10 May 2015

Mini Reviews 10/05/2015

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.

SECRET WARS #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Esad Ribic & Ive Svorcina
Marvel $4.99

James R: My esteemed editor Matt C has already done a fine job in reviewing this issue, but just to add my two cents to the mix, it's very much a case of 'not too shabby.' Firstly, it must be said that this book looks beautiful - this is definitely the best work I've seen Esad Ribic produce, and Ive Svorcina's colours compliment his art brilliantly. This feels like a widescreen, big-budget blockbuster event, and Hickman goes all out - he positively relishes in ending the 616 and Ultimate universes in a totally apocalyptic issue and he gets another great Doctor Doom moment. So what's my reservation? Well, at virtually five dollars an issue, this eight-issue series is going to put a dent in the wallet… and from the Avengers FCBD issue, it seems that the climax of this series will see the return of the status quo almost immediately. I'm totally aware that mainstream comics operate within the 'illusion of change', but in this case it seems that characters wiped out in this series will be back almost immediately, and that took some of the punch out of this otherwise heavyweight issue. Will I get issue #2? Of course. Will this be the last big Marvel event I ever buy? It's looking increasingly likely. 8/10

KANAN – THE LAST PADAWAN #2
Writer: Greg Weisman
Art: Pepe Larraz & David Curiel
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: This plays into what we’ve learnt about Kanan from Star Wars Rebels – he’s the one who ran. It ties up nicely with the events shown in Revenge Of The Sith (namely, the implementation of Order 66), slowly establishing how Caleb Dume went on to become Kanan Jarrus. It’s a very engaging read and the art from Larraz is especially slick and impactful. Look, you’re either on board with the resurgence of all things Star Wars related in 2015 or you’re not. One of the things involved with that resurgence is the unexpected brilliance of Star Wars Rebels. I’ve been banging on about to anyone who’ll listen and I really believe the crescendo of that first season is a thing of beauty, something that should resonate with every Star Wars fan. This series feels like an important extension of that pocket of the Star Wars universe, and as such it gets my full endorsement. 8/10

HINTERKIND #18
Writer: Ian Edginton
Art: Francesco Trifogli & Cris Peter
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Stewart R: All good things must come to an end. It's an inevitable thing. The bigger shame is when a great thing, with even greater potential, meets its end too soon. This surely is the case with Hinterkind as Edginton, Trifogli and Peter wrap up this enthralling fantasy series with a whirlwind finale that screams 'We had more to do!! But thanks for following this far!!' Edginton had been moving pieces into position through the previous two issues and this climax brings everything together as the fate of mankind is confirmed, the Hinterkind's hangs in the balance, and Prosper's role in affairs comes at a cost. There's no doubting that the pace change to get Hinterkind finished has jarred slightly compared to the sauntering speed of the first 12 issues, yet Edginton has kept the story focused, sacrificing the threads that were clearly going to have to be jettisoned in favour of reaching a satisfactory end. He's delivered a strong, engaging, post-apocalyptic tale that had so much promise in the scope and scale of his vision - Hinterkind should go down as one of the greatest series to be cruelly cut short in the past 10 years. Get it in collected and see what you missed out on. 9/10

DESCENDER #3
Writer: Jef Lemire
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Image $2.99

James R: In a week of big and ambitious books on my pull-list, my pick of the week seems lo-fi by comparison, but once again Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen conjure up a wonderful comic that utterly enthralled me. In this issue, Driller desperately tries to save the critically damaged Tim-21, and as he does so, we learn that androids certainly do dream of electric sheep... and much more besides. Dreams play a central part in the work of Jeff Lemire - from Lost Dogs, through Sweet Tooth and The Underwater Welder, the hinterland between waking and sleep comes up time and again, and Lemire always captures the surreal and fluid nature of dreams wonderfully. In this title though, it's clear that dreams may play a very different role than they have before, and I'm really curious to see where the writer takes this. The art from Nguyen is a feast for the eyes - his use of watercolour makes this book stand out from any other on the shelves, and after three issues, it's so good to see that this comic is already paying off on its initial stellar promise. 8/10

INHUMAN ANNUAL #1
Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Ryan Stegman, Jay Leisten & Richard Isanove
Marvel $4.99

Stewart R: With Secret Wars looming it was time for Charles Soule to wrap up this turbulent chapter of the Inhuman story and thus we have this bumper, five dollar annual to bring the volume to a close. With the remnants of the Royal Family teleported away by Lineage's duplicity and the young NuHumans distracted by the oncoming arrival of a new family member, there's a lot of ground to cover. Medusa struggles to fight back against Lash and his Orollans, Lineage's plans for the Inhuman Codex spell trouble for New York and (in my favourite turn of events) a character once thought lost returns to the fold. It's bright, bubbling action with a palpable sense of threat which is an admirable thing considering the impending shadow of Secret Wars and that we know, as a reading audience, that there's to be a 'bigger' place for the Inhumans in the future of the Marvel Universe. Stegman produces a fine action-packed issue, his flair for simplifying complex set-pieces coming to the fore and he then, quite brilliantly, contrasts the chaos with a subtle and sadness-tinged view into Eldrac's state of mind/being, all played out in silence. The Inhumans are well and truly on their way to becoming a big deal in the modern Marvel Universe and this creative team have played their parts superbly. 8/10

ZERO #16
Writer: Ales Kot
Artists: Stathis Tsemberlids & Jordie Bellaire
Image $2.99

James R: "Fiction's transformative. People who say otherwise simply lack the understanding of how fiction and the world constantly interact. Everything we do is a story. Everything is belief, also, I suspect." - Ales Kot, 2014. I wanted to start my review of Zero off with this quote to highlight the esteem I hold Ales Kot in. He's exactly the sort of person I like reading books from. He's ambitious, creative, and not afraid to experiment. Zero, since its first issue, has been a constantly intelligent and rewarding read. As the book has built toward its climax, Kot has really pushed the envelope of mainstream comics. He's introduced William Burroughs as a character, who seems to be dreaming up Edward Zero as part of an ongoing hallucinogenic experience. Kot plays with the concepts of time and reality, and its admirable stuff. But I can't be entirely fulsome in my praise as an individual issue (and remember, the series is designed to be read as either an ongoing narrative or self-contained chapters) because it doesn't quite hold together. I think it mainly comes down to the art of Stathis Tsemberlids, which isn't quite the right fit here. He produces some remarkable pages, but given the sheer complexity of this narrative, there are a few panels that don’t work. I don't want to be critical, because by thunder, I want more comics where the nature of reality and self is questioned, but this issue alone is one where - to paraphrase Robert Browne - the creative team's grasp has exceeded their reach. However, it is still an essential read if you want a book that offers you more than a multi-title crossover slugfest. 7/10

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