9 Mar 2015

Mini Reviews 08/03/2015

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: Jeff Lemire
Art: Dustin Nguyen
Image $2.99

James R: This book has arrived with a huge degree of anticipation - with the news that Sony Pictures had already snapped up the rights to it, there was a palpable sense that this could be something special. Make no mistake, it is! As a well-established supporter of Jeff Lemire's work, the content comes as no surprise. I felt there were a lot of parallels with his magnificent Vertigo title Sweet Tooth. Both books feature a wide-eyed innocent, living in isolation away from a world (or worlds) suffering a great catastrophe, and both unaware of their importance. This isn't a bad thing by any means - as with Sweet Tooth, Lemire immerses you in the world of Tim-21, and makes you care for his new protagonist. As you'd expect from the art of Dustin Nguyen, it's an absolute treat for the eyes too - he delivers the huge widescreen SF moments and the quiet, eerie calm of Tim's home on the moon of Dirishu-6. It is, of course, early days, but this feels like a natural successor to Sweet Tooth, and I couldn't be happier. 9/10

Matt C: Jeff Lemire’s other issue #1 this week, All-New Hawkeye, is an impressive display of baton-passing from an acclaimed creative team, and while he will deservedly receive some credit for that relaunch, it’s kind of hard for Descender not to overshadow it. Robots and artificial intelligence are hardly new to the sci-fi genre but they offer such ripe storytelling possibilities by exploring the theme of what makes us ‘human’ that their relevance can only increase, particularly as we supposedly edge closer to the so-called Singularity. Descender is a wonderfully expansive peek into the future where enormous mechanical beings (reminiscent of the Celestials in the Marvel Universe) have caused decimation across the core planets of the United Galactic Council, and the lone survivor of a particular android model may be the key to salvation. There are plenty of influences discernible here (Spielberg’s AI sprang to mind on more than one occasion, for example) but Lemire has laid a solid foundation (Foundation?) for something that could potentially turn into something rather special indeed. Nguyen brings to the table imagery filled with awe but also possessing a drained, dreamlike quality that results in an effective off-kilter vibe. From Sweet Tooth to Trillium to – now – Descender, Lemire is proving himself to be a versatile master of contemporary science fiction. 8/10

Writer: Kaare Andrews
Art: Kaare Andrews
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: I think I might have seen it. I’m checking again, and I think I have. Yup, within the pages of Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #10 lies the biggest punch I’ve possibly witnessed on the illustrated page - well, umm, let’s see, no, actually, that’s SIX pages! It’s by no means a gimmick or timesaver either as Andrews has spent the last four-odd issues building to this point (and quite obviously beyond) as he’s had Danny hit the cold, broken, shattered, rock-bottom and climb back up, step by painful step from there. The masterful thing about those six pages, which essentially represent a slow pan over a giant static image, is that Andrews paces it against the Huainanzi Chinese parable of Sai Weng Shi Ma; essentially a good news/bad news or yin and yang story on how fortune changes in an instant. Its timing also translates as a key summary of the surrounding story which has ebbed and flowed in brilliant, unpredictable fashion. Even here, defined by Danny’s apparent re-emergence as the Iron Fist, there are big twists and turns to be had and as we reach the penultimate chapter next time out, the scale of the battle will evidently change once again. One thing that isn’t changing however? My love for this comic book. 9/10

Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Chris Burnham & Nathan Fairbairn
Image $2.99

