15 Jun 2015

Mini Reviews 14/06/2015

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: Jason Aaron
Art: Mike Del Mundo
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: You may or may not be familiar with the original, shortlived ‘Weirdworld’ storyline that appeared in various Marvel Comics in the ‘70s, and you may or may not be familiar with Arkon, the Conan-esque warrior from another dimension who’s made a smattering of appearances in Avengers comics across the decades. It’s unlikely to make a difference either way, and that’s fine. Aaron has employed the patchwork approach of Secret Wars to weave a tale of a lost king searching for his way home in a bizarre, inhospitable environment. The writer has proven he has the chops for rugged, fantasy heroism with his recent work on Thor, and with Del Mundo as his wingman he has one of the most unique contemporary artistic talents on hand to create some thrilling, boisterous imagery that contain pleasing hints of impressionism to further ensure it stands out from the pack. It’s may be ‘superfluous’ and unlikely to last beyond the main Secret Wars event (or have much of an impact on it), but does that really matter? A good story is a good story, and at this stage Weirdworld looks like it’s going to be a very good story. 8/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire
Image $2.99

es R: With this second issue, Injection begins to blossom, and it becomes clear that this book sees Warren Ellis playing to his strengths. I was immediately reminded of his terrific Wildstorm series, Global Frequency. We're introduced to the rest of the briefly-glimpsed Cross-Cultural Contamination Unit members, and we join Simone Winters on that much-loved Warren Ellis staple: a high-risk espionage mission. Along with the mission, there's some other Ellis staples - the almost fetishisation of technology and weapons, and the emerging sense of the CCCU as a dysfunctional team. Given my admiration for Ellis as a writer, as with his other current title, Trees, there's just a joy in reading him do his thing. Once again, the art from Shalvey & Bellaire is a natural fit for this book and I'm intrigued to see what they produce when we see the more magical aspects of the plot. In a week where a number of my regular books (Black Science, Birthright and Descender) were on the money, Injection gets my nod as book of the week as it's great to see the scribe of Southend back to his best on monthly titles. 8/10

Writer: Simon Spurrier
Art: Kev Walker & Frank D'Armata
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Marvel Zombies hey? Or perhaps Secret Wars: Marvel Zombies: Battleworld #1 as it might be, if this had anything obvious to do with the event in question. I'll hold onto expectation that a strong link may come in at some point, but for now I'm satisfied that Mr Simon Spurrier has delivered a fun debut filled with his characteristic line in snappy dialogue that has me thankful for looking at the Zombie property for the very first time. While she's bounced around odd Marvel titles through her 14 year history, Elsa Bloodstone can only be regarded as a 'fringe' character and as such that aspect adds to the feeling of separation from the publisher event which has spawned this book; many of us are meeting her for the first time so the 'What If' factor feels negated. Spurrier seeds some flashbacks to her childhood and lineage to kick the character development into high gear and it works as her brusque demeanour, which may not have been tolerable if left as a single note through one issue, is given explanation and makes her a far more interesting prospect as a result. The decent writing is equally matched by the artwork of Walker and D'Armata who conjure up a brilliantly gloomy and desolate zombie-infested wasteland, with a couple of the reanimated villains almost stealing the show. So a quality effort all round and damn if it isn't another Marvel book luring me in for the run through Battleworld's lifespan! 8/10

Writer: Alan Moore
Art: Gabriel Andrade & Digikore Studios
Avatar $3.99

James R: Recently we've been impressed with Alan Moore's first issue of Providence, which immediately promised a truly special new series. After four issues of Crossed One Hundred, I certainly read a few dissenting voices complaining that this book was a difficult, slow read. Issue #5 is the payoff for those of us who have stayed with Moore's post-apocalyptic tale, and shows that as with his other, aforementioned Avatar title, Moore has lost none of his genius. Taylor and her expedition team discover a colony of the Crossed which is unlike any we've ever seen in any iteration of the property, and Taylor discovers through diaries that the colony's founding father was a serial killer. Rather than being driven to murder and torture by the Crossed plague, he remained unchanged, seeing that he was already unhinged. He sees mankind's fall as the opportunity to build something new and twisted. It's classic Moore; the Original Writer takes a familiar trope and then turns it on its head. As with the last four issues, I'm not a huge fan of Andrade's art. It's not bad by any means, but it's certainly a book where I can't help but wonder how creepier it would be from someone outside the Avatar house style. The best issue of Moore's short run, and a deliciously inventive read. 8/10

