Thursday, August 4, 2011

Wednesday Pickups 7/20/11 & 7/27/11

I'm bundling the last two weeks together since I got caught up in some other thing. So, lets get right to it with the comics from the 20th.

Kicking things off, we have Uncanny X-Men #541. Tieing in with Marvel's summer event, Fear Itself, the X-Men are trying to stop the possessed Juggernaut who is working a scorched-earth path towards San Fransisco. While it's a scenario that's been done a dozen times before, Greg Land's art and Kieron Gillen's strategic take on the matter keep it interesting. It is also worth mention that this tie-in hasn't distracted from the direction the book has been going, as so often happens with these major events. Not a ground-breaking issue by any means, but sill a fun read.

From there, we cut out the adjective with X-Men #15. Wrapping up the "First to Last" arc, this issue features the final showdown between the X-Men and the Evolutionaries, who are trying to "save" them. A pretty good issue and arc, Christopher Yost's story has a classic feel while still managing to show how a lot of these characters have changed over the years. The combined artistic talents of Paco Medina and Dalibor Talajic, the former handling the current happenings with the latter covering the flashbacks, also work in a nice harmony to flush out the comic. I'm not sure what is happening with this book after the X-Men: Schism event, but if the same creator's stick around I will as well.

Departing Marvel and getting into Image, we have Hack/Slash #6. Starting the new arc, "Fame Monster", this issue features a slasher going after pop culture "celebrities", all the while treating Cassie to his vicious slayings by showing them in her dreams. Another great issue from Tim Seeley and Daniel Leister, with it's patented comedic-horror plots, fan service, and gory moments. If you've ever wanted to see some tan guys from Jersey get into a real situation, this one's for you.

The pick of the week this time is a special book you won't find on your local shop's shelf, Matinee Eclectica a special publication put out by Dirty Third Comics. I first heard of Matinee Eclectica through a wonderful crowd-funding site called Kickstarter, and have been looking forward to reading it ever since. The basis of the anthology is that all the stories are written by relative new-comer Ryan Schrodt, who partners with a different artist for each mini-tale. Generally when it comes to Anthology books, I find a lot to like and at least some parts that are dreadful. Matinee Eclectica breaks that pattern though, as I like every story and love quite a few of them. Schrodt really shows some writing chops in expertly handling all the major genres from super-heroes and sc-fi to western and horror tales. Just as impressive, is the combined talent of the artists assembled here. I don't want to start listing them all, as I would inevitably forget someone, but they are certainly creators I will be looking for more of in the future. Now, I'm not sure where you can get the book right now outside of con appearances, but I would start with contacting Mr. Schrodt through his completed Kickstarter campaign or the email given there. I, for one, can not wait to read more of his stuff in the future.

Let's keep rolling right into the books from the 27th.

First up this week is the lone DC universe book, Teen Titans #98. Begining the last story before the DC reboot, this issue features the return of Superboy Prime to the regular DCU, who is looking for revenge on Conner and the Titans. I'm kind of torn on this issue. It presents some interesting ideas but on the other hand they are all ones that I can't see being wrapped up in the two remaining issues of this title. The art however is pretty well done, with grittier pencils by Eduardo Pansica that fit the story's darker mood. Either way I'll be picking up the last couple issues and I'm crossing my fingers that they don't disappoint.

Next, we continue to catch up with the Inhumans in FF #7. Black Bolt returns to his people but he certainly doesn't come to bring them peace. Still not really enjoying this mini/fill-in story that has taken us away from what is happening with the Future Foundation. Hickman's writing is ok but Greg Tocchini's rougher art really does nothing for me. Next issue looks to be back on earth and hopefully Epting will be handling the art once again.

Rounding out my Marvel/non-X pickups, we have Venom #5. In this issue, Flash deals with his oldest foe, his father. At first I thought I wasn't going to like this one as it has starts off having an "after school special" kind of vibe to it, but by the end Remender makes it all worth while as he dives deeper into the mind of Flash Thompson. The kind of command he has over characters in his writing is unparalleled in the industry, and he makes each title more appealing than the last (something we will get back to with Uncanny X-Force later in this post.) Tony Moore and Tom Fowler, the two artists handling the issue, also contribute quite a bit as their touching panels hit just as hard as Remender's plots. This book is quickly becoming one of my favorite Marvel titles every month.

Heading over to Vertigo, we have American Vampire #17. Henry, Skinner, and the rest of their outfit escaped the cells, but it's straight from the frying pan and into the vampires running around on fire. Another fantastic issue from Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque, filled with vampires (American and otherwise) and World War II action! This penultimate chapter of the "Ghost War" arc wraps up the perfect amount, leaving the most anticipated showdown for the final issue. Still really digging this book after a year and a half, and can't wait for more.

Going from buckets of blood to kegs of it, we have Crossed: Psychopath #4. Amanda and Rick see what "The Crossed" did to Darwin and Claire last issue, while Harold let's us see what happened to his first "love", Lori. David Lapham and Raulo Caceres continue to put out the sickest comic on the shelves, but its also one of the best done. The free reign Avatar Press gives Lapham constantly challenges his creativity for crazy story-telling, while Caceres art does wonders bringing the stories to life with fluid panel structure and mesmerizing, full-page spreads. Certainly not a title for everyone, but if you are a horror or gore fan you need to be reading it.

Closing out the week we have four X-books, starting with X-Men: Schism #2 of 5. The X-Men are on damage control, as the numerous countries that have activated Sentinels are falling victim to the robots. Meanwhile, the new Black King of the Hellfire club continues moving pieces into place before he overtly strikes as his mutant foes. This issue brought the mini-series down quite a bit, as the slow pace seems out of place in an event story and Frank Cho's art is not looking it's best. Additionally, Jason Aaron seems to be over-stating character's personalities and feelings to justify a predictable end that readers can see coming a mile away. There are still some things I like about the book, such as the new Hellfire Club direction, but I am really hoping the third issue brings some needed improvements.

From the X-Men as a collective, we head into the smaller groups starting with X-Men Legacy #252. The group begins searching Paris for Styx, Legion's most dangerous personality that got loose, but it doesn't go as well as they'd hoped. I am enjoying this story from Mike Carey, as he subtly makes these characters deal with their personal demons and left over feelings from "Age of X". The pencils by Khoi Pham don't really strike me strongly one way or another, but they do have their moments. Probably not a good point for some looking to get into the X-world but an enjoyable book anyways.

Taking second place this week is my favorite covert X-team in Uncanny X-Force #12. The Dark Angel Saga continues as X-Force teams up with the remaining Age of Apocalypse X-Men, while their individual leaders (Wolverine and Jean Grey respectively) ponder more than a friendly alliance. As I mentioned earlier with Venom, Remender has a flair for character development and this issue is no exception. That in addition to his over the top story and Mark Brooks pencils make this another fantastic comic. My sole complaint is the limited amount of panel time Dark Angel has been given, but that is more of the Angel fan in me speaking than a critique.

The top spot this week goes to Abnett and Lanning's New Mutants #28. Moonstar brings in a therapist to help her team deal with the personal problems their each going through. While this approach has been done before in comics, it hasn't been done with the speedy, no-punches pulled attitude this issue brings. Instead of having the characters confess all their problems in monolouges or thought bubbles, Abnett and Lanning choose to hit these not so merry mutants right in the face with them. Presenting a great pay off for those that have been reading for years, and a nice summary for those just joining in, this issue is a great read for any comic book fan and I definitely recommend checking it out.

That's it for this week, so go read some comics or at the very least complain on the interent about ones you don't like.

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