Ceej Says… Comic Book Day Reviews (7th Nov 2012 – part 1)

Well, so much for quiet comic book weeks.  Because this week, without me fully realising it, has turned out to be a bit of a doozy.  I also picked up a couple of digital comics through ComiXology, so I figured I may as well review them as well.  So without any further ado, here’s what’s on the menu… *deep breath*…

Batwing #14 (DC)
Detective Comics #14 (DC)
Animal Man #14 (DC)
Swamp Thing #14 (DC)
Colder #1 (Dark Horse)
Iron Man #1 (Marvel)
Deadpool #1 (Marvel)
Daredevil: End of Days #2 (Marvel)
Bedlam #1 (Image)
Happy #1 (Image)

So, uh, that’s a rather more diverse selection than we’ve been used to lately. To say the least. However, to compensate for having to review a brain-melting ten titles, I may have to shorten the reviews slightly.  Please try to hold back the tears.  Still, some great looking stuff on that list, so let’s get to it…

Colder #1 (Dark Horse)
“Oh look at your little legs kicking! It’s like you’re swimming!”

This is a comic I picked up on a bit of a whim after stumbling across the cover art for the first issue.  I mean… just look at it.  How can I be expected to look at a cover like that and not want to know more?  Plus, I could always use more Dark Horse in my pull list, as it’s a publisher that was such an integral part of my childhood comic collection (Aliens, Predator, Aliens vs Predator, etc.).

Anyway, the comic itself offers up quite a few questions in the first issue, which is a pretty smart way to go.  The bulk of the story is based around Reece Talbot, a nurse who winds up having a pretty bad day.  She is caring for a catatonic gentleman by the name of Declan, a medical impossibility with a body temperature that should have him on a slab somewhere.  We get a little of Declan’s back story in flashback form at the start, and as it looks like he’s going to be the main protagonist, it’s maybe a good thing we don’t find out too much about him too soon.

The star of this book however is an absolutely chilling (no pun intended) character by the name of Nimble Jack.  An incredibly creepy creation, Jack scuttles around the city trying to satisfy his ‘hunger’ (which seems to rely on the manipulation of unfortunates to be sated) and is an ever-present, disturbing menace.  Quite what his role in the book – or in Declan’s condition – is going to be remains to be seen, but in terms of first impressions, Nimble Jack makes a memorable one.

For a first comic, we have the usual exposition that’s necessary, but there are enough intriguing  characters and unanswered questions to make me want to stick with it.  The artwork is also extremely eye-catching, especially in some key scenes involving Jack.  All in all, a great first issue, and Colder is a comic I definitely can’t wait to read more of.

Rating: 8.5/10.

Good start.  Guess you can judge a book by its cover.  Anyway, up next we haaave…

Animal Man #14 (DC)
“Take the power of a panda or something and start punching, Baker!”

We’re into part two of the Animal Man “Red Kingdom” Rotworld arc, and – as in the pages of Swamp Thing – it’s not going particularly well for our titular hero.  Animal Man has been a pretty solid read right from the start of the New 52, and a lot of it is due to the bizarre, downright disturbing artistic choices that have been made when it comes to putting together the minions of the Rot.

The appeal of this comic is twofold at the moment.  One one hand you have the heart of the story with Buddy Baker and his daughter – and true avatar of the Red – Maxine.  This plays out rather well in this comic, with us following Maxine’s situation after her father and Swamp Thing disappeared into the rot.  Suffice to say things aren’t going great for her, and based on a chance encounter near the end of the book, seem unlikely to improve in the near future.  On the other hand we have the cool, ‘alternate future’ Rotworld sections, where we get to see various DC characters as deformed minions of the rot being torn to shreds in various creative ways.  Which is always fun.

In the last issue we saw Rotworld Hawkman, and now we get Rotworld Grifter and Deathstroke added to the list of ‘freaks to be massacred’.  Hmm, now what do these characters possibly have in common? (hint: he can’t draw feet).  A nice little in-joke perhaps, but it doesn’t diminish the effect of seeing the destruction of some familiar characters.  The “resistance” against the rot has some interesting faces, and the banter and wise-cracking is carried pretty handily by Constantine.

All in all, an enjoyable enough comic, and an interesting premise being executed fairly well.  The artwork is tight, the action scenes are visceral and exciting, and the story is carrying on nicely.  The reveal in the closing splash page should make the next stage of the journey extremely interesting, and the inevitable reunion with Swampy should be something worth waiting for.  All in all, a good read while perhaps not quite reaching the greatness it’s capable of.

Rating: 7.5/10.

Another solid comic, followed – as fate should have it – by…

Swamp Thing #14 (DC)
“You finally have the full strength of the green behind you.  What can you do with it?”

Last week’s Swamp Thing annual set the scene nicely for this issue, and while I said at the time that it wasn’t necessarily essential reading to follow the Rotworld storyline, I take that back now after having read this.  The significance of Abby’s return to Blestemat would have been greatly diminished had I not read the pages of the annual, so I’ll retract what I said earlier.  Read the annual!

There’s something about Snyder’s writing style that just works for me (and a lot of other people, it seems).  The intertwining nightmare scenes of Abby and Alec play out beautifully, both in terms of the visual style and the writing itself, and – as I said – their relationship continues to be the beating heart of this book.  That’s not to say there’s not some meaty action scenes within these pages, as there most definitely is, particularly the scenes with Alec flexing his muscles with the full power of the parliament of trees behind him.

