Friday, April 27, 2012

Pull List Reviews 04/27/2012

So...I don't know whether or not Monocyte #4 came out this week. I thought it was supposed to, but they didn't have it at my local store, and the Internet isn't being helpful so I'm not certain if it was pushed back again or if my place just failed to order it. But other than that (and being late a day) pretty fair haul this week:

Astonishing X-Men #49: Some really nice moments here between Kyle and Northstar---a very well-written and emotionally resonant romance. Other than those few pages, though, nothing really stands out. A pretty boring fight with an even more boring and somewhat cliched resolution, which leads us to an even MORE cliched and totally obvious conclusion to the issue. I appreciate that Marjorie Liu gave most of her cast something to do, and there wasn't anything especially bad about this story, but there wasn't anything especially good, either. The same is true of Mike Perkins' art, which is rough and sloppy in places (like the horribly jumbled splash page in the middle of the fight) but generally serviceable if not impressive. And hey, am I supposed to know who the woman revealed on the final page is? Because I do not, and it weakened the effect of the ending, to my mind. Overall I walked away from Astonishing X-Men #49 feeling unenthusiastic about the future of the title. Not a bad read, but not one that particularly makes you want to come back for more.

Daredevil #11: Well, it's official. "The Omega Effect" was a bust. I read all three parts, and while none of them were spectacular, this finale was especially disappointing because it made the entire crossover feel totally pointless. What happened? Plenty, I guess. But what changed? Nothing. The Omega Drive is still in DD's hands, and now he has a "new plan" to deal with it, but based on how much of a waste of time his first plan was (meaning this issue right here) I find myself none-too-excited to learn what comes next. To be fair to Daredevil #11, Marco Checchetto delivered some incredible art, and the first third of the issue was pretty solid in terms of story: fun action with solid characterization of Spidey, DD, and Punisher all. And for just a second it seemed like this whole Omega Drive situation might actually be developed in an unexpected way. But as soon as Murdock took off after Alves---I use the name she prefers, and I honestly don't understand why no one else will---it got boring, everything was undone, and the status quo returned. Congratulations, Marvel, you tricked me into buying two extra comics this month for no reason. Four, arguably, because I probably could have just gone straight from Daredevil #10 to Daredevil #12 without feeling like I missed a thing (and there was that stupid ass .1 issue before TOE really kicked off). It's a bummer, because TOE had massive potential and awesome talent behind it, but alas, it ended with a fizzle rather than a bang.

Justice League Dark #8: I'm not sure how much needs to be said about this issue, which is Peter Milligan's last as writer of Justice League Dark, and you can feel him not giving a shit about it on every page. The super-forced exit of Shade, the Changing Man felt like it might have been the comicbook representation of Milligan's own exit from the title: the chaos of this thing he is supposed to be controlling becomes too much for him to handle, and so he just gives in to it and leaves. Next month we get a shift in the lineup of the team, a new writer, and, fingers crossed, a believable and compelling reason for these characters to even work together in the first place. That lack of focus or motive has been a problem for Justice League Dark since its debut, a fact that has never been more apparent than in this choppy, lackluster crossover issue.

Moon Knight #12: I know there were some naysayers, but I have been enjoying the story of Moon Knight vs. Count Nefaria in spite of their obvious power imbalance. There were definitely a few moments in some of their encounters where it seemed like Nefaria was holding back for no real reason, but in general I thought Brian Michael Bendis did a good job of keeping it believable and interesting. So going into Moon Knight #12, knowing it was going to be the conclusion to that tale, I had my hopes set pretty high. So maybe it's partially my fault for being so excited up front, but this issue was a massive letdown. He calls in the Avengers? Seriously, Bendis? That's the solution you came up with? After a year of Moon Knight steadfastly fighting this battle on his own terms, in his own city, with his own resources, he dials the superhero emergency line and lets somebody else finish the job. In one hit, might I add. Weak. But don't worry, there's a reason for it: Tony Stark gets to tease the upcoming Age of Ultron for two whole pages. WEAK! Don't plug your new project in the final throws of your old one, Bendis, ya schmuck. That's just classless all over. And now we'll never get the innovative, inventive, awesome finale this series deserved. Instead we're stuck with this forever. A cop out closing with below-the-bar art from Alex Maleev, less-badass-than-usual behavior from our title character, and what basically amounts to a commercial for a new title at the end. Nasty.

Rebel Blood #2: Though not quite as strong as its opening issue, Rebel Blood #2 continues to tell a singularly entertaining story of one man trying to cope with unimaginable horror all on his own. Chuck is a great blend of improvised action hero and terrified victim, responding to each new development with a combination of stunned shock and survivalist violence. And the brief trips we take into his unstable psyche in the midst of all this madness help to add both realism and surrealism to the book, grounding it in human fears, memories, and desires while at the same time building an uncertain reality and history for Chuck. As he is swept up by the unthinkable situation that surrounds him, the reader is carried right along with him by the fluid, restless storytelling and artwork from Alex Link and Riley Rossmo. It seems like the primary goal of Rebel Blood is to make the reader and Chuck one-and-the-same as much as possible, as far as our emotional and mental states while the narrative advances. And more often than not, that's exactly what happens. All of his disgust and anxieties are shared by the reader as the issue powers forward, never settling down long enough to let us or our protagonist get too solid a grip on anything. But even with that pacing, because this isn't a typical "group of survivors" story, we are able to fully experience what Chuck goes through, externally and internally, and that's precisely what makes Rebel Blood so good. Well, that and Rossmo's kinetic, brilliant artwork, which highlights the horrific elements of the story perfectly and is just rough enough around the edges to add to the surreality of the comic without detracting any clarity. In fact, in some places, like the flashback sequence, the art tells us more of the story than the letters do. We're already halfway through this series, and while it feels like it'll end too soon, I'd probably also be more than satisfied if the two issues we've seen so far were all that ever came out.

