Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Weekly Crisis Down Under Reviews For 03/02/2011

G’day, it’s time for another weekly round-up of quality comics and this week wasn’t a bad haul at all. We’ve got pulpy delights, swampy delicacies, and Zodiacal denouements. Hit the jump to see what was good, what was great, and what was the best of the week – it’s got something to do with Frank Miller.

The Boys #52

Written by Garth Ennis
Art by John McCrea

It feels like this title is ready to start its descent into the third act. Everything is aligned, all engines are idling, and the finale is going to be one hell of a ride. It feels this way and yet this issue presents us with yet another look back at what was.

Again, I complain that Ennis is working harder to build the back story than he is to build the story. Hughie is finally meeting Mallory, the previous leader of The Boys, (though Hughie has actually met him before, he just didn’t know it…in a reveal I didn’t think was that strong) and so they sit down for a chat. Hughie is going to find out what happened with supers in WWII.

The idea of a super story set in WWII is interesting but I also just want the real story, The Boys versus The Seven, to play out some more. Less machinations and more making’ with the good stuff (see what I did there? Ha). This issue is full of good dialogue and it’s setting up for some very cool things but it’s just set up. The next issue will probably kick my ass but this one just warms me up. It’s a fluffer for the big show coming around the corner.

McCrea on art isn’t great on this title, and never has been. His characters look blocky and muddled, his storytelling mixed. It’s like he knows how to draw but not to these scripts. Such a shame when we’ve all been raised on Darick Robertson and then Russ Braun dominating this title for years.

Verdict – Check It. A poor issue of The Boys is usually better than a good issue of most titles but in the end the two main conversations aren’t anything new and the whole flashback is all lead in. Tune in next month for what will surely be something epic, though.

Captain America: Hail HYDRA! #3

Written by Jonathan Maberry
Art by Phil Winslade

This miniseries had been trucking along just nice, new artists every month, an interesting HYDRA! tale but this issue doesn’t stall it up as much as it doesn’t do anything. This issue isn’t bad but it is completely superfluous.

The premise is that HYDRA! has been rocking their nefarious ways for centuries. It’s been a time-spanning scope of evil and all this issue tells us that that they’re still at it. There are some mildly interesting asides of people looking for the secret of everlasting life, referencing real people in a S.H.I.E.L.D. type of way by using the name as a shortcut, and then some zombies pop up in Wakanda.

Against this, we see Sam Wilson first gaining his falcon wings and getting used to them. The team up with Falcon, Cap, and Black Panther sees them trashing zombie heads and generally having fun but it isn’t anything amazing. It’s all to just show us that the HYDRA! scheme of life eternal is still on the cards, but it doesn’t seem new or more dastardly than before. It simply is.

Winslade’s art in this issue is fine but it doesn’t offer anything that makes me want to recommend the issue based on it alone. Not like Scioli’s work last month. This is all very by the numbers – such a shame.

Verdict – Avoid It. Not because it’s bad, but because you can avoid this and I don’t think you’ll be missing anything. One great question is raised to Cap, and a HYDRA! lantern is lit to great effect, but otherwise you’ll wonder what the point was.

Carbon Grey #1

Written by Hoang Nguyen, Paul Gardner
Art by Khari Evans, Kinsun Loh, Hoang Nguyen

I reviewed this one over on CBR (check the link) and was delightfully surprised by how much I enjoyed this comic. I really wasn’t sure I would. It’s about a female family of guardian protectors for some ultimate Kaiser and the art is intense. That’s about all I knew and that’s kind of all you need to know, everything else is on the page.

This comic is violent, very violent. It kind of feels and looks like a Radical comic, it’s quite cinematic. Mangled heads and sliced up men litter the pages and once you let go and accept the hyperviolence you will come to enjoy the maniacal glee on offer.

There’s a lot of world building done here and it’s mostly effective. You’ll want to check back for the story but also for the experience. This comic isn’t like a lot of other stuff on offer. This comic is what I expect parts of Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch to feel like. And that’s a compliment.

