Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Comic Reviews for October 5th 2011

Thunderbolts #164
Written by: Jeff Parker
Art by: Kev Walker

When the last issue of Thunderbolts hit, technically the .1 issue, I claimed this was one of the best titles for Marvel right now. It's still not a wrong statement because Jeff Parker and Kev Walker (one of the artists) has been making this one of the most fun and consistent books for the company the last year. With this new arc of the Thunderbolts being stuck in time, WWII to be exact, it offers a lot of promise and some good old Nazi killing. Sometimes though, a good book can miss a step or two. While this particular issue isn't bad by any means, it certainly feels like a 'speed bump' in a hectic street.

What worked for me in this issue is some of the small, character moments Parker was able to pepper out. You got Satana acting crazy, and sexy, as always and I love how Boomerang is so happy to be in a WWII costume. I also like how Dr. Hyde is taking a liking to Troll because of how similar they are. Kinda like how Juggernaut was starting to gel with everyone, Mr. Hyde is starting to bond with the members of the Thunderbolts which is always good. Most of this issue is a lot of talking heads and explaining just what the hell is going on. We get the typical 'How do we not ruin the future' speak here which in hindsight I like in time travel stories but it happens so frequently Parker adds really nothing to it. Of course the crazy moments with Zemo more then makes up the endless exposition involved here. Then you have Kev Walker's art which looks....different. I guess that's the best to describe it because it doesn't look as similar to his previous work. It looks a lot sketchier and sometimes his figures don't look the same. Mr. Hyde is the best example and look how inconsistently he's drawn panel to panel; just doesn't look right. He delivers always with the action and there's more then enough Nazi's getting shot or BBQ'd. But again the inconsistency of these pencils bothers me a bit too much here.

For the most part this is a solid issue as always for Thunderbolts. Jeff Parker has a great handle on all of these characters and I'm always a sucker for a time travel story. But the endless exposition and real lack of excitement like previous issues did hamper it for me a bit. The worst part is that Kev Walker's pencils really don't look the same here. Not bad, but different enough were the difference is too noticeable. By no means am I going go overboard with this less then stellar issue of the series, I just hope we go back to 'crazy' next time.

Swamp Thing #2
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Yanick Paquette

It has to be a tough job to follow Alan Moore. No matter who the writer is, and no matter what the comic is, trying to one-up or continue what Moore wrote is a tough sell. Scott Snyder is certainly going to go for broke when it comes to Swamp Thing. A character who hasn't had any relevance for years, Snyder has literally brought him and Alec Holland back from the dead to give his own spin on the character. He's trying to do it without going fully into the well of Alan Moore but give us just enough of that previous run as a 'spine' for the story. He did a pretty good job with the first issue giving us a complete rundown of the character and now it's time to really start this epic story he has plan....Boy did I wish the exposition stopped after the first issue.

You all know my love for Scott Snyder; he's been a really good friend to me on twitter since he started in comics. So it pains me to say this because I know he's going to read this eventually but....This feels like a first time writer doing his first ever comic. You know why I felt like that while reading this? Because of the endless exposition and the seemingly needless explanation for who, what, and why Swamp Thing exists. Yes it's a character that people will have little knowledge of, even from the die hard comic fans. But there was a point where I literally had to put the comic down because the sixth straight page of endless wordballoons got to me. It's not that this issue is written terribly, I want to put that out there. What's in these word balloons and the progression of the story is really good. But Swamp Thing seemingly going into a massive encyclopedia history of himself and the 'Parliament of Trees' was just too much for one issue. At the end of the day I was more confused on the history of this Parliament then anything else. The rest of the issue, where 'Sethe' victims are trying to kill Holland worked because Snyder is always great at tension and horror elements. But I say a good 90% of this issue is this exposition for Swamp Thing and it just was too much in my opinion.

For the most part, Paquette's art is really good in this. There is a lot of great detail in the panels with the plants throughout the issue. Moments like the WWI pilot getting consumed by veins or the close detail to Swamp Thing in general is really impressive. I'm also still creeped out by Sethe and his victims, especially since they're practically dead with those twisted necks. My big problem with the art is the layouts while they are impressive, there are a lot of times where they are confusing to follow. The one two-page spread of Swamp Thing explaining Holland's purpose (pgs. 10-11) is the biggest criminal. I could not follow where the discussion was going for a solid minute and that's a big sin in comics. What made it more confusing is that he lays out pages exactly the same. So even if two pages together aren't made to be a spread, it looks like it which is where the confusion lies.

