Saturday, September 12, 2009

Weekly Comic Book Reviews for 9/10/09

Sorry for my lack of updates the past few weeks. I have been getting back into school mode as my summer ended three weeks ago. But now that I am back to getting my school work load in order I should be updating my blog more often. Though my reviews will probably start coming out on Fridays or Saturdays with the Legen—wait for it—dary Comic Book Highlights going back to being posted on the Wednesday after the comics are released. I will try to post them sooner but don't hold me to that. Also be sure to catch my reviews over on Rokk's Comic Book Revolution like my Batman #690 and Invincible Iron #17 reviews from this past week. Now time to get on to this week's comic book reviews.

Amazing Spider-Man #604

Creative Team
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Barry Kitson
Inkers: Rick Ketcham and Barry Kitson
Colorist: Jeromy Cox and Antovio Fabela

Story – Red-Headed Stranger: The Ancient Gallery

While this storyline isn't as good as the previous two stories we have gotten on Amazing Spider-Man with American Son and Amazing Spider-Man #600 this was still a very entertaining Spider-Man stories. It is stories like Red-Headed Stranger why even though how much I hate how Marvel executed the "reboot" to Spider-Man with One More Day/Brand New Day I have accepted the new status quo. This is just a fun Spider-Man story that we probably wouldn't have gotten if Marvel didn't have the balls to change things up with their biggest character.

What I like about this issue is all of the character work Van Lente did in this issue. And it is really a credit to Van Lente's writing in this arc that I was looking forward more to Peter's reaction to what Chameleon did to his personal life last issue than the big superhero vs. supervillain fight. Even though I did want to see Spider-Man take Chameleon I am glad we didn't get it as Van Lente has made Chameleon, a very underrated villain, cool again and the truth is the conclusion of Chameleon's plan wasn't the greatest.

And it is great that Spider-Man did not catch Chameleon and that the character will be appearing in the near future as part of The Gauntlet. It helps build interest for the next big Spider-Man story following American Son. As we saw in the preview of things to come for the next half year to year in Amazing Spider-Man one of the things we know is that some of Spider-Man's villains will be hunting down Spider-Man and/or themselves. This small build up helps to show that even though there is a rotating team of writers that the Spider-Man Brain Trust does have long term plans for the character and his supporting cast.

I loved how Peter discovered all the things Chameleon did to his life while Chameleon took his identity. I thought it was hilarious seeing Peter think how he should hire Chameleon to be him more often only to learn he is now in a relationship with Michelle. Peter's reaction, along with what he said to Michelle when entering his apartment and what she was wearing, was very funny.

Also I like that we finally got the "big" conversation between Peter and MJ. Van Lente did a very good job with the execution of the first conversation between the two. I like that Van Lente didn't go all melodramatic on us with the two finally meeting and showed us that these two are in much better terms than we originally thought and that MJ does in fact know Peter is Spider-Man. Though I did get the feeling the reason they aren't together is because of Peter spending too much time as Spider-Man. Just a feeling.

The only thing I didn't dig to much was Harry moving in to Aunt May's house. After everything that has happened to Harry the past year I would have liked to see Van Lente use the opportunity of Harry being at such a low point to take him off the table to give more attention to the rest of the supporting cast. I am just kind of bored of the character and I really don't want to see more of Harry's problem with alcohol and drugs which has been hinted at because of what happened in American Son.

As for Barry Kitson's artwork, I did enjoy most of his artwork for this issue. Kitson style is a very good fit for a character like Spider-Man. The only thing about his artwork for this issue was that there were some inconsistencies in a few panels, but that is the only negative to his artwork.

Issue Rating
Story: 8.6/10 – With some solid character work and nice action Fred Van Lente did a very good job in his first arc on this title.
Art: 8/10 – Minor inconsistencies aside Barry Kitson did a fine job with the artwork in this issue.
Overall: 8.3/10 – The Red Headed Stranger ends with a very solid issue. This is a fun Spider-Man story that takes the character and his supporting cast back to basics with the story having an old school Spider-Man story feel to it. I recommend picking this up for any Spider-Man looking for a fun Spider-Man story.

Blackest Night: Batman #2

Creative Team
Writer: Peter Tomasi
Artist: Ardian Syaf
Inker: Vicente Cifuentes
Colorist: Nei Ruffino

Story – Who Burns Who

I really enjoyed the first issue of this three issue mini-series. Peter Tomasi just knocked it out of the park with the first issue of Blackest Night: Batman. Which would be surprising in the hands of any other writer trying to tie-in all of the street level characters that encompasses the Batman universe but this is Tomasi and he just understands this universe especially Dick Grayson.

