8 Dec 2014

Mini Reviews 07/12/2014

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: Alan Moore
Art: Gabriel Andrade & Digikore Studios
Avatar $3.99

Matt C: The various other Crossed series hypothesize the immediate after effects of a worldwide zombie-like plague and how civilization and humanity – essentially, what it means to be human – is irrevocably altered. In a surprising move into an ongoing franchise, Alan Moore imagines where the world would be one hundred years later, when the initial outbreak is a thing of the past. To everyone alive it’s history they didn’t live through, all their knowledge of it being second hand, and the reality of the ‘new world’ is the only one they’ve experienced. Being no slouch in the writing department (!), Moore offers a compelling take on this post-apocalyptic future, with characters that are recognizably human but are demonstrably changed from what we’re currently familiar with. Their sense of morality and empathy has evolved, along with their lexicon, a literary conceit that’s not especially original (see Brian Azzerello’s Spaceman series as a recent example) but in Moore’s capable hands, although it takes some getting used to, it’s ultimately highly effective. Andrade proves to be a more than capable artist of delivering a vision of the future that’s moved beyond an extinction level event onto something approaching the cusp of a revised status quo. This is unlikely to one of Moore’s classic works, but it shows he’s far, far from away from being devoid of inspired creativity. 8/10

James R: While us hardcore Mooreheads await the release of his epic novel Jerusalem, the 'Original Writer' effortlessly reminds us of why he remains the benchmark of excellence in comics. I stepped away from the Crossed universe following Garth Ennis' first startling tale - there seemed to be a law of diminishing returns on the stories set in the aftermath of the Crossed doomsday. However, Alan Moore's take is a fresh one, and had me immediately invested in the premise. This series is set a century after the first, and focuses on mankind's attempt to rebuild and recapture what was lost when society collapsed, while still trying to survive the remaining Crossed. I was reminded of Walter Miller Jr's classic SF novel, A Canticle For Leibowitz, another tale set in a post-apocalyptic world, with a group attempting to salvage the knowledge of a fallen society. That tale spans centuries, but Moore's smaller scale still has an impact. He crafts the spoken language of the future with the same skill that he used in Voice Of The Fire's 'Hob's Hog' chapter. It's not an easy read, but once you become accustomed to the cadence, it's hugely rewarding. The story is filled with equal measures of melancholy and fear, and by the end of the issue, I was hooked. I wasn't overly enthused with Andrade's art though - it's fine, but it is very much the 'Avatar house style'. Still my book of the week by some way though - it's great to have a monthly book from Alan Moore once again. 8/10

Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art: Jeremy Haun & Lee Loughridge
DC/Vertigo $3.99

Matt C
: A contemporary werewolf tale that runs a little far into generic, potboiler territory to really stick. Bunn’s a fine writer but this isn’t really doing anything that seems like it will hold much appeal beyond hardcore genre fans. While Haun’s art is pretty great in the quieter, contemplative moments, it does run into trouble with some disjointed staging for the action sequences, and the design of the werewolf is a bit more comical than creepy. Not bad, and in possession of some nifty ideas, but not something that springs out as having the ability to cross over to a larger audience. 6/10

Writer: Kaare Kyle Andrews
Art: Kaare Kyle Andrews
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: From a little research I’ve done about this book it seems that we might only be getting 12 issues in all from Kaare Andrews on The Living Weapon title and considering how consistent his scripting, art and storytelling have been I find that to be something of a shame. This seventh chapter kicks off the second half of the story with Danny Rand now training hard to regain what he’s lost, or possibly find something very different to what he believed the source of his powers to be. Having broken Danny down through that opening arc it’s good to see Andrews now start the process of building him back up, but with clear thought and complexity brought to the journey. As he heals and strengthens, it’s great to get flashes to his early days in K’un Lun, his then budding friendship with Sparrow, the strange ways and rules of the mystical realm and the potential danger lurking in the background. These flashbacks run alongside the rise of The One and Davos’ power in New York - in Danny’s very home no less - and their building of something very sinister indeed. Brenda and Detective Li’s seemingly foolhardy heroics add a needed level of peril to these scenes with Rand currently absent from the Manhattan picture and I’d say that they jury is out as to whether they’ll make it through the infiltration of Rand Tower unscathed! With the knowledge of this series’ finite lifespan I can at least be happy in the fact that it’s going to make one damn fine collected edition come the conclusion! 8/10

