Monday, 6 August 2012

REVIEWS: Rotworld, X-Men, Green Lantern, Shade, Batwing, MORE!


Insane-o Review Extravaganza!!

Okay! Mondays are now going to be Review Day, and that’s the last I’ll hear on the matter until I forget to make Monday Review Day and at that point feel free to hurl abuse at me like the French hurled boiling oil on anybody who’d ever attempt to lay siege to one of their castles. I’ve got a MEGA backlog here, so let’s get through them at some kind of pace shall we?

The Shade #10
James Robinson and Frazer Irving
So here we are, living in a World where James Robinson is able to complete his 12-issue Shade miniseries. What a great world we live in. This issue, part 10 of the story, sees Shade tied to a chair, powers muted by Egyptian Gods and being subjected to lectures by a white-haired ponce. This is great fun, with Shade’s put-upon retorts making up most of the best moments of the issue. There’s an initial worry that Irving is doing a series of splash pages, instead of a comic, but this quickly gets quelled as the story opens up a little. Shade’s escape plan is perhaps a little bit too obvious by half, but there’s something really enjoyable about watching somebody smart defeat a group of idiots.

The First X-Men #1
Christos Gage and Neal Adams
Adams provided the plot for this, which explains a lot of the problems with the book. Essentially going back into history to rewrite it, this mini decides that Charles Xavier was not the first to set up a group of X-Men – Wolverine was. Which, that means Xavier’s legacy is now completely destroyed, and his character lost. The previous stories featuring him revealed that he was a jerk and a coward, and now we see that continued alongside the new idea that he didn’t even bother creating the X-Men. At this point, Xavier is ruined.
The book isn’t very good, either, with jump-cuts, plot holes, and mischaracterisation (at one point serial rapist Sabretooth claims that he isn’t interested in jailbait, for example). Adams’ art is what it is – if you like his work, you’ll enjoy this. If you find teeth distracting, you’ll be put off. Gage does his best, but the premise is garbage and the book was never going to work.

Green Lantern #11
Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke
This book really didn’t pay any attention to the New 52 reboot whatsoever, offering a continuity-heavy, faintly impenetrable story for readers. I’m fairly aware of what’s been going on, so could just about wade through. Sinestro and Hal Jordan and currently co-lanterns, working together to try and prevent the upcoming crossover ‘The Third Army’ storyline from happening, and still bickering all the time. Johns’ dialogue can sometimes come across as too annoying, but he strikes a reasonable balance here and keeps things somewhat more bearable. Hal Jordan is still pretty unlikeable, but at least Sinestro calls him on it nowadays. Here we see Black Hand come back as a threat, although Johns now seems to be treating him more as a dark comedy character, which takes away any idea that he might be a thread. This is still a pretty uneven title, with strong points and weak points which tend to mix between each other. Mahnke’s art is still lovely, and colourists Tony Avina and Alex Sinclair do great work. This is the most prominent job for colourists in the industry, and they acquit themselves well.

Blue Beetle #11
Tony Bedard and IG Guara
Here we have an issue which collapses at the end. It’s fairly fascinating as a study of how not to do a tie-in, because the book completely loses the reader after first offering a very strong start. Booster Gold comes for a chat with Blue Beetle this issue, which quickly turns into a fight as you’d expect. Then, however, the fight gets broken up and the reader is told “see where this is going in Justice League International Annual!”
We are literally told that the story we’ve been following is a red herring, and will actually be given to us in a different comic, of a different series. It’s an absolutely excruciating marketing decision, and undermines/destroys the good faith readers had in the issue. We then cut to a last page which has no bearing to anything that happened before, as we see who the ACTUAL issue #12 villain is going to be.
It’s such an incredible misstep that I can’t believe DC allowed it to be published. It’s terrible!

X-Factor #241
Peter David and Leonard Kirk
The much hyped (by X-Factor standards) ‘Breaking Point’ storyline begins with this issue, as Peter David decides to bring together as many of his plots as possible and smash them into one another. This means some of the more enjoyable stories – Madrox and Havok’s douche-off for leadership, Siryn’s father issues – have to mix up with the godawful Strong Guy/Monet relationship. The issue powers through that, though, with another strong piece which suggests the book is truly starting to shrug off the pacing and plotting issues it’s had for the past two years or so. Siryn’s single page is by far the most engaging piece of this story, but hopefully Strong Guy’s defection from the team will finally lead us into endgame for the character, and he’ll be killed off soon. He drags this book down so much, you guys.

ROTWORLD!!
Animal Man/Swamp Thing#12
Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder, Steve Pugh, Marco Rudy.
So the big crossover finally comes together for these two books, which slow-burnt their way into early cult-favourite status but then proved to have no momentum whatsoever, and killed off much of the critical acclaim. This book shows the strengths and weaknesses of the story, as nothing happens – but the story is utterly polished, totally professional. Lemire and Snyder know these two heroes completely, but they simply haven’t woven this story into something big enough to hold interest. There are token subplots but it looks like the next six or so issues are going to go nowhere, before we reconvene for the big finale in a few months’ time. These books had a lot of potential, but the story plods along with no grace, and bores. This is why I don’t like long-form arcs.

Astonishing X-Men
Marjorie Liu, Mike Perkins, Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Once Walta takes over art duties, the current storyline immediately transforms into something superior and investing. A rewind issue which explores Karma’s past few weeks as a brainwash-victim, Liu manages to finally nail down some characterisation without it seeming treacly. Her pacing for this arc has been an utter disaster from start to finish – this issue ends with the exact same cliffhanger as the last issue – but here she thrives. Given a single story to tell chronologically, she weaves together past continuity beautifully, and Walta’s art perfectly complements her choices for Karma. It’s a great issue sandwiched midway through a fairly awful arc.

Batwing #12
Judd Winick and Marcus To
Wrapping up the first year of stories for Africa’s Batman, this is a fight scene issue. Batwing and the Justice League International work to try and defeat the amazingly named villain LORD BATTLE. They fight, Marcus To’s art plays well to the battle, and this issue is fine. It’s standard comics-making, rather than exceptional work. There are some neat ideas, including the end, but there’s nothing here to really distinguish Batwing from any other hero. He doesn’t really seem to show any of the initiative you’d expect from a member of Batman, Inc, but at least his armour looks cool. A solid title, if not yet aspiring for more. 

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