This issue continued were Tomasi left of in the last issue and it was just a blast to read. Tomasi has a great understanding of these characters. I love how he shows that Dick, along with the rest of the Batcharacters, is still adjusting to his new role and just how much Dick has to juggle in the beginning of his career as Batman. With having to deal with Hush impersonating Bruce, a new Black Mask trying a mass takeover the gangs in Gotham, Two-Face, and Red Hood the addition of him having to deal with the Black Lanterns only adds to the pressures of the mountain of problems he has had to deal with.

And what I liked about it is that even with the knowledge of all the dead rising from the dead and knowing his parents would be members of the Black Lanterns, Dick was able to push through it and only think of what his, Damian, and Tim's next move should be. This helps to show that Dick is even in the face of all the problems he has to deal with is showing us that he is not crumbling under all of the problems he has to face and is the right person to take the mantle of the Batman. A good example of this is the difference in reaction between Dick and Tim when they each saw their parents. For Tim he became completely stunned at seeing his parents while Dick was only worried about what they should do next and decided to crash the Batplane in order to escape being killed by the Black Lantern Drakes and Graysons.

I also liked how Tomasi wrote Dick's relationship with Damian and how he is still learning things about his new protégé. Damian has shown to be a handful as Robin for Dick. And I like that slowly Damian is slowly showing respect to Dick since before he only showed respect to his father and would careless about anyone else's opinions.

The only thing I hope that we get in the final issue is to get Deadman involved more in it. As he showed in this issue and the first Deadman is a nice source of comedy for what is a very dark story involving the Black Lanterns. Hopefully we see more of him and more information of why his body did rise from the grave even though his soul is not a part of his Black Lantern counterpart.

Issue Rating
Story: 9.4/10 – Tomasi knocks it out of the park again. He does a very good job integrating Batman's world into Blackest Night.
Art: 8.7/10 – Adrian Syaf does a solid job with the artwork as he gives this issue the creepy vibe that Blackest Night has had with all the dead rising from the grave. The dark look of his artwork, much credit to his inker and colorist, to go along with what is going on in the story.
Overall: 9.05/10 – Blackest Night: Batman #2 was another great read. So far I have been enjoying all of the tie-in work much more than the actual series so far. And this issue is just a fun read as we see Batman go up against zombie versions of dead characters from all of Batman's history.

Red Robin #4

Creative Team
Writer: Chris Yost
Artist: Ramon Bachs
Colorist: Guy Major

Story – The Grail: Conclusion

The most frustrating thing about reading Red Robin is that series really does have a lot of potential to be a very good comic book. I really do want to like this series as I grew up with Tim being Robin and really like the character, though Dick Grayson is my favorite Robin. But sadly the execution of the story from both a writing and artistic perspective is just horrible. And this fourth issue of the series is the same as the previous three.

While I have been asking for an answer to why Tim thinks Bruce is alive the way Yost chooses to make Tim's feelings right is just sloppy storytelling that you can read from a fanfiction. Instead of showing us different clues and/or hints to why Tim feels that Bruce is alive we go straight to the caves we saw Bruce drawing the Batsymbol on. Even though as a reader we know that Bruce is the one that drew them we are never told why Tim believes it is Bruce and not just some random drawing. And if we are suppose to believe that Tim is the great detective he has shown himself to be than just one drawing should be the only thing he discovers to confirm his feeling for Bruce being alive.

Also it does not help that Tim went through a similar thing when Connor and Bart died. All of this having Tim dealing with his grief in the wrong way is just getting old. It has been such a long time since we have seen more of the character that was supposed to be the next Batman that the Tim we are getting now is a shell of himself. And how he continues to push people away, as shown by his confrontation with Dick in this issue, is very boring and Tim almost becomes unlikable with how paranoid he is with thinking that Dick, Stephanie, Cassie, the JLA, and everyone he knew are against him. I really hope all of this leads to something that will be positive development with the character other than Tim going to everyone and basically saying "You all thought I was crazy? Who is the crazy one now?"

And all the flashbacks just kill any momentum we may get in the issue. I will say that I did like moments like Dick and Tim's confrontation and the final few pages with a new villain but they did not carry much impact as the flashbacks kill all of these moments. The constant shifts in the past and present is done horribly and very amateurish.

Issue Rating
Story: 4.1/10 – Yost does a very sloppy job with the storytelling in this issue. Yost isn't moving the plot much and the revelation in this issue felt very forced
Art: 5/10 – Ramon Bachs artwork continues to be very inconsistent and rushed. His artwork only makes this issue story even more dull than the writing was already making this to series to be.
Overall: 4.55/10 – Red Robin #4was another disappointing read. All of the constant flashbacks give the story a very uneven read. Even the revelation of Tim finding a clue to Bruce being alive is horribly done. Hopefully this improves in the next issue as I do want to like this series.

