31
Mar
2011
Chris' Comics Corner
Chris' Comics Corner
Chris
The Avengers #11
Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: John Romita Jr.

"For the once and future Captain America will not let the world die this day."

Wow. That was easily the best issue of Bendis' run on the newly relaunched Avengers title to date, and I say that as a fan of the book and its current direction.

As the most epic and Avenger-y of the Avengers line of titles, Avengers needs to be the holy $#!% world ending crisis book, and from time itself breaking apart in the first arc, and the infinity gems being collected by a guy way over his head in the current story, Bendis has definitely delivered. Bendis juggles a huge cast here, but their presence is demanded by the stakes of the story he is telling, and he does a good enough job of giving small moments to a wide array of background players, as well as bigger moments for the stars of this story, namely The Hood, Thor, Hulk, Steve, Iron Man, and Xavier.

John Romita Jr. is one of those quintessential Marvel artists. His renditions of so many different characters are considered to be among some of their most iconic, so I can think of few artists better suited to drawing this very impressive assemblage of Avengers. Romita Jr. illustrates this issue almost entirely in splash pages. This is a technique I'm usually not a fan of as it is often used to unnecessarily pad an issue at the price of actual plot progression (I'm looking right at you New Avengers Vol. 1 Issue #16). However this time around, it really worked.

The big pages emphasized just what a big story this was. Each page moved the story along, and showcased jaw dropping, wide screen action sequences. And not having to draw multiple panels really allowed Romita Jr. to put the necessary details into the crowd shots that would have suffered had he needed to draw 6 different panels of about a dozen or so super heroes each page.

Bendis' usually verbose style is somewhat reigned in this issue. The Watcher's narration adds to the feeling that the stakes could not be any higher, and while the narration does at times spell things out the reader might've been able to infer, again, in this particular instance it actually kinda works, and highlights just how cool a lot of these characters are.

The issue ended on a phenomenal (and very satisfying) twist cliffhanger that I can confidently say will leave me counting down the weeks until the next issue drops.

Grade: A-

Thor #621
Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: Pasqual Ferry and Salvador Larocca

"Hah 'Boy.' Only I get to call him that."

It really pains me to say this, but Thor #621 is a very disappointing conclusion to Fraction and Ferry's debut arc on the title. After four straight issues of build up showcasing just how bad-ass and unstoppable the World Eaters are, the actual showdown between them and the Asgardians couldn't have been more anti-climactic.

Between last issue, and this one, the fight lasted about an issue and a half, and most of that was Odin and the World Eater's king having a very static and slightly confusing grappling session. Fraction's solution to the crisis comes off as a deus ex machina because he didn't adequately establish and explain the "rules" he references in this issue. Yes he spent a lot of time in the first issue establishing how the World Tree was a way of interpreting reality, and how nature abhors a vacuum, but he never touched upon how the World Eaters moved between realms, how they were tied to the World Tree and thus trapped in it when it was severed, and how something like that could even be severed to begin with! Maybe this is something more die hard Thor fans can explain to me, but as a very intelligent, and longtime comics reader, I think the creative team has a problem on their hands if I'm lost at the end of their first, introductory story arc.

The solution also seems like it is too easily achieved, as there is only a handful of scenes showing Thor's attempt to sever the World Tree, and the art fails to make what should be an assembled horde of invaders look very horde like, and at times makes it very confusing to figure out what is vexing Thor, and what gives him his second wind. Pasqual Ferry is assisted by a rush finish job from Salvador Larocca which ends up doing no favors to either artist. Ferry has an inimitable style, and while Larocca is a great artist in his own right, his style is too realistic when contrasted against the fantastical visuals we've come to expect from Ferry and demanded by this story.

After the immensely cool idea of the Asgardian Blood Legion was introduced last issue, I was expecting much more in the way of fantastical Matt Fraction ideas of how gods would wage war, rendered beautifully by the fairy tale esque pencils of Pasqual Ferry. Instead of seeing the Asgardians and assembled creatures of the world tree battle for their very survival, we got Thor and Odin duking it out with a handful of invaders. That plus how quickly the battle is ended completely undercut the tension of the story and the menace of the antagonists so masterfully established in early chapters.

