IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews!

Capsule Reviews Reviewer Names

Harbinger #11Harbinger #11
Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artists: Khari Evans, Stefano Gaudiano, Trevor Hirsine
Colorist: Ian Hannin
37 pages, $3.99

I think old age has caused me to be too cautious when it comes to buying comics. In my younger days, I would head to my local comic shop and just start randomly grabbing books off the rack. Sure, I bought a lot of crap comics back then, but I also discovered several really good series I fell in love with… And it was all due to a bit of luck, plus a willingness to blindly jump headlong into a book without any prior knowledge of its content.

Nowadays, you have the internet and fine websites like Inveterate Media Junkies taking the guess-work out of the buying equation. If you’re smart, you can discover the good comics (and what crap to avoid) without breaking the bank to find out. Speaking as a married guy, not spending a lot of money on crap books (and getting in dutch with the wife) is definitely a good thing!

But I must admit I do sort of miss the old days, walking out of a comic shop with a stack of comics in my hand– knowing that I would probably shitcan all but a few of them by the end of the day. So in honor of those days gone by, I’ve picked four comics totally at random this week– all of which I knew nothing about previously.

My first random book is a bit of a cheat… I’ve never read Harbinger before, but I have seen some generally positive comments about the series on the Net. I haven’t seen any specific reviews for the comic (although Ian just posted his take for Harbinger Wars #1 on IMJ as I write this review) and that made me a little nervous about trying to start a new series already 10 issues into its run. But when I saw this blurb in the teaser for Harbinger #11…“All-New Arc, All-New Jumping-On Point!”… It was like Valiant knew what I was thinking or had bugged my house (either option was pretty scary.) In any case, I felt obligated to at least read the first issue of this new story.

The book starts out with a quick and dirty “Our story so far…” page, featuring three fairly brief paragraphs of info thin on specifics. I can summarize the story even further: The protagonist, Peter Stanchek, is a powerful psionic on the run from two different shadowy organizations. Attempting to survive, he gathers a small group of individuals (also with special powers) to help him. The summary doesn’t really say, but I assume they’re trying to take down one– or both– of these organizations. Later on, Stanchek’s group gets a specific mission to undertake… But how and why they banded together is a mystery left to be discovered in back issues or trades down the road. (I guess.)

I will give writer Joshua Dysart credit here. From my experience, there are really only two ways to hook a new fan into reading your book: The easy way— offering tons of action, fighting and eye candy art… Or the hard way– writing interesting characters readers find compelling enough to care about issue after issue. Dysart takes the more difficult path with Harbinger #11, creating 32 pages of characters just talking to each other. There is literally no action in the comic, other than a lone jukebox getting smashed. Readers are either going to love or hate this book based on how they feel about the characters and their personalities. It’s a calculated risk, especially in a 21st Century World bursting with dozens of different media choices… But Dysart has created quite an interesting group here. Personalities range from the pathologically positive Faith to the loathsome man-child Torque– which also leads me to the two minor problems I have with the story.

Harbinger #11 details the aftermath of an incident (or attack) in Georgia– perpetrated by one of the groups hunting the Harbinger rebels. The attack occurred in previous issues, but is the topic of several conversations in this comic. Every one of the heroes appears to be affected in some way by this attack– most notably Stanchek. Given the number of mentions the attack receives, it would be nice to know more detail about really happened in Georgia… A brief flashback perhaps? I know I could read some back issues to find out, but remember– this story is supposedly a “jumping on point” for new readers. I can’t help but think the Georgia incident is an important enough plot point not to be left dangling in the wind by the writer, much to the detriment of the comic.

My second problem with the story is a completely personal one– and it has to do with Torque. I hate the guy, and I don’t mean in the “love to hate” kind of way… I just hate the character. As written, I understand he’s a loud-mouth jerk… But I think this is a perfect example of a writer doing his job a little too well. Every time Torque talks, I cringe.

Despite these small complaints, there were enough good things in Harbinger #11 to pique my interest to try out a second issue. But I couldn’t help noticing (in the back of the comic) a long list of other Valiant titles involved in the Harbinger Wars crossover event. I know I’m being kind of a dick here, but I don’t see myself buying any of those additional books– I just want to read the Harbinger comic. Valiant promised me an “all new jumping on point,”  so I will hold the creators to that. Sink or swim based on the strength of your own book, baby!

I was going to give this comic Four out of Five Stars, but I’m deducting ½ star for putting Bloodshot on the cover– since he doesn’t appear in the book itself. (Sorry, that’s a pet peeve of mine.) – Mark O’Brien

Capsule Reviews 3.5 Star Rating

Batman & Robin #19Batman and Robin #19
Denial
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artists: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
20 pages, $2.99

Ah, the glory of being out of the office, “enjoying” the “wonderful” expanse of the “great” outdoors. As I write this review, I am sitting in the parking lot of my Mom’s hairstylist– wondering where all the cold weather went to. I mention my location only because I’m about to become very, very grumpy– and I don’t want you to think I got this way because I’m sitting in a hot dark green station wagon with my iPad and keyboard shoved into my stomach– causing me to type at a 60° angle. (Whew! That’s better… I decided to quit fighting the “wonders” of Detroit engineering by moving to the passenger seat.)

