28 Oct 2012

Mini Reviews 28/10/2012

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.

Writer: Brandon Graham
Art: Brandon Graham
Image $3.99

Matt C: Before the Prophet relaunch earlier this year I was largely unfamiliar with Brandon Graham’s creative output; I’d heard of King City but that was about as far as it went. After the eye-opening experience of reading Prophet – one of the best titles currently on the stands – it became clear that I should be keeping a closer eye on his career. And so we come to Multiple Warheads: Alphabet To Infinity. Graham has put out a couple of things featuring these characters before, but this series, originally due to be released via Oni, was shelved for a variety of reasons and is only seeing the light of day five years later, this time published by Image. It's clear that during that period the writer/artist has built up a creative head of steam and is on a veritable roll again. If this debut issue is anything to go by then this miniseries (the first of many according to Graham) is going to feel like a lysergically-enhanced voyage through some of the most exquisitely imaginative comics storytelling seen in recent times. Ostensibly we’re following two plot threads here, one a road trip of sorts, the other a bounty hunter’s mission, but the number of ideas ricocheting through the panels mixed with psychedelic illustrations (almost like an intelligent contemporary sci-fi spin on the visuals seen in the Yellow Submarine movie - yes, really!) turns out to be a breathless concoction.  It’s seems to me that, if you’re in such a position, now is a good time to not let another Brandon Graham pass you by! 8/10

Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Matt Kindt

Dark Horse $3.99

James R: Astonishing. From the word go, Matt Kindt's miniseries has been an absolute treat. From the 'extras' on the inner covers and margins to the gripping meta-espionage plot, Kindt has delivered on every issue, and he rounds it off perfectly this month. Meru realises that she has to step up and save the agency's rogue ace Henry Lyme... but at what price? This is one of those issues where I don't want to say too much about the plot as it would spoil the impact for anyone out there who hasn't read this yet, and if that's you, I implore you to rectify the situation immediately! I really admired other Kindt creator-owned projects, like Revolver and Super Spy, but this has been a notch up - you can see how his affection for espionage and plots that play with structure of time and space have crystallised in this series, and it delivers a gripping read. Better still, if you've been buying Mind MGMT as individual issues, this final chapter allows you access to Kindt's 'secret' part of his website, with some fine extras. There he makes a grand statement: "My goal is to make the perfect comic -- the comic that would be my favourite book if I went to the shop and picked it up." He's certainly come very close to such a lofty goal, and I already can't wait for this series to return. 10/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Salvador Larroca & Frank D’Armata
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: The final issue of an impressive run, it goes out with neither a bang or a whimper – it just felt kind of serviceable. Fraction has turned in some terrific scripts during his time as the ringmaster of ol’ Shellhead’s adventures but if I’m being totally honest, the last year or so it's felt like it was simply momentum carrying things along rather than any real sense of urgency. It was still an enjoyable book with flashes of brilliance littered throughout it, but recent storylines have paled in comparison to the earlier ones (particularly the ‘Disassembled’ arc). Larroca however, has remained consistent throughout, his sleek, dynamic rendering of the Golden Avenger always possessing a thoroughly modern sensibility. In a nutshell, this was probably as good a denouement to the run that there could be based on its trajectory to this point, and while I’m not sold on what happens next (Iron Man in the Guardians Of The Galaxy?!) it was definitely time to get some new blood involved in the property. 6/10

FF #23
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Nick Dragotta & Cris Peter
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: We’ve already seen the first part of Hickman’s farewell to Marvel’s First Family in Fantastic Four #611, and as good as that was, this is better. One of the integral components of the writer’s run on the titles was the introduction of Franklin and Valeria Richards from the future, and through their presence they've (both directly and indirectly) lead a lot of the plotlines down specific paths. It was only right that Hickman give them a proper send off, so we get it here, and truthfully, it really hits the spot. This is the bonds that join a family together being interwoven with Big Science Ideas(!) and the writer really gets the balance between both aspects, so while you marvel at the ingenuity on display, you also get a sense that your heartstrings are being tugged in just the right way. Draggota nails the mix of emotion and the awe-inspiring with aplomb, and there are some pleasing hints of Kirby brilliance sprinkled in amongst his panels. Wonderfully heartfelt and a singular reminder of why Hickman’s time with these characters has been so special. 9/10

