25 Mar 2013

Mini Reviews 24/03/2013

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.

FIVE GHOSTS #1
Writer: Frank J. Barbiere
Art: Chris Mooneyham & S.M. Vidaurri
Image $3.50


Matt C: I wasn’t aware this had started life as a Kickstarter project until I say the thank yous in the back pages, and if it hadn’t been funded before I really started to engage with Kickstarter concept (6 projects contributed to so far, and counting!) then it’s highly likely I might have sent some money in the direction of the creators, and with the comic now in my hands, I’d say it would have been a sound investment on my part. This is the kind of pulp adventuring I always have time for, with a hero battling dastardly villains in the early half of the 20th century.  It’s a classy bit storytelling, wonderfully illustrated to boot, and holds just enough of the plot back to ensure you return for more.  For a recent comparison I’d suggest the American Vampire: Survival Of The Fittest miniseries; there’s a similar free-wheeling vibe here, one that doesn’t quite cloak the dark heart at its core, and Mooneyham’s illustrations aren’t a million miles away stylistically to Sean Murphy’s. A great concept and hugely persuasive debut adds up to yet another must-have series from Image. 8/10


THE PRIVATE EYE #1
Writer: Brian K Vaughn
Art: Marcos Martin & Muntsa Vicente
Panel Syndicate $????

James R: Firstly, if you haven't done so already, check out Tom P's review of this title from earlier in the week! He certainly says an awful lot I agree with, but I felt that I should come out and give it my ringing endorsement too - I think everyone needs to see this superb work. Regardless of the format, this is one of the best opening chapters I've read in many years. Vaughn is the master of the great opening salvo (Ex Machina and Y:The Last Man also hit the ground running) and he does so again here. He sets up the world of Los Angeles in 2076 with aplomb, as we learn that this is a future without the internet, but also one where technology allows people to appear however they choose. I love hardboiled detective stories, and it was great to see Vaughn use the conventions of that genre so well. The off-beat but effective 'tec Patrick Immelman, the Femme Fatale and the case that turns out to be way more byzantine and terrifying than  the protagonist could have imagined - they're all present and correct here. Marcos Martin illustrates with aplomb, delivering a world that's incredibly alien, but strangely recognisable. I have to applaud the whole concept and idea (Vaughn says in his afterword that they wanted to have finish product ready rather than go the Kickstarter route.) My only gripe is that I'm still not wholly sold on reading my comics from a screen; I don't own a tablet, and to be honest, I just like the experience of owning and holding a physical comic. Apart from that, it's a flawless first issue, and I strongly recommend you invest in this case. 9/10

AVENGERS #8
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Dustin Weaver & Justin Ponsor
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: A thunderously exciting instalment of Avengers. The archetypal high school nerd that no one ever notices suddenly finds himself with enough power to level the planet. Captain America wants to reason with him, Hulk wants to smash. Predictably, things don’t go smoothly with the Avengers having to prove with exhilarating ease  just why they’re the world’s premier superteam. Hickman ably demonstrates what a magnificent grip he has on the team dynamic, and while the core (Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk) essentially remain the same, the fact that he’s bringing in a diverse range of less familiar characters and making them work in this context is testament to his skill at not only thinking of the big picture, but also getting to the core of what makes these individuals tick. Weaver has shown he’s eminently capable of conveying epic events on the page in the S.H.I.E.L.D. miniseries and he’s doing a bang up job playing with a far more mainstream canvas. A much more intellectually satisfying read than you’d expect from one of the top superhero books on the market, and anyone yet to be convinced that Hickman plays the long game will no doubt crack a knowing smile at that final page. 9/10

COMEBACK #5
Writer: Ed Brisson
Art: Michael Walsh & Jordie Bellaire
Image $3.50

Matt C: I’m now going to have to go back in time, figuratively speaking, and start reading this series from the beginning. Don’t take that as a criticism though, because this miniseries has been smart and gripping from the get go, it just that time travel tales can get a mite bit confusing, especially when there’s been a delay between reading each chapter. Basically, Comeback is a comic I can whole-heartedly recommend – it’s a crisply illustrated page-turner that keeps you guessing until the final page, throwing in some genuinely effective twists along the way. It’s just that I think if you pick it up in the trade format (or read the whole thing in one go, whatever the format!) you’ll get more out of it, as there a lot of things that will slip by if it doesn’t have your complete attention.  Definitely a worthwhile read that does mark its creative team out as ‘ones to watch’. 7/10

