Sunday, October 30, 2011

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 10/26/11

Welcome to another round of the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews!  We've got books from all over this time around, so look behind the jump to see my reviews for Butcher Baker #7, Green Wake #6, Flash #2, and more!

Written by Joe Casey
Art by Mike Huddleston

I have long talked about this book in my Previews article, but I haven't taken the time to actually review one of the issues - an oversight that I intend to correct below.

Butcher Backer: Rigtheous Maker tells the story of Butcher Baker, former All-Star American superhero, coming out of retirement at the behest of the US government for one last job to destroy the high-security prison holding all of his former enemies, effectively killing all of the remaining supervillains of his world.  He  goes and does just that, but unfortunately, things don't quite go according to plan and a number of his nemeses survive.  Unhappy about the attempt to shuffle them off the mortal coil, the remaining villains band together to do just that to Butcher Baker.

Taken on its own, this plot is certainly of some interest, but there is a degree of paint by numbers to it.  Fortunately, the above description is only a small part of the entire Butcher Baker story.  There's also rogue cops, higher level mental madness, hermaphroditic entities of infinite power, and a bucket load of other high concept elements mixed in for good measure.  Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston took a simple idea, ramped everything up to eleven, and haven't looked back once.  And I've been thoroughly enjoying the experience.

The writing on this book is unlike anything I've seen elsewhere.  I must confess to not having read any of Joe Casey's previous work, so I can't comment as to whether or not this is common feature of his writing, but the book has a no-holds-barred, in-your-face attitude that refuses to apologize for anything it does.  The characters are crass and foul-mouthed and hyper-violent, and if you don't like that, this book doesn't care.  It sometimes feels like a big middle finger to the rest of the industry, doing what it wants to do in spite of any hopes or expectations that readers might bring with them from more mainstream books.  There's also a smattering of seemingly deep and profound commentary throughout the pages of every issue that could just as easily be glib and without meaning, depending on how your look at it.  It makes for a rather fascinating and refreshing read.

This sometimes caustic writing style is accompanied by equally aggressive artwork from Mike Huddleston.  His pencils, inks, and colours are intense.  Although there is never time where the events on the page are difficult to understand, the images can be quite expressionistic - sometimes to the point of near abstraction.  And it comes off brilliantly.  Butcher Baker is a balls-out, hard-drinking, harder-driving mofo', and Huddleston makes that clear through every aspect of the character design.  In fact, every character is uniquely presented in a manner that speaks to their characterization in some way, shape, or form.  Also of note is the way that Huddleston combines his images and panels, which is often just as violent as the scenes being depicted on the page.  This isn't entirely useful for a written description of art, but his work must be seen to be believed.  It's wicked stuff.

Verdict - Buy It. Admittedly, I didn't really talk about issue #7 in any substantive manner, but everything I said above can be applied to the current issue.  This series is something special that you should take a look at.  The only problem is that, with all the wackiness that's going on within, it's not a terribly easy comic to jump in halfway through.  I imagine it could be done if you were really dedicated, but I'd recommend trying to find the first issue if you haven't read it or picking up the eventual trade.  But if you're willing to give it a shot in medias rea, you'll be in for one hell of a reading experience.

Written by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul

While I wasn't completely sold on this book after the first issue, Francis Manpul and Brian Buccellato really up their game here for #2.  I continue to be pretty interested in the clone mystery that they're slowly developing, but the real draw of this book is Manapul's art.  It's clear that he really gets the Flash as a character and how he should be visually depicted.  This was evident from his run with Geoff Johns, and there were hints of that in the opening issues, but this book is filled with creative and innovative ways of representing the Flash in action, and it's a joy to read.

Seriously, I've been a big proponent of Manapul for as long as I've known about his work, but he's on a whole different level here.  He's talked about how he wants to really show how the Flash works, and there's many examples of his superspeed in action (including a clever way of hiding the book's title in his speed lines, among others), but the really impressive part is how Manapul and Buccellato are focusing on Barry's mental super speed.  Part of this arc is the idea that Barry's mind can work as quickly as his legs, and he just needs to practice and train to be able to properly tap into that ability.  It's a cool idea, and while it's a little rushed (with about one page between Dr. Elias suggesting the possibility and Barry doing just that), the artistic depiction of the process is so cool that it is easily forgivable.  The sequence where Barry figures out how to stop an in-progress robbery was amazing, and I can't wait to see more of this in the issues to come.

Like the mental super speed, the book moves along perhaps a little too quickly, with a lot of information getting packed into the last few pages to make sure it fits.  I imagine this was partly due to the twenty-page limitation that everyone has to deal with at DC, but it was a bit of a reminder that the two guys working on this book are artists by trade.  It was by no means a deal breaker, but it was a noticeable hiccup, where four or five different events happening in parallel were all crammed into those final pages.  While it was clear that this was done because they are inter-related events, there wasn't quite enough time to really show what their relation actually was, which was a little jarring.  Again, it wasn't a mortal sin, more of an example of the growing pains of being both writer and artist, which should get better with time.

Verdict - Check It.  The art on this book is phenomenal.  Manapul is easily providing the best depiction of the Flash that I have ever had the pleasure of coming across, and while the writing isn't quite on the same level, it still makes for a solid comic.  If these first two issues are any indication, I think that the Flash is only going to get better as it goes along, gaining momentum as its creators get more and more comfortable with their tasks and the world of Barry Allen.  I can't wait.

Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art by Riley Rossmo

Another book that I haven't personally spoken about in the context of my reviews, Green Wake has certainly seen its fair share of coverage here on the wider Weekly Crisis site.  A brilliant comic that was initially presented as a five-issue limited miniseries, Kurtis J. Wiebe and Riley Rossmo's thought provoking book was extended into an ongoing that, if I remember correctly, is intended to last for twenty-five issues that will provide satisfying answers to all questions raised during the telling.

