10 Aug 2015

Mini Reviews 09/08/2015

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.

JOHN FLOOD #1
Writer: Justin Jordan
Art: Jorge Coelho & Tamra Bonvillain
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Stewart R: Having explored the superhero (Green Lantern: New Guardians), chase thriller (Dead Body Road) and post apocalyptic/body-horror (Spread) genres, Jordan now points his radar at the police procedural framework for John Flood and this acts as a pretty accomplished starting point. We get a teasing look into the near future, a brief, brutal visit with the series' antagonist and then the introduction of the 'new guy' who will be working with the titular Flood as he goes about his latest investigation. There's familiarity everywhere in this debut without it ever feeling overly clichéd, Flood's unique physical and mental condition being a particularly fresh ingredient with Jordan's keen scripting ensuring that no conversation feels too exposition heavy or superfluous.  The art from Coelho is a slightly inconsistent bag from cover to cover with great pages and panels interspersed at regular occasions with slightly uncomfortable panels where the angles feel decidedly 'off'. His style sits in a strange comparative patch betwixt Riley Rossmo and John Romita Jr which certainly suits the view from Flood's perspective and I suspect his style will grow and refine itself as the series continues. Plenty of potential here. 8/10

THE FADE OUT #8
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Seam Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image $3.50


Matt C: I’m running out of superlatives to bestow upon this series and it’s another one of those instances where I worry I sound like a broken record. But what else can I do? The Fade Out is that good. It feels like a complete experience – it wears its influences on its sleeve but such is the strength of the whole, those influences kind of, ah, fade out (sorry!), because all the elements that could come across as clichés in lesser hands instead  have a new, fresh lease of life injected into them.  The Brubaker/Phillips combo has been one of the premier collaborative partnerships in comics over the last decade or so, and this exquisite slice of period noir is shaping up to be pinnacle of that partnership so far. 9/10


WE STAND ON GUARD #2
Writer: Bryan K. Vaughan
Art: Steve Skroce & Matt Hollingsworth
Image $2.99


Stewart R: I'm still not quite sure what to make of We Stand On Guard after two issues. There's definitely an interesting conflict taking place that we've been dropped into the midst of, and Vaughan is trying to give us glimpses of the bigger picture as events unfold, but it feels as if he's trying to put too much into this second chapter following an opener that consisted of just two scenes. We get another flashback to Amber's difficult past before gaining our first glimpse at the American side of this future war which hints at a corporate/despotic leadership. By the time we're into 'blindfolded on the way to the base' territory I was feeling that things were jumping around far too quickly and the pace of the story felt a touch out of hand, threat and peril dropped upon characters we've little or no affinity with as yet as a means to evidently test Amber's trustworthiness. The art is certainly nice to look at - aside from that giant robot strapped to the top of a giant truck which beggared belief a bit - with Skroce exhibiting a fine linework style and broad variety in his composition, but the concern I have now is that Vaughan pummels us with the pace of Amber's unfolding story and doesn't take enough time define the wider conflict. That's likely to be make or break for me when we get to the third issue. 6/10


OUTCAST #11
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Art: Paul Azaceta & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image/Skybound $2.99


Matt C: Eleven issues in, it might seem like not a lot has happened. We’ve seen a few exorcisms but not experienced the full-blown horror theatrics that could easily have been the order of the day. There’s been a lot more in the way of chat than possessions but, in actuality, that’s where a lot of the ‘action’ is. This is much more of a slow-burning character piece than a straight up horror story, and it’s quite possibly far more effective because of it. We’re getting under the skin of these characters in a way we wouldn’t if it was all about quick and easy thrills, so when something shocking does happen, it cuts a lot deeper. A lot of this is down to Krikman’s writing but a great deal of the success of Outcast is due to the sizzling combination of Paul Azaceta’s art and Elizabeth Breitweiser’s colours. Moody and atmospheric, it continues to utilize neat panel structure tricks to amplify the emotion content of the narrative. If the upcoming TV show can match this approach, they’ll be onto a real winner. 8/10


AIRBOY #3
Writer: James Robinson
Art: Greg Hinkle
Image $2.99


Matt C: Now the controversy following the second issue has died down (the thinkpieces fizzled out after a few days) we can get back to the business of enjoying the wicked, profane pleasures of Airboy. The debauchery of the first two instalments is (mostly) absent as Robinson and Hinkle find themselves in the past with the titular hero, or at least a steampunk version of the past where Airboy battles Nazis with his heroic colleagues. Flipping the ‘fish out water’ theme into reverse allows Robinson to let some introspection shine through the usual self-destructiveness, although whether he’ll ‘learn’ anything remains to be seen (his knowingly unpleasant presentation of himself is always on the brink of toppling straight back into a succession of bad habits). Hinkle gets to widen his colour palette this time but the visual gags and energetic linework remain present and correct (and his exaggerated, er, anatomy still engenders plenty of chuckles).  It’s only truly offensive if you completely miss the point, and its braveness (along with, perhaps, it’s foolishness) has made it a highlight in 2015. 8/10

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