28 May 2017

Mini Reviews 28/05/2017

We may not have time to review every book on our pull-lists but we do aim to provide a snapshot of what's been released over the past week, encompassing the good, the bad, and those that lie somewhere in between.

PLASTIC #2
Writer: Doug Wagner
Art: Daniel Hillyard & Laura Martin
Image $3.99

Jo S: Andrew Robinson’s cover art for this book is a work of genius: the lurid pink, the horrifying smirk and the plastic bag wrapping a severed head, apparently labelled with that most evocatively squeamish word ‘MOIST’, all spring out at you right away - looking longer rewards you when you notice that Virginia’s face appears in the background, her permanently shocked open mouth neatly replaced by the donut her monstrous lover is relishing with disgusting glee. The story inside doesn’t let up on the gruesomeness: ‘Victor’ (sadly, we discover, an alias - I was enjoying the couple’s alliterative names) has been forced into wetwork duties by Belliveau, whose henchmen have kidnapped his beloved Virginia. Our hero excels, and revels, in his duties and, clearly missing his beautiful but ever-silent travelling partner, soon finds a temporary replacement. Purchasing further donuts to cement his new friendship he meets the astonishingly familiar-looking vendor at ‘Holes and More’ - could Virginia have a twin? Like pink-glazed donuts with lavish sprinkles, I know this book is probably going to be bad for my health but, man, I cannot get enough! 10/10

23 May 2017

On The Pull 24/05/2017

New comics are due to hit the shelves on Wednesday so here’s a look ahead at some of the books we’ll be picking up this week. Click here for a list of the latest releases.

Jo S: My list this week is more than half full with second issues. Redneck #2 is currently in the ‘C’mon, show me you can do something that isn't just the same well-worn path of the vampire family trying to live quietly alongside the intolerant living’ category. The first issue had some nice details but I'm keeping this one on a short rein. This falls alongside several definite ‘I loved the first, can't wait for the next’. Starting with Jean Grey #2 - I loved the blend of fragility and strength in her character in the first - and Secret Warriors #2 - the more I see of Matt Rosenberg’s writing, the more I feel like he's going to make my Ultimate Dinner Party guest list; his comic timing is second to none. The fourth issue #2 has me rubbing my hands with glee and then preparing to give them a thorough going over with Swarfega after reading: Plastic #1 was delightfully weird and gross and at the same time a sweet tale of romance and the lengths a man will go to in order to protect the love of his life, even if she is the quiet, ‘wash at 30 degrees and dry flat (do not wring)’ type. Anticipation is high at the Sibley Mansion for The Old Guard #4; the first three have kept me engaged, I like the choice to adjust the focal character a little in each issue and the combination of daringly dynamic art and satisfyingly intelligent writing. Just one issue #1 on my list this week: I'm giving Samaritan: Veritas #1 a shot. This looks to be a tale of a hacker with a vendetta against a giant military contractor and a Robin Hood approach to what she steals. Oh… and I'm finding the new Strawberry Shortcake Funko series curiously appealing. Don't mock - I grew up with those peculiar strawberry-scented pencils and, yes, yes, I know the comic won't be strawberry-scented but… wait, that's not a bad idea...!

21 May 2017

Mini Reviews 21/05/2017

We may not have time to review every book on our pull-lists but we do aim to provide a snapshot of what's been released over the past week, encompassing the good, the bad, and those that lie somewhere in between.

ELEANOR AND THE EGRET #2
Writer: John Layman
Art: Sam Kieth & Ronda Pattison
Aftershock $3.99

Jo S: Boy, was I looking forward to this issue #2 and I wasn’t disappointed. This episode of the tale of magical art thieves Ellis and Eleanor opens with a prologue in which the elegantly columnar Detective Belanger pursues the lead found at the scene of the theft of a new work of art by the famous Anastasia Rüe - a single white feather - to the beautifully eccentric zoo. We see Eleanor and her accomplice pull off another daring theft and meet Mademoiselle Rüe herself (think Helena Bonham-Carter playing Cruella de Ville). The story is intriguing and sweet - Belanger seems to have a little soft spot for Eleanor and his reluctance to divulge that she is a suspect is delicately expressed - but it's the visuals that raise this book way above the norm. Kieth’s graceful art nouveau set pieces, stylish page structure and subtle way with faces are all complimented by Pattison’s exquisite colours. The use of different media cleverly highlights different moods in the story: Pattison switches to delicately blended coloured pencils for a scene at the police station; when the detective is helping to produce a sketch of the suspect, Kieth draws him sketchily too. The giant ‘Boo Hiss’ final scene has me on tenterhooks for the next episode. 8/10

18 May 2017

All Good Things: PROVIDENCE

When a great series concludes and it provides the perfect opportunity to assess what made it so good...