I don't know about you, but I was rather excited for this series to continue.  And the creators don't disappoint, providing yet another issue that is as challenging, mysterious, and exciting as the first five issues before it.

As I'm sure you've heard before, Green Wake tells the tale of the strange little town of Green Wake, a place where people with haunted pasts sometimes find themselves in when they can't move beyond what's better left behind them.  The first arc featured Morely overcoming the pull of Green Wake only to find himself lost and confused back in reality.  In direct consequence, he ends up finding his way back to Green Wake to find a town much changed since his last time there.  The status quo of residents being loners is gone, with many people being rallied together by Micah, a new arrival whose religious zeal seems to be more nefarious than he would have you believe.  There are strange murders happening with increased regularity.  And that's not even mentioning the weird and silent children who open the issue whose presence is yet to be explained.

Just like the first arc, there's a lot going on.

Wiebe shines in this issue, offering a lot of new plotlines that build naturally off of what happened in the first five issues, while also making the whole offering approachable to new readers, providing an excellent balance to appeal to anyone who picked up the book.  He packs a lot into these twenty-two pages, and while I wasn't entirely sure if I was going to continue with the series going forward, I don't have much of a choice now - it's just too good to resist.

Like Butcher Baker, a big part of the appeal of this book is the phenomenal artwork.  Riley Rossmo does an amazing job creating a world that is every bit as bizarre and outlandish as the story that takes place within it.  Green Wake is a strange and dangerous place, and Rossmo's art reflects that atmosphere perfectly.  Every panel feels like it's packed with a frenetic energy that could explode at any moment.  They're never overfilled, yet there is a real feeling of claustrophobia, as if the panel could be overwhelmed at any moment.  I can't help but stop and stare at the pages sometimes, trying to pick out everything that's going on.  If you've ever read anything Rossmo has worked on, you probably know what I'm talking about, but if you haven't, you should do yourself a favour and pick this up.  You won't regret it.

Verdict - Buy It.  Green Wake is a really dense book that is packed with intrigue, character work, and mystery.  The first arc proved this without a shadow of a doubt, and it looks like this second arc is going to be more of the same, which is a good thing.  If you haven't had the pleasure of reading this title, I would strongly recommend giving Green Wake #6 a shot.

Quick Shot Reviews

FF #11 - I think my quest to figure out whether or not I like this title may finally be coming to an end.  As I'm sure many of you know, I've been struggling to figure out if I should bother picking this book up in single issues, and I believe this most recent issue has finally sealed it for me.  FF #11 has a lot of storylines from the series (and from Hickman's earlier work on Fantastic Four) on display, and while it's interesting to see all the balls that Hickman has in the air, it's almost too much.

This issue reads like a bridge issue, moving all the pieces to their respective positions for something big that's coming down the line.  This in itself isn't a huge problem if it's only the one issue, but I've been getting that impression for a while now.  As things are going, I'm pretty sure that this series is going to read much better once it's collected, which is too bad, as there's a lot of exciting ideas going on here, but they simply are not moving fast enough to maintain reader interest.

Verdict - Check It.  I've been enjoying this book, the writing is top notch, and the art is just as good, but as someone who hasn't been following this epic story since the beginning, having jumped on with FF, I just can't get up to speed with everything that's going on.  I've been trying to figure it out through the individual FF issues, but short of reading through all of the issues of Fantastic Four that Hickman did, it's not going to happen.  I imagine that if you've been there all along, this is treating you well, but for anyone who's in the same boat as myself, while I admire your tenacity for sticking around so long, I think it's time to leave.

Spider-Island: Spider Girl #3 - I was a really big fan of Paul Tobin's Spider-Girl title when it first launched, as it seemed to have a really enjoyable combination of superheroics and secret identity living that isn't as common nowadays as it once was.  And while there was always some degree of that in the series, I felt like the life of Anya Corazon took more and more of a backseat to the adventures of Spider-Girl, which was a shame as that made it like every other book on the stands.  Regardless, I was sad to see it cancelled so quickly, so when I heard that Paul Tobin woudl get another crack at telling her tale.

Unfortunately, this Spider-Island tie-in was all about Anya's life as Spider-Girl with little to no elements of her civilian identity.  While the story that Paul Tobin and Pepe Larraz presented was somewhat interesting, it never really distinguished itself from any other story of superhero adventure.  There was some good action scenes and witty one-liners, but this series was so focused on that that it lacked any of the emotional resonance and honesty that Spider-Girl had way back when her ongoing first launched, which is too bad.

Verdict - Check It.  This mini-series wasn't bad, but it just didn't have all that much going for it to separate it from all the other books that came out at the same time.  If you're looking for a badass female hero who can dish it out with the rest of them, then you'd be well-served to give this book a look, but if you're hoping to find some quiet character moments along with those action scenes, you'll probably come away a little disappointed.

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CombatSpoon86 said...

Like I said. FF cannot be enjoyed monthly unless you have read the entire Hickman run starting at F4 issue 570. I know people want to like FF but it isn't gonna happen unless you know all of Hickman's story he had started 2 yrs ago.

Grant McLaughlin said...

@Combat - Don't I know it. Clearly I should have taken your advice a little sooner, but I had to give it the ol' college try. Maybe I'll give it another look once the whole mega-arc is said and done.

CombatSpoon86 said...

It's cool. Hickman a great writer and people who missed out on F4 thought they can just jump right in. I thought it would be a whole new run. Nope, It was just building up since the very beginning. I would recommend getting the F4 run first right now.

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