4 Aug 2013

Mini Reviews 04/08/2013

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.

COLLIDER #1
Writer: Simon Oliver
Art: Robbi Rodriguez & Rico Renzi
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Matt C: A great high concept premise that sees the existing laws of physics being thrown out the window and new ones hastily rewritten, Collider #1 is a promising debut that works because it wisely keeps things relatively intimate and character-driven at this early stage. There’s more than enough hints that the story will start expanding rapidly, but this is where Oliver eases us into this world, introduces his cast, keeping things safely on the intriguing side without the sense that he’s throwing all his ideas on the table from the beginning. There’s a great deal of energy in Rodriguez’ art, from the expressions to the panel choreography, and again there’s the feeling of an artist just skirting close to what he’ll eventually be required to produce but at the same time exhibiting the chops to suggest he’s got what it takes. Not the kind of debut that instantly knocks you for six, but probably proof that Vertigo aren’t anywhere near being the spent force in the marketplace some commentators have implied. 7/10

James R: I always think a new ongoing from Vertigo is something to celebrate, and when I saw the previews for Collider, I definitely thought it was a series with promise. The central conceit - the laws of gravity have proven to be far more flexible than we first thought and now a rescue from Federal Bureau of Physics is as common as one from the Police or Fire Service - I thought was a strong one, and rather than it being a case for a Timelord or similar, the FBP are more like overworked public servants. I also liked Robbi Roddriguez' art, which combined the fantastical with the everyday really well. However, by the end of the book I was a little underwhelmed. Some Vertigo books start with a bang - a first issue that sets up what's to come and ensures that you'll have to come back for more – but this opening chapter of was a little lo-fi,  and given the mind-expanding premise, I felt the gravity vortex the FBP deal with could have been a little more spectacular. The characters also came across as a little one-dimensional, but I appreciate that this is just the beginning and they could blossom over coming issues. Not quite the great read I hoped for, but Oliver and Rodriguez have done enough to make me come back for issue #2.  6/10

THE WAKE #3
Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Sean Murphy & Matt Hollingsworth
Vertigo $2.99

Stewart R: And so the sewerage hits the old submarine propeller and boy does it make for exciting reading in this third chapter of The Wake! It was always likely that everything was going to go sideways in such a unique and confined environment for the crew of the ghost rig, but what makes it such a tense and dramatic unfurling is the genuine sense of danger that Snyder and Murphy manage to locate and hold onto throughout. The abilities of the creature allow for some brilliant hallucination pages that Murphy and colourist Hollingsworth sow throughout - egads, a talking cardinal! - and in such a lethal position the subtle shift between reality and forced imagination kept this reader on tenterhooks with a deadly force of nature on the loose and in murderous mood. Snyder's research into the world of the oceans comes into play once again with whale song the subject of the hour and I do so enjoy the way that he manages to conjure up such interesting tales of unexplained history and phenomena. And then there's Murphy's art work which is just supreme and pushes the story on at an electric pace. Just the seven issues to go then... blimey! 9/10

James R: The third issue of The Wake is all about pace. Having set up his characters and circumstances with aplomb in the last two chapters, Scott Snyder really lets rip here, and the result is  breathless and frantic read that drips with panic and fear. As the Merman escapes, we learn that one of his strengths is secreting a venom which traps its target in a fantasy. Snyder uses this device brilliantly to wrongfoot the reader, and it also allows Murphy to have fun illustrating the desires of the cast (especially the ultra-hunter, Meeks.) With each issue Snyder keeps upping the stakes, and both he and Murphy are making this a  book that's impossible to deny. I've said before that when Snyder and Murphy join forces the outcome is always a book that feels cinematic, and that's the case here. It reads like the coolest summer blockbuster you've never seen, and in short The Wake is monstrously good.  9/10 

