IMJ Comic Book Reviews™

IMJ COMIC BOOK REVIEWS WITH NAMES 6.19.13 BANNER5 STAR RATING SYSTEM LOGO

Guardians of the Galaxy #5Guardians of the Galaxy #5
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
20 pages, $3.99

Um… What just happened? Did I actually enjoy reading a Bendis comic book? Why yes, I did… And I’m as shocked as all of you. But anybody thinking I’m giving this comic a good review in an attempt to put the kibosh on IMJ’s wrongful reputation of hating on the Big Two– that just isn’t the case. What you’re reading here is simply my true opinion… And my giving proper credit where credit is due.

This is the first BMB comic I have liked in a long time. But was Guardians of the Galaxy #5 perfect? Hell no. However, it did possess some great moments… And I have zero problem with that. I’ve never been a fan of Bendis’ work (I came into comics after he had already written some of his better stuff)… So it’s refreshing to finally read something from the acclaimed writer I actually enjoy.

Bendis constantly gets flack for his dialogue– with many noting how wordy and pointless it can be. Guardians #5 is still with overly verbose dialogue, but at least it isn’t pointless (for the most part) and allows the story to flow with ease. The characters don’t all sound the same either. There was a similarity between Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Peter Quill’s (Star-Lord) dialogue, but there was enough tonal variance to distinguish two different voices. (I even chuckled a few times at the two’s talk-ity talk.)

The one major flaw in Guardians of the Galaxy #5? The newly acquired character (from Neil Gaiman) known as Angela. I truly don’t know what having this character in this specific book– or even the Marvel Universe– means. Her appearance here kind of makes sense, but I can’t tell if she was in Bendis’ initial story pitch– or if the Marvel higher-ups insisted she be shoe-horned into this story. (My bet is on the latter…) In any case, the ride to the story’s climax was amusing. The character interactions felt genuine, even if many of the jokes played off the same routine.

And here’s a MAMMOTH truth to chew on: Bendis didn’t decompress the story. Maybe this issue was a complete fluke. Maybe Guardians #5 picked up the pace to make up for the first four agonizingly slow issues… Or Bendis has turned over a new leaf– I don’t know. All I do know– I enjoyed reading this comic.

Even with my shock over liking Bendis’ efforts, Sara Pichelli’s art was definitely the highlight of this comic. In fact, the entire art team came together like champions, creating the equivalent of a Thanksgiving Feast for my eyes… A colourful, bright, active, expressive and well laid out piece of work. My one tiny gripe with the art: The action sequences. I still got a sense of what was happening, but they often felt a bit stagnant.

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 is definitely setting up Marvel’s next event crossover, Infinity. I am debating on whether to keep reading this series– a decision that will be based solely on if I think it’s worth the $3.99 price tag every month. I’m guessing this will be an issue by issue decision… For all I know, it was extreme luck I enjoyed this comic. However, if Bendis is finally back to his earlier praised form and writing creatively, I’m in. Here’s s hoping. – Nick Furi

3.5 Star Rating

Morning Glories #29Morning Glories #29
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Joe Eisma
Colorist: Paul Little
Letterer: Johnny Lowe
24 pages, $2.99

My friend Kat at the comic book shop I frequent likes this series.  The cover of Issue #28 grabbed me a few weeks ago, and it was just a buck– so I picked it up. When I saw #29 on the list this week, I thought I’d jump in– armed with the background imparted onto me by my friend and the last issue.

At three bucks, Morning Glories isn’t the worst value for your comic book dollar. Still, it’s not a story I would recommend trying to jump into at this point.

It’s telling that at the end of the comic, there’s a two page treatise written by the publisher (posing as a professor at Morning Glories Academy) attempting to connect the dots for series’ devotees who’ll have no idea what the flip they just read. I say “for series’ devotees” because the treatise is especially confusing to a casual reader such as myself.

