IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews!

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Green Team Team Trillionaires #1Green Team: Team Trillionaires #1
Riot Act
Writers: Art Baltazer, Franco
Artists: Ig Guara, J.P. Mayer
Colorist: Will Quintana
Letterer: Travis Lanham
20 pages, $2.99

IMJ Nation™ member Helmir posed a question on the IMJ Open Thread earlier this week, “So who’s the poor unlucky bastard that has to review Green Team #1?

Well, of course, that unlucky bastard would be me… And I can’t blame anyone but myself– seeing as I volunteered to do it.

I mainly chose the comic because I’d reviewed its sibling title, The Movement #1– and I figured I might as well see if there was anything worthy in this much hyped pairing of titles. (The other reason I picked it– Ian wouldn’t let me review Daredevil #26, no matter how much I pleaded!)

The basic idea of this mess is blindingly obvious from the name of the book: It’s a group of rich kids banding together to help save the world. Unfortunately, all of these teenagers are complete and utter arseholes. I’d rather see them all die in fire than read any more of their insufferable wittering. The dialogue sounds as if it was written by a middle-aged geography teacher who is trying too hard to be “down wid de kidz.” As an example, the leader of the Green Team Commodore Murphy should have been called Captain Exposition— since all he does is blather endlessly like an immature Gordon Gecko about how great big business is and how money can save the world (among other such bon mots.)

Writers Art Baltazar and Franco have managed to concoct a plot which manages to be both ludicrous and stupid. I hated pretty much every page of this pamphlet– it has absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever and the editorial cretins who gave this thing the green light should be fired out of a cannon into the heart of the sun.

I loved penciler Ig Guara’s Pet Avengers work for Marvel a couple of years ago, but the skill and charm his art exhibited back then seems to have been completely shorn from his soul. Perhaps some of the blame can be laid at inker J.P. Mayer’s door, since everything looks so bland and boring– it’s like the ghost of inker Vinnie Colletta did the finishes. The coloring does nothing to help things either– it’s all boring and bland too. I’ve seen less brown in a shit factory explosion. 

If you like comics that are hacked out with no passion or originality, then Green Team: Teen Trillionaires #1 should be right up your street. If you have any sense at all, you’ll avoid this thing like it’s an unpleasant disease and pray to the great jellyfish in the sky that it will be cancelled quicker than a “Best of Ted McGinley” clip show.

The only suitable place to put this comic is into a wood chipper. – Locusmortis

Capsule Reviews Zero Star Rating

The Flash #20The Flash #20
Reverse Part 1
Writers: Francis Manapul,
Brian Buccellato
Artist: Francis Manapul
Colorist: Brian Buccellato
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
20 pages, $2.99

Flash Fact: It is hard to write reviews for “average” comic books.

You have read it many times before at IMJ, and it’s true: Trying to write a review for an average comic is often difficult. There might be a few enjoyable things about the book you’re reading and there might also be some things you can rag on too… But if you don’t hate or fully enjoy the title you’re reading– oftentimes all you’re left with at the end is a “meh” feeling… Which hardly makes for exciting comic book reviews.

“My” Flash growing up was Wally West– as seen in the Justice League Unlimited animated TV show. This version of the Scarlet Speedster was both witty and comical. Conversely, I have never attributed either of those traits to current comic book Flash Barry Allen– who’s always seemed the more “serious” and “focused” type. So it’s a nice change of pace to see Barry having a little fun in Issue #20.

Besides the art (which I will get to in a bit), the only other thing I really enjoyed in Flash #20 was how Barry used his powers. It’s fascinating to see the Flash shift molecules and travel through objects. After transferring through a train, there’s a fun 7-page fight sequence which causes the locomotive to fly off course. It’s nice to see Barry joking about paying attention in physics’ class while creating a wind tunnel to guide the train to safety… And before taking off, he even stops for a few seconds to take a photo with some by-standers.

Other than that, the plot is a little on the weak side. Once again, we get a baddie using a backwards Flash symbol. The guy is killing Barry’s friends– who all happen to have some sort of connection to the speed force. None of this is new stuff. There were also a couple of problems with the internal dialogue boxes. Sometimes they seem to help the narrative flow and expand the story– other times, I felt talked down to. (If you haven’t noticed, being spoon-fed stories is a big pet peeve of mine.)

By far the best thing about Flash #20 is the art. Francis Manapul’s pencils and Brian Buccellato colours are amazing together. This is the kind of art I want to see in a Flash comic… Manapul’s use of pencils, inks and watercolors really makes this artistic team stand out. (If you haven’t had the pleasure, do yourself a favour and search for examples of Francis’ art– his work is stunning.)

