Sunday, December 11, 2011

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 12/07/11

It's a rather busy week / weekend by me, so this round of the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews will be slightly on the abbreviated side.  Instead of the usual length of reviews that I try to dish out, we'll be getting a handful of shorter thoughts for this week's books.  So hit the jump to check out some quick shots, including Animal Man #4, Chew #22, Heart #2, and more!

Written by Dan Slott
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli

So I ended up liking this story a lot more than I would have expected to.  As I said earlier in the week, I've never been a big fan of Adrian Toomes, but Dan Slott's writing continues to win me over, as he provided a Vulture that wasn't completely boring.  Scratch that, he provided a Vulture that was actually worth reading about, which was a pleasant surprise.

This issue made for a nice little conclusion to the two-parter that Slott started up last time, and I was impressed to see how Slott was able to continue to develop some of the subplots as well.  Say what you will about Carlie Cooper, but I'm enjoying having at least one character around that isn't completely won over by Peter Parker's exploits.  As nice as it's been to have the ol' Parker Luck be a bit more on the positive side, I'm glad that everything isn't necessarily coming up Milhouse.

However, I was slightly less gladdened by Giuseppe Camuncoli's art.  It was pretty solid for the most part, doing a great job on figure work, the action sequences, panel layouts, and so forth, but it really left something to be desired when it came to faces.  They just don't look right in my mind - no one really looks the way that they should - and it really took me out of the story at times.

Regardless, Slott's storytelling is what keeps me coming back week in and week out, and it continues as strong as ever.  Although the art wasn't my cup of tea, there was a lot to like in this issue, and with Humberto Ramos coming back for the next few issues, I know I'll be back for more.

Verdict - Check It.

Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Travel Foreman

Jeff Lemire is doing some really great stuff here.  Animal Man is developing at a slow burn, but the pacing feels spot on.  While the greater story is still a bit unclear, there's a lot going on to keep the reader interested while we wait for the ultimate reveal.

Frankly, I'm kind of amazed how much action there is in this issue.  Buddy and Maxine get into a good ol' dust up with of the Hunters Three, while Buddy's wife and son try to avoid meeting a grisly fate at the hands of one of the other Hunters.  Both narratives are good for different reasons, with the former giving a better peek into what's going on and the latter being among the most suspenseful stories I've encountered in comics in recent memory.  Seriously, the spectre of the Hunter attacking Ellen or Cliff at any point throughout the issue had me a little on edge, which was great.

I know I say this every time, but the more I see Travel Foreman's art, the more I realize that this is the book he was meant to draw.  His style is still kind of unlike most anything that I'm aware of that's happening right now, but it fits the tone and atmosphere perfectly.  I really can't imagine anyone else pulling off some of the visuals he manages to include in this book, including that killer two-page spread telling a partial origin of The Rot.  It's some good stuff.

If you haven't given this book a chance, you should seriously consider doing so, because Lemire and Foreman are really pulling out all the stops, providing a decent thriller with some of the best character work around right now.

Verdict - Buy It.

CHEW #22
Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

More Chew is always a good thing in my mind, and Chew #22 is no exception to that glorious rule.  John Layman delivers his usual wacky, clever, and hilarious recipe of writing that we've come to know and love.  Even though there's been a bit of downtime between books, this issue picks up right where the last one left off and doesn't skip a single beat.  I'd almost forgotten all the different storylines going on right now, but Layman manages to weave them all together in an organic manner that moves them all forward while conveniently reminding the reader about what's been going on.

Fortunately, Rob Guillory is right there with Layman, delivering on his unique style of art that, at this point, really goes hand in hand with the brilliant universe that these two men have created.  I absolutely adore his exaggerated, expressive style, and it's as good as ever as we continue the Major League Chew story.  As this is only Act 2, there's still a lot developing, but what we do get to see this time around makes for a quality read that was more than worth the wait.

Speaking of delays, hopefully Layman and Guilllory will be able to get back on schedule for the New Year, but either way, I'll happily wait for the next issue, whenever it drops.  It's Chew, so it's going to be good.

Verdict - Buy It.

Written by Blair Butler
Art by Kevin Mellon

Full disclosure here: I really don't give a fig about mixed-martial arts fighting.  Watching them just isn't my thing.  In my mind, something about seeing two guys beat the living heck out of each other is (no pun intended) kind of painful.  That being said, this mini-series has really grabbed me.  It is abundantly clear that Blair Butler really knows her stuff, because this comic feels genuine from cover to cover.

I really believe the story of Oren Redmond as he discovers the world of MMA and how much it changes his outlook on the world.  Every panel makes sense to me and feels real.  Admittedly, there are some definite Fight Club moments in this issue, including Oren going into work all beat up and getting weird looks from his colleagues and when he talks about how fighting random dudes makes him feel like a new man.  However, I'm willing to look past these similarities because I'm really interested in the story and because Fight Club is pretty awesome, so why not borrow a few things?

On the art side of things, Kevin Mellon is really doing a bang up job.  He's working only in black and white, and I'm digging everything he puts on the page.  The fights are brutal, leagues better than what you'll see in mainstream comics, and that alone is enough for me to rave about his work.  It also helps that he does solid work on pretty much everything else, too.  I will clearly have to start hunting down his work, because he's good.

You should really give this series a chance.  As much as it focuses on MMA fighting, it's really a character story, and Oren Redmond is worth reading about.  Besides, there will only be 4 comics to pick up, and thus far, it's been really, really good.  It's a nice change of pace from most of what you'll get in your local shop, so take this book for a spin.

Verdict - Must Read.

