Comics Round-up 15.10.2013

Punisher - The Trial Of The Punisher 01

Shadowhawk and Bane of Kings welcome you to the second comics round-up for October.

“In an effort to read more Marvel, I picked up a bunch of new titles, plus one of the few ongoing series I’m following right now and have to say that the experience has been largely negative. Both the new Captain America and Spider-Man comics have proven to be duds with the first issue while the new Punisher comic was half-decent at a stretch.” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields

Judge Dredd: Year One provides a great look into the early years of the character whilst the first volume of Grimm provides a nice adaption set in the world of the NBC series that you can enjoy whether or not you’re a fan.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

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Comics reviewed by Shadowhawk (All Marvel titles): Captain America: Living Legends #1 by Andy Diggle, Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #1 by Matt Kindt, and, Trial of the Punisher #1 by Marc Guggenheim.

*****

Captain America: Living Legends #1 by Andy Diggle

Captain America - Living Legend 01

My only experience reading Captain America comics comes from Rick Remender’s Marvel Now reboot, of which I’ve read the first issue only and disliked it immensely, and reading Ed Brubaker’s first arc with Captain America: Winter Soldier, which I loved. Since then, I haven’t really bothered reading Captain America comics. But then, this issue hit digital-space recently and I thought I’d give it a try since Adi Granov is an artist that I’ve enjoyed in the past and I’ve heard a lot of good things about Andy Diggle’s scripts as well. However, my enthusiasm for this title was severely tempered once I read through it, a most disappointing experience no less.

The story takes place in three different times: the end of World War II (1945), a Soviet rocket launch in 1968, and the present day in both space and the SHIELD Helicarrier. While I generally don’t have a problem with stories that are broken down structurally like this, they have to keep the timelines coherent enough for the reader to understand just what is going on. And that’s where this issue fails most of all. After a somewhat decent start with the 1945 part of the story, it quickly degenerates into incoherency. Events happen and there are no explanations as to why they are happening. I can kind of deduce what Andy Diggle is going for here, but a lot of it is dependent on narrative subtext and not up-front information, which I think was the wrong approach to take for him.

Adi Granov, who has turned out some excellent covers over the years, and whom I consider to be one of the best cover artists in the industry right now, left me pretty disappointed with his interior art for this issue. His visuals appear stiff and his characters are rather wooden, and they often stray into the “too perfect looking” territory as well, especially later on in the final pages when the story is focused on Captain America and Sharon Carter. His panel layouts are great, and there are lots of nice details in the panels, but overall, the issue just didn’t work for me.

I hear that this is a mini-series and not an ongoing so I may stick around for the second issue, but I’m not sure just yet. The first issue has seen some very tepid reviews everywhere and whether or not I read the second issue depends very much on what kind of a reception the new issue gets next month.

Rating: 4/10

More Captain America: (Winter Soldier) Vol.1.

*****

Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #1 by Matt Kindt

Marvel Knights - Spider-Man 01

More than any other Marvel character, Spider-Man is the one that I am most familiar with since I used to watch the animated series growing up and also because of all the movies that he’s featured in. Last year, I set out to read some Spidey comics, starting with Bendis’ second run on Ultimate Spider-Man and this year with the start of Dan Slott’s run on Amazing Spider-Man. Its been a really fun experience with both titles, more so since they have completely different settings and voice, but I’ve unfortunately not been able to keep up with either series to the end. I’d love to read Dan’s current run with Superior Spider-Man but I’m holding out on that until I get through his ASM run, which might take a long while. I was hoping that Matt Kindt’s new mini-series would help to fill-in the gap, but that might have been a tad optimistic on my part because this proved to be one of the worst comics I’ve read this year.

The problem with the issue is one of both script and art. This is jam-packed with all sorts of villains and other peripheral characters, so much so that it is an overload rather than something that would keep you going, turning the pages to find out what was going to happen. Well, I did do that, but only to see if all this confusing mess of story and art would start making sense at some point. Matt Kindt is somewhat of a favourite writer, based on his Justice League of America back-ups this year and one or two of his Villain’s Month titles from DC but he hasn’t exactly been as impressive lately. His Earth 2 #15.2 was mind-bogglingly incoherent. He kind of does the same here, except that the issue is pretty much a drug-induced hallucination rather than a story.

