This week in Comics (12-27-09)

I hope you all had a good relaxing holiday with your friends and family, because I certainly did. Certainly a big week for comics so lets get started.

Captain America: Who will wield the Shield?

Written by Ed Brubaker

Art by Butch Guice and Luke Ross

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Well isn’t that nice, Marvel is giving us the epilogue to Captain America: Reborn before it has even concluded. I ranted enough about how poorly executed Captain America: Reborn has been going, but if you missed it just read my review of Captain America: Reborn #5 from last week. This issue is a big step up from the filth we had last week in so many ways. In this issue we have art from both Butch Guice and Luke Ross. Ross covers the art for WWII flashback scene while Guice takes care art for the modern setting. When Ed Brubaker first started writing Captain America one of the things that really caught the attention of the readers were the flashback scenes that were plaguing Cap. Now that Captain America is back those flashback scenes have returned. We see a deeper conflict, what it meant to be a hero then, and what it means to be a hero now. This book is just as much about Cap as it is about Bucky; they both are conflicted with what it means to have two Captain Americas. So who gets to be Captain America? That I can’t say without spoiling the plot, but I did enjoy this book and it shows Brubaker’s handling for bringing elements of the past to haunt the present. When it was announced that Captain America would be returned from the dead, I was unhappy. But now that he’s back on solid ground I am glad he’s here.

8/10

Thor #605

Written by Kieron Gillen

Art by Billy Tan

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By now you all know that J. Michael Straczynski is my favorite writer and that I am immediately critical of anyone who follows him on a project. But the time for comparisons is over because Kieron Gillen has established himself as a more than a worthy successor, but a great writer of Thor. This book is great and action packed all the way through, it is everything that a Thor book should be, nearly perfect. I say nearly perfect because the art could use a little polishing up. Billy Tan is a good artist, but unfortunately I still think that Billy Tan doesn’t live up to the standards set by Olivier Coipel and Marko Djurdjevic. Gillen’s writing is great and does not suffer even though that most of this book is comprised of fight scenes. The one area I think that Kieron Gillen’s writing could be improved would be in the handling of character dialogue, but unfortunately I am comparing it to JMS dialogue and there are few writers who could match dialogue of that quality. Overall this is an A grade story that has me eager for the next installment.

9/10

Secret Warriors #11

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Stephano Caselli

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We can rejoice because Stephano Caselli has returned to illustrating the pages of Secret Warriors. Caselli’s art is a step up the visuals that we have been dealing with for the past few months, but unfortunately there are still some problems with what we see. The coloring that is seen here is too dark for Caselli’s lively art, which should be seen with brighter and more noticeable colors to adapt to the almost cartoony style. I do enjoy the writing of this book, but there are some noticeable problems. The biggest problem that affects Secret Warriors is that it tries to tell too many stories at once. Every issue is in a different location with a different character, but this issue is at packed with several stories trying to be told at once. Hickman tries to give backstory to Gorgon but I don’t think the effort really goes far because it doesn’t tell just who he is, and then are some freakish looking villains that have emerged but they don’t really stand out too much due to the coloring and finally Nick Fury is assembling his team for another pet project. I like this book but it needs to get more focused and it really needs to make the members of the Secret Warriors more memorable. The book has been coming out for a year now, and I still can’t name any of the team members other than Nick Fury. But like most books these days, I have a feeling that this book is setting up for something bigger. I really wish that books would just tell a story rather than set up for something big, but Siege is on the horizon for next month and that’s all Marvel can think about right now.

