Dalrymple) I like the slow burn of this story because I didn't know what was coming. Dysart certainly made me feel sorry for the guy and he definitely did his research for this. Also, this new guy in Dalrymple has a nice, Lemire/Kindt style to his pencils. I certainly would love to see more of them in a future title. (Story: 4/5, Art: 5/5)

A Most Delicate Monster: (Story by: Jeffrey Rotter, Art by: Lelio Bonaccorso) Next to Gibbons story; this is definitely one of the best in the anthology. I loved how this was written because it goes back to the Warren Ellis's message in Crecy. Just because someone is from a different period in time, with lack of technology like today, doesn't make them stupid. The idea of a caveman seemingly smarter then today's man might sound a bit corny, but it got me. I will say the ending did come out of no where for me, and the tone did shift dramatically as well. But it didn't bother me all too much. The art by Bonaccorso is pretty good too; has a lite-Marcos Martin vibe to it. Like the last story I would love to see a comic by either of these two again in the future. (Story: 5/5, Art: 5/5)

Family First: (Story by: Mat Johnson, Art by: David Lapham) It's been a while since Lapham has drawn anything so seeing him as artist, and not writer, did confuse me for a second. It certainly is good though, with a lot of nice panels like the girl's perspective in the oven and the violence seems pure-Lapham. The story is a bit bland though and I did see it coming. Also, did anyone else think the dad at the end reminds you of Jorge Garcia? (Story: 2/5, Art: 3/5)

Alone: (Story by: Joshua Hale Fialkov, Art by: Rahsan Ekedal) This certainly felt 'Top Cow' didn't it? Mainly because both the writer and artist have worked in Top Cow previously. It's so weird because this certainly doesn't feel like a Vertigo title thematically. It just feels too 'hip' and 'sexy' to be a dark and disturbing Vertigo story. Plus don't understand what really happened here. Is he connected to technology? If so, why? Didn't make much sense. (Story: 2/5, Art: 3/5)

Americana: (Story by: Brian Wood, Art by: Emily Carroll) This story certainly has a very strong, upbeat message for our future. Even if we go down the crapper in 2012 (or even more recent considering these days), there will always be a glimmer of hope even if it takes a hundred years to fix. Wood certainly has a great voice with women in his comics and this title is no different, and it feels fresh to see a mother/daughter angle here. While the story doesn't really have an horror elements to it, it was charming enough for me to really enjoy it. Plus Carroll's art has a great mix of Kate Beaton and Matt Kindt...and it certainly feels like people want to go into Kindt's style of art (which is a good thing). (Story: 5/5, Art: 5/5)

Blink...Le Prelude a La Mort: (Story by: Selwyn Hinds, Art by: Denys Cowan) Easily the weakest story in the entire anthology; this is just a mere preview for a new ongoing title coming soon. It's not that I don't mind seeing a preview for a book, it's just that I don't really care for this particular one. Maybe it was just an odd placement in time to show a preview but I didn't care for the characters nor did I care for the story hinted at. The art by Cowan is certainly good, but sometimes his layouts are a bit confusing to follow. Maybe in the future I'll read this in trade, but it does make this anthology end on a whimper. (Story: 2/5, Art: 3/5)

While any anthologies will have some weak stories to it, and this one does, the ratio of great stories to bad certainly is outweighed here. There are some great short stories in this one-shot that anyone can just pick up, read, and enjoy. While it might not have continued the horror theme throughout I think you will care little because of how good the stories are. It might be a bit pricey at $7.99 to some; but this anthology is certainly worth your time and money.

Batman and Robin #2
Written by: Peter Tomasi
Art by: Patrick Gleason

I might be a little bias here but man, I really love these guys. Not Batman and Robin, well I do love them, but I was talking about Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. Ever since they paired up in Green Lantern Corps almost every issue for that series was one of my most anticipated titles for the week. 'What type of stories were going to be told and how would Gleason draw them?' was my mindset each month. When we got that little, 3 issue arc, tease of their take on Batman and Robin I couldn't wait to see more! But it was clear that we would need to wait a while to get another story going. So it is quite easy on why this was immediately a no-brainer choice for me in the new DCU.

The overall goal in this run seems to be that Bruce Wayne wants to be a better father. It was slightly hinted at in the first issue, but here Tomasi beats us over the head with this fact. Bruce has not been a very good father to Damian since he came into his life, what with being dead an all, so he obviously doesn't want to keep distancing himself from him. I like how Tomasi writes this uncertainty in Bruce because he clearly wants to be close but he has a long way to go on this front. The conversation he has with Alfred on why 'commendable' isn't the best word to use in a relationship was funny and charming at the same time. Also, Tomasi writes a pretty good Damian here even if he has to go back to square one with his personality. Sure he's back to his egotistical ways, but he clearly is confused on what to do. Scenes like him crushing the bat (which shocked me cause it came out of no where) and seeing his empty room showcases this ideal that Damian is at essence a teenage loner. I can certainly feel where Damian is coming from, even though I am not trained in any deadly arts which would be cool...

For all of the outlandish pages Patrick Gleason gives, which he certainly has done here no doubt, he does these quiet moments very well. You can see the uncertainty in Bruce and Damian's eyes as they have no idea how to react to each other. The way he draws Damian in the cave scene at the end pretty much epitomizes depression, and I think that's what he's feeling right now. But then you also have these amazing fight sequences that balances out the emotional core of the story. The page of Batman and Robin raiding the truck is one of the best pages I've seen in comics today. It looks like an unused cover idea for this particular issue, that's how much care seemed to be put into it. When you have a great balance such as this in the art it really shows how much Gleason puts into each page and panel of the book.

We're only two issues in and I'm already in love with this series. With Tomasi giving us a literal family dynamic to the Batman and Robin relationship, there is no doubt there will be a lot of great emotional beats in this run. Add in some extremely gorgeous artwork by Patrick Gleason, who is also careful in drawing the emotions throughout the book, and you got one great Batman comic. The ending is also pretty interesting for this issue because one name was uttered: Ducard. Oh I wonder where this is going to go?

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