IMJ Comic Book Reviews™

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Infinity #1Infinity #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Jim Cheung, Mark Morales,
John Livesay, David Meikis

Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterers: Chris Eliopoulos,
Joe Caramagna

142 “Pages”, $4.99

What did I just read?

Was this a comic book launching a dashing new interstellar crossover event… Or a dry history treatise of a happening that’s been recounted thousands of times before? A second read (go ahead and pity me) reveals Infinity #1 as a little bit of both.

As stunning as Jim Cheung’s art can be at times, it can also be lifeless and as charming as a dissected frog pickled in formaldehyde. It gets the job done with its pretty posing superheroes, but often in such a listless manner– you have to wonder what everyone connected to this project was thinking. Writer Jonathan Hickman’s listless script absolutely, positively refuses to get going… Anywhere. It just jumps around haphazardly as if Hickman is clicking off a massive checklist of characters he has to get to in order to prep his star spanning tale.

And that’s all Infinity #1 really is: One big prep document. Hickman’s known for his complicated (sometime overly so) storylines, and this one is no different. Look here! Here! And Here! Something wicked this way comes.

Captain America dourly runs the hero show. Thanos (looking like the mean purple twin to Paul Chadwick’s Concrete in every panel of the TWO pages he appears in) is kind of running things for the bad boys… Using a sort of detached “can’t be bothered with all these details” manner which actually causes the overall tension and gravitas (two elements Hickman so desperately wants to infuse the story with) to suffer– big time.

And can someone please tell me who told Cheung almost all his heroes– especially Cap, Hawkeye, Abigail Brand and Black Bolt– have to look so dour… Like they’ve already been defeated? Is this REALLY the ONLY emotion available in comics today? The stories aren’t grim ‘n gritty enough? Now every hero has to frown like a dissatisfied governess… Like all the joy of being heroic (and the pride of defending their loved ones and their home planet) has been completely sapped from them? Sadly, Infinity #1 is so sour, so mechanical… So devoid of passion and enthusiasm… That many of the story’s secondary villains display more charisma and personality than all of the so-called “heroes” put together.

This isn’t what I read comics for. My life is fucked enough. I want something that intrigues me, mystifies me, energizes me. I don’t need to pay $4.99 for a superhero comic to be left FEELING WORSE than I did before I started reading the so-called “story”.

Finally, there’s a reason my “page count” differs from Jose’s Infinity #1 review below– as the digital version of my copy came with a tangentially related tale that counts EVERY SINGLE PANEL IN THE STORY as ONE COMIC BOOK PAGE. (Comixology also counts an Instruction Blurb on how to read the slightly interactive second story as ONE PAGE as well… But really, who the fuck is counting at this point?)

Ah, digital comics! They’ll really be something once they get all the bugs worked out, eh? In the meantime, enjoy paying FULL PRICE for these delights! (Even though I have yet to buy a digital comic that read better or clearer than its physically printed counterpart.) In any case, Infinity #1 is the SECOND expensive digital comic I’ve purchased in a row (the first being Superman Unchained #1) which seemed totally fucked by the digital formatting.

Wow… Two long paragraphs focused solely on the digital experience that is Infinity #1! If that doesn’t epitomize what a lifeless by-the-numbers husk of trite crap this comic is, nothing will. – Ian MacMillan

Half Star Rating

Infinity #1 Adams VariantInfinity #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Jim Cheung, Mark Morales,
John Livesay, David Meikis

Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterers: Chris Eliopoulos,
Joe Caramagna

54 Pages, $4.99

I am of two very different minds when it comes to Infinity #1. On one hand, I’m sure the people who have been buying and enjoying both of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers titles got a lot more out of the issue than the people who don’t. (For the record, I’m one of those people who don’t.) On the other hand, at face value– it is a 54 page Marvel comic which uses pages from Marvel’s 2013 Free Comic Book Day offering and has 9 absolutely worthless pages spread throughout. These come in the form of one full-page being taken up for chapter titles, a double splash page for creator credit’s and one page listing all the characters names in the comic accompanied with a little picture of them. (These two page creator credit splashes are something I have railed against several times already.)

I understand the Free Comic Book Day Infinity issue simply serves as a preview for the actual first issue. That’s fine. But the more I think about it, the more I’m wondering why Marvel couldn’t have made that FCBD issue a prelude of some sort. This is the second time Marvel has reused pages from a free FCBD offering in another comic with a price tag– and it’s starting to feel a bit smarmy. I’m also wondering if the creators only received one page rate– or got paid double for the pages that were published twice. (Maybe they got paid both times… But for some reason, I highly doubt they received their full-page rate for both printings.)

