27 Jul 2014

Mini Reviews 27/07/2014

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.

100TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL: AVENGERS #1
Writer: James Stokoe
Art: James Stokoe
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: It’s a pretty sure bet these days that if James Stokoe is involved in the production of a comic I’ll definitely be picking up a copy. Sure, Orc Stain is pretty late (try two years!) and the last series we got from him - the awesome Godzilla: Half Century War - concluded in Spring 2013, but when you see one of his books you realise just how much darn love and effort he puts into every single panel. This one-shot, part of Marvel’s campaign to show what their comics could look like at the marking of the 100th Anniversary of the company (whenever that might be), is a rather neat glimpse into a future where the claws of the Badoon have finally raked the surface of the Earth, leaving destruction and further danger in their vanquished wake. I instantly appreciate the fact that we’re dropped into things as the smoke is clearing and are treated to a smaller scale tale about the clean-up, the state of the Avengers in this future, and their feelings about their place in a world that has changed, and will constantly change while they perhaps do not. Amongst the colourful adventure, comedy and excitement that surrounds the descendant of one of Marvel’s oldest villains making a play for vengeance and power from under their very feet, is a broader story of victimisation, displacement of population and the responsibility of those with the power to try to change things for the better. Stokoe has the pummelling, high speed action of an Avengers title present, yet his team members are thoughtful about their actions, realising that there is no glory to be found in their task and sure enough he leads all threads to a satisfying conclusion, worthy of a well-rounded one-shot that in all honesty deserves to be the starting point for a new series based upon the calibre of this work. 9/10

SUPREME BLUE ROSE #1
Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Tula Lotay
Image $2.99

James R: As we've said before, sometimes a name alone can sell you a book. I make it a habit to look at everything that Warren Ellis produces as, frustrations aside (his abandonment of certain titles - more on that in an upcoming PCG special!) he still remains a unique and thrilling comics creator. I have virtually zero interest in the Supreme Universe (Alan Moore used the Superman analogue to work out a lot of his more out-there Superman ideas on his run in the mid-'90s) but Warren Ellis has managed to pique it with this first issue. Diana Dane (for whom read 'Lois Lane') is hired by Darius Dax (Lex Luthor, you get the idea) to investigate Supreme. That's it in a sentence, but the whole issue in punctuated with some remarkable Ellis moments. It opens with a startling dream sequence, and Diana Dane herself is paired with a man who seems to be a quantum superposition, suffering from a birth defect wherein most people see him as possessing a normal face, while we (and Diana) see him as an indistinct blurred mass. Then there's the strange serial 'Professor Night' which Diana watches - it breaks the issue up, whilst adding a sense of discontinuity and adding to the dreamlike feel of the book. The art from Tula Lotay is highly stylised to the point that it's certainly in the category of 'love it or hate it.' I personally found the illustration and the comic as a whole utterly beguiling. Whether Ellis will see this one through or not is another question, but on the strength of this alone, it's a potent start to the series. 7/10

Matt C: When Warren Ellis takes on an old concept Rob Liefeld introduced back in the ‘90s it’s a pretty safe bet to expect the results won’t be anything predictable, and that proves to be the case here. Not being overly familiar with the Supreme character and the mythos I can’t really say this with any real certainty, but it seems to me that this is likely be a very different approach to what longtime fans may be expecting. That may be resisted in some quarters, but this is Ellis in the cockpit, and it’s worth remembering that recent relaunches of Liefeld concepts bore scant resemblance to their initial incarnations (Prophet, Glory). This is more about the writer piling on the mysteries at this stage, keeping things vague but not to a point where the interest and intrigue isn’t generated to a significant degree. Lotay’s artwork is beautifully conceived and executed, the strange, light scribbles that scatter across the pages giving the book a somewhat otherworldly feel. Difficult to get a gauge on where exactly this is heading but the hooks are definitely in and I’ll be back for round two. 7/10

BATMAN #33
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Greg Capullo & Fco Plascencia
DC $4.99

James R: What a fine issue to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Bat. Earlier this week, comics writer Anthony Johnston tweeted about the status of the comics industry, and offered the following metaphor: "Imagine a music business where all the music press talked about, all day long, was cover bands of old rock and pop groups." It was a smart analogy, but I don't think it quite works, as I think the comics industry can also be compared to acting or classical music, wherein your career can be defined by how well you interpret legendary roles and pieces. In Scott Snyder's case, his association with Batman is a case in point. He's a fantastic writer, and it's been a fanboy joy to watch his career blossom over the last few years, and with this last act of ‘Zero Year’, he provides a wonderful take on who Batman really is. The main corpus of the comic is a nice denouement of the Dark Knight Rises-hued Riddler arc, but it's in the last few pages that Snyder delivers a wonderful fake-out sequence, which I won't spoil, but it has an awesome emotional punch. Snyder suggests that Bruce Wayne is at peace knowing the happiness that most people take for granted will never be his - his destiny lies entwined with Gotham City. At the start of ‘Zero Year’ I was sceptical about the concept, but now, at the end, although I wouldn't say I was wholly convinced, Snyder has shown that he's not only the man for the blockbuster books, but a writer who truly understands the Batman. 8/10

