Monday, March 5, 2012

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 02/29/12

A tad later than I would have hoped, but your Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews are finally here.  Due to a busier than expected weekend, I have an expedited edition of the reviews on offer.  Behind the jump, you'll find my thoughts on Amazing Spider-Man #680, Justice League #6 (and I have a lot of thoughts on that one, apparently), as well as a few quick shots.  Let's get to it, shall we?

Written by Dan Slott
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli

I'm increasingly feeling like an old curmudgeon when I flip through Dan Slott's Amazing Spider-Man.  His delivery of quality Spider-Man tales is continuing in much the same vein, but after following the series for over a year, I must admit that it's starting to feel a tad formulaic.  As much as I love seeing Spider-Man work his way through wacky situations, I almost feel like that's all we've had of late.

This week's situation is Spider-Man going to space to save John Jameson, whose space station suddenly goes offline without explanation.  Its link to the Doctor Octopus plot that has been building since before Slott came back to this title is pretty evident by issue's end, but I found that it didn't offer quite as much information as I was hoping for.  While there was a lot going on, it still felt a little stretched out, which left me a little cold.

I was also a little surprised at Johnny Storm's characterization throughout the issue.  Considering how tenderly Johnny's death was treated in the pages of ASM last year, the incredible jokiness and unseriousness of the issue, while perhaps a good fit for the character, felt a little out of place and forced.  It was almost as if Slott was trying a little too hard to make Johnny's laissez faire come through, and it didn't really work for me.  A case of one wisecrack too many, if you will.

Giuseppe Camuncoli, one of Slott's repeated contributors, is back on art duties for this issue, and he did a fine job.  Again, maybe it's my inner-curmudgeon coming through, but compared to some of the other people who often work on this title, I wasn't really blown away by what Camuncoli had to offer this time around.  It was all technically sound, but there wasn't much in the way of experimentation or pushing the envelope.  A lot of common page and panel layouts, and while there's nothing wrong with that, this book usually goes a little beyond the norm, which I think hurts Camuncoli's work on this issue by comparison.  Also, is it just me or is there something off about Camuncoli's facial work?  When people get really expressive, things can sometimes look a little strange.

Verdict - Check It.  This is a technically sound issue of Amazing Spider-Man.  It has all the ingredients you need for a good comic, but they don't quite come together in the end.  The jokes are little too force.  The art is a little too standard.  There's nothing wrong with the issue per se, but it doesn't quite stack up to some of the other work Slott has done on the very same book, so it suffers by comparison.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Jim Lee & Scott Williams

So the first arc of Justice League is over.  It's been a little delayed along the way, but they did ultimately manage to get it out on time (more or less).  So it's somewhat impressive that they managed to achieve that, but the real question is whether the comic was any good.  If you're looking for a short answer, it wasn't good enough for how much DC is charging.  If you'd like a little more substance, read on.

First off, I must admit that I'm impressed that Geoff Johns managed to actually wrap the whole Darkseid conflict up in this single issue.  Considering how long it had taken to build up and all the obstacles that were before the heroes, I had serious doubts that it was going to be possible.  But not only was the story concluded in a gratifying manner, I found it to be a good use of Cyborg as a character.  It was maybe a little cheesy that his ultimate success came down to "believe in yourself", but the use of his powers to trick the Boom Tubes to send Darkseid back to Apokolips was a decent (albeit temporary) solution to their Darkseid problem.  It was also a nice way to legitimize his presence on the team, seeing as he was really the only one who could bail out the vastly overpowered heroes.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure I can be quite as complimentary as the characterization of the rest of the cast.  Mostly, I would say it's because there isn't that much to be found.  This issue is really far more focused on the heroes' last ditch effort to stave of Darkseid's attack that there just isn't that much character development to be had.  Sure, we get some banter and quips, but it doesn't add up to much substance in the end.  Also, I'm tempted to rescind my complimentary take on Batman revealing his identity to Green Lantern last issue, because Bruce Wayne traipsing around without his mask amounts to absolutely nothing in this issue.  He manages to free Superman, and somehow while travelling through the Boom Tube to get back to Earth, his mask magically reappears.  So that entire moment ends up being pretty meaningless, which is a tad disappointing, to say the least.

The final four pages where the heroes realize that they've become a team - whether they like it or not - were pretty good, but like the rest of the book, they were kind of uneven.  The banter is sometimes genuinely chuckle-worthy, but there's also some real clunkers, like when the Flash declares the team to be called "The Super Seven!"  Groan.

I'd also like to take a moment to say that I'm not a big fan of this David Graves character, the author within the story whose been writing some of the backup features in the earlier Justice League issues.  Justice League #6 ends with his book, humbly titled "Justice League: Gods Among Men", along with a hand-written note underneath talking (amongst other things) about how the book is "gonna outsell the Bible".  I honestly can't really tell what the point of this metatextual author writing about the characters that the reader is reading about, but I can say that it isn't nearly as clever as DC thinks it is.  I could do without it, to be honest.