The art alone makes this book to be slightly better than average– so it’s too bad the story (or lack of it) drags the rest of the comic down. Manapul has been a part of the Flash creative team for 3 years, co-writing for almost two. Clearly he loves the character and I think his writing is getting better… It just isn’t quite there yet. Not all artists can be writers, but it’s clear the Manapul/Buccellato team is at least trying to hone their author-ly skills. So here’s hoping the two continue to work together– one day giving readers stories that match their great art. – Nick Furi

Capsule Reviews 3 Star Rating

Regular Show #1Regular Show #1
Thrill Baby
Writers: KC Green, Brian Butler
Artists: Allison Strejlau, Brian Butler
Colorists: Lisa Moore, Maarta Laiho
Letterer: Steve Wands
29 pages, $3.99

Rigby and Mordecai. Need I say more? If you’re fans of the Regular Show, you will adore this comic. If it’s new to you, welcome out from under your rock! There’s a whole Technicolor world awaiting you, and this comic is a fine way to start acquainting yourself with what’s hip and cool among the kiddies today.

Mordecai and Rigby are a comedic duo of hipsters– represented by a squirrel and blue jay. Their co-workers, friends and roommates play out every day scenarios much like the cast of SpongeBob Squarepants— but minus the annoying chuckling and adding a whole lotta “catch phrase-able” lines. (Matter-of-fact, I’d bet that the core audience for this comic and cartoon grew up with said Sponge.)

Having said that, fans of the show will enjoy the “My mom” punchline that Muscle Man gets to as soon as humanly possible. (I think Muscle Man is a human, but I could be wrong. He’s quite green.) Readers new to the characters might feel a bit confused by a sort of show “in joke,” but the main gist of the comic’s plot is wholly independent of the show.

Centering around a rock concert gone awry (Think: Mosh Pit Portal to Hell), the story is cute enough an intro for a first issue, and I was pleasantly surprised to find art that actually looks like art. Having reviewed Fiona and Cake, I expected this kaBoom comic to be as brightly colored as Adventure Time and the like. Happily, though, main colorist Lisa Moore hangs close to the original color scheme used on the show, with lots of arty evidence left behind– “art”ifacts, if you will. The effect is pleasing in a muted rainbow sort of way and it becomes particularly beautiful during the concert scenes.

In researching a question I had about the genesis of the show, I learned the creator of Regular Show recruited indie comic artists to animate the series for Cartoon Network, so I suppose that makes a lot of sense. Just like the Fiona & Cake comic, there’s a second story in this issue. It’s hard to focus on the storyline of Thrill Baby because the alternate artwork takes liberties with the characters– and it’s just so engrossing studying this look. However, the story is cute and if you, like me, enjoy seeing alternate artwork for well-loved characters, then you will love the bonus.

The alternate covers are nice & will please fans, as well. This is an all-ages book that is going to thrill the Cartoon Network fans in the house. As soon as I told my 11-year-old it was on the iPad, he put down a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic to pick this up. High praise. I’d give it another star if it surprised me, but this was a fairy predictable– if likeable– read. Let those indie comic artists punch it up a bit more and I might change my mind. – Red Tash

Capsule Reviews 4 Star Rating

All Star Western #20All Star Western #20
Gold Standard/The Lost City of Gold
Writers: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Moritat, Staz Johnson
Colorists: Mike Atiyeh, Rob Schwager
Letterer: Rob Leigh
30 pages, $3.99

I had no idea when I jumped back into reviewing how FATE or CHANCE would guide my hands this week. I closed my eyes and randomly tapped my iPad screen to pick my two comics this week– happy that my first random choice turned out to be Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s always excellent All Star Western. (My other pick was also a comic starting with an “A” (which probably means I won’t try the “blind pick” method again), but I’ll get to that sorry ass book further down the column.

The first thing that struck me about ASW #20 was the cover, and how funny it was to see “All Star Western” in tiny letters and a banner proclaiming, Featuring JONAH HEX in a much larger font. Loyal column readers may remember I predicted this would happen one day… And it’s hilarious seeing DC’s “New” 52 morph back into DC’s old universe– as they realize very little was broken with their old toys. As much as I enjoyed the early issues of Gray/Palmiotti’s All Star Western, it was clear Jonah Hex didn’t belong in Gotham City and the constrictions said locale provided… And I’m glad the DC Powers That Be finally woke up and let his long-time scribes get Hex the hell outta there.

As the cover suggests, we’re really no longer in the DC New 52 version of Jonah Hex anymore… And slowly inching back to classic Hex territory. At least, well, sorta… Since somebody decided to throw time traveling future hero Booster Gold into the mix too. (Given his love for all things Booster, I’m surprised prolific IMJ Reviewer Nick Furi hasn’t been clamoring to review this team-up, especially since it started at least one issue before I got here.)

From the first page to the last, I am happy to report that Gray & Palmiotti’s Jonah is finally back in fine form… And in the writers’ own inimitable way, they’ve somehow figured out how to make a somewhat amnesic Booster add to the proceedings– rather than turn the story into a miserable farce. Since Jimmy & Justin know how to write comics, I had no problem understanding what was happening– even though I jumped into the middle of the story. They deftly throw plot details into the dialogue without making me go, “Huh?!?” every few panels. In other words, I “got” the story and enjoyed it from the first panel.

Moritat’s art continues to entertain– his women are gorgeous and sexy, his Hex gruesome and every bit an ornery man of the West. His Booster Gold is just foppish and burly enough to both seem like a fancy fish out of water and capable of taking on a cutthroat band of Wild West outlaws.

