IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews!

CAPSULE REVIEWS REVIEWER NAMES BANNER MARCH 2013

Wolverine #1Wolverine # 1
Hunting Season Part 1 (of 4)
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artists: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: VC’s Corey Petit
20 pages, $3.99

When you heard there was going to be a new Paul Cornell comic illustrated by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer, I bet you thought it sounded amazing, right? Makes sense you would think that way (like I initially did in my most recent Previews Hits and Misses column, after seeing the creator line-up.) But I’m sorry to say, we were both completely wrong. This comic book is awful.

I’ve been down with the flu for the last 5 days (or so) and I don’t know which is making me feel more nauseated– the mountain of painkillers I’ve had to take in order to function, or this comic.

I’ve loved pretty much everything Paul Cornell’s created since working on Captain Britain for Marvel– his Lex Luthor stories in Action Comics and his frankly awesome run on Demon Knights (which I suspect was torpedoed by the dreaded hand of DC’s New 52 editorial department.) Given that, I would have expected something stellar from the man– especially after having escaped the clutches of Bob Harras to the relative freedom of a solo Wolverine title… But no, instead he phones in this turgid waste of paper.

While reading this pamphlet, I reflected on my review from January’s Savage Wolverine #1– and some of the reasons for why I liked that story were precisely the reasons why I hated this one. In both comics the plots were relatively thin and the reader was dropped into Wolverine Page 13 Panel 3the middle of the action with no introduction– but Frank Cho managed to pull it off because he “got” Wolverine’s character… Whereas I felt like Cornell just didn’t. Wolverine seemed like a bit of a pussy for most of the rather brief story and the characterisation and dialogue were both way off.

I won’t get into any of the book’s plot. (To be honest, I just don’t care.) The 20 pages presented in Wolverine #1 felt like the prologue to something else and made no impact on me except to make me feel worse than I already do.

One would have thought Alan Davis and Mark Farmer would’ve been able to at least save something from this wreck, but this is the worst Alan Davis art job I have ever seen… And no, that’s not hyperbole. It looks like he either didn’t care or the story was drawn in an incredible rush. I hate saying this about an artist I admire, but I can’t find any other conclusion based on the evidence presented in Wolverine #1.

If you’ve got 4 dollars absolutely burning a hole in your wallet, then perhaps buy a lottery ticket instead… At least then there’s a slight chance for a happy ending. – Locusmortis

Capsule Reviews Zero Star Rating

Sledge-Hammer 44 #1Sledge-Hammer 44 #1
Writers: Mike Mignola, John Arcudi
Artist: Jason Latour
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Clem Robins
22 pages, $3.50

Writing reviews is not a particularly frustrating endeavor. 9 times out of 10, I can decide what angle my review will take before I even finish a book. But that one time I don’t figure it out? Ya, then reviewing can be a bitch. Several IMJ critics have mentioned how “average” comics are the most difficult to review. (I know I’ve railed against them more than once.) When there is nothing to truly dislike or anything to really praise– what do you talk about? If anything, it might be better not to review an average book at all… Which brings me to Sledge-Hammer 44 #1.

First, I want to state clearly that this is a quality package. Dave Stewart’s colors alone made me want to read this comic– but when you see the other talent associated with it, it kinda makes the book a must read. And it’s the reading part that just didn’t do anything for me.

The concept is pretty much this: Iron Man Fighting Nazis in World War II France. It’s really that simple but unfortunately, the entire first issue was (more or less) one big, cool fight. At some point, it would’ve been nice to have some sort of characterization for the protagonist– especially since his name is featured on the cover. Most of the dialogue comes from the American soldiers backing up Sledge-Hammer. I get what the writers are going for here– tell the story through the eyes of average soldiers, while playing up the mysterious origin of this new robotic weapon. One soldier thinks there’s a man underneath the Sledgehammer armor, while others assume it’s a robot… And by the end of the issue, it still not made clear which theory is correct.

I guess this is what I’m attempting to relate to you… I read this brand new series wanting to get into something new– but other than a neat cliffhanger ending and a cool fight, there really isn’t anything that hooked me or demanded I come back for Issue #2. Nothing is revealed about Sledge-Hammer and there are really no other characters to care about either. Everything is very surface-y.

If you are specifically looking for a quick read with lots of action and good art, then Sledge-Hammer 44 #1 may be the perfect comic for you. But if you’re searching for something with a bit more heart and substance– you probably want to look elsewhere.

