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22 Jun 2014

Mini Reviews 22/06/2014

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.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Jamie McKelvie & Matthew Wilson
Image $3.50

Matt C: Because it’s two Brit creators who’ve been making waves on the US comics scene for a while. Because they’re doing the creator-owned thing. Because it’s from Image, the go-to place for creator-owned work these days. Because it’s pretty much a double-sized issue for the price of a regular comic. Because it’s unlike anything else you’re currently reading. Because it crystalizes a lot of Gillen’s sensibilities in a way we haven’t seen yet. Because McKelvie’s art gets more confident and impressive as the years go by. Because it’s loaded with ideas and intelligence to the extent that it can’t be ignored. Because it’s unlike anything else you’re currently ready (Have I said that already?). Because it could very well end up travelling up its own arse, but even if it does, you kind of want to stick around to see it. Just because. 8/10

James R: Certain creative teams just work well together - in the history of the medium, there are numerous examples of writers and artists who work in tandem perfectly, and I think Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are certainly in that category. When they work together, there's just an extra sparkle that doesn't seem to be in Gillen's other books. Straight off the bat, this is a fine comic with old gods being born again and again over the centuries, returning in 2014 and becoming embroiled in a murder mystery (it's certainly the most Vertigo book that I've seen outside of DC's mature imprint). It's not a novel idea (Neil Gaiman's American Gods and China Mieville's Kraken touched on some similar concepts in prose) but here the greatness is in the rich stew of elements that Gillen puts together; his old touchstone of pop music and adoration, the dry one-liners along with three explosive moments make this an irresistible read. Jamie McKelvie's art is as expressive and striking as always, and he really is the perfect complement to Gillen's sharp prose. Matthew Wilson's colours are striking too - a sharp palette that switches to a pop art explosion at two key moments. In their last work together, Marvel's Young Avengers, the book started like an express train before ending on an uncharacteristically flat note. I'm hoping that Kieron Gillen's promise that the end of this book is "years off" in his introduction is true, as given time this has the potential to be one of the greats. A suitably rock ‘n’ roll opening chapter. 9/10

WINTERWORLD #1
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Art: Butch Guice & Diego Rodriguez
IDW $3.99

Stewart R: An interesting beginning here which hints at things to come while also giving you the feeling that there’s a fair wedge of history leading up to where we find Wynn and Scully trudging across the frigid Caribbean in search of Wynn’s parents. I like this rather bare bones introduction from Dixon and Guice which goes about showing the sense of isolation that this frozen world has in spades. As these two companions - with Badger mascot Rah-Rah shuffling along for the ride - discover unexpected refuge in an aged relic from the old world when the seas were liquid at the surface, things hold a haunting loneliness which soon dissipates when they find themselves in dangerous territory once the sense of isolation is lifted for the first time in a good while. The dialogue is punchy, succinct and you genuinely get the feeling that Wynn and Scully have a complicated history with a blurred edge between friendship and guardianship. Guice’s linework is thickened and dark thanks to some heavier inking, and when combined with the predominantly blue colour scheme from Rodriguez it helps to instil Winterworld with a brooding, near-claustrophobic atmosphere which plays as a strangely successful contrast to the sense of broad wasteland wilderness you’d usually come to expect from a premise such as this. Provided that we get a little more character insight next time out this could promise to be an IDW book that freezes hard to my pull-list. 8/10

THOMAS ALSOP #1
Writer: Chris Miskiewicz
Art: Palle Schmidt
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Matt C: This was pitched as something that would appeal to fans of John Constantine and Doctor Strange, and while I’ll admit that I’m quite partial to the adventures of the Sorcerer Supreme on occasion, when it comes to ‘magic’ in comics I don’t normally find much that really connects. This was looking like it would be another one of those books where I sort of don’t ‘get it’, with a self-obsessed protagonist that seemed to veer a little too close to cliché. But the idea of someone being the ‘Hand of the Island’ (basically, the protector of Manhattan) had a lot of merit, and when the time shift occurred partway through the issue, that idea began taking on a new dimension, and as a result became much more interesting, much more appealing. There’s a hint of darkness to the art, but also an underlying wispiness that helps it float and allows the sense of the otherworldly to come across as natural, letting a narrative featuring two soon-to-be-intrinsically-linked time periods blend together more smoothly. Smart and imaginative, it would be wise not to dismiss this as knockoff of more familiar archetypes. 8/10

ORIGINAL SIN #4
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Mike Deodato & Frank Martin
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Part of me remains somewhat confused about what’s going on, how this whole enterprise ties together, and whether a lot of the meat of the ‘eyeball fallout’ (it’s what I’m calling it, okay!) is occurring elsewhere, in other titles. The other part of me… well, the other part of me is going to have to hand it to Aaron for this issue’s cliffhanger. I know a lot of people got excited about the final page of the last issue, but this… this is something else entirely. It’s quite possibly a stroke of genius, I’m not entirely sure yet. It certainly a revelation that makes me want to go through the preceding instalments again with the benefit of hindsight. Deadoto’s sumptuous art is still my favourite part of this miniseries but I’m wondering if we’ve potentially seen a game-changer here. We’ll see what happens next. 7/10