Anyway, I’m upset today because I usually really like the work of Batman & Robin writer Peter J Tomasi… But I don’t like Batman & Robin #19 one bit.

April was supposed to be DC Comics’ WTF Certified Month… But they wussed out on actually putting the WTF logo on all their gatefold covers after it was (rightly) pointed out WTF is an acronym for What the Fuck?”– which probably isn’t the best thing to slap on comic book covers that might be read by children (whether the comics are Teen+ rated or not.) The irony of even considering such a poorly thought out promotion is thick– since this is also the same publisher currently destroying Vertigo, one of the finest lines of Mature-themed comics in American Comic Book Industry. Otherwise, I can’t be the only one to find the WTF Certified promotion extremely fitting for DC’s New 52 books– since I’ve been screaming “What the Fuck?!” almost every time I read a current DC comic.

The latest big news surrounding this book, of course, is Damian Wayne (the latest in a long line of Robins, The Boys Wonders) is supposedly dead. So a grieving Batman/Bruce Wayne has traveled across the world to Greenland in order to kidnap Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. (crossover opportunity with a struggling title, anyone?) in an attempt to see what makes the monster-man tick.

That’s it. That’s what the entire book is about. Batman, considered to be one of the top geniuses in the DC Universe, thinks turning the corpse of Damian Wayne into something resembling FRANKENSTEIN is a good idea. How absurd. There’s a million and one things Batman could attempt while trying to resurrect Damian (the boy was the grandson of Ra’s al Ghul, known to have more than a few life-reviving Lazarus Pits hidden away– despite all supposedly being destroyed at some point)… But Bats decides his only out (at least in this comic) is to revive Damian the old-fashioned piece-by-piece way.

I know exactly what Tomasi is going for here: He’s attempting to portray a father’s grief (and resultant irrational behavior) over the loss of his only son. Except, Batman never thinks this way. Never, ever.

There is nothing to recommend here. The art by Patrick Gleason is textbook pedestrian. Inker Mick Gray does zero to elevate the simple pencils and colorist John Kalisz looks as if he’s decided whatever DC is paying him isn’t worth his trying to “rescue” the mundane linework.

Sandwiching Carrie Kelley (Batman’s female Robin in Frank Miller’s classic The Dark Knight Returns) reveals the WTF Certified idea for the ruse it is: A classic bait and switch. Both DC Comics I read this week use LAME misdirection on their covers to pull readers in– with Batman & Robin #19 being the most egregious offender. The lengths Tomasi goes to place Kelley in a Robin costume are borderline idiotic. (What? Tomasi offers no explanation for why Kelley is dressed as Robin at a nondescript costume party where everyone else is also dressed as superheroes– and it isn’t Halloween? What’s so odd about that?)

I’ve praised Tomasi’s work many times on IMJ, so I know in my heart and mind he is a very good writer. But given the crazy mandates and line-wide promotions DC Editorial keeps saddling their writers with, I’m surprised more aren’t quitting the publisher every day. – Ian MacMillan

Capsule Reviews 1:2 Star Rating

Star Wars #4Star Wars #4
In the Shadow of Yavin Part 4
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Carlos D’ana
Colorist: Gabe Eltaeb
Letterer: Michael Heisler
32 pages, $2.99

I tend to shy away from comic book series based on licensed properties. I always fear they won’t do justice to the original content. (See Buffy Season 9.) And there are always exceptions to the rule… For instance, Jose recently rated Angel and Faith his favorite current comic. And, in truth, Star Wars #4 is a welcome surprise. The opening scene reminds me why George Lucas’ creation has rooted itself so deeply in pop culture. There is magic in the premise, something that lights up your brain with wonder and imagination. (In fact, it’s hard to keep writing this review because A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back are calling out to me as I type, trying to persuade me to go watch.)

It both baffles and amazes me to think reading Star Wars #4 has had such an impact. It’s a true testament to how well writer Brian Wood has captured the essence of the world Lucas made famous 36 years ago. The characterization is spot on. I can palpably feel the camaraderie between Han Solo and Chewbacca. Wood fashions the comic relief between C3PO and R2D2 the same way. The duo only appear on one page, but they still squabble in classic fashion– with Threepio doing most of the talking, of course.

Darth Vader is as malicious as ever. I remember being afraid of Vader after watching A New Hope— and Wood instills the same fear into the character’s every fiber. People are afraid to speak out of turn. If they do, they risk getting a lightsaber shoved in their backs. At the very least, Vader’s presence is daunting. He’s still the Lord Vader haunting Luke during his Jedi training in Empire– not the one on the road to redemption in Return of the Jedi.