The Stormwatch back-up story, “The Lost City of Gold”, was a little less successful in clueing me into the goings-on– but both writers do the best they can to bring me up to speed and still tell an engaging 10-page back-up tale. Just like I said about their Unknown Soldier back-up in the unfortunately canceled (never really given a chance) GI Combat, Palmiotti & Gray can pack more plot and action into a short story than most current DC writers bother to fit into two or three 20-page comics. This Stormwatch installment was no different– even if I have no idea exactly what they were doing in the Old West. (This just proves, once again, that Justin & Jimmy deserve more work from DC Comics.)

Staz Johnson’s art on the Stormwatch segment fit amazingly well with Moritat’s front work… So much so, if one these artists ever finds themselves in dire need of last-minute help– the other one’s cell phone should start ringing.

Before I go, I would like to thank the new Superman film Man of Steel. I thought nothing would ever knock that irritating Arrow banner/advertisement off DC’s comic book covers… But Man of Steel  finally has. It’s still stupidly placed at the top of the cover (Marvel is smart enough to constrain their movie ads to a small box at the bottom of their covers)… But then, who am I to complain? By putting a confusing Superman “S” symbol at the top of all their books, DC is all but confirming that nobody but “die-hard comic geeks” read superhero comics anymore.

Since I seemingly get further and further away from that appellation every week, maybe they’re trying to send me a signal. – Ian MacMillan

Capsule Reviews 4.5 Star Rating

Wolverine MAX #7Wolverine MAX #7
The Protector Chapter Two
Writer: Jason Starr
Artists: Felix Ruiz, Guillermo Mogorron, Lorenzo Ruggiero, Walden Wong
Colorists: Dan Brown, Lee Loughridge
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
20 pages, $3.99

Jock’s cover is the best thing about Wolverine MAX #7– and sadly, even it isn’t all that great. The image is simplistic and highly unoriginal… Just like the contents presented inside. The only good news for the artist (and maybe some art dealer)– because it’s a Jock piece and a cover to a Wolverine comic, I bet the sketch will price out for quite a bit of money.

Wolverine MAX is another series about a Wolverine character (there seem to be so many Wolverines inhabiting the same body nowadays) who has returned from Japan with memory issues. Years ago, mystery was what made Wolverine cool– readers really enjoyed knowing so little about his past. But now that every Marvel writer has seemingly dissected every millisecond of James Howlett’s past (some even writing over large chunks of accepted canon), there isn’t much we don’t know about the formerly mysterious mutant. So another comic series where he doesn’t remember much of his oft-recounted earlier days seems lazy… And to be blunt, I just don’t care anymore.

I mentioned Marvel’s Mutants were my favourite characters in my review of All New X-Men #11… And among them, Wolverine USED to be my favourite mutant. But saturating the market with Logan-centric comics has caused the character’s appeal to wane in my eyes. In short, Wolverine has effectively lost his mojo… Largely due to the forty jillion monthly comics currently starring the man– all featuring contradictions and sloppy characterization.

Even if the Wolverine wasn’t being overused, this particular comic book story would still suck. Nothing new happens between the pages of Wolverine MAX #7… It feels like every third Wolverine story I’ve read recently: Wolverine is suffering from memory loss and isn’t aware of his origins– but knows he’s different.

Heavy exposition dulls the story to a glacial pace– bogging down the narrative. The inner dialogue is uninspired and takes away any momentum the book may have possessed. But wait, there’s more… Writer Jason Starr saves the worst for last. Apparently Starr got the wrong memo and thinks Wolverine is an Autobot. He keeps talking about his “spark” going out… Boring!

Once again, I’m reviewing a comic with art by “committee” and there are jarring differences in style. None of the work is very good and there are some exceptionally bad pages toward the end of the book. Wolverine often looks awkward and not at all proportional. Looking back at it again, the best I can say is the art team turned in a piss-poor job.

Another topic that seems to be a constant factor in many IMJ reviews: Marvel consistently overcharges for mediocre product. If there was a great story (and more pages than comics that cost a buck less), I wouldn’t be upset about the extra dollar. But this book is grossly overpriced. I wouldn’t even want to accept this comic as a gift (and neither should you, it would make a terrible gift.)

I don’t understand what the “MAX” in Wolverine MAX #7 represents either. The book is supposed to have explicit content. While I don’t need heavy violence or adult themes to enjoy my comics– there are people who truly enjoy reading this type of book. And while I’m also aware not every story is going contain wall-to-wall violence… If I’m a casual MAX reader, I would want a comic where Wolverine goes totally insane if I were buying a MAX comic. The only difference I can discern from this MAX book and a normal Wolverine comic is Marvel not censoring the word “Fuck.”

But you know what? understand what the characters mean when writers/editors use “@#!?” to censor a word. So, in the end, I paid an extra dollar just to see the word “fuck” spelled out? Now that’s fucking stupid… And not a mistake I ever plan on making again. – Nick Furi

Capsule Reviews 1:2 Star Rating

Conan The Barbarian #16Conan the Barbarian #16
The Nightmare of the Shallows Part 1
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Davide Gianfelice
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterers: Richard Starkings, Comicraft
22 pages, $3.50

As of late, writer Brian Wood has been creating nothing but quality… And it hasn’t gone unnoticed here at IMJ. Ian loved Wood’s Northlanders (I bet DC/Vertigo wishes they hadn’t canceled that one.) Jose has consistently mentioned how great The Massive is. And not too long ago, I raved about Wood’s current Star Wars run. Now it’s time to add another title to that impressive list.

