Friday, March 4, 2011

Free Comics Review for 03/02/11

Welcome to another edition of Free Comics Review! Your weekly look at the free comics that companies upload to the ComiXology apps. Compared to some of the previous weeks we have had in this year, this one is relatively small, with only 4 titles. Sadly, I’m not very keen on any of them. Hit the jump to see the reviews.

Amazing Spider-Man #532 (Marvel App)

Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Ron Garney, Bill Reinhold & Matt Milla

This issue of Amazing Spider-Man was the first one to officially tie-in to the mega-event Civil War. There had been some prelude issues before this, but here’s where the meat of the story begins, in an arc called “The War at Home”.

The whole story takes place during the events of Civil War #1 and #3. Peter Parker is enjoying his job at Stark Industries, where he works as Tony Stark’s right hand man. Everything was going rather peachy until Stamford.

As it did everywhere else, the event proved to be a huge shift in paradigm for everyone involved, included Tony Stark and his actions as Iron Man. Peter is caught in the middle of this, unsure of what to do.

JMS does handle the logic process behind Peter’s decision quite well, in a heartfelt scene where he discusses it with MJ and Aunt May. You can say many things about JMS’ run on the title, but he always did a great job in handling their relationship in a complex manner (One More Day notwithstanding).

However, he doesn’t fare quite as good with Iron Man who is downright Machiavellian in his machinations. You only see parts of it here, but it only got worse as the story line went along.

The comic ends right before Peter is going to announce publicly that he is, and has been Spider-Man for the past who-knows years. This happened in Civil War #3, but was further expanded in following issues of Amazing Spider-Man.

While I usually like Ron Garney, this title and this arc in particularly, did not play to his strong suits. There’s very little action scenes, where he excels, and it feels that his talent is wasted here.

Fantastic Four #554 (Marvel App)

Written by Mark Millar
Art by Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary

This issue marked the beginning of “World’s Greatest”, the first arc by the quite popular Millar and Hitch team, which turned out to be not quite so popular as expected and the duo didn’t finish the last issue of their 16-issue run..

In this first part, we are introduced to the new status quo of the Fantastic Four. It seems that they are all going in different directions, with Johnny off to try to become a rock star, Sue forming a charity, Ben meeting a new love interest, and Reed helping an old romantic flame with some scientific problems.

Everyone feels slightly out of character, to be honest. It’s not big things, truth be told, just small ones that bring you out of the whole thing. For example, Ben’s crude proposal to a teacher right in front of the students, or Johnny trying to be a rock star (he’s already a super hero, why does he want to be a rock star?).

Millar throws a whole lot of balls up in the air in his first issue, which is appreciated and a good tactic for getting people to come back for more. The biggest idea is the creation of Nu-Earth, a fake world for people to escape into when “Earth dies”.

Hitch’s photorealism is strangely at odds with the very concept of the Fantastic Four. People read this book, arguably one of most sci-fi heavy of the mainstream American industry for the escapist factor, I think. The realism does not gel well with that.

Lily of the Valley #1 (DC/ComiXology App)

Written by Adam Atherton
Art by Adam Atherton

Lily of the Valley is another former Zuda competitor that has made its way to the DC app. It stars Lily, a strange teenager, and apparently mute, as the protagonist. The whole comic is very weird, if you ask me.

The first issue is made up of two parts, one set in the present and another in the past (3 months ago). In the first one, Lily is out hunting the night. To what aim, we don’t yet know, but she speaks of creatures of the night, or rather the lack of.

We see Lily enter’s someone house and brutally murders that person. With a decorative flamengo, if I might add. It’s a very violent scene. We now flashback to the past...

Lily is an outcast in high school, attending the prom (or something along those lines). We see that she is disliked by pretty much everyone in the school, and people make fun of the fact that she can’t talk.

She takes out her frustration on one of the girls, violently attacking her outside of the school, with no one the wiser it was her. It is heavily implied that since then, Lily has been violently attacking people to feel better about herself.

It’s a pretty intriguing set-up, and there is a running theme about medications and mental unstability, and how killing people helps Lily cope with it. It’s a rather unusual route for a comic, and I’m interested to see where it goes next.

The art is in greyscale, with a very stylized vibe to it. It does a great job in highlight the dual nature of this comic: sure, this is an awkward teenage girl, but she also goes out to kill people at night.

New X-Men #1 (Marvel App)

Written by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir
Art by Randy Green

New X-Men, sometimes also known as Academy X, was an ongoing series from 2004 and went on for several years. It started here, with the story arc called “Choosing Sides”.

Most of the cast are young mutants attending the Xavier Institute to learn about their powers, etc. This takes pre-House of M, but after Morrison’s run on the similarly-named New X-Men, in case you are wondering.

Some senior X-Men members do show, such as Cyclops and Emma Frost, as headmasters of the school. The focus, however remains on the new (ish) characters that are going to be studying in the upcoming semester of school.

As students are wont to do, they get into trouble. This time, by sneaking into the Danger Room by themselves. You can imagine what happens next.

There is one cardinal problem with this issue, though, and it’s that most of these characters were introduced in the previous and short-lived New Mutants series. The writers don’t do a great job of making new readers care or know about these characters. It’s sort of implied that you need to read New Mutants and know everything that happened there.

The art is certainly unique, though perhaps not to the liking of everyone. Green has a very identifiable, almost Saturday Morning cartoon, style that however lacks any outstanding qualities to it. It’s not bad, but it’s not making me wonder what comic he has been drawing either, if you know what I mean.

That's it for this week's column! Any ideas, tips, or advice are welcome. Remember that you can always read the comics in the ComiXology web reader (with the exception of the Marvel ones). 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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Klep said...

I really liked Hitch's photo-realism in Fantastic Four. I thought that it served to highlight the more, for want of a better word, fantastic aspects of the group's dealings and in doing so made them more special. Those off-character moments you mention also didn't seem that way to me. Johnny wanting to be a rock star is in perfect keeping with his childish narcissist side, and Ben's proposal was very-blue collar, and when he makes it he's clearly in a good mood and actually enjoying himself for once. It was in-character for him precisely because the situation was unusual for him. He's not usually having that much fun, and he got caught up in the moment.

Matt Duarte said...

@Klep: I don't think Hitch's art is bad by any means, and it actually fits with Millar's direction. I just don't prefer that style for FF.

As for the moments, while I understand the logic behind them, they still seem off for me. Yeah, Ben is blue-collar, and I can definitely imagine him saying something like that, just not in a school in front of a bunch of kids, you know? And Johnny, I get the feeling that he would think that rock stars want to be HIM, not the other way around.

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