Every scene Wood creates seems to match the epic presence of A New Hope and Empire. Even the sound effects remind me of the original movies. TIE Fighters shoot and explode the way I think they should. The hum of a lightsaber turning on– and the slightly higher pitch the weapons make as they cut through flesh– are both replicated flawlessly.

To make things even better– if you are only vaguely familiar with Star Wars, you should be able to follow the story. Yes, there are characters I didn’t know, but it doesn’t hinder the experience. I didn’t read Star Wars #1-3, and it doesn’t matter. All you need to know is this story takes place between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. Wood makes the first sequence as engrossing as the last.

The art by Carlos D’ana is also superb. There are so many things that must be clean and crisp in order to create the appearance of technological believability. But D’ana goes the extra mile, impressively detailing the scrapes and scruff some of these characters have been through. Distinct wear and tear on the Rebel pilots’ helmets and on the outer shells of R2 and C3PO shows just how much D’ana cares about creating quality work. Gabe Eltaeb colors feature a great mixture of lights and darks. The contrast that exists when Vader is in a room is perfect example of Eltaeb’s artistic talent. The dichotomy created between the “clean” Empire and the “dirtier” Rebel Alliance actually excites me. You truly get a sense the underdogs are pulling together whatever they can to overthrow the evil Emperor. My only gripe: Han doesn’t quite look how I want him too. But that is a small thing compared to the overall amazing execution of Star Wars #4.

So many creators have dumped so many different ideas into the Star Wars Universe over the years, I was hesitant to give this comic a try. Like I said above, I was afraid it would suck. (I hate sucky comics.) I also knew if I found something great, I wouldn’t stop buying it– which isn’t something my wallet is properly prepared to handle. But after reading a comic book as outstanding as Star Wars #4, I don’t care. I will keep buying this book. I really hope when the SW rights revert back to Marvel, they will be smart enough to try to keep this creative team. If they don’t, I will dislike Marvel more than I do now (even though I wonder if that’s even possible.) It will be tremendously sad to see this comic disappear. I have never had a comic book experience that has actually reinvigorated my excitement for a film property I already love. Thank You, Brian Wood… And Thank You, Dark Horse, for publishing this gem. – Nick Furi

Capsule Reviews 5 Star Rating

Avengers Assemble #14Avengers Assemble #14
Writer: Al Ewing
Artists: Butch Guice, Tom Palmer
Colorist: Frank D’armata
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
20 pages, $3.99

Here’s a clear sign you’re in the middle a bad comic book release week: When you end up reviewing a 4th Tier Avengers comic.

The word “literally” must be the most overused adjective on the internet. It’s peppered scattershot into sentence after sentence by lazy reviewers– sometimes multiple times until your brain figuratively explodes (if brains did literally explode that might be entertaining)… Which is why I’m hesitant to use it here– but I literally only chose to review this 20-page Ode to Brand Expansion because writer Al Ewing’s name was printed on the cover.

If you haven’t heard of Ewing yet, then I predict you will in the near future. He’s been the rising star in the 2000AD firmament over the last 4 or 5 years. With entertaining strips like Zombo and Zaucer of Zilk, he’s considered to be the most likely successor to John Wagner as writer of Judge Dredd in the British weekly magazine.

This is the first issue I’ve read of Avengers Assemble. I had studiously avoided it (mainly because it was originally written by Brian Michael Bendis.) I had also been under the misapprehension the comic was an out-of-continuity title set in The Avengers movie-verse. So when I opened it and read the dreaded phrase “Age of Ultron Tie-In”, my heart sank a little. After years of deadly dull adjuncts to awful Marvel “events” like House of Secret Civil Fear, the phrase “tie-in” has become one of the most derided terms in comic fandom– and has become a synonym for an unnecessary waste of money.

So what does an up and coming writer do in this situation? One valid solution is to write a character piece starring one of the Earth-bound Avengers– to give a human dimension to the “world-shattering events” featured in the main Age of Ultron (aka Age of Shitron– ™ and © by Jose Melendez) series. Because he’s been hamstrung by Editorial mandates, Ewing chooses to focus on Natasha (Black Widow) Romanov– as she relaxes with a couple of old colleagues in a terraced San Francisco coffee bar. Yes, you got it… That’s literally all that happened in this book.

Of course, I’m just joking. A few pages into this mess, Ultron robots appear to blast the crap out of random civilians. Black Widow immediately uses her athletic skills to protect as many innocents as possible… But all to no avail, as she’s left to fend for herself in the sewers. Eventually she hooks up with Marc Spector (Moon Knight) to plot their counterattack. It’s still a fairly slight tale, but the writer is obviously working within fairly tight confines– not to interfere with or contradict anything happening in AofU. Ewing succeeds well enough. He crafts a story that plays to Black Widow’s strengths, giving her a convincing voice… Still, there’s no way this comic book is worth $3.99.

