Monday, March 28, 2011

The Week of March 23 in Review

Last week I tried to go negative on almost every book I read and this week I will try to go positive on every book that I will review here. After that back to what I liked and what I didn’t like. Right now that is my favorite format in reviewing comics. In the spirit of being all positive let’s start with the good things about what the government has done lately. Hmmm… nope nothing coming to mind, onto comics:

Batman Dark Night #2 – Writer & Art David Finch, Inks Scott Williams, Colors Alex Sinclair

I add the colorist because in being positive a great colorist adds a lot to a book and Alex Sinclair is a master at making books look great and this book does look great. I was never a huge fan of Finch’s art, but I’m changing my mind. It is powerful and it continues to get better and better. Add in Scott Williams as the inker and the book is drop dead gorgeous. The page layouts and camera angles used are all well done and Batman is every inch the personification of power, with the Penguin being his polar opposite. This book shows why pencils and inks are still the best way to produce a quality comic page, way too many books are shot from pencils or drawings done direct to the computer and it often shows. As for the story it is decent, more of a generic Batman story but Finch is doing his first writing so I’m giving him some leeway.

Batman Incorporated #4 – Writer Grant Morrison, Art Chris Burnham, Colorist Nathan Fairbairn

I have always had this great love for the old Batwoman character. The innocence of the character made me laugh as she has a Batpurse and other such things. Grant has said he considers every Batman story cannon, and he reinterprets the original Batwoman and adds his twist to make the character a little more feasible. This story has all of Grant’s wonkiness and is moving the main plot forward, but works because of the charm the book invokes. Finally Burnham makes this book shine, where Yannick’s work has not wowed me.

Fables #103 – Writer Bill Willinham, Pencils Mark Buckingham, Inks Steve Leialoha, Colors Lee Loughridge

I was a little shocked to see the book open with Snow and Bigby naked on the ground after having a tryst in the woods. It is hard to not like a book with that type of start. I love Fables again like I used to love the book. Fables fell into a kind of blah period after the war, but the build up to round 2 with the Dark Man has me looking forward to each issue again. The North Wind is looking to find Bigby and Snow’s ghost child as he believes the child to be a danger. Somehow I bet the child plays a role against the Dark Man. Ozma has her group have pulled together and strange things are happening (Beast can’t change into a Beast anymore). Events are coming to a convergence and I have no clue where we are going next. Buckingham, Leialoha and Loughridge continue their terrific artwork that makes Fables consistently one of the best looking books on the shelves. Fables is in a great groove right now.

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #5 (of 6) – Writer Jason Aaron, Adam Kubert Pencils, Digital Inks Mark Roslan, Justin Ponsor Colors

Rusty (my local store owner and friend) made me buy this book as I had skipped this series. He was right as you did not need to read the prior four issues to get what was going on. Spider-Man and Wolverine have been manipulated by Mojo and some Luke Cage wannabe (who has time spanning powers) and now we are down to the final fight between everyone. This was a well done and very enjoyable read that had action, humor and some cool fight scenes.

Captain America #615.1 – Writer Ed Brubaker, Art Mitch Breitweiser, Colors Bettie Breitweiser

The art was very good. I enjoyed the scratchy realistic style brought to the book by Mitch. The story itself was essentially the next issue in the storyline. I guess some justification can be used to call it point one as Steve Rogers is forced to contemplate taking up the mantle of being Captain America again. With the movie coming out and the big two stuck with the idea of only one person being the hero forever, it is a matter of when Steve becomes Cap again and not if. This issue was very good and gave a solid rationale for why Steve would consider it and a nice twist that Nick Fury was pulling the strings behind the scenes.

New Mutants #23 – Age of X Chapter 4 – Writer Mike Carey, Pencils Steve Kurth, Inks Allen Martinez, Colors Brian Reber.

The Age of X story has been well done. I can’t believe how much work Mike Carey put into this series to just wrap it up in six chapters. The big reveal was hinted at this issue with the idea that this world is its own thing and outside of the “real universe”. Also it appears Legion may been behind why this happened to the X-Men. You can see that since it is something that is happening to the X-Men, the impact of what occurred could easily be a continuing impact on the X-Men if they remember their time here. Finally the art by Kurth was better than his earlier job and his propensity for drawing people with their necks bent was barely noted.