Having said all that, Morning Glories strikes me as experimental and esoteric. There is room in this world for a different sort of storytelling than the superhero pabulum of the wide path. Morning Glories strikes me as similar to To Hell You Ride and other indie offerings in that it is taking very wide swings at story telling. I sense the story is being very meticulously directed according to the creator’s vision, but it’s not super accessible.  And maybe that’s okay, you know? Some people stand in front of a Jackson Pollock and say “I could do that!” and walk away. Some stare for hours tracking the hard work Pollock put into placing art on the canvas just so. I don’t know if Morning Glories is going to live up to that comparison, but as far as comics go– this one feels very conceptual to me. I love high art, but I’m not sure this is sticking the landing in that regard. (I’m also not a huge Pollock fan!)

wanted to like this. It didn’t do much for me. The series is so popular, I guess I will look for the trade paperbacks, because this issue doesn’t cut it as a self-contained episode. – Red Tash

2.5 Star Rating

Tom Strong and the Planet of Peril #1Tom Strong and the Planet of Peril #1
Writer: Peter Hogan
Artists: Chris Sprouse, Karl Story
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Todd Klein
22 pages, $2.99

Tom Strong is a series that I’ve always wanted to read, but never got around to– which is partly why I picked it to review for IMJ. When Alan Moore’s “America’s Best Comics” line was being published by Wildstorm (latterly through DC, when Jim Lee used Alan Moore’s name to sell off Wildstorm to DC comics) I could only afford 2 of the 4 titles being released at the time– so I got Top 10 and Tomorrow Stories and missed out on the Tom Strong and Promethea series.

Since Alan Moore stormed off all his titles after the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Black Dossier fiasco, DC has kept the Tom Strong intellectual property going with a number of writers– the most prevalent of which has been Peter Hogan. I’m familiar with Hogan’s earlier work in 2000AD back in the early 90s. That was a time when the magazine was going through a bad patch– as it was being poisoned by Mark Millar’s amateurish scribblings and Grant Morrison’s (apparently) drug-induced ravings.

Hogan was one of the few writers left at the mag who could write an actual coherent story rather than just rip off a bunch of movie plots, have every character say “fuck” a few times and then have the story instantly hailed as a classic by monged-out douchebag reviewer friends at Comics International.

Anyway, let’s just say I am familiar with Hogan– and his Tom Strong tale is consistent with the style of his earlier work… And while I enjoyed it well enough– I really don’t feel like there was enough substance to the tale as of yet. Tom Strong’s daughter Tesla is married to this guy Val who looks like a cross between Nightcrawler and the Human Torch and is pregnant by him. Val has some heat-based powers which activate when he is agitated and it looks like the baby takes after him– which puts Strong’s daughter in fear for her life because her own baby could kill her.

Now if  Millar was writing this, it would quickly devolve into lowest-common denominator territory… But thankfully Hogan doesn’t go for cheap heat like the ginger-haired bastard does. Instead, Tom Strong and Val must travel across the universe to find Strong’s doppelgänger from another world and bring back a maguffin that will save Tesla.

It’s a decent enough start to the adventure– but it’s also really just a prologue. Nothing very exciting happens and there’s a lot of scenes of Strong talking over the problem and musing about solutions to their dilemma. I get that Tom Strong is Alan Moore’s version of Doc Savage (mixed with a bit of Adam Strange and Flash Gordon) but I would have liked to see a bit more urgency to getting the plot into second gear.

Chris Sprouse’s art was nice and neat, but in truth there wasn’t much call for him to do anything too dynamic– especially with all the talky scenes in the comic. Something felt a little bit “off” in the first half of the book too– the penciling was a bit insubstantial and scratchy and the inking wasn’t heavy or defined enough. Thankfully it seemed to settle down during the second half of the comic. Jordie Bellaire’s colouring didn’t feel like it suited the art in the first half of the book either– the background scenery was too bright and shiny and the palette of yellows and oranges wasn’t easy on the eye… But the more muted style used in the second half of the story improved things a good deal.

Would I rush out and buy Issue #2 of this series? Honestly, no I wouldn’t… But I might check out the trade whenever it eventually emerges from the La Brea Tar Pit that is the DC Graphic Novel Department. I have a feeling this adventure will read better as a complete long-form story than it does in episodic form. 
– Locusmortis

2.5 Star Rating

Indestructible Hulk #11Indestructible Hulk #11
Agent of T.I.M.E. Part 1
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Matteo Scalera
Colorist: Val Staples
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
20 pages, $3.99

The first thing I noticed about Indestructible Hulk #11? Its definite link with Guardians of the Galaxy #5. Since I just read and reviewed GotG #5, the comic gods must be smiling down on me this week. Even better? Both comics can be read independently– without either suffering in quality. But reading both the same week, you can see a plan unfolding within the Marvel Universe. This is either an incredible coincidence, or Marvel’s Editors are doing their jobs– unlike the IQ-less lumps barely minding DC’s comics.