Butch Guice’s pencils are generally serviceable. The panel layouts are attractive and convey the story well for the most part. There’s just a couple of pages where the flow of action is less than clear. Industry veteran Tom Palmer inks and his style is clearly recognizable. Unfortunately, he and Guice don’t really mesh that well. Palmer’s inks usually work better with pencilers who have a heavier hand– like the sadly deceased John Buscema or Gene Colan. Guice’s lines are a little too fine for Palmer’s gritty style. Frank D’armata’s colors are bright and attractive, without being obtrusive. Letterer Clayton Cowles renders the dialogue in a competent and clear style with a minimum of fuss.

As tie-in books go, Avengers Assemble #14 isn’t bad… But it’s far from being an essential purchase, especially considering it’s cover price. If you are a rabid Black Widow fan, then I have no doubt you might like it. Priced at $2.99, it would make for a pretty good solo Widow adventure… But for a $4.00 Avengers pamphlet, this just isn’t good enough. – Locusmortis

Capsule Reviews 2 Star Rating

The Walking Dead #109The Walking Dead #109
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Colorist: Cliff Rathburn
Letterer: Rus Wooton
22 pages, $2.99

The biggest problem I have with The Walking Dead #109 has nothing to do with the actual comic itself. I’ve just arrived at the point where I don’t understand the Kirkman-mania surrounding The Walking Dead.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that an indie comic has garnered the success this one has… And make no mistake, I’m happy The Walking Dead TV show has helped boost sales of the monthly comic, trades and hardcovers… And lured new customers into comic shops. But the TV show has left me feeling slightly jaded. I just don’t care anymore. While I’m trying to be impartial, please take my current distaste for the show into account when looking at my rating for the comic.

The Walking Dead is the only comic book I actively trade-wait… And usually I wait for 2 or more trades to pile up before I read them in one sitting. I find TWD is best when consumed in big chunks. I actually have read the latest trade, which makes me only 6 issues behind Issue #109. I didn’t bother reading them to catch up– as I shouldn’t have to. The weird thing… I don’t think I missed much, if anything.

Just as Glen wanted, Maggie has taken Sophia and moved to the Hilltop community. (Side note: I am still mad at Kirkman for killing Glen. He was my favorite character!) Rick and company are preparing to attack Negan. So it appears, in six issues, the only thing I missed was Jesus and Rick finding the location of Negan and his people… And that Rick and the other survivors in his group believe they have the means to put an end to Negan’s terrifying hold over the region.

The Walking Dead #109 does what Kirkman does best: Character interactions… Even if very little happens in this issue too. As Jesus shows Maggie around Hilltop, it’s obvious the relationships she will inevitably form here are going to play a factor in the future… The same way Rick informs certain members of his trusted circle about the plans to bring Negan down (while lying to others in order create a believable cover story) forecasts what’s ahead. Creator Robert Kirkman is laying the foundation for the next group catastrophe in his zombie apocalypse.

Lacking much to critique, I want to quickly touch on the way Kirkman treats death in The Walking Dead Universe– and how death means something completely different in current mainstream superhero comics. Death is treated with an appropriate seriousness here, rather than just another pesky plot point the hero must overcome. As I noted in my Animal Man #19 review last week, I still believe death is being used far too much in the industry, but at least Kirkman treats it with respect.

Kirkman also does something in this book I haven’t seen in a long time– he actually writes some 9 panel pages! The average panel count in The Walking Dead #109 is 5 1/2 panels per page. (I counted.) And there isn’t a single splash page in this issue. There is also lots of dialogue, but it’s never boring. I do not understand why people complain about too much talking in comics– which is something Kirkman gets criticized for constantly. Other writers could learn a few things about interesting conversation by reading The Walking Dead.

Per the art, I’m not a huge fan of Charlie Adlard. His work often seems rushed. There are consistency problems, resulting in irregularities with the characters’ faces. In this issue, Maggie’s head morphs twice in one page. Adlard’s character designs also suffer from a sameness. Carl’s hair kind of makes him look like Maggie. And Sophia looks like Andrea. I get the feeling Adlard completes every scene without zombies or violence as quickly as possible.

If you’re still enjoying The Walking Dead, then I doubt this issue will disappoint. But I don’t understand how I could miss 6 comics, only to find little plot advancement after reading the 7th sequential issue. This makes me question whether Kirkman is just spinning his wheels, in anticipation of the next big change in the comic’s status quo. The template of calming things down in preparation for the next disaster is getting awfully repetitive. For me, The Walking Dead #109 can be summarized in one word: “Meh.” – Nick Furi

Capsule Reviews 2.5 Star Rating

Alpha Big Time #3Alpha Big Time #3 (of 5)
Writer: Joshua Fialkov
Artist/Colorist: Nuno Plati
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
22 pages, $2.99

I know I’m asking for trouble jumping into the middle of a five issue limited series, but this is my week of living dangerously right?

