Friday, November 5, 2010

Free Comics Review for 11/03/10

Welcome to Month 2 of Free Comics Review! Hope you have all been enjoying it so far, and our first month has certainly brought us all kinds of free comics. Of course, at this rate, I won’t have a column next month. This week, we only have four free comics for your delight (and perhaps not surprisingly, still not a single one from DC). Worry not reader, because I am committed to reviewing every free comic available! Hit the jump to see the reviews.

Dark Avengers #1 (Marvel App)

Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Mike Deodato Jr.

Wow, this is probably one of the most recent comics that Marvel has uploaded for free. This was released just last year. I’m guessing that the trade is coming out soon.

Do I really need to introduce Dark Avengers? I think everyone here knows what the deal behind them is, but just in case, this is Norman Osborn’s team of Avengers, made up of a mix of confused individuals and villains masquerading as heroes.

The issue is the archetypal “Let’s get the team together” montage. This one had the added fun of figuring out which villain was wearing which heroes’ costume. It’s a page turner (or in this case, screen taping), and it’s interesting enough to keep new readers coming back for more.

Bendis writing on this title is particularly strong. He has a good handle on Osborn, and the addition of Victoria Hand into the cast was a wise decision. The rest of the characters get only a couple of lines, but enough for Bendis to introduce us to them. The only misstep is probably his handling of Ghost, who comes off as adolescent in his anti-corporate views.

Deodato’s art is a bit hit of miss. He actually uses a strong and unique panel layout, but it does lend itself well to the tiny screen. This one works better if you can see the whole page, not just portions of it.

Thor: Son of Asgard #1 (Marvel App)

Written by Akira Yoshida
Art by Greg Tocchini

Most of the time, when it comes to Marvel and DC comics, I usually have a vague idea of what a series is about, what role it fulfilled. This four issue mini series from a few years back is an exception, having never heard of it until I read it here.

The story is about Thor as a teenager, and his adventures with equally aged Balder, Sif and Loki. Hell, the story is even called “The Warriors Teen”. What kind of bothers me is that this does not gel well with other stories I’ve read regarding these characters when they were this age.

To be honest, it wasn’t that good of a first issue. It’s pretty overwritten, going on at length about the history of Asgard, it’s myths, the city, etc. Instead of focusing of making the characters more relatable the reader, it wastes too much time establishing a mythology that from what I can see, doesn’t matter much in this first issue.

The story is the beginning of a quest that Thor, Sif, and Balder must embark on. They are just having a normal day in Asgard, trying to lift Mjolnir (which at this stage shouldn’t have been built yet), when Loki messed with them by sending giant spiders to kill them. The three warriors work together, kill them, and Odin decides that they have earned a mission.

It was a nice surprise to find Greg Tocchini on artwork duties. I’m quite familiar with him from Last Days of American Crime. His art is not quite as polished here, but there’s little flashes of the artist that he is now. The faces, in particular, have a very peculiar style that makes it easy to identify him as the artist.

Valora #1: Till Death Don’t Us Part (ComiXology App)

Written by Dana Schmalenberg
Art by Steven Cummings and Krista Ward

This week’s sole non-Marvel title comes in the shape of Valora, a creator owned five issue mini series. The other issues are not available yet, so I don’t know if this is a new series or not.

The description tells of a grand tale, of a love between two people that spans generations and millenniums. Sadly, we don’t see any of that just yet, what it being the first chapter and all that.

Set in Ancient Egypt, it’s a forbidden love tale between two people from different castes of society. It’s actually an interesting set-up, where one of the helpers of the Queen is about to be buried alongside her in typical Pharaoh-style.

There seems to be some supernatural things going on, or at least the implication that her partner seems to be an extraterrestrial. They use some orb or crystal thing that will bound their souls forever. I think I would have liked it just as a tale of love, without anything else.

Artwise, it’s a very clear and straightforward style, with hints of manga and Saturday morning cartoon shows. Not my favorite style, but serviceable.

Wolverine #20 (Marvel App)

Written by Mark Millar
Art by Jonh Romita Jr.

Enemy of the State begins here, Millar’s first arc in the Wolverine title. He would come back years later to do Old Man Logan.

In case you haven’t heard about this series, Wolverine is kidnapped by The Hand and brainwashed into killing people. In this first issue though, we don’t see much of that, just Wolverine disappearing in a mysterious way, only to resurface a changed man.

As far as Millar comics go, this one is pretty entertaining and original on it’s own right, though I don’t think is quite as strong as his work on the Ultimate line. The ideas are fun, but the execution (at least in this first issue) falters a bit.

There’s some fun ideas and concepts here at work, but they feel forced into one single story. It almost feels as if Millar worked on it backwards, developing plot points and then working back to how they all tie together. Take for example, a mafia group accidentally kidnapping a wrong kid. It could have been expanded further, but it’s just a framing device to show how Wolverine gets captured.

As a side note, this is the third Millar book I’ve had to review for this column. The man is everywhere!

It really helps to have John Romita Jr. on board as artist, as I think the two of them work quite well together. Even if Romita Jr.’s art is not perfect (some panels were pretty weird looking and blocky), his storytelling is great, and you really can’t get someone better for action stories of this kind.

That's it for this week's column! Any ideas, tips, or advice are welcome. We always try to improve our content based on your suggestions, and with a new column, it's good to hear back from the readers. So, comment away!

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Logan said...

Good reviews! I don't think that Dark Avengers is the most recent issue that Marvel's released though. They released the first issue of Hawkeye and Mockingbird, the first issue of Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine, and the first issue of One Month 2 Live.

Dennis N said...

Yeah yeah love me some Dark Avengers...

Anonymous said...

Im just going to say it . digital comics just seem better

Flip The Page said...

Thor Son of Asgard is 12 issues, I think.

Anyway, I think Enemy of the State might've be the last Millar story before the man became the crude self-promoter he is nowadays and it shows in how enjoyable it is.

Matt Duarte said...

@Logan: Yeah, you are right, I totally forgot about those. Dark Avengers is decidedly much higher profile than those other series though.

Don said...

Why is self promotion a bad thing? Being crude is a trademark of his, always has been. But the self-promotion? It's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Meg his stuff has almost always been consistntly good

Matt Duarte said...

It's not that the self promotion is bad, but Millar overdoes it to the point that it gets annoying. That, and that in the past couple of years, the self promotion usually involves talking about how his comics would be great movies, what directors should be attached, what actors should play characters, etc. People want to read good comics, not glorified movie pitches in comic book form.

Brian Lee said...

I saw that issue of Dark Avengers packaged as a freebie with a set of two action figures (I forget which two, but they were members of the Dark Avengers) a week or so ago, so I imagine they're pushing it as a jump-on point for all the trades from that through Siege.

I liked Thor: Son of Asgard. They have it at my library in the kids' section, and I think that's how it works best. All that less-than-essential history stuff gets eaten up by kids and they don't mind at all -- it's just some cool info to read about. The rest of the story's pretty decent, though, too. Nothing amazing, but a fun read.

Anonymous said...

lol matt you just doing what you he wants you to do give him attention . when you guys complain about you people you still giving him media attention, Millar plays you nad ryan like a fiddle sometimes

Anonymous said...

It's not that the self promotion is bad, but Millar overdoes it to the point that it gets annoying. That, and that in the past couple of years, the self promotion usually involves talking about how his comics would be great movies, what directors should be attached, what actors should play characters, etc. People want to read good comics, not glorified movie pitches in comic book form.

and that matt only helps millar . those comments are only fuel for millars comic attention . the man is damn smart when it comes to marketing

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