Secret Avengers #26: As far as event tie-ins go, Secret Avengers #26 is an exemplary comicbook. The story it tells, while spinning directly out of the main AvX narrative, stands largely on its own and could easily be enjoyed by someone who isn't following the event proper. It is, perhaps, a bit simplistic---a team of Avengers fight and fail to contain the Phoenix Force in space---but Rick Remender has a good handle on the voices of every single character (and there are quite a few), and gives each of them something to do without ever seeming like he's forcing it in. Each of their roles is logical and natural, and it gives the issue a real "team book" feel that Secret Avengers has been missing since Remender took the helm. And it felt for a while like Noh-Varr and Ms. Marvel were going to be ignored, but turns out they actually have pivotal roles to play in by the end of the issue (or, at any rate, they most likely will have said roles in the next issue). It's a fun and well-orchestrated story, but what really pushes Secret Avengers #26 over the edge is the team of artsit Renato Guedes, and colorists Bettie Breitweiser, and Matthew Wilson. I name all three because the soft yet vibrant colors are a major part of the overall affect, but Guedes is the champion, from his two-page Phoenix spread to his close-up on Captain Britain's nose bleed and everything Remender asks of him in between. As loathe as I am to say it, this tie-in has been my favorite of Remender's issues on Secret Avengers. Best art, best lineup, best story.

Spaceman #6: Losing a bit of momentum this time out, Spaceman #6 had a lot of characters communicating information to each other that we already knew. The scenes that took place on Mars were still good, but even they felt a little more by-the-numbers than they have in previous issues, merely moving the story of the space mission forward a step or two without offering any new insights. The moment where we see The Fence and all that surrounds it was important and well-done, but I wouldn't use those words to describe very much else in the issue. I mean, Eduardo Risso kills it as always, packing detail and emotion into every panel, but so much of what he draws is people standing around and talking that even the art deflates a little. And Brian Azzarello's script is the least interesting or original of this series so far. It's still a cut above any number of other titles, but the progress made in Spaceman #6 is so small that it felt like filler, which you don't want in a nine-issue limited series.

Teen Titans #8: Scott Lobdell clearly knows his cast, and their distinct voices and viewpoints have been a highlight of this title so far, but in Teen Titans #8 the one-by-one characterization was laid on a bit thick. It's still a fun read, but its only real purpose is to lead us into the upcoming "The Culling" crossover, and so that's all we get. I'm not complaining, really, just saying this issue was a tad light. One at a time, the Teen Titans are prepared for whatever Harvest and his followers have in store for them next, which is the main event, presumably, that Teen Titans has been ramping up to for some time. I'm excited for "The Culling" because Harvest is a pretty interesting villain (as are his lackeys Omen and Leash) and Lobdell has been doing good work with this cast. This prelude issue made me a little impatient since not a lot actually happened, but Solstice's dialogue with Bunker made the impending final confrontation between the Titans and N.O.W.H.E.R.E. seem even scarier and more exciting, and nothing here actively dampened my enthusiasm for "The Culling" so I guess, really, it was a solid prologue. Fluffy, maybe, but as good for new readers as old, and a probably necessary first step before leaping into the crossover.

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #9: I like Esad Ribic's art a lot, and he has been a major part of why Ultimates has been such an entertaining title, but I always find myself irked by the way he draws widely opened eyes or mouths. Any time anyone is yelling or surprised, and even sometimes in battle scenes, Ribic makes their eyes bug so much you expect them to pop out in the next panel, and their mouths take up half of their faces. Normally, this is a small complaint, but in Ultimate Comics Ultimates #9, for some reason, it happened an inordinate number of times. I'm nitpicking, because the rest of his art was at its typical high standard, but it was something I couldn't help but notice.

Aside from that, a middle-of-the-line kind of issue. Jonathan Hickman advances all of his numerous plot threads, but only a little bit, and not in any truly surprising ways. No one expected Zorn to be the solution to the City, but it was also not shocking when he did have the power to do some actual damage to it. And Reed Richards' retaliation against the U.S., while it looked cool, was pretty much to be expected. A shade decompressed for my taste, but no less high energy or interesting for it.

Uncanny X-Men #11: Kieron Gillen deals with the obligation of doing an AvX  tie-in by showing us some scenes which we've already seen in the main title through the eyes and inner monologues of three characters from Uncanny X-Men. It's a fine enough approach, although I doubt it would be the least bit enjoyable for any Uncanny fans not following the event. And while Namor and Colossus both have strong voices here, neither of them says anything that felt all that new. I get why Namor likes mutants, and I get why Colossus struggles with being Cyttorak's avatar, so even though I didn't dislike their scenes, they were very much non-essential reading. Hope's part actually did teach me a thing or two, like Hope and Logan making a deal for him to kill her, or that she has an actual plan in her mind for dealing with the Phoenix (although how much do you wanna bet it doesn't go the way she wants?) but it was an extremely brief section of the issue, plus it's probably information we'll get somewhere else in another month or two, anyway. Greg Land's art was inconsistent at best. He seems to have difficulty with smaller panels, as many of his close-ups look unnatural and stagnant, but he nails most of the fight moments that take up a larger portion of the page.

The press release at the end was just stupid, and I choose to pretend those two pages don't exist.

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