Conan the Barbarian #16 is absolutely delightful. Since Wood knows how to write proper exposition, I was enthralled from the opening sentence. The caption boxes detailing Conan’s struggles were written in the third person– a nice change from other writer’s overuse of inner dialogue. These bits throughout the entire book were amazing, imaginative, expressive, detailed, enlightening and entertaining. The words never faulted or flailed, never became boring and never felt like they were interrupting the rhythm of the comic. The funny thing: These narrative pieces read like polished prose– which kind of makes me want to see if Wood has any plans for a novel. (If it’s anything like what’s to be found in Conan, I would definitely give a Wood prose book a read.)

Issue #16 is the first part in a new story arc and Wood makes sure new readers can enjoy it– by adding a few choice background details. Because the comic never talks down to the reader, the extra detail is a friendly bonus… Weaving an engrossing journey of two young lovers, Conan and Bêlit.

Davide Gianfelice’s art is sexy– he definitely likes drawing beautiful women. Amazingly, his clothing designs– or lack thereof– are never gratuitous… There’s never cheap shots showing off Bêlit’s body in awkward, unnatural poses. (A silly technique so popular with many tragically horny comic artists and editors today.) Gianfelice’s art also benefits from a lack of heavy line detailing, which brings out Dave Stewart’s gorgeous colours. The collaboration between the two allows the art to speak for itself– instead of hiding behind an abundance of pencil lines.

This is the second Brian Wood comic book I’ve added to my pull list since I began writing reviews for IMJ. If I keep finding gems like this, I am going to break my bank account. – Nick Furi

Capsule Reviews 4.5 Star Rating

The Bounce #1The Bounce #1
Writer: Joe Casey
Artist: David Messina
Colorist: Giovanna Nero
Letterer: Russ Wooten
23 pages, $2.99

When I saw the phrase “New Creator-Owned Comic by Joe Casey” in Image Comics’ solicits in Diamond’s Previews catalogue, I sat up and took notice– because I love his long-running Godland series with artist Tom Scioli so much. I did have some reservations though, in my latest Previews Hits and Misses™ column I described the concept of the series as sounding “pretty lame”– but sometimes a book can surpass ones expectations.

Unfortunately, The Bounce #1 confirmed rather than exceeded my expectations… It’s outdated and kind of lame.

To boil the plot down to its essential ingredients, The Bounce portrays a contemporary world where people with newly found superpowers emerge in New York City and become either heroes or villains– and both types are pursued as criminals by an under-resourced and inept police force. Doesn’t that sound like a whole bunch of comics you’ve already read? When you’ve got an over-used concept like this, you need to inject some Unique Selling Points™ to differentiate your four-color masterpiece from the ones that have come before. For me, the supposedly unique features infused into The Bounce just flat-out did not work.

The main character here, The Bounce (aka Jasper Jenkins) is a feckless layabout during the day and is a superhero by night. Our first introduction to the character has him sitting in his dingy apartment, smoking a bong for a few pages. Then we switch to Jasper fighting a villain called “The Crunch.” (He has a lip-ring so he must be a bad guy right?) They tussle for a couple of pages before they both escape in different directions from the cops. The final third of the book is a complete mess– and it ends on a massively underwhelming cliffhanger. I really expect better from Joe Casey– but this is a poorly executed, outdated concept.

The art from David Messina is neither good nor bad. It’s just there… It doesn’t do anything to say “LOOK AT ME!” It’s not good enough to be praiseworthy and it’s not bad enough to rip it to shreds. The only place where it did grab my attention was in the first two pages– and not for a good reason. Messina draws a double-page splash of a close-up of the top of some skyscrapers, which would have looked pretty nice– except the artist used a massive blur effect in photoshop which just makes your eyes hurt. Another thing that didn’t sit right was the costume design for The Bounce. It looked a little bit too much like Marvel’s “Penance” character– and since his power set is a lot like Speedball’s, that just didn’t seem right to me.

In summary, unless this series massively improves or gets a revamp– then I can’t justify picking it up. It may just be a case where this concept just didn’t match well with the kinds of comics I’m enjoying at the moment… But honestly, I don’t think it’s my fault I can’t like this book– I think it’s down to the book itself just not being very good. – Locusmortis

Capsule Reviews 1.5 Star Rating

To Hell You Ride #4To Hell You Ride #4
Ghost Dance
Writers: Lance Henriksen,
Joseph Maddrey
Artist: Tom Mandrake
Colorists: Cris Peter, Mat Lopes
Letterer: Nate Piekos
22 pages, $3.99

To Hell You Ride is one of the best titles for anything I’ve read or seen in a long time. It tells you quite a bit of what you need to know about the story. It’s a Western of sorts, set in Telluride– and it has something to do with horror, or just deserts, or doing bad on behalf of good… Wouldn’t you just love to find out?  Of course you would, because with a title like To Hell You Ride, you’re intrigued enough to get off the couch and drive to the comic book store & pick this up.

