Ceej Says… Comic Book Day – 20th March 2013

Constantine #1 (DC)

We kick things off this week with a comic I picked up on a bit of a whim, the first issue of DC’s new Constantine series.  While being a bit of a Hellblazer novice, I’ve definitely enjoyed John’s appearances in Justice League: Dark and the recent Rotworld crossover, so I figured I may as well give this title a quick once-over.  And as first impressions go, it didn’t do too badly.  Granted, with little previous knowledge of the character, I was fairly oblivious to quite how well it ‘measured up’ to the Vertigo version, but as a jumping-on point to the character, it worked reasonably well.  While the plot itself was a little murky and vague, the characterization was fairly solid and gave a good idea of just what to expect from our smug, self-serving-but-charming-with-it anti hero as this title moves forwards.

Renato Guedes brings a detailed hand to the artwork, and really cuts loose when all the spells and demons start appearing, giving the title a sense of energy and an impressive visual style.  Lemire and Fawkes do a passable job with the dialogue, although as I mentioned, the plot is undoubtedly a little dull thus far.  All in all though, this is a solid if unspectacular comic book that – sadly – didn’t really do enough to suck me in enough to make it a regular addition to the pull list.  Maybe if I had more of an investment in the character from his days in Hellblazer, but for me, there wasn’t enough here to make me pull the trigger.  Possibly one for the fans, but I think it’s going to be unlikely to draw in many new readers on the strength of this issue alone.

Review: 6/10.    

Daredevil #24 (Marvel) *COMIC OF THE WEEK* 

In what must be a truly shocking development for long-time readers of my reviews, this week features yet another top-quality issue of Mark Waid’s award-winning Daredevil.  I know, who would have guessed, right?  Aside from a minor wobble with the ‘Coyote’ storyline, this title has been and absolute joy to read since issue one, and shows no signs of breaking that trend any time soon.  Waid does a great job in this issue of tying together all the threads that are running through Matt’s life at the moment and showing just how much of a toll they’re having on him.  Also, we are finally given an all-too-fleeting glimpse of the orchestrator of Matt’s recent misery, and while this is a welcome sight, it only serves to offer up yet more questions.

However, all superheroics and thwarting bad guys aside, the undeniable highlight of this comic continues to be Matt’s friendship with his best friend and legal partner Foggy, and his reactions to Foggy’s recent cancer diagnosis.  While the villainous conspiracy is an appealing hook, this book shines brightest when it focuses on the smaller, more personal moments in Matt’s life, and – thankfully – that is something Waid excels at.  Also, it doesn’t hurt matters when the story is brought to life by Chris Samnee’s beautifully old-school artwork.  His thick lines, creative page layouts and tremendous ability to convey drama and movement in a stationary image are on full display here, and continue to give Daredevil one of the most distinct visual styles on the shelves.

I know I’m being predictable and yes, possibly even a little repetitive, but the undeniable fact is that this continues to be an absolutely amazing title that everyone – yes, everyone – would do well to pick up.

Rating: 9/10.

Indestructible Hulk #5 (Marvel)

In our second dose of Mark Waid goodness for the week, this issue see everyone’s favourite green-skinned behemoth tackling an Atlantean Warlord seven miles beneath the sea.  Nice work if you can get it.   Now, as we have seen in his other titles, Waid does a tremendous job of switching between light-hearted and serious, and that’s readily apparent here as the diabolical plans of Attuma are contrasted with the innate humour of one of the Lemurians showing her attraction to the Hulk and utter disgust at the ‘pinkling’ Banner.  And while the exposition may get laid on a little thick in the beginning of the book, all is instantly forgiven once the Hulk smashing portion comes around.

As always, Leinil Yu excels with the artwork, particularly during the franticly claustrophobic underwater battle scenes.  Every panel is filled to bursting with incredibly detailed action, and the energy on display is difficult not to get excited about.  The ‘Hulk Smashes, Banner Builds’ theme of this book is pushed slightly to the background here, although we still get some of Waid’s compelling take on Banner during his scenes with the Lemurian rebels.  Simply put, this is a fun, exciting, beautiful to look at comic book title, and while this issue didn’t quite hit the lofty heights of some of the earlier issues, the promise of Walt Simonson taking over artistic duties for the next few issues is a good enough reason – if there weren’t enough already –to keep this title in my pull list for a long, long time to come.

Rating: 8/10.

Justice League #18 (DC)

In the aftermath of the Throne of Atlantis crossover, this issue sees the continuation of one of the aspects of that storyline as the Justice League pursue their proposed ‘expansion’ by inviting prospective candidates to the Watchtower to evaluate them.  An interesting enough premise, right?  Unfortunately though, the sheer volume of characters brought in makes the whole thing a fairly diluted, hard-to-follow mess.  Nobody really gets a chance to do much aside from delivering a few humorous one-liners, and there’s simply too much going on for anything that happens to have any real significance.

Also, despite having a tremendous name, Jesus Saiz’ artwork is a noticeable step down from the recent issues, and while it does pick up a little during the action scenes, overall it just didn’t ‘fit’ work for a comic of this magnitude.  An unfortunate stumble then for a title which seemed to be on the right path in recent weeks, and while the seeds are already being sown for the upcoming Trinity War event, this issue can most definitely be classed as ‘missable’ for all but the most diehard Justice League fans.

