7 Jun 2015

Mini Reviews 07/06/2015

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: James Robinson
Art: Greg Hinkle
Image $2.99

Matt C: When a writer and/or artist places themselves at the centre of a comic book storyline, it can be an enormously self-indulgent, egotistical exercise, and depending on how it’s approached, it may not be especially appealing. Who wants to read about someone else wallowing in their exaggerated sense of their own brilliance (naming no names here!). Airboy doesn’t fall into that category, thankfully. Sure, there’s an element of ego at play here – how could there not be? – but it counters that by a being brutally honest, self-deprecating and darkly funny trip through what’s essentially an extreme case of writer’s block (where writer’s block is more of an affectation – and a destructive one at that – than a real affliction). The Spike Jonze/Charlie Kaufman cinematic masterpiece Adaptation is good indication of what to expect, although Airboy is far more profane than that movie, hilariously so. Both Robinson and Hinkle head full-throttle into this ‘autobiographical’ tale and in doing so have created one of the comic book highlights of 2015. 9/10

James R: Or, ‘Fear & Loathing in the Comics Industry’! I was persuaded to pick up Airboy by our local Comics Overlord, Andy H, and it's certainly one of the most remarkable books I've read this year. It's the most post-modern of experiences, as the book itself is the misadventures of James Robinson and Greg Hinkle as they struggle to come up with a reinvention of the Golden Age character Airboy for Image. It's certainly not a journey into the creative process though: Robinson takes Hinkle on triple-X rated night out, with Class A drugs, a lagoon of booze, which culminates in a threesome! It's enough to make Frederic Wertham rise from the grave, and then promptly die from shock! The final page suggests that the series is about to get metatextual too - I won't ruin it here, but it certainly made for an invigorating read. After this debut, my only concern is how quickly the idea could wear thin - if Robinson is using this as a critique on comics, then shock value only goes so far. Certainly a break from the norm - it will be interesting to see if Airboy achieves lift-off next issue. 7/10

Writer: Frank J. Barbiere
Art: Christopher Peterson & Marissa Louise
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Stewart R: Certainly an interesting start here as Barbiere drops us into a scenario where a planet-killing asteroid has mankind prepping and planning for evacuation as the timer counts down ominously. We have of course seen extinction comic stories before - most recently BOOM!'s Memetic would apply under the category - yet there's something that just feels different about what Barbiere is laying out in Broken World. Sure, there's a sense of chaos sewn around the main thrust of Elena Marlowe's life in the final days before impact, portrayed mostly in news pieces and small incidents which paint a wider picture of social fracture, but there's a strange, almost uneasy calm which permeates the story. This is primarily because there is an evacuation plan in action and I particularly enjoyed the way that Barbiere brings religious, philosophical and political doubts into play as the narrative pushes onwards. As if it weren't an interesting disaster book debut enough as it is, it's punctuated by the sort of finale that has me locking #2 into my pull-list without hesitation. 8/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Esad Ribic & Ive Svorcina
Marvel $3.99

James R: Marvel's big summer event continues to be a fascinating experience. The related 'Battleworld' titles have been, for me, utterly underwhelming, and are guilty of the same thing that the Convergence books were for DC - largely pointless 'Greatest Hits' exercises with no real importance for the central narrative. The main book, however, is superb. Jonathan Hickman is paying off years of intricate plotting, and for an old school Marvel fan, this stuff is a total treat. In this issue we learn just how Battleworld came to be, and just what happened to the other refugees from the cataclysmic destruction of the Marvel Universe. The real star of the issue is Stephen Strange, who Hickman writes as a man stuck between a rock and a hard place. We see that he has kept the Marvel heroes on ice for a while, and he concedes to Reed Richards that he has done so because Doctor Doom is "Very good at playing God." I think it's one of Hickman's great strengths that he gives his protagonists complex motivations, and in Secret Wars we're almost beyond heroes and villains. The characters are presented as people trying to survive and, in the case of Doom, questioning what it means to be a god. Yet again, the art from Ribic and Svorcina is terrific - and a special mention for Svorcina's colours, which give the story an almost dream-like quality which perfectly fits the book. This week saw Marvel hint at the world after Secret Wars, and I didn't see anything that piqued my interest. I feel that this series really will be my final monthly experience with these characters - if it is, it's an utterly fitting finale. 9/10

