Friday, 30 November 2012

FF #1 is far from Fantastic (Four)!!!

So, this week's light week for my buy pile saw the release of Marvel Now's most newest entrant to it's banner, Matt Fraction's and Michael Allred FF #1, no longer starring the First family (well it was a little bit), but a new foursome who's connections run deep to the gang from the Baxter Building. However, unlike previous new release Fantastic Four #1, after reading this book a couple of times over, I was not as bowled over by this issue as I had been previously.
Following on from Fantastic Four's first issue, Mr Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch and The Thing have gone to speak with Ant-Man Scott Lang, Medusa of the inhumans, Johnny's girfriend Darla...(something) and She-Hulk Jennifer Walters respectively with an offer; Take over their position within the Fantastic Four and lead the Future Foundation for exactly 4 minutes (although it could be longer). Meanwhile, as these requests are made, all the members of the Future Foundation are being interviewed, giving their views and explaining what the FF is.
Now, this issue is obviously an introductionary issue (what issue 1 isn't?), but unlike Fantastic Four, FF #1 lacks the same kind of humour and light-heartedness that I found in the sister book. In fact the book, which is mostly an Ant-Man focused story, feels rather morbid as a result of its focus. Also, after reading it, I didn't feel that the book went anywhere or that I learned anything new about the characters or the world. In fact, the stand-out part was the Bentley/Dragon Man interview, which was hilarious (I'd totally read a solo book starring just these guys. Just saying). The art by Michael and Laura Allred didn't help matters, with the book looking and feeling very much like a children's book. In fairness, given the characters included this might have been what was going for, and there wasn't anything inherently wrong with the work, it just didn't appeal to me and took some of the enjoyment of reading.
After the enjoyment I felt of the final issues of the last FF run and the first issue of Fantastic Four by Fraction, this is a bit of a disappointment. That said, I'm in two minds whether to give the book one more chance or drop it for superior titles (See Indestructible Hulk). A part of me suspects that improvements will be apparent next time, but I'm just not sure if I wanna risk the money to find out.

Indestructible Hulk #1 was smashing!!!

Although its been a week since its release, Indestructible Hulk #1 called out to me during an incredibly light week in terms of comic book pick-ups (only FF#1 came out from my buy pile, but that's a whole different thing). However, after reading through this book twice, from cover to cover, I've got to confess that the decision to buy this book was totally justified because this book was, in an apt word, incredible.
The book begins with Maria Hill, the new Director of the reformed S.H.I.E.L.D. intelligence agency, sitting in a diner waiting to start a mission while fretting over where the Hulk is. Lucky for her the Green Goliath's alter ego, Bruce Banner, has just walked up to her and sat at her table. He's come with an offer for her; let him come work for her and let him be a scientist who can help make the world better and in return she gets the Hulk to send on missions that are too dangerous for anyone else. Banner thinks this is a fair deal and just to prove it to Hill, offers to deal with the mission she is currently waiting to complete.
And so, this is the basic premise of the issue, and the title going forward. I'm a big fan of Mark Waid (please let him return to Fantastic Four soon) and I'm so glad to see that he's bringing the vibrancy he has instilled to Daredevil over to the Hulk as well. The story, while mostly backstory and catch-up to prepare for the new status quo, feels fluid and much more compelling than the action scenes later on (not that they're bad either). The constant ticking clock, helps maintain a pace and provides the story urgency in it's completion. Meanwhile, Leinil Yu's art is not something I've actually seen in books before (despite him not exactly being new to the game), however, I am regretting it now as the he draws with so much energy and provides so much detail, which go hand in hand with the deep colours (The Hulk reveal panel was fantastic).
In all honesty, I'd made a decision regarding what Marvel Now books I was going to give a try, but I'm annoyed by that mistake as this new Hulk wasn't one of them. Now though, I have every intention of adding this to my buy pile just to see what happens next.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Matt Fraction's Fantastic Four is actually pretty good

