10/28 & 11/4/09 Reviews

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Forgive my absence the past week and a half. I didn’t get the last week of October’s new comics until this Wednesday, so I’m just going to lump the two weeks together for one massive reviews post. Reviewed this week:

Batman #692

Blackest Night #4 (of 8 )

Captain America: Reborn #4 (of 5)

Dark Reign: The List — Wolverine #1

Green Lantern #47

Jack of Fables #39

Justice Society of America #32

The Torch #3 (of 8 )

X-Factor #50

Only Captain America and The Torch were new this week; the others are from Oct. 28. Maybe a good thing I got both weeks at once, or it would be a small list.

Dave’s Spotlight of the Week(s): X-Factor #50

X-Factor #50

Written by Peter David.

Art by Valentine de Landro, inked by Pat Davidson and Craig Yeung; cover by David Yardin with Nathan Fairbairn.

RATING: 5/5

Since 1981, when Chris Claremont and John Byrne introduced the readers of Uncanny X-Men to the “Days of Future Past,” the books of Marvel’s Mightiest Mutants have thrived on taking looks into dystopian futures and alternate realities. Over the past year, X-Factor has given us a story to rival any X-Dystopia, as Peter David has taken his readers back into “the Summers Rebellion.” David has interwoven the future and the present beautifully to tell a tale with profound impact on both times. But whereas many flash-forward stories, such as “Age of Apocalypse,” were defined by their epic scope, X-Factor  has succeeded with the personal touch of strong characterization. Yes, there’s the typical struggle to survive in a world gone wrong, but the heart of the story is more about people and relationships — Jamie and Layla, Ruby and Fitzroy, a senile but still evil Doctor Doom. And it was the strength of those characters that built the storyline’s conclusion into such a remarkable issue.

Everything comes to a head in this issue. It’s a story about combatting the evil within, about the inevitability of fate. And in the end, it’s a story that shows thing rarely change, no matter how hard you try to make them, or how much you wish you could let them. David’s narration, through Madrox and Layla, maintains the human element even in critical moments of intense action. De Landro, whom I’ve never been a huge fan of, delivers some of his best art on the series. I still think he could do more with his facial expression and more thoroughly develop the background art, but I’ll settle for the solid, clean pencils he gave this issue.

X-Factor has already been one of the best books of the market for a while, and this issue further cemented its status as a must-buy book. The book now takes November off before returning in December with new numbering, paying homage to the old X-Factor run by jumping to #200. We got an extended preview of #200 at the end of this issue, and aside from not understanding why Guido is black, I thought it was great. If you haven’t tried the book yet, definitely be there in December.

Quick Hits: The Rest of the Week(s)

The Torch #3 (of 8 )

The Torch #3 (of 8 )

Story by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, and Mike Carey; script by Mike Carey.

Art by Patrick Berkenkotter; cover by Alex Ross.

RATING: 5/5

In a year that has seen the launch of Blackest Night, Captain America: Reborn, Flash: Rebirth, and The Marvels Project, and that saw the conclusion of Final Crisis, Secret Invasion, and Battle for the Cowl, among others, The Torch looks like it might shape up to be the best miniseries of them all. Only three issue in, Carey & Co. have already delivered a spectacular story that somehow just keeps getting better. The way the Mad Thinker is being written, you wonder why he hasn’t been an elite villain all these years. The way Toro is being written, you wonder how he could be left dead all those years. The way Berkenkotter’s art looks, you wonder why you’ve never heard of him. His stuff has a Steve Epting feel to it, with a lighter, more expressive tint. Yet perhaps the most impressive thing is the quick tempo at which the plot is moving along. I can’t help but wonder what devlopments will be introduced to get this mini through eight issues, given how much has already happened. But with Namor coming into the fray, I’m more excited than ever to see where this goes. Great stuff.

Green Lantern #47

Green Lantern #47

Written by Geoff Johns.

Art and cover by Doug Mahnke, inked by Christian Almy and Tom Nguyen.

