29 Sep 2013

Mini Reviews 29/09/2013

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.

SEX CRIMINALS #1
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Chip Zdarsky & Becka Kinzie
Image $3:50

Matt C: Trust Fraction to turn a comic entitled Sex Criminals into a sweet love story! Okay, there’s still plenty of, shall we say, ‘adult’ content on display (did you really expect anything else?) but at it’s core, at least at this stage of the game, it appears to be about the deep well of loneliness that can be plugged (ahem) by a connection with someone on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. It just so happens that this is told via characters who are able to stop time briefly when they reach orgasm. And before you scoff, have you look at the origin stories of some of your favourite superheroes and then come back to me and tell me it sounds ridiculous. So, while there may be plenty of ‘rude’ things contained within the pages of this book, more than enough to earn it that ‘adult’ tag, there’s also genuine heartfelt emotion on display, the kind that can easily resonate with anyone who’s ever searched for a special connection with another human being. Zdarsky’s art has a slight cartoonish quality that helps lighten things up considerably, so it avoids any seedy connotations, but it also has the ability to draw that aforementioned heartfelt emotion to the surface. And we haven’t even got into the ‘criminal’ aspect of things yet! Sex Criminals is likely far from what you expect it to be, and the fact that it contains one of my favourite pieces of writing in any comic from 2013 (something about oxygen masks, that’s all I’m saying) shifts it into the winning category already. Fingers crossed that it continues on this trajectory. 8/10

AVENGERS #20
Writer: Jonatham Hickman
Art: Lenil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan & David Curiel
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: I’m loathe to call this the weakest instalment of Infinity so far because I still enjoyed it a fair bit, but it certainly wasn’t the most arresting chapter of the Marvel event. I’ve been warming to Yu’s work a great deal over the last few issues, after not being a fan previously, but here it looked a lot more rushed than it has done, which weakened the visuals overall, rendering many panels as merely functional. There are a lot of things that are essential reading to the overall narrative – especially with regards to Ex Nihlo – so it’s not skippable, it just didn’t engender the kind of thrill I’ve gotten used to from Infinity. That said, Hickman’s writing of Captain America is note perfect, portraying him as the guy everyone in the room takes notice of and listens to, whether they’re his fellow Avengers, leaders of vast empires, or supremely intelligent hive-minds. Every time he speaks in this issue it raises things up a few notches, and that’s more than enough to make it worthwhile. 7/10

JUPITER’S LEGACY #3
Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Frank Quitely & Peter Doherty
Image $2.99

Stewart R: Let’s face it, Mark Millar is a writer who more than occasionally likes to take things to the worst possible extreme and then build any positives that might pop into existence up from there. That’s certainly what occurs in this issue when the Utopian and his close family come under ferocious attack from their own kin in a terrible coup d'├ętat which threatens grave things for the rest of the world. As a single issue, this is Millar at his very best, kicking things off with a nice line in the disapproving father/son-in-law-that-might-never-be dynamic that teases a historical point in the lives of these heroes that may possibly come into play later on. From there it’s into full bore action mode as Walter’s plan is enacted and the Utopian and Grace come under attack. This is where Quitely and Doherty get to have their fun as the punches fly from all angles and sadly, for some, things may not quite be as they seem. Cue one of the most hideously jarring panels of the year, timed to absolute perfection, surrounded by others that depict concussive force with true style. With Millar we know that things could possibly go off the rails when hit with bigger ideas, and there’s the nagging suspicion that he may wrap Walter’s world changing ideas too tightly within the plot, but following an issue like this I have hope that this series may turn out to be one of his and Quitely’s very best. 8/10

MIND MGMT #15
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Matt Kindt
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: In a week of incredibly strong books - The Wake, East of West and Sex all impressed (as usual) - my highlight, once again, was watching the one man show of genius that is Mind MGMT. I think I have a particular love and respect for creators who write and illustrate their own tales - as much as there is a certain magic in the synergy of two talents working in harmony, an artist crafting a singular vision (and a remarkable one at that) gives me the fanboy goosebumps. This issue of Mind MGMT is a 'payoff' story. From the title's debut, there has been the suggestion that Henry Lyme has been wiping Meru's mind repeatedly, so her hunt for Lyme and the truth behind Mind MGMT begins anew over and over again. Here we learn just how often Lyme has done this manipulative trick, and its gripping reading. Lyme remains a brilliant creation, part protagonist and part antagonist, and as much as we the readers are privy to the 'truth' behind Mind MGMT, Lyme himself remains an enigma. In a market full of heroic tropes that are often marketed as 'edgy' it's amazing to follow Kindt's plotting, as he keeps us guessing, even as we move towards a thrilling endgame. Kindt is a creator who utterly understands the medium of comics, and it remains a thrill to watch him at work. 9/10