Who knows? Things could all change with the next issue… But this first comic didn’t make me care enough to want to find out. – Jose Melendez

Capsule Reviews 3 Star Rating

Secret Avengers #2Secret Avengers #2
Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Luke Ross
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
23 Pages, $3.99

As villains go, A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) have always been the punching bag for every superhero who’s experienced the time-wasting misfortune of running across them. How scary or dramatic can a funky bunch of yellow-garbed International Terrorists really be anyway? You’d think with all these geniuses supposedly in one group, one of them would have the smarts to convince the rest of his/her colleagues they need to ditch the garish DEVO duds.

So when this issue starts off with an A.I.M. scientist doing some fairly old school comics’ science stuff, I could feel my expectations plummet… And I wondered if I should just turn on the TV and watch the Duck Dynasty Marathon instead. Shaking my head and working a few cricks out of my neck, I decided to soldier on. Apparently Secret Avengers #2 is writer Nick Spencer’s attempt to set up A.I.M. as a credible threat to the world– an assignation any self-respecting terrorist group would hope for. But no matter how hard Spencer tries, I still have a real hard time taking these goofballs seriously.

And I have to ask: Can anyone remember the most recent Pink Pearl cameo appearance in a Marvel comic? The last time I saw this particular villain, she was gracing the pages of Alpha Flight #22 (Vol 1). I chuckled a bit when I first recognized her. It was an odd choice by Spencer, and one of the few that worked.

Secret Avengers #2 just feels like a middle of the road effort. Spencer’s story is well-paced but not compelling, with dialogue that lays flat (but isn’t terrible.) On the plus side, Luke Ross’ art and Matthew Wilson colors are enjoyable. Overall, I understand the creators are attempting to set up A.I.M. as the most credible threat to SHIELD in the Marvel Universe– but I just can’t imagine any comic fan over 30 reading this and not being able to remember the innumerable times these goons have had their asses kicked.

I also have to admit I’m not a fan of  the “mental manipulation” techniques used to turn these superheroes into unwitting sleeper agents… Who then have their memories wiped at the end of every mission when someone utters the code word “Reverie.” Besides seeming like a really shitty way to treat your co-workers, it also makes every superhero in the comic an anti-hero. Then, with this one magic word, they revert back to “normal”– with no memory and no character growth… Courtesy of no moral angst experienced after having to make the tough decisions. The whole premise just doesn’t sit well with me.

I find this to be an average Marvel title at best. Nick Spencer hasn’t sold me on his new version of the “Secret” Avengers– at least not yet. 23 pages for the $3.99 cover price also seems a bit high for the quality of the content delivered… Which means I cannot recommend this comic book. – Tim Tash

Capsule Reviews 3 Star Rating

Ultimate Comics Wolverine #1Ultimate Comics Wolverine #1 (of 4)
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artists: David Messina, Gary Erskine
Colorist: Javier Tartaglia
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
20 pages, $3.99

This is actually a hard comic to review on several levels… Not the least of which, it features a dead Wolverine. Then again, Marvel and DC have never let death stop them from printing a comic book, have they? And they sure as hell seem to care little about their fanbase too (and, for that matter, their various creators)– since they released both Ultimate Comics Wolverine #1 and yet another new 616 Wolverine #1  on the exact same day last Wednesday.

I will admit to being shocked (and feeling a  little gypped) to read in the book’s front summary page that Wolverine is dead in Marvel’s current Ultimate Universe. I’m sure I knew this fact somewhere deep in my brain, but frankly– comic book character deaths don’t touch me anymore… They all meld together in my mind as an extreme case of literal overkill. Anyway, I purchased this comic because I wanted to read a CURRENT STORY in the NOW. But what I got was a Wolverine only alive in the past (chronicling a story under the nebulous description of “Years Ago”) and a present-day story focusing on Wolverine’s son Jimmy Hudson (much better looking and nowhere near as anti-social as the 616 Wolverine-spawn, Daken.)

To be blunt, there wasn’t much here and what was presented certainly wasn’t worth Four Dollars. I got 20 pages of story for my $3.99, centered around an old covert op led by Wolverine– and some current scenes of Jimmy watching a holographic message from his dead Dad, using tech that looked amazingly just like a note from Princess Leia via R2D2.

Writer Cullen Bunn also throws in some kind of conspiratorial moments too, which may very well end up satisfactorily… But right now, it all seems extremely perfunctory and reeks of story decompression and clumsy set-up. I’ve mentioned this before: I really do believe there are only a few select writers currently scripting comics who have mastered the art of writing a compelling, well-structured 20-page comic book story. Unfortunately, Bunn isn’t one of them– at least not with this comic anyway.

