Friday, April 17, 2009

It's Comic Time (4/15/09)!

The world without Supes keeps rolling along with nary a hick-up, Captain America takes a break before hitting the big number Five-Oh, followed immediately by Six-Oh-Oh and while one X-book continues to stall out another looks to cement itself as the best team book on the shelves each month. Hit the jump for our take on a few of this week's titles.

Comic Reviews for Week of 04/15/2009

ACTION COMICS #876 - "The Sleepers: Part 2"
Written by Greg Rucka, Art by Eddy Barrows and Sidney Teles

The year without Superman continues to roll along nicely in Rucka's run here. The plot doesn't advance too much, consisting almost entirely of a fight between Ursa and the new Nightwing and Flamebird. The full background of the characters will most likely be explored next month with a bit of exposition as Chris Kent goes from one mom to another with a visit with Lois Lane. While there's sure to be some excuse to Chris' rapid aging and I hate giving up the potential of the Superman-With-a-Kid plots, making him the focus of the book very nicely ties this title into the Superman-mythos and provides them a way to keep Lois involved in the action, researching her family's connection to the anti-Superman government forces and meeting her slightly aged briefly adopted son.

The artwork's a cut above average and though the action scenes (which of course makes up the vast majority of the issue) aren't as clear as they could be, it just a bit of a diversion to how bloody and extremely violent the fight is. Everything still makes sense, but crams an M-rated fight into a T-rated book. I'm always in favor of that. The facial expressions might be uneven at best and there's a vague sexual undertone to the battle that's a little discomforting, but that isn't exactly an unexplored area in comic artwork.

Final score: C+

CAPTAIN AMERICA #49 - "The Daughter of Time"
Written by Ed Brubaker, Art by Luke Ross

I wasn't a page in before muttering, "It's one of those issues." Heading into any major issue there's two standard approaches and neither ever impressed me that much. It's either set-up for the big issue or a time-killer. How hard is it to plan ahead and just have the previous arc conclude here? Instead this issue abandons our current crew (mainly Bucky and the Black Widow)to check up with Steve Rogers' old girlfriend Sharon Carter.

While I never had a problem with the character (she was always a more enjoyable girlfriend than Diamondback), Carter's appearance here just seems to be holding the series in the past. Brubaker has done such a spectacular job inserting a new man behind one of the most iconic masks in the Marvel Universe, but it's a step back to spend an entire issue away from that character just before the two most important issues in his brief history.

Ross' artwork actually looks worse in the light of day. Whereas his previous arc was covered in shadows that obscured his most of his shortcomings.

The story itself is just annoying. First, getting past the idea that Sharon has not noticed the incision scar where she lost her child for six months... yeah, not quite buying that to any degree. And watching her have a romantic dinner with Grandpa Bob, complete with creepy beard, is not exactly a worthy rebound guy for Steve Rogers one true love. Nuts to that.

Final score: C+

Written by Matt Fraction, Art by Greg Land

After a decent start that looked to return this title to it's status as the definitive X-title, things have downshifted into another excuse for Greg Land to copy poses from pornography. The team made entirely female villains seems to be crafted right into the artist's rather questionable wheelhouse. More importantly their showdown with Domino seems like an excuse to through another female in there and unfortunately distances the main team from the action far too much. Even the goal of the villains seems to be to return even more hot females to life.

The intriguing subplot of Beast's team of mad-ish scientists even manages to stall out. Joined by Joss Whedon's creation, Dr. Kavita Roa, the assembled scientists do nothing but sit around and try to sound interesting while doing little more than recapping the plot we've known for a couple years regarding the depowering of the mutants.

Fraction, usually a top-tier writer stumbles considerably. Besides allowing his book to begin devolving into a Land photoshop effort, even the order of the plot seems unusual. Wolverine goes from being enraged about the violation of a friend's tomb in Japan to recruiting Northstar onto the team and making cute little Canadian jokes. There doesn't seem to be a reason for Wolverine to be in the second scene besides enraging me for leaving Cyclops completely out of the issue. I can't avoid the ominous feeling that this book might not improve in the immediate future.

Final score: C-

Writtin by Peter David, Art by Valentine de Landro and Marco Santucci

Well, we're done with the mind-blowing revelations at the end of every issue at this point and onto simply impressive reveals. But this book is now officially rolling along. Madrox, now 80 years in the future with an adult Layla Miller, is simultaneously becoming involved in a rebellion against Sentinels and finding his first reason in months to live. While Layla's future crew each manages to have a distinct sound established in sometimes little more than one or two panels, David takes things to another level with as great a leader as the team could ask for. Considering that until the dark days of Messiah Complex, Layla and Madrox were by far the two best characters on the book, there's no problem reintroducing their well-handled and darkly comic banter into the writing.

Meanwhile the other members of XF Investigations aren't just spinning their heels. While Siryn and Monet keep the house in order, Guido and Rictor are playing catch-up, going after Madrox's pastor Dup. Newer member Longshot gets his first very cool sequence, playing the more standard private eye hired as a bodyguard and all the expected female entanglements these plots usually have. And given how rarely writers and artists have demonstrated his power in the past, his action scene perfectly illustrated the change between what should happen and what Longshot's power makes happen.

Final score: B+

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