Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Comic Haul - 01/21/09

I made a resolution that I was going to try and do more, and more frequent, reviews on the blog, so I decided to start with this comic week and resurrect the ol' Comic Haul which hasn't made an appearance since July, I think, of last year. I also decided to change the format a little focusing on totally current books from a variety of publishers rather than what I've focused on in the past, which had more to do with what I was reading at the time than anything else. I should also note that the new reviews being posted will go up every Sunday which should give me enough time to acquire, read and write the thing up.

With luck, this will be the first step of several that I would like to take with Meanwhile... that will expand the scope a little and bring some new regular content to the site.

So, without further ado...

Robin #182: DC bills this as the stunning conclusion to "Search for a Hero" but, in all honesty, the story lost its gravity about two or three issues ago when it just would not end. None of the hanging plot threads showed any promise of being resolved and the character moments were either too few, or too flat, to carry this thing over six whole issues. Everything from Robin's 'betrayal' by Stephanie/Spoiler, to the big villain reveal, lacked the necessary punch to make this anything other than another decompressed, dragged out summer event space-filler. I started buying this book when Chuck Dixon returned and, with the exception of the work done by Freddie Williams, have continually questioned why I have stayed with it beyond his departure. Seeing as how the series is 'ending' with the next issue, I'll probably grab the finale, throw them in the longboxes and find something that will engage me a little more.

The Mighty Avengers #21: The new team of Dan Slott and Khoi Pham kick off a three part post-Secret Invasion tale that has a very getting the band back together vibe to it. Not surprising, Slott and Pham do their level best to come out swinging and put their stamp on the book right away. The Scarlet Witch returns, Hank Pym's origin is retold, Mount Wundagore makes an appearance (as do a couple of characters who have a connection to that particular locale) and we see all the founding members it was physically possible to assemble, including an appearance by Jarvis. A lot of big ideas are slung around and Slott clearly has an affection for Dr. Pym and a desire to make him a player in the new Marvel status quo but, thankfully, not at the expense of past characterizations. Pham's artwork is capable and consistent, although I wasn't a fan of his Wundagore pages, and I expect he will really round out as an artist and continue to evolve with a monthly book to grind away on. Still, while I can appreciate what these guys are doing here I did feel that this issue had a little too much flash and just not enough substance to make me want to come back on any kind of regular basis.

30 Days of Night: 30 Days 'Til Death #1: I was originally going to pass this one over but the idea of the 30 Days franchise bringing in David Lapham and his idea that the old world vamps, unhappy with the events at Barrow and beyond, are coming to cull the herd in the new world suckered me in to trying this first issue. Considering the differences in style between Lapham and Templesmith's I thought I would be trying to reconcile the two while reading this but, luckily, I found that was not the case. Lapham's art was simple but engaging and only really lost me in one scene where a couple of his designs for the old world vamps felt a The story itself is definitely a slow burn with events unfolding at a pretty leisurely pace, but there are a few choice moments that will probably be enough to bring me back for another go.

Ghost Rider #31: I haven't bought, let alone read, a Ghost Rider comic since the nineties so I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed GR#31. Tan Eng Huat was the initial draw as I've been a fan of his work since his Doom Patrol revival with John Arcudi but, I have to say, the story by Jason Aaron was very fun and entertaining. I normally rail against the idea of turning every super-hero into a legacy character since it is something that is sooo overdone, but Aaron has spun this concept of Spirits of Vengeance from all over the world and every religion and it's part of what I'm finding really compelling about this book. Huat's storytelling is still top notch here handling both action and dialogue scenes with aplomb. Robert Boschi tag-teams with Huat for a few pages doing the first five pages of the book (which are a flashback) and the styles are sympatico enough that it doesn't derail the reader at all when the transition is made. Lastly, kudos to these guys for having a story so accessible that I can come into it with the penultimate issue and still be able to follow what's going on. The only downside with Ghost Rider #31 is the fact that after next issue, Huat is gone. I may stick around to see how Tony Moore handles the character.

