25 Nov 2013

Mini Reviews 24/11/2013


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.

THE WAKE #5
Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Sean Murphy & Matt Hollingsworth
DC/Vertigo $3.99

Matt C:  I'm far from the first person to point this out but I'll add my voice to the chorus anyway: there MUST be some Hollywood execs sniffing around this property because it's ripe for adaptation! A thrilling, frightening and propulsive underwater riff on Alien and Aliens may be the baseline concept, but that doesn't take into account the mythology Synder has built up around it, exquisitely rendered by Murphy with a mix of tension, horror and exhilaration, which reaches its turning point in this issue. There've been hints that there was more to this tale since the first page of the first issue and here Snyder essentially pulls the rug from under us, ignoring any expectations that exist due to familiarity with the formula and shifting gear into a new direction. It's a brave move, one that highlights the best qualities of The Wake, in that it has the capacity to thrill by using recognizable tropes but also that it retains the ability to surprise and catch its audience off guard. If you thought you knew where this was heading, it looks like it's time to think again; The Wake continues to be both gripping and daring. 8/10

James R: We've said before that the pairing of Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy equals brilliant comics with a blockbuster feel, but with this issue the creative team up the ante to an 'epic' feel. Throughout the opening chapters, we've been teased with glimpses of a post-apocalyptic future, and this instalment confirms that the second arc of the ten-issue run takes place in that dark future. I've been effusive in my praise for this series so far, and this week it is a book that surpassed my high expectations. Not only is Snyder to be saluted (yet again!) for finding the perfect balance of characterisation, plot and surprise, but Sean Murphy excels once more. The final pages of Lee talking to her son via a failing video link were perfectly realised, and the sense of darkness and isolation from Matt Hollingsworth's colours added another dimension. It's amazing to think that this series has only been going for five issues, and I'm almost giddy at the thought of what Snyder and Murphy have in plan for the final five. Magnificent from first page to last, and a near-flawless first arc. 9/10

BUZZKILL #3
Writer: Donny Cates & Mark Reznicek
Art: Geoff Shaw & Lauren Affe
Dark Horse $3.99


Stewart R: The preceding two chapters about a superhero fuelled by drink and drugs and his attempts to get clean, therefore leaving his slightly borderline heroics behind, were intriguing, amusing and very well written. Cates and Reznicek have already introduced us to ‘Reuben’, detailed his powers and his problem and then thrown a pretty hefty kitchen sink full of payback in his direction. This month he continues on his irritable path to redemption, his quirky new sponsor in tow, and if anything this issue is even better than the earlier installments. Cates and Reznicek have already introduced us to a plethora of villains in this universe and they get a crack at their own superhero team as ‘Reuben’ comes clean to a group of former comrades in a very recognisable setup. These creators have gone with familiar and twisted versions of popular characters through a lot of this, but their ingenuity with original cast members is terrific - honestly, I think Panteradactyl may be one of my favourite comic book creations of 2013! The fun doesn’t stop there though as our reluctant protagonist then tries to mend bridges with someone even closer to home and the whole thing then spills over in comedic yet dramatic fashion with an unexpected twist. There’s a strange sense of the soap opera involved in Buzzkill that sees things escalate as they get more intimate and the cliffhanger turn here has me counting the days until #4’s arrival. The saddest thing about reading #3 of Buzzkill was forgetting that it is a four-part series as there’s so much promise in this universe and it’s anti-hero lead that I want it to go on and on. 9/10


ZERO #3
Writer: Ales Kot
Art: Mateus Santolouco & Jordie Bellaire
Image $2.99


James R: Ales Kot continues to channel the best qualities of the finest writers in Zero. Having flashed back to Edward Zero's first mission last issue, we thrown into the near future again this month, as Zero and his fellow agent Mina look to infiltrate a meeting which is dubbed a 'Kickstarter for terrorists'. What follows is a self-contained, high-stakes mission with some SF weaponry thrown in for good measure. Once again, if you've ever read any Warren Ellis, this will feel like a well-worn and comfy pair of trainers to you - but that's no bad thing, as Kot infuses the events with a real sense of drama and threat which keeps the plot moving forward at a great pace. As with the majority of books that I've really liked this year, the level of unpredictability makes for a far more rewarding reading experience. I'm sure Kot will do a good job when he takes over Secret Avengers, but I have a sneaking suspicion it will read like a diluted Zero. In the meantime, I highly recommended sticking with the full-strength original. 8/10

