3 Nov 2013

Mini Reviews 03/11/2013

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.

INFINITY #5
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Jerome Opeña, Dustin Weaver & Justin Ponsor
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: I mentioned in On The Pull this week that I was concerned about Jonathan Hickman being able to maintain the impetus that he had built through this Infinity event and that the penultimate issue would be an important indicator of how the finale may pan out. Well, when it comes to pace and drive things are still pushing on in enjoyable fashion with the sense of epic scale still in place thanks to some neat planet hopping that shows the breadth of this conflict and the importance that the Avengers had on the (potential) outcome of the battle against the Builders. The win for Hickman is that he weaves in the element of doubt and doom throughout all of the heroic victories to make you really wonder just what horrible twist could be around the corner and I’m pretty darn sure that the finale will have everyone’s head spinning and jaws dropping as a result. The one slight negative point, or perhaps niggle would be better, is that I feel that Hickman has fully won me over with his - and Opeña and Weaver’s - depiction of the deep space war, yet has not fully sold me on the weight of Thanos’ invasion of Earth and his plans thereafter. I do believe that while we may get a climax to remember next month, this could just end up feeling like one of those similar Marvel stepping stones onto ‘bigger and better’ in associated series that we’ve seen in the past. Perhaps that cynicism is a product of being stung so many times before, but it’s a shame that despite the fine work produced so far by all involved through Infinity, that cynicism remains at this late stage. 7/10

TRUE LIVES OF THE FABULOUS KILLJOYS #5
Writers: Gerard Way & Shaun Simon
Art: Becky Cloonan & Dan Jackson
Dark Horse $3.99

Matt C: I’ve mentioned the punk rock spirit of this title previously, and it’s something that it conveys brilliantly without feeling cynical. Mostly this was in reference to the characters, and the very concept of rebellion that is central to the series, but the longer it goes on the more I think it can be applied to the quirky narrative that doesn’t reel itself out as you might expect. Way and Simon are telling their tale but in a way that doesn’t always pander to conventional narrative structure, which I think is one of the reasons some people have been turned off by the book. This is not too say it’s incomprehensible or anything, it just approaches it’s tale in a more hyperreal fashion that may not be palatable for some. Cloonan’s art is an easy, luxurious distraction though, manifesting that aforementioned punk rock spirit beautifully on the page, stylised drama and emotion exquisitely rendered. It may not click with everyone but if True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys clicks with you then I don’t have to tell you how great it is, because you already know. 8/10

AVENGERS #22
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Lenil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Sunny Gho & David Curiel
Marvel $3.99

James R: I know he's currently masterminding what feels like the whole Marvel Universe (and doing a nice job of it) but at some point in the future, I'd really love to see Jonathan Hickman write Thor. Ever since he took over Avengers, his take on the God of Thunder has been a highlight - portraying him as a wise and magnanimous figure who knows how to kick arse is definitely an interpretation that works for me! In this current issue, the standout scene comes at the finale, with an exhausted Manifold asking both Cap and Thor how to cope in the midst of such seismic events. Hickman's writing displays his trademark intelligence as Cap passes on the wisdom of a frontline soldier, before Thor gives the opinion of a titan. It's these small moments that make Avengers work so well, as overall the Infinity event hasn't quite reached stellar heights for me. I know the Big Two build their books around events, and that Hickman is a meticulous planner, but I still can't shake the feeling that this event has been two disparate plots awkwardly mashed together, rather than an organic whole (and I also find myself not caring a great deal about Thanos' son, Thane). As it comes to a conclusion, I'm expecting the usual double-page spreads of almighty fisticuffs, but regardless of their outcome, I think Hickman has proved his worth to Marvel, and that he is definitely still the man for their premier book. 8/10

Matt C: As we hit the home straight for Infinity it’s becoming more of a certainty that this is one of the best Marvel events in recent memory, quite possibly because there’s been a singular vision motivating its forward momentum. Hickman has excelled himself with this crossover, offering a complex, multi-layered storyline that avoids reductive high concept labelling, and it’s arguable that the Avengers and New Avengers have, for the most part, been as integral to the narrative as each chapter of the main Infinity miniseries. For the most part. This instalment feels a bit extraneous, diverting but not entirely necessary reading. Yu’s art is looking a little rushed again, which is understandable given the release schedule of this title, although there’s till enough flair on display to carry it through. What redeems it from being throwaway is an exchange between Manifold and Captain America, and then Manifold an Thor, emphasising the different ways the heroes view events. Cap holds the view that we choose our own paths, whereas Thor believes our destiny is predetermined. It’s not exactly a revelation how the philosophies of these two heroic friends differ but it’s very effectively delivered, capturing that ‘eve before the final battle’ moment perfectly. 7/10

WILD BLUE YONDER #3
Writer: Mike Raicht, Zach Howard, Austin Harrison
Art: Zach Howard & Nelson Daniel
IDW $3.99

