Sunday, February 19, 2012

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 02/15/12

Welcome to your weekly intake of Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews.  Today we have close looks at Daredevil #9 and Wonder Woman #6 for your reading pleasure, along with a handful of shorter reviews of some of the other books that dropped post-Valentines' Day.  So hit the jump to see what's what, will you?

Written by Mark Waid
Art by Paolo Rivera

Bridge issues are awful hard to do right.  Even when you've taken the time to place clues throughout the prior issues that point to where things are going to go, it can be a challenge to transition from one story to the next while maintaining the same type of excitement and enthusiasm that goes on in the middle of a thrilling tale of interest.

Unfortunately, the bridge issue problem is exactly what Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera find themselves up against in Daredevil #9.  They're picking up on a number of hints and asides that have come up in earlier issues, and while there's a lot of interesting things going on - and, as always, some gorgeous art to accompany it all - there just aren't enough details offered to explain everything that's going on in a satisfying manner.

Instead, we get a bunch of things that just sort of happen.  Matt Murdock discovers that subterranean tunnels have been dug under a cemetery and a number of caskets (and the bodies within) have been stolen - including his dad's.  This is obviously kind of a big deal for Matt, so he jumps in half-cocked to investigate.  From there, we get Moloids, a dust-up with said Moloids, Matt striking the River Styx pose you see on the cover, and a confrontation with the Mole Man without any real idea of what's going on.  Things don't go so well for Matt, as he is subdued and subsequently thrown into a death pit.  All the while, Mole Man continues to open up caskets until he finds the corpse of a beautiful (at least for a dead person) lady and starts dancing with it.

This is all well and good, but it doesn't really make a lick of sense at present.  Obviously Daredevil will survive the death pit, Mole Man will monologue his dastardly plan, and Daredevil will KO him in round 2, but that's going to happen next issue.  This issue is all set up and no explanation.  It'll read find in trade, but as a single issue, Daredevil #9 is pretty danged weak.  As interesting as this will probably end up being, it's pretty underwhelming at the moment.

This issue seems to be teeming with unfulfilled moments, as Waid spends the first part of the comic slowly cancelling out Matt's senses due to various outside natural coincidences, and the idea is actually a really good one, but the execution doesn't lead to anything.  Matt ends up with both his sense of smell and hearing at huge disadvantages, and although he is beaten by the Mole Man, it has nothing to do with his impeded sense and everything to do with his rushing in to fight without a plan.  Again, considering Waid's writing pedigree, I feel like the sense deprivation is going somewhere, but nothing comes of it this issue, which is a major let down.

Fortunately, while Waid doesn't quite pull his weight this time around, Rivera more than keeps up his end of the bargain.  The underground (and blatantly hell-like) landscapes that fill this issue really give him the chance to spread his artistic wings and give the reader some absolutely stunning pages.  While the ultimate driving forces behind this episode are yet to be revealed, Rivera does his darndest to allay the reader with the darkest issue he's done thus far.  I, of course, mean that from a lighting perspective, as Rivera has Daredevil slink through this inky and moody underworld.

Verdict - Check It. As a single issue, Daredevil #9 doesn't do so hot.  Waid's writing is too vague here to provide much meaning to what goes on, which makes for a surprisingly unsatisfying read considering everything that goes on.  While the fact that this comic will look much better in trade isn't much of a consolation to those who actually picked it up in singles, Rivera's wonderful art definitely takes some of the edge off.

Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Tony Akins

I know we're six issues in to this crazy adventure, but I'm still sometimes having a hard time believing that we have such a good Wonder Woman series happening right now.  Fortunately, we keep getting a great new issue dropping every month to remind me.

Unsurprisingly, Wonder Woman #6 is no exception to this wonderful new state of affairs.  Diana tries to negotiate with Poseidon and protect Zola from attacking centaurs at the same time, while Lennox discusses a similar deal with Hades during a walk through the underworld.  I don't know about you, but that sounds like a recipe for a pretty great issue to me, and the ingredients definitely deliver.

I've said it before, but the best part of this series is how it fits perfectly within the tropes and traditions of classic myth, yet is thoroughly modern at the same time.  It truly feels like some modern day myth  making by Brian Azzarello.  The narrative is filled with scheming, hubris, and double and triple-crosses, but it also has all the elements of a superhero you could want, including action-packed fights, witty one-liners, and profound and heady concepts being bandied about.  I honestly have a hard time imaging what more Azzarello could be putting into this tale at present.

But at the same time, I must admit to not being terribly fond of Tony Akins' pencils in this issue.  He can be quite good - and there are some great looking panels spattered throughout these 20 pages - but just as often, his work can come off as looking a little sloppy and rushed.  Considering he was brought in as a fill-in artist for two issues in the middle of the run, that likely goes a long way to explaining the mixed bag of quality, but whatever the reason behind it, it ends up hurting the reading experience.  For every shot where Diana looks like a complete badass, there's two where things don't quite look right, which is rather frustrating.  On the plus side, kudos must go to Akins for his awesome depiction of Hades.  I'm in love with the candle-hair.  It's brilliant.

