26 May 2013

Mini Reviews 26/05/2013

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: Joe Casey
Art: David Messina & Giovanna Niro
Image $2.99

James R: I've got a huge amount of time for Joe Casey. He's a man who clearly loves comics, and for a guy that could spend the rest of his life rolling around on a bed of $100 dollar bills laughing wildly (thanks to his part in the creation of cartoon and merchandise sensation Ben 10) I love that he continues to try and find new perspectives and reflections on modern comics. Way back at the start of the century, I remember being really astounded by his miniseries Automatic Kafka, and I've followed him closely from there. The Bounce once again deals with one of Casey's favourite themes - what does being a hero actually represent? He's recently looked at this theme in a psychedelic way with Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker and a more conventional way with Sex at Image. The Bounce sits somewhere in between these two tropes, as we're introduced to Jasper Jenkins, the eponymous and unlikely hero of the book. With an assured hand, Casey introduces us to a world where superheroes and villains are a nascent phenomena... but where are they all coming from? As always with Casey, the script is smart, and you get 23 ad-free pages for $2.99 (Anyone wondering why Vertigo have been floundering in the wake of Image of late should see a big clue right there!) David Messina and Giovanna Niro give the book a nice 'blockbuster' feel, and by the final page - and as always with Casey's work - I was keen to see where this was going next. A fine debut and the promise of even better to follow. 8/10

Matt C: I think that Joe Casey is one of the most inventive and original writers working in superhero comics at the moment, and that means a lot of things he touches turn to gold, but every now and then something pops up that doesn’t connect, or doesn’t connect with me at the very least. The Bounce is one of those titles.  Drug-addled superheroics isn’t an entirely off-putting notion, but the narrative here feels bitty and doesn’t come across as entirely cogent; even the cliffhanging curveball wasn’t arresting enough for the tale to really click with me. The art’s fine, and it’s not a bad comic by any means, but it reads like Casey Lite, and if you know what he’s capable of when he’s on form, that doesn’t quite cut it. 5/10

Writer: Eric Stephenson
Art: Nate Bellegarde & Jordie Bellaire
Image $2.99

Stewart R: Building, ever building.There’s a whirlwind sense of momentum to Nowhere Men that belies the rather weighty cast and multiple plot lines that are as yet, still to be linked into one cohesive read. Stephenson goes some way in this issue to show that we are indeed following a single premise from multiple angles and he utilises Dade’s newfound awareness to stir the excitement and get the reader feeling that they too are on a path to enlightenment and answers on what this whole comic series is truly about. While I’m still struggling to think back to the crazy events on the space station some three chapters ago and remember just who has survived or transformed, I will say that Stephenson does a fine job of giving each and every character their own unique feel in his tight script with some fine and dramatic dialogue - Fonografiks’ letter work also adding an extra element in that regard. It really helps to overcome that slight feeling of disorder inherent in the way that events are unfolding. The additional plot teases and exposition aids found within the scattered news articles and magazine interviews add a further dimension and I’m already anticipating a dig through my collection for the preceding 4 chapters to give this a solid read through now things are ramping up. There's certainly something captivating about Nowhere Men, I'm just not entirely sure what it is! 8/10

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

James R: I may have mentioned  few times on this here blog that I'm a teacher, and as a result I can't help but love any comic that reflects on my profession. (It's a large part of the enjoyment of Wolverine & the X-Men for me!) This week, Jonathan Hickman lends his considerable intelligence to the subject of education, as the story focuses on the Avengers' attempts to raise the Hatchlings from Omega's evolutionary bombs. We get to see the different approaches of Hawkeye (unsurprisingly laissez-faire) and Doc Ock/Spidey (unsurprisingly cynical). Best of all though - and the focus of the issue - is Thor, who in discussion with Hyperion shows a reflective side we don't often see from the god of thunder. After the 'Caper' issue last time out, this felt like Hickman back to his best. We've often said that he's at his best when dealing with big themes and issues, and even though not a huge amount happens in terms of action, the mental fireworks are a joy to behold. Mike Deodato deserves special praise too - for my money, he just seems to get better and better, and Frank Martin's colours compliment his work beautifully. It wouldn't be Hickman without some foreshadowing too, and both the climax of the issue, and the cataclysm hinted at by Thor suggest that this book isn't slowing up any time soon. Magnificent from first page to last. 9/10

