12 Oct 2015

Mini Reviews 11/10/2015

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: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Cliff Chiang & Matt Wilson
Image $2.99

Matt C: Brian K. Vaughan has proven himself to be master of the first issue in the past (think the opening instalments of Y: The Last Man, The Private Eye or Saga) and I treated my unimpressed reaction to We Stand On Guard #1 as a blip, assuming normal service to be resumed shortly. Paper Girls has plenty of elements to give the impression of being a winner - the teenage rebellion blended with alien weirdness seems perfect for Vaughan’s sensibilities, and the visuals from Chiang nicely capture the styles and vibes of the late ‘80s.  So why can’t I offer up a glowing review? Well, there’s a weird disconnect going on, and the best way I can elucidate is to compare it to Jeff Lemire and Emi Lennox’s recently debuted Plutona, which has so far been more successful at distilling the teenage world in all its confused, emotive, brilliant splendour. Paper Girls, conversely, seems to rely too much on extremely familiar stereotypes, to the point where the ‘style over substance’ argument comes into view. So it’s the second introductory chapter to a Brian K. Vaughan book that I haven’t gelled with, but unlike We Stand On Guard, it has a killer cliffhanger, so yeah, I’ll be back for the second issue at least, hoping that it shakes off it’s more obvious trappings. 6/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend & Al Vey
Marvel $4.99

James R: Our esteemed E-i-C Matt C has already done a fine job of highlighting how good this book is, so take this as a second vote of confidence for the Sorcerer Supreme. It’s been a fantastic week for Jason Aaron, with the scribe responsible for three books that could easily be considered the best of the week for me, but this gets the nod as it's great to see the Wolverine And The X-Men team of Aaron and Bachalo reunited. I was a long-time cheerleader for that series and for me, it was the last hurrah for the mutants before Marvel seemingly decided to focus on the Inhumans instead. To see these two creative forces back together - and hitting the ground running again - warms my fanboy heart to the extent that I didn't even mind the increase in price! The issue does exactly what all good first issues should do - it hooks in the audience and leaves you wanting more. Bachalo's art is a perfect fit here too - I loved the sequence where Strange shows us the world as he sees it, one which is equal parts psychedelic, horrific and yet still recognisable. I've been saying for a while that there's not much I'm excited about in the Marvel relaunch, but at the very least, this one is a definite hit straight out of the gate. 9/10

Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Alex Maleev & Paul Mounts
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: A slam dunk. From the word go this has been an expertly crafted delve into the past of the scoundrel/smuggler known as Lando Calrissian, giving us as fans what we want from the character but adding layers, depth and history at the same time. Maleev’s artistic expertise should be familiar to most by now, and he deviates only slightly from his usual stylings to bring in the visual essence (so to speak!) of Billy Dee Williams. It’s been running through the classic heist-gone-wrong template (do heists ever go right?) but has injected enough Star Wars greatness so that it avoids over-familiarity and becomes something that seamlessly embeds itself into the wider Star Wars Universe, not as a necessity but an undeniably worthwhile to expansion of that galaxy far, far away. Marvel would be well advised to get Soule back in the Lando and Maleev business at his earliest convenience. 8/10

Writer: Dan Slott et al
Art: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Marte Gracia et al
Marvel $5.99

Stewart R: The cover states 'Oversized and Action Packed' and I find it hard to argue with that description. 31 pages get handed over to Slott and the art team to drop us into Peter Parker's ever changing and always crazy world once more. Surprisingly, Slott appears to have managed to pick things up off the back of the 'Spider-Verse' saga more than any Secret Wars shenanigans and as such, much of this feels familiar and in 'continuity'. There's a definitive shift from Peter's previous bumbling efforts to pick his life back up after Doc Ock's possession to these new efforts to make the entire planet a better place via his ingenuity and a growing company. It's fairly solid stuff with plenty of the regular faces turning up and the odd twist here and there to facilitate Peter's current, globe-trotting nature whilst still getting dragged into wall-crawling and explosive exploits. This expanded setting is the point where this shift looks to be at its weakest though as Slott literally borrows the Iron Man 'bodyguard' riff (and pokes fun at it) to explain how New York's most recognisable hero is now appearing in various spots around the world at the same time as Peter Parker outside of Avengers business. In this bonkers comic book universe it seems strange to say it, but this series hangs on the reader's ability to believe that people won't guess that Peter is Spider-Man and this development is going to push this premise to the limit. The rest of the book is made up of five glimpses into either the future of this title or other 'Spider' titles... so essentially Marvel sales pitches. The Dennis Hopeless written Spider-Woman short is good fun and the Silk preview is certainly nice to look at, but I'm not too fussed about all of these books and to give half the page count over to them once again has me questioning whether I got value for money for my $6. I think the answer is probably no. 6/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Jason Latour
Image $3.50

