Noise to Signal

Login disabled.

Alternate Cover - 21st June 2006

Alternate Cover

It's been a while since the last column, partially because I found myself with only two comics to review last week, partially because I found myself stricken with a terrible cold that made it hard enough to read the computer screen, let alone write on it, but we should be back on schedule from this week onwards.Turns out it's one of the best weeks for comics I've had in a long time, and I'm sure you know, I wouldn't have missed this particular week for the world...

American Virgin #4


Publisher DC (Vertigo) • Writer Steven T. Seagle • Artist Becky Cloonan

This issue wraps up the opening arc. The resolution, while not hurried, doesn't seem especially deep. Adam tracks down Cassie's head, and confronts the guy who killed her. Or rather, he confronts one of them, and the rest get away without even being shown.

It isn't perhaps the satisfying ending we were waiting for, but then it was always unlikely Adam was going to kick in the door of a terrorist cell with an AK47 and exact some righteous vegeance. He's got some closure, though - enough to let a new story arc start, and I'm guessing it'll primarily deal with his return home.

Cloonan's art is actually improving, if such a thing were possible. There're some great images of Cassie in this issue, who appears to Adam as a naked, saintly figure that successfully merges sex and religion through imagery alone.

One of the most interesting things about this series has been the way Adam's western Christian morals have been challenged by the situations he finds himself in. On occasion he's openly surrendering to immorality, but at other times he's genuinely disturbed by a situation simply being dictated by a different cultural bias. Whether or not he goes home next issue, I expect to see that culture shock have some effect on his thinking. This wasn't ehf ull resolution it could've been, but then I suspect the ending may have been re-written slightly to accommodate the switch to an ongoing series. Despite that minor flaw, it's still proving to be one of my favourite series. A-

DMZ #8

DMZ #8

Publisher Vertigo • Writer Brian Wood • Art Ricardo Burchielli

The pressure on Matty increases as he finds himself being forced into the role of political chess piece by just about everyone. In addition to upping the stakes on Matty's life, Wood also takes the opportunity to flesh out the background of the war and let the reader in on just how the DMZ world is put together.

Once again, in this issue Wood finds new ways to grab you and not let go. Every issue brings with it a new twist in the plot and a new piece of the backstory puzzle. The return of certain characters from the earlier issues mean that even now, the world seems strangely familiar even as its changing. The premise of the series hasn't settled down at all yet, and I'm getting the feeling that might actually remain this fluid.

There's almost nothing in the series so far that sticks to any formula right now, and it's all the better for it, as the story powers forward dragging you in its wake. The artwork is, of course, as high quality as ever, and almost worth the cover price alone just for Burchielli's expressive yet realistic and detail-rich pages. Consistently the best thing I read in any week. A+

Supermarket #3, cover by Kristian.

Supermarket #3 (of 4)

Publisher IDW • Writer Brian Wood • Artist Kristian Donaldson

Supermarket's been a consistently good read, but when you're reading Local and DMZ, which are both miles beyond it, it actually comes out as some of Wood's less interesting work. Far better than most comics, but not as good as he can be.

What saves the comics from feeling lacklustre by Wood standards, though, is the art by Kristian Donaldson, which is pretty close to mind-blowing. Kristian will be handing an issue of DMZ later in the series, so you can be damn sure I'm looking forward to that almost as much as the issue Wood is drawing himself.

I, of course, am not here to talk about DMZ. Supermarket #3 is what's up. Thematically, Wood's taking what was previously looking like a post-Romeo and Juliet story, about what happens to their child, caught between two opposing families, and adding into the mix, well, Romeo and Juliet, to stay wih the metaphor. It's shamelessly full violence at an astonishing pace, but still finds time for the character moments. Pella, the protaganist, is as developed a character can be in under 3 issues, and with one more to go, there's still time for what will no doubt be a gripping, explosive end to the plot. There's so much material Wood could run with here, though, that I can't help wondering if it'll kick off a series of stories much like Couriers - after all, Supermarket is definitely cut from that same cloth. A

Civil War #2

Civil War #2 (of 7)

Publisher Marvel • Writer Mark Millar • Pencils Steve McNiven • Inks Dexter Vines

There's a certain big event in this comic that's going to ensure it goes down in history as one of the most important issues from Marvel in all-time. I speak, of course, of the genuine, willing, irreversible (ahem) and public unmasking of Spider-Man. The rumours surrounding the numbers suggest that this may well be the most widely read direct market comic in a decade. But, to quote Douglas Adams, is it any good?

