Sunday, July 29, 2012

Wonder Woman #11 Review

Hey guys, I'm going to try and keep this review short so let's just dig in and not do the whole opening spiel where I go,"Hey guys, yadda yadda...."

Oh wait, I think I'm doing it again.

Brian Azzarello(curse him and his hard to spell name!) and Clifford Chiang put out another great read with Wonder Woman #11. When it first came out I had read a little about the series online and I remember really liking some ideas, like Wonder Woman as a monster hunter, and not liking others.For example, Amazons sleeping with sailors to procreate and then murdering them.

Kinda dark. Hard to like the residents of Paradise Isle after that.

Anyway, just a few weeks ago my friend hooked me up with several issues and I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed them. So when I found myself in my local comic book store last week I was compelled to pick up the newest issue.

In this issue, Wonder Woman confronts Apollo and Artemis who have teamed up to abduct Zola and the unborn child of Zeus she's carrying. I'm  going to try and avoid spoilers for once so that's all you really need to know story wise.

I think it's enough, a concept so wonderfully simple that it manages to cut straight to the core of Wonder Woman without having to say a word. Surrounded by scheming gods and vicious monsters, Diana confronts them head on in a quest to protect an innocent life.

The side characters in this book are what really bring me in and help keep the story grounded. Azzarello writes the gods and goddesses of Olympus as a real life dysfunctional family, making the relationships between each character unique and interesting. Meanwhile, Clifford Chiang's character designs make them fascinating to look at. His action sequences are nothing to sneeze at either.

I could go on about everything I like about this series but I'll save that for another day. Wonder Woman #11 was a great read. Brian Azzarello is doing more than just pumping out good Wonder Woman comics. He is recreating the character's entire universe, setting a tone that will hopefully inspire other writers for years to come.

I'm a recent convert to the character. I've always liked the concept of her but whenever I picked up an issue it just wouldn't connect. What do fans of the old-school Wonder Woman think of Azarello's take on the character?

Friday, July 27, 2012

X-Factor #240 Review

With X-Factor #240, titled Run Layla Run as a refrence to the film by Tom Tykwer,  Peter David gives us another one-and-done story, this one shedding a little light on the character of Layla Miller. We see her personality, her powers, and her goals explored. That's good for me because Layla has been one of my least favorite characters in this title. She popped up in part of a cross-over that I didn't read and for awhile her defining characteristics were mysteriousness and the incredibly vague power of "knowing things." Both things which I found more annoying than intriguing.

This issue gives us a look at how exactly Layla's powers work, or more appropriately how they don't work. Once privy to knowledge of future events, Layla's "future sight" has been scewed and she is now being bombarded with potential futures.

As this is going on our hero races across town trying to save the life of a young girl and through her, the life of a friend.

 Neil Edwards is back for this issue, his pencils providing the necessary kinetic energy for this story to work. A lot of artists on a super hero book might not be able handle an issue as down to earth as this, where the main action is a foot race across town and none of the characters appear in costume. Edwards pulls it off with style though.

The issue uses color as a simple but effective means to convey time, with past sequences in black and white and future sequences tinted in red, blue, green, or yellow.

X-Factor continues to be an exciting an unconventional little corner of the Marvel universe. Can't wait for next issue.

What are other people thinking off X-Factor right now.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Earth 2 #3 Review

Welcome back to the Freeze Ray where I have some more comic book reviews for you. Why? Because my real life is empty and meaningless. Just kidding.

Kind of.

Lets pretend that embarassing personal revelation never happened and get moving shall we? Today we are starting with DC's Earth 2 by writer James Robinson and artist Nicola Scott.

This issue picks up right where last issue left off with Alan Scott's train exploding just as he's about to propose to his boyfriend Sam while, in Poland, Hawkgirl drops in on Jay Garrick a.k.a The Flash.

*SPOILER ALERT* Turns out Sam is dead, killed in the explosion. That's kind of awkward, considering DC made such a big deal about Alan Scott being their new gay character then killed off his love interest in page one of the next issue. So Sam may have died but he gets to live on as the inspiration for Alan's new life as a superhero, much like Bruce Wayne's parents. That must be very comforting.