NEW AVENGERS #4
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Steve Epting, Rick Magyar & Frank D'Armita
Marvel $3.99
 

James R: Now it just feels like Jonathan Hickman is showing off - not content with one amazing Avengers title in a week, we're treated to New Avengers on the same day... and it's superb! The concept of power corrupting is an old one, and the idea of super-powered individuals making questionable ethical decisions has been done before (Watchmen and Warren Ellis' Stormwatch/Authority run spring to mind) but here Hickman starts to take these ideas to a whole new level. The 616 universe comes under threat from another incursion, and Marvel's Illuminati are forced to ask just what they are prepared to sacrifice to save their world. I love a comic that unashamedly throws in philosophical and ethical questions, (and that's why I love a lot of Hickman's work) and it's great to see him use them as the central theme in this title. This issue also represents the best work from Steve Epting thus far on the title - there were a number of nice moments where he showed his talents at the human side of the plot (Dr Strange's glare at Wong for example) and also at the epic end ( he nailed the Galactus reveal here). I know Rick Remender means for Uncanny Avengers to continue a lot of the themes and ideas of his run on Uncanny X-Force, but to me, it's New Avengers that feels like the more worthy successor. Hickman is taking some of Marvel's biggest characters and taking them to some very dark places, and I love it! 9/10

CATWOMAN #18
Writer: Ann Nocenti
Art: Rafa Sandoval,  Jordi Tarragona & Sonia Oback
DC $2.99


James R: Whereas I'm not going as far as Matt C in abandoning DC entirely, I'm sad to say that this is another book that's getting dropped by me. I really like Catwoman as a character (and the Brubaker/Cooke run are some of my favourite comics ever) and when Ann Nocenti came on board the book, I had great hopes that she'd bring a fresh look at Selina Kyle. It's not that she's doing a bad job (I've certainly read far worse comics) but the sad thing is, this is just a crushingly uneventful and forgetful title. Over the last six issues the plot has meandered around with no real sense of purpose: Selina having to break into the Black Museum for no real reason, a largely pointless Death of the Family tie-in, and now this Requiem tie-in, which doesn't really have anything to add other than 'Batman is angry’. Over the last decade, various writers have shown us what a rich seam Gotham's dark underbelly can be for crime comics, but since the launch of the New 52 this has been largely ignored by everyone but Scott Snyder. In a time where reading comics is a potentially expensive hobby, I can't really afford to keep buying books which elicit nothing more than a shrug from me. So long Selina, I hope that your next caper is a diamond rather than the fake this book has turned into. 4/10 

DEADPOOL #6
Writers: Brian Posehn & Gerry Duggan
Art: Tony Moore & Val Staples
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: The end of the first arc is accompanied by a sense that the writers were running out of steam at this stage, although on the other hand I'm surprised they got so much mileage out of the ‘dead presidents’ concept in the first place. It's still a hell of a lot more fun than I anticipated, the madcap wit of the script matched by some of the delirious images Moore pulls out of the hat. The gag-per-page rate is probably lower than it has been with this issue (although the Band Of Brothers comment was pure comedy gold) but again I'm highlighting this as the major surprise for me from the Marvel NOW! relaunches as it’s one book I would never have guessed would find its way onto my pull-list over far more obvious contenders. 7/10

NEW MUTANTS #21
Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Bill Sienkiewicz & Glynis Wein
Marvel $1.00

Matt C: A double-sized issue that sees the female contingent of the New Mutants invite local teen girls over for a slumber party, one that is much more innocent than I the first part of this sentence would suggest! My tolerance of Rahne Sinclair’s incessant whinging is reaching the final straw, and it really bubbles up here, grating rather than fostering any empathy.  The real meat of the story though is the arrival of the techno-organic Warlock, whose disorientation and diminishing energy level leads to the usual mistaken confrontation and reconciliation. Where this issue falls down is, again, how quickly everything is resolved. Considering the amount of time taken with the build-up, things are wrapped up far too swiftly, with Doug Ramsey practically being recruited to the team in the space of a handful of panels (after great pains had been taken to show that he wasn’t aware of his teen buddies being mutants in past issues). Sienkiewicz’s work helps distract from the clumsy plotting on display, his rendition of Warlock as a constantly morphing, dynamic lifeform really setting the template for the character. A decent read but for one twice as long as the norm I came away thinking less happened than usual. 7/10

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