The useless chapter title pages? Using an entire page as a chapter heading is starting to feel quite self-indulgent on Hickman’s part. His comics typically use this kind of “stylistic choice” but riddling an issue that costs $5.00 with 8 of them seems the height of pomposity. Don’t get me wrong, I quite enjoy when Hickman uses these types of pages in his creator-owned books… Since I’m not usually paying extra for those pages. (At least, I don’t feel like I am.) As for Marvel’s continuous use of 2 pages for creator credits? It kinda needs to stop– now. Again, readers are paying for these pages that Marvel is counting as editorial content. Sorry, but it absolutely reeks of arrogance. And as much as Marvel would like to think that their creators are super-stars… Guess what? These men and women are just regular people– like all those the artists and writers that work on their own creator-owned comics. The difference? Creator-owned comics usually put all of the creator credits on the comic’s inside front cover– to not use up valuable story space in the actual comic book.

As for Infinity #1’s story and art, it’s quite inconsistent. There are points in the writing, especially in the first chapter, where it feels like Hickman is phoning it in. The text varies from completely generic, boring, paint by numbers superhero mediocrity to entertaining and fun. Unfortunately for me, this issue hit its high point in only the second chapter– which featured the Spaceknights. Hickman really seemed to care more for this sequence than the first– as his writing felt more passionate, which made me finally start getting into the story.

Too bad my feeling only lasted for a handful of pages. The only other parts of the story I found any enjoyment in were the ones where Abigail Brand and S.W.O.R.D. were involved. The Thanos portions all felt like been there, done that. Apparently, I only have myself to blame for that, because I’ve been reading comics as long as I have… And I can see where new readers who aren’t all too familiar with the character (or have never read the Infinity Gauntlet trilogy), could find those parts of Infinity #1 interesting.

On the art side, Jim Cheung puts in a stellar performance as always. The pages where Mark Morales inks Cheung’s pencils (you can definitely which ones Morales inks) give the best art this issue has to offer. Though I did not find the pages minus Morales’ inks displeasing, I did find the switch in styles distracting. Throwing other inkers in with Morales (who I consider one of the best in the business) really does them– and the rest of the comic– no favors.

My only other gripe with the art (which could easily be blamed on Hickman now that I think about it) is there are too many pages with just 1 to 4 panels. Yes, Cheung’s art is beautiful– and no one wants to read a comic drawn by him consisting only of talking heads… But the sparse panel pages do help drive home the point that everyone seems perfectly happy with padding out what could easily been a 32 to 38 page comic. But less pages would make the comic cost less money– and we all know by now that is NOT the Marvel way.

Infinity #1 doesn’t completely fail at what it sets out to do for most Marvel/Avengers readers. As someone who’s only read maybe 2 or 3 Hickman-penned Avengers/New Avengers comics, I found this one to be average– with some nice art. Asking people to pay $5 is more than a bit much, especially with all the padding in the design. The final kicker? Hearing that Cheung was only tapped to draw the first issue of this series makes me lose complete interest in keeping up with Infinity. This may deter some other folks from continuing as well… But I doubt Marvel will be losing much sleep over it. – Jose Melendez

3 Star Rating

Superboy #23Superboy #23
Match Game
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artists: Robson Rocha, Marlo Alquiza, Marcus To
Colorists: Pete Pantazis, Richard Horie, Tanya Horie
Letterer: Travis Lanham
20 pages, $2.99

So, this was mega disappointing.

If I look at Superboy #23 (without taking the popularity of the writer into consideration), this comic actually seemed “okay”. But I was expecting much more from writer Justin Jordan. His Luther Strode is one of the best new comics of the 21st Century– and, in comparison, this issue of Superboy is trash. Sorry to rip on the man, but sometimes the truth just hurts. If this is the kind of story the supposedly dictatorial DC Editors allow from such an emerging talent, then Jordan needs to run away from their offices as quickly as possible.

Jordan employs decompression as a storytelling technique all the time in Luther Strode… But Strode artist Tradd Moore makes up for the sometimes slow narrative with amazing action sequences. This doesn’t happen in this Superboy tale– making the comic feel flat and boring. (The story here takes place in a matter of minutes— that’s how decompressed it is.) There are also no attempts to make the reader care about these characters. I like Superboy (one of the last good Geoff Johns comics I read was his Superboy stories in Adventure Comics), but I started wishing for this comic to end almost the second I opened it.

The story was awful and ridiculously simplistic. There was no mystery involved… And the cliffhanger was so feeble it shouldn’t really be classified as such. The attempt is there, but with a faulty comic– there’s no wonder I found the dramatic payoff lacking. Surprisingly, having six people share the art duties didn’t completely suck. (It was slightly above terrible.) There was no spark to any of the art… It looked as if the artists just showed up to get their paycheck.

If Superboy #23 is a sign of Justin Jordan’s mainstream work to come, he should just stop now… And focus on creating more amazing Luther Strode tales. I honestly don’t understand why this comic wasn’t better. I absolutely loved Jordan and Riley Rossmo’s short Superman story in Adventures of Superman. It clearly showed the writer has the capability to write fun superhero stories.

