5 May 2013

Mini Reviews 05/05/2013

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.

Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Elena Casagrande & Andrew Elder
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Stewart R: It’s quite evident that BOOM! seem to be attracting some top comic book talent their way currently with superb results - see Mark Waid’s Irredeemable, Abnett and Lanning’s Hypernaturals and Paul Jenkin’s Deathmatch. Mike Carey now turns up at the publisher with a ‘superhero’ book that looks at what happens when the large majority of powered individuals turn out to be destructive, villainous types and it’s the police who are the ones left trying to contain forces beyond their reach. Carey instantly shows us what a desperate situation the men and women of law enforcement find themselves in as they’re picked off in all manner of gruesome and brutal ways during attempts to prevent a bank robbery. This sets the stakes high from the outset, while also introducing the mystery behind how these nefarious individuals are gaining their powers in the first place and why some initially benevolent types have since turned to crime. Casagrade drops some explosive action in the initial exchanges and then allows her deft touch with quieter, calmer character moments to shine through later in the book. In Leo we get our inquisitive and intuitive cop who has a lot on his mind, quite possibly in a literal sense, and it’s his digging that leads to the one questionable plot point that this series will hang upon. The premise is so far solid, the art very strong and this could turn out to be yet another healthy Boom! offering. 8/10

James R: Matt C rightfully flagged this one up as a book worth seeking out earlier in the week, and the pitch (a cop takes a stand in a world where ruthless super villains are running amok) and the talent involved (Unwritten's Mike Carey) meant that I couldn't ignore this title. It starts really well, with our protagonist Leo Winters finding himself in the midst of a massacre. Carey does a great job of bringing some verisimilitude to this book - not only do we see the consequences of having to deal with a super-powered individual, but we hear the concerns of normal cops caught up in the madness ('Why aren't the Army helping with this?'). But after the great opening, I was disappointed to see the things become generic. Rather than this being the tale of Leo planning how to fight back against the villains, or starting an investigation as to how people are getting their powers... by the end of issue one, he's got super powers too! Ugh. It might take a revolutionary turn, but after one issue I couldn't help but feel I'd read all this before. I'll give it another chance, but so far the concept is way better than the final product. 6/10

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Ben Templesmith
Image $2.99

Matt C: A mixture of what I expected and not what I expected. I expected the script to convey intelligence and genuine emotion, and I expected the art to carry a claustrophobic intensity, but what I didn’t expect was the subtlety of this first issue. I use that as a relative term, as there are ideas and images here that wouldn’t be considered subtle in a normal setting, but I had it in my head that Straczynski and Templesmith would turn the heat up here a lot more swiftly. I’m pleased that they haven’t as it makes signing up for this series a lot more inviting, and although I was anticipating having a more positive reaction to it than I did, I’m still impressed enough to want to see more. A lot of folks have mentioned John Constantine in their reviews, and with Hellblazer replaced by the PG-13 Constantine, I wonder if fans of the character will switch to this for their fix of occult noir. Promising. 7/10

James R: Straczynski - when he's good, he's great, when he's bad, he's awful. So it was with a huge amount of trepidation I opened Ten Grand for the first chapter in the story of Joe Fitzgerald, the underworld enforcer turned occult avenger. As with Suicide Risk, I couldn't escape the feeling of deja vu. I know others have said it, but there are two apposite words here: John and Constantine! Fitzgerald may be handier with a firearm, but he has an awful lot in common with Alan Moore's famously bedraggled foe of the darkness, and he also looks to be the cousin of Warren Ellis 'Combat Magician' William Gravel. It looks brilliant though, and Ben Templesmith is on form here, but seeing his work did make me pine for the outstanding (and unfinished) Fell. There was nothing majorly wrong with this book, but by the end of the final page I felt no compulsion to read on, and that should always be the goal of a first issue. 5/10

Writer: Simon Spurrier
Art: Paul Davidson & Rachelle Rosenberg
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Another superb issue of Legacy that, this month, feels packed full of story that belies its twenty pages. Spurrier kicks things off with David’s continuous doubt leading him to make a deal that he’ll surely live to regret further down the line as he seeks the truth about his potentially apocalyptic destiny. It’s a justified reminder of just why our brush-headed protagonist is on his crusade and leaves a playful mindworm for the readership to have tickle their lobes over coming issues as we all wait in anticipation of what’s to come. As if that wasn’t enough, Spurrier then introduces us to one of the most truly interesting X-Men villains (of potentially all time?) in the destroyed form of Mr. Marcus Glove. It’s at this point that I’m glad Paul Davidson has climbed into the artist’s chair as his depiction of the scarred and severely unfortunate character is spot on to drag your expectations one way before Spurrier’s brilliant plotting wheels them around and shows them the far better truth. The introduction of such an antagonist fits perfectly with the ideological battle that David Haller finds himself fighting and shows us a perspective of the mutant struggle to survive and thrive from an angle I don’t recall we’ve ever focussed on before. I can honestly say that yet again X-Men Legacy is worthy of serious applause. Book of the week and no mistake. 9/10

