Thursday, 21 June 2012

Review: Dark Avengers #176 - I SO didn't see that coming!!

Dark Avengers #176 takes a step back from the new line up to return focus on that last remaining plot thread; whatever happened to the Thunderbolts?

That question is answered in this issue with the 'Bolts, still jumping through time in their time machine tower, find themselves at the dawn of time. They discover early Mankind, giant sharks.... and a fellow time traveller waiting to be eaten by said sharks. Our merry band of villains save this poor soul before going even further back to see the return of one of their own, before an incredible twist shows itself and threatens their trip home.
I had said previously that this was the same book with a different name, but I was wrong: This issue proved that Jeff Parker has written something infinitely better than I gave it credit for. I won't lie that the issue was a tiny bit underwhelming, and the scientific exposition made things slightly confusing, but all of this can be forgiven once you reach the end and find that the team have rescued.....Dr Doom!!! This is what has made this issue so amazing and that Jeff Parker can take a seemingly forgotten plot point from an old story arc of a different series and then just run with it just shows how much of a truly terrific writer he is. I still remember the Fantastic Four story that included that scene (During the Millar/Hitch run, though there is a caption explaining which issue), so seeing this is just pure fanboy heaven for me.
I was a little concerned when they announced the name change that this books quality would dip (so much so that I considered dropping it). But how wrong have I been proven and how glad I am of it. This book has continued to prove itself a terribly underrated book which deserves a greater fanbase than it has. Here's hoping this new name will change that.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Review: Dark Horse Presents #13

The width and breath of the Dark Horse creative team is displayed in Dark Horse Presents #13.
Dark horse Presents #13 showcases a preview of 9 creator owned stories, all of very different genres and styles. From the Vampiric horror story criminal macabre to novella profile: a cross story, supernatural hero the occultist to war era hero black beetle and even an aliens tie in story, the net is cast far and wide regarding the talent on offer.
However, despite the impressive and diverse array of talent, I struggled to fully invest myself in this issue. This I feel was due, to a main extent, by the books size. At 83 pages, this book is a great deal bigger than any normal issue.
That said, despite the obstacle of it's size, much of the content was incredibly entertaining. Ghost, by Kelly Sue McCormick and Phil Noto (the second time I've seen his name this week) was a beautiful piece which could easily be a done in one (although I suspect it's set-up for it's own ongoing), As was Mike Richardson's The Occultist, which felt very similiar to a Witchblade or Darkness book. Criminal Macabre was a fun Dog soldiers style story with great art similar in vein to Richard Corben's work. There was also Black Beetle, which by Francesco Francavilla, had gorgeous gothic art that I really liked and Dean Motter's Mister X, where the style felt very reminiscent of the Who is Jake Ellis? series.
Of course, this books content is not without lesser works. While enjoying it, I struggled with the novella piece Cross, although this may have been due to the unexpected change in medium (I never seem to expected novel format in a comic book, shame on me). However, other pieces had no such excuse with an untitled story (well I assume it was, I look but couldn't see one) having very unkept art which was detrimental to the story (which wasn't much better), and the piece entitled Finder which made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.
With an anthology book like this, there are bound to be more parts of the whole which are a struggle to read (unlike a normal issue which is simply one long continuation of themes). However, despite this books problems entries, and its massive size, it is still a worthy read, if only to see some ideas before they become bigger and determine if they are worthy for future buy piles.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Review: Demon Knights #10 - The return of Arthur and Camelot

Issue 10 of Demon Knights sees the errant band of monsters, immortals and witches' continue their trek to return Merlin to life in Paul Cornell's latest installment of DC's medievel Justice League (or injustice league might be a bit more accurate).

Having been entrusted by the princesses of Alba Sarum to resurrect Merlin in the last issue, the Knights continue that charge, beginning where the last issue ended; facing off against a pirate sea monster (yes, that is really what it is). Once disposing of that threat, they continue their mission and find that something is a little bit amiss in the land that once held the great city of Camelot.

I could sing the praises of Paul Cornell until I'm blue in the face. I love his work and the very British humour he instills in it. However, this issue is a little bit of an off issue, which is unfortunate because there isn't actually anything wrong with it. The book continues to read as well as it normally does, with the humour still very apparent and the characters still sounding like they should, and the artby Diogenes Neves is still top notch. However, the problem with this issue is there is very little story progression. The majority of the story just seems to fly by, focusing on their travelling from one place to another with very little movement (forgive the pun). Also, the Etrigan betrayal plot thread, introduce toward the end of the last issue, is completely sidelined here, leaving it hanging in the air.

