18 Aug 2013

Mini Reviews 17/08/2013

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.

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Jim Cheung, Mark Morales, John Livesay, David Meikis & Justin Ponsor
Marvel $4.99

Stewart R: While other promising and 'top' talents at Marvel have failed to convert their obvious gifts at writing ongoing titles into pure success, when it comes to scripting and directing the publisher's summer tent-pole fare Jonathan Hickman has always seemed capable of accomplishing that which has evaded his peers. Judging by this oversized debut, I'd say that we could be in for six issues (before we even count the Avengers and New Avengers chapters that will add to the Infinity fun) of the best event storytelling for quite some time. Hickman manages to drag the audience - rather willingly - from one side of the galaxy to the other, showing us very different pieces of an almighty puzzle as he does so. A brief recount of the Illuminati's clandestine actions is followed by a reprint of the excellent Free Comic Book Day teaser before we get into the truly new material which highlights the multiple threats each making their way to Earth. The devastation on Galador - superbly rendered by Cheung as the Alephs go about razing that world at the behest of the Builders - leads us back to Hickman's work at the beginning of his Avengers series, before we then tie up with the team themselves back on Earth, discussing plans on how to avert the approaching catastrophe. There's a hair-raising sense of cinematic intensity to this whole book as we jump between the various locales, each vignette oozing with seeming importance and teasing that this is just where the carnage begins. Hickman is a master at writing plots that utilise 'wheels within wheels' and everything here just has me itching to see what surprises he brings and how we might be side-swiped by something we hadn't picked up on the first time around. This is epic storytelling at its finest and long may it last. 10/10

Matt C: Judging by this first issue, Infinity shows a heck of a lot of promise. Generally with these Marvel event books you can expect a really nifty high concept that grabs your attention immediately but when it comes around to the execution - and particularly the resolution - the results are sorely lacking. This feels different. For a start, it's not quite clear at this stage what Thanos' intentions are; he's planning something, Earth's obviously going to be the battleground, but what exactly he has planned has yet to be revealed. There are a lot of elements in play, many that have been building up through the pages of writer Jonathan Hickman's Avengers and New Avengers, even going as far back as his work on Fantastic Four. It has that ominous, epic sweep you want from this kind of thing but it also gives the impression that it won’t be superficial and ultimately inconsequential; basically, it feels like it will matter (as much as these things can in the grand scheme of things). Cheung's art is beautifully polished, some dynamic, widescreen images giving the sense of scale required, and of particular note is his design for the Outriders: glossy, sleek and feral. It's a bumper read that easily justifies the $4.99 pricetag, and while I wonder whether anyone not familiar with recent events in the Avengers books will get a proper handle on what's going on, it's a handsomely mounted treat for anyone who is. 8/10

James R: Huge, in every sense of the word! Marvel's big event book arrives with all guns blazing. A big page-count, a bigger price tag and, as you'd expect from Jonathan Hickman, huge ambition. I have never been a fan of Marvel's cosmic books (as an SF novel fan, I always find the comics to be a little half-baked) but this opening chapter definitely pulled me in. Anyone who picked up the Free Comic Book Day preview book will be familiar with the opening, as we get a reprint of that freebie before getting into the tale proper, a plot featuring Thanos and the Builders (previously appearing in Hickman's Avengers). Add to this a whopping dollop of intrigue involving everyone's favourite small-talker, Black Bolt. As a now well-seasoned and grizzled comic reader, there's two things I hate about event books: when they fizzle out into inconsequence (yes, I'm looking at you Secret Invasion) and when they spin off into a thousand titles. At this early stage, I think Hickman is avoiding these pitfalls - there are tie-ins, but the checklist at the back seems to be pretty clear in showing you just need to be getting Hickman's Avengers books to keep pace. Hickman also makes a canny nod to the inevitable victory of Marvel's heroes - "On Earth, even the darkest night always yields to day" - before showing how he's going to get around this issue. All in all, a suitably blockbuster opening that shows this event has promise - and it's refreshing to write that given the Big Two's recent form. 8/10