This arc really felt like it could have used an extra issue to make the battle feel as grand as it should have been, and with Fraction and Thor moving into a new title with a new #1, with a new artist (Mighty Thor, it's a jumping on point to coincide with the movie, Coipel's drawing the first arc, Ferry is back for the one after), there's no reason Marvel couldn't have let Ferry take all the time he needed to finish the story and make it look just as polished as its first act.

On a positive note, Fraction really knows how to write Asgardian dialogue, and the story ended on a really satisfying beat.

Grade: C-

Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #8
Publisher: DC
Writer: Peter Tomasi
Artist: Fernando Pasarin
Event Watch: War of the Green Lanterns Part 3

""┬ŽBeware MY freaking power--Guy Gardner's might!"

Well, three issues into DC's second biggest Summer blockbuster event and we've already stumbled. Not a good sign. This was a very exposition heavy issue serving mainly as a recap for things that readers of the GL books should already know. And if they didn't, well, there has to be a more artful and concise way of catching people up, cuz I've never had a fight quite as fact filled and informative as the one that Guy and Hal have in this issue.

Eventually the verbal argument gives way to fisticuffs, and I really hope this isn't the Hal and Guy schism that was foretold in prophecy over a year ago, because it just boils down to the influence of Paralax and a rehash of the fight between John and Kyle last issue. At the story's end Hal and Guy free themselves from Paralax's influence but are left in a situation possibly even more dire than that of John and Kyle.

Pasarin does a really nice job with the Green Lantern combat, however a few sequences were a little confusing, most notably at the beginning of the issue with the large number of Green Lanterns arriving to ambush Guy and Kilowog.

I really like Tomasi, and I've enjoyed the direction of this book, so I'm gonna chalk this issue's weaknesses up to Tomasi really wanting to catch readers up on the events of all the GL books before the real fireworks start in the crossover. Despite this weak opening chapter, I am still very excited to see where this story is going.


Grade: B-

Detective Comics #875
Publisher: DC
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Francesco Francavilla

Of the nine comics I purchased this week, four of them employed a heavy use of flashbacks. This one utilized the technique the best. While at first glimpse the flashbacks have little connection to the story in the present, they are none the less engaging and gripping. And by issue's end, the connection between past and present is revealed, and hits you like a punch to the gut.

Detective Comics splits it's focus between arcs centered on Dick Grayson's Batman illustrated by Jock, and standalone stories featuring Commissioner Gordon illustrated by Francavilla. This story is the latter, and I am really enjoying the narrative split, as both protagonists take different but equally fascinating approaches to their roles as Detectives, and Snyder adds in little elements to keep the stories connected despite the fact the both stand on their own exceedingly well.

I can think of few creative teams that do a better job of setting a mood of suspense and horror. Take the opening two pages which have no purpose in the story other to set the mood. The horrifying visual metaphor beautifully rendered by Francavilla, illustrates just how rotten a city Gotham really is and sets the proper tone for the rest of the issue. And I for one am really enjoying this Avian motif Snyder is sticking with. Francavilla really knows how to mix nostalgia, horror, and suspense to give Snyder's story the pacing and tone that it needs. His art is absolutely gorgeous. Retro, and noir tinged, you almost can't help but hear the soundtrack from your favorite old detective movies when you look at his spreads. I would particularly call your attention to the double page spread where Gordon's face fades into some of the more disturbing memories of his son. And I would be remiss in not mentioning Franavilla's color pallet which emphasizes bright blues and oranges to distinguish the different time periods and seasons, making these pages a feast for the eyes.

It's a real shame for Snyder and Francavilla that they are working on this book around the same time that Grant Morrison is still writing a bat book, because otherwise Detective would easily stand out as the best book of the line. As it is they will have to settle for a dead heat, in which some months Morrison's book, is the best bat book, and sometimes theirs is. And going toe to toe with Grant Morrison and holding one's own is no small feat indeed.

Grade: A-

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