8 Sep 2014

Mini Reviews 07/09/2014

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 - and as a small bonus, the week before from when we were busy at the Melksham Comic Convention - encompassing the good, the bad, and those that lie somewhere in between.

ORIGINAL SIN #8
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Mike Deodato & Frank Martin
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: Well… that was weird. The cynical part of me knows somewhere in the remit was the desire to shoe old school Nick Fury away so that a Nick Fury more familiar to movie audiences could take his place (and I understand why even if I don’t agree with the decision), but another part of me has to marvel at the method chosen to achieve this, because – you have to admit – it’s a little bit bonkers to say the least. Sample dialogue: “Nick. Put the eyeball down. This is finished.”  That part of me admires Original Sin for doing something that doesn’t sit inside the regular ‘event book’ template, but then there’s another part of me again that has to say… this didn’t really work, did it? It does seem like an offhand, drunken idea at a Marvel retreat accidently became reality, and if it wasn’t for the pretty phenomenal art of Deodato and the fact that it’s shifted some main players about a bit, this would be a largely forgettable oddity. 6/10

James R: Last week in our inaugural debate panel at the magical Melksham Comic Con, I made the point that coming up with new stories for characters that appear in a short-form, fast turnover medium is unbelievably difficult. When I read Original Sin this week, I was reminded of that fact again. Initially, I think Jason Aaron has to be applauded for finding something novel to do: a whodunnit featuring the death of the mysterious Uatu. But with each passing issue there's been a sense of the ridiculous here that's inescapable. As always, I realise that levelling that claim against a Universe that features Gamma-irradiated Hulks, men from Atlantis and Norse Gods might seem redundant, but for me the plot seemed lacking in fireworks or meaningful twists - I can't think of many plots where a murderer was revealed at the midway point… and then shown to still be the murderer at the end! Seeing that the Watcher's eye was seen to reveal the explosive 'secrets' of the Marvel Universe, it's all felt a tad underwhelming. Mike Deodato and Frank Martin do a great job illustrating this issue, but at a final price of roughly $40 to read this event, I can't help but feel a little short-changed. Seeing that I've happily avoided the DC events since Flashpoint, I think this will be my farewell to Marvel events too. Like the wild-eyed fanboy I am, I'll take a look at Axis for the Rick Remender factor, but it would have to be phenomenally good to get me back on board after the damp squib that Original Sin turned out to be. 5/10

HINTERKIND #11
Writer: Ian Edginton
Art: Francesco Trifolgi & Chris Peter
Vertigo $2.99

Stewart R: It really does seem that I’m going to be unable to stop trumpeting on and praising this series month after month. What began as a post-apocalyptic survivor series has steadily spun into a nation-spanning epic involving multiple houses and clans, families and species all struggling to come out as top dog and occasionally sending their enemies to their doom if the situation allows it. The spiralling tale of treachery amongst the Sidhe is brilliant to watch as it unfolds, each twist surprisingly unexpected despite an air of theatrical familiarity to it all. It forms a large part of the focus here - sharing the page count with an overview of the population centres and ranges of the various armies delivered in debriefing form by John Hobb to his vampire captors - and potentially raises Malachi’s importance in the affair as he arrives at the scene of the largest of betrayals too late. It’s become an incredibly rich and compelling story that I just keep hoping has dozens of chapters ahead of it as Hinterkind is one of the most consistent, high quality books on the stands. 8/10

MOON KNIGHT #7
Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Greg Smallwood & Jordie Bellaire
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Seamless. Most times a new creative team takes over a title there’s a fairly noticeable shift in tone, which is understandable as the incoming guys have got their own stories to tell and their own ways of telling them. And sometimes that can be quite jarring, like a bump in the road, something that requires the reader to readjust. That’s fine - it’s too be expected - but what if that new creative team come along and over the course of an issue offer a tonal continuation of what’s come before but at the same time start to move things almost imperceptibly towards their own way of doing things? How many times do you see that happen? I love what Wood and Smallwood do here. If you didn’t know any better you could easily mistake this for another issue with Warren Ellis at the helm, as it doesn’t mess with the formula… until the end. And the end suggests things are about to expand out.  And it’s all so seamlessly done it’s actually kind of extraordinary as it contains the vibe of what Ellis set in motion but shows there’s a longevity that can be achieved, especially if we see Smallwood produce work  of this calibre; the inventiveness of his panel compositions are really something to behold. And, oh…  Jordie Bellaire: ubiquitous maybe, but utterly brilliant all the same. If you thought you were done with this book when Ellis left, think again. 8/10