Lone Ranger & Tonto #2: I'm not a regular reader of the monthly Lone Ranger book but I really enjoyed the first Lone Ranger & Tonto story so I grabbed this one when I saw it on the shelf this week. The story has the Ranger and Tonto riding into a mining town called Reston and discovering something is not quite right about the place. They soon uncover the legend of a monster that terrorizes the citizenry and who is ultimately responsible for the place being no better than a ghost town. They investigate, interesting things happen, and I won't spoil the ending for anyone who might pick this up to read if they haven't already. Story-wise, Brett Matthews and Neil Turitz do not disappoint delivering a very moody piece that hits various western tropes and is perfectly complemented by the artwork of Vatche Mavlian and Romulo Fajardo, Jr. who give the book a really unique look and texture. Worth checking out.

Mysterius the Unfathomable #1: Wow. How much did I enjoy this book? Jeff Parker has always been a favourite creator here at Meanwhile... HQ but I haven't enjoyed a comic like Mysterius in some time. From page one Parker spins a kooky and really fun read focusing on a mystic named Mysterius who performs tasks of a magical nature for clients who can pay. He's shifty, out of shape and just generally doesn't come across as an entirely on-the-level kind of guy, but that's precisely what makes him interesting. His assistant, Ella/Delfi, tries her best to keep up with all the mystical aspects of being and working around Mysterius, mostly because she doesn't have anywhere else to go. The dialogue is crisp and witty and, as far as introductions go, there wasn't a lot of clunky exposition here which helps things along nicely. The artwork of Tom Fowler is perfect for this series. It reminds me a little of the work of Glenn Barr and he does a great job of balancing the brilliant and the banal. There's humour but also an underlying seriousness, like there is a darkness creeping around on the sidelines somewhere that Mysterius knows about but we, the reader, as yet, do not. Hopefully the series will have some life in it and not get cancelled after three issues so we can see how that element plays out down the line. It's not every day one of the big companies put out a book as idiosyncratic as this one and I applaud DC/Wildstorm for doing just that because Mysterius the Unfathomable is, in my opinion, a book that should be watched. And bought and read, of course. I fully advocate all three activities.

The X-Files #3: I realize that I'm just so damn happy to see The X-Files back in any form, and that the series, to date, hasn't been received very well, but I genuinely enjoyed this issue as I have the three previous to it. Written by Marv Wolfman (a name any comics fan should already know) this issue has Scully and Mulder trying to figure out how murders are being perpetrated in different locations at the same time by the same killer. There's some Chinese mysticism thrown in there to give it that X-Files feel, and I suspect there might be some mad science mixed in there for good measure, as well. Wolfman handles the usual back and forth between the two main characters like he was a series writer and the story fits well into the X-Files universe. Brian Denham continues on the art (having illustrated the previous two issues and the zero issue) and is possibly the weakest link here. While much of his work works beautifully and evokes the best cinematography of the series, there are many panels that are overly stiff and he does not seem to feel confident drawing Mulder or Scully unless he's grabbing it from a screen capture or publicity still. Overall, everything flows nicely and the only real complaint I have is that series executive producer and writer, Frank Spotnitz, does not appear to be writing these anymore. Nothing against Wolfman's work, it just feels like canon when Spotnitz pens the tale, and that's the closest we can come to new X-Files episodes these days.

Amazing Spider-Man #584: I've purchased a number of the Brand New Day issues of Amazing Spider-Man, usually whenever a creative team tickles my fancy. For example, I grabbed the Waid/Martin issues, the Kelly/Bachallo issues and a few others since Peter and MJ made their deal with Mephisto. This weeks issue was by Marc Guggenheim and John Romita, Jr., possibly my favourite Spider-Man artist of all time, so I was excited to see what was in store. Not much, apparently. "Character Assassination" appears to continue a storyline that I missed somewhere along the way where Spider-Man is wanted for being a serial killer and some guy in a ridiculous Goblin inspired costume is calling himself Menace and...well, menacing folks. All the issues I've read previous to this were two or three part stories that did not seem to have any long-term continuity, a very old school approach which was one of the reasons I was attracted to them. As it stands, Guggenheim's writing was serviceable and I really liked seeing JR, Jr. doing pages again, but overall I just couldn't get too wrapped up in the story.

And with that, the first Comic Haul of 2009 is complete. I'll be back next Sunday with another batch, so until then...



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