Writer: Joshua Williamson
Art: Andrei Bressan & Adriano Lucas
Image $2.99

James R: The unexpected treat that is Birthright continues to give us the goods. After a pulsating first two issues, Joshua Williamson continues to spin a captivating tale. I really shouldn't like this book - I'm not a huge fan of fantasy by any means, but Williamson's tale is told so well, and with such a fresh perspective, it's impossible not to be enthralled. This issue strikes a perfect balance with continuing Mikey's first days in Terrenos, and his magical return to our world, cutting with movie-like grace between the two. I'm also loving Andrei Bressan's pencils, as he captures the fantastical elements really well, and in this issue, a great sense of action and dynamism. I was reminded of the great Richard Corben's work at points, and that's a massive compliment in my book! I know that we've championed Image a lot over the last couple of years, but this is a point that bears repeating: the 22 pages of story here feels like great value at $2.99 - there's so much plot and progression crammed into these pages, I can't help but wonder if the editors at the Big Two are taking notice. In a way, this book shares the same major theme as Joe Casey's Sex, focusing on the 'Post-heroic experience' - what do you do when you've fulfilled your destiny? Both books are utterly fascinating, and Birthright is now firmly established as a highlight of my pull-list. Let the adventure continue! 8/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Ron Garney & Matt Milla
Marvel/Icon $3.50

Matt C: That evocative, ferocious cover says it all: this is series is about damnation. Ira Rath is so far beyond redemption, either through nature or nurture (or a combination of both) that he’s almost become a force of nature, unstoppable immorality given human form. There’s no joy in this series: it’s ugly, violent and relentlessly bleak, but if you’re willing to take a walk into the darker corners of the psyche then Aaron and Garney are doing their level best to make sure Men Of Wrath remains irresistibly compulsive, providing a kind of masochistic, vicarious journey into a world where life isn’t cheap, but entirely worthless. Will there be some sort of light at the end of the tunnel? Hard to say;  Aaron is known for sprinkling some hints of optimism here and there in these types of tales, but part of me hopes there’ll be some sort of determination to take this all the way on this trajectory to the blackest of conclusions. 8/10

Writer: Ian Edginton
Art: Francesco Trifogli & Cris Peter
Vertigo $2.99

Stewart R: As this book enters its second year, Edginton opens with a chapter that travels back in time to show us what life for the Sidhe was like during the reign of humankind and the sorts of activities they got up to in relative secrecy as they plotted the terrible downfall of the dominant species on the planet. Considering how the main plot had been barrelling on at an enthralling pace I actually enjoyed this brief pause for reflection and insight into how we arrived at such a dangerous time for our protagonists. Edginton shows us just how capable an adversary Jon Hobb can be and gives us a little time with Asa as he deals with marital issues, unaware of the fate awaiting his and all the families of the civilised world. I particularly like how Edginton reminds us of the terrible acts undertaken by Telsche, Queen of the Sidhe in order to push her people into power as reader sympathy towards her following the treachery of her progeny would have been riding high and this restores the incredibly grey tone (well, pretty dark, blood red really) of her ethics. Most importantly of all I take the timing of such an issue, that broadens the scope of this world even further, to mean great things for the future of Hinterkind as an ongoing project. Another great chapter of one of the best books on the stands. 8/10

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Art: Benjamin Dewey & Jordie Bellaire
Image $2.99

Matt C: Once you get beyond the baffling name change (something to do with trademark issues I believe) what follows is an escalation of what was seen in the hugely impressive pulp-inspired debut issue. The assembled wizards have apparently drawn the Great Champion from the past but in doing so have brought a great cataclysm to the city, allowing the bison tribes to enter with a view of extracting a long-desired vengeance. Once the Great Champion is revealed, things take a completely unexpected turn, one that’s initially incongruous but blends seamlessly into the narrative thanks to some smartly judged scripting from Busiek, some glorious, sumptuous artwork from Dewey, and some beautifully enveloping colouring from Bellaire. What began as a top draw fantasy tale has now veered into unpredictable terrain, and once again Image are responsible for producing your new favourite series. 9/10

Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Ryan Stegman & Richard Isanove
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: The appearance of ‘AXIS’ on the front cover and the sinister look on Medusa’s face was something of a concern for me this week as I’ve not been enjoying the latest Marvel event and such a glaring personality change in such an important character runs the risk of disrupting the work Soule has put in so far. Thankfully, the main focus of this issue isn’t the sudden injection of evil into the Inhuman Queen, but rather the ongoing adventure of strange, blind Inhuman Reader and his NuHuman student, Xiaoyi. So engrossed had I been in the recent two part story involving Blackbolt, I’d actually forgotten about the introduction of these characters and was happy to see Soule return to more of his new cast and strengthen my view that this is one of the freshest ongoing series in Marvel’s armoury. The journey of Reader and Xiaoyi brings even more strange Inhuman factions into view, depicts Reader as something of a rogue in spite of his apparent kindness and adds further mystery to the potential rivals to the House of Boltagon. When we return to New Attilan and said royal family, Soule makes sure to bring back the recent familiar faces, enforce the political mistrust between the human government agencies and the new settling kingdom in their midst and make it fit with the AXIS-related meddling in Medusa’s temperament. Admittedly it’s still jarring and unenjoyable to see such a transformation in the Queen, but when that discomfort is felt by the cast as a whole and the surprise is depicted as it is here by the returning Stegman, this is at least a soothing spoon of sugar to the bitter taste of that event as a whole. 8/10

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