19 Apr 2015

Mini Reviews 19/04/2015

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.

THE TITHE #1
Writer: Matt Hawkins
Art: Rahsan Ekedal & Bill Farmer
Image/Top Cow $3.99

James R: As a man whose job it is to educate students about ethics, morality and religion, well, to say this book is up my street is an understatement - it's in my house! It's an intriguing premise - a Robin Hood-style thief known as the Samaritan has targeted American mega-churches, and is not only stealing from them but exposing the less-than-holy practices of their founders. Enter FBI agents Campbell and Miller, two men of differing faiths who may have a grudging respect for their fugitives in this case. As you'd expect from Matt Hawkins, it's a whip-smart script, and promises to engage with the subjects of faith and charity with balance and insight. Reteaming with Hawkins is Think Tank artist Rahsan Ekedal, whose work fits the tone of the book well. In the back pages, Hawkins talks about the influence of heist movies on The Tithe, and that really comes across in the issue. A tithe is a donation paid to a church by a believer and the morals behind contributing to a faith are fascinating, touching on questions of altruism. Hawkins has promised that he'll explore these subjects in issues to come, and as with Think Tank, it's refreshing to read a comic that educates as well as it entertains. Another smash for Hawkins and Ekedal - I advise you let this creative team take you to church! 8/10

EI8HT #3
Writer: Rafeel Albuquerque & Mike Johnson
Art: Rafalel Albuquerque
Dark Horse $3.50

Matt C: There’s been a surfeit of time-travelling sci-fi capers of late (Black Science, Chrononauts, Past Aways to name but three) and you get the sense that if this trend carries on, some great books will get lost amongst the throng until the bubble bursts. There are only so many time-travelling books a person needs on a monthly basis, right? I don’t think we’ve reached that stage quite yet but just to be on the safe side it’s worth highlighting just how great Ei8ht is. It has an inventive approach to the genre, with the so-called Meld being a dimension sitting outside of time into which various things (people, objects) fall into, whether they’re from the past, present or future. There’s an engaging mystery at the centre of it all, and while I do worry that five issues isn’t enough to get to the bottom of it, the quality up to this stage has been high enough for me to accept that Albuquerque and Johnson have it all figured out. A quibble may be that the prissy Tyrant doesn’t seem like someone the Spear would bend a knee to based on what we’ve seen to this point, but aside from that this an exciting, intriguing adventure with some terrific artwork. 8/10

CHRONONAUTS #2
Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Sean Gordon Murphy & Matt Hollingsworth
Image $3.50

Stewart R: Chrononauts, or perhaps 'Dickheads in Space/Time' as it could be monikered, is quite a strange read. There's fun to be found in the shifting scenery and situational mashups that Sean Murphy gets to depict, but Millar seems to have gone out of his way to make the lead pair an unlikable duo. The idea of superstar scientists obviously leads easily to the topic of corruption of power, but they really do come across as uncontrollable teenagers with no regard for the evident chaos they will unleash and they've jumped off the path of 'noble cause' far, far too quickly for their plan to make a lick of sense. We have to assume that these highly intelligent scientists have little or no attachment to anyone at all and that makes them difficult protagonists to follow. I'm guessing the hook here may be for us to follow them to their inevitable and deserved downfall, but at this stage it's hard to see how enjoyable an experience that will be. 5/10

James R: I once spoke to someone who didn't like Breaking Bad. When I expressed my incredulity, and asked what it was about the iconic TV show that they didn't like, they said "I just don't like Walter White. I can't get on with him at all." I was startled by this, but it came to mind as I thought about Chrononauts. I find myself in the position of really wanting to like this book, but Millar has populated it with such fundamentally unlikable protagonists that it gets in the way of everything else for me. It's a real shame as the art from Murphy and Hollingsworth is truly spectacular; Murphy just seems to get better and better, and I love how he's illustrating a plethora of different eras and sequences with aplomb. However, lead characters Quinn and Corbin are such gits, and are acting so recklessly (and without any real explanation as to why they're doing it, other than 'Hey, it's cool!') that their exploits are jarring me out of my suspension of disbelief. I have no doubt that Millar has something clever lined up to adjust for their behaviour (and the pursuing Mannix will no doubt play a larger role in this) but sadly, that's two issues of Chrononauts that haven't worked for me, so I'm calling time on this one. For the art alone, this gets... 5/10

LETTER 44 #15
Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque & Dan Jackson
Oni Press $3.99

Matt C: The steady escalation in this book has now erupted into World War Three, which, essentially, is being orchestrated by former president Francis Carroll against his successor Stephen Blades. Meanwhile, several million miles away from Earth, things are getting weirder and more fraught for the crew of the Clarke now that first contact has been made. It’s the intelligence at the core of this series that really makes it work; it really feels thought through to the point where it becomes a plausible alternate reality, one where confirmation of alien life doesn’t bring the world together but instead begins to tear it apart. It may be sometimes difficult to get a bead on the different characters that make up the cast but the central concept is so strong, and being executed so smartly, that it continues to be a thoroughly magnetic political/sci-fi hybrid. 8/10

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