30 Nov 2014

Mini Reviews 30/11/2014

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.

ODY-C #1
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Christian Ward
Image $3.99

Matt C: Judging by the reaction I’ve seen over the last few of days it appears I’m going to be one of the few dissenting voices when it comes to ODY-C. Look, I can appreciate the obvious ambition involved in this reimagining of Homer’s Odyssey, the luxurious, lavish and lysergic artwork of Ward, and the way the book’s been packaged (the fold-out intro!) but the info-dump at the beginning had me disengaging immediately and once the story proper commenced the situation didn’t change. It is an undeniably dense read, but unless you’re switched on to the contents very swiftly, you’re likely to have hard time with it just like I did. I can take a heavy dollop of pretension as well as the next man, but by the end of this issue it felt like the contents had become background noise to whatever else was on my mind at the time. 5/10

SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN #17
Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Steve Lieber & Rachelle Rosenberg
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: The sun sets, the curtain closes and the shutters come down on this iteration of the Sinister Six, the five team members a bunch of inept, ambitious, backstabbing ne’er-do-wells who brought laughs to the readership month after month. In this finale, Spencer opts to focus primarily on the protagonist of the piece, Fred ‘Boomerang’ Myers, as the blindfold of confusion is yanked from our eyes and he goes about explaining just how he’s managed to pull such a switcheroo on all of the parties involved. The terrific thing about this is that, in spite of his evident smarts and daring, things still don’t go right for this career criminal regardless of his moments of smugness - his plans are continuously upended by sneakier adversaries and acquaintances popping up where you least expect them! There are even greater surprises in the love-life stakes with a superb twist that a) raises a hearty chuckle and b) completely fits with the way that Spencer has utilised such a broad cast to great effect. I will argue that perhaps the other members of the team - particularly Beetle and Overdrive - get a little shortchanged, but they do get some time in the limelight as most of their tales get some sort of wrap-up and to be honest, this was Fred’s tale really from the get-go. Through it all, Steve Lieber and Rachelle Rosenberg bring their fine blend of art once more, delivering the visual gags with pitch perfect precision - even to the point of giving all three creators a deserved cameo on the cover. Much like the overreaching plans of this group of super-villain numbskulls it was always a bit of an ill-placed hope that this delightfully funny series would have run for longer and I believe Spencer perfectly captures the fact that stories such as these are just small chapters in bigger character legacies. And in that regard, I think that Superior Foes Of Spider-Man has proven to be one of those chapters you’d be happy to skip ahead to when rereading the bigger ‘book’. 8/10

LETTER 44 #12
Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque & Dan Jackson
Oni Press $3.99

Stewart R: Velocity and escalation are the continuous elements of note as Letter 44 rolls onwards. Soule gives each scene and setting a different feeling of pace and tension, yet through it all it’s clear that regardless of who’s in focus page to page, things are getting out of hand with increasing speed. Onboard the Clarke there’s now a grave sense of danger from the unknown threat that the Chandelier poses along with the crew’s own general isolation from outside help. Their precarious position has been barrelling ever forwards through the past few issues and it’s testament to Soule’s steady hand with his scripting that there remains an engaging freshness to their fight for survival. Back on Earth, President Blade’s battle to uncover those human elements looking to derail his plans for a stalwart defence against the alien threat continues to grow harder as the identities of such parties brings bigger, global implications to the table. Soule even manages to broach some ‘real world’ issues within this fictionalised storytelling, taking a look at one European power’s national psyche in the 21st Century while also looking at the bureaucracy imbued within the military system which prevents true acts of heroism being acknowledged and rewarded for fear of political abuse. The fact that Soule manages to tackle so many different scenes and situations in one cohesive grand tale is impressive enough before taking a moment to think just how illustrator Alburquerque manages to depict in depth White House conversations alongside laser battles in deep-space with such clear and consistent visual storytelling which maintains that growing sense of impetus. 9/10

LAZARUS #13
Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark, Tyler Boss & Santi Arcas
Image $3.50

Matt C: The level of world-building on display in Lazarus is immense. There’s an intricacy inherent in its creation that puts it up there with the finest works in popular fantasy/science fiction. As the Conclave continues the rivalries and machinations become more pronounced; the deftness of Rucka’s characterisations shines through at all the right moments, and when the dialogue gets stripped back so the action can take over, the writer allows his artist his time in the spotlight, and Lark really gets his chance to evidence his instinctive brilliance at panel choreography. A truly remarkable series and my absolute favourite of 2014. 9/10

Stewart R: The brilliant thing about reading Lazarus through these past couple of issues has been that gnawing feeling of near-certainty that everything is likely to explode and go bat-shit crazy at some close point in time. Rucka continues to push forward Malcolm Carlyle’s attempts to prove Jakob Hock’s duplicity in obtaining his family’s biotech for himself and while that is a slow, well-paced game of investigative and political chess it gives a fine opportunity to widen the window on the various Lazari and what this strained life means to all of them. I really do enjoy how Rucka has kept the mystery about nearly all of them, suggesting that they all have enhanced abilities to some degree - more so than others - yet using huge restraint so as to keep us guessing to just what these might be. While continuing to grow the cast, Rucka also furthers Forever’s character development, the ambiguity over her emotional age compared to her artificially matured physique allowing for an innocent naivety to occasionally show through her strong facade. Her growing attraction to Joacquim, the various Lazari’s general acceptance that they will all have to come to deadly blows when called upon by their respective families, and the ongoing acts of espionage and sabotage between the various factions just makes her journey of discovery feel all the more doomed and set for pain, and - by Jove! - makes for one unmissable read. 9/10

2 comments:

Living Tribunal said...

Hey Guys, any more "Projects" in the works like the Byrne FF Project. If I may, I would suggest Simonson Thor or Micheline/Layton Iron Man just to name a few. I always looked forward to older post.

Matt C said...

Hopefully at some point in the future. I have a hard enough time keeping on top of the new stuff at the moment, let alone the older stuff. It is something I want to get back to though.