The Weekly Comics Pile 23/09/2010
Thor #615 - Matt Fraction (w), PAsqual Ferry (a)
Tweeview: excellent start to new run. Art is superb, characters well rounded, dialogue sparkling. Follows on wonderfully
Matt Fraction’s eagerly anticipated run on Thor begins, and it’s off to a great start. Obviously, I have been waiting to get my hands on this since Fraction’s Thor one shots, which were epic and seemed to really find the voice of the character naturally.
That’s continued in this issue. In fact, all the characters feel fully formed, as most of the main cast is given a couple of layers within just one issue, and others seem to have interesting ideas set up before them.
The great thing about this issue if you’ve already been reading Thor is that it doesn’t just start afresh. It builds and flows on organically from what Kieron Gillen has done on the book, including strands and character arcs that Gillen was exploring being continued here.
And yet, it remains a perfect jumping on point for new readers.
The story feels immediately epic and grandiose, whilst being filled with small human moments, and light, well-handled comedy. Easily some of Fraction’s best in-house work, much like his run on Invincible Iron Man.
As for the art, Pasqual Ferry knocks it out of the park. Many of the panels and pages feel huge, with large vistas, flowing line work, and excellent story telling. It’s topped off by some great colours from Hollingsworth, which feels much more like the colours were lavishly painted on digitally, instead of blocks of colours and tones. In fact, the deftness of the modern ‘painting’ technique manage to infuse the art with a sense of the new and the old, which is where Thor is always at its best.
The lettering from Workman is a great job, with perhaps onepossible exception. The new villains of the piece all have an odd white fuzzy thing (that’s seriously all I can describe it as) in their speech bubbles. I found it so hard to tell what it was or why it would be there that it actually managed to pull me out of the story for a moment. If it turns out that this is on purpose and will be explained later, fair enough, but if it’s some kind of artistic license, I really hope they drop it.
Overall though, this book is excellent, easily one of the best picks of my haul this week. In fact, it’s only being trumped as my best by one …story…and it’s an odd choice, which I’ll be getting to at the end.
True Blood #3 - Alan Ball (w), David Messina (a)
Tweeview: story a little clunky, and art too. It’s great when Messina isn’t working of photos, but ref’d panels are static
The True Blood comic is an odd thing; I find most liscensed comic books to be odd though. It’s hard to tell if we’re supposed to consider this canon. Fact is, I’m fairly certian Ball has said it is, but it feels like it shouldn’t be.
It’s possibly that on a comics page, the characters just don’t come across as well as on the screen; dialogue often reads as forced, or plain bad. Similarly, the plot is a little clunky. In this issue, three rednecks appear from seemingly nowhere, and fight sequences end as quickly as they start. And the ending just feels sudden, almost like an ‘oops, out of pages, ah well’ moment.
However, it has it’s moments. Occasionally, the characters feel like the ones we know and love, and in some cases lust for, and the mood and themes match the show well enough.
The art by David Messina is a bit ‘clunky’ too. The art seems to split into two types: art that is referenced from pictures of the cast and show, and art that is entirely Messina’s free work. The free work is excellent, and dynamic, and the movement is palpable. But the referenced panels feel entirely static. They look excellent and spot on for the most part. Only when perhaps a character is smaller in the background to they look completely off.
All in all, this continues to move te story forward at a slow and slightly clunky pace, but it’s hardly the worst comic around. I just can’t help but feel it would have worked better as a Graphic Novel, and with Messina not referencing so much.
Avengers #5 - Brian Michael Bendis (w), John Romita Jr. (a)
Tweeview: Important plot element added, but otherwise straightforward middle issue. Pacing little too fast. Art is great
The problem with this issue is that it feels like a fairly standard middle of a run issue, but it’s issue 5, and it’s hard to see how this arc can be wrapped next issue in anything but a breakneck pace.
In fact, that accelerated pace is felt strongly in the last couple of pages of the issue. Bendis’ pacing in New Avengers has been proving much better than here sadly.
That being said, it’s not a bad issue. It’s nostalgically reminiscent of classic Avengers/Marvel stories, with uneasy alliances being heroes and villains, but with Bendis’ usual element of intrigue and modernity to it.
The main reason I had for picking this up was the apparantly important double-page spread in the issue hinting at possible future events within Marvel. Now, it by no means feels original: DC have already done this, twice or more, with Rip Hunter’s whiteboards. This one equally feels like not just a big important plot element to this arc (though that in itself raises the question of why it’s being introduced so late) but will also have intriguing things for fans of the rest of the Marvel Universe. Whether it’s worth picking up for the $3.99 price tag if you don’t usually read Avengers….probably not. And you certainly couldn’t read this issue without the others.
Artwise, Romita Jr. continues to produce some fine work, not his best, but pretty solid, with some fantastic spreads. He feels like a good fit for this book as he can produce good work like this, that can tell a story plainly and well, on a fast turnaround, which frankly this arc certainly needs to keep interest.