Which leads me to this question: Why is it when most indie writers work for the Big Two, their mainstream stuff almost always sucks? (I think I know why, but I would welcome your take on the situation in the Comments Section below.) I seriously believe we all want them to do well wherever they work… But there’s a long list of indie writers who have signed with DC and Marvel to much fanfare– only to create some truly awful comics. The real slap in the face? When these same writers go back to their creator-owned stuff, they knock our socks off again.

Because I know Mr. Jordan can write the hell out of comics, I think I have to chalk this nasty mess up to DC and their purported heavy editorial mandates. It is the only reason I can think of for Superboy #23 being such crap. – Nick Furi

1 Star Rating

Kick-Ass Vol 3 #2Kick-Ass Vol 3 #2
“Writer”: Mark Shitbag
Artists: John Bobblehead Jr,
Tom “Help Me!” Palmer
Colorist: Dean “Innocent Bystander” White
Letterer: Chris “’I’m just the Letterer!” Eliopoulos
20 pages, $2.99

Yeah you guessed it, I couldn’t find anything else I wanted to review, so I ended up with this steaming pile of shite. Oh wait, did I give away my conclusion already… Ya know, that only a fucking emotionally bereft idiot would voluntarily buy this book? Oh well, hopefully that won’t stop you from reading the rest of this review… I mean, I suffered through it so why shouldn’t you? Gee, what a thoughtful guy I am!

The genesis of this is the so-called writer Mark Millar— hereafter known as “The Ginger Scottish Shitbag” and other grumbled epithets. Most of what passes for plot is the usual movie rip-off shit Millar always does, the only exception being where he rips off the plot from Batman Year One. So far, so Millar.

So, on to the characterisation… Ugh, sorry… I’m already losing the will to live trying to think about this. The titular character Kick-Ass is so fucking stupid there’s no way on Earth he should be alive. How the fuck can you sympathise with someone who is so utterly fucking inept? I could understand if this was just a one-shot book that was a parody of Spider-Man… That might merit a solitary “ha-ha” before it’s forgotten… But this is the third volume of this bullshit and main character Dave WhatsHisFace is still a moron who gets the shit kicked out of him all the time… As the Ginger Scottish Shitbag just keeps going back to the same dried up old well all the time.

This issue focuses on a new “Big Bad”. He’s an old Sicilian mafioso who hints at being a gay rapist– and coincidentally happens to be the Grand Uncle of the gang-rapist villain from Kick-Ass 2. Think of every mafia stereotype used by The Simpsons, add some homophobia and some rapiness and you’ve got this character. This is Ginger Scottish Shitbag’s usual utter laziness epitomised… And it makes me want to punch my computer screen, it’s so boring, ludicrous and insulting to the reader’s intelligence.

Now on to the art. So hey, remember the time when John Romita Jr used to be a great artist? Yeah, me neither… It was so long ago now, its starting to slip from my memory. I know Romita Jr is quick but this must have been hacked out in an afternoon while he was sitting on the toilet suffering from gastroenteritis. The art is ugly as fuck, looks like shit and smells rotten– like a pus-filled baboon with mange.

Kickass Bobbleheads

My eyes needed to be washed out with bleach after seeing this mess. I hope the paycheck was good John, because you should be ashamed at perpetrating this mess. And pity poor Tom Palmer— one of the greatest inkers in the comics business, reduced to tracing over this diarrhea.

Now you might be thinking that I wish ill on the Ginger Scottish Shitbag. Not at all. I would never actively wish misfortune on him… But if he got hit by a Metro Bus I wouldn’t exactly be weeping into my cornflakes either– ya know what I mean? As for this four-color-fiasco… If you buy it, then you’re a fucking moron. ‘Nuff Said, True Believers! – Locusmortis

Zero Stars Rating

Avengers Arena #13Avengers Arena #13
Writer: Christos Gage
Artists: Karl Moline, Mark Pennington
Colorist: Jean-François Beaulieu
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
20 pages, $2.99

Well, that’s just my luck. The exact week I picked Avengers Arena for the first time, its cancellation is announced in the Marvel November solicitations! Not that I was planning on sticking with AA, but still…

I’ve heard many complaints and criticisms about this book. (You can check out Ian’s apprehension toward the series back in 2012 here.) Prior to reading this comic, I shared the same uneasiness towards it– which is easily understandable since its main concept is a rip-off of The Hunger Games… Which is a poor rip-off of the unmatched Battle Royale.

Usually written by Denis Hopeless, this month’s story by Christos Gage is a filler– but quite a good one. I’m still not much more informed as to the general quality of this title though. Gage has the responsibility here to tackle the widespread and ludicrous concern over “realism” in modern comics, and it’s fair to say he does succeed.

