11 May 2014

Mini Reviews 11/05/2014

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: Jason Aaron
Art: Mike Deodato & Frank Martin
Marvel $4.99

James R: After his exceptional Southern Bastards last week, once again the spotlight falls on Jason Aaron for a premier issue. This is Aaron in mainstream mode though, as Marvel kick off their big summer event with the death of the Watcher. I'm conflicted about this first chapter as on one hand, there was an awful lot to admire. The premise itself is a strong one, and rather than a galactic-scale emergency threat like we saw in Hickman's Infiinity, this feels more focused and is all the better for it. I also enjoyed the unorthodox team put together by Captain America to investigate the murder: the Punisher and Dr. Strange, and two other squads incorporating Moon Knight, Winter Soldier and Gamora in space, with Black Panther, Emma Frost and Ant Man heading in a subterranean direction. Given Marvel's huge roster of characters, it's great that this is more than 'The main Avengers cast solve a murder!'. With these positives though, I still have some reservations - I can't help but be reminded of DC's Identity Crisis, which also saw a murder mystery at its core, along with some mind-wipe revelations front and centre too. I was also jarred by how Captain America and the Avengers were galvanised into action - would all of these people know who the Watcher was? To be fair, these are minor quibbles, and as a read I found it compelling enough to pick up issue #2. Not groundbreaking or pioneering, but a promising start for me. 7/10

Matt C: Marvel enters murder mystery territory with their summer 2014 event and it’s a solid if not exceptional start. The emphasis is on the ‘mystery’ side of things at this point as really this is all about set-up and getting all the pieces into place. Aaron positions everything with great skill, pacing the narrative well and providing plenty reasons for a Marvel fan to sign up for the ride. But while the story side isn’t stellar (at this stage), the artwork is. Deodato’s earthy, shadowy illustrations nail the ominous tone that Aaron’s script is striving for brilliantly, and I can’t imagine there’ll be many readers familiar with the character that won’t stop and take pause at that double-page murder scene. An auspicious beginning. 7/10

Writer: Joshua Wiliamson
Art: Mike Henderson & Adam Guzowski
Image $2.99

Matt C: Williamson and Henderson convinced me they had a fruitful collaborative spark with Masks & Monsters so I was keen to see what they had to offer with Nailbiter, a series that may not have appealed immediately without their presence in the credits. It’s a really strong opening, easing us into the mystery of how the small town of Buckaroo has spawned so many serial killers, keeping the creepy vibe turned to the max, and giving us a protagonist that’s damaged enough to fit right into the seedy, dangerous environment he finds himself reluctantly drawn into. Henderson has good grasp of how to mix the banal with the horrific effectively, and – if you’ll excuse the blindingly obvious pun - this is the kind of horror tale I can really get my teeth into. 8/10

Writer: Bryan Hitch
Art: Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary, Andrew Currie & Laura Martin
Image $3.99

Stewart R: Okay, so after the mixed bag that was the first issue I said I’d stick with Bryan Hitch to see what he had stored up his sleeve for the second instalment. I’ve done that and sit here just as nonplussed about Real Heroes as I did at the conclusion of that debut. Hitch moves things along in something of a jarring fashion, jumping between characters entering into expositional conversation about the current universe the protagonists find themselves in, an odd moment with ‘character development’ plastered all over it in big red rubber stamp ink and a neon lit signpost of a plot twist that you could hear, smell and feel walking a mile off, though we haven’t been fully introduced to it just yet. The major problem for me is that Hitch seems to be set on using this team of actors to push forward our understanding of the predicament, but in doing so makes it slightly implausible that they’d all go along with this plan so willingly. There’s just something a touch off about the lack of proper debate or argument in their interactions and despite the evident attempt at diversity in the cast there’s a large dose of Bendis-patented talking head syndrome to be seen. I’ll admit that there’s still promise floating in and amongst the high grade visuals and the overriding concept, I’m just not convinced that we’re going to see that potential realised come the final issue of the series, whenever that may be. 4/10

Writer: Brian Azzarello, Jeff LEmire, Dan Jurgens & Keith Giffen
Art: Patrick Zircher & Hi-Fi
DC $2.99

Matt C: I was taken with that FCBD #0 issue enough to give this proper debut instalment for the weekly series a whirl. I may have knocked the DC’s New 52 on the head, but this future-set tale seems far enough removed from what’s going on in the main DC Universe at the moment that I’m happy to view it as more of an Elseworlds-type story than anything else. Or I would if I was going to continue with the series, which I’m not. Having read some of DC’s weekly series before, the same main criticism comes to bear here: there’s a couple of decent plot threads, and the rest just seems like padding to keep the thing going for a more significant amount of time. Keep the Batman Beyond stuff and strip away the rest and you’d probably have a book I’d happily add to my pull-list (although the Grifter plotline sparks the interest too). With everything else included it’s too much of an investment in what I predict (based on past experience) will be an ultimately unsatisfying journey. 6/10