Writers: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
Art: Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato & Ian Herring
DC $2.99

James R: After a couple of issues where Flash lost direction a little - the plot with Barry taking a job in a bar while his friends think him dead and his first meeting with Grodd both felt a little underwhelming after the turbo-charged opening issues - it's good to see things very much back on track as Manapul and Buccellato go all out to deliver an intense issue. The Flash has to deal with both the Rogues and the Gorilla invasion of Keystone city, and this is an unashamed, all-out action read. With an issue like this, you need to have an artist that can illustrate the dynamics of action while not losing the sense of scale. Fortunately, Manapul can do this with aplomb, and as usual the book looks beautiful. I'll put my cards on the table and say that I really like Flash when the plot starts to explore the reality-warping effects of the Speed Force, (and yes, that does include the Cosmic Treadmill!) so I'd rather see the book get back to that sci-fi plot, but at the same time I can't deny that this instalment was an old-school treat that reminded me what made me fall in love with comics to begin with. 8/10

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Stephanie Hans
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: One of the most impressive and unexpected things to occur in the Marvel Universe over the last couple of years has been Loki’s reinvention as a mischievous, conflicted teenager who has the best intentions at heart but generally employs the riskiest methods to achieve them. He’s become one of the most complex and compelling characters in mainstream superhero comics and principally that’s down to Kieron Gillen who’s been devising some fiendishly sharp, clever and utterly brilliant scripts since the title relaunched. There’ve been a string of artists involved since then, the standard being consistently high, and that’s certainly the case for the final instalment of this run. Hans brings a grandiose visual eloquence to the proceedings, conveying the vast scope of the  various realms Loki jaunts through but also able to pack an emotional punch when required. While it’s sad to see Gillen exit this book along with the teenage trickster god (Kathryn Immonen pens Sif’s adventures starting next issue) the silver lining is that he’s taking the character (in a certain sense) along with him to the Young Avengers relaunch in 2013. He’s not done with Loki yet (in any incarnation), and thank the gods for that! 9/10

Writer by: Kieron Gillen
Art: Scot Eaton, Andrew Hennessy & Jim Charalampidis
Marvel $3.99

James R: This is my cold-turkey book at the moment. Having been won over by Gillen's work on Uncanny X-Men, I saw this miniseries as a chance to see his final flourish with Marvel's mutants before Iron Man's stellar adventures begin. One of my favourite things about AVX was that Marvel were brave enough to develop Scott Summers into something other than the clean-cut leader of the X-Men, and leave the series with a degree of ambiguity over whether he was now a hero or a villain. This ambiguity has ended up forming the spine of the narrative as Cyclops deals with life behind bars (while having to wear the most ridiculous headpiece in history - I mean really, are they trying to shame him to death?!) We also get so see Kitty and Emma go face-to-face, and Gillen gives them some great dialogue that shows he has a great understanding of both the characters, and once again, it's sad to see that (for the time being) this will be the last time he gives them voice. For all of Kieron Gillen's good work, this book has two huge problems. The first is the art. I'm loath to criticise any professional artist when I can't even draw a stick man, but sadly Scot Eaton's pencil's are well below par here. In the aforementioned scene, Emma Frost is drawn in a way that would make the White Queen turn red. I appreciate this book is being churned out quickly, but Nick Lowe should have looked a little harder for an art team. Finally, the book feels very thin for a $3.99 title, but that seems to be an endemic Marvel problem rather than just this title. Either way, it takes some of the edge off a mini that’s certainly better than its tie-in status suggests. 7/10

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