Category Archives: Reviews – Quick Critiques

Quick Critiques – Nov. 4, 2012

Variant coverVariant coverA+X #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Dan Slott, Ron Garney, Danny Miki, Cam Smith & Mark Morales/Jeph Loeb, Dale Keown & Miki

I had no interest in Marvel’s Avengers Vs. X-Men crossover event, but when the publisher solicited this title, I have to admit my curiosity was piqued. I’m a huge fan of the Marvel and DC teamup titles of yesteryear — DC Comics Presents, Marvel Team-Up, The Brave and the Bold and Marvel Two-in-One — and this new series, pairing individual members of the Avengers and X-Men, seemed to promise the same kind of fun. Still, I was leery, but the two stories featured here do boast that kind of fun, traditional super-hero storytelling I so enjoyed in its afore-mentioned teamup title predecessors. The opening story — a Captain America/Cable teamup set during the Second World War — had a solid premise to bring the two distinctly different heroes together. It’s a rather inconsequential story, but that’s the sort of fare that seemed to work best in teamup books. Most of all, the first story brings artist Ron Garney back together with Cap, the character that really put him on the map in mainstream comics.

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Quick Critiques – Oct. 11, 2012

VariantAme-Comi Girls Featuring Wonder Woman #1 (DC Comics)
by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Amanda Conner, Tony Akins & Walden Wong

Not in a million year did I ever think I’d take a glance, let alone purchase, one of the comics DC spun off from its gratuitously sexual Ame-Comi statuettes of its iconic female characters, but my local comics retailer pointed out this one was crafted mainly by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Amanda Conner, noting this particular creative team has never delivered a dud. I am a big fan of Conner’s work and of much of the writing team’s efforts, so I found myself caving, picking up a copy of the comic (which I believe was initially published online some months ago). Palmiotti and Gray offer up a distinctly interesting take on Wonder Woman, altering her origin in significant ways to set it apart from versions we’ve seen before. In this spin on the concept, Queen Hippolyta sends a reluctant Diana to America to serve as an ambassador, in part to teach her the value of diplomacy over war. It’s like Odin exiling his son Thor to Midgard to teach him humility. It’s a fun read with several elements that will please traditional Wonder Woman fans, those interested in her new ongoing series and those just interested in something a little different. I was also pleased to find the $4 cover price offers 30 pages of story and art. It’s 50 per cent more content for a 33 per cent hike in price.

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Quick Critiques – Sept. 26, 2012

Geek-Girl #0 (Actuality Press)
by Sam Johnson & Sally Thompson

The writer and creator of this project, Sam Johnson, sent along a review copy, and the title boasted a campy charm, so I figured I’d enjoy what I assumed was a satirical take on the super-hero genre. There’s definitely a tongue-in-cheek quality at play throughout the comic book, but the story seems to toe the line between satire and convention. What’s off-putting about Johnson’s writing here is his characterization. Just about every character is distasteful in some way. The title character comes off as opportunistic and petty, determined to steal what eventually becomes the source of her power in order to stick it to a guy she doesn’t like. Supporting players in the story come off as being just as shallow, if not moreso. By the time I got to a thinly veiled reference to casual anal sex in the script, I felt completely alienated by the writing. The scene transitions are awkward as well. The unfortunate thing is the core premise is kind of cute and would resonate somewhat in genre fan culture.

Sally Thompson’s artwork boasts an initial appeal. At first, there’s a softness to the title character’s features, and Thompson’s style at first reminded me of Takeshi Miyazawa’s cute, Amerimanga artwork. But as the story progressed, the quality of the linework seemed to deteriorate. By the end of the book, it looks as though the art was inked using a finger rather than a fine brush or nib. The design for the heroine’s costume is gratuitous in nature, but it’s obvious Johnson’s property is about exploring (or poking fun at) a bookish kind of sexuality that’s popular in geek culture. Geek-Girl strikes me as an amateur effort that would benefit from some editing guidance and more artistic experience. 3/10

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Quick Critiques – Sept. 3, 2012

Green Lantern Annual #1 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Ethan Van Sciver, Pete Woods & Cam Smith

This annual certainly feels as though it merits the label. It feels like an important moment in the series, offering not only an end to the previous storyline — the Sinestro/Hal team — but also a launching point for the larger “Rise of the Third Army” crossover story about to run through all four of DC’s Green Lantern-related titles. Unfortunately, the Sinestro/Hal plot isn’t allowed to resolve on its own, and in order to follow this comic book, one is really required to be well versed in the past few years of GL continuity (notably, Blackest Night and the ethical deterioration of the Guardian of the Universe in its wake). There’s something surprisingly satisfying about seeing the Guardians become the villains of the story rather than simply an authoritarian obstacle for the title character to overcome. There’s something downright anti-Republican about their mission to make everyone in the universe to be and think just like them that somehow allowed this space-opera/fantasy story to resonate a little more with me, especially given current events in the United States. I continue to enjoy and appreciate Black Hand as a villain, which 20-30 years ago, when I first encountered the character, I would’ve thought to be impossible. Nevertheless, I can’t shake the feeling the reader has to be a devotee to Johns’s GL comics over the past few years to really get the most out of this story (and so many others before it).

