7 Jul 2013

Mini Reviews 07/07/2013

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.

CATALYST COMIX #1
Writer: Joe Casey
Art: Dan McDaid, Paul Maybury, Ulises Farinas & Brad Simpson
Dark Horse $2.99


Stewart R
: Joe Casey surely can’t sleep much these days? He’s been a comic producing machine this past couple of years bringing us Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker, Haunt, Sex, Bounce and now Catalyst Comix (and that’s not even taking his television work into consideration either!). This is a superhero book that drops us into a world under attack by extra dimensional forces that have spewed forth from the belly of the universe, threatening New York and the planet beyond and only saved by the heroics of one self-doubting, yet immensely powerful man. Casey breaks the book into three separate stories, dealing with very different elements of the incident - the attack itself, it’s discovery and possible cause, as well as preparations being made elsewhere to tackle such dangers and the changing tides of world politics - and it quickly helps to build a picture of the social landscape that shares some similarities to our own. Casey doesn’t hold back with the varied and intricate vocabulary when dealing with the quantum and psychological physics of the action and the portrayal of the sociological condition of the wider battleground and, while quite dizzying in places it’s all this complexity that helps to suck you in and keep you there. The artwork from all involved is colourful, vibrant and just a little rough around the edges which helps to identify this as something a bit different and this is a prime example of how you world build in a single issue. I’m sold on picking up #2 on August 7th that's for sure! 8/10

SATELLITE SAM #1
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Howard Chaykin
Image $3.50

Matt C: Another reason to love Image, then. It’s clear from the off that Fraction is playing to Chaykin’s strengths with Satellite Sam, and that’s fine with me as while I don’t always get on with the artist’s style, it works wonders here. A sordid crime story at its heart, the comic pulls back the curtain on the beginnings of the boob tube in the States to reveal a highly tense environment (captured perfectly) populated by fuck-ups, chancers and just maybe some genuinely talent folk, all attempting to create an illusion for an eager public, one that hides a wall of lies. It’s that feeling of tension that really exudes from the page, and while some of Chaykin’s compositions seem weirdly framed, for the most part he gets the ‘Post War America’ vibe down to pat. James Ellroy doing the ‘50s TV industry? Not quite, but not too far off either. 8/10

James R: I always like to encourage and promote books that a) aren't spandex punch-ups, and b) are aimed at an adult audience. Once again, Image are showing Vertigo just how it's done by publishing a creative team-up of the currently white-hot Matt Fraction (due to his work on Hawkeye) and industry legend Howard Chaykin. Did the book live up to my sky-high expectations? Well, not quite. We're introduced to Michael White, and the world of live TV in the 1950s. In this issue, there are two crises - firstly, Mikey's dad, the eponymous Satellite Sam is missing as the show goes live, and the show's parent channel LeMonde seeks backing to seize the initiative as America's love affair with TV begins. It's a fine first issue, but I expected a little more from Fraction. He's shown time and again that he knows how to produce fireworks in a single issue, but in the 24 pages of story here, I felt the cast were undercooked and the mystery that's going to form the core of this series was underwhelming. I have no doubt that this could blossom into something magical, but for me, it's just functional. 7/10

SHELTERED #1
Writer: Ed Brisson
Art: Johnnie Christmas & Shari Chankhamma
Image $2.99


Matt C
: What’s this? Image and another hugely promising new series?!  Should I just hand over my bank card now and tell them to take what they want as and when they need it?? Sheltered hypes itself up as a ‘pre-apocalyptic tale’, focusing on a bunch of survivalists who believe their community is prepared for any end-of-the-world scenario that may occur outside their perimeters. What they’re not prepared for is something going sideways within their community. Writer Ed Brisson impressed me immensely with the recent Image miniseries, Comeback, and he seems to have conjured up another powerful premise here, one with legs. Christmas’ (yes, really) dramatic visuals help build a palpable sense of tension through each successive page, and by the closing scene it seems very likely that Image have another (yes, another!) cult hit on their hands. 8/10

AVENGERS #15
Writers: Jonathan Hickman & Nick Spencer
Art: Stefano Caselli, Frank Martin & Edgar Delgado
Marvel $3.99