To Hell You Ride #4 takes place at night and the palette of dark-on-dark, blues & greys against black with only the oranges and the glow of golden flame to add contrast is well played. It’s just simple enough to be visually stunning, and the narrative text integrates beautifully. There’s a timelessness to the illustration, to the lines and shading that, paired with the color palette, gives this issue a look of refinement and thoughtful restraint. Very nicely done.

Now, the story… What is the story? I gather there are insiders, outsiders and spirit people– and that the end is nigh. There are mystical Native Americans and all kinds of back story I can’t really guess about (from the three issues before this.) However, I will say if those comics are as narrative-heavy as this issue, I can’t help but wonder how this story choice sits with other readers. I kind of like the still, solid voice of the earnest words in the golden boxes, but… I don’t know. It’s almost like the comic version of a documentary– and I can’t say from just this one issue whether or not I like it.

Having said that, I am a fan of the kind of story that lends itself to a comic like To Hell You Ride and I’m definitely interested in reading more in this subtle horror vein, straddling the line between reality and mystical. It’s a welcome change from the standard superhero fare and I get just the right amount of Native American lore from this… Something that’s easily overplayed (and definitely overdone) in other works.

Because this penultimate issue doesn’t work as a stand-alone, I’ll just give it a medium rating. I fear many readers picking it up on its own will not be intrigued enough to read the rest– but for the niche audience who adores literary horror, it’s probably a full star higher. Your call. – Red Tash

Capsule Reviews 3.5 Star Rating

Talon #8Talon #8
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Miguel Sepulveda
Colorist: Rain Beredo
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
20 pages, $2.99

Even though I knew what I was getting into when I picked Talon #8 for review, part of me can’t believe I’m STILL reading about the Court of Owls. If I hadn’t read a massive Owls crossover for more than a year just prior to the release of this comic, I probably would’ve enjoyed it much more… And I was curious to see where another creator would take Scott Snyder’s idea. Is the book amazing? Not by any means…

If it wasn’t for the success of the Snyder’s Batman run, I highly doubt this concept would’ve made it to a series. I feel this is a clear example of some “fat cats” taking advantage of comic fans… Since it’s no secret many readers like to have complete runs in their collections– and many also have an insatiable desire to read every aspect of popular storylines. It’s clear the Talon comic was never meant for new readers– it only exists for collectors who still want more Court of Owls. This, dear IMJ Nation™, is what we call a blatant “cash grab.”

I fully expected Snyder to bring back the Court of Owls… But, you know, down the road… After people kind of had a chance to forget about them– making their return seem more like a surprise. That would have been fun (even if I didn’t fully enjoy the Owls the first time.) Simply put, Talon is just DC forcing more of the same on gullible fans.

That said, James Tynion IV’s writing is slightly above average. Since this looks like a project that likely came together rather quickly, his work is (surprisingly) never contrived. The plot moves along at a good pace and I really enjoyed how the last page cleverly jumps ahead– setting up a mini crossover with Birds of Prey. At the same time, I have a problem with yet another Court of Owls crossover– no matter how small/short it is. But never fear, I don’t blame Tynion for this one– any more than I blame Snyder for the original Owls storyline being blown way out of proportion.

The art team of Miguel Sepulveda and Rain Beredo do a good job of creating the same tone Greg Capullo and FCO Plascenia achieved in the main Batman comic. Most Bat-books try to have a similar look and feel, but the Talon #8 artists seem the closet match to the main source.

Here’s my biggest problem with this series: If what I’m reading in Talon is sooo important it’s a must read– why isn’t this story occurring in the main Batman comic? The story I read feels like a copy of an earlier Batman tale– just with a couple of tweaks here and there attempting to make it feel new. I look forward to the day Tynion gets a stab at making his own mark (with either new or established characters.) I bet that will be a fun book. – Nick Furi

Capsule Reviews 2 Star Rating

P.S. The following mini-rant doesn’t really have as much to do with the Talon #8 as it does with the terrible Batman and Red Hood #20 I recently reviewedTalon is the second comic (Suicide Squad being the first) where people in the DC Universe have been brought back to life. I know Talons are genetically engineered to be revived, but 2 DC Comics (both tangentially related to Batman) have now brought characters back from the dead… Yet the Dark Knight lamely flops around in another title, conjuring up truly outlandish schemes to bring Damian Wayne back– when these other methods are plainly available to him in his own “backyard”? Come on DC!

Avengers The Enemy Within #1Avengers The Enemy Within #1
Desperate Times
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Scott Hepburn
Colorist: Jordan Bellaire
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
20 pages, $3.99

Take every ZERO STAR review I’ve ever written, shred them together in a blender– and they collectively are still not as bad as Avengers The Enemy Within #1. How anybody has the nerve to publish this horrible piece of crap is beyond me. This has set a new low point for the mainstream comics I’ve had the misfortune to peruse since joining the IMJ Capsule Review Crew™.

Usually when I get a bad comic, it’s really fun to eviscerate it for the shite it is, but this waste of paper and atoms goes beyond bad and reaches into whole new dimensions of horrible. It almost defies detailed analysis since my critical faculties are rebelling at the thought of having to read it again.

