Posts tagged “Steve McNiven

Turkey Day Reviews

Captain America #4Captain America #4
Written by Ed Brubaker
Illustrated by Steve McNiven
Publisher:  Marvel Comics
Price:  $3.99

 

Awwww, Marvel.  Why?

I started picking up this series because I adore Steve Rogers as a character, and I’d heard such great things about Brubaker’s writing of Cap.  When I read that McNiven was doing the pencils, I jumped all over this like the obsessor that I am.  I looooooooovvvvveee McNiven’s stuff, and to me, him and Cap are a match made in heaven.  This book made me so happy.

I speak in the past tense, because apparently McNiven is no longer on this title as of issue #7.  His replacement?  Alan Davis.

I don’t know if this is a permanent change or if Davis is filling in for a couple of arcs; the solicitations aren’t clear, and the switch doesn’t appear to be addressed in detail anywhere.  I couldn’t give less of a fig for Alan Davis.  I have nothing against him personally and I’m sure he’s a gentleman; it’s just that his art does absolutely nothing for me.  At ALL.  I simply dislike his style, and that’s really gonna kill this book for me.  It’s a shame, because I’ve really enjoyed the four issues to date.

Don’t be fooled by the odd cover (Marvel seems especially preoccupied with phallic concepts lately); what lies beneath the title page here is good stuff.  Brubaker pairs together past and future in a seamless and engaging way, introducing old characters and new to propel the story forward and keep the engine humming.  What makes me particularly happy with Brubaker is his track record in writing female characters—basically, he knows how to.  You might laugh at that, but let’s take a look at his record—Selina Kyle, Black Widow, now Sharon Carter—it is, sadly, shockingly rare to write a string like that without some blunders along the way, but the man does it seemingly effortlessly.  Yes, I’m in love with his Cap, but watching Sharon Carter spar with Baron Zemo and lay an eloquent dropkick on the guy is, let’s face it, pretty damn awesome.  And having McNiven illustrate that wonderfully-constructed scene?  Icing on the ass-kicking cake, my friends.

I’m not sure how long I’m going to stick around once Alan Davis comes aboard this book.  A part of me wants to drop it out of principle alone; it feels like Marvel can never get their act together as far as keeping creative teams on titles for any longer than a story arc at a time, and that’s bothersome.  Things shouldn’t be that difficult, and as a consumer, I’m looking for consistency.  There are some exceptions—no matter how late Avengers: Children’s Crusade is, I will always buy it, and no matter how many artists come and go on Journey into Mystery, Kieron Gillen will always have my dollar—but this should remain the exception and not the rule.  I wouldn’t want to be accused of enabling.

We’ll see where Cap lands in a couple of months’ time.  Maybe Davis will be off before I know it, replaced with someone else’s work to lure me in against my will, but in order for me to continue buying Captain America at four bucks a pop, I’m gonna need both pieces and I demand better.

 

Birds of Prey #3Birds of Prey #3
Written by Duane Swierczynski
Illustrated by Jesus Saiz
Publisher:  DC Comics
Price:  $2.99

 

Oohhh … ouch.  My pride.  God. I’m so ashamed and my pride is so sore, because … because … I am LOVING THIS BOOK!
 
There—I said it.  And I KNOW what you’re thinking … and I’m so ashamed.  *Hangs head to the floor*

I just … it’s … it’s actually really good.  I read the first issue and I was all begrudging about it, and then I read the second issue and I was like oh … uh oh … maybe this could go somewhere, but NO!  I’M NEVER GONNA ADMIT IT!  And then I read the third issue and … and … oh, Swierczynski’s won me over completely and now I’m scum.  *Sobbing*

What convinced me to keep reading were the rumors that Barbara Gordon would wind up on the team.  If you read my bitter condemnation review of issue one, a huge reason why I decried this book was because the relationship between Dinah and Babs was seemingly being downplayed/ignored/retconned.  But then I kept hearing such positive reviews of the title from critics whose opinions I respect, and all might not be as it seems within the next few issues.  So I read #2 and #3, and … here I am, eating my words.  Mr. Swierczynski, I owe you apology.  Your book just kicked me in the face, and it feels so good.

And wow, Jesus Saiz … I can’t compliment him enough.  His artwork is so skilled and GORGEOUS.  It’s so wonderful and clear and … you know, there’s a scene in this issue with an explosion and Black Canary, Starling, Katana, and Poison Ivy are flung through the air from the force of it.  And—can you believe—not a single contorted spine, not a single sleazy upskirt or shot of cleavage, not a single broken back.  I … I didn’t know comics like this could actually exist!  I LOVE YOU, JESUS SAIZ!  Never, ever change!

