13 Jul 2014

Mini Reviews 13/07/2014

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.

DEATH VIGIL #1
Writer: Stjepan Sejic
Art: Stjepan Sejic
Image/Top Cow $3.99

Stewart R: We’re still in the age when ‘money talks’ so let me just say you won’t find a better value $3.99 book on the shelves this week and for content and page count you simply could not ask more from a first issue. When, more importantly, you push cost to the side, you are left with a deep, character-fuelled, visually engrossing and incredibly competent piece of 100% creator-owned comic book art that, at this very early stage, has the potential to be one of the top series for 2014/2015. Sejic establishes the supernatural battlelines early on as Vigil member Sam and the Reaper joke and banter in friendly, comfortable 21st Century manner and then discuss the recent fallen amongst their comrades at the hands of the enemy, the Necromancers. It feels really comfortable, and shows confidence for a very talented artist to rely on his scripting and character skills rather than succumb to the urge to display it all with pencil, ink and splash pages as could have happened. This choice allows for the story to build and Sejic to flex his artistic talents later in the book when the conflict finally hits the page and we meet Clara in unfortunate circumstances. Her introduction to the Vigil solidifies what we understand about their fight to this point, highlights that her initiation and training may not go as smoothly as intended and then Sejic polishes everything off with a diving glimpse into the mysterious machinations of the enemy and the troubling events to come. It’s a very strong start indeed and adds another arrow to Top Cow’s growing quiver of quality. Buy it, buy it now! 9/10

DAREDEVIL #5
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Chris Samnee & Javier Rodriguez
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Five issues in and the mystery surrounding Foggy Nelson’s faked death is finally revealed. To be honest, I’d expected something more creative as this came across as more than a touch obvious, but having said that Waid handles it as confidently as you’d expect. Lightly plucking on the heartstrings while effortlessly reaffirming his take on the Man Without Fear as one of the all-time greats, the writer implicitly understands how to best portray with Daredevil/Murdock’s characteristics and powers on the page. Equally, Samnee repeatedly shows why he's a consummate Daredevil artist, referencing the Silver Age origins of ol’ Horn Head but investing his presentation with flair and emotion, all given that extra pop art twist by Rodriguez. While not the best issue of the relaunch it’s still a masterclass of efficient, effective contemporary superhero storytelling. 8/10

SPREAD #1
Writer: Justin Jordan
Art: Kyle Strahm & Felipe Sobreiro
Image $3.50

Stewart R: As far as opening, straightforward chapters go it seems that Justin Jordan has hit the bullseye dead centre and the art combo of Kyle Strahm and Felipe Sobreiro follow up by splitting Jordan’s arrow ‘in twain’! The horror premise is fairly simple at this stage and Jordan only takes a few lines of narrative dialogue to give us an idea of the world we’re walking into with life on the planet changed greatly since the unearthing of the ‘Spread’ and the following ‘burn and quarantine’. These terms, so recognisable in a world which continues to embrace post-apocalyptic fiction in various medium guises, give us the vague background and sets the scene for our introduction to the quiet, competent death-dealer No whose visit to a research site leads to blood, death, carnage and a new discovery. While we’re not treading particularly new territory with this story it’s neatly conceived and the aesthetic of the book - all greys, blues and white contrasting brilliantly with the stark red of the Spread and the gruesome blood-letting taking place - gives this a distinctive feel that should make this stand out from the crowd on the Image shelves out there. 8/10

AVENGERS #32
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan & Sunny Gho
Marvel $3.99

James R: In this issue of Avengers, Jonathan Hickman totally showcases his strengths, and reminds us that the world of mainstream comics need not be a non-stop cavalcade of fisticuffs. Here, Hickman shows that science fiction fused with the heroic tropes we've grown up with can make for a heady brew, and a compelling cerebral event. The Avengers continue to find themselves propelled even further into the future, arriving 5,045 years on from the events of the first issue in the arc. It's a wonder to watch Hickman pull no punches when it comes to the mechanics of time travel - since his brilliant Pax Romana, he's always done interesting things with the concept, and here it's no different as the team encounter Franklin Richards, who acts as our narrator for the issue. Along with the time travel, I loved watching Hickman weave in the strands from his New Avengers arc, as a moment here entwines with an event early in New Avengers. I completely understand that it might seem baffling to someone who doesn't regularly pick that title up, but as an avid reader of both, it makes for a rich experience. A while back I criticised Hickman for padding his books too much sometimes, but when you read one this sophisticated, it easily makes up for the occasional misstep. Yu's artwork can be lacking sometimes, but here the futuristic landscape was a great fit, and in a quiet week, this was the undoubted highlight. 8/10

Matt C: This solid plotline continues forwards as a reducing number of Avengers are flung into the distant future to be given hints of what their immediate future may hold. Those hints even have the merest suggestion that Marvel may be planning a move I didn’t think they would dare to go ahead with, but it may be a red herring or a misinterpretation on my part, and I certainly wouldn’t put money on it. But as an aside here, did anyone else find the cover to this comic excessively flimsy, as though it could disintegrate if not handled with absolute care? Potentially this was just a duff copy but conversely, maybe it’s a sign of things to come as budgets are squeezed ever tighter. The mark at the end of this review is for the book itself, not the paper stock, but sometimes certain things just feel like they’re worth highlighting. 7/10

AMERICAN VAMPIRE: SECOND CYCLE #4
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Rafael Albuquerque & Dave McCaig
DC/Vertigo $2.99

James R: When American Vampire was first unleashed on the comics market, it was pitched as a dark, horror comic (the presence of Steven King as co-author of the first arc cementing this). By this stage in the game, American Vampire is still at heart, a creepy book, but increasingly it's turned into a fusion of action and horror. Firstly in the Pacific Theatre arc in the first cycle, and then in the two excellent spin-off miniseries. In this issue, it's certainly more action than horror as Pearl and Skinner make their escape from the ultra-malevolent demonic force that's starting to seep further into our world. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it - and it's beautifully illustrated as always by Albuquerque and McCaig - but it's most definitely our old friend, the transition issue. The characters need to move from their starting locations, and the modus for the next arc needs to be established. Scott Snyder does all this with consummate ease of course, but at the same time it's not the most thrilling read you'll encounter this year. 6/10

1 comment:

Badger said...

I got to agree with the comment about the cover to Avengers #32,all of Marvels comics these days are printed with the same quality of paper they use for the interior pages,easily damaged,which begs the question if DC can give us $2.99 comics with better quality paper then why can't Marvel,for a collector like me it's hard these days to pick up any Marvel comic in near mint condition,nice reviews guys.