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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Review: Fortnightly Comics Parcel 1

I figured that rather than restricting myself to writing big, incoherent reviews for the main site (whenever it resurrects), I'd try returning to the mini-review format for a few things. These days I buy altogether too many western comics, and every other weekend they arrive at my door in a nice and chunky parcel. So every fortnight I'll attempt to whiz through them, in a style similar to The Savage Critics, I suppose. Onwards.

Supergirl 1: As this is a first issue there's the inevitable several page catch-up of the "story so far" from the pages of various Superman/Batman issues before we kick into the real tale. The JSA fight is very nice to look at, and the surrounding conversation between Stargirl and Supergirl is a pleasant enough start to establishing Supergirl as a character (rather than a plot point). When it comes to the confrontation with Power Girl (yes, her), the "same person occupying a single space", repelling thing is an interesting slant on having two characters that are essentially the same (also a better excuse for a hero vrs hero fight than we often get). Whether it's something that will play out in the pages of this title, JSA or DC's Infinite Crisis mega-event thing is another thing altogether though. I think it would be a shame if the launch issue of this title raises a plot that never gets further explored in the same title. Generally this felt a bit short but pretty solid - a good title in the making as long as we don't roll through countless hero vrs hero fights. I enjoyed Ian Churchill's pencils, and loved some of the work the colourists did. The art raises this from a 3.5 to a...

Toxin 5 (of 6): Toxin has been a rather middling miniseries - a strong artist on the wrong material, a decent writer failing to stretch into his best stylings and a generally uninspiring premise. It's not been terrible, but it's never filled me with desperation for the next issue. It's technically fine, but brings out no form of passion (or even interest, perhaps) in the reader. Darick Robertson's art is bastardised by totally incompatible colouring (the average in-house Marvel colouring is dreary and unflattering these days) and, strangely, a rather brutal ink job from the usually very compatible Rodney Ramos. Peter Milligan could be having so much fun with the Toxin character, especially given his often wonderfully off-beat writing, but instead it's all bit somber and lacking in energy.

Iron Man 4: Adi Granov finally delivers the fourth issue of this re-launched title under writer Warren Ellis. The previous issues have been solid, if overly decompressed, comics with some nice points here and there (usually as a result of Ellis slipping slightly into autopilot though). This issue was quite a pleasant step up though, with Iron Man choosing to take the dangerous Extremis treatment to mesh properly with his armour and stop the Extremis treated guy running rampage. Good action and good talky/dying stuff, with the usual pretty paintings from Granov. I still think Ellis could do better with Iron Man and he shouldn't have taken 4 issues to get to this point, but I'm hoping this bodes well for another pair of quality issues to retain the quality of this arc's second half.

Majestic 8: A pretty consistent title so far, with moments of higher quality and the ever present promise of that first issue of the DC universe limited series... Not much to say about number 8 though - an uninspiring ending to the last storyline, but there wasn't much that could be done about it. In terms of starting a new main plot, there's not much to say so far. A standard fight ensues and some chatting, which is nice enough I suppose. I continue to enjoy Neil Googe's pencils but his panels can often seem a bit empty and open. Solid, generally. Could be better though.

Ultimate Spider-Man 80: Bendis & Bagley deliver a generally good issue, certainly better than some of the worse stuff they've done during the last year. It's missing the teen spark though, and is generally a bit more of a downer than it should be (thanks to the "Peter Parker no more!" and Mary Jane break-up plot points, I suppose). Good but should be better.

Ultimate Fantastic Four 22: I really enjoyed the first 18 issues, and the Mike Carey fill-in was solid stuff (as was the first issue of Mark Millar's run). His second issue is all a bit too much of the nastiness and not enough of the snappy interactions (or, if no snappy interactions are to be found then at least fun fights). It's not clicking with me really, and Greg Land's art style is the worst possible fit for this book.

The Ultimates 2: Annual 1: Here we have an annual for the currently running Ultimates 2 series, a stand alone issue by regular series author Mark Millar but with art from the esteemed Steve Dillon (of Preacher). For an Ultimates annual, there's not so much of a focus on the main members of the team as there is on the entire Ultimates setup, especially the volume 2 additions of "mass produced" super people. We get a new super soldier, various giant men and folk in old Iron Man based armour, as well as a nice few pages looking in on the Defenders (with Millar doing, I think, his best Garth Ennis-lite impression for Dillon, which works better than you'd expect). This doesn't directly feed into the main book plot (at least not yet), but it does further the themes of Ultimates 2 nicely, with the added plus of some delightful Steve Dillon art.

Zatanna 3 (of 4): Comics parcels are always better when they come with some Grant Morrison "Seven Soldiers" goodness. Zatanna rolls onwards, with an issue that fills out more of the overall Seven Soldiers plot & background, as well as explaining a bit of who Misty is. The previous two issues hadn't clicked quite as well as some of the other Seven Soldiers stuff, but this did. Ryan Sook's art isn't quite as tight as it has been but still looks good.

The Intimates 10: I've generally enjoyed what Joe Casey has been doing with The Intimates, and up until issue 9 he was partnered with Giuseppe Camumcoli on art, which was a real treat. For now though we have our second issue without Camumcoli, and the art really isn't working for me. It's mostly that Camumcoli, Casey & The Intimates had become a complete package in my head, but also that the art this issue & last has been somewhat muddled for the story it's trying to tell. The plot advances nicely and the characters continue to develop, but the art won't let me enjoy it as much as I think I should.

Posted by Alex Hopkinson @ 5:20 PM


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All original content is copyright Alex Hopkinson 2005. Other content is copyright the respective owners. To contact the author email: alex [at]

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