16 Mar 2014

Mini Reviews 16/03/2014

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.

NEMO: THE ROSES OF BERLIN HC
Writer: Alan Moore
Art: Kevin O'Neill & Ben Dimagmaliw
Knockabout/Top Shelf  $14.95

James R: Strictly speaking this is a hardcover rather than a comic, but at 48 pages of story, it’s more of a special than an extended work, so I figured, what the hell! I have to admit that following Moore and O’Neill’s last excursion into the LOEG universe, I was concerned about this. Nemo: Heart Of Ice lacked the sparkle and verve of its predecessors and *whispers* it felt a little half-baked from Moore. It’s understandable to a point; the Grand Nabob of comics has been busy of late with him film project, Jimmy’s End and his long-gestating novel, Jerusalem. I’m personally of the opinion that I’d rather wait longer and get more (excuse the pun) but reading Flowers Of Berlin I was reminded that when he feels like it, nobody comes close to Moore’s genius for mainstream comics. The tale sees Jenni Nemo on a potential suicide mission into the heart of Adenoid Hynkel’s Germany to save her kidnapped daughter. What this means is the brilliant Kevin O’Neil is given free rein to imagine a hyper-Nazi Germany, one that sees the ambition of Albert Speer fused with the futurism of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. We also get to see Germany’s own League – the Twilight Heroes (who I immediately wanted to see in their own series). It’s a blast from first page until last, and my only complaint is that it could have easily been 100 pages longer. It’s nice to see Moore hasn’t given up on comics just yet; as cantankerous as he can be, the man still knows the score. 9/10

HAWKEYE #17
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Chris Eliopoulos, David Aja & Jordie Bellaire
Marvel $2.99

James R: How far is too far? I’m often fascinated by tales of rock & roll excess wherein a band or musician becomes so successful, there comes a point at which there is nobody around them who will say “Now hang on… Is that triple-live-concept album such a good idea?” When reading this issue of Hawkeye, I wondered if the same is true of Matt Fraction on Marvel’s most lauded title. I am a huge advocate of experimentation in comics, and I love books that challenge convention, but a book that shows us the cartoon that Clint watches with the kids from the apartments? For me, this was a step too far. I don’t deny that it’s well made; the characters acting as analogues for the cast of Hawkeye and the wider Marvel U was the obvious way to go, and it's nicely illustrated by Chris Eliopoulos, but still, this was a vanity issue. I was expecting there to be more to the tale, but by the final page I felt a little cheated. If this had emerged as part of a Hawkeye annual, or even as a bonus as part of a collected trade, that would have been fine, but as a standalone issue it was largely pointless. Here’s hoping that Fraction keeps this book in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed, and doesn’t veer back into triple-live-concept album territory. 5/10

Matt C: There was bound to be a bump in the road sooner or later. In essence it’s a Saturday cartoon riff on the series, with a tale populated by canine analogues of the regular cast - it’s cleverly done and Eliopoulos’ art is very charming but it just simply screams out ‘inventory issue’ from first page to last. Which is fine I suppose, we’re aware of the delays that have been a bit of a problem for the title of late, but coming off the back of that cliffhanger that floored us all at the end of the last issue? This is how you follow it?? Perhaps in hindsight I’ll judge this more favourably, but plonking it at this particular moment makes it more of an annoying distraction rather than a pleasant diversion. 6/10

MANIFEST DESTINY #5
Writer: Chris Dingess
Art: Matthew Roberts & Owen Gieni
Image $2.99

Matt C: If pushed, I’d say it’s the strength of the characterization that’s really made Manifest Destiny stand out of the pack. There are plenty of great ideas circulating around in the world of comics, but no matter how impressive the idea, if you’re not engaged with the characters then your interest isn’t going to be held for long. Yes, comics are a visual artform, but we’re still dealing with narrative fiction, and if you’re going to really invest in an episodic plotline, then firstly you want a set of individuals who are fascinating, complex, funny or in other some way appealing. Manifest Destiny has that part of the puzzle sorted, and as the idea is very great indeed it doesn’t take much to get sucked straight into this succession of weird and wonderful happenings in this alternate reading of Lewis and Clark’s famous trek through the States. Then there’s Roberts’ art that’s packed with detail and emotion, adding plenty of period authenticity to the proceedings, with Gieni’s colour work introducing a familiar yet otherworldly hue. Smart, thrilling adventure storytelling at its finest. 8/10

BATMAN #29
Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Greg Capullo & Danny Miki
DC $4.99

James R: After last month’s extended trailer for the big Bat-event (that left me distinctly nonplussed) it’s back to ‘Year Zero’ in Batman. Undoubtedly, Scott Snyder goes for the blockbuster feel that he’s produced in many of his books (Superman Unchained, The Wake and American Vampire: Survival Of The Fittest spring readily to mind.) Once again it’s a perfectly fine Bat-book, with all the main players given adequate room to breathe, clocking in at a bumper 40 pages, but I still found the whole experience strangely soulless. I’ve said it before, but I fear that I’ve become Bat-saturated – after *gulp* three decades of Batman stories, it takes something remarkable to really hold me. Snyder did this so well when he first took over the reins with Dick Grayson as the Dark Knight, and for all his faults, Grant Morrison did some great work shaking up the status quo of the Bat-universe. As a result, reading a ‘standard’ Batman tale, no matter how well-crafted and drawn (and this month Capullo channels his inner Miller riffing on some panels from that holiest of texts, The Dark Knight Returns), can leave me a little nonplussed. I’ll ride on with ‘Year Zero’, but at the moment the possibility of me having zero Batman books on my pull-list by the summer grows greater by the week. 6/10

MERCENARY SEAS #2
Writer: Kel Symons
Art: Mathew Reynolds
Image $2.99

Matt C: An exhilarating blast of pulp adventuring, Mercenary Sea may not be covering any new ground but it shows that the ground it does cover is still immensely fertile for storytelling. Packed with pleasingly familiar archetypes, most of them with shady pasts and several with duplicitous motives, an atmosphere of danger and skulduggery ripples throughout. This sophomore instalment kicks right into the action, Reynolds bold compositions, effective use of silhouettes, and powerful colour choices really making an impact. Supremely entertaining. 8/10

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