Despite it's very limited story progression, the cliffhanger ending does make up somewhat and makes the book an intriguing prospect for issue 11. While this is by no means the best issue of any book I've read, I've also read a lot worse. I'd definitely be back for the next issue, deep in hope that the the outstanding plot lines will be tied up.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Review: Fantastic Four #607 - Return of the King (Well, Panther King, sort of)

Marvel's first family (well, half of them anyway, along with their growing brood of kids) travel to Wakanda to assist the Black Panther in this issue of Fantastic Four.

The first of a (presumably) two part story, Reed Richards has travelled to Wakanda believing that they need help recovering from the destruction of all Vibranium. What he discovers however, is that it is not it's Vibranium stores which are the problem, but a constant attack from an ancient evil, to which only the great intellect of Mister Fantastic can hope to save the day.

This issue is a hard one to categorize. While, most of it contains Hickman's usual skill, gone are the overarching, intertwinned plot threads. This is, without a doubt, the closest thing to a small, self-contained story Hickman has done (and most probably will do) in this run. This naturally free's up some things, and while it gives Hickman the freedom to do something different it doesn't change his talent for focusing on the long term details. Panther's abdication, the Doom attack that led to the loss of Vibranium, is all mentioned and Hickman continues to display a tremendous talent of instantly getting who a character is (T'Challa just sounded like T'Challa, and to my knowledge this is Hickman's first time writing him). However, there is a major problem with the flashback scenes (I seem to be having a major problem with those this week). While these are ultimately required to give the story context, I found them very difficult to follow and, in the end, detrimental to the pacing and interest of the full story.

However, while this is a major quibble, it's impact to me is softened by the return of FF veteran Karl Kesel to finish the art. Kesel seems to be the books go to guy, needed to fill in when needed, and though not been scene in a few years, his work continues to be as great as it was prior. I mean no offence to any other artist who worked on these characters, but Kesel's depiction is my preferred one.

There's is enough in this book to get me back for the next issue, but the flashback/exposition pages have really dented it's impact on me. While it's not the easiest thing, adding expo seamlessly into a story, I certainly believe it could have been done better than this. However, by just ignoring them (like I did second time round) the book becomes a much more interesting read.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Review: Uncanny X-Force #26 - The beginning of the end?

Issue 26 of Uncanny X-Force sees everyone's favourite team of assassins have the living crap beaten out of them as Rick Remender continues their story in the aftermath of the Dark Angel Saga.

This issue, Wolverine and AOA Nightcrawler are torn apart (both literally as well as figuratively) by the Omega Clan while attempting to rescue Deadpool from his recent mission. Meanwhile, recent former members Psylocke and Fantomex have their own dilemma's to face after quitting the team, as they are both attacked by assassins of their own, as the teams mystery villian makes plans to bring their past exploits out into the publie spotlight.

After struggling to get to grips with the last issue (and, mostly due to the art, the last story arc), this book picks up the pace a little bit with each character finding themselves at the business end of an attack specifically designed for them personally. Remender, continues to show his skill for long term planning of epic story lines as he begins sowing the seeds for his follow up to last year's the Dark Angel Saga. As always, he writes each protaganist as if they are the hero, with four of the five main cast voicing the worries, fears and troubles throughout this issue. His portrayal of Psylocke continues to impress; how much abuse can that girl take? And the Arrested Development homage from Deadpool continues to prove that Remender's portrayal of the Merc with a Mouth is still the best around. If there is one stumbling block with this issue (and it's a minor "one" at that) it's Phil Noto's art, which while beautiful in it's own right, does have a hint of inconsistancy for a couple of pages early on, although this does pass. regardless, it is a little bit jarring.

After the debacle that was "Otherworld" (I still can't get what the hell I'm looking at with that story), it's nice to see Uncanny X-Force returning to form. While it isn't as fantastic as the Dark Angel saga (Yep, Remender gave himself to high a bar to meet I think), it certainly feels like it's leading up to something that might be equally as epic.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Review: The Massive #1 - Escaping to the end of world

The Crew of the Kapital (Yes that is how it's spelt) are searching for their sister ship as the world literally ends around them in the first issue of Brian Wood's new indie series The Massive.

