Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wild Wednesday Reviews: PunisherMAX #11, Venom #1, and Cinderella: Fables are Forever #2

Well dear readers, it's been too long since I've gotten to review some comics, so I'm back with another Wednesday triple feature.  This week we're going to be taking a look at a lover's quarrel of a different sort, a rival's quarrel and the quarrel between man and symbiote.

PunisherMAX #11 Writer: Jason Aaron Artist: Steve Dillon

Dave Johnson is an
incredible cover artist
After finally returning from its months-long hiatus, Aaron and Dillon's Punisher MAX finally returned to wrap up the Bullseye arc and wow, this issue did not disappoint.  After last issue's cliffhanger teasing a climactic showdown between Frank and Bullseye, this issue delivers on many, many levels.  You have sledgehammers, axes, shootouts, nails stuck in various body parts in a glorious explosion of violence as both protagonists simply refuse to die from their wounds.  It's nice to see a MAX title use its license for all out disgusting in a satisfying manner.  Bullseye even manages to use his own vomit as a weapon against Frank.  However, where the issue really shines is showing the twisted man that Bullseye has become.  In fact, you could probably call this issue Bullseye MAX and no one would notice since Frank has a mere two words of dialogue and only two pages with caption boxes.  Aaron's Bullseye revels in the brutality of the violence, seemingly lusting after the chance to extend the fight and prolong this bloody figurative orgasm he seems to be having the entire scene.  He almost the complete polar opposite of Frank, reveling at every chance he gets to kill someone, even gleefully sending in one of Fisk's lackeys to to take a sledgehammer to the face meant for him.  There's a wonderful undercurrent of idol worship with Bullseye the entire time, making his wanton violence against Frank so much more fascinating to delve into as a reader.  By the end of the fight, both combatants lay bloody, broken, bruised and in police custody. Oh, and Steve Dillon is a wonderful choice to work to render all this violence.  Unfortunately, he still suffers from "same-face" syndrome, but with only three real characters (Fisk, Bullseye, Frank) taking the focus of this issue, it's much less of a problem than previous issues.  He's a wonderful storyteller, keeping the panel layouts simple and distinctive while providing a very natural flow from panel to panel.  Despite the fact he largely eschews motion lines, his action scenes have a wonderful amount of fluidity.  His art appears minimalist and less detailed, but every detail provided goes to use.  This pseudo-minimalism serves to highlight the aftermath of the violence and shows just the extent that these two combatants have beat each other to a pulp.  All I can say is that I'm very glad to have PunisherMAX back in my life and if Aaron can maintain this level, his run should be as fondly remembered as Ennis'.  I give this issue a...

Fingers are left attached to Frank's body that is

Cinderella: Fables are Forever #2 (of 6) Writer: Chris Roberson Artist: Shawn McManus

I do love these Cinderella minis.  They incorporate the wonderful mythology of the Fables universe with some very well done espionage action.  While it borrows liberally from spy genre tropes, the wonderful twist that it brings on them by incorporating characters you would never expect to see fulfilling those roles.  Case in point, see Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz playing the role of Cinderella's femme fatale nemesis.  Fortunately, Roberson doesn't rest on mere novelty, but instead builds up Dorothy as a proper rival to Cinderella rather than a half-assed gimmick.  This issue picks up where the last one left off, with Dorothy and Cinderella getting into a proper martial arts fight.  I absolutely love the fact that, despite both of the women being in bathing suits, McManus instead plays up their badass-itude rather than taking the easy route by eroticizing(I think I just made word up) the scene.  It's still sexy, but not gratuitous.  It shows both are quite the consummate professional at what they do and establishes Dorothy as a legitimate threat to our titular hero.  After their brief scuffle and an intervention by a Russian dragon Fable, Cinderella escapes into the Russian wilderness, having escaped with her life and the information she needed about the "shadow" Fabletown.  The book then transitions to a present day sequence with Ivan still pleading for Cinderella's protection from Dorothy.  Figuring the best place to start looking for clues would be an old Chinese contact of Dorothy's, the book then transitions to a flashback to when Cindy ran into Dorothy on a mission there back in the 80s.  Unfortunately the book drags a bit as the book tries a bit too hard to show the more mundane parts of spy life.  It's a not bad, but it slows the pace to a screeching halt for a few pages.  The book picks up again as Cinderella and Ivan head to the Chinese contact's house, but of course, just before they can get the information they need, the Chinese fable is felled by a giant porcupine from hell (Oz).  It's a fun little cliffhanger that's got me excited for next issue where we'll hopefully get to see some more of Cinderella's spy action (action being the operative word here).  All in all, this issue felt like a bunch of necessary exposition that needed to get out of the way and set the grounds for the story and for Dorothy and Cinderella's rivalry.  That being said, it was still a fun issue of the mini and McManus handle the talking heads and sparse action scenes with equal skill.  His style is different enough from the main Fables style that it's easy to tell that Cinderella is its own book, but The only downside to his art is that his Ivan Durak looks like a chimp, though that's perhaps intentional as Durak apparently means idiot in Russian.  We'll have to see how it plays out.  I give this issue of Cinderella: Fables are Forever #2 a...
Not a bad issue at all.