Matt C: Hickman isn’t putting a foot wrong here. This is a magnificent culmination of his work at Marvel, brilliantly inventive and smartly delivered, an event book that actually matches its ambition with its content. This issue is about the key relationships that exist on Battleworld: the one between Doom and Strange – the only men who remember what came before the creation of the patchwork planet - and Doom and Susan Storm, with Sue presented as the woman who acts as the ‘God Emperor’s’ conscience, reining him back from complete megalomania. The dynamic between these characters is expertly realised, and the potential for disruption once the occupants of the two vessels “not of this world” are revealed is deliciously thrilling (the reaction to Strange advising the passengers of the second vessel who ‘God is, is priceless). Ribic and Svorcina continue to visualise the scope and the emotion of Hickman’s script brilliantly, and at this stage I can’t find anything to indicate this won’t be considered one of the all-time classic event/crossovers, one that raises the bar for everyone else. 9/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: John Cassaday & Laura Martin
Marvel $3.99

James R: In short, it still feels like Star Wars. Six issues in, and I've thoroughly enjoyed every issue of Aaron and Cassaday's Star Wars book - and that's officially the longest I've ever been on board with a Star Wars comic (I'm usually done within four)! There's been a lot of internet-based shock over the reveal in this issue, saying that it represents a huge change in Star Wars cannon. Well, I wouldn't go that far! In the six hours of the Original Trilogy, we certainly don't learn every detail of the character's lives, so I think it's fair enough that Jason Aaron fills them in a little more, and he doesn't destroy the mystique of the films by doing so. John Cassaday does a great job of capturing the feel of the earlier fims, and the creative team conjure up a moment at the book's conclusion that for me, was pure Star Wars goodness. It's not rewriting the rulebook on comics, but it's still a much-needed blast of the Force ahead of Episode VII. 8/10

Writer: Nate Simpson
Art: Nate Simpson
Image $2.99

Stewart R: Yes, there's been a wait for this issue. A long wait. Just to put it in context, Saga #1 came out almost a full year after Nonplayer #1 and reached its 28th issue release last month. So yes, there is a definite sense of detachment if you're an owner of that original debut and didn't either dig it out of your collection or pick up the recent follow-up printing to recap. That said, I was genuinely surprised at just how easy it was to fall into the flow of Nate Simpson's return. The fact that he elects to keep his focus stationary for long periods helps, with the individual sequences he depicts each sucking in the attention with succinct dialogue, subtle expression work and, when required, exciting action. There is no doubt: this is one damn fine looking book that oozes quality from each and every page. Looks of course can't maintain a story forever and thankfully I'll say that I believe Nate Simpson has made an extraordinary comeback and accomplished the near impossible - he's negated the effects of that prolonged hiatus AND he has me planning to dig through nearly twenty longboxes that form my collection to locate that first issue for a reread. 8/10

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Salvador Larroca & Edgar Delgado
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: I’m still struggling a bit with this series. When Gillen concentrates solely on Vader, and reminds us that Anakin Skywalker is residing in that iconic suit, he brings great depth to the character. The relationship between Vader and Palpatine is effectively played too; the lingering mistrust between the two of them is subtlety achieved. It’s a shame then that the other characters the writer’s introduced don’t feel like a good fit for the Star Wars Universe. Instead, they generally remind you of the author’s own creative aesthetics to the extent where it become a distraction. Larroca’s artwork is generally very good but there are some lightsaber-wielding sequences that come across as more clumsy than elegant. The saving grace of this episode is a scene that also appeared in Star Wars #6 this week, where Boba Fett reveals the name of the young pilot who destroyed the Death Star. Gillen embellishes said scene with extra emotion that gives it additional weight, amplifying its power. It’s that kind of thing that has me wrestling with the decision of whether to continue forward with Darth Vader or not. 6/10

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