Writers: Rick Remender & Gerry Duggan
Art: Adam Kubert & Frank Martrin
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: The listing I perused for this issue had the regular creative down for this, which turned out to be a bit misleading. Rick Remender’s in the house, but joining him on scripting duties is Gerry Duggan with Adam Kubert taking up the art chores. And yeah, it’s an Age Of Ultron tie-in, which may lead some to believe it’s a redundant purchase if you’re not following that event, but that’s not quite the case here. The focus is on Kang and the Apocalypse Twins, and how their time-hopping activities land them briefly in the Age Of Ultron timeline, and while there are (relatively minor) links to what’s going on in that book, with a few tweaks this could have easily worked as a chapter of Uncanny Avengers entirely separate from any ongoing crossovers.  This issue is more concerned with providing more insight into Kang’s manipulative upbringing of the Apocalypse Twins, and as such, even though you may not lose the flow of the ongoing Uncanny Avengers storyline if you skip it, it does add colour to these characters, so if you’re on the fence I’d say go for it. I can’t see it being a purchase you’ll regret. 7/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Frazer Irving
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Whisking proceedings off to Limbo not only makes a lot of sense so early in this title’s life - we needed to see just how Magik’s powers had been affected by her possession of the Phoenix Force since everyone else’s troubles have been covered - but it also plays perfectly into the hands of artist Frazer Irving who tends to excel himself when dealing with supernatural and mystical elements (see DC’s brilliant Xombi for further proof of that!) The demon realm where abhorent  monsters such as Dormammu reside allows Irving the opportunity to deliver viduals wrapped in the near-intangible; hellfire, brimstone mists, razorsharp paths of jagged rock overlooking plunges into the forever, it’s his forte for certain and he doesn’t disappoint this week. He even gets to contrast this fateful journey with a brilliantly subtle opening sequence where we meet another new mutant and I dare say it’s gone someway to convincing me that Irving could well be a good fit as a returning artist as this series progresses. Bendis contributes to a decent chapter with the great balance between mutant teachers who take each unbelievable moment in their stride and mutant pupils who are constantly dumbstruck or freaked out by every weird turn. The additional involvement of S.H.I.E.L.D. is interesting, yet I do have the concern that Bendis may be playing with one thread too many at times. 8/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Chris Samnee & Javier Rodriguez
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: This storyline has building up for many months now, and it's here that we hit the stage where it starts reaching its crescendo. The mystery to who has been systematically manipulating and attacking Matt Murdock is finally revealed, and while it seems immediately obvious, it's a testament to Waid's abilities that he's kept us guessing alongside Murdock right up to the end. Samnee keeps the tension racked up by employing a variety of visual tricks, emphasising that the Man Without Fear finally knows fear (and there's a sound reason to this beyond the fact that someone's deviously taunting him). The extra Nelson-centric tale is the icing on the cake, more than justifying this month's price hike. Not much more to say beyond this: well played, gentlemen. Well played. 9/10

Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Ryan Stegman, Cam Smith & Edgar Delgado
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Following the focussed psychological and existential battle that took place in Superior Spider-Man #9, Dan Slott returns to the everyday life of our ‘hero’ as he continues to make refinements to the way in which he balances his two identities and how he tackles the way he deals with criminal elements. There’s something here that is reminiscent of Peter’s early days with his powers, where his confidence and newfound freedom are potentially blinding Otto to the growing dangers around him and I’m of the opinion that we must be being led towards a monumental fall at some stage in the near future. Bringing Spider-Man’s most famous foe back into the mix is a hand-rubbingly good idea and Slott is making sure that the expansive cast are all involved in some way to give this a soap-opera feel that keeps the emotions bubbling. Stegman returns with his capable pencilling skills and there’s certainly a refinement to be seen in his line and ink work (with help from Cam Smith) since he his initial arc that makes this a compelling visual read. One of those Marvel titles you’re happy to see on your pull-list twice a month! 8/10

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

Matt C: 30 issues in and I’m finding myself struggling to maintain interest in this series. Aside from a few pages of Secret Wars II related panels (spilling over from the first issue of that miniseries) this lands us back in the rather forgettable ‘gladiator’ storyline, which is a bit of a drag to read. Claremont keeps pulling these great ideas out of the hat (Magik and Limbo, Warlock) and leaving them on the backburner to pursue far less interesting plotlines. Perhaps more disappointing is that Sienkiewicz has gone from producing some stunning imagery when he first came onboard to kind of churning out work that feels uninspired and generic. What gives me some faint hope is that I’m getting to the point (historically speaking) where I first became aware of the New Mutants, so perhaps nostalgia will give things that extra kick to keep this project of mine alive. 5/10

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