James R: My esteemed colleague Matt C gave Nameless pretty short shrift last month and I can understand, as Grant Morrison is such a polarising force in comics. He can be wilfully obscure - coming across as pretentious even - and his protagonists are nearly always analogues of himself. But I've always found that there's something intriguing or thought-provoking in everything he writes. Sometimes he's too over the line - recently Happy! and Annihilator have both missed the mark for me - but after two issues, Nameless looks like it's inventive Morrison rather than out-there Morrison at the helm. He throws a lot of ideas at the wall, and they hold together well: occult murder, Enochian language, and Elder Gods returning to end mankind... in space! I'm very much aware that this could all go totally off the rails, but on the strength of this issue, Nameless is a wild ride, Angel languages and all. 8/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson & Jordie Bellaire
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: The third entry into Marvel’s return to the Star Wars franchise may prove to be its hardest sell. This picks up directly from the end of A New Hope where the top bods in the Rebel Alliance are determined to keep Leia protected, fully aware of her importance as a figurehead for the Rebellion, while Leia herself is keen to take a more active role in things, but isn’t quite sure how to do this. In a way, that uncertainty is reflected in the comic itself, as it doesn’t seem entirely sure what it should be.  Where the main Star Wars series is a classic action/adventure romp, and Darth Vader investigates the subtle mistrust and deceptions at the heart of the Empire, Princess Leia features a spirited heroine trying to make a difference, and while that’s not a bad way to go (and was kind of what Brian Wood did in the most recent Dark Horse series) it doesn’t quite feel like the Princess we know and love. Aaron got her down to pat quite swiftly but, as much as admire the approach Waid’s taking here, it doesn’t quite gel for me. 6/10

Writer: Ed Brisson
Art: Damian Couceiro & Michael Garland
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Stewart R: After a superb debut, Brisson, Couceiro and Garland consolidate their winning position with a fine sophomore effort that seems to ease off the idea of a race against the clock slightly in order to tempt us with something with a little bit more meat on the bone. With the premise well and truly set up, Brisson pushes forward with character development on the surviving quartet of convict soldiers, particularly the veteran in the group, Jim Halleran, as they go about the seemingly impossible task of surviving the hostile surrounds and making the improbable journey back to base in time. The interactions between these relative strangers is banter-filled and good fun, mixed in with a decent slice of reality check as we start to learn of checkered and regretful pasts. In the space of two issues, Brisson has made all of this group likeable in some fashion and their welfare is forefront of the reader’s mind as their situation becomes a little more complicated along with the war they’ve been involved in. The conflict is expanded upon teasingly in terms of both scope and participants and as a result I actively went searching the internet to check if this is a miniseries or ongoing. It’s the latter and on the strength of the first two issues I’m very glad of that! 8/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Matteo Scalera & Moreno Dinisio
Image $3.50

James R: Rick Remender promises on the letters page of this issue that the end of the current arc will "Turn the entire premise of the series on its head leaving us with a completely different book." Whatever he's got lined up, I'm confident that  the 'completely different' book will still be as thrilling as its current incarnation. What impresses me the most about Black Science is how Remender keeps so many narrative plates spinning - alternate versions of Grant McKay, accusations of betrayal and counter-accusations, all wrapped up in the ongoing desperate flight through the dimensions. Wow! It's also great to see Moreno Diniso taking over so seamlessly from Dean White on colours - this book still looks superb. Remender remains a creative dynamo, but for me Black Science is still his best series - I can't wait to see what it looks like flipped on its head. 8/10

Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art: Stjepan Sejic
Image $3.50

Stewart R: And so Stjepan Sejic’s evident quest to become the busiest illustrator in comics in 2015 gained further traction this week as he settled in effortlessly to his new ongoing role with Rat Queens! Honestly, this is a perfect substitution as Sejic manages to bring the laughs and visual jokes along with bloodletting action to Wiebe’s brand of fantasy fighting and fucking. This remains something of a NSFW read as the language flies and the nudity runs rampant with gay abandon, and that’s where the pure joy of Rat Queens is to be found to be honest with you. It’s brash, outspoken and charms you from page to page as these lovably flawed characters continue to bicker, insult and push onwards with the bravado as the situation grows from bad to worse. The key for Wiebe’s scripting is that through the jokery and tongue-in-cheek dialogue sits a story involving genuine peril. It has me, upon every reading occasion, weighing up the possibility that one of the major players could fall foul of a sword blade or lethal spell, quite permanently, at any given moment. It’s no easy thing to balance tension and comedy in such a fashion and now that Sejic is weighing in with his visual flair I believe this book could make that creative task seem like a walk in the park from here on. 8/10

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