21 Sept 2014

Mini Reviews 21/09/2014

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, encompassing the good, the bad, and those that lie somewhere in between.

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Various
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: Yes, it’s a bit of a confusing opening to this new storyline, but then that’s kind of the point.  We’re jumping eight months ahead in the world of the Avengers and things have definitely changed, and the hook his here is how we go from that point to this point. I’m reminded of the recently started final series of Boardwalk Empire: there’s been a time jump there too (approximately six years) but while it might equally create a feeling of uncertainty as you attempt to acclimatise to the new time period without knowledge of what’s taken place in between (bar consulting the history books), with Avengers you are aware that the blanks will eventually be filled in, which makes it a more comfortable experience (although saying that, I am finding the groove in Boardwalk).  It enables Hickman to build up to a stonking cliffhanger that will work best for those who’ve thoroughly invested themselves in the writer’s tenure on the extended team of heroes. With the likes of Jim Cheung, Nick Bradshaw and Dustin Weaver on illustrative duties this is a handsome package as well as an inherently absorbing and intriguing one. 8/10

James R: Woah, I imagine the editors of the Avengers - Tom Breevort and Will Moss  - just cracked out the artists' contact list for this one and just rang everyone! For this most Hickmanesque of issues - a time-jump forward of eight months - the book is inflated to 34 pages, and illustrated by, well, most of Marvel's A-team. On one hand, I was totally sold on this; having read Hickman's Avengers from the go, it was fantastic to see him start to pay off a number of the strong plot lines that he's established during his run (for example, I loved seeing the now-grown children of the Savage Land, last seen in issue #12!). On the other hand, this did seem like it was just an extended trailer for Hickman's final act of this epic tale. The bonus pages were nice, but still, $4.99, for an issue that reads like an extended advertisement? I felt a little cheated. I have been toying with the idea of leaving the Marvel Universe altogether when Hickman finishes this run;  as an ageing fanboy who has to really watch his cash, I feel that it would take something revolutionary to keep me on board on month-by-month basis. We shall see, but it's nice to see that Hickman is building to a suitably epic conclusion. 7/10

Writers: Claudio Sanchez & Chondra Echert
Art: Daniel Baylis & Adam Metcalfe
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Matt C: There was bags of potential in this set-up:  the idea of exploring the symbiotic relationship between a hero and his arch nemesis was ripe with thematic opportunity. Although there were hints that Translucid would dip right into this topic early on, instead it veered too far into confusing territory, the decision to filter a large chunk of the story through an extended acid trip making it difficult to discern between the time periods portrayed on occasion. The art has generally matched up to the ambition of the script but it was the script’s lack of clarity at too many instances that let the side down. It works its way to an interesting twist but for the most part there's a sense of an opportunity missed here. 6/10

Writer: Christos N. Gage
Art: Giuseppe Camuncoli, John Dell & Antonio Fabella
Marvel $4.99

Stewart R: With Peter Parker back ‘where he belongs’ in his own body and Amazing Spider-Man being the title now focussed back on his exploits, the rather surprising result has been a continued desire to read of Otto Octavius’ adventures, regardless of the time, setting or plot. I’ll admit that I’ve been wobbling on my devotion to Dan Slott’s scripts on ASM recently, but Gage’s writing here has been rivetting and allowed for a universe hopping collection of cast members to remain cohesive and centred as Otto and his group of webheads try to take the fight to their shared enemy in an intelligent, yet desperate way. The span of the Spider-Men and Women Gage has brought to this 'Edge Of Spider-Verse' series has kept things interesting, brought a team dynamic of sorts to the table and particularly here, reinforced the grave threat that Karn and his kind pose. Otto’s outward confidence and brief moments of doubt remind us of why he was a character deserving of a lead role in a major Marvel title previously and though the threat to him seems somewhat minimized due to the continuity and plot setup, readers are bound to be picking surrounding cast members they want to see survive the carnage as the chapters roll on. Keeping Camuncoli entrenched as lead artist lends to the premium quality feel of the story and book as a whole, and goes some of the way to easing the pain of the surprising, near-as-dammit five dollar price tag! 8/10

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Chris Sprouse & Karl Story
DC $4.99

