IMJ Comic Book Reviews


Aquaman and the Others #1Aquaman and the Others #1
Legacy of Gold Part 1 of 5
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artists: Lan Medina, Allen Martinez
Colorist: Matt Milla
20 pages, $2.99

Dan Jurgens was the only reason I chose to review Aquaman and the Others #1 this week. I’ve detailed many times how much I love the man’s Booster Gold, so I won’t go on about that again… Leaving this question: Is this comic equal to my substantiated fondness for Jurgens and his work?

Let’s cut to the chase. The first half of this comic had me answering my burning question with an astounding, “HELL NO!”… As the scripts falls prey to many of the first issue traps routinely plaguing team books. Thankfully, I kept reading– because something cool happened. I started to see how Jurgens  was trying to differ from the usual “Let’s meet the team!” vibe that usually bogs down the flow. While the script still takes us from place to place so we can meet all “The Others”, their 3-page intros are actually part of a much larger mystery.

What’s definitely different… Each character intro also adds to plot development. This variation works better than most standard meet-n-greets. Aquaman and the Others have a definitive mission and will soon be fighting for their lives against a momentous villain… Cool. By book’s end, I found myself intrigued enough to want to see how it all connects.

The pencils from Lan Medina ranged from mediocre to fairly good. Nothing blew me away, but I wasn’t particularly disappointed by anything either. There were a few odd poses– the kind that don’t really make sense but still look kinda fun. This style is more old-school– easily fitting in with Jurgens’ drawing style, popular in the 80s and 90s. It’s also pretty clear Jurgens is adding huge detail to his panel descriptions or he’s providing rough layouts with his text. So much so, Medina’s art often reminds me of my one and only favourite “B” hero– Booster Gold. (I had to get my Booster plug in here somewhere! 😛 ).

The remaining artists adequately round out Medina’s pencils. Allen Martinez has nice thin and crisp lines– which never negate the penciler’s style (exactly what an inker is supposed to do.) I also enjoyed Matt Milla’s colours. They’re accurate to the setting and don’t have that “gritty” feeling– another complaint I’ve raised with many DC books lately. Milla bucks the grim trend, making sure there’s good variance between his lights and darks.

Aquaman and the Others #1 isn’t Jurgens’ best work, but I see something in this title that gives me hope. I’m definitely going to give the comic at least one more chance. – Nick Furi

3.5 Star Rating

Deadpool vs Carnage #1Deadpool vs Carnage #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Salva Espin
Colorist: Veronica Gandini
Letterer: VC’S Joe Sabino
20 pages, $3.99

Deadpool vs Carnage #1 boasts two of Marvel’s most psychopathic, loudmouthed, bloodthirsty, asylum-worthy candidates– so it got my attention right off the hop. Deadpool is one of my favourites, mainly because he reminds me of a character straight out of a Quentin Tarantino movie (albeit with far less drawn-out dialogue). DP’s so bizarre and deranged you can’t help but love him and his inner voices. On the flip side, Carnage is a completely different breed of psychopath– someone you can only imagine in your nightmares. Since Marvel’s combined the two, I was ready for a tale that’s (pun intended) bloody entertaining.

The good news? For the most part, Cullen Bunn’s Deadpool vs Carnage is as bloody as it is entertaining… But sadly, it was not absolute love at first read. Or the second. Or third.

The stunning cover art by Adam Brown and Glenn Fabry is one of the first things that drew me to this particular comic, as it’s worthy of framing and mounting on high. Problem is, you shouldn’t expect the same level of quality when you open the book up. The interior art by Salva Espin is still impressive, but it’s more reflective of the characters and colouring found in today’s Marvel TV cartoon series. The overall mood seems more akin to something you might expect to see Spider-Man plopped into– with bright, sunny days and busy city motifs. At first I found it off-putting, considering the graphic and violent nature of the main characters and the story… Even if I did eventually decide Espin’s art got the goofy, self-absorbed, detached-from-reality sides of Deadpool and Carnage’s personalities right.

