Friday, 26 October 2012

Review - FF #23: Run

And so the time has come. Issue 23 of FF was released yesterday (Wednesday) which saw the end of Jonathan Hickman's 3 year run (or, in truth, it could have been more) of guiding Marvel's First Family through some crazy adventures through two books and as this second run ends, all I can say is "Boy what an end".
For reasons that don't make sense, I was expecting a big loud action packed issue, but what was given was something better; a small intimate tale about Franklin Richards, both old and new. Running concurrently with Fantastic Four #611, the time has come for Franklin and Val to leave and while Val does her thing in the pages of the sister book, Franklin stays behind to spend just a little more time with his younger self and teach him just a last few nuggets of advice regarding the amazing powers which were returned to him during this run. Once this is done, older Franklin goes about saying goodbye to all the family members (his parents, uncles and even little Val) before departing their lives for good.
I read this book twice, and despite thinking very little of it first time round, I've realised that that was a grave mistake on my part during the second pass at it. This story is just a beautiful epilogue which emits such emotion between the members of the first family, especially between older Franklin and the other characters, who makes clear the love he realised he has for every single one of them, knowledge he did not know of when he was younger. As Hickman, mentions in his letter at the back, his entire run has been about love within a family. This is what I've enjoyed about this run in general and this issue in particular; despite the fights, the differences in personalities and (in the FF's case) the unbelievably outrageous adventures, they are a family who always has each others back.
The art in here just makes a good book better. I'm not normally a fan of Nick Dragotta, but here he's used a very clean, simple style which just works perfectly for no other reason than that it just does. The panels are so clear and give a feeling of bittersweetness which the story eventually gives, except for those set in Franklin's pocket universe, where you know that Hickman let Dragotta off the leash and told him to go nuts. Those are zany, outlandish and and just totally insane, but they show you the range of Dragotta's talent and gives a clue to the premise of the book in a nutshell, This is a book that has crazy ideas.
And so it's over. Jonathan Hickman has completed his stewardship over the Baxter Building and he's done it with a gorgeous, elegant epilogue. The run as a whole hasn't been perfect but it's been one hell of a ride and when all is said and done, it allows me to throw down the gauntlet to new writer Matt Fraction and his artists by saying "You've seen what's come before you Mr Fraction, so show us what you got!!!"

Friday, 19 October 2012

C'mon Marvel, what's with all the double issues a month?

So I was just going through the newly released Marvel Solicitations for January and something caught my eye: Issues 1 AND 2 of New Avengers will be released.
Now this doesn't seem like a big deal on it's own but as I went further down the listings I discovered that Dark Avengers, a book I'm currently collecting, has issues 185 and 186 released that month as well. Not to mention the new Thunderbolts series, a book I'm interested in picking up, has issues 1 and 2 released in December.
Now I'm sure there are lots of offers in the solicits for these two months, for now I'm just focusing on what I collect and what I'm interested in. However, this is not something new from Marvel as they've been doing it for most of the year, if not longer. Uncanny X-Force, Daredevil, FF, Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers, Incredible Hulk, Hulk, Wolverine and (I think) Deadpool as well as others have all had two issues released in a month at some point this year, in fact by my estimates, all these titles have had this a minimum of 3 times in a year, making 15 issues released a year.
Now, I'm all for plugging the gaps between issues because who the hell wants to wait a month between issues. However, while 3 extra issues of a book may not be so much, a single title isn't all someone will buy. At the moment I pick up 5 marvel books, which is the 12 standard issues each. So I'm picking up 60 issues and then an extra 15 on top of that. It's very costly and a little unfair.
So all I'm saying is, Marvel should learn to cut down this need to intermittently release additional issues of a book because one day it may cause some of their more loyal fans to, out of frustration, decide to take their money elsewhere.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

A quiet week, but a good week (comic wise)

So this week was a quiet week for me as all I picked up was Daredevil #19, Dark Avengers #182 and The Activity #9. Having gotten through them all first thing this morning (because, apparently, there just isn't any time on new comic book day), I was surprised to find myself rather realizing that I actually enjoyed everything that I picked up.