WILD BLUE YONDER #5
Writers: Mike Raicht, Zach Howard & Austin Harrison
Art: Zach Howard & Nelson Daniel
IDW $3.99

Stewart R: We’ve been kept waiting quite a while for this fifth chapter - #4 was out back in March - and as things were left in the most tantalizing of positions as the crew of the Dawn, fresh off the back of a revelation of betrayal, armed their limited forces and flew into the battle of their lives. It’s no surprise that things pick up here just as the first bullets rain from the skies and it’s almost as if those four months between chapters were mere moments as you realise what’s at stake for these characters and the tension ramps ever upwards. This is an action packed issue with explosions, speed and blood flowing from the pages as the battle intensifies, yet the most interesting thing is that there’s no particular definition of good and evil here - the Dawn’s family are struggling to prevent their home, which they can only share with a few, from being stolen along with their lives, while the Judge, despite using direct, violent, unwavering means, is trying to secure a future for his people, fully aware of the blood on his hands and the repercussions for those under his protection if he should fail. It’s these various shades of grey that make Tug’s story even more poignant as he’s gone from traitorous saboteur to possible hero in a fight that could end up with no one really winning. This all comes together to form one heck of a gripping read that literally leaves everything up in the air for the concluding chapter next time out. 9/10


ZERO #9
Writer: Ales Kot
Art: Tonci Zonjic & Jordie Bellaire
Image $2.99

Matt C: There’s a sort of quietly understated power that this series possesses, which sometimes means it gets lost amongst the barrage of Image titles week after week initially, but over time you discover how deep it’s dug its claws into as you find yourself marvelling at the impressiveness of the narrative jigsaw puzzle Kot is putting together. The writer has never approached his story of the black ops assassin Edward Zero in a linear fashion, but that does mean when a certain plot point reveals itself and provides the missing link from A to B, so to speak (as it potentially does here), it makes the complexity of the whole enterprise that much more rewarding. Basically, Kot isn’t treating his audience as idiots and is trusting them to apply their brains to fill in the blanks where necessary. In another series, having a different artist tackle each chapter could easily come across as a gimmick, but here it’s proven itself to be essential in highlighting the different episodes of Zero’s life (and those associated with him), with Bellaire remaining the brilliant constant alongside Kot. A great series, Zero easily holds its own against some of its more high profile peers. 8/10

James R: I haven't sent out any appreciation for Ales Kot's Zero for a while, so I thought it was high time that I flag it up again! As the months have rolled on, I've been really impressed with how Kot's spy tale has unfolded - equal parts SF and spy thriller, the narrative has shuttled back and forward across time with breathtaking ease, keeping the readership on their toes, and bringing new perspectives on the protagonists with every issue. This month, we learn of Edward Zero's horrific entrance to the world, in the absolute heart of darkness that was the Balkans in the early ‘90s. What struck me here was how well Kot displays humanity at its nadir, and yet amidst that horror, there is still a belief in love and hope. Whether it's justified is another question, but still, the desperate attempt by Zero's handler Roman Zizek to rescue the prenatal boy and his mother gripped me throughout. Tonci Zonjic brought some great and gritty realism to the issue, and once again I closed the book… and wanted to immediately re-read it! I'm hoping Kot has a great denouement in store, but at the moment, I'm still loving every issue. 8/10

WINTERWORLD #2
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Art: Butch Guice & Diego Rodriguez
IDW $3.99

Stewart R: Dixon maintains the momentum of Scully, Wynn and Rah-Rah’s treacherous journey across the frozen waters and wastelands as they manage to evade the clutches of a cannibalistic tribe and head off in search of Wynn’s parents and further traces of civilisation. Interactions remain brief, sharp and tense, further highlighting the ‘dog-eat-dog’ nature of this comic book world and there’s a brilliant survivalist touch to this story as our protagonists continue to scavenge what they can to fill their stomachs and keep the engine running. Dixon finds time to lighten the mood during small moments of respite - Wynn’s discovery of ‘sugar’ in a hanger adds a genuine moment of smile-inducing levity - and then adds an extra element of tension by introducing a malevolent force who seems eager to track down our small band of travellers. Guice appears to have altered his style just ever so slightly for this book, saving the clearly defined work for facial expression and keeping the landscapes and surrounds beautifully muddied, giving Winterworld it’s very own distinct atmosphere, an atmosphere I’ll happily breathe in every month going by this quality. 8/10

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

James R, please tell me you'll be talking about 'Fell' in this upcoming Ellis special, I still miss that series, Liam D