26 Jul 2015

Mini Reviews 26/07/2015

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: Ales Kot
Art: Matt Taylor & Lee Loughridge
Image $4.99

James R: Knowing Ales Kot's predilection for matters philosophical, I hope he won't mind me starting my review of Wolf with a reference to Jean Baudrillard's treatise Simulacra And Simulation (stay with me here!). In that work, Baudrillard argues that we're living in an age of 'Third Order' simulacrum, where originality has become a meaningless concept. I thought of this as I read Wolf because as much as I enjoyed it, all I could see were echoes of what has gone before. I know Kot has commented on how often he's compared to Warren Ellis, but the pages of Wolf did remind me of Ellis' Desolation Jones: the L.A. setting, the character with supernatural abilities engaged with nefarious dealings. There was also a healthy dose of Hellblazer in there too. However, this is one of the difficulties of coming up with any new series in any media - when everything has been done before, and if everything is simulacra, how do you make it original? Kot does a fine job in making his cast interesting enough to warrant a return visit, and it's a smart move to make this a bumper-sized first issue - by the final page I felt suitably enthralled by the plot to want to come back for more. Matt Taylor's art sets the tone for the book nicely, especially during the scorching opening pages, and Lee Loughridge's colours convey the sun-bleached L.A. environs beautifully. All told, this is a commendable opening chapter and I'll wait and see if Kot can shake off the shackles of simulacra. 8/10

Matt C: I’ve got a lot of time for Ales Kot. He’s a very smart writer and he generally has something to say in his work beyond the more visible storytelling devices – there’s a lot of perceptive subtext and strong, contemporary themes being tackled in his comics in engaging, insightful ways. So I had expectations for Wolf but, while it’s not a case of him dumbing down by any means, it didn’t connect in the way I’d hoped. Perhaps it’s the genre – it’s very much coming into the slipstream of Hellblazer, with a paranormal detective as its protagonist, and I’ll admit that John Constantine has never held much appeal for me, so it would have to be something special for me to get on with similar material. At 58 pages it is very good value for money but even that page count doesn’t seem to be enough to deliver a really strong hook, something that makes it imperative to return to for a second helping. There’s interesting stuff going on, the sparse art is very nice, but overall it takes too much time to not really make an entirely convincing case for the series' potential. 6/10

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Tom Mandrake & HiFi
Image $2.99

Stewart R: Sidekick has been one of those strange series that has appeared on my pull-list consistently, but at inconsistent times , and has never been a top priority when I dive into my weekly picks. That said, I've never reached a point where I've considered dropping it, EVEN following last issue's apparent climax to the main storyline. With this issue it's clear that Straczynski still has more to say about the origin and developed paths of the villain and hero tropes, here taking us back to Barry's upbringing and the moment when he picked one path over the other. This is a dark and brooding glimpse into a child gifted with great potential, yet born into a hostile, fearful family situation which shaped the young boy into the borderline psychotic we've witnessed throughout this series. The art from Mandrake and HiFi really does sell the young Barry's transformation in brooding style and with further reveals to come next issue I'm keen to see what this creative team has up their collective sleeves. 8/10

C.O.W.L. #11
Writers: Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel
Art: Rod Reis
Image $3.99

Matt C: My colleague James R already did a grand job of discussing the final issue of this criminally overlooked series but I feel like I need to add by two cents anyway. It’s a bittersweet conclusion. Some plot threads are addressed satisfactorily, others are left tantalisingly open-ended, but, when it boils down to it, this is the end. I’ve been engaged in the creator-owned sphere for long enough to realise that these things very rarely get a second lease of life, but as much as it breaks my heart as someone who’s been banging the drum for this book since the release of the first issue, I’m glad Messers Higgins, Siegel and Reis got this far with it, crafting a story of intelligence and invention, one that referenced other material but quickly established its own unique identity. The best book you probably weren’t picking up, and one that will leave a gaping hole in my pull-list. 8/10

Writer: Chuck Palahniuk
Art: Cameron Stewart & Dave Stewart
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: In the first two issues, Chuck Palahniuk showed us that he could write for comics as easily as he could prose. With this third chapter, he reminds us why he is such a literary force to be reckoned with. 'Sebastian' tries to break back into Project Mayhem to find his son, and in doing so, we get a snapshot of who Tyler Durden is attracting to his cause in the present day, while Palahniuk ruminates on what it means to be a father. There are not many comics that can successfully leap from Moses and the Exodus to 'Operation Lethal Injection' within a few pages! When I reviewed the first issue of this series, I made it clear that I was a huge fan of the original, and with each instalment it's a joy to see that this series has Palahniuk on top form again. It's also great to see the Stewarts doing such a brilliant job on the art - it's one of those great books that I can't even nit-pick. I've been spoilt this week with the finale of C.O.W.L. and the penultimate Mind MGMT, and Fight Club 2 makes up a corking triad of comics. 9/10

Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Art: Javier Rodriguez & Alvaro Lopez
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Amongst all of the carnage and universe-altering craziness of Secret Wars, it's been refreshing to see some newer 616 Universe series continue on their paths (for the moment) and Dennis Hopeless' Spider-Woman has been one that can be considered 'consistently fun!' Hopeless has come up with a core trio of Jess, Ben Urich and Roger Gocking (The Porcupine) and in doing so, managed to maintain Jess' competent yet down-on-her-luck attitude when having to carry the weight of Roger's enthusiastic incompetence and deal with Ben's sneakier brand of ethical heroism. The hop-skip-jumping through recent adventures in the first half-dozen pages of Rodriguez's bubbly artwork is terrific fun, showing the level at which Spider-Woman and her cohorts operate at and perfectly setting up the eventual detour into evident Westworld territory thanks to Roger's affinity with the Wild West (a nice brief glimpse into his childhood reaffirming the 'misguided choices' aspect of his career). The added bonus from all involved is how things traverse from light-hearted superhero antics into darker territory as the peril increases leaving things precariously balanced come the final page. 9/10

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