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Matthew Clark & Matthew Southworth


Just wow.

Greg Rucka is really strutting his stuff on this book.  In case you had somehow forgotten how amazing he can be, his run on Punisher has been a loud and clear reminder that he really is one of the best in the biz.  Things have been dialed to 11 since issue #1, but he is somehow continually finding ways to ramp things up.  This time, he offers a dual-narrative issue, focusing on the Punisher and Rachel Cole-Alves as they both hunt down an Exchange retreat.

Seeing the two characters and their differing approaches as they work towards the same goal was quite neat, speaking volumes about who they are as people.  And while I expressed some doubts about having two artists, neither of whom were Marco Checchetto, both Matthew Clark and Matthew Southworth did a terrific job on this issue, each one being put in charge of one of the narratives.  It's maybe an obvious choice to divide the work that way, but it was an excellent complement to the narrative, making for a great example of form mirroring content.  It worked perfectly.

My only complaint is that I don't understand why the Punisher would spray paint a black Punisher logo on his white winter camo.  That struck me as kind of silly, but I am reading a book about a vigilante who guns down bad guys, so I guess I can look past that.

Anyways, this series continues to be awesome.  I haven't read the Punisher before Rucka starting penning the character, but I'm starting to wonder why not, because Rucka is really proving beyond a shadow of a doubt the many ways that this character can be amazing.

Verdict - Buy It.

Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Matt Kindt

So this issue was a pretty darn good finale to the three-issue flashback arc that was The Taxidermist.  It's been providing an interesting way of looking at the origin of the plague that has been the impetus for the series thus far, and while I wasn't completely sold on the project, this final issue tied it all together and got me really excited for what's yet to come.

Lemire does what he does best, giving the reader a great story with excellent character moments.  The conflict between James Thacker and his pseudo brother-in-law Louis gets mighty intense, and things take a turn for the worse, which fortunately makes for a darn fine read.  The device of James' journal that Lemire has been using throughout the story also has a pretty great reveal that adds a completely different understanding of everything that came before in this story arc, which is always an exciting feeling.

I've been idly wondering how this would all end up relating to the main story, and Lemire ties it in beautifully composed manner that I wasn't quite expecting.

Matt Kindt, our talented guest-artist, was the perfect addition to this little diversion.  I definitely missed Lemire's own work in the beginning, but I really took to Kindt's style over the last few issues.  It really helped solidify the leap back in time, and was also perfect for this incredibly violent conclusion.  There are some haunting images courtesy of his hands that I will not soon forget.

The Taxidermist was an excellent side story that ended up adding a lot to the main narrative that Lemire has been slowly developing.  After reading this, I cannot wait to get back into the swing of things with Jepperd, Gus, and company.  It's going to be something else.

Verdict - Buy It.

X-23 #18
Written by Marjorie Liu
Art by Sana Takeda

There isn't quite as much going on in this issue as there was last time around, especially considering that the solicitation pretty much gave away the reveal that comes halfway through, but X-23 #18 still managed to be a lot of fun.  That probably doesn't come as too big of a surprise to those who have been following Laura's adventures, but if you, like myself, have foolishly been missing out, you should really take a look at this title.

One of the most impressive things for me is that, even though I haven't been following the book, I had no difficulty understanding anything that happened in this issue.  I don't even know who Hellion is (again, I don't read X-Men titles), but his relationship with Laura was clear and expertly handled, making it clear what was going on from the get go.  It also didn't hurt that the book involved Laura riding a space dragon while trying to save Franklin and Val Richards, because that was also a lot of fun.  Additionally, the moments where Sue and Reed wondered whether or not they should check on the kids were pretty hilarious, so kudos for that, too.

Also must express how much I like Sana Takeda's art.  It's simply stunning and manages to perfectly capture everything that's supposed to be happening on the page.  I'm in awe at how ably she can switch between crazy action, emotional moments, and everything in between.  It's some pretty sweet stuff.

It's a shame that this book is getting cancelled, because both of these creators are doing some amazing work. I'm saddened that I've come onto Laura's adventures too late, but I am excited to see what Marjorie Liu and Takeda get up to next, because they've converted me.  I may have missed out on X-23, but I won't be making the same mistake twice.

Verdict - Buy It.

Admittedly, if you followed my advice, you'd be picking up a lot of books this week, and while I recognize that you probably aren't itching to add half a dozen or so books to your pull list, if you are looking for something new, I believe that pretty much all of these titles would be worth your while.  Did your week treat you as well as mine?  Were there any amazing books that I did somehow manage to miss out on?  Let me know in the comments, won't you?

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Henchman4Hire said...

Rucka is beginning to lose me on his Punisher series. We're 6 issues in and we don't know anything about the Exchange, other than them being general criminals. They hired somebody to wipe out the Bride's family, but we don't know why. Rucka's book, while a good read, is all style over substance.

Also allow me to take this time to recommend you read Garth Enni's 11-volume Punisher MAX series, including the Born prologue/prequel mini-series. If you want to see how awesome the Punisher can really be, Enni's MAX run is a must.

Anonymous said...

The Punisher is constantly overlooked, but has had a steady stream of great talent. Ennis, Remender, Aaron, now Rucka.

Gotta agree with Punisher Max by Ennis. The whole series plus the one shots (ESPECIALLY the one shots) is by far the definitive statement on the character.

Naymlap said...

Oh, I loved ASM. Slott delivered a really tightly paced 2 part story. The Vulture is a very straightforward psycho, so I think he works better when you don't dwell on him (or immitators). Though PAD did a good Vulture story some years back.

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