Verdict – Buy It. This isn’t a superhero story, this is a story with very focused individuals who know how to hurt each other. The art is pretty amazing in places but the story does match up to it. This comic is building a myth and it might just be something special.

Incognito: Bad Influences #4

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

I reviewed this one on CBR and I said many nice things. The overall series hasn’t been great, to be honest, I feel like not much has really happened, but that doesn’t stop this issue standing alone to be pretty damn good.

Zack Overkill is on his way to the final confrontation, which seems weird because he hasn’t had the usual initial confrontation yet, but the way this issue plays out makes you keen for it nonetheless. He’s on the trail and goes through a very Frank Miller bar that works for the narrative but also ties a very keen thematic line through the entire intent of the title.

Phillips and Staples keep the quality high, and you have to be happy that these individuals are putting out a book as regularly as they can. This issue shipped within a month from the previous one, which is appreciated after the last one was delayed heavily for personal reasons.

Brubaker comments in the back matter that he started this series without an understanding of where it was going to go. He was happy to write and let the conclusion find him. It sounds harsh but you can kind of tell that from how it’s all playing out. The focus seems fuzzy and I’m not certain it will all tie up satisfyingly. I get the feeling the end in the next issue will leave us with lots of questions and only lead into the next mini rather than actually concluding here.

Verdict – Must Read. This issue is still brilliant, I won’t hear anything else. It’s a comment on these kinds of comics but only tied up in a more pointed commentary of the lead character. Brubaker isn’t navel gazing about what it’s all about, he’s working the character and narrative first and that’s how it should always be. The art looks good and the final sequence feels like Polanski just directed a Steranko comic. It’s pretty damn good and needs to be read slowly. This is my book of the week.

The Intrepids #1

Written by Kurtis Wiebe
Art by Scott Kowalchuk

I reviewed this one on CBR and liked it a lot. It’s a comic that isn’t perfect but it’s just damn fun. Through force of will, I get the feeling this one might just become one of my new favourites. It’s a retro-pulpy delight with interesting ideas and missions on offer but a deep character vein sure to be plumbed.

Wiebe is doing his best to make this comic interesting but also full of rich characters. There’s an overall dramatic thread simmering away in the background while the foreground offers zany spy missions and lots of gadgets and cyber-bears.

Kowalchuk’s art reminds me of the way Ba and Moon draw Casanova in both style and vibe. He’s inventing plenty of this world from the ground up and one page in this issue, where Crystal takes on the bear, is one of my favourite pages of the year. I want to buy that page. Buy the comic to see what I mean.

Verdict – Buy It. This is a great introduction that I feel will become a title that may only get better. If you’re looking for the next big thing from Image you have just found it. Buy it, soak it in with a snifter of grandpa’s cough medicine, and thank me later.

Secret Warriors #25

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Alessandro Vitti

I’m invested in this title, I’ve read through a lot of this massive tale and I’ve enjoyed much of it. What a shame that now it does not feel like it once did. This is a big issue, and there’s a lot to soak in but it all feels rushed. This is an epic story and it no longer has an epic tapestry on which to be wrought. This is micro-myth making and that robs it of some grandeur.

Looking at this issue as being simply a one-shot, though with events tying into everything else, means you get plenty of action and story for your dollar (even with the one buck price increase on this issue). We get the secret history of how S.H.I.E.L.D., HYDRA!, and Leviathan all tie together and it’s a cool tale. The Zodiac is an intriguing concept and it’s relatively well played here but I just wish we could have gone deeper. This would have been one hell of an arc but instead we get 31 pages and I feel like plenty of characterisation was lost in translation.

There’s violence afoot and betrayal but it’s all in service of making everything align. Not every decision and action feels natural to me and I don’t get the justification of some of it. With more room, I might have been convinced but as it stands I am just left wondering. When the true history is illuminated, I don’t want to be left in the dark.

Vitti’s art works well in many places but not in the secret headquarters of S.H.I.E.L.D. This is a world Dustin Weaver created in fine pencil lines and Vitti cannot capture that grandeur, and doesn’t seem to try. But once it comes to the brutalities of the spy world he shines through.

