25 Aug 2013

Mini Reviews 25/08/2013

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.

AVENGERS #18
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Lenil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan & Sunny Gho
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: This follows on nicely from Infinity #1 with a handful of Avengers joining up with the Galactic Council to repel the invaders, further pushing the storyline onto a broad cosmic canvas. A good chunk of the issue is taken up with the Skrulls marshalling their warring factions together to present a unified front to the Council, realising their squabbles mean nothing when faced with the extinction of their race. I never used to get on with Yu’s art but I’ve warmed to it a lot over the last couple of years - either his style has evolved more to my liking or I’ve started looking at it differently, more appreciatively – and here he captures the drama of the unfolding conflict with explosive skill, expertly translating the tension Hickman ratchets up in his script (credit goes to Alanguilan and Gho for assisting in creating the overall effect, of course). Still early days, but with Hickman in control of the three main titles involved in this event it’s looking like we may be set for a cohesive, intelligent cosmic storyline that could actually deliver on its potential. 8/10

Stewart R: From Hickman’s structured chart that appeared in Infinity #1 last week it was clear that both of his regular Avengers titles would be truly worth picking up to follow the wider picture of this conflict and by the stars does this latest issue feel epic. Predominantly following Captain America’s frontline force of Avengers jetting out into the deeper reaches of the galaxy to stand with the other worlds and empires of the Galactic Council, this feels operatic and fraught with danger. That’s quite a feat following years and years of such events and threats from the deepest cosmos appearing like clockwork each and every year, yet it seems to just be Hickman’s fine grasp on how to kick an event on, allow each character to contribute, yet rarely dominate and allow the chaos of scale to truly strike awe in the reader. Yu proves to be a perfect fit for this barnstorming issue, capturing alien landscapes and solar system vistas with finesse and ensuring that there’s tension spread across the faces of the terrifically varied cast. Infinity was unmissable last week and this isn’t far off either to be honest. 9/10

THE BOUNCE #4
Writer: Joe Casey
Art: David Messina & Giovanna Niro
Image $2.99

James R: Sometimes you just have to go with your gut. I picked up some great books this week, but when it came to picking out my book of the week I went for the title that ticked all the boxes that constitute a great book for me. Intelligence? Definitely. Story? For sure. Great art? Yep - this is a handsome title, with David Messina's pencils given an extra dimension by Giovanna Niro's colours. In total, this is Joe Casey at his best. Having established his world where superpowers are bleeding through from another dimension, he gives a masterclass this month in juggling plot, characterisation and ideas. While Jasper Jenkins (who really channels a certain webslinger with great effect in here) deals with a misunderstood opponent, we learn more of the mysterious Darling's scheme to utilise the portal between dimensions. I personally loved seeing Casey namedrop Vernon Vinge and the concept of the Singularity, but I wouldn't expect anything else from a writer of Casey's calibre. This issue is a real controlled burn: there's a perfect mixture of forward narrative motion and development of the world of The Bounce, and as you can probably guess, when I got to the last page I was definitely hungry for more. If last year's excellent Butcher Baker was a Joe Casey comic that read like a series of neat shots, The Bounce (and his concurrent Sex) is more like a cocktail - the same heady brew, but mixed together in a much smoother blend. This is superhero comics for a more discerning readership, and a class act all round. 9/10

DAREDEVIL #30
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Chris Samnee & Javier Rodriguez
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Even an issue that feels like it could even be considered as ‘filler’ in the Daredevil series is more than likely to be worth a read thanks to the high quality, consistent input of Mark Waid and this is no exception ladies and gentlemen. The Silver Surfer may on first appearances seem a bit out of place on the cover, but Waid sticks to his guns and shows us once again that he could pretty much bring any character to this title and make it work. The wielder of the Power Cosmic does play his part in a neat little intergalactic felon chase and Ru’Ach proves to be an interesting new character - Waid details his powers as the plot progresses and Samnee gets to display just how Daredevil and the Surfer’s senses differ when trying to comprehend this strange being. We get to see Matt cut loose and have a bit of fun for once which is a really nice touch that helps balance the turbulent time that he’s been having trying to be a rock to his friends and superhero to the city in recent months. The greater triumph at the end of it is to see how Waid fashions the seemingly simple and non-personal events that Matt gets involved in to then pierce home right into his heart with the smallest of touches. 8/10

BATMAN AND NIGHTWING #23
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, Mark Irwin & John Kalisz
DC $2.99

Stewart R: And so this wagon carrying Bruce's grief continues onwards along the bumpy road. I'll admit that while I am a big fan of Tomasi's writing and his work with these characters I've been finding it increasingly hard in recent months to justify Batman And... (insert sidekick/confidant name here) making it onto my pull-list. I believe that's down to the 'one-shot' nature of these chapters with a vaguely intangible, overriding premise - Batman working through his grief - and the destination - the point where he might just be able to accept the loss of his son - seeming so far away. Thankfully this issue appears to show the light at the end of the tunnel as the eldest Boy Wonder returns to lend an ear and offer support for his mentor and friend. Having not followed Grant Morrison's Batman Inc. and the actual end of Damian under his hand (although I am aware of the details) this helps to summarise the incident and, as per usual for the masterful Tomasi, focus on the emotional waves crashing all over the place. If Gleason had been illustrating Batman Inc. I might have had more interest for Morrison’s controversial work and he does a fine job of summarising and adding his own visceral touches to what is a brutal recreation. If that whirlwind wasn’t enough, Tomasi turns around and finally shows us all what we’ve suspected for so long in terms of those grieving for the loss of Damian and as I sit typing here and thinking back to those pages I find myself getting emotional at the thought of the scene. A superb $2.99 grab at the heart indeed. 8/10