A quick foreword is necessary here, to clarify what a huge problem the focus on realism has become in today’s creative process. In the past, suspending disbelief used to be easy… But nowadays the tiniest plot inconsistencies seem to make us lose interest. Not so long ago, accepting that Superman was real also meant we were okay with the existence of Kryptonite, or with the fact an institution such as Arkham Asylum couldn’t get control of its inmates for more than a few days.

For last several years, comic book writers have exhausted themselves attempting to provide reasons and explanations for everything. The latest example of this sad trend being Scott Snyder’s Batman: Zero Year– which is currently taking eleven issues to clear up every single Batman question never asked by anyone ever. Soon you’ll know how Bruce sewed his first pair of Bat-Underpants and how he installed a crapper in the Batcave! This overuse of explanations had made it virtually impossible for anyone to suspend disbelief for too long. Either everything’s explained– or it’s not, and you’re going to move on to something else.

That’s why Christos Gage has been tasked with giving explanations to the massive plotholes in Avengers Arena. The main premise of this book is that a bunch of superpowered young lasses and lads has been abducted right under the noses of the Avengers and X-Men. It’s pretty clear such a massive rapture shouldn’t happen without causing alarm… And yet, for twelve whole issues (during which the kidnapped heroes started killing each other), no one in either team has batted an eye. That’s why this filler of a comic is dedicated to demonstrating the plausibility of such a state, in the name of the sacrosanct modern “realism”. For what all that’s worth, it is very well done.

This title isn’t without its quirks. Its biggest problem is its failed attempts at humor. Some bad jokes are painfully obvious failed shots at a light atmosphere, and therefore serve as a massive turn-off. The art is commonplace and doesn’t stir anything in me. Simply put, Karl Moline’s craft is trivial– never bad enough to make me cringe, but never reaching a praise-worthy level of skill either.

Avengers Arena #13 is a well-done filler that doesn’t add anything up to its main story, but still manages to entertain efficiently. Please take note this rating is only valid for this very issue, and not the regular ongoing title in itself. I may check AA out down the road, just to see what this Denis Hopeless can deliver. But for now, you go Gage! – Simon J. O’Connor

3 Star Rating

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1
The Judgment Tower Part One –
The Taking of Field Station 123
Writer: Phil Hester
Artist: Andrea Di Vito
Colorist: Rom Fajardo
Letterers: Chris Mowry, Shawn Lee
22 pages, $3.99

This is a great restart to a series I fell in love with a few years back– when Nick Spencer was still awesome for a few minutes. If you’ve been around IMJ for a while, you may have remembered the huge amount of praise Issue #2 of the DC series received from Ian and Jose.

While T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 isn’t quite up to the same level, it does tug at the same strings.

Like almost every comic, character driven stories are needed to make T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents compelling. Writer Phil Hester does an outstanding job introducing important elements to this new take on the series, allowing the reader to instantly root for the different agents. Subtle plot details are mixed between all the character introductions– with much still shrouded in mystery. These little details are extremely fun to see/read, as they enhance the story. They also don’t interfere with the main plot– so it will be very interesting to see where and when Hester decides to use them.

My biggest problem with T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1? The art. For the most part, it is well done… But it is also extremely dark. I always see these classic comics with their bright and lively colours. I prefer this type of art over the dark and ominous tones that have infected most modern comics. Despite this drawback, artist Andrea Di Vito and colourist Rom Fajardo create some great work. Andrea’s characters are proportional with no anatomy issues. He easily makes the characters his own, while still staying true to the original designs.

This is a great start to a new volume of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents! Reading Hester’s crazy adventures will remind readers why these characters are so much fun to watch. Personally, I can’t wait to read more. If the quality keeps up, this new IDW version will be one of my favourite comics this year. – Nick Furi

4.5 Star Rating

Fantastic Four #11Fantastic Four #11
Planet Future
Writers: Matt Fraction,
Christopher Sebela

Artists: Mark Bagley, Joe Rubinstein
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
20 pages, $2.99

Fantastic Four #11 had a classic, silver age feel. I kept reading, expecting something to drag on and a cliff hanger to abruptly cut off the story, but it never happened. It appears having a bunch of creators just switch titles actually made Matt Fraction a bit better at his job. His Hawkeye has been outstanding and a classic-style adventure tale with Marvel’s Greatest Family is fun to read.

The story moved at a good pace and the ending felt natural. Another exceptional feat for Fraction– making the children, Val and Franklin, engaging enough that I actually became invested in their well-being. (I know Jonathan Hickman tried to do this in his long FF run too, but I wasn’t impressed.) After years of seeing it occur in indie comics like Invincible, Fraction’s story actually makes me believe natural character progressions are possible in mainstream comics too. I know this will sound blasphemous to many (and never happen), but how cool would it be if Marvel allowed these characters to grow up and take the place of their parents?