I’m sure that it all makes sense at some point, with all the different villains and what not, but I just could not follow any of it. I kept wondering just what the hell was going on here, and I came up empty every single time. Marco Rudy has some great panel layouts, really creative stuff that totally makes sense in a Spidey book, but the thing is that as with the script, its all an overload. Finely detailed artwork is all well and good until the reader has to actually trawl through each panel looking for narrative connects to make sense of what is happening.

That said, I still enjoyed Rudy’s work because it was so different and so creative. Plus, Val Staples absolutely killed it with his colours, which worked really, really well for the book. They gave the book a really unique feel and I’m all for unique. Hopefully, the second issue is going to be better.

Rating: 3/10

More Spider-Man: (Amazing) #648-651, (Ultimate Vol.2) #1-6#7-14, (Spider-Men) – Vol.1.

*****

Trial of the Punisher #1 by Marc Guggenheim

Punisher - The Trial Of The Punisher 01

My only prior experiences with Punisher come from Spider-Man: The Animated Series and the two Punisher movies, both of which I felt were rather terrible really. As such, I know only the basics about the character and I came into this comic largely bias-free given my lack of any significant prior experience with the character. While I enjoyed this first issue, I think it wasn’t as strong as it could have been, for a few reasons.

First and foremost, Marc Guggenheim’s script is absolutely amazing here. Inspired by the what if scenario of Punisher actually going to court as a criminal, he tells a brilliant opening story that is full of action and also a fair bit of character-work that really explores the entire concept. Guggenheim’s script can be a little exposition/narration-heavy at times but I think largely he pulls it off. He really gets into who the Punisher is and why he turns himself in. Yes, he does turn himself in rather than being dragged to jail (again, apparently). It creates a really interesting atmosphere and tone for the issue that persists all the way to the end.

All the pencilwork here is by Leinil Francis Yu with Sunny Gho on colours and VC’s Cory Petit on the letters. Generally, the art style that Yu employs here, heavy on the inks and shadowed character faces and what not, is one that doesn’t work for me. But I have to say that he really does make it work for this comic. That, for me, is a first since I actually liked what Yu did. Sure, I would have preferred to see the kind of style that Esad Ribic or Sara Pichelli use, to give a couple examples, but Yu works too, and quite brilliantly. All the same, there is sometimes too strong a digital feel to the artwork, which prevented it from really standing-out. Sunny Gho proves to be an excellent colourist as well, with a really deep sense of how to make each panel pop out. His colours reflect the tone and mood of the comic, which was just as well.

Overall, while I liked this issue, I would have preferred to see a bit more actual story here, instead of the narration that we get. That really is prevented this issue from being really good for me. The scenes with Frank’s lawyer also seemed to be a bit too on the nose and a bit forced as well, though Guggenheim really nailed Frank’s dialogue there. All in all, I’m definitley looking forward to the second issue of this mini-series.

Rating: 8/10

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Comics reviewed by Bane of Kings: Judge Dredd: Year One by Matt Smith (IDW Publishing), and, Grimm Volume 1: The Coins of Zakynthos by David Greenwalt (Dynamite Comics).

*****

Judge Dredd: Year One by Matt Smith

Art: Simon Coleby | Collects: #1-4

In an all-new adventure from Joe Dredd’s early days as a Mega City-One Judge, writer (and Eagle-award-winning 2000AD Editor) Matt Smith presents a tale where “all the young juves, carry the news,” only in this case, the news is delivered with a lethal blow!

Judge Dredd Year One

Judge Dredd rocks. I’ve been a fan of the character for a while and having watched the movie, I can tell you now that this character is incredible. I’ll read pretty much anything related to the Judge and how could I pass up a Batman: Year One style origin story written by somebody who shares the same name as the actor of the Eleventh Doctor? As it turns out, Judge Dredd: Year One is actually a pretty fun book, providing a look into the early years of Joe Dredd, with an interesting look into a Judge who is less experienced and intimidating than the one that is currently kicking ass and taking names in the ongoing series.

This book is a pretty different Judge Dredd book to what I would expect however, and despite the risks that it has taken, it actually works – we get to see a Dredd who’s not as experienced as he is, and therefore out of his depth and not as confident, as this new case is not something that he can handle through the usual methods involving shooting and hitting. Opening up with a bang, we get to witness various Judges being called to investigate across multiple locations in Mega City-One where they have to deal with people displaying a wide variety of unusual abilities including telekinesis and flight.  Dredd believing this isn’t his sort of case, tries to get it over to the psi division, however any attempts to not work on this case get rejected by his superiors.

