12 Jul 2015

Mini Reviews 12/07/2015

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: Charles Soule
Art: Alex Maleev & Paul mOunts
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: The last time I dipped a toe into the world of Star Wars in comic book form, it was Brian Wood's work over at Dark Horse and my interest quickly waned. To this point I've avoided the Marvel boom for the property, but such is my love for the character of sneaky Lando Calrissian and growing love for the writing of Charles Soule that I couldn't resist picking this up. Thankfully this has a lot going for it with Soule centring on the friendship of Lando and his living calculator companion Lobot as they, much like Han and Chewie, attempt to claw themselves out of a grand amount of debt, hopefully keeping their heads and maybe making a profit in the process. I appreciate the way in which Soule makes Lando out to be something of a ladies man, utilising his way with words and playing more of a psychological game than his more famous scoundrel pal. The descent into heist territory makes perfect sense, with the two new crew members a very intriguing prospect. I'm not entirely convinced by the incredibly high stakes reveal at the end of the issue and I have to admit that while Maleev and Mounts work is solid in the main, there are moments when the quality dips slightly and the illustration seems particularly flat. But two small grumbles do not a disaster make (what would Yoda do with that wording?) and I'm more than happy to get stuck into the second chapter when it blasts into view. 8/10

Matt C: Hello, what have we here? A suave smuggler with his eye on the next score about to find himself in extremely hot water with some extremely bad guys? Yep, Lando #1 has that covered. The strongest debut issue since Star Wars #1 itself, this sees Soule showing that he totally gets how to portray the future administrator of Cloud City: charming to fault but always calculating how he can turn a situation to his advantage (by whatever means necessary). Maleev’s art takes in some photorealism but not at the expense of his more moody stylings, which are reinforced by the underworld hues of Mounts. Another tick in the ‘win’ box for Marvel’s journey into a galaxy far, far away. 8/10

Writers: J.G. Jones & Mark Waid
Art: J.G. Jones
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Stewart R: Admittedly, I may not have been paying as much attention to the comic-focused news media as much in recent weeks, but considering the issues surrounding the controversial Confederate flag and the increased coverage of the subject, I'm a little surprised to have not heard anything about Strange Fruit before picking it up on a whim. Jones and Waid take the setting of the 1927 Mississippi Delta flooding, place in it a story of racial tensions that don't fully dissipate in the face of natural disaster, and then, for good measure... throw an alien visitor into the mix. Strange Fruit is already an accomplished read before the sci-fi element turns up, the dialogue capturing the period feel and Jones' art a true sight to behold. To be honest, it's the combination of writing and art which allows the bizarre alien twist to sit so well, the disbelief suitably suspended as the two worlds slowly collide in the Southern storm, beside the rising swell. The interesting thing now will be to see if Strange Fruit continues at such a high standard. 9/10

Matt C: Well, this is a tricky one. Just as Airboy #2 whipped up a storm of controversy last week, to a lesser extent Strange Fruit #1 has caused dismay amongst some sections of fandom. The arguments centre around the fact that this has been dubbed a ‘deeply personal passion project’ for its creators, where the project itself deals with racial strife in early 20th century Mississippi, and the aforementioned creators are both middle-aged white men. I can understand this viewpoint, although I don’t think the colour of someone’s skin should really factor in to whether an author of historical fiction has a ‘right’ to present a certain kind of story. What may have helped render this argument moot (to an extent) is if the story in question, as presented by Messers Jones and Waid, didn’t feel so flat and hackneyed. It’s almost as if, in an effort to treat the potentially inflammatory subject matter with the utmost respect, they’ve relied on familiar stereotypes to reduce the potential offence of the language and depictions of racism. Which has possibly had the opposite effect. The art is very powerful, with Jones’ painted photorealism bringing to mind the impact of Alex Ross’ early work, but it struggles to elevate scenes populated with stock ‘racial drama’ characters. This had the potential to be ‘important’, but if it is going to get talked about, it’ll more than likely be for the wrong reasons. 5/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Matteo Scalera & Moreno Dinisio
Image $3.99