Writer: Dan Boultwood Esq.
Art: Dan Boultwood Esq.
Titan Comics $3.99

Stewart R: Gambling. If you're a comic reader in search of new titles and talent, gambling is part of the hobby. Sometimes you lose and you feel like you've just walked away with three to four dollars' worth of disappointment and second hand paper, but sometimes, just sometimes you hit the ruddy jackpot. It Came! well and truly fits into the latter category. This is a terrific, tongue-firmly-in-cheek poke at B-movie science fiction cinema of the 1950s along with British and gender stereotypes of the time. The cocksure and chauvinistic Dr. Boy Brett and his female companion Doris are driving through the countryside when they stop at a small town to indulge in a Ploughman's luncheon only to discover the place abandoned and something sinister prowling the streets. Cue chaos and dollops of brilliantly clichéd dialogue that had me chuckling page after page. Boultwood's script is great fun, but it's the combination of this with his sublime visual touch that elevates this to unmissable status. There's a stylised, cartoon edge to his illustrations with an appreciation for panel layout, slapstick and close repetition that had me drawing comparison to the work of Goscinny and Uderzo. Hunt this down at your LCBS as I suspect it may build a following quite quickly. 9/10

Writer: Jonathan HIckman
Art: Nick Dragotta & Frank Martin
Image Comics $3.50

James R: This week, most of the attention will quite rightly be on Jonathan Hickman's bumper-size first chapter of Infinity, and that is a fine comic, but for me, his best work this week comes in East Of West, which spectacularly graduates from 'Bubbling along nicely' to "Magical' with one confident leap. If you're a regular reader of comics and reviews, then you'll know the well-worn thinking on Hickman - brilliant at Big Ideas, sometime light on characterisation, and a tendency to deliver the stunning or the underwhelming, with nothing inbetween. With East Of West, it's terrific to see him start to defy these clichés, and with the exceptional work of Nick Dragotta, produce a superb book. After four issues where Hickman did the usual - introduce his parallel Earth with broad strokes and hints of mystery - in this issue he brings everything into focus. The relationship between Death and Xiaolian serves as the narrative hub, and in finding out more about them we simultaneously have many questions answered, and see where this series is heading. Given his current insane schedule, I'm pleased that Hickman is keeping his numerous plates spinning successfully, but with East Of West, he's now really surpassing himself. Infinity may be the big 'blockbuster' treat this week, but East Of West is the book for the comic connoisseur. 9/10

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

Matt C: This book kind of operates in its own pocket universe within the overall Marvel Universe, and any other character that has the misfortune of finding themselves alongside the Merc with the Mouth is fair game for ridicule and pratfalls. For the majority of its run the hit rate for the gags, which come thick and fast, has been fairly high. This issue builds on the events of last month's faux 'inventory issue', dealing with the reappearance of super-powered pimp, the White Man. There are some decent jokes - many playing on the villain's name - but this is one of those occasions where too many of them fall flat, like the writers have run out of gas and are hoping momentum will carry them through. Koblish gets the lunacy down on the page and it's still perfectly readable, but I can honestly say if there were many issues like this in a row I’d probably have to say my farewells. Hopefully it won't come to that. 6/10

Writer: Steve Niles
Art: Dave Wachter
Dark Horse $3.99

Stewart R: As predicted in my review of issue #2, this finale focusses on the titular Golem's initial attack on the German forces that are threatening the small Jewish town that the young Noah calls home. The premise now set, this is the explosive pay off that allows Wachter the chance to cut loose and depict the fight between Panzer tanks and animated clay monolith. The way that the artist sets the impressive beast amongst the twee surrounds of the village and countryside helps to build an idea of what strength the Nazis are about to bear witness to and once the forces meet head on there are some awesome individual panels that capture the action in bold grayscale. For his part, Niles winds things up with a nice line on loss, acceptance and the constant struggle between good and evil found in the hearts of mankind and this will undoubtedly make for a collected trade paperback that's worth a look if you see it on the shelf. 8/10

Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Greg Capullo & Danny Miki
DC $3.99

