11 Mar 2013

Mini Reviews 10/03/2013

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.

Also this week, Matt C's New Mutants Project continues.

SEX #1
Writer: Joe Casey
Art: Piotr Kowalski & Brad Simpson
Image $2.99


Matt C: The provocative title is almost too much of a distraction, like it’s simply asking for trouble, overshadowing what’s actually inside the covers. I get that it’s an indication of the kind of territory this book is daring to enter, and that it’s obviously designed to attract the attention, but I do wonder if it’s sending out the wrong kind of signal, perhaps putting people off what they might otherwise enjoy. To be honest, I was expecting something a lot more salacious and irreverent inside the pages of Sex #1, and was surprised to find a far more serious tone. Yes, there are pornographic elements to the story, but we seem to be gearing up for a psychological study of a Batman analogue who’s suddenly found himself open to new experiences after hanging up the cape and cowl. I have no idea where Casey is intending on taking this series as he’s already had me wrong-footed from the off, but the script highlights that he’s a really smart writer, the art team seem more than capable of avoiding puerile cheap-thrills, and Sex looks like it’ll have a lot more going for it than its headline-baiting title. 8/10


Stewart R: Vengeance, Butcher Baker The Righteous Maker, Haunt; all recent Joe Casey comics with a defined edge to them, provocative in their own different approaches and proof that this is a writer who can address adult themes and address them well in a variety of ways. In Sex some will argue that he’s going bolder and aiming for shock value with the evident titillation of the title and some of the imagery contained within. What this has the potential to become, however - and I appreciate that this may be too early to call - is an incredibly interesting exploration on the subject of personal sacrifice and honesty. Simon Cooke is the retiring superhero, now lost within the unfamiliar territory of living his everyday alter-ego lifestyle permanently, having made a promise to leave his crime-fighting days behind. Piotr Kowalski’s sharp and light expression work captures Simon’s boredom with, and uncertainty of his surroundings as a civilian perfectly while his work with the racier moments are, yes, explicit as intended but are really there to focus on Simon’s inability to properly connect with the potentially arousing things that he’s witnessing. I’m already intrigued to see where Simon’s journey will lead him and the subplot of Saturn City’s criminal element jostling for power in a town now missing one of its great heroes adds an extra point of interest. A nice opening bit of foreplay! 8/10

AVENGERS #7
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Dustin Weaver & Justin Ponsor
Marvel $3.99


James R: I love the movies as much as I love comics, and one of my favourite cinematic moments is the 'recap reveal',  in which plot clues are reviewed and highlighted at a movies denouement (off the top of my head, the last two minutes of The Usual Suspects is a great example.) So, you can imagine my geeky satisfaction at Jonathan Hickman transplanting the technique to this issue of Avengers. With cavalier skill, he uses the idea that some writers might have tried to stretch over several issues in order to introduce the new Starbrand. For those of you under 30, Starbrand was originally part of Marvel's New Universe titles back in the ‘80s. Considered a failure at the time, Marvel have had a couple of attempts at bringing back the New Universe (most notably, Warren Ellis had a go, but it quickly got consigned to the big pile of comics marked 'Uncle Warren's Abandoned Ideas' along with Fell, Anna Mercury and Doktor Sleepless). Hickman seems to be following a similar model to Rick Remender in picking up an old Marvel (often derided) idea and then dusting it off and reinventing it. His incorporation of the White Event with his opening arc is exceptional, and even though I know it might not be everyone's idea of an Avengers book, I love Hickman's big SF ideas here. (What's strange to me is I couldn't get on with his work on Fantastic Four, but here it feels a natural fit.) The editors Tom Brevoort and Lauren Sankovitch have done well in putting A-list art talent on this title, and Dustin Weaver does an amazing job with both the multiverse stuff, and the everyday. Justin Ponsor also brings an exceptional colour job to the issue, really making the White Event work. I've already expressed my love repeatedly for the two big Avengers titles - that doesn't look like changing anytime soon! 9/10

HELHEIM #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art: Joelle Jones
Oni Press $3.99


