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Rusty’s Comic of the Week: Secret Avengers #20

January 2, 2012
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This post is a little late because of New Year’s. Last night was spent NOT reading comics but enjoying a party held by our friends, Nadine and Phil. It involved me successfully defending my NYE Poker Championship! Then today also had some New Year’s festivities with those same friends, in the form of Chinese food.

I finally got down to reading comics this evening, and no it is time for reviews!

Big week.

SECRET AVENGERS #20 (Ellis / Maleev / Filardi) Marvel

When Warren Ellis took over Secret Avengers I absolutely hated it. His first issue was completely awful and the next issue was not a lot better. His third issue, on the other hand, was pretty good and now this one… which is great! A Black Widow story, which gets brownie points already, Alex Maleev art, not at his absolute best but still very strong, and a VERY well done time travel story. Everything worked here, including the newspaper strip homage. I have been looking forward to the end of the Ellis run and the start of Rick Remender’s and this doesn’t change that, but at least there was finally an issue worth the praise that has been heaped upon the Ellis run.

ALL-STAR WESTERN #4 (Justin Gray / Jimmy Palmiotti / Moritat / Phil Winslade) DC

It has not gone unnoticed by me that the best of the DC relaunch are the books that are not mainstream superhero books. Marvel does those better. Where DC shines is going outside of those bounds with books like Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing, Animal Man and this one.  ASW has been my favourite comic in some weeks and this one was pretty good. The Moritat art was not as great as it usually is, but it was still very solid. The back-up was also not stellar. The main story more than made up for it. I am looking forward to the further adventures of Hex and Arkham.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #5 & 6 (#5 – Brubaker / McNiven, Camuncoli / Leisten… #6 – Brubaker / Davis / Farmer / Martin) Marvel

Yes, two issues of Cap in the same week. (Even more, Cap & Bucky came out this week as well.) I have no idea why. Even more puzzling, this is a transitionary spot as one art team makes way for the next. #5 was the best issue of the new title so far. I especially liked it as it reminded me of early Flag Smasher, before that villain was ruined by bad writing. It is really interesting to read about a villain he is completely right but using unacceptable methods to fight for his cause. It is so reflective of so many things going on today. Then, #6 was even better! Bru’s writing style feels slightly different under the pencil of Alan Davis. I have no problem with McNiven but what a treat to switch to Alan Davis! I was so happy when he did that Avengers Prime mini and when I heard he was taking over Cap… well, his style is perfect for this book. People who really liked the dark and gritty stylings when this was a Bucky book might disagree. Too bad for them, I guess. 🙂

AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE #8 (Heinberg / Cheung / Morales / Ponsor) Marvel

I have enjoyed this mini… I just don’t like waiting two months between issues. I am not a huge fan of the way both the Avengers and X-Man are made out to look like d-bags, but that is kind of seeing it through the eyes of the next generation. Are we trading Cassie in for Scott? I’ll take that trade… and I don’t dislike Cassie.

ULTIMATE X-MAN #5 (Spencer / Medina / Vlasco / Curiel) Marvel

This is SO much better than the old Ultimate X-Men. It has a great cast. I hope they follow through and get rid of Rogue. It looks like it is Kitty’s time to shine. And what is Pietro up to?

All are reasons to keep reading, which was something I couldn’t find myself doing before the relaunch.

FURY OF FIRESTORM #4 (Ethan Van Sciver / Gail Simone / Yildiray Cinar) DC

Last month I felt close to cancelling this book. This month I enjoyed it a lot more. Adding the Russians was great. International intrigue that a couple of teenagers now have to deal with? Good call. I liked the juxtaposition of Ronnie being upset that Jason would think him stupid… followed by him apparently doing something very stupid.

CAPTAIN AMERICA  & BUCKY #625 (Asmus / Brubaker / Francavilla) Marvel

This book started to slide as soon as it left WW2 (and lost the Chris Samnee art), but it made some gains again this issue. Focusing on the second set of Cap & Bucky, while still making it a modern story, really works. I don’t see a long run before this book is cancelled (and then the other Cap book takes over the original numbering) but for now it is worth a read. At last this month.

FF #13 (Hickman / Bobillo / Sosa / Sotomayor) Marvel

Bobillo’s art is a lot better than last issue. And by a lot better, I mean that is merely really crappy instead of that mess from the previous book. Hickman’s story is solid but the bad art is very distracting, Hopefully that problem is corrected before this book gets the axe.

THE UNWRITTEN #32.5 (Carey / Gross / Ormston) Vertigo

The first .5 issue of The Unwritten was one of the best issues I have read of this title in quite a while. This issue was… boring. I found that I just didn’t care about it in any way. Hopefully further of these interlude issues will be more like the previous one than this one.

