Astonishing X-Men #31 (Marvel Comics)
by Warren Ellis, Phil Jimenez & Andy Lanning
I’ve been following this series from the start, but I think this is my last issue. While this is the beginning of a new story arc (apparently about an alien invasion that’s about to befall Earth), this chapter is really nothing more than an action-packed rescue mission full of so many coincidences and unbelievable delays that suspension of disbelief is pretty much impossible. I found it incredibly frustrating that the heroes seem to spend as much time talking about the rescue as actually executing it. Furthermore, previous arcs in this series featured new and unusual concepts for conflict, but this one seems to turn back to some familiar (though inhuman) X-Men antagonists. Basically, this issue of Astonishing didn’t have the special feel that sets this series apart from other X-titles.
Phil Jimenez’s artwork has evolved since his first hit the scene. No longer does his style seem like a pale imitation of George (Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds) Perez’s, though the influence is still apparent. Still, this issue full of gritted teeth and intense glares just didn’t hold my attention all that much. I found the design for the X-Men crash suits to be awkward, and the figures often seem stiff. Mind you, the look of the organic incarnation of a previously mechanical foe at the end of the book was appropriately creepy. 5/10
The Brave and the Bold #28 (DC Comics)
by J. Michael Straczynski & Jesus Saiz
I stopped following this series in the wake of Mark Waid’s departure as the regular writer, but I chose to pick it up again when J. Michael Straczynski’s run began. I enjoyed this issue and his first last month. Straczynski’s offering up some interesting team-ups and maintaining the accessible, done-in-one approach to the stories that such a series calls for. Still, I think he’s taking things a bit too seriously. The central conflict in this issue isn’t the Americans versus the Germans in the Second World War, but rather the Flash’s vow not to kill versus his acknowledgement that death in war can be a necessary thing. I also found it odd that he plotted a Blackhawk story with nary a single scene with a fighter plane or dogfight in it. Sure, the plot explains why Blackhawk and his men are grounded, but still, it feels like something was definitely missing (something one can see on the cover). Nevertheless, I liked the juxtaposition of such radically different characters, the historical elements and the initially tense dynamic between Blackhawk and the Flash.
While I don’t really dig the grave tone that the writer establishes in the script, Jesus Saiz’s art definitely helps to maintain it, so he does his job fairly well. While he boasts a detailed approach to comic art, the softer edges he brings to the figures brings out their humanity nicely. Barry’s quiet, reflective looks in this issue are quite convincing. The splash panel on page two and the subsequent action on the next page are sadly lacking in detail, so much so that it’s distracting, taking the reader out of the story. Fortunately, the reader is drawn back in as the Flash is thrown back in on page four. 6/10
Justice League of America #38 (DC Comics)
by James Robinson, Mark Bagley & Rob Hunter
To say James Robinson’s writing on Justice League: Cry for Justice has been disappointing would be to vastly understate my reaction to that book. So why would I follow the writer to another Justice League comic book? Well, everyone has their off days, and Robinson’s entertained me in the past with such titles as Starman, Leave It to Chance and The Golden Age. Unfortunately, he didn’t bring that same strength to bear with this latest project either. I don’t suppose one can lay the blame at his feet, though. This issue provides a denouement not only to the previous plotlines of this series but to Cry for Justice. Scheduling isn’t Robinson’s department, and what came before in this series isn’t either. Unfortunately, the debut of this new creative doesn’t read like a debut, and seeing a bunch of B-list heroes stand around and complain about the state of the League just wasn’t that interesting.
One of the most confusing things about this issue isn’t Robinson’s fault either, and that’s DC’s failure to market the comic book effectively. I was surprised to find some strong references to Blackest Night, yet for some reason, those responsible for the cover design and dress offer no indication of any link. It’s not a criticism of the storytelling, but I think DC’s missing out on capitalizing on its strongest brand at the moment, losing out on potential sales.
Mark Bagley’s energetic style is a good choice for a series such as JLA; the point of this series should be larger-than-life action and adventure. That being said, I’ve seen better visuals in the past on other comics to which Bagley has contributed. It looks like inker Rob Hunter’s style doesn’t mesh all that well with his. I was also disappointed to find that the female characters’ faces are rendered inconsistently. Vixen’s and Dr. Light’s morph over the course of a double-page spread early in the comic, for example. 3/10
Kill Audio #1 (Boom! Studios/Evil Ink Comics)
by Claudio Sanchez, Chondra Enchert & Mr. Sheldon
Boom! Studios has been marketing this new title pretty hard, I suppose because it’s penned by alt-rocker Claudio Sanchez. I imagine I’m meant to recognize the name, but his little corner of pop culture is one with which I am wholly unfamiliar. Still, the unusual title and Boom’s decent track record was enough to get me to check out this comic book. After reading it, I find it’s difficult to describe, though one could liken it to a The Wizard of Oz remake directed by Spike Jonze and starring Jack Black. But then, as Chico, the cocaine-addicted cock, says in this issue, “Unfortunately, bitches, this ain’t no Yellow Brick Road.” I really have no idea what Sanchez and Enchert are trying to say with their script. Clearly, they’re satirizing society, but I find the meaning elusive. It might be that the problem is that the meaning is drowned out by just how loud the story is. I always felt the comic — with its plot about an immortal embarking on a quest to find purpose in his eternal life — wasn’t trying to tell me something but rather yell something at me.
Mr. Sheldon’s distorted, extreme designs and linework certainly is in keeping with the surreal, weird tone of the character concepts and settings. His design for Chico, for example, is disgusting, but the character is meant to be a repellent figure. Some elements are far too ambiguous in appearance; I couldn’t tell what Mr. Beav’s companion was supposed to be, for example, nor could I tell what the creatures that ate the sentient newspaper are either. 4/10
The Last Resort #3 (IDW Publishing)
by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray & Giancarlo Caracuzzo
Despite the slow pacing of the plot, The Last Resort continues to impress as writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray handle the expansive cast of characters adeptly. Those characters serve as the strength of this series, as the elements of the zombie story are predictable. And that’s fine. The writers aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here but are simply filling each page with an abundance of personality. The conflict isn’t the characters’ efforts to survive the zombie plague or to protect the rest of the world, but rather it’s their journey toward the truth. It’s fun watching them piece together an impossible mystery, edging toward the realization of the horrific reality in which they find themselves. The reader has known the answer from the start, but the entertainment lies with the characters’ slow but steady discovery — not only of the threat but of the cause as well. I was pleased to find that this issue reveals that there’s a few survivors from the resort, not just all from the flight.
Caracuzzo boasts an attractive style that’s something like a cross between the art of Phil (Batgirl covers) Noto and Eduardo (The Long Haul) Barreto. There’s no denying that a big part of the appeal of his work here are the lithe, attractive figures he provides for many of the characters, but he doesn’t sexualize all of them. The muted colors he provides are lovely as well while still maintaining a dark atmosphere that the horror elements call for. And then there’s the cover art. Darwyn Cooke’s cover image conveys just about everything one needs to know about this story. There’s the exotic beauty, the gory violence and a Looney Tunes-esque approach to humor as well. Still, while I love Cooke’s work, I found the more exaggerated elements — the woman’s oversized head, pencil-thin neck and hamhock thighs — distract rather than add to the effectiveness of the image. 7/10
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