4.08.2010

4.07.10 Reviews (Part 1)

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 (Marvel): Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver make good on the high concept, delivering an intriguing tale with some terrific design elements, all complimented by the brilliant coloring of Christina Strain. The story centers on Leonid, his father revealed to be The Night Machine, and The Immortal City located deep under the city of Rome. The pencil work is very rich and it all sits within the confines of some inventive panel layouts. Overall, the team is able to strike the right balance of aggressive pacing, mystery, action, conspiracy, legend, and Marvel lore. The story is full of little flourishes like Agents Stark and Richards, Galactus appearing before Galileo in 1582, and the trademark graphic design-y Hickman back matter. I enjoyed the symbology of the Egyptian shield linking to the modern day design elements of the S.H.I.E.L.D. emblem, and especially Da Vinci appearing as a sort of steampunk astronaut in some scenes that would surely make Warren Ellis proud. This is a strong first issue that’s able to instantly build a revisionist mythology around artifacts, phrases, and familiar faces. Grade A.

Spider-Man: Fever #1 (Marvel): My first exposure to the iconoclast work of Brendan McCarthy was his DC Solo issue, and I was instantly intrigued by the creator. The behind-the-scenes story of this three issue mini-series is now infamous. McCarthy wanted to create a Doctor Strange story, Marvel Editorial felt it might not be commercial enough, and urged him to throw in Spider-Man for good measure. The end result bears a Spider-Man header, but it feels like what it is – a Doctor Strange story guest starring Spider-Man, or at best, a team up book. I don’t mind that so much, because the end result is pretty strong. Brendan McCarthy in this book looks like the love child of Gary Panter and Steve Ditko and it’s pretty damn fun. It reverberates with a Silver Age energy and glee that is part mystical hoo-ha, and part very entrenched in the New York City of The House of Ideas. At times, in its adoration of Silver Age parlance, it can sometimes feel clunky. There are moments of characters shouting out narration to guide the plot, the exposition harsh by modern standards. However, the reward is a feisty irreverence where Spider-Man can make statements like “webbing’s screwed” while he falls down a wall from exposure to pesticide(!). That’s topped off with lines like “soul sushi” and “A human soul? I shall have it with custard!” Grade A-.

Electric Ant #1 (Marvel): I never read the source material, and this sure doesn’t make me want to. It was an instant downer to see that Pascal Alixe was on interior art and not David Mack. The future tech seems generally interesting, but Alixe’s art is awkward in the static shots and offers confusing storytelling panel to panel during scenes where anything happens, such as the love scene or the car crash scene. It’s all over the map, the coloring isn’t very crisp, and (heresy alert) even the Paul Pope covers seem phoned in and aren’t anything like his best work, almost not even recognizable as Pope projects. I sort of enjoyed the notion of “elecrticants” being the precursor of the Blade Runner style “replicants,” but the fascination with language ends there. Words like “splunkish, splunked, computor,” or “frogs” in place of currency, are just sort of goofy and distracting. The big existential dilemmas that the script wants to ask seem to get derailed by the plausibility of character’s actions. Would the main character (forgot his name already) really immediately want to leave the hospital without clothes because he thinks he’s a robot? Do characters really go around expositing dialogue, telling us what’s happening and how they feel about it? It’s like the characters themselves read the script too and need to stick to it to move us all forward. At the end of it all, the cliffhanger is extremely weak, it’s not interesting, the visuals aren’t strong, the script isn’t compelling, and I’ve been given no reason to come back, despite the involvement of some usually strong creators. Bummer. Grade C.

Uncanny X-Men #523 (Marvel): I didn’t actually buy this book, but scanned through it quickly at the LCS. It seemed clear from the parts I caught that the Kitty Pryde drama has quickly been shuffled off in lieu of the latest crossover. Typical. Lame. It seemed like there might have been a decent action sequence toward the end, but when did Scott supposedly train Cable? When did seedy motels right off the interstate start having fully stocked mini-fridges? It’s just so disjointed issue to issue. Grade N/A.

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