THE ULTIMATES #5 (Hickman / Peterson / Ribic / White) Marvel

Without going back and double-checking, I assume this is a different artist from the previous issues. I assume that because the previous issues were much better. That isn’t the big reason I rate this book so low, though. It is more because NOTHING HAPPENS. The interaction between Thor and his… relations were the only real saving grace this issue.

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #4 (Peter Milligan / Mikel Janin) DC

This is the last issue of this book I will be getting. Four issues in and there is still zero story other than ‘bad things are happening. Of some sort. Or something.’ Milligan can sometimes slip in incoherence in his writing and gets away with it by coasting on style. I bought this book for Zatanna, Madame Xanadu and Constantine. This isn’t Zatanna. This isn’t Madame Xanadu. Constantine… well, if it is just him, I could just buy Hellblazer. Which I don’t.

Dropped.

SUPERMAN #4 (George Perez / Jesus Merino) DC

If I am dropping JLD and this is rated lower, what does that tell you? This has been the weaker Superman book and this issue made no in-roads there. As a writer George Perez is a great artist (luckily he IS that…). Good writing is not just putting in more words. I would think an artist would understand that, but I guess not. I miss the 80’s version of George. (But hey, can’t we say the same thing about John Byrne, Chris Claremont, Walt Simonson…?)

Dropped

ALPHA FLIGHT #7 (Van Lente / Pak / Eaglesham / Aburtov) Marvel

Do you remember the last time there was a good AF comic? 1985? I had high hopes for the new series that started as a mini, was changed to an on-going, and now back to a mini. With only one issue left, I am not going to cut it, but if it were an on-going, I would have.

ANNIHILATORS: EARTHFALL #4 (Abnett / Lanning / Huat / Hennessy / Quintana) Marvel

People talk about how great the Marvel space stuff is. I have no idea why. This miniseries was awful in every way… except the Rocket Racoon and Groot back-ups. They were good but not  enough to save the series.

I picked up some trades after Christmas, which I will do a mini-review about sometime soon. They are Green Lantern: Rebirth, Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle, 100 Bullets Deluxe Vol. 1, Fantastic Four Vol. 1 Imaginauts and Age of Bronze Vol. 1 (and then Kevin Matthews has lent me Vol. 2 & 3)

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Rusty’s Comic of the Week: The Unwritten #13.5

November 27, 2011
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To kick off this week’s reviews I just wanted to share something that has been bothering me. When you have one of these blogs you get quite a variety of statistics that go with them. One of the things that shows up is a list of search terms that have led people to your blog. Well, over at Rusty the Poet I had a long discussion/argument/whatever about a reference to rape in a comic. Now I get constant hits from people searching out the terms ‘rape’ and ‘comics’ together.

What are all these people asking for ‘rape comics’ looking for? I am afraid I do not want to know.

Anyway… on to better things…

COMIC OF THE WEEK

THE UNWRITTEN #13.5 (Carey / Gross / Kaluta / Geary / Talbot) Vertigo

Recently I was talking about how the Unwritten was still good, but had slipped a little in recent times. Wow, what a turn around here!

The reason it is a ‘.5’ issue is that they are running a background mini-series in parallel to the main series (just like the Venom run from the last Marvel Solicits). These issues are fleshing out the background of the world the comic is set in. The first one of these was amazing! The stories give a lot of the feeling behind the book more oomph, plus a Rick Geary story! Sweet! Not to mention all the other amazing artists… check out that list above. Talbot… Kaluta… and Gross, of course.

This comic has renewed my enthusiasm for The Unwritten and is certainly strong enough to pick up Comic of the Week.

As always, the rest are in descending order of awesomeness.

All-Star Western #3 (Justin Gray / Jimmy Palmiotti / Moritat / Jordi Bernet) DC

I was just talking about this book with Kin down at Silver Snail. He was marvelling over how popular All-Star Western is, when really it isn’t much different than Jonah Hex was, which didn’t sell well at all. The DC relaunch has really given people a chance to see things that they wouldn’t have tried before.

Having said that, there ARE differences. The first is the continuing nature of the storyline. It doesn’t look like too many ‘one-and-done’ stories are coming, which doesn’t bother me either way. However, the connections with the modern DC universe are in danger of slipping from ‘cute’ into ‘annoying’. The fact that they are in Gotham and the doc is named Arkham is fine. The ‘this city will need a special kind of lawman in the future’, well… not so good.

Not enough to ruin the book, though. Moritat continues to impress (though I think he was better on The Spirit than this) and it is nice to see Jordi Bernet back, even though the Diablo story has not been too exciting.

Fantastic Four #600 (Hickman / Epting / Magyar / Mounts / Di Giandomenico / Yu / Dalrymple / Doyle) Marvel

This issue is not only #600, but it is the 50th Anniversary of what basically kicked off the Marvel universe (along with Spider-Man).

First off – let’s talk about the price. $7.99 is a lot for a single issue, but what you get here is 100 pages of new material – none of it filler. As comics have shrunk to 20 pages, that is like buying five comics which will run you from $15 – $20.

