6 Apr 2015

Mini Reviews 05/04/2015

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.

KANAN: THE LAST PADAWAN #1
Writer: Greg Weisman
Art: Pepe Larraz & David Curiel
Marvel $3.99

Matt C:  Marvel’s fourth title since it took back the Star Wars franchise features a ‘lesser known’ lead character. Lesser known to some perhaps, but I’m sure most hardcore geeks have figured out by now that Star Wars Rebels is just about the best thing to happen to the fantasy universe George Lucas created for a good long time. Kanan Jarrus from Rebels is the Jedi who survived Order 66 and has been keeping his identity secret, leading a band of pirates/proto-Rebels in the Outer Rim. This series takes us back to when he was a Padawan under the tutelage of Depa Billaba, and from the looks of it we’re won’t have to wait long to see when it all goes pear-shaped for the master and apprentice. It sets up the relationship between the two nicely - and quickly - and we get the sense that Kanan (going by his real name of Caleb Dume at this stage) has found his true purpose and is exceling in the role, little knowing that everything is about to change for the worse. Weisman translates his writing skills from Rebels (and countless other high profile animated series) to the comic book page with consummate ease and Larraz’ fluid artwork is highly effective, reminiscent of Terry Dodson in places. A great start with an ending that shows this book means business. 8/10

UNCANNY INHUMANS #0
Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten & Justin Ponsor
Marvel $4.99


Stewart R: Here we are with another one of these pesky #0 chapters that aren't necessarily sold as essential reading, yet you can't help feel you shouldn't miss it! And here I am, once again, glad that I didn't miss it! This, after all, is Charles Soule writing in his Inhuman playground and using the events of Hickman's Avengers plans to push forward with his plans for Black Bolt. This is one glorious example of what makes the Inhuman King such a powerful opponent and imposing character, as he initially involves himself with the apparent plight of NuHumans left in a defenseless cocooned state thanks to his release of the Terrigen Cloud and then goes about his own, secretive actions. This gives McNiven the chance to deliver his premium, A-Grade visuals and he doesn't disappoint. There are two clashes involving Blackagar, the first highlighting his fine hand-to-hand skills and the second brilliantly depicting the power of his voice and both are pretty damn perfect in McNiven's hands. That perfection is accompanied by one heck of an interesting tête-a-tête between Black Bolt and one of my favourite of all the Marvel villains which Soule keeps as a surprisingly level-headed affair. Tagged on the tail end is a backup story, written by Ryan Stegman, that moves two NuHuman's closer together, but doesn't add a great deal more to that main piece which shines so brightly. 9/10


THE DYING & THE DEAD #2
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Ryan Bodenheim & Michael Garland
Image $3.50


Matt C: After the highly impressive debut issue this sophomore effort goes down the ‘getting the band back together’ route as the Colonel tracks down his old cronies to assist him in his task. The more fantastical elements are stripped way back this time and it’s more about a group of men who’ve long realised their best years are far behind them, but understand that loyalty and friendship are things that things that can still thrive and are worth cultivating. Hickman lays on the characterization rather than the world building here but it’s still a powerful, thoughtful read, with Bodenheim showing he can make the emotions in talking head panels hit with just as much force as those packed with action and violence.  It’s essentially an issue about moving pieces into place before things kick up a gear, but it’s done with enough intelligence, wit and dramatic weight that it feels just as compelling as the showier opening instalment. 8/10

James R: I'll admit it, I loves me a 'putting the gang back together' story. In this second chapter of Hickman and Bodenheim's epic - and still mysterious - book, we get a fine one. Colonel Canning rounds up his former comrades to locate the spear of Bah al'Sharur. It's certainly Hickman's most conventional book - but that's not a criticism. It's reading like the greatest blockbuster you've never seen, and knowing Hickman, I imagine there are a sack full of twists and turns to come. I'm really loving Ryan Bodenheim's art too - I've liked his work since reading Mark Guggenheim's excellent Halcyon, but I think this title is a perfect showcase for his talents. With Michael Garland's colours adding a really distinctive look for the title, it adds up to a fine read. If you didn't pick up the bumper first issue, it's worth tracking down - this is a series that's already starting to pay off on it's clear promise. 8/10


CLUSTER #3
Writer: Ed Brisson
Art: Damian Couceiro & Michael Garland
BOOM! Studios $3.99


Stewart R: Brisson accomplishes two things in particular with this issue of Cluster. Firstly he manages to make me actually despise McHenry, the G.O.E. enforcer attempting to locate Samara Simmons and her squadmates. His attitude to the local inhabitants of Midlothian and the apparent ease with which he snuffs out life is abhorrent, truly abhorrent. Brisson plays him incredibly coolly and aces our empathy for his victims thanks to Couceiro's hand which captures their plight and swift silence. Brisson's second accomplishment is to make the sacrifice of one character really hit you in the emotion box. By golly, I had no idea that this creator-owned piece was going to hit the ground running in the way that it has. Sure, there are small sci-fi and war story clichés to be found scattered between the covers, but within those easily identifiable ideas and themes are genuine surprises which ensure that Cluster enthralls and keeps me wanting more. 9/10


UNCANNY AVENGERS #3
Writer: Rick Remender & Gerry Duggan
Art: Daniel Acuña
Marvel $3.99


Matt C: Well, this is proving to be somewhat erratic. An unconvincing opener, followed by a sterling second issue, and now a not especially impressive third. The focus shifts onto Quicksilver and the Scarlett Witch this time and it’s not especially engaging, particularly when compared to the heightened drama of last month’s chapter. Possibly the problem here is that, after creating a new team of heroes, Remender (and now Remender and Duggan) has scattered them to the four winds, not giving them a chance to create a dynamic that gels together in a compelling manner.  Acuña remains on top form, and that second issue showed how much potential there is here, but it’s the arc as a whole that will really indicate whether this series has a future on my pull-list. I remain cautiously optimistic. 6/10


SOUTHERN BASTARDS #8
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Jason Latour
Image $3.50


James R: This comic continues to enthral. The two Jasons finish the backstory of the fearsome Coach Boss this issue, and it's a pitch-black conclusion, beautifully swathed in hues of red. Jason Aaron has the terrific knack for making us empathise with characters we'd go out of the way to avoid in real life, and this is especially true of Euless Boss. His mantra of  "It's football. It's worth the blood" informs this issue and the whole 'Gridiron' arc, making for a comic that grips from first page to last. As an extra treat, we're also taken back to Afghanistan to learn more about Earl Tubb's daughter, Roberta, and the prospect of her inevitable intersection with Boss is electrifying. Once again, Jason Latour's art is a perfect fit for this tale, and I think his colouring adds a tangible atmosphere to the pages. Southern Bastards is one of those fine books that seems incapable of putting a foot wrong, and it's next arc looks likely to be just as accomplished. Southern Bastards always reminds me  of just why I love comics, aand it's still the best-titled book to boot. 9/10

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