Tag Archives: Comic Reviews

Review: Moon Knight 1

Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Declan Shalvey

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Far too often Moon Knight is relegated to merely being little more than Marvel’s violent and crazy version of Batman. In the past writers and artists have taken one of two paths, violent or crazy, and amped that feature up to separate Moon Knight from Batman. David Finch’s path was a far more violent Moon Knight while Brian Michael Bendis’ Moon Knight focused on the crazy. Warren Ellis, in one issue, has found a way to balance both. Moon Knight is part Batman and part Rorschach in this issue, yet at the same time these comparisons fail to completely grasp the depth of the character that Ellis is bringing to Moon Knight.

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Warren Ellis creates a noir world for Moon Knight to inhabit, showing him as an intelligent fighter and skilled tactician. This standalone issue shows his overall detective skills with the addition of his pure ability to quickly size up opponents and approach them within an appropriate manner. It is important to note that Moon Knight’s detective skills share more with Sherlock Holmes than Batman which helps separate this from just a Batman rip-off. This is a much more patient and skilled Moon Knight than seen in previous incarnations. He has a cavalier flare about him as he deals with the police which also shows he has a great self-awareness. Ellis writes a fantastic intimate character portrayal that is welcoming to those new to Moon Knight but is also a fresh yet familiar enough of a take on this fan favorite figure.

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Declan Shalvey’s art will most likely be the hardest sale on this book. I personally think it is fantastic, but the indie feel he brings is in the same arena as Maleev and Aja, yet still all his own. It is obvious Marvel has fared extremely well with the personal character and odd personalities such as Hawkeye and Superior Foes of Spider-Man and is attempting to add indie credibility to another title with Shalvey’s style which is an extreme departure to the sleek and clean styles of many mainstream titles. I think this is a great thing for the mainstream industry. While artists like Shalvey may not have a style as clean and sexy as Jim Lee or the like, often their ability to tell stories stands spectacularly beyond the popular artists. Shalvey not only lifts the story to new heights with his art, he immediately puts us into a dark and gritty world, bringing a perfect setting to the world Ellis is trying to create.

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I love this title, yet I have to admit I am a Warren Ellis fan boy. I think Ellis is to comics as King Midas was to everything, so I may be a bit biased on my review. I do think if you are more interested in fast action and intense drama which echoes throughout continuity like X-Men or Avengers this may not be the book for you. But if you enjoy the quiet character studies of Hawkeye or the recent Black Widow series, this may be a book right up your alley (pun kind of intended).

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Rating 5 out of 5

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Review: Trial of the Punisher 2 of 2

Written by Marc Guggenheim
Art by Leinil Yu

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This issue (in conjunction with the previous issue) is efficiently written and expertly penciled. All-in-all, these two issues are fantastic examples of comics at their best. The story told within is crafted perfectly for the tale being told and the execution of this story also hits the mark. This story is a great example of the types of stories that can be told perfectly in comics, but not as well in any other medium.

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While this story may fall under some radars, if you are a fan of the punisher or court room dramas I cannot insist you pick this up more. The whole story paints a great portrait of who Frank Castle really is. All along the notion that he is mentally ill is constantly thrown around, but by the end you realize not only is he perfectly sane, but he may also be one of the smartest people in the room.

ImageGuggenheim tells this narrative through a War Journal perspective that gives great insight into the Punisher’s thought process while not giving away the end game. Guggenheim draws the reader in by throwing them off balance with presumably obscure and coincidental bits of information. He also makes the obvious move of bringing Matt Murdock into a court room drama set in the Marvel Universe. Having his lawyer perspective played out in the scene gives snippets of their relationship away while also being a great cameo for those of us that love the Marvel continuity. I can honestly say that there was no part of the writing of this issue that I didn’t love. It was so well done, that when I was finished with issue one I wanted to go back and reread both issues immediately. If anything, issue two feels slightly better written than issue one, but it is fairly nominal in difference.

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I believe this issue may contain some of Leinil Yu’s best ark work I’ve seen in comics he’s drawn. He steps up his already great game and delivers not only some of his best work, but also crafts a well told story through his art. Some artist can get too obsessed with working outside of conventional paneling that they can lose focus on the story they are trying to tell. Yu brings in just enough traditional panel work along with nontraditional schemes to make a court room drama actually seem exciting. If I could fault any one detail, there is a panel where Matt Murdock is smiling that makes him looks villainous. It actually works, but that one panel stumped me for a second and I had to read that page again.

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I cannot stress how much I recommend this issue (and the first one in this two issue series). The lack of a Punisher series right now has created a vacuum, and these two issues have filled it. After Rucka’s run and Guggenheim’s two miniseries, Nathan Edmondson has a very high bar set for him. For those whose last Punisher series was Frankencastle, not so high a bar.