Still, I was conceptually underwhelmed with the comic… And a little bored. It starts with an immediate bang, but once Bunn introduces Deadpool (who is arguably the top-billed character in this scenario), it feels like he didn’t get how to write Deadpool. Aside from a token joke about busty gals, the Merc with a Mouth just doesn’t feel like the classic, “big cup of crazy”, self-aware, fourth wall busting Wade Wilson fans love.

I should’ve experienced at least one moment of laughter, but there was none. NONE!! There was also a ton of unnecessary filler in the middle– far too much to keep my attention. There were moments where I just felt my eyes drifting, searching for something that was lending itself to the plot or the upcoming climax– but it all just felt like a waste of time and space. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just one or two pages either… It was a substantial section.

Once I got past the mid-section lull, there were several really satisfying elements to the conclusion, and a decent cliffhanger that might just bring me back for the next installment… But I won’t be knocking down any doors to buy it. There were too many underutilized opportunities here– delicious moments for some dark, twisted chemistry between the two which never bore fruit. Too bad.
– Danielle Young

2.5 Star Rating

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #200Ultimate Spider-Man #200
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Dave Marquez, Various
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: Cory Petit
30 Pages, $4.99

Final issues are like brand-new shiny #1s, you know? Great opportunities to make an easy buck out of the grubby hands of overly excited Marvel Drones. While first issues promise groundbreaking revelations– which they often fail to deliver– ending series’ stories usually play it softer by taking a trip down memory lane. I get it. We’re nostalgic creatures, and looking one last time at the legacy of a dying era is usually damn effective.

A recent example of this is the (shallow) How I Met Your Mother finale. Many fans reported what made them saddest wasn’t the series ending per se, but rather the last shots at the end of the episode– displaying a picture from nine years ago of each member of the HIMYM gang as the show was barely starting.

Endings are always sad, but they provide the bittersweet pleasure of proudly looking down the road you’ve just walked for so long– and measuring how far we’ve come.

As for how Ultimate Spider-Man #200 fares in bringing up these kind of feelings, well… This comic’s written by Brian Michael Bendis. Need I say more? Obviously the story displays no subtlety at all. There’s a lot of clichés, too. In short, it’s not enjoyable… And yes, I did feel ripped off. As usual with Bendis, characterization is his way of punching you in the face and feelings aren’t shyly whispered– they’re loudly screamed in your ear.

Strangely, I don’t blame the book but rather the industry as a whole. Comicdom has been relying far too long on cheap gimmicks and marketing trickery to artificially inflate sales. This final issue is what THE PUBLISHER and THE FANS designed it to be: A worn, hollow anthology.

For endless boring pages, some characters praise Peter Parker (remember, he’s dead in the Ultimate Universe)… And this stands as Bendis’ weak attempt at meta-commentary. “What if Peter were still alive?” translates into “What if this title wasn’t ending?”… And it’s as dull and useless at it sounds. This book also ends as the executives asked it to end– with a cliffhanger and a side-note that reads, “To be continued in… Ultimate Spider-Man #1“.

So that’s how the loop is looped: Yet another “final” issue leading to a glossy new #1. It’s also a classic case of how this industry meanders and continually degrades artistic integrity. But you need not worry: The sharks and tycoons made another million and all is well in the world. – Simon J. O’Connor

Zero Stars Rating

Caliban #1 Terror CoverCaliban #1
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Facundo Percio
Colorist: Hernan Cabrera
Letterer: Kurt Hathaway
22 pages, $3.99

A huge alien craft appears during a time warp and attempts to exist in the same space as the Caliban ship– disaster ensues.

That’s the log-line “master storyteller” Garth Ennis dreams up with Fashion Beast artist Facundo Percio— constructing a future in which our current concepts of space and time are blown to bits. Ennis’ world includes space exploration and the resulting discovery of many more planets– all void of meaningful life. Then there’s the Caliban, a spaceship traveling unimaginable distances through time warps to harvest energy, water and other resources for a hungry Earth.