The Spider-Man reveal, as important as it is, follows on from the most recent issue of Amazing (reviews two weeks ago) and all takes place in the last three pages. There's plenty going on before that. That, in itself, highlights a problem with Civil War that even two issues in is clearly emerging. While following its own breakneck pace, it's relying on satellite titles to move the chess pieces in and out of position. We know that Spider-Man unmasks in this issue, but not why, and it seems likely we won't find out what happens after in these pages either, the fallout seemingly slated to appear in Civil War: Front Line #2 rather than Civl War #3.

The speed of the plot, while an incredibly welcome change from the decompression that's been so popular with creators and so unpopular with fans, is also working against the title.It's great to see Captain America's resistance group already operating, but who are the Young Avengers anyway? What are their powers? We get only slivers of information. The plot conains small logical inconsistencies - Patriot is attempting to break up a mugging, yet he's chased down by a government goon squad who think little of blowing up an office to punish him for that crime. It's dramatic, but it's not a remotely believable scale.

Still, the story does work if you don't worry too much about who you're reading about - emotional investment will certailny be higher if you know, but the series does more or less work as a self-contained entitly, if a sketchy one. All aspects of the artwork are top-notch, as one would hope, and the sheer balls-out nature of what Marvel are doing with this issue means that it can't fail to get high marks. Howver, as we're well aware, this issue is one big marketing push that's giving you just enough information to make you go and buy other comics to get the full story, and it harms the credibilty of the series to discover that it doesn't do enough to pretend that it's anything but that. A-

Ms. Marvel #4

Ms. Marvel #4

Publisher Marvel • Writer Brian Reed • Pencils Roberto De La Torre • Inks Jimmy Palmiotti

Ms. Marvel begins its second arc with what can only be descibed as the a gratuitous Dr. Strange guest-appearance - or rather, it would be if I wasn't sure that the good Doctor almost certainly needed the money for this. While it feels heavily like Reed is just a Dr. Strange fan and wanted to get him in early, lest the series get cancelled from under him (unlikely, since Ms. Marvel is performing justifiably well) one can't deny that he has tied it in beautifully to recent events.

It's not a direct House of M crossover, but it's certainly spinning out of that event and nicely addresses the fact that Ms. Marvel and Dr. Strange are part of a small number of people who remember it occurring. Strange does have a genuinely chilling demeanour in his scenes, and with his steadly increasing prominence of late, it's nice to see that someone like Reed is around to make him interesting.

This title continues to be my favourite recent launch, proving to be both quickly and thoroughly engaging in a way I've found that certain titles (FNSM...) have somehow failed to be. A-

Thunderbolts #103, cover by Tom Grummett.

Thunderbolts #103

Publisher Marvel • Writer Fabian Nicieza • Pencils Tom Grummett• Inks Gary Erskine

This issue will surely go down in the footnotes of comic history as the book that almost spoiled the Spider-Man revelation, when an early shipment was sent out as part of a retailer-only first look pack, only for them to discover the opening pages made a direct reference to Spidey's unmasking. A frenzy ensured with Marvel threatening to freeze out any media website that revealed the information... only for it to show up in the biggest newspapers in the country the very morning of release. Hell, it was on the BBC site before the comic even came out in the UK.

Still, increased public scrutiny and the Civil War crossover will certainly make this the most widely-read Thunderbolts comic in years. It's good, then, that this manages to hang on to the recent gift of less complicated Thunderbolts stories from Nicieza. The Civil War tie-in is small, and in true Thunderbolts style there's an "everything you know is wrong!" ending. It's a marginalised title, doing its best to please its fans, but even in the midst of this plot it feels like it's treading water a little, and that concerns me. B

About this entry