IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 12.5.12!

IMJ CAPSULE REVIEWS CRITIC NAMES NO JOSE OR TOM

AVENGERS #1Avengers #1
Avenger’s World Part 1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Jerome Opeña
Colorist: Dean White
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
24 pages, $3.99

Reading Avengers #1, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling Jonathan Hickman was attempting to land a future writing job for an Avengers movie or the upcoming S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. (Maybe more so the TV show– since I believe the series is going to be centered on secondary SHIELD Agents and maybe an occasional Avenger.) Anyway, that’s literally all I could think about while reading this new MarvelNOW! comic.

After being subjected to a confusing prologue (or maybe it wasn’t confusing– I haven’t bothered to read an Avengers comic in the last 5 years), I got the idea Iron Man and Captain America had been out on a recruitment drive… Adding additional heroes to the Avengers reserve roster should a severe crisis arise. Okay, I’m totally with this notion– especially since it will help explain why we’ll soon be inundated with a tsunami of Avengers team comics in the coming months. (And even with all these new Avengers comics… I’m still left wanting for a new West Coast Avengers title… Damn it!)

Things only get worse as the Avengers travel to Mars to fight three bad guys. Throughout, I have no idea who these villains are or why they are doing what they are doing. I don’t get any other bits that might engage me or cause me to cheer for their ultimate downfall either.

It’s only after the fighting starts that I actually start to see anything remotely interesting. Ex Nihilo— a Darkseid-influenced WCW Pro Wrestler– just stands around looking superior… Which, apparently, is all it takes to put a major beat down on Iron Man, Black Widow and Hawkeye. Then there’s this Evangelion reject, Aleph— who just wants to smack Captain America around. The only remotely interesting enemy, Abyss, hypnotizes Hulk into punching Thor… Since that moment elicited such great laughs in the Avengers movie.

Marvel apparently feels the need to feature retreaded movie references in their titles in hopes of making potential new readers comfortable with their heroes in the comic book format. (How twisted is that?) As if movie fans are rushing to shops to buy comics. How would an Avengers film buff even know this new Avengers #1 existed? Have you seen comic book TV commercials running during episodes of Revolution or Supernatural? Any ads in major mainstream magazines? Billboards on your city’s streets?

To make matters even worse, Hickman’s bad guys are idiots. What do they do when they defeat the Avengers? They send Captain America back to Earth, of course… Because there’s no way returning the Avengers’ most stalwart member (and perennial leader) to his home world will ever possibly come back to bite them in the ass. What follows is yet another silly montage of heroes “getting the call” to help, all while Cap dons some new armor with confusing textile physics. A final splash page reveals an all new and different Avengers team.

But wait! I’m confused again. Haven’t half of these people already been Avengers at some point? I thought Avenger membership was lifelong. Adding further insult, I don’t even know who four of the “heroes” in this “new” team are… And  nobody bothers to enlighten me.

So where the hell is this book going? I have a feeling Hickman thinks he’s got a lot of room to play with since Avengers is a bi-weekly comic. But for $4 an issue– meaning $8 bucks a month– I want a damn story in every issue! I don’t want to blow four dollars on nothing more than a drawn-out, boring set-up. Anyone possibly checking this out because they like the movie are going to be left in the cold as well. All they’ll get is an airy aesthetic... So things may look familiar, but unless they just want to look at the art– they’re screwed.

And can someone please tell me what’s up with virtually every $3.99 MarvelNOW! comic? They’re almost all crap compared to their $2.99 counterparts. (The only $2.99 comic I didn’t much care for was The Indestructible Hulk– but Ive never really been a Hulk fan… So I’m the wrong person to talk to about that book.)

Incredibly, I was almost ready to give Avengers #1 a three-star rating (I guess I initially really wanted to like it), but after rereading this review and looking over the comic again… I realize this is one shitty book. If Avengers was simply a monthly title, I might say give it a shot and see if it improves. (It’s about as good as All New X-Men #1 was.) But since there will be another issue hitting the stands before I can snap my head around… I’m just going to stay far, far away. I suggest you do the same. – W.D. Prescott

Capsule Reviews 1.5 Star Rating

SHADOWMAN #2Shadowman #1 & #2
Writers: Justin Jordan & Patrick Zircher
Artist: Patrick Zircher
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterers: David Lanphear, Rob Steen
24 pages, $3.99

This is what IMJ Capsule Reviews™ is supposed to about– discovering comics you wouldn’t normally pick up (for whatever reason) and absolutely being blown off your chair after doing it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, you know how the IMJ Review Staff have been lamenting– to various degrees– how first DC (The New 52) and now Marvel (MarvelNOW!) can’t seem to properly reboot, rejigger or relaunch a comic book properly? Well, I figured out why: They don’t have a clear Publisher’s Mandate or the Editorial Talent to get the job done right. (The company certainly has a fine enough group of Artists and Writers working on their books– so many of the failures must come from what these creators are being told or steered to do.)

