Sunday, December 9, 2012
This week's iteration of Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews comes to you in Quick Shot form this time around. So prepare yourself for some rapid fire looks at some of the week's biggest titles, including Amazing Spider-Man #699, Hellboy in Hell #1, The Legend of Luther Strode #1, and more! I'll see you after the cut for some reviewing action.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #699 - Spider-Man is fun again. If there's anything to be taken from the past few issues of Amazing Spider-Man, it's definitely that. When I jumped off the series sometime after the conclusion of Spider Island, I thought it was because I was burned out on the character and series. Certainly, reading the same comic book twice (or sometimes thrice) a month can grow a little repetitive, but in retrospect, I feel like the bigger issue is that the series had lost some of its direction. Spider-Man had beaten the big bad and things were status quo as he fought off some smaller threats while continuing to subsist in that post-victory glow. Eventually that glow left and I left with it. But now that I've returned, I can see that the series once again has a clear direction, which makes things infinitely more enjoyable. Dan Slott's writing is great as he throws some really unique challenges at everyone's favourite Web Head, who is trying to deal with Doc Ock's latest (and greatest?) diabolical scheme. Humberto Ramos was always my favourite of the rotating Spidey artists, and his talents are used well here. This series is as fun and kinetic as ever, and I'm back to being excited as to where things might go next.
Verdict - Check It.
ANIMAL MAN #15 - While Spider-Man has once again entwined me in its web, Animal Man is doing the exact opposite. I've been a staunch supporter of this book, but ever since the Rot World storyline has gotten going, I've found Jeff Lemire's writing to be somewhat lacking. The one year leap forward into a post-apocalyptic world that has been ruined by the Rot simply has not resonated with me. Again, it's hard to buy into the tragedy of the whole thing when it's obvious that things will soon return to their status quo as if none of this ever happened. The destruction is so great that it strains credulity, and Lemire hasn't been doing anything particularly novel or unique with the situation. Buddy Baker and company seem to be pretty directionless, just going off and trying to deal with whatever comes their way, and it doesn't help that Lemire's Constantine is about as interesting as a pile of dirt. The only part of the story that interests me is following present-day Maxine deal with the Rot's rise to power, but there just isn't enough of this part of the story in each issue. Steve Pugh, Timothy Green II, and Joseph Silver give us some terrific looking art from start to finish, but without an engaging narrative to hang it on, the whole thing feels a little hollow.
Verdict - Skip It.
HAWKEYE #5 - I've been all about Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Matt Hollingsworth's run on Hawkeye, but I was left cold on Hawkeye #4 when Javier Pulido came on in relief of Aja. I'm sorry to say that issue #5 did not do much to change my mind. Pulido is not a bad artist, but I would say that I don't think he's the right artist for this book. Beyond his amazing talent as an artist, a big part of what's made this series so successful has been Aja's brilliant paneling, something that Pulido isn't able to recreate, which has definitely hurt these past two issues. For whatever reason, Aja's absence has seemed to bring down every aspect of this book, as Fraction's writing hasn't been as strong, nor has Hollingsworth's colouring been anywhere near as defined or focused as in past issues. I look forward to Aja's return, as he, Fraction, and Hollingsworth have a chemistry that appears difficult - if not impossible - to recreate. This two part story had some enjoyable moments, but it missed more targets than it hit.
Verdict - Skip It.
HELLBOY IN HELL #1 - Mike Mignola's return to writer / artist duties on the character that made him a comic book icon is just as great as you would hope. Seriously, the whole thing is so seamless that it's almost like he never stopped doing interiors. Hellboy in Hell is classic Mignola, offering beautiful art coupled with a challenging story that yields no easy answers. Things move at an incredibly deliberate pace as Mignola pulls out all the stops in his comic book making repertoire to create a brilliant reading experience. The issue raises plenty of questions but also remembers to deliver a few answers, creating an enticing reading experience that leaves you wanting and begging for more. Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the book is that, despite how epic it is, considering that Hellboy literally finds himself in Hell (or the realms near it), Hellboy treats the whole experience as just another day at the office. This has been true to a certain extent for every Hellboy tale, but Hellboy's devil may care attitude is played especially well in this story, and it looks like this mixture of the grandiose and the banal will continue, which I'm very much looking forward to.
Verdict - Buy It.
STUMPTOWN V2 #4 - One of the things that I love most about comics is that even though people have been making them for 70+ years, creators seem to nevertheless continually find ways to do things that you haven't seen before. These surprises can be big and they can be small, but they're always a welcome sight. Stumptown #4 is definitely one of these. The issue revolves around a car chase between Dex and the skinheads that we've been encountering in previous issues, and I will honestly say that the whole kind of blew me away. While car chases in and of themselves are nothing new, Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth put an amazing twist on the trope here because every page where there's a car chase is rotated 90 degrees, meaning that for much of the issue you're reading the comic sideways like one big page. It's a small thing, but it makes a huge difference.
It also helps that Southworth kills every single moment of the sequence. You've obviously got old standbys like speed lines and motion blur, but there's a lot more going on here. There's some really cool panels where the background is Dex's speedometer providing a super effective visual representation of how fast the cars are moving. As well, most every page of car chasery is packed with panels and details, providing yet another visual demonstration of how much is going on and how quickly it's happening. There's also some supremely intelligent page layout and design, as the panels intuitively tell you when it's time to rotate the page, which was quite impressive. Finally, it all builds to what is possibly one of my all-time favourite double page splashes that draws its impact from how it subverts all the things that I've just described.
This comic is a testament to how words and image can build on each other to create something that truly could not could not exist in any other medium. I had assumed that this would be the final issue of this volume of Stumptown, but the ending makes it pretty clear that that simply isn't the case. I'm thrilled that I was mistaken, because this is an amazing issue, and I'm eager to see what Rucka and Southworth follow it up with.
Verdict - Must Buy.
THE LEGEND OF LUTHER STRODE #1 - When The Strange Talent of Luther Strode first hit comic book stands, I dismissed the series as being too heavy on gore and violence for my taste. After the whole thing had been released and I'd heard some good buzz, I decided to give the series another look. While there was still a heck of a lot of gore and violence, I realized that there was also a great story to be found along with all of that. When I heard that Talent was getting a sequel, I was quite excited. I had quite enjoyed Justin Jordan's writing, but more than that, I had fallen in love with Tradd Moore's wicked art. He has a style that is all his own, separating him from most every other artist out there. Thankfully, both Jordan's solid writing and Moore's great art are back in force here with Legend. The issue does an excellent job of introducing the reader to Luther Strode's new status quo, developing the inevitable conflict, and delivering an excellent twist ending. There's a few instances where the dialogue feels a little off, but on the whole, this is an excellent first issue that's lots of fun for readers old and new. Just be sure you're ready to deal with gore and violence, because they definitely did not forget to bring that back either.
Verdict - Check It.