The Marvels Project #2

Creative Team
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Steve Epting
Colorist: Dave Stewart

Story – Chapter Two

As I said in my previews for this issue the first issue was not a great read but it did a nice job capturing my interest in this mini-series. The main problem with the last issue was a very slow and methodical approach Brubaker took with the issue was a bit boring. And even though this second issue does carry the same slow and methodical approach Brubaker usually takes with his books this was a very enjoyable issue with a lot of depth.

I think one of the greatest things about this mini-series is that it feels like an organic story that has grown from Brubaker and Epting's run on Captain America. Even though I know how this story will turn out in the end it is funny learning more about the history of the Marvel Universe in comic book form. It was one of the fun things about Captain America as Brubaker and Eptings as they showed us some of the past history of Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes. And here we are learning much more about those flashback scenes and learning more about the characters that shaped the current Marvel Universe with the original Angel and Human Torch, Nick Fury, and Dr. Ersktine.

What makes this story a much more layered read is that it has a real world feel with the setting being in WWII. The use of historical figures along with the Marvel characters is very well done and does not feel forced like it sometimes does when Marvel tries to use real world examples in their books.

Steve Eptings artwork adds much more to this story. No one draws dark and gritty stories like Epting as he perfectly captures the mood of the time with his artwork. Epting's artwork also makes him a perfect fit for this series and makes this story much more importance as it connects to the story being told in Captain America and Captain America: Reborn.

Issue Rating
Story: 8/10 – Brubaker methodical approach to this series makes this a very textured read as he develops characters that I never knew much about like the original Angel and Human Torch into very interesting characters along with long time characters like Nick Fury.
Art: 9/10 – Eptings artwork continues to be phenomenal as his style is a perfect fit for this mini-series.
Overall: 8.5/10 – The Marvels Project was a very good issue that has me hooked to see what Brubaker and Eptings have in store for this story, while predictable in the ending. Though if you have not picked up these first two issues I recommend getting this mini-series when it comes out in trade paperback as it will read even better in TPB form.

Ultimate Comics Avengers #2

Creative Team
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Carlos Pacheco
Inkers: Danny Miki, Dexter Vines, Crime Lab Studios, Martinez and Olazaba, and Chism
Colorist: Justin Ponsor

Story – The Next Generation Part 2 of 6

Just like the first issue Ultimate Comics Avengers #2 was just a blast to read. Even though I can question if the price jump to $3.99 as being the right thing to do especially since Marvel does not increase the page count Millar just knows how to make the reader feel they got their money's worth. Just like his Ultimates 1 and 2 this series is just some high-octane action/adventure blockbuster movie that gives you characters to love.

Millar does an awesome job balancing quality character work with some great action. The best of his character work is with Captain America. He does a fantastic job showing that this is not the 616 version of the character as he has a much more take no shit attitude than his 616-counterpart. This Cap is much more of an badass as he does what he thinks is right and does not allow anyone get in his way. And I like how Millar shows that Cap is constantly learning and that he truly is one of the most dangerous person in the world.

Also Millar does a great job with his characterization of Nick Fury and Hawkeye. Both these characters are very well written and remind me why these characters were so awesome during his run on Ultimates. And I love the addition of Tony's older brother, who isn't as nice as his younger brother, and a new Black Widow. It will be interesting to learn more about these new characters and how Nick will use them in his Project: Avengers.

Maybe the best character work by Millar in this issue is Ultimate Red Skull. He just does a fantastic job wasting no time showing us the origin of the character and makes him into a badass villain and a viable threat for Cap and the rest of the Avengers to face. And I am glad that Ultimate Red Skull is Steve's son who is a mercenary for hire than just a Nazi villain. It is a nice change to the character to breathe new life into the character. I look forward to seeing more of the character and seeing how the father vs. son angle goes down between Cap and Red Skull.

Carlos Pachico artwork is fantastic in this issue though his artwork suffers from having an inker by committee that gives the issue a bit of an inconsistent look. But just as a fan of Pachico I am glad to see Marvel properly use Pacheco and not just let him do a bunch of covers like he was in DC. When given the opportunity Pacheco is one of the best out there and it is great to see him get some high profile work to show why he is so great.

Issue Rating
Story: 8.8/10 – Millar does a fantastic job with all of the character work in this issue and I am glad that Miller wasted no time in telling us the origin of the Ultimate Red Skull.
Art: 7.6/10 – Carlos Pachico does a fine job with the artwork for this issue though his artwork does suffer from having an inker by committee set-up in this issue.
Overall: 8.2/10 – Ultimate Comics Avengers #2 was just a blast to read. Millar and Pacheco combine to deliver a comic that has a big blockbuster movie type feel that will not disappoint in how much you should enjoy it. If you can spare the $3.99 price tag this series has I definitely recommend picking this issue and series up.