Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Weekly Crisis Down Under Reviews For 03/09/2011

Alright, time to look over some of this week’s comics and it’s a pretty good haul in general. A few missteps but these titles also offer up quality through zany structure leading to death traps, a great breaking down of being the spy within the spy, and zombies top the week as the thing you can’t miss every month. Hit the jump to see the good and the bad.

Batman Inc. #3

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Yanick Paquette, and Pere Perez

Man, this comic starts and I have no idea what’s happening. I’m lost for three pages and it’s not instilling much hope in me that this comic is for me. It’s bad enough delays have put this third issue back so far but now this, damn. But then the story kicks into high gear and it’s all a delight, much like the first issue, the opening salvo of the initial two issue arc, was. Morrison is writing one hell of a fun Batman comic – I just don’t know what those first three pages have to do with anything.

The main thrust of the story is Batman looking to recruit El Gaucho into his new global Batmen enterprise. The kicker being, El Gaucho is his own man and doesn’t yield for anyone. I believe it too from the depth and richness of his handlebar moustache. You don’t get a cookie duster like that from being a ‘yes man’.

The initial fight with the masked, and parroted, Papagayo is pop fun. Morrison is shooting for the absurd and pretty well nailing it right between the eyes – it’s a head shot in the least. The set up and delivery is just crazy enough to work but I do have issues with Morrison and Paquette’s levels of closure between the panels. It feels like every issue is edited in five passes and each pass has to cut a fifth of the issue off. By the end, the story is stripped bare and while it leaves only the best to survive (and no fans crying decompression) it also makes for some gaps in logic. But perhaps logic isn’t the main ingredient of this book…? Seeing Batman suspended from the hot air balloon in one panel and then in the balloon the next panel is a little confusing for me. I understand he has the strength to climb up a rope to get in, and we don’t need a page to see that happen so it occurs in real time, but why didn’t Papagayo look below the basket, and why does he let Batman actually gain access over the railing and into the basket. It feels like a step is missing, one at the least, and while maybe we didn’t really need to see it for the story to feel cohesive these things must be addressed, shouldn’t they?

An encounter between the civilian alter-egos of these heroic men is fun but do we really need a page of dancing? This then leads to the heroes getting the hot tip to hit the crime scene where the issue ends. It’s all a little too easy, even if it is supposed to feel that way. Papagayo and this call to the boarded up house are good but not as good as the Lord Death Man set up from the last arc. This follows a very similar formula but misses a few ingredients.

I love the construction of these final pages Morrison and Paquette are using to slow the pace of the final moment before the end of episode cliffhanger reveal. So rarely do comics need a soundtrack but I’d love the LOST end of episode music to play just as I turn that last page. Golden.

Paquette is the perfect artist for this comic and he’s handling the action, the smooth moves, Bruce Wayne and Batman exactly as they should all look. He also brings a rugged hairiness to the new characters that make this all feel very much like a new location. Perez subs in for two pages and he sticks close to the rest of the issue so it doesn’t slow you down at all.

Verdict – Buy It. spending money on this book won’t leave you with much buyer’s regret. Morrison has set forward a mission statement of global fun and he’s delivering. This issue is another great set up and next month (if the comic is ready by then) we’ll get the next step. The best thing about this series is that it does leave you wanting more.

Conan: Road of Kings #3

Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Mike Hawthorne

There’s a big bloody serpent beast in this issue. That’s how you make a Cimmerian tale. You take that beast and you put it at the bidding of a very bad man and then you dangle a pretty thing in front of it. Then you watch Conan do what he does best. The scenes underwater strangely look better than all the scenes on dry land. I can’t even explain why or how that could happen.

But first, Conan enters a bar where everything is exactly as you expect. He leaves his princess amour with the local stripper (why? I don’t know) and she stupidly gets drunk and spills her secrets to whoever is around her, the aforementioned stripper. It’s not a smart move, but this chick doesn’t seem to be too over-endowed in the brain department. Her loose lips get her kidnapped and Conan only manages to get more work while he is away from her. I still don’t know why he is with her. It’s so silly as to actually annoy me.