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Rating 5 out of 5

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Review: New Avengers 11

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Mike Deodato

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In the midst of the crisis at hand with Infinity, the destruction of Attilan, the release of the Terrigen mist, and with a majority of the Avengers (or at least the only ones we care about, but good try Mighty Avengers) off world fighting the Builders, the Illuminati have to deal with an incursion of an Earth from a different dimension again. As they gather to deal with the impending doom, the Illuminati are summoned to talk to the Builders from the parallel universe of the incursion. These Builders explain why they are going to destroy the Earth in their universe, and it begins to dawn on everyone (including the reader) why the Builders in the Infinity series are so focused on destroying the Earth, and possibly the meaning behind the words spoken by the Builder in Infinity #4 who died at the hand (and hammer) of Thor. Maybe that was less of a threat and instead a warning. Also Doctor Strange is exorcised, even Thanos appears to be weary of the Black Swan, and Terrax takes a nap. Image

Critiquing the writing by Jonathan Hickman in this issue is difficult for various reasons. One reason is he is often laying extremely vague and subtle questions whose answers that may not be answered for many issues. Even after eleven issues, The Black Swan is still very much a mystery. So with that said, often there is a feeling that you should possibly know more than you do while you are reading the issues, but possibly you can’t because you might not know for several more issues to come. This actually makes the entire series extremely re-readable as was Hickman’s Fantastic Four run. Another reason is that this is part of a much larger picture. When people refer to comics as graphic novels because they are embarrassed of saying they like comic books it often bothers me, but I feel as though Hickman writes with each issue being like a chapter in a book. In that way, critiquing his issues alone for a story or plot (or the appearance of the lack of either) is like reviewing a single chapter in a book. The one critique that may be made about Hickman’s writing is often the lack of characterization. Some characters seem to be here just to be here like Doctor Strange or Beast while Namor and Black Panther are being built upon and developed. As much as I love Namor and Black Panther, I would love to see more growth from Doctor Strange in the same way. Even Doctor Strange’s possession didn’t appear to affect him before, during, or after, but I felt that was a great moment to really drive into some of his insecurities or maybe his strengths. But with that small criticism, honestly, this is a fantastic and fun read. As much as I love to check out and reading something fun and exciting like Superior Spider-Man or FF, this book has been a great high-brow read in terms of Marvel Comics.

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Mike Deodato is fantastic as always. He is slick and clean, and his use of shadows to develop muscle tones and expressions has made him one of my favorite artists at Marvel since his Amazing Spider-Man run almost ten years ago. I have heard other artists critique his work for appearing derivative of a digital art program, but as a comic reader I absolutely love it and don’t care. With that said, I’m obviously extremely biased of his work, and always think everything his does is amazing and brilliant. He’s possibly the only person that could’ve topped Steve Epting on this series.

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With all of that said, I will say, don’t just jump on board and start reading here. You’ll be lost. Some people who have been on board since number one are still probably a little lost. But also, if you are enjoying the Infinity series, reading these tie-ins and really this whole series from the beginning will only make you enjoy everything about Infinity even more so. Hickman’s entire New Avengers and Avengers runs so far have built up to Infinity and also appear to be laying ground for path after Infinity. As an entire collective work this is one of the best written and smartest reads mainstream comics have put out in a long time.

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Rating 5 out of 5

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Review: Superior Spider-Man 19

Written by Dan Slott
Art by Ryan Stegman

Image*Warning Slight Spoilers Ahead*
Completely undue of anything on Slott’s or Stegman’s  part, even with all the fury and energy and fast paced fun that makes this a great superhero comics, this issue has a worse rating than it should. That is due to the marketing on this book which is causing this issue to have a lower grading than it probably deserves. Ever since about Amazing Spider-Man 690 (maybe a few before) Dan Slott’s run has been hyped that each issue is Earth shattering and will have a huge effect on the Marvel Universe. This is coming from the same department that also hyped up Age of Ultron which was also a well written series, but hyped beyond belief. Look, whoever is in charge of this stuff, we all know that Slott is a great writer and has an ability to tell fantastic stories about a character we should technically all hate, but somehow we don’t. And he tells these stories with great energy and passion thanks in no small part to Ryan Stegman who appears to have started channeling Todd MacFarlane from his heyday. All-in-all this is a fantastic book which I could enjoy much more without the promise of HUGE change in every issue, which I just don’t feel it delivers. I mean, after issue 700, you can do fun stuff, but nothing is going to live up to that. Even with bringing Spider-Man 2099 into the 616 continuity, you still cannot top issue 700. So just stop trying to sell this to us like it’s a flu shot we don’t want. We know we’re going to like and you have us hooked. Stop with the hype machine.

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And that’s really it. The writing is great and the story is good too even with Deus Ex Machina used to save Spidey (They happen to have a machine that just happens to fix everything?). The issue is predominately exposition with not much action at all, but Slott is able to keep a steady and fast pace which still makes this a fun and exciting read. And the art is only getting better. Ryan Stegman is on track to become the next great artist on call at Marvel. His art is gorgeous in this issue.