There are clear signs of Editorial planning– the creator meetings Marvel conducts twice a year actually seem to be creating a decent foundation for stories to spring from. On the flip-side, such long-range planning can lock creators into certain types of stories and story lines… And if you, as a fan, find you don’t like the way certain Marvel events are unfolding– chances are you won’t like the way a lot of Marvel books are going. Maybe I’m giving them all too much credit for a simple coincidence, but this overlapping of stories seems far too planned… Plus Hulk writer Mark Waid is too good at his job and takes his position far too seriously to leave something like this to chance.

Anyways…

Again, I get another time travel story… And regular readers know I love time travel. But here’s the HUGE DIFFERENCE: Since Waid is in charge, I finally feel like I’m getting a well-crafted time travel story which will fully explain the intricacies of its plot. Waid also leaves enough for the reader to take part in imagination process… In other words, time travel fans get the best of both worlds.

All up and coming writers should take note of Indestructible Hulk #11! This is the proper way to write an introductory/setup issue for a larger plot. The reader doesn’t need to know anything about the previous chapters to understand the contents of this issue– and the set up is intriguing. The concepts injected make up for the lack of action. And there isn’t just the craziness of time travel… There’s also the duplication of Bruce’s mind being implanted into a robot. (I can’t wait to read how the duo will interact with one another without inhabiting the same body.)

My favourite part of this story follows Maria Hill and Bruce Banner moving through time– changing costumes and settings– while talking to Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man. This is the epitome of how to properly (and effectively) combine words with art. The sequence instantly became one of my most favourite comic moments of all time.

Artist Matteo Scalera and colourist Val Staples work exceptionally well together. Staples’ colours at the beginning are fantastic. I love to see character expressions conveyed properly by an artist… I love to see laughter, shock, doubt and anger in my comics. Scalera excels at drawing Waid’s intended character emotions. The expressions are varied and easily recognizable.

I shouldn’t feel weird enjoying a Mark Waid comic– as he’s has been one of the few shining stars in the Big Two’s (Marvel & DC) talent pool… But I am slightly weirded out that I enjoyed two Marvel comics this week! Is hell freezing over? Whatever the case, I’m all for it! Every member of the IMJ Comic Book Review Crew™ would welcome better comics from both mainstream publishers. 
– Nick Furi

4 Star Rating

Venom #38Venom #38
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Kim Jacinto
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
20 pages, $2.99

“For a first time, it was most pleasant!”

I’ve uttered this statement before– normally while panting and with eyes full of admiration… As I assessed the talents of an incredible new lover or cook. (Sue me! I’m French!) But it is also the very same statement I said to myself when I finished reading my very first Venom comic ever. It’s not yet what I could dub “a great tale”, but Cullen Bunn delivers a solid, if not significant, issue. Good characterization is the key here, leading to genuine moments– attempting to make a brand new reader like myself care about Secret Avenger Eugene “Flash” Thompson.

The book deals interestingly with the psychology of Flash, who has to adapt from lone vigilante in Philadelphia to being part of an all new team-up with an audacious reporter. On the side, we get to witness sincere and effective sequences between a father and his teen daughter. To spice things up a tad, the maniac Jack O’Lantern drops by to wreak some serious havoc…

Obviously, nothing ground-breaking is taking place here, but it’s all nicely paced… With the characterization so well thought out that each and every piece of dialogue feels realistic. No misplaced word will make you cringe here. Sure, the plot is simple… But the questions Venom asks himself, along with his angst and fears (as well as the interactions between characters) are so perfectly voiced and the mechanics are so neatly oiled… I couldn’t help but enjoy the ride.

The art adds huge value to this issue. I was delighted with Kim Jacinto’s drawing. It’s almost indie in its daring style, and reminds me of Sean Murphy’s work (albeit not as good, but still truly enjoyable.) Jacinto is apparently a newcomer in comics. This doesn’t surprise me– as it is plain his art is young and has much space left for improvement. The action sequences are muddy and not dynamic enough. There are no backgrounds for most of the book’s last part, and the layouts lack invention at best (they’re pathetically boring even.)