James R: Grant Morrison's Multiversity leaps to worlds 20 and 40 for this second instalment, which has a distinct JSA feel to it. The writer certainly reigns in his wilder impulses on this one as - in a move that parallels Jonathan Hickman's New Avengers - two Earths bisect and fight it out for supremacy. There's little of the Gentry, the villains of the piece here, rather we're introduced to more supporting characters. As a huge fan of Tom Strong, I'm always delighted to see Chris Sprouse's artwork (though I now fear for his safety having 'crossed the floor' from Alan Moore to Grant Morrison!) and it's an enjoyable enough read. However, I imagine that the amount of alternate universe tales I've read down through the years are now as numerous as the Multiverse itself, and I felt a certain sense of ennui in reading this. I recently complained that New Avengers had taken the path of least resistance in having the Marvel Universe meet analogues of the DCU (again!) and whereas that doesn't happen here, there's nothing new either. As with an event such as Multiversity, this may end up being a terrific part of a tapestry that weaves together magnificently as it reaches its denouement. Based as an individual issue though, it's merely enjoyable rather than spectacular. 7/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Tula Lotay
Image $2.99

James R: Just like last week, picking my book of the week was a tough call. The big difference with this week’s releases though is that my decision was between two comics by the same man. Warren Ellis brings us two finely crafted books - Trees and Supreme: Blue Rose – that  are both terrific, but I'm giving the award to Blue Rose as this book has a sparkle to it that's hard to define, but utterly compelling. Firstly, a huge amount of kudos has to go to Tula Lotay whose art gives the pages an utterly apposite, dream-like feel. As it has been slowly revealed that the barriers between realities, dreaming and waking states is crumbling, Lotay's art has kept pace with Ellis' complex script, never perplexing the reader and adding new dimensions to the narrative. Ellis' script is exactly what you'd expect from one of the masters of the medium - there's not many people who can get away with writing dialogue like "There are secondary levels of defence that are currently being activated from the far future" and not have it sound ridiculous! After three issues, the narrative is slowly unfolding like the petals of the eponymous rose, and it's a joy to behold. As always with Ellis, there's a note of caution - I'm still worried that this won't have a satisfactory conclusion - but at this moment in time, following his comics hiatus, it's great to say that Ellis is still at the top of his game. 8/10

Matt C: This is typical Warren Ellis storytelling in that it’s packed full of smart ideas and requires complete focus to the details in the unfolding narrative as even the smallest plot points can turn out to be vitally important later on. That’s all well and good but it’s my feeling is that he’s being more opaque than usual with Supreme: Blue Rose, revealing things in a very laboured manner without giving much away that can be reallu grabbed hold of. Based on the writer’s history of abandoned projects I’m not sure how far I want to get into this and risk never getting any closure, or even a clear idea of what the series is about. Lotay’s art has a strange ability to capture the feeling that something’s there on the periphery, unable to be seen – which is quite brilliant – but even that, along with the price-point, don’t add up to enough  reasons to continue onwards. 6/10

Writer: W. Haden Blackman
Art: Alex Sanchez & Esther Sanz
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: So Mike Del Mundo gets a month off and Alex Sanchez steps into some mighty large and well-polished shoes. While no match for the sublime painted style of Del Mundo, Sanchez holds his own and delivers an issue rich in action and tension, albeit with the occasional artistic misstep (one shared panel with Cape Crow and Elektra is a touch cringe-worthy in its simplicity). Blackman maintains the sense of pursuit he led with through the opening arc and by rolling Elektra’s former folly into the fold for the near-future, he’s given our assassin protagonist some allies to bounce off of, rather than constantly deflecting threats and bravado of villainous antagonists. Speaking of which, I must state that since my pre-teen comic reading days I’ve been a bit of a fan of the Serpent Society and having them make an appearance was a delightful bonus and hopefully we’ll have them involved just a little more before this short arc wraps up. It was always going to be crucial that the creative team deliver a strong second push on a title with the cloud of cancellation looming not far away and they’ve certainly accomplished that. 8/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Wes Craig & Lee Loughridge
Image $3.50

Matt C: Setting a story in a school for assassins immediately has you thinking you ‘re in for a mix of training sequences, teacher/pupil friction, rites of passage, all from a more sociopathic perspective.  That’s clearly not what Remender’s interested in though. Sure, there are elements of the aforementioned in Deadly Class, but the main focus is on the relationships between the teenage characters as they move through a period of their lives were rebellion is an innate desire that’s always at war with a need to belong, to be noticed. It’s powerful, incisive stuff, brought to emotive and violent life by Craig and Loughridge, and knowing the general make-up of the comic reading community (yeah, I know I’m generalising!) I imagine there’s a heck of a lot here that is quite demonstrably relatable.  Black Science may have topped the recent PCG Top 15 Current Comics poll, and it was a deserved win as it’s propulsive energy is utterly irresistible, but Deadly Class pips it for me because the characterization is so strong and the artistry so dexterous that it just resonates that much more. 8/10

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