Hulk #31 – Writer Jeff Parker, Art Gabriel Hardman, Colors Elizabeth Breitweiser

I recently dropped the Hulks book, but I’m enjoying this series. While the Red Hulk concept is ridiculous even by comic standards Parker has taken the Red Hulk and made into his own thing. Even with the obsessive General chasing the Red Hulk repeating an old story line, this book proves one of my points. That is if you take a new person under the hood (or changed into a Hulk) and play the same scenario you will get different results because it is now Thunderbolt Ross as the Hulk and not Bruce Banner. I know the Hulk is a character that can live forever, but still telling Bruce Banner stories gets old and this is a fresher book. Of course Jeff Parker makes it work for me as his writing always seems well thought out and he respects the characters he is writing. Hardman’s art has a rough feel to it, but it works.

Green Lantern #64 – Writer Geoff Johns, Pencils Doug Mahnke, Inks A gang of four led by Christian Almay, Colors Randy Major – War of The Green Lanterns Part 1

Green Lantern Corps #58 – Writer Tony Bedard, Pencils Tyler Kirkman, Inks Batt w/Rob Hunter, Colors Nei Ruffino – War of the Green Lanterns Part 2

Since this is an “event” I reviewing both books together. Each book had a separate focus and is not really coming together at this point. Both books have strong art teams who can carry the day of all the space adventure we have going on. The base premise is Krona is back and he has all the entities in his control. He has used them to take over the Guardians and also put the Parallax entity back into the central green lantern battery on OA. This sets up Kyle and John Stewart as powerless foes of the GL Corps on OA. Hal lost his group of rainbow lanterns and is now solo facing an uncertain universe. All in all a decent start to the event even thought the themes are a little repetitive. I hope the final resolution has some impact to the GL universe and that one day we get to see Hal have a private life again.

FF #1 – Writer Jonathan Hickman, Art Steve Epting, Inks Steve Epting & Rick Maygar, Colors Paul Mounts

Thematically a good follow up from last issue. I liked that it has been some passage of time and as Spider-Man joins the group Sue Richards gives an explanation of what has been going on since Johnny died. The book is showing a big emphasis on the family aspects of the Fantastic –err – Future Foundation and it was fun seeing Valerie pushing Dr. Doom as a candidate for membership. I had a bunch of issues with this book also, but this is positive week.

Uncanny X-Force #6 - Writer Rick Remender, Art Esad Ribic, Inks John Lucas, Colors Matt Wilson

Amazing how much I have come to love this series. Remender seems to have found his niche with Marvel. While I may enjoy Franken-Castle when I sit down and re-read it, I thought it took the character to a ridiculous spot for a hero grounded in reality. This book works. Rick has great characterization, terrific actions scenes and is building off some wild Grant Morrison concepts and making it all work. While Esad’s art is not Jerome Opena, his work is decent and with Lucas and Wilson on inks and colors respectively, the book has a consistent feel to it. When you have a group of characters that can add Deathlok and alternative future heroes turned into Deathloks and make it all fun, you have a winning formula. I will voice one complaint here and that is can Rick finish up Fear Agent, I would like to see how it ends.

5 Ronin #4 (of 5) – Psylocke – Writer Peter Milligan, Art Goran Pavlov, Colors Lee Loughridge

Each issue has been better than the last. This issue we get a thematic exploration of Psylocke. She is a bizarre character from how Chris Claremont and Jim Lee made her over, but Milligan reinvents the character as an Oiran (a Japanese prostitute that was often an entertainer also). Pavlov’s light line work and Lee Loughridge’s coloring gave this book a terrific feel that was light at times and very dark at other times. We see how Psylocke only plays at being the subservient Japanese woman and she has a plan for revenge. Finally the series is actually starting to tie together as one cohesive overall story. I thought that each issue stood on its own. I could easily read a series about this Psylocke or a Psylocke series by Milligan.

That’s a wrap for this week. I tried to remain positive but what these two weeks have taught me it that it is almost impossible to do a review without pointing out both sides of the equation as many books have good and bad points. I just wish many books would stop using clich├ęs so heavily. Daredevil Reborn stands out as silly with the end being Matt being shot in the head, it is part 3 of a four part mini-series and a new DD series has been announced, why we would think he is dead at all. The dramatic effect is gone and we are left with how he survived as the only cliffhanger, which is I guess an inevitable problem with many books, put the hero and danger and watch how they escape. Regardless, I enjoyed my little experiment. I find being negative can be more visceral and being positive forces seems to be more intellectual.

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