That being said, the moment where the shadowy figures talk about how, if the Justice League are super heroes, that means they must be super villains?  Pretty solid.

The other noteworthy thing about Justice League #6 is that it finally gives the reader more than 20 pages of comic for the $3.99 they're shelling out.  In fact, with the back-up story, there's a whole 30 pages, which is pretty uncommon nowadays.  And the backup in question is the first story really looking at Pandora, the character who is somehow responsible for the entire New 52 (at least in story).  And while it only clocks in at 6 pages and doesn't offer much in the way of answers, it was a pretty interesting read.  I quite enjoyed the way they paired her with the Phantom Stranger, both because it's always nice to see the Phantom Stranger, but because it gives a quick idea of what everyone is dealing with here.  Of course, that shorthand knowledge only really works if you're a long time reader of DC Comics, ignoring once again the point of the relaunch, which was to bring in new readers to comics, but I digress.

Verdict - Check It.  This issue was easily the most value per dollar of any of the Justice League issues thus far, but it feels like too little too late.  The only part of the main story that really grabbed my attention was the last page, and while I thought that moment was pretty cool, one good page isn't really great motivation to come back for more.  I feel like it's a bit representative of the arc as a whole.  There was a lot going on, but very little of it was really worthwhile.  With that in mind, I can't say I'm terribly eager to keep buying this series.

Quick Shots

SPACEMAN #4 - I keep picking up the next issue of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso's Spaceman hoping that this will be the issue where it finally grabs me.  Seeing as we're four issues in at this point, I'm tempted to say that that moment is not going to be coming.  The dystopian setting they've created, filled as it is with strange (yet oddly familiar) vernacular, celebrity-obsessed culture, and strange, rejected Spacemen, is certainly familiar and interesting, but I'm still not sure what the point of it all is.  There's this kidnapping and hints of Oren's history, but things are building at a near glacial pace.  Also, as clever as the invented dialect is, it can get a little distracting.  As much as I've enjoyed some of Azzarello and Risso's other work, this one is not working for me.  Maybe it'll read better in trade, but I'm done for the moment.

Verdict - Skip It.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #4 - This was disappointing.  Maybe I just having been paying enough attention in previous issues of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, but this issue was kind of a let down.  The overall storyarc of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. versus Subterranea just isn't making sense in my mind.  While I earlier complimented how fast-paced this miniseries is, it's starting to feel like an info-dump, as if there isn't actually enough space in these six-issues to properly tell the story, so Nick Spencer is shoving as much information as he can to make up for that fact.  I'm also really underwhelmed with NoMan's depiction in this issue, as it seems completely different from the last series.  Where before he was much more of a Dr. Manhattan-esque character, detached from humanity and all that, that appears to be completely gone here, as he is worried for teammates and happy to reconvene with an old colleague.  As well, even though Lightning's final desperation run was really nicely depicted by artist Wes Craig, it felt almost meaningless in the grand scheme of things.  It finished up the character's arc, but didn't really add anything to what we already knew.  I loved Nick Spencer's initial run with these characters, but it feels like he's going through the motions this time around, and the experience isn't terribly enjoyable.

Verdict - Skip It.

Every comic can't be a winner, and this batch certainly proves that truism.  However, your mileage may have varied, so if you read through any of these titles, let me know what your thoughts were!

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CombatSpoon86 said...

JL 6 was just brutal. Another letdown. For Dc Flagship book, it certainly failing on that. Another blunder by Johns. What John's needs to do is step away from writing high profile comics and just write something creative and his own work that isn't part of the DCU or superheroes.

Anonymous said...

I liked Justice League for what it was..a summer blockbuster style comic..Now that the first arc is over I am hoping for a more deeper exploration of the characters. Especially for the new readers out there.

Klep said...

Justice League is a Michael Bay film translated to a comic book. That is not a compliment. It is very weak on plot and characterization and seeks to make up for that by adding a bunch of explosions. This issue in particular was a confusing mess that you weren't supposed to notice because BOOM! WOW! LOOK AT THAT! It's trash and DC should be ashamed of itself because we KNOW they can do better. If only the main issue had been as thought out as the Pandora backup, I wouldn't be dropping it like a bad habit.

Anonymous said...

I Have to agree with your T.H.U.D.E.R. Agents review. It's too bad, I really loved Spencer's First series.

Dennis N said...

Reading the first 6 of JL and watching JL: Doom, I'm really tired of having Cyborg pushed on me. He's a fantastic Titan, give him a solo series, I'll buy it, but he's not Justice League.

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