Uncanny X-Men #528 - Matt Fraction (w), Whilce Portacio (a)
Tweeview: nice story progression. Finally some Northstar&Dazzler action. Art sometime sparse and but effective
The story of the Five Lights is progressing well. So far, I haven’t been that excited wih Fration’s X-Men work. It has it’s spectacular moments (Utopia) and it has it’s slow and not very spectacular moments, not bad, just not amazing (the Sisterhood and Predator X arcs).
However, I think what’s needed to properly understand those slow moments is to really view the run so far as a whole. The stories Fraction has been weaving seem to be very different themes than usual X-Men stories: instead of just focusing on how hard it is for people persecuted for being different, we see people and societies struggling with ideas of change. Similarly, the effects of fame and being thrust into the spotlight on these people and groups. This thematically links with what Morrison was doing in his stellar New X-Men run; though unlike Morrison who introduced these themes to look at the same classic X-Men stories from a new angle, Fraction focuses on these new themes with the characters.
Classic style X-Men stories then are now being told in the other X-books, but Uncanny is dealing with a very different theme, and is having to do so on a broad scale, across whole arcs. The book itself is changing just as much as it’s dealing with the concept of change.
Thus, if we look at it like that, as well as being a good issue in and off itself with interesting character moments and good progression of individual character arcs and intrigue; it’s also a great story progression for the overall theme, especially evidenced in some dialogue beteen Hope and the newest Light, and a scene with Northstar and Dazzler.
And another thing, FINALLY some Northstar/Dazzler action! We got a tease in a previous issue, but since then this ‘tag team to watch’ have essentially just run around in the background if they appeared at all in the main book. Finally here we see them bantering away at each other, a gay and his glamorous fag hag, as they kick ass! And it’s brilliant to see them! There needs to be more. Hell, if it were up to me, they’d get their own mini. But offering the chanceto shine, in Uncanny of all places, is great to see.
The art by Whilce Portacio…well, I’m not the biggest fan of his superhero work. I think he works fine doing grim ‘n’ gritty and horror, but superhero not so much. But it does the job. The story progression is easy to follow and clear. However, some of his panels and pages are sparse, with blocks of bare colour or characters and action all appearing to one side of the panel. Also, there are a couple of occassions where the anatomy is way off (in one panel, Emma Frost looks like a butch man with fantastic tits). But as I said, it works. It tells the story and does so well, it may nt be the prettiest to have graced the book, but it damn well gets the job done. Plus, it’s some of Portacio’s best on the title so far, so it feels like he’s getting more of a feel for the characters now.
Jimmy Olsen’s Big Week: Action Comics Co-Feature part one
Available for free on the DC App - Nick Spencer (w), RB Silva (a)
Tweeview: it’s free! It’s funny. It’s smart. It’s pitch perfect. And the art is superb. RB Silva is a revelation!
Now this is the odd one. Odd because this has been my favourite bit of comic book picked up today…and it was done online, or rather on my phone, for free, and is technically a back-up feature, not a main event. Yet it hands down beats the full comics I spent cash on this week.
Jimmy Olsen can be a fun character. Grant Morrison showed how quirky and insane and wonderfully entertaining he can be in All Star Superman….however, in the main DC Universe, he’s not handled quite so well lately. In fact, in Countdown he was used pretty badly.
However, Nick Spencer gets him. He gets the concept of following Superman’s powerless ‘best pal’. And not only does he know what made the concept great and fun and quirky in the past, but he knows how to update it and make it modern yet essentially stay true to the original idea.
Also, the DC Universe finally has it’s Chloe Sullivan. She’s smart, she’s sassy, and she’s quite literally Jimmy’s answer to Lois Lane. He even gets his answer to Lex Luthor.
And I think that this is going to be one of the fun things about this story: if Superman is meant to make us realise our potential and live our lives a bit more bravely and optimistic like him, then Jimmy Olsen is the Everyman Superman. He may take a little time to realise it, but this guy can save the day when he sets his mind to it.
The Everyman thing is important: we instantly connect with Olsen and root for him, and understand him. He’s likeable and geeky and funny, and he’s just this gawky adorable guy you wanna see win (but kinda wanna see the mishaps along the way too).
The art is stunning. RB Silva is a revelation to me, being completely unfamiliar with his work. His art looks a cross between Olivier Coipel and Ryan Sook, and all the characters and settings look great! In fact, that’s part of what makes this 10-page comic more enjoyable than the full comics; I spent time pouring over each panel admiring the craftsmenship and artistry, on my tiny iPhone screen.
Frankly, as if you really need another reason to be picking up Paul Cornell’s Action Comics anyway, but if you still need convincing download this on the DC app and be blown away. A bloody great pick!