Sunday, April 1, 2012

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 03/28/12

Welcome to your Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews!  Lots of interesting titles hitting stands to finish off March, but I've decided to throw the spotlight on Atomic Robo Presents Real Science Adventures #1 and Flash #7.  Along with those, you'll find a few quick shot reviews at the end, so getting clicking so you can get reading!

Written by Brian Clevinger
Art by Ryan Cody, Yuko Oda, Chris Houghton, John Brogalia & Joshua Ross

As you should all well know at this point, I'm a pretty big Atomic Robo fan.  To put it mildly.  I've made no bones about this fact.  I've also been pretty vocal in my support for comic book anthologies, so when I found out that these two things were going to be combined in a new Atomic Robo spin-off series featuring short stories written by Brian Clevinger and drawn by various artists, I got pretty excited.

I've always felt that comic book anthologies are a great way to get a whole bunch of bite-sized stories in one convenient package.  And while they can sometimes make for a mixed bag in terms of quality, I find that the good usually ends up outweighing the bad.  That would certainly be my analysis for the first issue of Atomic Robo Presents Real Science Adventures (ARPRSA for short, obviously), for while there's a lot to like here, it doesn't have the same sustained goodness that your regular Atomic Robo tale general would.

I'd say the main challenge is that the five stories you get here are all a scant four pages long.  Of course, I would never say that you can't tell a great story in four pages (I'd argue the opposite, in fact), but it is certainly a lot harder to do so in so few pages.  You have to be very concise and disciplined in terms of your choice of scene, dialogue, and pretty much everything else, and I'm not sure if every single story here in ARPRSA manages to accomplish that.

Some of the stories, like The Revenge of Dr. Dinosaur and City of Skulls, play a little too close to the main Atomic Robo stories that we've already seen.  I recognize that it makes for easy shorthand and saves space in already constrained stories, but I feel that skirting so close to pre-existing canon somehow robbed the stories of some of their oomph.  Revenge's punchline wasn't quite right in my mind and City's emotional poignancy somehow felt a tad deflated due to its reliance on the reader's prior knowledge of the situation.  They were both fine little yarns, but each had minor issues, which again, adds up quickly in a four-page story.

There's also two stories that are the beginning of longer 6-part arcs, the cleverly titled To Kill A Sparrow and Leaping Metal Dragon.  Sparrow felt a little light, working as a fine introduction to Virginia Hall and (reintroduction) the Sparrow and their Nazi-fighting ways, but there wasn't a whole lot to sink your teeth into.  I imagine there will be more to come, but this opening didn't feel distinct enough to really grab me.  Leaping, on the other hand, was maybe the strongest story of the bunch, providing a good hook at the start and an excellent payoff at the end.  The page layout helped a lot there, but it was also simply a great use of time and space.  I'm definitely interested in what comes next there.

The final story is actually a reprint from issue #3 of the first volume of Robo stories, and it feels like the most complete.  It's a great little vignette featuring Robo and self-proclaimd wizard Jack Parsons fighting on a rocket ship.  This is the best example in the collection of what a four-pager can do, but it's also a bit of a shame that this story wasn't actually produced for ARPRSA.

Verdict - Check It.  ARPRSA is far from perfect, but it shows a lot of promise for a first effort.  If Clevinger and company can build on these early successes and iron out some of the shortcomings (and I think they can), I have every faith that Real Science Adventures will mature into a book every bit as strong as the main Atomic Robo series.

Written by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul

Now this is what an issue of the Scarlet Speedster's adventures should read like!  Despite how good this book looks, I'd been getting a little frustrated with Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato's seeming hesitance to really step in and shake things up.  That concern has definitely been assuaged with Flash #7.

We open up right were we left-off last issue, with Barry pushing his speed powers to their limit to save Patty Spivot and some other innocent bystanders from a deadly fall.  Manapul does a brilliant job in depicting this sequence, and the unintended consequences of Barry's actions were both dramatically appropriate and built nicely on the bits and pieces that Manapul and Buccellato have established in the first six issues of this series.  The whole thing was an excellent example of using prior events to push the current narrative forward, and it definitely felt like the wait was worth it.