And anyway, there’s a huge difference between a true top-to-bottom reboot or relaunch of an entire comic book line and what DC & Marvel are really doing: 1) DC shook up their books because no one there seemingly possessed the drive, talent or imagination to figure out what to do with 70+ years of continuity, and 2) Marvel, once again, is only artificially relaunching their comics by simply switching creative teams and adding new #1 issues in hopes of swiping back some of the buzz DC generated with their artificial relaunch. And neither of these companies seem to have genuine creative reasons for repositioning their titles… They’re just desperate to goose sales.

To prove it, I have two words for you: Valiant Entertainment.

After reading Shadowman #1 & #2, I can tell you unequivocally that somebody (more likely multiple somebodies) at this company knows exactly what a real reboot/relaunch of a comic entails. I hate to blast other companies when I am praising another (I like my reviews to stay focused on the comic and publisher at hand) but damn, DC/Marvel… This new iteration of Valiant Entertainment’s only been publishing since when… May 2012? And they know how to SHADOWMAN #1reboot/relaunch a comic… And you don’t?

So much for “practice makes perfect.”

I should also note I haven’t read any other new Valiant Comics yet– but I know I’ll most certainly be checking them ALL out now… Due to my outstanding experience with Shadowman #1 & #2.

You’ll remember IMJ’s own Tom Devine reviewed X-O Manowar #7, saying it was “…actually better than most of the efforts from the Big Two.” (IMJ Capsule Reviews for 11.21.12) I’m apparently dealing with an even better animal here.

The ALL STAR of this new comic has to be artist Patrick Zircher, who not only draws Shadowman beautifully and energetically but also shares writing credit with up and coming comic scripter Justin Jordan (the creator of IMJ Favorite™ The Strange Talent of Luther Strode). This must be what Comic Book Heaven looks like– as Zircher distills his years of comic book experience and adds them to Jordan’s talent… And together they create a mainstream comic that blows virtually EVERYTHING currently published by the Big Two out of the freakin’ water.

The art is great. The story is multifaceted, well-developed and entirely believable. In short, this comic book ROCKS… And stands as a MASTER CLASS on how to relaunch a character for a new generation of comic fans. No tricky-dicky hinky-doo here– just straightforward storytelling that never rings false or takes a misstep. I totally buy into all the events that occur here and the order in which they happen. Far too often, geeky comic book reviewers (as well as TV and movie critics) cut these remade properties too much slack– mainly because they have some misplaced loyalty for the older versions and hope the new versions will eventually match their fond memories.

No need for any of that bullshit pandering, middle-of-the-road criticism here. The book starts off with a heady mix of exciting action and excellent characterization and never looks back. There’s also thankfully no need for convoluted text pieces where the creators try to explain to readers what they just experienced (although the second issue does provide a very well written, concise, helpful explanation of the events occurring in Issue #1). Everything simply fits and makes sense for old fans and new readers alike… Allowing this new Shadowman series to rise and succeed on the consummate talent of its creators.

And that’s exactly the way it should be. This book deserves every bit of my rating… If memory serves, the highest I’ve ever given in this column. – Ian MacMillan

Capsule Reviews 4.5 Star Rating

HELLBOY IN HELL #1Hellboy in Hell #1
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Mike Mignola
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Clem Robbins
24 pages $2.99

I only know Hellboy from the movies. I’ve wanted to get into the comics for some time, but I never seemed to find the right moment. When I saw that Hellboy in Hell was beginning, I thought, “Do it, Will! Jump now!”

And I feel like I’m missing something. I think a lot of it has to do with the extensive mythos surrounding Hellboy… And how creator Mike Mignola’s storytelling would have naturally evolved with it. Long-time readers– or those who have caught up with the trades– would be accustomed to the story being told… But as a completely new reader I’m kind lost at a few points. Towards the end, there is a mechanical puppet show of A Christmas Carol. I’m guessing it’s meant to allude to something in upcoming issues, but not knowing Mignola’s style… I don’t know if the puppets are foreshadowing something new or reminding fans of previous events.

Another thing throwing me: Having sound effects appear in their own separate panels. I know there’s a meaning behind this, but again– these techniques are not easily digested by this first-time reader. (I find I have the same problems when jumping into the middle of long running prose series too.) In other words, Mignola may be doing something completely natural for regular Hellboy comic readers… And I just don’t get it.