RATING: 4.5/5

As Blackest Night continues, many of the meatier story developments are happening not in the main miniseries, but in Green Lantern. This week is a good example of that. The war of light is in full swing as Hal, Sinestro, Carol, and Indigo face off against one of the more interesting Black Lanterns yet, Abin Sur, as well as Sur’s Black Lantern sister, who was once the love of Sinestro’s life. We also get developments from the Blue Lanterns, Orange Lanterns, and Red Lanterns, where Atrocitus rages against the darkness closing in on him. It’s a great issue, giving the high-octane action that has defined the crossover while still pausing to give a taste of the battle’s emotional impact. Mahnke’s art is truly impressive; I’m amazed by how much he has improved over the past six or seven years.

Blackest Night #4 (of 8 )

Blackest Night #4 (of 8 )

Written by Geoff Johns.

Art and cover by Ivan Reis, inked by Oclair Albert and Joe Prado.

RATING: 4/5

In a crossover with Green Lantern at its core, this issue is owned by Flash. Barry Allen is at his heroic best, rallying the troops and inspiring even his fellow heroes. His speech to Atom and Mera was perhaps the highlight of the issue. The violence of the Black Lanterns continues, graphic and unrelenting. Another hero falls. Ivan Reis’ art captures the scope of the battles while maintaining the integrity of each character’s reactions. In a week of several issues with good to great art, Reis and Tony Daniel (Batman) stand out as truly outstanding. My only criticism is that the main miniseries is dwelling heavily on the same type of events every issue: The dead are rising and overwhelming the living, who struggle with the emotions of the Black Lanterns’ resurrections while struggling even more just to survive. It’s quite good still, but that element of the premise is starting to run its course and become repetitive. What I thought would be more at the core of the crossover, the so-called “War of Light,” is really happening more in Green Lantern at this point (see above). Still, I’m thoroughly hooked, so we’ll see where Johns goes from here.

Justice Society of America #32

Justice Society of America #32

Written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges.

Art and cover by Jesus Merino.

RATING: 4/5

The fourth of five parts to “The Bad Seed,” the first storyline of the new creative team of Willingham, Sturges, and Merino. While the last issue might have been a little better, this was still a very good effort that sets up perfectly for what should be a great conclusion next month. Willingham and Sturges have done a nice job of sowing the seeds of doubt within DC’s oldest superhero team, creating a dynamic of unease that has rarely been seen in the JSA. At the same time, the creative team is maintaining the elements that have always characterized the Justice Society; the big three (Jay, Alan, and Ted) all have good moments. It’s very enjoyable. I would like to see a couple bigger names in the group of attacking villains, but I suppose that’s part of the charm. Merino looks well on his way to superstar status, with a style like Alan Davis or a less polished Jim Lee. This creative team is in for a great run.

Jack of Fables #39

Jack of Fables #39

Written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges.

Art by Rus Braun, inked by Jose Marzan Jr. and Andrew Pepoy; cover by Brian Bolland.

RATING: 3.5/5

Part 3 of 4 of “The New Adventures of Jack and Jack.” I mistakenly believed this was the storyline’s conclusion, but what it actually is another very good issue from everyone’s (= my) favorite writing duo, Willingham and Sturges. The only comic book that combines fantasy and postmodernism, JoF is a welcome breakthrough in creativity. I look forward to the real conclusion next month.

Captain America: Reborn #4 (of 5)

Captain America: Reborn #4 (of 5)

Written by Ed Brubaker.

Art and cover by Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice.

RATING: 3/5

Much like Flash: Rebirth, this back-from-the-dead miniseries seems to be taking a long, long time. I don’t even know whether there have been delays or the plot is just moving slowly, but I feel like I could have missed the first three issues and not been lost at all. However, there is a lot to like in this issue, particularly the Doom/Skull/Zola banter. There’s also Hitch’s art — he might not be the faster artist, but once it’s done, he’s damn good. And given the ending, it looks like we’re finally on the edge of a plot breakthrough (well, we better be, with only one issue left).

Batman #692

Batman #692

Writing, art, and cover by Tony Daniel, inks by Sandu Florea.

