Mini-Reviews

Immortal Weapons #4

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Four issues in and Immortal Weapons continues to be woefully inconsistent.  Given the nature of the book’s shifting creative teams, that comes as no surprise, but I am beginning to see the flaws in the strategy as I begin to imagine a collected edition.  Is it worth buying the ill-conceived stories for the heartbreaking ones?  This issue is by no means as bad as “Bride of Nine Spiders” was – it is at the very least a coherent martial arts story featuring the titular character, Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter.  It is exciting and fun, and has a few big action sequences that are well-illustrated.

It is also remarkably slight and about as cheesecake-y as a book can be.  Artist Khari Evans does a fine job illustrating a culture of bikini’d warrior women with all the requisite bounce and heft – and also a strikingly consistent sense of tone and design, surprisingly – but the story is beyond slight, almost to the point of nonsense.  Fun nonsense, granted, but where Evans brings consistency, the best Swierczynski offers is chaos.

The back-up feature continues to move quickly forward as a quick bit of ‘intuitive deduction’ – read: plot crunch – reveals the true fate of Jada’s younger brother.  With Foreman off art, the back-up continues to suffer as Hatuey Diaz’s shaggy, cartoonish style doesn’t fit any of the tones Swierczynski seems to be going for.

Grade: B

Secret Six #15

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John Ostrander comes onto Secret Six, the first writer other than Simone to deal with the book since its revival in Villains United.  Some readers may balk at the fact that he has largely shied away from Simone’s familiar offbeat humor without abandoning any of the book’s signature darkness, but Ostrander knows his strengths – and knows his character – and instead turns the book into an introspective character study of Deadshot, in many ways the team’s most heartless member.

With Calafiore doing a stellar job on art, Ostrander takes us deep into Deadshot’s damaged mind.  The pair work well together, especially in the one-panel shots of Deadshot-Vision we occasionally get, a cold reality in which we see the deaths of everyone in the room at his hands.  The issue has its flaws, including some seemingly trite pop psychology and a so-so origin story retelling, but its core is rock solid… and, to be quite frank, more than a little chilling.

Grade: B+

Stumptown #1

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The recent, excellent resurgence of the crime comic comes largely at the hands of three writers: Brian Azzarello, Ed Brubaker, and, finally, Greg Rucka.  With Stumptown, Rucka returns to ONI Press, who published his stellar Whiteout and Queen and Country, for another crime comic with an earthy female protagonist in over her head.  While Rucka is in some ways becoming predictable, Stumptown #1 displays the benefits of such predictability: it’s polished and experienced, a rock solid introduction to a new title.

Matthew Southworth and Lee Loughridge, Rucka’s partners here, do a great job on art.  The panel layouts are simple but extremely effective, while the art is expressive without losing the darkness we expect of a crime comic.  Dex, the P.I. in charge of Stumptown Investigations, is a well-realized heroine with an already-growing supporting cast, all excellently illustrated.  An excellent, traditional entry into the ever-growing pile of great modern crime comics.

Grade: A-

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #2

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After a remarkably solid opening issue, Remender and Palo drop the ball quickly with this second issue.  Picking up after his confrontation with Dr. Doom last issue, Voodoo is stranded in another dimension, one in which his powers are severely hampered… and in which resides a powerful foe for the new Sorcerer Supreme.  It’s a remarkable coincidence that leaves Voodoo stranded here, unless Doom was working for/with the issue’s surprise villain, but its one that’s never visited.  The action is brief but effective, but the book’s twist is ineffective at best, and the backround we get on Jericho this issue feels fairly out of place here.

Palo (joined by Gabriel Hardman on art) seems to have lost some of last month’s visceral energy, but he remains the book’s star player.  His illustrations of a nightmare New Orleans are memorable,  as are the monstrous designs of Nightmare’s horde, but the art feels more rushed here, despite a momentum-killing origin-story in the middle of the issue.  Hopefully, the team can regain some of the momentum of their opening issue soon.

Grade: C+

– Cal Cleary

Secret Six #13

Immortal Weapons #3

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1

Review: Immortal Weapons #1

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I haven’t been keeping up with Immortal Iron Fist, post-Brubaker/Fraction/Aja.  I loved their run – it introduced me to Matt Fraction, who’s done impressive work all over the place now, and David Aja, who I still consider to be among the best artists working today when it comes to dynamic, exciting, downright cool-looking action scenes – but the high-cost of Marvel’s trades and the low-pay of minimum wage work meant that I have to stop reading some things, and when Fraction, Brubaker and Aja left, so did I.

Still, at the store on Wednesday, I noticed the absolutely gorgeous cover for Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra on the shelf, saw that Jason Aaron was the writer, and was intrigued enough to pick it up.  And I have to say, I’m glad I did.  Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra continues the Immortal Iron Fist tradition of having rock-solid spin-off minis and one-shots to flesh out the retro-pop pulp aesthetic of the setting and characters.

Fat Cobra, one of the Immortal Weapons we met in the Brubaker/Fraction/Aja arc “The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven,” is a massive, surprisingly quick warrior and hedonist who has lived for over a hundred years, and his lifestyle has taken its toll: he remembers little of his past, if anything at all.  To that end, he hired a researcher to discover his glorious past and compile it all into a book.  And thus do we get to know Fat Cobra.

It’s hardly an original device, but as Aaron delves into the character, he shows us why it works well here – Fat Cobra is a proud, powerful man, but his origins are far from either.  Seeing the effect these discoveries have on him is almost as tragic as the story itself.  Despite all the inconsistencies in the quality of the art (there are 7 artists in the Fat Cobra portion alone), the story is simple and potent.

On top of that, Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra has an Immortal Iron Fist back-up by Duane Swierczynski, dealing with an errant pupil of Danny and Misty.  The back-up is brief and to-the-point, though clearly incomplete – it seems as though the back-ups of the Immortal Weapon stories will be the thread that ties the issues together.

Overall, this is an excellent first issue.  As an origin story of Fat Cobra, it is both effective and interesting, with a great deal of potential to lure in new readers.  Immortal Iron Fist has always been a book that combined larger-than-life stories with a pulp kung-fu sensibility, and Fat Cobra definitely continues that trend.  With 37 pages of excellent content, it’s worth a read.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

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