Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pull List Reviews 05/03/2012

Animal Man #9: In terms of story, pretty damn boring. I mean, yes, everything we see here is probably necessary. We certainly had to learn what Buddy "dying" at the end of last issue meant and where it would lead. But this issue is literally just characters traveling without getting anywhere, which makes for a less-than-thrilling read. Steve Pugh's art continues to suit the title perfectly, and there are numerous stunning visuals in Animal Man #9: the Bone Orchard, the Shepard, the Island of Decay or whatever it's called. Detailed and compelling images, to be sure, but the story they're telling this month is lightweight at best.

Avengers vs X-Men #3: So, when this event started, despite my general hate of massive events, I was devoted to reading all twelve issues of the main title. No tie-ins from series I wasn't already reading, none of the AvX: Vs. stuff (it's a cool enough idea but I don't care to spend my money on it), just one, fifty dollar, six month commitment. So here we are at issue #3, only one-fourth of the way to the finish line, and I find myself already so underwhelmed by what I've seen that I am seriously considering dropping this title outright. This issue, written by Ed Brubaker and still haphazardly drawn by John Romita, Jr., felt like so much wheel spinning. The Avengers and X-Men talk to each other, then the X-Men run away and the two teams talk privately, then Captain America becomes an even bigger asshole than Cyclops, for no reason other than to give readers the cheap thrill of watching Cap throw down with Wolverine. And even that fight is uninspired and ends in a stupid, stupid way. I'm not sure what exactly I want from this title, but it is most assuredly not what I've been getting.

Blue Estate #11: I appreciate that here, as the "first season" comes to a close, Blue Estate didn't bother with any new complications or twists. It's been full of them up to this point, and has done a great job of juggling all the balls in the air, but with only one issue left before this story concludes I was glad to have a more straightforward installment. Also, Clarence and Rachel finally getting together was a big moment, and their relationship is just as strong and as much fun face-to-face as it has been during all their previous phone conversations. Maybe more so. Blue Estate #11 is a lot more action than story, it's true, but this final, enormous fight scene between the two crime families has been a long time coming, as has the Clarence-Rachel team-up, and it is all well-executed here. I've never been wild about the art style in this book, put together by a team of artists under Victor Kalachev's guidance, but it's certainly reliable, it tells the story clearly, and in the midst of this termite-infested gun battle it even heightens the chaos. Not bad at all.

Daredevil #12: The friendship between Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson has always been an excellent one, and in Daredevil #12 we get a bit of an origin story for the two old chums. It works well, with the right blend of humor and sincerity, even if it doesn't teach us a lot of new information about the characters. The same is true of the present-tense date between Murdock and ADA Kirsten McDuffie, a blossoming romance I am actively rooting for. Chris Samnee's artistic contributions are solid as well, clean and crisp and fitting. Not a fan of those last few pages. I mean, if Black Spectre can be "reborn" so quickly, then why did "The Omega Effect" happen at all? Why is the Omega Drive even a threat to these megacrime organizations if one of them can so easily bounce back? But since that ending was basically disconnected from the rest of this issue, I'll ignore it for now and focus on the excellent personal stories Mark Waid tells instead.

The Defenders #6: What is going on with this title? Remember just a few issues back when it was an awesome, end-of-the-world, madcap adventure series? Now that Matt Fraction has changed his focus from The Defenders defeating a clear threat to The Defenders stumbling over an enormous cosmic mystery, it seems like the series has lost its juice. Fraction still has a really good handle on the voices of his cast, and I got some laughs out of Iron Fist and Silver Surfer trying to communicate. But beyond that, this was mostly a bizarre and not-that-entertaining history lesson coupled with some semi-educated guesses about what these concordance engines might be/do. And Victor Ibañez, while not doing a necessarily bad job, definitely brings us one of the worst-looking issues of The Defenders to date. The monster Silver Surfer turned into was alright, but the whole thing was a bit cartoony without really committing to that style, and the overall effect was big time meh. Meh everywhere.

Dial H #1: As far as first issues go, Dial H #1 is simply marvelous. From the very opening scene, China Miéville expertly introduces us to the strange and depressing world in which this series takes place, and I would like to spend as much time there as possible. Our main character, Nelse, is perfect. He's depressed and maybe even a little hopeless, but a genuinely kind man and good friend, which makes him an ideal candidate for these numerous bizarre superhero identities. And the heroes themselves, in this first issue anyway, were logically connected to Nelse, one having cigarette-related powers and the other having sadness-related powers. The real treat, though, is how Miéville handles the psychological aspects of Nelse's transformations. While it never stops him from fighting evil or accomplishing his goals, it was nice to see the confusion and disorientation that come with suddenly taking on a new persona and set of powers. And Mateus Sanolouco's art complements the story perfectly, adding a gritty reality to things  and launching the madness into the stratosphere when needed. There were some really excellent villains introduced as well, and others only hinted at, so it seems evident that Dial H has big plans for itself. I, for one, can't wait to see how they unfold.