On a similar note, I must say that my initially critical reaction to Captain Cold's sudden murderous-nature was perhaps a little hasty.  I found it to be very well-used in this issue, adding a lot to Cold's character and to Barry's continually growing list of things he feels that he needs to make up for.  I was especially intrigued when Cold's sister expressed her disdain for Len when she woke up later on in the issue.  I will be intrigued to see what eventually comes of that small moment.

Perhaps the best part of this issue is that all of these seemingly disparate moments lead us back to the blackout in both Central and Keystone City that Flash accidentally caused a few issues back.  Barry goes to Dr. Elias and the doctor's new and improved Cosmic Treadmill in an attempt to turn the lights back on and make up for some of his (self-identified) recent shortcomings.  It's a nice climax to all of these different story threads and acts as a really interesting way to tie them all together.  Barry's decision to take things one step further and leap into the wormhole he creates was a really interesting story moment and one I'm eager to see develop.  The entire sequence felt like a very natural next step in the narrative, building on everything that's come before in an organic way.  It also doesn't hurt that Manapul's double-page splashes look absolutely gorgeous and do an excellent job in selling the whole thing.

I'm definitely feeling like I should have been a little more patient in some of my earlier criticisms of this title.  While I was getting antsy, Manapul and Buccellato were taking their time to move everything into place, and now the two are paying off a lot of the elements that they've been setting up.  The only things that I was a little unsure about this issue were the one page dedicated to the gorillas of Gorilla City and Patty's somewhat odd grief for Barry.  Both of these parts felt like they could have used a bit more time, but I'm willing to give them some time to develop over the coming issues.

Verdict - Buy It.  Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato are telling some solid Flash stories here.  My earlier impatience aside, the two do seem to have a vision of where they want to take the character, and that's finally coming into play in a big way.  Things are looking good, especially when you consider Manapul's shining art and Buccellato's excellent colouring that we've gotten to enjoy since issue #1.

Quick Shots

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #25 - I've had nothing but good things to say since the most recent American Vampire arc, Death Race, has gotten underway, and the same holds true here.  If anything, I feel like Scott Snyder and Raphael Albuquerque's conclusion to the arc is the best issue of the bunch.  The final confrontation between Travis Kidd and Skinner Sweet was filled with twists and turns, Travis' grisly origin was well-handled, and the final twist in the fight really took me by surprise (while still making complete sense).  I can't wait to see what comes from that reveal.  I also gotta say that I really liked the closing moment's of Travis' narrative (for now, at least).  Additionally, the issue's epilogue was top notch, setting up some big things to come.  American Vampire is back at the top of its game, and I couldn't be happier.

Verdict - Buy It.

DAREDEVIL #10 - Kind of like Flash, I've been a little negative on the recent issues of Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera's Daredevil.  While I've continue to dig Rivera's art, I've felt like Waid's writing has been a little lackluster.  Although I feel like Daredevil #10 is a big step in the right direction, I wouldn't say that it makes the shortcomings of the last few issues look much better, but I am glad to see things getting back on track.  The fight between Mole Man and Daredevil is handled extremely well by both men; Waid does a good job filling in Mole Man's motivations and Rivera's art is the perfect complement.  I was especially impressed with the moment when Daredevil punches Mole Man so hard that his glasses break.  It was a subtle thing, but it was really effective.  The book's conclusion with Matt reading Black Cat's note was a good conclusion and a nice set up for the forthcoming Omega Effect, which I find myself more and more excited for.

Verdict - Check It.

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Naymlap said...

I laughed out loud at the Doctor Dinosaur bit in Atomic Robo. It was ridiculous. But I think that the new series has the problem of any anthology, it will be hit or miss.
And Daredevil was a huge improvement over last issue. Waid did a great job of wrapping up the story and fleshing out the saddness of the Mole Man and Daredevil's frustration. I'd call it a buy it. But the arc as a whole a check it.

Kevin Tam said...

Oh hey I picked up everything you did except for Atomic Robo! Thanks for the reviews: I actually think Daredevil was the best of the week. Mole Man's opinion on mortality was a great foil to Daredevil's.

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