2 Aug 2015

Mini Reviews 02/08/2015

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.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #10
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Jason Latour
Image $3.50

James R: It's a great week for the exceptional Jason Aaron. He's got two terrific - yet very different - books out. Star Wars is a fanboy treat, but Southern Bastards is (yet again) comics at their best. The 'Homecoming' arc is shaping up beautifully with each issue focusing on one of the series' secondary characters. The last two issues can be read as self-contained stories in and of themselves, but Aaron also skilfully moves the plot towards the Rebels' biggest game of the season. Our focus this month is Esaw Goings, Coach Boss' head goon. Aaron gives us an insight into Esaw's head that's equal parts scary, funny, and totally convincing. It remains one of the most beautifully illustrated books out there - Jason Latour's work gives a grit and realism to these pages which is unmatched in mainstream comics. In the letters pages, Aaron highlights how busy he and Latour will be in the upcoming year, and it's no surprise to see these two in demand. What's brilliant to read is the words "This comic isn't going anywhere. We're having too much damn fun." Trust me Mr. Aaron, you're not the only ones... 9/10

INVISIBLE REPUBLIC #5
Writers: Gabriel Hardman & Corinna Bechko
Art: Gabriel Hardman & Jordan Boyd
Image $2.99

Stewart R: We've reached the end of the first arc and Invisible Republic has thus far turned out to be one of those bubbling, slow-burner stories that delivers a surprising level of tension. Bechko and Hardman have mastered the toing and froing from investigative journalism present to social uprising past incredibly well so that Croger Babb's and Maia Reveron's separate journeys have formed a very solid comic book read. Babb's troubles highlight the issues of control, information and the concept of 'truth', whilst Maia treads a path beset with life-altering decisions that constantly bring up the choice between servitude and apparent freedom. There are also nods towards the manipulation of events in the public eye which are very relevant to today's social media led world. The pacing has been top notch with every visit to Maia's story revealing a tiny fragment of her and Avalon's history that has you begging to see more. The artwork is dark and foreboding, the cast all damaged, tortured or vulnerable in their own ways and it feels incredibly 'real' as a result. It also really feels as if we've only had the briefest of glimpses into this universe's turmoil. Add in a terrific twist at the end that took me by genuine surprise and you have another unmissable book worthy of your money at Image. 9/10

LAZARUS #18
Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark, Tyler Boss & Santi Arcas
Image $3.50

Matt C: Still unstoppable. As the war between the Carlyle and Hock families rages on, we see the conflict from different perspectives, taking in backroom politics and manoeuvring before dropping into the front line where Forever uses her genetically-engineered skillset to dramatic effect. Rucka continues to pile on the intrigue through various Carlyle–held locations while Lark goes all out with the bloody battle scenes (and the addition of snowfall works every time!). There’s so much to absorb on so many levels thanks to the intelligence and attention to detail on display that it’s a kind of a trailblazer in the way it approaches world-building. I know I say it every time it appears, but it remains an entirely valid and necessary statement: this is the best ongoing book on the shelves right now. 9/10

STAR WARS #7
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Simone Bianchi & Justin Ponsor
Marvel $3.99

James R: ...And this is Jason Aaron's other great book this week. I've been loving his work on Star Wars so much - the others haven't 'felt' like Star Wars to me - and I think it's a huge credit to him that he's has managed to channel the spirit and zest of the Original Trilogy. This issue is one which, as a hardcore Star Wars fanboy, I've been really looking forward to. I've long thought that the story of Obi-Wan's exile on Tatooine between Episode III and Episode IV was ripe with potential - as one of the last Jedi, how would he cope knowing that he'd been partially responsible for the fall of the Jedi Order and the Republic? As on this week's Southern Bastards, Aaron gives us a self-contained story, and if you've been unsure about the new Star Wars comics, this would be a perfect one to start with. Aaron gives us a conflicted Obi-Wan, one who is trying to blend into the background of Tatooine, whilst struggling to ignore the Jabba-sponsored injustice around him. The nice surprise for me was Simone Bianchi's art - I have not been a fan before, and I think he often hinders plots rather than adding to them, but here his work is better than I've ever seen it, and Justin Ponsor's colours certainly go a long way to giving the visuals more clarity than usual. With Episode VII just five months away (136 more sleeps!) it's a great time to be a Star Wars fan, and as long as Jason Aaron's writing this, I'm going to keep reading it. Essential for all followers of the Force. 8/10

Matt C: What could have been an inconsequential detour away from the ongoing narrative turns out to be a highly rewarding trip into the era between Revenge Of The Sith and A New Hope, with Obi-Wan hiding out on Tatooine, casting a watchful eye over a young Luke Skywalker. It offers insight into how General Kenobi became “that crazy old wizard”, showing him as someone who had to push against his nature to ensure he stayed off the Empire’s radar. It’s very nicely done, making it’s point without being too heavy handed, and while I don’t always get on with Bianchi’s art, he does a fine job here of portraying the difficulty Kenobi's with not getting involved. Much as I’m enjoying the main storyline I’d welcome further looks into the Jedi’s past in the future. 8/10

WAYWARD #10
Writer: Jim Zub
Art: Steve Cummings & Tamra Bonvillain
Image $3.50

Stewart R: It's crazy to find ourselves at the end of the second arc of Wayward after a year and ten issues already. Zub and the team wrap things up in grand, explosive fashion, much like the first arc, with Emi Ohara, her friends and their bizarre arachnid allies attacking a sacred temple in retaliation for previous targeting. This helps to further solidify the mystical elements in this world, an early flashback depicting a spiritual ritual which provides a focus point and much of the tension for the conflict that takes place, whilst linking back to Rori's discoveries in the first arc. Everything culminates with a definitive shift in the status quo of old and new worlds, but offers us no tangible idea of if this is a good or bad thing. Zub has done very well to hide the ramifications of Rori's powers, hinting at danger from the words of those characters we believe to be antagonists, yet who are cast in ambiguous tones to keep the reader brilliantly off balance in their judgement. We've a three month hiatus now before Wayward returns and that should give you ample time to pick up two entertaining and enthralling volumes in trade! You won't be disappointed. 8/10

MATERIAL #3
Writer: Ales Kot
Artist: Will Tempest
Image $3.50

James R: Excuse the terrible pun, but I've run out of Material. The last time I reviewed this book I said that there were elements that I loved but they were balanced against others that felt overly contrived. With this issue, sadly, the balance has shifted, and there's just too much that makes roll my eyes. The biggest one remains the plot concerning film star Nylon Dahlias - this month, one of her segments concludes with the words 'FEAR OF GENETIC HERITAGE' printed across the panels, whilst the other is reminiscent of R.E.M.'s video for 'Everybody Hurts'. Kot references the French film maker Jean-Luc Godard again and that's a perfect frame of reference for Material itself. Many people see Godard as a genius of cinema, but a lot of people see his work as pretentious twaddle. So it goes with Material - there will be a lot of people who will love this book and there should be people who pick it up to expand their horizons. But in this humble reviewer’s opinion, I've seen a lot of this stuff before, and I have to vote with my wallet. The art remains strong, with both Will Tempest's pencils and Tom Muller's design making for a striking book, but that's not enough to justify me sticking with it. With each series, Ales Kot shows that he's got the potential to write something truly great, but for me, Material isn't it. 5/10

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