21 Jul 2013

Mini Reviews 21/07/2013

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.

SCARLET #7
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Alex Maleev
Marvel/Icon $3.95

Matt C: Observation #1: Scarlet is the best thing Bendis has turned his scribing pen to in a good long while. Observation #2: the delays and erratic release scheduling are seriously hampering the momentum of an otherwise very fine series. It’s that momentum that's at the core of the narrative as it builds on Scarlet’s escalating revolutionary antics, but it’s hard to sustain it when the reader is trying to recall what happen in the last issue that appeared five months ago. It’s still a daring comic that reminds you of Bendis in his heyday, when the likes of Alias, Powers and Daredevil where at the top of everyone’s must-read lists, but the writer is more preoccupied these days with what's going on in the X-Universe and beyond to prioritise this. Understandable, as that’s where the larger audience (and larger pay packet) is, but there are probably a lot of us who wished it was the other way round. The art from Maleev is as mesmerising as ever, but the missing ingredient right now is a regular schedule to get things moving again. 7/10

NOVA #6
Writer: Zeb Wells
Art: Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco & David Curiel
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Zeb Wells has stated that he wants to remain incredibly faithful to the groundwork that Jeff Loeb laid down in his first five issues. Coming in as a new reader who only briefly flicked through preceding chapters I can understand why this then comes in as a subtle, slow-burning instalment which clearly defines the status quo for this young character and promises adventure to come down the road. Wells focusses on Sam’s return to Arizona living, what his new powers mean in terms of his home life, and how being turned into a Nova Corpsman changes little about his various character flaws and his youthful impatience. There’s some grin-worthy comedy, a good line about the hard choice and trying to avoid having to make it in the first place as well as a brief look at outside perception and the legacy of our parents. Medina does a good job of varying his panels and layouts to keep the slower pacing of the issue interesting visually and there’s no doubt that he’ll be on top of his game when the action arrives next month. Not a blazing start for the Human Rocket, but there’s definitely fuel in the tank. 7/10

DREAM THIEF #3
Writer: Jai Nitz
Art: Greg Smallwood
Dark Horse $3.99

Matt C: Another murderous mystery for John Lincoln as he wakes next to a new corpse, the spirits of the recently departed having possessed him again to extract vengeance. This is the kind of tale that could be approached from variety of angles, and a tonal shift in another direction could have resulted in a completely different comic book. For me, Nitz and Smallwood have chosen exactly the right way to go, a dark, gritty and violent tale that scrapes alongside the criminal underworld, pulling in a succession of individuals whose lives are swamped by sordid secrets. Smallwood’s art reflects the murky morals displayed by Nitz’s script, but also captures the thrill Lincoln feels through the vicarious revenge he’s extracting. A compulsive, absorbing read that has flashes of wit in its otherwise mean and moody core, and one of the best unexpected discoveries of 2013. 8/10

100 BULLETS: BROTHER LONO #2
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Eduardo Risso & Patricia Mulvihill
DC/Vertigo Comics $2.99

James R: How much can a man fully change? Can he ever escape his past? Two issues into Brother Lono and the themes that Brian Azzarello is adding to his usual mix of crime and greed come to the surface. After last month's strong opening, things really hit their stride here, and there's no doubt that Azzarello and Risso are back to their best. We're still not told quite how Lono escaped the finale of 100 Bullets, but we do see the immediate aftermath, with a moribund Lono finding solace in the town of Durango. It's a town made up of some very mean streets, and the temptation for Lono to return to his old ways is ever-present. But can he resist his instincts? It's a compelling idea, and it's great to see that Azzarello hasn't just decided to do another 100 Bullets tale for the sake of it, but to actually push this character onwards and add a new layer of depth to a man who started out as a one-note killing machine. The art is equally beautiful: Risso rivals Mike Mignola in understanding the use of darkness as a contrast in comics, and as with Spaceman, Patricia Mulvihill's colours add a beautiful sheen to the book. This was the title that grabbed my attention and dragged me into its grimy world the best this week, and if you're a lover of Criminal in the world of comics, or Breaking Bad and Sons Of Anarchy on TV, then you should track down Brother Lono as soon as possible. You don't need to have read 100 Bullets to enjoy this tale, but you'll probably want to after reading this! 9/10