That said, I enjoyed the issue enough to know I need to catch up on this character and his story. I want to come back to this comic and understand everything Mignola is presenting here. – W.D. Prescott

Capsule Reviews 3.5 Star Rating

HUMAN BOMB #1Human Bomb #1
Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know
Writers: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Jerry Ordway
Colorist: HI-FI
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
20 pages, $2.99

The unsung heroes of the New 52 are, far and away, writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti.

Coming right on the heels of their great Phantom Lady and Doll Man limited series… Palmiotti and Gray’s Human Bomb is another mini-series featuring a hero that’s much more interesting than most of DC’s major characters. This might partly come from the fact that Gray & Palmiotti are working with limited series– so the stories are kept deliberately smaller in scope and they are forced to develop the characters in quicker, more intriguing ways.

It’s sorta sad that when you think about all the New 52 comics– none of the creators working on them completely rebooted the DC characters. There is still a reliance on past mythos and pop culture touchstones… Which I think is one of the major failings of DC’s New Universe. I’m happy to report Gray and Palmiotti actually reboot the Human Bomb with this comic… And their story proves you don’t need an overly long origin to give readers enough depth to care about the title character. The rest can naturally be revealed as the story progresses.

Like Phantom Lady and Dollman, the Human Bomb series has a sliver of a connection to the New 52 Universe… And I really hope these characters all show up in other DC comics soon– if not in their own ongoing series. They’re different enough to be unique and refreshing. Plus, characters like the Human Bomb don’t possess any of the baggage still dogging the newly stylized versions of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the like. Reading this comic gives you none of the stress that occurs when you attempt to jump into books with 70+ years of history, multiple reboots and retcons.

In truth, Human Bomb would be a great series to use when introducing new fans to DC Comics. – W.D. Prescott

Capsule Reviews 3.5 Star Rating

BLACKACRE #1Blackacre #1
Writer: Duffy Boudreau
Artist: Wendell Cavalcanti
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Aaron Walker
24 pages, $2.99

Warning! I’m going to use at least one movie reference in this review… But please don’t take this as a slam against the comic or think I’m trying to insinuate Blackacre is unoriginal. Using familiar tropes as examples just helps me break down the comic faster.

190 years from now, Blackacre is akin to Robocop’s OCP finally taking over Detroit and turning it into a fortified city-state for the wealthy– as the rest of America’s citizens suffer through the continual economic decline of the nation. By this time in the future, the rest of the USA is mired in revolution– with people fighting blood-feuds and holy wars in a struggle for control.

The book goes back in time to introduce Hull, the hero of the story. He’s apparently finished his term protecting Blackacre and is asked to go into the untamed American Wilds to bring law to the lawless… Even though it seems more like a wetworks operation for the Blackacre Oligarchy. All hells breaks loose when Hull is “set up” by the Powers That Be (like almost every action movie hero ever), and he discovers his homing beacon is really a bomb.

It’s an interesting idea. Considering the prologue is set in the future– far from when the main story takes place– I can see this book turning into a series of mini-series. And unlike most of the first issues I’ve read from Image Comics this year, there is actually an arc to the story in this issue. I’m even intrigued enough to want to see what happens next.

I think Locusmortis nailed it right in his most recent Previews Hits & Misses column— Blackacre is a trade-wait title. It’s not like the story demands to be read all at once… The book would be just as enjoyable if you waited a month in-between reading each issue. But if you’re on a budget, Blackacre doesn’t strike me as a comic you need to buy or you’ll be missing something. In short, I’m not certain if this book is enough of a must-have title to warrant a monthly expenditure. Since I could relate so many of Blackacre’s characters and plot points to existing Movies and TV shows (I saved you from most of the comparisons)– I’m most likely going to figure out the story fast.

If you are looking for a comic inspired by Robocop, Judge Dredd or Revolution, this is your book. Otherwise, one of the original movies, comics or TV shows I just mentioned may be just as satisfying. – W.D. Prescott

HOUSE OF FUNThe House of Fun
Writer: Evan Dorkin
Artist: Evan Dorkin
Colorist: Sarah Dyer
Letterer: Evan Dorkin
26 pages, $3.50

Here’s the mark of a great comic: I’m late in writing my reviews because I kept going back to laugh at this book. The humor is certainly not “correct” for every type of comic fan, but I bet there’s one strip everyone will find funny.

House of Fun is also not the easiest read. I haven’t seen this many word balloons per page since some old 60s Fantastic Four comics. You know what I’m talking about– the scenes where Reed Richards would always go into gloriously ridiculous detail about some new invention or how to solve some deathly galactic menace.