Matt C: While he continues to bring an eager audience tales of supernatural goings-on in the Old West with The Sixth Gun, Cullen Bunn is now taking us back several centuries for his latest project, into the era of the Vikings, and on the evidence of this first issue he may well have another cult hit on his hands. Again, the supernatural aspect plays an essential part of the narrative but even at this stage it’s setting it’s stall away from The Sixth Gun, far more bloodthirsty and brutish than the Western title, and while a lot of this issue is essentially set-up it does offer up a pleasing blend of Conan, Northlanders and Thor. Jones’ artwork is enormously effective – there are a couple of panels that required a double-take, but on the whole the sword-and-axe-wielding violence coupled with the more ghoulish elements are conveyed with aplomb. Oni Press are clearly in the Bunn business these days, and based on the titles they’re putting out from him at the moment it’s a very wise move, as the Bunn business is definitely booming. 7/10

CABLE AND X-FORCE #5
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Art: Salvador Larroca & Frank D’Armata
Marvel $3.99


Stewart R: In some ways I kinda feel like wheeling around and accusing this title of failing to get any head of steam going; we know that Cable’s unfolding visions form the crux of the plot, but things keep getting thrown off the rails at every turn leaving the pace of Cable And X-Force somewhat on the sedate side. BUT, and yes the full capitalisation is required here, BUT, I’m actually enjoying the slightly slower speed of things! It’s allowing Hopeless to put his stamp on this small and focussed team and provide his own subtle shifts in their characters. I think he has hit his stride with the battered and bruised relationship that Hope and Cable share and while Peter’s continuing soul searching - not just here, it’s the permanent heavy cross of the character throughout all of Marvel’s titles - can get a little hard to bear, it’s paired up nicely with Nina’s care-free demeanour. While I prefer my Dr Nemesis to be a bit more gruff and cutting with his jibes I have to say that his more agreeable - only slightly so - nature is working well when he’s interacting with the rest of the team and there’s a genuine sense that these are well rounded, adult (to a degree) versions of comic book characters that we’ve followed for some time. Sure there’s a wry-smiling, fun element at play, but it works because Hopeless’ dialogue is finely tuned to the ensemble buddy-movie vibe that I believe he’s trying to pull off. Larroca’s unique visual touch allows this to bounce along that balanced line between humorous and stiff-jawed serious and somewhat unexpectedly I’m starting to get that same sense of energising consistency that I found when reading Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man all those many moons ago. 8/10

SWAMP THING #18
Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Yanick Paquette & Nathan Fairbairn
DC $2.99


James R: As has become the norm since the start of the ‘Rotworld’ plot, this book is best enjoyed in concerto with Jeff Lemire's Animal Man (and that was another fine book this week) but I'm highlighting this issue, as this is both Scott Snyder's (and my) last of the current run. Snyder does his usual superb job on the script, but what is remarkable here is the art team of Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn. It’s a beautiful work, and even though the style is different, I'm reminded of J. H. Williams' incredible art. The plot itself is a nice coda, not only to Snyder's run, but to Alec Holland and Abigail Arcane's relationship, one that really flourished in the seminal run of Alan Moore. As a wild-eyed Alan Moore fan, I say with great confidence that this issue is easily in the same league as those ones. This is a comic with real emotion, and in retrospect, it’s been one of the successes of the New 52. What's worrying is that beyond Snyder, Lemire (and Kindt when they use him) there seems to be a dearth of ideas at DC right now. A quick look at the next issue of Swamp Thing shows that Charles Soule has Swamp Thing facing off against... Scarecrow. Batman's Scarecrow. Anyone really want to read that? I may be eating my words in a few month's time, but for now it's a salute to Snyder and Paquette and a farewell to the avatar of the Green - it's been emotional! 9/10

THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #5
Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Giuseppe Camuncoli, John Dell, Edgar Delgado & Antonio Fabella
Marvel $3.99


Stewart R: And so the Otto and Peter show rolls ever onwards and it seems that Dan Slott has just so many scenarios up his sleeve to keep us all on edge. For every successful improvement that Otto makes to either the life of Peter Parker, or the crime solving/prevention methods of Spider-Man - which our ghostly Peter actually acknowledges as good ideas - he also seems to slip back into his villainous mold of making decisions for the wrong reasons and without the nobility and heart that guided his predecessor. It’s delightfully painful reading as it conjures up many a scream-worthy moment in precarious situations with so much on the line. With the lethal Massacre on the loose this is just amplified and Slott utilises his antagonist to his maximum potential. On the periphery there are also some lovely developments with the proper introduction of Anna Maria Marconi being the highlight. I suspect that Slott has a few things planned for her over the coming issues and it’s this sort of ‘iron in the fire’ that keep his work on this title so exciting. 9/10

