Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Week of June 16 In Review

So the chattier approach to the week in review is my format of choice this week. It is disturbing on some level that this week and comics in general have been in a bit of a malaise in my viewpoint. As the week progressed and I read more books I realized that it is really the mainstream comics that are in more of a funk and the other books are still doing well. Lately the core material has been leaving me cold and the books that probably are fighting for survival are the most satisfying reads.

New Avengers #1 is a prime example of the newer material and while that book was a decent read you could see certain stuff coming a mile away and the inherent sameness of the material permeates the entire fabric of that book. The nature of the beast for Marvel and DC is that the highest profile books will always have sameness to them. Marvel’s changing the landscape of the playing field was a good illusion, but after seven years of doing that, that trick has worn out also. Plus with Marvel and DC both coming off the huge events (Siege and Blackest Night) many of the titles are not resetting their foundations and while the set up is important it is by its very nature the slowest part of the story.

Many books are still breaking that mold and DV8 #3 (of 8) is one such book. Writer Brian Wood has taken characters I could care less about or even knew about and has given us a mini-series that has a central mystery, great story telling with beautiful fluid artwork and is slowly introducing these characters to me inside the context of the story. The mystery is who is interviewing Gem, our point of view character, and why were these characters were dropped onto this planet. This issue Gem found Powerhaus, who is a character I knew nothing about, and by the end of the story the central plot had moved forward and I had a solid understand of what Powerhaus was and who he is now. Rebecca Issacs art is clean, fluid and see knows how to tell a story. You know who each character is and you eye naturally flows from panel to panel. A good comic has to have that marriage or words and pictures and this book has it.

The Spirit #3 was a great issue. I’m sure most fans are ignoring this book, but Mark Shultz told a great story and Moriat’s artwork was brilliant. Unfortunately this creative team is only on this book for the first three issues. The good news is David Hine is taking over as the writer and Moriat is staying on as artist, so I believe this book will be in good hands. I like this version of the Spirit better then the last incarnation as he is a little dirtier and his world is a little nastier then the light hearted version of the character that the last series embodied.

Four Eyes #4 from Joe Kelly and Max Fiumara was another excellent issue. I keep thinking I have dropped this book because they stopped publishing it, but when or if it comes out I will continue to buy it. Joe Kelly’s last story called I Kill Giants was one of the best stories done in comics and his follow up Four Eyes has been as strong, but is dying for lack of actual publication. This issue ended the first arc and I hope we get to see more of this young boy and what he will do with his new pet dragon in depression era America (the one from the thirties, not today).

Fables #96 was a great issue. I think when Snow White is a central character I love this book and when she is not I have less interest in the book. We are on Chapter Three of the story of Snow’s sister Rose Red and we find out why Snow and she were separated. Writer Bill Willingham mixes the traditional material we know with his own work so seamlessly that you would think this was the actual fairy tale being told and not Bill’s wonderful incorporation of fairy tales into his work. Mark Buckingham’s work is so consistently good looking and easy to read that I think I sometimes take his work for granted. I always get a quality art job from Buckingham, inkers Leialpha. Pepoy and color artist Loughridge. As strong as Bill’s writing is, the artwork seals the deal and makes this one of the best and longest lived Vertigo series ever.

Walking Dead #73 was another strong chapter in a series that continues to be a great story of survival in a post apocalyptic world. It has grown over the years and as new characters come into the book you always wonder what their role will be. Abraham has changed from the gruff slightly psychotic nut job into a strong and virile leader. When Rick and the group move on from this enclave, because it can’t last forever, I can easily see Abraham being the leader of the group and not Rick. This issue focused on Abraham and showed how he made the group he was with follow his path as opposed to him just docilely accepting how the group was going to scavenge items outside the walls of their little compound.

Atlas #2 from Marvel is one of those titles that get to do more of whatever it wants since it is not tied into any core books from Marvel. The problem is that this book has spent its first two issues making 3-D Man the start or focus of the title and done very little to do more then give us a bare bones introduction to the core concept of the book. I know Agents of Atlas has been floating around for awhile and I love this series, but as a re-launch I question the story selection to start off the newest version of this series.

DC two core books that I enjoyed were Birds of Prey #2 and Brightest Day #4. Birds of Prey should have never been cancelled and I think writer Gail Simone is just doing a great job with this book. I’m already into the story and love how the tables have been turned on Oracle and her group. I’m a little upset that in issue #2 Ed Benes needs assistance to finish the book as the fill-in artist work was much weaker then Ed Benes. Brightest Day #4 is good but it suffers from having too many stories to tell and therefore we are four issues into the book and it is still more about setting things up then getting into the crux of the story. It is certainly well written with strong art and with a bi-weekly schedule it is easier to accept 4 well done issues setting things up then if this had been a monthly.

The last book I want to mention is The Shield #10, the final issue of this series. Comics are about flow and marrying words and pictures. The Shield was an example of two very talented creators not getting it right. Writer Eric Trautmann has excellent stories and had some wonderful concepts going on with how The Shield’s nanotech armor worked. The problem was that in conveying the story and the way the armor worked it created way too much text within the story telling and it slowed the comic to a crawl at points. There is a page were we have The Shield talking, Mr. Terrific talking, the read out from the armor and The Shield’s internal monologue all on the same page. It is well written, it is very interesting, but it is too dense and trying to do too many things at once for an action sequence. Marco Rudy is a strong artist and one day will be a star for DC like Ivan Reis has become. He is going through a phase from what I see of playing with page design and again trying to do too much. Too many pages I had to try and figure out how to read it and what panel came next. I applaud the effort to take his design skill to the next level, but if it is not working a six of four panel grid should be used. Don’t get me wrong Eric and Marcos will both be stars in this industry, I just think a stronger or better editorial hand could have made this series a hit because the elements were there, it just needed work.

That’s a wrap for this week and while there were no blazing comet super terrific best books, there were plenty of good titles and material that I enjoyed. Again I find a lot of mainstream books to be less than stellar at this time, but still a lot of great comics if you just look around.

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