Supposedly set in the present day (this I'm not so sure about as there is references to the early 2000's although I would assume it's a "not to distant future" type book), The Massive follows Captain Callum Israel and his crew on board the Kapital as they search for their missing sister ship, the Massive, in a world which is literally falling apart and nearing the end after a succession of natural disasters have caused chaos to the world we know.

After reading this opening issue I found my self intrigued by the story. This may not be a great description, but, unfortunately, it'sthe best I can offer. The story in itself is engrossing, with many questions left at the end, mostly about the bigger world itself. However, the numerous pages of back story flashbacks intercut between the present day story feel like a typical exposition dump and come across as boring. In fact it hurts the present day story by disrupting it's pacing, making it feel disjointed. However, despite it's problems, the book is still engrossing if you ignore the flashbacks and additional pages at the end giving greater insight into the world are also very interesting. These good points are made better by Kristian Donaldson's art, which is the highlight of this title. Donaldson's style is unlike anything I've seen before, with exception to maybe Tonci Zonjic's work in Who is Jake Ellis? Donaldson's pencils are so crisp and clean and the colors that come with them match the story beautifully.

In truth, I'm on the fence as to whether I will invest in this series long term. The premise, searching for a missing ship while the world around you is crumbling, is a tempting lure and the artwork is too good to miss out on. Maybe, now that series exposition is been presented, the title can show some of the potential I believe it has.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Is Action Comics only being collected because it is "Action Comics"?

Recently, I had reviewed Action Comics #10 (See;postID=5835176686998979709) and I mentioned that when chatting with the shop owner upon buying that issue I pondered as to why I was buying this book. I mean, After 9 issues I was not impressed, I worked hard to make sure it was the last book I read simply because it was the worst in my buy pile. So, why, if this book was so bad in my opinion, did I continue to read it, an answer which my local comic shop gave me; "Because it's Action Comics. It's the one book you have to have no matter how bad it is".
This made me wonder, is that really the only reason I collect this book? I mean, in defence of his theory, yes, it is Action Comics!! The first superhero comic book. It's been around since the 1930's. It predates Batman, Fantastic Four, Captain America, etc. Therefore, it's an institution and, with the relaunch of the DC Universe and the issue number reset, the possibility of owning an Action comics #1 (although granted, not the actual #1, unless you... well, have a couple of million spare) is a hard thing to resist. But just because I now own an issue 1, is that really enough justification to continue buying this book?
Honestly, I don't think it is, but then why do I continue collecting a series that obviously doesn't cut the mustard. I've got to admit that a part of me does it because I'm a completionist and need to collect the whole series. But in truth, the main reason is that I'm an idealist; I have to believe that Action Comics will get better because, well lets face it, it IS Action Comics. It's an institution. It's also retelling Superman's early years and to see this iconic character start from scratch is an exciting prospect. And finally, it's because Grant Morrison is a great writer who has done great things with Batman and could, quite possibly, do it again.
So, with this in mind, it's clear to say yes, I do indeed collect Action Comics simply because it's Action comics, but at the end of the day I continue because I'm willing to believe that the book can and will improve. It's now just a question of how long I'm willing to wait to see this improvement.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Review: Worlds' Finest #2 - Not at their finest

After a promising start in the first issue, Worlds' Finest #2 has really damaged my optimism in the series with a terribly poor issue which I struggled to follow. Continuing from issue 1, issue 2 sees our heroines taking on the might of Hakkou, who has attacked Power Girls' labratory and may possibly have a link to their home and be the key as to how they make it back.
Sadly, despite the attempt to make this story action packed, there is very little that actually kept my interest within this issue. Levitz, who I felt had done so well with these characters in issue 1, has presented a story here which feels incredibly wooden and disjointed on top of its dullness and, despite the big fight scenes exhibits little to no story progression. This isn't helped by the art, as George Perez and Kevin Maguire, while both great artists in their own rights, have very little in common with with their styles. This results in the panels set in the past (drawn by Maguire) and the sections in the present (drawn by Perez) complete polar opposites and causes the story to not fully mesh.
After issue 1, I was certain that this book would exceed sister book Earth 2 in my expectations and preferences to become my number 1 DC book. After reading this issue, however, I'm struggling to believe if this one will be my last choice DC book next month.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Review: Earth 2 - Heroes start appearing

