2 Jun 2013

Mini Reviews 02/06/2013

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: Scott Snyder
Art: Sean Murphy & Matt Hollingsworth
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Stewart R: The last time these two gentlemen, Snyder and Murphy, collaborated on a comic book it spawned the awesome American Vampire: Survival Of The Fittest miniseries which to this day remains one of my favourite comics of the past decade. It may be jumping the gun a little here, but with only one issue of The Wake read I do believe I can see the potential to produce something just as enthralling. The quiet, tense opening within some future, flooded cityscape is a tantalizing tease of what’s to come as we are then whisked back to the modern day and are introduced to cetologist (the zoology of whales and similar aquatic mammals) Dr. Lee Archer as she’s approached by the Department of Homeland Security and given an offer she can’t refuse. Snyder weaves the interactions between Archer and the enigmatic Agent Cruz with no small amount of guarded tension as steadily Cruz reveals his hand little by little and shows the cautious Lee that she may have bitten off more than something mysterious and oh-so-sinister can chew. As the story rolls on Snyder gives Murphy some great panels to play with as we’re introduced to the rest of the cast and such ideas as Ghost Rigs upon the ocean floor and a legacy that dates back millennia. It all combines to give a sense that Lee really is getting literally ‘in too deep’ as the team’s journey takes them to the ocean floor and the horror part of this puzzle is revealed. It’s exciting stuff indeed, with subtle dialogue, a mysterious plot, terrific line and shading work from Murphy and a brilliantly moody palette from Hollingsworth that exemplifies what we all love about Vertigo comics. The Wake is awash with goodness. 9/10

Matt C: You put Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy together, you expect great things. American Vampire: Survival Of The Fittest, a rip-roaring pulp adventure set firmly in Snyder’s AV universe, was a thrilling example of why, and The Wake seems to confirm that getting them together results in comic book magic. This is a brilliant opener, Murphy’s intricate artwork a feast for the eyeballs and Snyder’s firmly controlled plotting revealing someone who knows what beats to hit, and when. It’s all very filmic, bringing to mind movies like The Abyss, The Thing, Alien – essentially, collecting together a disparate group of individuals to explore the unknown or act as a canon fodder when things go pear-shaped. Easily one of the most impressive debuts of 2013, and hopefully it can remain as compelling as it is here for the next nine issues. 9/10

James R: There seems to be a certain magic whenever Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy work together. Their last collaboration, American Vampire: Survival Of The Fittest, was universally loved by the PCG, and with The Wake it's immediately apparent that the same alchemy that elevated that miniseries out from the norm is at work again here. Our plot pinballs through time, from a post-apocalyptic New York (drawn with relish by Murphy) to early civilisation via a secret deep-water drilling platform in Alaska where the crew have discovered... something dreadful. As with the Survival Of The Fittest mini, this feels naturally cinematic; the creative team do a fantastic job in both establishing their world and then pulling the reader inside. A showcase for the considerable talents of everyone involved, and it was a cool bonus to see a Flak Jackets cap by Dr Archer (a nice nod to Murphy's excellent Punk Rock Jesus). Compelling from first page to last, and after my third re-read I'm still finding little touches hidden within. An undoubted win all round - I urge you to pick this up! 9/10

X-MEN #1
Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales & Laura Martin
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Another week, another new X-book. Okay, so that’s an exaggeration, but it often doesn’t seem that way when there are still arguably way too many titles featuring Marvel’s mutants on the shelves at the moment. Saying that though, I believe the X-franchise is in the healthiest state it has been in for a while, creatively speaking, but I’ll always be of the opinion that a smaller core of great books would be the better way to over a couple of great ones alongside lots more average ones. Here’s the thing, though: we may have seen a number of issue #1 mutant relaunches over the last few months but my gut is telling me X-Men may prove to be the best of the bunch. It’s should be no surprise to anyone that Brian Wood brings with him a smart, tightly constructed script and the Coiepel/Morales/Martin combo provides some slickly energetic imagery (a couple of dodgy Storm panels aside), and any accusations that the all-female cast is a gimmick are made completely redundant very swiftly. If anything, I’m reminded of the mid-to-late ‘80s run on Uncanny X-Men when Claremont had the ladies ruling the roost, and as I remember that period with great fondness I got a faux-nostalgic kick out of reading this issue. It’s a very solid foundation on which to build and I’m already convinced that the best is yet to come. 8/10