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Quick Critiques – Aug. 15, 2012

Variant coverBatman #12 (DC Comics)
by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Becky Cloonan & Andy Clarke

Writer Scott Snyder takes a much different tack with this self-contained issue of the relaunched Batman, and it’s a welcome change of pace. The focus shifts away from the Dark Knight and his war with a secret society in Gotham to a much more grounded character study. Harper Row is impossibly competent and confident. Her skills with Gotham’s electrical grid defy credibility, but it’s easy to overlook how Snyder builds her up. She stands out as an admirable figure, someone who’s far removed from the complexities of Gotham’s better known residents. She’s a rebel but a caregiver, a protector and a nurturer. She finds wonder in things the rest of us ignore or take for granted, and she’s a self-made woman. One can’t help but be drawn to her. Adding to her appeal is the personality artist Becky Cloonan instills in the new character. There’s no doubt about it — one of the main reasons this character study works so well is thanks to Cloonan’s artwork. She somehow imbues the character with credibility despite the more incredible elements I mentioned above. While Harper, as presented by Cloonan, boasts a certain cuteness at times, it’s the strength she exudes that defines her, a quality that’s apparent in how Cloonan has her move, how she carries her face. Though Harper clearly lives as an adult and has become a surrogate parent for her tormented younger brother, Cloonan also grants the character certain child-like qualities as well.

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Quick Critiques – Aug. 5, 2012

Black Kiss 2 #1 (Image Comics)
by Howard Chaykin

When I was a comic-loving teen, I was focused exclusively on the super-hero genre. While my best friend didn’t buy and read as many comics as I did, he had a more varied cultural palate and a willingness to delve into more unusual subject matter. As such, he had Chaykin’s Black Kiss lying around his room. I thumbed through it and was riveted… but not by the strength of the acclaimed work. I was a teenager, after all. It was the strong sexual content that grabbed my attention. More than 20 years later, I can’t recall what Black Kiss was about at all, but it’s been mentioned by those in the know with such respect, I felt compelled to check out this followup as someone no longer a slave to his baser desires and as someone who’s actually touched a boobie. To my disappointment, I found a confusing confluence of imagery. The first half of the comic boasts an odd, unwelcoming, stream-of-consciousness-style approach to the narrative. Chaykin does an excellent job of capturing the culture of a different time, but I honestly have no idea what the story is meant to be about. Its sudden shift to a different backdrop — the Titanic — doesn’t help with the confusion. Before the first plotline can take root, the audience is jarred away, whisked to a more coherent, focused narrative that’s nevertheless just as devoid of context and clear meaning.

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Quick Critiques – June 16, 2012

Batman Annual #1 (DC Comics)
by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & Jason Fabok

Writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion retcon the origin of Mr. Freeze in this annual, and some fans of the villain concept (perhaps best fleshed out in Batman: The Animated Series) haven’t reacted well to it. But by the end of the opening prologue scene, the writers had me; I was in. They’ve presented a vision of Victor Fries as a much more damaged and unstable figure, but I think he remains just as tragic. The anguish that drives him, rather than stemming from a personal loss, arises from mental illness. These revisions add to the character, in my view, and I also appreciated the more direct connection to Bruce Wayne. The script strives a little too hard to connect the story to the “Night of the Owls” storyline from the Batman line of books, and it’s really not necessary. Snyder and Tynion are clearly trying to suck in a few more readers with the tenuous connection and justify that “Night of the Owls” logo on the cover. Since no Talons or Owls or whatever turn up in this story, though, they’re more likely to annoy readers who picked the comic up specifically for the Owl connection.