After the introductory issue 1 last month bringing us the backstory of this world, here begins the look into the main heroes which will undoubtedly make up the Justice Society of Earth Two.
The issue begins where the recently cancelled Mr Terrific series ended, with Michael Holt falling out of his wormhole into the streets of this new Earth, where he immediately runs into another old DC character Terry Sloan. The book then focuses primarily on the birth of the Earth 2 Flash, as Jay Garrick receives, and subsequently gets to grips with, his powers.
I liked issue 1 and, despite it's problems, thought it might be worth a second look and how my reasoning has paid off. Earth 2 #2 is so much fun to read. James Robinson has written an enjoyable and engrossing tale which, as described by the prior issue, certainly does have an incredibly epic feel. This feeling of epicness is further compounded by the art. I've never seen Nicola Scott's work before but I now wished I had. With it's vibrant look, I feel it's the perfect style for this title. Even her take on the Flash's outfit works and makes me feel like while the outfit is new, it follows the traditional outfit.
With the end of the issue leaving a cliffhanger which will undoubtedly reveal the new origin of the original Green Lantern, this book has made it to the top of my buy pile and I just can't wait for the beginning of next month and #3.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Review: Dark Avengers #175 - A New name for a new team (but the same book)

And so it's all change for the Thunderbolts crew. After the last issue seemingly ending the T-bolts adventure through time, the powers that be (well, the Marvel editors) have changed the cast and the title to go with it, giving us.... The DARK AVENGERS!!!
The story begins with something of a cold open of a monster attacking a group of soldiers, which doesn't (yet) seem to have any relevance to the story, before then returning to the main cast, where Luke Cage is still tracking the old thunderbolts before being presented with the "new" Dark Avengers as the replacements.
The main problem with this book is simply the fact that I still don't get why the title was changed from Thunderbolts to Dark Avengers? Despite the different title and different characters, this book still has the same feel. However, this is not a major issue as this book, like the Thunderbolts before it, is still an incredibly fun book to read. Jeff Parker has got these characters down in no time and knows how to maintain a good pace of the story. Also, Parker is an expert when writing Luke Cage because Cage is the king of cool during this issue, able to out-fight and even out-think the Dark Avengers and their bosses. As well as Parker, this book also has Declan Shalvey. Shalvey's work continues to be top-notch, showing a style which, while very different from anyone else, continues to fight this title (or rather, the one before it) perfectly.
Upon hearing this book was being renamed, I considered dropping it, feeling the story threads would be all tied up. How wrong I have been proven as Parker has taken exisitng threads and continues to roll with them while putting more into the mix. With two issues due this month, I am ashamed to have considered letting this book go and instead look forward to the next issue.

Review: Action Comics #10 - The end of Clark Kent??

When it came time to writing this I found that I had encountered something which was completely unexpected, that after nine issues I couldn't get on board with, Action Comics #10 was actually pretty good.
Returning to the the "true" Superman (if there is such a thing after a massive reboot) from last issues' foray to Earth 23, we see Clark Kent continue his mission to fight for the little man, although showing signs of suffering from something we are not aware of. Meanwhile, he is being hunted by one Maxim Zarov, also known as Nimrod the Hunter.
I don't get why this issue is any better then preceding issues, mainly due to the fact that it runs along the same lines. However, I really found this issue much more engrossing then previous stories. This may be due to Morrison's decision to present the story more from Nimrod's point of view while tracking the man of Steel certainly may have been part of it, along with showing Clark handling of some sort of inner turmoil (which, in my opinion, makes the character more relatable) and an incredibly poignant back up story detailing a wake of after losing a Daily Planet reported. However, what made this book better, were the questions left unanswered, such why isn't Clark wearing the suit he acquired in the previous arc and who exactly is that little guy in glasses who keeps cropping up?
Furthermore, the big draw of this book from an artistic standpoint was Rags Morales' Justice League. Now, Morales' art in this book is always top-notch and we've seen the league drawn by him in the past (I'm talking Identity Crisis), but Morales portrays them in such a elegant way that it makes you wish he was on the JL book full time.
As I was picking up my buy pile this week I pondered to the shop owner why I buy this book, and he answered "because it's Action comics. Doesn't matter if it's bad you have to have it". This issue changes my perception on this and makes me more confident that I'll be picking up this book next month for a reason other than "because it's action comics.