Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 09/28/11

Welcome to the last edition of the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for September!  Once this guy (and tomorrow's final 52 Pick Up) is done, we'll be switching back to our regular, more well-rounded set of reviews, but we still have one more to go!  Hit the jump to see what I thought of Amazing Spider-Man #670, American Vampire #19, and FF #9!

Written by Dan Slott
Art by Humberto Ramos

So after telling you all how great Amazing Spider-Man has been for the past few months in my weekly previews, I figured it was about time to sit down and actually review this series once again. So here we are.

This issue is part four of the Spider-Island mini-event, which has probably been one of the best comic book events in ages. A big part of that success is that this story doesn't claim that it'll "change things forever" as is so often the habit; it's just another Spider-Man story that happens to be on a slightly bigger scale than usual. It's a far lower-key approach than the norm, and I've been very thankful for that change.

For anyone who isn't on the up and up as to what's been going on, virtually everyone on Manhattan Island has gotten Spider Powers, which has made for a number of challenging problems. To make matters worse, everyone who has been infected has started turning into giant, human-sized spiders, which is also less than ideal. And that's the story up until this point.

Of course, there's a bit more to it than that, but you could come to this issue knowing no more and still be able to follow along. And that's one of my favourite parts of the Amazing Spider-Man book under Dan Slott: it's crazy approachable. For all the talk of number ones and reboot, Slott and his team of artists have been showing the industry how to write accessible comics week in and week out. People just need to sit up and take notice.

Another perennial problem nowadays is terribly decompressed storytelling. Far too often, comics will spend entire issues, if not entire arcs, stretching out plots that were paper thin to begin with. Not so in Amazing Spider-Man #670. This is accelerated storytelling at its finest. The book is twenty-three pages long (and without a single ad in that space!) and races from beginning to end. While the overall story is relatively straightforward, there are a ton of smaller sub-plots going on within that framework. This issue touches on and develops each and every one of these, jumping from scene to scene with incredible alacrity. Obviously, this wouldn't matter too much if it was hard to follow, but it's so well done that everything makes complete sense. It's astounding what Slott manages to accomplish in this single issue, and I wish that more creators would do likewise.

I've called Slott the perfect Spider-Man writer on this site on multiple occasions, and this issue is further proof of this fact. On top of everything I've already raved about, Slott somehow manages to hit the gamut of emotions. This book is smattered with trademark Spider witticisms (especially when J. Jonah Jameson develops some Spider Powers of his own), but it also has a number of far more seroius and far more touching moments. The first splash page of the issue had me feeling absolutely terrible for Peter Parker. That man just can't catch a break, it seems.

While I've been going on about Slott's genius, I can't forget to offer equal praise to Humberto Ramos' amazing work on art. For everything that Slott accomplishes writing-wise, Ramos does the heavy lifting by making it a reality. It's relatively easy to say that New Yorkers all turn into giant spiders, but Ramos is the one making that idea into an actual image, and he absolutely nails it throughout the issue. As well, the quick pace of this comic succeeds because of Ramos' expert handling of the art duties. Every panel is superb, and there is never any doubt as to what is going on, which is critical with such a breakneck pace.

Verdict - Must Read. This entire arc has been terrific, but this issue is perhaps the best illustration of how good Slott can be writing everyone's favourite Wall Crawler. Ramos also outdoes himself, putting in one of the prettiest books I've seen from him. Get this comic.

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jordi Bernet

Another long-standing favourite of mine, we get a special treat this month, as American Vampire kicks off a new arc featuring the origins of Jim Book and Skinner Sweet's rather unique relationship. Scott Snyder is up to his usual best, and while Raphael Albuquerque is unfortunately absent for this one, Jordi Bernet serves as a more than capable substitute.

After Skinner Sweet's unexpected demise last issue, Snyder has taken the very interesting choice to leap way back in time to the Old West that began the series, starting with a short narrative with young Jim Book and Skinner Sweet playing a darkly foretelling game of Cowboys and Robbers in 1863. This is ages before Stephen King's story from the first volume, yet the eventual antagonism between the two is already raising its head. An orphan taken in by Jim's family, Skinner's rough ways clearly pre-exist his vampirism. This sequence last for about six pages, but was a fascinating look into the two characters' younger selves, and knowing Snyder, will prove rather important as the story moves forward.