Matt C: Sometimes you have to sit back and marvel (!) at the way Hickman meticulously builds his narratives, dropping in details that at first seem inconsequential only to eventually reveal how important they are sometime later. It’s clear he’s a man with a plan, and the fact he brings so much intelligence to his plot design means his books do have a tendency to stick out of the pack. If I’m going to find a criticism, and I suppose that’s my role here, it’s that his team of Avengers do seem detached from the goings on in the Marvel Universe for the most part. There are cursory acknowledgements here and there but for the most part Hickman’s doing his own thing, crafting his own superhero epic. In some ways (the ways that count, I guess) that’s clearly admirable, but when you consider the scale of events occurring here, the number of characters involved who are often elsewhere in their own books, AND that this is essentially leading up to Marvel’s next major event, Infinity, then it could prove problematic at some point. As it stands though, Avengers is powerful enough that you kind of forget everything else that’s happening in the Marvel Universe for the duration, so overall it would be churlish to describe it anything but a resounding success. 8/10

James R: Maybe I just got out on the wrong side of bed before opening up the latest issue of Avengers, but my initial reaction was 'Ugh!' - Given how beautiful this book has been since it's inception, the art within from Stefano Caselli, which has previously been good, just doesn't look right here at all (Take a look at the first four pages in particular.) It's also a very functional issue of Avengers - there's not really much of Hickman's trademark intelligence or high concept ideas here - and that's ok as I suppose not every issue can be a philosophical jamboree, but in totality, this all added up to a pretty low-wattage read. Given the remarkable release schedule of this and New Avengers, I can appreciate that not everything will be perfection, but as I've often said here - when you get used to regular greatness, anything else just feels like a disappointment. Here's hoping the upcoming Infinity event will see this book firing on all cylinders again. 7/10

FIVE WEAPONS #5
Writer: Jimmie Robinson
Art: Jimmie Robinson & Paul Little
Image $3.50


Stewart R: And so this miniseries wraps up and what a ride it has been. Robinson has done a wonderful job on both the writing and artistic side of things, keeping the fun with the subterfuge at the school for assassins ticking ever onwards as further mysteries from the faculty’s past surfaced and are then concluded in satisfying fashion in this finale. There’s been a terrific sense of fun to the whole thing with the continuous testing of Enrique’s quick wits adding an element of drama that has generally ended with a wry smile from this reader as each challenge flies past. Robinson’s illustration has been simplistic yet incredibly consistent and he’s always managed to get across the intricate and clever tricks up Enrique’s sleeves with straightforward sight devices which have never felt intrusive or out of place. The further joy for fans of this series can be found on the rear cover and I now have one comic book that I’ll be definitely purchasing all that way ahead in 2014! 8/10

BATMAN INCORPORATED #12
Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Chris Burnham & Nathan Fairbairn
DC $2.99


James R: As I read this issue of Batman Incorporated, I was reminded of Mickey Rourke in the Darren Aaronofsky's movie The Wrestler. His glory days long behind him, he finds himself slogging away in front of diminishing crowds and held together by force of will as his body slowly betrays him. As I read, I thought of Morrison's zenith (excuse the pun) with Batman And Robin, with Frank Quietly turning in phenomenal pages that showed a love for the character while trying something bew that - for a while - really worked. With the New 52, Morrison found himself out of time - his 'Bat-novel' had just taken too long to tell, so it left to the pages of this comic to get wrapped up - only to be thrust back into the spotlight as the death of Damien Wayne therein actually carried over to the rest of the DCU. A perplexing and confusing moment as the world of Batman Inc. is clearly not the current Gotham. After that event, this book has just dragged on. There have been a couple of high points, but every time you think 'This will be the finale!' there turns out to be a little more to come. I read this issue dispassionately, failing to believe that this was the same Batman Grant Morrison had taken to such great heights, and worst of all, not particularly bothered as to how or when it would end. Grant Morrison is a comics genius when he's fully invested in a project, and with his Multiversity on the horizon, you can tell Batman Incorporated certainly isn't where it's at any more. Time to call in the receivers. 4/10

NEW MUTANTS #36
Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Mary Wilshire & Bill Sienkiewicz
Marvel $0.75


Matt C: Now this is more like it. This Secret Wars II tie-in instantly feels meatier, the stakes seem so much higher, and there’s the sense that things could fall apart for the team at any given moment. The introduction of the Beyonder, the omnipotent being that first brought a group of heroes and villains to duke it out on a faraway planet before heading to Earth, is handled well by Claremont, and even though he appears briefly, his presence is felt throughout, the futility of existence magnified by the realization that reality could be wiped away in an instant. The arts stronger than it has been in a while, Sienkiewicz seemingly reinvigorated by working from Wilshire’s pencils, and that cover’s far better than last issue’s – in fact, it’s one of the best of the series so far. A further indication that things maybe on an upward slope. 8/10

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