15 Dec 2014

Mini Reviews 14/12/2014

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.

BITCH PLANET #1
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art: Valentine De Landro & Cris Peter
Image $3.50


James R: Terrific title, highly promising first issue. I have to say that I wasn't a fan of DeConnick's Pretty Deadly, but the pitch for this one certainly piqued my interest. A prison planet for 'Non-Compliant' women? It's a great idea, and certainly one that's got some resonance in popular culture. Recently, Orange Is The New Black has used a female prison to great effect on TV, and exploration movies such as Chained Heat have revelled in the salacious side of the idea. DeConnick's script has hints of both, but it adds a fresh perspective too. As a man brought up in a female-heavy household, I saw and heard first hand how badly women are often treated by society, and I'm always amazed at how unaware men are. Moreover, recent events such as Gamergate have highlighted that sadly, many men's view of women is shockingly ignorant. The script of Bitch Planet hints that DeConnick will use this book as an opportunity to address the patriarchy, whilst simultaneously weaving a great escape plot into the mix. A fine start, and another hit for Image. As our colleague Kenny said in his Paradoscar awards write-up for Best Publisher, we really can't call DC and Marvel the Big Two anymore - Image surely now makes it three. 8/10

THE VALIANT #1
Writers: Jeff Lemire & Matt Kindt
Art: Paolo Rivera
Valiant Entertainment $3.99


Stewart R: Despite showing interest in relaunched and resurgent Valiant titles in recent years - X-O Manowar and Eternal Warrior grabbed my attention for an extended period - they’ve failed to stick long term and though Armour Wars had me looking at preview pages, I’ve felt that the Valiant universe has criss-crossed between titles too much for me to want to dive in and try to learn the continuity. That said, the names of the creators plonked upon the cover of The Valiant #1 was certainly enough to have me scrabbling to hand over the cash for a copy and, while it involves many of the characters from several Valiant books, the focus upon Eternal Warrior, Gilad, and his never-ending (and always failing) battle against the Immortal Enemy sets the battlefield pretty well. The loss of each generation’s Geomancer - the protector of the life on Earth itself - through the ages clearly weighs heavily on Gilad’s shoulders as depicted by Lemire and Kindt’s keen scripting and Rivera’s brooding artwork. Then to up the ante, the threat to this 21st Century’s Geomancer is made more personal by allowing the reader time to get to know Kay McHenry, learn of her life struggles and see her try to embrace the power bestowed upon her. I like the way that this is not pitched as an evident ‘End of the World’ crisis, but indicates the cost to mankind will be dark and widespread as civilisations have born witness to through their histories, and in that measured approach this is certainly a worthy introduction to an event series that catches the eye and has guaranteed my continuing interest. 8/10

EAST OF WEST: THE WORLD #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Nick Dragotta & Frank Martin
Image $3.99


Stewart R: If you’ve followed the comic book writing of Jonathan Hickman for a few years now, you’ll know that he’s a penchant for crafting and conjuring in depth stories, backgrounds and worlds that often spread and sprawl just as wide as the plots push ever and further forwards. East Of West has been one example of this, but perhaps it could be said that he’s held back a touch on diving into the politics and histories of his ensemble sci-fi western tour de force, possibly for fear of getting too bogged down in the smaller details to the detriment of plot velocity. It’s hard to see how he would ever get chance to address each and every nation, the governments, cadres and leaders of them all… unless… somehow... he and Messrs Dragotta and Martin brought us some kind of East Of West encyclopaedia! What you get for your slightly elevated price is a small story about the three preteen Horsemen locating a mount for the injured Conquest in a muted, body-horror type way. That’s then followed with a broken down Atlas of this version of the United States, split into its individual nations with details on various strengths, weaknesses and other categories relevant to the upcoming conflict. To cap things off, Hickman turns to his graphic design background to provide a timeline of this world, from the 1908 ‘fire in the sky’ that set this universe’s journey on it’s own path, up to the present time in story, on the eve of battle. The short story is as entertaining as any scene from the main series with Dragotta’s art on top form as usual, the Atlas is interesting if you, like me, are a fan of smaller, expansive details as it solidifies the images and stances of each faction. Some, however, might wince at the page count given over to the timeline which isn’t the most reader-friendly experience it must be said, though it does show how these factions have interacted in the past. It’s a mixed bag for sure, but as a definitive supplement to this brilliant fictional world it’s a must have for fans. 7/10