James R: The obvious marketing hype surrounding this title was 'The all-girl X-Men book!' but it's a testament to the number of strong female characters amongst Marvel's mutants that you barely notice when reading this issue. It's not about gender, rather it's a well-written comic, something we've come to expect as the norm from Brian Wood. Anyone who read his short X-run last year will find themselves on familiar ground here, as this comic feels like a continuation of that in both tone and theme. The antagonist, Areka Prime, is related to the immortal John Sublime and it's clear that Wood loves writing the X-Men dealing with almost elemental forces. That said, it didn't feel like a spectacular opening, rather Wood seems happy to set his narrative pieces in place for an imminent pay-off (this arc is only three issues long). Not the most essential book on the racks, but it's one conveyed with skill and class from the creative team. If you're a fan of the X-Men, but aren't feeling the Bendis direction, this could well be the book for you. 8/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Steve Epting, Rick Magyar & Frank D’Armata
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Having followed Hickman’s tenure on Fantastic Four I’m now used to the steady sway of his writing style and how he really sticks to playing the long game with his series, following those big, explosive moments and events with more reserved periods that will eventually harbour in the next whirlwind of excitement down the line. While almost disguised as a large, tentpole moment this feels like one of those quieter periods in some ways as The Illuminati, in their desperate ignorance of the true nature of the threat that they witness unfolding, appear to be on a tour of fate that they foolishly believe that they are having an influence on. The addition of the Black Swan to act as an interdimensional/reality tour guide has helped this and meant that the larger payoff comes from watching these intelligent, powerful men start to question themselves and the cost that this journey will have on their souls. Epting is giving this title that top tier sheen and while he certainly helps to depict the looming danger with some flashy panels, it’s in the subtler capturing of the team’s sombre expressions that shines through. There’s more to come of course and Hickman throws us a tasty treat for the possible near future that should certainly be interesting. 8/10

Matt C: Part of me wonders if Hickman is writing these characters into a corner that it would be very hard to get them out of, but the rest of me is too busy getting sucked into the epic tale he’s crafting to get too worked up about that. It’s great to see someone who actually knows what to do with that pretty nifty Illumniati idea Bendis came up with several years ago (as Bendis clearly didn’t!) and really this is thematically in the same vein as Hickman’s SHIELD series (whatever happened to that?) but it provides him the opportunity to play with the icons and actually make a dent in established continuity in a way that will last (for a while, at least). I’d like to make the easy distinction between this and Avengers by saying this is the cerebral part of the duo, Avengers being the more visceral partner, but it doesn’t quite work like that - there’s pleasing complexities to both, which makes me think there’s a good chance this will be considered as a classic run when all’s said and done. Epting continues to nail the tone of the book with real panache, and I really don’t think there’s any other current artist who so perfectly captures the cold malevolence of Doctor Doom the way he does. New Avengers continues to elaborate on the morally grey areas the powerful icons need to operate in to keep the world safe, providing a consistently compulsive read, assisting the franchise into becoming a force to be reckoned with again. 8/10

Writer: Paul Jenkins
Art: Carlos Magno & Michael Garland
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Stewart R: It’s testament to the strength of this title that even with the exciting X-Men #1 and The Wake #1 on my pull-list this week that I opted to dive into Deathmatch #6 before any other comic book. I wasn’t disappointed as Jenkins delivers a terrific chapter that utilises the further confusion of the surviving combatants following the continued loss of friends and enemies and the brief moment of clarity that they all found last issue. By providing the readers with another mystery rather than any answers Jenkins has accomplished the near-impossible and made this an even more compelling story. We’re still following certain characters more than others, yet there are still no guarantees that any potential protagonist might perish in an unexpected moment and it just makes for a gripping read that you don’t often get in comics these days. Tempers are fraying, people are losing their heads in both senses and the continuous countdown to that final possible deathmatch and what it could mean can only lead to another great chapter next month. Magno is capturing the desperation on each and every face that he can perfectly ,and the skirmishes really do come across as frantic, terrible struggles for survival. If you’re looking for a grade A ongoing read, look no further folks. 9/10

Writer: Various
Art: Various
DC $3.99

James R: I picked this anthology book up for one reason: Jeff Lemire. The Canadian genius writing and drawing a Superman story was too much of a treat to ignore, and I loved his story here, a tale that is a hymn to childhood and why the Big Boy Scout remains such an iconic figure. As always with these books, the quality can vary wildly (this is the floppy edition of tales that were only previously available digitally) but here I'm pleased to report that the tale by Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee easily justifies the $3.99 for me. As I'm sure is the case for many of us, Superman was the first comics character I loved, and this comic (along with the masthead proclaiming 'Man of Steel - In theatres 6/14/13') did a fine job in reminding me about how potent Superman can be when written right. Here's hoping that this magic is picked up by Scott Snyder and Jim Lee on Superman Unchained later this month. 7/10

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

Matt C: Another pedestrian issue with the ‘gladiator’ arc spluttering to a close. Sienkiewicz puts all his effort into another striking cover leaving his interior work as an afterthought, relatively speaking. You think that’s harsh, look back at what he was producing at the start of his run. There are elements of the talent here but generally it appears to be exude ‘work for hire’ more than you want it too. I guess there’s kind of a neat twist that catches hold of a plot thread left dangling since much earlier in the series, but again this is now feeling like more of a chore to get through than a joy. 5/10

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