But despite all that, I deeply enjoyed Jacinto’s work– as its core substance is distinctly personal and positively authentic. There’s something true-at-heart and unfeigned behind it all… As if the artist decided it was better to make some mistakes with his genuine approach and progress along the way– rather than take the easy road. (By the “easy road” I mean the bland, ready-to-be-sold, soulless fanboy-friendly shit produced by the likes of Jim Lee or Humberto Ramos.) I bow to such an artistic decision from Jacinto, and I will be there to buy whatever he’ll be producing in the next two or three years– when his future improvements will truly finalize his craft into the scrumptious pleasure it aspires to be.

Also, I really like the comic book’s cover by Declan Shalvey, previously on art duty on this same series. He seems very talented as well, and this cover makes me want to buy previous issues to see how Shalvey handles interior art. I will check (out of curiosity) next month’s iteration of Venom, and that’s something I can’t say about every comic I read! – Simon J. O’Connor

3.5 Star Rating

Catwoman #22Catwoman #22
Down Under
Writer: Ann Nocenti
Artists: Rafa Sandoval, Scott McDaniel, Jordi Tarragona
Colorist: Sonia Oback
Letterer: Travis Lanham
20 pages, $2.99

I struggled to get through this comic book. On the first read I kept thinking, “Is it over yet?” On the second read-thru, I actually had to take breaks in between pages in order to complete it.

In short order, Catwoman #22 is one of the blandest comics I have ever read.

Being bland doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad– “bland” or “not bland” can often come down to someone’s personal preference. Shitty comics give reviewers plenty to work with– as you can easily pick apart the shitty moments. Great comics are the same. A reviewer can often wax rhapsodic about things he or she loves. But in this case, writer Ann Nocenti creates a story so mundane– I don’t care about any of it.

Tellingly, I haven’t read the New 52 Catwoman since Issue #1– and the tone is completely different now. I understand different creative teams bring different sensibilities to each book– and creative impulses need to change every once and awhile to keep a comic fresh. My problem with Nocenti’s take? Her Catwoman seems to be about one third the character she used to be.

“Things” happen throughout this wordy attempt of a story, but the action gets consumed by a massive number of pointless inner-dialogue text boxes. Catwoman must really love to hear herself think (or is really lonely) because her solo pages are overtaken with inner (often pointless) dialogue.

There was one bit of the story that didn’t put me to sleep, but it only lasted 6 pages… So I see no reason to single it out more than I already have.

For the most part, the four person art team creates typical comic book art here– nothing too ground breaking, for sure. And pardon me for mentioning this, but Catwoman is just the character’s name. Like Batman, Selina Kyle uses the name and costume as more of a metaphor. She doesn’t need to pose/have almost all her actions resemble a cat. She might have similar traits to cats– frisky attitude, being agile, etc– but the creators/editors of this book know Selina isn’t a mutated cat, right?

My cover tagline for Catwoman #22 would be, “Things happen, but nothing matters!” I wonder if this bit of honesty would hurt or help sales? Certainly no one is reading this crappy comic and walking away satisfied… So some honesty might be purrrfectly fitting. – Nick Furi

1 Star Rating

Adventure Time 2013 Summer SpecialAdventure Time 2013 Summer Special
Desert Treasure, The Sucker Seeker,
Heart, A Penny Burned
Created by: Pendleton Ward
Written & Illustrated by:
Noelle Stevenson, Ryan Pequin,
Emily Partridge, Frank Gibson

& Becky Dreistadt
29 pages, $3.99

Adventure Time! My children love this show. I’ve never met someone who didn’t enjoy it. I have been known to dress as Finn for Halloween, myself. When I saw the Summer Special on the list, I was so excited to have an excuse to buy it.

I wasn’t disappointed. One of the things I love about Adventure Time and Regular Show is that the main issues always have backup stories in them. It feels like more bang for your buck. The Summer Special contains four “backup stories” as the main event– and I predict fans will be pleased!

Whether you’re a fan of the acrimony between the Ice King and our power duo, a Marceline/Bubblegum shipper, or a Fionna and Cake enthusiast, there is something for everyone in this issue. A lot to make you smile… And the art is fantastic! I love “alternative” characterizations of well-loved cartoons, and this issue is full of them.  The covers are all very good, but I particularly liked the “Where the Wild Things Are” reminiscent Cover B (I believe) by Phil McAndrew. (There are four covers and only three are credited.)

