12 May 2013

Mini Reviews 12/05/2013

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: Steve Niles
Art: Tony Harris
Image $2.99

James R: The underworld and the occult seems to be a growing niche in comics. Following on from Brubaker's Fatale and Straczynski's Ten Grand (last week, no less!) we now have Chin Music, which places its underworld focus on the Golden Age of the Mafia: the era of prohibition and Al Capone. I flagged this one up for Ten Forward as I loves me some Boardwalk Empire, and find the ‘20s a fascinating period. Steve Niles and Tony Harris are no strangers to quality comics, so I opened this one up with a great deal of interest. It's certainly an unusual book, starting dialogue-free and relying on Harris' art for the first few pages to give us an atmospheric opening as we're introduced to the book's mysterious protagonist, Shaw. After that the narrative jumps to Egypt, and then mysteriously back to Chicago. I appreciate there's a degree of the supernatural at work but the lurch back to Chicago did make me flick back and forth to see if I'd missed something! It climaxes with a scene that forks us away from history, but sets up a great incentive to read the next issue. I enjoyed this more than I did Ten Grand, but it hasn't entirely knocked me out either. I'll be back for more next month, but it will have to deliver a little extra to earn a place on my pull list. 7/10

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Caanan White & Keith Williams
Avatar $3.99

Matt C: This is far more confident than issue #0 and Gillen confirms in the backmatter that there was a roughly two-year gap between writing the original draft of that issue and this one. The plotting doesn’t seem so crowded this time, with a number of chances given to catch a breath as the story unfolds, and there’s more clarity to what’s going on, underlined by the intelligence of the well-researched script. What’s stopping me from giving this a better score is the art, which is not to say it’s bad – it’s very much in the Avatar style and the blood-drenched carnage is handled very well – but, as before, it’s a problem with distinguishing between characters. Albert Speer turns up but it’s difficult to pick him out when he’s surrounded by other Nazi officers wearing the same get-up, and really outside of Hitler, Churchill and the female characters, more of an effort is needed to accentuate the visual differentiation. Niggles aside, this still retains the potential to be great. 7/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Daniel Acuna
Marvel $3.99

James R: It took a while, but finally Uncanny Avengers has found its identity. After the all-action blockbuster-feel opening, and the weird 'M Word' misstep issue, Remender has managed to channel the magic of his Uncanny X-Force run, and as he promised at the start of this series, this book feels like the natural continuation of that exceptional comic. Remender packs the pages with Thor's attempts to save Rio from a hail of burning debris, Captain America stranded in the Sudan, and the ongoing rise of the Apocalypse Children. Shifting timestreams and possible futures have been the achilles heel of the X-Books in the past, but Remender works them with aplomb - his storytelling is taut, and he has the knack of being able to throw in a jaw-dropping plot point with pleasing regularity. Once again, Acuna does a great job on the art, and for the first time with this title I can happily declare: I cannot wait for the next issue! 8/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Esad Ribic & Ive Svorcina
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: I'm still of the opinion that this is one of - if not the - best of the Marvel NOW! relaunches, but even saying that I'll admit that the whole God Butcher storyline is starting to drag a bit. Much of this issue seems a little too much like padding, stuff that could have easily been condensed down to keep the narrative moving at a brisk pace. There are even instances of the dialogue veering towards the colloquial with the odd surprising appearance of Ye Olde Shakespearean English (which I thought Aaron was avoiding). The art still knocks the socks off and while things could perhaps do with a little tightening up here I'm sure any reservations I have will prove to be unfounded and this will eventually reveal itself as an integral chapter once the complete storyline can be viewed as a whole. 7/10

Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Carlos D’Anda & Gabe Eltaeb
Dark Horse $2.99

Matt C: I love Star Wars. And when I say I love Star Wars I mean I really love Star Wars. Yes, I'm even one of those guys who'll defend the Prequels if called upon, so hopefully that gives you an indication of my lifelong dedication to that galaxy far, far away. But it's always been about the moving picture side of things - the movies and some of the TV series - and I haven't really connected with any of the Extended Universe or any of the printed material since I used to read the Marvel comics series way back when. And I'm sad to say, that appears to be holding true once more. I can't really find fault with what Wood's doing here, and while it’s obviously the Star Wars universe being explored (with a dramatic thrust that brings to mind the recent Battlestar Galactica series) I can't escape the feeling that these aren't really the characters I know and love, they're just interpretations, and as such the disconnect remains. I gave it a fair crack, but it's appreciation rather than full-scale enjoyment I've been coming away with, so once again I'll just accept that the comics, novels, whatever... when it comes to the Force, unless it's the real deal, it's not for me. 6/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Mike Deodato & Frank Martin
Marvel $3.99

James R: After the breathless narrative of the first ten instalments this very much feels like a filler issue of Hickman's epic Avengers project, focusing on some of the roster's lesser lights on a mission to a Macau casino to ascertain what A.I.M. are planning. There's nothing really wrong with it - as always with Hickman, it's well written, and Deodato does a nice job with the art, but after such a powerful start to this run, this was the first issue that didn't have the 'wow' factor for me. In an era where many readers wait for the trade, I imagine that this will form a nice 'Meanwhile…' chapter to break up the galactic-scale adventure, but judged as a 23-page story, you'll read far worse, but you'll also read much better. 6/10

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

Matt C: The adventure inside the mind of David Charles Haller reaches its conclusion, and it's an acceptable ending rather than a completely satisfying one. I always get the feeling that just as this title starts gaining proper momentum it then deviates slightly offer the tracks, never sustaining a consistent level of quality for more than two or three issues. I've mentioned before if this was a contemporary title it's unlikely I would have got this far, but I'm persevering with it for the moment, primarily because I've set myself this task but also because I do enjoy a lot of the characters (and the dynamic between them) and Sienkiewicz near-impressionistic compositions are well worth pouring over. 7/10

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