James R: Snyder and Capullo's reworking of the Batman mythos continues with the skill and quality that we've come to expect from DC's A-Team. (And as an aside, I know it's their premier book, but kudos to being one of the only remaining teams from the New 52 still working on in perfect harmony on the same book - I think it speaks volumes about their talent on one hand and DC's editorial policy on the other). Snyder's main manoeuvre in this storyline is to tie Bruce Wayne even closer to Gotham. It's long been an accepted comics idea that Gotham and it's rogues are a response to Batman (it's even expressed in celluloid at the end of Batman Begins, of course) but Snyder goes one step further and suggests that the Red Hood Gang's mysterious leader (who I still think will be revealed as the Joker, despite the red herring in this issue) was himself inspired by the death of the Waynes. It all suggests a monstrous web of cause and effect, reminiscent of one of the Riddler's huge maps, realised in string. I'm also loving the tales of Bruce Wayne in training in the back, illustrated wonderfully by Rafael Albuquerque. I was always a fan of a 'pre-Batman' tale growing up (John Byrne's brilliant ‘Many Deaths Of The Batman’ springs immediately to mind) and I find these tales just add an nice extra layer to the issue. As a huge Bat-fan, I'm still sad that this is the only Batman title that I think is worth my cash at the moment, but it's such a strong book, as long as Snyder and Capullo are the Dynamic Duo here, I can live with just the one monthly visit to Gotham. 8/10

Writer: Simon Spurrier
Art: Jeff Stokely
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Stewart R: This continues to be a sci-fi western delight as Blue's turbulent time upon The Blister, a desolate, windswept world, inhabited by countless nasties and beset by lethal weather phenomena, gets more and more complicated. I have been enjoying the way that Spurrier has been constantly displaying the grievances that exist between those settlers on The Blister and the Earth government forces who exploited them and left them to rot; it's led to the protagonist to be reporter, propaganda pawn and bargaining chip all in one stroke. That's before we even get to the greater mysteries that Blue has become wrapped up in relating to his mission to deliver a significant trinket AND the large, furry gunslinger who keeps making a habit of coming to the young man's rescue. The interaction and growing friendship between Blue and Dora is handled well and gives Spurrier a chance to display his knowledge of Golden Age characters and works of fiction when expanding on the young Holehead's particular expertise. Stokely's hand is steady once more, varying things during the quieter contemplative moments as well as delivering frenetic action. Consistent and entertaining, what more could you ask for? 8/10

Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Jackson Guice, Kyle Baker & Elaine Lee
Marvel $0.75

Matt C: Following on from last issue’s spotlight on Dani Moonstar, this time around it's the turn of Sam Guthrie aka Cannonball. His rustic background loads him up with certain cornpone characteristics but he's always come across as a bit too squeaky clean for my liking, which makes his relationship with dimension-hopping pop star Lila Cheney very difficult to buy into. It doesn't help that there's some rather obvious similarities with what Dani went through in the preceding instalment (the resentment of someone they were close to in the past) making this a somewhat redundant and ineffective tale, something that could have had more impact if it appeared further down the line. It's an okay read, Guice's art is decent, but hopefully we'll get back to some team-based adventures soon. 6/10


Badger said...

Infinity,what can I say but this "This is how you do an event comic Mr Bendis".All the reviews here are spot on with what makes this comic so good,I just hope it doesn't go tits up like so many of Marvel's so called event comics have,but I doubt it will
with Mr Hickman writing it.So a little advice to Mr Bendis "Go take writing lessons from Mr Hickman".
As for It Came what a great bonkers comic this is,it has that good old
British stiff up lip feel to it with the main character and such a joy to read.Breath Of Bones was just fantastic and I must admit I have a soft spot for anything about Jewish people and their history.Sad not to see a review thou of what I consider to be the best book of the year so far and that's Herobear And The Kid,I brought the trade of this comic when it first came out a few years back and I just had to buy it again as a comic,this truly is a comic worth your money about a boy and his toy bear that becomes Herobear and their amazing adventures,so if you want to go back to your childhood this is the comic to buy,now all I need is Disney to make this into a movie.

Andy C said...

Totally agree, Infinity got off to a great start and it may even be worth reading the remaining issues!