For your dollar, KaBoom titles are some of the artsiest around.  I truly enjoyed this issue and I know all my kids will feel the same.  It is sure to be passed around the minivan on our way to our next adventure. – Red Tash

5 Star Rating

Collider #1Collider #1
Writer: Simon Oliver
Artist: Robbi Rodriguez
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: Steve Wands
22 pages, $2.99

What’s this eh? A new sci-fi series from Vertigo?

Scratch that… A NEW SERIES FROM VERTIGO?!?

This has gotta be worth checking out, eh? Especially after the evisceration of this imprint since the New 52 project… Anything’s gotta be worth something, right? Well you’ve probably guessed from this preamble I’m not entirely convinced by the contents of Collider #1. It isn’t that it’s really bad… Or really good. It’s that the writer Simon Oliver seems to think he’s smarter than he actually is– and there’s a smug tone throughout. Now he may be a nobel prize-winning physicist for all I know about him (which is nothing), but Oliver comes off sounding a bit full of himself. It’s like he swallowed Grant Morrison’s back catalogue and when he burped– Collider #1 came back up.

The basic gist of the comic? There’s a special government agency for unusual events called the Federal Bureau of Physics– who come along and sort out time vortexes and gravitational disturbances. It’s sort of like Torchwood with flak jackets.

Collider #1 was similar to Issue #1 of Tom Strong in that not a lot fucking happened. We get a partial introduction to the main characters and a few bits of plot set up scattered hither and thither in this rather fragmented narrative. There was some foreshadowing of what might be coming in future issues but there wasn’t a major disaster or “big bad” introduced– and the ending was somewhat underwhelming… Leaving me with a “Was that it?” feeling at the pamphlet’s end.

It looks like there may be some promise in the character interactions between the FBP agents– who seem to be an odd bunch of freaks and geeks (in a somewhat stereotypical fashion too… But beggars can’t be choosers.) The dialogue between them is cutting and acerbic, but unfortunately there isn’t enough of it to really learn anything about them.

The art didn’t really do much for me either. It is pretty standard Vertigo-style fare, but nothing too dramatic. I did like the use of ziptone as shading. I felt it worked really well with the bright vibrant colors of Rico Renzi. The area where I felt Robbi Rodriguez’ art fell down was the depiction of the characters themselves. There was far too much “Humberto Ramos-esque” exaggeration in their anatomy… It felt like Rodriguez was trying to introduce some humor through the artwork and it just didn’t work… It made it look rather goofy and distracting. It would be much better if he played it straight-faced and let the situation and dialogue take care of the humor.

So not a triumph and not a tragedy. It’s a bit “meh”… But then not all Vertigo Number 1 issues hit the ball out of the park. My advice would be to check out the trade– at least by then something dramatic might have happened. 
– Locusmortis

2 Star Rating

Red Lanterns #22Red Lanterns #22
The King is Red
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Alessandro Vitti
Colorist: Gabe Eltaeb
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
20 pages, $2.99

After the bait and switch I experienced with the web cover and description for Green Lantern Corps #21, I was really happy at finally getting my Guy Gardner story in Red Lanterns #22. The story springs from an interesting idea: How would Guy Gardner act if he wore a Red Lantern ring? My favorite Lantern has much to be angry about and his life has not been easy… And many would argue he’s equally matched with main Green Lantern Hal Jordan in several ways… So you can imagine I was filled with all types of anticipation as I peeled back the cover.

But instead of getting a much hoped for exploration into Guy Gardner’s character, all I received was an ill thought out piece of trash– equal parts crushing, irritating and disappointing.

Hell, the very first panel left me with a bad feeling… With the art throwing me for the biggest loop. Certainly Guy would look a little “off” as a Red Lantern– but his appearance here is just awful. Not once did I completely feel the character look was correct. In truth, artist Alessandro Vitti’s art is so bad, Guy wouldn’t have looked like Guy if he had been wearing his normal Green Lantern suit.

But the creative team’s wasn’t remotely done disappointing me… The bad art came coupled with tons of unnecessary dialogue and exposition. At one point early on, a Red Lantern explains to another Red Lantern what it’s like to become a Red Lantern. WTF?! Wouldn’t a Red Lantern already know what it’s like to become a Red Lantern?

The terrible dialogue also features incorrect terminology and unfunny jokes– some so devoid of funny I couldn’t even find their inanity humorous. This might seem like a small nitpick, but it was distracting for me… And distracting the reader is a BIG problem in the Red Lanterns #22 story– as the atrocious jokes go so far as to derail the story’s progression. There was no normalcy to any conversation, with everything feeling forced.