For my first foray into the new Marvel Now, I decided (or rather, it was decided for me what with release dates) that I would start with a book that is close to my heart; the Fantastic Four. Now my collection of FF issues goes back a long way. I have the run's by Waid, Straczynski, McDuffie, Millar and Hickman and have seen the great, the good and the very bad (yes I'm talking about Millar's run). Although I was hesitant after the greatness of Jonathan Hickman's venture on this title, I've now read the new issue 1 of Marvel's first family, written by Matt Fraction and art by Mark Bagley and Mark Farmer, twice and I've gotta admit, it's actually pretty good.
This issue saw Fraction re-introduce the Fantastic Four for the benefit of new readers, as well as set up the premise which will no doubt define much of his run. After starting with a tease of what the future may hold, the story focuses on the present, where the Fan four are under attack by a dinosaur back in the distant past. Upon returning to the present, and realising how much of his children's lives he is missing, decides to take them, along with the rest of the team, on a road trip of time, space and any other dimensions that happen to show up on the way. A sweet gesture you might think, wanting to spend more time with his family. Unfortunately, the reason for this trip has less to do with family bonding and more to do with something that might finally finish off this team....
In truth, I thought Fraction pulled off a great first issue here. While maybe not as good as others in the FF's long and illustrious history, this first issue of his run has Fraction not only set up what is going to happen, but has him beautifully define each character and what makes them tick, sometimes with hilarious effect (I really liked the Ben vs Yancy Street scenes). While the issue doesn't focus too much on the prior run by Hickman, there are nods entered in there, some of which help move the book forward, which is a nice touch and makes me thankful that the past isn't being ignored (DC should take note here).
Mark Bagley and Mark Farmer, have really brought a strong game on this book, based on the first issue artwork at any rate. The characters look and feel more real and more themselves, which is a plus after some of the more outrageous concepts from the last run. The art here, however, isn't perfect and does feel a little off in places, but this is most likely settling in on the title and will no doubt improve, but the fact this art looks more reminiscent of the art from the Waid era seals it for me.
At the end of the day, this book isn't perfect, but then what is? To me, Fantastic Four gives away exactly what it is that I've enjoyed from this series over the years; a light-hearted adventure series starring a lovable dysfunctional family told right with good art. For this, I am more than happy to come back in a month for the next issue.

Monday, 12 November 2012

This weeks comics (finally)

After a bit of a wait (damn life getting in the way), I was finally able to get round to reading the books I picked up this week and it was a mixed bag as to what was good, what was bad and what was just plain average.
First up, I read Uncanny X-Force #33 which continued seeing Wolverine and his gang of assassins trying to stop Daken and the brotherhood from corrupting Apocalypse clone Evan from being corrupted. Sadly it didn't seem to be going well with the gang separated and AOA Nightcrawler selling his allies out for a shot at revenge.
That said, despite how exciting it sounds, I could really take or leave this issue. Now I don't there is anything with the issue itself, with Rick Remender still writing the crap out of the book and Phil Noto's art looking better with each passing month. However, I don't worry that the story is overly long and in the age of advanced solicits, the suspense is removed a little. Overall, Uncanny X-Force is a greats read, but I suspect, based on this, that the end of Remender's run might fall flat.
After that though, I received a pleasant surprise when reading Earth 2 #6 which, finishing off the books first arc, saw the Flash, Green Lantern and the gang finish off the threat of Solomon Grundy (like there was ever any doubt, so this isn't a spoiler), while Sloan continued to be a dark presence behind the scenes.
To be fair, while issue 5 wasn't really that bad, I found the issue 6 was so much better. The story was much tighter and more engrossing and the had a far quicker pace than before, which is what's needed during an action scene. The resolution of the villain was a unique twist while the final panel also defied conventions, which I really liked. I'm glad the James Robinson decided to try something a little different than what I was expecting.
I then continued the reading of quality with Harvest #4, which brought Ben face to face with his former employers after he goes after their clients to secure justice for the victims of his organ harvesting. However things (naturally) don't go to plan and end up with Ben on the run with an organ that needs a recipient, who's been kidnapped and, oh yeah, he's been shot as well.
I gotta admit that I love this book, with A.J. Lieberman not only upping the ante, but also beating the crap out of his protagonist. With one issue left, I'm totally intrigued as how this is all gonna end, which is how all great stories should be written.
Sadly, my run of reading good comics came back to earth with a thud after that when I got to Action Comics #13, which saw Superman travel to Mars to defend a colony from attacking Metaleks, who happen to be running from something far worse; the Multiitude.
Unfortunately, this story did nothing to entertain me. After issue 13 and the issue zero I though this title had turned a corner but now I suspect that Morrison is sacrificing the option of staying true to the main character and offering him appropriate challenges in favour of employing his own agendas. Though the final pages offer the opening to the conclusion of his run, I think it is too little too late for a run that's been just terrible.
Thankfully, after that harrowing read, Daredevil End of Days #2 rectified the situation and brought hope back to my day, with Ben Urich continuing his investigation into the death of Daredevil and trying to find out who or what is "Mapone". This lead him to interactions with important people from Murdock's past (and even Nick Fury).
Now I'm not the biggest fan of Brian Bendis, but the guy can write one hell of a Daredevil story. After the somewhat long winded setup of issue 1, issue 2 told a story that was intriguing, gave as many questions as answers and even gave me some insight into the marvel U on the whole in the future. With the final confrontation possibly leading to Urich's end, I'm looking forward to next months instalment.
And so that was it. Five comics which gave me the good, bad and ugly in varying degrees. To be honest, not a bad week (except for Action Comics). Just bring on next week and the new start of Fantastic Four.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

DC Universe Presents #13: Black (Lightning) and Blue (Devil)