Mark Bagley’s art fits the galactic style of the Marvel Universe, but it wasn’t quite as clean as I would’ve liked. I have to give credit to Bagley for his fine use of Kirby Krackle. (Even though I think there should have been even more spots, I’ll let it slide– as there were a few panels that were exceptionally well done. One such sequence– involving an exploding bomb creating a ripple in time– was twisty, colourful and really created the sense of something going wrong in the time stream.

Now for the (potentially) big problem: Fraction’s announcement he will be off the series as of Issue #16. (In reality, he’s only completed full scripts through Issue #12– providing only plot outlines for the rest.) This isn’t to say some new writer will be bad, but I enjoyed genuinely Fraction’s FF, and to see him leave the title so quickly is disappointing.

Fraction is starting to redeem himself. I could never get into his Iron Man or Thor runs, but the last couple of funny books he’s written are stellar. Fantastic Four #11 might not be up to the writer’s Hawkeye standards, but it was pure, unadulterated fun. – Nick Furi

3.5 Star Rating

Earth 2 #15Earth 2 #15
War Torn
Writer: James Robinson
Artists: Nicola Scott, Trevor Scott
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
20 pages, $2.99

For the most part, I’ve been enjoying most of the comics I’ve read the last few weeks– minus a few terrible exceptions. Things were really starting to look up for DC & Marvel too… So much so, I was actually starting to get excited about some of mainstream comics again. Unfortunately, this amazing feeling only lasted a week. 7 days later, I’m faced with 3 mediocre, bland funny books.

Unfortunately I haven’t experienced writer James Robinson’s most adored work Starman… And my most unfavourable interaction with the writer occurred during his Superman/New Krypton wreck a few years back. Most of that didn’t seem to be Robinson’s fault– but sour distaste for that storyline definitely flavors my approach to Earth 2 #15.

Sadly, my losing streak with the writer continues, as absolutely nothing in this comic is left to the imagination. Honestly, I didn’t even need the art in this installment– as Robinson explains everything as it happens with a disjointed, clichéd and terrible inner dialogue from the Flash. There is so much expository inner dialogue, the characters are left with little to actually say. Pages are splattered with nothing but word balloons and inner thought boxes– and even then there is very little of substance to read… What’s there is boring and pointless.

3 storylines run throughout Earth 2 #15– and each one is decompressed. What’s weird None of these plots ever feel like they are given enough time to stand on their own two feet. It doesn’t help matters that this issue is clearly just setting up a story down the road.

There’s not much to say about Nicola Scott and Trevor Scott’s art… Or Pete Pantazis’ colours. They did their job, but it didn’t ever wow me. Like I mentioned above, the art could have been blank white pages stuffed with Robinson’s words and it would have sufficed… Even if it wouldn’t have made for much of a graphic experience. It’s too bad the writer and artists didn’t work together and try to enhance each other’s work. I see the talent there, but the execution is way off.

Color me disappointed. I had heard some “okay” things about this comic, and Robinson is typically known for creating compelling situations (or so I’m told… Like I said, I’ve never read any). Ultimately though, Earth 2 #15 wasn’t very good. It’s so disheartening when good creators phone it in… But until we stop supporting terrible work, Marvel and DC are not going to change their ways, and the readers will be left with even more godawful superhero books. – Nick Furi

2 Star Rating

Iron Man #14Iron Man #14
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Greg Land, Jay Leisten
Colorist: Guru eFX
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
20 pages, $3.99

I haven’t seen Iron Man 3 yet, but based on what I’ve heard (and what the two previous movies were), I’m guessing it may very well be a big, dumb, shamelessly action-packed flick. Which may be good or bad for the comics (depends on how you look at it), since Kieron Gillen’s Iron Man doesn’t seem to aim for anything else but replicating the same easy recipe. If Nick Furi’s pet peeve is comics talking down to readers, mine is titles with huge amounts of splash pages and next to no words in them. And with four splash pages (!) and very little dialogue– what we’re left witnessing here is fast and daft action scenes.

What reinforces the feeling that I’m only getting served dull movie-like fight sequences? The dialogue is nothing but a massive clutch of wibbly wobbly science-y crap. For instance, because of a foe called Recorder 451, Tony Stark loses all control of his armor. But at some point, Tony “hotwires repulsors” and his armor suddenly works for a few good minutes. Sorry, but I call bullshit. Either 451 is a clever foe and truly can deactivate Tony’s suit– or he can’t. Don’t make it halfway for the sake of convenience, or else you end up with what’s commonly dubbed as lazy writing.

Alas, much of the scripting is nothing but exposition or serviceable explanations that make no sense at all. Obviously the main reason behind all this is that Gillen is going for a lot of decompression… So why would he give a fuck to begin with?

The art is okay (I guess) and the sole reason I’m not giving this issue an even lower rating. Greg Land understands that this title is only about eye candy art and cool battles. There’s nothing subtle or clever here, so he brings out (or “traces”) some big guns with very detailed panels filled with kinetic action. If you accept this book as the low common denominator it is, then you can relax and simply enjoy the rad tracings/drawings.