I'm sure gay comic book readers will be totally cool with that and no one will call bullshit on it or anything.

To make a long story short Alan gets infused by the "energy of the earth" becoming the planets new champion Green Lantern. Much like Mercury did in the second issue, the Talking Green Fireball that gives Alan his powers offers some cryptc warnings about a great evil that is threatening the world and then prombtly dies(fizzles out).

In Poland, Hawkgirl decides to test the Flash's fighting skills, stomping his butt in the process. We see The New 52 version of Solomon Grundy make a devastating appearance at the end and that's the issue.

I'v been finding Earth 2 interesting but a little dissapointing. Individually the art and the writing are both very good but they just don't seem to be meshing together that well and as a result the comic feels very stiff to me.

Nicola Scott's style reminds me a little of Ivan Reis. It's what I consider ideal "superhero art" staying true to the very western/classical concept of the idealized superhero body while maintaining a certain sleekness and avoiding figures that are ridiculously muscular. The introduction of Solomon Grundy  and the scenes between Hawkgirl and the Flash stick out in my mind, filled with lots of dynamic engery and characters that are beautiful to look at...OK, maybe less so with Grundy

My point is her style puts the hero front and center at all times but Robinson's scripts give little for her characters to do. Lots of dialogue is crammed into small ballons but the art doesn't follow the beats of the conversation and the characters expressions don't do much to emphasis the weight of the words.

There were also a couple embarassing cases where it looks like the letterist accidentaly dropped a word. This isn't uncommon but at one point we have Jay Garrick incredulously repreating the phrase,"Trust you?! Trust you?!" which no one in in the comic has actually said. Did an entire conversation go missing or something?

The series is just three issues in so far so there's more than enough time for the creative team to get a good rythm going. The good still out weighs the bad in my opinion and the characters, the designs, and the concepts are all intriguing enough to keep me reading.

What did you guys think about this issue? Feel free to post your thoughts below. Also, this isn't hugely relevant but I am loving the new Hawkgirl. Anybody else?

Monday, July 16, 2012

X-Factor # 239 Review

Next up in my review roster is another X-title. X-Factor #239, written by Peter David with art by Paul Davidson.

Having very much enjoyed the previous three issues of X-Factor, I found this one a little disappointing in comparison. The main plot involves Banshee(with a little help from Havoc) trying to clear her name because last issue three people showed up dead in Ireland, apparently killed by Banshee's signature sonic scream.
Turns out the culprit is a real live(undead?) Banshee called The Morrigan, trying to lure Theresa out and kill her for "pretending to be a banshee."

The books A-plot is wrapped up pretty quickly as Banshee takes out her namesake's familiar and Havoc drops a lighthouse on her head. Both the conflict and the resolution felt a bit unsatisfying, the villain set up poorly, given some brief characterization and then killed off by the end of two issues.  

Lilith, a character I know nothing about, pops up at the end to give a cryptic warning about future threats and then flies off.

I've only been reading X-Factor for the last four issues so perhaps Peter David is tapping into some back story here that would have lent the story greater depth if I read it. As it was I thought this issue's main plot fell a bit flat.

I did, however, enjoy the sub-plots set up in this issue. Back at X-Factor's headquarters Strong Guy tries to spark and unlikely relationship with M.

Strong Guy and M. A Pairing so weird I can't help but love it.

Davidson's art is a major reason this issue falls short of a fun, self contained one shot. His pencils have a very scratchy feel that makes some panels look great while others seem cramped and distorted. The few action scenes just don't have enough punch to them and moments that are meant to have emotional weight feel sterile.

This issues got X-Factor's signature snappy dialogue and a couple good moments but I'm eager for the storyline to find it's way back to the other characters.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ultimate Comics X-Men #14 Review

I’ve been away for awhile…again. Let’s blame it on computer problems and not on me being lazy or distracted or anything. Minor update: earlier today I also got my wisdom teeth pulled so I’m writing this review with a mouth full of bloody gauze and a head full of Vicodin, but I won’t let that stop me! The Freeze Ray will continue to uh…fire? Freeze things?