ALL-NEW X-MEN #8
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: David Marquez & Marte Gracia
Marvel Comics $3.99


James R: The last time I met up with my comrades from the PCG to talk comics, I brought along a few copies of Bendis' New Avengers run to show them how radically dissimilar things were under Jonathan Hickman, and how one comic might have the same name but it can be a virtually different title from writer to writer. I was reminded of this as I read All-New X-Men, as it fits what I shall now call 'Bendis Formula B' - it's an issue which is largely self-contained, and will focus on a singular, largely irrelevant event, before dropping a dramatic bombshell at the end. Here we largely focus on the two Warren Worthingtons as they hang out and defend the Avengers tower from Hydra for no obvious reason! Eight issues in, and I still can't figure out if I love this book or not. There's much to commend here; Bendis has managed to write the X-Men with individual voices (though over in Uncanny X-Men, he doesn't get Emma Frost right at all, by the way) and you certainly get plenty of bang for your buck... however, I still can't love this title in the same way I have some of the other Marvel NOW! books. It's a good read, just - please excuse the awful turn of phrase - missing the 'x-factor’ somewhere for me. I'm still not anywhere close to dropping the book, but I would like it if it started to move away from the plot focusing on the original X-Men. The franchise is clearly a strong enough to be moulded in lots of different ways - space opera, high school drama - without having to lean on a time travel plot that still hasn't fulfilled its promise. I have no idea if I'll still be on board in five issues time, but I'm still quite enjoying the indeterminacy! 7/10

GREAT PACIFIC #5
Writer: Joe Harris
Art: Martin Morazzo & Tiza Studio
Image $2.99


Stewart R: This certainly hasn’t developed how I expected to; in some ways I’d have liked this have been more of a political and environmental thriller looking more closely at the logistics of Chas Worthington’s plans to found his own floating continent.  Joe Harris has instead opted to go down more of an action-adventure route with this story and while I can confirm that it’s an engrossing and pacey read as a result, it is starting to wobble a little under the weight of the numerous ingredients. This issue is a prime example of that with Chas and Zoe’s growing, yet incredibly strained relationship having to contend not only with pirates, but also the strange tribesmen who inhabit the plastic wasteland. Added on top of the underlying political fallout of Chas’ actions, the hidden threat of the mutated octopus, the crashed nuclear satellite and a few other things it starts to feel like the plot is getting a little out of control. I’m inclined to make a comparison to Brian Wood’s The Massive (possibly unfairly) now that we’re this far into Great Pacific as I believe both titles share some very close themes and ideas, yet where this appears bloated, The Massive is reading as a far more focussed piece even with its many threads. Where Woods evidently knows each time what the important story element is and holds it aloft, it feels as if Harris is happy to have all of his threads tripping over each other and perhaps it’s that chaos that he’d trying to encapsulate in his comic. Unfortunately there’s almost too much chaos to allow any real character development to make its way through and this far in, I’m still yet to feel any great connection to the protagonist. I’m not weighing anchor and sailing off yet, however I do have to hope that Great Pacific doesn’t keep floundering in this way for much longer. 5/10

NEW MUTANTS #19
Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Bill Sienkiewicz & Glynis Wein
Marvel $0.60


Matt C: First off, that’s one hell of a cover; a startling and eminently frameable image that can easily hold its own as a work of art, it’s unquestionably the best cover of the series so far. Turning the page, the contents are not quite as impressive as the preceding issue, but they’re still a cut above what came before. Dani’s life hangs in the balance while the rest of the kids wait in the hospital for the Demon Bear to attack, following the reliable horror movie template, with the monster lurking in the shadows waiting to strike when least expected. The star of the show again is Sienkiewicz, leaning heavily on an expressionistic style to amplify the drama of the script (which in itself displays some decent characterization). Further confirmation that New Mutants has finally hit its stride. 8/10

1 comment:

ian w said...

As always guys some nice reviews.
Helheim for me was a nice little opener,my kind of comic and I just wish there were more sword and sorcery comics being published,it's a big shame Dark Horse cancelled their Savage Sword comic.
I'm getting to like this Mr Cullen's work so can you tell me guys is the Sixth Gun worth picking up and Matt I've recently picked up the first trade of Prophet and it's every thing you said it was so thanks for the recommendation.
Happy reading guys!!!!!