7 Oct 2013

Mini Reviews 06/10/2013

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.

HINTERKIND #1
Writer: Ian Edginton
Art: Francesco Trifolgi
Vertigo $2.99


Stewart R: What a superb way to start a new series. Edginton manages to throw quite a few characters at the page over the first half of the book, introducing our young protagonists in a wave of hormone-fuelled teenage banter and friendship as well as several of the elders of the New York village from which they hail. There are some nice details dropped into casual conversation which allude to the complicated politics in play within the camp as well as the general danger lurking in the overgrown streets of the once great city, now lush with invading vegetation. Trifolgi does a fine job of drawing his ‘camera’ back slowly and letting the mystery and spectacle build in several places, capturing the spirit of a wild, jungle adventure amongst the recognisable landmarks. It’s all very believable for the most part and even when the fantastical element of this plot shows its head, things become even more exciting (and humorous in one blood-thirsty moment!). Edginton’s sublime characterisation drew me in quickly and the surprises kept me wanting more and more, to the point where I almost wish I held the complete collected edition in my hands right now. Any comic that makes you long for that from just the debut, Hinterkind has to be a series to keep a good eye on. 9/10

LAZARUS #4
Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark & Santi Arcas
Image $2.99


Matt C
: This is the moment, for me, that Lazarus evolves from being a really good, really promising new comic book series into something that shows hints of being one of the greats of the modern age. I’ve seen Game Of Thrones mentioned as a comparison by others, and while there are distinct, obvious differences, I can definitely see where they’re coming from: powerful families, warring against one another, while barely able to function as cohesive units themselves due to the duplicity and ruthless personal agendas. At the centre of all this backstabbing is each family’s Lazarus (the Lazari??), genetically engineered but somehow more honest and human than the rest of their siblings appear capable of. Tightly plotted, with intelligent, well-researched scripting form Rucka, it grips from first page to last, with the ingenious timeline in the back pages being the icing on the cake. Then there’s Lark’s incredible illustrations, his panel choreography managing to create the illusion of movement and violence thanks to the adept compositions and electrifying dynamism. Its credentials suggested it had the potential to be one of the best launches of 2013; with this issue it proves it without a shadow of a doubt. 10/10

James R: Over the last week, Matt C has asked us all to send in our lists of our current top 10 books being published. I was amazed as I put mine together - for the first time ever, there's only two 'Big Two' books there. There's definitely a shift in my pull-list this year, and when I look at books as good as Lazarus, it's not hard to see why. This is in a class above 99% of the output of Marvel and DC's main output. This issue, masterfully plotted by Rucka, finds a terrific blend of plot and character development. Following the ambush of last issue, we're treated to seeing the two Lazaruses - Joacquim and Forever - unleashed as they fight the insidious Carlyle plot. Intercut with this, we get two great scenes with the Carlyle clan - Johanna Carlyle demonstrates a calculating side which establishes her as the most dangerous member of the family. We also see how Forever is regarded by the scientific side of the Carlyle's, not as a person but as an experiment, and Rucka conveys the mixture of detached pride perfectly. As with The Wake, there is a real feel that you're reading the greatest movie you've never seen. After four issues, this book is just getting stronger, and the brilliant final panel twist suggests there's even more to come. 9/10

GOD IS DEAD #2
Writer: Jonathan Hickman & Mike Costa
Art: Di Amorim
Avatar $3.99


Stewart R: It’s a strange thing to say, but for me this certainly feels like an Avatar book thanks to the high level plot, generous amount of bared teeth, doom, sacrifice ceremonies aplenty and Di Amorim’s distinctive style, yet it doesn’t feel quite like a Jonathan Hickman book. Perhaps it’s the fact that this comes across more as a historical report of events with flashes of certain important participants rather than anything resembling a protagonist. As a result this sadly feels like a slowly unfolding battle royale where we’ll eventually get to see if any of the seemingly omnipotent beings come out on top or whether the world to which they all belong, and it to them, becomes a charred and barren marble. Perhaps I’m getting too many flashes of other comics from what’s being attempted here; there’s shades of East Of West’s alternate diverging American history  as the world divides and turns their belief to the freshly unveiled deities and I can’t help but find comparisons to Warren Ellis’ Supergod in the way that this is being told. Sadly, this doesn’t quite have the impetus presently that Ellis’ series had and doesn’t even touch the other superb work that Hickman is producing elsewhere these days. I gave it a go, God Is Dead, and so is my interest in this particular comic for now. 4/10