So, this week, while I was picking my newly released comics and realizing that all I had was Action Comics Annual #1 (which I've already talked about), I figured that I'd give something else a go. In the end I thought "you know, Black Lightning was such a cool character before the reboot" and given that he'd just appeared in the newest issue of DC Universe Presents I decided, what the hell, it might be worth a look.
Issue 13 introduced two classic characters to the new DCU, the aforementioned Black Lightning as well as the somewhat unknown (to me) Blue Devil, who were both working (seperately) to take down the Los Angeles drug trade run by villianous businessman Tobias Whale (Who is, it seems, a classic supervillain. I'm learning all kinds of things with this book). After the story's initial bust,and their subsequent meeting of each other (and yes, there was a superhero smack down), the story then focuses on the heroes private lives and their interactions with their respective father figures. Meanwhile, the angry Whale turns his forces towards finding these pesky heroes and taking them out (and that's NOT dinner and a movie) to prevent them interfering in his business.
To be honest, this is a story I've read/seen/heard a thousand times before (I'm sure it's also the plot for the original Lethal Weapon movie, only without powers and stuff) and it isn't made any more compelling now than any of those other times. Marc Andreyko does a solid job of portraying these two characters as two sides of the same coin; Blue Devil being a very Peter Parker-esque type of hero, while Black Lightning is more the serious, no-nonsense kind of heroics. In fact, the highlight of this is shown during when the two square up at the beginning, with Black Lightning eager to fight and Blue Devil trying his best to talk his way out of this. This is a refreshing take on the superhero team-up fights that have been flogged to death over time.
The art also doesn't improve the impact of this book, which is a bit of a shame because Robson Rocha's work is actually really good., with gorgeous panels that can't be faulted and are enhanced by the vibrant lines and colours Oclair Albert and Gabe Eltaeb bring to the table. Unfortunately, this is the same style I feel like I've seen in dozens of DC books, and maybe hundreds of titles within the medium, which really reduces the impact it has on me. There's nothing wrong with the work and it ticks the boxes as good art should, but I just wish it looked a little different to convention.
All in all, I don't think this is a bad book, but that's it. I found myself intrigued as to what happens next for this dynamic duo, but not enough to warrant spending hard earned that I don't really have. Maybe I'll be tempted back, but when you're on a budget you don't want just an ok book taking up what little you have to spend, you want a great book to know you've invested your cash. It pains me to say it, but I suspect there's greater books to invest my dosh on.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Action comics annual #1

So, yesterday I had to make a difficult choice when it came time to pick up my weekly comic books because all that was in my file waiting for me to pick up was Action Comics Annual #1. This choice was ultimately difficult because, up until now with this series, Grant Morrison's work hasn't exactly made me enthusiastic for the book in either the majority of the stories offered or the portrayal of the man of steel. However, on the flip side, I have got every issue so far and the collector in me desperately wants to have a full collection. Fortunately, Sholly Fisch's story in this annual certain doesn't make me regret the decision to buy.
Fisch's story takes place (as stated in a box on the first page) after issue 8 of the regular series and focuses on the aftermath of events spinning out of that first arc, with Superman visiting John Henry Irons in order to better understand their working relationship while General Sam Lane confronts Lex Luthor over his involvement in the attack by the Collector of Worlds. These two plot threads are then joined by the origin story of the new Kryptonite man, who agrees to become this in order to exact revenge for Superman's prior involvement (which I'm sure was in a prior issue but just couldn't find it).
Honestly, after reading this story, I found myself totally shocked at how good it was, expecting something of a similiar nature to what I had read of the regular series so far, but Sholly Fisch has come in with this book and made an issue that blows Grant Morrison's stuff out the water. The story is incredibly engaging, with aspects which were apparently ignored in the regular series like Luthor's treason and Steel's future being given centre stage here. Also, the characters are written better in this, with Luthor and Gen. Lane having more depth in this one issue than the rest of the series so far, but the main change being Superman himself, who seems closer to how, I think, Superman should be portrayed. He's proactive like he has so far been in this series, but he's much less aggressive and confrontational and more optimistic, as well as coming off more wary where, in other titles, he just seems overly paranoid.
As for the art, Cully Hamner has brought his A game here and improved the title tenfold, though I'm not sure how he did it. His art is a very different approach to what a lot of books are going for these days, but Hamner's work, while not overly counter-culture, is just off centre enough to give it style. The characters in here just radiate a whole new level of class. It's an art that I couldn't tell you why I like it, but it doesn't matter when at the end of the day I think if this art was here all the time I'd be more inclined to read this book first every time.
At the end of this book, after realizing that it was a great book, I had a bittersweet thought: sweet in that I enjoyed this book so much, but bitter because I knew the quality would drop again upon returning to issue 14. All I can say is that this book is the best Action Comic I've read since the series launched and if DC put the Fisch and Hamner on the book full time, they wouldn't hear any complaints from me.