Writer: Jonathan Maberry
Art: Tyler Crook
Dark Horse $3.99

Stewart R: Wow! Well I don’t know quite what to say. The finale of Bad Blood certainly deals with - and explains - the twisted cliffhanger from the end of #4, but my goodness I wasn’t quite expecting things to play out in the fashion that they do! Maberry gets the opportunity to expand upon the interesting history of vampire families/clans that he introduced through the earlier chapters, painting it as a bigger and darker conflict than we could ever have imagined, making something of a broad environmental and social statement in the process, which adds an additional level of grey ambiguity to the wealth of concerns and issues facing this entire cast. Maberry sticks with the two protagonists, Trick and Lolly, until the bitter end and that ensures the emotional sanctity of what has proven to be an enthralling comic book read through five issues. The greater trick is to actually leave us feeling just the smallest ounce of sympathy for the bloodsuckers who, like everything else, just want to survive in a world that they no longer understand and could prove lethal to their species as a result. The art from Crook has been a perfect fit for this story and a large portion of the credit must go to him for capturing every devastating twist with skill and aplomb. This should be on your radar in collected form when Dark Horse put it all together. 9/10

Writer: Garth Ennis
Artists: Facundo Percio & Hernan Cabrera
Avatar $3.99

James R: After a very strong opening, Caliban stumbles with its second issue. After setting up an intriguing premise last month, Garth Ennis falls into some very well worn tropes here. There have been a slew of SF stories which feature one of the crew taken over or possessed by a malevolent alien force, and I was disappointed to see Ennis go for that plot in this issue. He's also filled his story with an immensely disposable cast - when I think back to his original series of Crossed, the core group of characters were established so quickly, and with such skill, that in comparison it seems he’s treading water somewhat here. There's definitely a feel of menace, and portents of something very nasty to come, but personally this didn't grab me in the same way that the first issue did. I'll certainly be picking up issue #3, as given Ennis' usual hit-rate that this may be a misfire before it picks up the pace again. However, as a standalone issue, it felt pretty flat and generic - here's hoping that next instalment brings back the terror rather than the apathy. 5/10

Writer: Kaare Andrews
Art: Kaare Andrews
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: This isn’t quite as explosive as that first issue, but Andrews continues to lure me into the world, past and present, of Danny Rand regardless. I particularly enjoyed how Andrews whisks Iron Fist off in the direction of danger, yet keeps him communicating with the reader in ambivalent and unfeeling tones, a man weighed down by his burdens, unique upbringing and the debt which he owes for such power at his fingertips. We get our first look at K’un Lun and several of the cast who have/had a connection with Rand and get a real sense of the dark horror that Danny is going to find himself sucked into with no real choice on his behalf. The continued portrayal of that ill-fated trip to the mountains he was taken on as a child remains a chilling tale and concretes the idea that this is a hero with plenty of issues to overcome before even letting his fists and feet fly. The dynamic, bold art style from this writer/artist is still so damn effective that I’m already contemplating what this could look like as a glorious collection at some faraway date. 8/10

Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Sean Murphy & Matt Hollingsworth
DC/Vertigo $2.99

James R: What an exceptional series this has been. The creative team of Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy have continued to deliver thrills and surprises with every issue. This story is so rich, it's hard to know where to begin with a list of plaudits; Snyder's script has cleverly fused some far out anthropological theories with some classic horror tropes, but yet still found room to populate the series with memorable and remarkable characters. Then there's the always-impressive Sean Murphy who has excelled himself at every turn, and here we see the huge flying fortress, the Alamo, and General Marlow's venom-affected visions, both rendered with a deft hand. As if this isn’t all reason enough for your hard-earned dollar/pound, you also get Matt Hollingsworth's beautiful colours which give the book a remarkable dream-like quality. With two issues to go, it's almost impossible to call where this series is going to finish up, but I can't see it being a disappointment. A solid-gold win for me, and easily my book of the week. 8/10

1 comment:

Stewart R said...

James! Are we sure it's Cap who has assembled that investigative team in Original Sin? I'm not so sure... (in fact I know it can't be) T'challa refers to Cap while speaking to the mysterious figure shrouded in shadow, while Moon Knight and Bucky speak about the 'boss' and Moon Knight's belief that he was dead - Cap and he were in the Secret Avengers so it's not him we're talking about.

Hooray for comic geeks! ^_^