I also appreciate that Azzarello manages to find room within the battles of gods and mortals to slip in some humour.  Certainly, Wonder Woman is far from a laugh a minute, but the jokes that do find their way into these pages always seem appropriate and often elicit a pretty decent chuckle, at the very least.  I'm thinking in particular of the moment where Lennox says "God a'mighty..." in surprise, a comment that is immediately followed by Hermes, Hades, and Poseidon all casually responding, "Yes?"  Gold.  Pure gold.

Verdict - Check It.  Azzarello continues to bring his A-game, but Wonder Woman suffers without Cliff Chiang's masterful presence.  Fortunately, he'll be back next month to pick right up from this suspenseful conclusion.  I can't wait.

Quick-Shot Reviews

BATMAN #6 - The last issue was inventive as hell, with Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and Jonathan Glapion pulling out all of the stops to emphasis Batman's slow descent into (temporary) insanity.  Well, this issue takes things one step further, as pretty much everything that happens is kind of crazy.  Batman continues to die slowly, the Court of Owls reveal themselves (and reveal themselves to be among the sickest and most depraved parts of this story yet), and then, when all seems lost, Batman starts fighting back.  The panel layouts are frenetic and hard to keep track of, just like it's hard to know exactly what's happening and what's a fevered delusion on Bruce's part.  Follow that up with Batman exploding himself, escaping, and returning to the point of death, and you have a roller coaster of an issue that is filled to the brim with excitement.

Verdict - Buy It.

PETER PANZERFAUST #1 - Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tyler Jenkins combine to give us a unique retelling of Peter Pan set plum in the middle of World War Two.  It doesn't sound like those two concepts should work that well together, but these two gentlemen find a way to make it work.  A large part of this success comes from the framing narrative of one of the characters speaking on these events to their psychiatrist years later.  It's maybe not the most original trope, but it serves the important function of getting the reader into the story.  That done, we get some childish adventure set in the middle of a war zone as Peter meets the children who will soon become his Lost Boys.  This opening issue is the perfect balance between whimsy and reality, and they can keep this up for the rest of the series, Peter Panzerfaust is going to be something special.

Verdict - Buy It.

WINTER SOLIDER #2 - Even though their inaugural issue launched a scant two weeks ago, Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice are back with more Winter Soldier action, and it's a welcome return.  Things heat up in a big way as Bucky and Natasha take on the machinegun-wielding gorilla that appeared at the end of the first issue.  Just when it looks like they have a handle on things, it turns out that the gorilla also has (and knows how to use) a jetpack, flying away to safety.  And while that all might sound absolutely insane, Brubaker plays it straight, and it works.  This is the case for the rest of the issue, as our dynamic duo investigate the Soviet sleeper agents, crash a supervillain auction house, and get ever closer to discovering the hidden truth they're seeking.  Brubaker's ability to find veracity in the absurd is a big draw in my books, letting this series benefit from the best of both worlds.  A book that has the Red Ghost as one of its villains shouldn't be this good, but don't tell Brubaker and Guice, because what they don't know won't stop them from making amazing comics.

Verdict - Buy It.

And there we have it.  A week filled with a pile of fun, enjoyable books.  Did you manage to get your hands on Peter Panzerfaust?  What did you think of it?  And what did you think of the rest of the week?

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Naymlap said...

Yeah, Daredevil was kinda bad. The pacing was just a mess. Rivera's art was great, though. Maybe I'm the only one that feels this way, but Waid's pacing on Daredevil has been iffy in general. The endings for the first two arcs were rushed and sloppy. They start strong and just peter out. I hope the ending for this arc redeems it.

Kevin Tam said...

Daredevil 9 was a great issue to look at, but Waid could have made a better bridge, I agree with you.

I got Peter Panzerfaust, because his name is AWESOME. I was having a lot of fun reading it, but then that splash page ending really confused me. There's no indication it was the final page of the story. I think it ended too abruptyly -- in fact, they literally name-drop the names of each lost boy, and we never get a hint as to what kind of kids they are. For a single issue, that page was completely useless!

Grant McLaughlin said...

@Kevin - True story. That final page is a tad abrupt, but I was willing to forgive it due to the rest of the issue. It was a bit light on character development, but it does give a solid indication of what kind of story Wiebe and Jenkins will be telling, which works for me.

Simon DelMonte said...

No, my shop doesn't do well with Image books. I missed Peter Panzerfaust and expect to miss Saga.

Grant McLaughlin said...

@Simon - Whaaaat?! Can't you put in a request or something? Image has so much good stuff coming out right now (and Saga is definitely going to be one of them) that it's a crime to be deprived of it.

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