James R: "Please tell me he's the killer, so we can wrap this up before it gets any weirder." Good shout Ant-Man, good shout! At the halfway point of this Marvel event, ‘weird’ is a perfect adjective, both for the narrative and the tone of this tale. I have to applaud Jason Aaron on some points here. Once again, it must be an onerous task to write an event book for the Big Two - they're seemingly demanded by the readership and editorial, but yet it must be hard to come up with a new concept or slugfest that hasn't been played out a million times before. Aaron is giving it a really good go here, making the Watcher's murder a proper whodunit with multiple red herrings and fake-outs. Credit too for having a mostly unorthodox cast in the book, and having them play off each other in a sparky way. That said, I still can't get over my feeling from last issue, namely that this is the most mental and torturous plot I've read in a while. The reveal on the last page is clearly designed to be a jaw-dropper, but I couldn't help but role my eyes, as it now feels like every issue has to have a cliffhanger or wild twist. For some reason, I'm sticking with this - part of it may be that I'm intrigued to see where Aaron finishes it, but there's definitely a law of diminishing returns here. From the fascination of the first issue, my feelings on Original Sin are quickly turning to ambivalence. 6/10

ELEKTRA #3
Writer: W. Haden Blackman
Art: Mike Del Mundo & Marco D’Alfonso
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: At the point we finally get the antagonist’s name, it becomes clear that W. Haden Blackman has been running the narratives of Elektra and Bloody Lips in parallel for a reason as they both find themselves in a mysterious, hidden underwater base, testing their skills against each other in a hurried and brutal skirmish. I’m enjoying the way that the plot has twisted since the first issue, still remaining a chase to claim a moving and highly valued prize, but with the context altered and Elektra herself being the target in the eyes of Bloody Lips. This comes across as a bizarre adventure tale with great fun to be found as we’ve been whisked from strange locale to strange locale. It might be said that Elektra’s anti-hero standing makes it harder to find an emotional connection to her, especially as Blackman’s inner monologuing from both characters is designed to show the similarity in their paths and histories - which it does very well indeed - rather than reaching out to us directly as a readership at this particular time. I don’t discount the fact that that could change as this story develops and there’s no doubting that this is writing of the highest calibre regardless. The same high praise is once again bestowed upon Del Mundo’s steady hand as he crafts another beautiful instalment, this time with a superb mindscape/transition piece of Bloody Lips’ cannibalistic recollection of his victims’ memories showing that he has further range to his skills. If you’re not picking this up already you really, REALLY should be! 9/10

APHRODITE IX #11
Writer: Matt Hawkins
Art: Stjepan Sejic
Image/Top Cow $3.99

Stewart R: If I have one criticism of this series - I do and it is only a minor one - it’s that on occasion it does seem that the plot pacing careens into such a high gear that it can leave much of the character development that Hawkins sews into this story behind in the dust. As we progress through this finale that niggle is once again highlighted as Hawkins makes the play for the big payoff and lays the groundwork for a far different future for any follow up volume. Aphrodite’s relationships and connections with Marcus and Burch thankfully both get some page time, and while one is woven solidly into the rather neat story twist and could surface again at a later point, it seems that the other is dismissed in a brutal instant and I wasn’t fully satisfied with the swift resolution. The thing is, when weighed against the greater, overriding idea that Hawkins goes for - and hits dead centre with superb effect - these issues don’t matter a great deal. He steers events with confidence and ease, the back and forth battle between the two surviving nations always spinning on in the background as Aphrodite attempts to make sense of her surroundings and her existence. And, as her picture becomes clearer, so too does our vision of the bigger picture of the Aphrodite protocol, though teasingly this talented scribe takes the opportunity to scatter further motives, machinations and mysteries around that makes picking up the Aphrodite/Cyberforce crossover a tempting prospect and any further work from himself and Sejic in this enthralling science fiction world - and it is coming! - a definite must. 8/10

AVENGERS WORLD #8
Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Marco Checchetto & Andres Mossa
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: I stuck with this series through its unsteady opening chapters, and I’m really glad I did as it really seems to be flourishing at last. I still not quite convinced that the various plot threads in motion are showing signs that they’re all going to come together neatly, but with Spencer now fully in charge of the series I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. Back in the City of The Dead with Starbrand, Spider-Woman, Hawkeye and Nightmask, this really feels like an Avengers book – you could even argue that it’s more in the classic Avengers style than Hickman’s titles (which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ‘better’, just perhaps a little more familiar). I was quite impressed with the introduction of Euroforce and even more so by the mention of proto-Britpop arse-slappers, Suede (surely the first and only time Brett Anderson’s troupe have been referred to in a mainstream superhero comic?). There’s some really solid work from Checchetto, and Spencer seems to have found his groove here. A few issues back Avengers World was on the cusp of being dropped. Now it’s bringing a big fat smile to my face and that’s more than enough reason to keep it around. 8/10

1 comment:

  1. And the Black Knight too! It's about time that he is in an Avenger book again.

    ReplyDelete