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve always been a fan of Spider-Man, but I haven’t read a Spider-Man comic in years (Amazing, Superior or otherwise), so I have no idea who Alpha is or what his relationship to Spidey was until I read this comic.

For those as much in the dark as I was, Andy Maguire is a teenager who acquires super powers after being accidentally exposed to a science experiment run by Peter Parker. Andy, being a young man, shows Peter he cannot use his powers responsibly. As we all know, Spider-Man can be an insufferable ass when it comes to heroes using their super powers irresponsibly– so he turns Alpha’s powers off. Recently, the new Doc Ock controlled Spidey reactivated Alpha’s super powers (for reasons not explained in this particular issue.)

It’s impossible to ignore the similarities between Andy Maguire and Peter Parker– they are that obvious and intentional. What I don’t know: If Alpha is an intentional deconstruction of Spider-Man… But it sure seems like it. What if Peter Parker had been a product of the New Millennium and not the 60s? Would he have the same moral standards and sense of responsibility? Even so, I’m not saying Alpha is a bad kid. On the contrary– he’s so similar to Peter Parker, he’s actually very likeable.

Speaking of likeable characters, it’s hard to do a proper review of this comic without talking about Spider-Man himself– and I mean the Doc Ock version. I was surprised by how much Spidey was in this comic. Like I said before, it’s been a long time since I read a Spider-Man book, but I know all about he whole Peter/Otto body switch. I don’t agree with it, but since I don’t have a lot of personal investment in the change– I’ve kept quiet on the whole issue, letting those with more passion speak out. All that said, my first experience reading this “new” version Spider-Man left me feeling somewhat indifferent. Spidey/Ock doesn’t act overtly evil… If anything, he’s still the same Spider-man– only instead of being intentional funny, he’s only sometimes unintentionally funny. I’d even go so far to say this new version of Spider-Man is boring… Like Peter Parker’s body was taken over by a middle-of-the-road Mr. Fantastic, not some supervillain like Doc Ock.

The story is also all over the place. There’s a surprising amount of stuff going on here, almost too much: Arson, a monster on the loose and a possible new future girlfriend for Alpha. With everything that’s set up in issue three, I wonder how it’s all going to be resolved in the next two comics. Considering the number of balls writer Joshua Fialkov has in the air, the book could end up a huge mess if he isn’t careful.

I doubt I’ll buy the next issue of Alpha Big Time… This is more of a “wait for the trade” situation. Alpha is an interesting character, but I just don’t see enough character depth to justify him carrying his own book. – Mark O’Brien

Capsule Reviews 2.5 Star Rating

Batgirl #19

Batgirl #19
A Blade from the Shadows
Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Daniel Sampere, 
Jonathan Glapion, Marc Deering
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
20 pages, $2.99

Today’s the day I officially give up on Gail Simone as a comic book writer. And by “give up”, I mean I’ve quit expecting her to write anything that remotely moves or entertains me. If she does, I’ll be pleasantly surprised… But the days of my looking forward to a Simone story are officially 100% over. Unfortunately, I’ll still be buying her books– because, like a lot of crap, my duties at Inveterate Media Junkies sorta require I read everything I can to keep up with the industry.

In my various weekly emails to all the honorable members of the IMJ Capsule Review Crew™, I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion our reviews should have as short a plot summary as possible. Rehashing plot is extra work for the writer and redundant to those who’ve already read the book (or the publisher’s description.) People often have no intention of buying the comics we’re critiquing– but want to read our reviews anyway… Usually to see if they’re missing something worthwhile. They certainly don’t want a full regurgitation of the story. Fans (and potential readers) don’t want a plot summary either. Why would they yearn to read our summaries when they can read the comics themselves?

A good comic book review talks about money and quality. Readers want to know first and foremost whether a comic is worth spending their cash on… And if the creators involved stepped up and made something worth the price on the cover. After all, these books aren’t cheap and haven’t been for a long time. (Imagine paying 20¢ a page for a 400 page Stephen King novel… And you suddenly realize current hardcover fiction prices are a friggin’ bargain compared to a twenty page $4.00 comic book.)

Of course, there’s always exceptions to this “plot rule.” We don’t deliver mandates to our comic book reviewers… Too bad the major publishers can’t say the same about their dealings with their (largely talented) writers. Sometimes a reviewer must recount a book’s plot in detail to prove just how brilliant or bad a comic book is. That philosophy shared, I am going to do my best to follow my own advice whenever and wherever I can– and I see no better place to start than this Batgirl #19 review.

SPOILER! Barbara Gordon (Babs to her friends, Batgirl to her allies and enemies) supposedly “kills” her crazy brother– in front of her distraught Mom and Dad.(Dad is Gotham’s Commissioner Gordon.) Of course she does it all while garbed in the sometimes ridiculous looking Batgirl outfit. (To paraphrase Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman– “Where did she get those wonderful 8-pack abs?”) Anyway, now Babs’ Daddy thinks Batgirl is a stone cold killer– despite her only thunking a Batarang into her brother’s left eye before he falls into the water… Something she had to do in order to save her Mother from certain death.

