5 Oct 2014

Mini Reviews 05/10/2014

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.

THOR #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: With Aaron’s Thor: God Of Thunder passing me by I missed much of the story involving Thors from various eras which hinted at a definite change ahead for the Odinson, though thankfully the occasional promotion by Matt C or Tom P kept me vaguely in the loop. It certainly helped my reading of Thor #1 to have a long term sense of where this might be heading, but it’s by no means a necessity to enjoy Aaron and Dauterman beginning a new age in the life of our Asgardian hero. Aaron even assumes that not everyone will have picked up Original Sin and gives a decent refresh in the current state of affairs, from Thor’s depowering at the hands (or lips?) of Nick Fury to the power clash between the returned Odin and the All-Mother, Freyja. The historical bases covered, Aaron then (literally) dives into the new material with a deep-sea demolition of Roxxon property at the hands of Frost Giants and dark elf, Malekith - proving once again that where the Marvel cineverse goes, so must the comic medium to maximise character recognition. While nothing particularly surprising happens, Aaron gives Malekith a more maniacal, jester-like turn which works well and Dauterman provides some top-notch spectacle as the human weapons of science fail in the face of Frost Giant brute force. Everything culminates in a finale that the majority of us would expect - the ‘true’ start of this new journey - and guarantees the intrigue for the second instalment will remain high. To be honest it’s all a little by the numbers, but it’s covered in a high quality sheen and the clash between Odin and Freyja promises more enthralling Asgardian politics to come. 8/10

Matt C: It’s certainly not an unimpressive ‘debut’ issue, with much heated discussion between the Asgardian hierarchy on the Moon as a despondent Thor sits slouched in front of a hammer he’s no longer able to lift, but although it does offer plenty to hold the attention, there is the sense that this could merely be an initial burst of excitement before it works its way back to the level of the previous volume. I did feel that while Thor: God Of Thunder still had its moments towards the end, it seemed to have lost that spark of magic it possessed early on. The magic does appear to have returned, but for how long? It’s still essentially the same title as before, the same storyline. I’m torn between staying to see if Aaron can work this change in direction into something memorable or dropping it now before I get too entrenched. Dauterman’s art is working in the title’s favour: the double-page splash of the Frost Giants crossing the ocean floor is absolutely terrific. A decision to mull over then. It is a good issue but I’m not sure it’s convinced me the series will be worth investing in. 7/10

BRIDES OF HELHEIM #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art: Joelle Jones & Nick Filardi
Oni Press $3.99

Matt C: Not nearly as strong out of the gate as the first issue of the last miniseries as it’s a bit less assured about conveying to the reader where the story will be heading. It’s one of those cases where a writer’s built up a certain amount of trust so you are perhaps more willing to cut them some slack than you might otherwise be. I’m pretty sure I’ll stick with it as that first series was often wildly entertaining and if the plot wasn’t quite up to the task here, Jones’ stylish, dynamic art made up for it. Not something to pick up unless if you’ve perused the previous volume though. 6/10

GOTHAM ACADEMY #1
Writers: Becky Cloonan & Brendan Fletcher
Art: Karl Kerschl, Geyser & Dave McCaig
DC $2.99

Stewart R: My fellow PCGers had shown interest in this back when it appeared in Previews and I’d shrugged in a lack of enthusiasm truth be told. It was only this week when I realised that Karl Kerschl, creator of the Abominable Charles Christopher webcomic, was on art duties that I decided to put this on my list. The general plot seems simple enough with second year student, Olive, given the duty of steering newbie - and by sheer happenstance younger sister of Olive’s (for the moment) boyfriend, Kyle - around the grounds and ways of Gotham Academy, a prestigious school within the city which has a mysterious and haunted air about it. Cue a little look into Olive’s somewhat outsider attitude and Maps’ youthful curiosity which leads them to danger and gives the reader a good look at the surroundings in the process. It’s harmless, teen-aimed fun with a vague Batman edge and Kerschl’s distinctive European/South American styled comic visuals (others may say Manga influenced, but I’m not convinced there). The problem for me was that I felt I was somehow missing something, that this series was fed in from somewhere else in the Batman universe and I wasn’t aware of these characters’ previous histories and possible appearances. It seems like we’ve been dropped into proceedings midway through a journey from the moment we meet Olive and Maps, and this continues each time a character is introduced. I would have maybe shrugged that off if this was a creator-owned project, but the inclusion of Bruce Wayne briefly, and his recognition of Olive, maintained that sense of bemusement until the end. It doesn’t derail my appreciation for Gotham Academy which keeps the monster mystery at the heart of its future appeal, but does show that publisher insistence on crossovers, tie-ins and spin-offs has definitely affected my ability to read and judge their comics entirely on their own merit on occasion. 6/10