The artwork provided by Simon Coleby is pretty awesome and fits the same tone of the book. We really get some great visuals provided here and Coleby whilst not adopting the cleaner art of the likes of Jim Lee and Tony S. Daniel, goes to town with the detail and really impresses, for example – the use of light and shadow is pulled off very well indeed as well as the colour panel chosen really helps enhance the overall book. It’s a style of art that feels distinctively as though it could belong in a Judge Dredd book, and wouldn’t really work say in a Superman or Fantastic Four book, for example. Distinctively awesome, Simon Coleby here has made himself a name to look out for within these pages, like Matt Smith – and if these two are working on a Judge Dredd book again then I will have to pick that up at some point.

If you’ve ever been curious about Judge Dredd books and don’t know where to start then I would not hesitate in recommending this book to you. Baring in mind though, I’m still yet to read any of the 2000AD Judge Dredd issues so you may have to look for someone with more experience in the Judge Dredd universe if you want a better suggestion. However, it can’t do you any harm, as I, with my limited knowledge of the Judge Dredd Universe, understood it perfectly fine and really enjoyed it whilst I was reading it.

Another strong element of this book is that it hasn’t lost its British feel merely because it’s being published by an American Publisher (IDW). This will no doubt please long-term fans and this is probably due to the decision to appoint somebody who is no stranger to Judge Dredd comics on this book – after all, Matt Smith is an Eagle-Award winning editor for 2000AD, so you know that you’re in safe hands. The use of several British words and slang also helps enforce the strong feel book too, and fit in surprisingly well when used with words like “Drokk”, a staple of the Judge Dredd Universe.

Overall then, Judge Dredd: Year One is certainly a solid read and worth checking out if you’re looking for the early years of the character. It’s got some pretty awesome artwork as well, so that can’t hurt your chances, and serves as a fun standalone read that the reader can enjoy without following any other titles.

Rating: 4/5

*****

Grimm Volume 1: The Coins of Zakynthos by David Greenwalt

Art: Jose Malaga | Collects: Grimm #0-5

Set in the world of the acclaimed NBC series, Grimm, by the show creators themselves! Homicide Detective Nick Burkhardt, joined by his mother Kelly, Hank, and Monroe, uncover family secrets long buried during their adventure in Europe. Hunted by Verrat soldiers, their quest to destroy the Coins of Zakynthos reveals dark secrets and promises death for a member of the cast!

Grimm Vol. 1

Let’s get this out of the way first, I haven’t seen all of the episodes of Grimm. In fact, at the time of writing this review, I’ve only seen the Pilot, but it was interesting enough to make me want to check out this volume when it popped up on NetGalley and whilst I’m not too familiar with the characters it’s certainly a pretty solid storyline that does unfortunately suffer from rather poor artwork that feels too cinematic and doesn’t really work on the page, as I would have much preferred a more comic-book style artwork.

The first volume of David Greenwalt’s Grimm series sees Detective Nick Burkhardt and his allies in the form of Hank, Monroe and his mother Kelly – journey to Europe and uncover long buried family secrets. However, they’re hunted by Verrat soldiers, and the quest to destroy the Coins of Zakynthos isn’t as easy as one would expect.

Whilst this comic series may be mainly for the fans of the show (I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I were up to date on the series) you can read it like I did and still roughly understand what’s going on. The three main characters are interesting and having seen their on-screen versions in the first episode, I can tell you from their portrayal here that they do feel like the same characters. Nick, Hank and Monroe are the main cast members – Nick being a Homicide Detective who can see supernatural creatures (‘Wesen’), works with his Partner Hank, and a Wesen known as Monroe who is actually a good guy as opposed to the usual bad guys that they encounter in the series.

The action is pretty awesome and varied and you never feel like you’re reading the same fight scene over and over again, with the plot moving along at a fast pace that’s interesting and engaging. Grimm is confident and enthralling as it gains the reader’s attention from the get go, dragging them in and refusing to let them go until the very end.

I think this is something that fans of the show will find a lot more enjoyable than non fans – and if I had watched more of the show before writing this review I would be able to make a better judgement as well as talk about more things, but if you like supernatural-related stuff (such as the Supernatural TV show, or stuff like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files) then this Volume should be worth a look into. It’s a fun start to a series that whilst I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to read more of, mainly due to the fact that the artwork isn’t as good quality for my liking, it’s still a pretty solid read.

Rating: 3.5/5

Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.

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