5 Jan 2014

Mini Reviews 05/01/2014

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.

BAD BLOOD #1
Writer: Jonathan Maberry
Art: Tyler Crook
Dark Horse $3.99

Stewart R: There’s a level of sensitivity regarding the subject of cancer and the fight against it early on in this debut that works surprisingly well when then transposed against the fight against vampirism later on in the book. Trick is a long term cancer patient, having bounced back and forth with remission so many times that his energy for the conflict is almost spent. The turn of events then seek to make his life even more hellish, but give him resolve to fight on and fight harder against a terrifying opponent seeking terrible revenge. The pacing is measured and thanks to the simple, subtle art style from Crook and his muted colours there’s the slight feel of a noir thriller to proceedings that just feels right. The interesting thing from here will be to see how much Trick’s condition plays into the storyline, but I’m invested in finding out. 8/10

NEW AVENGERS #13
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Simone Bianchi & Adriano Dell’Alpi
Marvel $3.99

James R: Alright, I'm starting 2014 with a bold statement: this might be the year I stop picking up titles from the Big Two. Since being pulled back into the world of mainstream comics by Earth X (of all things!) back in '99, I realised towards the end of last year that my enjoyment from the Big Two was becoming limited and a number of books that I liked was reducing. I'll keep you posted as to how this goes, but for now Jonathan Hickman is doing his damnedest to keep me on board. Since the first issue of New Avengers I've thought this title is the closest natural fit to Hickman's milieu. After Black Swan's warning at the end of Infinity, we see the arrival of the Black Priests on another Earth (with a nice mirror to the events of issue #2) and the extinction that follows. As a grizzled old fanboy, I know full well that the 616 Universe will emerge triumphant, but I'm hoping that Hickman delves further into the ethics of having to sacrifice a whole world (or worlds!) to save a universe. I've never been a huge fan of Bianchi's style, and Steve Epting has really made this book his own, so the art jarred a little, but Dell'Alpi's sombre colours set the right tone. A strong start to the year for New Avengers with the big ideas front and centre - let's hope Hickman can keep his stellar momentum up. 8/10

Matt C: After a really impressive run up until this point this is the weakest issue of the series so far. Dealing with not only the 616 Illuminati but introducing us to a parallel plot thread involving the lluminati of another Earth, much of it feels superfluous and muddled. Bianchi’s murky art doesn’t help matters, and some of the facial expressions leave something to be desired; the general impression is that a lot of this stuff could have been cut with the meatier moments absorbed into another issue. Possibly if it was illustrated by Steve Epting I may have come away with a different opinion, but sometimes if a comic doesn’t connect with you visually then the quality of the writing almost becomes an afterthought. 5/10

TRUE LIVES OF THE FABULOUS KILLJOYS #6
Writers: Gerard Way & Shaun Simon
Art: Becky Cloonan & Dan Jackson
Dark Horse $3.99

Matt C: As it hits its conclusion I think it’s fair to say the Fabulous Killjoys has been an enthralling dystopian tale, approaching its narrative from the leftfield and adding a healthy dose of the spirit of rebellion. This final issue though? Well, I did come away thinking it was somewhat lacking; a perfectly fine ending that didn’t quite live up to the trajectory it was heading in. Or at least that’s one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is that it perhaps wasn’t ideally suited, or at least not perfectly structured for the episodic format. It’s my feeling that if it was absorbed in a single sitting it would be a much more persuasive. I think some of the detail and the flow of the narrative is lost if there’s a delay in between reading each chapter, so I’m still giving it the overall thumbs up with the caveat that you should set some time aside to read it all in one hit. 7/10

SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN #7
Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Rich Ellis & Lee Loughridge
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: With a bunch of low-rate villains calling themselves the Sinister Six, comprised of two well-known and blundering B-villains and three lower grade newcomers, it was always a wonder as to whether we might see a few origin stories popping up in this series. Spencer picks the perfect moment to centre in on the newest version of the Beetle, the street-smart and organised Janice, who was revealed to be the daughter of crime boss Tombstone the last time out. He gives us a staggered flashback through the young criminal’s childhood, time at college and into her professional career before costumed thuggery and larceny became her primary focus, and as is the style for this series it’s done with a tongue placed firmly in cheek. Her rotten antics, eagerly egged on by her proud father, are amusing to say the least and captured in wry fashion by the interim art team of Ellis and Loughridge (ignore the names on the cover for it lies this month!) who are a fine choice to convey this chapter. Janice’s determination, focus and talent are clear to see and certainly help to show in the grander plan that not all of this group are washed up as we might have once thought. The comedy continues when we learn just how she came to be the new Beetle, and the parties responsible, along with the manner of their involvement, is once again comedy gold. 9/10

SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #5
Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: JIm Lee, Dustin Nguyen & Alex Sinclair
DC $3.99

James R: Scott Snyder is certainly going all out in Superman Unchained. After setting three plot arcs in motion he shows a deft hand as he adds a fourth into the mix this month, with Clark reflecting back on his Kansas childhood and the discovery of one of his super-human powers by an unhinged neighbour. Snyder drops the Lex Luthor element to incorporate all this, but I hardly noticed as he bombards the reader with the machinations of the Ascension group and of the proto-Superman, Wraith. The highlight for me came with Wraith's discussion with Kal-El, as he asks Superman how he'll feel as his mortal friends and loved ones wither and die around him. Snyder leaves the issue unresolved, but it shows that he's got a great idea of how to make Superman relatable: by focusing on the 'Man' rather than the 'Super'. I get the distinct impression that Snyder is enjoying himself more here than he is in Gotham at the moment. Over in the Bat-books he's doing a fine job, but the sheer volume of the Batman mythos means he can only do so much. Here he's really amping up the notion of 'alien invasion', fleshing out Lois as a character, and - yep - making Superman more human. This is still streets ahead of DC's Superman or Action Comics offerings, and I had a blast reading it. 8/10

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