Tuesday, August 3, 2004

It's Monday, let's do some Quick Comics Reviews!

Army of Darkness: Ashes To Ashes #1
I'm a fan of the "Evil Dead" wacko zombie series, and it seems natural that Sam Raimi's cult classic movies could make the move to comic books. But this "Ashes to Ashes" tries too hard. It picks up right after the third "Evil Dead" movie "Army of Darkness," with the intrepid Ash (played by Bruce Campbell in the flicks) returning to the present day after a sojourn to the medieval past, where he battled zombies galore. This story, written by Andy Hartnell, imagines that Ash's time travels got scrambled and sent him back into the past too far, far enough that he is in the position to reverse the carnage that happened in the very first "Evil Dead" movie in that nasty 'cabin in the woods.' So basically you've got the Ash from "Army of Darkness" going through yet another "Evil Dead" remake. I picked this up out of curiosity, but it's no great shakes. The story lacks imagination, basically sending Ash to hack up zombies again (zombie wildlife, this time). The character comes across as a grating smart-ass without Bruce Campbell's screen delivery, and the artwork is far too cartoony and frantic for the book. It's kind of trying to channel the bizarre gory feel of the "Dead" movies, but this comic never really makes it out of the graveyard. No #2 for me. Grade: C

Astonishing X-Men #3
It started off good, and it's getting better. Joss "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" Whedon and John "Planetary" Cassaday are firing on all cylinders with their take on the X-Men. The plot so far revolves around a proposed cure for mutant behavior and the effect it has on the world and on the X-Men. While the story isn't the freshest, Whedon gives it a kick, with an easygoing, quotable writing style that combines the best elements of Chris Claremont with the space-age hipness of Grant Morrison. This issue features X-Men against X-Men, that tired warhorse, but the idea that one X-Man might WANT to be rid of his powers while another doesn't is a compelling cause for brawling. But what really takes this book to the next level is the photorealistic, painstakingly beautiful art of Cassaday. It's the best work he's ever done, and this book, which I admit I wasn't really planning to pick up regularly, is the best X-Men comic on the stands. Grade: A-

Ultimate Fantastic Four #9
A decent issue from Warren Ellis of this "re-imagined" Fantastic Four title. It's got solid art, sparkling dialogue, and a sense of freshness the first story arc by Bendis and Millar lacked. (I picked up the trade paperback for volume 1 last week, and came away pretty unimpressed; not terrible, but the Ultimate line's first real misfire for me.) This arc continues the first appearance of the "new" Dr. Doom, although he's barely made a debut so far. This issue basically features the FF battling little digital "bugs" Doom sends to the Baxter Building, and realizing Doom's after them. Definitely could've packed more forward plot motion in, and the threat here never really seems that big. I also have to admit as an old-style Fantastic Four fan going back to the Byrne years, it just seems wrong somehow to hear Reed Richards and Ben Grimm saying things like "dude" and "oh, man." The hipness feels a little forced here in a way it hasn't in "Ultimate Spider-Man," say. Still, the last few issues have been lively and I'm curious to see where this story goes. This comic hasn't quite found its legs though. Grade: B

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