So I humbly retract my earlier assessment of this title.  It’s not quite the Birds of Prey I once knew and hoped for; it’s not the team I fell in love with.  But I’m having an easier time now taking THIS team of Birds for what they are, and it’s legitimately good, enjoyable, and fun to read.  With each issue, I’m learning to drop my preconceived notions and favoritism.  No lie, it’s been tough.  I’m all set in my comics ways and stuff, you know?  But for at least the next few issues, I’m on board with this book.  Please, please don’t let me down, Swierczynski.

 

Supergirl #3Supergirl #3
Written by Michael Green & Mike Johnson
Illustrated by Mahmud Asrar
Publisher:  DC Comics
Price:  $2.99

 

Hello, Supergirl—it’s nice to finally meet you.

The Super family of books have always been tough sales for me.  I was never one for Superman; he’s always felt flat to me, and I’d mostly steered clear of his side of the comics racks until last year when I started picking up Jeff Lemire’s Superboy (which I miss desperately).  But Powergirl has never lured me, and Supergirl’s (re-)introduction in the Superman/Batman book a few years ago flew right over my head.  For whatever reason, I just never cared enough to give Kara much of a chance.  With the New 52, I decided I’d change that.

So I picked up the first two issues of this title, and for the most part, I really enjoyed them.  A large reason for that is in thanks to the artwork—Mahmud Asrar is, if I may say, pretty incredible.  I don’t think I’ve seen any of his work prior to this, but his soft, watercolory style is a pleasure that leaves my eyes wanting more at the end of every issue.  It’s fluid and beautiful, and I can’t get enough.

Story-wise, this book is conflicting.  On the one hand, I want to say that I’ve enjoyed each read in the moment I’m reading it; on the other hand, I take a step back to think about it and the three issues to date have been extraordinarily decompressed.  I feel like “decompressed” is a word everyone likes to toss around in the comics world these days, so I generally try to avoid it, but it’s very true here.  The first two issues of this title were about Kara crash landing to Earth, being confused, and fighting Superman.  TWO ENTIRE ISSUES of that!  Don’t you think that could have all been accomplished in just one issue?  How many times must we witness Kal and Kara fight and try to “figure things out”?  This aspect of the book—the redundancy and stretching out the story for no reason—bothers me.  If I were a diehard Supergirl fan, I’d be extremely annoyed, because what’s happening to Kara mirrors what’s happening to Barbara over in Batgirl—which is more of the same.  A seemingly unoriginal take.

Despite these criticisms, though, this title is still okay with me overall.  I’m still reading.  Why?  Because I am a new reader of Supergirl, and although I know this story has happened before, I’ve never previously read it myself.  As an experience, it’s still new to me.  I’m finally getting to know a version of Supergirl, and it’s admittedly kind of exciting.  I really want to like her.

So issue three opens up with some backstory regarding Krypton, and we’re finally introduced to a villain for Kara to face on Earth.  I want to say this villain is a bit generic, but Green and Johnson have already managed to make me hate his guts in the span of one issue, so I guess that’s successful.  While we sputter a bit here thanks to that D-word, I’m cautiously optimistic that things will pick up after the first arc.  Green and Johnson always come across well in interviews, expressing enthusiasm for Kara and it sounds like they have some great ideas for this title.  It’s their chance to make her shine, and it’s my chance to let them.  I want to like this—I am liking this, mostly—and I’m hopeful that it only goes upward from here.

 

Until next week, everyone—be safe, and eat lots of turkey!

Happy Thanksgiving

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Reviews: Captain America #1, New Avengers #14

Captain America #1Captain America #1
Published by Marvel Comics
Written by Ed Brubaker
Illustrated by Steve McNiven
Price:  $3.99

 

Well now.  This is how it’s done, isn’t it?

My expectations were high for the launch of this title, and the reasons are palpable.  Ed Brubaker writing?  Check.  Steve McNiven on art?  Oh yes, that’s a big check.  A Steve Rogers, Sharon Carter, Nick Fury, and Dum Dum Dugan cast?  Here’s my $3.99, guys—sign me the heck up.