Finally, the cliff hanger– if you can even call it that– is entirely predictable. The more I continue to read DC’s New 52 comics, the more I am disheartened by their fall from quality. – Nick Furi

Half Star Rating

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #1Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #1
A Day in Someone Else’s Life
Writer: Chris Yost
Penciler: David Lopez
Inker: Andy Owens
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
22 pages, $3.99

Minecraft. Emma Watson. Liechtenstein. Curling. Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #1.

That’s a pretty eclectic list, I know. But these things do have something in common– they all get the same reaction from me: “Meh.”

Objectively, none of the above could/would be described as shitty, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were any good either. They’re the kind of fluff that just doesn’t provoke anything in you… And for that reason, you just let them be. Aren’t there already too many crusades to join and too many demons to strike down? You know, think Bob Harras, Andrew Garfield, The Big Bang Theory, Taken 2 and The Baker at the end of my street who never gives me my change when I buy my bread. With all that going on, there’s just no time left for the innocuous small fry.

So today I’m going to give Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #1 a pass– because I’m all merciful and shit. And why not? Apart from its extremely obnoxious “Story so far” page (apparently Marvel editors can suck at their jobs as much as DC’s editors can), this comic is worthy of the charitable “meh” treatment. Rightly so, since it consists mainly in introductory formation: We’re reminded (for those who didn’t know already), that Spider-Man is now Otto Octavius– and he was shunned from the Avengers not long ago because he’s a more violent hero than Peter Parker ever was. Nothing bright nor interesting here– as you can see.

While writer Chris Yost attempts to play catch-up with his readers, we’re left witnessing some nice-looking art of Spidey kicking the asses– for no apparent reason– of Daredevil, Dagger, Iron Fist, Moon Knight and many others. It makes for some quite baffling momentum: Is the writer tricking us into believing Otto is going back to the villain life, or is something else going on? For a moment, I even thought Yost had no clue, and I was about to be forced to watch Spider-Man inexplicably battling different unassociated people for 22 pages. Turns out the story’s resolution– if absolutely unoriginal and completely dull– is at least nicely done… And we get a reasonable explanation to Otto’s latest aggressions.

David Lopez’ art isn’t perfect either– but I had a good time looking at it. He had to draw numerous Marvel characters in only one issue, and succeeded in bringing each of them their own life and personality. In my world, these extra efforts deserve praise. There aren’t enough backgrounds though– with many panels seldom fully filled… And the second half of the comic feels a bit rushed and sloppy.

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up is bland– its only apparent goal to bring readers up to speed in what’s happening with Spider-Man. Yost never aims for creating anything more than a technical foundation for this new series. I can’t say I agree with so little an ambition, but in this bleak summer when DC’s Trinity War and Marvel’s Age of Ultron crossover “events” are what pass for masterpieces… I’m going to lower my overall expectations and take what I can get. There’s too much shit out there already and too many reasons to be angry or disappointed. Sometimes you just gotta let the small fry be.

Enjoy your free pass, SSMTU #1, and use it well. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator or a pesky sexually transmitted rash, I will be back… And next time, I’ll be paying more attention. You best be too. – Simon J. O’Connor

2.5 Star Rating

Rocketeer Spirit Pulp Friction #1The Rocketeer/The Spirit –
Pulp Friction #1

Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Paul Smith
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Tom B. Long
22 pages, $3.99

When I saw this Mark Waid comic on the list, I made sure I got in early to grab it. With Waid in charge, you’re pretty much going to be assured to get an enjoyable comic– even if crossover comics can sometimes be a marriage of convenience.

At least in the case of The Rocketeer and The Spirit we have a pair of heroes from roughly the same era and with some thematic similarity. This is important because one of the biggest sources of failure for licensed-character crossovers, especially inter-company licensed-character crossovers (try saying that sentence after a drink or two!) is that the effort to shoehorn the characters into a framing story suitable for both is so time-consuming that it can leave the central storyline crippled and completely irrelevant. Thankfully Waid is aware of this danger and subverts it by getting his murder-mystery plot started quickly– and by making the reader aware both characters are part of the same universe. None of that time-warp/dimension-traveling bollocks here, thank you very much!

