12.16.2010

12.15.10 Reviews (Part 2)

Uncanny X-Force #3 (Marvel): It’s a high octane, rousing stand-off as Clan Akkaba resurrects Apocalypse. For me, this incarnation of X-Force is best exemplified by the flashback origins of the Final Horsemen. In a lesser book, that sequence would be wholly unnecessary, but here it’s those added flourishes that give Jerome Opena a chance to show off the range of his artistic chops and Rick Remender a chance to show a little more than just another tired X-Men story. It’s a little special, and that’s a rare thing with this property. Along the way, we get chilling lines like “beautiful Pestilence.” I enjoyed the team being physically incapacitated, while Betsy is still broadcasting the psychic link and proves to be a surprisingly capable field leader. And all of the characters seem to have their strengths, Fantomex and his mind games with Pestilence, or pushing back on Logan the “stubborn badger.” We see the weird synapses misfiring inside Deadpool’s head as he attempts to aid Archangel. Opena’s art is dark and murky, like the moral flexibility rampant in the title. His pencils are visceral in a manner rivaling Juan Jose Ryp in spots, like the full page shot of Wolverine getting torn up by Death. The rearing and indoctrination of En Saba Nur is also a fun take on the Nature vs. Nurture debate. At the end of it all, Uncanny X-Force is the guiltiest of dirty little pleasures and one of the titles I most enjoy reading in terms of pure entertainment. Grade A.

Strange Tales II #3 (Marvel): Overall, this is a fairly middling issue (again) with just a few pieces that really stood out for me. Terry Moore’s Mjolnir strip demonstrated an amazingly fun art style that seemed to channel Sergio Aragones. I wasn’t aware that Moore was really capable of that trick, so it was a nice surprise. It achieves some laughs, such as “What’s his dog’s name then?” as Thor tries to prove he’s the Son of Odin. I’m not a big Thor fan, so I thought this was actually more entertaining than the regular Thor books. I’d give this a Grade A-. Silver Surfer by James Stokoe is rigorously detailed and intricate, with thin sinewy lines. It’s almost like Frank Quitely, but more rigid, like Kevin O’Neill with a Geoff Darrow level of detail. I really loved the art. On the scripting side, there are some English language difficulties, such as several instances of the very un-erudite “anyways,” and improper use of the term “nor.” However, it makes a great stoic point at the end. I think it’s interesting that so many indie artists seem to be fascinated with and drawn to this character. For this effort, I say Grade A. U.S. Agent by Benjamin Marra has, like, a lighter Afrodisiac riff going on. “Sounds like a real nerd!!” It has good commentary on the hypocrisy of pre-emptive war on terror, along with cheesecake comics with the line (and result of) “AAIIIEEE!! My Dress!!” I’d give this one about a Grade B+. There’s also a tongue-in-cheek Machine Man-does-BPRD thing, with a fun premise that could have gotten Nextwave funny, but I quickly got tired of reading it. Hero For Hire from Toby Cypress was a favorite, almost a Jim Rugg meets Matt Kindt aesthetic, with amber, crimson, and Earth tone colors all afire. I liked the limited dialogue and love of comics that was simple and direct. Grade A. Alex Robinson delivers Fantastic…Before!! about some pre-FF Reed & Ben dating antics, and the whole things ends with a nice story tribute to Harvey Pekar. I guess my curmudgeonly complaint about Strange Tales (this issue, and as a whole) is that it’s only memorable when the strips go for gravitas and not for laughs. But unfortunately, most of the strips go for laughs. It’s still a fun divergence, but long term enjoyment is limited. For example, Kate Beaton’s Rogue short is terribly cute, but forgotten the second it’s over, unlike say the drama of Rafael Grampa’s psychologically somber Wolverine. As a whole for this issue, I’ll say Grade B+.

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