Stewart R: Something of a protracted break between issues has thankfully not managed to derail this fine story of dog-fighting and survival in the deadly skies of a dark future. With the game-changing reveal from the end of issue #2 now out there, it’s great to watch Tug’s continuing initiation and training to become part of the Dawn’s ramshackle crew and see him experience things that he truly never had before. Alongside that we get a look into the familial command structure that sees the Dawn safely through each and every perilous day and in doing so see just how deep the scars run and how heavy the yoke of responsibility weighs. The one strange thing about this particular chapter is that Cola is present, but she feels more like a supporting character for the most part, the focus being more on Tug and other members of the cast this time out which admittedly has helped to widen the scope and ultimately give the reader even more to like and care about in this group on the run. The art is still top notch with Howard having a deft touch when it comes to subtler moments of emotion-filled conversation as well as the flying-by-the-seat-of-their-pants (quite literally here) action, and Daniel seems to pull out the perfect palette every time a shift in mood matches the shift in location. Where will this wonderful piece of fiction take us next? I for one cannot wait to find out. 9/10

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #20
Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Giuseppe Camuncoli, John Dell & Antonio Fabela
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Slott stated unequivocally at New York Comic Con that issues #20 and #21 would stir big things in the readership of Superior Spider-Man and with the first of these two issues in hand it’s easy to see why. He brings many of the important threads that have stood out through the past nineteen issues - Otto going through the motions of getting a doctorate, his discarding of the relationship with Mary Jane, the budding relationship with Anna - and then spins in a whole new one with a famous and familiar face from Otto’s former life. With Octavius still barrelling along with misguided confidence and little regard for the consequences of his actions, it’s enthralling to watch things start to unravel at the seams and witness him being unable to do anything about it, but in the same instance become concerned for the various implications that might come to pass as a result. Despite the fact that Peter Parker is dead (I’ll pause now to let the howls of derision and doubt pass - I know, how long can we keep going with that idea?) this continues to be the type of comic book car crash that you simply cannot look away from. Taking for one moment that our beloved hero is not coming back (shhh now!) then not only have we seen the villain win, but now he’s using his tentacled arms to steady himself while he urinates over the guy’s grave and the rest of his legacy, and at this stage not even on purpose! Put that idea on paper and it’d be a hard sell with as big and popular a title as this, and yet here we are, over a year on, and it remains unmissable reading and an example of brilliantly constructed story work and characterisation. Otto Octavius is the star of his own comic book and Slott is managing to deliver month after month to keep that crazy status quo! 8/10

SEX #8
Writer: Joe Casey
Art: Piotr Kowalski & Brad Simpson
Image $2.99

James R: After seven issues of teasing around the evocative title, this book really goes for it this issue, with Simon Cooke finding himself in the midst of a huge orgy in the shape of the Saturnalia. Joe Casey has been on phenomenal form of late, and this instalment perfectly illustrates why he's a master of his craft. Juxtaposed with some frankly Daily Mail-troubling sequences, are two scenes. Firstly, there's Cooke having a frank and revealing discussion with his Catwoman analogue (and object of pure desire) Annabelle Lagravenese, and secondly, a sex scene with the Prank Addict and one of Annabelle's girls, Marcy. The focus  is obviously sex and intimacy - from the purely carnal, to the cerebral - but Casey never plays these scenes for titillation, instead the intention is to spark the reader's thoughts, and this is something he does magnificently well. By the end of the issue - and by extension this first arc - Cooke has finally been able to articulate just why his post-hero life feels so empty. It's not an explosive finale, but it promises more great storytelling to follow. After some initial reservations, it's safe to say that Sex is now hitting my G(eek)-spot. (Sorry, some lame gags are irresistible!) 8/10

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #8
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Francesco Francavilla
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: And that is quite categorically that, ladies and gentlemen readers! That is me done with this title for the immediate future. Where last month I was starting to see a positive turnaround in a title that for many of its previous chapters it had seemed more concerned with hazy plot than characterisation (while at least carrying a consistent visual appeal), things have now taken an unfortunate turn for the worse. Francesco Francavilla is an artist whose work on Detective Comics was terrific, perfectly capturing the darkened noir feel that belongs to the underbelly of Gotham. At this current time, it is my opinion that he is certainly not an artist perfectly matched to capture the adventures of a space-faring bunch of aliens who are diving head first into a pitched battle in Earth orbit and in a premium Marvel book to boot. There’s a strange imbalance to several panels where some characters have a minimalistic touch to them compared to higher detailed members of the cast and the general feel, whether intended or not, seems incredibly rough and rushed. Compared to the work of Sara Pichelli who seemed a near perfect fit for this book, it’s a staggering back step and when piled atop Bendis’ insistence on dragging the plot along slowly and with little in the way of a destination or premise apart from ‘let’s join in the fight to see what we can do’ it leaves this iteration of Guardians Of The Galaxy adrift in space with this reader lacking any enthusiasm to send a rescue party i.e. pick it up off the shelf. 3/10

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