26 Jan 2014

Mini Reviews 26/01/2014

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.

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Wes Craig & Lee Loughridge
Image $3.50

Matt C: Another extremely impressive debut from Remender, providing evidence that 2014 could very well be ‘his year’ if he continues along his current trajectory. The majority of this issue focuses on Marcus, a runaway roughing it on the streets of San Francisco in the late ‘80s, getting in and out of scrapes as he survives on his wits, before finding a target on his back for as yet undisclosed reasons. It’s an insightful and convincing opening, and when the action kicks in then it becomes quite electrifying, the fluid, pulsating imagery from Craig really ratcheting up the levels of excitement. There’s no real indication presented here just why Marcus is an ideal candidate for a school of assassins, and perhaps it might have been wiser to drop in a few more hints, but it’s not really a problem worth fixating over as the whole package has me very eagerly looking forward to the next instalment. 8/10

James R: In his introductory notes at the back of this debut issue, Rick Remender states: "I've never tried anything quite like this before", and that's a very true statement. Given that he's made his name writing mind-bending SF tales on a huge scale (a quick look at his other Image title, Black Science, will give you a better idea of his usual metier) this story is remarkably different. Set in the late '80s, it feels like the X-Men on speed and cheep beer - and this is no bad thing. We follow homeless orphan Marcus around the mean streets of San Francisco in 1987, a teenager who discovers that he has been earmarked by a clandestine group who wish him to train at the Kings Dominion School of the Deadly Arts. I've already mentioned the X-Men, but this also reminded me of the opening chapters of Grant Morrison's The Invisibles. Of course, there are only so many stories in culture, so the devil here is in the detail, and that's where Remender shows his skill as a writer. He promises "No magic. No spaceships. No-one can fly or shoot eye-beams." This book will be hopefully showcase the writer's ability at bringing ethics alive. One of the reasons that his Uncanny X-Force worked so well is that it was shot through with the question of free will versus determinism, and I'm sure we'll get something similar here. But instead of healing factors and psychokinesis, we'll get the culture of the 1980s. As a fanboy who was a boy in that decade, I can't wait to join Remender's nostalgia trip. School is definitely in for me with Deadly Class. 8/10

Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Peter Gross & Chris Chuckry
DC/Vertigo $3.99

Matt C: A realunch that to my mind has nothing to do with a creating a jumping-on point (why would anyone want to jump on at this stage of the game?) but more of an excuse to try and set things back on track for a story that’s been drifting for the last year or so. And, for the most part, it’s fairly successful. It’s a case of moving Tom Taylor away from the near-impenetrable crossover with Fables that saw out the last volume and back to characters and a storyline longtime readers will be more familiar (and comfortable) with. This is done by propelling Tom through a succession of well-known fictional environments, giving Gross a great opportunity to flex his artistic muscles by employing a variety of different styles (although never in a way that jars). At the end we arrive at what will no doubt be the start of the next (final?) act of the overall story, so perhaps it’ll be more obvious in the next issue whether Carey’s course-correction has worked, but as a means to get there, this issue wasn’t half bad. 7/10

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Annie Wu & Matt Hollingsworth
Marvel $2.99

Matt C: So issue #16 makes its appearance before #15, apparently because it was already in the can, and as the book is currently alternating between Clint and Kate it won’t make for any confusing continuity scenarios. We’ll just have to wait that little bit longer to see what Clint’s up to, and besides, this is another brilliant done-in–one adventure for the enormously likeable Kate Bishop. Bizarre but brilliant. Rather than anything approaching a familiar superhero-type story, Fraction introduces us to a character who’s basically Brian Wilson in a plot revolving around a ‘lost’ album that’s basically ‘Smile’. The names have been changed to protect the innocent of course, and we get a funny, fast-paced, colourful read that barely features any superheroics or even the hero saving the day, but it’s tremendously enjoyable all the same. Only criticism? If Kate doesn’t know who ‘Brian Wilson’ is, it’s highly unlikely she knows about Syd Barratt. That aside, another winner. 9/10

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