The evil machinations of the bar keep are indeed nasty but of course they don’t work out and thus we get Conan V the sea beast. It’s a standard sequence of events but it pushes the story further along the Road of Kings and that’s all you should expect.

Hawthorne’s art seems too cartoony in places for a Conan story. The beast images work, and he doesn’t mind drawing a woman with barely enough clothes to keep the spittle of the assembled drunken masses off her skin, but the action feels stilted at times. The double-page layouts of motion don’t quite capture the grandeur of the moment.

Verdict – Byrne It. This issue was alright, but if you cast your eyes across the sea beast fight then you’ll have seen the best part. Conan might be smart in all he does but as long as he stays with this princess fool then his characterisation is a little off, as far as I’m concerned.

Insurrection 3.6 #1

Written by Blake Masters & Michael Alan Nelson
Art by Michael Penick

This sci-fi comic looks to take surface elements of Blade Runner, The Terminator, Starship Troopers, I, Robot and just about any other flick you’ve seen and liked and shake it up into a political and philosophical study of life and identity – but still with action. Is it successful? In a word, no.

Insurrection suffers mostly because through exposition it tries to build a world (telling not showing) and through minor moments tries to build characters when inhabiting the head spaces of these beings would be much more effective. I have often found Nelson to be a writer I don’t dig on (with 28 Days Later being his other title of note) because he doesn’t mind rocking a massively silent sequence when he’s missing the opportunity to give the reader a little something extra. Comics are great because you can layer the story but he only seems capable of offering up one aspect at a time and the inability to multitask the narrative, the subtext, and the theme and point of it all fails this comic immensely.

There are some decent moments at play here, the robot handing the necklace back could have been something, but because these moments are seemingly not tied to anything else they lack impact. It feels like a movie exec excitedly spoke about the cool moments this idea would have and those moments were then worked into a script. It’s an elevator pitch writ large. This should not surprise as this is the origin story of how this title came to be. I’m not saying Masters and Nelson haven’t tried on this thing, but it hasn’t come off great. Too much exposition and too many scenes make it all feel thin and pointless. In a movie, it might be fine because minutes later the next story beat comes but here we have a month wait and people will stop caring quickly.

Penick has a very BOOM! feel to his art, which isn’t a bad thing, and he does some very cool stuff with panel composition, especially for expressions and reactions. What he is going for works without fail every time. He is definitely the star of this show.

Verdict – Avoid It. That rating sounds so harsh but there’s really nothing to see here. Posturing politics and small moments that won’t make you want to come back.

Jennifer Blood #2

Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Adriano Batista

I reviewed this one on CBR, and it wasn’t great. The first issue was good, interesting, had a nice hook – but it was always going to need a little something extra. The elevator pitch will only keep me around an issue or two, tops. After that the comic has to show something deeper. This issue hints at something deeper, but so did the first issue. This issue takes it one angel step forward, and that’s fine I guess, but I feel like I could skip this issue and go into the next and probably not miss a beat.

I don’t want to feel like this issue isn’t necessary. Each and every issue of a comic needs to feel vitally important. You either get a new slice of the narrative or a new angle on the character, or just a ton of fun, but if none of that is present then why should I be there?

I like this main character and her meticulous eye to killing mob goombahs. She’s on top of her game and it’s certainly an interesting angle but it’s the sort of thing I’d expect from an ‘edgy’ TV drama. There’s a hook, a character tic, but I want more. Otherwise, this might as well be a Desperate Housewives spin off.

Verdict – Avoid It. It’s not a bad comic, it’s just superfluous. I hate having my time wasted so this comic needs to bite into the next mouthful and start chewing. Feel free to peruse this one for some trademark Ennis swearing and smuttiness but don’t expect any classic moments.