Verdict – Buy It. This is the sort of comic you will get your money’s worth from. It’s intriguing and interesting and there’s more than enough on offer for one month’s worth. It might not all be perfect but this is a large moment in the history of S.H.I.E.L.D. and you’ll want to be there for it. This whole title is going to read as epic when collected in its finality but I am interested to see how the pacing feels on the last ten issues.

Thunderbolts #154

Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Declan Shalvey

I reviewed this one on CBR and this Man-Thing one-shot is a good little standalone that anyone can sample and enjoy. We get the swamp creature’s origin but also a definition of exactly what his current status quo is. It’s the sort of issue that serves Man-Thing fans but also works as a Thunderbolts issue.

Parker makes this issue fun and packs the short tale with enough to dazzle and delight. He is showing us exactly how Man-Thing feels about his current situation as the Thunderbolts’ shuffling quinjet. The characterisation is clear but pushed through by the actions within the narrative. I only hope this is Parker’s Anatomy Lesson that will push Man-Thing further forward in many issues to come.

Shalvey is an amazing artist. It’s just that simple, his pages are fun and well crafted and deserving of more attention. And an ongoing. His Man-Thing looks very fine indeed and I like him on this team in general. Hopefully Marvel keep giving him more and more work.

Verdict – Buy It. As always, this title is something you should be picking up whenever it ships. Parker is doing his best to make nearly every issue accessible and the arcs are short. This issue works completely on its own but it also sets up what comes next with one of my favourite panels of the week right at the end. That pledge, of Man-Thing and another mystical character, is something I want to buy. Roll on next month!

Ultimate Captain America #3

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Ron Garney

This series hasn’t been great. It certainly isn’t anything anyone seeing the Cap movie is going to want to, nor should they, read. It’s also been pretty slow and while this issue only offers a little bit more what is on display actually isn’t too bad.

Steve Rogers has been captured by Nuke and held captive in a remote village. They’re taking his blood out to fuel the children and elderly that take on his super soldier powers. It’s an interesting concept but the more thought provoking aspect of this issue is that Nuke is determined to convince (brainwash) Rogers the American dream has been sold out, corporately warped into a carpet bombing monster/machine that wipes its ass on human rights and mops up the crumbs of a genocidal meal with the spirits of forgotten and forlorn countries.

Nuke reads passages about the atrocities of the Vietnam War. He shows videos of innocent people affected by warfare that America profits from. Nuke’s doing his best and just as you start to maybe believe he might be onto something he snaps in front of us, and Rogers, and truth and hope is restored. Nuke is the bad guy in this tale. He might be right, somewhere within his philosophy, but his execution methods are not what is needed. Rogers sees this but is so tired, so beaten, so possibly defeated that he can’t do too much about it.

Nuke manages one thing and it’s to make Rogers question all that he knows. Whether Rogers will change, for the better or worse, at least Nuke knows he will have affected the good Captain. This brutality affects the reader as well and really gives you food for thought. If you take the facts away from Nuke you have plenty to ponder, which is nice to take from a comic. The final sequence shows us that Cap just wants something to believe in. So did Nuke. Soldiers are inherently weapons looking to be aimed true and they only hope, and pray, that those directing the crosshairs are pure of spirit and fight.

Garney is a great artist for this comic. His violence looks like it means something and has impact and motion. He also sells the quieter moments and nothing feels like it’s rushed off. The colours of Keith and Milla are also well shadowed and muddied.

Verdict – Check It. This issue is brutal fun and the intensity is palpable. The aspect of truth of purpose and purity of focus is well played in this issue but in the end it’s just still feeling too thin. This trade will end up an interesting little read and this issue will be the part where it really picks up.

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Anonymous said...

Thunderbolts was great, although i like kev walker alot better than shalvey, no secret six review?

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Anon1 - man, Shalvey is winning right now. Winning.

Did Secret Six ship this week...? Must have missed that one.

volts said...

It's funny but ultimate cap better symbolises America of today then the real one

Anonymous said...

agreed . ultimate cap attacks a chinese facility illegally just because America does not want china to advance genetics , America goes into the middle east to take away doomsday weapons ...oh wait

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