Big ups to inker Jay Leisten as well, who does a wonderful job at bringing a deep and realistic feel to Land’s often bland pencils. His massive amount of inking is just what this art needed– and I applaud his level of dedication and his attention to detail.

Still, this phoned-in bullshit is seedy. But guess what? This comic took me about one minute to actually read. Let me rephrase that: Iron Man #14 took me about ONE MINUTE to read… For $3.99 USD. One star for you, sucker!
– Simon J. O’Connor

1 Star Rating

Trillium #1Trillium #1
Writer/Artist: Jeff Lemire
Colorists: Jeff Lemire, Jose Villarubia
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
28 pages, $2.99

“Almost great but not quite.”

This is the second of DC’s recent attempts to revive the Vertigo imprint, and it shares some similarities with the first title, Collider (now retitled FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics) which I also reviewed recently. It’s a high-concept sci-fi book heavy on plot… And it almost reaches greatness, but just falls short.

Trillium #1 starts off in a far-future sci-fi setting on the edge of the known galaxy– with humanity almost extinct due to a ravenous disease (which only seems to target our species.) The only cure is a type of flower which exists on only one planet, and it’s guarded by a group of mysterious alien mystics. The main human character in the first half of the book, a woman called Nika, ingests one of these flowers and starts tripping out… As the flower seems to have reality or time-altering properties. The story then segues to the second main character William, a 20th century male explorer of the Andean Jungles who seemingly suffers from post-traumatic delusions brought on by his experiences in World War 1. The comic ends with Nika and William meeting at an Incan pyramid.

The plot synopsis I just outlined is actually a fairly pared down version of what’s truly in the book. I certainly can’t complain about the amount of story contained within and although the narrative is a little fractured at times, I could see where creator Jeff Lemire was going with it… Especially after a little judicious foreshadowing done early on in the story. This could have come off as being an exercise in “clever” plotting and nothing more, but I felt Lemire did enough to set the scene for what could be an intriguing limited series. By the end of the comic I was left with an unsettled feeling, not sure of what was real and not real… What was true and untrue and strangely satisfied as a result of that.

Lemire also handles all the art for Trillium #1– and this is primarily where I docked points from my final review score. The layouts, while not very dynamic– were satisfactory and told the story well. The character designs (especially the aliens) were very good, but it’s in the sci-fi scenes where I felt things weren’t right. Most of the pencil lines seem to be drawn freehand, which is fine for the most part but when drawing vehicles it can make things look shaky. I know that might seem a bit too picky, but this read like a European graphic novel so I would have liked the pencil lines to have some of the precision of a European Sci-Fi Artist. Also I couldn’t help feeling that if Lemire had used an inker, the art would have looked more polished.

The coloring by Lemire and Jose Villarubia was good for the most part, but in some sections came off as being a bit too pastel. The colors could have possibly looked better if they had been a bit bolder, but they didn’t look consistent with “the look” you’d expect from a Vertigo book.

This is easily the best Lemire comic I’ve seen in ages. Even though I have some reservations about the art, the story is still interesting enough to keep me interested. I’d certainly have no hesitation in recommending it to any fan of Lemire’s non-superhero work and fans of vintage Vertigo. – Locusmortis

3.5 Star Rating

The Superior Spider-Man #15The Superior Spider-Man #15
Run, Goblin, Run! Part 1 –
The Tinkerer’s Apprentice
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Humberto Ramos, Vitor Olazaba
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
20 pages, $3.99

There is a huge difference between a good writer phoning it in and a bad writer doing his/her best and still sucking. Scribe Dan Slott is definitely just a bad writer… With Superior Spider-Man #15 having only a couple of things making sense in a whole mess of awful.

Finally people are starting to notice this isn’t the real Spider-Man. Damn! It only took 14 issues! When Peter Parker finally does come back, he should just off himself immediately– since no one obviously gives a big enough shit about him to even notice his body has been taken over by an antisocial assclown.

But let’s try to forget just how terrible an idea this is… Or how stupid having Spider-Man possibly killing people (and basically the whole Spock transfer) actually is. (Oh wait. That’s right, I can’t forget… Because I’ve promised not to gloss over the shit in comics.) I would shout, “It’s ‘bout fucking time!” to Spider-Man’s supporting characters finally waking up but it annoys me even more that everyone seems to be noticing Peter Parker’s not Peter Parker at exactly the same time.

This (obviously) is not the Spider-Man I know… Nor a Spider-Man anyone with higher brain function would want to know. Honestly, I don’t get the fascination with heroes killing people– mistakenly or intentionally. Rogue vigilantes (see: Punisher) were created for this reason… To explore what happens when “good” characters have different “values”.

