2 Feb 2014

Mini Reviews 02/02/2014

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: Matt Fraction
Art: Nick Bradshaw & Various
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: I’m not entirely sure what’s going on here, in more ways than one. This was originally going to be titled Inhumanity: Medusa #1, but for some reason it’s now Inhumanity #2, and while they’ve both been written by Matt Fraction, they're leading into a series – Inhuman – which was originally supposed to be written by Fraction as well, but is now being written by Charles Soule! It’s also not very good, slightly incoherent - almost like a first draft – and fails to make a convincing case for Marvel’s plan to push the Inhumans into the spotlight in 2014. I’ve got no problems with Nick Bradshaw as an artist, far from it, but the number of inkers involved means it’s visually inconsistent, which doesn’t help matters. I’m not writing off Inhuman yet, but the general impression is that the House of Ideas are still out of ideas when it comes making the Inhumans a more potent force to be reckoned within the Marvel Universe. 5/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Matteo Scalera & Dean White
Image $3.50

James R: There's so much to admire about Black Science that I've sat in front of my keyboard deciding where to begin for the last five minutes. I could start with the pacing - Remender continues to hit the sweet spot there, with the narrative being shared perfectly between the characters. As the issue unfolds, we're shown more of the tensions that surround Grant McKay and his team. I could also start by saluting brilliant art team of Scalera and White who give the book a gritty feel that easily encompasses everything from the significance of a wedding ring to a giant robot (anything featuring a giant robot is a win in my eyes!). I could have also started with the brute fact that this is just an intelligent and ambitious read. If this were a TV series or a prose novel, I'd be thoroughly impressed, but because it's a comic, I like it even more. With this, Deadly Class and Low, 2014 is really shaping up to be Remender's year. 9/10

Matt C: A wild, dimension-hopping adventure that possesses a crazed kind of energy, Black Science has leapt to the front of the pack with swiftness and ease, propelled by a plot that has expanded outwards from its protagonist-centric debut to establish the importance of the supporting cast as well as digging into the backstory. There’s something electrifyingly intense about Scalera and White’s imagery, adding to the frenzied vibe that carries the narrative along in a state of near breathlessness, and with Remender’s firm grasp of his story hooking you in from the very first panel, this is simply a comic that you cannot afford to miss out on. Scoop up those 2nd/3rd printings and join in on the science class asap! 8/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Salvador Larroca & Frank Martin
Marvel $3.99

James R: Just when I thought I was out… Hickman pulls me back in! At the start of 2014, I announced that this year could be the year when I finally stop getting books from the Big Two (once again, this was a week with neither a DC or Vertigo book on my pull-list). I also felt that maybe Infinity was a good point to step off the Avengers train as a) these things ain't cheap!, and b) after reading these books for, ooh, many years, I was starting to feel a degree of familiarity which was leading to a degree of boredom. But then this arc kicks in and I'm as enraptured as I was at age 12. So what's so good here? Firstly, it reminded me of Warren Ellis' legendary Planetary, kicking off with SHIELD discovering the body of Hank Pym… or is it? What follows is a corking cross-dimensional issue that ties into Hickman's work in New Avengers (but crucially - and respect due to Hickman for this - you don't need to read that book to appreciate this one; it's just another tasty layer). Hickman plays this one perfectly, introducing us to a counterpart Earth Avengers, who on the surface seem very similar to our own, but something is definitely amiss. Avengers World might not be doing for me, but this one is still very much to my liking. 8/10

Writer: James Robinson
Art: J. Bone
Image $2.99

James R: This is a comic where I hope the ends meet soon. On one hand, I love it - the idea is a phenomenal one: what if there was an alien invasion that had occurred in a clandestine fashion, and that our invaders were in fact here to save, rather than destroy us? I also like J.Bone's art - he does a fine job of carrying the story over nine (virtually) dialogue-free pages this issue. However, after two issues there's just something missing for me. Maybe it's because I'm finding the protagonist Tomas Ramirez to be so utterly uninteresting, or maybe it's because a sizeable chunk of the two issues have been an extended chase sequence - either way, I can't quite reconcile these two contrasting views at the moment, but I'm going to give it another couple of instalments to see if it finds a rhythm. (And I guess it really doesn't help when your book comes out in the same week as two brilliant SF comics from the same publisher!) 7/10

Matt C: After a promising debut this sophomore effort goes into clunky exposition overload territory, sucking away much of the momentum it had previously built up. There are far more effective ways of conveying plot details than having someone basically lay it out in an extended monologue, and even then it’s not entirely persuasive when some of the more obvious details are omitted. Bone’s excellent illustrations still make a strong case for sticking around but the hints at real invention that we saw last month are absent this time round, generic alien invasion set-up taking over. I’ll give it another issue to be sure, but it’ll have its work cut out to get me to sign up for more. 6/10

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

James R: There seems to be a growing consensus that the recent success of Image Comics comes down to the fact that it's the place that creators can 'tell the stories they want to tell'. I certainly think that's part of it. On one hand I think great writers are great on any book - they can pick up and mould the narrative landscape to their own interests - but as good as say, Avengers is, a book like East Of West is a whole different ball game. It's difficult to say 'better' because they're both designed to be different reading experiences, but one thing is certain - for me this title shows Hickman's instincts harnessed magnificently. We know he likes to play the long game when it comes to narrative, and it's been a joy to watch him in just nine (that's nine!) issues build up his alternate world. Here we see him adding yet further layers to it, and once again it doesn't detract from the story, it simply adds new and intriguing dimensions to it. The focus shifts to the Kingdom, a section of America that constitutes parts of Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas, and we are introduced to a land which turned out to be far more profitable for the black Union soldiers than the 40 acres and a mule promised in our dimension. If you're a fan of ambitious SF you should really be picking this book up - it's now shaping up to be a classic. 8/10

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