28 Jun 2015

Mini Reviews 28/07/2015

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: Chuck Palahniuk
Artists: Cameron Stewart & Dave Stewart
Dark Horse Comics $3.99

James R: Proving that last month's explosive opening chapter wasn't a happy accident, Fight Club 2 returns with another phenomenal issue that shows Chuck Palahniuk has certainly got a firm grip on this comics lark, and that Cameron Stewart is producing the best work of an already impressive career. As I mentioned in my extended review of issue #1, what's remarkable here is how the creative team make full use of the language of comics. Right at the heart of the issue is the revelation that Tyler has been a part of Sebastian's life far longer than we originally thought - and Tyler has been busy once again orchestrating Project Mayhem. My fear at the outset was that this would be a pale retread of the original. This issue highlights that Palahniuk has been utterly revitalised by switching mediums, and I'm already starting to hope his mooted sequel to Rant appearing in comic form is becoming more of a possibility. As it is, this issue is a teeth-shaking, right-hook of a read. 9/10

Writer: Ales Kot
Art: Will Tempest
Image $3.50

Matt C: There’s definitely a large section of the comic-reading community that will see this as an exercise in pure pretentiousness masquerading as some sort of social commentary, and a cursory glance at Material could easily lead to that conclusion. But cursory glances miss nuance and subtext, and a cursory, dismissive glance at Material will likely lead to overlooking the subtle brilliance of one of the most striking comics this year. Currently there’s no explicit connection between the four separate plot threads other than a thematic one; we’re dealing with four different people who are experiencing something that is altering the way they view the world. It’s smartly told, has its eye focused on contemporary culture, and, most importantly, it has something to say. What it has to say may not be easily digestible on first bite, but once its unflashy art and unquestionable intelligence begin working their magic, it’s hard to deny the power this book has. 8/10

James R: I am still not 100% sure about Material. The debut issue of Ales Kot's new book certainly demanded attention last time, kicking off with a blitz of plot strands and ideas. My concern then was that I wasn't convinced he would be able to tie these together into a compelling narrative, and after this second issue, I'm still not convinced. Certain plots are great, for example the story of Franklyn, arrested last issue and now forced into turning informant, and Julius Shore, the MIT professor involved in a continuing debate with possible A.I. However, others feel awkward - the story of actress Nylon Dahlias feels like an ongoing self-help book and culminated here in an unwittingly hilarious parachute jump. I'm sticking with it as Kot's recent form tells me that there will be something fascinating in store, but Material is uneven for me, and needs a sharper focus. 7/10

Writer: Lee Bermejo
Art: Lee Bermejo & Matt Hollingsworth
DC/Vertigo $3.99

Stewart R: In a strange week where many of my regular books seemed to address the calm before the proverbial storm, Bermejo goes deeper into character and further away from the wider picture of this twisted and bruised world. While The Saint's world continues to crumble and the unnamed pugilist finds his situation on a dangerous and potentially unstable rise, Bermejo takes the opportunity to take the briefest look into underground Suicide trainer Navarro's past as we have his narration of his childhood and tragic history overlaid upon the visual trials and successes of his quiet new protégé, the warning of life's turbulent nature ever shadowing the odd moment of illustrated happiness. When the plot turns to the underhanded plays for power riding above the heads of our two protagonists it seems ever clearer that they're on a collision course to bloody, bitter drama and potentially death, which makes for continued compulsive reading. 8/10

Writer: Gerry Duggan & Dustin Weaver
Art: Dustin Weaver
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: A dip from that impressive first issue. Where the opener concerned itself with gripping post-apocalyptic survivalism, this one goes all Nova on us, kind of pushing aside the desperation seen before to get everyone suited up and in training mode, not addressing how the reappearance of a loved one would impact family members in an especially believable manner. The art’s still terrific and the scene with Thanos is a winner, but at this stage these are the only two elements are providing a convincing argument to stick with this through to the end. 6/10

Writer: Jim Zub
Art: Steve Cummings & Tamra Bonvillain
Image $3.50

Stewart R: Wow, it really feels as if Jim Zub wants to keep the readers on their toes and feeling a little ill-at-ease, in a good way. The supernatural battle lines in the heart of Tokyo continue to shift and the fractured band of teenagers appear incredibly exposed to the forces that would threaten or control them. By pushing Rori's story slightly to the side in recent issues and placing Emi in our sights, we've gained a new character to sympathise with, and here, a familiar one to worry about when her actions become questionable and possibly erratic. By throwing the Earth Spiders into the mix - an ambiguous element whose motives could go either way - everything feels incredibly shaky, unstable and tense. Cummings' art certainly adds to the precarious feeling, Emi's physical nature shifting and wilting as she becomes unsettled, Rori's becoming more confident and purposeful as she powers from pillar to post. Wayward continues to impress and should be on your radars by now. 8/10

Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Artists: John Romita Jr, Klaus Jansen & Dean White
DC $3.99

James R: Well, colour me surprised! Over the last few months, my pull-list from the Big Two has dwindled down to virtually nothing. I was starting to think that this might be the shape of things to come, but then along comes Gene Luen Lang's first issue of Superman which makes me rethink my stance. Luen Yang was interviewed by Comic Book Resources the other day, and I was fascinated to read that his influences for this arc are Edward Snowden and the Wikileaks affair. Yang stated that the most powerful people in the world are now not powerful enough to keep their secrets, and this has bearing on the world's most powerful man. Superman finds that a mysterious source is feeding him with information - some of which is useful, some of which is questionable. But who is the source? It's a neat mystery, and Yang does a great job of tying some of the classic Superman tropes into this more opaque new world for the Man of Steel. The art is as you'd expect from the legendary John Romita Jr. and it's very nice to say that, for once, this is a DC book that feels fresh and inventive. 8/10

Writer: Justin Jordan
Art: Kyle Strahm & Felipe Sobreiro
Image $3.50

Stewart R: Following on from the veritable shit storm that was issue #6's battle royale (last issue focused on The Preacher's story), we find No, Molly, Hope and Jack sick, beaten and somewhat directionless in a world filled with lurking danger. Jordan throws a rather nifty curve ball into the mix by introducing us to a slew of new characters straight from the go, The Professor and his 'family' of capable child survivors coming equipped with the lethal skills to get by in this wasteland. I like the way that Jordan is choosing his moments to utilise the threat of the Spread carefully, keeping it as a lurking danger that might prey upon its victims at any moment, but giving enough pause for breath for those potential victims to turn on each other in the meantime. The really surprising thing I find with Spread is that there's only the slightest hint of a potential endgame - the part Hope might play in the destruction of the Spread - and Jordan appears perfectly happy to take us on a long winding journey through this world before we ever catch site of that destination. I'll tell you something, with a comic this good I'm perfectly happy to go on that journey too. 8/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image $3.50

Matt C: So it’s back to the thesaurus to find more superlatives to hurl at The Fade Out, right? Well, that’s one option, which inevitably has me sounding like a broken record, but I guess I can refer you back to previous reviews of the series for that kind of thing if you really want. Instead I’m simply going to say that this comic crystallizes all the elements of post-War noir so perfectly that it’s arguably become quintessential; if you have interest in this genre, regardless of the medium, then The Fade Out should be making a regular appearance on your pull-list. 9/10

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