2 Nov 2014

Mini Reviews 02/11/2014

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.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #5
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Jason Latour
Image $3.50

James R: It takes something special to wrestle my 'Book of the Week' award away from Mind MGMT, but Southern Bastards is something very special. I've loved this series since the first issue. As both ‘Sons of the South’, the two Jasons (Messieurs Aaron and Latour) have channelled the spirit of America's Deep South with real √©lan and verve. One of Aaron's many skills as a writer is getting you to invest and care about his characters. After convincing us all that the book was all about Earl Tubb returning to Craw County, last issue showed us in the most startling way that it was definitely not, and that Aaron was creating a far richer tableau. Issue #5 starts to add more detail to the world of Southern Bastards and, once again, Aaron makes us invest in a man who, by all rights, we should despise. He switches the narrative to Coach Boss, as we see how a determined and bullied teenager began on a path that would lead him to dominate Craw County. That would have been reason alone for recommending this book, but Aaron also manages to expand the world of Southern Bastards, offering up lots of potential new plot avenues for story to take. Once again, it's beautifully illustrated by Jason Latour (who also providing a brilliant cover too) and it seems to be one of those magical combinations in comics where writer and artist are in perfect synch. Growing in strength with every issue, and an utterly compelling read. 9/10

Matt C: After the shocking events of the last issue there were hints of where this book would go next, but after expecting it to unfurl in a certain way only to find out Aaron had other plans, everything seems up in the air and difficult to predict. With issue #5, nothing’s quite set in stone as to the future direction of the story, but Aaron seems to be laying some more cards on the table, suggesting that Coach Boss could very well be the central character of Southern Bastards. Boss is starting to remind me a lot of another of Aaron’s characters, Red Crow from Scalped, in that he’s obviously a bad guy but it’s not quite as clear cut as all that, there’s a depth and complexity that is worthy of exploration. On top of this, we’re offered glimpses of a far larger cast than previously seen (all rendered with grizzled abandon by Latour) that suggests that our time in Craw County is only just getting started. 9/10

INHUMAN #7
Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Pepe Larraz & Richard Isanove
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Charles Soule has realistically been given an open invitation to actually character-create within the Marvel Universe and do so along any story thread he apparently wishes. The previous couple of issues gave us the ‘young kids proving themselves in dire times’ story and now it seems this talented writer is turning to the classic ‘detective team up’ as our attention is turned to the whereabouts and motives of sneaky Inhuman prince, Maximus, and his captive brother, Black Bolt. I truly loved how Soule set about introducing us to these new cast members, highlighting the ongoing battles Medusa is having to face just to maintain control in New Attilan along with those who are stepping up following troubled transitions and times - quite honestly I would relish the chance to see an arc involving Inhuman security head Auran and former NY detective Frank McGee! That is of course unlikely for a number of reasons, but in its stead the opportunity to wait and see just when and if Black Bolt will be able to break the hold of his crazy brother is reason enough to carry on with what has proven to be a great new series for Marvel. Despite the cover heralding Stegman and Garcia, the art kudos on interiors goes to Larraz and Isanove who combine to form the illustrative missing link betwixt Olivier Coipel and Jorge Molina, and what a gloriously eye-stroking missing link that is! Sumptuous looks to go with scintillating scribing! 9/10

MIND MGMT #27
Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Matt Kindt
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: I'm not going to make you wade through another review of what is my favourite comic in the world right now, I just wanted to use my spot here to give credit where due. This week, I took the time to undertake that most Sisyphean of tasks - rearranging my comics boxes. As I wrestled with my back issues, I was struck by how many series I owned that had started like an express train, bursting with ideas and innovation, which then, sadly, petered into irrelevance or ennui (Powers and The Unwritten were the two most obvious candidates) So it's brilliant to be able to say 'Bravo' to the amazing Matt Kindt - as we approach the endgame of Mind MGMT, Kindt continues to surprise and enthral in equal measure. For me, he's up there with Chris Ware as a 'pure' comics genius – he's both plotting and illustrating this book and it has never been late. I can't think of a weak issue, or a better example of a monthly comic - thanks Matt, this book is always a ripping yarn! 9/10

BRASS SUN #6
Writer: Ian Edginton
Art: I.N.J. Culbard
Rebellion/2000 AD $3.99

Stewart R: Brass Sun has, hands down, been one of the best finds of 2014. It’ll get a nomination for miniseries of the year from me for the Paradoscars and I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t end up vying for the title too. Edginton has proven himself to be a crafter of rich, deep and diverse worlds with living, breathing characters who compel the story onwards. While much of the plaudits for the depiction of these elements can and will go to I.N.J. Culbard’s reliable eye and deft pencil work, it’s been Edginton who has steered the journey and chosen the moments in which we get to explore these lavish locales in greater detail. This series finale lingers on a gaseous giant teeming with behemoth wildlife and navigated by mercenaries in dirigibles to bring things to a temporary conclusion in adventurous and exciting style. The agent of the Modernity is a truly terrifying concept - think of the Terminator mixed with Maria from Metropolis - and Culbard’s simplified style makes the depiction all the more haunting. The truly applause-worthy thing is that as this mini draws to a close it’s quite clear that it’s just the first step of the journey and I cannot wait to find out just when we might get the next chapter in Wren and Septimus’ quest! Brass Sun, gold star! 9/10

BLACK SCIENCE #10
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Matteo Scalera & Dean White
Image $3.50

James R: At one point this year, Rick Remender certainly looked King of the Castle - with Uncanny Avengers at Marvel, and two incredibly strong books at Image, it seemed as if 2014 was going to be his year. In the last few months, I think he's wobbled a tad - Low certainly didn't do it for me, and as I said the other week, I'm enjoying Deadly Class, but it's not Earth-shaking. AXIS seems to be yet another Marvel half-arsed event (following on from the jaw-dropping disappointment of Original Sin) and so all eyes are on Black Science. As a book that won universal praise from us on its initial release, how is it holding up? Pretty damn well! I love that it continues to move at a breakneck pace - there is a sense of urgency in the pages of Black Science that I don't see in any other book. Remender is now throwing in multiple Grant McKays into the mix too, while going back over ground that he covered so effectively in Uncanny X-Force: how to we reconcile free will in a seemingly determined world or universe? Part of me is worried how long he can keep this up for, but for now I'm just happy to invest in such an excellent SF tale, and wonder at the always-excellent art of Scalera and White. Black Science continues at full steam, and I'm still enjoying the ride. 8/10

LOW #4
Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Greg Tocchini
Image $3.50

Stewart R: If the last issue was all about character, emotion, and personal perspective then this issue is all of the story and exposition to ‘make up’ for that. Their aim and mission now roughly centred, Stel and Marik search out the mysterious Third City and in finding it give Remender the chance to highlight just how the few surviving civilisations and communities in the deep differ from each other despite suffering from the same sense of inevitability in their approaching fate. The Third Cities denizens are pirates or care-free ne’erdowells, all kept within the cloud of ignorance by the very man who robbed Stel, Marik and daughter Tajo of their family all those years ago. Remender does a fine job of building the tension here as a moment of sweet vengeance sneaks into view only to be beautifully snatched away by the very circumstances which led Stel to this point. The thrust and pace of the plot progression here does jar ever so slightly considering the steadied, measured script of the preceding chapter - we’re given a lot of background information and locale setting in a relatively short space of time - but that thankfully just adds to the feeling that Stel and Marik really don’t have time on their side when in enemy territory. The greatest part of all is that the path the next chapter of this story will take is just as unpredictable as ever! 8/10

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