Jason Fabok’s art is effective and sharp. It reminds me a great deal of the style of Gary (“Shazam!” feature in Justice League) Frank, and its level of detail and realism really brings out the drama — notably in the opening and closing flashback scenes. Those scenes are particularly striking due to the sparse background detail. The rural setting isolates Victor physically, reflecting the isolation he’ll experience socially and psychologically later in life. The almost blank background in those flashbacks also works as a symbol of young Victor as a blank slate who’s about to be defined by an extreme circumstance. The muted blues and greys in those scenes also convey the cold — both literally and thematically — quite effectively. 7/10

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Quick Critiques – May 22, 2012

Marvel’s The Avengers in RealD 3D movie (Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures)
directed by Joss Whedon

Because one person demanded it, here are my thoughts on the Avengers flick — spoiler free, I assure you. There are two elements that influenced my movie-viewing experience Saturday night, and the first was seeing the movie more than a week after its release. The box-office success and hyperbole I’ve seen from fans and comics professionals alike online really built the movie up. I had people tell me even though they went in with high expectations, Avengers exceeded them. I didn’t feel the same enthusiasm for the film, though I couldn’t really pinpoint anything about it that disappointed in any real way. The movie’s paced well, and it boasts an interesting story, a punchy script, great effects and a strong emphasis on interpersonal conflicts to go along with the widescreen action in the third act. I was also impressed with how well balanced the movie is; all of the players get moments to shine. I was also surprised to find Scarlett Johannson’s role was pivotal throughout the film. The movie’s a lot of fun at times and boasts some great moments of humor, but it also exhibits some strong dramatic tension. The only character that doesn’t really seem like his original comic-book incarnation is Hawkeye. I also appreciated how the second act focuses on a much different sort of conflict than I expected, and the action in the climax unfolds quite differently than what the marketing campaign led me to expect. Nevertheless, while I thought the movie was solid across the board, I don’t agree Avengers the best super-hero movie ever made. The Incredibles and The Dark Knight stand above it for me.

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Quick Critiques – April 30, 2012

Oh man, I’m way behind on my writing for Eye on Comics. It’s been a crazy month, but I can’t attribute the lull on the site entirely to being busy. Some of the blame can be attributed to procrastination and laziness, which I’m assuming was caused by some sort of viral infection my stout frame has managed to fend off by way of a superior immune system and sheer, hairy manliness.

Ahem.

This small collection of capsule reviews has been lying around on my computer for at least a couple of weeks, unfinished and begging to be fleshed out. I finally managed to do so today, because, arbitrarily, I decided I needed at least one more site update before the end of April 2012. Contained herein, you’ll find reviews of Batman #8, Courtney Crumrin #1, Saga #2 and Saucer Country #2.

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Quick Critiques – April 9, 2012

Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction, John Romita Jr. & Scott Hanna

A number of some of the best comics works the medium has ever seen — be it in the super-hero genre or otherwise — come from singular creative visions or focused collaborations. With its committee of writers (who outnumber the interior artists), Avengers Vs. X-Men obviously doesn’t fall into such a category, but then, no one was expecting this to be a milestone in comics craft. The crossover event is meant as a guilty pleasure; too bad the creators left out the pleasure part. There’s nothing particularly off-putting about the storytelling here, but there’s nothing particularly compelling either. Perhaps the most frustrating part of the story is the fact Cyclops, representing the X-Men’s perspective in this leadup to a battle royale between two factions, is so clearly in the wrong. As one of the other characters points out, he behaves like a villain here, seeing a potentially world-ending threat as an opportunity to advance his own agenda. Marvel has marketed this in part by urging readers to pick sides, but there’s only one side to choose.

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Quick Critiques – March 31, 2012

Jurassic StrikeForce 5 #3 (Zenescope Entertainment/Silver Dragon Books)
by Joe Brusha, Neo Edmund & J.L. Giles-Rivera

I’ll give this comic credit — its title tells you exactly what to expect from it. That’s right, this series is about five humanoids dinosaur super-soldiers, tasked with fighting an alien overlord and his loyal saurian troops. It’s ridiculous, over-the-top and actually quite a bit of fun, to be honest. Neo Edmund’s script, working from Joe Brusha’s story, is perfectly accessible; this issue picks up the story in the middle, with the heroes captured, but I had no problem following the plot and figuring out who the players are. Mind you, this isn’t exactly the most complex concept either. Despite the bestial look of the heroes and villains, this seems like appropriate fare for kids. In fact, it’s definitely more appropriate for kids than adults; the writing and concepts are a bit too rudimentary and obvious to appeal to an older crowd. The way the premise is constructed reminded me a great deal of kids’ cartoons of the 1980s, and the way the comic reads, it feels more like a springboard for an animated TV series than something meant for this medium.

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Quick Critiques – March 16, 2012

DC Comics Presents: Blink #1 (DC Comics)
by Dwayne McDuffie, Val Semeiks, Dan Green & Renato Guedes

This is one of DC’s 100-page reprints I picked up recently because my local comic shop had it on sale dirt cheap, but had I known the story within was so strong, I definitely would’ve shelled out full price for it. In the main, three-part story, the late Dwayne McDuffie offered up a great premise about a blind con artist who witnesses a murder thanks to a special ability he uses to bilk people of thousands. The premise of the murder — that it’s one of several committed to supply the depraved elite of Gotham with snuff films — is secondary to the blind man’s shtick, which gains more credibility from the fact the story’s set in the DC Universe. It’s a fun story that mixes traditional Batman storytelling of yesteryear with a more clever, modern approach to plotting. While the main story is reprinted from a short arc in Legends of the Dark Knight from a decade ago, the reprint book is rounded out by a more recent Superman story from a 2007 issue of Action Comics v.1. There’s no thematic link to “Blink;” McDuffie’s the only link. It’s a perfectly serviceable standalone story, but it’s also predictable. The characterization of Ma and Pa Kent is well done, though.