Technology may advance, but people stay the same. Ennis brings real human depth to the sterile and compartmentalized ship life. Every character has some unique dimension to their personality: Nomi speculates on infinity and the possibility of disasters in space, and San is a ball-buster. Other minor characters add welcome textures too.

I like being transported to an artist’s vision of the future… And Percio’s vision is decidedly clear and well delivered. He creates a darkly claustrophobic, mechanical environment on board the ship, which contrasts well with Ennis’ colloquial and easy to read dialogue. Both creators do an exceptional job at relaying a real sense of panic and pain at the story’s mid-point… With some of the Percio’s emotionally drawn faces dramatically highlighting the terror.

Even though I wasn’t knocked out of my seat by this first issue, I liked it because the narrative was delivered effectively by both the art and dialogue. There’s definite signs of life here… And since many #1 comics can come off as little more than set up for future stories, I definitely got my money’s worth here.
– Erin Escobar

3.5 Star Rating

Angel & Faith Season 10 #1Angel and Faith Season 10 #1
Where the River Meets the Sea  Part One
Writer: Victor Gischler
Artist: Will Conrad
Colorist: Michelle Madsen
Letterer: Richard Starkings
22 pages, $3.50

I’m sitting in my bed at 1 AM writing this review. Why so late? Well, I just finished re-reading Angel and Faith #1– and I’m compelled to review it now. Interestingly enough, Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10 #1 (which I reviewed two weeks ago) had the same effect on me. (Angel and Faith– for those who don’t know– is Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s companion comic.)

I think splitting Season 10 into two separate titles is a great idea. The stories aren’t confined by the length of one comic and we get more fun in the long run. In truth, when I first read Victor Gischler and Will Conrad were taking over the creative reigns of one of the best modern comics in recent history– I was scared. I’ve never really enjoyed a Gischler comic before. His Deadpool work barely made me chuckle, his X-Men comics never interested me, and his Spike mini-series was just okay. But after reading this comic, I’m now convinced Gischler shines when his work is under the guidance of an editor like Scott Allie and a master storyteller like Joss Whedon.

Angel might be my favorite character in the Buffyverse. He’s a vampire with a soul who tries to make up for his past, but is forever stuck with the guilt of his previous evil. I’m always drawn to characters who strive for redemption, who have fallen and are trying to make up for their past mistakes. I can relate to that, as rectifying mistakes is part of life. (Plus almost every time I’d finish an episode of the Angel TV series,I wanted to put on a long leather coat and fight the forces of darkness.) Faith is also a character making up for her past malevolent indiscretions, so having these two characters work together makes a lot of sense.

This comic picks up where Angel and Faith Season 9 ended. A section of London has been turned into “Magic Town”– which, as you can imagine, is a gathering point for all kinds of creatures. Since he’s responsible for its creation, Angel feels responsible for its inhabitants. That’s one of the fascinating things about Angel. In both the TV show and comics, Angel will sometimes feel so guilty and responsible, sometimes his very reason for existing is to fix his “mistakes”. You can’t help but feel sorry for the guy. Gischler captures this aspect of Angel really well.

One of the things that stood out to me very early on: The comic’s “Big Bad” is already coming to the fore. There’s an evil force in Magic Town taking the form of murderous pixies. Don’t adjust your computer screen, you read that right: Pixies. I don’t think these guys will be the main villains (if they do and it works, that will be remarkable)… For now, they’re just causing a lot of trouble. What I love about both these new Buffy titles: Their first issues were both set-up in the BEST sense– giving the reader much needed info while moving the story forward at the same time.

Will Conrad… Why have I never been exposed to his art in my many years of reading comics? It’s great and a treat to look at. Just like Rebekah Isaacs’ art on Buffy, it captures the likenesses of the actors and looks like great comic book art at the same time.

This new Angel and Faith series is not as strong as last season and not as good as the new Buffy Season 10 #1, but it’s still an enjoyable read. I’m interested to see how Gischler carries his story over time. My hope is that he can become more comfortable with the characters and write good– even great– stories. Now if you’ll excuse me… I’m going to put on my black leather coat, fly to London and fight some evil pixies. – Aaron Evans

4 Star Rating

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