Of course, that view was gonna go without saying when it came to Daredevil #19, which saw the Man without Fear continue to investigate the death of a mobster while, at the same time, possibly going crazy. Since the beginning of his run, Mark Waid has taken a character that is usually very noir-esque and made him more "swashbuckling" (as I recall Waid putting it in an interview). But that looks like it's all change as the series has taken a darker turn of late. Waid has made this so compelling now, especially with the revelation of who is responsible for both murder in question as well as Murdock's questionable mental health coming completely out of left field, but fittingly tying in from the first issue.
And while the story is compelling, the art just elevates it and brings a very macabre beauty in. Chris Samnee's stuff I just couldn't get into initially, but here it looks like he's picked up the beats from his predecessors seamlessly. The book is just gorgeous from cover to cover, with the the neo-contemporary look that Paolo Rivera introduced along with the radar sense never looking better.

And then there was The Activity #9 from Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads, which continues to act like my guilty little pleasure, a book of one-shot stories that makes a refreshing change from the continuing plot-thread style books I normally get. This issue saw Team Omaha take part in a hostage extraction along with a British SAS team which, while not out of the ordinary (well, for them anyway), occured while higher powers were bringing in to question if someone is giving up intel and comprimising all their ops.
For a book Nathan Edmondson has established in my eyes as a episodic comic book, it is actually refreshing and intriguing to follow this whole traitor conspiracy angle that he has subtley implanted in various issues through the run. It gives the series something of a focus regarding it's overall narrative and makes this book all the more of a must read. Sadly, the art here does the opposite as it looks very rough at the beginning although it does improve. I can only surmise that Mitch Gerads has simply had an off issue and hope he'll be back to his best next time round.

Then I was hit with a big surprise this week when I delved into Dark Avengers #182, as Earth's deadliest heroes had (to some degree) made up for the last few months and issues in my eyes with a much improved end to the story. This is because, unlike most of the arc so far, detailing the Dark Avengers attempting to steal the power of a mad man while the Thunderbolts attempted to return to the present, this final part felt more like I was pulled into the story, with more action given and greater urgency inferred. I found this issue far more exciting than any of its previous entries which carried the Dark Avengers name, Jeff Parker appears to have found his groove again and Neil Edwards pencils certainly look good in here, providing a nice style that is what made Parker's run good in the first place. This book is a vast improvement to what's it's been of late, just in time to see off the Thunderbolts who, sadly, are not staying in this book.

Though it's been a quiet week in terms of what I buy, it's definitely been a good week. It's also brought with it a troubling dilemma as Dark Avengers, which I had convinced myself to drop, has fought tooth and nail to prove itself worth my coin, while Daredevil and Activity, though certainly not perfect, I feel still deserve a place on my pull list. I guess I'll just have to try and make some cuts with something else.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

All change at DC (Well, the titles I care about anyway)