A second issue of a comic book is always a gamble, always. It's like in television where the second episode has a big responsibility to repeat the pilot but add to it as well. Scott Snyder is a great writer, and I still think he's 'the' best DC has right now. But he unfortunately shot himself in the foot with this issue by needlessly explaining the history of Swamp Thing with an almost endless exposition scene. Add to some confusing, and poor, layout choices by Paquette and it's a bit of a disappointment of a second issue it must be said. It's not like this is a terrible issue nor does it mean I'm gonna drop this series. I just hope with two issues out, explaining both sides of Swamp Thing and Alec Holland we can finally get going somewhere with this series.

Sweet Tooth #26
Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Matt Kindt

For almost twenty five straight issues, Jeff Lemire has written and drawn every issue of Sweet Tooth. While one particular issue had a trio of artists do an issue, Lemire drew part of that issue too so his consistency has been very impressive. Speaking of that issue, one of the artists from before is going to be drawing this particular arc which is unique for this series. Matt Kindt is really an obvious choice for this arc because his style is so similar to Lemire. So I wasn't expecting the change to be dramatic in any way. But then I open the book, and the comic does look different but in a good way.

It is a bit eerie how close Kindt is to Lemire. He has a simple, sketchy style on the surface but once you look closely at each panel you see enormous detail in them. You can see the individual markings in the wood of the boat, or (what I'm sure was a big pain in the ass) of seeing individual flakes of snow once the explorers hit land. Still even with the detail by Kindt the title does look incredible similar to previous issues, even if his style is slightly more tighter then before. Interestingly Kindt also likes to color his own work, unlike Lemire, so it's a bit more impressive to see Kindt do practically everything in the art.

What's impressive about Lemire's script here is that it's the most dense issue I've ever read for this series. I think Lemire put more narration and dialogue into this particular issue then the last three issues combined. Don't get me wrong though, this is a well written issue with an almost unrelated backstory of  Dr. James Thacker. I'm not stupid, I know this will have something to do with the overall story down the road. But this beginning of this rescue mission is entertaining enough without much connection to the previous plot.

It's a really impressive issue all around by Lemire and Kindt. Kindt provides some really great pencils in here and Lemire gives us a shockingly dense story for an issue. I think this issue proves, in my opinion anyways, that Sweet Tooth is the best book Lemire has right now. It's the perfect combination of art and story in one tightly packed issue. Which is better to say then what Lemire is offering lately in the New DCU...

Severed #3
Written by: Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft
Art by: Attila Futaki

If there is one thing that can make me forget about the Scott Snyder slump in Swamp Thing it's this: A perfectly written, and twisted Scott Snyder horror story. For the last two months Scott Snyder, along with Scott Tuft, has given us one disturbing story about a serial killer targeting children. What's been amazing is just how slow of a burn this series is so far. Seven issues seemed like a lot at first for a what could've been a standard horror comic. But it's obvious that both writers are taking their time to not only tell a great story but to put a lot of work into each character in the book. Case in point this issue.

I always wonder how Snyder (and Tuft) is so great at putting the tension in his titles. This particular issue just has this uneasy quality to it, it got sickening at points (in a good way). Partly because I don't know as a reader on where he's going with this but also because we're essentially seeing a pedophile at work. Now Snyder and Tuft don't exactly acknowledge this serial killer is a pedophile, but drinking beers with minors and getting 'close' to him? If this book had a different tone it would be a really disturbing episode of Different Strokes! But everything really works here from the introduction of the serial killer to the kids, to the bizarre stories he tells them, to that bear trap scene....Which in hindsight is pretty stupid for both kids not to flee in terror after seeing that, but hey the early 1900s were a different time. The art in this issue is fantastic as always so it's tough to think of new things to say for Futaki's pencils and colors. I will say that the final page impressed me because it looked so different from the rest of the issue. Kinda like seeing an end of an 'EC Comics' issue.

For three straight issues, Snyder and Tuft are telling one hell of a story here. The story is so disturbing but so well written it really is like watching a horror movie. You don't wanna know where this story is going to go but you can't peel your eyes off of it. Futaki's painted style really works here too and if it was any other type of art style it might not have worked in the end. So let's see where the fourth issue is going to take us next month. It's probably going to be fucking horrifying...and I wouldn't want to have it any other way.