Simone’s dialogue is horribly stilted throughout the comic– no more so than at the beginning, in a sappy scene between “Babs” (God, how I hate that nickname) and her transgender (how trendy!) roommate. The plot is also piss-poor mundane. I have seen this scenario/story a million times already… Making Batgirl #19 feel old and weak.

Last December, DC caused a huge uproar (and another round of bad publicity) when they apparently fired Simone off Batgirl via email. The resultant negative fan reaction led DC to reverse their decision and Simone was allowed to retain her position. Good for her– and good for DC listening to their fans (something they should do much more often.) I am a huge supporter of women in general (both professionally and personally) and have long believed more women should be involved in creating comics. (The industry has unnecessarily been an All Boys Club for far too long.)

But if Batgirl #19 is any indication, the creator everyone fought so hard to save left the building a long time ago. That’s a real shame too, because Simone used to be a great comic book writer. No gender need be mentioned or thought of when enjoying her obvious, tremendous talent. I don’t pretend to know why, but these days Simone usually writes at the sub-par, fill-in-the-blanks level of hacks like Dan (Superior Spider-Man) Slott. Sad to say, to think, or even type… But this is the way I feel whenever I read her current work. – Ian MacMillan

Capsule Reviews 1 Star Rating

Thor God of Thunder #7Thor God of Thunder #7
Where Gods Go To Die
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic
Colorist: Ive Svorcina
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
20 pages, $3.99

I’ve been interested in Thor ever since the Marvel Studios movie. Gearing up for the film, I tried to read the latest Thor comic– at the time written by Matt Fraction. It was so awful… It was godawful. The book was also one of the first times I noticed blatant story decompression in a comic. Until today, Fraction’s Thor is one of the most decompressed stories I have ever had the displeasure of reading. Sadly, not much has changed with Jason Aaron’s tenure as writer on Thor God of Thunder.

I can summarize Issue #7 in two sentences: Past Thor is enslaved… And there is some future talky-talk that lets us know Present Thor is talking to Future Thor. There is no reason any of this should take up 20 pages. Here’s a breakdown of the page count:

7 pages showing Past Thor being captured

7 pages of Present Thor talking to Future Thor (1 of which is a splash page)

3 more splash pages

17 pages setting up past, present, and future timelines (all occurring at the same time)… Yet nothing important happens in them.

That leaves Aaron with 3 pages to set up the threat of Gorr the God Butcher– who’s using Shadrak God of Bombs to create a giant bomb to end the Gods. To make things even worse, the final three pages could have (should have) been condensed into a couple of panels.

What’s double sad: Decompression is not the only terrible thing plaguing Thor God of Thunder #7. I mentioned in last week’s reviews how much I enjoyed Erik Larsen’s corny jokes in Savage Dragon, but Jason Aaron’s jokes are just plain bad. There is a difference between enjoying occasional corniness and being bombarded by terrible jokes. Four panels and an entire splash page are wasted on a joke about booze– trust me when I say the payoff is not worth the narrative space wasted. What makes matters even worse? At book’s end, I realized more story was told on the recap page than in the rest of the comic.

I love a good time travel saga. I also like time paradoxes and how each new interpretation adds its own spin to the idea of how time works. Is time Relative? Circular? Linear? It doesn’t matter, they are all interesting to me. Yet Aaron just tosses the one unique aspect of his story to the side when he has future Thor sputter:

“And this is time travel we’re talking about. There are all manner of annoying rules governing this sort of thing.”

I don’t know about you, but I like some explanation when it comes to my time travel stories. If you are going to take 7 pages simply to explain Present Thor is talking to Future Thor, adding more than two sentences to explain how both Thors are together in the same place seems justified. *Sigh* Unfortunately, you can always count on Marvel to dumb it down for the readers.

On a wildly offbeat note, the physical quality of the comic book seemed lesser than its peers as well. I typically prefer a matted finish over a glossy one. However, mixed with a lower paper quality on the cover and interiors, this matte finish look makes the Thor comic feel cheap. Lower quality for more money is also offensive. The other books I reviewed this week have more pages of art, are a $1.00 less and have better paper quality. I assume the Marvel bean counters are laughing all the way to the bank with this one– much like they must laugh over all the other things they do to shit on their fans.

The book’s only saving grace lies in the combination of artist Esad Ribic and colorist Ive Svorcina. Even though the cheaper matte finish degrades the overall look of Thor God of Thunder #7, Ribic and Svorcina’s talents and art styles are suited for the non-glossy look. There are times where the crosshatching and colors look like pencil crayon– which does give the art an interesting look… Even if it’s an overly dark one. (Again partly due to the lack of gloss on the paper.) The combination of their styles would seem better suited for an indie or noir epic. That said, my rating solely reflects my somewhat enjoying the art.

