25 November 2006

CBC Quickees: Big Two Roundup

I'm so far behind on reviews these days that in order to jumpstart my critical faculties, I've grabbed a stack of comics from my most-recently read pile and, focusing on some of the floppies I'm still reading from the Big Two, am giving random ones the super-quickee treatment.

Criminal #1-2 (Icon/Marvel, $2.99), Captain America #3 (Marvel, $2.99), Daredevil #91 (Marvel, $2.99)
Ed Brubaker has officially become one of my favorite comics writers, whether it's working within his own gritty world in Criminal, or making two of Marvel's best-known but least interesting characters immensely readable. The first two issues of Criminal feel like a spiritual sequel to his autobiographical A Complete Lowlife, as if he's examining a path he might have gone down himself if not for his writing talents. It's crime noir with a very human edge to it, and Sean Phillips' artwork suits it perfectly.

Over in Daredevil, he's taking his time with his story of Matt Murdock reclaiming his life after being put through the ringer by Bendis, opting for a methodically paced character study that mercifully sidesteps Civil War. Captain America is, of course, unable to avoid Mark Millar's hamfisted fiasco, but Brubaker deftly weaves the strands of his ongoing storyline featuring Bucky, Red Skull and General Lukin into the universe-spanning crossover and continues to prove that bringing Bucky back from the "dead" was a better idea than most people, myself included, thought it was. It's all in the execution, and so far, he's pulled if off quite well.

The Incredible Hulk #100 (Marvel, $3.99)
Greg Pak's "epic" story continues and it's the most fun I've had with the Hulk since catching the old TV show on the Sci-Fi channel back in 2000. The highlight of this issue comes in the backup story as the Hulk's inevitable return to Earth is nicely set up and almost makes up for the slapdash Illuminati/Civil War nonsense it all ties into.

Moon Knight #6 (Marvel, $2.99)
As a Moon Knight fan and a Charlie Huston fan, I'm happy to say that the finale to this reintroduction of the silver avenger does what it set out to do and does so quite engagingly. (The total punking of Taskmaster, though, felt a little off based on my limited knowledge of the character.) I like Huston's take on the schizophrenic anti-hero but am really looking forward to a new artist eventually coming onboard because Finch's hyper-steroidal style just doesn't work for me at all. The cover to this issue is absolutely hideous, bearing little resemblence to the signature artwork of Bill Sienkiewicz, whose work remains the definitive benchmark for the character.

X-Factor #13 (Marvel, $2.99)
I've always liked when team books take an issue to slow things down and give a brief glimpse inside the various characters' heads. Done right, not only is it a satisfying read in and of itself, it also serves as a perfect jumping on point for new readers, and that's exactly what Peter David, reteaming with Pablo Raimondi, delivers here.

Blue Beetle #8-9 (DC, $2.99)
Who would have ever thought that the new Blue Beetle would end up being one of the best things to come out of the Infinite Crisis clusterfuck? Because it is; hands-down. Pitch-perfect characterization, a peripheral DCU setting that allows for plenty of elbow room, and a great team of artists that maintains a consistent look and feel.

Robin #156 (DC, $2.99)
Some people are going to complain about the after-school special tone of this issue's National Suicide Prevention Lifeline tie-in, but I think Adam Beechen handles it well, offering a solid done-in-one story that, like X-Factor #13, works as both a character piece and a perfect jumping on point for new readers.


Firestorm #31 (DC, $2.99)
As much as I'm looking forward to Dwayne McDuffie taking over Firestorm, I'm going to really miss Stuart Moore's work, which I've only come to appreciate post-Infinite Crisis. He tells a solid superhero tale, balancing the requisite soap opera dynamics and Biff! Pow! Smack! with an appealing dash of political commentary. This, along with Robin and Blue Beetle, are the kind of superhero comics DC does better than Marvel and I wish more of their titles were in this less-cynical vein.

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