9 Dec 2013

Mini Reviews 08/12/2013

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: Matt Fraction
Art: Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales, Laura Martin, Lenil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Dustin Weaver & Israel Silva
Marvel  $3.99

Matt C: You can tell Fraction means business here, that he’s determined to make a great Inhumans tale, and that ambition is admirable even if the results aren’t quite a resounding success. It’s an engrossing read that very nearly manages to overcome its single major flaw: it’s primarily an issue full of exposition. For the most part Inhumanity #1 is basically Karnak bringing us up to speed with what’s been happening in the world of the Inhumans and how the fallout from Infinity has altered their future, and while it is a fairly compelling recital there’s no getting around the fact that there’s a lot of pontificating going on.  Those looking for action and thrills are going to be sorely disappointed even though Coipel and co do bring a sense of urgency to imagery that generally revolves around someone talking in a cell. I did enjoy the issue more than I expected to, and I’ll cut it some slack as it’s the opening chapter, but things are going to have start happening going forward to maintain my interest. 7/10

Stewart R: With the Infinity event now done and dusted and with multiple Inhuman related titles set for release in early 2014, there's no getting away from the fact that this is predominantly a summary of how the Inhuman household has wound up in this emotionally chaotic point with notes of the heartbreak and fresh discoveries to come. For the most part, Fraction does a good job of selling the drama, utilising one of the Royal family known usually for his intellect and composure to highlight how the relative stability that his kind have fought so hard for through generations has now been thrown to the wind in a single movement of benevolent treachery. I have always liked Karnak as a character, his particular skills and powers being incredibly subtle amongst a group of heavy-hitters. I really did enjoy the way in which Fraction has him converse with the cast of Avengers and associates who turn up through the issue as he picks away at the layers of mystery until a terrible truth is revealed. Some of the dialogue feels a little off in odd places, and one word of warning from T'challa most certainly wouldn't have been ignored by Tony Stark in the way that it is here, but the whole thing holds together well in general and shares an similar feeling of the epic that Hickman captured in Infinity. From the artistic side of things Coipel is always a fine choice for a big sell title like this - his panel depicting Karnak truly broken by his realisation being the powerful high(low)light of the issue -  though Morales' inks seem a little too heavy in places and the 'Ancient' and 'Infinity' flashbacks, pencilled by Yu and Weaver in turn, I found to be surprisingly jarring. So all in all this is not as polished as perhaps it could have been, yet it's not far off. 8/10

Writer: Ian Edginton
Art: Francesco Trifolgi & Chris Peter
Vertigo $2.99

Stewart R: We're three issues in and Edginton seems intent on ramping things up even further! As if humankind's troubles weren't desperate enough with the Hinterkind's machinations for their capture and ultimate end, he now introduces another threat that offers up more intrigue and fear for both factions. This escalation really add another dimension to this already interesting fantasy plot and the potential here is immense. When it comes to the smaller details Edginton takes steps to flesh out the Hinterkind, their ingrained bitterness towards the humans and some of the strained relationships between the various united species. In a neat twist he then comes at this new threat from three angles as it seems the cast that have been introduced so far may all be on paths leading to a very nearby plot intersection. Translating these plans to the page is Trifolgi who captures every sweating brow, knowing look and expression of raw terror with an expert touch. This is a series that should be on your radar if you're looking for a new Vertigo ongoing title. 9/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire & Jose Villarrubia
Vertigo $2.99

James R: Just when you think you've got a handle on where Jeff Lemire's Sci Fi/Romance epic is heading, he flips the script (literally) on the readership. Yet again, Lemire plays with the form of the medium by making this comic a unique two parter - firstly you have to read what has become of Nika by reading the top half of the comic, and when you get to the final page you flip it over to re-trace your steps and read what's happened to William. It's a simple device, but when you've become accustomed to reading and consuming comics in a certain way, the shift is weirdly disconcerting - and this perfectly augments the emotions of the two protagonists as both Nika and William find themselves in worlds that are not their own following the temple explosion last month. Lemire really excels artistically, showing Nika's world as a faux-1920s backdrop with a hint of steampunk to it. This has developed into a most unorthodox, yet unique love story - Nika and William are not spending pages and pages holding hands and writing bad poetry, rather they're getting to live the other's life. I certainly can't recall reading a comic like this before, and it's a thrill to watch Lemire at the top of his game. 9/10