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #6
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Jason Latour
Image $3.50


James R: This series just doesn't let up. Basking in the glow of a newly-minted Paradoscar for Best New Series, Southern Bastards continues to tell the secret origin of Coach Boss, and man alive, is it something to see. The young Eueless Boss continues to display a relentless determination to make the football team, and in this issue he receives help from that classic storytelling trope, the wise mentor. Taken under the wing of Ol' Big, Boss begins to add guile and strength to his frustrations, and as with every issue of this series, it's a joy to read. This month, I was struck by how good Aaron's dialogue is - amidst the grim reality of Boss' young life, Aaron weaves in some terrific moments - "Are you eaten' a stick of butter?" Once again, it looks terrific, and Latour continues to bring the heat and grime of Craw County right off the page. I can't think of a single way in which this book is lacking, and with each passing month I'm becoming more attached to the cast and world of Southern Bastards - long may it continue! 9/10

AVENGERS & X-MEN: AXIS #7
Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Adam Kubert, Edgar Delgado & Jesus Aburtov
Marvel $3.99


Stewart R: Oh, we’re so very far down this rabbit hole now and there’s still little sign of light at the end of this rough-around-the-edges tunnel. I’ll admit that the reason that this gets a review from me this week is because there is finally a proper sign of the Remender writing that I’ve loved on Uncanny X-Force and Uncanny Avengers, and appeared to have been missing from AXIS. With the flipped heroes and villains fighting over Apocalypse and the X-Men’s gene bomb, Remender brings Zen Deadpool to the party for some needed levity and then use him as an emotional connection back to those X-Force days and the various sins of that team that brought Evan into existence. The violent confrontation between Wade and Evan is brutal and poignant; while chaos reigns around them, and chaos magic has led them here, it all boils down to the destiny of Apocalypse and that battle between nature and nurture, love and hate. I’ll even tip Kubert a nod of the hat for his violent fist-pummelling coda to their ill-fated discourse as it’s the best page he’s put together in his contributions so far… it’s just a shame that the rest of the book continues to look incredibly rushed and poorly composed in line with his earlier chapters. That flash of Remender’s keen writing once again has me wondering if the visual inconsistency is robbing much of the impetus, potency and interest from this project that would have possibly made for a far better read under the hand of another, single artist. Next stop, Leinil Yu. 4/10

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #11
Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Olivier Coipel, Wade Von Grawbadger, John Livesay, Victor Olazaba, Mark Morales & Justin Ponsor
Marvel $3.99


Stewart R: With so much going on, so many characters to concentrate on and only a short space of time in which to get this 'Spider-Verse' event rolling and then wrapped up - it will conclude in Amazing Spider-Man #14 which isn’t too far away - Slott remains focused and on target throughout here, paying only momentary nods to those offshoot titles like Scarlet Spiders and Spider-Man 2099 which still have a part to play in the bigger picture. Essentially split into two thrusts, Slott deals first with the unstoppable personality clash between Peter Parker and Otto Octavius with a great standoff between the pair, before then truly escalating the scale and scope of the danger to these Spider Totems through a haunting attack, that thanks to the ever-sterling visual imagery of Olivier Coipel and the art team will linger with me for days to come. In a book where it’s clear that heads are going to continue to roll it’s a pleasant surprise (relatively speaking) to see that every loss and sacrifice draws an emotional response, hopefully dispelling the prospect of desensitisation setting in before the climax in three issues time. 8/10

COPPERHEAD #4
Writer: Jay Faerber
Art: Scott Godlewski & Ron Riley
Image $3.50


Stewart R: Oh my, Copperhead is fast becoming one of my favourite series on the stands! Faerber continues to lead with the mystery of the Sewell family’s murder, but with it brings in odd scraps about Clara Bronson’s past - in dry, laugh-out-loud fashion thanks to some straight-talking dialogue and perfect facial depiction from Godlewski - and even gives Deputy Budroxifinicus some character development through a tense chase sequence beset with evidence of post traumatic stress disorder through use of interwoven flashback panels which match the current action. It clips along at an electric pace, still shrouded in the blue gloom of the Jasper night and dripping with menace and tension. Godlewski and Riley really have come up trumps with a comic of superb visual consistency which screams premium quality with every chapter - check out the terrific use of soft focus on that cover for just one of a myriad of supporting illustrative examples! Copperhead has been Book of the Week worthy material each month it’s been released and it has earned that award this week as far as I’m concerned! 9/10

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