Writer: Greg Weisman
Art: Pepe Larraz & David Curiel
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: There are some elements of the Star Wars property which do not translate well, or easily at least, to the paper medium. The biggest of all of these are the space-faring dogfights for which the series is famed and while Pepe Larraz gives it a fair crack of the whip with a certain feeling of velocity behind it all, I was glad to have it over and have he and Weisman get back to Caleb's lonely predicament as he begins to realise that the life he once had no longer exists. There's a strange sense of Oliver Twist here as the young, naive, yet capable Caleb seeks refuge in the company of the Fagan-like Kasmir, an individual clearly looking out for himself. Despite the reader secretly hoping that his duplicitous nature might be a ruse, Weisman's canny writing style has ensured that quite anything is possible when it comes to this slippery smuggler. Larraz delivers a fine line in expressive character work which manages to sell that mysterious ambiguity surrounding Kasmir, contrasted against the heart-on-his-sleeve grimaces, sneers and mouth gapes of the youthful Caleb. 8/10

Writers: Todd McFarlane & Brian Holguin
Art: Clayton Crain
Image $2.99

James R: This really is a curious book. I want to like it, I really do, but after 72(!) pages of Savior, the progress feels glacially slow. I'm reminded of Bendis at his most self-indulgent, where 'decompressed' storytelling gives the reader plenty of mood and atmosphere, but very little is happening. We're told - again - that the John Doe at the plane crash site was a hero, and that the police still want to talk to him. The new development here is the arrival of a Westboro Baptist Church analogue to the town, which is fine, but feels a little dated now. The book still looks lovely, with Clayton Crain doing fine work, but I can't say that I'm willing to wait another three months for everything to kick into gear. This may be a case for a series working better as a collected tome, but it's not electrifying enough to justify a continued place on my pull-list. And I know it's an American book, so their spelling takes precedence, but damnit, 'Saviour' has a 'U' in it! There, I finally got that off my chest! 5/10

Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Danijel Zezelj & Dave Stewart
Image  $3.50

Matt C: You have to hand it to Brian Wood, his pitches are quite unlike anything else that most writers conjure up within the comic book medium.  Obviously he employs certain tropes and genre staples that are readily familiar, but he seems to approach things from angles that are both surprising and challenging.  Case in point: here we have a celebrity chef who’s dropped off the radar in a future where the disparity between the 1% and the rest of us is even more pronounced than it is now, only to find himself dragged back into the spotlight to fulfil his contract on the sensationally popular cooking show, Starve.  Yep, while this isn’t exactly ‘What If Gordon Ramsay Was In The Future?’, it is in possession of the same level of intelligence and inventiveness as the rest of Wood’s oeuvre. But, saying that, although it was an impressive first issue, it didn’t quite hit the right spot for me. Perhaps the premise is a little too off-the-wall but something didn’t quite click in the way I’d hoped. No real criticisms I can bring to it beyond that, and in a quieter marketplace I would probably stick with it, but there’s too much other stuff out there that has my attention, so this perhaps may be something to investigate in the collected format at a later date. 7/10

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Sean Gordon Murphy & Matt Hollingsworth
Image $5.99

Matt C: A double-sized extravaganza to conclude this hugely disappointing miniseries, and as I wasn’t expecting the higher price tag, that makes it a doubly hard kick in the nuts! Look, the art’s great, there’s absolutely no question about that - Sean Murphy is clearly relishing the opportunity to burn through the ages at a breakneck pace – and the premise is really solid (you’d expect nothing less from the master of the high concept, Mark Millar). So, where does it all fall down? Well, primarily the characterizations, but also the sloppy approach to storytelling. I don’t have a problem with the protagonists being completely selfish bastards, but there needs to be a lot more depth to them to make them engaging. The two himbos at the centre of this tale in no way convince that they possess the smarts to crack time travel which makes their whole journey seem far beyond what’s usually acceptable when applying the suspension of disbelief. This is an idea on a napkin that feels like it’s barely moved beyond a (very rough) first draft stage. A disheartening case of squandered potential, and if there is a movie version lined up, let’s hope whoever adapts it remember to add logic and relatability to the equation. 4/10

Stewart R: What the heck? Serves me right for not paying attention to details about comic books as I was genuinely taken by surprise when I felt the extra weight of this issue and clocked the price tag that comes with it. This finale is essentially two issues smashed together in all senses of the word, with the extra page count containing more of the chronological chaos that pummelled us in the face for the previous three chapters along with, finally, a small amount of actual emotional character work as one of the time-hopping science dickheads decides to do something semi-decent (yet, still selfish in the grander scheme of the central premise) as the story grinds to a head. The huge, glaring problem with this change of tack and pace by Millar, is that it feels like an afterthought to the adrenaline rush that has come before. If it had somehow been threaded in between the chaos just an issue earlier - hell, even alluded to in greater fashion in the debut - it may have felt less like he was throwing in a missing ingredient at the very last second and scaling back on the idea of this being anything other than a full blown, brain-numbing action piece for the Fast And Furious generation. Murphy of course produces high grade visuals throughout the elevated page count and I'm glad he was enlisted for this as I suspect my scores would have been even lower in my reviews for what has been one of Millar's bigger disappointments. 4/10

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