Earth 2 #1: James Robinson uses an interesting approach in this debut. Rather than fully introduce us to the characters who will star in Earth 2 (we see a little of three of them at the end) he takes almost the entire first issue to instead teach us the history of this alternate reality. It's an awesome little tale of struggle and sacrifice, of an inter-dimensional war and the heroes who fight it, and of how Earth 2 lost its first wave of superheroes five years ago. So now we're set up to see who will take their place, and as anxious as I am to meet them, I still had a pretty great time reading what was, basically, this prologue to their future adventures. Not least of all because of Nicola Scott on art who, even if there are a few smaller panels with awkward expressions or angles, generally kicks ass. So much of this issue is huge, high-powered, chaotic violence, but Scott never loses us in the insanity, and makes all three of the DC Trinity look good in spite of some lame costume redesigns. And those moments with Mercury were spectacular. Pretty good opening chapter, even if all the main characters in it were killed off by the end.

G.I. Combat #1: Both the "War that Time Forgot" and "Unknown Soldier" features felt they like suffered from having to share this title with each other. The former, essentially, did nothing except for introduce its concept in the most basic way: soldiers find dinosaurs and fight them. Little else to say about that, except that Ariel Olivetti can draw some damn convincing dinosaurs. On the "Unknown Solider" side of things, it was kind of the opposite problem: too much going on in too little a space. Plus the jumps in narrative point of view were awkward, and I still do not understand how, exactly, this guy ended up riding with the U.S. military. I hope at least one of these stories can find its legs, and fast, because all this opening issue did was briefly introduce us to the main ideas behind each feature and nothing else. Nothing to come back for, yet.

Green Arrow #9: No surprises here, as Ann Nocenti continues to tell one of the most confusing, least interesting comicbook stories I've ever read. Even worse this month, we get her pathetic attempts at writing old-West-style dialogue, which she simply does not grasp whatsoever. I've been really enjoying Harvey Tolibao's art since he joined Green Arrow, but under Nocenti's breakneck pacing, his fluid line work starts to feel a little overwhelming. Like the images themselves are being swept up in the ridiculousness of the narrative. I'm hoping the next arc can take a quick breather, settle into some kind of real status quo for Green Arrow and then go from there in a better direction. It's a creative team with definite potential, but so far they've been dropping the ball in a significant way.

Pigs #7: For a long time, Pigs frustrated me. I wanted it to be about the complex moral and emotional issues inherent in being a sleeper agent. That seemed like what is was setting itself up to be, and the idea thrilled me. What we've been getting instead is more of a blockbuster spy action series, and if you read it at that level, it's fairly high-quality stuff. The break-in and subsequent violence in this issue were inventive, well-drawn, well-paced, and even pretty humorous when they wanted to be. That's absolutely all Pigs #7 has to offer, and I wish it had more. I feel like it wants to have more. But my theoretical vision of this series is not the scale by which it should be judged, and as far as shoot-em-up spy stuff goes, Pigs is doing a consistently enjoyable job. I will say that the cover positively sucked and made no sense, and that in the flashback sequences drawn by Will Sliney I could not get over the stupid way he draws a bunch of weird lines on everyone's noses. But the main narrative was what Pigs has been for a while: a group of young assholes raising hell and killing folks. No more, no less.

Swamp Thing #9: For the second month in a row, art trumps story in Swamp Thing. Lucky for us, Swamp Thing #9's art is even better than last issue's, from both Marco Rudy and Yanick Paquette. The two are an amazing match, and the transition from one to the other is hardly noticeable. And every single page has something astounding to stare at, even if its just the layout (although it's never just the layout). I would like Scott Snyder to maybe pick up the pace a bit, and some of the stuff in this issue was kind of lame, like the trick with the canned peaches or the totally predictable and long-ago announced "cliffhanger" at the end. But Alec and Abigial are good together, and their reunion felt earned, so I was glad for that. Really, though, it's all about the art with this series. And the art is fucking great.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #10: Pretty good issue, if badly paced. The discussion Miles and his Uncle Aaron have is definitely interesting and important, but I felt like it took too long. Bendis loads the first two-thirds of the script with this conversation, and while he can write dialogue for days, I wish he'd cut it down a little here. The scenes that followed---Miles considering going to The Ultimates, Miles at home with his parents, Miles actually deciding to go after the Scorpion---all deserved a page or two more than they got, and I think that space could easily have been found by trimming the opening chat. Still, I am excited to see how this Scorpion story unfolds, and David Marquez did an impressive job on art duties as always, keeping me interested in the Miles-Aaron talk even as it started to drag. Hopefully more goes on next time.

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