Welcome to Adventures in Poor Taste’s weekly comic review. A typical week might see over 50 book releases, and that’s just the big two over at DC and Marvel. This column serves as a buyer’s guide to those of us holding a single Hamilton and can’t afford to read every single issue.

Each week I’ll read a glut of the good and the bad and post enough reviews to reach the budget of $X. Yes, that’s $10.00 for those of you who aren’t Roman. I’ll also post comics to steer clear from. Sadly a quality comic is few and far between these days, but using this column a diligent reader can still get their comic on.

We’re in trouble this week folks. There are a lot of good books, like Fatale #2, Amazing Spider-Man #679 and Venom #13 to name a few. What will we do?! Let’s take a look.


Winter Soldier #1 (Marvel)


No, your eyes do not fail you. The art inside this comic is not done by Alex Meleev, but a man named Butch Guice. Apparently he’s been drawing comics since the early 80s, but this is the first time I’ve ever thought to look at who the artist was and see his name. This book is gorgeous to look at, and I’d wager his work here could be the best of the year.


The textures in the background add a hyper realistic tone to the book.

Brubaker is writing this, because who else could add to the Winter Soldier mythos as well as him? The book sets up some new Russian villains who are extremely badass; so badass, in fact, that they attempt to assassinate Dr. Doom himself and don’t give a damn about repercussions! To make matters worse for Bucky, it seems his death is going to be a factor in the book as well. Considering he had a hole shot through him in the Fear Itself storyline in last summer’s big event, I’m curious if there will be a good explanation this go around. Lets hope it’s not explained away for stupid reasons like clones.


Love the hologram computers.

This book has it all. Super spy infiltration? Check. Cool new technology? Check. Sex? Check.


Sexy.

Cool action shots of Black Widow? Check.


Action-y.

Insane crazy machine gun toting guerrilla? Check.


Guerrilla-y.

And it’s all for a decent price of $2.99. It’s a can’t-miss book this week because this single issue not only sets up some intriguing story lines, but it’s got the action, adventure and pretty pictures every single issue of a comic should have.

Budget: $10.00-$2.99 = $7.01


Alpha Girl #1 (Image)


I love cracking open a #1 issue of completely original work. You typically get a better layout of story, and even if the ideas inside aren’t the best you know you’re getting the best work from the creators. Most of the time these are new writers and artists trying to break in. Low and behold Alpha Girl #1 has a really neat premise, some decent art, and some good ideas. Unfortunately it’s a little unbalanced for my taste, and feels more like a set up to the next issue than a good single issue buy.

The premise is simple: A cosmetics company has made a pheromone drug that makes women insane man-eaters. It’s 1984 so we get some throwbacks and an interesting play on the 80s.


It’s like zombies meets Y the Last Man. Or something.

The art is cartoony enough to maintain a comedic tone, although much of this book isn’t funny. There are actually some dark bits that took me aback. Expecting a light sense of humor but getting an image of a little girl finding her mom like this:


Seriously. Yuck.

…bothered me a little bit. The book quickly introduces the main character, then spends the remainder of the book explaining just how these women became mad with man-hate. I actually wanted to learn more about the girl, but instead the book takes too much time explaining the back story. If paced differently this could be a buy, but as of the first issue I’m not sure if this will turn out to be a good book or not.

Budget: $7.01-$0.0 = $7.01


The Defenders #3


This issue starts out a bit slow before immediately rolling right into a big battle that, typically in most comics, tends to be boring as heck. We all know the villain will lose and the heroes will win. This go around, though, as if right out of a novel of fiction, the narrator adds little comments here and there that spruce up the action and make the entire issue very delectable.


Rage punch! 10 points!

Carrying over from last issue, The Defenders need to stop Nul, the Breaker of Worlds from destroying a machine that can send a person to any universe they like. Basically put, if the Breaker of Worlds destroys this machine, he destroys all universes. So right out of the gate we have some pretty pressing stakes, which enhance the action tenfold.


Poor Nul. All he has left is bangy-bangy.

There are a lot of little moments that make the reader smirk and think, “damn Matt Fraction sure can be clever.” It’s a fun read all around, and while the art isn’t going to win any awards, the pacing and framing of shots are incredibly well done. This is a classic example of the writer producing big time, and the artist enhancing the words panel by panel.


You clever little twit you.

I’ve liked this book from the start, mostly because the writing did a bang-up job creating an Oceans 11 vibe in pulpy comic book form. The art has caught up slowly, and this issue delivers.

Budget: $7.01-$3.99 = $3.02


Savage Dragon #178 (Image)


I don’t understand this comic. Eric Larsen either needs an editor or he’s a madman. I say this because when characters aren’t fighting, then get into very long and boring trivial conversations about dating and relationships, it reads like it’s for a teenager going through sexual angst. Then when the battling begins, the shots become graphic in violence or graphic in sexuality. It goes from this:


Snore.

