11 Aug 2014

Mini Reviews 10/08/2014

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: Mark Millar
Art: John Romita Jr, Tom Palmer, Dean White & Michael Kelleher
Marvel $5.99

Matt C: Yes, it’s gone on for far too long, the thrill of the concept that originally established itself back in 2008 almost a distant memory, but even though I was sticking with it more for a sense of closure than anything else, I will admit that for a series that seems to have relied on shock for shock’s sake more and more as it went along, this finale was a rather satisfying and – yes! – heartwarming send-off for the characters. Obviously there’s plenty of blood-splattered carnage within the extended page count, but where Millar could have easily gone for a nihilistic denouement, he pulls things back and rewards the readers’ for their six-year investment in Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl’s adventures. Palmer brings out the best in Romita Jr’s pencils, and White’s colouring has always helped give the book its distinctive flavour, the overall effect of their combined talents being quite glorious.  It’s done now, and I’m kind of glad I stayed with it until the end, and my hope now is that Millar et al don’t get the idea a few years down the line that bringing back this franchise back would be a smart move. It’s opened a lot of doors for them, now let’s leave it at that! 7/10

Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Steve Lieber, Nick Ellis & Rachelle Rosenberg
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Following those squirrelly couple of months where filler issues in this series were order of the day, Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber have brought things straight back on track and this just hasn’t let up with the reveals and laughs since. In this issue we finally get to find out what that shuriken-scarred school bus full of kids was all about and it’s as crazy a tale as I’ve come to expect from this truly madcap title. Yes it’s silly, but as Spencer tells the tale of Overdrive’s origin and then his and Beetle’s escape from ninja pursuers there are some neat twists in the plot which once again shows the plethora of angles and dimensions that this highly dynamic and rather incompetent gang has. Overdrive’s motive for becoming a villain is well rounded out thanks to some knowing commentary on the development of Marvel’s canon through the years and shifting him from the periphery of the story to the main focus, even if it should turn out to be temporary shining of limelight, makes me want to root for these ne’erdowells even more. Lieber’s fine grasp of comedy reaction once again pays huge dividends as the cast react to the storytelling and he then gets chance to deliver a neat dialogue-less Speed Demon related aside as we find out what he’d been up to while the rest of the team had been kept busy. Marvel have even taken to joking that this series is ‘not yet cancelled’ in their solicitations for future issues and long may that tongue-in-cheek humour remain along with Superior Foes of Spider-Man on the shelves and in our collections each month! 9/10

Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark & Santi Arcas
Image $3.50

James R: Just over a year into Lazarus, and Greg Rucka is expanding and unfolding the world of Forever Carlyle in a magnificent style. From the initial introduction of the worryingly believable near-future dystopia, Rucka has added layer after layer to the book, and most impressively of all, he continues to make it an absolutely riveting read. In this issue we learn the fate of Jonah Carlyle following his failed coup. Through his desperate escape, we get our first glimpse of the fallen New York, and more importantly, its owner, Jakob Hock. I'm sure this will be an analogy that's been made by better commentators elsewhere, but there are certainly hints of Game Of Thrones in Lazarus, with powerful families involved in both clandestine and overt wars against each other. George R. R. Martin was certainly inspired by the War of the Roses, and this all leads to a degree of verisimilitude to Lazarus - it's so easy to believe in a future where incredibly rich and privileged families once again dominate humanity. A mention must also go to the detail in the back pages of Lazarus; Rucka has come up with terrifically comprehensive backstories for every family in the Lazarus saga, and it's these extra touches which cement its position as one of the finest comics currently in publication. 9/10

Matt C: It’s almost a reviewing reflex when presented with broad, ambitious storytelling like we see in Lazarus to suggest it would make a great HBO TV show. It’s something I try my best to avoid as it gives the impression that it’s being looked at as a pitch for telling the tale in a different medium, as though having, say, Lazarus on HBO would make it more valid, make infinitely ‘better’. Which is bollocks of course. I guess the reason this form of praise manifests itself is that it’s really shorthand for attempting to relay to the layman exactly how sophisticated the narrative is, and the comparison comes into play because it’s one many are familiar with. What really requires highlighting is that not that Lazarus would make a great show on HBO but that it’s as good as a great show on HBO. That’s the distinction that needs to be made because Lazarus easily deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as some of the more acclaimed televisual series in recent memory. 9/10

Writer: Kaare Kyle Andrews
Art: Kaare Kyle Andrews
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: This just gets more engrossing as it clips along. Danny’s iron fists, now left as little more than crumpled globs of flesh and bone, are unable to protect him here from a hefty beating, yet give him the momentary dip into mumbled memories which grant him (and us) the realisation of just who his assailant might be. It’s these perfectly timed and depicted flashes back to Danny’s youth that allow the kingdom of K’un Lun to become a bigger and more interesting landscape while making its decimation an even more tragic event. There’s no doubting that I’d been enjoying this series since the off, but there was the danger that Andrews was maintaining too sombre and petulant tone with Rand, his depressive state with quick-to-anger turns running a risk long term of keeping the readership from a protagonist to want to really root for. He manages to change things just ever so subtly in Danny’s narration to show the smallest glimmer of hope and fight in a vanquished warrior who was already beaten before he raised his hand in anger. Andrews keeps the story multifaceted and mysterious with Brenda once again showing us that there’s a great deal more than meets the eye with this supposed journalist and also Pei, warrior child of K’un Lun looking likely to become an integral part of this book as it continues. 8/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Kev Walker & Frank Martin
Marvel $3.99

James R: I feel like I need to don a CSI jacket for this one, as all the pieces here don't quite add up. Last week saw the payoff to the long-running ‘World Incursion’ storyline, with Namor stepping up to the plate and doing what the other members of the Illuminati could not. My esteemed colleague Matt rightfully flagged it up as a fine issue (I loved it too) and I was a little surprised to see the next instalment arrive just seven days later. Now, here's where it gets interesting. I can see why Marvel went for this release date - following such a cataclysmic conclusion last week, there is something to be gained from carrying on the story immediately, but how they've achieved it looks a little suspect. Kev Walker has been drafted in to pencil the book, but it looks like he's been asked to draw it with a loaded gun pointed at his head - it looks nothing like his best work, and there's some utterly suspect panels in here. Following the great work from Steve Epting, the art on New Avengers has been a little hit and miss, and sadly this is definitely a miss. It didn't distract from another fine script from Hickman, but it certainly took the edge off the book. So, whose decision was it to get two issues out in two weeks? Did Kev Walker have to pick up the ball after another artist dropped it? The answers lay somewhere deep in Marvel editorial, and my hope is that we don't see this happen again. Not New Avengers finest moment, and tough to justify at $3.99. 5/10

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

Stewart R: In his blurb in the back of this issue, Justin Jordan lists a few of his media influences for Spread and whilst reading this issue I definitely had a flash of Mad Max run through my head as he and Strahm show us a gloriously motley community of pillagers and plunderers with an evident pretty-boy nutcase at their lead to kick things off. There are eye-patches, nails in heads, scars galore and a little penchant for the sort of BDSM inspired leatherware that was all the rage amongst the hordes of The Humungus. It really helps cement the tone of this horror book and shows us just how unsafe and unhinged the world is before the Spread is even taken into consideration. It’s this extra level of crazy that brings No and Hope into contact with another ongoing member of the cast and in Molly, it looks like Jordan is defining the many levels of ‘crazy’ that litter this wasteland, showing that there is good to be found out there no matter how blood-soaked and dangerous the setting. My respect and enjoyment of this new series is spreading fast… 8/10

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