Jude Terror reviews John Byrne's Next Men #1, Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #513, and Amazing Spider-Man #650!
Hello, and welcome to my first mini-reviews column. In the fine tradition of comics mini-review columns here at the Outhouse, like Chap's Blue Plate Specials and Deadlord, I'm hoping I can bring some quick takes on the comics I read each week to our readers, and also cover more books, if only briefly, each week here on the Outhouse. I get my books from DCBS, so don't expect these columns until the weekend at least, but I do intend to do more than one each week. I'm shooting for about three books per column. Stay tuned today for another edition, and hopefully more in a day or two. I hope you enjoy it, and I encourage any new readers to sign up on our forums and discuss these books and all comics on our forums. Now, on with the show!
John Byrne's Next Men #1
Story and Art by John Byrne
Covers by John Byrne
Published by IDW Publishing
December 15, 2010
I've never read Next Men, but I am a huge fan of John Byrne, despite the somewhat unsavory reputation he seems to have developed on the internet. His art over the years has been fantastic, and I've always admired his ability to write and draw ten comics in a single month in an industry where creators drawing one monthly book are frequently late. So when I heard that John Byrne would be starting up his creator owned Next Men series again at IDW, I was totally on board. I was also very confused, as the book jumps right into the story and expects the reader to figure things out. This isn't a bad thing.
This is a good first issue. Amazingly, it manages to recap the entire previous Next Men series in a narrative flashback, and introduce a new story at the same time. The virtual reality mind games that plague the characters in this book are reminiscent of the movie Total Recall, and the mind games played with the reader are reminiscent of David Lapham's Young Liars. The idea that John Byrne, at this stage in his career, can bring such a complex story to the table is impressive and refreshing, while many of his contemporaries struggle to live up to their past achievements. The art, of course, is top-notch, which is to be expected as Byrne is a master of his craft.
I'll definitely be following this story to see what develops, and I hope others will give it a shot as well.
Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #513
Written by David Liss
Art by Francesco Francavilla
Covers by Simone Bianchi and Francesco Francavilla
Published by Marvel Comics
December 15, 2010
Following the events of Shadowland, Matt Murdock needs some time to find himself, and while he's doing that, he needs somebody to look after Hell's Kitchen. Following the events of Doomwar, which nobody read, The Black Panther is also in need of some soul-searching, so it makes perfect sense that T'Challa would help his old friend Matt out by watching over Hell's Kitchen while he's away. In the process, T'Challa must forge a new identity and make a name for himself as Hell's Kitchen's new protector.
While I normally appreciate the story in comics before the art, the opposite is true here. The art is really fantastic, dark and moody like the tone of the book. Color is used perfectly, utilizing abstract color choices and saturation to convey the mood on the pages. To me, this is a more organic approach to comic storytelling than the DVD-screenshot-like, photorealistic work that is all to common today.
The story itself is surprisingly meaty, pleasantly lacking in decompression. Lots of inner monologues help to make this happen, while also bringing a hard boiled feel to the story. The whole book really clicks on all levels, and shows off the versatility of the comics medium. A little bit Batman, a little bit Philip Marlowe, and a little bit Prince Akeem, the Black Panther sans powers in Hell's Kitchen is a unique and intriguing protagonist here, and I'll be on board as long as he's starring in the book.
Amazing Spider-Man #650
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Humberto Ramos
Cover by Humberto Ramos
Published by Marvel Comics
December 15, 2010
Let me lay out a little backstory here. I'm one of those readers that was so offended by the atrocity that was the One More Day storyline that I stopped reading Amazing Spider-Man for the entirety of Brand New Day. I came back on board with One Moment in Time, hoping for some kind of resolution, and instead just felt like the wound had been reopened and salt poured right in. But oddly enough, that brought me some kind of closure, and I found myself buying and enjoying the next story arc, which led into Big Time.
That being said, the book is starting to lose me again. This story has all the elements of classic nineties style comic shark-jumping, and despite the fact that everyone employed at Marvel should easily be able to recognize this looming disaster, it seems they've learned nothing form past mistakes. The most obvious problem is the introduction of the new super-stealth spider suit, which is one chrome variant cover short of a total nineties douche chill. That's not the only issue here though.
The story itself is both unbelievable and unsustainable. Peter Parker, who now works in a think tank with a gang of brilliant scientists, is using the job to develop new Spider-man technology, and fights the Hobgoblin during his first day on the job. That the brilliant scientists don't figure out Peter's secret identity within moments makes them look goofy, but not nearly as incompetent as the Kingpin appears after allowing an unknown masked villain who has just murdered his employee to join his gang without even learning his name or seeing his face. Slott doesn't appear to be making an effort here to make this story stand up to any kind of critical reading, and the rough art doesn't help to make this book look like it's trying at all.
What bothers me most here is the tongue-in-cheek approach being used to tell stories in this book. It solves unlikely situation after unlikely situation with absurd solution after absurd solution. While Spidey should be a funny character, the book instead seems to be going for cheap laughs at the expense of the character and mythos itself, and it's damaging to the book because it discourages any kind of emotional investment from the reader. This may be for some people, but it's not for me, and if the book doesn't redeem itself soon, I won't be sticking around for another arc.
Quick and Dirty Comic Reviews are quick takes on the comic books I read each week. These aren't the hottest or most important issues of the week, but they are what I'm reading on a regular basis. You might find more in depth reviews of some of these books here in our reviews section. There are no scores - just a quick overview of what I thought of the books. This column may have the occasional guest reviewer. If you are a creator that has a book you would like to see reviewed by me or one of the other Outhouse staff writers, please contact us here.