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Dale Easglesham & Guru eFX
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Uh-oh. Just when I hoped that Tony’s jaunt out into the depths of space was going to lead to guns-blazing, seat of your iron pants action and excitement, Gillen instead veers a sharp left and brings a ‘Secret Origin’ storyline into frame, all of its poop-artillery brought to bear on what had been my optimism. Before we get to the brunt of that problem we’re first presented with Gillen’s love for Death’s Head once again which just makes the wide vistas of the greater galaxy feel tiny and claustrophobic as we just keep bumping into the same small handful of characters. Please don’t get me wrong, I love Death’s Head, but surely there must be some other bounty hunter in the Marvel canon who could have been utilised, someone who once ran with the Starjammers perhaps? A former Shi’ar death squad member? Someone? Anyone?? Added to that the continuous artistic liberties taken with the mechanoid mercenary that just continually niggle time and again and it’s off to a poor start. Then Gillen whips out the ‘gasp’ moment and the WTF engines start to wind up their rotations. I’m hoping that this will be a case of twist and double-twist and will stick around for next time just to see, but at this time Iron Man is precariously close to falling off the pull list. 4/10

Matt C: This is one book I seem to be steadfastly sticking to even though it hasn’t really lived up to my expectations as yet. Stark’s gallivanting around the cosmos has been diverting, featuring some clever plotting and wry humour, but it always seems on the cusp of greatness without ever actually reaching it. The more the various components of Gillen’s ongoing narrative slot into place, the closer I think we’re getting to the point where it'll start elevating to another level, so I’m not done yet. After the (not unpleasant) magazine poses of Greg Land’s stint (although he sticks around for the great cover), Dale Eaglesham offers something a bit more gritty without forgoing the cosmic shininess. Good but can do better. 7/10

2000 AD #1830
Writers: Various
Art: Various
Rebellion £2.35

Matt C: Capes and cowls got to me first and I grew up as a fully signed up Marvel kid so, unlike many of my nerdier countrymen, I never really connected in 2000 AD in a way that would inspire religious devotion. But I understand its importance, I realise a great many of my favourite writers cut their teeth within its pages, and there have been tales over the years that have really resonated with me. I’m not a collector though, and only pick it up sporadically, primarily if it features something by someone I know, and I know this is not going to help this being perceived as an impartial review, but this issue contains the first in a three-part tale called ‘Gunheadz’ by my pals Tom Eglington and Boo Cook. And it’s brilliant. No really, it is! Maurice Aitken, the “British Kirby”, created some seminal comics work in the ‘80s before retreating from the public eye and becoming a recluse. One obsessed fan will go to great lengths to track him down, but what he finds may not be exactly what he bargained for. Cook’s fluid mix of retro-infused panels and dingier urban illustrations is easily the visual highlight of the whole issue, and Eglington employs some knowing wit to propel his tale. Elsewhere there are a bunch of continuing tales that don’t make a tremendous amount of sense out of context, plus the start of a new Judge Dredd storyline. I’ve never been a huge Dredd fan so while it’s decent enough it’s not something to elicit a damascene conversion. It’s really all about ‘Gunheadz’ here for me, and it’s a tremendous amount of fun, providing a great cover to boot. 8/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Francesco Francavilla
Marvel Comics $2.99

James R: David Aja has rightfully won a lot of plaudits for his brilliant work on Hawkeye, so seeing that there's a fill-in artist this month might be a cause for concern. However, when it's the distinctive talent of Francesco Francavilla coming off the bench, you know that there's no need to worry; he and Matt Fraction serve up another great issue of this series. Issue #9 ended with a jaw-dropping finale that saw the death of one of the series' most loveable characters - this month, Fraction gives us the back story of his assassin. I'm a great fan of the 'done in one' comic, as like a prose short story, it's difficult to do well, but when it's done well (as it is here) it's outstanding. Not only is this a great read, but it adds another layer to the inevitable face-off between the Hawkeyes and their new nemesis. This book is moving from strength to strength, and if you've been holding out, I implore you, start reading this title: it really showcases mainstream comics at their best. 9/10

Writer: Jason Latour
Art: Nick Klein
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: The news that this series has been cancelled just months after Brubaker left and Latour jumped into the driver’s seat filtered through to me only last week and it really has taken me by surprise. Latour has, over the past few issues, managed to deliver a dark story from Bucky’s past that has matched the quality provided month after month by his predecessor. The careful construction of Tesla Tarasova’s mysterious path to becoming the Electric Ghost has been deeply engrossing and in this issue Latour throws open the curtains to show us all of the sordid, painful details and in doing so highlights why he could make such a damn fine Winter Soldier writer. Bucky certainly plays second fiddle to Tesla for the entirety of the page count, but his presence is a subtle yet highly effective one as he - and the captivated audience - finds himself unable to look away from the history that he played a part in creating. With the assistance of Nick Klein’s devilishly fine touch at constructing flashback sequences - the colour palette gets progressively darker the older Tesla becomes - Latour provides us with a fully rounded antagonist; her trials and motives explained in one burst with a small portion of sympathy sewn in to maintain a tantalising element of doubt on just how this will play out. It’s actually criminal to have a comic book this accomplished, with so much damn potential held within its creative team, cut down in its prime. *Sigh*, final issue next month folks. 9/10

Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Bill Sienkiewicz & Glynis Wein
Marvel $0.65

Matt C: This issue the spotlight falls firmly on Professor Charles Xavier as he leads a handful of his young students into the astral plane to rescue their catatonic friends as well as attempting to figure out what exactly is up with David Charles Haller. Xavier’s internal monologue gets a good airing, with Claremont as verbose as ever, but it adds more depth to a character that – in the pages of New Mutants at least – was coming across as misguided and slightly creepy. Here he’s cast in a more heroic light, the responsibility of his position weighing heavy on his shoulders. Some clarity is perhaps lacking in some of Sienkiewicz’s panels but then he pulls out several images from his bag of tricks that easily make up for it. 8/10

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