The writer of this… thing is Kelly Sue DeConnick. When I used the descriptive term writer, I really should have written the word using inverted commas… As my dog could write a better comic– and it died a couple of years ago.

I know Ian has been critical of DeConnick’s writing on several occasions– but I deliberately haven’t referred back to those reviews to try to approach this comic with an open mind. I shouldn’t have bothered. I should have just copy and pasted whatever Ian wrote– adding a couple of insults– and I’d have saved myself from typing this and having to read the damn pamphlet again.

Hey, did I say it’s bad already? Holy fuck is it bad. I’m not even sure what tone DeConnick is going for here– the art is meant to be comedic but it’s about as funny as being informed you have anal cancer. What story that exists goes like this: There’s something wrong with Captain Marvel and she has to go on a quest to find out what’s happening… Blah, blah, blah, fucking blah. (You’ve read this type of plot a billion times before in superhero comics, so I can’t possibly bore you with any more details.) Apparently, I should have also read Issues #9-12 of the solo Captain Marvel title to know the context behind this story– but I wouldn’t wish another 4 issues of DeConnick written comics on my worst enemy.

I really, really, REALLY hope this was a rush job forced on artist Scott Hepburn at the last second. Otherwise, there’s no excuse for executing art as awful as this. I’ve never seen his work before, and I hope I never see it again– an epileptic undergoing electro-shock therapy could draw better than this. Character proportions are way off and differ from panel to panel… The likenesses are so  bad, they may as well have been drawn by a brain-damaged Picasso clone. I usually go on about camera angles and panel progressions and things like that– but at this stage, my eyes are already bleeding (and I’m starting to worry about permanent ocular damage)– so I’m going to stop looking at Avengers The Enemy Within #1 now.

I won’t mention the letterer and colorist as they are the innocent parties in this atrocity. There isn’t a damn thing either could have done to salvage this. I can only pity them for having to work on this book.

If you buy this comic after reading this review, then you are a fucking idiot of the highest order. The damage you do to your brain is entirely your own fault, so consider yourself warned! I’m going to hack my foot off with a rusty saw now just to cheer myself up. – Locusmortis

Capsule Reviews Zero Star Rating

Half Past Danger #1Half Past Danger #1
Chapter One – Bite the Bullet
Creator: Stephen Mooney
26 pages, $3.99

The solicitation for Half Past Danger #1 went a little like this: “Dames. Dinosaurs. Danger.”

This description had me (and I’m sure many other comic fans) from the get go. I enjoy picking up New #1s with little prior knowledge of the story– I think it makes for more exciting reads. There was more to the solicitation than those three words, but I stopped after the third word… Since those three were enough to entice me into giving the book a shot.

Of course, reading books with little prior knowledge or research doesn’t always work out. Sometimes you read a comic far afield from your tastes, leaving a bitter aftertaste. Other unknown gems are like candy explosions. Finally, some remind me of eating at McDonalds– they taste good going down, but afterwards you wonder why you wasted your money to feel like crap. Happily, Half Past Danger #1 turned out to just slightly behind the candy explosion… Which ain’t half bad.

This comic has American soldiers seeing mysterious Nazi’s in Japan… And DINOSAURS. Then the story jumps ahead two months to see how American Tommy “Irish” Flynn is coping with what strangeness he saw in the Japanese jungle.

Creator Stephen Mooney’s dialogue is natural. The words never felt expository, like the characters were saying things just to inform the reader of some plot point. It’s understandable some of the soldiers in squad wouldn’t understand everything happening around them. This allowed obligatory questions to appear ordinary– allowing readers to completely understand everything without the use of caption boxes.

Unfortunately, Mooney’s art is not the best I’ve ever seen– but it does fit the era and tone of the comic. Mooney has a knack for extreme facial expressions. Normal wide eyes of surprise turn into small dots a couple of panels later to emphasize the terror erupting from a character. The action scenes are immensely entertaining and I never once questioned what was going on in a given panel– it all flowed effortlessly.

Despite my crack about Mooney’s art, I had a lot of fun reading Half Past Danger #1. My only concern: Whether the series can sustain the first issue’s action and craziness. (It’s only a six issue mini-series, so this should be possible.) This first issue definitely set the tone for the remainder of the run. I can handle the odd slow down in order to give us more detail and backstory, but ultimately I only want what I was promised… Dames, Dinosaurs and Danger! – Nick Furi

Capsule Reviews 3.5 Star Rating

Gambit #12Gambit #12
Tombstone Blues
Writer: James Asmus
Artists: Clay Mann, Dexter Soy,
Leonard Kirk, Jay Leisten
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
20 pages, $2.99

This series marks the Fifth Volume of a Gambit comic book series– and it’s easy to see why. Besides Marvel’s love for restarting books just so they can sell us another over-hyped “senses-shattering” #1 issue– if you aren’t a huge fan of  the Gambit character, I can see how even an X-Men fan’s interest would wane quickly… Especially since there’s hardly ever been anything unique or interesting about the character. (Gambit’s card throwing shenanigans and thick overdone Cajun accent get boring quick.)