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #6
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Sara Pichelli, Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales, Justin Ponsor & Ive Svorcina
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Well at least it looks pretty good... for the most part. Sara Pichelli is doing a sterling job with her efforts on this title and the skirmish between the Guardians and Angela (ugh) is a fine example of action-based illustration. Strangely, when Olivier Coipel is called in to deliver a handful of pages - presumably to provide his usual brand of epic scale and wonder - it seems to be a touch rushed and lacking in that ‘wow’ factor that he’s known for. And then there’s the plot which is very nearly late to the party and when it does arrive you realise it hasn’t showered or brought anything worthwhile for the buffet. The fight sequence is protracted purely to show what sort of abilities Angela (ugh) has when facing off against the ‘most dangerous woman in the galaxy’ and the man born to kill Thanos, while Star-Lord’s face off with the Mad Titan himself is just an elongated doom prophecy offering nothing particularly new, and then there’s the bloody Watcher. I’m starting to dislike the use of Uatu as a device and Bendis strings along his appearance here as a further tiding of impending doom to then have him interact with the Guardians is to tell them that their attacker’s name is Angela (UGH, ARRGHH, UGH!!) and then "That is all that I am allowed to say." No Uatu, you’re not ‘allowed’ to say anything, that’s the bloody point! While I’ve come away from this issue in negative mood I will say that in the main I am coming around to Bendis’ depiction of the Guardians, it’s just a shame that he still doesn’t seem ready to focus on them rather than the desperate plot for nearly enough time. 3/10

SAGA #14
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Fiona Staples
Image $2.99

Matt C: I probably don’t love Saga as much as some people do but I’m certainly not immune to its charms. Of Brian K. Vaughan’s current output my preference is The Private Eye but Saga is the more sprawling and ambitious title, and most importantly - and what I think is the key ingredient to its success - is that it features truthful characters and genuinely has a lot of heart. I’ve said all this before but because it remains so vital to what makes this series work it becomes kind of unavoidable when talking about Saga. You can remove all the weird and wonderful sci-fi trappings and you’re left with the same engaging characters struggling with their complex relationships with others, brought to emotional life by the talents of Fiona Staples. The crazy, inventive concepts and designs obviously add a lot to the mix but it’s the fact that we care about the individuals involved that makes it such a strong and consistently rewarding series. 8/10

Stewart R: Thanks to the rather tense ending provided to us in issue #12 at the end of the previous arc we’re now playing catch up to those events and seeing just how Alana, Marko, Hazel and the rest of this ragtag family unit found their way to the home of author D. Oswald Heist while other dangerous parties also zoned in on their location. Vaughan is forever expanding on the casts’ history thanks to some great dialogue decisions which really do make these characters come alive, while teasing elements of future plot points thanks to subtly dropping back to Hazel’s occasional narration. That combination makes every single issue feel like it contains far more than the 22 pages that act as its canvas and ensures that this is one of the most rounded comic book experiences on the shelf. What is in need of additional applause this month is how Vaughan and Staples have managed in the early stages of this arc to make it a story of two dysfunctional family units with The Will, Gwendolyn and newly freed slave girl, Sophie ,forming the other. While as a reader I’m hoping that The Will and Gwendolyn’s hunt for their quarry doesn’t succeed it’s truly satisfying to start rooting for these characters to find something close to a happy ending, though of course, comic book life is never that simple… Unmissable every month and certainly set to become one of the great comic series of our time. 9/10

NEW MUTANTS #48
Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Jackson Guice, P. Craig Russell & Glynis Oliver
Marvel $0.75

Matt C: The New Mutants time-hopping adventures lead them to the era of the classic X-Men storyline ‘Days Of Future Past’, which seems like a pretty good place to revisit, not just for the some post-apocalyptic action but for the themes of bigotry, intolerance and persecution that can be explored once more. Unfortunately, where Claremont (alongside John Byrne) managed to relay a seminal tale through two issues of Uncanny X-Men, here we get some moderately entertaining sentinel vs mutant smackdowns that don’t tell as anything we don’t already know or provide a compelling reason for returning to this particular time in (future) Marvel history. It’s another case of New Mutants lurking in the shadow of Uncanny X-Men when the title has shown on plenty of occasions that it can easily stand on its own two feet. 6/10

1 comment:

Badger said...

Sex Criminals,took a look and really not my kind of thing,so what's the next idea to come from Image a book based on a women's menstrual cycle and how she kills each month.....wait a minute George Perez all ready did that with Crimson Plague some years ago,also I'm a bit disappointed not to see any of DC's Villain Month reviewed,but then again not every one likes DC,for those of you that missed it there were a number of hits and a few misses,for me the Matt Kindt one's were an eye opener having not read much of his work at all this guy seems to have a good handle on men in tights,as for the 3D cover for me it was a nice little throw back to the 80's,expensive to buy the lot but what the hell you only have one crack at life and money after all is just paper and coins so enjoy it and buy what makes you happy I say,the biggest disappointment last week was yet again no Hawkeye,now I wasn't a big fan at the beginning but the comic has grown on me but it being late is going to do it no favours and as none are listed for October or November I can't help but think this comic is heading for the big cancelled pile in the sky,and lets face it the fantastic Iron Fist comic by this team was in my view much better than Hawkeye and we all know what Marvel did to that one.
Happy reading people.