I became a Cap fan from reading various Avengers books over the years, but it wasn’t until very recently that I actually began to pay attention to his solo title(s).  The praise drummed up for Brubaker’s take on Steve and Bucky got me to give his stuff a look, and from what I’ve read so far, I can confidently say that praise is well-deserved.  So I went into this new first issue expecting Brubaker to deliver, and deliver he did.

If you’re reading Fear Itself, or even if you’re not, you likely know by now that my sweet Bucky Barnes is dead (again).  The setup has, I’m told, been long coming for Cap to take up the shield once again, and here we have that promise fulfilled.  The book begins, sadly, with a funeral—Peggy Carter’s, specifically—in an opening scene that is both poignant and purposeful.  We’re introduced to the cast, given a brief insight into the man that Steve Rogers is, and then kicked off into an action sequence that, I have to say, is delivered frigging beautifully by McNiven.  Can that man draw the heck out of a comic, or what?  The layouts are so clear; his lines are clean, and everything just looks fantastic while functioning superbly.  You’re certainly never left looking at a panel and wondering what’s happening.  I fell in love with McNiven’s work with his Civil War stuff, and I’m falling harder now.

But back to the writing.  To start off the first arc, Cap and his team find themselves facing a once-friend, now-enemy from his WWII days.  Brubaker impresses me pretty effortlessly here.  He doesn’t try too hard and he’s never too in-your-face with things.  Characterization comes across subtly and naturally, and the setting flows from one scene to another bridged through flashbacks in time.  The issue ends with the expected cliffhanger—I say “expected,” but that doesn’t make it any less effective.  In fact, I’m even more excited to read on.

Marvel, obviously, are capitalizing on the newly-released Captain America movie and using it as a way to give new readers a place to start.  I’m shocked to say they’re actually doing it right by writing Cap as he’s meant to be written and not dumbing things down for new fans.  Captain America #1 is precisely what I want from a comic, and so long as this creative teams sticks around, I anticipate fans will, too.

New Avengers #14New Avengers #14
Published by Marvel Comics
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Mike Deodato
Price:  $3.99

 

I tend to pick up Avengers books here and there, depending on story arc and previews that grab me.  Bendis as a writer is very hit-and-miss for me.  I generally like most of his ideas and character development, but sometimes he’ll do something that will totally stick me the wrong way (treatment of Tigra; last-minute ditch of Spider-Woman title; gag-inducing self promotion in his books), and the stereotype that he writes every character’s dialogue the same is mostly true.  Don’t get me wrong—sometimes he is just a master at light-heartedness and at getting down to who a character is through dialogue—but a lot of the time, yes, they do all quip like Spider-Man.

Those pet peeves aside, he can still spin a good yarn.  Particularly when you compare his stuff to some of the other junk that saturates the Marvel shelves.  But I digress.  Let’s talk about New Avengers #14.New Avengers #14, Page 3

Reading the Avengers off and on as I do can get understandably confusing as I attempt to fill in the gaps of things I’ve missed.  What led me to snag this issue was actually a preview page online of Mockingbird talking at the “camera.”  Apparently, in the last arc, Mockingbird was gravely injured, and in an attempt to save her life, some sort of amalgam of Super Soldier Serum was administered to her.  This summary of backstory is part of why I loved this issue.  Instead of reading some dry re-cap page, I got everything I needed to know in-story, directly from the character herself.  We’ve seen these pages a lot recently in Avengers—simple, square panel, face-forward shots of characters speaking straight to the audience—and it’s a technique that works spectacularly well.  It’s simple, effective, and refreshing.  Chris Bachalo and JR Jr. have both tried their hand at this style of storytelling for Bendis, and in this issue of New Avengers, Mike Deodato gets his turn.

He does a great job, in my opinion.  I loved Deodato’s work to kick off the Secret Avengers title, but soon got sick of the constant shadows and darkness and what became a blatantly obvious laziness.  The stuff he does here, though, looks infinitely better—partly because, yeah, he does actually draw their faces for a change—and it feels like he’s trying harder.  There’s more going on, and I largely enjoyed it.

Mockingbird is indeed the spotlight of this issue, and I’m glad of it.  It feels like Bendis is giving her character some real credit, and he ties the story into Fear Itself without actually making it a Fear Itself tie-in … if that makes any sense.  The whole Sin/hammers/destruction stuff is still there, sure, but this issue is about the Avengers and about Mockingbird specifically.  In this event-crazy medium, it’s kind of nice to have that split.  Let’s keep it going.