Tim Stevens' Reviews

Opinions on the Work of People Far More Talented Than I

A very good week”¦for the most part. A D+ does sneak in there somewhere though.

Civil War 3

Published by: Marvel
Writer: Mark Millar
Penciler: Steve McNiven
Inkers: Dexter Vines with Mark Morales & Steve McNiven
Colorist: Morry Hollowell

I’m still not sure I “buy” the idea of Civil War. I don’t “buy” Peter Parker as an easily manipulated errand boy who’s doing it all because of some vague need for a father figure. I don’t “buy” that there are two sides to the debate when the pro-side is led by an Iron Man who has never been less likeable, even when he went all murderous during “The Crossing” (shudder). I don’t “buy” who decides to support and oppose the Registration Act (for some reason, the sight of the Thing as pro-Registration really, really bothers me in a way I can’t articulate). The whole storyline feels like a house of cards that when the slightest bit of logic is applied to comes tumbling down as if a stiff breeze has come by.

All that not “buying” going on, though, has not diminished my enjoyment of the ride that this summer confection has proven to be. It is a well orchestrated spectacle of explosions, loud speeches ringing with righteousness (mostly of the “self” variety), and camaraderie in the face of great danger. All this PLUS a surprise reappearance by a character most would describe as a quintessential Avenger.

The script is aided and abetted winningly by McNiven’s frozen in time artwork. It’s not perfect (Emma Frost only resembles herself in that she’s blond and wearing white lipstick), but it is gorgeous and does a great job of portraying the scale of events.

Yes, there are still nagging thoughts. Mostly of the nature of “how the hell do you make the Marvel U. work when this is all said and done?” At this point though, when each individual issue remains this quality, those nags remain whispers, not roars. If Millar and Co. can maintain that for the next four issues, it will be a spectacular feat and one I am fully planning to see through to the end.

Grade: B

Runaways 18

“Parental Guiance” Conclusion
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Penciler: Adrian Alphona
Inker: Craig Yeung
Colorist: Christina Strain

I am fully convinced that the only way this book could be better would involve some sort of magic. I’m just going to come right out and say: Best Book on the Shelves, Bar None. I love it so.

What earns it the title this month? The Runaways ever developing sense of strategy, Gert’s neat (and oh-so sad) way of stopping the tragic future seen in the first issue of this volume from ever coming true, Xavin’s self identification as being one of the team, Chase’s selflessness and foreboding future, the cover is 100% and you are still surprised, the artistic choice as the dying Runaway’s life slips away, Victor wearing a van like a mech suit”¦well, I think you get the idea.

Heartwrenching, smart, and utterly faithful to the “rules” of the universe it is set in, Runaways remains a constant treat on this outing.

Grade: A

52 Week 11

Published by: DC
Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdows: Keith Giffen
Artists: Joe Bennett, Todd Nauck, Jack Jadson, & Marlo Alquiza
Colorist: Alex Sinclair

“52” is on a mini-roll here. Between last week and this week, the story finally seem to be shaping and moving forward, not just being set up.

This issue belongs to Renee, The Question, and the all-new Batwoman. From what I understand, this Batwoman may be gay. Just a rumor I heard. Anyway, Batwoman makes her “action” debut this week, punching out some creatures who we’ve haven’t seen since Rucka’s great, but all too short and crossover riddled run on Detective Comics. It’s good stuff; great fight set pieces that don’t overwhelm characterization and vice versa (Renee’s unraveling of Batwoman’s identity mid-fight is a strong, revealing bit of work that takes less than three panels).

We also catch another glimpse of Ralph Dibny’s quest to unravel the Resurrection Cult that is less interesting than previous installments but ends with a heck of creepy image.

Grade: B+

Checkmate 4

“The Game of Kings” Part 4
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Jesus Saiz
Colorist: Santiago Olmedo

To think I almost dropped this book after #1; boy, I’d be kicking myself now if I had.

This month, Alan Scott steps up and shows why he’s the gold standard of superheroes in the DCU. It is an entirely satisfying installment that lets Scott shine but whose conclusion remains grounded and “fair” given the “world” that Checkmate operates in. Rucka successfully juggles the inherently dirty work of espionage that is full of grey areas and the inherently bright work of superheroics that is inherently black or white. Neither is given short shrift but both are allowed to be what they should be. The fun is in seeing how holding to either ideal in a world where the two are increasingly intertwined can spell your own personal undermining.

To be less overly analytical, the Great Ten are pretty damn cool too. I like that they are “different” than their familiar Western counterparts in terms of appearance and name, but similar in terms of archetypes and attitudes. I also like any silent man who drives a pitch black living jet, but that’s just my thing I guess.

Grade: A-

Ion 4

“The Torchbearer” Part 4
Writer: Ron Marz
Penciller: Greg Tocchini
Inker: Jay Leisten
Colorist: Jeromy Cox

“Now things get interesting,” Kyle says to himself at the conclusion of this issue and, oddly enough, he’s right. It’s just too bad it took four issues to get to this point.

I appreciate that Marz was willing to take the time to build up “Ion’s” descent into murderous madness (the quotes will make sense after you read the issue, I promise) but I believe it actually hurt the story. For one thing, not a whole heck of a lot happened in the first three installments which is not such a good thing. For another, it makes the fact that Kyle is not responsible for what’s going on more obvious, not less. I didn’t see the reason for it coming (a very nice surprise reveal), but I knew that it was. As good as the reveal was, if the build up was more like 2 issues, it would’ve been even better.