So how does Marvel overcome Gambit’s perpetual “second string” status? They produce a new Gambit series that feels like it could be virtually any other Marvel comic.

This story is so generic, you could replace Gambit with any character in the Marvel Universe and you would get the same comic, showcasing the same lack of creativity. Reading the recap page makes me think I may have missed the one issue where Remy gets to be who he truly is– a thief. But surely thievery isn’t the only thing that makes Gambit interesting. As a huge X-Fan, I’ve read intriguing stories where Remy attempts to deal with his past and connection to Mr. Sinister. (Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe these stories took place during Mike Carey’s run on X-Men Legacy–  one of the last interesting X-Books I can remember reading.)

The band of artists on Gambit #12 do a slightly better job together than the wrecking crew assigned to Wolverine MAX #7, but there are some noticeable differences in the art styles toward the end of the book. In truth, the differences aren’t as jarring as Wolvie MAX– but that’s damning this comic with faint praise… The art here is common superhero stock. “Serviceable” might be the nicest way I can describe it.

Even though I’ve just spent the last 4 paragraphs banging on this book, I should probably say if you’re a fan of Remy LeBeau– you might like this comic. But if you are indifferent going in, then that’s exactly how you’ll feel after closing the back cover.

The best solo books based on long-standing TEAM characters are the comics which create different environments from the Team-based series. If you don’t give solo books a different feel, what’s the point of their existence– other than fleecing our pockets? The characters are still the characters– so fans of the team books can easily relate and feel comfortable with them in any environment. And since most Team books are filled with wall-to-wall action (or in the case of Brian Michael Bendis comics, wall-to-wall nondescript dialogue and bad jokes), solo comics should focus on character building.

Whatever the case may be, a solo comic sure as hell shouldn’t feature another run of the mill story Marvel (or any other comic book publisher) might toss out. Solo comics should feature engaging stories that enrich stagnant Team characters– using the characters’ skills and personalities to make their books uniquely their own.

I would have loved to see an interesting rendition of Gambit that I haven’t seen before. Better luck next series, I guess. – Nick Furi

Capsule Reviews 2 Star Rating

Supergirl #20Supergirl #20
Home Invasion
Writer: Michael Allen Nelson
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Colorist: Dave McCaig
Letterer: Rob Leigh
20 pages, $2.99

Supergirl was one of the few New 52 titles that was consistently good for its first year– until it got hit by an editorial mandate that made it part of the Superman crossover “H’el on Earth”– masterminded by Scott “Hey, it’s the 90s again!” Lobdell. This is where previous writer Michael Green stepped of this sinking ship and coincidentally, where I also dropped the series from my pull list. I’ve read some of Michael Alan Nelson’s work for BOOM! Studios before and enjoyed it, so I figured it was worth giving Supergirl #20 a shot– and for the most part it was very enjoyable.

Power Girl appears in Supergirl’s Sanctuary and is attacked by its defences– until a scan is done on both women and it discovers that Kara is a clone… Whereupon the Sanctuary switches the focus of its attack to eradicating Supergirl. Nelson does a good job of establishing a new status quo while sweeping up the loose ends from the aforementioned crossover.

There’s a refreshing straightforwardness to the plot: It goes from A to B to C without doing anything stupid along the way. Sure, it’s not the most imaginative of storytelling styles– but it delivered an enjoyable tale… Which is becoming more and more rare in the current DC New 52 milieu. I only hope Nelson can somehow fly under the radar and escape the dreaded hand of DC Editor in Chief Bob Harras— and tell the stories his own way… Not having to endure the vicissitudes of DC Editorial.

Aside from the brisk plotting, the dialogue is natural and well-chosen, the understated wisecracks from the Sanctuary computer being especially witty.

Supergirl 20

Mahmud Asrar is still on art duties and thankfully is still as easy on the eye as ever– while retaining a sufficient level of grittiness to convey powerful action scenes. (I’ve been a fan of Asrar since he worked on Jay Faerber’s excellent Dynamo 5 series for Image Comics several years ago.) Asrar has continually improved over time and can make Supergirl and the pulchritudinous Power Girl look beautiful and powerful at the same time. Dave McCaig’s colors are very attractive and bright, while still being understated enough to not outshine and overpower the linework. Rob Leigh has to deploy a variety of fonts and does so with aplomb. It isn’t often that DC letterers go beyond the call of duty (Who can blame them with the terrible quality of most of the scripts they have to work with?), but Leigh deserves any plaudits he gets.

Supergirl #20 is good enough to have me considering whether to pick up this title regularly again, but I think I’ll wait until I see if Nelson is allowed to put his own stamp on the series– which is why I gave it a higher than average rating. Supergirl #20 is good but not great… At least not yet anyway. – Locusmortis

Capsule Reviews 3.5 Star Rating

Aquaman #20“Aquaman” #20
Skinwalkers
Writer: John Ostrander
Artists: Manuel Garcia, Sandra Hope, Rob Hunter, Ray McCarthy,
Wayne Faucher
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Dezi Sienty
20 pages, $2.99

This is a digital comic, right? Most of the work done on the book is done via computers (and digital files)… Right? So can someone please explain how Geoff Johns’ name is on the cover but veteran writer John Ostrander is listed as the true scripter inside? Can someone also explain to me why this comic stars some (lamely named) group called The Others– while Aquaman appears in only FIVE PANELS of a book called Aquaman?