SEX #5
Writer: Joe Casey
Art: Piotr Kowalski & Brad Simpson
Image $2.99

Matt C: As blatantly indicated by the title, there’s a lot of provocative content to be found within the pages of Sex, but as I pointed out early on, this was not what I expected from Casey and that continues to be the case. The idea of a Batmanesque hero who’s left the cape and cowl behind but is unable to engage his more baser instincts now he has the time to do so is an incredibly strong one, and Casey’s slowburn approach is beginning to pay dividends. Another potent theme coming through is the effects of the aging process on those who may have spent their youthful nights either fighting or engaging in superpowerd crime, and although it’s a secondary concern at this stage it proves to be a great accompaniment to the central theme of stepping back from an ethos that has supported you for so long (and how coping mechanisms may not be enough to get by). The art capably conveys the lurid aspects as well as the feeling of disconnection, and all I need now is someone to explain their theory of why certain words are being colour-highlighted in the text (somebody must have figured it out, surely!). You will have seen a number of analogues of Batman in comics before, but it’s highly unlikely you’ve seen the concept approached like this. 8/10

X-MEN #3
Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales & Laura Martin
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Three-part arcs are a curious beast and the way in which this one wraps up is curious indeed. The action at the school as Arkea wreaks havoc thanks to infecting the Danger Room protocol allows Wood to expand on the cast of young mutants and give them a bit more personality while providing Coipel the chance to deliver some explosive visuals, albeit a little understated for his usual high standards. When we get to the core team of Storm et al tracking down Arkea with Sublime things start to unravel a little though and something just feels off with the pacing. The jumping back and forth between Westchester and Budapest becomes a touch confusing and for the moment I will have to just assume that the confusion is part of a larger plot premise and things will become clearer as the series progresses. The villain potential in the sibling rivalry of Sublime and Arkea is too big for this to be the end of matters and I get the feeling that Wood must be playing the long game. It's a shame that this is underwhelming as a single issue goes, but I have faith that this particular writer has laid some decent groundwork for the future. 6/10

DAREDEVIL #29
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Javier Rodriguez & Alvaro Lopez
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: This volume of Daredevil has been a critically acclaimed favourite since it first appeared in 2011 but during the whole Marvel NOW! brouhaha last year it kind of got a little overshadowed by the big name relaunches that were understandably grabbing everyone’s attention. Daredevil carried on doing its own thing, almost oblivious to what was happening elsewhere, and while that meant it probably lost out on column inches back then, its consistent level of quality has meant that when things quietened down it began standing out of the pack again. Waid continues to construct meticulous plotlines that encompass, superheroics, courtroom antics, personal drama, absorbing mystery, clever misdirection and brilliant use of the Big Apple backdrop, and even what an initially appeared to be a self-contained two-parter (brilliant illustrated by Rodriguez) plants some seeds for what looks like the next major story arc. Daredevil has been one of Marvel’s best series for the last couple of years and as long as Waid sticks around I can’t see that changing any time soon. 8/10

NEW MUTANTS #40
Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Jackson Guice, Kyle Baker & Michelle Wrightson
Marvel $0.75

Matt C: A decent Barry Windsor Smith cover gives a good indication of what’s going to happen this issue (and it does indeed feature an appearance of not only Captain America but the rest of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes) but what it doesn’t indicate is just how successfully Claremont subverts the expected status quo when the fists start flying. It’s been a little bit hard to swallow Magneto’s reformation up to this point, considering his actions in the past, but here, when he’s doing something purely out concern for others only to be attacked by a team of supposedly morally superior do-gooders, you can’t help but root for him all the way, while the Avengers wading in without properly assessing the situation only serves to undermine them (for this guest appearance only, of course!). The art team changes again, with Jackson Guice (more commonly known to contemporary audiences as Butch) making a welcome appearance, his style much more in keeping with the visual template Sienkiewicz laid down some 20 issues ago. Not so long ago I was thinking of quite my New Mutants project if things hadn’t turned around by #40. Now I’ve reached that instalment I can confirm not only is the series most definitely back on the right track but it’s now arguably the best it’s ever been. 8/10

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