The conversation between Deadman and Swamp Thing near the end sets up the next stage of the adventure beautifully, and the allusion to their upcoming trip to Gotham can’t fail to excite any comic fan’s inner geek.  Also, the tease and reveal in the closing few panels just gets more and more cool the more I think about it, and I simply can’t wait to see what comes next.

Maybe it’s Snyder’s writing, or Paquette’s artwork, or maybe it’s just because Alec/Abby > Buddy/Maxine, but Swamp Thing is far exceeding the Animal Man Rotworld stories to this point, in my opinion at least.  If you can, read both, but if you have to choose, it’s Swampy all the way.

Rating: 8.5/10.

Damn good week so far, although that may be about to change as we hit the first wild card of the week in…

Deadpool #1 (Marvel)
“Nothing can prepare you for when Stephen Hawking goes crazy.”

I’d made no secret of my bailing on the most recent Deadpool run after it got a bit… well… shit.  Despite his overwhelming popularity, I find a lot of his stuff to be fairly hit or miss, and he’s probably one of the easiest characters in all of comics for a bad writer to make absolutely soul-destroylingly terrible.  That said, the idea of putting a couple of comedians at the helm seems like a good idea on paper, and I do have a bit of a soft spot for the Merc with a Mouth, so I figured this was worth a punt.

Turns out, I needn’t have bothered.  I’ll clarify by saying that this comic isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just… well… a bit disappointing.  This is the same kind of stuff that was being ploughed out at the end of the previous run, with a welcome change that his healing factor and char-grilled visage have made a return to the continuity.  Which is clearly the best way to go.  The story is your typical ridiculous Deadpool fare, with Zombie versions of America’s previous presidents being brought back to wreak havoc on the world, and S.H.I.E.L.D. enlisting Wade’s help with handling them to avoid the PR disaster involved with an established hero like Captain America laying the smackdown on a dead president.  As premises go, it’s not terrible.

The problem comes from the writing, which – while admitting having a few chuckle-worthy moments – seems to be trying a little too hard to be “zany”.  It’s very hit or miss, although there are a few high points (I particularly enjoyed the Asgardian cameo), but it definitely wasn’t strong enough to remove the sour taste I had in my mouth from the previous debacle.  I will say thought that Tony Moore’s artwork is nothing short of fantastic, as he captures exactly the kind of look and style that a (let’s be honest) ludicrous comic like this should have.

So, bottom line, perhaps this wasn’t as bad a comic as the rating I’m going to give it, but in terms of wasted potential and disappointed expectations, I’m possibly being more than a little harsh.  It may be worth a look if you’re a hardcore Deadpool fan, but it’s definitely not for me, and unfortunately won’t be making a return to my pull list any time soon.

Rating: 6/10.  

A bit of a stumble there, and I’m gonna do one more before taking a short break.  Let’s finish on a high point with…

Bedlam #1 (Image)
“Well, take it from me, as a guy that’s had to try to make conversation with her — this one’s a statistic.”

Due to a severe problem with certain comics making it to the comic book wilderness that is Aberdeen, I had to grab this little beauty in digital form from the good folks at ComiXology.  I’d heard some good things about it, and picked up the free preview issue which most definitely peaked my interest, so figured it was a good choice to get the full issue one and see just what it had to offer.

Firstly, let’s get it out of the way, this is one beautiful comic book.  The artwork and colouring captures the vibe of the comic perfectly, and I’ve actually read through it three times now just because it’s so damn cool looking.  Now story-wise, we’re dealing with a sick, twisted and – let’s be honest – Joker-esque serial killer by the name of Madder Red.  For the ‘flashback’ based first half of the comic, anyway.  We get a chilling insight into just what Red is capable of, a great interrogation scene where he spews forth his views on society and himself, and a question mark raising conclusion.

Then, we’re thrust into the present day in the life of Fillmore Press, the man beneath the mask of Madder Red, as he seemingly tries to adjust to a ‘normal’ life (although his interactions with society are still pretty far from normal).  The premise is a strong one, and the character of Press/Red is extremely vivid and memorable, and is someone you instantly want to know more about.

I will say though, there is a llllot of monologuing by Red, which I actually really enjoyed but which I’m aware could put some people off.  But for a dark, mysterious, intriguing and – as I said – absolutely beautiful to look at comic book, you could really do a lot worse than giving this a look.  You won’t regret it.

Rating: 9/10. 

Okay, that’ll do it for part one.  Expect part two in a day or so, and we still have Daredevil, Happy, some DC mixed bag-ness, and our second Marvel Now! wild card.  Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I’ll see you in a day or two.

The writer of this piece was: 576682_510764502303144_947146289_nCraig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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1 Comment on Ceej Says… Comic Book Day Reviews (7th Nov 2012 – part 1)

  1. Animal Man is the best New 52 series (along with Vibe).
    What makes Animal Man so special is the way Lemire deconstructs the superhero mythology. For example:
    1) Superheroes tend to monopolize the attention of the reader, while Animal Man is constantly upstaged by the supporting characters of the series.
    2) Superhero comics usually don’t give much importance to the private life of their main character (they tend to focus only on the “costume on” part); in Animal Man, on the contrary, the private life of Buddy is the main theme of the series. In fact, it is rather infrequent to see Buddy with his costume on.
    3) Buddy is not perfect, and is not perceived as perfect by other people: in fact, in the 11th issue, when he tells his wife “It’s going to be okay”, she replies “Don’t give me anything of that superhero crap, Buddy.” That cut and thrust perfectly enlightens the philosophy of the series.

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