To this:


Gratuitous? Yeah, I’d say so.

I read through it being bored sick and thinking I’m too old for this book, then the action kicks in and it’s all hyper adult stuff. I’m all for ultra violence and gratuitous comics, but when it mixes in boring writing I just can’t help but hate the book.


Pop! Goes the bystander.

Just like in movies, if there are pacing issues, good acting and cinematography can be awful to look at. This book suffers an imbalance I can’t get my head around. Sometimes creator-run books like this one get off track on tone and pacing and I’m pretty sure that’s the problem here.

Larsen can definitely draw, but his writing is weak at best.

Budget: $3.02-$0.00 = $3.02


Venom Vol 2 #13 (Marvel)


I’m a big fan of Rick Remender, and this book is just balls-to-the-wall action-packed. Story-wise, you’re going to be hard pressed to find anything this exciting, but the plot thickens to a molasses that weighs down the quality of the book. If you want to follow what’s going on in the next few issues of Venom this issue is a must-read. But as far as single issue purchases it’s a bit heavy-handed in exposition.

The idea is simple. An awesome Defenders-like team, but they fight hell and its hellions. This team is made up of Red Hulk, a female Ghost Rider, X23 and of course Venom. It’s a pretty badass crew and I can only imagine all of their devilish/evilness will spill out in impending issues. This issue stands as a “who are they and why are they joining up” story.

Tony Moore does an amazing job penciling on this issue. From the liquidness of Venom to the splash pages this is a very well drawn book. Everything feels organic and natural even though the setting takes it to hell itself.


Red Hulk Venom! Every kid from the 90s dream come true!

The splash pages within are jaw dropping. For instance, hell is one cool insane place to look at:


Vegas baby. Vegas!

And of course you can’t knock the obligatory “team together at last” shot.


Throw down your weapons and the lady made of fire, with blades for hands and the giant red dude won’t rip you to shreds.

Unfortunately the exposition weakens the read. It’s a bit too heavy-handed and the details could have been spread out over a few issues rather than this one. Remender is most likely setting it all up so next issue can be an action extravaganza. This might have made the cut on a weak week, and if you have the extra change this is a fun read.

Budget $3.02-$0.00 = $3.02

Three different comics this week had a lot of potential, and I think they might make the budget another week, but ended up not making the cut. Lets deliver them to Doom in quick succession:

The plot thickens in Fatale #2, but sadly all the demonic underworld stuff sort of falls away. Instead you get lots of talk and buildup and not a lot of payoff. I know this series will wind up being great as a whole, but as a single issue it’s a little weak.

Villains For Hire #3 continues the villainy fun this month with some double crosses and fun looks at lesser known villains. That being said the book has consistently not made the cut as far as it being worth it’s $2.99 asking price. It’s fun, but not all that important or enthralling.

Yet another Rick Remender book I love but can’t recommend on a budget. Uncanny X-Force #21 is a lot of fun, and the oil painting-esque art is pretty cool. Everything has a surrealistic tone and I dig it. Unfortunately it doesn’t knock my socks off as a single issue and feels more like a continuance of a very cool, but bigger story. A story that is lost on the reader in single issue form.


The End indeed.


Amazing Spider-Man #679 (Marvel)


This issue continues the story Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos’ did in Amazing Spider-Man #678 that I loved two weeks ago. This book seals the deal on Humberto Ramos’ fate to be the greatest Spider-Man artist of all time in my book. His fluid lines and interesting poses make Spider-Man at once fun, but also exciting. He’s like a rubber band that’s ready to snap back at any moment and I love it.


Very smart Spidey, using all that webbing to counteract a super machine arm.

He also adds a sense of urgency to panels other artists might not even think up. For instance, at one point Silver Sable gives some orders to her men and Ramos draws this:

Simple hand motions, but they convey so damn much. Not only do you feel the intensity of Sable, but also the leadership and brevity of the situation.

Dan Slott must be a witty guy. The issue made me laugh out loud a few times and it only made me feel a sense of joy that only Spider-Man can bring. He’s instilling into this book the joy of Spidey, but also adding to his weight as a hero. A few times the book makes reference to how he’s considered a light weight hero, but is in actuality just as super as Hulk or Superman.


Hilarious!

The comic as a whole feels clever and fun. This is classic comics at its best.


Spider-sense + bomb = victory.

There’s also some great scenes involving MJ. I wasn’t a fan of the Spider-Man reboot, but seeing Peter and MJ romancing it up with a sense of flirtation is great. When they were married the love was taken for granted and didn’t add much to the character. Now it feels more genuine.

Budget: $3.02-$3.99 = -97 cents.

Egads, a cardinal sin! I’ve seem to have gone over the budget. As you may recall, last week we were under one dollar. I advise you to scoop that dollar out of your change purse and flick it at the teller. Good day to you.