You can save yourself time by just reading the word “Godbomb” on the cover, the recap page and the last page of the comic… That’s all you need to understand what’s going on. Or, you can save yourself several valuable minutes by skipping Thor God of Thunder #7 altogether. If you don’t value your money, please realize your time is worth more than the opportunity to read this garbage. – Nick Furi

Capsule Reviews 1 Star Rating

Dungeons & Dragons Cutter #1Dungeons & Dragons Cutter #1 (of 5)
Writers: Geno Salvatore, R.A. Salvatore
Artists: David Baldeon, Steve Ellis
Colorist: David Garcia Cruz
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
21 pages, $3.99

Roleplaying games have always been my passion, especially Dungeons & Dragons. I love gaming even more than comics… So you’d think a comic book based on D&D would be right up my alley. Well, not always. For whatever reason, D&D has always had a hard time transitioning from the tabletop to other media. Have you ever checked out any of the D&D movies? Whew! Stinkers! All of them! (And don’t even get me started on that Saturday morning cartoon they put on TV when I was a kid!)

Novels are the only place D&D has found some success outside of the game. They have done pretty well in that regard, and one of the main reasons for that is author R.A. Salvatore. The guy has made a career out of writing books based on the Forgotten Realms campaign setting for D&D. When I saw Salvatore and his son Geno listed as writers for this new comic, I knew I had to give it a chance. If there was anyone out there who could create a D&D comic that didn’t suck, it would be them (R.A. specifically.)

I’m glad to say I was fairly happy with the comic overall, but not for the reasons I thought I would be. The writing is only good, not great. The story concerns two half-Drow siblings competing to see who will get the right to wield a powerful magic sword called Khazid’hea-the Cutter. The competition is fierce– and to complicate matters, Cutter is one of those evil, sentient magic swords which seems to have its own ideas about who should be the one to wield it.

The art really put Dungeons & Dragons Cutter #1 over the top for me. David Baldeon and Steve Ellis have done an amazing job here. It’s a cartoony style, but it really pops off the pages at different times. The colors are beautiful and I found myself taking extra time to go back and check out some of the panels– not for the story, but simply to pause and take in some of the scenery.

I’m not usually a person to recommend a comic book based solely on artwork alone, but I would say even people who are not D&D fans will find something to enjoy here– whether it’s the story or the art. – Mark O’Brien

Capsule Reviews 4 Star Rating

The Colonized #1Colonized #1
A Tale of Zombies Vs Aliens
Writer: Chris Ryall
Artist: Drew Moss
Colorist: Jay Fotos
Letterer: Tom B. Long
22 pages, $3.99

Wow. This is not my week.

In truth, I should have known better than to review another Zombie comic… Since most of them are drek. But I like Zombies. They scare me. I could lie and say it’s the Aliens vs Zombies premise that made me buy the book… But it was the Zombies. It’s always the Zombies.

So what did I get for my $3.99? Not much. The Aliens are bumbling goofs. The Zombies aren’t the least bit terrifying… And the entire mish-mash takes place against the back-drop of a Militia group in Montana… So I got the dumb-ass Militia stereotype for my four bucks too. I have no idea why writer Chris Ryall decided to take the goofball approach with the premise either. I’ve already mentioned Zombies are scary. Aliens are too. And Ryall can paint Militiamen with the idiot brush all he wants– but I have met many with various beliefs and moral compasses. Whatever they may be, they’re not idiots… At least not most of them.

So what I got was a farce… A bland farce treating the various entities with varying degrees of disrespect by casually dismissing or overlooking their dangerous sides. Since there’s no danger in the book, there’s no dramatic tension, no characters to care about and zero drama to make it memorable.

Is Colonized #1 a waste of paper? Personally, I think characterizing the first issue this way would be me being kind. I’m sure some comic fans will enjoy it… And I would be willing to bet they’re the same people who like the inanity offered by Marvel’s AvX fight comic or director Jon Favreau’s turgid Cowboys vs Aliens disaster.

But me? I’ve had it with all this bland bullshit. Quit wasting my time! If you’re Comic Book/TV Show/Film isn’t going for the dramatic jugular– preferring to emphasize the funny instead– you damn well better make your creation fucking funny. But Colonized isn’t funny either… Mildly amusing (at best) a couple of times (mostly due to Drew Moss’ sometimes inspired art)– but not funny.

Can I get my $3.99 back? (That’s a rhetorical question.) – Ian MacMillan

Capsule Reviews 1:2 Star Rating

Constantine #2Constantine #2
Out of the Wasteland
Writers: Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes
Artist: Renato Guedes
Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
31 pages, $3.99

“Never judge a book by its cover” is usually a good maxim to live by. However, with Constantine #2, feel free to judge the comic by its lame cover presentation of John Constantine’s prostrate body (which seems to be composed mainly of Stay-Puft marshmallows.) When I emailed Ian about what I was going to review this week, I jokingly said there was no way I could follow up his “glowing” review of issue #1… Well, let’s just see about that– shall we?

