10 Nov 2013

Mini Reviews 10/11/2013

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.

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines & Marte Gracia
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Aside from a couple of missteps, Jason Aaron’s Wolverine & The X-Men has been a breath of fresh air in the X-Men mythos. It stayed true to the characters but dared to do something unexpected and different, updating the concept behind the original X-Men but putting a modern, witty spin on it. The writer’s been dropping hints at Nightcrawler’s return for a while, and although I anticipated it manifesting as a story arc in his current series, I wasn’t averse to the idea of him spinning it out into a new title, providing there was similar dose of magic and ample justification for its existence. This debut issue unfortunately struggles to find that justification. It’s an okay read, but one that covers familiar ground, and does so without any real impetus, veering a little too close to Wolverine & The X-Men in tone and content. I guess that’s understandable considering it’s the same writer, but there’s clearly a need for it to venture into pastures new very swiftly. McGuinness is really rather good overall, his bulky, exaggerated style not too far removed from Nick Bradshaw’s work on W&TXM, although I have to say I’m not that taken with his rendering of Logan. I’ll give it a few more chances but at the moment this is adequate rather than amazing. 6/10

Writer: Ian Edginton
Art: Francesco Trifogli
Vertigo $2.99

Stewart R: This is a strong second effort from Edginton and Trifogli that builds upon the debut with some exciting action early on as Prosper tries to avoid the colossal hands of one hungry troll with a taste for human flesh and then some slower moments that expand the mystical cast that live in this strange, twisted world. The introduction of the White Queen and her headstrong daughter hints at some familial drama to come later down the line, while (seemingly) human tracker Jon Hobb certainly appears to be the type of character who ends up in the reluctant/anti-hero role before too long. That’s just me postulating at this stage of course and there have been enough curve-balls in just two short issues to make guessing where this tale might be heading a fool’s task. Wherever we end up it seems that the journey will be an entertaining one with great visuals and sterling dialogue, and Vertigo look like they may have another hit on their hands. 8/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Nick Dragotta & Frank Martin
Image $3.50

James R: We've sometimes said that for all his obvious writing talents, Hickman sometimes loses focus in some of his projects and the narrative can meander. In East Of West there's a distinctly different feel to proceedings though, a real feeling that Hickman is world-building on a huge scale while still moving the plot forward. With every issue it seems we're given more and more detail to this alternate, Western-inspired future, and I'm loving it. This month, Hickman and Dragotta show us some real body horror as Ezra Orion is bonded to the Beast, and his suffering is almost tangible on the pages. As a result, it's Ezra's history that we learn, and like a huge and complex jigsaw, it's another piece that hints at the dark and epic scope of the series. It’s certainly Hickman's most idiosyncratic book to date (even more so than the ’out-there’ Manhattan Projects) and it has a unique style and feel. It might not be to everyone's taste, but with each passing month it's establishing itself more and more as one of my favourite books. 8/10

Matt C: Jonathan Hickman is one of the world-building greats in modern comics. He presents fully-realised, lived in environments that are convincing and have a measure of plausibility to them, and he populates them with characters that have been clearly shaped by their circumstances. East Of West is quite possibly his finest attempt at creating a world yet, an alternative history of Earth, one that’s recognisability in comparison to our own has diminished as the series has progressed, forging new paths into new areas of brilliance, it’s mix of science, mythology and the supernatural always intelligently delivered by the writer. That’s just one part of the picture, the other being some hauntingly beautiful imagery from Dragotta that’s boosted by some stark and astute colouring choices by Martin. East Of West is a series where issues frequently demand to be re-read, not just because there’s so much information to take on board, or because there are so many layers to the narrative, but also because it’s that good. 8/10

Stewart R: The breadth of the cast and the sheer depth of the history that Jonathan Hickman has come up with for East Of West, following the ebb and flow of The Message, The Word and those individuals associated with - or in defiance of them - is just, so, so enthralling. While Hickman gives a small portion of this chapter over to the start of Death’s journey to find his child, this primarily focuses on the remaining Horsemen in their reincarnated forms of the present as well as their previous tenure of destruction upon the plains of the Badlands. We get to see just how Ezra became the Keeper of the Message and his relationship with one of the Horsemen in particular, and while Hickman doesn’t go full guns blazing at an emotional twist to the reader’s heart, the combined work that he and Dragotta put into making Ezra’s pain and torment feel quite jarring in the present - Dragotta’s skill with expressions is truly great - is enhanced greatly by seeing the fateful path that led him to his very lethal predicament. It seems a month doesn’t go by when I feel like I’ve come anywhere close to running out of positive things to say about a comic series and that’s not a common thing these days! 9/10

Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair
DC $3.99

James R: So, it's late (hey, it's a Jim Lee book - no surprise there!) but this is still the best Superman title DC are bringing out by a long margin. Scott Snyder continues to make this a 'blockbuster book' by managing to achieve one of the great challenges for comics writers - putting Superman in tangible peril - while simultaneously weaving two other plot strands together. In this issue we get to see Lex Luthor being as nefarious as you'd hope (Snyder writes him with a hint of Hannibal Lector, and that works really well) while Lois learns that the terrorist group Ascension has ties uncomfortably close to home. It looks just like you'd expect a Jim Lee comic to look, although there wasn't a huge 'money shot' double-page (or fold-out page!) which, depending on your view of Lee's style, could be seen as either a good thing or a bad thing, but for me it didn't distract from a fine read. As DC's New 52 continues to be an unsatisfying collection of titles, it's reassuring to see that the few gems are still a class apart. 8/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire & José Villarrubia
DC/Vertigo $2.99

