Thursday, 19 April 2012

New Comics - 18th April 2012

Apologies for not posting in such a long time. I've read a tonne of comics since my last post but haven't had much time for writing about them. Anyway we're back on track this week and it couldn't have come at a better time. This was one of my biggest weeks and saw a total of 7 books bought yesterday (Wednesday) including Batman #8, Nightwing #8, Justice League #8, Rocketeer Adventures #2, The Punisher #10, The Amazing Spider-Man #684 and finally Avengers vs X-Men #2. Lets get to the books!

Rocketeer Adventures #2

I'm a big fan of the Rocketeer. I remember watching the Disney movie years ago as a kid and enjoying it but I had no idea at the time it was based on a comic. Last year I stumbled across the The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures thanks to the folks at iFanboy, who'd awarded it the Book of the Month award in April 2012. I purchased it immediately and fell in love with Dave Stevens's iconic character all over again. The timing couldn't have been better either, as around the time I bought that beautiful collection of Stevens's original Rocketeer adventures IDW released a series of Rocketeer issues produced by some of the top names in comics, each writing and illustrating their own short stories based around our hero Cliff Secord. I managed to pick up a couple of those issues last year and enjoyed them a lot. So you can probably guess I was happy to see the series picked up for a second run in 2012 and I loved issue 1 a few weeks ago. 

Issue 2 contains three short stories written by Tom Taylor, Paul Dini and Walter Simonsen with art by Colin Wilson, Bill Morrison and John Paul Leon, plus a gorgeous Cliff and Betty pin-up by J. Scott Campbell. Each story is under 10 pages long but there's enough there to make it worth your while. Out of the three stories featured in this issue my favourite was probably the last one, "Autograph" by Simonsen and John Paul Leon - it had everything a Rocketeer story should have. Overall I adore these Rocketeer Adventures and I can't wait for the Mark Waid mini-series in August

Rating: 5/5

The Amazing Spider-Man #684

Dan Slott is knocking it out of the park with every issue of The Amazing Spider-Man and issue 684 is no exception. The previous issue saw Spidey assemble the Avengers against the threat of Doctor Octopus and the Sinister Six but our heroes were soon overwhelmed by Doc Ock and his dastardly tactics, leaving Spider-Man helpless. However all is not lost as issue 684 sees Spidey receive some desperately needed assistance from Silver Sable as he escapes Ock's tentacled-clutches just in time. With the help of Black Widow (who managed to survive the Sinister Six's attack and got rescued by a stealthy Silver Sable), the three heroes team up to track down Ock before its too late. They run into trouble in the shape of Sandman who has the whole Sahara desert to call upon. Thus an epic battle ensues as Peter, with the help of his two lady friends, goes toe to toe with one of his oldest adversaries.

As per usual with Slott's writing, this was a lot of fun. The guy knows how to mix in just the right amount of action and humour to get the best results for his audience. It was also great to see Humberto Ramos back on art duties. The previous issue was pencilled by the talented Stefano Caselli but I'm a big fan of Ramos and his unique style so was pleased to see him return to the character he seems destined to have drawn. Overall I'm really enjoying this "Ends of the Earth" arc Slott has cooked up. It's very rare I read any Avengers stuff so to get that mixed in with my regular Spidey fix is an added bonus. More of the same from Mr Slott which is in no way a bad thing.

Rating: 4/5

Justice League #8

Something still isn't quite right with Justice League. I felt issue 7 took a big step forward but issue 8 seems like a step backwards, albeit a small one. I'm enjoying the fact we are now seeing the Justice League operate in "present day" continuity; no longer must we suffer more character introductions that take up entire issues. But Johns still hasn't got this book up to the high level most fans were expecting when DC relaunched their entire universe. This issue sees Green Arrow trying to force his way into contention for a spot on the JL roster. Its fun most of the time and Johns does an excellent job with the witty dialogue between Earth's greatest heroes but I still have issues with this book. To be honest I don't think its living up to my expectations and maybe that's my fault, maybe my expectations are just too high. This is DC's flagship book, the comic that represents their entire company and what they stand for. But for me, its just not hitting the high notes I want it to. It's the little things I'm struggling with. For example I really don't like how Johns writes Batman. One of my favourite characters ever and arguably DC's most popular hero is being written like an old man who can't keep up with the "cool kids" like Green Lantern. I like Hal Jordan and I appreciate a big part of his character is being cocky but I hate how nearly every wisecrack he makes is at Batman's expense and instead of Bruce coming back with a witty remark, he comes off as a grouchy old stick-in-the-mud. Its a running theme with Johns and I noticed it in Green Lantern: Rebirth as well. I agree Batman and Green Lantern should have a friendly rivalry going on, but a rivalry usually means there are two sides, which is not the case when it comes to Johns's Batman who is never given a chance to comeback at Hal.

Its not all negative in Justice League though. The double page spread by Ivan Reis featuring the Martian Manhunter in action against the Justice League was brilliant (see below) and his inclusion looks set to a very interesting story in the near future. The Shazam! backup story by Johns and Gary Frank (one of my favourite artists) was also a high point. I have no history at all with the character and I've enjoyed what I've seen so far. Another thing to look forward to? Jim Lee is back on art for issue 9. There is hope for this book yet...

Rating: 3/5

Nightwing #8

Just when I was beginning to doubt this book and think about ending my time with it, Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows go and produce possibly the best issue of the series. Tied in with the big Night of the Owls event that is affecting all the Bat family books at the moment, Nightwing #8 not only embraces the Owls mini-event but actually benefits enormously from it, which is rare amongst event tie-in books. The best part of this issue was undoubtedly the flashback to 1910 Gotham City where we see Dick Grayson's great grandfather William Cobb and how he wasn't always a blood thirsty Talon sent by the Court of Owls to murder Gotham's leaders. Couple that with Nightwing taking on and defeating one of the Court's assassins, this hit all the right notes with me.