Venom #1

Written by Rick Remender
Art by Tony Moore

I wrote some words up about this one on CBR, and it’s a positive review. This comic isn’t perfect – I find so few are from the Big Two – but it is damn fine. I’ve always been a Venom fan, I longer for more Eddie Brock once upon a time, but this new concept use of the symbiote has me won over completely. The superspy suit with a ticking time bomb built in – sign me up!

Remender and Moore are becoming one of my favourite duos in comics. When I pick up a Brubaker-Phillips-Staples comic, I know, roughly, what I’m in store for. I’m starting to get that vibe from Remender-Moore joints and I love it. Not to say this is exactly like their previous collaborations, but it shoots for the same zany yet character developed tone.

I would have thought using Jack O’ Lantern as the villain was a dire choice but after seeing Moore render him in one wickedly creepy page I have no doubts. These guys know exactly what they’re doing.

It helps that this issue is a standalone mission. There’s no cliffhanger, except one around Flash’s future soul directions. If you want to know what this title will be like then you get all you need right here in this issue. That’s how you launch a title.

I really hope Venom gets to interact with more zany villains of the Marvel U just so Moore has to draw them.

Verdict – Must Read. Not a perfect comic, but as far as debut issues go this one is right up there. The back matter informs me this is the 90th Venom comic, and that scares me, but maybe they won’t do the whole renumbering thing, right? Anyway, before we count our chickens let’s just enjoy the new comic that delivers spy-fu in pounds and a tone that’s not like much else in the stable Marvel U titles.

The Walking Dead #82

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard

I put a review of this one up on CBR, check it. I think this might just be the best comic being produced right now. Seriously.

Kirkman manages layers of characterisation and story that make me wonder if it’s even the same guy writing the other titles. Which scribe is the real Robert Kirkman? This comic manages to deliver every month, no issue ever feels like filler. You get massive moments and chilling emotion and it all feels so real. Every character reacts and acts in ways that tear them off the page and into the real world. This isn’t speculative fiction, this is a crystal ball into responses we know to be true.

The usual crew that are alive (and no I won’t tell you, that would be spoiling and we all know the first rule of The Walking Dead) have been safe in a gated community. Hell, it’s nearly been like old times except for the sounds of the undead outside the walls and the mistrust and hatred that people always carry with them. Come to think of it, maybe that mistrust and hatred isn’t just specific to this landscape as it seems to follow humans wherever we go.

Things have been nice but recent events seem to be resetting that and positing the question (in a way): what if the zombie apocalypse started again, what would you do? These people have the knowledge, they have the experience, how could they improve on past mistakes? That’s what this arc is about and it’s painted in glorious reality because Rick might come across as harsh and mean and maybe even evil but I’d stand with him in that decision. As a parent, he’s doing the right thing. No doubt.

Verdict – Must Read. This is the book of the week, and I’m making an early call of book of the year. Kirkman isn’t really repeating anything in this comic and his characters continue to shine on each page. The best part is, if you’re a zombiephile, you put yourself into this position and see what you’d do and think. Simply amazing fiction that rings so scarily true.

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Michael said...

The opening sequence in Batman Inc features British heroes in the Falkland Islands during Argentina and Britain's war over the Falklands during the early 1980s. Gotta say the abrupt death of a group of brand new heroes (at the hands of a man in a top hat no less) reminded me a lot of the opening of Seven Soldiers.

But yeah, I too was also a bit confused when we fast forwarded to the present. Aside from the setting it's not clear what the connection between the opening scene and the main plot is, but I'm sure Morrison will explain it all in the next issue.

Logan said...

Next issue? It's Morrison, for all we know it'll get explained in the last issue of Inc!

Marc said...

I thought Venom #1 was a solid first issue as well, and an especially great entry point for someone like me who typically trade-waits. The story is self-contained, but still hints at the book's overall thematic direction enough for you to have an idea of where it might be headed. I have the feeling that, much like with his Punisher run, Remender has a definitive beginning and ending planned for the book, and I'm looking forward to seeing his story unfold.

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