4.11.2012

4.11.12 Reviews (Caveat Edition)

The Caveat: Yeah, none of these books are on my regular pull, but I picked them up for a coworker.

Winter Soldier #4 (Marvel): The art, the art, the art, umm, the art definitely captures this Modern Noir vibe, but there’s something very retro about it at the same time. It goes from this very blocky Sean Phillips type of look to, for example, the Ops Room with Nick Fury and that floating console doodad, which looks, dare I say, Kirby-esque? So, kudos to Butch Guice for marrying those two aesthetics in unison with Brubaker’s genre blend. It’s a good match for the writer’s sort of crime noir superhero mash-up. All of that said, this is actually a really good comic, but I’m just personally tired of this type of genre work. It’s probably why I’ve never really been sold on Brubaker’s writing talent. If that genre is your thing, then it’s fantastic, but if you’re out on that genre, there’s not much to go on here, with the wake of Cold War policies and aesthetic values, all “comrade” this and “Dmitri” that, the voice-over narrated fights that are drenched in rain, and the muted color palette, with characters so self-aware in the moment, in the way that only fictional people usually are. It just feels, I don’t know, mechanical? Or empty? It’s like the story has been elaborately constructed just to set up these really cool fight scenes, but I have no idea what Doom is doing, who Arkady is, why they’re going to the UN, or what the clear motivations of Bucky and Natasha are, other than, y’know, punch stuff. And I read the first 3 issues. Grade B+.

Batman & Robin #8 (DC): Mick Gray is a really good inker (and also from San Jose, so special shout out!), but even he can’t get the art to rise above that generic DC House Style I always refer to. It’s just kind of there. I do appreciate the effort to maintain bits of the old Frank Quitely aesthetic, with the design of the Batwing ship and all, but other than that nothing particularly stylish stands out. There are some isolated moments of interest, Damian looking really hurt, the bloody domino mask, Bruce losing his cool because his son is hurt, or the fact that Damian killed someone and that calls into question the effectiveness of the whole self-imposed moral system of these vigilantes. This book isn’t as offensive as most of the DC fare, more neutral I guess, but I keep going back to this question: Why does this title, why does any title, need to exist among the morass of other Bat titles? What makes it special? What is its raison d’etre? Barring a compelling answer, it’s just kind of futile publishing white noise fueled by the fumes of inertia. Grade B.

Batgirl #8 (DC): Considering that it took 3 artists and 2 inkers to make this thing, it’s surprising that the art in one of the sequences (the superhero one) manages to rise above the level of the generic DC House Style. The civilian sequences, on the other hand, are the pinnacle of mediocrity with their dopey homely aesthetic. In the superhero scenes, I appreciate the way that Barbara looks like she’s actually wearing a costume, rather than just colors painted onto her skin. I don’t know, any story that has to reference The Killing Joke this much probably a) is never going to rise to that level, and b) isn’t attempting to do anything original on its own. It’s got these revisionist tendencies all over it, and the melodrama just never seems to progress. I’ve checked in on this title around issues 1, 5, and 8, and it’s the same old survivor’s guilt shtick, and Babs has issues with her family ‘round the horn, dad, mom, and brother. Feels like this is still stuck in second gear. It’s also 2012 and I’m surprised we can’t come up with a more imaginative title for a villain than Mr. Grotesque. Grade B-.

New Avengers #24 (Marvel): I think I saw this on an episode of 90210 one time. It’s the Great Break-Up Conversation Between Luke & Jessica. Nah, it’s really an AVX tie-in, which means it’s basically all filler and not crucial to the main story, filling in what happened just before the events in AVX #1, as Cap rallies the troops for their attack on Utopia. Deodato’s Helicarrier is purdy, but I’m not sure I like the figure work. It goes from kinda’ digestible model/actress photoref that isn’t nearly as bad as, say, Greg Land, to some really wonky disproportionate qualities, which might actually be from the inking the more I look at it. One of the things that originally made Jessica Jones such a popular and unique character was that she looked like a real… y’know, woman. Here she looks like every other tarted up, tiny-waisted, big-chested, puffy-lipped superhero in the Marvel U. Not sure I liked Luke’s “preachin’ out front” characterization. I’m left with a few questions, actually. Is it free “rein” or free “reign?” Since when is Red Hulk, like, an articulate tactical commander? If Wolverine and Warbird tell Cap exactly what Scott is going to do upon his arrival, why does Cap proceed? Why does Cap let Ororo go if she will go and assumably tell Scott the Avengers are coming? That’s Sun Tzu element of surprise 101, no? Tony also brings up a good point, this ENTIRE event is predicated upon the idea that two very capable and intelligent men, Steve Rogers and Scott Summers, two grown men who are esteemed in Marvel history and ultimately respect each other despite their difference, that these two leaders simply CAN’T sit down and have a rational discussion, but will instead just… fight? That’s such a huge leap. Also, there’s Bendis dialogue, which goes a little something like this: “Wolverine runs a school now? Yup. You run a school. Yup. A school. Yup. With children. Yup.” I like David Mamet and Aaron Sorkin too, but this has almost become a parody of itself. Grade B-.

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