So, yesterday, while scanning through Comic Book Resources as I seem to do on a daily, almost religious, basis, I found a post detail the future of Action Comics; Andy Diggle, the man who created the Losers, would be taking over from Grant Morrison as of issue 18. Then, late last night, before hitting bed I jumped on Twitter, finding changes relating to one of my other DC pull list titles; Demon Knights writer Paul Cornell, the man I consider God due to the fantastic Captain Britain and MI:13 run (it's really that good), would be stepping down from the title as of issue 15 (or 16, I'm not quite sure), to be replaced by Robert Venditti (who, in truth I have never heard of)
Now, I'm not big on the DC front, having stuck with only three titles from the new 52 (only two of which were from the initial line-up), so these two announcements have a big impact on my pull list and DC comics' prescence within that list. The reason for this is that, of late, I've been trying to decide what titles to cut in order to streamline my collection and save some pennies (because saving pennies is important) and so while my third DC title, Earth 2, gets a save due to it being so damn entertaining, both Action Comics and Demon Knights have been entered on the "at risk" list (which does also contain Marvel and indie books, but that's not what I'm on about here).
So, what do these annoucements mean? Well, prior to the revelation of Diggle coming in, Action Comics was scheduled to be cut in the new year. I keep hearing such good things about Grant Morrison's stuff but I've read every issue of Action since the relaunch and, except mybe issues 13 and 0, they have all been a struggle to find enjoyable. I could think of no valid reason to continue reading an unenjoyable book and spend money that could have gone elsewhere. However, the news of Andy Diggle taking over has changed my stance. Diggle, who (like I've said) wrote the Losers, formed a pretty enjoyable run on Daredevil in my eyes (although the whole possessed by a Demon thing did kinda sink it) and based on his previous work saying, as he said in an interview, that he's an "action writer" gives me hope that the book will be easier to follow. Also, the art by Tony Daniel is tempting enough on it's own to have the book reprieved.
Demon Knights, on the other hand, is a book I've been reading due to the fact Paul Cornell was writing it. That's maybe not the best reason to read but, like with Action I was reading because of the book title, here I was reading based on the talent attached. Unfortunately, Demon Knights has been hit and miss and while I've enjoyed the characters that have been created, the stories themselves have felt a little dragged out. With Paul Cornell leaving, I no longer have much reason to hang around on this title (as much as it pains me to say). However, I've never heard of Robert Venditti and if my increased purchasing of indie titles has taught me anything it's never discount creators you've never heard of.
When all is said and done, I'm tempted to give both these titles a fair crack of the whip and make me realise that their prescence on the "at risk" list was a mistake, but that "fair crack" is only one issue each. Can both these titles convince me they have the chops to stay in one issue. Well, my bank balance is hoping "no", but I'm remainig optimistic.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Review: Action Comics #13

So, Action Comics #13. After the last year's worth of books in this title I was again expecting an installment which I could not care for....well, was I wrong.

This issue, which felt more like a one shot than part of a larger story arc, sees the Man of Steel attacked by the original prisoner of the Phantom Zone within the Fortress of Solitude through the Phantom Zone projector. Trapped within Krypton extra-dimensional prison, Superman must find a way to fight off the remaining prisoners while, at the same time, return to the real world to recapture the escapee. However, despite the challenges, he has the help of what looks to be the Phantom Stranger and a certain large white Super-dog.

This is still not the best book in my buy pile (not by a long shot), but Grant Morrison appears to have momentarily ignored all that he's built in the last 13 issues (12 and the zero issue) and focused on a tale that is more of the classic Superman that I enjoyed prior to the reboot. This is what I like. Superman feels, acts and speaks more like Superman should. Gone is the brooding, vigilante-esque Superman and here is the much more calm, rational, level headed Man of Tomorrow. The story itself is written much like a horror, and it's a valiant attempt but the appeal to me here is the references to the pre52 Superman; The calm, wiser outlook, the focusing on disasters around the world, the Fortress of Solitude (yay), the idea that he never gives up. This is what I like and I hope we see more of it (thought I'm skeptical on that). The back-up too, while somewhat throwaway, is a sweet tale that provides something of an origin to Krypto and gives greater emphasis as to why he's so important. This was a better back-up than recent ones.

As for the art, Travel Foreman is more than welcome by me in the pages of this title. I remember when he was drawing the Immortal Iron Fist and the images of Kun'Lun (I think I spelt that right?) in that looked so otherworldly and that is exactly what is needed here. With a brief look at Krypton at the beginning and a lot of focus on the Phantom Zone, Foreman provides the etherel look that is needed for this places. This is a unique look for a Superman book but thanks to Foreman, and colorist Brad Anderson who provides very cold, ghostly colours, it is a look I like and hope to see again.

Before I read this I sensed I was just counting down the issues until I could drop this title. Now though I have come away with three questions; 1. What is the Multitude? (Came up early in the issue) 2. Who the hell is this little man who again appears? and 3. Am I being a bit hasty in wanting to drop Action Comics? I might not be, but this issue has certainly got me wondering it.