TRILLIUM #3
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire & Jose Villarrubia
Vertigo $2.99


James R: After Karen Berger's departure, and DC cherry-picking a number of Vertigo's strongest characters for the New 52, there was period when I genuinely worried that Vertigo wouldn't be around for too much longer. However, the imprint is having a fine year with Collider/FBP and Hinterland making a strong impression, but it's the work of the ever-dependable Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire that are the real highlights. I'm loving The Wake, and I remain in awe of Jeff Lemire's talent here in Trillium. It's another issue that plays with the way you read and interact with a book, by re-establishing the flip-side narrative of the first issue. The action in the two eras have a brilliant symmetry to them, and I think Lemire's art continues to reach new heights. There's little to add to my prior effusive praise, but this is definitely the book I would encourage people to take a chance on. In a field of growing mediocrity in DC's main books, titles like Trillium make Vertigo shine even brighter. 9/10

THE ACTIVITY #15
Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Art: Mitch Gerads & Andy W. Clift
Image $3.50


Stewart R: Team Omaha has been taking a slow beating through the course of this series, losing members, losing loved ones and losing trust with each other, and I’m enjoying the way in which Edmondson splits the team up from time to time, having them deal with an interesting variety of missions which allows their interactions to speak volumes about the state of the group. The breadth of the locales and military situations also gives Gerads plenty of visual styles to play with and this issue is a prime example of that. Switchfoot and Fiddler’s roaming of a blizzard ravaged Siberia contrasts incredibly well against Bookstore and Weatherman’s foray to the mountains of Afghanistan, just as Edmondson’s personal and emotion-tinged dialogue with the former contrasts well against the ‘on-mission’ patter of the latter. Both sequences are tense affairs and lead us to the moment it seems that these creators are set to elevate their property to new levels with an incredibly daring operation which will form the backbone of the next issue. Always exciting, always accomplished. 8/10

MARA #6
Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Ming Doyle & Jordie Bellaire
Image $2.99


Matt C: I had no idea where Wood was going with this tale but I find myself entirely satisfied now it’s reached its conclusion. It became less about the whys and hows of Mara Prince’s powers and more about her transformation into something other than human. If there’s one character I was reminded of more than any other in the comics firmament whilst reading this issue, it was Doctor Manhattan, the blue-skinned omnipotent being from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal Watchmen. There’s a similar sort of disconnect from reality, as we perceive it at least, with Mara almost viewing humanity as irrelevant in the grand, cosmic scheme of things (which is probably not far from the truth!) if it wasn’t for – and this is important – our capacity to surprise and do the unexpected. For all the pain and suffering on the planet, there’s still an undeniable hopefulness that never seems to get completely squashed, no matter how bleak things look. This is not to say Wood is attempting to crib from what Moore was doing with Manhattan, he’s just tackling similar themes with an equally high level of intelligence. Doyle’s illustrations have brought an unforeseen gentleness to the proceedings, considering the content, which proves to be most effective during the final moments of the story. So, while I may not have known where Wood was going with this tale, I’m glad I took this journey with him and I’m glad this is the destination we arrived at together. 8/10

NEW MUTANTS #49
Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Bret Blevins, Val Mayerik & Glynis Oliver
Marvel $0.75


Matt C: Disclaimer: this was actually the first issue of New Mutants I ever bought, 26 years ago, back when I was, er, much younger than I am today. So maybe there’s some sentimentality involved, but reading it back now, in its correct context as an episode of a story arc, I do honestly believe it’s the strongest instalment of this time-travelling tale so far. Where issue #48 fell down as it failed to add anything to a previously established, and rather famous, storyline, here Claremont inverts things so we find ourselves in a world where mutants reign supreme and humans scrabble around in the dirt. It’s good stuff and perhaps the icing on the cake is brief but powerful interlude as Magneto is woken from a nightmare where he recalls his family’s massacre at the hands of the Nazis.  It would be a potent scene merely for the content but it’s rendered so starkly by ‘guest artist’ Blevins (who would land the regular gig on this title shortly after) that it becomes a far more effective jolt. Elsewhere, Blevins really impresses with dynamic and detailed illustrations that help a series that was starting to feel stale add some freshness. 7/10

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