Venom #1  Writer: Rick Remender Artist: Tony Moore

This cover doesn't really
tease the book's contents
very well
This comic is and probably will have been my most anticipated comic of 2011.  As a team, Remender and Moore are responsible for some of my all-time favorite comics including Franken-Castle and Fear Agent.  Both of those series delivered insane action, great plots and wonderful spotlights on the main character.  With the premise of Venom lining up with those thrill rides, I've been eagerly anticipating this series for quite some time now.  So, now that it's out, was it it everything I hoped for and more?  Not quite, but it's still a damn fine comic.  The book spends about a page too long setting up the stage for the conflict and establishing our villain, a mysterious arms dealer who has Jack-o-Lantern in his employ.  I can't say the mysterious employer is terribly interesting thus far, but Remender's Jack-o-Lantern is a joy to read.  Like Aaron's Bullseye, he's a villain who takes joy in his violence and I'm sure the perpetual smile on his pumpkin helmet helps those perceptions along.  While perhaps a bit too on the nose, Remender also effectively establishes the threat faced by have a squad of nuke-proof UN peacekeepers get ripped apart by a madman's weaponized Antarctic vibranium.  Both Jack-o-Lantern and Venom have been sent to retrieve the doctor responsible for weaponizing the vibranium alive from the hotzone that he's made for himself with his ill-advised attempt at overthrowing the government with his new weaponry.  While the focus for the first quarter of the book is solely on the villains of this chapter, once Venom enters the stage, it's non-stop action and some great examination of what's going on in Flash's head.  It's becoming increasingly obvious that he's participating in the program for possibly all the wrong reasons (getting to walk again, rush of action, being like his personal hero), but he still continues to tell himself that it's all for his country.  While he may doing the missions for selfish reasons, its good to see that Remender hasn't turned him into a grimdark puddle of "poor me" just yet.  He's still willing to put innocent lives' safety at the forefront of his priorities and risks the success of the mission on more than one occasion to save innocent lives.  The battle between Jack-o-Lantern and Venom in a thrilling one.  Remender successfully uses Jack's rhyming speech patterns to a very cool and somewhat creepy effect and it makes for some excellent battle banter.  Their battle is a fun one, taking place inside a larger war zone.  It's a great set piece and Moore's art shines through on these pages.  He's a master at the art of the monster and Moore gets a chance to draw two monsters beating the heck out of each other.  The conclusion to the mission was a surprising one that I won't spoil here, but it gets the reader thinking.  Mission over, Flash experiences some of the negative effects of having to maintain a secret identity and as a result, gets thrown out from his girlfriend's apartment.  Unfortunately, this scene highlights the main shortcoming of the book in that Remender hasn't quite found a consistent voice for Flash yet.  At the beginning he's full of bravado and a sense of duty, but by the end, he's become a bit of a sad-sack.  It's a minor complaint, but one that is hopefully addressed in the coming issues.  I mentioned Moore's art earlier, but man,  he gels so well with Remender's scripts it is unbelievable.  His action scenes are kinetic and frantic while his people convey the whole range of the emotional spectrum.  All in all, it's a very solid, if imperfect, debut for this new series.  I give Venom #1 a solid...
Jack-o-Lantern was an inspired choice of villain for the debut
Now that you know my opinions, what did guys think?  Enjoyed something else particularly well this week?  Let me know in the comments.


  1. Man, I loved that new take on Jack o'Lantern. Kudos to Remender for making him sound more interesting, and an extra special kudos to Moore for distinguishing his look a bit more.

    I'm really, strangely, stoked for this new Venom series. Even if it's only a fraction of how awesome FrankenCastle was, I'll be there for the entire run.


  2. I had the exact same reaction Matt. Glad you liked it!