Amongst all this… Shit… You know what really seems so erroneous with SSM #15? The art. This stuff was not my cup-o-tea. The suit is dumb and looks like ass. Peter/Otto (I still don’t know what to properly call him) looks terrible– his face has some of the weirdest looks and is inconsistent throughout the entire issue. I’ll give the art credit for the wacky cartoonish vibe, which sometimes seems to work well when Parker/Octavius is playing at being Spider-Man. I still didn’t like it though.

Dan Slott just slops bullshit upon bullshit to fill the issue… But it’s never exciting. I was also never compelled to turn the next page… Nor did I feel like picking up the next issue. I almost feel Spider-Man is radioactive now… And NOT worth even flipping through at the shop until Slott is dethroned from the dung heap he’s built. My only remedy to the very real bad taste in my mouth? Read my copy of David Michelinie’s Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus or re-read J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck’s awesome Kraven’s Last Hunt story arc. It’s time to put the AMAZING back into Spider-Man, but this will never happen as long as Slott is “in charge”. – Nick Furi

Zero Stars Rating

Transformers Robots in Disguise #20Transformers Robots in Disguise #20
Dark Cybertron Prelude
Writer: John Barber
Artist: Andrew Griffith
Colorist: Priscilla Tramontano
Letterer: Shawn Lee
22 pages, $3.99

Here’s how bad this comic week has been for me: Transformers Robots in Disguise #20 is my best comic this week. I am vaguely familiar with this “original” rendition of the Transformers universe… But this particular installment made me want to go back to the rebooted version to forget this “plain jane” iteration.

To be clear, I didn’t think this comic was bad because I am unfamiliar with this version of Transformers. I’ve watched many different versions of the shows and even had a few of the toys… And, well, this is just a boring comic book. This story reminds me of an odd, boring version of Netflix’s House of Cards. There is nothing but political scheming and backstabbing occurring throughout the pages. Sounds fun– but trust me when I tell you it isn’t.

The story was broken up into 3 monologues. Having three separate points of view was an interesting notion. Writer John Barber tries to distinguish each part of his story by delving into Starscream’s reactions to the backhanded dealing, gloating and ruling. I really enjoyed what Barber was attempting to do with these pieces… But ultimately they felt thrown in amongst the rest of the story– causing the idea to falter. Another interesting concept dismantled by poor execution.

Transformers Robots in Disguise #20 is a slow clean up after a busy, messy war– with new status quo trying to establish itself. Dealing with a plethora of ideas and topics, this comic is not the least bit new reader friendly. I know some of these characters, but there are so many a casual reader would not recognize. Also, I would’ve liked to have a bit more information on where the Autobots and Decepticons went. (I am assuming this was mentioned in previous issues… But I’m guessing new readers don’t need to know anything besides they’re… Gone?)

Andrew Griffith’s art and Priscilla Tramontano’s colors are about what I expected from a comic with Transformers in the title. (Don’t hate on me– I not the one publishing several monthly comics on a toy line.) There’s nothing extravagant here, it just gets the job done. As a non-reader of this series, too many of the robots looked the same to me– making it sometimes difficult to differentiate characters. But even for regular readers, the art couldn’t have been more than mediocre at best. There isn’t anything wrong or terrible about any of it… It’s all just so serviceable.

I was excited to finally review a Transformers comic– and I hope this was just a random dud. At the bare minimum, this comic most likely was entertaining for die-hard fans– but how are new fans going to be created if any issue they pick up isn’t meant for them too? In the end, I think inaccessibility is Transformers Robots in Disguise #20 biggest failure. – Nick Furi

2.5 Star Rating

Wolverine #8Wolverine #8
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artists: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
19 pages, $3.99

I really like Paul Cornell, but to be brutally honest– everything in his current Wolverine run screams serviceable. This current arc about a killable Logan who’s lost his healing factor is both a convenient and obnoxious marketing synergy stunt– since it’s basically the same premise as the latest Wolverine movie.

But there’s worse than forcing a worn and uninteresting plot into a book… How about putting the premise in the comic, then not using it at all! Indeed, not a single word was ever uttered on Logan’s new frail state. It quickly turns out the loss of his healing factor is the work of a conscious wicked virus, who also gains control of people’s bodies and minds when it infects them. (That’s a paper-thin intrigue if I’ve ever seen one.) For the sake of all this bullshit, you get Wolverine fighting the Black Panther and trying to secure the MacGuffin capable of destroying the bloody virus.

Even if the plot is a dumb, weary one– there are still some good moments from Cornell. Sadly, these don’t make up for the many stupid dialogue balloons I had to slog through. Something else made me angry too: There’s a splash page at the beginning simply showing an adamantium skull lying on the ground. This issue is only 19 pages, because of this useless page with no dialogue– which seemingly had no purpose but to stall and decompress the story. Not only is this contemptible, but technique doesn’t fare well when put in perspective with how big of a marketing stunt this particular comic already is.