The first meeting between the Spirit and the Rocketeer naturally leads to a misunderstanding and a knock-down, drag-out fight… With Waid playing to the gallery by adopting the biggest of clichés and using it for all its worth. It’s this awareness of story-telling tropes that makes Mark Waid so damn fucking good– he can take what, on the face of it, might be a rather dull crossover (It damn well would have been dull if it was published by Dynamite and written by their run of the mill writers, that’s for sure!) and turn it into a really fun ride.

The dialogue– especially that of The Spirit– is completely on the money. It sounds as if the words and phrasing are from the early 1940s (or rather from early 40s noir movies), without being stilted or hokey. Another good thing about the script: There is just enough of it to tell the story enjoyably without the pages being consumed by reams of unnecessary exposition. This is in contrast to Geoff Johns’ Justice League comics I’ve had to suffer through the last couple of weeks… With word-balloons covering every page like they’d been shat out by an incontinent seagull.

The art is by veteran Paul Smith, best known for a brief but legendary run on the 80s Uncanny X-Men. Even if you didn’t bother reading the words on these pages, you’d know what was going on by the clarity and efficiency of Smith’s layouts. Reading this story is effortless– which is one of the biggest compliments I can give any artist. So many post-Image-explosion artists just can’t manage to tell a story in a simple and straightforward way, as Smith does here. I’d love to force some Rocketeer/Spirit comics down the throats of the Finch’s, Booth’s and Rocafort’s of the comic industry– at least until they understand that sometimes less is more and splash pages aren’t always the only way to tell a story (or make a buck.)

I’m going to wait for the trade instead of buying the rest of this series in single issues– but I have no hesitation in recommending this comic to you in either format. – Locusmortis

4 Star Rating

Teen Titans #22Teen Titans #22
Dark Titans
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artists: Jesus Merino, Eddy Barrows
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Travis Lanham
20 pages, $2.99

Without question– I know exactly how much I don’t like this comic.

The very first thing I noticed was the pointless explanation/exposition throughout the entire book. I have said it multiple times in my few months of reviewing– I don’t like (or need) my comics to talk down to me. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. The dialogue in Teen Titans #22 started off terrible, then got a little better… But ultimately fell back into the heap of garbage where it belongs.

This panel comes right after the majority of the heroes’ minds have been freed from forced control.

Teen Titans #22 Panel 1

I can’t make up how terrible I think that sequence is.

Compounding the horror of the terrible dialogue– there are several bad quips that don’t make any sense. They show up completely out of context– like Lobdell just decided to find the most generic one-liners and toss them in at random in order to try to inject some laughs into his script. He did not succeed.

Also, why are kids dealing with Trigon? No offence to the characters, but there is a reason why they are in the Teen Titans. A big giant devilish creature can only be stopped by kids because Raven is part of the plot– thus making the Justice League irrelevant because some youngsters who don’t fully understand the extent of their abilities can handle it. Right… I really believe that. I actually like some of these characters (Raven being one of them), but the story doesn’t make much sense.

Oh and apparently the Men in Black– or at least some people similar to them– make an appearance in Teen Titans #22. After Trigon disappears, a group of interdimensional travellers randomly converge and claim they have mind wiped everyone in a given radius– making sure no one has any memory of the events that have just taken place. So yeah… if they ain’t the MiB, they’re just like the MiB.

Another problem: The head of this new rendition of Men in Black doesn’t even understand the simple jargon used by her team. The LEADER of a CROSS-DIMENSIONAL organization would know almost everything that’s going on… Right? But writer Lobdell sacrifices logic for humor again. This would be okay (I guess) if he were writing a parody comic– but trying to weave this lowest common denominator stuff into a serious story just doesn’t work.

Nothing about this script seems original… I swear I have seen this story dozens of times. Not only is it familiar as a comic, but the old Teen Titans and Young Justice TV shows have also produced similar storylines. Trust me when I say the cartoons did 800% better at telling this story than Lobdell did.

The art isn’t that great either. Complete ranges of emotions are called for throughout Teen Titans #22… But everyone sports similar facial features. It’s almost like once artist Jesus Merino learned how to draw a new expression, he promptly forgot how to draw every other one he’d already used in the comic.

Notice how both characters share almost the exact same smile and facial reactions in every panel below? That happens on almost every page of this comic.

