Monday, June 6, 2011

EXPRESSions - Week of June 1st

So as you may have already gathered from my reviews, I've been enjoying the comics I picked up this week.  It's been a pretty solid week, with me enjoying at least part of every single issue I went through.  However, should you be wanting something a bit more substantial "it was pretty good", you can find my thoughts on some of those comics below.

Amazing Spider-Man #663
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli and Klaus Janson

After a two issue absence, Dan Slott finally returns to the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, and I, for one, am happy to welcome him back.  However, all is not well in Slott's fateful homecoming, because though ASM if, for the most part, back to its usual goodness, there seems to be a lot of heretofore unmentioned continuity that is somewhat important to appreciate all the nuances of the issue.  It isn't exactly a deal breaker, but it doesn't help the book either.

The issue features two storylines that come together towards the end of the issue.  In the first one, Anti-Venom (Eddie Brock) is slowly working against the nefarious machinations of Mr. Negative / Martin Li, a vicious crime lord who also happens to be the most beloved philanthropist in New York City.  Anti-Venom's hunt is interrupted by the (re?)appearance of The Wraith, who is another masked vigilante who is maybe a ghost?  It's kind of confusing.  Certainly there is time spent to try to explain everything the reader needs to know, but this high degree of continuity exposition has not reared its ugly head in earlier Slott-penned issues.  Or at the very least, it's been handled better in previous outings.

The second storyline, which I found to be much more enjoyable, was focused on Peter Parker enjoying how great everything is going in his life right now, cumulating with him being published in American Science Journal.  It's really some fun stuff, made even better by how excited Peter is to be published.  I didn't realize that it was a dream of his, but Slott manages to convey the euphoria with great ease.

Towards the end of the issue, these two storylines converge with some miscommunication between Anti-Venom and Spider-Man that is eerily reminiscent of Venom #3 from last week.  It's not bad, but is dragged down by all the earlier continuity that is brought in and explained during their fight.  On the plus side, the cliffhanger ending is pretty interesting, so I can deal with that.

The two-page Infested backups that Slott has been doing continue wonderfully.  In this iteration, Miles Warren (Jackal) finally reveals himself to one of the unsuspecting citizens that he has infused with Spider-Man-like powers.  There's also a fun Cloak and Dagger appearance.  It's amazing what Slott can fit into those two pages.

The other back-up is alright.  It's one of those "Spider-Man-feels-like-everything-he-does-just-makes-stuff-worse-but-he-did-actually-help" stories, of which I'm sure dozens have been done.  It's serviceable, but nothing special.

So yeah, apparently Slott's return to the title wasn't as amazing as I thought it would be.  I'm certainly interested to see where everything is going (and I imagine Spider Island will be an awesome storyline this summer), but it didn't knock off my socks like it usually does.  Hopefully next time goes better.

Criminal: The Last of the Innocent #1
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips

While not appearing on my pull list for the week, I was eventually talked into picking up issue 1 of Brubaker and Phillips' newest entry into their Criminal series, and boy am I glad I did.  To put it bluntly, this comic was fantastic.  Set in 1982, the book features a man by the name of Riley Richards who travels from the big city to his hometown to see his sick father.  This trip brings up a number of father-son issues which are examined throughout the story and I imagine they will continue to crop up as the series continues.

Of course, it can't be as simple as that to be a Criminal book, so it also comes up early on that Riley has some problems of his own, owing some bad people money and having some marital issues at home.

Back in his hometown, Riley remembers all the good times of his youth, growing up in small town America, and wonders how things could have been different had he made different choices.  It's an excellent look at nostalgia, but also at comics books, because all the flashbacks are drawn as Archie-like scenes, insisting on the innocence of those past times, while undercutting them in the all-too-real present.  It's skillfully done and really adds to the book as a whole.

