Monday, February 14, 2011

The Weekly Crisis Down Under Reviews for 02/09/2011

Another instalment of reviews from the Great Southern Land. This week it’s an all-Marvel spectacular, sorry other publishers, you just didn’t get a pick up. Better luck next week. If it helps, none of these comics hit the mark, and some are about to get dropped like a high centrefield ball lost in the sun. Hit the jump to see some quick thoughts on Black Panther: Man Without Fear, Heroes For Hire, Osborn, Ultimate Cap, and the finale for Widowmaker.

Black Panther: Man Without Fear #515

Written by David Liss
Art by Francesco Francavilla

I have to say, I’m still enjoying this comic. It’s not perfect, and it doesn’t quite feel like high art, but it has a decent story and some killer art.

Black Panther looks good in a fight and he’s putting together an array of toys and gadgets to fight crime that are enjoyable to watch come together. It’s not Batman level of genius and cunning (and it probably should be) but it’s still fun. I just wish David Liss would treat T’Challa as being a little smarter. This guy is supposed to be genius level intellect and apart from the fact he knows how to solder a circuit board I’m not sure I’m seeing it here. He ends up shocked by a moment at the end that he really should know more about. With any amount of thought, it doesn’t quite add up.

Vlad still delights as the villain and I’m just surprised he’s holding his own so well against the Black Panther. The fights are well put together but surely this guy should be taken down a little easier. I like that we’re now looking at his next generation. Trouble within the ranks of the bad guys only makes me see this story having the possibility to go longer and that’s always nice. Liss could really be building something here but he needs to elevate it just a little.

The star still remains Francesco Francavilla. The man sets a page up well but I think it’s his colours that make it all pop. He makes everything look like it’s gone through a filter, like Goodfellas through the old Universal Frankenstein lens.

I do get the feeling, though, that any Daredevil fans who dipped in to this title can probably leave now. There’s actually no need to read this title because you won’t get any kind of Daredevil fix. I kind of wish we would – a bit of Ben Urich, maybe Dakota North would make this comic feel a little more essential to the overall story of Hell’s Kitchen and might keep it afloat. As it is now, it’s just a Black Panther comic and if you didn’t read one before then you have no reason to stay on this one. Well, you could stay because it’s good but you have to be here to know it.

I can officially say that Bianchi’s covers for this title sell the book in such a wrong direction. They need to let Francavilla handle a few covers, that might help the overall look of the book. Oh, and that quote on the cover – that’s me. Enjoy.

Verdict – Check It. This book is good fun but it’s not essential. There’s a noir story waiting to break through but the formula beats seem to slow it down from being anything you haven’t seen before. The art is well worth the price of admission but by now it’s sad to say you could probably leave. The villain is good, the story is good, but it needs to take that next step above good.

Heroes For Hire #1

Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Brad Walker

The best way to describe this book is that I don’t really get excited to review it. I don’t have great things to say and I don’t have terrible things to say. I just read it and kind of forget about it soon after. I think this one is doomed to be dropped – even though it’s not actually bad. It

The first issue dropped the bomb behind Misty Knight’s new HFH program (SPOILERS) – she is under the control of the Puppet Master. The second issue showed us Paladin discovering a few leads onto this secret – though he doesn’t know exactly what game is afoot. Here, we have Paladin trying to sort a few ducks in a row and then approach Iron Fist for help.

To be honest, the main reason I bought into this book was for Iron Fist. I just dig the character and want more of him but I’m not getting much. That might pick up after this issue as he finally enters the story but I’m just not in for it. Watching Paladin spy on all the connected aspects of Misty’s life is good, and it’s right for the story, but it could have been done much more economically. It didn’t need to be a whole issue.

Once he settles on Iron Fist for contact, the six page fight takes it out of me. It’s not what I want from comics. Someone else might think it’s awesome, and it is well drawn, but it’s just posturing and bleeding panels. Then there’s the fact Rand is kind of a dick once Paladin opens up his fears. If you’re also reading Power Man & Iron Fist then you can see Rand is kind of a dick right now and while I’m not sure I dig it I’m willing to give it a go so I won’t call what happens here out of character but just something I’ll keep a close eye on to see where it goes.

I also don’t think the white and gold Iron Fist costume should be the new look for him. Not to be a complete fanlad but the green and gold is the tradition set of the immortal weapon costume for K’un L’un. You don’t just change that because you go astral for one adventure. It’s like changing the flag, dressing Cap in a black suit, it’s just not right.

Brad Walker does a good job for this issue until you look at his depiction of Misty Knight. It is flat out ugly – there’s no other way to put it. He draws her as if she got beat down with a phone book and then left in the sun to bloat. It’s not pretty.

Verdict – Byrne It. There’s just not enough quality for a whole issue here. The plot moves about six pages forward and takes far too long to do it. Oh, Moon Knight does fight a velociraptor. If that’s not worth flipping through on the racks then I don’t know what is.

Osborn #3

Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by Emma Rios

This mini is kind of fun, and this issue has a few nastily good moments, but overall I’m not won on this. It only has two issues to go so I’m fine with that but I just wish Marvel had made this one $2.99. This issue shows Osborn in the thick of a prison riot and that image does deliver in areas like you want it to.

DeConnick writes a good woman, nice and strong, but far too often you get that very “look how strong I am” moment that’s not exactly as much about the story as it is about the character and the words in her mouth. To DeConnick’s credit, she usually does make it somewhat about the story so that’s appreciated. However, it’s still just grand standing and it feels not quite forced but definitely unnecessary.