James R: It's that man again! Jason Aaron's second of three brilliant books this week is an established favourite of the PCG (and certainly a frontrunner for the 'Best Ongoing Title' award at this year's Paradoscars) and  Southern Bastards continues to be a book that excels in every way. The 'Homecoming' arc takes us to a very deep and dark part of the South as we're introduced to backwoodsman Deacon Boone, who says "Country's all I've ever known", and we then learn exactly what that means. The work of Jason Latour is magnificent here, shifting from his usual palette of reds for more earthy tones. More than any other book on my pull-list, Southern Bastards feels alive as you turn the pages - it's a series that you experience as much as you read. By the final pages, Aaron leaves us with a potentially explosive plot development that adds yet more intrigue to the world of Southern Bastards. You're looking at country all right - and you're looking at one of the best comic series of the decade. 9/10

Writers: James Robinson, Mark Waid, Gerry Duggan, Al Ewing & G. Willow Wilson
Art: Leonard Kirk, Mahmud Asrar, Ryan Stegman, Gerardo Sandoval, Victor Ibanez, Kenneth Rocafort et al.
Marvel $5.99

Stewart R: There's a definitive difference between this #0 issue and the similarly bumper sized #1 that was Amazing Spider-Man this week despite both having that hefty price tag. Where Dan Slott's antics with the webhead had a genuine feeling of plot construction followed up by a handful of previews, Al Ewing is left with the job of shaping a single narrative that wraps around each and every preview here. While he does an alright job with the Squadron Supreme work it can't help but feel forced in places, not least because each Avengers book that's advertised/previewed here has a very different feel to it. Waid's piece with the Vision and Scarlett Witch actually has some gravitas and drama to it to be fair, but that's followed up by an A-Force chapter that just grates - NO-ONE would ever fire the just arrived, valuable science specialist out of an airlock to simply activate a button-activated device when there's a full competent crew already on board - and a New Avengers bit that's primarily two confusing splash pages of precognitive future flashes. Ryan Stegman's work on the Uncanny Avengers section isn't for me while it looks like Deadpool's deadly side has seemingly been neutered to bring him into the fold and I can't see that idea having the longest legs to it. Wrapping things up we have a sneak peek at Ultimates and while I do find America Chavez to be an interesting character I can't say I'm likely to stump up the cash for what looks to be a fringe book in such a large schedule. Going back to the opening of this review, this is a #0 and as such wasn't likely to be essential reading in any case (I struggle to think of a #0 I felt was unmissable upon reading). The shame is that I've come away from this expensive gamble with the creeping feeling that the Avengers world may be heading back to the confusing, inconsistent and annoying state it was in back in the late '90s and the Avengers: Disassembled days. I wait to be proven wrong. 4/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Esad Ribic & Ive Svorcina
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: its running way behind schedule (it should have been done by now to make way for the ‘All-New, All-Different’ Marvel) but damn if I’m not still having an absolute blast with this series! In a lot of ways it’s like Jonathan Hickman has fashioned the Marvel Universe into something to suit his own storytelling needs, safe in the knowledge that he can do pretty much anything as the slate can easily be wiped clean when he leaves. And those familiar with Hickman’s work will know that he doesn’t do things by halves and so all the plot threads he’s been working on since starting his ambitious narrative plans several years back are finally being paid off. It’s great to see such a talent working with what could be classed as a sense of impunity – he’s going for broke, and it’s thrilling to bear witness to it. One of those rare events that delivers the goods on a number of different levels, and quite possibly one for the ages. 8/10

Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: Marco Checchetto, Angel Unzueta, Emilio Laiso & Andres Mossa
Marvel $3.99

James R: I could have easily reviewed and given some worthy plaudits to Jason Aaron and Stuart Immonen's Star Wars title (still fantastic, incidentally) but I felt it only right to spread the love a little. As a die-hard comics and Star Wars fanboy, I've written before how two of my passions have never worked for me as much as I would like, but credit to Marvel - since regaining the rights to the property, I've been more impressed than I anticipated by their output. For me, Shattered Empire works because there's a real sense of continuity - it's great to read something in canon that ties the different trilogies together. Greg Rucka does a predictably great job in making Shara Bey a strong protagonist, and I'm intrigued to see how she fits in to the life of one of The Force Awakens' main characters. The art team does a nice job, but excels more in the character interaction rather than the big action sequences. I can't see anyone that's not a Star Wars fan ever wanting to buy a Star Wars book, but if you are of the Jedi persuasion, you definitely need to be picking this up. 7/10

Writer: Jay Faerber
Art: Scott Godlewski & Ron Riley
Image $3.50

Stewart R: We're at the end of the second arc and I will happily declare Copperhead to be in my Top 5 comics of the past two years. Easily. Possibly even Top 3. Faerber takes identifiable and recognisable plot ideas from the Western genre and police procedural TV and tweaks them just ever so slightly in terms of pace or detail to make a science fiction series that oozes drama and feels decidedly fresh in the process. Boo's hostage predicament remains tense until the end with Clara and her posse's antics to locate him delivering a bit of fun - a swift bar fight - in and amongst the stern-jawed seriousness. This is still a young series with plenty of potential ahead of it and that's really helping the tension to remain palpable as I'm never sure just what Faerber may have this cast go through or who might bite the bullet. While the plotting remains unpredictable the art remains superbly consistent from Godlewski and Riley, to the point where I've even considered buy the Copperhead trades just to have all the artwork together in a larger tome - something I never do! 9/10

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