Brubaker and Phillips are at their best, taking all these separate elements and subtly combining them together to develop the scheme / heist that the rest of the series will focus on.  It's amazingly done and the reveal on the last panel packs a heck of a punch.  Don't make the same mistake I almost did: get reading this series.  Now.

Flashpoint #2
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Andy Kubert

I won't lie, I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I'll be buying all five issues of the main Flashpoint series, regardless of quality.  Fortunately, thus far Johns and Kubert have been producing an enjoyable comic.  Issue #1 acted as a good introduction to the world, providing a lot of hints and clues as to what kind of crazy Earth we have now, and issue #2, well issue #2 does a lot of the same things.

This issue is a lot of exposition, a lot of moving pieces around to get them in place for whatever is to come.  Certainly there are some changes, but nothing concrete and nothing all that major.  To be fair, all this discovery is fun and kind of exciting.  It's neat to see how things are different and what the characters we know and love are up to in this upside down madworld.  The problem, or fear, that I have is, knowing Geoff Johns, I'm concerned that he might not be able to wrap everything up by the end of issue 5, especially since we really don't know what happened or why things have changed (Professor Zoom / the Reverse-Flash / Eobard Thawne did it does not count as an explanation) or how the hell things will be "fixed" to get us to September's reboot.

However, I'm cautiously optimistic.  I enjoyed this issue for what it was and look forward to some (possible) plot movement come issue 3.  We shall see!

Hellboy: The Fury #1
Written by: Mike Mignola
Art by: Duncan Fegredo

I love Hellboy.  He's an absolutely fantastic character and I everything Mike Mignola has done with him, from Seeds of Destruction up until this present storyline has been fascinating and utterly enjoyable.  To put it simply, I trust every and any decision Mignola could take with Hellboy, because he obviously knows what should and will happen and he's going to do it when the time is right.

Well the time certainly seems right, because all of the past storylines seem to have been building to get us to this issue.  The forces of Evil have been building.  The forces of Good have been building.  Hellboy's been at the middle of it all throughout.  And that doesn't change here.  Indeed, some of the long awaited conflicts finally materialize and a few unexpected clashes turn up as well.

This issue is beautifully written and wonderfully drawn.  Mignola and Fegredo have made a great team for the Hellboy books and their excellent record continues here.  Fegredo is perhaps the only artist apart from Mignola that I'm really happy to have drawing Hellboy, and his work continues to impress.  I'm always excited for new Hellboy books, but I'm particularly excited to see how The Fury plays out.

Also, I absolutely adore Mignola's covers.  Cannot wait until next year when he starts drawing Hellboy again.

Sweet Tooth #22
Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Jeff Lemire

As I mentioned in my pull list post, I was very excited for this week's iteration of Sweet Tooth.  Happily, Jeff Lemire did not let me down.  The current storyline, Endangered Species, has seen Gus and Jeperd's group travelling north towards Alaska, having finally gotten away from the dangers posed by the compound, only to find themselves facing brad new dangers.  Among them have been keeping warm in the winter cold, dealing with other groups of survivors, and a bear.  I was particularly fond of the bear.

This issue provides a bit more explanation of the strange religion that Gus' father invented while still alive and sees the group take sides between the one man who has shown them kindness and the group of hostile strangers.  Of course, because it would be no fun if things were simple, maybe they could have picked better.

Like always, Lemire's pacing and artistic decisions are near perfect, providing the perfect pacing for the issue as a whole.  He is one of the few creators at DC who has figured out how to consistently navigate a 20 page comic and it is always a pleasure to read his stories.  Because this is only midway through the storyline, there's no real conclusion, but the situations presented do a great job to move the story along and build suspense for the reader.  If you aren't reading this, you definitely should be.  The third trade is coming out this week and they are all very reasonably priced.  Perhaps the best comic being done by a Canadian right now.

That's it for last week.  Be sure to come back in a few days to see my pulls for this week and, shortly thereafter, some more reviews.  Maybe I'll fit in some other stuff between now and then.  Who knows?

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