Stewart R: So Warren Ellis is off and Brian Wood is on and to be honest there’s no monumental shift away from Ellis’ minimalist approach to character and full immersion into story. There is, however, a subtle shift to what I might call a more 'human' perspective which Wood’s writing, I feel, is more attuned to as Moon Knight finds an assassination attempt threatening to spin chaos in his city as a tech-heavy hunter searches for his prey. I’ve been complaining a little that Ellis’ Moon Knight efforts were accomplished as done-in-one vignettes, but didn’t go far enough into who or what Marc Spector is. Wood hasn’t changed this by wading in straight away with huge amounts of character development, yet he has brought Moon Knight a little closer to the reader simply by using more dialogue. Greg Smallwood’s art style is another subtle shift away which has shades of Butch Guice’s work about it, yet still acknowledges the way that Declan Shalvey built the visual of this book during the opening chapters. The sheer fact that this leaves things on a cliffhanger to be explored next time highlights that Wood is doing things his way and has raised my hopes that this will become the Moon Knight book we all deserve. 7/10

EX-CON #1
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Art: Keith Burns & Aikau Olivia
Dynamite $2.99

Matt C: I’m always willing to try a new crime book and when you see one due from a publisher not normally associated with the genre it makes me doubly curious to see what they can offer. While I did appreciate the way the art evoked the seediness of ‘80s L.A. (or at least, how we may imagine it from movies of the era) and effectiveness the hardboiled patter, all told it didn’t really shift itself away from hackneyed storytelling, bar giving the lead character as sort-of semi-superpower. There may be some twists on the horizon but this debut issue didn’t convince me it’s worth the effort to find out. I applaud Dynamite for taking the creator-owned route in amongst all their licensed properties (although arguably they kind of have to considering the competition) but this isn’t the one that’s going to make their mark in that arena. 5/10

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #1
Writer: Ryan Browne
Art: Ryan Browne, Jordan Boyd & Chris Crank
Image $3.50

Matt C: I’m not sure it would make a vast amount of difference if you read any of God Hates Astronauts before for you to enjoy this new series. Heck, I’m not even sure it would make a vast amount of difference if you read any comics before for you to enjoy this new series, such is the way this debut issue unleashes an irresistible torrent of hilariously unhinged lunacy as a NASA-endorsed superteam are tasked with stopping farmers from launching themselves into space. It’s a difficult comic to describe without sounding like you’ve gone a little bit insane yourself, but imagine the mirthful incongruity of Axe Cop filtered through a more conventional narrative structure and a firm grasp of superhero tropes, and maybe you’re getting close. Or maybe not. All I can say is you may not have seen anything quite like this before, at least with this level of control and visual inventiveness.  Enormous fun. 8/10

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #4
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Jason Latour
Image $3.50

James R: Now that's a sucker punch! After three brilliantly moody and evocative issues, Aaron and Latour finish the first arc of Southern Bastards with one of the most striking conclusions I can remember in a while. As Jason Aaron himself notes in the letters page of this issue: "This ain't Walking Tall… This is something else." He's absolutely right. The plot itself sees Earl Tubb confront the crooked citizens of Craw County, culminating in a superb two-page spread that mixes the vicious fight with fragments of Earl's memories. I've been impressed with Jason Latour's pencils and colours in every other issue to date, but he really steps up another gear here. His images along with Aaron's script builds to a climax that left me open-mouthed in shock and awe,  as I thought : "No, it can't end like that… can it?" We're given an epilogue that suddenly shifts the narrative, and promises even more layers of intrigue in the next arc. A phenomenal issue from first page to last, and certainly one of the finest books being published today. 9/10

And here are a handful of the week before's books - released Wednesday August 27th - which were worthy of attention in a bonus Mini Review fashion!