James R: Alan Moore has a long history with the apocalypse. Over the writer's prodigious and prolific output of the last thirty years, he has often woven the idea of an apocalypse (or apocalyptic event) into his narratives. With Providence, which reached its conclusion last month, there are some obvious parallels with these earlier world-ending events but there's something else going on here. To find out just what, we need to have a look at just what has made Providence so remarkable and, if you didn't pick it up, hopefully convince you that this series is well worth your time and money.

Alan Moore started writing about H. P. Lovecraft in the mid-1990s. By this point, he had become the most recognisable and lauded writer in mainstream comics. Watchmen had become widely acclaimed as one of the best comics stories ever told, and he was in the process of writing the extraordinary From Hell. He contributed a prose short story, 'The Courtyard' to an anthology of tales inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, The Starry Wisdom. We'll return to 'The Courtyard' shortly but firstly, I think it's vital to highlight that also at this time, Moore began to cultivate his central area of interest that would last for the next three decades - and beyond.

16 May 2017

On The Pull 17/05/2017

New comics are due to hit the shelves on Wednesday so here’s a look ahead at some of the books we’ll be picking up this week.

Matt C: Marvel's controversial summer event, Secret Empire, returns for its sophomore installment (or third if you count the #0 issue, or fourth if you count the FCBD issue), and while the likes of Bleeding Cool seem to be getting their feathers ruffled by its very existence, I'm thoroughly enjoying this dark, reflective view of a fascist America ruled by a corrupted Sentinel of Liberty. Joining writer Nick Spencer here is Paradoscar-winning artist Andrea Sorrentino, who's been on fire recently in the pages of Old Man Logan and will no doubt be bring his A-game to this series. We know everything will work out okay in the end (it always does, more or less) but if we can't revel in our heroes being put through the wringer then we're kind of missing the point somewhere along the way! Marvel also have another chapter of the reliable Mighty Thor, while Nick Fury #2 also makes an appearance, hopefully matching the eye-popping visuals of the debut. Image have the latest entry in one of Rick Remender's impressive world-building creations, Low #18, Jeff Lemire's Royal City #3, as well as the penultimate episode of the post-apocalyptic The Few. Slim pickings from DC for me as usual, and The Wild Storm #4 will have its work cut out convincing me it'll turn into something more than Warren Ellis on autopilot.

14 May 2017

Mini Reviews 14/05/2017

We may not have time to review every book on our pull-lists but we do aim to provide a snapshot of what's been released over the past week, encompassing the good, the bad, and those that lie somewhere in between.

A.D.: AFTER DEATH BOOK 3
Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Jeff Lemire
Image $5.99

James R: Our feeling when this project was announced was that it was going to be something special, and man alive, how right we were! After Death concludes with a simply beautiful final book, and it's easily one of the best things you'll read this year. Over the last two installments, Scott Snyder has shrouded the tale of Jonah, living in a time where death has been eradicated, in mystery. With this denouement, Snyder pays off our investment with a sumptuous ending that is surprising, heartfelt, haunting and utterly apposite. As I reached the final pages, I became aware that Snyder and Lemire had totally swept me up in this story, and as the mystery of the Retreat was revealed, I didn't want it to stop. Jeff Lemire's art has been better than ever over the last year - in this book and Royal City, he's been amazing, and what struck me here was his use of colour; the watercolours that gave the pages a fitting dream-like quality were a joy to behold. It may have been called After Death, but this was a book about life; identity, loss and memory. A stunning example of just how good comics can be, this title is peerless. 10/10

12 May 2017

Ten Forward: July 2017

Every month we spend an evening scouring the pages of the latest issue of Previews and pick the ten titles we are looking forward to the most. This month it's the May issue which includes comics scheduled to ship in July 2017.

AMERICAN WAY: THOSE ABOVE AND THOSE BELOW #1
Writer: John Ridley
Art: George Jeanty
DC/Vertigo $3.99

Matt C: It’s over a decade ago now, and my memory of it fades with each passing year, but I do recall the original American Way series being particularly excellent, with the US government staging fake superhero battles against the backdrop of the Civil Rights era. Writer John Ridley will be more familiar to most for his film and TV work (12 Years A Slave, American Crime, the recent Guerilla) but if he and original artist George Jeanty can match the quality of the first series, this will be an essential purchase. Of course, it’s not too late for you to read the original story, and it’s not too late for me to re-read it either!