Stewart R: This is espionage thriller fiction at its finest with Ales Kot throwing various chapters of Edward Zero’s life at the readers in dizzying, yet highly enjoyable fashion. The chronological jumps back and forth since the debut issue have given us an idea of the sort of man Zero is, was and could be as we’ve seen him manipulated and trained as a young boy through to some of the dirtier deeds he’s had to perform as a grown man and then possibly one of his final moments in his later years. By giving us these clips seemingly out of sequence, Kot is at the same time delivering us a very straight narrative about a spy, an instrument of others, who may or may not have had much control over his destiny and who, in every chapter to date, comes across as a capable yet inherently resigned and sad character. The events that take place here are very Bondesque in their delivery (with a tiny amount of MacLane airduct action thrown in for good measure) and that similarity definitely helps to solidify Zero’s credentials as an agent at the top of his game whilst confirming once again that there are certainly wheels spinning within wheels when it comes to the overarching plot. Kot is quite simply nailing the dialogue, keeps his narration sparse and concise which allows the ever changing art team - Santolouco puts in a sterling effort this month - to use their visual flair to provide a handsome share of the storytelling. Most importantly, through all of the subterfuge and silenced pistol shots, he brings an open and raw emotion to it all with moments of sad reflection or, as the case may be here, jaw dropping intensity and disbelief. Track down the back issues and make sure you pick this up when visiting your LCBS as it’s currently an unmissable ride. 9/10


X-MEN #7
Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson & Jason Keith
Marvel Comics $3.99


James R: *Peers out from bomb shelter, crawls out* I… I think it's over! Thank the Maker for that! After the horror and carnage that Battle For The Atom did to my X-Men pull-list over the past few weeks, it looks like things are finally returning to normal for the X-books. Well, I say 'normal' - the excellent Wolverine & The X-Men is coming to an end and I've had enough of Bendis' ham-fisted attempts to get a handle on Marvel's mutants, so soon it will be the case that Brian Wood's X-Men will be my only X-book. However, given the quality of comic Wood produces when not having to incorporate an overblown event, I'm happy with that state of affairs. Here he brings us a reborn Lady Deathstrike - it's virtually an SF comic as she is brought back via some crafty nanotechnology. Simultaneously, the X-Men have a resurrection of their own, with Karima having shaken off the Omega Sentinel/Arkea shenanigans from the first arc. There's something about Brian Wood and the X-Men that simply works for me - back during his run on the last iteration of this title he did an equally fine job of keeping well clear of the convoluted X-mythos, and keeping his plot focused on great story. He's keeping up that good work here - I'm keeping my adamantium-tipped fingers crossed he'll be doing so for a while yet. 8/10


UNCANNY X-MEN #14
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, Al Vey, Mark Irwin & Victor Olazaba
Marvel $3.99


Stewart R: Damn. Dammit all to heck and back. The only reason I truly was picking this up this week was due to Chris Bachalo’s artwork. I’d been down on this series as Bendis continued to wrap it up in his potty, no good, sassafrassin’ Battle Of The Atom and ‘original’ X-Men nonsense and was on the verge of throwing in the towel and sparing myself $3.99 each month (and more). And now here I sit with a semi-decent, competent chapter that actually bothers to deal with one of the new characters he’s brought to the party nearly exclusively. Benjamin Deeds’ power to assume the looks and traits of people he’s in close proximity to remained one of those quirky, ‘is it X-Men grade?’ abilities until now and Bendis finally bothers to address it as Emma takes the young man under her wing and then throws him in at the real world deep end to see if he can reach his potential. The antics in Atlantic City are good fun, allowing us to see the greater scope of Deeds’ mutation and his usefulness to the team. Through the good, however, still seeps some of the bad that seem to be associated with this writer. Emma referring to Scott as ‘Summers’ seems out of sorts considering their history (a fanboy hangup for sure) and it could be argued that despite putting the focus on Benjamin, it’s his powers that ultimately shine through rather than any distinctive or memorable character notes or personality traits. That niggle once again takes us back close to that familiar territory known as ‘Bendis’ Talking Heads Syndrome’ and it’s a shame to see him unable to throw off that annoying shackle more often as he’s clearly capable of doing. 6/10


SEX CRIMINALS #3
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Chip Zdarsky
Image $3.50


Matt C:  I’ve liked Sex Criminals a lot so far even though I haven’t been convinced that it’s quite the work of peerless brilliance some have claimed it is, but with this issue it confirms without question that it needs to exist. There’s a sequence of metatextual fourth-wall demolishing that takes the breath away through its sheer ballsiness, relying not only on our knowledge of the story but of the creators, the comic as a product, and the controversy it’s been surrounded by over the last couple of months.  There’s a subversiveness at the book’s core, and this sequence really exemplifies that trait, as not only do Fraction and Zdarsky pull it all off, but they do so with such unbridled confidence when they could just as easily fallen flat on their faces.  Elsewhere there’s the same mix of warmth, wit, sass and sexiness that’s been winning people over, but it the audaciousness of the creators that makes issue #3 stick out of the pack this week. 8/10

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