Let's jump in by starting with a little rant, shall we!
Ultimates Annual #2 - There's a decent story lurking in this comic, but its completely engulfed in the trainwreck of its execution. To summarize the plot, in a "post-occupation" USA, the Cap and Falcon set out to the Missouri to defeat a white supremacist gang being run by an AI based on an old nazi scientist that Cap defeated back in WWII. Or at least I think that's the plot... its hard to tell because the storytelling is so jumbled.
Part of the fault, in my opinion, lies with the art work of Deodato Jr. It was his art that served to break the camels back and make me drop New Avengers. And now, he's fumbling around with the Ultimates. To see the problem with his illustration skills, you need to look no farther than his picture of the superheroes lifting the Statue of Liberty from the ocean. Not only is the perspective wacky, but he also has Storm in the mix, tugging at a cable and she flies into the air... but why? Storm can fly, but she's only got the strength of a normal teenage girl. Her presence in the shot does nothing, and its hard to think that he could spend the time drawing her but not make the same connection himself.
The weakness of Deodato's art is only emphasized by the fact that Ryan Sook is the artist in the flashbacks. Sook is a superiour artist, and is able to accurately catch the tone of the story. Deodato isn't very big on tone.
But the main weakness is the story itself. It jumbled to the point of incoherency, and honestly, I'm not even entirely sure what happened at various points. I'm unfamilar with the work of writer Charlie Huston, but he doesn't do a whole lot to impress me here. As I mentioned, there is an interesting concept buried in this story. But, honestly, its a blur of obligitory fight scenes, flashbacks and improperly introduced characters.
As I said, a trainwreck. Which is sad, because I'm usually such a fan of the Ultimates.
Runaways #19 - Actually, this wasn't the strongest issue of this title either, but after the Ultimates annual, it was like mana from heaven. This issue actually came out last week, but I missed it on the racks and picked it up this week.
Usual artist, Alphonso, is taking a break this issue and filling his place is Gravity illustrator, Mike Norton. Honestly though, I didn't even notice it at first because colorist Christina Strain's colors are so distinctive that she sets half the tone for the series.
Anyhow, this issue is basically dealing with the fall-out of the last arc, and starting to get the pieces arranged for the next one. As such, its perfectly servicable, and even has some interesting character moments and emerging plotlines. But, at the same time, nothing has hooked me completely, and the conflict for next issue actually seems a bit on the forced side. Still, its a solid issue overall.
Astonishing X-men #16 - After not really feeling the first several issues of this arc, I feel like I'm suddenly back on board this issue. I'm enjoying seeing Kitty put front and center, and I'm genuinely interested in figuring out what's up with the new Hellfire Club. I think there is something to the online theories that this version of the Hellfire Club is actual represenational of Emma's fractured psyche (or... er... something). But, I feel there's more to it than that.
And heck, I'm even sort of interested in the Ord/Danger/SWORD storyline thats still bubbling on the sidelines.
Whedon's storyline is playing up Cassady's strengths as an artist, unlike the "Danger" arc which seemed to highlight his weaknesses. And the creative uses of Kitty's powers while fighting Emma show off her strengths too.
This issue is hitting on full cylinders for me... which means I'll probably get let down next issue. But, until then...
Fell #6 - At its price point, its hard to give this title a bad rating. But, this could be a full priced issue, and I'd still feel like I was getting my money's worth. Like all the previous issues, this is another fine little one-and-done story. But, at the same time, I feel like we get some nice little character development along with our usual helping of truly messed up criminal investigation.
It's not a unique observation, but its impressive how much of a character Snowtown is itself. And there's sort of a mythical realism to the geography, with the river (and its bridge) taking on some sort of river Styx type quality.
And, the reoccuring nun in a Nixon mask character has become one of the most haunting figures in comics today. I hope that Ellis has some plan when it comes to that character. I look forward to seeing that plan reveal itself.
Actually in some regards, Fell was every bit as enjoyable as Astonishing. But, I figured I'd give Astonishing a better rating for apparently starting to pull its shit together. While Fell, while excellent, was sort of its standard level of excellent.
Too many bubbles, not enough analysis - Remember this picture in the Noo Yawk Timez last week, of a shopping cart full of soda? So far, so good. The headline suggests the...
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