RATING: 3/5

Tony Daniel takes over as the writer and artist for Batman, and it’s a nice start. His art is an unequivocal success, as expected. His art can be dark, expressive, or pin-up worthy; he really is as good as it gets in the industry. His writing is a mixed bag. The plot is quite solid. Daniel gives a nice line-up of villains, particularly the Black Mask. I like the idea of Black Mask becoming a main arch-enemy of Batman; the Joker needs to be saved from overuse, and Black Mask can give a rare scheming matchup for Bats, instead of the pure lunacy he often faces. The downside to Daniel’s writing is the dialogue, which is mediocre at best. Maybe he’ll improve, but I think he could benefit from a co-writer. Regardless, there’s easily more good than bad in this issue, and I’ll keep with the book for at least a while.

Dark Reign: The List -- Wolverine #1 (of 1)

Dark Reign: The List — Wolverine #1

Written by Jason Aaron.

Art by Esad Ribic, inked by Tom Palmer; cover by Esad Ribic.

RATING: 3/5

The latest one-shot in Marvel’s The List series is a solid effort from Aaron and Ribic. This one-shot is a bit different from some of the others I’ve read in the List series, as Norman Osborn isn’t actually going after Wolverine himself at all, but instead is making a power play on The World (the Weapon Plus headquarters introduced in Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run), and Wolvy, Fantomex, and Marvel Boy try to stop him. There’s really no particular flaw in the issue, it just doesn’t rise to any level of greatness. Still, it’s an enjoyable read, as Fantomex and Marvel Boy are both well-written and entertaining. Ribic’s art is nothing special, but it gets the job done.

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4 Responses to “10/28 & 11/4/09 Reviews”

  1. What to buy: Nov. 11, 2009 « Eat More Comics Says:

    […] second issue as writer and artist on the book comes out just two weeks after his debut. If you read my review of his first issue, you know it was not without his flaws. However, the art is so gorgeous, and his overall plot ideas […]

  2. gokitalo Says:

    Even though you kept things pretty spoiler-free, I thought I’d read the comics before getting to the reviews. And I’ve FINALLY done so! Anyway:

    I may have to read X-Factor #50 again, but I agree that the characterizations made the issue. Madrox is as well-written as ever and David writes Doom with panache (in fact, between Doom and the two guest stars in issue #200, I’d say PAD would be a, *ahem* fantastic fit for Marvel’s First Family). Layla, of course, was at the heart of the story; the twist at the end just hits you in the gut. I’m not sure I entirely like it, but I definitely did not see it coming. I’m also a little sad Layla’s outlook on life became so bleak. Living in a dystopic future probably didn’t help.

    “But whereas many flash-forward stories, such as ‘Age of Apocalypse,’ were defined by their epic scope, X-Factor has succeeded with the personal touch of strong characterization.:

    Welllllll, AoA was really a “dystopic present” timeline, but why nitpick? :b

    “aside from not understanding why Guido is black”

    Jacksonmania, man. Note how Monet’s also gotten whiter lately…

    Loving Blackest Night and Green Lantern. Honestly, Blackest Night has convinced me Barry’s return was worth it more than Flash: Rebirth has. The writing’s top-notch on both titles, and Ivan Reis’ art is just stunning. As is Mahnke’s! He especially has a way with drawing the monstrous and grotesque. The way he drew those certain Alan Moore/Kevin Nowlan creations at the beginning of #47 would do Kev proud.

    I’ve been kind of waiting to see what the buzz is for the new creative team on JSofA before making any decisions about it. I’ve heard mostly good things (plus Willingham and Sturges have both written things I’ve enjoyed), but I’ll wait until this first storyline finishes up…

  3. gokitalo Says:

    Oh, another thing I wanted to mention about X-Factor: the plot was a little hard to follow sometimes. I’d completely forgotten about Tryp and Falcone, despite the former’s awesome beard, and their “master plan” with the Sentinels walked a thin line between clever and overly complex. Then again, maybe a re-read will make all my nits go away…

  4. davidry214 Says:

    I followed the plot well enough in X-Factor. Really, the only problem I had with it at all is that Doom just disappears during the action and no one notices or comments on it. But I loved the Layla revelation; it just made everything all the more heartbreaking.

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