15 Sept 2013

Mini Reviews 15/09/2013

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: Fred Van Lente
Art: R.B. Silva, Rob Lean & Ego
Dark Horse $2.99

James R: Fred Van Lente is a man who knows how to make the most of space. In every comic of his that I‘ve read he jams his panels with plot, ideas and action. A fine example of is the Taskmaster miniseries from a couple of years back. Universally loved by all of us here at the PCG, what should have been a disposable title became a must-read event as with each issue Van Lente found new ways to up the craziness and keep twisting the plot to more fantastical heights. His first issue of Brain Boy doesn't disappoint either. A minor character from Dell Comics back in 1962, he's been resurrected by Dark Horse and they've picked a creative team to do it with aplomb. The plot features the eponymous hero Matt Price on the trail of a particularly nasty South American dictator, who may be embroiled in something nefarious at the UN. As Price tries to keep tabs on him, the plot spirals off into a breathless chase brilliantly illustrated by R. B. Silva (whose work here reminded me of Stuart Immonen - and that's a very good thing). An inventive first issue, and easily my book of the week - Brain Boy is far smarter than your average comic. 9/10

Matt C: I hadn’t even planned on picking this up but having enjoyed stuff Van Lente and Silva had put out in the past alongside some enthusing from my PCG colleagues convinced me to give it a whirl, and hey, it turned out to be a wise purchase. This obscure character from the ‘60s gets resuscitated and refitted as a telepath who gets loaned out by the company who raised him to the US Secret Service to add an extra level of protection for various political figures. The mission we focus on here is one that – obviously – doesn’t go according to plan. There’s a wit and buoyancy in the script that makes it a tremendously easy read, as while the protagonist isn’t especially likable straight off there are hints littered throughout to suggest there will be a thawing on the horizon. In some ways I’m reminded of one of my favourite current series, Think Tank, in that we have a guy working for the government who isn’t initially wrapped up in the wider political issues of things he gets involved in, but that’s a situation that looks set to change the more embroiled he becomes. Silva and Lean’s sturdy, vibrant illustrations do a great job of getting across the concept of a man who’s pretty much got the lay of the land sussed as soon as he enters a scene, with Ego's smart palette selections adding that extra edge. It all depends where it goes from here but at this stage I’m totally down with it. A most welcome surprise. 8/10

Writers: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Lenil Francis You & Sunny Gho
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: It’s the scope of the project that’s impressing me the most, and how Hickman is weaving all his plot strands into a cohesive whole. In the main Infinity book, Thanos is making his move on the planet Earth as the lack of Avengers guarding the world has given him the opening he needs. Where are the Avengers? That’s covered here as they, along with a mishmash of galactic races, attempt to stop the Builders from continuing their destructive path towards – yep, you guessed it - Earth! I have no idea how all this is all going to tie together, but the way Hickman’s crafting this epic – something he’s been building towards for a long time it seems – is something to behold. Yu continues to win me over, managing to portray the scope of the tale with clarity as well as the emphasising the importance of the characters in play. A cut above any other Marvel event over the last few years. 8/10

James R: I currently feel a bit ambivalent about Infinity. After a superb opening chapter, I've found the following chapters to be a little formulaic. That's not to say that they're not good comics - Jonathan Hickman's planning has been first-class, and this is easily the strongest Marvel event for a mighty long time - but I can't say that I'm absolutely loving it either. Having mulled it over for a few days, I think it's the very nature of 'big events'; for me, there's two really interesting plot lines here - the revelation that Thanos has a son, and the focus placed on Black Bolt. Personally, these two plot lines alone would make for a good read in Hickman's hands, but I sense Marvel want all their big players involved, and so the plotline with the Avengers trying to stop the destructive tide of the Builders isn't quite grabbing me. I'm well aware that this could all change with the next issue, and I'll be effusive in my praise, but on this issue alone, I felt it was okay. A very classy okay, but still, not a stellar as Infinity #1. 7/10

Writers: Gerard Way & Shaun Simon
Art: Becky Cloonan & Dan Jackson
Dark Horse $3.99

Matt C: If I was 20 years younger this series would probably be the kind of thing that I could see myself easily elevating to the level of ‘masterpiece’. It has the air of something that, if it catches you at the right time in your life, has the ability to alter the way you look at certain art in a quantifiable way. It may have familiar antecedents (Mad Max and Blade Runner spring to mind) but the way that it presents itself, through a script that bristles with imagination and art that bursts out with a determined vitality, elevates it beyond the sum of its influences, creating something unique and entirely individual. Strong themes of freedom and rebellion merge into a feeling that you’re dealing with a book that’s both rebellious and free. So, 20 years ago and I can probably guarantee I would have been absolutely obsessed by True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys; as it stands, I consider it to be one hell of a great comic book. 9/10

X-MEN #5
Writer: Brian Wood
Art: David Lopez & Laura Martin
Marvel Comics $3.99

James R: The following was obtained by an illegal PCG wiretap from inside Marvel HQ (and possibly may not have occurred):
"Brian? Yeah, it's me - from editorial! Yeah, well, we just wanted to say great job so far on X-Men... I know we kinda pulled the rug out from under you when you were writing X-Men last time, but I mean - this has been great. Great dynamics, good plot - it's what we expect from you! Now, the reason I'm calling...We've got a little favour to ask. You know Bendis has been working up to this X-Men event? Yeah. Well, for the next few issues, would it be a big problem if we put your interesting plots on hold for his event? Yeah. Can you write us an issue which is a largely pointless chase sequence featuring Cyclops and Jean Grey on a motorbike? Yeah. It's what Bendis wants apparently. Yeah, I know it will render your book superfluous for a couple of issues, but hey, it's an event - and we all know how important they are! Great, thanks Brian...We owe you!"
The moral of this story? Start picking this up again when Brian Wood is allowed to write what he wants and when this overlong event is done! 5/10

Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Jackson Guice, Kyle Baker & Glynis Oliver
Marvel $0.75

Matt C: One of those issues where events in Uncanny X-Men spill over into, and essentially take over, the lives of the New Mutants. Understandable really as the Mutant Massacre storyline was a big deal but it does see the teen mutants playing second fiddle to their elders for a good chunk of the issue. Fortunately a plot specific to them soon manifests itself, dealing with Warlock's maniacally determined father, Magus (I've never been quite sure my there was a need for similarly named and connected characters in the Marvel Universe, but apparently it was some sort of homage to Jim Starlin's original creations or something). It does come across as a slightly piecemeal approach but if you take it as a set-up for forthcoming issues then it just about works. 6/10

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