However, making the last-minute save from what would have been an uncharacteristically low rating is – as always – the incredibly high quality backup ‘Shazam’ story.  Gary Frank’s tremendous artwork never looked better, and the storyline seems to be reaching a fever pitch as Black Adam continues his rampage.  I do hope there’s at least some attempt to publish a collection of these stories, as I think the narrative would flow extremely well in a collected edition.  We seem to be nearing our inevitable showdown, and I for one can’t wait to see what happens when Billy Batson is unleashed on the New 52 world as a whole, rather than remaining confined to the backup stories.  So all in all, an instantly forgettable title is saved by a solid – if annoyingly brief- backup story.  Worth a look for Shazam, but otherwise, not really worth your time.

Rating: 6.5/10.

Justice League of America #2 (DC)

JLA made a strong first impression last month with its sharp writing and creative take on the ‘let’s put a group of heroes together’ formula.  This week continues that trend as we get a chance to see just how the characters interact in person, while being given a brief glimpse of the threat they are currently being geared up to face.  And for a group of characters where I don’t know a hell of lot about the majority of them, it’s a testament to Johns’ writing that they’ve all been established so well in just two short issues.  Vibe provides some fabulous comedic moments (particularly in his interaction with Hawkman), Stargirl is the somewhat naive public face of the group, Hawkman is – well – a bit of a psychopath, and so on.  It’s definitely an interesting combination of characters and agendas, and while Simon Baz is still curiously absent, the potential clash of styles and personalities bodes well for some extremely interesting material further down the line.

The Dynamic between Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller is also an interesting one, and shows yet more promise for potential clashes and twists as the title develops.  The scope of the threat they are facing with the ‘Secret Society’ is only being fed to us a little at a time for now, although – to be honest – anything that involves David Finch drawing the Scarecrow again is a winner in my book.  I’ve always been a massive fan of Fitch’s art style, and while I had my hesitations about whether it would fit in a colourful ‘superhero’ book, it actually gives the title a bit of an edge, making everything a little less sanitised and a little more… grimy.  Which, in my mind, is no bad thing.

So all in all, this is a great start to a new series, and the strong work Geoff Johns has done in establishing the new status quo here has done more than enough to make me want to stick with this title for the foreseeable future.  Or, at least until the first arc plays out.  Well worth a look, and the Martian Manhunter-based backup story is pretty damn solid too.

Rating: 8/10. 

The Superior Spider-Man #6 (Marvel)

Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man has been a puzzling journey to this point, to say the leat.  After the initial shock and media circus surrounding Peter Parker’s “death” died down, what we were left with was an extremely strong premise and – on the surface of it – an interesting story waiting to be told.  However, while it’s been undoubtedly solid to this point, it still hasn’t quite managed to live up to its potential, in my mind at least.  And to highlight the confusing narrative choices, the (needless) ambiguity of the previous issue’s conclusion – did Spidey kill Massacre? – is resolved here with a throwaway comment in a conversation between the Avengers.  It’s more than a little baffling.

Don’t get me wrong though, this is yet another a solid issue, and features Spidey taking on some fairly ‘current’ super-villains who are recording their crimes on the internet, encouraging people to watch them and then using the system to phish for their account details.  As plans go, it’s a hell of a lot better than walking into a bank in a day-glo costume.  We’re also shown some nice character development as OctoParker’s relationship with his tutor – and his empathy for the way society treats her – is pushed slowly forwards.  There’s also no discounting the power and drama of the final pages, and their developments show promise of a major change in the status quo of the title moving forwards (although I did think that about the previous issue, so I’m not assuming anything at this point).

It just seems that, for all the potentially brilliant storytelling that could be going on with this title, there are far too many inconsistencies and curious choices going on for me to really get behind it.  I mean, Spider-Man actually killed one of his adversaries last issue – with a gun, no less – and that shocking, utterly earth-shattering fact is barely even addressed here? Makes no sense.  Still, this is a solid enough – and skillfully illustrated – comic that sadly, just can’t seem to decide on what it wants to be
Rating – 7/10.

All-New X-Men #9 (Marvel)

While other comics have occasionally provided better issues, there’s no disputing that Brian Michael Bendis’ All-New X-Men has become one of the most consistently high-quality titles to come out of the whole Marvel Now! situation.  Providing a rich, character-focused take on an extremely unique situation, Bendis had made this book pretty much essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in the X-Men.  And that high standard continues here as the dynamic between the younger X-Men and their new ‘professor’ Kitty Pride is further established during a beautifully-illustrated and humorous Danger Room scene, with Iceman’s comparison between the old and new Danger Rooms a particular highlight.

Jean Grey continues to provide the backbone to this series, and hers is without a doubt the most interesting story arc to this point.  Having her slowly coming to terms with her telepathic powers – and all the risks and responsibilities that come along with it – makes for truly compelling storytelling (not to mention her knowledge of her untimely death), and while other characters are also being given time to shine (though curiously not Iceman, who has been little more than comic relief to this point), there’s no disputing that this is Jean Grey’s comic thus far.

Immonen’s artwork is another highlight of this title, and his ability to convey facial expression and emotion is vital in a comic with so much focus on character development and conversation.  Sadly though, the Mystique sub-plot has been a little underwhelming to this point, and even the injection of Sabertooth into the mix does little to liven it up.  This book is undoubtedly geared towards the inevitable showdown between the younger X-Men and Cyclops’ band of ‘Revolutionaries’, and thankfully – based on this issue – that’s a confrontation we may not have to wait too much longer for.  A great title, and an utterly compelling read every fortnight.

Review: 9/10.

Coming Next Week!

All sorts of goodness coming on the 27th, including the fallout of Damian Wayne’s shocking death in Batman Incorporated #9, no less than three seperate Age of Ultron-related titles, and the first issue of the new Guardians of the Galaxy book!  What’s not to like?  So with that in mind, I hope to see all of you back here again next week.

  Same Ceej time, same Ceej channel.

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