DEADPOOL #13
Writers: Gerry Duggan & Brian Posehn
Art: Scott Koblish & Val Staples
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: More ‘from the vaults’ shenanigans as we zip back to the ‘70s again to watch an afroed Deadpool attempt to hook up with Luke Cage and Iron Fist for some Heroes For Hire action, with predictably chaotic results. If you enjoyed the last faux ‘inventory issue’ back in April then this will no doubt tickle the funny bone for you again as it’s blatantly clear that Duggan and Posehn love taking these affectionately irreverent detours into the past, and while the gag rate isn’t quite as successfully high as issue #7, there are still plenty of laughs to be had. Koblish and Staples replicate and then exaggerate the period setting to hilarious effect, loading the panels up with some fantastic visual jokes, the highlight being the ridiculously unsubtle ‘love scene’. Thirteen issues in and I’m still down with this book, something I would have never imagined would be the case, even a year ago! 8/10

GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #22
Writer: Justin Jordan
Art: Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy & Wil Quintana
DC $2.99

Stewart R: A glowing start and positive review to usher in the start of a new era is one thing, but then you have to capitalise on that fine beginning and solidify from there. Jordan and the artistic team definitely do that in Green Lantern: New Guardians #22! While this is certainly an action and spectacle-heavy issue, it’s crystal clear that Jordan is building upon the new characters involved and strengthening his vision of the familiar participants like Kyle and Carol at the same time. Paalko and the other ‘New’ Guardians are thankfully coming across as simple, curious and caring beings, free of the paranoia and patronising air that came with their deceased brethren, and it is their involvement that helps to define the threat that Relic poses. Exeter has been a fine addition to the cast and while simple and certainly nothing new, his participation in the rescue that takes place demonstrates a writer thinking every step of the way. Walker and the art team once again deliver a damn fine looking 20-pager, fitting an awful lot onto each page, yet managing to maintain a decent sense of scale at the same time. 8/10

AVENGERS #16
Writers: Jonathan Hickman & Nick Spencer
Art: Stefano Caselli & Frank Martin
Marvel Comics $3.99

James R: With each passing issue of the Avengers you can feel the pieces being moved into place for the big upcoming Infinity event. I'd normally find this an annoying distraction, but with Jonathan Hickman on white-hot form at the moment it's a treat to watch him juggle the elements he's introduced over the last 15 issues and leave me wanting more. So, taking a deep breath, in this issue we get: more cosmic powers with Starbrand, Captain Universe and Manifold's stellar expedition, Hulk, well, Hulking out at the S.H.I.E.L.D. observation station, and the main Avengers team locked in combat in Perth. This is proper widescreen comics stuff, and it’s definitely one book I don't object to paying $3.99 for as it's packed not only with events but with ideas too. The final page was a tad overblown for me, but apart from that once again this is superhero comics done right - epic scale, big ideas, and a tonne of fun to read. 8/10

ALL-NEW X-MEN #14
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger & Marte Gracia
Marvel Comics $3.99

James R: After dropping Uncanny X-Men last week I'm now regarding All-New X-Men with a cynical eye. However, I have to hold up my hand and say that All-New X-Men is definitely the stronger of the Bendis X-books. It's not without flaws, and my toes curled in embarrassment at the 'Summers Brothers high five' moment, a panel that would have been more at home in an episode of the O.C. rather than an X-book, but at least Bendis kept things in focus. The core of this issue is the mental duel between Jean Grey and Lady Mastermind, and Stuart Immonen does a brilliant job of keeping the reader as wrong-footed as the pugilists. I'm still unhappy with how long the original X-men being in the modern day has rumbled on for too long (though I'm relieved that Jason Aaron seems to be putting the storyline to bed with the upcoming ‘Battle of the Atom’ event.) It's never quite hit the heights that Avengers has of late, nor does it have the smarts of Hawkeye or Daredevil, but I can't lie - it remains a good read. I can't help but think that this title could be even better given Immonen's talent, but for now All-New X-Men gets a stay of execution. 7/10

NEW MUTANTS #38
Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Rick Leonardi, Bill Sienkiewicz & Glynis Oliver
Marvel $0.75

Matt C: Last issue the team were killed off by the Beyonder only to be resurrected in the final instalment of the Secret Wars II miniseries. Rather than sweep it all under the rug and crack on with a fresh storyline, Claremont wisely elects to build on the aftermath, focusing on the mental state of the teen mutants who all have clear memories of what’s occurred. We now have a group of kids wandering around in a vaguely catatonic state, resigned to the fact that life’s something that can be snuffed out in an instant, and having experienced it themselves there’s little motivation to carry on beyond a functional level. Magneto desperately tries to draw them out of their communal funk, but his doubts over his ability to replace Charles Xavier are consuming him, doubts that may well have been amplified by external forces. Guest artist Leonardi does a fine job conveying the emotionally withdrawn mutants, with Sienkiewicz and Oliver on hand to provide the visual consistency. Another quality episode of a title that appears to have rediscovered its mojo. 8/10

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