Never mind.

Today were are taking a look at the recently released Ultimate Comics X-Men #14 by star writer Brian Wood(of Northlanders and DMZ) and artist Paco Medina. If I had to describe Ultimate X-Men #14 in one word it would have to be: brooding.
Yeah, Ultimate X-Men #14 is really, really brooding. Most of the issue is set up, dominated by Kitty Pryde’s internal monologue as she explains the current situation to the reader. Basically America is ****ed-up. Reed Richards has turned evil and bombed Washington DC, New York is in ruins, and Stryker’s Nimrod Sentinels have carved out a big chunk of the South Western United States for themselves, launching a campaign of hate and violence against Mutants. Most of this exciting stuff happened in issues of other series and is simply told to us rather than shown in any interesting way, but that’s how it goes in big event comics. You make the best of what you can fit in a single issue.
Kitty Pryde and her band of mutant rebels are road tripping their way into the heart of Striker’s territory in an attempt to take him out and cripple the anti-mutant forces.
Besides all the set up and exposition-ing not much happens in this issue except for Kitty getting groped by some rednecks at a militia checkpoint.

Yeah…and then the comic takes a brief stop in kinda/maybe/pseudo rape territory. And that’s always a fun place to be.  On an intellectual level I can appreciate the nudge toward realism. These are four teenage kids traveling alone in a very hostile environment and the scene afterward between Kitty and James Hudson is very touching. On the other hand…this scene was not fun to read and made the entire comic not fun to read. Especially because, when I start thinking about it the whole scene doesn’t seem all that necessary.
When the guard gets fresh I find myself wondering why Kitty doesn’t just break his jaw. I don’t feel any tension when a gun gets pointed at her head because this is a character who can phase through bullets. She can turn super dense and break his hand. Maybe she’s protecting her friends in the car but then I actually think about who’s in that car. Jimmy Hudson, who’s got a healing factor, Iceman who has survived gunshot wounds in his ice form several times, and Rogue who I’m pretty sure is still cranked-up on Juggernaut powers. Every single one of theses characters is bullet proof.

There are no Nimrod Sentinels hanging around. Why exactly can't they just blow through these guys?

Using my awesome powers of logic, I can deduce that they’re trying to keep a low profile because if they power up and beat the snot out of these guys they’re going to make a scene and have Nimrod Sentinels chasing them all the Way to the Gulf of Mexico. But if that’s the situation than it should have been explained that way instead of Kitty just saying,” We’re going to save the fight for later.” Or whatever it is she said.

The whole thing is especially pointless because the rednecks just end up catching up to them at the end of the issue and forcing a confrontation anyway.

Everything aside, Brain Wood is a good writer and I bet he’s got an interesting resolution up his sleeve. Even if he doesn’t I have a feeling that once the plot actually gets going this will just be the necessary slow issue in an otherwise exciting run. There is a lot of stuff going on that I like. I like the new, take charge Kitty Pryde and I like that Jimmy Hudson is getting set up to be more than just a blonde version of Wolverine.
Paco Medina’s art is a bit darker and much stronger than it was just two issues ago, telling the story succinctly and delivering smooth, unique character designs on each page. It also helps that there’s some digital work involved in the coloring, giving the images a great feeling of modernity that is vital in any Ultimate book.

I let the groping scene take over this review because it really kind of took over the comic for me. Maybe I’m reading too much into it?

So to wrap everything up I want to say that Ultimate Comics X-Men #14 is a good read and I’m looking forward to the next exciting chapter in a series that has always had a special place in my comic book stash.

- Oh…also Johnny Storm gets abducted protecting the Morlock kids back in New York! I kind of like the idea of having the Human Torch hanging out in an X-Men book so I hope this isn’t just an easy way to get him out of the spotlight and replace him with Nomi, who feels a lot like the Ultimate Universe version of Zee from DMZ.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if that phone call wasn’t quite what it seemed, what with all that suspicious static…
And now, I’m done. Review…complete. You may return to your lives citizens.