Saturday, March 26, 2011

Satisfying Saturday Reviews: Daredevil Reborn #3, Thor #620.1, and Osborn #4

Another Wednesday and whole week's worth of new comics has come and gone.  What did we read this week?  Well, lots of stuff, but you only get reviews for three tonight! One features gritty Gianfelice art, another has gorgeous Brooks art, and the third has creepy Rios art.

Daredevil Reborn #3 (of 4) Writer: Andy Diggle  Artist: Davide Gianfelice

This issue was somewhat of a bittersweet experience for me.  On the one hand, this is easily my favorite issue that Diggle has ever written for Marvel.  It's tense, has excellent character development and features a compelling villain.  On the other hand, it's frustrating that it took so long for him to get this level of quality.  Diggle's a quality writer, but it seemed like he and Daredevil never quite gelled together.  But, that's in the past, while in the present we have this much better miniseries to enjoy.  The issue starts off with a bang as we get the follow-up from last week's cliffhanger of Matt bursting out from a truck full of weapons.  Matt's evasion, disabling of some of the goons, and subsequent escape attempt includes some of the best use of Daredevil's powers in a comic in quite some time.  There are a few suspension of disbelief issues though.  How does Matt know where the road is or where the lake is in order to drive the truck there?  How does he know the smoke grenade he throws isn't tear gas or some other chemical agent?  They're things that can be glossed over the first time you read through the comic, but on following read-throughs they stuck out like a sore thumb.  However, those little blips in logic are just that, blips, and the story is barely hindered by their inclusion.  Anyways, after getting the truck full of weapons into the lake and out of the hands of the corrupt cops and the cartel they work for, the real villain of the story finally makes his presence known.  Calavera is a fascinating villain, able to allow yourself to see your own soul and the darkness that lies within.  He's kind of like a low rent Ghost Rider with a dapper sense of fashion and a criminal inclination.  The way he so quickly deconstructs Matt and exposes his hypocrisy is easily the series' highlight and the highlight of Diggle's tenure on Daredevil.  The issue ends with Calavera shooting Matt in the head, execution-style, and watching as his lifeless body tumbles over the cliff and into the river below.  It's certainly a tense cliffhanger, but I'm not really sure where Diggle is going with his story.  However, despite a few questionable (in an otherwise excellent) script choices, Gianfelice's art shines throughout the book.  I was first exposed to Gianfelice's art in the first volume of the superb series called Northlanders.  Here, as he did in that Viking series, Gianfelice proves to be one of the best in the biz at intimate action scenes and movement.  His art definitely seems to be influenced by Tim Sale, but he has tighter figure work and personally, I think he's a stronger artist for it.  Overall, this issue has Diggle's best writing since joining Marvel and when combined with Gianfelice's hard-hitting, drop-dead gorgeous art you have a quality comic.  I give Daredevil Reborn #3 an...

I love Calavera's design.  Something about vampire-esque drug runners with white suits.  Great contrast.

Thor #620.1 Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning  Artist: Mark Brooks

Love the evocative cover
Last week's Hulk #30.1 was easily the best of the .1 issues in Marvel's involvement, so does the streak continue here in Thor?  Unfortunately, no.  First, there's the questionable move to have Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (DnA) write the issue in place of regular series writer Matt Fraction.  Now, I absolutely adore DnA, but their writing style is markedly different in style and tone from Fraction's run on the title thus far.  Also, the title basically just revamped with a new direction only a couple of issues ago and is getting another relaunch in two issues when Journey Into Mystery and Mighty Thor get their debuts.  So, why was this needed?  Moving past the pointlessness of the idea of the issue, was it any good?  Mostly.  It's a fairly simple story.  Volstagg holds a grand feast in honor of the Thor and has the greatest bard in all of Asgard recount the Odinson's accomplishments.  This gives a great primer on Thor's history and background for the character and for that part of the .1 initiative, the comic succeeded.  As this bard goes on, the Grey Gargoyle, a classic Thor villain, ambushes the party guests in a rather misguided attempt at immortality.  DnA craft some intriguing uses for Gargoyle's abilities and its a nice reintroduction to the character since he appears to be making a big splash in the upcoming Fear Itself event.  Of course, Thor is there to foil his dastardly scheme and the villain escapes to fight another day.  The story is a bit unremarkable, but DnA fill it with enough of their trademark wit and character moments that you're never bored when reading.  However, the real highlight of the book is the art by Mark Brooks.  He's pretty much a brand new face for me, but he's been around for a while, just drawing books I wasn't reading.  That being said, Brooks' art here is astonishing in both its vibrancy and its detail.  Artistically speaking, he strikes me as halfway between Stuart Immonen and Oliver Coipel.  Indeed, if he keeps up this level of quality, he's sure to be a superstar no matter who he draws for.  Another thing that I greatly appreciated was that, even when many, many character were called for by the script, Brooks doesn't seem to skimp on of the detailing.  Too often, when asked to draw a large number of characters on one page, artists will take the easy way out and just leave a background face blank or completely in shadow.  Not so here.  But enough gushing about the art, how does this issue stack up overall?  To put it simply, this feels like a well-written, light-hearted primer on Thor in general; with a disposable story and villain that is elevated by luscious visuals.  The two balance each other out enough that I'm comfortable giving Thor #620.1 a...
Balder is either pleased with his score or drunk.  Probably both.

Osborn #4 (of 5) Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick Artist: Emma Rios

This is easily my surprise mini of the year.  Last year, it Van Lente's excellent Taskmaster.  The year before it was fascinatingly twisted Dark Reign: Zodiac.  DeConnick's Osborn combines superb and unique art with a plot and a character so twisted you lick lick your lips at the level of evil inherent in the man.  The issue starts off with Norah still helplessly in the grip of Osborn and his incredibly dangerous minions.  DeConnick has also proven to be very effective with her portrayal of Norah, making her at once feisty, likable, and intelligent.  She also makes Norah's terror at the beginning quite palpable as she is forced to hear Osborn's diatribe against those who would oppress him.  And what a diatribe it is.  Osborn rails against the power structure of America and how it is his destiny to to reclaim his former position of dominance and power.  It's a fantastically written rant that equals, if not surpasses, Osborn's famous speech in Thunderbolts.  Speechify-ing aside, Osborn lets Norah retort, but its easy to see she's flustered and out of her comfort zone here.  She's not the one in control, she doesn't know why she's here and she has to rely on some of the most evil people on the planet for her survival.  Speaking of the evil people, these "wiped from history" villains have become quite compelling antagonists in their own right and I sincerely hope they are not forgotten or ignored once this miniseries ends.  On their escape, we finally find out who brought Norah down to this underwater hell in the first place and the reveal is a bit of a headscratcher.  It's the only real weak spot in the writing, but again, it's a minor complaint that hardly takes away fromt he reading.  Our protagonists cram into a tiny sub and the issue ends on lovely and explosive cliffhanger. DeConnick sets us up nicely for the end of the series and I'm seriously hoping we get to see Osborn re-released into the wild.  However this issue would not be what it is without the incredible synergy of Rios' art with DeConnick's script.  El Apaec is very creepy and Rios' faux brushstrokes lend a foreboding pall over the proceedings.  The only real criticism I have for her art is that she occasionally overdoes her motion blur, but that's a relatively minor complaint.  Fans of her art in this series should definitely check out Hexed.  It's got a similarly dark tone and Rios' art is just as beautiful there.  I can't wait to see how this series ends and, barring a complete and utter misfire in the last issue, I'll be pre-ordering the hardcover pronto.  I give this issue a...
Osborn has rarely been more thrilling.

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