BRASS SUN #4
Writer: Ian Edginton
Art: I.N.J. Culbard
Rebellion $3.99

Stewart R: I can’t believe that we’ve only had four issues of this marvellous miniseries so far! Edginton and Culbard cram so much into this comic book, month after month, that - I kid you not - I got to one big splash page late on in this issue and very nearly put the comic down thinking I’d completed the read at that apparent cliffhanger moment. It felt like I’d read so much before that point that there couldn’t be any more left for this month. I was entirely wrong and there were another five glorious pages left to indulge in. Edginton has done a fine job of wrapping the conniving Ramkin into the party, his bitching, moaning and air of superiority stirring the frustration in Wren and doubt in Septimus as they struggle through their journey as the worlds continue to tear themselves apart around them. It even looks like the number on the quest could increase further based upon the evidence of this chapter, but with only two instalments left it seems that just about anything could happen. I’m truly saddened by the thought of this brilliant story - and evident contender for miniseries of the year - coming to an end after just six issues. 9/10

LOW #2
Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Greg Tocchini
Image $3.50

Stewart R: Well this sophomore chapter certainly sets out and expands upon the theme that Remender is focussing on in his futuristic aquatic adventure. Following on from the traumatic attack that befell Stel’s family at the hands of pirates, Remender jumps things on a number of years and shows the audience how grief and depression have gripped the survivors of that horror and how they haven’t come to terms with anything as time has swept them along. It’s a brave move to focus so strongly and blatantly on character rather than story in just your second issue, but it works so very well as we are reminded of how Stel’s perspective before the chaos was to always look outwards with sheer optimism and to see the final moment where the light of her hope was snuffed out deep in the depths. While she mourns, police-officer and junkie son Marik treads a path of vice and distraction to try again and again to ignore his pain and release his anger with little sign of the brilliant man he could have become. Whilst we’re following the protagonists troubles there is also story developments which should get a lot more time next issue and there’s still a good amount of mystery as to where this could go. As Remender continues to come up with more creator-owned work it’s become clear that he’s a writer who delivers from the heart and boy does he deliver well! 9/10

WAYWARD #1
Writer: Jim Zub
Art: Steve Cummings, John Rauch & Jim Zub
Image $3.50

Stewart R: It’s a little crazy just how often I’ll have missed news and previews on some new Image books, see them in the pull-list for the week, have initially no interest, take a little preview look to make 100% sure I’m not missing out and then take the punt to see. Wayward #1 was one such gamble and once again I’m very pleased to say that it’s paid off! Zub introduces us to Rori Lane through her journey from Ireland to Japan and her succinct and engaging thoughts about the trip and the twists in her life that have led her there. The narration is brilliantly brief and to the point, the language giving Rori clear personality which helps once the tour of Tokyo starts and the supernatural craziness begins. Thanks to the superbly handled introduction the revealing of a fantasy-tinged turf war folds into proceedings well and just adds an extra sense of ‘the fish out of water’ feeling Rori has being in a new land. Cummings et al must also be applauded for the clear and vibrant style leant to the visuals which nods at manga and anime influence without blatantly falling into that camp. Suffice to say that picking up issue two is no gamble for me; it’s a surefire thing! 9/10

1 comment:

Stewart R said...

*SPOILER ALERT*

The Living Tribunal commented: Original Sin read like fan fiction. An enormous bait-and-switch with preposterous retconning - wasn't this billed as a detective story about who killed the Watcher and not a pagent about Nick Fury's unforgivable sins - all just to take classic Fury off the table. To top off the shear ridiculouness, the Winter Soldier takes up Nick's vacant position. This was a waist of $45 - almost on par with the colossal waste of time and $$ that Fear itself turned out to be.