Val Semeiks was an odd choice to illustrate McDuffie’s “Blink” story, as he boasts a more cartoony style that really doesn’t reflect the darker elements in the story. It is in keeping with the traditional tone for which the writer strives, though. Semeiks’ designs are a bit disappointing. The blind con artist dresses like a caricature from the 1950s, making it a little more difficult to find him believable, and the wealthy man who serves as one of the key villains of the story looks far too much like Commissioner Gordon, making for a moment of confusion when he’s introduced. Renato Guedes’ photorealistic approach for the Superman story is attractive but stiff, and his interpretation of the Kents is unlike others I’ve seen, though perhaps more convincing and believable. The detail and realism conflict with the sci-fi elements, robbing the story of some of its sense of wonder. 7/10

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Quick Critiques – March 11, 2012

Grace Randolph’s Supurbia #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Grace Randolph & Russell Dauterman

This new comic has a pretty strong buzz going, enough to pique my curiosity, and after reading it, I can understand why it appeals to a number of readers. While some have described it as Desperate Housewives mixed with the super-hero genre, I think the origins of the storytelling stem from something much more grounded. This story is about the spouses of powerful men (and a woman), and how they deal with lives of stress, publicity and privilege. The most telling bit of writing in the book is a description of a key character, Ruth Smith: “Army wife, superhero First Lady, a closed book.” It’s the “First Lady” part that resonates. In this book, we meet the wives of men whose power is matched only by their appetites and egos. Great men make great mistakes, and Randolph explores the personalities of the people who have to put up with and fix the problems that come along with lives of responsibility and opulence. I found the nerdy, meek but pleasant husband of the Wonder Woman archetype character to be the most likable figure in the book, and the most grounded. More importantly, it’s fun and interesting to see Randolph approach gender bias and inequity in a family from the opposite tack that one would usually expect.

There are a couple of problems with the story, though.

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Quick Critiques – March 3, 2012

Glory #23 (Image Comics)
by Joe Keatinge & Ross Campbell

“Everything is different now.” I’ll say. I’ve developed a newfound respect for Rob Liefeld for his decisions to place his genre comic properties in the hands of indie/alt-comics talent. I snapped up the resurrected Prophet series thanks to the involvement of Brandon (King City) Graham and Simon (Jan’s Atomic Heart) Roy, and I couldn’t resist the Ross (Wet Moon) Campbell in Glory. Joe Keatinge’s a well-known and respected figure in comics but is best known for his work as an editor on the lauded Popgun books. I was pleased to find he delivers a strong script for this (essentially) first issue that achieves a nice balance between the extreme fantasy of super-hero comics and more relatable, character-driven elements. Keatinge brings the title character down to earth by frequently focusing on her through the eyes of a journalism student who feels drive to seek out the missing heroine. Furthermore, the script builds up Glory as mythic and unstoppable throughout the issue, which makes the impact of the revelation at the end of the issue all the more potent.

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Quick Critiques – Jan. 15, 2012

Captain America and Bucky #625 (Marvel Entertainment)
by James Asmus, Ed Brubaker & Francesco Francavilla

I was all set to leave this title behind when artist Chris Samnee left the series. His work was its greatest strength, but then I heard his replacement was to be Francesco Francavilla. I’ve enjoyed his recent work, and have been particularly impressed with his cover art on recent Hellboy comics and the classic-movie-poster-style pinups he’s done on Comic Twart. With that in mind, I was quite surprised at how his art on Cap and Bucky didn’t hook me. It looks rough, and the figures don’t seem as dynamic as what I expected based on his past efforts. The color scheme is off too; I don’t like the reds. And I wish Francavilla had included a better glimpse of the second Captain America’s previous identity, the Spirit of ’76.

I enjoyed the done-in-one stories that preceded this issue, but they were, for the most part, predictable. Unfortunately, the multi-issue arc getting underway here seems pretty transparent as well. The second Cap’s grandson’s appearance is all too convenient, and Asmus’ script all but tells us his true nature. The notion the title hero or the elderly former Bucky’s narration make no mention of suspicions seems pretty ridiculous. Still, I’m always interested when writers explore relatively obscure characters from decades past, and the narrator’s voice throughout the issue rings true. 5/10

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