From there, time jumps forward eight years, with Book and Sweet now members of a group of U.S. Infantry in the midst of hunting a group of aboriginals lead by Hole in the Sky. This scene continues the Book and Sweet show, as Book tries to help and defend Sweet's excessively violent ways. It's interesting to see Book struggle with the brotherly love he feels for Sweet, his strong moral code, and the understanding that Sweet's methods, although brutally savage, might be the only way for them to survive Hole in the Sky's forthcoming attack. Some brilliant character work on Snyder's part throughout the book.

I was disappointed to hear that Albuquerque would be sitting this arc out, because his unique style is a big part of the American Vampire world. Fortunately, Jordi Bernet does a terrific job in relief. Although I'm not familiar with his previous work, Bernet fits in perfectly, offering a style that is reminiscent of Albuquerque's, while still being wholly his own. I was particularly impressed with the subtle differences between the opening scene and the rest of the book. It wasn't anything major, but there were a number of small differences of style that reinforced the mood of these scenes. I look forward to seeing Bernet's work for the remainder of this story.

This arc is also fascinating because there are some strong implications that this story will explain the origin of the American Vampire breed, which is something that has only been hinted at up until this point. I never really expected it to be something Snyder would address, but if that's his aim, I'm eager to see what comes of it.

Verdict - Buy It. As always, Scott Snyder puts in a solid comic that does most everything right. It's a bold move to jump so far back in time considering that the series has been moving forward up until this piont, and the choice is an exciting one. I can't wait to see what comes next for Jim Book and Skinner Sweet.

FF #9
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Steve Epting

I mentioned having some difficulty following some of the finer points of this series in my previews this week and was counselled by a few readers that to really appreciate what's going on in Jonathan Hickman's FF, I would need to read his entire run on Fantastic Four. It was with that advice in mind that I came to this issue fully expecting to finish up with the series, but then I actually read it, and now I'm more conflicted than ever.

While I know that I'm still missing out on some of the story, Hickman and Steve Epting put together such a strong issue that I'm back to not really caring if I catch every single aspect of this book. While some of the previous issues have been somewhat of a challenge to parse, FF #9 is not. This issue is a great combination of writing and art that leaves me wanting more. A lot more.

I raved about Dan Slott's ability to tell a fast-paced story above in Amazing Spider-Man #670, and Hickman does more of the same here. It seems like this comic jumps to a different group of characters every two or three pages, and that is by no means a bad thing. There is a lot going on throughout the book, and it's all super interesting. We get quiet conversations, royal decrees, and more scenes of extreme action and violence than you can shake a stick at, and it's all straight-up amazing.

Like Humberto Ramos, a big part of this issue's success hinges on Steve Epting's brilliant art. Additional props must also be given to Rick Magyar, the book's inker, and Paul Mounts, the book's colourist, because these three combine to make one damn fine looking book. The first page sent tingles down my spine, as it featured some of the best looking fire I've ever seen trying to consume a rather unimpressed Dr. Doom. It's good stuff, and the whole issue is filled to the brim with equally beautiful and equally exciting moments that really reminded me of what it was about this series that has kept me engaged for so long.

The issue's ending is also phenomenal, as Reed Richards, Nathaniel Richards, and Spider-Man enter a doorway that will take you "where you need to be". I don't know about you, but that alone is enough to get me back for the next comic in this series.

Verdict - Buy It. For all my concerns and qualms, this is a rock solid issue. Everything that's happening makes me want to see what's coming next, which is always a good thing.

And there we have it. As I said in the opening, next week will bring us back to having mainstream DC books actually appearing in these review columns, something I'm sure we'll all be glad to see. In the meantime, don't forget to come back tomorrow too see what we all thought about the final week of DC's September reboot!

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CombatSpoon86 said...

Enjoy all of these titles. American Vampire was just great. Going Way back in time. wow keep it coming Skinner Sweet.

I hear alot of people not liking Spider-Island. I for one have been enjoying it. It sure alot better than a certain event I know cough cough "Fear Itself" cough cough

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