Teen Titans #22 Panel 2

The layouts are extremely boring, and the 3 splash pages and 4 double page spreads don’t help matters. The double page spreads aren’t double page splashes– but they might as well be. They take up just as much room, with very little happening. I’m not a fan of the double page spread unless creators put some extra content and creativity into using the additional space. If it’s just filler, the story falters due to the lack of effort.

I don’t think I liked, enjoyed or appreciated a single thing in Teen Titans #22. This leads me to only one burning question: When is DC finally going to fire Lobdell and send him slinking back to the 90s slag heap where they last found him?
– Nick Furi

Zero Stars Rating

Wolverine and the X-Men #33Wolverine and the X-Men #33
The Hellfire Saga Part 3
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Nick Bradshaw, Walden Wong
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
20 pages, $3.99

I know this isn’t anything new, but why am I paying more for this 20-page comic than some of Marvel’s other 20-pagers? Hmmm? Is it because the publisher is paying the creators of this book more (doubtful) or because they know their fans will pay more for a comic when they see “Wolverine” and “X-Men” plastered on the cover? Please enlighten me… Because I’m not happy.

Okay, rant over– back to our regularly scheduled review.

I’ve heard some good things about Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men comic… And I can see where the compliments are coming from. Problem is… I’m just not feeling it. Maybe I’m not that invested in these younger mutants, or this issue isn’t the most user friendly… Or maybe I’m just growing more bitter by the day and need something to completely blow my socks off in order for it to provide enjoyment. In any case, I honestly don’t know the answer to why I just don’t care that much for this comic… Maybe I am just getting bitter.

Once I took a deeper look of the contents in Wolverine and the X-Men #33, I realized there’s a lot going on here… With at least 3½ storylines occurring simultaneously. Aaron does a good job of weaving all these stories together while still being able to plant tiny plot threads for the future. I’m sure current readers of the comic will have no problem understanding all the transitions from plot A, plot B and plot C. However, it was a bit of a challenge for me. Once I forced myself to become more familiar with the characters (despite the paltry character development), situations became much easier to follow. And it is good to see Wolverine in a different setting… With the current plots in the main X-Men comics taking a back seat.

There are a couple of inconsistencies with Nick Bradshaw’s pencils, but they aren’t overpowering. This is one of the better ink jobs I have seen recently– Walden Wong definitely accentuates Bradshaw’s pencils in a favorable way. Lines meant to be small are kept small, and anything else is used as an accent to the rest of the surroundings. Even with all that, I think my favourite part of the art is Laura Martin’s stellar colours.

Overlooking their unreasonable price points, Marvel seems to have done a better job than DC in creating quality mainstream superhero comics as of late. I have ripped into my fair share of titles from both companies, but I think I’ve actually enjoyed reading Marvel’s comics more.

If I ever have the time, I might go back and try this series from the beginning– some backstory allowing me to care about these characters would go a long way in my enjoyment of this series… As this issue had nothing for me to latch onto. 
– Nick Furi

2.5 Star Rating

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5 Responses to IMJ Comic Book Reviews™

  1. I started reading Venom a few months ago (thanks to some suggestions from people here) and I really like this series. I will agree with you about the art. It could have been a bit better but it was still good. I just didn’t like the way everyone looked in the fight scene.

    SSMTU #1 I picked up as a impulse purchase. I liked it better than the few issues of Superior Spiderman I’ve read. It was a fun little read but it started to run out of gas about 3/4ths of the way through. I’m still going to pick up issue 2 and give it a shot.

    • Helmir says:

      Thank you very much for the feedback Stamper! Your feedback and support each and every week is really appreciated :). As a (still) quite new reviewer, I’m always very happy to see how interesting people think the reviews are, or how appropriate they consider the ratings.

      The fight scene in Venom was clumsy as hell, but I have good faith Jacinto will improve over the years. The rest of the book was wonderful to look at. This series pleased me, so I’ll keep coming back to it to see how it fares.

      Yeah, give a shot to SSMTU #2! I think it’s the kind of title which has no real gut on the long run though, because Chris Yost seems to only tell cushy stories: enjoyable but phoned in. His stories are so generic they can’t surprise me, and that’s a bit of shame! But the issue was well drawn and worked well, I might pick up #2 as well just to see how it develops and if the pacing gets better.

      The fact is also, Yost has to work with the shit put up by Dan Slott, so it must certainly not help when it comes to writing an interesting Spider-Man tale on a companion book like SSMTU… to say the least!

  2. ed2962 says:

    Neat reviews everyone!

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