Strangely, I also liked House of Fun for its dearth of material (and words). So many new comics give me nothing to read– leaving me to finish them in a few minutes. For $3.50, this book will keep you entertained for quite a while. I’ve even gone back and randomly opened the comic 3 or 4 times… Just to re-read a mini story or one of the comic strips.

Because there is so much here, I wish Dark Horse would make this an ongoing comic. I would easily buy it as a quarterly. (It would probably take at least that long to produce each issue.) I would love to have more Milk and Cheese or Murder Family– and many of the other different strips… Mostly because I think there’s a few ideas that could easily be expanded upon and larger concepts that would benefit from more than just a single page or one lone comic strip. House of Fun is that kind of gold mine.

I’m also going to start a petition for creator Evan Dorkin to write Deadpool someday– because I think the creator and that character would be a fantastic match. – W.D. Prescott

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11 Responses to IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 12.5.12!

  1. ed2962 says:

    One thing I thought was curious about Avengers #1 was that it failed to properly identify the main members of the team. Someone who was picking up this comic for the first time would have no clue as to the names of the majority of the characters.

    I’m pretty sure I remember Rosanne Barr wearing a T-Shirt of one the “Murder Family” characters on her TV show at one point in the 90’s

    • J. says:

      That Avengers comic seemed like it was more interested in being pretentious than telling a decent first issue story.

    • Ed, Ed, Ed, you just touched on something that I held back on because it would have taken over the review.

      So, I’m going to do it in the comments.

      For those that haven’t read it, the second page has what I’ll call “The Avenger Atom” with the little symbols denoting each character and right under it is all the names of the heroes, with there real identities underneath. That’s all you get beside maybe three times a name is used in dialogue during the story that you could start a process of elimination. But like you side, no name was ever tagged to an image for someone make connections for all of them.

      But let’s go back to the “Atom” for a moment. Am I the only on that was pissed of on the how shitty the symbols for Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Hulk were? Black Widow–despite decades of having the hourglass symbol of the namesake spider on her costume–has some weird, robotic dust mite as hers. Hawkeye’s has the bullseye–which made me think Bullseye was an Avenger, and Hulk is just an “H,” which I first thought was denoting Hawkeye. Then, when we go all the way to the end where all the new team members show up and we get a slew of new symbols that I can’t decipher. Sure, Falcon, Captain Marvel, and Captain Universe I can guess, but we have a spider symbol and both Spider-Man and Spider Woman. We have the X-Men “X” and both Wolverine and Cannonball, and then all those other people I’ve never seen before. So what is the point of having this “Atom” take up two pages that could be used to tell a story. It would be better as a Flash gimmick on the Marvel website.

      But, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

      • Locusmortis says:

        Remember when Hickman was the hot new guy doing Nightly News, where the hell has that guy gone?

        Any issue of a team book should clearly identify the members of the team book and in a first issue it should be a priority. In the 80’s marvel’s books had the team members heads in the little box with the marvel logo in the top left of the front cover. I seem to recall the Busiek/Perez Avengers sometimes had the Avengers heads and their names on the left of the first page on a sort of totem pole type layout to show who was on the team. Hickman seems to have caught the decompression bug from Bendis and is writing everything as if it were part of a 12 or 24 part trade, glad I’m not inflicting this crap on myself tbh.

        • The X-men did the same thing with the heads on the cover. The last time I saw them do it was during that Shi’ar Empire storyline a few years ago. and a number of time. But your right, not just because it’s a team book, but also a #1, characters should have a quick, blatant introduction. But Marvels seems to thing the success of the movie means everyone knows these characters, which will only hurt them.

          I haven’t read a lot of Hickman, but what I have read always seemed decompressed, but there was still a semblance of a issue long story to feel like it worth getting his stuff monthly. Considering, though, that everything I’ve read at $3.99 price point from Marvel has the overt and damaging decompression issue, I think it may be more a editorial mandate than Hickman’s writing. This feels like it’s being created for a trade and not a monthly or bi-weekly title.

          I, too, am glad you aren’t inflicting yourself with it either LM. 😉

  2. J. says:

    Hey, W.D. Have you read Dorkin’s older stuff? Dark Horse has collected all the old Milk and Cheese comics into a hardcover that came out earlier this year. His comic Dork, which featured The Murder Family and Eltingville Comic Club (as well as many other stories) was collected into two trades: Dork: Who’s Laughing Now? and Dork Volume 2: Circling The Drain. I am pretty sure they are out of print but shouldn’t be too difficult to find. If you liked House of Fun, you’ll love Dork.

  3. Pingback: IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 12.5.12! « Red Tash

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