7/10

The New Avengers #60

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Stuart Immonen

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Ugh, I am so terribly sick of stories that involve going inside Luke Cage’s body. It seems like there have been half a billion stories in the last year that involve shrinking down to a microscopic size and entering Luke Cage’s body. On the upside this issue was actually pretty funny due to the witty dialogue of Spider-Man. Oh Spidey this is only place where can tolerate you, if only you weren’t a halfwit retconned loser in your other books. I’ve been following New Avengers since the start, but when the hell did they get 200 members on their team? All of a sudden Hellcat, Thing and Daredevil have joined the team and a bunch of others who have appeared out of nowhere. Despite the huge additions to the team Luke Cage is still the star of the show, which leads me to believe that Avengers will eventually get renumbered to vol. 1 status and new avengers will transition into a solo Luke Cage book. See, I got you outplayed Bendis I know how you roll. Regardless of what this book might become, right now its funny and I like it. This book has seen some ups and downs, but I think this issue is an up. However I am beginning to get a little tired of Stuart Immonen’s artwork. New Avengers was a series that had a new artist every 2 seconds, and I think that Stuart Immonen has overstayed his welcome. My biggest gripe about his art is the inability to express emotion in the characters, unless you count angry gritted teeth Clint Eastwood smirks as varied emotive display. But we don’t live in a Clint Eastwood world so the smirks won’t cut it. Overall this was a solid story and next month we can look forward to the Avengers getting their 4 billionth member as a certain star-spangled avenger returns to the team.

8/10

Guardians of the Galaxy #21

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Art by Brad Walker

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Guardians of the Galaxy has its momentum back. Although this is considered a Realm of Kings tie-in it does keep its distance from the rest of happenings that are going on with that big event. I think this is good choice to stay away from the events of RoK in order to let the Guardians focus on their own stories. The plot intensifies in this issue as backstory is given to the murderous monster that has begun to possess members onboard the neutral station. For all you early to mid-90s Marvel fans, this creature is black, has sharp teeth and is almost gelatinous so we could possibly be seeing a symbiotic-based tie in story here. The storyline is actually quite amusing and gross at the same time. The dialogue is always funny, but that’s when you have a team full of trash talking aliens. 24 issues into this series and I still love hearing the words “I AM GROOT”. Brad Walker’s pencils may not be as good as Paul Pelletier’s but they get the job done well enough, I just wish he didn’t draw everyone with a horseface. Guardians is a solid story with a lot of laughs, so go pick it up.

8/10

Criminal: The Sinners #3

Written by Ed Brubaker

Art by Sean Phillips

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At this point in time I think you would have an easier time finding a factory sealed copy of the Frank Miller Daredevil Omnibus than you would finding a bad issue of Criminal (by the way if you find a Frank Miller Daredevil Omnibus let me know). Every issue is so good and just gets you addicted for more. Now we find Tracy Lawless hunting down a serial killer whose victims have no connection. Like any good crime comic there is detective work that Tracy must use in order for the story to progress. There are revelations in this book, enough to get you really interested but not so much as to spoil the entire story. There are several subplots going on in this issue, but they compliment the story rather than going off on their own tangent. Tracy investigates the murder, while an army officer follows his trail for deserting his unit, and the church starts of a mystery of their own. Sean Phillips doesn’t go overboard with the art, but for a book like Criminal you don’t have to. The gritty atmosphere that Phillips draws continues to be a perfect fit. The characters are gritty, desperate, and angry in the run down world that Phillips has crafted for them. As for Ed Brubaker he continues to entertain as the story moves on. The pacing Brubaker is actually very fitting; he lets the information slip out in little doses and building up the story. And with every issue of Brubaker’s crime comics he throws in some very good essays at the end, this time on Korean Crime movies. Solid stuff, if Brubaker keeps it up Criminal could be the best book on the shelf once again.

9/10

Chew #7

Written by John Layman

Art by Rob Guillory

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My favorite indie book gets another installment into it’s hilariously twisted world. Tony Chew is taking a little break from his work stopping the illegal chicken black market and travels to the tropical island of Yamapalu. This has my pick for best new ongoing series of 2009. Unfortunately I think that this issue slips a bit in quality from the previous issues. There isn’t much a of transition from the previous issue to the current one and I don’t think that Chow Chu gets enough face time in this issue. And the biggest complaint that I have is that this issue lacked the humor that was found in previous 6 issues. There is witty dialogue but its not enough to earn the big laughs, or other big emotional responses [I had hopes that this issue would gross me out]. The art by Rob Guillory is still funny and entertaining to look at because of how “indie” it is. I felt the issue was over too quick and simply was acting to set up something bigger unlike the previous issues, which told their own story and set up for something bigger at the same time. Overall it was a solid issue, but it needed some more to bring it to life.

7/10

That’s all for now, thanks for reading.

– Matt Dunford (Your comic book guy)