Writer: Matt Hawkins
Art: Rahsan Ekedal
Image/Top Cow $3.99

Matt C: This has now become the penultimate issue of what is being termed ‘Season One’, with Hawkins and Ekedal set to relaunch the series next year, in full colour. What prompted this move? Well, it appears a lot of potential readers are put off by the fact that Think Tank is a black and white book, and the creators are hoping the addition of colour will entice them towards their marvellous series. It’s a sad state of affairs that folks are admitting to ignoring the book due to its lack of ‘colour’ because for me, I barely register it being black and white. It’s such a compelling, intelligent read with art that’s metaphorically colourful that I can’t see any superficial addition to the final package making it better than it already is. But these guys want their book in the hands of as many people as possible, so if they have to make some concessions to increase their audience, so be it. I’m just glad it’s sticking around because it’s one of the best comics currently being published, and if you’ve been paying attention to the news over the last week, it’s proving to be alarmingly prescient too. 8/10

Stewart R: Events really are escalating now as the weight of the political scheming starts to splinter the status quo of world peace and the superpowers of the US and China begin their respective retaliations. David's street level, small scale plotting and survival tactics are a terrific contrast to the larger warfare taking place elsewhere. Ekedal gives our protagonist a slew of confident grins and smirks to make us think that for the first time in quite a while, he might be on a path to recording some sort of victory, in spite of his still precarious position. The real success through this arc has been Hawkin's maneuvering of David through the plot to ensure that he has little choice but to walk into the intricate trap that General Clarkson and Senator Mitchell have laid out for him with no guarantee - only hope - that he will be able to limit the damage from their grand plan. A consistently compelling read and one you should be checking out before we get to next year's coloured second volume! 8/10

Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Aaron Kuder & June Chung
DC $3.99

James R: I decided to give Action Comics another bash as with the arrival of Greg Pak, I was intrigued to see if the writer would give this book a shot in the arm. My initial gut feeling is a tentative 'Not bad!' but it's still not quite the A-grade comic DC should be producing. Kal-El is called in to save Lana Lang, who in the New 52 iteration is an Electrical Engineer working for *ahem* a 'Non-profit collective' (very 2013!) Lana has uncovered an old-school run-screaming-for-your-lives monster, and well, this looks like a job for Superman. What follows is an interesting flashback, as Superman recalls his nascent heat vision causing widespread destruction on the Kent farm, and as such, feels empathy with the destructive monster. Above all else there was a feeling of deja vu about this comic. I was reminded me of Snyder's Superman Unchained in terms of narrative voice i.e. Superman talks through his options and thought process whilst being Super. That's no bad thing, but it did strike me as a touch derivative. The art from Aaron Kuder was tidy and had hints of Cliff Chiang's work - again, no bad thing. It's said that writing Superman is a tough job and there are signs here that Pak is up for the challenge, but on the strength of this he'll need to find a unique take on the man of steel as this felt too familiar for me and you know what familiarity tends to breed. 6/10

Writer: Simon Spurrier
Art: Jeff Stokely & Andre May
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Stewart R: And so this splendid science fiction series comes to its conclusion and it's a worthy ending indeed. Spurrier tackles multiple themes and ideas all at once and rather than feeling weighty or cluttered, the many elements come together to form a solid finale. The idea of coming to terms with personal loss and pain makes up the key emotional point, while the wider social commentary of the perpetuation of war, the power of the populace and the fragile line of control of such power is swiftly handled with subtlety. I particularly enjoyed the epilogue that suggests that things have not turned out as perhaps Blue planned and the slight remnants of mystery that still surround the Blister and its psychic surprises ensure that delicious uncertainty allows the reader to ponder on what could come next. The Paradoscar winning Jeff Stokely yet again delivers some terrific stand out moments - that panel depicting the gun-wielding primate leaping into battle would look great framed upon my wall - though I will say that I did think the inking was possibly a little too heavy in parts compared to the previous installments. Nevertheless this is a a strong effort from all involved that caps off one of the best miniseries of 2013! 8/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Steve Epting & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image $2.99

James R: I was reluctant to jump on board the Velvet bandwagon (beautifully upholstered all the same) as I feel that Brubaker is at his best when writing straight-up noir, and for me espionage stuff feels a little too played out. However, having listened to the praise heaped on it by my friends and fellow reviewers, I felt I had to give it a shot. Undoubtedly, this is a fine comic and Brubaker shows the same love for the ethically shady world of spies that he does for the desperate criminal. It also looks lush too; Steve Epting continues to do some fine work here, and it's definitely augmented by the colours of Elizabeth Breitweiser. Her palette brings a suitably authentic period feel to London in these pages and gives the title a classy feel. However, at the moment, I'm being blown away by Ales Kot's Zero and that for me reads as a spy tale that's original and really dynamic. There's not a thing wrong with this comic, it's just that I'm not entirely compelled by it. Brubaker promises that these two issues are "Just the tip of the iceberg" in the letters pages, and I'll certainly hang around to see where he takes Miss Templeton, but at the moment this is a book to admire rather than love. 7/10

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