I would never have thought saying this about Alan Davis’ work, but his art is far from good here. There’s huge anatomical errors, often occurring in dynamic panels– as if making people look kinetic wasn’t compatible with them having a human form. There’s an astonishingly important lack of background, and all in all it all feels really cheap.

Wolverine #8 is bad marketing fuckery mixed with no effort– leaving fans with one hell of a shitty comic. – Simon J. O’Connor

Half Star Rating

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15 Responses to IMJ Comic Book Reviews™

  1. Great reviews everybody!

    I’ve always called the Doc Ock/Spidey 2 things: SpOck or Dr. Octo-Spidey. (I’ve also called him a bad idea, which works too)

    I read the first issue of the new Wolverine series a few months ago. I never thought Paul Cornell was capable of writing such a bad comic book. It was a sad day.

    • Insideman says:

      I, for one, am ecstatic Nick didn’t use the SpOck moniker. I was so tried triple checking “superior” Spider-Man reviews to make sure that was spelled/capitalized right. 😉

  2. Insideman says:

    I also want to thank all the reviewers and readers for their patience with the new IMJ Comic Book Review column. (Huts have been phenomenal today!) There’s been some sickness and upheaval in the IMJ Nation family as of late– but everything is (thankfully) leveling out.

    In the meantime, readers and reviewers have all been kind to give with the slightly uneven publishing schedule. Red is on the move and will hopefully rejoin us to review more comics starting in late September. Locusmortis is taking a well deserved break and will be back in a few weeks…

    … In the meantime (and to fill in), you’ll have more Simon O’Connor reviews to kick around and two NEW SPECIAL GUEST INTERVIEWERS this coming week too!

    I may not always be consistent with my deadlines, but I do try to keep up the suspense. 😀

  3. mattster says:

    slott is officially one of the worst writers in the history of comics even worse than bendis
    i dont know what demonic hell he came crawling out of but he ruined spiderman even before he killed him and fuck him very much. btw who is looking forward to seeing him butcher Miguel O’Hara and the 2099 universe cause he hasn’t butchered Jameson Mary Jane and every other spider character he comes into contact with enough right?

    • Insideman says:

      Matt, do you mind if I tweet the Demonic Hellspawn with a link to your comment? 🙂

      Its hilarious (and very true IMO)!

    • NicktheStick says:

      Yeah, it is sad how one person can ruin a character so much. I am all for change in comics, but not when you completely ruin the character. They can have their ups and downs, good times, dark times, but at the bare minimum, stay true to the character. Make it believable and not just fan porn.

      There are writers out there right now who understand Spidey, and would be able to write the hell out of Spider-Man. It is truly unfortunate Marvel doesn’t see this and give them Slott’s job. Spider-Man, Marvel, and the comic industry would be better for it.

      • What’s even sadder is that Joe Quesada has been hiring people who seem okay with carrying out his vendetta against Spidey. I know that Quesada was instrumental in bringing Marvel out of bankruptcy, and for that I thank him, but what he has done to Spider-Man in the past several years is not okay. It’s disrespectful to any creator who has worked on Spider-Man to make him a great character and to the fans who actually give a damn about the character.

        I don’t know what happened to Dan Slott as a writer. His early Spider-Man stories, his Mighty Avengers and She-Hulk run, and his Arkham Asylum mini for DC are all good comics. I also don’t understand how Slott can say he’s a fan of the character with a straight face when he has, as Matt said, butchered every Spidey character he’s come into contact with. That .1 issue that deals with Flash Thompson turning into Venom was almost unforgivable since it was glaringly obvious that Slott does not understand Flash Thompson as a character.

        Wake me up when this nightmare is over.

  4. Morlock50 says:

    Good reviews everyone. Yeesh….what a week of comics.

    I’m been thinking about the Kick Ass franchise since the movie came out. I consider Mark Millar to be a partially talented writer, as opposed to an out-and-out hack like Chuck Austen or J.R. Tull. He seems to know the bare minimum of storytelling technique, and is able to come up with an intriguing premise for his stories that gives the illusion of having something worthwhile to say. Bendis would be another example of this. The problem is that the partially talented writer is that he/she has a greater negative influence on the comics medium, where as the hack just shits out a work like “Rise of Arsenal” and is quickly forgotten. Nobody is trying to emulate Jeff Loeb, but there are a lot of Bendis and Johns wannabes running around. If bad writers were like DC villians, Chuck Austen would be Signalman, and Mark Millar would be Darkseid, in terms of their negative influence on comix.

    • Insideman says:

      As always, great commentary Morlock. 🙂

      So you know for facts sake, this column featured two weeks of different books… As I had to skip publishing the column last week… So all this crap didn’t come out in just one week.

      Although I am certain we could have found more than enough bad comics to fill out each week’s regular column. 😉

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