Action Comics #2
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Rags Morales and Brent Anderson

It still feels pretty strange to think that I'm reading a 'second' issue of Action Comics. Yes it's on volume two, but I never thought I would see the day to go back to a beginning for this very long series. But what isn't surprising is that Grant Morrison wrote himself a pretty damn good first issue last time. He's not going for his 'crazy' tone for this series so reading a straight-forward origin for Superman was fun the first go around. What more does Morrison have to offer in his first story arc?

So far I like how Morrison goes right into the middle of the story to begin and issue. He did it in the first issue and here he takes us right into the torture of Superman. We normally would've gone through the rigmarole of introducing Lex Luthor and just why Superman has to be tortured for science. But no, Morrison goes right into the middle of his torture and we get a lot of insight into Lex with his monologues then a proper introduction. Morrison is not going to waste any pages so it's nice to know he isn't going to go through the bullshit of an introduction. I also particularly like how aggressive and cocky this Superman is. He literally laughs off the torture which is something you would see from Batman. It's going to be interesting to see how Morrison will take Sups into a cocky new hero to the 'All American Boy' in the future. Also, the only thing I think is a problem with the title is that so far Morrison is spending little time with Lois. It might be a good thing in the long run, considering their relationship in the future in Superman #1, but it's weird to see her thrown to the side for the most part.

Brent Anderson is helping Rags Morales do some pages for each issue, since unfortunately Morales can't do a full issue on a monthly schedule. While I find that incredibly bullshit considering this relaunch has to keep it's integrity for the long haul. Still, let's get that unfortunate business out of the way and talk about how good the art is. I must admit that I had a very hard time figuring out which pages were Anderson and which were Morales. Anderson and Rick Bryant pencil and ink the pages so closely to Morales style I just couldn't tell the different. Maybe you can tell a little bit with Lex, because his face changes throughout in the beginning. So maybe that's the key, but other then that this is a really good looking book. My favorite panel this week comes from this issue where Superman is literally walking up the stairs while being shot at. He's not running, jumping, or flying away from them. He's drawn to be literally walking up while guards are swarming him. That really made me laugh.

I think we're going to get a really great run out of Morrison with this new Action Comics. His way of compressing the Superman origin to two issues really impressed me and it's been an action packed thrill ride for the most part. He might not be focusing on the secondary characters, outside of Lex, too much but it hasn't hurt the series too much so far. While Morales getting help to finish an issue is a bummer, Brent Anderson does such a good job with the consistency he helps the issue by making it look great throughout. With the last page reveal I have to say I am psyched to see just where Morrison is going to take such a classic villain into the Superman mythos.

Chew #21
Written by: John Layman
Art by: Rob Guillory

While this series has never dropped in quality, I must admit it has dropped from my radar recently. It doesn't help that a major comic company has literally taken over the market and that this series does take a while to come out in issues. But when an issue does come out, I immediately remember just why this series is the best comic on the stands right now. It all has to do with humor.

The moment I opened this page the moment I knew this was going to be a great issue. When you open the book with a character literally leaping in joy, with the sun having a smile on its face, you just know its going to go bad. While it might not have gone bad for that particular character, Tony Chu is starting off a pretty shitty day in this new arc. He's been demoted to the DMV, which continues the long trend of this series giving government jobs too much power. There is so many great gags in this just from Layman's script alone. The highlight though for me is just how much of a badass Tony is in this new role. He's always been a great agent but to see the balance of crappy job mix with amazing talent really worked in this issue. Kinda like Hot Fuzz now that I think about it.

Of course this series wouldn't be half of what it is without Rob Guillory's pencils. Again the book opens with a great visual joke that just wouldn't work without his touches. The way he layouts the pages is really the key here. He could've easily just drawn Applebee with a smile, walking down the road. But to draw him leaping in the air, with other characters happy too, and the sun smiling down on him it really turns an ordinary opening page into something hilarious. There are a lot of other great pages as well, but too many to count. You also get the usual hidden gags and Guillory puts a ton of them in each panel this time. Clearly he had a lot of time on his hands to put as much jokes into the panels as he did drawing some amazing stuff. Finally, I did love the final page of this and I won't spoil it. Let's just say that if this was a film or TV show, it would be a great 'smash cut' from the previous panel to the end. Really just great pacing by Layman which is enhanced by Guillory.

I will adore this series till the end of time. John Layman is telling one great of a story here and even if this particular issue doesn't go into the overall narrative (yet), it's just too much fun to really care. Rob Guillory really makes this series though with his incredible layouts and drawings. This book would be nothing without either men and I can't really think of any other comic that could claim that type of power. That's why I think it's the best book comics have to offer right now.

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