X-MEN #4
Writer: Brian Wood
Art: David Lopez & Cris Peter
Marvel $3.99

James R: You've probably heard it being (rightfully) said that we're currently living through a golden age of TV, with our Stateside cousins producing some of the finest drama seen in any medium for many years. As I read X-Men this week, I couldn't help but be reminded of these shows as Brian Wood's writing gives us a comic with a distinctly episodic feel. That's certainly no bad thing, because as usual his writing is top-notch. After the full-on opening arc, this issue is a welcome change of pace. One story sees Logan accompany Jubilee around the LA of her youth as she comes to terms with being a mother, while Storm, Rogue, Rachel Grey and Psylocke deal with a crashing 747 with Storm and Rachel Grey working out the power politics between them. A more cynical reader could say that this was just a filler issue with 'Battle of the Atom' imminent, but Wood makes this a compelling read, grounding everything with a reality sorely missing from Bendis' X-books. The series has had a strong start and as long as Brian Wood is on this title I certainly will be too. 8/10

Matt C: I’m still getting a nostalgic buzz from this series as it reminds me in all the ways that count of the late ‘80s iteration of Uncanny X-Men when Claremont had the X-Women ruling the roost. That’s around the time when I started getting obsessive about US comic books in a big way, so anything that has me recollecting about that period (particularly if you’re front-loading a team with Storm, Rogue and Psylocke) is alright by me. Nostalgia’s only a small part of it, because nostalgia will only get you so far; yes, it reminds me of what I consider a golden period in the history of Marvel’s mutants, but it’s not just the cast the Wood’s chosen for the series but the way he absolutely nails the characterization, mixing in credible soapy drama amongst exhilarating action setpieces. Lopez takes over from Coipel and does an excellent job of ensuring the emotions of the characters remain prominent and visible through the more dynamic sequences, and while I’m not sure how the artist roster is set for the series, I’d certainly like to see him back again. There are unquestionably too many X-books on the market right now, and some have a higher profile than others due to the creative teams and more showy plotlines, but for my money, right now, X-Men is where it’s at. 8/10

SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #3
Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Jim Lee, Alex Sinclair & Jeromy Cox
DC $3.99

James R: One of the great problems for Superman writers is: how do you make him vulnerable? There are two classic responses - you either introduce an element that knocks Kal-El down a peg or two or you introduce someone even stronger than him. Scott Snyder has gone with the latter in Superman Unchained as this month we learn that Superman's mysterious fellow alien refugee - whom we now know is codenamed 'Wraith' - is certainly more than a match for the Man of Steel. Snyder does a good job at making the relationship between the two an uneasy one - Wraith claims that he has fought in a clandestine manner alongside Superman, but it's clear that he's far from an ally. There’s a remarkable sequence in the middle of this issue where Snyder puts forward the idea that in the DCU, Wraith (and perhaps others) have been secretly acting behind the scenes during some of humanity's pivotal moments in the 20th century. This isn't a new idea certainly, but it's great to see such a sophisticated idea in a blockbuster book. Following on from this, we then get General Lane's view that Superman isn't a hero, but a coward - a hero who performs grandstanding tasks but is unwilling to get his hands dirty and do the deeds that would really improve the world. Now, given my philosophical leanings, I loved this idea, which is an alternate take on the ethical question - should you use torture to save a life? It's great to see ideas like this being used in the most mainstream book imaginable, and I'm pleased to say that this still remains exactly the sort of Superman book I want. 8/10

GREAT PACIFIC #9
Writer: Joe Harris
Art: Martin Morazzo & TIZA Studio
Image $2.99

Stewart R: Some of the reasons I had contemplated letting this title fall from my pull-list still remain at this time - despite the small cast I’m still not always sure of who some characters are supposed to be - and yet it still remains at this time. Certainly this issue goes some way to convince me once again to plug on as Joe Harris starts to expand on many of the logistical and political problems that Chas faces in trying to get his fledgling nation into a secure and successful position. I really did enjoy the way that this particular instalment was built up, leading us one way on certain ethical points, then in the complete opposite direction only to leave us as seemingly lost and confused as the protagonist at the very end. That may not sell it terrifically well but I believe Harris is trying to show us how daunting a task leading a new nation can be and this allows us to share in Chas’s predicament. The way that this is left also raises some questions on where this troubled leader’s journey may be taking him and I’m more convinced now that I’ll be sticking around to find out. 7/10

NEW MUTANTS #43
Writers: Chris Claremont
Art: Steve Purcell, Whilce Portacio & Glynis Oliver
Marvel $0.75

Matt C: After a couple of issues focusing on individual team members we get the whole team back together this time, including the return of Robert Da Costa, the tempestuous (and rather wearisome) Sunspot. He’s barely back for five minutes before he’s convincing the others to go on a misguided revenge mission with the Hellion’s Empath as their target. We get the usual moralising about how beating down the bully means you’re no better than them, but it works for the most part thanks to the history between these characters. A guest art team do a serviceable job but the lack of consistency on the illustrative front is a tad annoying (although hopefully that’ll be resolved soon) and while the last two issues haven’t been up to the standard of the batch that proceeded them, I’m more confident that the title’s in a creatively healthier place than it was ten issues ago. 7/10

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