Back in the day, if some writer or editor thought an adjunct tale to an ongoing saga was worthwhile enough to be told, a comic publisher would produce a one-shot (often over-sized) special featuring the story. DC is obviously not comfortable with their sales anymore– so instead of giving a one and done The Others special comic– we get “Skinwalkers” slapped into an ongoing Aquaman series– complete with a much more popular writer’s name emblazoned on the cover (even though he did NOT write the story.)

Call it bait and switch. Call it false advertising. Call it simply a SNAFU caused by an inattentive Editorial Staff… Call it whatever you want. I think I’ll just go with a Locusmortis favorite and call Aquaman #20 “complete and utter shite.”

The cover’s got Aquaman prominently featured in the background while The Others fight in the foreground. The blurb on the bottom right appropriately states: “Death of a King Interlude: The Return of The Others.” Meanwhile, there’s Geoff Johns’ name sitting on the left. The Comixology blurb on my iPad states, “Aquaman’s right to the throne is put to the test when an Atlantean rises up to defend the city- an Atlantean who many others believe should be King. “Death of a King” Part 3.”

Then it states, “Part of Story Arc: Aquaman: Death of a King”… Even though they have John Ostrander correctly credited as the writer.

I can’t blame Comixology for this. I would assume their job is to simply put up and sell whatever digital files the publishers send them. If DC doesn’t correct the description copy or their cover credits– I seriously doubt Comixology has a damn thing to say about any of it… So I gotta put all this confusion, once again, squarely on the shoulders of DC Editorial.

Okay, enough of that. Onto the actual comic I ended up purchasing. This comic is horrible, downright awful. The group is generic. The story is filled with tons of nebulous Native American mystical mumbo-jumbo that fails to connect on any level. One of my lifelong friends is Native American– and he would rip this comic to shreds and shit on it if I handed him a paper copy. (I didn’t bother to tell him about “Skinwalkers”, since the only copy I own is on a rather pricey computer tablet– and I didn’t want to risk him shitting on that.)

The conversations and motivations of the characters are inane while also being unnecessarily convoluted. The art is pedestrian beyond belief. The coloring perfunctory. (Where are DC finding these people? Are they roaming the New York City streets, looking for people holding signs saying, “Will Draw/Color/Letter Comics for Food”?)

In other words, Aquaman #20 is just another shitty DC New 52 comic book– seemingly slapped together to fill a hole in a predetermined publishing schedule. Since it had little to do with Aquaman (other than The Others looking for Atlantean weaponry in… ARIZONA!), the majority of the story barely fits the criteria of what publishers used to call stock, one-off fill-in issues.

fail. Fail. FAIL! – Ian MacMillan

Capsule Reviews Zero Star Rating

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

  1. Red Tash says:

    But, Ian, how do you really feel? 😉

  2. Pingback: IMJ Capsule Reviews™ – All New Comic Book Reviews! | Red Tash

  3. Red Tash says:

    I had to chuckle at Locusmortis’ wood chipper remark, as well. It amazes me how many poorly-written stories make it to market.

  4. NicktheStick says:

    Bah! Ian, as soon as I read the words Booster Gold, I went to Comixology and downloaded those two issues! Now after reading all of the reviews, I am going to read!

    BOOSTER GOLD FTW! 😀

  5. wwayne says:

    “Skinwalkers” is the title of a very beautiful novel written by Tony Hillerman. I do suggest you to read it if you haven’t.

  6. ed2962 says:

    Great reviews everyone!

    I have never seen The Regular Show.Would you characterize it as a family show or more aimed at the college audience?

    I read the first 12 issues of Supergirl, but dropped it. Would you say this is a good point to jump back on?

    • Locusmortis says:

      Supergirl #20 was a decent comic, definitely one of the better DC comics I’ve read lately. Its not a lock as yet for me but if the quality continues on in the next couple of issues then I could definitely give it a recommendation.

    • Red Tash says:

      Probably more of a college show, but it hasn’t given my three sons any bad habits. They are 8, 10, and 12, and they don’t get all the jokes, but it’s NO South Park or anything that rough. Most of my friends enjoy it, too. I think for most of my crowd it’s a double-header of Adventure Time + Regular Show when they settle in to watch Cartoon Network.

      Personally I enjoy the Adventures of Gumball better than both of those shows, and it’s definitely aimed at the elementary school set.

  7. phil says:

    Their r not many comics that l miss since l’ve been ‘away’, but one that l do, is Supergirl. Asrar’s work is what attracted me 2 this comic, in the 1st place, & while not every ish has been a homerun, the plusses 4 me, far outweigh the minuses. As 4 Johns, the only thing that suprises me is that Aquaman could possibly be worse, w/o him. 😉 http://untilfurtherknowtice.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/shout-out-tuesday/

  8. Locusmortis says:

    Brian Wood is a polarising writer, Nick loved his Conan yet Ian and I don’t, honestly I can’t wait till he’s off the book.

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