Art by David Messina/Gary Erskine and colors by Javier Tartaglia are benign efforts– perfectly fitting for such a bland comic book. Even the usually near perfect Art Adams delivers a boring cover, so sloppy it resembles a quick con sketch. – Ian MacMillan

Capsule Reviews 2 Star Rating

Deathstroke #18Deathstroke #18
Writer: Scott Hanna
Artists: Justin Jordan, Jason Gorder
Colorist: Edgar Salazar
21 Pages, $2.99

I grew up watching Saturday Kung-Fu Theater on TV, complete with all its over the top fight scenes. My friends and I would always immediately try to duplicate said fight scenes during each commercial break. We could never quite master the flying high jumps over the foot stool, let alone the back of the couch– but that didn’t stop us from trying. Deathstroke #18 brought to mind those action-packed fantasies from my childhood– and the story didn’t disappoint.

We jump directly into the middle of a fight that lasts 19 pages and is a complete slugfest– as Deathstroke struggles to honor his contract. The work by Justin Jordan and Edgar Salazar is enjoyable, as the action flows well from panel to panel. The dialogue is sparse and a little predictable in places… But really, who cares? I was enjoying the street fight far too much to care about the Art of War lesson buried somewhere in the subtext of the story.

This is an action-packed, fast-paced read that I found very likeable. It may not be for everyone, but if you are looking for a cool comic book fight– check out Deathstroke #18. – Tim Tash

Capsule Reviews 4 Star Rating

Bloodshot #9Bloodshot #9
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artists: Manuel Garcia, Matt Ryan
Colorist: Ian Hannin
Letterer: Rob Steen
22 pages, $3.99

I’m pretty sure I haven’t read a Valiant comic since the lame Deathmate crossover back in the early 90s. Even then, I read that awful series mostly for the Image Comics characters who co-starred. I seriously can’t tell you what the difference is between a Bloodshot and a Ninjak– save for what they look like. This is the long way around for me to say I know almost nothing about the Valiant Universe. What I do know– this line’s recent relaunch has been getting some good buzz. So I figured it was time to give one of their comics a shot.

Bloodshot #9 probably wasn’t the best book to pick as an introduction to the “new” line. The issue featured the climax to the current story arc and while I had no problem following it, I also didn’t have any investment in what was going on with Bloodshot and friends. That’s not the book’s fault really. That’s my fault, so it would be ridiculous for me to hold this against it.

Still, as a standalone comic story– it was a bit average. I can say I really appreciated the lengthy “catch up” page at the beginning. It did a great job of letting me know who/what Bloodshot is, what his current motivations are, who his friends are and why they are doing what they are doing. I seriously learned more about Bloodshot in that one introductory page than I did by working in a comic shop for almost 20 years.

Duane Swierczynski’s script was also decent. It flowed nicely and he did a good job of making all the characters sound different. (Granted there were only 4 or 5 main characters in the issue, but still.) Giving characters different personalities and speech patterns goes a long way with me. Anything that doesn’t read like a Bendis or Millar comic is always a plus.

The art is a completely different matter altogether. It was all over the place. Some panels looked really good, while others looked downright awful. The design and proportions of Bloodshot’s adversary changed from panel to panel. It was so inconsistent that I’m surprised someone at Valiant didn’t insist on having the art retouched before shipping it off to the printers. Adding to the sloppiness– constantly changing faces, poor panel layout and even poorer attempts at foreshortening… All making for an unpleasant comic book experience.

I’d be willing to give the Bloodshot comic another chance at some point– but only after an artistic change. The character’s somewhat interesting and I’m also curious how he reacts during casual conversions. I know that may be an odd thing to say (it goes back to the whole “characters having personality” thing), but this issue was one huge fight– so there wasn’t really a good chance to get a handle on the character. I want to give the comic a better than average review score but simply can’t due to the art, which is unfortunate. – Jose Melendez

Capsule Reviews 2.5 Star Rating

Johnny Boo Vol 5 Johnny Boo Does SomethingJohnny Boo Vol 5
Johnny Boo Does Something
Writer/Artist: James Kolchalka
42 Pages, $2.99

Johnny Boo creator James Kolchaka is one prolific human. Besides being an intriguing comic book artist and writer, he also has a band (James Kolchaka Superstar) that’s released 9 albums. I got my first exposure to Kolchaka’s inspired lunacy with his comic Superfuckers (come on, you know I couldn’t resist the title) and later graduated to collections of his fantastic diary comic strips American Elf.