Once the violence in the prison starts, that’s when things get interesting. Osborn has to stamp down his authority and he does it well. Rios art is great but she doesn’t sell all the big action moments. The big Osborn fight should hold more gravity but it’s lost through too many speed lines. Nevertheless, the outcome is still just as grand – Osborn is leading the riot, and everyone wants to be his next disciple.

Our intrepid reporter, Norah Winters, gets into a whole mess of trouble and one moment of that sequence is exceptionally spooky and icky. It then leads into the end where Osborn looks to finally leave his shackles and re-enter society, not quite rehabilitated.

I’m wondering if Osborn gets free, with this army of prisoners behind him, who will stop him> Or will he bleed into another title? All interesting questions but we should take it one issue at a time.

Verdict – Check It. This issue packs a lot in, words and moments, and it’s a smart comic. It’s maybe plodding a little slow through the middle as we wind towards a real end but it’s still a thrilling ride.

Ultimate Captain America #2

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Ron Garney

There’s a Cap movie coming along so Marvel’s putting stacks of Cap content on the shelves for all those moviegoers looking for something to read. I get that, I don’t think it always works, and I don’t agree with it, but I get the theory. So what service does a miniseries about the Ultimate Cap serve? People are going to walk out of the movie, with a wholesome Chris Evans performance, and then pick up this raving asshat…I don’t think so.

My problem is, Ultimate Cap isn’t a nice guy. He’s a bit of a douche and while Aaron writes that level of douche well it doesn’t mean people are always going to like it. Cap just had his ass handed to him by the Cap of Vietnam, which was revealed to be Nuke, and now he’s on the trail of that character. It’s a Heart of Darkness tale as Cap is going to learn the true tale of warfare, as he’s stomped by a village of soldiers in a moment so strange as to border being goofy.

The big moment here is Cap punching Carol Danvers right in the face. That sounds worse than it actually is, he’s not a complete monster but you can’t help but know the real Cap would not do this (cue some continuity buff telling me the time Cap did punch a woman in the face – though if it’s Diamondback I don't want to hear about it). No matter the situation, the Marvel U Steve Rogers surely would not hit a woman and having him do it here isn’t edgy, or punk, or cool, or anything – it’s just completely in character and it shows this guy as the sort of soldier you don’t actually want to follow. He’s the Nathaniel Jessup of the superhero world, you can’t get behind him.

Aaron fills the pages with some gritty words – if anyone has to write this series it might as well be him, but it’s not something that’s going to lure in any more readers. Also, top points for that cover, Cap in the murky waters is good, it’s damn good.

Verdict – Byrne It. Cap’s own Apocalypse Now. This could still get very interesting and the end of this issue leaves it wide open to wow me. I just wish it didn’t wait two whole issues to finally get to a point where it could do more.

Widowmaker #4

Written by Duane Swierczynski
Art by Manuel Garcia
I’m already sick of complaining in this set of reviews, or at least seeming nonplussed, but this story hasn’t been amazing. It’s been good, interesting, certainly had its moments but it’s plateaued just below great and I wish I hadn’t wanted just that bit more. Another Marvel comic not worth $3.99 an issue. However, this finale issue does lift its game to make me smile more often than not.

Black Widow, Hawkeye, Mockingbird, and Dominic Fortune are facing off against the new Ronin – Natasha’s ex Ivan. A volcano is erupting, the army is ready to strike, and there’s nothing left to end this with but a stack of action.

Swierczynski does like to think through his action and make the characters play tactician, which often works toward the believability of his scripts. As much as you can believe anything about this sort of set up. At least there’s some form of brains on the page. There are also some lighter moments – the Russian goons for hire complaining about the heat of the volcano from inside their massive mechanical suits is golden.

This issue brings the story back to the superspy roots and throws more on the page than it skips past. There are insane little moments that are there to be enjoyed. Though the final defeat of Ronin does feel a little cheap. It’s thought through, and offers up one very psyche out moment that certainly had me pausing for a second.

The big thing I take from this series is that I still want more Swierczynski on Black Widow but I’d take him writing Dominic Fortune just as easily. I also am amazed by the quality Jim McCann, the writer of the odd issues in this tale, and the way he brings an A game to any type of story.

Verdict – Check It. It might feel generic at times but overall this comic has been fun. It didn’t need to be more expensive, and probably didn’t need to be its own mini, but it’s still been fun all the same. The problem is, if you missed it you wouldn’t be missing much. It has that problem that it doesn’t affect much else so it doesn’t ‘count’ so many will pass over the trade and they’ll be missing some fun spy fu.

These are my reviews for the week, if you have any of your own then please add them in the comments.

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Nathan Aaron said...

If the original point of Widowmaker was to save both the Black Widow and Hawkeye & Mockingbird series, they would have still been cancelled. Such a pedestrian, bland story. The big reveal villain came out of nowhere, and the entire thing was uneven, due to two writers. I'm still looking forward to the new Hawkeye mini (and it's got some great art!) but this mini sorta lost it's way.

AND Manuel Garcia is an AMAZING artist, Marvel. Have you seen his Checkmate work at the end of that run?! You're killing his stuff with the inker you've given him. Just sayin'.

Ethereal said...

I really liked the issue of Osborn. Good stuff.

I agree on Black Panther. It's ALMOST there.

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