Still, I won’t be one to look a gifthorse in the mouth. Ion (the book) seems to have finally found a groove with this issue and #5 is the first one that I am actively looking forward to since #1.

On the art side, however, things seemed to have regressed a touch. Tocchini has yet to impress me but after issue 1’s disastrous showing, he’s been steadily getting better. This time out, however, he backslides a bit. Not as bad as #1, thankfully, but it still represents a step down from #3. Most of the problem is the return of his amorphous body types and occasionally melty facial features. The Khund scenes in the beginning of the issue are probably the best example of Tocchini’s slight slip in this area. That hurts the grade.

The grade is also hurt by the fact that while this issue finally kicks the book into gear, it doesn’t really start to move forward in that gear. Still, with this book, I’m just happy to finally see it find its footing.

Grade: B-

Justice League of America 0

“Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow”
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Artists: An All-Star Cast
Colorists: Alex Sinclair

First off, that cover is misleading. No choices are made about who’s in the League this issue. Thus “Who’s In?” remains an unanswerable question at this moment in time.

Second, goodness that J. Scott Campbell cover was ugly, eh? What is up Mr. Scott Campbell? I normally like your work.

Anyway, past that misleading and/or ugly cover is some fun stuff. It is largely inconsequential flashbacks and flash-forwards (most of which will probably never happen) but there is enough moments of “wow, nice insight” to make this slight story worth reading. In particular, look out for Batman lashes out about Red Tornado’s sacrifice many years ago, Lex pounding the trio because someone (presumably Connor) was “his son”, and Wonder Woman and Batman’s first meeting after Superman’s “death” at the hands of Doomsday. There are also more than a few moments to make you smile like Superman quizzing Batman about his famous one punch encounter with Guy Gardner, Batman borrowing a book from the Paradise Island library, and the sight of Aztek’s helmet in the JLA trophy room sometime in the future.

Okay, maybe that last one was more of a “me” thing.

Also, you can’t beat an “all-star” cast of artists.

Grade: B

Manhunter 24

“Can’t Get You Outta My Head”
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Layouts: Javier Pina
Finisher: Fernando Blanco
Colorist: Jason Wright

The Doctor Psycho case returns to the spotlight this issue as the menacing midget (you like that? I think I may sell it to DC) gets a little too antsy to hear the verdict and his trial and takes matters into his own”¦mind, I suppose. Kate returns fire in her normal ruthless and improvisional manner (suffice to say, kissing seems a little bit more scarier to me now) and is rewarded with two more victories (to say of what variety would be cheating).

Meanwhile, in other supervillainy, we learn that Sweeney Todd is living up to his historical name”¦sort of.

In the “real world” Kate is faced with a sense of intruding, Mark heads off on his, and Chase and Dylan are evolving into quite the real couple, something both (but certainly Chase) are unaware of.

All of it”¦all of it is great.

Grade: B+

Robin 152

“It All Comes Back Around”
Writer: Adam Beechen
Artist: Freddie E. Williams II
Colorist: Guy Major

The Joke’s henchmen storyline comes to the forefront a lot quicker than I expected it would as Robin’s new police contact brings him in on the matter. I like that Tim now has his own contact in the department, but I don’t like Bruce’s reaction to it. Much like Robinson’s jackhammer subtle pushing of Tim as the Best Robin Ever (patent pending) (but not nearly as egregiously), Bruce’s sunny, “Well, I have a contact, why shouldn’t you?” feels forced. We get that their relationship is better now OYL. Find a less intrusive way to let us know, please.

The stuff about the Clash, though? Gold. The Joker storyline also remains interesting and may bring up some other issues across the board (as Tim thinks, what if other villains have similar plans or have left similar deadly items just lying about).

Anyway, as promised by the cover, Robin does run into Captain Boomerang (the son) while running about after one of Joke’s soon to go off death traps. I like Tim’s attitude towards the new Boomerang, but the fight felt a bit perfunctory. I would’ve liked to have seen it either not occur at all (Tim knocks him flat on his back and tells him exactly why he doesn’t have time for Boomer right now) or be given a little bit more space to breathe. Still, since this is just part I, I am sure there is more bitterness and hostility in store for this team-up.

Oh, and Tim finally gets to that classmate’s house for some tutoring. Do I smell a brand new romantic interest? Why yes, yes I think I do.

Grade: B+

Shadowpact 3

“The (Short) Year of Living Dangerously”
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Cory Walker
Colorist: Chris Chuckry

Oh, Shadowpact, what has happened to you guys? Remember the fun of the first three issues of Day of Vengeance? Where did it all go?

Instead of some of the zingers we were treated to the first time around, we get flat, straining statements like, “You’re the least powerful among us, but in many ways, you’re the most monstrous,” or bon mots like “Find, let’s fight again, but this time, let’s make it a very unfair fight.” That sound? That’s the sound of my funny bone quietly weeping.

It’s not all bad, I suppose, but it’s not very good either. The fact that Nightshade more or less takes out half the “evil” team on her own somewhat diminishes them as a credible threat and when the book has neither humor nor a credible threat then, really, what’s the point.

There is a change on art as well as Willingham lets Cory Walker take over for him. Walker is a good choice as he nicely apes Willingham’s style. That Willingham’s style is too soft and lacking in features, however, also makes it a bit unfortunate.


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