I normally judge a comic based on two factors: It’s technical execution and what kind of emotional impact it has on me. Every way I look at it, Constantine #2 is found lacking. The story is a sub-Indiana Jones trek to a Burmese temple to find some mystical doo-dad… With some casual racism towards Asian people thrown in along the way. If this comic were a food, it would be tofu– bland, uninteresting and pretty much pointless. This story has the feel of contractually obligated writing… It has no emotion and no heart. In many ways, it neatly sums up whats going on at publisher DC Comics these days.

In one of my Hit or Miss columns (a while ago) I stated, “I wouldn’t normally say it, but I hope this comic bombs… I truly hope it utterly fails.” I didn’t expect DC to deliver on those words with such emphatic style– as this comic is a fucking disgrace. With storytelling this phoned in, I can’t see any way in which the title will survive past the one year mark. But then again, this is the company where Scott Lobdell regularly writes 3 books a month… So every time you lower your expectations, DC goes ahead and plummets a little more to meet them.

Normally when I review a bad comic, I reserve most of my ire for the writer– since they think up the plot. In these days of full scripts, writers often restrict the artists’ storytelling instincts. However a great artist (hell, even a moderately good artist) can help rescue the worst abomination of a script by using their skill at panel layouts and story progression. Constantine artist Renato Guedes seems clueless in this respect. The layouts show Liefeld-esque™ levels of incompetence in storytelling ability. There are numerous times where I’m left scratching my head as to what the hell is going on.

The artist is equally clueless in terms of choosing the right camera angle to view a scene from. These mistakes usually only occur once or twice an issue at worst… But with Guedes, it happens multiple times on a single page. I don’t have anything good to say about his linework either– it’s too lacking in substance for a character like Constantine… Who, incidentally, lacks any consistency in how he looks from page to page. Guedes’ character poses and facial expressions are universally awful as well.

With most DC Comics, my most common complaint is the murky coloring. Constantine is a character who would actually benefit from this type of palette, so what does DC do? It allows Marcelo Maiolo license to apply the brightest, most retina-burning colors possible… Making this thing painful to look at.

If I wasn’t already angry about the evisceration of Vertigo by the DC hierarchy, I’d be angry at them for trying to sell something as vapid, bland and uninteresting as Constantine #2. Karen Berger is much better off having left DC. I hope she’s on a beach somewhere sipping daiquiris and thanking jeebus she’s no longer part of such a creatively bankrupt entity. – Locusmortis

Capsule Reviews Zero Star Rating

Kiss Solo The Demon #1Kiss Solo The Demon #1 (of 4)
Writer: Chris Ryall
Artist: Angel Medina
Colorist: Romulo Fajardo
22 pages, $3.99

Are you a fan of the band Kiss? Wait, that’s the wrong question– let me rephrase that: Are you a fan of the band’s makeup? I ask the question this way because, other than the name Kiss being on the cover, the band Kiss is nowhere to be seen inside this comic book.

This is such a bizarre comic. It’s aimed at such a narrow, niche audience– it almost defies reviewing in any way. Sure, there is a story here, but it’s just a bunch of convoluted bullshit about the four-who-are-one (Kiss), sent to protect the Earth from the Destroyer. The first issue focuses on The Demon (aka Gene Simmons), who is walking down the street in human form when he’s attacked by….

You know, rather than trying to explain the plot in stultifying detail, let me just throw out three phrases. How you react to them will tell you a lot about whether or not you will enjoy this comic:

Bare breast, armored nipple…

Death by face eating boots…

Horse Murder…

Still interested?

In the end, what you have with Kiss Solo The Demon #1 is 20 (or so) pages of pretty cool artwork from Angel Medina… With the Demon Makeup from Kiss fighting the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse– and some really, really bad dialog.

If you’re a dedicated fan of Kiss or Angle Medina, then I think you will find something here to enjoy. Otherwise, save your four dollars. – Mark O’Brien

No membership in the Kiss Army?

Capsule Reviews Zero Star Rating

Proud member of the Kiss Army?

Capsule Reviews 5 Star Rating

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

  1. Locusmortis says:

    I guess I dodged a bullet with Colonized, I was really close to ordering it…

  2. Nice reviews fellas.

  3. mattster says:

    if you live in canada its even worse because with the exchange rates i have to either pay $4.39 for a $3.99 or $3.39 for $2.99 a comic. also its shame i also felt bat girl 19 was lacking its a shame to see simone decend into shitatude especially since i felt she handled batgirl reqium pretty well considering all the editorial pressure she had on her.

    p.s IM BACK! EXAMS ARE OVER! 🙂

  4. mattster says:

    lol i remember calling it age of shit-tron on an earlier post

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