James R: This was the most conventional issue of Trillium to date for me, and whereas some may see that as a criticism, it is anything but. This chapter sees Lemire move his characters into position for issues that are to come, with William and Nika amongst the alien Atabithians, and Will's brother Clayton at the mercy of Pohl. Lemire moves things along at a breakneck pace, managing to ratchet up the tension as Pohl becomes increasingly desperate to harvest the Trillium. We also get a nice glimpse of the flourishing relationship between Nika and William, as his early 20th century sensibility jars with her 38th century ways. By the end of this issue there's a distinctly ominous feel to the book that gives it an extra dimension. As we saw with Sweet Tooth, Jeff Lemire excels when it comes to desperate people in desperate situations, and Trillium is shaping up to be every bit the equal of that magnum opus. 8/10

Writer: Glen Brunswick
Art: Viktor Bogdanovic & Paul Little
Image $2.99

Stewart R: When I’d read the synopsis of Reality Check back in Previews all those many moons ago, I had it pegged as being a comedy title first and foremost, and while there are some chuckles to be gleaned from Brunswick’s tale of a writer yoked with the unenviable task of finding his very own superhero protagonist - realized in the living, breathing real world - his true love, this is actually developing into a clever little drama series that looks at such topics as mental health, personal sacrifice and loss. Will’s fighting personal battles on all sides with several people questioning and judging his previous actions and current behaviour, while he seems to doubt the worth of his own accomplishments and past decisions that have brought his life to this tumultuous point. Brunswick throws in the obligatory life or death moment to keeps things spiced up and with Will’s ex, Alison being the third point of this very strange triangle, I’m expecting events to become even more complicated next time out. I’m not completely convinced by the superheroics that take place in this ‘real world’ - I was hoping for a little highlighting of huge difference between the fictional world that Thomas comes from and the reality he now finds himself in - but they certainly help to show just how different Will and Thomas are and help to boost the fish-out-of-water-cum-odd-couple vibe that this book is pushing. 7/10


Badger said...

Well in my last post I stated that I was done with Image,but last week I thought I'd give them one last go,so I picked up Alex + Ada and Drumhellar. Were these comics worth my money,in a word no,Alex + Ada was the first comic I have ever read where I almost fell asleep whilst reading it,so in a word that one was boring not worth any ones money in my opinion,and as for Drumhellar it comes across as a poor man's rip off in parts of Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden.So that is me most deferentially done with Image,now don't get me wrong I admire creator owned comics as much as the next person,its just a shame Image can't come up with anything that excites me.As for Amazing X-Men do we really need another bloody X title,just how many more X-Men and Avengers titles do Marvel want to push our way,have they forgotten how many great characters they have in their vaults,also do Marvel think we are stupid when we can blatantly see that they are starting to cancel some of their $2.99 comics only to later relaunch them at $3.99,makes you think it's no longer about the comics but just how much money they can make [yes I know their a business, and I know the nature of business],oh how I miss the 70's.
One last thing,I kind of take offence at the reviewers remark and I quote "As DC's 52 continues to be an unsatisfying collection of titles",seriously are you guys not reading any other DC comics than the few that do get a review on this site [like once every eclipse],DC are putting out some great titles at the moment like Batman,Green Arrow,Suicide Squad,Phantom Stranger,Animal Man etc,so don't you think it's time to stop the little disrespect on this site that is sometimes thrown at DC,and lets face it as Matt pointed out sometime ago it doe's come across that this site is getting a back hander from Image when you take into account how many of their titles are reviewed here.Last bit,I don't take offence to the rest of the reviewers remark,and I quote "It's reassuring to see that the few gems are still a class apart",more that just a few gems from DC I think.
Happy reading.

Badger said...

My apologizes to Matt, I did not mean to imply that he or this site was getting a back hander from Image,I was just pointing out that Image comics get a lot of time on this site [really got to watch what I write].
Happy reading.

Matt Clark said...

Heh, are you getting backhanders from DC by any chance? ;)

Badger said...

Wish I was Matt,I collect 45 of their titles each month and I didn't even get a free t-shirt when I wrote to Dan Didio stating well done on the new 52.
Happy reading.

James Randall said...

Afternoon Badger,

Thanks for your feedback on my review! Firstly, I certainly agree with you - DC are putting out good books! I reviewed Batman a couple of weeks back, and I'm still picking up Animal Man too! My comment wasn't meant as one of disrespect (at the end of the day, I remain in awe of anyone employed by a major company - they're living the dream!) But these reviews are just my personal opinion, and when I look back at how many titles I picked up at the launch of the New 52 (My off the top of my head estimate is somewhere in the region of 20-25, then this last year has seen - in my eyes - a drop in quality. As a result, I do think that the majority of the titles are not as good as they could be. So, I'm not saying they're all bad, and I totally accept that for some people, DCs books are all fantastic, but for me - and me alone - they could be better.
Hope that's cleared it up for you, and thanks again for letting me know what you think!

Cheers, James