28 Jul 2013

Mini Reviews 28/07/2013

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.

HAWKEYE ANNUAL #1
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Javier Pulido & Matt Hollingsworth
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: Kate Bishop has been an integral part of Hawkeye from the get go, so it’s only fitting that she get her chance to shine in the spotlight, and Fraction dutifully provides her with that chance here in this is witty, sprightly one-off adventure. Spinning out of the events of Hawkeye issues #4 and #5 this sees Kate escaping the mess Clint’s making of his life for a jaunt to L.A. only to find herself being pursued by Madame Masque who’s hellbent on revenge. Fraction has injected this character with a cool sassiness that’s helped define her in the last year or so, and he knows exactly how to make her consistently endearing page after page. There’s a dash of the pop art brilliance of Darwyn Cooke to be found in Pulido’s illustrations, although he has plenty of tricks of his own up his sleeve, and he takes a similarly inventive approach to David Aja for his panel designs (although he possibly overplays the silhouette card). If you’re even thinking anything along the lines of “This is an annual – do I really need it?” then the answer is a resounding “YES!” because all you love about the monthly series can be found right here too. 8/10

MIND MGMT #13
Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Matt Kindt
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: One of the toughest challenges reviewing things on a regular basis is avoiding repetition. I'll often read a comic which I think is great, but when it comes to singing its praises, I think "I can't just write 'This is good. Again.' - there needs to be something new here!" And that's how it's been for the last six months of Mind MGMT - Matt Kindt hasn't put a foot wrong for me in his psy-espionage series, and it remains one of my top three books. This month though, he gives new readers a great jumping on point while showing what makes this book so great and unique. The narrative shifts away from Henry Lyme's shadowy conflict with Mind MGMT, and focuses on one of the organisation's sleeper agents, residing in a bland suburban existence. It's magnificent to watch Kindt 'wake up' this sleeper, not with a single word, but with a subliminal TV ad, which slowly causes the agent to unleash a wave of violence and murder. As usual, the writer/artist packs his pages with detail, the story spilling out into margins around the panels, and there’s another enthralling short story in the back. Kindt continues to take familiar tropes from the world of conspiracy theories and twist them into a compelling narrative, and with this series he has cemented his place as one of the most remarkable creators in comics. If you haven't signed up to Mind MGMT yet, this is the issue to do it from. 10/10

LAZARUS #2
Written by: Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark & Santi Arcus
Image Comics $2.99

James R: Over the last few months, I've seen a couple or articles from broadsheet newspapers in this country bemoaning that the summer's movie releases have been dominated by 'comic movies'. I have to chuckle at the usual journalistic myopia as for many journalists it seems that comics must only feature superheroes. If they picked up Lazarus, they would see that the sophistication of mainstream books now outstrips a lot of what passes for entertainment in TV and film. Lazarus started strongly last month, and builds to new levels of greatness with issue #2. Rucka presents the family dynamics of the ultra-powerful Carlyle clan, and as Forever Carlyle sets out on a mission to meet the rival Morray family we get to see more of the broken post-capitalist future of Lazarus. The writer Philip K. Dick once said that the hardest part of constructing any imaginary world was creating one that 'didn't fall apart in an afternoon' - it has to be one which is consistent and has a degree of reality to it. The world of Lazarus is so well realised, it's a joy to behold, and it has the feeling of quality that you'd get from a HBO show. (I'd go so far as to suggest that it's picked up this mantle from Matt C's past favourite, Scalped.) This is an amazing book from first page until last, and with Rucka and Lark at the top of their game, it's one that everyone with a love of sophisticated storytelling should read. 9/10

WILD BLUE YONDER #2
Writers: Mike Raicht, Zach Howard & Austin Harrison
Art: Zach Howard & Nelson Daniel
IDW $3.99

Matt C: Because nobody’s ever thought of saying anything along these lines, let me be the first to say it: if you were to look up the definition of ‘rip-roaring’ in the dictionary then you’d find a picture of the cover of Wild Blue Yonder #2. Okay, I admit that’s a terrible cliché to use, and I really ought to be ashamed of myself, but what the hell, this series is turning out to be such tremendous fun if I have to use a terrible cliché to convey that fact then so be it! The script and art mesh in such a perfect way that it’s impossible not to get caught up in the unfolding high-flying adventure, and even though some plot beats are well-worn, when they’re employed with such an astute sense of narrative structure they are a welcome sight whenever they appear. Classic pulp storytelling told with an infectious gusto that’ll have you eager to get your hands on the next instalment. 9/10

THE BOUNCE #3
Writer: Joe Casey
Art: David Messina & Giovanna Niro
Image $2.99

James R: There's something about The Bounce that I'm continuing to love. With any book from Joe Casey you expect an innovative take on the themes that resonate through superhero comics, and he excels himself here. On the surface, Casey has established a world where super-powered people are emerging from a parallel dimension, and his storytelling nous keeps the narrative moving at pace, but what's more interesting here is the theme of identity. It seems that beyond Jasper Jenkins/Bounce everyone in this title has an alter ego or a secret identity. I love the idea that everyone has a hidden side that's different to that which we portray to the world. This obviously isn't a new idea, but as usual with Casey's work it's delivered with aplomb, and is illustrated nicely by David Messina. Given his two Image titles at the moment, I think this has definitely got the edge over Sex, and I look forward to seeing what heights the bounce can reach. 8/10

NEW MUTANTS #39
Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Keith Pollard, Dell Barras & Glynis Oliver
Marvel $0.75

Matt C: A terrific cover from Art Adams leads into another solid issue continuing what may well be the strongest arc in the series yet. Emma Frost has got her hands on the New Mutants, absorbed them into her Hellions, but isn’t quite prepared for just how ingrained their affliction has become following the Beyonder’s meddling. A lot of strong character work here, particularly when Magneto flips his lid, but perhaps the art of Keith Pollard is a bit too jarring for this chapter to hit home as well as the previous couple. There’s nothing wrong with what he’s doing here, but it’s far cleaner than we’ve come to expect from this book, and is more reminiscent of the earlier issues before Sienkiewicz came along to shake things up visually. A minor gripe really, as it’s quite clear things been have turned around for the better. 7/10

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