9 May 2017

On The Pull 07/05/2017

New comics are due to hit the shelves on Wednesday so here’s a look ahead at some of the books we’ll be picking up this week.

Jo S: Tip top of my list this week will be the joint leads of Grass Kings #3 and Godshaper #2. The first issue of Matt Kindt’s Grass Kings was an absolute high point of my year so far and the second issue didn't disappoint so I'll be trying to resist the temptation to dive right into that one as before I even get my pack of books home. Godshaper’s inventively constructed reality and jazz-style artwork really caught my attention too: my interest is piqued to find out more about the little god with no worshiper of his own and the vagabond he tags along with. I'm still trying to make sure I pick up a couple of issue #1s each week, as I'm still settling into finding my tastes, and this Wednesday I'm adding Regression, a Cullen Bunn offering (gosh, that guy’s been busy!), with a gruesome giant bug-in-the-ear cover which made me go ‘Bleurg! That looks brilliant!’ and Secret Warriors, a new run in the Secret Empire event. I'm determined not to go nuts with Secret Empire strands but I loved Matt Rosenberg’s writing in the recent Rocket Raccoon series and that seemed like a fair reason to pick this as a track to follow. Also: Devil Dinosaur for the win! I'll be collecting Black Cloud #2; I came away from issue #1 with a bunch of questions and look forward to seeing how these are addressed, such as 'What are Ms Barrett's true motives?' and 'What's the thing with the paint all about?' Rounding off the list will be the very long awaited A.D.: After Death #3. It has been such a long time coming, I know I'm going to need to to go back to #1 and #2 for a re-read, but it's a comfort to know that I'll soon be able to file this series under ‘Completed’ and box them up for posterity - the darn things don't fit upright on any shelf in my house so they've been slouching like indolent teenagers wherever they've found temporary storage!

7 May 2017

Mini Reviews 07/05/2017

We may not have time to review every book on our pull-lists but we do aim to provide a snapshot of what's been released over the past week, encompassing the good, the bad, and those that lie somewhere in between.

SECRET EMPIRE #1
Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten & Matthew Wilson
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: People are having really strong negative reactions to this event series, and it’s interesting watching how they’re responding to this issue in particular, and how it possibly says more about them than it does the story itself, because, even within the confines of the superhero genre, this is edgy material, and it’s pushing buttons all over the place. The thing is, you strip it down to its core ingredients and Secret Empire isn’t original in the slightest: an alt-timeline created by cosmic tampering where the bad guys are in power and the heroes are on the backfoot. There are a whole slew of events over the years that have taken that as their central premise, so why is this tale in particular kicking up such a fuss? Are there too many elements that comment both directly and indirectly on situations unfolding in the real world? Possibly, and perhaps that’s the genius of the whole premise, watching a writer construct a smart, thrilling narrative that reflects what’s going on in a way that can rile people up, get them angry and – yes – get them thinking. Personally I believe this is Marvel at its most culturally aware; sure, it’s left-leaning and some will no doubt find it too near the knuckle, but it’s an audacious opening salvo, brilliantly illustrated, and an undeniable page-turner. Oh, and a reality-altering cosmic cube lies at the heart of the set-up, so perhaps some perspective is needed in some quarters, right? 8/10

5 May 2017

Mini Reviews: Free Comic Book Day 2017

This Saturday, May 6th, sees the 16th annual Free Comic Book Day. Those unfamiliar with the event should head to the official site – here we take a look at an advance selection of freebies that should be available at your local comic shop on the day. Of course, those of you in the same catchment area as us should head over to Paradox in Poole where Andy H will have available not only the comics reviewed below, but many more besides!

DC SUPERHERO GIRLS #1 (SPECIAL EDITION)
Writer: Shea Fontana
Art: Yancy Labat
DC $0.00

Jo S: This light and bright FCBD offering from DC begins with a team of our favourite students from Super Hero High working together to clear Metropolis of pesky supervillains so that they can leave for summer break with a clear conscience. Each student will be spending the break at her choice of venue and all are excited about what the summer holds... except Wonder Woman, who is stuck in a dilemma - should she stay home in Themyscira or accept her oft-distracted father’s invitation to spend the vacation at his home? The style steers well clear of being patronising - this could work for readers of any age - and with a useful guide to the SuperHero Girl characters at the end, this is a lively, accessible start to a new story, with enough appealing players for everyone to find someone to bond with. 7/10