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Now, here is a little talking point for anyone who has read this issue: As Superior Spider-Man tries to unlock Peter’s past memories; there is a sequence of four panels where a shadowy figure seems to emerge from being buried underground. Apart from Miguel being now in continuity, this may be the most exciting thing about this issue. I’ll let you draw your own conclusion…

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Rating 3.5 out of 5

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Review: Marvel Knights: Spider-Man 01 (of 05)

Written by Matt Kindt
Art by Marco Rudy

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There are two important things to realize about this issue. First, this is a Peter Parker issue, I would assume in continuity prior to Doc Ock’s possession. Second, if comics could be graded in terms of video game difficulty, with, say, Romita Jr being a normal, this is an expert level comic.

Marco Rudy’s art is exquisite. It runs the gamut of styles but still feels like a cohesive piece from start to finish. His lack of standard paneling or sequential story telling makes this not a comic for new comers to the world of comic books as I said above. This is a book for lovers of art that pushes the boundaries of how stories can be told visually. Due to this lack of standard paneling each page feels like a splash page, but are so busy they feel like art work at a museum worth your eye’s dedication and focus to soak in barrage of energy and emotion coming off every masterpiece. Fans of traditional and realistic art may not enjoy this issue at all, but those who are up for an indie Spider-Man experience this comic will be a visual feast. And although I usually don’t mention colorists unless they do a poor job, Val Staples does a gorgeous job with Marco’s impossible artwork.

With all of that said, Matt Kindt has to be given credit for developing and writing a story not only with freedom to tell with abstract art, but also to have a story and theme that completely work with the art. Any other story with this art may wind up being a jumbled mess of conflicting ideas, but this is the perfect tale for Marco’s art.

Matt Kindt was a writer I knew nothing about a month ago, but with his work on DC’s Villain Month, Infinity: The Hunt, and now this series it is becoming obvious the Matt is an incredibly diverse writer. He has a simplistic approach with The Hunt which is completely done away with in this story’s often abstract and frenetic pace and plot. I’m not sure if he will become another Warren Ellis or Zeb Wells, but as of right now I’m excited and look forward to what else Matt Kindt is going to bring to comics.

One warning for this comic: beyond it being a challenging read, it is also not a comic made for portable devices. I highly and strongly recommend you picking up a physical copy of this comic. I’ve read it both ways, and due to the abstract nature of the story telling the full pages in your hand make this a much more enjoyable read.

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Rating: 5 out of 5

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Review: The Trial of the Punisher 1 of 2

Written by Marc Guggenheim
Art by Leinil Yu

ImageI picked this issue thinking that possibly it would be the connection between last year’s Punisher War Zone miniseries and a prequel to the current Thunderbolts series.  I quickly realized this is just a standalone story, yet one that is still firmly set in continuity of the whole Marvel Universe. It is difficult to say when exactly this occurred in continuity, but that feels relatively irrelevant.

ImageI have always enjoyed the Punisher when he was set up as Marvel’s Batman. Not that he’s a costumed dark knight who never kills, but rather even if he’s not the smartest or strongest person in the room he’s methodical enough to always make it out and never rely on luck. When I started reading this comic it became very apparent that this is the character trait that Marc Guggenheim is going for in this Punisher story, which was the same in his War Zone miniseries last year. Marc does a fantastic job building up the drama and delivering an authentic feeling court drama featuring the Punisher. I don’t think I’ve ever read a mainstream comic like this. I’m sure there have been Daredevil comics with intense courtroom drama, but I’ve never read them. Because of that, this feels very fresh and new to me. Marc is also a fantastic writer, and has a great way of crafting dialogue with punctuation and dialect to drive scenes and help you understand the characters. Even without the art, just by reading the dialogue I would not find it difficult to picture this entire comic in my head. He really goes above and beyond in this issue to draw the reader in to the story.

ImageI know I may get some flak for this, but I’ve never entirely enjoyed Leinil Yu’s art. He is a fantastic artist, but I think from the Secret Invasion story line and his artwork on New Avengers prior to that, I never liked how he drew women, especially Spider-Woman. He took an elegant female character and made he feel harsh and scratchy. With that said though, his art work is perfect for this book. He does a great job of making the expressions of characters, especially Frank Castle, subtle yet powerful. Also, with my prior criticism of his work, in this book he makes the strong female character attractive and stays away from making her feel harsh or giving her large angular cleavage.

ImageIf you are a fan of the Punisher, this is a must read for you. Especially if you were a fan in the 90s, and the violent turn taken in the Garth Ennis line of this character’s series wasn’t your favorite spin on the Punisher, this turn back towards moderate, still dark and violent but not gory, storytelling is very enjoyable and feels like a solid continuation on Greg Rucka’s fantastic run.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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