Even if you only read Scott Snyder's Batman and have been hesitant to pick up some of the other Bat family books taken over by the Night of the Owls, I highly recommend getting Nightwing. And with the way issue 8 ended... well lets just say I can't wait for the next issue of Nightwing, and that's something I haven't said too often with this series. Excellent stuff from Higgins and Barrows.

Rating: 4/5

Avengers vs X-Men #2

After promising myself I wasn't going to invest in Marvel's big event of 2012, I naturally went out and purchased issue 1 of Avengers vs X-Men two weeks ago. I was going to wait it out, see if the reviews were generally positive and then pick up in trade format, which would work out cheaper than buying it in single issues. Well I couldn't help myself and the fact John Romita Jr, one of my favourite artists, is behind the pencils on this event was an added bonus, one that turned out to be too hard to resist.

After two issues I can safely say I'm really enjoying this. So far its been a pretty standard action-fest (although a lovely looking action fest) and that was to be expected but its being handled really well. The script is fast paced, like the action on page, and is both witty and direct. I reckon I'll keep going for a little bit longer as I'm intrigued to see how the X-Men, despite being devastatingly outnumbered, will react to this assault from the good-intentioned Avengers. I'll definitely pick up issue 3.

Rating: 4/5

The Punisher #10

I initially had some reservations when Marvel announced their mini crossover event The Omega Effect. I enjoy my monthly fix of Daredevil and I don't want the main story spoiled and interrupted with storylines from other books I don't buy. So when I found out Daredevil #11 would be used to tell the final chapter of the Omega Effect, well, you can understand my trepidation. Thankfully Marvel didn't overextend themselves and after a small amount of research I had no problem with picking up just two extra books, Avenging Spider-Man #6 and this, The Punisher #10. Well last week the Omega Effect kicked off in Avenging Spider-Man and it started out with a bang, a wonderful issue that hooked me into this story right away.

And of course, Punisher #10 keeps the ball rolling in the right direction. I had previously never read an issue of the Punisher. I'm somewhat familiar with the character but haven't ever gotten around to reading any of his own stories. Well that hasn't really changed because this issue, despite saying Punisher on the cover, is very Daredevil-centric and really revolves around Hornhead, and not Frank Castle and Spidey. Which of course makes the Daredevil fan in me very happy. Greg Rucka is the man behind the script and does a fantastic job, so much so that I'm tempted to stay on board with The Punisher and see what Rucka delivers every month. But Mark Waid, who has co-crafted this mini event with Rucka, deserves praise too because the entire story has been masterminded by the two of them. So far the Omega Effect has been a lot of fun to read, which is not what I expected when I picked up The Punisher. Rucka writes Spider-Man beautifully, his interactions with the serious Punisher have been hilarious. And don't forget the art. Oh, the art!

Marco Checchetto has been the artist on both Avenging Spider-Man and The Punisher, and will also wrap up the event in Daredevil #11. He has been in fine form and I love what he's done with these characters. I've seen some of Checchetto's work before in a couple of DD issues I bought last year (during Shadowland) and I came away impressed. But his efforts on The Omega Effect have been outstanding so far and I'm positive Daredevil #11 is going to look equally impressive. I love the way he draws Daredevil; so much detail is applied to his face and costume, like the red facial fuzz on Matt's chin and the sharp cut of his mask. Paulo Rivera is working wonders every month on Daredevil with his understated style but I have to admit I'm enjoying Checchetto's fine work here. Both artists have completely contrasting styles - Checchetto's look is much darker than Rivera's - but I am enjoying see Matt Murdock in this light; it makes a nice change.

Overall this has been a great event so far and the cliffhanger in The Punisher #10 has left me wanting more. Top stuff from everyone involved on the Omega Effect. On an ordinary week this would've been my Pick of the Week, without a doubt. But we're forgetting one more book...

Rating: 5/5

Batman #8

Wow, Bruce Wayne can't catch a break huh? After finally escaping from the Court of Owl's clutches and dragging his near-lifeless body back to Wayne Manor, the Court up their game with a full scale assault on Batman's home and of course, The Batcave. Writer Scott Snyder, whose talent for writing incredible stories seems to know no bounds, has crafted a masterpiece. Since DC initiated the New 52, Batman as consistently been the best comic on the shelves. I'm sorry, I know I don't read every book every month, but for me there is no equal to Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman.

Snyder has done a fantastic job maintaining the fundamentals of Batman as the hero we all know and love whilst also making him vulnerable, a side we rarely see from Gotham's Dark Knight. With the Talons surrounding Bruce and Alfred throughout issue 8, Snyder brings the reader in, making us feel as chased and pursued as the characters on the page. Its truly horrifying stuff and its what Snyder is best at. As the Court's assassins close in for the kill, the feeling of panic rises within the reader yet Bruce remains calm and calculated, on the ball for everything the Talons have to throw at him. After finally coming to terms with the fact that he was wrong, that the Court of Owls have been under his nose the entire time, Bruce no longer seems so vulnerable but instead he is focused on the task at hand. You sense there'll be some serious ass kicking coming up in the near future.

We can't forget about Capullo's art though. As great as Snyder is with words, Capullo can match him with his pencils, which results in comic book perfection for the readers. It feels like he's getting better and better with every issue too. Just gorgeous stuff from the man. An honourable mention must go to American Vampire artist Rafael Albuquerque too, for his sublime work on the backup story in this issue.

Overall if you're not reading Batman at the moment, then what the hell is wrong with you? I implore all comic book fans to read this book. If you're not on board already, make sure you get the trade. It's just so good.

Rating: 5/5 Pick of the Week

Thanks for reading!

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