Then let’s talk about the big surprise. (Spoiler free) First off, was it a big surprise? I don’t think so. It is what I expected. HOWEVER, it was done VERY well and has me very interested in the next issue. FF has been lagging a bit for me and now there will be two books. My only question is whether you will need to read both to get the full story, or if you can just buy one of the other. It LOOKS like Fantastic Four will be the place to get the main group and FF will give you the kids etc. We’ll see.

Highs and lows… I LOVED the Franklin and Leech story and I wasn’t thrilled about the Inhumans story. All in all, a very good comic.

CAPTAIN AMERICA & BUCKY #624 (Brubaker / Andreyko / Samnee / Breitweiser) Marvel

This book reads like a sneak peak at the new Winter Soldier comic, which is cool. The only thing wrong with this is that it is the last by this creative team. Chris Samnee is off the book and that is a shame because I am a big fan. (He has an arc coming up in Ultimate Spider-man, I believe).

Where is this comic going from here? I thought it was going to be set in WW2, but apparently that is no more. I expect it will end up being cancelled. If it does, I hope the main Captain America book gets its numbering back. Maybe in time for #650? #700?

SECRET AVENGERS #19 (Ellis / Lark / Gaudino) Marvel

This is the second decent Secret Avengers issue in a row, after some absolutely horrible issues. I still can’t wait for Ellis to be out and Remender to be in. This is the sort of line-up that suits the book but Ellis has zero idea how to write Steve Rogers. It is distracting. (Again, not NEARLY as bad as his first two issues… in fact, I enjoyed it.)

ALPHA FLIGHT #6 (Van Lente / Pak / Eaglesham / Oback) Marvel

Is it odd that I pretty much cheer whenever Northstar gets to kiss a man? It is getting less unusual, but for YEARS after Northstar came out as gay, Marvel wouldn’t show him kissing a man. It was ridiculous hypocrisy and I am glad it is done with.

I have to admit that the kiss probably moved the book higher on this list than it would have been.

Two more issues until AF returns to the comics limbo from whence it sprung.

SUPERMAN #3 (George Perez / Nicola Scott / Trevor Scott) DC

I had recently been considering dropping this book, but this issue redeems itself somewhat. Perez is still unnecessarily wordy but the straight supervillain-style fight, mixed with the on-going alien sub plot is quite interesting. If you can get past the the reams of backstory at the beginning of the comic, the book gets quite good. (Better than the latest issue of Grant Morrison’s Action, that is for sure…)

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #3 (Peter Milligan / Mikel Janin) DC

Are they ever going to come up with an excuse why it says Justice League on the cover other than marketing? Probably not.

Great characters but the storyline is shaky. I hope they tighten it up a little bit as this story continues, or moves on to the next one.

THE FURY OF FIRESTORM #3 (Ethan Van Sciver / Gail Simone / Yildray Cinar) DC

Another book that is wavering for me. It survives another issue on the strength of… I’m not sure. I want to see the new Killer Frost. Helix was disappointing.

ULTIMATE COMICS HAWKEYE #4 (Hickman / Sandoval / Tarragona / Anderson) Marvel

Was this always a miniseries? The whole thing was just a sideplot for the Ultimates? Disappointing. I would have preferred it if Hulk could have stayed with the Eternals. (Or was it the Celestials?)

RASL #12 (Jeff Smith) Cartoon Books

I like this series, but when he spends too much time giving Tesla back story it drags a bit. This was one of those issues. Did you know it has been optioned as a movie? If they make it, I bet they change the name.

ANNIHILATORS EARTHFALL #3 (abnett / Lanning / Huat / Hennessy / Quintana) Marvel

I am not one who has drunk the Cosmic Marvel kool-aid, but I decided to buy this due to the Avengers appearance. The story is picking up interest, but the art is ugly. I mean REALLY bad. It distracts from the story quite a bit.

AVENGERS SOLO #2 (Van Meter / Robinson / McCann / Henry) Marvel

I am a big Hawkeye fan which tells you that I mean it when I say that this comic is a mess. What is going on in the lead story? If you know, you are a better person than I am. Should I have gone back and reread the first issue? Who are the bad guys? Who are the good guys? I have compeltely lost track.

The Avengers Academy back-up was good.

AVENGERS ORIGINS: SCARLET WITCH & QUICKSILVER (McKeever / Pierfederici / Tartaglia) Marvel

These series of one-shots has been hit or miss, and this one was a very big miss. The story added nothing to the existing origin, other than modernizing the setting a bit. Adding that they had hints about their parentage was a big mistake that goes against the strength of the first Vision & Scarlet Witch mini. The art was not very strong. Overall, a weak comic. Hopefully the next one (Thor) will be better.

That’s it for this week. A big one, though not as strong as last week. (The Unwritten was sure great though…)