Monday, October 31, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 10/26

Secret Avengers #18 (Marvel, $3.99, Warren Ellis, David Aja) - This reads kind of like an issue of Planetary, and in case you were wondering, yes, that's a good thing.  Steve Rogers, Sharon Carter, and Shang-Chi have to invade an Escher-like dimension with its own physical laws to keep the Shadow Council from using that dimension to threaten the Earth.  Ellis nails Shang-Chi's character nicely (including his distaste for the "games of deceit and death").  Aja's art is wonderful, and handles the martial arts sequences beautifully.   After last issue's hiccup, this issue is pretty much just as good as Ellis's debut in #16.  Highly recommended.

All-Star Western #2 (DC, $3.99, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Moritat, Jordi Bernet) - Gotham's lords of crime (followers of the teachings of the Crime Bible, an aspect of the DC universe I'm not overly familiar with) decide to get rid of Hex and Arkham, which gives Jonah an excuse to do what he does best - namely, kill a whole lot of SOB's who need killing. As a result, with the extended gunfight in all of its gruesome glory (beautifully illustrated by Moritat), there's a little less room for the interaction and banter between Hex and Arkham.  Which is a bit of a shame, but the issue still moves along nicely enough, ending with our unlikely pair of heroes in quite a bind.

There's also a back-up story, with the first part of an El Diablo tale, where our haunted hero must face the walking dead (what else?).  This didn't grab me quite so much; the set-up here seems rather by-the-numbers, but I'm more than willing to see where Gray and Palmiotti are going with this.  Even with the less-than-stellar backup story, overall this is still one of the best things DC is doing right now.

Legion: Secret Origin #1 (of 6) (DC, $2.99, Paul Levitz, Chris Batista, Marc Deering) - While the basics of the founding of the Legion is fairly well established, there's still obviously plenty of unexplored territory that can be touched upon, as the first issue of this mini-series demonstrates nicely.  Little is changed, but rather is instead fleshed out and expanded upon.  It's a nice trick that Levitz pulls off here, balancing that which is already known with new revelations and insights.  Quite frankly, this should have been released before the two ongoing Legion series; if it had, then perhaps those who tried (and found wanting) the first issues of Legion of Super-Heroes and Legion Lost might perhaps have been more inclined to stick around, having a better grounding with what is admittedly an unwieldy and intimidating story concept to jump into.  Recommended for both long-time Legion fans as well as newbies to the 31st century.

Vescell #3 (Image, $2.99, Enrique Carrion, John Upchurch) - Again this issue has two stories in it, the conclusion to last issue's cliffhanger, as well as a stand-alone story with some new characters.  This issue pretty much has the same strengths and flaws that the preceding two issues did; lots of interesting ideas that aren't fleshed out or executed quite as well as perhaps they could be.  There is some attempt at characterization, but more attention seems to be paid toward establishing all sorts of background detail for this particular setting (I'm beginning to wonder if this wasn't originally conceived as a setting for a tabletop RPG game - the fetishization of background minutiae is a common trait of gamemasters-turned-writers).  I'll be giving this a few more issues, but this series really needs to tighten its chops, and concentrate less on fiddly details and more on clearer storytelling techniques.

War of the Independents #1 (Red Anvil, $2.99, Dave Ryan and others) - A huge crossover story, in the style of Marvel and DC's 'event' books, but instead featuring a myriad of various characters from various independent comic books.  There's something of a hook here that involves a robotic Enkidu (of the Gilgamesh epic) who faced off against some unnamed wizard in the past, and said wizard - with the demon Orcus in tow - faces off in the modern day against a disparate group of heroes (the only one of whom I recognize is Cerebus, who it should be noted pretty much steals every scene he's in).  Then there is the obligatory 'gathering of heroes' sequence, which quite frankly drags on too long.  This is all in service of facing a threat from someone named Razorjack (which strikes me as an odd name for a female character, but what the heck).  The first issue here, quite frankly, isn't very good, but with the groundwork established, hopefully the basic set-up will allow for some good stories to be told in future issues.

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