MEN OF WRATH #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Ron Garney & Matt Milla
Marvel/Icon $3.50

Matt C: A hitman tale that pulls no punches, opening with a scene that ranks as one of the most disturbing I’ve witnessed in a comic book this year. The perpetrator is immediately singled out as morally reprehensible piece of shit, and in many other hands that would be as far as I’d want to go with him. Jason Aaron, however, is arguably the best writer operating in the mainstream who can take an objectionable individual and turn him into a layered, compelling character that you do want to discover more about. Garney makes his first foray into the creator-owned arena with some suitably grizzled art, keeping the protagonist’s eyes doused in shadow for the most part to reflect his black soul. Dark stuff indeed, and a great companion piece to Southern Bastards to boot. 8/10

BUCKY BARNES: THE WINTER SOLDIER #1
Writer: Ales Kot
Art: Marco Rudy
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: I’m going to state it for the record here: I think the idea of the Man On The Wall produced in Original Sin was something of a big, Marvel-history-rewriting misstep, that, to be honest, makes little sense to me when placed alongside the presence of groups like The Illuminati in Hickman’s works (where’s Nick Fury when all that carnage and threat is going on??). If, however, we follow that story with its requirement for Fury’s successor, then goshdarnit, Bucky Barnes is the logical choice for a replacement and Ales Kot is the guy to write those ongoing adventures. I certainly enjoyed how Kot depicts this Winter Soldier as a man willing to take life for the greater good, yet is troubled by such a burden in a similar way to how Ed Brubaker cast him during his handling of Bucky in previous years. The involvement of Daisy Johnson gives Bucky someone to bounce off of and will seemingly keep things grounded from time to time in the far-flung corners of the universe where this journey is likely to take us. I can see Kot quickly and competently building the rapport between the two here and his dialogue is quick, snappy and smile-inducing. The big fly in the reading ointment is unfortunately my immediate inability to enjoy Rudy’s art. For some of the slower pages with less going on, his painted style is a good fit for the extra-terrestrial happenings, but when the action or the panel count picks up I found things getting too muddy and slightly confusing for their own good, leading to a disjointed reading experience overall. Bit of a shame really and leaves me with a decision to make about picking up #2. 5/10

MOON KNIGHT #8
Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Greg Smallwood & Jordie Bellaire
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Wood seems to be carrying on the template of ‘done-in-one’ invention that Warren Ellis laid down in the first six issues, and here he might very well have come up with the most ingenious way of delivering the concept so far. Basically, this is ‘found footage’, Moon Knight style, as - bar the last couple of pages – every panel is rendered to represent some sort of camera or recording device. News broadcasts, CCTV, smart phones… it’s brilliantly designed and very skilfully put together by Smallwood and Bellaire. It may feel a little gimmicky to some but I found it to be a thoroughly successful exercise in playing around with the visual conventions of the medium, and it provided more than adequate proof that this series has plenty to offer following Ellis’ departure. 8/10

HINTERKIND #12
Writer: Ian Edginton
Art: Francesco Trifolgi & Cris Peter
Vertigo $2.99

Stewart R: And so we mark the year anniversary of one of Vertigo’s truly great ongoing books with a prime example of what has made it such a captivating read these past twelve months: nothing can be taken for granted. With the plot seeds that Edginton has been sowing I’d been under the misapprehension that we were on a certain predestined path with a major antagonist and further, separate jeopardy for our misfit band of human and hinterkind characters, held captive by a herd of centaurs. But things twist and turn in magical fashion as new details crawl from the illustrated woodwork to derail one plan for power and hopes for alliance are dashed in another instance bringing beautiful chaos and action to proceedings. Hinterkind is gripping, engrossing, entertaining and electric and may we please have another year of this brilliance, please Mr Edginton, Mr Trifolgi and Vertigo Publishing? Please?! 9/10

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