Even with all this diversity coming from one creator, I never thought I’d ever see Kolchaka release an All Ages Children’s Book… But he did. And when he published his first Johnny Boo volume– I can say, without reservation, Kolchaka forever changed my perception of what All Ages Comics could achieve… And not for the reasons you may think. There’s nothing subversive or sarcastically adult in Kolchaka’s Johnny Boo comics. Nothing in particular that would scream for an adult to read them… But you should.

In doing so, you’ll marvel at the amazing way Kolchaka imparts his wisdom without talking down to children or adults. There are things to be understood here but the messages are never heavy-handed, smarmy or treacly. His stories are textbook cases of simplicity but never simple. They are just what they are… And they’re great.

Thankfully, Johnny Boo Vol 5: Johnny Boo Does Something continues Kolchaka’s winning streak.

This comic is real fun. It’s also filled with tons of irony– at least for mainstream comic book fans. The first story has Johnny declaring his grand plan to do absolutely nothing. Boo calls it “Johnny Boo’s Boring Adventure.” Any comic fan who’s been forced to sit through one decompressed superhero story after another courtesy of the Big Two (Marvel & DC) is already an expert on the less than exquisite agony that accompanies 5 pages of the Avengers sitting around talking about nothing while munching on submarine sandwiches and pizza… So it’s very refreshing to have a comic’s main character announce at a story’s beginning that nada is about to occur.

And this is where Kolchaka’s genius really shines. While declaring he’s about to do zip, Johnny Boo actually accomplishes more with his ghostly pal Squiggle in 30 pages than most current Avengers hardcovers proffer in 120 pages for $24.99. Sure, Johnny ends up searching for his favorite ice cream hole instead of streaking across the galaxy for Infinity Gems– but facts are facts: Boo has more charm and charisma in his small white body than most super teams put together.

I confess I like to read excellent comics made for children. First, I’m always happy to see someone still attempting to create something original (as opposed to spitting out uninspired licensed comics based on some focus group tested toy line.) I also like to be reminded what a pure comic book looks like. It’s also very heartening to see James Kolchaka’s creation excelling from both creative and sales standpoints.

If you’re willing to have an open mind toward your entertainment, I sincerely think you’ll love Johnny Boo– if you have the balls to give it a chance. And if you don’t see what I see? I can virtually guarantee your child will eat up these bright stories with glee– much like Boo & Squiggle always devour their beloved ice cream. – Ian MacMillan

Capsule Reviews 5 Star Rating

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11 Responses to IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews!

  1. ed2962 says:

    It’s a little disappointing to hear that Alan Davis art is a little sub par in this title. I like his art and that would have been the only reason I would have considered checking out this comic.

    I didn’t make it to the LCS this week but if I did I might have taken a chance on Sledgehammer. Can I ask if you had to compare this with Black Beetle, which do you think came closer to reaching it’s goal?

    I had similar feeling about Secret Avengers 1. Not great not bad just sort of there. I know it’s going to make me look lame, but I kinda like the AIM beekeeper suits. It protects them from cosmic cube radiation, nerve gas…and possibly evil bees!

    I’m actually shocked to learn that James Kolchaka did a kid’s book. I’m not bothered by that fact, I just never expected it.

    • J. says:

      Well, Sledgehammer is mostly a war comic with a superhero element. I think it reached its goal in being just that. But for me, it wasn’t any more than that. I enjoyed Black Beetle more.

    • Locusmortis says:

      I actually overlooked it in my review but the colouring in Wolverine #1 sucked as well, which is unusual because no matter what else I could say about their contents at least the colouring in Marvel’s comics is generally top-notch.

      I’ve also noticed in over 3 months of reviewing I’ve yet to touch a DC comic, so anyone got any suggestions of DC titles for me to savage….er review I mean.

  2. IronMuskrat says:

    Great reviews this week!

    Jose, I’m so glad you are reviewing some of the Dark Horse and Valiant stuff, I’ve been wanting to get in on some of the Valiant stuff for a bit now, I liked the Archer and Armstrong relaunch, but I have been a bit reluctant to jump in on some of their other offerings. I’ve really been dancing around Harbinger and X-O Manowar.

    In the late 80’s I found my answer to everything that I thought was wrong with Marvel and DC comics in the form of Comico, I thought the comics they were putting were absolutely great. I’m still looking for a comic publisher like that today.

    Great reviews from the crew as usual, keep up the great work guys!

  3. kurumais says:

    i think tim captured everything there is to say about nick spensers secret avengers very nicely.
    after 2 issues i think it get dropped from my pull list

    thanks for the heads up on johhny boo im always on look out for a good kids book. i have a communion coming up next month. i need a gift.

    how long has scott hanna been writing deadpool? thanks

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