James R: In my dim and distant student days, I remember learning that one of the hallmarks of tragedy is the powerlessness of the audience. We, as omniscient observers to a story, often know just who is lying or what schemes are in place, but we can only look on as a protagonist makes a series of inevitably destructive choices. In Black Science #16, Rick Remender pays off the current arc with an issue dripping with tragedy, and it's utterly compelling. As Grant McKay desperately tries to cure a plague-stricken Earth, we learn that Rebecca, his assistant and former partner, has motivations of her own that she is relentlessly pursuing. Amidst this, Kadir continues to be a morally questionable - but undeniably integral - member of the Dimensionaut team. It builds up to a frantic final few pages that loads one jaw-dropping moment onto another. I don't think there's been a weak issue of Black Science yet, and while I know some of my PCG brethren may prefer Deadly Class, for me, this is Rick Remender at his best. Yet again, the art team of Scalera and Dinisio turn in work that explodes from the page (and the bonus pages at the back of the issue are a treat for those of us who love seeing how a comic comes together.) Still a comic that travels at a brilliant, breakneck speed, and still a title that everyone should have on their pull-list. 9/10

1872 #1
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Art: Nik Virella & Lee Loughridge
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Another supremely enjoyable Secret Wars spin-off. This one seems to be a riff on Rio Bravo, with Cap in the John Wayne role and Tony Stark channelling Dean Martin (not sure who’s stepping in for Ricky Nelson yet, if anyone!). The art team do a sterling job of evoking the Old West and the script mixes up plenty of familiar faces with some reliable genre staples. It kind of distances itself enough from the goings on in Secret Wars that it can be taken on its own terms, and on its own terms it works very well indeed. Classic Western storytelling successfully filtered through the House Of Ideas. 8/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Dustin Nguyen
Image $2.99

James R: After two chapters in which they manoeuvred and fully introduced the cast, this is the issue where Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen take Descender up another notch. Lemire gets the chance to stretch his sci-fi muscles as we get to see yet more new worlds and aliens, and the intrigue is ratcheted up as we learn a dramatic (and bloody) secret from Dr. Quon. I am always amazed at Lemire's almost supernatural ability to incite emotion and empathy in his stories, and it works perfectly in this setting too. Nguyen's beautiful pages incorporate a great robot wars sequence (not to be confused with the late ‘90s BBC show of the same name!) and this was the first issue since the debut where I got to the end and thought 'I really can't wait to see where this is going next!' In a month where Lemire has been announced as one of the new creative forces on X-Men, you just have to read Descender to see why that's such a smart move from Marvel. He's a deft hand at writing multi-charactered plots, and his brilliant imagination is always twinned with the power to get you right in the feels. If you have any love for world-building epic science fiction, you really need Descender in your life. 9/10

Writer: Alan Moore
Art: Jacen Burrows & Juan Rodriguez
Avatar $4.99

Matt C: Like all the very best horror stories, at this early stage of the narrative there’s very little in the way of horror on display. Mostly there’s a sense of unpleasant weirdness skirting along the edges of what we see, but it’s something that could topple into full, terrifying view at a moment’s notice. The majority of the page count is set out sedately, focusing on conversation rather than action, so that when things suddenly take a turn for the worse it results in a tangible feeling of panic and dread, something so out of the ordinary that it becomes readily dismissed as a hallucination for the affected party. Burrow’s firm, detailed linework is as strong as ever and Moore is clearly not knocking this out for the cash (the meticulous structure of the story and the copious, absorbing backmatter should disprove that notion). Avatar was pitching this as the ‘Watchmen of horror’ in the lead up to its release, which is a bit over the top and somewhat misleading. I guess the best way to interpret it is that Moore means business and Providence could potentially stand next to the writer’s most revered works when the dust finally settles. 8/10

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