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Be sure to check out the one-week-early review of Realm of Kings: Son of Hulk #1 and as always, all of our comic book reviews can be found by visiting the Best Shots Topic Page. And now, reviews for books shipping tomorrow, Jan 27 2010!
Ultimate Enemy #1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Rafa Sandoval and Roger Bonet
Colors by Matthew Wilson
Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
Jeez, how many crossovers can one man write?
You'd think that Brian Michael Bendis is busy enough with Siege, Dark Avengers, New Avengers, Spider-Woman, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man and Powers, but it looks like he's taken on one more epic with the first issue of Ultimate Enemy. And while the overall threat of this unknown antagonist isn't quite as "ultimate" as the title would suggest, there are enough good character beats to this production to keep my interest piqued.
Clearly, based on the credits alone, the main effort of this book is to ride on Brian Michael Bendis's star power, and it does that very well. Despite the cover, characters like Spider-Man are nowhere to be seen in this issue, allowing Bendis to sink his fingers into lesser-explored characters, such as Spider-Woman and the Fantastic Four.
In this regard, a common criticism levelled against Bendis -- namely, saying that his characters sound the same -- actually works in his favor: Because Ultimate Fantastic Four arguably became the red-headed stepchild of the line, Bendis is able to make his own subtle take on the FF, mixing just enough of what we remember from the old series and from the mainstream version to really draw us into the nostalgia of it all. Judging by Bendis's touching scene between the Fantastic Four, this is a new era for the Ultimate Universe -- Marvel is done pulling out the "new character of the week," and is instead capitalizing on the relationships between the various superheroes and superteams.
That said, the other goal of this book -- shining a spotlight on Avengers: The Initiative artist Rafa Sandoval -- somewhat mutes the book's power. That's not to say that Sandoval is a poor artist -- quite the contrary, as pairing him up with inker Roger Bonet really gives his lines a lushness that reminds me just a little bit of New Avengers artist Stuart Immonen. But the problem is Sandoval is that his work is fine, but not eye-popping -- there really aren't any money shots to this book that really knocks you out of your seat, which is too bad when you're looking at a comics line that was founded by stellar art talent like Mark Bagley, Adam Kubert and Bryan Hitch. If Sandoval can really establish a strong voice through either the action, his expressions or his linework, it would go a long way to giving this book the sort of blockbuster look that would hook people in.
Tonally, this book may come off as slightly confusing -- both visually and in terms of the writing, it's not quite as hard-hitting as Mark Millar's Ultimates or Jeph Loeb's Ultimatum, or even as hard as Bendis's first few arcs on Ultimate Spider-Man -- but that's not to say that this book doesn't have some early potential. If Bendis can make the lower-tier Ultimate Universe characters into sympathetic protagonists, it'll certainly bear watching once he actually brings out the big guns. But with a book like Ultimate Enemy, a hero can only be measured by the strength of his villain -- while the first issue is a little vague, if Bendis can ratchet up the threat level in this series's sophomore issue, then I'm excited to see where this story will go next.
Chew #8 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose): This latest issue of Chew is likely a victim of its previous success -- this issue is far from bad, but I can't say it blew me out of the water, either. Writer John Layman certainly takes a bit of a darker tone to this issue, and I think that ultimately artist Rob Guillory couldn't really ratchet up the physical humor to counteract that. That said, Chu as a character still comes out stronger than ever, and Guillory still has a quirkiness and energy to his work that lets this team get away some otherwise talky scenes. But it's a shame that when you have a story focusing on "Poyo, the King of Cocks," that the writing team wouldn't let their inner 12-year-olds direct the snicker-worthy potential.
Daredevil #504 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose): This book is so good I can't even stand it. I said last month that I was concerned that Andy Diggle was going to abandon the ballsiness of Matt Murdock's new status quo -- well, I am happy to eat my words, because Diggle shows Matt making some serious lapses in judgment that elevates the tragedy of this series to new heights. The dialogue in particular sets this book apart -- besides the occasional lapse of Matt Murdock as ninja leader, it all sounds great. Roberto De La Torre and Matt Hollingsworth are a fantastic art team, giving the book a sort of shattered-mirror off-kilterness that really illustrates the grittiness and uncertainty of Matt Murdock's world. The one quibble I have is that this issue doesn't really feel like a satisfying "end" of Diggle's first arc -- still, I'm hoping that with him remaining on board for the next few arcs, he'll be able to tie all these chunks together in the future to make one giant horn-headed train wreck.
Captain America Reborn #6 (Marvel; review by Troy): Whether you liked the time-tripping that led to this or not, this one’s a full-on action blowout. Cap, New Cap, Sharon Carter, and a number of Avengers of various denomination throw down with Red Skull, Crossbones (heh! Skull and Crossbones), Sin, Zola, and the gang. Frankly, it’s a pretty darn satisfying fight issue, and absolutely essential if you’ve been following the Brubaker Cap epic.
Kick-Ass #8 (Marvel; review by Troy): Over the top even by the standards of over the top, slightly less subtle than the always understated Marilyn Manson, and more in your face than your actual face: that’s the final issue of Kick-Ass, Book One. If you like the crazy-ass violence and dark humor of the first seven issues, then you’ll probably love this book. It’s loaded with sick jokes, brutal violence, and more humiliation for Dave. Clearly, Millar and JRJR are having a great time being this demented. There are a couple of surprising developments, but I think that those that have stuck with the book will be pretty satisfied.